In the introduction Mike Foster suggests that this is a book that every CEO should read, and by reading it they will gain an understanding of the world of Information Technology (IT) that has become such a fundamental part of almost every company’s fabric in the past 20 years. I would take it one step further, this book should be on the must read list for IT professionals working in those same companies. Not for the technical knowledge within the book, but for the explanation of how company culture often crashes head on with IT culture.

With over 30 years of experience in IT, I can relate to much that Mike Foster writes about. Two aspects in particular grabbed me, and I have suffered both of them. In the mid 90’s I became the Systems Manager for a medium sized company, 26 locations, and 120 or so computers, I had a staff of exactly zero, and spent 80% of my time in firefighting mode, I did make some progress because I reported directly to the albeit grouchy and irrasable CEO. However others in the company worked hard to pull IT under the wing of the Accounting and HR departments. This was a bad mistake, and one that in retrospect I should have fought harder to prevent. Once that direct link to the power was severed, all forward momentum stopped. Mike Foster is right, let IT have direct access to the power base, without that, the needs of a company from a technology standpoint can never be served properly.

The second problem was one of communication, non technical people have little understanding of computer infrastructure and trying to explain the need to spend $5000 on a new server, or a firewall, or whatever often falls on deaf ears until the system crashes and the company is scrambling to operate.

As Mike Foster explains in very simple non technical language, there needs to be an effort on both the executives and the IT people to communicate in a meaningful manner. IT talks techno babble that often merely induces a comatose state in the executives, rather than putting their needs in terms of how something will benefit the company, and hopefully the bottom line.

The Secure CEO is for the most part written in plain english, and I was happy to see that when the alphabet soup that has become part of every computer geeks daily vocabulary had to be used, the author went to some length to explain the concept in a fashion that almost anyone can understand.

I doubt that many would argue with the statement ‘Information is a corporate asset’, yet many companies fail to treat it as such. Even the smallest family business keeps the company check book and cash box in a secure place, likely a small fire proof safe, but likely do little to protect the data asset. Alas that is also the case with much larger companies and corporations. How many times over the past year have you heard about companies, and government organizations losing personal information? Banks, Credit Card issuers, Medical companies, large retailers, the litany of the guilty could fill a book all by itself. Of course these are only the stories that we hear about, many others are quietly swept under the rug for fear of hurting the company image, or the stock price.

The amazing thing about the vast majority of these data thefts are that they were preventable. What went wrong? Many things went wrong, it was not just a failing by the computer geeks, but also by management who did not know the questions to ask, and did not understand how modern technology works.

The Secure CEO takes the reader through the various aspects of technology involved, and offers advice on how to implement each of them, and more importantly how to keep these tools working for you.

The key is communication. If business owners and the IT community can find that magical middle ground much could be achieved.

Mike Foster has a web site that contains much more information, check it out.

You can order The Secure CEO from Amazon, and I recommend you do. Business owner, IT professional, or even just a home user, I will be willing to bet that you will gain a new respect for that little box in your Den, Office, or next time you power up your laptop in a Hotel or Coffee Shop.

Simon Barrett

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