Strictly (or not so strictly) professional, non-confidential, and technically proficient, in my own private cloud

Who is AbacusNext?

AbacusNext started out in the Legal Space, and they stayed there for a long time. They have a product called, “Abacus Law.” Later they purchased Amicus, which is another case management app for law firms. Why two? Abacus Law is an all in one solution. Amicus is more of an open API type of app, where you get the core case management function, and then add on what you need if/as you need it. Now there is also Amicus Online. Please don’t make me explain that!

Why us? Why now?

As I mentioned in “Abacusnext VIP – Living in Your Own Private Cloud“, AbacusNext has purchased a few providers in our space. Results CRM, Office Tools, and Cloud9. Honestly that alone would not excite me. None of these are products I currently use. My clients are all already in the cloud, and using QuickBooks online. No need for Cloud9. I use (and love) Nimble CRM, which is also a pure SAAS app, that I am not looking to replace. Sorry Sam Saab, you know I have nothing but love for you 🙂 And office Tools is also a desktop app that does not solve any problems I need solved.

What does excite me?

Before and in order to answer that really well, let’s talk about the elephant in the cloud!

No, I am not talking about Evernote 🙂

The Elephant in the cloud

What happened with the Cloud9 breach?

A client on the cloud9 service was the subject of an attack. The malware, inserted itself into the client’s files, and made it’s way into the Cloud9 servers. After festering for a little while, the malware was able to raise itself to an admin, wreaking havoc on the servers. The system was down for several days.

You should be wondering why anyone would want to trust these servers after a breach like this.

Here’s what you need to understand about the Cloud9 breach.

AbacusNext acquired cloud9 and all of it’s infrastructure. They were and still are in the process of moving everything over to the AbacusNext architecture. I don’t presume to know a thing about how this works, but I feel confident that it’s safe to say that this is no simple task.

As a matter of fact, when AbacusNext identified the threat, they intentionally injected it into one of their servers, and their system caught it, and cleaned it in seconds. They gave us a live demonstration of this while we were there.

Ironically the Cloud9 incident confirmed that AbacusNext’s OWN security is solid.

Ironically the Cloud9 incident confirmed that AbacusNext’s OWN security is solid.

This brings me to what DOES excite me about why we were there

It it has everything to do with security.

I have no need of a hosted solution. But the question of security is an ongoing one. Think your SAAS apps with their SOC reports protect you? Guess again. Randy Johnston from K2 enterprises will tell you why you can’t necessarily rely on that. Well he may not tell you, but he told me last June at the CALCPA show (where I met Allessandra).

I have pretty much gone all in with Google Drive. Google drive has every imaginable security certification. They are HIPPA compliant, and they have all of the SOC reports, and FINRA, as well as banking industry security certifications.

I have no doubt that Google has amazing security in place. Before a few weeks ago, I would not have guessed it was likely that a company like Equifax could have a problem. Want to get an idea? Just google, “Major Cyber Attacks in 2017.”Among the results you’ll find this article on Wired:

The Biggest Cybersecurity Disasters of 2017 So Far
https://www.wired.com/story/2017-biggest-hacks-so-far

As I was listening, and learning, it occurred to me, that it would be really cool to have my synced Google Drive docs in an environment that would have the kind of security that AbacusNext has. Same with Box.com, and any other file sharing services that I use. This way if a client of mine uploads an infected file to my Google Drive folder, and it syncs over, before Google’s security can catch it, I feel comfortable that AbacusNext’s architecture will catch and clean it, especially after what I’ve seen firsthand this week.

Enter Abacus Private Cloud (APC)

This is NOT a hosted solution. A hosted solution is just a remote server that runs desktop applications from a central location.

APC is your own private cloud which you can access on any device. You can set all kinds of protocols, for who can access, on what device, and from where. For example, you can establish that you do not allow access from any IP address in North Korea. You might want to add Russia to that list as well 😉

I’ve used Box.com and Google drive. Erica, who works with me, had trouble getting the box.com desktop sync to work on her Mac. This problem will go away completely with APC.

As I hire more people, this will give me more control, because we can manage every app that we use, SAAS or Desktop, from our private cloud.

AbacusNext appears to be a solid company with a positive and powerful philosophy.

I toured their offices as well as their datacenter. The datacenter is apparently the only one in California with armed guards. And I saw the armed guard. I had to leave my backpack with him before going into the datacenter.

I’ll be honest. I was tired, and I didn’t want to go to the Datacenter, but I am glad I did. I learned a few things, that helped me appreciate what measures need to be in place in a facility like this.

Also important to note. AbacusNext has five datacenters spread out around the US and Canada. This means that if a there is an earthquake and the facility in California is destroyed, nobody’s data will be lost. My guess is you won’t even experience any downtime. Of course I hope nothing like this happens, but as someone who was here with me pointed out, I wonder how many people in Houston found themselves thinking, “oh shit, my data!” This is one worry that can be put to rest.

In fact when the fires were burning recently in Burbank, I was sort of laughing at the suggestions about making sure you take important documents with you, if you have to evacuate. It would not occur to me to have to worry about that, at this point. Any important documents I have are already digital, and archived in some kind of cloud based storage, like Google Drive, or Evernote, or Shoeboxed.com which also syncs my documents back to Evernote. I’m not losing any documents, and I love the idea that APC will give me even more assurance that they are all safe and secure.

The AbacusNext Offices

The offices were impressive. The layout is very much like a tech startup. Everything is very open, and the people who work there seem genuinely happy. We even met the team of people who were up all day and night, taking two hour sleep shifts, during the Cloud9 outage.

I took a ton of pictures, so I’ll let those do the talking about how the offices look. Of course we were not allowed to take photos of the Datacenter.

Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion.

Look out for that right hook Doug!

In the middle of difficulty

In the middle of difficulty

Never interrupt someone doing something you said could not be done

Never interrupt someone doing something you said could not be done

I think this was the team who were up working on the Cloud9 servers sleeping in 2 hr shifts

I think this was the team who were up working on the Cloud9 servers sleeping in 2 hr shifts

This is the age of the cloud! Stop printing things!

This is the age of the cloud! Stop printing things!

Is AbacusNext doing remarkable things?

I would say so. And I would say that their team is remarkable. These weren’t common people. They were personalities, and it clearly stems from the top with the CEO Allessandra herself.

I also spent a fair amount of time bending Jerome Fodor’s (CTO) ear about the technical side of things. And I am continuing to do so via Linkedin.

Yesterday I asked Jerome the question about whether or not and why an all SAAS business would need a private cloud.

Here’s what Jerome had to say,

“The SaaS question I can tackle now. I DO think there’s still tremendous value to APC even if ALL your data and applications are SaaS based. Why? IT guidance, security, compliance, control and backups to name a few of the areas that APC provides value in.

Very few SaaS applications give you the control to specify how/if you can retrieve data locally as just one example of a concern. Typically if the employee can view the information they can also download the information. What prevents an employee from downloading sensitive information stored/accessible in SaaS to a local device? How would you know that it occurred? How you would know what happened to that sensitive information after it was downloaded? Is the local device it was downloaded to secure/protected? Even if it was, who’s monitoring the health of that local device for you 24/7? The small business owner? The suite of tools and people you need to manage some of these challenges can be quite costly/difficult to incorporate on your own across multiple devices that may not all be in the same physical location.”

What about private vs public, and multi-tenant vs single tenant (This one’s for you Mathew Heggem)?

Normally a private cloud would be FYOO (For Your Organization Only). My understanding is that a MAJOR differentiator between AbacusNext and any other private cloud provide you can find out there, is accessibility. AbacusNext will listen to you and work with you, to develop what you need.

Multi-tenant in a private cloud

Let’s say you’re an accountant with 10 clients in Abacus Private Cloud (APC). Each of them is on their own (APC) private cloud, but we discussed this during the event. They can set it up so that there is overlapping access, so you can access the files that your clients need you to. I am fairly certain you can also have a client portal that will enable clients to upload documents directly to you.

The story of a SAAS world heading in the direction of a private cloud

Here’s the story, as I see it.

I’ve spent years now moving to the cloud. All of my clients are on QuickBooks Online. I don’t and won’t use desktop apps. Too inefficient. Even in a hosted solution, you just don’t get the efficiency that you do with SAAS to SAAS connections.  

When the Equifax news broke I freaked, and immediately paid for Lifelock for both my wife and me. It cost me $440, but it was worth it for the peace of mind.

SAAS apps make life really easy, and I LOVE that I am not tethered to a desktop machine. But the world is a crazy place, and security is a concern, now more than ever. I want to know that the data I am keeping for myself and my clients is in the safest possible place.

I can run all of my SAAS apps from within Abacus Private Cloud (APC).

I’m thinking APC is going to be a good idea for all of us.

What’s more is that AbacusNext, as a company is accessible.

Someone gave the example that if you try to get Microsoft to develop or change something for you, based on your specific needs?… Well good luck with that.

AbacusNext will listen. That’s why they invited us. Not just to share, but to listen to us. They want to know what we need, what our clients need, and what everyone that we talk to everyday, all day, online, needs.

I see this as an incredible opportunity to keep moving forward with the security we need, while maintaining the freedom that we are beginning to enjoy more and more.

Reach out to me or comment for more information. I do have my own account with Abacus Private Cloud, and I plan on exploring it thoroughly, like I do with everything I use. Of course I’ll report back and bring you videos, so you can see what this looks like!

Be safe. Be Secure. Be Free!

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