Please consider joining Online Tech in supporting Feeding America this holiday season

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Online Tech employees invite you to join us in giving back to those less fortunate.

This holiday season, Online Tech is raising funds for two affiliates of Feeding America, a nationwide network of member food banks that feed America’s hungry and engage the country in the fight to end hunger.

Employees at our Ann Arbor headquarters and two Ann Arbor data centers are making donations to the local Food Gatherers organization. In the Flint area, employees at our Mid-Michigan Data Center are working with the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan.

We tell you this not to pat ourselves on the back, but to encourage you to join our fundraising efforts.

The Feeding America network of food banks provides more than 3.3 billion meals to virtually every community in the United States. Every donation – big or small – helps feed hungry children and families. You can find a food bank in your area on the Feeding America website.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Posted in Online Tech News | Leave a comment

Michigan Council of Women in Technology Event

Online Tech will be sponsoring the Michigan Council of Women in Technology’s Mid Michigan ConnectNet Social on December 3rd, and we’d love to have you join us! It will be taking place at the Spartan Hall of Fame Cafe in Lansing from 5pm to 7:30pm. This will be a wonderful networking event to see some of your colleagues and fellow IT professionals before the holidays, so stop by!

The Michigan Council of Women in Technology started in 2000 as a group for women who were focused on their tech careers. Now it has grown to include youth summer camps, college and graduate school scholarships, and professional networking events. Their goal? To make Michigan the number one state for women in technology.

If you are interested in attending this event, feel free to show up! There is no charge for members, and only a $10 fee for non-members. To register, head over to the MCWT ConnectNet Social registration page.

If you can’t make it to the social, consider volunteering or mentoring for young women through this wonderful organization. Also, they boast great eLearning resources to help guide the professional development of women in technology. Help grow the IT field with MCWT!

Posted in Online Tech News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Giving unlikely thanks? How about your auditor?

When you create a list of who you’re thankful for, your auditor may not jump to the top of your list. After all, isn’t that who asks for all those mountains of documents and relentlessly asks those probing questions?

Let’s face it: the relationship between a business and an auditor can be a contentious one. The high price of reports, resources spent compiling the information and remediating any issues can be more than enough to give any CXO heartburn and hair loss. Mix in an auditor’s desire to maintain independence and objectivity and you have a recipe for acrimony.

But the relationship doesn’t have to be contentious. With the right auditor, and some foresight by the business to realize the ultimate benefits of a relationship based on honesty, integrity and a shared commitment, it can be at least tolerable. In our case, we’ve found it to be incredibly valuable.

David Barton

Let me introduce someone that Online Tech is grateful for. David Barton, a managing director at UHY LLP, produces six independent annual reports for Online Tech, attesting our compliance to SOC 1, SOC 2, SOC 3, HIPAA, PCI and Safe Harbor requirements. He is an expert in risk identification, assessment and evaluation, risk response, risk monitoring, IT control design and implementation and IT control monitoring and maintenance and serves clients in a range of industries including healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, gaming and hospitality. Barton is at once relentless, a consummate professional, generous with his expertise, and – despite the resistance his services sometimes inspire – completely committed to his clients.

Those who joined us at our Indianapolis Data Center open house heard Barton talk about the seven-year relationship he’s had with Online Tech, starting with a meeting with co-CEO Yan Ness “in a dingy little office in downtown Ann Arbor” and continuing through the opening of that data center in Indianapolis – our fifth across the Midwest.

Barton is also scheduled to speak at the open house for our new Metro Detroit data center, scheduled for 3-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2. (Register here!)

As you might imagine, we wouldn’t invite a guy we don’t admire and respect to speak at our grand opening parties. And, as you might similarly imagine, we wouldn’t invite a guy to speak if we weren’t confident he felt the same way about us.

So how do you build and maintain a solid relationship with an independent auditor? We asked Barton and Online Tech’s Director of Product Management Jason Yaeger – the very person who has to answer to David’s “endless” documentation requests – to offer a few tips from both perspectives.

1. Pay attention at the front end of any engagement

Barton says the key to any auditor-business relationship is that there are no surprises on either side. He has learned that in some cases, the controls that management thinks are in place aren’t really the controls that are in place once you drill down to the folks responsible for those duties on a daily basis. “Sometimes what they think is happening isn’t really happening,” Barton says.

Yaeger says Online Tech’s culture of compliance helps with this issue. “We have complete buy-in and transparency, from our executive team to all employees, on what we do and in what areas we need to improve. At some organizations, lower-level employees are afraid to tell the management team where they have work to do. We encourage people to tell us what we’re not doing right.”

2. Be helpful generating or gathering required information

“There’s always a little bit of adversarial relationship when talking about independent auditors. We don’t end up on top of anyone’s priority list,” Barton says. “To most people that work for a company, getting an email from an auditor asking for information doesn’t always give them warm fuzzies.”

Warm fuzzies or not, Online Tech management creates a concerted effort to cooperate with auditors. It’s not a perfect process – Yaeger admits that sometimes it feels like it’s one of the last things to be done, “not because we don’t value it, but because everybody is so busy” – but it’s always done on time.

“One of the things we want to do is streamline the process so that we’re always sending them information before they need it,” Yaeger says.

Barton appreciates the cooperation, stating: “It certainly is refreshing to have the entire company working with you to get you what you need when you need it.”

3. Value the process

For Online Tech, successfully completing annual audits has allowed us to operate in the compliance space and serve the verticals that need to be compliant in those areas. For us, audits are a choice, not a requirement.

“We self-impose these restrictions on ourselves. There’s no reason we have to be HIPAA compliant, no reason we have to be PCI compliant,” Yaeger says. “Other businesses required to live up to HIPAA and PCI compliance find audits to be a burden. Call us crazy, but we’re actively seeking out areas where we can be more compliant.”

Rather than viewing audits as a burden, view them as what they are: A requirement to be able to operate in a particular space, and an opportunity to improve how you operate.

“In a lot of cases, these reports don’t get taken as seriously as they should,” Barton says. “Online Tech, from the very beginning, wants to use these reports as a way to improve their control environment. It’s not just ‘give me the report and go about my business.’”

4. Don’t underestimate the benefits of whole company buy-in

It’s probably the last think you’d think of to connect your auditor with your sales and marketing department, but Barton and his team have patiently taken the time to explain to us the role compliance plays in reducing risks to an organization. In turn, this has helped us understand the concerns of our prospects and clients and maintain credibility with them.

For example, you can’t go out there claiming to be “SOX certified” or to claim your cloud is “HIPAA compliant” without understanding that compliance is an organizational commitment and holistic process, not a stamp to affix to a single product or service.

It’s a rare and wonderful thing to say that we’re very grateful for our auditors! Happy Thanksgiving, David Barton and UHY LLP!


Open house on Dec. 2: Check out Metro Detroit’s newest data center

Recap: Online Tech celebrates opening of new Indianapolis data center

Up your HIPAA IQ with a little HIPAA FAQ

Posted in Cloud Computing, HIPAA Compliance, Michigan Data Centers, PCI Compliance, Safe Harbor | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

20th anniversary: Thoughts from Online Tech co-founder Gary Baker on the company’s evolution

Online Tech is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. While our business model has changed considerably since 1994, three things have remained consistent: customer service, adaptability, and a leadership role in the technology world.

Online Tech was founded as the first website hosting firm for businesses in the state of Michigan, a cutting-edge venture at the time. MIT researcher Matthew Gray claims there were a grand total of 623 websites by the end of 1993.

Fast forward 20 years and Online Tech is the Midwest’s leader in secure, compliant enterprise cloud and colocation hosting services.

How it got from point A to point B is an interesting tale. The fact that it got there at all is even more noteworthy.

Gary Baker

“Of all the companies that formed around that time to support corporate customers’ hosting/email/ISP needs, only one is left: Online Tech,” said Gary Baker, a company co-founder and its first CEO. “It is a testament to the company’s reputation with customers and its adaptability over time, which has helped it not only survive waves of technological change but grow into one of the greatest success stories in the region’s tech industry.”

Originally, Online Tech offered businesses web hosting and email accounts tied to their domain names.

Baker, now a senior vice president and chief technology officer at Flagstar Bank, said the company “somewhat reluctantly” expanded the business from offering web hosting and email accounts tied to customers’ domain names to becoming a dial-up internet service provider because its customers wanted to use the same provider for its hosting, email and Internet access.

“So, from the very earliest days of the company, corporate customers saw us as their go-to IT expert,” says Baker.

The evolution of Online Tech continued as the needs of its customers changed. Demand for website design was strong, so Online Tech added an internal development group.

Yan Ness

“Today, that would be unheard of for a cloud services company, but back then the pioneers in this space were jacks of all trades for customers,” Baker said. “There was no professional training back then for web design, so I believe our team learned a lot of tricks of the trade by reverse-engineering the HTML of websites we liked. That was how best practices were passed around back then.”

In 2003, current Online Tech co-CEO Yan Ness led a group of investors to acquire the company. Serving as CEO since the purchase, Ness oversaw a significant investment in the company’s data center and network infrastructure to start the transition to becoming one of Michigan’s largest managed data center operators.

In 2008, Mike Klein purchased a share of the company and joined the executive team. He became co-CEO with Ness during the recapitalization of the company after it received a $20 million investment from News-Press & Gazette Company to help expand across the Midwest.

Mike Klein

Since 2003, the company has seen tremendous growth both physically (from 600 to more than 100,000 square feet of capacity) and financially (30-percent annual growth). That includes the recent opening of its first out-of-state data center in Indianapolis and the upcoming open house celebration of the opening of its fourth Michigan data center on Dec. 2.

“The two most important moments in the company’s history were when Mike and Yan joined,” Baker says. “Their vision for the company and the way they have collaborated to chart a course for its growth has been remarkable.

“The company has a well-deserved reputation as the leader in secure, compliant cloud and hosting services, which is a significant growth market. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of the company’s history and to see how far it has come.”


Want to wish us a happy birthday? Come celebrate with us at the open house for our new Metro Detroit data center from 3-7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 2. We’ll provide the food, drink, a no-sell tour of our newest facility and a chance to network with other Metro Detroit IT professionals. Register to save your seat!


Press release: Online Tech Celebrates 20 Years of Technology Leadership and Growth

Open house on Dec. 2: Check out Metro Detroit’s newest data center

Posted in CEO Voices, Michigan Data Centers, Online Tech News | Leave a comment

Collaboration At The 12th Annual Detroit CIO Executive Summit

This week Online Tech will be headed to the Adoba Hotel Dearborn for the 12th annual Detroit CIO Executive Summit, put on by the Evanta group. This is a premium event created “by CIOs, for CIOs”, in order to get the most relevant and helpful information onto the program.

The primary focus for the event is collaboration, and there’s no shortage of this with over 30 executive speakers packed into one day. The keynotes are even more impressive, with David Behen, CIO of the State of Michigan kicking off the morning’s conversation. He’ll be speaking to the business trajectory of CIOs, and how the increasing influence of the CIO is making them better suited for positions like CEO in the future.

Here’s another amazing session in store for anyone attending the Detroit CIO Executive Summit:

Debating (De)Centralization

Kelly Knepley, VP, Global IT for Maxion Wheels
Mark Cybulski, CIO for ZF North America, Inc.
Jef Fisk, Board Member for SIM Detroit (Moderator)

“To centralize or decentralize? The answer for most organization is somewhere in the middle and often swayed by industry trends. Mark Cybulski and Kelly Knepley offer a fresh perspective on this long-standing dilemma in the form of an ardent debate. Each will champion arguments identifying the structural benefits of their assigned position while poking holes in their opponent’s. They’ll discuss cost effectiveness, business alignment, agility, and quality in a session challenging CIOs to look critically at the best of both worlds. For the sake of a spirited argument, they’ll adopt opinions at opposing ends of the ideological spectrum that are not necessarily their own or reflective of their organization.”

Online Tech will be at the summit, showing off our secure, compliant, enterprise hosting solutions, so come stop by our booth and say hello as you’re heading into those sessions!

To get more information about the summit, or the Governing Body that helps create these events, head to the Detroit CIO Executive Summit event page.

Posted in Information Technology Tips, Michigan Data Centers, Online Tech News | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Offsite Backup, Onsite Backup, or Both?

There are many backup and recovery options out there; some onsite, some offsite. Trying to parse through which one fits best into your disaster recovery plan can be very difficult, and often for a result that isn’t ideal. I spoke with our Director of Infrastructure Nick Lumsden about the reasons why someone may want onsite versus offsite backup, and vice versa, to try clarifying the muddy waters of backup and recovery.

So, when is it good to stay onsite? Nick explains:

“Onsite backup is generally part of a two-fold strategy used to ensure rapid access to point in time data that takes longer to retrieve offsite.  Organizations supporting databases with a high data change rate will often employ an onsite backup strategy for quick recovery in the event of a failure.  For example, if my ETL [Extract, Transform, Load] process fails during the Load stage, I want to recover my database quickly to the point in the process just prior to the Load.  ETL is a heavy piece of work, and if something goes wrong, I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time starting over.”

Nick explained that onsite backup isn’t as much for retention or protection. It’s a strategy to employ for rapid recovery of large datasets when working on a project. If you’re looking for protection, you want to go offsite. In the case of a storage system or backup server failure, and especially a natural disaster like a fire or flood, having your files backed up won’t mean anything if they’re onsite, they’ll just be lost as well. Nick adds:

“Data is business now. You have to get it out of the data center you’re in. The only way you can protect yourself is to get the backup data offsite.”

I know it sounds like the choice is speed or security, but that isn’t actually the case. Most companies, to make the most of their backup and recovery solution, go with a blended approach. Having onsite backup for the high data workload business, and offsite to ensure a business level recovery solution creates a more flexible backup strategy than choosing one or the other. However, if you have to pick one Nick says, go offsite:

“If you’re only going to have one, you’re going to have offsite backup.  Today’s offsite solutions are not the laborious tape backup systems of the past several decades – they are disk based, online, and much easier to use.  If it takes time to recover, it’s always going to be better than not being able to recover at all.”

Know the difference

Not all offsite backup solutions are the same. There are now offsite backup options that are disk based, which will be much faster (and easier to use) than their more traditional tape counterparts. For more information about disk based offsite backup, attend our November 11th webinar with Technical Architect of AHEAD, Steven Aiello.

Posted in Disaster Recovery, Online Tech News | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Major retail data breaches continue; do consumers care?

News of major retail data breaches are becoming commonplace – Home Depot being the latest in a long line – but consumers don’t appear to be changing their behaviors in response.

Click to view the full infographic.

A report by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of RSA was released Tuesday showing half of the 1,000 consumers surveyed had been the victim of a breach, but only 14 percent say a data breach would affect their shopping or banking behavior.

The study suggests consumers have become desensitized to fraud and identity theft because it has become so prevalent. Other key findings from the Consumer Perceptions on Security report, which was conducted in September and October:

  • 77% of consumers say it is very important or important that a service provider promptly notify them if their personal data is lost or stolen.
  • 45% say recent breaches have not affected their use of credit or debit cards.
  • 77% say they do not trust the security of mobile apps. The report notes the lack of concern demonstrated by the more than 70 billion apps downloaded last year and that only about one-third of consumers admit to reading the permissions requested by apps they download.
  • 62% say they do not trust websites that only use passwords to identify users, but about one-third use only one or two passwords across all the online accounts they access.

While consumer actions are not changing in relation to data breach threats, the report concludes by saying they are still placing value in their personal information and have “high expectations among service providers to secure their digital identities.”


Mobile Security White Paper

PCI Compliant Hosting White Paper

Webinar: Is the FTC Coming After Your Company Next? Court Confirms that the FTC Has Authority to Punish Companies for Poor Cyber Security Practices

Posted in Cloud Computing, Information Technology Tips, PCI Compliance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are the odds of data recovery ever in your favor?

Way back in 2011 — when Prince William was getting married and Jennifer Lawrence was just getting cast as Katniss in the Hunger Games — Gartner predicted that 30 percent of midsize companies would have adopted recovery-as-a-service (RaaS) to support IT operations recovery by today. That projection was a 29-percent increase based on 2011 numbers.

So what has your business been doing since 2011? If you’ve managed to get your data offsite — and ensure its security in the backup environment — you’ve accomplished a key part of protecting your business in case of a disaster.

The tricky part comes when the disaster actually occurs, and you are forced to recover the data. Depending on your choice of backup, your odds for recovery can vary widely.

Where do you fall on the spectrum of recovery confidence? Are you the picture of confidence, or the grim realization that you’ve just stepped into an uncertain, unfriendly challenge?

A few key choices can improve your odds of recovering systems under duress of having your production environment down.

1. Do the hard planning work … Now

If you haven’t already assessed the critical systems of the business and prioritized which must be recovered first, start here. If it takes you four hours to recover critical revenue systems and 4 days to recover non-critical archives, you know where to start. The problem is, in a state of panic, humans don’t always make great decisions, but we can follow a plan. Get it in writing and understood by the people who will be on the front lines of the recovery effort. Many great resources exist such as

2. Choose a reliable restoration backup technology

It’s no secret that tape backups are notoriously miserable at being able to recover, with failure rates between 44% and 77%, depending on what source and study you read. Regardless, evenly optimistically going with the 44% failure rate, that means it’s the equivalent of flipping a coin if you recover your backup data from a tape. This is not protecting your business.

Many organizations are moving away from tape backup to higher fidelity digital formats. Some technologies go so far as to validate the backup files immediately after the backup is made by virtue of a hash validation. This is a basically a very long number, or hash tag, that is generated based on the contents of a file. If the hash tag values are equal, then you know nothing in the file changed. If they differ, the flawed file can be immediately flagged for a follow up back up copy. Basically, you know today if your data is recoverable tomorrow.

3. Test!

The reality is, if you do not test your recovery, you will fail. Plain and simple, we’ve seen that our clients that go through the recommended annual testing are able to recover their systems without a hitch. Clients that do not exercise annual recovery testing inevitably run into unforeseen issues related to ongoing changes in their production environment. It’s just not as easy as copy-and-paste. There are many complexities that networks, VPNs, patches, and myriad other factors can add to recovering your systems. You simply won’t know what you don’t know until you go through the actual effort of recovering your data.

If you want a real test, do it as a surprise for your team, so that you can see where the breakdowns happen in the processes of recovery. Just as much as the technology, it’s the processes that confound recovery efforts.

4. Find a recovery partner

Hopefully, your need to recover data will be rare. When you do, recovering your critical systems in the middle of a disaster is like running at full speed through the forest — at night. If you have someone who has been there before and can light the obstacles in your path and help you navigate them, your odds of getting through unscathed are much better than going blind with no experience or light to guide you.

May your recovery odds be ever in your favor.


Looking for more information about backup and recovery? Check out our free educational webinar, Transforming Your Offsite Backup Into A Real Recovery Option, at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 11.

The session will be led by Steven Aiello, a technical architect with consulting firm Ahead and a former senior product architect at Online Tech. More information and a link to registration is available here.


White paper: Disaster Recovery

Offsite backup and recovery: Understanding the hidden costs

7 business drivers for your backup and recovery strategy

3 questions your CIO needs to answer to set your offsite backup strategy

Posted in Cloud Computing, Michigan Data Centers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Open house on Dec. 2: Check out Metro Detroit’s newest data center

The lobby of Online Tech’s Metro Detroit data center.

You may have seen the recap of the open house we held at our new Indianapolis data center on October 23. If not, check it out.

It was so much fun, we decided to do it all over again at our new Metro Detroit data center from 3 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 2. (OK, that’s not entirely true. It was fun, but this Metro Detroit open house was planned well before the Indy date.)

The new data center gives Metro Detroit companies an enterprise class choice for IT infrastructure and meets the security and compliance demands of the healthcare, e-commerce and financial services companies driving Detroit’s recovery.

We invite you to get a no-pitch sneak peek at the facility, network with Metro Detroit IT peers and meet some of our clients. Registration is required to save your seat.

Oh, and here are a few photos from our Indianapolis open house that we didn’t include in the aforementioned blog post:

Yep, that’s how we roll. Ready to register now?

Online Tech’s Metro Detroit data center – located in Westland – is a 34,500-square-foot, stand-alone facility with 18,000 square feet of 24-inch raised floor, deployed over three phases, and a total building load capacity of 1.2 MW. The carrier-neutral facility has two physically separate and diverse fiber points of entry and features fiber connectivity from eight different telecommunications providers.

Posted in Data Centers, Michigan Data Centers, Online Tech News | Tagged | Leave a comment

Infographic: HIPAA and Meaningful Use

NOTE: As discussed here previously, Online Tech was part of a panel webinar presentation of “5 Key Tools to Help Your Organization Achieve HIPAA Compliance,” inspired by a post that cited tips from representatives of organizations specializing in each of those five areas. The following infographic, created by the Compliancy Group, is compiled from information compiled during that Oct. 21 webinar.

Posted in Data Centers, HIPAA Compliance, Michigan Data Centers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment