Update: Keeping Data Safe

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Ransomware attacks like WannaCry/WannaCrypt have dominated recent headlines and caused significant disruption to businesses worldwide. As Daxko’s Chief Security Officer, I’d like to put your mind at ease by assuring you that we have not be affected by these attacks and your data continues to be safe with us. Our Technical Operations team has already applied safeguards and appropriate patches to our production servers as well as our internal servers and workstations.

More generally, we have implemented sophisticated security measures and stringent policies to protect your data from any outside intruders. Some specific measures we take include:

  • Multi-tier data security architecture with Layer 7 Firewalls
  • Intrusion Detection System (IDS) providing 24/7/365 monitoring and alert escalation
  • Multi-vector, multi-site transactional monitoring
  • Dedicated onsite security teams at each data center providing 24/7/365 support
  • Incident management & escalation plans to quickly resolve any issues

In addition to what we are doing to keep your data safe with us, I highly recommend you take appropriate measures to ensure the IT equipment you manage is protected as well (employee desktops, laptops, servers, etc). You may find this article to be a helpful resource in your efforts to keep your IT assets safe and secure.

If you have any questions or need any additional information, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team.

Matt Cowell is the SVP of Software Products, CSO for Daxko. 

Florida International University Expands Campus Rec Offerings with SpectrumNG

By | Customer Experience, Facilities, Industry, Online | No Comments

Florida International University (FIU) was looking for a software partner that could handle their growing campus recreation needs. “We are doubling in size,” says Charles Judkins, Director, Wellness & Recreation for FIU. “There is going to be a huge push for memberships and I knew we needed a good software system that could handle that.” Judkins reached out to Daxko because he’d worked with SpectrumNG campus recreation management at other facilities and knew it would be a good fit for the needs of FIU campus recreation.

FIU is home to 5 campuses in South Florida and is among the ten largest public universities in the United States. With that many students plus faculty and staff members, FIU needed a software management system for their campus recreation centers that would serve existing members and allow FIU to expand their membership offerings. In addition, FIU campus recreation is in the midst of a renovation that will create a much larger facility with the ability to serve more members.

Bigger, Better and More Connected
FIU has plans to expand offerings with the help of SpectrumNG. “I wanted to expand our membership offerings and under our current system, we couldn’t do that,” explains Judkins. Part of the expanded offerings will include different membership levels as well as extra add-ons like locker rentals. FIU plans to implement camp programming in the summer and other initiatives will be made possible with their implementation of Daxko’s SpectrumNG.

Judkins is excited about the online services offered with SpectrumNG. “Giving our students and patrons the ability to have an online account and allowing members to scan in from their phones is a big win for us.”

The Data Story
Funding for campus recreation facilities and programs at FIU is decided by the Student Government Association so the ability to run reports through their campus recreation management software is crucial. “I need that data to help me make the case for funding for facilities and programs. With SpectrumNG the data is easily available and staff has access to what they need.”

Looking Toward the Future
“I like how the software has evolved, especially as far as needs for campus recreation,” says Judkins. Judkins also points to the software’s flexibility and scalability as pluses for his organization. “If there are elements we don’t need we don’t have to use them with our setup,” he explains.

The first phase of the software implementation will be at their Modesto A. Maidique Campus with plans to expand once the first phase is complete. “I can’t wait until the second campus has SpectrumNG. The ease of memberships with multiple campuses will allow us to be more connected and open the flow of information between our recreation centers,” says Judkins.

NAYDO Webinar Series: Sharing Impact Stories

By | Campaigns, Customer Experience, Industry, Mission Delivery | One Comment

Daxko is a proud sponsor of the NAYDO webinar series. Last month in the series, Lindsay Sage, VP of Marketing for the YMCA of Western Ontario, shared her talk, “Why the Y: Collecting and Sharing Impact Stories.”

We all know that nonprofit impact stories are important, just as they are important for any health and wellness organization. Still, some of us struggle to identify the right kinds of stories and once we’ve identified and collected those stories it can be another arduous undertaking to get those stories out to communities, members and other that need to hear them.

Sage offers advice on identifying the attributes in a great story.

  1. A great story is clear and simple. Attention spans are short and people are busy so make sure the story you want to tell can be boiled down into its most essential parts.
  2. A great story has impact and demonstrates results. Instead of offering stories about your organization (i.e.”our YMCA offers X programs and Y classes,”) make the story about your audience and focus on the results or outcomes.
  3. A great story is personal and emotional. Your story needs to resonate and generate a connection with your audience so make sure it’s relatable.
  4. A great story inspires action. Once you convey your story and the outcomes, make sure you include a call to action. Don’t leave your audience hanging; instead, make sure to tell them what you want them to do.

For even more advice on collecting and sharing impact stories, be sure to view the entire webinar below:

NAYDO Webinar: “WHY the Y: Collecting and Sharing Impact Stories” | March 2017 from Daxko on Vimeo.

Daxko’s TechOps Team’s Top Tools for Monitoring

By | Culture, Industry, Life at Daxko, Technology | No Comments

Ask an engineer to “monitor” something and chances are you’ll get a response resembling something just short of the stages of love. It will start with an overwhelming excitement and sense of ease – you’ll hear something like “Oh, sure, that’s easy!” This will soon be followed by countless hours being poured in and an attachment to the project that defies logic as they run through countless iterations of things working, not working, being completely thrown out and rewritten only to start the cycle again. At the end, what started this whole thing will either be fully monitored, partially monitored, or you’ll have a heartbroken engineer who’s just given up. At Daxko we’ve been through this cycle, well, let’s just say a lot.

For those unfamiliar with what the Daxko TechOps team is, let me provide a quick synopsis. TechOps stands for Technical Operations, and at Daxko, it’s the team responsible for the health [performance, uptime], compliance, escalated support, and operation of our production systems.  Stop and think about that for a second. TechOps is responsible for ensuring that the Daxko products are 1) available, 2) not slow, 3) secure, and 4) that the data in them is consistent!  That’s quite a task, and our team is able to excel at it for 2 main reasons. The first is Daxko’s version of DevOps – the TechOps Team and the Development Teams are closely integrated and we work with the Development Teams to ensure they can utilize and consume the tools that we use or build. The second is that we’ve built, and continue to iterate on, a monitoring stack that allows us to keep up with what’s going on and troubleshoot complex issues. That stack is what I’m going delve into in this post.

Monitoring means lots of monitors.

The Consideration

When designing and building any type of solution, you have to stop and consider the purpose of what you’re building and any constraints that may be in place. For Daxko, we have products that run in multiple environments (both hosted and cloud-based), using multiple database engines, and using multiple different technology stacks. Therefore, our core solution needs to be OS agnostic, scale easily, and be very malleable. On top of that, we have product-specific items that must be monitored and developers that want to know when things break. Great problems to have, but also lots of added complexity!

The Stack

To say our stack is complete is like saying that Microsoft is done adding “features” to Windows. Our stack is always in a constant state of flux, and being okay with that is part of what makes things work. Needs change all the time, and the system should be able to cope with that. And, the team should be okay with that.

So, what is our current stack composed of?

#1: Chef: Wait! Chef? What? Yep, Chef is a critical part of our stack. Without it, we don’t have consistency in our configurations and dependencies. Without that, everything else falls apart.

#2: Sensu: The beauty of Sensu is that it works on a complete pub/sub model where clients are configured to subscribe to certain channels and the checks for the channels are published by the Sensu servers. This means if we need another server of type X then we just spin it up and its check data automagically starts flowing in. Simple, efficient, and extremely powerful (also why #1 is so critical!).

#3: Graphite + Carbonator + Grafana: I admit it. I’m a HUGE Graphite fan.  I grew up in the days of MRTG and RRD and used Cacti exclusively for many years.  Graphite makes capturing, storing, and analyzing LOTS of data points extremely (well mostly) easy.  It is an extremely scalable system and allows for the creation of some very complicated graphs that just seem to appear instantly.  Couple that with Carbonator for capturing deep metrics on Windows systems and Grafana for building dashboards and you have a hands down rock solid solution.

#4: ELK Stack: We generate billions of log entries on a monthly basis, and we rely on the ELK stack heavily for ingesting, tokenizing, searching, and alerting on those logs. Our Kibana interface is utilized by everyone from Customer Success to TechOps to the Developers themselves!

#5: Pingdom: No system is faultless, and having an outside perspective is always a good thing. Pingdom provides us with that third party view, and we consider its data to be the gold for our uptime statistics. After all, if your servers are up but nobody can use them – are you really “up”?

#6: NewRelic: Daxko’s application stacks range from .Net to Java to PHP. One of our goals is to have single interface for viewing, trending, and comparing those products. NewRelic allows us to do this and allows us to collaborate between teams easily.

#7: pagerduty: Do I really need to explain this one? 😉

#8: Daxko Monitoring Service: You won’t find this one available for download anytime soon as it’s an internally developed tool, but it’s also one of our most powerful because it fills in the gaps left by the others. The Daxko Monitoring Service started life as a simple enough tool that was used for identifying and alerting on invalid data states that would crop up in our databases due to bugs in the software. Over the years, and multiple iterations, it has grown into a much more capable tool that still heralds back to its origins. However, in its latest iteration, it is also being expanded in a way that will allow our developers (on any team) to build test cases and execute them on timed intervals. This may seem like a trivial task; however, when you consider that some products have multiple (and some hundreds) of databases and you need the ability to be able to scale these test across all of those in a quick and effortless way while also taking some business logic into account – a custom tool is the only way to go.

A lot of tools means a lot of interfaces and honestly, that’s just a plain pain. Compound that with lots of people wanting more visibility into what’s going on, and this becomes very overwhelming.  So how do you handle that? We searched for a tool to help us solve this problem and in the end settled on a plan that will extend our Monitoring Service UI to incorporate data and alerts from all of our external systems into a simple, easy to use, interface that will give our team members the ability to subscribe to events and alerts on a product by product / service by service level.  Our hope is this will help to increase the collaboration between teams by making it easy for team members all over Daxko to get visibility into what is happening behind the scenes, leading to faster fixes and happier customers.


Ed M. is Daxko’s Director of TechOps and Lead Infrastructure Architect who has a passion for problem solving, system architecture, and embedded electronics.