What Northeast Ohio Companies Should Know About GDPR Regulations

The EU's GDPR regulations go into effect this month. Here's what you need to know.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into full effect on May 25. While the law is intended to protect the data and privacy of individuals within the European Union (EU), it could also impact some companies here in Northeast Ohio that come in contact with EU citizens or businesses.

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    Why might your business take note of the GDPR?  Because it matters to organizations outside of the EU that store or process data of people who live in the EU. 

    Here are the eight, brief fundamental privacy rights dictated by the GDPR and how businesses are expected to comply.

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    Right to be informed

    An overarching theme of the GDPR is that of transparency. Two things to think about: Does your business have a clearly worded and easy-to-find privacy policy? Is your business able to respond to customer inquiries in a timely manner?

    Right of access

    If a customer reaches out, companies must provide for free a digital copy of their customer information. This must be distributed within one month of the request.

    Right to rectification

    If there is an error in the customer record, companies must rectify that error in a timely manner.

    Right to be forgotten

    If a customer requests it, companies must be able to completely erase that customer’s records from their systems.

    Right to restrict processing

    Customers have the right to restrict the use of their personal data.

    Right to data portability

    Any customer who opts in to provide their personal data may request that this data be shared with another organization.

    Right to object

    Customers can take back their consent to the use of their information and can object to their data being used for a particular function.

    Rights in relation to automated decision-making and profiling

    Customers are protected from potentially harmful decisions being made about their data without their knowledge that do not involve human intervention.

    Want to know more? Click here to read the official GDPR Regulation Language issued by the EU.


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    Next up: Wherefore art thou NEOSA?
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  • Wherefore art thou NEOSA?

    We’re pleased to associate it with our own name and this news: we’ve changed our name to OHTech!

    What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet! – William Shakespeare

    That quote can be interpreted a couple of ways: that names don’t matter or that the essence of the object is what’s important. Similar interpretations to be sure.

    But we like the quote and we’re pleased to associate it with our own name and this news: we’ve changed our name to OHTech!

    The details behind the change are probably tedious, but suffice it to say that it was a long, detailed process begun last year and culminating in December.

    We’ve been working on a lot of changes here, at the former NEOSA, changes that include new talent services, business development, statewide connections and more. So as part of that whole process, it made a lot of sense to re-evaluate the brand image and make changes as necessary. Hence: OHTech.

    We issued a press release last week on the change and our friends at Crain's were kind enough to note the story today, online and in print.

    We also announced the new name at our Tech Thursday event on January 29, and as our board chair, Gabe Torok shared in toasting the change: “NEOSA has served us well for the past 16 years, onward OHTech!”

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    Next up: Why Good Design Is Good Business
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  • Why Good Design Is Good Business

    It takes less than a second for someone to form an opinion of you based on what they see. This means your website, marketing campaigns and marketing collateral are a huge determinant in whether you land the account, customer or investor you’ve been vying for. I am fortunate to carry the title of Creative Marketing Manager, a.k.a Graphic Designer at Outreach Promotional Solutions so I spend a lot of time educating my clients on the importance of good design. While a design investment for your business might not signal a clear ROI, it is crucial for gaining traction with almost any campaign.

    It takes less than a second for someone to form an opinion of you based on what they see. This means your website, marketing campaigns and marketing collateral are a huge determinant in whether you land the account, customer or investor you’ve been vying for.

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    I am fortunate to carry the title of Creative Marketing Manager, a.k.a Graphic Designer at Outreach Promotional Solutions so I spend a lot of time educating my clients on the importance of good design. While a design investment for your business might not signal a clear ROI, it is crucial for gaining traction with almost any campaign. 

    I get it. As a business owner or marketing leader, you have hundreds of concerns to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It’s tempting to ignore the need for clean, aesthetically pleasing designs; however, recognizing the value can be an integral step in establishing and growing your brand. Learn more from us in these four points about good design below. 

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    Good Design Tells Your Brand’s Story

    Your brand should tell the story of your business, i.e., who you are and why you are passionate about what you do. This goes beyond a logo and a website. Tell your clients why they should purchase a product or service from you. Each individual has a story that makes them unique, just as each business has a story that speaks to their integrity, passion and credibility. Your story should make someone have an emotional reaction and can create an experience. Let your design do the talking. Words can only say so much.

    Good Design Promotes Team Unity

    Establishing your brand with your customers cannot happen until your employees become brand ambassadors. Your creative space, website and stationery should all serve as a reminder to your employees of what you do and why you are doing it. These are the people who are communicating your values and story to your customers through phone calls, emails and meetings. Get your team on board with a firm understanding of who you are through good design, and the rest will begin to fall into place.

    Good Design Gives you Street Cred

    Okay, so maybe it doesn’t give you street cred, but it does establish a sense of credibility among your customers. Consider how many times you’ve looked at bad design and instantly decided the company didn’t quite have it all together. Your goal should be to look professional and effortless. Your customers and clients want to feel like they can tell you exactly what they want and you will have the know-how to tackle it correctly the first time, ultimately saving them time and money.

    Good Design is Memorable

    Good design strategically uses colors, typefaces, imagery and mood across all communication platforms to reiterate a message. The more they hear from you, the more your prospects and customers will remember you and think to recommend your product or service to others. Consistency will ensure a clear message is shared every time, without fail.

    Clean, attractive design shouldn’t be placed on the back burner when it comes to your business. Former CEO of IBM, Thomas Watson Jr. is known (among other successes) for his statement, “good design is good business.” We couldn’t agree more, Mr. Watson.

    Sean Miller is Creative Marketing Manager at Outreach Promotional Solutions

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    Next up: Win the Security War
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  • Win the Security War

    Data security is a big buzzword today. How secure is your network? Get the knowledge you need to keep the bad guys at bay.

    Data security is a big buzzword today. How secure is your network? Get the knowledge you need to keep the bad guys at bay.


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    Next up: Windows 10 from Microsoft is Here
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  • Windows 10 from Microsoft is Here

    Windows 10 from Microsoft is here.  It’s getting a fair amount of positive buzz (add or subtract the obligatory Microsoft love/hate, of course). Oddly enough much of the buzz has been generated by the nature of the upgrade as much as the OS itself.  And that information has led to as much confusion as the product itself.

    Windows 10 from Microsoft is here.  It’s getting a fair amount of positive buzz (add or subtract the obligatory Microsoft love/hate, of course).

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    Oddly enough much of the buzz has been generated by the nature of the upgrade as much as the OS itself.  And that information has led to as much confusion as the product itself.

    First of all, a disclaimer.  We’re a Microsoft Silver Partner.  I have enough Microsoft Credential initials after my name to choke a horse.  We first started using Windows 10 back in October ’14 when it was first available as a Beta (whoops, “Preview”) edition.

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    And it’s pretty good.  Gone (unless you want it) was the touch-biased menu structure, with a great compromise menu that combines both touch and mouse strengths and sensibilities.

    Add Cortana, better integration with Office 365 and speed improvements, it looks even better.  The new “Edge” browser?  So far…meh.  Some sites are great, others not so much (so I keep using IE on some sites, Chrome on others, and Edge on yet others).  Some of the security improvements (like ones that will enable cute kids to log on for the rest of their lives) are forthcoming.

    But there are a lot of sites that will talk about that.  I want to talk about…upgrading.

    Yup, the free upgrade.  That you should absolutely take advantage of.

    Unless you shouldn’t.

    If you can.

    Microsoft announced that a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.  The offer is free until July 29th, 2016.

    Is it free for everybody?  Ahhhh….no:

    • If you have Windows 7, you need to be updated to Service Pack 1.  If you patch your computer, you should be ok.
    • If you have Windows 8, you need to be updated to Windows 8.1. If you patch your computer, you should be ok.
    • Your version of Windows needs to be a registered copy.  Got a pirated copy of Windows?  Microsoft isn’t going to upgrade you for free.
    • Windows 7 and 8 Enterprise are NOT eligible for the free upgrade.  This one is interesting.  When companies purchase a license agreement with Microsoft, they have the ability to include free upgrading (aka “Software Assurance,” or “SA”) as part of the agreement.  If they did include SA and it’s still active, then the company can upgrade to Windows 10 without cost.  If they didn’t purchase SA or the SA has expired, then they’re out of luck.
    • Windows RT is not eligible for the free upgrade.  Windows RT is for all purposes “Windows Lite,” and not really Windows.  It’s kinda like the “Star Wars Holiday Special”.  Yeah, Chewbacca was in it.  But it’s not really Star Wars.

    Bottom line, the free upgrade is aimed at consumers who got Windows 7 or 8 when they bought their computer.  For companies that purchased their desktops and laptops that way (also called Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM), you’ll be ok if you control upgrades through your network (through services such as WSUS).

    So…should you upgrade?  Want to see a video presentation on the topic?  Click here.

    Honestly, the answer (as always) is…it depends.  By and large I’ve heard mostly good stories about people doing the upgrade (we’ll get to how in a minute).  Absolutely there are exceptions.  For the most part it’s about the drivers (isn’t it always?).  Drivers are small programs that help Windows use the components (such as the monitor or network card).  Usually (not always) they are fairly easy to fix.

    My rule of thumb for upgrading a computer is “the older it is, the closer it is to the grave.”  That’s especially true for applications on the computer.  If you’ve got an application that was originally created for Windows 2000, the odds are pretty good that it won’t work on Windows 10.

    Some folks think that’s horrible, and make claims of built-in obsolescence, lazy coding, or just plain meanness on the part of Microsoft.

    But it actually makes sense.  Back in 2000, computers were big boxes with (compared to today) tiny brains, not much ram, and very slow disk drives.  And security?  That meant that you only told your best friends about the password on the post-it note under the keyboard.

    So I have this perfectly landing wheel that came from a Sopwith Camel flown back in 1917 or so.  For some reason it won’t fit onto my (relatively) new F-15 Eagle fighter jet.

    No wonder.

    So do you have old applications?  Printing to an old printer?  Have an old brain (like me) that doesn’t really want to learn anything new?

    Then maybe Windows 10 isn’t for you.

    Actually, by most measures Windows 10 should be faster than its predecessors.  Well, kinda.  It’s faster on a lot of things if you don’t have the minimum hardware requirements.

    Also, keep in mind that Microsoft is changing the way that they’re going to patch systems.

    Gone are the days when users could ignore patches.  Microsoft is pretty much going to apply patches to your system automatically.  You can choose to get them immediately or draw it out for a time, but ultimately you’re going to get them.

    Why is this?  The first is to help you.  Patches are actually there for a reason.  They either fix something that was broken, close a security hole, or add a new feature.

    (Unless, of course, the patch actually breaks something or creates a security hole that a hacker might see as a “new feature.”  But what are the odds of that<g>?)

    Actually patches on desktops that actually break things seriously are fairly rare.  There were a couple that Microsoft released within the past year that did conditionally cause problems with certain installations of Office and One Drive.  But otherwise it’s actually been fairly stable.

    Here’s the other issue.  Think about Microsoft (poor old Microsoft).  Think about the people who develop programs that run on Microsoft (poor old people who…you get the idea).  And finally, think of us, the people who support the people who use the computer (people like you!) that lived in the house that Jack built.

    Not only could we be dealing with a computer that was manufactured with a zillion different components from a zillion different manufacturers, but we have (for now) 3 different supported operating systems (7, 8.1, 10).  Each of them have a full history of patches, and computers today can have some, all or none of the patches installed.

    And yet we’re all expected to support all of these workstations and keep them running.

    What if for each operating system we knew that they were relatively up to date in terms of patching?  Supporting and maintaining the system would become much easier.  And security would be much tighter.

    A nice concept.



    To hear more from Bob, attend his workshop at the Small Business Convention, "Business Software Trends - What Tools will Help my Business Grow?" on October 22 at 10:30 a.m.

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    Next up: Winter is Coming: Lock in Your Fixed Natural Gas Plan Today
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  • Winter is Coming: Lock in Your Fixed Natural Gas Plan Today

    Early forecasts are predicting another colder than normal winter, and natural gas rates could continue to increase. As a business owner, you know that utilities impact your bottom line. And with winter on the horizon, it’s time to ensure that you are locked into the right rate.

    Early forecasts are predicting another colder than normal winter, and natural gas rates could continue to increase. As a business owner, you know that utilities impact your bottom line. And with winter on the horizon, it’s time to ensure that you are locked into the right rate.
     
    Why bother changing rates? 

    Last winter was among the coldest in Ohio’s history.  The polar vortex was responsible for record-breaking low temperatures and high gas consumption, depleting reserves of natural gas.  Currently, the Energy Information Administration reports those reserves are more than 15 percent below the five-year average, which could continue to negatively impact gas rates going into next winter. Additionally, some weather sources predict next winter to be colder than average, which could further impact prices.

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    What can you do about it?  

    Enroll in a fixed rate plan that guarantees a low rate through next winter.  A 12-month fixed rate with COSE’s natural gas program offers you the lowest rate – if you find a lower publicly offered annual fixed rate1 during your term, we’ll match it or let you out of your contract at no cost to you!

    COSE and Integrys partner to offer you the best available rate of $4.79 per mcf for 12 months, at your office and your residence. 

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    *Prices reflected are for Dominion territory customers.  The rate for Columbia customers is $0.623 per ccf.

    Call Integrys to enroll today 1-888-878-5420 and safeguard against volatile costs. 


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