ORION wishes you a safe holiday season

Keeping safe and strong during the holidays

The winter holidays, are always a time for reflection and celebration. This year, both things look very different: 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Each one of you has your own experience of this year’s challenges, and I think it’s safe to say that it hasn’t been easy for any of us.

Over these past few months, we’ve had to shift how we work, accommodate at-home learning, and generally shift the way we live our day-to-day lives. Through this, we’ve felt the absence of small but important things, like lunches with colleagues and visits with friends. Many of us have had to cancel weddings, graduations and vacations. None of this has been easy.

A season for gratitude

As we approach the holidays, we know that our celebrations this year will be unique. Although we may not have the opportunities to gather in person with friends and family, we’ve learned a great deal over the past nine months about supporting and celebrating one another in new ways. Who among us hasn’t become a Zoom guru? Despite the many challenges we’ve faced, and those that may still be ahead, this is a prime opportunity to reflect on the people and things for whom we are thankful.

I for one, am incredibly grateful to be working with the extraordinary group who make up the ORION team. Each one of them has acknowledged the challenges of this past year while showing resilience and leadership to support one another and the community we serve. The ORION team has rallied to ensure that the community of educators and innovators who rely on us and our services are able to keep their organizations running smoothly and support the staff, researchers and the many students that rely on them.

ORION’s pivot

Looking back to March, so many things changed in a matter of days, and with it, monumental work was required to manage the tremendous amount of change. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the ORION team, we were there changing with you to support your new and shifting priorities. Many of these projects had been in early development, and with the advent of the pandemic, the need to expedite them became clear.

  1. We improved our network resilience by implementing an additional second Tier 1 Internet transit point. Identified as a priority at our network planning workshop earlier this year. This will assist in safeguarding the operation of your organization’s most vital internet applications such as domain name servers, cloud applications and e-commerce, and most importantly, protect the continuity of your business.
  2. We implemented ORION DDoS Threat Protection to secure not only the ORION network, but all of our connected institutions. This service ensures the safety and security of your organization’s networks, servers and network-connected applications during your most critical business hours.
  3. We created a rural, remote broadband advisory group to explore how to best support improved connectivity for Ontario’s research, education and innovation sector. This diverse group is helping us understand the role ORION should play in a strategy for the sector.
  4. We created the cloud working group to explore how the community can save resources and simplify the process of leveraging cloud services. Cloud services have become increasingly important as we move to remote working and learning.
  5. We introduced the ORION Cybersecurity Awareness Training pilot program to support staff and faculty. In this environment of increasing threats, cybersecurity is top of mind for everyone, and awareness training can reduce incidents by improving cyber hygiene and providing real-life phishing scenarios.
Community innovation

Looking out at the community, I’m inspired by the incredible innovation that has occurred – from setting up parking lot wifi in the North to linking health datasets from across the province together with advanced research computing resources. I am also humbled by the collaboration and mutual support happening across the community. This year is one we would rather not repeat – ever again. But we can take a moment to acknowledge that, as a community, we have become more resilient, we have learned so much, and we have all experienced valuable transformations both big and small.

As we move into a new (and more hopeful) year, know that ORION is here for you. In the happy and sad times, joys and losses, smiles and tears. Now is the time to stand together and be there for each other for both business and personal reasons. We came a LONG way in a short time! We’re looking forward to seeing how we’ll work together to advance the sector in 2021.

Be safe and stay strong. We travel further together.

Alfonso Licata
President and CEO, ORION