Smarter IT Disaster Recovery Plan Includes Intact, Accessible, Actionable Backup Data


Marty Hooper

I think it’s safe to say that most of us understand the value of solid, consistent backups to preserve and protect our data. But as important as backups are, they are only one piece of an overall disaster recovery strategy. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan is essential to any business – no matter the size.

Let’s review backups and the part a good backup system plays in your overall recovery strategy. Some elements of a backup system are generally overlooked. First, it’s important to understand and implement a backup plan that fits your system and your workforce. One of the most important tools in a backup system is a full image backup platform. A full image backup takes a snapshot of your entire data storage – including operating system files – and creates a restorable set of data that can be reinstalled in case of a total system meltdown. Many systems just employ incremental file-level backups that don’t take a full snapshot. In many instances, running programs and other services may prevent file-level backups from concluding, and critical files can be skipped. Backups should run throughout the day so that in the case of a data loss, a full day’s work won’t be lost. Not only should they run throughout the day, but a full snapshot should also be taken periodically.

There are a few other considerations where backups are concerned. The most important is to test your backups. You should fully restore a snapshot from a previous date and run all the programs that contain data in the backup set to make sure the data is intact, accessible and actionable. I have seen many companies attempt to restore data after a corruption only to discover that their backups were not done properly. Those companies spend thousands of dollars on data reconstruction and lost productivity trying to recover from that type of situation.

It’s also important that you understand where your backups are being stored. Are they being transmitted safely offsite? Is the date encrypted in transit to offsite storage, and is it encrypted at rest? Those are all important questions to ask your backup team.

Once the backup system is in place, operational and tested, it’s time to develop a more comprehensive disaster recovery plan. The backup platform is certainly one of the most important pieces of the recovery plan, but there are several other parts that need to be addressed.

Business-impacting situations don’t just come in the form of data corruption. There are lots of other potential disasters that can bring a company to a standstill.

The physical nature of servers makes them vulnerable to hardware, software and power failures. One of the most important and often overlooked aspect of a disaster recovery plan is how to deal with a down server. If your server stops working, do you have a contingency plan? Servers can also be stolen or vandalized, so access to the server room should be restricted.

Another potential threat is a weather, climate or natural-disaster-related incident that may render your place of business inaccessible. Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires and other disasters are threats for which a business must make a contingency plan. What would happen if you couldn’t access the data from your server if your building is uninhabitable or unreachable? Do you have a way to access your data?

Another point of failure that can impact a business is the local network and route to the Internet. What if your router/modem goes down? Do you have a backup router or fail-over Internet connection? If your local network fails, you won’t be able to access data on the server even though it’s in the building. A backup router is an inexpensive insurance policy against local network failures.

A lot of companies overlook the importance of a redundant Internet connection. When your staff cannot access the Internet, and clients can’t get to your website or send you email, that can have a major impact on your ability to conduct business as usual. That’s where a backup router and failover Internet connection should be a part of your disaster recovery plan.

When faced with all the potential failures in a local network, many companies have made the switch to cloud computing. Moving to the cloud can alleviate the need for a local server, remote access to that server and reliance on locally stored data. If your business headquarters is uninhabitable, your staff can access your data without coming into the office. While the cloud is a very attractive alternative to a local server, it’s also important to apply the same disaster scenarios to your cloud service provider and make sure it fits in your total disaster recover schema.

It’s critical to assess and evaluate all potential disaster scenarios – no matter how unlikely they may seem at the time – and develop a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that addresses all potential hazards. It’s just as important to communicate that plan to all staff and reassess at least every six months to make sure your plan keeps up with your company’s changing needs.

Marty Hooper is a senior sales representative for Deltek ComputerEase. He has been helping clients in the construction industry with their software and technology needs throughout the Midwest for the past nine years. Hooper can be reached at (703) 885-9418 or

Understanding Construction Accounting



Richard Waigand

Construction accounting is a specialized area that involves managing and tracking financial transactions and budgets for construction projects. It is a vital part of the construction process, as it helps ensure that projects are completed on time and within budget. In this article, we will explore several the key concepts and considerations related to construction accounting, including job costing, budgeting and financial reporting.

Job Costing

One of the primary responsibilities of construction accounting is job costing, which involves tracking and allocating the costs associated with a specific construction project. This includes materials, labor, subcontractor and any other expenses incurred during the project. Job costing helps contractors and project managers to better understand the financial performance of a project, identify any potential cost overruns and make informed decisions about how to allocate resources.


To be able to effectively manage job costs, construction companies must have a clear understanding of their budget and the scope of work for each project. This involves creating a detailed budget that outlines all the expected costs for the project, including materials, labor, subcontract costs and – do not forget – overhead expenses. Budgeting is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and adjustment as the project progresses and actual costs are incurred.

While small a contractor may get by with using Excel spreadsheets to monitor their actual cost to budgets, larger contractors with multiple jobs running at the same time typically must rely upon a construction industry software that helps project managers create line-item budgets and monitors actual cost against those budgets. It is critical that real time data and budget comparisons are available to identify cost overruns which will provide the necessary information for management to successfully negotiate change orders when warranted. 

Financial Reporting

Another important aspect of construction accounting is financial reporting, which involves providing regular updates on the financial performance of a project. This includes tracking costs and profits in excess of billings, and billings in excess of cost and profits, which are major components of a contractor’s balance sheet and net working capital.

Owners, management, lending institutions and bonding companies all have a vested interested in ensuring that the company is reporting timely and accurate financial statements including the underlying contracts schedules that support those financial statements. A robust system of internal controls, good estimating skills and cost tracking is critical to ensuring that a construction company’s financial statements are dependable in making critical business decisions.

Overall, construction accounting is a complex and nuanced field that requires an elevated level of attention to detail and organization. By staying on top of job costs, budgets, financial reporting and other key considerations, construction companies can better manage their financial performance and ensure the success of their projects.

Rich Waigand, CPA, is a senior partner at SFW Partners, LLC. He specializes in helping construction companies gain better and more timely information from their accounting systems and provide guidance on proper financial reporting that is relevant to management, lenders and bonding companies. For more information, Waigand can be reached at or (314) 569-3333.

Who’s Your IT Guy?



Marty Hooper

The construction industry is unique. A significant percentage of companies are started and run by the very craftsmen who worked in the industry. People excelling in their trade realized they could turn their skill of working for someone else into their own successful business. But, as their business grew, their craft knowledge would need to be bolstered with operational expertise, including smarts in maintaining inventory levels, paying employees, complying with OSHA regulations and more. The list is exhaustive.

Construction companies face the challenge of keeping pace with the incredibly fast growth of technology and computer systems. While firms want to adopt the latest technology to help their workflow, it’s a constant struggle to decide which technology to adopt and when. One of the forgotten aspects of technology is not the external apps that help locate workers, collect time and track assets, but rather the underlying technology present in every workplace. The local network is the backbone that supports all the functions of enterprise resource planning, accounting, estimating and bidding systems and the technology supporting them.

Not only do companies need constant IT support in the form of system monitoring, backups, intrusion protection, updates and virus protection, they also need a trusted adviser to guide them through the purchase, upgrade and support of their system.

There are realistically three ways to get the proper IT support:

  1. Hire a full-time IT person or staff. This is the most desirable option but is also the costliest. The advantage of a full-time IT staff is that your staff, whether it’s one person or several, is focused solely on your business. You don’t have to worry about their availability and whether they will be accessible during an emergency. They are also a great resource to guide the company through purchases, upgrades and managing growth. Just like your construction manager forecasts labor and material needs for jobs, a good IT manager can help forecast technology needs and plan a forward-looking roadmap for the future. Internal IT professionals helping your staff with issues that arise. They’re onsite when needed without advanced scheduling. Since internal IT support is tasked with setting up and maintaining your network, they will be the most familiar with your operation and its specific needs. There are a lot of upsides to having a full-time IT staff, but there also a few downsides. First, it can be cost prohibitive for smaller companies to hire a full-time IT person or staff. With competitive salary and benefits considered, the yearly cost can be more than $100,000 per employee. Second, it can be challenging to hire a qualified – or even to know what questions to ask during an interview. A single internal IT staffer may leave the company and take all the knowledge with him or her, leaving your firm without anyone who knows your system. That’s why it’s best to make sure everything is documented and accessible to upper-level management so that no one individual holds the keys to the kingdom.
  • Hire an outside staff that specializes in supporting construction companies. While not as advantageous as hiring internal staff, many managed service providers have experience supporting clients in the construction industry. One of the benefits of hiring an MSP is the cost savings. You can hire a competent and professional firm to manage your IT infrastructure for a much smaller price tag than hiring your own IT staff. A good MSP will be able to assist with day-to-day operations and help you plan for upgrades and growth. Since they generally have a good-sized staff, you should get a fairly quick response when any issues that arise. Make sure they have a good monitoring system that alerts them of any issues before you, the user, notice them. But there are also pitfalls with hiring an MSP. You may not know if the external IT contractor is facing staffing shortages; your calls to support may be delayed. With many clients to manage, the outside firm may become overwhelmed, and your issues may not be addressed in a timely fashion. Critical issues may be overlooked that can have major consequences – such as server failure or network outages – that can bring your company to a halt. It’s best to evaluate the potential IT contractor’s response time and request staffing information from them before retaining their services so you can feel comfortable.
  • Train someone on your existing staff who may have a different role but has the bandwidth to take on the role of IT coordinator. This is the least desirable option, but for smaller companies it may be the only option. In this case, it’s advisable to get that person as much training as possible. They will also need ongoing training as technology changes so they can stay up to date. Some outside consultants will assist in training your staff to take on the duties of an onsite IT staff. In this scenario, the safest course of action is to offload as much of the local network functions as possible. Moving as much as you can to the cloud will lessen the load on your IT person and help protect your valuable data.

Whichever option suits your company best, consult with companies that are the same size as yours to get ideas and methods that work for them. Make sure you’re comfortable with “your IT guy,” no matter what form through which you receive his or her expertise.

Marty Hooper is a senior sales representative for Deltek ComputerEase. He has been helping clients in the construction industry with their software and technology needs throughout the Midwest for the past eight years. He can be reached at

Microchip Plant Construction Boosted by CHIPS and Science Act Funding



In August, the Biden administration signed into law the CHIPS and Science Act (H.R. 4346), which provides U.S. semiconductor manufacturers with $52.7 billion over the next five years to increase the production of microchips.

The funding, paired with local and state project-specific tax incentives, is spurring plant construction in Ohio and elsewhere.

The U.S., the country that created the semiconductor industry, currently ranks behind Taiwan in manufacturing volume. The aim of H.R. 4346 is to stem the two-year-plus chip shortage and buoy other related U.S. market sectors including construction.

Intel U.S. Government Relations Vice President Al Thomson says in January 2023 the global company will spend $20 billion on two chip fabrication plants – known as fabs – near Columbus, OH. The new “megafab” site could eventually house a total of eight Intel fabs in a collective construction effort totaling $100 billion. Intel is calling upon all commercial contractors statewide and beyond to build the 7,000-person workforce that will construct the plants, with the goal of opening them in 2025.

Congressional support for the CHIPS Act came in large part due to worries about the U.S. falling behind China in terms of technological leadership and strength, and from concern that without intervention, the U.S. tech industry’s manufacturing capacity would remain second to Taiwan’s.

The European Union’s Chips for Europe initiative, $17.1 billion strong in terms of new funding, echoes the thrust of the CHIPS Act.

Asian competitors are also planning an increase in the manufacturing of microchips. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is estimated to be investing up to $44 billion in new chipmaking plants and equipment.

A leading driver of chip demand on all fronts was the COVID-19 pandemic, which spiked the demand for work-from-home technology including PCs, tablets and webcams. Chips serving as the brains for other work-life resources such as dishwashers, LED light fixtures and baby monitors added to demand intensity. Play at home devices such as game consoles also fueled increased chip demand since the pandemic began.

Crippling Texas freezes in February 2021 that knocked more than 70 power plants offline and cut power to a Samsung chip plant also magnified the shortage. COVID worker lockdowns worldwide fed into the lack of microchips being produced for the automotive industry and other market sectors.

The CHIPS and Science Act is spurring domestic construction. Indiana-based SkyWater Technology Inc. plans to invest $1.8 billion in a chip research and production facility in Indiana, in partnership with the state and Purdue University. Boise, Idaho-based Micron is planning to build a $40 billion memory chip manufacturing plant. And the partnership of Qualcomm and GlobalFoundries is expected to materialize in a $4.2 billion chip plant expansion in upstate New York.

“Federal investment will enable SkyWater to more quickly expand our efforts to address the need for strategic reshoring of semiconductor manufacturing,” said SkyWater CEO Thomas Sonderman.

Data Center Design Features Redundant, Sustainable Power Systems



Specialty contractors engineering data centers consider the back-up power system the “pacemaker” of these mission-critical spaces.

Jacobs Mission Critical Global Technology Leader Ken Kutsmeda has led the construction of more than one million square feet of data centers, adapting the latest technologies to electrical systems design for mission-critical facilities worldwide.

“Data centers are meant to operate 24/7…they can’t have downtime,” Kutsmeda says. “Their systems must be designed with redundancy and resiliency so that concurrent maintenance can be performed without shutting down the data center, and to ensure continuous operation if one part of a system fails.”

Nearly every piece of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) equipment – the generator, transformer, uninterrupted power supply (UPS) feeding each server rack, power distribution unit (PDU), chiller, pump and fan – has at least one redundant component. “There is also redundancy in the mechanical piping and in the electrical infrastructure, as well as water storage tanks within the cooling system, should public water loss occur.”

In years past, the redundancy strategy for these facilities was to back up IT and cooling through a large, paralleled back-up power generation system. These days, Kutsmeda says, many hyper-scalers such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google are engineering redundancy at the IT level to protect from outages while also engineering power back-up for the network.

“One configuration is providing back-up power in smaller individual power trains,” he says, “pairing a generator with a transformer and UPS system so they can be easily phased with construction.”

A current, growing trend, Kutsmeda adds, is sustainability and carbon emissions-free back-up power generation that replaces the carbon-based diesel generator with sustainable solutions including hydrogen fuel cells, hydrogen generators or even micro-nuclear generators.

Rosendin Vice President of Engineering Ron Wilson, who has been involved with data center engineering for more than 25 years, says many of the larger data centers require as much power as a small city in terms of electrical loads.

“Most power redundancy today is compartmentalized,” says Wilson. “Whereas 20 years ago you may have seen the designs with all the power for the data center within one block, these days that power distribution is sectionalized so that one issue doesn’t impact the entire facility.”

Controls play as integral a role today as redundant systems do, according to Wilson. “Controls and monitoring have become huge because data center users want to be able to monitor their capacity and move it to wherever it is needed. That’s where the complexity and flexibility of current distribution systems come into play.”

Overhead busway that feed power to specific server rows, allowing flexibility for server refresh, is one distribution strategy.

Higher temperatures produced by modern servers are another challenge in engineering data centers. “Placing coolers that are localized at the server rack rather than cooling an entire room is becoming more common in high-density data centers today,” Wilson says.

EV Charging Stations: Office buildings Will Need Them, and Soon



One byproduct of the coming exponential growth of electric vehicles will be a growing demand for charging stations away from EV owners’ homes. Workplace parking lots and public parking garages will be ideal locations for these stations but building owners may find their infrastructure inadequate to support them.

The City of St Louis has already passed an ordinance that doubles the electrical load and design requirements for the electrical service for parking garages. This ordinance is a minimum that may not meet the expectations for visitors as the number of EVs and demand for charging stations continue to grow.

Accommodating charging stations will become a long-term need in the architecture, engineering and construction industry, and it will be critical for electrical infrastructure to be designed with the agility to respond to changes in technology. The infrastructure must allow for faster charging – increased capacity on the building system – and a greater quantity of charging locations. There also will certainly be an appeal from EV owners for the sustainable creation of the energy for their fuel, such as solar. Therefore, owners should evaluate their infrastructure for EV and solar simultaneously. Industry standards to make buildings EV-ready and solar-ready are easily accessible and simple to implement.

Electrical reliability (i.e., EV owners expect to see their battery bar grow) will become a consideration for the power supplies to these EV charging stations. This will lead to consideration of redundant electrical feeds, emergency generation and, more importantly, pairing charging stations with solar and energy storage. Such measures will ensure power always is available so that EV drivers can get the charge they may need to make the trip home.

At the electrical utility level, integrating fast charging of electric cars will add to the demand on an already taxed electrical grid. Initially, this additional power may have to be provided by non-sustainable sources such as gas-powered and coal-powered plants – dirtier sources of power that will offset some of the environmental benefit of electric cars. This will not be the case in the future, however, as decarbonization of the grid continues to take hold. In addition, we will adapt how and when we charge vehicles as well as how we utilize the megawatt hour of battery power that exists in electric vehicles.

Building owners are already currently considering new strategies to accommodate the return of tenants and employees to the workplace as COVID-19 vaccinations increase and restrictions ease. In addition to providing for current and future health and safety requirements, owners who truly want to prepare for the “office of the future” should include charging stations as part of their overall strategy. The growing surge in EVs will lead to an ever-growing demand for charging stations, however, so multiple car charging stations will be necessary. Having multiple EV drivers vying for a limited number of charging stations is not a viable situation, so providing a building capable of accommodating numerous EVs will be an amenity the workforce will welcome with open arms.

The future holds many opportunities as the vehicle fleet is electrified. Imagine charging electric vehicles during the day from renewable sources and then using a portion of that energy to supplement home energy use in the morning and evenings. Moving renewable energy to time periods when photovoltaic (solar) power is not available to meet demand makes the grid more efficient and renewable.

The technology already exists for a bidirectional (two-way) charger for home use. This would allow homeowners to charge and discharge so the EV battery can be used to power their homes. This same technology could expand to commercial applications. An electrical vehicle parking garage, for example, could be a renewable power storage source/sink that supports maximum efficiency for a portfolio of buildings. It could simultaneously provide a source of revenue for the owner, satisfy a need of EV-driving employees and be an added amenity for attracting new tenants – a particular advantage over competitors who fail to provide charging stations.

Energy storage – whether in the form of electric vehicle batteries or building-scale energy storage – will be part of the solution for optimizing renewable energy usage and should be considered when designing charging stations. Doing so will not only support the vehicles of the future but also positively impact the environment as a whole – something 50-year-old electrical technology and design cannot accomplish.

Mike Lawless, PE, FPE, LEED AP, is director of innovation at IMEG Corp. He can be reached at

Zach Carter, PE, LEED AP BD+C, is a senior electrical engineer working out of IMEG’s St. Louis office, and can be reached at

Top 10 Things to Know about the Internet of Buildings



Jeff Carpenter

You’ve no doubt heard about this phenomenon known as The Internet of Things, or, perhaps, the Internet of Buildings, but you’re not sure how they relate to building design and construction. No problem. In the spirit of the “Late Show with David Letterman,” here are the Top 10 Things to Know.

#10. The Internet of Things (IoT) begat the Internet of Buildings (IoB), which represents a design philosophy more than it does a specific collectionofproducts. Just buying certain products alone does not guarantee the benefits of the IoB.

#9. The phrase “the Internet of” is best understood by thinking of it as a verb that means “giving connectivity to things(devices or systems) in your building.” The revolutionary impact of this concept is best appreciated by understanding that many of these thingshave never had connectivity before.

#8. Focus on the desired outcome. While it is important for things in a building to gain connectivity, your goals should be identified first. Ask yourself what you want to achieve now or in the future, then identify the things whose connectivity will allow you to achieve those desired outcomes.

#7. Difficulty identifying important future needs and outcomes rightnow does not mean you should not concern yourself with the Internet of Buildings. Such a decision does not take into account the undeniable future impact of analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) in buildings, the benefits of which could provide your competitors with a distinct advantage should they decide to prepare for the IoB now and you do not.

#6. Analytics and AI are the computing power that allow you to achieve outcomes in your building that would not be possible with unconnected systems and conventional human decision making. The algorithms that power AI need massive amounts of data for machine-based learning and decision making.

#5. The reason that you connect thingsin your building is so that they can communicate data, which is then fed to the algorithms of AI to achieve your desired outcomes.

#4. This does not have to be expensive. A key element of the IoB is unifying building system selection, installation, and integration around a common set of industry-standard IT-based principles. This allows for tremendous economies of scale in a building’s infrastructure, resulting in capital being available for the fun stuff!

#3. If you want unified building systems, you need to unify your design partners and unify your construction partners — and have a single point of responsibility for design and a single point of responsibility for construction of the entire building systems ecosystem. If you find yourself hiring a consultant for AV, a different firm for telecom and security, and a separate group for MEP, then you’re moving further away from your goal. If you’re dividing technical specifications and distributing them to three or four different tier 2 subcontractors, then you’re moving further away from your goal.

#2. Take an active role in achieving your outcomes from the start. Tell your architect you want to be involved in the selection of the design team. Ask the candidates to discuss specifics about their strategy and process as it relates to the Internet of Buildings. This is the best way to ensure everyone on the design team understands your goals and becomes a trusted partner.

#1. Spend your first dollar on hiring a trusted design partner who can provide thought leadership. The second dollar should be spent on a unified infrastructure that allows you the flexibility to do tomorrow what capital constraints won’t allow you to do today. Then, and only then, should you chase the shiny objects that you were tempted to spend your first dollar on. Resist the temptation! The Internet of Buildings will bring so much over the next decade that we can’t see today. Getting the design approach and infrastructure right today is critically important. You only get one chance to build a building right.

Jeff Carpenter, PE, RCDD, is a principal at IMEG Corp., where he leads the firm’s technology team and is vice president of India Operations. He has spent his entire career with IMEG, where he has led some of the firm’s largest, most complex projects. He can be reached at

Transforming the Construction Industry in the Coming Decade: An Opportunity for St. Louis IT Innovation



Lee Metcalfe

For the past three years, investments in construction industry startups have skyrocketed. These startups are looking to improve the industry’s communication, payment processes, workforce development and management processes while promoting access to real-time information across the construction value chain. Many of these improvements are driven by significant IT hardware enhancements; building, tailoring and deploying software; data analytics tools and the ability to leverage artificial intelligence.

A popular technology-focused publication, TechCrunch, recently published an article with the headline, “Construction Tech Startups Are Poised to Shake Up a $1.3 Trillion Dollar Industry.” The article asserts that “the lack of tech sophistication on construction sites materially contributes to job delays, missed budgets and increased job site safety risk.” A huge industry coupled with enormous, unrealized efficiency gains has fueled this recent explosion of startups and the money to back them.

In coming St. Louis CNR editions, I will delve deeper into the nature of the IT innovations coming to the construction industry: the tools, techniques and tactics such as agile software development, digital product thinking and data analytics use cases.

But let me raise with you now a strategic, almost tectonic shift in St. Louis that is poised to support the construction industry like never before. National IT and innovation trends – coupled with the recent movement by leaders in the St. Louis community – will improve coordination and focus resources on key economic and industry drivers for our region.

One key to this momentum is leveraging our own innovation community even more effectively. Just see page 67 of the recently released STL 2030 Jobs Plan: Driving a Decade of Inclusive Growth ( effort is bringing together an alliance of CIOs to drive workforce development and take advantage of other opportunities that can be leveraged for individual companies as well as the St. Louis IT community as a whole. 

St. Louis is already a technology hub. But if we can operationalize this new level of collaboration and coordination, St. Louis will not only be a technology hub. It will be the technology hub in the Midwest, if not nationally. 

Daugherty Business Solutions is in the middle of this movement. We are proud to be a St. Louis-based company and applaud the construction industry in this region for its positive impact on the community. I encourage you to examine this new plan and renew your engagement with the leaders in our innovation community including Cortex, T-Rex and The Yield Lab. 

With all the challenges of the last year, 2021 offers huge opportunity. Let’s make the most of it.

Lee J. Metcalf is vice president of Daugherty Business Solutions and a retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral. He can be reached at or (314) 409-4392.

The Coming Decade: A Revolution in Technology, Education and Impact of Women


By Lee Metcalf

Lee Metcalfe

The 2020s will see further transformation of business and society around the world because of technology. This means unheard of levels of productivity across every discipline of the construction industry – actually, across every Industry.

At the core of this movement is information technology and the ability to access and harness huge volumes of data, the ability to put the insights from this data at the fingertips of every worker and the ability to create software, programs and visualizations that increase the usefulness and relevance of that information to businesses and to everyday lives.

But this engine of productivity, like any engine, needs fuel. In this instance, that fuel is savvy, creative, motivated people with the right skills who understand how to isolate the business requirement and focus the myriad of IT tools and techniques to best effect. And we will need a lot of them, which means that the 2020s will bring a revolution in education –

one that will inspire more women and young people of color to choose careers in IT.

According to Sarah K. White, senior writer for CIO Online magazine (January 2020), women comprise 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., but as of 2015, they hold only 25 percent of computing roles, according to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Of the 25 percent of women working in tech, black and Hispanic women accounted for 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

What is happening to reverse this trend? Alignment and collaboration between the educators and employers. Clearly many companies are involved in supporting young people and STEM education on some level. But this is the tip of the iceberg.

Employers are opening their doors to young people earlier and more powerfully than ever before. Employers, school districts and nonprofits like the Girl Scouts will increasingly be working together on levels unheard of in the past. Reaching out to young women to consider careers in industries, such as construction and IT, where they have been underrepresented is a key to our future. 

Jennings School District in St. Louis and Superintendent Art McCoy exemplify this. McCoy starts children thinking about the possibilities and careers in the 3rd grade. Each school year, they are increasingly exposed to employers and a wide range of types of work. Even more importantly, Jennings students focus during their high school years on completing key certificates for their chosen industries of interest in health care, construction, manufacturing, IT or the arts. This is the age of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math – and creative ways to inspire involvement.

McCoy has partnered with area businesses to not only fund creative learning experiences in the school but integrate on site learning experiences (the next generation of internships) into the curriculum. At Jennings, students engage in internships with and site visits to companies and institutions such as World Wide Technology, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Clayco. McCoy has taken the district’s construction career development initiative and put it on steroids. 

From graduates leveraging their internship experiences into job opportunities to graduates going on to higher learning, Jennings School District has them. Malik Sediqzad, a graduate who is becoming an architect with a full ride to Harvard, is one of them. The district is claiming success across the board. Women in technology are and will continue to be a big part of the STEAM that is fueling the productivity surge of the coming decade.  

Lee J. Metcalf is vice president of community engagement at Daugherty Business Solutions and a retired Navy Reserve Rear Admiral.

Minimizing Your Risk of Cyber Breach


Submitted by: Schmersahl Treloar & Co.

Concerns about cyber threats disrupting core operations are now a top operational risk.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has called threats to cybersecurity “the biggest systematic risk we have facing us.”

Given the impact that breaches can have and the level of sophistication shown by hackers in recent breaches, it’s not a matter of if a breach will occur, but when and how it will occur.

Cyber data — including financial data, sensitive customer information and employee records stored on the cloud or on the company’s technology devices and networks — is one of the most valuable assets many companies own. Each year, management should evaluate what’s being done to protect these intangibles, where vulnerabilities exist and how to make the assets more secure. Here are some cyber protection best practices for you to consider.

Think Big (and Small)

Many hackers operate overseas, making them harder to identify and prosecute. So, think globally when assessing your cyber breach risks.

However, hacks are often perpetrated through the victim’s small or midsize vendors. That’s because smaller companies often lack the resources to put strong security measures in place — and hackers are ready, willing and able to take advantage.

Consider the 2017 breach of the Equifax credit bureau when hackers gained unauthorized access to sensitive personal information on more than 143 million individuals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The theft was accomplished though a vulnerability in a website application.

That was just one high-profile hack. Other big-name victims have included the Securities and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan, Target, eBay, Home Depot and Yahoo.

In the Target case, hackers reportedly obtained information through a third-party heating and air conditioning vendor, which had access to the retailer’s computer network. The stolen credit and debit card data was then moved to a server in Russia. Many other cyber crime incidents have also reportedly been linked to vendors with lax security.

Some companies limit outside access to their computer networks, refusing supplier and customer requests to share data. Others require vendors to verify their network security protocols. Some companies are establishing cyber security ratings — similar to credit scores — based on the amount of traffic to a company’s website coming from servers that are linked to cybercrime. As those ratings become more refined, managers may choose to avoid doing business with high-risk customers and suppliers.

Engage in “Cyber Hygiene”

Protecting against cyber threats is an ongoing challenge, not a one-time event. Every time a software, hardware or application manufacturer releases an update or patch, install it immediately on every device in a systematic fashion. Why? Hackers constantly troll for the latest patches and updates because they show where vulnerabilities exist. If hackers are nimble, they can exploit these vulnerabilities to steal data before customers have a chance to install the fix.

Another useful prevention strategy is requiring periodic changes to log-in passwords. Hacked passwords can cause a domino effect, because people tend to use the same password for multiple accounts. For example, when Adobe lost 33 million customers’ log-in credentials, other websites discovered that their accounts were being accessed using passwords stolen from Adobe. Some companies also use a security question or require users to select a preferred image to add another layer of identity verification.

Limit Access

Companies often have more devices connected to the Internet than management realizes. Moreover, when employees take devices out of the office, they expose data to less-than-secure home networks and public hotspots that provide wireless Internet access. Evaluate which devices need to be connected to the Web and take steps to minimize off-site risks. Consider limiting which employees can work from home, educating employees about the risks of cyber breaches and installing encryption software on devices that link to external networks.

Encryption may create compatibility issues when sharing data with other companies and slow down data transmission. But it can be a powerful and cost-effective tool in the battle against cybercrime.

Seek Outside Help

Cyber security is an important task that few organizations can handle exclusively in-house. Consider seeking outside help to reinforce your current information technology (IT) policies and procedures. For example, a growing number of small and midsize companies use outside computer security companies to evaluate vulnerabilities in their network and test how well in-house IT professionals are securing their networks.

Another popular security measure is cyber liability insurance. Professional and general business liability insurance policies generally don’t cover losses related to a hacking incident. Cyber liability insurance can cover a variety of risks, depending on the scope of the policy. It typically protects against liability or losses that come from unauthorized access to your company’s electronic data and software.

Instead of purchasing a standalone cyber liability policy, you can add a cyber liability endorsement to your errors and omissions policy. Not surprisingly, the coverage through the endorsement isn’t as extensive as the coverage in a standalone policy.

In addition, external auditors can help companies evaluate their exposure to cyber breach risks. Risk assessment is an important part of year end audit procedures. Forensic accountants are familiar with ways to identify and reduce cyber breach risks. Failure to protect valuable intangibles against the risk of cyber breaches can turn this valuable asset into a costly liability.

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