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New Day, New Ideas

This morning, like many before it, I woke up and thought, “Today is the day I come up with some  magical blog post idea that changes someone’s world!” I showered, threw on my Global Panini attire and a pair of Uggs slippers, cooked up an omelet, and made a pourover (my new obsession).

I plodded downstairs to the office and fired up the computer. I opened a new document, raised my hands to the keyboard and — nothing. Complete brain freeze. 

It’s hard to be amazing week after week. I know you feel this too. You have IT projects that are stacked up. Your boss is on you week after week to make their world more secure without adding friction for the users. Or your MSP is feeling stagnant and you need to come up with some new services to offer — or figure out how to offer your current services in a different way.

The week over week of having to be “on” all the time…it diminishes your ability to be creative after a while. Problem-solving becomes what keeps you from getting out of bed each morning instead of driving you to be 1% better every day. I get that. I hear you loud and clear.

The Block is Real

This creativity block thing is real. Very real. And if you were just doing IT for the fun of it — creating a playspace for yourself — you wouldn’t have to worry. But, folks, this IT thing is what you get paid to do. You can’t just say, “too bad, so sad” and head off to the zoo, y’know? 

Over here in the MacAdmins community, we have a great Slack instance where people are doing amazing things and being really creative. You go there, looking for something – a solution, some inspiration, a new job – but you’re still left uninspired. And you wonder why. Could be burnout. Could be general tiredness. Could be something else – let’s explore.

Brainstorming

At a recent standup (yes I now speak the language Agiletongue) I asked for a lift from my brilliant and creative teammates. Ideas, people, I needed ideas! It didn’t matter how outrageous they were. In fact, the more outrageous, the better. Anything is a springboard. As we’ve talked about previously, brainstorming requires a plethora of input and little to no judgment. 

And as a response to my request I got….nuthin. No ideas. Not a one. I wonder if it’s just the heat of this unbelievably hot summer cooking our brains or if people are just plumb wore out from current events. No clue, but nobody had any ideas for me. 

The next day, though, someone pinged me with an idea. “What about recipes?” they  said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

I work for a tech company. Our product does (amongst other incredible things) device and identity management. IT stack centralization. MDM and security management. Automation. With my IT background, I hear the word “recipe” my brain goes to GitHub and shell scripts and munki and other IT management types of things. But, alas, that is not what they meant.

They meant real recipes. Food recipes. Don’t get me wrong, I like food. It’s an important part of my day to day life. But, hmmm…was this a weird ploy to turn this into a happy homemaker column? I was both confused and a little offended but I stuck with the discussion knowing that I’d find out if I just let them talk. 

How Does That Fit Into Tech?

Little by little the discussion started to make sense. 

Us admins are under a lot of pressure to be perfect all the time. For many (if not all) of us, one mistake can cost our companies their reputation (not to mention financial and productivity loss). In some cases, if a mistake is big enough, it could cost our jobs or our client. So if you weren’t feeling stressed before you started reading this, you probably are now. Sorry!

One way to get past the stress is to get up from your chair, step away from your desk, and get active doing something that is not related to tech (if stepping away won’t get you in trouble, that is).

Thinking about other things is a great way to open channels that allow you to come up with solutions. We’ve all experienced this — our best ideas come in the middle of the night; or the middle of a shower

Points to anyone who, by now, has accurately predicted where this is going.

A Story and a Treat

picture of baked food on a table
Mom baked every item on this table.

Growing up in my house meant that there was a plethora of home-baked goods. I don’t mean, a few store-bought cookies. I mean my mother baked. Daily. And there were always people over who didn’t live in this house.

The counter always had a few different kinds of cookies, a cake, maybe brownies, and on special occasions there were eclairs in the fridge. There were always bowls and beaters waiting to be licked clean and getting to the frosting bowl first meant you had to hide behind a locked door, lest someone steal it right out of your hands.

But one particular tradition we had was that on our birthday we got to choose our favorite dinner and our favorite cake. Mom wasn’t the best cook (I won’t say food was overcooked and dry and we’re probably lucky we didn’t all get food poisoning regularly, but…oh, I guess I will say it), but she could definitely bake.

So my choice was always spaghetti with meatballs (safe and really hard to mess up) and mom’s chocolate banana layer cake. I used to call it my migraine cake because every time I’d eat it I would end up with a migraine. Also, it was worth it every single time. I don’t do that anymore because now I know that my post-cake morbidity was due to celiac — but I can still taste it in my memory.

Here It Is

And, so, it is with a full heart and a now-hungry tummy that I gift you this recipe. Posting it here serves two purposes: 

  • Getting up and doing something completely different from your work frees up your brain and refreshes your spirit.
  • Eating something delicious can reduce your stress level. Even if it’s not a healthy option, a treat is good for the soul.

The recipe card (mom retyped every one of her recipes onto an index card with our Selectric typewriter that only had an all-caps ball) is well-worn. It has food stains all over it. It may have even gotten a bit too close to the heat. But it’s still here and someday it will be passed down to someone in the family. 

Chocolate Banana Cake 

recipe card from the 1960's

Serves: 16 

Baking time: 30-35 minutes

Notes: This cake is best when frosted between layers and on the outside with a buttercream frosting.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¼ cups sifted flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour milk
  • ⅔ cup shortening (may substitute butter or margarine)
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounce Bakers chocolate
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Cream shortening together with the sugar until fluffy. 
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition to shortening mixture.
  5. Mix chocolate in with egg and shortening. Stir in vanilla extract.
  6. Add the dry ingredients, alternating with the banana and milk in small amounts.
  7. Turn into two 9-inch greased pans.
  8. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cakes comes out clean.
  9. Let the cake cool completely before removing from pans and frosting.

Nutrition Information*: 1 slice (1/16th of the cake) contains 241 Calories, 11.1g Total Fat, 4g Saturated Fat, 21mg Cholesterol, 220mg Sodium, 355.5g Total Carbohydrates, 1.4g Dietary Fiber, 20.3g Total Sugars, 3.2g Protein

*Note that this does not include the nutrition facts of the buttercream frosting

Let us know if this helped reduce your stress by baking it or by eating it. Or both! Join us in the community and tell us your favorite recipe for freeing up your IT brain.

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About JumpCloud
At JumpCloud, our mission is to build a world-class cloud directory. Not just the evolution of Active Directory to the cloud, but a reinvention of how modern IT teams get work done. The JumpCloud Directory Platform is a directory for your users, their IT resources, your fleet of devices, and the secure connections between them with full control, security, and visibility.

JumpCloud’s Cloud RADIUS & Azure AD Authentication

As businesses continue returning to the office, more and more MSPs are being pressed to ensure that employees are able to return with minimal pain. Wi-Fi connectivity is often the very first issue that users will run into in a new office setting, so MSPs are finding that they must revisit how they handle the security of the wireless networks that they manage. 

Common Wi-Fi Security Vulnerabilities

It’s very likely that your customers have their Wi-Fi set up with a guest network for visitors to use and a pre-shared key that employees are given on the first day of their employment. However, this authentication method is only marginally better than having no password at all and is very dangerous if the Wi-Fi provides access to domain-associated resources. 

Addressing Connection Concerns

Being that your customers’ Wi-Fi keys are likely older than COVID-19, there has never been a better time to switch to a tried and tested solution: RADIUS. With RADIUS configured, network authentication takes place against a directory that has been configured to allow a user’s existing login credentials (username and password) to grant and revoke access to network resources. 

RADIUS adds a much needed layer of security between users and a Wi-Fi network, while also bringing added convenience to your customers’ wireless networks. While RADIUS comes with a plethora of benefits, implementation can feel intimidating — but, it doesn’t have to be!

Using JumpCloud’s Cloud RADIUS Feature

In order to set up RADIUS for a client, you will need a directory to use as the source of truth for user authentication, and JumpCloud has the perfect solution for you. Here at JumpCloud, we leverage our powerful open directory platform to offer a high-quality, easy-to-use Cloud RADIUS solution that our customers love, giving them cloud-directory-fueled authentication and MFA to keep their networks secure and efficient. 

  1. Utilizing the Full Functionality of JumpCloud Alone

In addition to its Cloud RADIUS feature, implementing JumpCloud’sopen directory platform opens the door to a variety of other important features such as SSO, MDM, software deployment, and policies to help manage your users and endpoints. 

In effect, with JumpCloud, you will not only be able to address your clients’ immediate network security and user experience needs, but you’ll also be able to position your services in a new way. You’ll be able to offer current and potential customers a more forward-facing and expansive service using all of JumpCloud’s capabilities — including helping clients consolidate their technology stack or adding much needed features into their IT infrastructure.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great, but I am not in a position to migrate directory services. I simply want to deploy RADIUS to improve Wi-Fi and VPN authentication, and I already have customers using Azure Active Directory (AAD).”

Well, I have some good news for you: you can leverage your existing Azure AD environments in harmony with JumpCloud thanks to our new feature: RADIUS Authentication with Azure AD Credentials.

  1. Using JumpCloud’s RADIUS Feature With Azure AD

Surprisingly (or maybe ironically?) enough, the implementation of RADIUS with Azure AD is reliant upon on-prem resources, with physical servers needing to be allocated to perform the required tasks. JumpCloud is a strong proponent of equipping MSPs and IT professionals with world-class tools to get their jobs done effectively, which means we focus on creating solutions for problems like this.

This means that we’ve made it so you can leverage JumpCloud’s Cloud RADIUS feature while maintaining Azure AD as the source of truth for your directory needs, effectively giving you the best of both worlds, with no on-prem setup necessary. This means that your customers can enjoy secure networks while improving ease of access to networks among their credentialed employees. On that same note, what this means for you, is that you now have a cloud-based RADIUS solution that can be implemented for any of your customers without gutting their existing directories.

Getting Started With Cloud RADIUS

Here are some guides to help you begin launching Cloud RADIUS across your MSP business and your clients’ orgs.

 

Cloud RADIUS Benefits

Check out some of the benefits that JumpCloud’s RADIUS solution will give to your clients:

  • Improved user experience that only requires a single, unique password to connect to networks and resources to get work done both in the office and remotely via a VPN.
  • Streamlined user onboarding and offboarding due to the activation or deactivation of a single set of secure credentials compared to many different usernames and passwords.
  • Fewer help desk tickets related to the pain associated with changing a PSK (pre-shared key) for a Wi-Fi network.
  • Simplified compliance that’s easier to prove by getting rid of a shared network password that anyone can get ahold of.
  • Easier network access for your techs. They’ll no longer be scrambling to figure out Wi-Fi passwords when performing site visits (this will also drastically lower the chance of a tech needing to huddle to one corner of a closet to get the single bar of LTE signal available for their hotspot to connect to your documentation service to find the Wi-Fi password. Definitely not speaking from personal experience. Sidenote: Why did they stop putting a network port on laptops?).

Ultimately, the largest benefit of having Cloud RADIUS from JumpCloud implemented is that you now have a solution that can be easily replicated across your entire customer base. Whether you’re working with a company that has never touched a directory service before (which JumpCloud can easily help with), or a customer that has been holding onto that 12 year-old server for dear life, JumpCloud is here to help you modernize your customers’ infrastructure. 

With Cloud RADIUS, your service offerings around network management can fully revolve around a single authentication standard, your hardware vendor of choice, and a unified support approach that will delight your customers. 

JumpCloud for MSPs

At JumpCloud, we are serious about setting MSPs up for success when working with in-office, hybrid, and fully remote clients. To do this, we have developed a dedicated platform for MSPs, called JumpCloud for MSPs. 

JumpCloud for MSPs is an open directory platform that enables our partners to centralize identity, authentication, access, and device management capabilities under one umbrella without having to tear and replace any existing infrastructure. 

About Version 2 Limited
Version 2 Limited is one of the most dynamic IT companies in Asia. The company develops and distributes IT products for Internet and IP-based networks, including communication systems, Internet software, security, network, and media products. Through an extensive network of channels, point of sales, resellers, and partnership companies, Version 2 Limited offers quality products and services which are highly acclaimed in the market. Its customers cover a wide spectrum which include Global 1000 enterprises, regional listed companies, public utilities, Government, a vast number of successful SMEs, and consumers in various Asian cities.

About JumpCloud
At JumpCloud, our mission is to build a world-class cloud directory. Not just the evolution of Active Directory to the cloud, but a reinvention of how modern IT teams get work done. The JumpCloud Directory Platform is a directory for your users, their IT resources, your fleet of devices, and the secure connections between them with full control, security, and visibility.