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Excel Spreadsheet Conversion to SQL Reports

Spreadsheets are flexible, inexpensive and easy to use. They are especially handy when it comes to beating report submission deadlines or making impromptu data computations.

Unfortunately, organisations’ heavy reliance on spreadsheets have made these User Developed Applications (UDA) into high-risk office tools. Simple spreadsheet errors like leaving out a negative sign or a cut-and-paste mistake have already caused million-dollar discrepancies. Also, when a fraudulent employee enters into the picture, the risks become unimaginable.
Think TransAlta’s spreadsheet cut-and-paste glitch (the company later called this a “simple clerical error”) which caused the energy firm a whopping $24 million loss or Fidelity’s overstatement of its earnings owing to the omission of the minus sign on the spreadsheet of a $1.3 billion net capital loss.

Denizon can convert your Excel Spreadsheets to a web based SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS). It does not import Excel data, rather it allows the creation and deployment of reports in a more efficient manner by querying the data.

 

So what’s the problem with Spreadsheets?

  • Plagued with risk issues and vulnerable to fraud
  • Lacking in control features especially when copied, edited and emailed between many users
  • A burden to regulation compliance e.g. SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley)
Moreover:

Accidental copy-paste/Omission of a negative sign/Erroneous range selection
Incorrect data input or unintentional deletion of a character, cell, range, column, or row
Possibility of the user working on the wrong version
Prone to inconsistent company-wide reporting
Often defenceless against unauthorised access

See Top 10 Disadvantages of Spreadsheets

 

What makes SQL Server Reporting Services better than Spreadsheets?

  • Free from spreadsheet risks -equipped with built-in controls that substantially reduce risks to data
  • Less prone to fraud
  • More suitable for regulatory compliance e.g. SOX
  • Designed for an agile business environment

Automatic consolidation eliminates errors and wasted time caused by tedious copy-pasting of data and linking of cells
Better collaboration capabilities allows team members to bring their heads together for planning, budgeting, and reporting even while on the go
Mobility support enables users to input data or retrieve information through their wireless mobile device

Superior sharing features ensures that everyone is exactly on the same page and viewing real-time information
Dashboards provide insightful information at-a-glance through KPIs, graphs, and various metrics
Drill-downs enable users to investigate unusual figures and gain a better understanding of the details that contribute to the big picture
Easy to learn interfaces allow your organisation to cope with fast personnel turnaround or Mergers & Acquisitions

 

Don’t know how to shift from Spreadsheets to SQL Server Reporting Services?

We’ve got the knowledge and expertise to assist you in:

  • Making a smooth and cost-efficient transition from risky spreadsheets to reliable reports
  • Designing and implementing SOX-compliant report-generating methods and procedures
  • Putting exposure to high-risk reporting methods a thing of the past

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Symbion Pharmacy Services’ Definition of Responsibility

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A ‘symbion’ is an organism in a symbiotic (i.e. mutually beneficial) relationship with another one. In the case of Australia’s giant Symbion Pharmacy Services, this means supplying and delivering over-counter Chemmart medicines to more than 3,000 hospital and retail pharmacies, while remaining mindful of its carbon footprint.

In 1999, the company with the tagline ‘life matters’ and a desire to be seen as ‘a good corporate citizen’ decided it was time to measure exactly what it was pumping out from 12 facilities and over 200 vehicles. This was a voluntary decision as even now there is still no carbon emissions law in Australia (although no doubt being a ‘first mover’ will put the company in a competitive position when this inevitably comes).

Symbion decided to install emission detection devices and connect these to a central monitoring system with the intention of managing what these measured. There were two stages to this process. First, Symbion determined its reporting requirements based on one of its larger warehouses. Following that, it established a carbon footprint for each of its wholly owned and managed facilities. This put it in a position to:

  • Analyse total emissions down to a level of detail where it understood the contribution of each source
  • Use big data management tools to identify carbon hotspots for priority remedial action
  • Inform the affected workforce, explain the monitoring system and keep them in the loop
  • Separately manage energy abatement programs such as lighting and delivery routes

The program also had productivity spin-offs in that it focused management attention on the processes behind the emissions that were ripe for material and system improvements. It also provided marketing leverage. Symbion’s customers are in the wellness business, ahead of the curve when it comes to how emissions contribute to chronic illness, and aware of the cost of this in terms of human capital.

EcoVaro could help you manage your throughputs by analysing your data on our cloud-based system. This includes trending your metrics, comparing them to your industry seasonal average, and providing you with a business-like view of how well you are doing.

Our service reduces your reliance on (and the cost of) third party audits, and simplifies the reporting process to your controlling authority. It simply makes more sense to contract your software out this way, and only pay for it when you need it.

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Will UK Retailers Skim the Cream with ESOS?

Fashion consultant showing clothes to the client

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) was quick out on the starting blocks with an ambitious plan to cut energy costs by 25% in 5 years. Their ‘25-in-5’ initiative is chasing a target of £4.4 billion savings during the duration. Part of this program involves ’cutting a path through a complex and inaccessible policy landscape’. BRC believes this drawback is making its members think twice about making energy efficiency investments.

The UK’s sprawling network of grocers, department stores and malls is the nation’s second most hungry energy customer, having spent £3.3 billion on it in 2013 when it accounted for almost 20% of carbon released. If you think that sounds bad, it purchased double that amount in 2005. However the consortium believes there is still more to come.

It bases this assumption on the push effect of UK energy rates increasing by a quarter during the duration of the project. ‘So it makes sense to be investing in energy efficiency rather than paying bills,’ Andrew Bolitho (property, energy, and transport policy adviser) told Business Green. The numbers mentioned exclude third party transport and distribution networks not under the British Retail Consortium umbrella.

The ‘complex and inaccessible policy landscape’ is the reflection of UK legislators not tidying up as they go along. BRC cites a ‘vast number of policies … spreading confusion, undermining investment and making it harder to raise capital’. The prime culprits are Britain’s CRC Energy Efficient Scheme (previously Carbon Reduction Commitment) which publishes league tables and ESOS. Andrew Bolitho believes this duality is driving confused investors away.

The British Retail Consortium is at pains to point out that this is not about watering things down, but making it simpler for participating companies to report on energy matters at a single point. It will soon go live with its own information hub providing information for retailers wishing to measure consumption at critical points, assemble the bigger picture and implement best practice.

Ecovaro agrees with Andrew Bolitho that lowering energy demand and cutting carbon is not just about technology. We can do much in terms of changing attitudes and providing refresher training and this does not have to cost that much. Studies have shown repeatedly that there is huge benefit in inviting employees to cross over to our side. In fact, they may already be on board to an extent that may surprise.

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2015 – What’s ahead for UK Business?

light bulb

According to reports just in, the global environment industry is down. Less money is available for what some CEO’s still see as grudge expenditure, and many U.S. agencies are seeking soft budget cuts. The UK is proving to be an exception following the announcement of ESOS, and EcoVaro does not expect the May elections will have much impact in this regard.

ESOS calls for mandatory energy assessments in companies above a certain size, and requires specific proposals to cut consumption. There is no indication of compulsory follow-through, although it is clear the Environment Agency hopes rising electricity prices and the prospect of monetary savings will do the trick.

It is an open question whether the Tory government would have interfered with commerce to this extent, were it not for the European directive that enforced it. The overall goal is to cut EU energy consumption across the board by 20% by 2020. Energy consultants are rubbing their hands in glee. EcoVaro’s response is to provide cloud-based software.

We will be interested to see how many UK companies make the first deadline of 5 December 2015, in the light of reports that half the 9,000 firms affected appear not to even know that ESOS exists. Some will no doubt pay last-minute lip service. Those with an eye on their own sustainability will grasp the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme with both hands.

The initial ESOS deadline was always going to be a challenge. Some big corporates have stolen a march albeit egged on by green stakeholders. The next challenge comes in June 2015 with the implementation of the European Union’s ‘Waste Catalogue’ of hazardous substances, and rules for their disposal. We hope a new ISO 14001 will arrive soon and pull the loose threads together.

The introduction of carbon trading late this year brings further opportunities to increase profits through wise stewardship. Auditable metrics are essential for this.

EcoVaro can assist by processing your raw data. We provide this service on a virtual cloud. In return, you can get advice on optimising the quality of your graphs for presentations. 

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When Carrefour Pushed the Right Buttons

LED lamp with green leaf, ECO energy concept, close up. Light bulb Saving and Ecological

Retail giant Carrefour based in Boulogne Billancourt, France is big business in anybody’s numbers. Europe’s #1 retailer opened its first store in 1958 near a crossroads (Carrefour means ‘crossroad’ in French) and has largely not looked back since then. The slogan for the hypermarket chain with more than 1,500 outlets and close to a half million employees is ‘choice and quality for everyone’. Our story begins when Carrefour decided these things belong at home too.

The company implemented a worldwide universal responsibility program firmly anchored on a tripod of goals for environmental, economic and social progress. Its first step was to appoint a five-person project team tasked with liaising with program delegates in all thirty countries in which it operates, and who had responsibility for driving these goals.

The team’s job was to make sure that policies, standards, procedures and key performance areas were common visions throughout Carrefour. By contrast, the local managers’ were tasked with aligning these specifics to local conditions in terms of environmental, political and social issues. The project team checked the fit quarterly via video conferences.

The Triple Bottom Line Goals were woven through with Carrefour’s Seven Core Values, namely Freedom, Responsibility, Sharing, Respect, Integrity, Solidarity and Progress. Constant contact was maintained with staff and other stakeholders through ‘awareness training’ seminars and other dialogues. As the program took hold and flourished, it became evident that the retail giant needed help with managing the constant stream of metrics flowing in.

After reviewing options, Carrefour appointed a software provider to monitor progress against its primary focuses on energy, water, waste, refrigeration, paper, disposable checkout bags, hygiene & quality, management gender parity, disabled people and logistics. This enabled it to track progress online against past performance, and produce meaningful reports.

The Environmental Manager in the Corporate Sustainability Department waxed lyrical when he said, “We believe that our sustainability strategy and software solution have powerfully improved collaboration, innovation, and overall performance”. He went on to describe how it was helping drive cost down and profitability up, while simultaneously growing brand.

Non-conformance costs can be high and run counter to the imperative to make a profit – while simultaneously ensuring a better world for our children’s children. In Carrefour’s case, having a consultant to measure progress was the key that unblocked the administrative bottleneck. Irish company Ecovaro does this for companies around the world. Click here. Discover what we will do for you.

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2015 ESOS Guidelines Chapter 2 – Deadlines and Status Changes

The ESOS process is deadline driven and meeting key dates is a non-negotiable. The penalties for not complying / providing false or misleading information are £50,000 each. Simply not maintaining adequate records could cost you £5,000. The carrot on the end of the stick is the financial benefits you stand to gain.

Qualifying for inclusion under the ESOS umbrella depends on the status of your company in terms of employee numbers, turnover and balance sheet on 31 December 2014. Regardless of whether you meet the 2014 threshold or not, you must reconsider your situation on 31 December 2018, 2022 and 2026.

Compliance PeriodQualification Date Compliance Period Compliance Date
131 December 2014From 17 July 2014* to 5 December 20155 December 2015
231 December 2018From 6 December 2015 to 5 December 20195 December 2019
331 December 2022From 6 December 2019 to 5 December 20235 December 2023
431 December 2026From 6 December 2023 to 5 December 20275 December 2027

Notes:

1. The first compliance period begins on the date the regulations became effective

2. Energy audits from 6 December 2011 onward may go towards the first compliance report

Changes in Organisation Status

If your organisation status changes after a qualification date when you met compliance thresholds, you are still bound to complete your ESOS assessment for that compliance period. This is regardless of any change in size or structure. Your qualification status then remains in force until the next qualification date when you must reconsider it.

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The Future of Cloud Backup and Recovery

Cloud storage upload and download data management technology

We came across a post on Docurated that pulled together thirty-seven suggestions for the top cloud storage mistakes user companies make. Given that cloud storage seems to be the best backup solution for now at least, we decided to turn these ideas around to sense the direction cloud backup and recovery needs to take, if it is still to be relevant in say ten years’ time.

Has Cloud Storage Largely Saturated the West?
It probably has. Outside of major corporates who make their own arrangements – and SME’s that use free services by email providers – the middle band of companies in Europe and America have found their service providers, although they may have never tested the recovery process, to see if it works.

The new gold rush in the cloud backup and recovery business is, or should be emerging markets in Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East. There, connectivity is brittler than over here. To be relevant in these fragile, more populous areas our cloud backup and recovery industry need to be more agile and nimble.

• It must provide a simpler service emerging commerce can afford, refresh its user interfaces in third world languages, have more accessible help, and be patient to explain how cloud storage works to newbies. In other words, it must source its call centre operators in the areas it serves.

• It must adapt to local connectivity standards, and stop expecting someone with ADSL broadband to keep up with cloud server networks running at up to 1GBPS compared to their 10MBPS at best. For user sourcing and retention purposes, these new cloud backup and recovery services must be the ones who adapt.

• It must facilitate disaster recovery simulations among its clients in calmer moments when things are going well. Are they backing up the right files, are they updating these, and are their brittle ADSL networks able to cope with their cloud service providers’ upload and download speeds?

• It must develop lean and agile systems slim enough to accommodate a micro client starting out, but sufficiently elastic to transfer them seamlessly to big data performance. The Asian, African, South American, and Middle Eastern regions are volume driven, and individual economies of scale are still rare.

• It must not expect its users to know automatically what they need, and be honest to admit that Western solutions may be wrong-sized. Conversion funnels in the new gold rush are bound to be longer. Engagements there depend on trust, not elevator sales letters. Our competition in these countries already works this way.

• It must be honest and admit cloud storage is only part of the solution. To recruit and retain users it must step back to 1983, when Compuserve offered its customers 128k of disc space, and spent an amount of effort explaining how to filter what to put there.

Cloud Storage of Data is Only One Part of the Solution
Governance reports and stock certificates burn just as easily as do servers in a fire. We must not transfer bad habits to exciting new markets. We close this article with the thoughts of John Howie, COO of Cloud Security Alliance, as reported in the Docurated post we mentioned, and these apply across the globe, we believe.
There is no single most important thing to carry forward into the future of cloud backup and recovery. We must be mindful when moving data that this can be fragile too. We must also create layers of backup the way insurance companies re-insure, that make any one cloud backup and recovery business redundant if it happens.
We hold the trust of our customers in our hands but trust is delicate too. We must cease trying to make a pile of money quickly, and become more interested in ensuring that data transferred back and forth is synchronised. The cloud backup and recovery industry needs only one notorious mistake, to become redundant itself in the ten years we mentioned.

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Data Leakage Prevention – Protecting Sensitive Information

.Computer security or safety concept. Laptop keyboard with lock

When DuPont lost $400 million in intellectual property, it wasn’t because a hacker from the other side of the world infiltrated their system. The information was simply stolen by a former employee. Alarmingly, data loss incidents are not always caused by deliberate actions.

A file containing personal information accidentally attached to an email and sent to multiple recipients; financial data stored in a USB pen drive, accidentally left in a restaurant; or bank account data of colleagues, inadvertently posted on a company website – these are also some of the everyday causes of data loss.

A report done by research company Infowatch regarding global data leaks in 2010 showed that there were actually more accidental data leaks in that year compared to intentional ones. Accidental leaks comprised 53%, while intentional leaks comprised 42% (the rest were unidentified).

But even if they ‘only’ happened accidentally, breach incidents like these can still be very costly. The tens of thousands of dollars that you could sometimes end up paying in civil penalties (as in the case when you lose other people’s personal information) can just be the beginning. More costly than this is the loss of customer and investor confidence. Once you lose those, you could consequently lose a considerable portion of your business.

Confidential information that may already be leaking out right under your nose

With all the data you collect, process, exchange, and store electronically every day, your IT system has surely now become a storehouse of sensitive information. Some of them, you may be even taking for granted.

But imagine what would happen if any of the following trade secrets fell into the wrong hands: marketing plans, confidential customer information, pricing data, product development strategies, business plans, supplier information, source codes, and employee salaries.

These are not the only kind of data that you should be worried about. You could also get into trouble if your sloppy IT security fails to protect employee or client personal information such as their names; social security numbers; drivers license numbers; or bank account numbers and credit/debit card numbers along with their corresponding PINs.

In some countries, you could face onerous data breach notification requirements and heavy fines when these kind of data are involved.

There are now more holes to plug

It’s not just the different varieties of sensitive electronic information that you have to worry about. Because these data can take on different forms, i.e. data-at-rest, data-in-motion, and data-at-the-endpoints, you also need to take aim at different areas in your IT system.

Sensitive information can be found ‘at rest’ in each of your employees’ hard disks, in your servers, storage disks, and in off-site backup disks. They can also be found ‘in motion’ in email, instant messaging, social networking messaging, P2P file sharing, ftp, http, and so on.

That’s not all. Your highly mobile workforce may have already introduced yet another high-risk area into your system: data-at-the-endpoints. This includes USB flash-disks, laptops, portable hard disks, CDs, and even smartphones.

The main challenge of data leak prevention

Having been made aware of the various aspects of data leakage, have you already come to grips with the extent of the task at hand?

There are two major things you need to do here to prevent data leakage.

One, you need to identify what data you have that can be considered as sensitive/confidential information. Of course you have financial information and employee salaries in your files. But do you also store personally identifiable information? Do you have trade secrets that are stored in electronic form?

Two, you need to pinpoint their locations. Are they only on your hard disks and laptops? Or have they made their way to flash drives, CDs/DVDs, or portable HDDs? Are they being transmitted through email or any other file transfer media?

The reason why you need to know what your sensitive data are as well as where they are is because you would like all efforts of securing them to be as efficient and unobtrusive as possible.

Let’s say, as a way of protecting your data, you decide to implement encryption. Since encryption can consume a lot of storage space and significantly reduce performance, it may be impractical to encrypt your entire database or all your files. For the same reason, you wouldn’t want to encrypt every single email that you send.

Thus, the best way would be to encrypt only the data that really need encryption. But again, you need to know what data needs to be encrypted and where those data can be found. That alone is no simple task.

Not only will you need to deal with the data you already have, you will also have to worry about the data that will go through your systems during the course of your day-to-day transactions.

Identifying sensitive data as it enters or leaves your system, goes through your network, or gets stored in your file system or database, and then applying the necessary security actions should be done automatically and intelligently. Otherwise, you could end up spending on a lot of man-hours or, worse, wasting them on a lot of false positives and negatives.

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Disadvantages of Spreadsheets – Obstacles to Compliance in the Healthcare Industry

Business Charts on Digital Tablet

Most of the regulatory compliance issues we talked about concerning spreadsheets have been related to financial data. But there are other kinds of data that are stored in spreadsheets which may also cause regulatory problems in the future.

In the US, a legislation known as HIPAA or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is changing the way health care establishments and practitioners handle patient records. The HIPAA Privacy Rule is aimed at protecting the privacy of individually identifiable health information a.k.a. protected health information (PHI).

Examples of PHI include common identifiers like a patient’s name, address, Social Security Number, and so on, which can be used to identify the patient. HIPAA covers a wide range of health care organisations and service providers, including: health plan payers, health care clearing houses, hospitals, doctors, dentists, etc.

To protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of PHI, covered entities are required to implement technical policies such as access controls, authentication, and audit controls. These can easily be implemented on server-based systems.

Sad to say, many health care organisations who have started storing data electronically still rely on spreadsheet-based systems. Those policies are hard to implement in spreadsheet-based systems, where files are handled by end-users who are overloaded with their main line of work (i.e. health care) and have very little concern for data security.

In some of these systems, spreadsheet files containing PHI may have multiple versions in different workstations. Chances are, none of these files have any access control or user authentication mechanism whatsoever. Thus, changes can easily be made without proper documentation as to who carried out the changes.

And because the files are normally easily accessible, unauthorised disclosures – whether done intentionally or accidentally – will always be a lingering threat. Remember that HIPAA covered entities who are caught disclosing PHI can be fined from $50,000 up to $500,000 plus jail time.

But that’s not all. Through the HITECH Act of 2009, business associates of covered entities will now have to comply with HIPAA standards as well. Business associates are those companies who are performing functions and services for covered entities.

Examples of business associates are accounting firms, law firms, consultants, and so on. They automatically need to comply with the standards the moment they too deal with PHI.

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