• Friday, June 22, 2018 10:56 AM | Randy Mitchelson

    The advent of hurricane season prompted the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP) to assemble an expert panel of business leaders to share best practices about disaster preparation and business recovery.

    The panel was moderated by Linda Lyding, vice president of the RTP which was attended by more than 60 people at Endeavor Innovative Workspaces in Fort Myers.


    The panelists were Beth Tra
    cy, Manager, Corporate Citizenship, at IBM; Jacob Ackerman, Chief Technology Officer at SkyLink Data Centers; Wendi Fowler, President at The Client Server, Inc.; Bill Lean, Solutions Architect at Summit Broadband; Nancy O'Hara, Director of Business Systems at Shaw Development and SWFRTP Board Member; and Andrew Cooper, Executive Director Information Technology NCH Healthcare Systems.


    Summit Broadband has more than 500 miles of fiber optic cable running in southwest Florida that needs protection from the evil squirrel and from evil yellow backhoe,” said Bill Lean. As a carrier, Summit requires rapid recovery when there is an outage.


    In terms of preparing for a malicious style disaster event, Lean added that companies can test their staff with fake phishing emails. Exercises like this will create a level of awareness and preparedness amongst your team.


    Budgeting for Disaster Prep and Business Recovery

    Jacob Ackerman from SkyLink Data Centers shared that 60 percent of hacked small businesses are out of business after six months of the data breach. This statistic justifies the investment required for effective disaster and business recovery.


    A proper budget and disaster plan can be determined by determining your company’s revenue per minute or hour compared to cost of your employees twiddling their thumbs when there is no power, no internet access or the local area network is inaccessible due to a hack. Managers within larger companies can use this math to work with the chief financial officer to justify the budget expense.


    Ackerman added that most companies are between $900-$17,000 revenue per minute being lost when their business is without power.  From there, determine how much downtime is acceptable. The budget writes itself from there. Typically, a range of 30 minutes to 1 hour of downtime is when it becomes economical for most businesses to justify investing in a disaster plan for power or internet backup.


    Wendi Fowler suggested that companies remember to budget for the cost of public relations in their disaster plan too. Businesses that are heavily relied upon by consumers might end up in the news if they are unprepared for a disaster and the cost of dealing with the negative public relations can skyrocket quickly.


    Budgeting must include anticipating what equipment might be needed from a disaster. For example, at Summit Broadband the field workers are issued chainsaws for their trucks so in the event of a downed tree they are not reliant upon a third party vendor such as the power company to arrive to make the cuts.


    Companies that will depend upon internet access either during normal operations or in a disaster situation when employees may be working remotely need to make sure their infrastructure is sound according to Ackerman.  “People skimp on internet expense and do not have redundancy,” he said. “Have multiple ISPs.”


    Most companies have multiple systems they rely upon such as accounting, payroll, project management and more.  One tip shared by Andrew Cooper to help with budgeting for disaster recovery is that not one size fits all. Some systems are more critical than others so go through a prioritization process to control the costs.



    Assessing Outcomes of Prior Disasters

    Hurricane Irma forced most companies in Florida to make decisions about how to prepare and how to overcome operational limitations after the storm caused by physical damage, flooding, employees that were unable to return to work, extended outages of power, telephone and internet service. Nancy O’Hara from Shaw Development reported that because the team at Shaw was adequately prepared they did not have panic. Arrangements were made to get their shipments out to customers ahead of the storm before they closed the business to weather the storm.


    Andrew Cooper from NCH Healthcare Systems shared that his team discovered single point of failures in their hospital after a risk assessment. This analysis prompted the hospital to adjust their technology infrastructure and operations to create more redundancy and failsafes.


    A highly decentralized large organization such as IBM faces several challenges when dealing with natural disasters. Beth Tracy shared that IBMers are encouraged to share their mobile phone numbers so human resources can communicate by text to ensure remote staff are safe.  A crisis management team ensures that IBM employees are safe. Regardless of disaster type, regardless of company size, Tracy urged the audience to remember that safety is paramount and to make employees and their families the first priority.


    In the aftermath of a natural disaster keep non-essential staff off the roads so first responders can do their jobs. “Do not have people come in if they are not critical,” Ackerman suggested. “Worry about ahead of time who will take on backup roles if someone can’t come in.”


    A decision to not allocate budget for disaster preparedness combined with a failure to plan can put your company at unacceptable risk.  Wendi Fowler shared a story about a client who made a decision not to invest in preparing for a disaster, despite her recommendation. Thanks to Hurricane Irma, the client’s facility was flooded with four feet of water. A boat had to be provisioned to retrieve the computer servers and relocate them to Skylink Data Centers. The process was completed within 48 hours for the servers to be relocated to the data center and get the company back up and running. In hindsight, this downtime was an unacceptable outcome for Wendi’s client but it took a real disaster to convince them that the economic impact of having a backup plan outweighs the risk of being out of business for an indefinite period of time.


    In response to concerns from audience members about the safety of incorporating cloud based solutions into a technology operations plan Ackerman suggested not to fear the cloud. “Use a qualified technology person to set it up correctly. Almost any cloud system is safe if you use two factor authentication or you use your own encryption key. Breaches are typically not cloud related,” he advised.


    Bill Lead added “Cloud enables business continuity at the micro level.”


    Having offline solutions is another important lesson learned from Hurricane Irma. Wendi Fowler experienced senior housing facilities whose commercial kitchen menus  and meal preparation systems were all automated so kitchens were not functional without power. Also,automated wristbands that patients wear did not work so vital health data was not being transmitted or monitored. Have a backup plan to operate and serve in an offline environment.


    Disaster Prep and Business Recovery Comes In All Shapes and Sizes

    No business is too small to have a plan documented on how to handle a disaster.  Business leaders have a responsibility to their stakeholders - employees, investors, customers, vendors, strategic partners - to think through what types of disasters might happen and document a plan on how to operate through them. These plans do not need to be overly complicated. Smart small and build them over time. But a failure to plan is guaranteed to be a plan that fails.



  • Tuesday, May 22, 2018 3:39 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP) has announced the winners of the 10th annual Technology Awards. IBM, Sprint and the Gannett Foundation are Pinnacle sponsors of the RTP and the Premier sponsors are Hertz and 21st Century Oncology.


    The winner of the Innovention Award recognizing technical achievement by a local technology company is Testimonial Tree for their customer reviews management platform. Benseron and Vectra Digital were also finalists for this award.





    The winner of the Transformation Award for a business that highlights the use of technology in government, nonprofit or companies outside the technology sector to address a business or operational challenge is Redicare Nursing Services. Photo Patch Foundation and Supply Samaritan were also finalists in this category.


    The winner of the Tech Woman of the Year Award to honor the accomplishments of a woman in Southwest Florida in a technology role and her commitment to diversity in STEM fields is Slone DeLong, IT Analyst, NCH Healthcare System. The other finalists were Zarela Graves, web developer, Politech and Janna Bolden, engineering teacher, Dunbar High School.

    The winner of the Partnership Award which honors a person who has made a significant contribution to the Regional Technology Partnership is Peg Elmore, Business Director, CareerSource Southwest Florida. The other finalists were Charles Starnes, Senior Analyst, Chico’s FAS Inc and  Linda Lyding retired, IBM.




    The awards dinner took place May 17. at the Club at Grandezza in Estero, Fla. Archana Vemulapalli, General Manager, Network Services, IBM Global Technology Services, delivered the keynote address. To learn more about the annual technology awards event email awards@swfrtp.org.



  • Wednesday, May 09, 2018 2:08 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP) has announced the finalists for the 10th annual Technology Awards.


    CenturyLink, IBM and the Gannett Foundation are Pinnacle sponsors of the RTP and the Premier sponsors are Hertz and 21st Century Oncology.


    The finalists for the CenturyLink Innovention Award given to a company that has invented or demonstrated an innovative and creative technology solution are Benseron, Testimonial Tree and Vectra Digital.  


    The finalists for the Transformation Award for a business that has achieved success through implementation of IT to overcome a challenge are Photo Patch Foundation, Redicare Nursing Services and Supply Samaritan.


    The finalists for the Women in Technology Award to recognize contributions made by women in technology through professional expertise and leadership are Janna Bolden, Sloane DeLong and
    Zarela Graves.


    The finalists for the Partnership Award which honors a person who has made significant contribution to the Regional Technology Partnership are Peg Elmore, Linda Lyding and Charlie Starnes.

    The awards dinner is May 17, 2017 at 6:00 p.m. at the Club at Grandezza in Estero, FL. Archana Vemulapalli, General Manager, Network Services, IBM Global Technology Services, will be the keynote speaker. Tickets are available at www.swfrtp.org until May 12.


    "This year's awards finalists represent some of the best technology professionals in southwest Florida," said John Lafreniere, President, RTP. "We look forward to celebrating their accomplishments."



  • Wednesday, May 09, 2018 2:05 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    Linda Lyding has been elected to vice president of the board of directors of the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP).

    Lyding is an accomplished information technology executive, most recently as IBM Global Vice President of Network Services.

    Previously Linda was Global Vice President, Mobility Services and held multiple Director and Technical leadership roles in IBM's Global Technology Services, over a 38 year career.  

    John Lafraniere, Global Vice President of IT Architecture at Hertz and president of RTP said, “Linda's technical and business experience combined with her passion for Women in Technology and STEM programs makes the RTP the perfect benevolent organization to align with, focused on growing and retaining Southwest Florida's future technical and business leaders.”

    More about Linda along with biographies of all RTP leaders can be found at www.swfrtp.org.


  • Wednesday, May 09, 2018 2:04 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP)  and CareerSource Southwest Florida request the assistance of employers, who utilize technology, in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Charlotte and Glades counties to complete their Information Technology Skills Gap Survey.  

    Career Source Southwest Florida has recently been awarded a grant to identify gaps in technology related certifications and provide technology related training and testing in southwest Florida.


    Businesses participating in this survey will help identify the types of technology training and certifications needed by their current and future employees. The grant includes funding for training and testing for both employed and unemployed technology professionals as well as end-user training resulting in certifications. Certifications will be offered in 2018 and will be available to workers in the aforementioned counties.

    To participate in the survey, go to www.SWFRTP.org.  Completion of this survey does not guarantee access to funding to survey participants. For questions regarding the grant and funding of information technology related training, please contact Peg Elmore, CareerSource Southwest Florida Director of Business Services at pelmore@careersourcesouthwestflorida.com.  Question regarding the survey may be submitted to Tina LaFreniere, Executive Administrator, RTP, at tinalafreniere@swfrtp.org.


  • Wednesday, May 09, 2018 2:01 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    Archana Vemulapalli, General Manager, Network Services, IBM Global Technology Services, will be the keynote speaker at the 10th annual Technology Awards presented by the Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP).

    Vemulapalli is a past Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Washington, D.C
    . She is the recipient of several honors, including the Washington Business Journal’s C-Suite Award, The Washingtonian Tech Titan Award, StateScoop’s Golden Executive of the Year Award & Top Women in Tech Award, as well as DC’s Top 50 Women in Tech Award.

    Vemulapalli leads IBM's Network Services, securely delivering agile, resilient, and intelligent networks for public and private sector clients across the globe in support of their cognitive and cloud transformation.

    Prior to this role, she led next-generation technology initiatives at a variety of organizations from start-ups to major consulting firms to government.

    The SWFRTP annual awards meeting is May 17, 2018 at 6:00 p.m. at the Club at Grandezza in Estero, FL. CenturyLink, IBM and the Gannett Foundation are Pinnacle sponsors of the RTP and the Premier sponsors are Hertz and 21st Century Oncology. Tickets are available now at
    www.swfrtp.org until May 12. The RTP produces the only technology awards event in southwest Florida and recognizes businesses and professionals with awards for Innovention, Transformation, Women in Technology and Partnership.


  • Tuesday, October 17, 2017 11:42 AM | Randy Mitchelson

    RTP sponsor SkyLink Data Centers was recently featured in SWFL Business Today following Hurrican Irma. 


    In the article, SkyLink chief technology officer Jacob Ackerman shares how their state of the art facility fared during and after the storm, what they will do better next time and how they can provide safe harbor to businesses who did not anticipate the true damage from the storm - the lengthy outages of power and internet services.


  • Friday, June 02, 2017 6:08 PM | Randy Mitchelson

    The mission of the AspireIT camp is to encourage and engage our young ladies in grades 5-12 with technology resources and instruction to enable them to make informed decisions about their future careers, particularly technology careers, so as to increase their meaningful participation in technology fields.


    Hodges University utilizes app and game programming, web design, robotics, and various other STEM related curricula in order to enhance their experience, in addition to leveraging a near-peer teaching experience with a local college student that has previously been awarded with an Aspirations in Computing Award or Honorable Mention.


    For the past two years, we have had the pleasure of having a local FGCU student lead our AspireIT camps, working closely with me as a mentor! Together we focus on the girls’ community involvement - the ability to create solutions with technology - so that they understand the far-reaching impact that they can have locally, as well as globally.

    Could you please promote these two camps for us in your local business and community? We are looking for young ladies in grades 5-12 that are ready to learn more about computer science and the opportunities that exist in technology fields! The cost of the camp is $20, which covers all four meetings in either Lee or Collier county (including lunch for all four days and all of the swag and materials that the girls are provided with). We will gladly scholarship the $20 camp fee for any girl that has a financial hardship (no questions asked).

    The registration link for the summer camps is (on the national NCWIT website for our local SWFL camp)

    REGISTER NOW !

    Hodges University is committed to increase the meaningful participation of women, girls, and underrepresented minorities in technology. Diversity is a reality in our communities, inclusion is a choice.


  • Friday, May 19, 2017 7:22 AM | Randy Mitchelson

    southwest florida regional technology partnership

    The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP) has announced the winners of the 9th annual Technology Awards. CenturyLink is the Pinnacle sponsor of the RTP and the Premier sponsors are Hertz, eMaint and 21st Century Oncology. 

    southwest florida technology awards

    The winner of the CenturyLink Innovention Award given to a company that has invented or demonstrated an innovative and creative technology solution is Flight Docs for their industry leading aircraft maintenance software platform. Onward Technology Solutions was also a finalist for this award. 



    southwest florida regional technology award

    The winner of the Transformation Award for a business that has achieved success through implementation of information technology to overcome a challenge is Lee County Geographic Information Systems for development of life saving technology techniques for local search and rescue emergency responders. Smart Industries and Lee County Port Authority were also finalists in this category. 


    southwest florida technology awards wendi fowler

    The winner of the Woman in Technology Award to recognize contributions made by women in technology through professional expertise and leadership is Wendi Fowler, President, The Client Server. The other finalists were Jennifer Pellechio, Chief Operation Officer, Economic Incubators Inc.Naples Accelerator and Rita Davis, Director Adult and Career Education, Lee County School District. 



    southwest florida technology awards john lafreniere hertz

    The winner of the Partnership Award which recognizes a RTP member who has contributed to the success and growth of the mission of the Partnership is John LaFreniere, Vice President, Global IT Architecture, Hertz. The other finalists were James Sampel, Chief Information Officer, Alico Inc. and Charles Starnes, Chico’s FAS. 

  • Friday, May 05, 2017 10:05 AM | Randy Mitchelson

    The Southwest Florida Regional Technology Partnership (RTP) has announced the finalists for the 9th annual Technology Awards Dinner.  CenturyLink is the Pinnacle sponsor of the RTP and the Premier sponsors are Hertz, eMaint and 21st Century Oncology.


    The finalists for the CenturyLink Innovention Award given to a company that has invented or demonstrated an innovative and creative technology solution are:

    • Flight Docs
    • Onward Technology Solutions 

    The finalists for the Transformation Award for a business that has achieved success through implementation of IT to overcome a challenge are:

    • Smart Industries
    • Lee County Port Authority
    • Lee County GIS

    The finalists for the Women in Technology Award to recognize contributions made by women in technology through professional expertise and leadership are:

    • Wendy Fowler, President, The Client Server
    • Jennifer Pellechio, Chief Operation Officer,  Economic Incubators Inc., Naples Accelerator
    • Rita Davis, Director Adult and Career Education, Lee County School District

    The awards dinner is May 17, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza at 13051 Bell Tower Drive in Fort Myers. Tickets are available at www.swfrtp.org until May 12. R. David (Dave) Mahon, chief security officer, CenturyLink, Inc. and former supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigations will be the keynote speaker.  Mahon’s presentation will be “Cybersecurity - Best practices and proactive strategies to mitigate threats.”

    "This year's awards finalists represent some of the best technology developers, implementers and influencers in southwest Florida," said Marc Farron, President, RTP. "We look forward to showcasing and  celebrating their accomplishments at our awards dinner."



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