By: Phil Fine, Product Line Manager, National Information Solutions Cooperative For many fixed wireless broadband service providers, each day can be a challenge to provide the most reliable and efficient service while balancing the expectations of the customer. While wireless carriers focus largely on delivering the broadband services to the home across their wireless access network, they often overlook the equally challenging and oftentimes more complex delivery of those services inside the home wireless network, which can be detrimental to the customer experience. Deploying a solution that supports remote home network management has become critical with the explosion of Wi-Fi connected devices. The most successful service providers will deliver unmatched customer service enabled by a robust remote customer care solution. The best solution gives providers visibility into the customer home network, allowing a review of the state and performance of devices connected via Wi-Fi to the carrier’s broadband network. Ideally, service providers will have the ability to monitor networks and proactively address issues before the customer even realizes there is one. While there are a number of solutions for managing the home networks, many are not designed to be open to manage standards-based equipment nor integrated to the carrier back office for maximum operational efficiency. Ideally, providers not only should have the ability to select equipment that meets the needs of their customer base, but also acquire that equipment in a cost-effective manner. By deploying a standards-based solution, carriers have the power to use the most cost-effective equipment in their customers’ homes. But that is only one side of the balancing act. Customers have expectations of their own: 100% reliability with all of their devices connecting seamlessly 24/7, regardless of quantity or location. And when [...]
As the COVID-19 coronavirus has upended life, we’ve had to become adaptive to a new, physically distant way of life. Many NISC Members are taking on new tasks and doing business differently than ever before. We know it’s been hectic transitioning to this new situation that is anything but the norm, and we are committed to helping you during this time. As you work to serve your customers and members, we continue to seek out new ways to help you. We’re excited to announce a new resource for you on the NISC Community, the COVID-19 Solutions Resource HQ, dedicated to providing helpful solution and training information, news and best practices as you continue to navigate COVID-19. The page also features a special Member Think Tank section for you to engage with your peers, start discussions and share ideas of how you're supporting your communities during this time. This will be a living space, and we will continue to update it with new content as we evaluate ways we can provide further value to you. Thank you for continuing to keep your communities connected. We want to underscore our commitment to serving you during this time and encourage you to contact us if you have any questions. We are stronger together.
We hope you, our Members, always know that NISC is here to support you. Now, with recent events surrounding COVID-19, that promise is no different. We’ve seen many of you this week working to help your members and customers utilize technology in new ways. Now more than ever we are feeling grateful for technology that connects us and allows us to accomplish our daily tasks quickly and efficiently. SmartHub has been one of those helpful tools for years now, but with many utility and telecom sites temporarily closing, more and more of your members and customers will be turning to solutions like these to ensure they can continue completing tasks like paying their bills. We have a variety of resources available to help you educate your end users on SmartHub. Just visit www.smarthubkit.com (Community login required) to find helpful social media graphics and text, videos and more. This week, we also created a new video for our Members to use to continue spreading the word about SmartHub and how it can help in times like this. Feel free to download, share out on your social media accounts and send to your customers. At NISC, our main focus continues to be supporting you during this time. If there is anything we can do to help, please do not hesitate to contact us. We’re in this together.
“One Jackson EMC.” It’s a saying the employees of Jackson Electric Membership Corporation have, and means that everyone at Jackson EMC—the Board, executives, staff—is in it together, jointly celebrating the highs and supporting each other during the lows. Equally unified is the cooperative’s entire business technology system, now under one umbrella: NISC’s enterprise software solution. Since implementation of NISC’s enterprise software in 2019, Jackson EMC is enjoying paperless workflows, a more mobile workforce and higher levels of member engagement. Of particular note, however, is how the cooperative arrived at the decision to partner with NISC, and how Jackson EMC prepared for the huge undertaking that is wholesale software conversion and implementation. BEST OF BREED VS. ENTERPRISE APPROACH Jackson EMC, headquartered in Jefferson, Ga., is one of the largest electric cooperatives in the United States. The cooperative is operated by approximately 450 employees in four district offices, and serves more than 231,100 meters spanning 10 counties. Jackson EMC is a geographically diverse cooperative—which compounded the challenge of keeping each of the co-op’s best of breed software pieces updated and integrated. After an employee survey laid bare the facts, the co-op took action. “We had exhausted our ability to keep up with technology in-house with our own resources, and we needed a partner to help us with that,” said Chip Jakins, Jackson EMC president and CEO. “We knew members would benefit if we were more integrated, and we had the support from the Board and the leadership team, so it wasn’t difficult to get the commitment to move forward. It was the obvious choice to move the cooperative forward.” In 2016, an employee team born from Jackson EMC’s Strategic Planning Process was asked to choose one of [...]
With a global pandemic at the forefront of our mind, it is also a prime opportunity for hackers to attempt to exploit the situation. As our focus is on the effects of the virus on our businesses, our communities and our families, our overall cyber guard could be down simply due to distraction and a little ingenuity on the criminals’ behalf. Much like the recommendation to take a little longer washing your hands, it is imperative all take a little longer when checking your email or browsing online. Malware Disguised as an Information ToolThere have already been instances of successful malware deployment while disguising itself as information about the pandemic. Coronavirusmap.com.exe is a real time map that pulls information from the CDC about cases of the coronavirus and visually illustrates the impact. However, this map also steals information from your browser. It is imperative to ensure your sources are legitimate and secure. Read more at Hacker News: Beware of 'Coronavirus Maps' – It's a malware infecting PCs to steal passwords. Preying on the Charitable SpiritPeople may also use this global situation as an opportunity to raise funds to help those affected by COVID-19. As with the widespread fires in Australia, both legitimate and illegitimate campaigns have emerged. Criminals have started up GoFundMe pages promising to donate 100% of the contributions to aid the relief efforts – only for the money to just disappear. While raising funds for those impacted is always welcome, a little bit of research into the credibility of the campaign is key to ensuring the funds are truly getting to those in need. Read more about charitable giving and other concerns in the recent Secret Service’s release. The NISC Cybersecurity Services Team [...]
Lake Saint Louis, Mo., March 16, 2020 – In response to growing concern surrounding the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19), National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) has initiated a number of proactive measures to ensure the safety of its employees and Members while maintaining stellar business continuity. "As NISC works to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, we do so guided by Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations," says Dan Wilbanks, NISC president and CEO. "Additionally, we have initiated a number of measures to proactively assure continuity of business, while doing our part to keep our employees, Members and communities safe." NISC enacted a pause on all employee travel effective March 11 through April 30, except in special circumstances. Furthermore, the technology cooperative has announced plans to transition employees who are capable of effectively supporting its Members and doing their job remotely to a temporary work-from-home environment, with the goal of all capable employees working from home by Friday, March 20. "While the CDC is not advising that all employers move to remote work, we do, however, believe it is incumbent upon us to be prepared should guidelines change," Wilbanks says. "We are taking all necessary efforts to make this transition seamless to minimize impacts to our Members." NISC is well positioned for remote and virtual work arrangements. "As a technology company with campuses across six states and 100+ virtual employees, we are accustomed to working remotely and are confident that our employee base will continue to step up and keep delivering on the NISC promise to our Members: superior service, reliable solutions and value in that partnership," says Wilbanks. NISC's response to COVID-19 is the direct result of an effort the technology [...]
Lake Saint Louis, Mo., Mar. 12, 2020 – National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), a leading provider of technology and IT solutions to utility and telecommunications organizations, focused on the cooperative's Membership at its telecom and utility Annual Meetings, held Feb. 16 and March 1 in conjunction with the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) and NRECA national trade shows. Dan Wilbanks took the stage at the NISC Annual Meetings for the first time as President and CEO following the retirement of Vern Dosch in January. Wilbanks discussed NISC's product direction as well as his main goal for NISC in the year ahead: to ensure Members get maximum value from their partnership with NISC. "NISC's success will not be defined only by margin and numbers of Members, but by the value we bring in contributing to Members' success," Wilbanks said. Reg Rudolph, General Manager of San Isabel Electric Association and Chairman of the NISC Board of Directors, concluded his tenure as Chairman of the NISC board with a report to the Membership. Rudolph focused on NISC's growth and the collaboration between NISC and its Members. "NISC doesn't develop technology solutions in a vacuum, instead they collaborate with the Members through user groups, conferences, and feedback received daily from the Members," Rudolph said. "In true cooperative fashion, none of us are smarter than all of us." During the Annual Meeting, NISC announced the Directors elected to NISC's Board of Directors via NISC's online election process. Each of these Directors will serve three-year terms, expiring at NISC's Annual Meeting in 2023: Bob Paulling, Mid-Carolina Electric Cooperative – District 2 Carol Wright, Jackson Energy Cooperative – District 3 Robert Loth, Central Texas Electric Cooperative – District 10 Larry [...]
We were honored to again showcase some of the incredible #WomenofNISC this year through our International Women’s Day video series. We’re proud to have so many talented, driven and diverse women at NISC across each of our divisions and in leadership roles. Thank you for following along with us this week on social media. Click on the videos to hear each woman’s unique story:
Lake Saint Louis, Mo., Feb. 27, 2020 – National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC), a leading provider of software solutions to utility and telecommunication companies, will be sponsoring and exhibiting at NRECA's TechAdvantage Conference and Expo Mar. 1-4 in New Orleans, La. NISC will be exhibiting on Monday, Mar. 2 from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Tuesday, Mar. 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Mar. 4 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. TechAdvantage attendees are encouraged to stop by booth #2001 to learn about the latest in NISC innovations, test drive solutions and visit one-on-one with NISC's staff. Visitors will also have an opportunity to win an Apple iPad or Apple AirPods. Again this year, NISC will be a sponsor in NRECA's expo booth, "The Lab", which demonstrates some of the data-driven, efficient and forward-thinking technologies changing how electric cooperatives serve their members. NISC is also sponsoring this year’s CEO Lounge in the Rivergate Room at the TechAdvantage Expo. The lounge will serve as a quiet, relaxed meeting place for executives to gather and conversate and will also feature unique NISC giveaways. Over the course of the week, NISC staff members will also be presenting in breakout sessions at TechAdvantage and at NRECA's Annual Meeting. See below for session dates and times: The Avalanche of Data is Coming: Be Prepared so You’re Not Stuck in the SnowMonday, March 2 – 1:30 p.m.Matt Fauconer, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative; Walt Hillis, NISCSecuring the OT (Operational Technology) Network and Who Owns It?Tuesday, March 3 – 10:45 a.m.Ron Schmitz, Great River Energy; Mark Peterson, Great River EnergyChad Schauf, Oakdale Electric Cooperative; Linda LaTourelle, NISCWhat is Data Privacy and Why Does it Matter? (NRECA Annual Meeting)Tuesday, March 3 – 1 p.m.Susan [...]
Security is a priority at NISC, and a big part of securing our solutions means protecting passwords. You’ve likely been a part of a scenario where you’ve had to change your password due to a possible breach, whether it’s through a big chain store or a social media site. At NISC, we’re constantly working to ensure the security of NISC solutions is as up-to-date as possible. As part of that security effort, we are making some changes to how login credentials are stored for the SmartHub web and mobile application. Starting this month, NISC has moved from storing encrypted SmartHub passwords in iVUE CIS to storing hashed passwords in our Cooperative Cloud environment. This change allows us to leverage new recommended security measures by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and will allow us to further our security by adding new measures like two-factor authentication. Ultimately, what this means is that we’ll be able to offer improved security, not only for SmartHub users, but for our Members that use SmartHub. Security is critical, and this is just the beginning of our process as we work to ensure that all NISC products are as secure as possible. This change is part of NISC’s commitment to cybersecurity, not only at our organization, but at our Member sites as well. NISC offers a series of webinars, blog posts, cyber tips and trainings through our Member-Employee learning community. NISC has also released the “CyberSense Educational Kit,” a downloadable kit containing a series of customer-facing tips designed to protect their identity and strengthen their cybersecurity practices. Offered free of charge to any organization requesting the material, the kit is updated routinely as new information, tips and security recommendation updates [...]