Wearable Technology

From Head to Toe1

With the emergence of wearable technology, life could get pretty interesting over the next 10 years. Could you imagine having the ability to charge your smartphone just by taking a little walk around the office? Maybe you wouldn’t even need a smartphone, how about a watch that replaces it? Very James Bond! These are concepts that are already in development and not that far away from mainstream production.

Let’s go a little deeper, under your skin that is. How about a computer chip in your hand that unlocks your PC or pays for your groceries? Say a happy “Good-Bye” to remembering passwords or worrying about your credit card getting stolen! Some individuals are already experimenting with this concept, but there are serious physical risks involved.

Looking even deeper, researchers are starting the process of writing data to DNA. As of right now, they are not writing the data to an actual human’s DNA. The short overview of the process is that they translate the data into the DNA chemical sequence and then send it to a company who creates custom DNA with that sequence. Will we be performing data recoveries from humans in the future? Maybe…maybe not. As of right now, the process of storing data to DNA is very expensive, time-consuming and requires an extraordinary amount of knowledge to accomplish it.

The concept of wearable technology (not including data storage via DNA), alleviates some stress in today’s world, but new stresses will be added. What will wearable technology do to a work place? Many companies now have a BYOD policy in place. Does that include Google Glass? Will they allow email to be received on your smart watch? How will they secure that information?

To the individual, the emergence of these technologies should make life easier, right? Businesses will learn to adjust through a series of trial and errors just like they did for the desktop computer, laptops, tablets and smart phones. What are your feelings on wearable technology? Cool? Scary? Will we become the dreaded Borg race? Let us know.

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Flooded Data

wet

It’s July, and here in Minnesota we are just starting to see the water from our over-saturated June recede. Many people this year have been affected by the rising rivers and lakes across the US. For some it might be the inconvenience of closed roads, but for others their homes have been invaded by water.  Our hearts go out to those who have lost their homes, farmland and businesses this Spring.

Unfortunately, with water damage from flooding we also hear of people who have lost their data. Obviously, I work for a data recovery company, but I am not here to deliver a sales pitch. Kroll Ontrack has some helpful tips to increase your odds for a successful recovery. Things you should do before you decide on a data recovery company.

Here is our first aid manual for flooded data:

  1. Flooded media should not be connected to power under any circumstances. This could result in burning the disc and complicating, if not completely disabling recovery efforts.
  2. Do not use DIY recovery software. Recovery software should only be used on fully-functional media.
  3. Do not attempt to dry or clean the media.
  4. Wrap the media in a wet towel or seal it in a plastic bag with a wet sponge. Once media is dry, corrosion starts.
  5. Timing is crucial. Find a reputable data recovery company. If you don’t know what to look for we offer some tips below.

Questions to ask when selecting a data recovery company for flooded media:

  1.  Can the data recovery company recover from your type of media and operating system?
  2. How long has the provider been in the data recovery business?
    1. Experience is key when recovering from flooded media. You may only get one attempt at recovering the data.
  3. Does the provider have a local presence? Will your media be sent to any other location to complete the recovery?
    1. This could increase cost and lengthen the amount of time a recovery takes.
  4. Do they have a cleanroom laboratory environment for performing the data recovery?
    1. This is required for any water-damaged media.
  5. Does the provider offer a variety of service options and levels?
    1. Service options should vary based on your time-requirements and budget.
  6. What is their standard turn-time?
  7. What type of support is offered during the recovery? Will you receive updates? Is there a self-service website where you can check on your media at any time?
  8. Do they provide pre- and post-recovery support?
    1. Will they walk you through re-installing your media once it has been returned to you?
  9. What security procedures do they use?
    1. Physical security of the media.
    2. Security of the data itself while at their facility.
    3. Do they return the data in an encrypted format?
  10. Will the provider give you a listing/report of all recoverable files before you make a purchase decision? Is this included in their evaluation service?

I understand that losing your data is a stressful event by itself. When you are dealing with a disaster on top of it, it is so much worse. I hope these tips help ease the process of your data recovery no matter which company you choose.

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SSD Market – The Gathering

HL3

There can be only one! Ok, so the SSD market certainly will not consolidate to one company, but we are seeing a lot of movement.  One company acquiring the next in order to gain all of their wisdom and power.  Hopefully, not using the same methods as Connor MacLeod did in the Highlander films. This is not the first time consolidation has happened in the storage device market. We’ve seen similar consolidation through the years in the HDD market.   In 1994 the HDD market had 10 manufacturers; by 2012 they were down to 3 major players. At the beginning of these 18 years of positioning and consolidation, there was plenty of market share to go around and acquiring a business with even 10% of the market share is no small feat.

Graphic Source: Chris Ritter, Buzzfeed.com

Hard Drive Manufacturers

When looking at the SSD market today, there are several larger players and still many smaller players, and even some still entering the market, each trying to position themselves for growth and increased market share.  There is a good reasoning to why. SSD’s in comparison to HDD’s are still in their infancy. There are also such a variety of newer devices and market segments evolving such as the cloud, mobile devices, traditional enterprise data center storage and desktop/laptops (much of which is SSD or flash based storage). Mature companies as well as startups are identifying user’s diverse needs and wants and adding their own niche’ or innovation to SSD based products and releasing them to the market. With so many in the SSD market today, what does the market share look like?

SSD Manufacturers

On June 10th, Gartner released the “Market Share Analysis: SSDs and Solid State Arrays, Worldwide 2013.” The chart below taken from this report outlines the movement in the SSD market from 2012 to 2013. The top 3 in the market in 2013, Samsung, Intel and SanDisk share just under 53% of the market share. From there the market share drops dramatically ending with an “Others” category which only makes up 10% of the market share.  I think it is safe to assume that if a company with a smaller piece of the pie has a unique, innovative solution for SSD’s, it is eventually going to get acquired by one of the top companies.

Total SSD Market
Total SSD Market

SanDisk recently did just that when they acquired Fusion-io for $1.1 Billion. SanDisk who has been working to sell into companies worldwide will use Fusion-io’s PCIe solutions to create enterprise-class SSDs for data centers. Overall, this absorption of technical advancement should create a superior product for SanDisk and continue their penetration into data centers. I know we often have fond memories of certain companies and may be a little saddened to see them acquired by a larger entity, but in the end those acquisitions may benefit us. All of the articles that I have read on the SanDisk/Fusion-io acquisition all talk about why this is good for the two companies involved.  Let’s take a look on what these types of acquisitions can do for the consumer. Hopefully, when one company acquires another it is not just for the sake of eliminating the weak. Most often in the tech industry there is a certain technical benefit to those acquisitions. In SanDisk’s case, it is the PCIe solution. Those technical benefits combined with the larger companies established product, and sales channel, should evolve into a superior product for the consumer. In the SSD market, as we see smaller companies absorbed by the larger ones, better SSDs should enter the market. In most cases, it is easier and faster for companies to merge an existing technology with their own than to develop it from scratch, so these new solutions should be quick to market. From a data recovery perspective, these acquisitions should result in more capabilities and less time required to recover mission critical data from a dysfunctional SSD. As companies and technologies consolidate, there will be more standards and similarities created in how underlying data is written to an SSD. Instead of dozens or hundreds of unique proprietary methods companies are using to write data to SSDs, such as different methods of implementing wear leveling, data scrambling, encryption, ECC, and the likes, as companies consolidate, so will the various technologies used, similarly to what has occurred in the HDD industry. This equates to less research time our engineering teams will need to  discover the writing method and the faster return of the data to you, resulting in less cost to the end users. How long will it take for the SSD market to consolidate and stabilize? I don’t have the answer to that, but would like to hear your guess in our comments section.

P.S. For those of you who need a little reminder on Highlander, here’s a flashback for you

.

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Data Loss Happens

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Digital data is an absolute mainstay in our society. From irreplaceable family pictures and videos to financial documents, many of us maintain a significant portion of our lives digitally. In the business world, it has been that way for more than a decade but it is now becoming more common to see “paperless” households. We sign up for paperless billing and receive email confirmations for appointments; when was the last time you received a hand written letter? There is a definite nostalgia in receiving a letter from a faraway friend or former colleague because it shows they took the time to put their thoughts on paper, find a stamp, and put in in the mailbox, but let’s be honest, how often does that happen these days? Now it is a few flicks of your finger to send a text or firing up your email to send off a quick note. I will save my comments for the effect this may have on our society for another time <grin> but the reality is that we are far more efficient in both time and effort by relying on digital data.

All that data needs a home though and for that, we turn to various forms of storage. Most common of those forms is the hard disk drive. We see flash drives and solid state drives growing in their market share but the vast majority of today’s data is still stored on hard disk drives that spin at absurd speeds of up to 7200 RPM. To put that into perspective, the little CD-looking things inside your hard drive (the platters) clear 120 rotations in one second. Combine the whirling speed of the drive, the fact that the heads which read the data hover over the platters at a distance so minuscule that it is nearly undetectable to the human eye, and the hundreds of tiny mechanical and electronic parts that make up the rest of the drive, it is truly a matter of when, not if, your hard drive will fail. Think of it as a car, if you were to drive your car without an oil change or any maintenance whatsoever for say three to five years (most HDD manufactures’ recommended life span for their drives) you would not expect it to survive. The same is true for hard drives. They have moving parts. Those parts eventually fail due to wear.

In a recent survey we conducted at Kroll Ontrack, we found that “66 percent (compared to 29 percent in 2010) of 1,066 surveyed customers cited a hardware crash or failure”. It happens. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but it will eventually fail. Solid state drives have the reputation of being a bit more stable but are by no means failsafe. The same survey revealed that of the 50,000 recoveries Kroll Ontrack performs annually Solid state drives and flash devices account for 15 percent of our recoveries with RAID/Virtual infrastructures making up 13 percent. If you take into account the number of hard drives in the market vs. the number of SSDs, 15 percent is significant. This illustrates that data loss affects every type of storage from the consumer grade up to the enterprise level and the impact is great.

The moral of this story is not to scare you away from a digital lifestyle. It is simply this: If you have something important saved on your desktop, laptop, thumb-drive, SSD, HDD, home network, Enterprise server (and the list goes on…) BACK IT UP!

If you have priceless photos of your kid’s 2nd birthday party with the relatives from out of state –BACK IT UP!

If you have your master’s thesis on your laptop, your companies quicken files on the file server, your CAD drawings on your workstation, a presentation and proposal for your biggest client on a thumb-drive, or your wedding video on a DVD, BACK IT UP!

I think you get the point here but like with many things in life, it may be easier said than done. A good plan always helps so here are some points to consider when making your backup plan.

  • Prioritize: As a general rule, if you cannot live without it, back it up immediately. If it is “nice to have” data or pictures, set up a scheduled reminder to do a larger backup weekly or monthly. There are a lot of apps and programs that can help with this but they are only as good as you make them.
  • Determine how long to keep your data: After you identify the data that is worth maintaining, then identify how long you need to maintain it. This may be “forever” with personal data but there are rules and regulations with most corporate and business data that only require that you maintain archives for established time periods.
  • Do some research: Use your favorite search engine to do some research on what types of products best fit your environment, operating system, types of data (documents and spreadsheets are much smaller files than photo, video, and audio files so that will likely impact your backup strategy), and time constraints.
  • Verify your backups: One issue that we see frequently is that backups are in place but no one checks them to verify the correct data is being backed up and that it is in a useable state (i.e. not corrupted)

At Kroll Ontrack, we are consistently coming up with new techniques, software and utilities to help get your data back if you lose it but data loss can be mitigated in most cases by a good backup strategy. Hope this helps and please feel free to share your back-up strategy or tips in the comments section!

Click here to see our “Data Loss Happens” infographic in more detail.

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Securing Your Place in The Cloud

The Cloud

Are you in the Cloud? There are many benefits of cloud computing: accessibility to storing and retrieving data from anywhere at any time, easy replacement, reduced IT costs and the list goes on. If it is so wonderful, why isn’t everyone adopting it? Large companies are increasing their use of the cloud while small to medium businesses (SMBs) are hesitant.

SMBs could see a large benefit to adding the cloud to their mix.  Field sales reps would be able to access and store data from anywhere. Reduction in IT costs: less hardware required, less staff required to manage data storage and less IT training needed. All of this with predictable software license fees.

So…what’s the hold up? What the SMBs, and most others, know is that there are real risks involved when storing data to the cloud.  Even though we talk about “The Cloud” as if it is a magical place with an infinite amount of storage space where our data lives virtually dancing among unicorns and rainbows, the reality is that the data is still stored on hardware somewhere. “Where?” is the question. It is difficult to protect your data if you do not know where it is located. Also not knowing who has access to your data is also an issue. There is a risk of data being unintentionally exposed by providers, administrators and other cloud users. Being we are a data recovery company, we cannot forget the risk of data loss in the cloud. Yes, even alongside of unicorns and rainbows, data loss still happens in the cloud.

Could an SMB reduce the risks associated with storing data in the cloud? The answer is YES! With some fore-thought and planning before entering the cloud, risks can be reduced.  Also, a company can create an emergency plan just in case disaster strikes to efficiently deal with an issue and reduce the damage.

Choosing a Cloud Provider Wisely

Here is a list of questions to be asked when choosing a cloud provider.

Technical Questions:

  1. What is your company’s plan for dealing with data loss or the inaccessibility of data? Do you partner with a third-party data recovery provider or could we select our own?
  2. What type of data storage does your company use? (RAID, Hyper-V, VMware, etc.)
  3. Does your data center and do your employees have any certifications?
  4. What are your back-up protocols?
  5. What is in your service agreement about data recovery and liability for loss?
  6. Can the data, where appropriate, be shared among different cloud providers? Can it be easily transferred to a new provider if necessary?

Data Security Questions:

  1. What steps does the provider take in order to protect your data?
  2. If data is marked for deletion, is it permanently erased, including copies?
  3. What is your data encryption philosophy? How is the data encrypted and who manages the keys?
  4. Does the client retain ownership of the data when it is in the cloud?

Legal Issues to Consider:

  1. Does the back-up policy of the provider correspond to the back-up policies of your company?
  2. What is in the provider’s privacy agreement? What do they guarantee?
  3. Do you or your external data recovery company, extract data for legal disputes in a legally sound manner?
  4. Where exactly are your data stores?  Are they local to the US, or off-shore?

Finding the Right Data Recovery Company

Be sure to select a data recovery provider experienced with cloud recoveries.  Data lost in the cloud isn’t necessarily gone forever. We have seen many successful cloud recovery cases. The company you choose should have experience recovering from complex RAID, SAN, Virtual and cloud environments. In addition, they should be able to repair and restore corrupted files including emails, databases and office applications. Lastly, the data recovery company must have tools for the recovery of encrypted data and the ability to return it in an encrypted form.

I feel like an after-school special when I say, “Knowing is half the battle,” but the more you know about your cloud provider upfront, the easier it is to secure your data and recover it if need be.  Like with any new technology, testing is key. If you are hesitant, maybe trying just a sample of non-sensitive/non-business critical data first is the way to go.  Most companies are using the cloud as just one part of their data storage solution. Reaping some of the benefits and reducing some of their IT costs. So those pictures of unicorns and rainbows your employees are storing for a motivational pick-me-up, maybe those should be the first items sent to the cloud.

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A Data Recovery Plan – Why?

Data recovery plan

Data loss is something that most people think will never happen to them, so why create a data recovery plan?  In my day to day activities as the Country Manager for our operations in Canada, I have the privilege of helping people through their darkest data days by recovering their data.

Some of the situations we recover from are as a result of the worst times someone can encounter. A house fire, a flood, dropping their computer or even frying a hard drive from a power surge.  Generally users do not think about needing a data recovery prior to actually needing it. and at that point many are frantic and really don’t know where to start to look to have their data rescued.

Developing a data recovery plan can help you know who to call should you have a failure of your media or storage system. Time is of the essence for recoveries whether it is lost personal photographs or data for organizations such as banks, hospitals and government institutions. Having a data recovery plan including the contact information of a trusted recovery company gets you on the road to recovery that much faster.

Many large data centers have relationships with service companies to keep them up and running 24/7. Part of your plan should be ensuring that part of a good disaster recovery protocol is to have a data recovery component. Who to call? How to get a hold of them 24/7? Also, make sure your service provider has a reliable source for this service.

Naturally, the first thing you would likely do is consult your favorite search engine and start clicking away. I know from experience that this can be a daunting adventure and likely more confusing. How can you tell who might recover your data over another company claiming to do the same thing!?

Some brief tips to help you separate the flashy sites making claims over what is really important to you.

1.  Be wary of companies that publish success rates on their front page of a website.

Every recovery is different in some form or another. Don’t expect that someone says they can recover 99% of data that it will happen with you.  Kroll Ontrack will perform an evaluation first before we start determining what is recoverable.

2.  Don’t be fooled by a recovery company that wants your money up front.

How can you pay for something that hasn’t been done yet? This is usually to front the recovery attempt to pay for parts with your money. A small evaluation fee is acceptable but make sure you’re told what you will get for that money. Kroll Ontrack’s evaluation fee provides  a complete listing of recoverable files and  an accurate quote. You know what can be recovered BEFORE you make a decision and pay the full recovery fee.

3.  Look for a customer service friendly operation

Your data is important to you. Make sure you know what’s happening to it throughout the recovery process. Do they have an online tracker of the progress of your recovery? Do they advertise a dedicated representative to your case so don’t receive different updates from different people when you call in for status?  Do they support live chat so you’re not troubled with having to call in when it’s not convenient? Many of these services demonstrate a company’s commitment to serving their customer and keeping them involved in the stressful process of getting lost data back.

Last, but not least, security. Does the best candidate offer data security and the protection of your sensitive information?

Make sure that your recovered data is secure.

Ensure you choose a recovery provider with a long history of success and skilled engineers who will protect your recovered data. Verify that your provider has formal protocols and procedures in place to ensure the security of your personal information, including the following:

  • All employees complete pre-employment background checks and sign confidentiality agreements
  • Comprehensive Information/Data Security Policy
  • Full-time, in-house security staff and 24/7 real-time monitoring
  • Recovered data is returned encrypted

Don’t assume that your data is safe just because you have a password installed. Choose a data recovery provider that can ensure the safety of your sensitive information, and returns it in an encrypted format. Kroll Ontrack ensures the strictest standards for data security, processes and staffing. Moreover, we employ a comprehensive Information Security Policy that covers all data handling and data security protocols/standards.

Do the research and create a data recovery plan before you need it. Take the time to properly source a good company you can rely on should something happen rather than scramble in the heat of the moment and choose a poor candidate to perform what could be a one-time only attempt to get your data back.

 


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RECAP: EMC World 2014

emc world

It was yet another successful EMC World show.  Members of our team spent the week attending sessions, conducting meetings, and working the show floor booth.  New relationships were formed and existing relationships expanded…And Imagine Dragons rocked at the Customer Appreciation event, which is always a good time.

We never get tired of hearing how our services and software solutions helped a company, or individual, recover their data. We continually heard attendees saying “You really saved my …”  And we’re definitely glad to hear that.  In addition to all the great feedback from attendees, we were honored with a 5-year partner award from EMC for our outstanding service as a solution completer for EMC’s data protection products. It’s a great testament to the continuous work our leadership and partner teams have accomplished over the last several years.

But we’re not settling anytime soon.  We spoke to many attendees about future enhancements to our Ontrack PowerControls software, specifically support for Microsoft SQL.  Many attendees and customers expressed an immediate interest in a tool that can granularly restore tables directly from SQL backups without having to restore an entire database. Talk about getting your day back!  More details on that at a later date.

If you missed EMC World 2014, the countdown to EMC World 2015 has already begun, so mark your calendars.  If you attended, we would love to hear about your experiences at the show.

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Tape – The Dark Data

Dark Data - 1

Tape may not be the favorite conversation among storage professionals out there, but surveys have revealed most of them use it in some sort of fashion. Just like a certain former Jedi that we know, every data center has it’s dark side…”Dark Data” that is. Data that needs to be retained, but is not often accessed.  This data sits dormant in the data center unless called upon for compliance or litigation purposes. Tape makes a great media for storing dark data. It has great longevity; it’s inexpensive, and easy to store data to.

If you are not prepared to access this dark data, or are unsure what exists on these tapes, the situation could be as stressful as being tested by the Darth Vader himself.  Most requests for dark data are followed by “I need this data ASAP.”  Retrieving this data can be complicated by legacy hardware/software, incomplete documentation and damaged/corrupt tapes.

Prepare to face the dark side of your dark data by attending Kroll Ontrack’s interactive webinar “Tape Is…” I promise that I won’t make you do a one-armed handstand or train by running through the swamps of Dagobah with Master Yoda strapped to your back, but we will be going through real tape scenarios offering tips to minimalize the stress and time associated with them.

Register today. Maybe afterwards you can refer to yourself as a Tape Jedi.

 

 

Darth Vader Image: http://www.fanpop.com/clubs/darth-vader/images/18734770/title/darth-vader-photo

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Product Manager – Steering A Data Recovery Ship

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Product Management has become an integral part of any corporate setting today. The best analogy for the role I’ve heard is a ship’s captain tasked with steering a vessel in a certain direction. The ship is representing the product and the product manager is the captain tasked with directing where that product goes in the marketplace. When I interviewed for the position with Kroll Ontrack nearly four years ago, I had memorized the four Ps of Marketing: Product, Price, Place and Promotion. I basically had a robotic response to the question of what a product manager does every time I was asked the question. Boy, was I wrong?! In fact, what I learned very quickly is that product management is not only about the four Ps, but so much more…

The challenging part about being a product manager for a data recovery company is that unlike conventional markets, this is a market that is entirely reactionary. Most product managers can rely on some form of predictive analysis but the data recovery market is an ever changing market where the need for product/services comes entirely from a point-in-time incident that leads to data loss. So fair to say that a day in my life is really all over the place but I’ll try to put some structure to it by answering the question in three parts.

What do I do?

I collaborate on building products from existing ideas and developing new ideas. The collaboration side of this involves everyday interactions with Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Tech Support and Operations etc. I will typically interact with all departments during a product release cycle to ensure all bases are covered. As the primary business owner for the data recovery products and services, I am responsible for gathering and prioritizing product and customer requirements, thus defining the product vision. Back to that ship’s captain, I am the captain of my product line and in my role, I am tasked every day with directing those products to meet the needs of my passengers , aka customers. All organizations are faced with deciding what to do with limited resources and this is where product managers come into play. Every day, I am tasked with strategizing where we want to focus our resources and more importantly, why? The “why” is more of a question of what the stakeholders need/want and factoring in ROI. Lastly, our development team identifies me as a “Product Owner” which means they rely on me to articulate my vision to them frequently so they are building something on par with what our customers need.

Why I do it?

Products and Services without a product manager at the helm are like sailing without a compass. Without someone measuring the pulse from the marketplace, it would nearly be impossible to compete in the market. Every organization needs someone to not only listen to their customers, but also act upon the feedback they are getting. When organizations stop listening to their customers or neglect the feedback they are getting, they are essentially choosing to fall behind in the market. Every day, I dedicate time to understand customer feedback we’ve received and how to best incorporate this into future product/service considerations. Any chance I get, I enjoy talking to customers and it’s a big reason I’m driven to doing what I do every day.

How I do it?

Collaboration, Teamwork and Communication. It may sound rudimentary but I am convinced that these are the three magic traits that a product manager needs to succeed in any environment. A lot has to come together when a product goes from a vision to reality.  Without the peers I get to work with every day, product releases simply would not be possible. A company truly has to come together in order for products to find their way out to the market. In my role, I connect the many departments together in order to make products become a reality.

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What’s Your IT Industry Story?

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A recent social media post, writing a webinar on tape storage and a recent training has had me thinking of how I started in the IT industry.  It has been almost 12 years to the day that I entered the IT world.  My first job in the IT industry actually found me. I almost didn’t get the job because I wore a suit to the interview, but they were able to look past my formal appearance (“intimidating” as I was later told) to see my potential. Shortly after entering the IT world, I started to learn about the products I was purchasing. Storage systems that I didn’t even know existed until I had to learn the inner-workings of them.  Soon I found that I had a knack for IT.  Everything I was learning made sense to me, it just clicked.

It’s amazing how big and small the IT world is all at the same time. I have run across many in the IT world that love what they do and feel the same way I do. Are you one of them?  What’s your story? Did you find IT, or did IT find you?

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