June 23, 2018

Amazon’s Giant Data Transfer Trucks Are an IT Auditor’s Worst Nightmare

Drowning in more stuff than you know what to do with? Simple fix. Pack up the crap you can’t bear to part with, rent a truck, and tuck it into a storage unit. Holiday decorations and dusty workout equipment, welcome to your new home.

What about when you run out of digital storage space? Or, on a larger scale, your company decides to ditch the cost and maintenance required for their in-house data center. Same logic. Once again, rent a truck and move the crap you can’t bear to (or legally can’t) part with off-site.

Wait a minute. Think I’m joking about the truck part? Think again.

Amazon dramatically unveiled a way to move massive amounts of data last week and yep, it’s a truck.

I don’t know why the “rent a truck” concept seems so revolutionary. Maybe it’s the melodramatic music and flashing lights?

Where's the snow?

Uploading your personal storage files to Dropbox or Google Drive doesn't take forever, but it isn’t super fast either. Increase the scale and it amplifies the predicament. When a high-speed internet connection is just too slow, what next? Last year Amazon started small and “announced a solution it called Snowball, a handheld box about the size of a desktop PC. A company rents it from Amazon, stuffs it with a petabyte of data, and ships it back to Amazon to unload.”

And, when a petabyte (1 million gigabytes) still isn't enough for your hoard of data, Amazon’s got you. They just super-size the box and strap it to a big rig. Hence, the Snowmobile.

It is a 45-foot shipping container that holds 100 petabytes of data (100 million gigabytes). That’s about 390,625 large-capacity (256GB) iPhone 7s or 20 million HD movies that average 5GB each.

“Sure, I’ll get you that file… in 26 years.”

The massive capacity means that ten Snowmobiles carrying an exabyte of data, or 100 petabytes each, can move an entire data center in less than six months. Compare that to 26 years via a 10 Gbps high-speed connection, according to Amazon. Really, who has time for that?

Ultimately, the need for speed was the catalyst for this “invention,” if you can call it that.

Preventing highway robbery

It’s a nifty tool, sure, and I don’t doubt companies are clamoring to pack up their data and send it on a road trip. But, the IT auditor in me asks “What could go wrong?”

As with any precious cargo out for a spin, you worry about its safety. The suggested internal controls for data transfer still apply. To refresh your memory, ISACA Journal describes the key control objectives for data transfer:

Security of data being transferred is a critical component of the risk associated with data transfers. The primary objective here is to ensure that the data intended to be extracted from the originating system are exactly the same data as that recorded/ downloaded in the recipient system, i.e., that the data were protected and secured throughout the transfer process. The secondary objective is to prevent unauthorized access to the data via interception, malicious activities and other means.

So, what does happen if the truck is commandeered? It’s still vulnerable even if it isn’t exposed to a network during transport. A data breach would be a gigantic headache for not only the company with the now compromised data but Amazon too. Better safe, than sorry. 

I guess Amazon has thought of it all:

Snowmobile uses multiple layers of security designed to protect your data including dedicated security personnel, GPS tracking, alarm monitoring, 24/7 video surveillance, and an optional escort security vehicle while in transit. All data is encrypted with 256-bit encryption keys managed through the AWS Key Management Service (KMS) and designed to ensure both security and full chain-of-custody of your data.

Let’s just hope everything goes according to plan and businesses dodge any run-ins with data theft or cyber extortion.

Image: iStockPhotos

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Tracking Charitable Donations? Now There’s a CPA-Developed App for That

In more non-iPad, Apple-related news, we learned earlier this week about iDonatedIt, an iPhone app developed by BMG CPAs in Lincoln, Nebraska. The app is designed to track all non-cash charitable contributions whether it be clothes, furniture or family members (okay maybe not the last one). This will allow you to track all of our donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. rather than receiving that crappy receipt they give you that has nothing on it.

Being interested in all things accountant-ish, we got in touch with BMG to find out how this bit of ingenuity came about.

We spoke with Todd Blome, a partner at BMG who came up with the idea and he told us that as soon as he got an iPhone he was thinking of ideas for apps that would be useful for his clients. Since Todd is the tech-savvy partner at BMG, (he heads up their IT consulting services) he started kicking around ideas right away and eventually landed on the idea for iDonatedIt.


Todd told us that the development was fairly simple and that there were only two test versions prior to releasing the app.

“So far we’ve 100% positive feedback on iDonatedIt,” Todd told us, “We’re definitely looking for suggestions for improvements or add-ons.” The one idea that has been floated to Todd was adding a tax savings tool to the app so that a user could determine how much tax savings would be created by the donations. “That will probably be in version two,” he told us.

iDonatedIt retails for $2.99 at the app store and as Todd noted, “a donation of one item pays for the app.” A version for the Droid is currently in the works as well.

Todd and the rest of of his team at BMG are kicking around a few more ideas for apps but he said they want to make sure iDonatedIt is working as good as possible before committing to another project. Check out the demonstration below and jump over the firm’s website or follow them on Twitter to give them your feedback.

Shoeboxed: Saving Accountants One Nightmare Client at a Time

Last week we briefly mentioned Shoeboxed.com and how they can make all your shoebox receipt toting clients disappear. Not only that but it may save some of your more aggressive employees the trouble of explaining why they punched out the deadbeat who showed up with their receipts on April 15th.

We were fortunate enough to spend a some time with Stacy Chudwin, the Company’s Director of Communications, to learn more about the Durham, North Carolina Company.

Stacy told us that the Company got its start by servicing small businesses who wanted to avoid the hassle of tracking expenses by keeping a mind-numbing amount of receipts around, “Businesses can simply compile all their receipts, send them to us and we scan, enter the data and categorize them.”


Now the Company offers an “Accounting Professional Plan” which allows CPAs to do the exact same thing for those clients who aren’t so organized with their bookkeeping, “CPAs can either have their clients send us the receipts directly or they can send the us shoebox that gets dropped off on their desk and we’ll take care of the rest,” Stacy said.

Once all the data entry is finished you can access the information via your business’ account and for CPAs, you can create sub-accounts for each individual client. These reports can then be exported to a number of applications including QuickBooks, Quicken, Excel, and others.

The Company has also developed a free iPhone app that will extract all the information from a photo of the receipt. So for you Holiday Inn jockeys out there, you don’t have to stuff all your receipts in your suitcase and try to decipher everything you spent two weeks later.

“So far all of the feedback from our clients and users of the mobile apps have been great, however everyone wants more features both in their accounts and for the app,” Stacy told us.

Stacy also maintains the Shoeboxed Blog that is updated a few times a month that has areas for “Small Businesses”, “Taxes”, “Budgeting” and “Shoeboxed.com Resources”. She also informed us that they have a very active Twitter account, “We like to use Twitter to make announcements, to highlight recent press, and to retweet some positive feedback from followers, but we will also respond one-on-one if a user has an issue and reaches out to us via Twitter.”

If you’re not hip to the whole Twitter thing the Company has online customer support and a toll free number for all your questions.

The Company has several different plans for both businesses and accountants and both come with 30 day trials. So if you’ve more nightmare clients thatn you can count, what are you waiting for? Thanks to Shoeboxed, now you can add more clients instead of wanting to physically attack them.