How to minimize downtime in the cloud

Sometimes downtime happens and there’s nothing you can do to control it. However, with some forethought, you can set yourself up for success and minimize whatever downtime does occur.

Here are a few points to consider when configuring your cloud infrastructure.

Stay on top of security

One case of downtime that can be catastrophic is a security breach. Not only are you losing productivity time but you could also be losing data.

This includes aspects like making sure your firewall settings are current, changing passwords periodically, updating software regularly, and training employees to follow good security practices.

Make sure your network security is up to snuff and you will be eliminating several vectors for sudden downtime.

Backup and disaster recovery

If you don’t have a backup and disaster recovery plan (BDR plan) in place already, then it should become your top priority. In the event of catastrophic failure, irreparable hardware damage, or even natural disasters, an effective BDR plan can save your organization a lot of pain and loss.

It should include how you back up your data, where the data is stored, and how to bring it back to a point where it can be utilized again as quickly as possible. If you prepare it ahead of time, you’ll be glad that you have it when you need it.

This ties into our next point but should operate independently.

Related reading on data integrity: How to avoid downtime and disruption when moving data

Multiple copies

Most effective cloud storage solutions should be organized so that your data exists in multiple copies stored in multiple locations. This policy should be in addition to your backups maintained for your BDR plan. This extra measure is to cover your bases in the event of things like a power outage temporarily preventing full network access or someone accidentally deleting something that they shouldn’t have.

In either case, you still have a significant dataset to work with and can use it to restore any other copies that are necessary. Your data is intact and available because you planned ahead. It’s a quick and easy solution that doesn’t require you to go into emergency recovery mode.

Some solutions even go so far as to split files up into smaller chunks and store them in different locations. This is to improve both security and redundancy. If a subset of data is lost, you only have to replace that subset. Similarly, if only a subset of data is stolen, the attacker can’t make much out of it.

Redundant hardware

Another critical component of effective cloud infrastructure is hardware redundancy. Generally, cloud solutions involve some degree of systems running in parallel and sharing capabilities already. Ideally, you should have redundant systems warmed up and ready to relieve the strain that a failed machine will place on the network.

This way if one component goes down or needs repair, it won’t bring down the entire ecosystem. In fact, the impact will be relatively minor and the malfunctioning part can be replaced without issue.

Related reading about redundancy practices: 4 ways to avoid cloud outages and improve system performance

Keep thinking ahead

It’s always best to plan ahead when you have the opportunity. Think about things like what would happen in specific situations and how you would respond to those challenges.

And don’t hesitate to call the experts if you have any questions. We can help set up your network reliably or, at the very least, provide you with guidance.

Your guide to setting up a HIPAA-compliant cloud

When you put your healthcare organization’s patient data on the cloud, you enjoy a range of benefits like having to worry about computer files being erased accidentally. Furthermore, it’s simple to organize all of your data and use analytics to make the most accurate decisions possible.

At the same time, you must make sure that your cloud complies with HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which Congress passed in 1996. It sets forth complex rules for keeping, transmitting and using protected health information (PHI) or electronic protected health information (ePHI).

Here is an overview of things you should be doing in order to ensure HIPAA compliance.

Step 1: Finding the right cloud provider

To start, it’s helpful to obtain a copy of the online HIPAA guidelines that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) offers. You can review them with your attorney and your IT team members.

As soon as you’re clear on those rules, you can conduct – perhaps with the help of an IT managed service provider – a thorough risk assessment. During this process, you’ll examine various cloud service providers (CSPs) to find one that guarantees every reasonable safeguard, including encryption, for your PHI. You might inspect a CSP’s headquarters yourself, or you could rely on expert security audits.

Once you’ve found a CSP you can trust, your attorney can draw up a business associate agreement (BAA). This agreement will hold your company and your CSP, which the law terms your “business associate,” to all HIPAA regulations.

You must also create a service level agreement (SLA), one that details the quality of service that your CSP will provide. For instance, how will it attempt to recover lost data? How much downtime, if any, can you expect? (The answer should be virtually none.)

Step 2: Securing your data

Under HIPAA, you’ll have to take every practicable measure to keep track of your patient data and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

HIPAA permits healthcare professionals to use mobile devices to access data. However, each mobile device, along with each computer and other endpoints, must be protected by multiple layers of security. Those measures should include:

  • Randomized and unique passwords
  • A powerful firewall
  • Sessions that time out
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Data encryption that meets or exceeds industry standards
  • An intrusion detection program

Likewise, you should provide regular training sessions to ensure employees are using best practices and are able to recognize the warning signs of hacks or phishing scams.

Moreover, everyone should be on a need-to-know basis. It’s illegal to share a patient’s ePHI with anyone outside of your business unless the person who’s requesting it has a HIPAA release form. (That document must include the patient’s signature.) Your cloud should also have a principle of least privilege (PoLP) security model to make sure each user only has the authority to access the information necessary for his or her job.

An automatic alert system is valuable here. You’ll receive a warning if an unauthorized person accesses your cloud data or if an authorized person does something in the cloud they’re not supposed to do.

Step 3: Reporting breaches

What happens if an unauthorized person gains access to someone’s ePHI? This could occur due to employee error or hacking.

You must tell the affected patient about the transgression within 60 days. Plus, on an annual basis, you must let the Department of Health and Human Services know about every PHI breach that happened during the past year.

If more than 500 records are breached at one time, you’re obligated to send out a press release and to tell the HHS at once. The OCR will follow up, seeking more detailed information.

Finally, as you work your way toward full HIPAA compliance, it’s wise to partner with outside IT specialists. These experienced professionals can advise and support all of your data storage efforts.

In addition to conducting the initial risk analysis, those security experts can identify and eliminate potential vulnerabilities in your network. They can also help you craft an IT budget that accounts for all security measures. As cloud technologies evolve and improve, they’ll ensure that you always stay within the law and always protect your patients.

ProFiles in storage (all 5 MB worth)

Five Megabytes. $3,499. What a bargain.

When this mysterious beige box arrived at Apple dealerships almost 38 years ago, the new Apple ProFile seemed like a device from the future. A magic box that held a virtual drawer full of 140KB floppy discs was a miracle of technology to those used to fumbling around with 5-1/4″ floppy discs. How much did Apple’s first hard disk drive cost? A mere $3,499 at its September 1981 introduction. Imagine spending $700 per MB when your Apple Watch today has 100 times the memory – just in system RAM. Doesn’t even just opening a blank Word document today use a few MB?

How does this all stand up today? Well, the Apple ProFile was about $10,000 in today’s dollars and had the capacity of a couple of MP3 songs today. Or maybe a few Excel docs. Utilizing a Seagate ST-506 mechanism with an Apple-designed controller, the ProFile was designed for use with the Apple III and available for use on an Apple II with the optional ProFile interface card. What would we do with all that storage?

When I first saw an Apple ProFile in the fall of 1981 while working at an Apple dealership, my mind raced at the prospects. An infinite amount of data storage which would send floppy discs to the waste heap. Not really. The ProFile was around two grand less than the average price of a new car, required ProDOS and had limited software to take advantage of the increased capacity. Applications like PFS:File claimed 30 thousand records could be stored but in practice, no one really tried. The ProFile later found use on the Apple Lisa, released in 1983 and was normally sold with each one (of which 7-ProFile drives could supposedly be chained).

Apple’s first foray into hard disk storage seemed at the time like the hopeful transformation from recipe-storing-using-VisiCalc home computer to maybe something more. But just one month earlier on August 12, 1981, IBM had announced the IBM PC and the computer landscape would be forever changed. For a moment in the fall of 1981 however, Apple fans got a glimpse of a future without floppy disks and a magic box that could open up the imagination for uses of Apple’s early hardware.

Today, cloud storage can be pennies a gigabyte and accessible anywhere, anytime. Large capacity servers which sprung from the evolution of the PC made its way into offices, once again changing the data storage landscape. Now almost four decades later, the cloud has almost rendered local hardware storage devices as obsolete niche products, and along with ubiquitous high speed internet access, enables users to revel in virtually unbounded data capacity.

This time, however, for far less than the average price of a new car.

The top 4 things that take you out of compliance

As the leader of an evolving organization, you’re expected to keep employee and customer data as secure as possible. However, aging technology and processes sometimes result in disconnects and even mistakes that interfere with regulatory compliance requirements. For example, the financial industry is rife with examples of tax and recordkeeping violations, and the penalties can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

So, what are common mistakes that cause otherwise responsible organizations in various fields to fall out of compliance when they make the move to new solutions? The following are some examples that you should avoid to minimize your risk of missing compliance requirements.

1. Forgetting about GDPR

General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) went into effect in May 2018, and while they primarily affect European companies, they also affect American companies that collect, maintain or process personal data for people living in the European Union. If your business has no dealings whatsoever with folks in the EU, that’s one thing, but in today’s global economy, it’s best to be ready if you decide to expand at some point in the future.

Regardless, these regulations are a good standard to strive for. They require that businesses be aware of the types of data they collect, keep on top of security breaches and follow a clear, transparent consent process, among other things. For example, as an article in CSO explains, “Opting for a mailing list does not give the small-business owner the ability to use a customer’s data for something else unless this is outlined. Individuals should also know how to withdraw from your database at any time.”

Regardless, these regulations are a good standard to strive for. They require that businesses be aware of the types of data they collect, stay ahead of security breaches and follow a clear, transparent consent process, among other things. For example, as an article in CSO explains, “Opting in for a mailing list does not give the small-business owner the ability to use a customer’s data for something else unless this is outlined. Individuals should also know how to withdraw from your database at any time.”

It’s a good idea to keep GDPR in mind as you move to the cloud.

2. Not checking out third parties thoroughly

It’s likely that your business is partnering with at least one vendor to implement and improve cloud solutions. Perhaps a managed services provider is handling this for you, or maybe your business uses an offsite data center. In both cases, it’s still your responsibility to ensure that vendors and other subcontractors follow these guidelines to protect data and maintain the same level of security.

3. Allowing BYOD without a tight policy

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies are popular in many businesses, but they can backfire if the policies don’t follow a strict set of security protocols. For example, it’s necessary to have data encryption and strong password requirements to address any security issues with apps or software. Make sure you have an adequate BYOD policy in place when moving to the cloud or allowing employees to use their own cell phones, tablets and computers.

4. Collecting unnecessary information

Many customers don’t think twice about turning over personal data such as Social Security numbers, even for something as simple as a fishing license. However, as a general rule, if certain pieces of customer data aren’t needed, don’t collect them. If you do have a good reason for collecting the data that you do, explain your rationale to customers and share how you’ll use their data.

Aside from not having a disaster recovery plan or not providing adequate training for your employees, you should be able to meet compliance requirements if you avoid the four mistakes discussed here.

If you need help navigating the ever-changing landscape, you can always contact us. After all, shoring up your environment to meet compliance is vital to your success. Being aware of the security benefits that cloud computing offers will inform the steps you take to keep your company’s data as secure as possible.

How the cloud can help make compliance more productive

It’s estimated that approximately 83% of enterprises will be in the cloud by the year 2020. There’s no question that cloud computing, as well as all that’s offered by the technology, is here to stay.

83% of enterprises will be in the cloud by the year 2020

– Forbes.com

However, moving to a cloud environment brings changes that can affect how you deal with compliance.

Before diving into how the cloud has changed to meet compliance requirements, it’s a good idea to better understand the challenges that brought about the need for these changes to begin with.

Challenge: Delineating responsibility in the “shared responsibility model”

Even though there have been significant efforts made by cloud providers to create more awareness of the “shared responsibility model,” providing the needed training and security controls, there are many organizations that still struggle to fully understand, making the same mistakes in delineating the responsibilities.

As a result, organizations wind up with security gaps in cloud assets, all because they assume it is the provider’s responsibility to manage and prevent potential breaches.

checklist

Challenge: Responsibility shift and changing realization of compliance mapping

Compliance objectives and requirements remain constant across all the layers of cloud computing. However, the accountability to create specific requirements on an Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) versus a Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform might be totally different. One may require the customer to implement the same, where the other requires the cloud provider to do so.

For example, there are different implementation sets and responsibility models to meet the compliance objectives of an IaaS service compared to a SaaS platform.

Challenge: Compliance and security checks aren’t done until the end of the software production lifecycle

In most situations, compliance and security policies are written on extremely large and complex paper documents. After software production, the security personnel or officers will validate the software in order to make sure it has met the policies, which may often fall a bit short due to delivery time constraints, the pressure to go to market, and not fully understanding the software. The Development and Security team’s relationship is affected, which can then result in the creation of insecure and non-resilient software.

Now that some of the most prevalent challenges are known, it’s important to find out how the cloud has changed to better meet these compliance concerns.

The creation of knowledge and awareness

Modern cloud providers have invested quite a bit of time and money into knowledge and awareness to help users better understand their responsibilities versus cloud providers responsibilities. When a company decides to adopt the cloud for their business, they also need to create a strategy that includes training the teams about the ongoing responsibility shift taking place with the use of the cloud.

A great starting point to learn more about this is the AWS Shared responsibility guide.

Eastech Divider

Learn more about the AWS Shared responsibility guide.

Eastech Divider

Defining and delineating responsibilities for SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS service models as early as possible is essential for success. When an organization moves to the cloud, it doesn’t mean they no longer have to use methods to secure the data or workloads being moved. Now, cloud providers are spreading this awareness in hopes users will take the proper security measures to safeguard information.

The shifting of compliance and security checks

Thanks to the rise in the adoption of DevOps, there has been a significant impact on how organizations produce software. Due to the change in methodology, compliance and security controls need to be shifted and not implemented closer to the actual production. The conversion of the paper-based security needs and the compliance policies should be used earlier in the process. Beginning early and converting security as code is the solution to help achieve compliance at the cloud scale.

Automation is now required to remain compliant and manage drift

Managing drift within the cloud can be challenging because of the high velocity and ephemeral nature. Using automation, along with the real-time enforcement of various compliance policies is the best way to remain compliant.

With automation, an organization has the ability to enforce various security controls and security policies homogenously in this continually changing cloud ecosystem. The cloud may be further augmented with the real-time enforcement of the set compliance policies. This is something that is absolutely essential if a company wants to remain compliant. The use of in-house automation, along with products, such as Puppet, Chef, etc. can be used together to help manage drift and automate to meet the set compliance objectives.

EaseTech team member

To remain compliant in the cloud, it’s important to stay abreast of these changes as they continue to evolve. If you want to ensure your company or organization remains compliant, then keeping the tips and information here in mind is a must. If you’d like to learn more, additional information about cloud compliance can be found by reaching out to the team at EaseTech.

What is file sync and how could your business use it?

File sync is a way for your business to easily access files and to see any changes immediately. It is one advantage of cloud computing and enables your personnel, no matter where they are, to work from the most recent versions of images, text, video, graphics and even music.

With this technology, you can recruit a remote workforce in different time zones, boost productivity, offer employees more flexibility and convenience, and turn around work quicker and with fewer errors.

Here’s a look at why all of the above items are achievable with file sync.

Time savings

With file sync, you no longer have to stress over whether you’re working from the most recent version of a file. Nor do you have to call five colleagues working on a project to ask if they made any changes.

Whatever you’re working on will be the most recent version of the file.

In addition, you should be able to see who made what changes and when, and access older versions of the file without affecting its current state.

More efficient collaboration

Many programs allow you to work on a file in real time with other colleagues and even see who is doing what. This comes in especially helpful when each of you is responsible for your own portion of a project saved on one file.

Work on multiple devices

There’s no need to be tied to a computer any longer.

For example, you’ve probably started a paper or presentation on your desktop, and at some point, worked on it using your laptop, tablet or cellphone—maybe all three. Without file sync, this process can be tedious. It involves a lot of emailing, downloading and transferring. And there’s always a chance you’ll mistakenly work from an outdated version.

With file sync, all you have to do is open the file no matter which device you are on and start working. The only requirement is to have internet access.

Financial savings

File sync saves your business money in several ways, including the following:

  • Less office space needed (because you may have more employees working out of the office or remotely)
  • Fewer overhead costs and fewer costs of doing business (due to less office space needed)
  • Less local file storage space is required (because file sync is done via cloud computing)

There are also indirect savings through improved employee efficiency. 62 percent of your employees may be more productive working outside of the office, according to Softchoice.

Fewer errors and quicker turnaround

Employees access the same version of a file no matter how many devices have been included and how many revisions have been made. You’re able to see who made changes and when. In the big picture, this leads to fewer errors and happier clients.

The data in the file is simply more trustworthy. For example, file tampering or employee manipulation of information is much harder to do with file sync because there’s history of the changes.

Along the same lines, employees can turn work around more quickly when they’re able to work across multiple devices and from multiple locations. This can be especially nice, even necessary, in industries where clients expect immediate responses.

The importance of secure file sharing

There is, however, one critical thing to keep in mind—file sync should be secure.

Some ways to ensure proper security include smart password management, encryption and two-factor authentication. Your workplace also needs a good BYOD policy and guidelines on using public Wi-Fi networks.

Additionally, only grant employees access to the files they need to do their work. It’s not necessary (and could be risky) for someone in project development to have access to the same files the accountants have access to and vice versa.

3 ways a BYOD policy for your business will make your life easier

In an effort to stay current, many companies (even the US government) are moving their solutions and tools to the cloud. Everything is interconnected via the internet, so it doesn’t matter whether the staff is in the building or not.

There are countless benefits to this change, but migrating to the cloud has its own potenial problems. Here is one of the most basic one. How do you handle employees working from their own devices? Do you provide employees with company devices? Or do you just let them use their own if they want to?

While there are benefits to both approaches, a solid BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy can make the whole thing a lot easier on you. Especially if you lead a smaller company with limited capital.  You get the assurance of good cybersecurity practices, and your employees get the flexibility they want.

If you BYOD policy is well planned.

Who doesn’t want lower overhead?

You can’t zero-out your IT budget. Not unless you want your staff to ditch all technology. (We don’t recommend that.) But there are ways to bring your tech-based overhead down.

Like utilizing BYOD.

Providing a device for every employee has a steep upfront cost, especially for an SMB or startup just getting on its feet. Even a cheap laptop will run in the hundreds-of-dollars. More specialized equipment, like Apple products for your design team, will cost even more.

We recommend providing equipment that’s essential to your staff to do their jobs. But if you already do that and they want to use their own tablet or laptop, as well, that benefits you—without an additional cost.

Factor in the increase in productivity, and it’s an automatic win for you.

Speedier training

Think about this: if you could get a boost in productivity with no investment of time or money, would you?

That’s what you get with a BYOD policy.

When your staff is empowered to bring in their own device, they’ll be working on equipment they already know and like.

No training. No expense. No lost time. You’ve preemptively checked off one item on their training itinerary.

Better equipment

People tend to update their personal equipment more often than their employers do. (And many businesses tend to hang onto their equipment much longer than they should). Newer equipment means tech tools that operate faster with fewer breakdowns and repairs.

Most people replace their personal devices when it’s convenient or when a newer device comes out, regardless of the performance of their current device. Businesses tend to replace their equipment when the old device breaks down, which could mean that it ends up being years out of date.

Long story short—most of the time a BYOD policy will mean your employees have greater access to newer equipment.

The policy itself

BYOD, in general, brings several benefits to the table. But without a written policy the practice can cause more trouble than it’s worth.

Here are several areas worth covering in the policy.

  • Acceptable use
  • What devices qualify for use
  • Whether the in-house IT department will perform repairs on personal devices or not
  • Whether the company will reimburse/subsidize for the use/repair of personal devices

And most importantly . . .

  • Security policies

The biggest downside to BYOD is the potential security risk. Since your IT team doesn’t directly manage these devices, you have limited control over what the user is or isn’t doing with them.

Your security policy should definitely include requirements for anti-virus and firewall use. Perhaps the IT team can give it a once-over as part of the employee’s onboarding process, or check in every so often to make sure the device is functioning properly.

A required best-practices training course could also be a good means of keeping the device safe for use on your network. And you should absolutely train employees to understand the inherent risks of using public Wi-Fi. Sure, it’s free, but it may not always keep your company data safe.

Nothing matters as much as security.

A BYOD policy has a lot of benefits—for your business and your employees. Just make sure you think through all the potential pitfalls.Do your research and draft a policy keeps your company data safe. And if you need some input from some experts in the field, don’t hesitate to give your managed IT services provider a call.

5 End-of-Year Tech Tips 2018

As many business owners, CFOs, and solo practitioners think about their end-of-year business planning, it’s a good time to look at your technology end-of-year needs as well. I have covered these five tips:

Passwords

With so many security compromises occurring, following good password management practices is critical. If it has been a while, now is the best time to change and update your passwords. Using passwords with long series of complex characters that are unique to each site can’t be overstated. A good New Year’s resolution would be to start using a password manager to help you keep up with the tasks, such as LastPass or 1Password.

Backups

Backups are the cornerstone of all disaster recovery plans. Each business has its own backup and recovery requirements, but they should be reviewed regularly. The biggest questions around backups tend to focus on time to recovery and archiving data.  Do you have new accounts that are depending on you to work all the time? Does the information you provide need to be stored and retrieved in a certain way, within certain time frames? Updated backup plans will help your company to recover from a cyberattack, major equipment failure, flood or catastrophic mistake made by a staff member.

Technology Budget Planning

Creating a budget or planning a tentative budget for technological needs is not an easy task. Similarly, to set goals for 2019, a certain type of review is required, looking at the past year. The business requirements need to be incorporated into these plans. Will business expansion require increased bandwidth on your Internet connection? in what ways can you improve the security of your client data? What can you do to add more security for remote users? These are just some of the important questions business managers might ask and need to plan for in the New Year. Start with your business goals and previous year challenges to map out new technology investments or enhancements.

Safeguarding Data

An annual review of all company and client data is important for obvious reasons, but it may have compliance implications as well. Putting safeguards in place can help to prevent fraud and identity theft as well as enhance customer confidence and trust. Safeguard reviews should start with an observance of HIPAA, IRS guidelines or other industry standards that may be necessary for your business. You will want to preserve the confidentiality and privacy of all data by restricting access and disclosure. This may not be a costly effort but one that takes awareness and often attention to simple procedures. The recently updated “Safeguarding Taxpayer Data: A Guide For Your Business (Rev. 6-2018)” from the IRS offers many ideas on how to approach the topic, even if you are not an accounting firm.

Policy Reviews

IT policies establish expectations and regulations for behavior related to company technology and networks. Liaise with managers to review past issues and update policies with the organization. Review your current acceptable use policy and find ways to communicate expectations to your employees about proper technology handling. And of course, incorporate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy along with guidelines on passwords, wire transfers and so on, as the Social Media Use Policy should be considered as a part of your policy review.

Top Holiday Tech Gifts for 2018

Do you struggle for gifts for that tech-savvy friend or family member every year?  Even millennials enjoy a lot of the newer tech gadgets on the market today. Here are a few of our picks from the Ease Tech Team this season.

The Apple Watch Series 4

The Apple Watch Series 2 brings advanced fitness-tracking capabilities as one of its more attractive features. The GPS, bright screen and waterproof features make it extremely compelling for anyone that has considered a smartwatch. This latest hardware and software is designed to work with the iPhone, offering the convenience of using a variety of apps like calendar, texts, weather, notes and reminders without needing to pull out a phone. Ideal for the health-conscious geek in the family. Cellular options available but the base price starts at $399 at the Apple Store.

NytStand

First came the iPhone, then the iPad and Apple Watch ─ and now Apple TV with a remote that charges just like an iPhone.  At the end of the day, your devices become a cluttered mess next to your bed. NytStnd is a charging station for all of your devices and organizes them in a presentable fashion for ease of use and decoration. NytStnd takes the clutter and frustration of nightly charging and cleans it up with an attractive all-in-one charging station. 

Google Home Hub

The Home Hub is Google’s first own-brand smart display, combing Google Assistant, advanced smart-home control and a digital photo frame into a neat and tidy package. You access your home assistant through your voice commands and are able to hear responses back or see them on the display.  Going for about $150 from Google during the holidays.

Audible

Do you have someone that is always in the car and never has time to read? Audible is a provider and producer of spoken audio entertainment, information, and educational programming on the Internet. Audible sells digital audiobooks, radio and TV programs, and audio versions of magazines and newspapers.  

Tile Pro

Do you know someone who’s always losing their keys, wallet or purse at home? Tile is a simple way of keeping track of your things while at home or traveling. It’s a little device that is attached to the thing you want to manage and then paired with your iPhone. Tiles work with keys, wallets, bags or bikes. They’re best when monitoring things in close range and urban areas. Tiles are relatively inexpensive, very easy to set up and even have replaceable battery options. There are several versions for bags and keys and one that has a flattering style for a wallet.

Zero Grid Electronics Travel Organizer – Cord, Cable, and Accessories Case

No more messy wires and fumbling for cords. Fully customizable for electronics and accessory organization. Neatly manage tech, cords, and gadgets in one secure place with this travel cable organizer.  Carry your total tech arsenal ─ perfect for chargers, converters, camera and iPhone accessories. Zippered pouch holds smaller memory cards, USB flash drives and more. Of course, Amazon for $15.

Battery recharging pack

All this mobile tech gear requires additional power while on the road. There are a wide variety of small powerful recharging battery packs that can keep those smartphones, iPads and digital cameras functioning and extend their battery life by many hours. Great for road warriors and families that are always taking trips. The RAVPower 16750mAh Portable Charger found Amazon is one of the best for about $35.

Portable speaker

The iPhone is one of the most advanced pieces of portable computing devices ever created. One way to turn that smartphone into a quality music player is by pairing it with a mobile Bluetooth speaker. The best speakers are portable, rechargeable, small and waterproof, but with good-quality sound. These can be taken on vacations, to the beach and to parties. The UE Roll Wireless Mobile Bluetooth Speaker meets all of these needs for about $90, and there are plenty of choices if you want to spend less too.

Stocking Stuffer Ideas

You can never have enough power adapters and charging cables. I always purchase extra USB car chargers, iPhone USB cables, and wall outlet adapters, as they are pretty inexpensive and always needed. A plentiful supply is great for travel, keeping in the car or office, or for use when a guest shows up. Again, found at Amazon for $5-$20.

Holiday Beer

A favorite amongst the Ease Tech Support Team is Mad Elf. Tröeg’s kicks off our inner Mad Elf momentarily taking over the support team. So blame “him” for this cheerful ruby red creation reminiscent of ripened cherries, raw honey and cocoa with notes of cinnamon, clove and allspice.

We taste: chocolate malt, cherries, honey, peppercorn