IT Update: Updating our Email Retention Policy

Friday, June 16, 2017
Number of email users

The number of employees using Ruppert email accounts has increased in recent years, mandating an increase in storage capabilities.

By Dan Spruill, Director of IT

While most of you know that we store recently sent and received emails in your Outlook email account, you may not know that we move emails older than three months into an archive on our server. As we continue to grow, both in number of employees and our use of electronic systems, our data storage needs also grow. Therefore, we will be revising our email retention plan in the near future as part of a larger document policy review, with the goal of finding a more efficient way to choose which data is archived and for how long.

Just last year, we added to our digital footprint significantly with the addition of electronic property service reports (PSR’s) in the maintenance division. The PSR’s are created using our Ruppert Mobile App, then saved to our server, and then emailed to multiple recipients including customers and our own employees. In effect, this has us storing five or six copies of the same file in our systems, greatly increasing the amount of data being stored on a daily basis.

At the moment, we are storing five terabytes (TB) of email data in our archive and 1.5 TB of data (those emails we have received and sent within the last three months) in Outlook. This means that three months from now, when those older emails get archived, we could have a 30% increase in our email storage requirements. This amount will likely decrease somewhat, as we can and should be deleting junk email and conversations we no longer need on a regular basis. So although not all of this current data will be converted to our archive, it will still represent a significant increase in our storage needs.

In addition to data storage needs, there are many things to consider in reviewing our own retention policy, including legal requirements for our different departments (like accounting and human resources) as well as job lifecycles in the landscape division and multi-year contracts in the maintenance division, just to name a few. The IRS minimum retention time of seven years is generally the safest metric to follow, however not all of our data falls into this category. During our revision, we will look to create smaller groupings to achieve the right balance between length of retention time and the amount of data we store, with a focus on keeping only those items that we need—eliminating spam, junk, and deleted emails will be part of the revised policy.

Until the revised is policy in place, we ask that each of you do your part to keep our data storage needs to a minimum by keeping your email inbox cleaned up. Remember to regularly go through your inbox and sent folders to delete emails that are no longer needed. We thank you in advance for helping us make the most out of our data storage investments.

IT Update: Have you Submitted a KACE Ticket for That?

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Submitting a KACE Ticket

Landscape management division administrator, Christy Schinella, logs into the KACE system to submit an IT support ticket

By Casey Mills, IT Help Desk Lead

Casey Mills

Ruppert is growing faster than ever before and the scale/ nature of IT support is following closely along. In 2015, the IT team realized the traditional way of help desk support—via phone calls, emails, sticky notes, and desk “drive-byes”—was no longer an efficient or organized way to manage IT support for the company. We decided to leverage the additional capabilities of a system we’d had in place since 2011 (Dell KACE K1000 Systems Management Appliance) to allow us to better organize and track our efforts around end-user support.

The use of this additional feature has allowed the IT team to more effectively manage help desk requests, track the company’s PC inventory in real time, identify redundant issues, manage software updates, identify aging PC hardware in need of replacement, and more effectively manage help desk resources by allowing each team member to view all tickets at any time. In April, we will integrate Bomgar remote software into KACE, which will greatly enhance our ability to provide reliable remote control support of end-users’ laptops, desktops and in a limited fashion, cell phones as well.

It is our hope that our end-users feel confident in the ticket submission process, as they can be assured that requests are being assigned to the appropriate IT staff member and that there is increased visibility around the request’s progress and status until it is resolved. In addition to requests for help, this system also provides users with the ability to suggest modifications to the Ruppert Mobile App, request personnel changes including new hires, initiate IT requests for cell phones and computer equipment, and access a central “knowledge base” where users can find answers to common IT related issues.

With its first full year of operation in 2016, we managed 3,489 tickets submitted through the KACE system, which averaged 106 tickets per branch/department. In 2017, we expect this number to increase slightly, trending along with company growth. The KACE system is by no means intended to replace the personal touch of a phone call or an in-person visit, as the ultimate goal of the IT team is always to provide the highest level of personalized customer service for our customers (YOU!). The benefits of the KACE system can only be realized by everyone embracing it as a method of reporting issues, making requests or offering suggestions. So keep those KACE tickets coming!  

IT Update: Single Sign-On

Monday, December 12, 2016
Single Sign-On

By Dan Spruill, Director of Information Technology

Single Sign-On (SSO) is an application which addresses two of our IT goals. The first goal is to maintain a secure network and provide access only to those who are authorized. Our second goal is to try, where we can, to lessen the user inconvenience that comes with having too many passwords to remember. With SSO, we will be able to access all of our software applications using the same username and password, and will not have to maintain a list of usernames/passwords in your day timer to get into the various sites we now use.  Your computer (a.k.a. “network”) username and password will be the one used for all applications.

All of our maintenance branches have now been exposed to this process through the Learning Management System (LMS) rollout. You would have clicked a link in the mobile app or entered RuppertLearns.com into your browser to access the LMS. The screen you came to first was the SSO screen where you logged in and then were able to access the application. 

This process is essentially the same for each application we have on the system and all new systems will leverage this same username and password. Currently, our LMS, Applicant Tracking System, Ruppert Mobile App, and new Snow Tracking System all use our network information to log on. In January, we will add JDE to the list and at that time all of our core software offerings will be accessible using one username and password. Once we have all of our applications using one username and password, we will then enhance our security strategy by requiring employees to update their password periodically. In the background, the SSO system will automatically update the login information for every application at the same time.

Our department values your help in ensuring our information is kept safe, whether it be through the inconvenience of being forced to change your password or forwarding suspicious emails when you receive them. We sincerely appreciate the work you do that makes us a successful, industry-leading company.

IT Update: Password Protection

Thursday, September 29, 2016

 

By Dan Spruill, Director of IT

Continuing our theme of IT security, in this issue I want to discuss one of the most basic steps in protecting your information—your password.

We’ve all experienced that “what is my password again?” moment when trying to log on to any application used infrequently. The problem is that the last time you logged on, the system asked you to change your password to a 10-digit string which had to include a capital letter, a number and a special character and now you can’t remember if it was the name of your first dog and high school graduation year or your birthday and your mother’s maiden name.

Passwords can be anything from funny phrases, to reminders of important dates and people, to a nonsensical combination of numbers, letters and characters. No matter their makeup, they should be easy to remember but difficult for anyone else to guess. Whether it be for a work application or access to personal data, such as an online banking application, it is imperative to use a password that is secure.

There are several approaches to creating passwords which are both secure and easy to recollect, including:

In each of these methods, letters can be replaced with numbers or special characters,
which are often required and make a password harder to predict.

One of the projects we are working on in IT, which we aim to implement across the company, is Single Sign On (SSO). This service will allow each employee to use a single username and password across our business applications, like JDE and our network resources. This capability will be increasingly useful as we add third party applications to our available resource pool, like our learning management system and applicant tracking system. Without SSO, employees would soon be required to remember multiple usernames and passwords and manage them in separate applications. As a part of the SSO service, we will ask employees to update their password periodically to increase security. Employees will be able to change their own password or recover a forgotten one without requiring IT intervention, automatically updating their login information across all included Ruppert applications.

As always, the IT department appreciates each team member’s help in keeping our company and our clients’ valuable information secure, whether it be through forwarding suspicious emails, as many of you have continued to do, or by using a secure password to access our systems. Until we have the SSO service fully in place, we in IT are more than happy to update your password for you if you feel it should be more secure.

This article was originally featured in our Greensheet newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here.

Subscribe to RSS - IT Update