Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot: Transforming Corporate Productivity and Efficiency

Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot: Transforming Corporate Productivity and Efficiency

In today’s fast-paced business environment, the need for efficient and intelligent tools has never been greater. Enter Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot, an innovative addition to the suite of Microsoft 365 applications that promises to revolutionize the way companies operate. This blog post provides an in-depth review of Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot, exploring its features, benefits, and potential impact on corporate productivity.

What is Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot?

Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot is a cutting-edge tool integrated into the Microsoft 365 suite, designed to enhance productivity and streamline business processes. Utilizing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms, Co-Pilot acts as an intelligent assistant, aiding users in various tasks across Microsoft 365 applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Teams.

Key Features of Microsoft Co-Pilot

  1. AI-Powered Assistance: Co-Pilot uses AI to understand context and content, offering suggestions, writing assistance, and data analysis in real-time.
  2. Automated Workflow: From drafting emails in Outlook to creating complex data models in Excel, Co-Pilot automates repetitive tasks, significantly reducing manual effort.
  3. Advanced Data Analysis: In Excel, it can analyze trends and patterns, offering insights that might be missed by the human eye.
  4. Intelligent Content Creation: In Word and PowerPoint, Co-Pilot helps in drafting documents and presentations, suggesting layouts, and refining content.
  5. Seamless Integration: Being fully integrated into the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, it ensures a smooth workflow across different applications.

Benefits for Your Company

Increased Productivity: By automating routine tasks, employees can focus on more strategic work, boosting overall productivity.

Enhanced Efficiency: Co-Pilot’s AI-driven suggestions lead to quicker completion of tasks and more efficient processes.

Data-Driven Decision Making: With advanced analytics capabilities, companies can make more informed decisions based on data insights.

Improved Collaboration: Co-Pilot enhances collaboration by allowing team members to work together more effectively, especially in remote or hybrid work environments.

Cost-Effective: By optimizing workflows and reducing the time spent on tasks, Co-Pilot can lead to significant cost savings for companies.

Potential Impact on Corporate Work

  1. Empowering Employees: Co-Pilot empowers employees at all levels, allowing them to accomplish tasks with greater ease and precision.
  2. Driving Innovation: The AI-driven insights can spark new ideas, driving innovation within the company.
  3. Shaping the Future of Work: As an embodiment of the future of AI in the workplace, Co-Pilot sets the stage for more advanced AI integrations in business processes. 

Summary

Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot is more than just a tool; it’s a game-changer in the realm of corporate productivity and efficiency. Its AI-driven capabilities not only simplify tasks but also open new avenues for innovation and strategic thinking. As companies continually seek ways to stay ahead in a competitive market, tools like Microsoft 365 Co-Pilot will become indispensable in harnessing the full potential of their workforce. The future of work is here, and it’s intelligent, efficient, and transformative.

Migrating to Microsoft 365: Enhancing Productivity Through User Training

Migrating to Microsoft 365: Enhancing Productivity Through User Training

In today’s era of digital technology, businesses are continually seeking solutions that enhance efficiency, collaboration, and overall productivity. Microsoft 365 is the frontrunner in this realm, offering a suite of integrated tools that cater to various business needs. However, the transition to Microsoft 365 is not just about software implementation; it’s also about ensuring that your team can make the most out of these new tools. This is where the importance of user training comes into play.

The Shift to Microsoft 365: More Than Just a Software Upgrade

Migrating to Microsoft 365 represents a significant shift in how teams collaborate and work. With applications like Microsoft Teams, OneDrive, SharePoint, and more, the suite offers a more integrated and flexible working environment. This integration, however, can be overwhelming for users accustomed to traditional, often siloed, software applications. Effective user training becomes crucial to bridge this gap.

5 Benefits of User Training in Microsoft 365 Migration

1. Accelerated Adoption and Productivity

Streamlined Transition: Training helps users adapt to the new environment more quickly, reducing the learning curve associated with new software.

Optimized Usage: Users learn to leverage the full range of features and tools available in Microsoft 365, leading to more efficient workflows and better outcomes.

2. Enhanced Collaboration and Communication

Effective Collaboration Tools: Training on tools like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint enhances team collaboration, making it easier to share documents, communicate, and work together on projects in real-time.

Unified Communication Platform: Understanding the nuances of integrated communication tools helps in maintaining a consistent and effective communication channel within the organization.

3. Increased Security and Compliance Awareness

Data Security: With the training, users become more aware of the security features and best practices in Microsoft 365, which is crucial for protecting sensitive business data.

Regulatory Compliance: Users learn to navigate the compliance aspects within Microsoft 365, ensuring that the organization adheres to industry standards and regulations.

4. Customized Learning for Diverse Roles

Role-Based Training: Different roles may require different knowledge and skills within the Microsoft 365 suite. Tailored training ensures that each employee learns relevant tools and features for their specific job functions.

5. Reduced IT Support Costs

Lower Dependency on IT: Well-trained users are more self-sufficient and less likely to require constant IT support, leading to reduced support costs and more focused IT efforts on strategic initiatives.

Implementing Effective Microsoft 365 Training

Needs Assessment: Conduct a training needs assessment to understand the specific requirements of different user groups within the organization.

Customized Training Programs: Develop training programs tailored to the needs identified in the assessment, focusing on practical, hands-on experience.

Continuous Learning: Implement ongoing training and support to accommodate updates in Microsoft 365, ensuring that users stay current with new features and best practices.

Feedback and Evaluation: Regularly gather feedback from users and evaluate the effectiveness of the training programs, making adjustments as needed.

Summary

The transition to Microsoft 365 is a strategic move that can bring significant benefits to an organization. However, the key to unlocking its full potential lies in the effective training of users. By investing in comprehensive user training, organizations can ensure a smoother transition, enhanced productivity, better collaboration, and a more secure and compliant work environment. As the digital workplace continues to evolve, empowering your team with the right knowledge and skills is not just an option; it’s a necessity for staying competitive and efficient in today’s business world.

How Abtech Can Help You Migrate To Microsoft 365.

  • We offer a full range of products and services to help our customers move to Microsoft 365, including

Navigating HIPAA Compliance: A Guide for Companies

Navigating HIPAA Compliance: A Guide for Companies

In the ever-growing landscape of healthcare information, maintaining the privacy and security of patient data is not just a legal obligation but also a cornerstone of trust in the healthcare industry. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enacted in 1996, sets the standard for protecting sensitive patient data in the United States. For companies handling healthcare information, HIPAA compliance is an absolute must. This blog post aims to demystify HIPAA compliance and provide actionable steps for companies to ensure they meet these critical regulations.

Understanding HIPAA

HIPAA establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information. It applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically. The rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization.

Key Components of HIPAA

  1. Privacy Rule: Protects the privacy of individually identifiable health information.
  2. Security Rule: Sets standards for the security of electronic protected health information.
  3. Breach Notification Rule: Requires covered entities to notify affected individuals, HHS, and in some cases, the media of a breach of unsecured protected health information.

8 Steps to Achieve HIPAA Compliance

1. Understand the Scope of HIPAA in Your Business

First, determine if your business is a covered entity or a business associate under HIPAA. Covered entities include healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses. Business associates are individuals or entities that perform functions or activities on behalf of, or provide services to, a covered entity that involve the use or disclosure of protected health information (PHI).

2. Conduct a Risk Analysis

Perform a thorough risk analysis to identify potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of electronic PHI (ePHI). This step is crucial in developing an effective risk management plan.

3. Implement Strong Privacy and Security Policies

Develop and implement privacy and security policies and procedures in line with HIPAA requirements. These should address areas such as access controls, workstation use, device and media controls, and transmission security.

4. Train Your Employees

Ensure that all employees are trained on HIPAA regulations and understand the importance of protecting patient information. Regular training sessions should be conducted to keep staff updated on any changes in HIPAA regulations.

5. Secure Patient Data

Use physical, technical, and administrative safeguards to protect patient data. This includes using secure networks, encryption, access controls, and regular audits to track access to ePHI.

6. Establish a Communication Protocol for PHI

Set up secure communication channels for transmitting PHI. Ensure that emails, texts, and other forms of communication are encrypted and secure.

7. Prepare for Breach Notification

Develop a breach notification process in compliance with the Breach Notification Rule. This includes internal reporting procedures, assessment protocols, and timely notification methods.

8. Regularly Review and Update Compliance Measures

HIPAA compliance is not a one-time task but an ongoing process. Regularly review and update your security measures and policies to ensure continuous compliance.

Summary

HIPAA compliance is a critical aspect of operating in the healthcare sector. By understanding the requirements and implementing a comprehensive compliance program, companies can not only avoid legal penalties but also build trust with their clients and patients. Remember, protecting patient information is not just about compliance; it’s about upholding the integrity and confidentiality that form the backbone of the healthcare industry.

What Makes a Company SSAE 18 Compliant

What Makes a Company SSAE 18 Compliant?

To become SSAE 18 compliant, a company, typically a service organization, must undergo a thorough audit conducted by an independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or auditing firm. This audit assesses various aspects of the company’s systems and processes to ensure they meet the standards set by SSAE 18. Here are the key steps and components that make a company SSAE 18 compliant:

The 12 Key Steps

  1. Understand the Scope of the Audit: The company needs to determine which type of Service Organization Control (SOC) report is applicable. SOC 1 reports are most relevant for SSAE 18, focusing on financial reporting controls.
  2. Select the Type of SOC 1 Report: Decide between a Type I report, which assesses the design of controls at a specific point in time, or a Type II report, which evaluates the effectiveness of these controls over a period (usually a minimum of six months).
  3. Engage an Independent Auditor: Hire a qualified CPA or an auditing firm with experience in conducting SSAE 18 audits.
  4. Conduct a Readiness Assessment: Before the formal audit, perform a readiness assessment to identify any potential gaps or weaknesses in the control environment.
  5. Documentation of Controls and Processes: The company must thoroughly document its internal controls and processes relevant to the services provided. This includes information on how these controls are designed and operated.
  6. Implement Controls for Subservice Organizations: If the company uses subservice organizations (vendors or third-party service providers), it must ensure that these entities also have appropriate controls in place.
  7. Management’s Written Assertion: As part of the audit, the company’s management must provide a written assertion. This statement declares that the controls are suitably designed (and operational in the case of a Type II report) and that the system description accurately reflects the service organization’s system.
  8. Risk Assessment and Addressing Identified Gaps: Conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the control environment. Any identified gaps or weaknesses must be addressed before the audit.
  9. Undergo the SSAE 18 Audit: The independent auditor will review the company’s system and controls, assessing their design and operational effectiveness (in the case of a Type II report).
  10. Remediation of Issues: If the auditor identifies any issues, the company must remediate these issues in a timely manner.
  11. Obtain the Auditor’s Report: After the audit, the auditor will provide a report on the company’s controls. This report is critical for demonstrating SSAE 18 compliance to clients and stakeholders.
  12. Continuous Monitoring and Improvement: SSAE 18 compliance is not a one-time event. The company should continuously monitor its control environment and make improvements where necessary to ensure ongoing compliance.

Summary

Becoming SSAE 18 compliant is an indication that a company has a strong commitment to maintaining a secure and reliable control environment, which is crucial for their clients, especially those in industries where financial reporting accuracy is paramount. It demonstrates to clients and stakeholders that the company is serious about protecting the integrity and confidentiality of the information it handles.

Understanding SSAE18: The Standard for Service Organization Audits

Understanding SSAE 18: The Standard for Service Organization Audits

In today’s business landscape, where outsourcing and third-party services are commonplace, the importance of robust internal controls and audit standards cannot be overstated. One significant standard that stands out is SSAE 18 (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 18). This standard is pivotal for service organizations that handle or process information impacting their clients’ financial reporting. In this article, we will cover all aspects of SSAE 18, exploring its key features, implications, and importance in the business world.

What is SSAE 18?

SSAE 18 is an auditing standard that took effect in May 2017, superseding the previous standard, SSAE 16. It sets the guidelines for auditors conducting audits of the control processes at service organizations. These audits are crucial for assessing the effectiveness of a service organization’s controls over its information systems, particularly those relevant to the internal control over financial reporting of their clients.

The Key Components of SSAE 18

  1. Service Organization Control (SOC) Reports: Under SSAE 18, Service Organization Control reports are classified into SOC 1, SOC 2, and SOC 3 reports, catering to different needs and audiences. SOC 1 reports, in particular, are focused on controls at a service organization that may impact clients’ financial reporting.

2. Types of Reports: SSAE 18 audits can result in two types of reports:

  • SOC 1 Type I Report: Evaluates the design of controls at a specific point in time.
  • SOC 1 Type II Report: Assesses the operational effectiveness of these controls over a defined period, usually a minimum of six months.

3. Subservice Organizations: A critical aspect of SSAE 18 is its focus on subservice organizations (third-party vendors or partners). It necessitates a detailed evaluation of the risks associated with these entities and how they affect the main service organization’s control environment.

4. Management’s Written Assertion: A key requirement is the management’s written assertion, confirming that the system’s description is accurate and that the controls are suitably designed (and operational in Type II reports).

5. Risk Assessment: The standard enhances the requirements for service auditors to assess risks during the audit process, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation.

6. Vendor Management: SSAE 18 requires rigorous monitoring and evaluation of vendors, emphasizing the significance of their role in the overall control environment.

Why is SSAE 18 Important?

Assurance of Operational Excellence

For clients relying on service organizations, SSAE 18 provides an assurance of operational excellence. Compliance with this standard indicates that the service organization has effective, well-designed controls in place, minimizing the risk of errors or breaches that could impact the client’s financial reporting.

Enhancing Trust and Reliability

In todays time where data breaches and operational failures can have catastrophic impacts, SSAE 18 compliance is a trust signal. It demonstrates a service organization’s commitment to maintaining a robust control environment, which is crucial for building client confidence.

Competitive Advantage

For service organizations, SSAE 18 compliance is more than just a regulatory necessity; it’s a competitive advantage. It showcases their dedication to high standards of operation and security, often becoming a key differentiator in the market.

Global Relevance

While SSAE 18 is a U.S. standard, its implications are global. With the interconnectedness of businesses, international clients often seek partners who adhere to stringent audit standards like SSAE 18, reinforcing its importance beyond U.S. borders.

Summary

SSAE 18 is more than an audit requirement; it’s a framework that fosters trust, reliability, and excellence in the business ecosystem. For service organizations, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to high-quality standards, while for their clients, it’s an assurance of security and integrity. As businesses continue to evolve in this digital age, standards like SSAE 18 will play a critical role in shaping the landscape of trust and reliability in business processes and partnerships.

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Benefits of Moving to SharePoint Online​

Benefits of Moving to SharePoint Online

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Moving to SharePoint Online offers various benefits and features that can enhance collaboration, document management, and overall productivity within an organization. Here are some key advantages and features of SharePoint Online:

Benefits:

  • Cloud-Based Collaboration:
    • SharePoint Online is part of the Microsoft 365 suite, providing cloud-based collaboration, which allows users to access and collaborate on documents from anywhere with an internet connection.
  • Cost Savings:
    • SharePoint Online eliminates the need for organizations to invest in and maintain on-premises hardware and infrastructure, resulting in potential cost savings.
  • Automatic Updates:
    • As a cloud service, SharePoint Online receives regular updates and improvements without requiring manual intervention. This ensures that organizations always have access to the latest features and security updates.
  • Scalability:
    • SharePoint Online can scale with the growth of an organization. Whether you have a small team or a large enterprise, SharePoint Online can accommodate your collaboration needs.
  • Integration with Microsoft 365:
    • SharePoint Online seamlessly integrates with other Microsoft 365 applications, such as Teams, OneDrive, Outlook, and more, providing a unified and cohesive user experience.
  • Security and Compliance:
    • Microsoft invests heavily in the security of its cloud services, including SharePoint Online. It offers features like data loss prevention, conditional access, and compliance capabilities to help organizations meet regulatory requirements.
  • Anywhere Access:
    • Users can access SharePoint Online sites and documents from various devices, promoting flexibility and remote work capabilities.

Features:

  • Document Management:
    • SharePoint Online serves as a robust document management system, allowing users to store, organize, and collaborate on documents in a secure and centralized location.
  • Version History:
    • SharePoint Online maintains version history for documents, enabling users to track changes, revert to previous versions, and collaborate with confidence.
  • Team Sites and Communication Sites:
    • SharePoint Online provides the ability to create team sites for collaboration within departments or projects and communication sites for broadcasting information to a broader audience.
  • Workflow Automation:
    • SharePoint Online supports the creation of custom workflows to automate business processes, streamlining tasks and improving efficiency.
  • Search and Discovery:
    • Robust search capabilities help users find relevant information quickly, making it easier to locate documents, sites, and people within the organization.
  • Social Collaboration:
    • Features like social feeds, discussion boards, and user profiles enhance social collaboration and knowledge sharing within the organization.
  • Customization and Extensibility:
    • SharePoint Online allows for customization and extensibility through the use of web parts, apps, and integrations with third-party tools.

Moving to SharePoint Online can result in a more streamlined and efficient collaboration environment, benefiting organizations of all sizes.

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LESSONS FROM THE RANSOMWARE ATTACKS AT BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS & GREATER BALTIMORE MEDICAL CENTER

LESSONS FROM THE RANSOMWARE ATTACKS AT BALTIMORE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS & GREATER BALTIMORE MEDICAL CENTER

Just before Thanksgiving this year, as students were entrenched in virtual learning, a major ransomware attack took down Baltimore County Public School’s (BCPS) computer systems. As a result, schools closed for several days, many devices were unusable, and like any other major IT security incident, significant costs were incurred to remediate the damage. BCPS will most likely undergo an assessment to determine exactly how the incident happened and they will have to invest significantly to harden their systems and change how they operate.

Ransomware Attacks

Shortly after the BCPS attack, a few miles up the road, Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC) experienced its own ransomware attack, which took down many of their systems. Fortunately, patient care was still mostly maintained, aside from some postponed elective care. It appears that data and operations will be back to normal in fairly short order, but there will still be costs associated with this, and certainly, nobody at GBMC wants to be associated with a ransomware incident.

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Is Your IBM hardware reaching End Of Service (EOS) -IBM Support?

Is Your IBM hardware reaching End Of Service (EOS) -IBM Support?

It’s that time of year again….. What time of year, you ask? It is the time of year that you are receiving (or not receiving) notifications that IBM support and service will no longer be offered to you and your company on a range of products. This is hardly ever good news because it means you will have to do something about it, and whatever “it” is, is most likely going to cost money… IBM sends out end of service life notifications for the following software and hardware models: · IBM P7 · IBM S20 · IBM JS21 blades · IBM RS/6000 · IBM Power i5 · IBM Flex · IBM P6 · IBM Websphere This happens twice a year. Effective EOS dates are usually April 30th and September 30th. Hopefully you do receive a notice that your software or equipment is reaching its EOS date. Usually they will give you a month or two to plan for it and give you two choices: 1. Upgrade to a newer version or release. 2. Purchase a support extension What they don’t usually tell you is that there is a third option that is usually better for businesses like yours: 3. Use a third-party IBM support company In most cases, 3rd party support is a good option. 3rd party IBM support providers, like Abtech Technologies, can provide high quality hardware maintenance to extend the life of IBM products. Abtech Technologies has a dedicated and experienced staff that is very knowledgeable about IBM products and offer best in class software management and support. Abtech Technologies also has a large inventory of replacement parts for IBM hardware.
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Abtech Technologies awarded multi-year managed services contract.

Abtech Technologies awarded multi-year managed services contract.

Abtech Technologies has been awarded a multi-year contract to provide and deliver IT Managed Services, IT Security Services and IT Consulting Projects for the City of Lake Forest, CA. This is in addition to the Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery Service that Abtech Technologies already provides for the city.

Abtech won the bid against strong competition. There were 48 companies registered to bid on this contract, some of them billion-dollar corporations.

Four companies were asked to interview and were taken through an extensive evaluation process.

Abtech Technologies was awarded the contract based on several factors, but key to the award was Abtech’s capability in IT Security, Project Management, IT Consulting and the overall deep technical knowledge of its many engineers.

About Abtech Technologies
Abtech Technologies has revenue of $20 million and employees 60 associates of which more than 50% are engineers.

In addition to the City of Lake Forest, Abtech Technologies has 300 other IT contracts supporting medium-sized and Fortune 500 companies. Abtech performs services ranging from Hardware Maintenance, day-to-day Managed Services, Database Administration, IT Security and various forms of Consulting.

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Archive, Backup, and Disaster Recovery

Archive, Backup, and Disaster Recovery

Backing up, archiving, and preparing for disaster recovery are obviously related. They overlap, but each one names a different purpose. Doing a good job at one of them doesn’t mean they’re all covered. Let’s consider what each one involves. Backup The purpose of a backup is to restore files that are lost or damaged. Recovery needs may range from a single file to an entire drive. A backup volume can be local or remote. It can be quick to access for getting back single files, or intended mostly for bulk recovery. Its focus isn’t long-term storage, though durability is a good quality. Versioned backups provide extra safety. A file can be corrupted, without being noticed, for a long time. If only the current version is backedup, and it’s corrupted too, that’s not useful. A backup that includes older versions gives a better chance of recovery. Many approaches are possible:
  • An attached drive. Software does frequent incremental backups automatically. It’s convenient, and it’s always up to date. The disadvantage is that malware or physical damage to the computer might affect the backup drive as well.
  • A shared storage system. Network attached storage (NAS) provides a large amount of backup space and keeps everyone’s backups together. It simplifies backup management if there are a large number of users.
  • Tape backup. Tape is good for high-volume storage and allows saving multiple backups. It’s good for recovering crashed drives, but not very convenient for restoring single files.
  • Offsite backup. Cloud storage is safer than any local backup from events that affect a whole office. It needs a fast enough Internet connection.
It’s best to combine onsite and offsite backup. If one method fails, the other will usually keep working. Archive Long-term archival storage involves a different set of goals. It has several important criteria:
  • Selection. Not every file needs to go into an archive. Figuring out which ones are needed can be a complicated task. It’s necessary to take business goals and regulatory requirements into account.
  • Durability. Unlike a backup, an archive needs to be kept intact for a long time, usually years. It needs to have its own backup. Storage media will eventually go bad, and old file formats may become difficult to process, so it can require periodic migration to new media and storage formats.
  • Identification. The information in an archive needs to make sense years after it’s created. It needs to be well-organized, and it has to include enough metadata to reconstruct its context and purpose.
Maintaining an archive is a more complex task than keeping data backed up. Disaster Recovery Backup is a part of disaster recovery preparation, but it’s not the whole story. If a catastrophic event takes out your business systems, you need a way of getting up and running again as quickly as possible. Being confident of that requires a recovery plan. When disaster strikes, it’s necessary to bring up an alternate system. Speed is essential; every minute that a company’s systems are down means lost productivity and income. If systems are down too long, it affects the confidence of customers and partners. Bringing new machines onto the premises might not be feasible if the damage is severe, and getting them running is time-consuming. The systems not only need to come back quickly, but with little or no data loss. If the recovery system has to roll back to the previous day’s records, it will take a lot of work to bring them up to date. The backup needs to be ongoing to avoid losing business data. Cloud-based disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) lets your business operate with confidence that if serious damage happens, downtime will be short and data won’t be lost. StorTrust gives you the highest confidence that your data is always backed up and that you’re prepared for any disaster that may come. Whatever your backup, archiving, and DR needs are, Abtech is ready to meet them.