Infographic: Fun Facts About the Internet of Things

The number of connected devices is steadily increasing, fuelling the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). To help demonstrate the impact IoT will have, we’ve created an infographic containing six fun facts about the technology.

6 Fun Facts IoT

For businesses that haven’t adopted IoT yet, it’s time to start thinking about what your competitors could do if they embraced IoT solutions faster than your company? Or consider what new business ventures can be created through the use of IoT. This technology has the potential to change the way companies communicate with their customers, and the way customers interact with their devices. If you haven’t started exploring IoT – now is the time (like, right now).

Don’t know where to start? Click here to learn more about Internet of Things.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

Data Loss and Business Downtime

Over the past year, computer users worldwide created 1.8 billion gigabytes of data. Much of that data was pertinent for business dealings and operations. Unfortunately, some of that data was also lost, causing expensive downtime for businesses – many of which will never recover from the loss.

There are several factors that commonly contribute to the loss of data. However, the two top causes of data loss are the failure of an uninterrupted power supply and human error. Some of the other top causes include exceeding UPS capacity, cyber-attacks, equipment failure, water incursion, weather-related issues and circuit breaker failure. There are several business continuity tactics and procedures that companies can put in place to prevent or diminish the impact. However, businesses need to implement a disaster recovery plan as well in case their prevention methods were not enough.

Of companies that lose a data center for 10 days, 93 percent file for bankruptcy within a year. Additionally, 43 percent of companies that experience such disasters never reopen. Only six percent of companies without a recovery plan will survive long term. Companies that design and implement a disaster recovery plan have a better chance of surviving catastrophic data loss.

First, businesses need to perform an impact analysis, which involves organizing the data by order of recovery importance. It is important to identify your company’s most valuable assets and critical business functions. These are the tools that must be preserved in an emergency in order to keep your business operational.

Next, companies should perform risk assessment in which they identify potential points of system failure and then take action to eliminate as many as possible. By proactively testing your operational functions for a weak spot, you may be able to prevent a larger problem from occurring. Finally, each company needs to manage their risks by instituting solutions that address points of vulnerability.

This infographic was supplied to us by SingleHop. SingleHop is dedicated to bringing cloud hosting solutions to businesses. They build and maintain hosted infrastructures for companies worldwide.

How to Train Employees on Company Cyber Security

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Theo Schmidt, an independent blogger. Schmidt has an interest in computer science and engineering, which he uses to fuel his blogging. You can learn more about him on Google+.

No matter your line of work, company cyber security is something that should weigh heavily on your mind. Whether it be phishing scams or malware attacks, it is important to ensure that employees know what they are expected to do to prevent and avoid security breaches.

Suspicious Links

It is important that employees realize that the sites they visit can negatively affect the entire company. Typically these sites are not sought after but are brought on via email or links from other sites.

A company can help to prevent visitation to harmful websites by installing a powerful firewall protection. However, employees are at the front lines of defense. They must be trained and reminded that bad links can be just as dangerous as anything else on the web.

Unknown Emails

Scammers and phishers know what they’re doing when they try to trick people into giving up information. Sometimes an email is an obvious scam—a prince in Nairobi is asking for monetary donations or something equally ridiculous. Other emails can be a bit trickier though.

Email scammers are getting smarter and better at making the email address look legitimate. Often they will attach a file that they want downloaded disguised as a form or important information. However, once the file is downloaded the company’s security, data, contacts, and even financial information can be at risk.

Employees should exercise extreme caution when downloading any file, whether they think they recognize it or not. In general, it is smarter to keep computers as clean as possible and storing only work-related materials.

Logging In

When employees are asked to log in to sites they are not familiar with using their company login information, plenty of information is automatically given up to the intruding site. From there it is possible that they will be asked to download files, give up more information, or the site will simply have the password and username on hand for whatever they wish to do.

Logging in to an untrustworthy site is an easy albeit foolish mistake to make. It is important to make employees aware of the risks at hand. Companies can still protect themselves with encryption software and training to help employees spot these scamming sites.

Sharing Information

Additionally, it is key that employees recognize the importance of keeping the company’s data safe and secure. This means that not only should they do what they can to keep it safe inside, they won’t let it be leaked outside as well.

Information can be leaked via blogs, emails, or anything else. Employees should keep passwords secret and frequently change them. Passwords should never be repeated on multiple sites.

Enforce Change

Keeping employees up on security procedures is a process. Employees won’t change their behavior overnight nor will they decide to care about the company’s security on a whim. It must be made a part of their everyday job expectations to work against cyber threats. Just like any other positive behavior in employees, it should be recognized and reinforced.

In the war against scammers, human error is the bigger problem. According to Comptia, 55% of breaches are due to mistakes made by employees. It can be difficult to spot potential problems because so often fake websites, emails, and links look real. However, the flaws are in the details.

Companies that store important data like electronic medical records, financial records, and other personal information are at a high risk of intrusion. Employees must be trained to diligently watch for signs of a breach in cyber security. So long as they know what to be aware of and what threat they themselves could pose, they can help the company by becoming part of the defense and less of a liability.

For more information on data protection, check out the Practice Studio website.

To learn about storing company information in a secure location, click here.

Having Trouble Securing Your Data? So is the Federal Government

Security breaches seem to be occurring on a regular basis lately, as more and more reports of lost data and hackers flood news headlines. Many businesses store their information in a virtual environment, but do little to protect it once it gets there. Complacency and a lack of understanding is  contributing the the number of attacks – and businesses aren’t the only ones being targeted by hackers.

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In an annual report to Parliament on Tuesday, commissioner Jennifer Stoddart reported that the number of data breaches reported by federal institutions between April 2012 and March 2013 rose from 80 to 109 during the same period the year before  (click here for report). Hackers are breaking into federal networks in record numbers, yet it seems as though this issue isn’t being taken seriously. Several of the reported incidents could have been prevented if the proper security measures were in place. Treating cyber crime as random and unpredictable is counter productive for government and business.

Employee negligence, or “human error”, was responsible for a majority of the federal government’s stolen data, with hacking and malware encompass the rest. Some of the stolen data included:

  • Human Resources Development Canada (now called Employment and Social Development Canada) reported that a staff member lost a portable hard drive that contained 585,000 personal records
  • A Justice Department employee lost a USB key that contained sensitive information on 5,000 people
  • A USB key, papers, and a laptop that contained information used by the Financial Transaction and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) was stolen in Calgary
  • A Security Intelligence Officer working for Corrections Canada had dropped a USB key containing personal information about 152 prisoners was lost while the Officer was dropping off a child at school
  • The personal tax information of 46 people was stolen along with an employee’s laptop

And the list goes on. It’s frightening to think that federal employees are so complacent with the personal information of others, but it happens every day. No one believes that it will happen to them, until it does. However, ignorance is not bliss, nor is it an effective method of data protection.

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Employees need to be responsible for the protection of portable devices, especially the devices containing private information. Many business and government establishes take the time to install the best security measures, but the moment an employee transports data – the risk of a data breach increases drastically. This is becoming increasingly difficult to control as virtual environments continue to increase in use. Although it may be convenient, companies need to be aware of the risks associated with virtually accessible and transported data.

Some of the ways that companies can help decrease the amount of data lost to “human error” is through education, awareness, and guidelines. By educating and alerting your employees about the methods used by cyber criminals to gain access to private data, they’ll have a better understanding of how to keep the data secure. Additionally, creating awareness will show your employees that cyber crime is a reality that can happen to anyone, anytime. It’s not just something you hear about on the news, it’s something that hundreds of companies have experienced across North America.

Establishing some rules and guidelines around transporting sensitive data, either in a USB key, laptop, or external hard drive, can also help keep data safe. By attaching consequences to an employees actions, such as losing a USB key, it’s likely that they’ll remain vigilant. The other option would be to restrict the transportation of data all together by utilizing cloud technology. By moving all your data to a online environment, your employees can access the information from anywhere, anytime.

To learn more about storing your data in a safe location, click here.

Blog author: Vanessa Hartung

High Bandwidth Consumption is Back in Session as Students Go Online

As another summer comes to an end, businesses need to prepare themselves for the upcoming spike in Internet activity as students return to school. Internet technologies are being adopted by an increasing number Primary Schoolof educational institutes, including primary, secondary and post-secondary schools. It’s also important to recognize that it’s not only the students who are consuming bandwidth, but the school officials as well.

It’s no secret that we’re moving more and more materials online. Therefore, educational institutes need to ensure they have a reliable Internet service that provides them with the capability to send and receive a great deal of data. Items such as email communication, video conferencing, student records, learning materials, and tests are now frequently used by teachers, professors, and school board members. Primary and secondary schools use their Internet connection primarily for communicating with their regional school board via email or accessing a virtual private network. However, teachers have also begun to integrate online materials into their classrooms as well.

Post-secondary schools have fully embraced the use of Internet Technologies in their establishments, with several professors using the Internet to communicate directly with their students through email, online chat, or university onlinestudent portals. A large number of post-secondary schools are also using the Internet for class registration, where students log on to a private network to select their courses. And every student is now assigned a student number as well as an email address upon successful registration. Most universities and colleges also assign each student with a username and password that are used to log-in to an online portal. Typically, these portals allow for students to view their class schedule, network with other students, obtain class notes, submit assignments, and communicate with their professors or instructors.

Taking into consideration the number of students who connect to their school’s Internet service for compulsory reasons, such as submitting an assignment or getting the class notes, one can only imagine how much bandwidth is being used. Add to that all the students who do research for their assignments online, are killing time in between class, or live in residence, and we’re talking some serious bandwidth consumption. During the school year, there are a significant number of users consuming a substantial amount of bandwidth. It’s important for schools to have an understanding of how much bandwidth is needed before school is in session in order to avoid a slow connection as students log on.

Businesses also need to be aware of any schools in the surrounding area since, in many circumstances, they’ll be sharing an Internet service with them. A majority of providers don’t make the distinction between business and residential, so the two types of customers are left sharing the same connection. This can result in an extremely slow connection once school begins, which can have a negative impact on your productivity.

To learn more about obtaining an Internet service that is exclusively for business, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

TeraGo Networks Presents: Back to Basics – What is Virtualization?

The term “virtualization” has been generating some buzz in the technology community as IT professionals look for ways to maximize their resources. But what exactly is virtualization? And how can it benefit your business? This blog post breaks down the history and functionality of virtualization.

What is virtualization?

Virtualization refers to the technologies designed to provide a layer of abstraction between computer hardware systems and the software running on them.  Since virtualization provides a logical view of computing resources instead of a physical view, it provides you with the capability to trick your operating systems into thinking that a group of servers is a single pool of computing resources. Virtualization also allows for you to run multiple operating systems simultaneously on a single machine.

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At its roots, virtualization is essentially partitioning, which divides a single physical server into multiple logical servers. Once the physical server has been divided, each logical server can run an operating system and applications independently.

Historically, virtualization has been around for several years. It was first used in the 1960’s as a way to partition large mainframe hardware. Back then, engineers faced the same problems that are faced today, such as too many underutilized servers. The team at IBM pioneered virtualization by providing the capability for engineers to partition mainframes, allowing tasks to multitask.

After the popularity of virtualization faded for a long period of time, it experienced a rebirth in the 1990s. Server virtualization on the Intel based x86 platform was invented in the 90s primarily by VMware. Since then, many other companies have entered into the x86 hardware and software virtualization market, but it was VMware that developed the first hypervisor for the x86 architecture, planting the seeds for the recent virtualization boom.

So what exactly is x86? It’s the generic name for Intel processors released after the original 8086 processor. The “x” in x86 stands for a range of possible numbers. If a computer’s technical specifications state that it’s based on the x86 architecture, it means that it uses an Intel processor, not AMD or PowerPC.

One of the aspects driving the increased popularity of virtualization is the shrinking availability of data center space. Many companies are also using virtualization as a money-saving initiative. By reducing the numbers and types of servers that support business applications, companies are looking at a significant cost savings.

Next week, we will discuss the benefits and features of virtualization.

To learn more about data center options, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Cloud Security: Customer FAQs

Concerns surrounding the security of cloud computing have been prevalent since its inception, and this is having an impact on users as well as providers. Any reservations or anxieties that potential users are experiencing can impact a provider’s ability to sell their cloud services. It is in a provider’s best interest to address any apprehensions that a potential customer may have.

By compiling a list of the most frequently asked questions, cloud service providers can anticipate questions that customers may ask and provide accurate answers. Identifying the primary concerns of potential customers will help providers devise a strategy for addressing and overcoming these hurdles. Below are three examples of frequently asked questions that customers have regarding cloud security, as well as the possible answers.

Which elements of a cloud computing service are most vulnerable to external attacks? As with any virtual service, there is a variety of external threats that could impact the cloud. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools and practices available to assist providers in securing their virtual cloud environment. Providers can install security software, utilize best practices, and educate themselves on any potential threats. Providers who inform their customers on the security measures they have in place to protect the cloud are more likely to win new business by putting their customer’s mind at ease.

Transparency and Cloud Security Policies: Where to draw the line? As mentioned in the sample question above – educating customers on the types of tools and practices used to keep the cloud secure can help make a sale, but how much information is too much? The ideal security policy should include a description of their practices and procedures without revealing all the technology at work behind the scenes. It’s important for customers to be informed on the types of cloud security measures in place, but it’s equally important for providers to ensure that they don’t give away too much information. Communicating intricate security details may do more harm than good, since external threats could use the information to compromise the cloud service. It is up to the cloud provider to decide where to draw the line when it comes security details.

Is there a way for providers to ensure that highly sensitive data will be safe? As with any data storage system, there will always be risks. For example, even if you were to print off all of your company’s sensitive data and lock it in away in a basement safe, there’s still the possibility of a tornado coming through and destroying everything. However, if you stayed up to date on the current weather conditions, you would be able to better protect your data by bolting the safe to the floor or reinforcing the house around the safe. The point is that there is no possible way for providers to guarantee 100% protection, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t offer a security level of 99%. There’s always going to be a chance that cybercriminals and hackers can gain access to sensitive data, but if providers evaluate and implement various security methods, they can significantly heighten their defenses.

Those are just a few examples of the type of questions potential customers may have when considering cloud computing. By compiling a list of frequently asked questions and clearly defining the answers, providers can put their prospect’s minds at ease.

To learn more about cloud security, read our previous blog posting.

Top IT Priorities for 2013

The results are in – research professionals from a variety of companies have published their findings on the trends and priorities of IT professionals in 2013. With an ever-shrinking budget, IT staff members need to identify the main items that they wish to invest their limited resources on. After analyzing four different studies, we found that the results seemed to vary slightly across the board, but 5 key items remained prevalent throughout the findings. Below is a list of these items, in no discernible order, as well as brief summary of the results.

  • Cloud Computing (including SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS): It appears that cloud computing will continue to win over IT professionals, displacing traditional computing and storage methods. The studies revealed that cloud computing is taking a large portion of IT budgets, with a majority of respondents claiming that they plan to utilize external providers to implement cloud computing.
  • Virtualization: IT members are including virtualization as one of their primary infrastructure projects for 2013. One study found that virtualization increased in priority by 42% from last year. This rise in importance may be part of a long-term consolidation plan, or as preparation for migrating to the cloud.
  • Mobile: Mobile proved to be a high priority for IT professionals in all four studies, but it seems to be more about blending mobility into the enterprise; not mobile devices replacing desktops. However, IT seems to be straggling at the enterprise infrastructure level, with only 29% of respondents implementing mobile device management and 28% implementing mobile security.
  • Business Continuity: The occurrence of the many unfortunate natural disasters in the previous years seems to have had an impact on the mindset of IT professionals. More than ever, IT needs to plan for, and respond, to potential business disruptions and outages. One study revealed that the three top-of-mind priorities in this category are developing and maintaining business resumption plans, developing and maintaining IT disaster and recovering plans, and developing and maintaining crisis management plans. It’s not surprise that business continuity has been identified as a high priority for businesses since every minute a company is inactive, more money is lost.
  • Security and Risk Management: Security appears to be top-of-mind for many IT professionals, as 51% of respondents have identified it as a priority for 2013. Especially with the implementation of cloud computing, as well as the increased popularity of mobile, businesses need to do everything in their power to ensure their data is secure. The top security initiatives listed by IT professionals are data protection, network-based security, identity and access management, and mobile endpoint security.

Think we should have included another priority for 2013? Let us know by providing a comment.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Resources:

2013 IT Priorities: http://cdn.ttgtmedia.com/rms/computerweekly/2013%20IT%20Priorities%20Europe.pdf

2013 IT Priorities Survey: http://www.protiviti.com/en-US/Documents/Surveys/2013-IT-Priorities-Survey-Protiviti.pdf

CIO Priorities 2013: IT Budgets, Mobility and Cloud: http://mspmentor.net/managed-services/cio-priorities-2013-it-budgets-mobility-and-cloud

Technology Priorities for 2013: http://www.microscope.co.uk/magazineContent/Download-Technology-Priorities-for-2013

Top 3 Benefits of Video Conferencing

Businesses are continually on the search for technologies that will support their operations and productivity at a relatively low cost. Video conferencing platforms are a great tool for staying connected and communicating in real time with people all over the world. As working from home becomes more common and the price of video conferencing platforms decreases, the technology is quickly becoming a valuable resource for many companies. Below are the three main benefits of adopting video conferencing as a part of your operations.

1. Cut Costs: Traveling expenses can be greatly reduced, or even eliminated, by implementing video conferencing. With a video link, your employees can conduct business and maintain relations with customers across the globe without ever leaving the office. It also removes the cost of airline fares, accommodations, and meals, allowing for your company to use the money saved on other necessities.

Video conferencing also allows users to record and archive any important meetings, key strategy sessions, and training materials. This can cut down on training costs, as new employees can simply review the recorded material. Recorded materials can also be used to educate new employees on best practices by viewing real-world scenarios.

2. Customer Relations: Video conferencing allows for your company to connect with distant customers face to face, without the addition cost of travel. More importantly, a live, online video meeting allows for customers to see facial expressions and body language. This can help make meetings feel more personal, which can lead to a stronger relationship with your customers. By utilizing video conference technologies, meetings between employees and customers can occur more regularly, which can lead to better relations.

3. Employee Collaboration: Employees who work remotely can now connect to the office anytime instead of waiting for a quarterly team meeting. Video conferencing can also be used to share documents, such as power point presentations, or demonstrate new products and services. Employees can also get immediate feedback from conference participants, cutting down on approval times and increasing productivity.

As video conferencing is only expected to increase, businesses need to ensure that they have adequate bandwidth to support the application. Some video conferencing applications can hog bandwidth, slowing down your company’s network, so it is important to ensure that your company’s Internet service is providing enough bandwidth in order to maintain productivity. Additionally, without enough bandwidth, video conferencing quality can suffer, resulting in choppy images or application crashes.

To learn more about bandwidth for business, click here.  

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

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