Author Archives: CloudTweaks

How To Build HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Applications

How to build HIPAA-Compliant Cloud Applications (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, enacted by the United States Congress in 1996 was created to protect health information coverage for employed people and their families when they become unemployed, either because they change their job or they lose it. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, HIPAA also includes Administrative Simplification provisions that require HHS to adopt national standards for electronic health care transactions and code sets, unique health identifiers, and security.

With the growing interest of many healthcare organizations in terms of improving security, availability and data and apps performance, HIPAA compliance is slowing down the adoption of cloud computing in the healthcare industry. Federal programs determined the healthcare industry to use electronic health records, therefore the need for cloud storage has become essential. However, methods and processes are now available to ensure compliance for migrating the infrastructure to the cloud.

Any datacenter that has information about patients will have to conform with extremely strict criteria for data protection to be HIPAA certified, including specific training for employees who are allowed to access the protected data and governments audits.

A business associate agreement (BAA) with third-party vendor who access Protected Health Information (PHI) is necessary to ensure privacy and security requirements. A partnership with a HIPAA solutions provider that signs a BAA is an efficient method to make sure this this goes smoothly and everything is secure.

More and more cloud services launched by the IT industry to support HIPAA compliance are now available. For example, Verizon Enterprise Solutions has launched a new cloud service that enable health care providers to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.  NaviSite/TimeWarner along with other Enterprise Cloud hosting vendors also offer HIPAA compliant cloud solutions.

The number of data center providers that will be HIPAA certified will continue to increase in the future which will allow them to offer services to hospitals and medical practices.

By Rick Blaisdell

Why Agentless Security Is The Future Of Private Cloud Protection

Why Agentless Security Is The Future Of Private Cloud Protection

As technology continues to evolve, new terminology is introduced into mainstream culture. If you’ve never heard of agentless security before, you are not alone. Agentless security is a new, dynamic security solution that harnesses the power of cloud technology to monitor computers and smart devices without the aid of a physical agent or deployable monitoring protocol. There are a growing number of applications for agentless security, starting with virtual server environments where installing an agent is not feasible, and continuing into the public cloud arena. More recently, installation of agentless security has been explored for use with private cloud security as well.

3 Types of Clouds

There are three types of clouds: the public cloud, the private cloud and a mix of the two called the hybrid cloud. Agentless security solutions can be deployed for all three types of clouds with equal success. Agent-based security is more commonly used for private clouds, but as familiarity with agentless security grows, we can expect an increase in the technology.

Understanding the Private Cloud

Before seeking more information on cloud protection, it’s important to understand what the private cloud is and how it works. With a private cloud, you have your own private dedicated storage space. One of the principle advantages users cite in selecting a private over a public cloud is that you can retain control over the IT security measures that protect your data rather than giving that responsibility over to the cloud vendor. However, here you must also rely on your own IT knowledge to ensure you have chosen a comprehensive security solution to protect your private cloud data.

Agentless Security Explained

In essence, agentless security allows you to monitor one or more computers without having to install an agent. Updates are automated, the software runs effortlessly across different types of server platforms and management of security notifications is consolidated within a single interface. Best of all, agentless security can protect multiple endpoints across a range of densities without performance degradation.

Benefits of Agentless Security

Agentless security’s benefits are many. These following benefits are most commonly cited:

  • Increased flexibility. Agentless security systems can function consistently across a variety of server systems from physical to virtual to cloud-based (private, public and/or hybrid). This allows companies that are transitioning their data center to take advantage of agentless security benefits even during the transition process.
  • Improved return on investment (ROI). Because agentless security provides updates in real-time and can handle greater virtual machine densities per server system, security costs go down and productivity goes up.
  • Seamless single interface management. An agentless security system is managed through a single Web interface that can be accessed anywhere and provides a comprehensive picture of security issues and actions.
  • IT cost savings. An agentless security system is easy to deploy and manage, reducing the overall burden on the IT department and freeing up key IT personnel to work on other projects.
  • Advanced malware and virus protection. Because agentless security operates in real-time via a virtual environment, threat detection and system response is instantaneous across your entire data network.


Choosing Your Agentless Security Solution

As agentless security solutions become more popular, you have more options to choose from. These six elements should be present in any agentless security solution you consider:

  • Web reputation management. Eliminates down time and preserves Web integrity, with an agent-based option for physical servers.
  • Integrity monitoring. With integrity monitoring you are protected from known and zero-day attacks.
  • Anti-malware protection. Protection is coordinated between agentless and agent-based security solutions as needed.
  • Intrusion detection and prevention. Shores up your system against vulnerabilities and provides real-time threat detection.
  • Firewall. Firewall policies are standardized and managed from a central location.
  • Log inspection. Transparent log reporting ensures important threats are flagged.

Use this checklist to select your private cloud security solution, and you can store your data with total peace of mind.

By Leslie Ingess,

Leslie Ingess has turned her company into an early adopter of virtual technology. In the process, her recommendations have trimmed IT overhead costs by 15 percent and improved employee productivity by a similar margin. She uses Trend Micro cloud protection in her work.

Cloud Infographic: Cloud Technology Trends

Cloud Infographic: Cloud Technology Trends

Future Trends And Prospects In Cloud Technology

Many technology experts think that cloud technology has not reached its maturity yet; it may take it about five or more years to mature if the present pace of growth remains consistent. It is being anticipated that the growth will be even more in the field of cloud technology in the year 2013 and beyond.

One of the major trends will be: The exponential increase in the development of the cloud storage ecosystem and data center hubs.

Below is an excellent infographic courtesy of the group over at: Nasuni.com

state_of_cloud_storage_2013

Infographic Source: Nasuni

Double Taxing The Cloud

Taxing the Cloud

New cloud taxes in Idaho are further proof that it’s time to look for a standardized solution. The news hasn’t made waves in the wider media, but when I heard that Idaho might start taxing cloud services, it definitely made me sit up and take notice.

If you haven’t read about it, the Wall Street Journal has a great breakdown of exactly what happened. Some of the details of the case really jump out. In particular, Idaho doesn’t normally tax services. That means an accountant in Idaho isn’t subject to sales tax, while a cloud provider would be. So why the anti-cloud bias? I think the non-local nature of cloud computing, which is such an advantage most of the time, could be the source of the problem here.

If we were in traditional, non-IT businesses we wouldn’t even have to concern ourselves with the tax codes around the nation. The Idaho legislature would mostly affect people in Idaho (who can change their vote if they don’t like what’s happening), but the promise of cloud services is that I can reach people around the world without building costly IT infrastructure from scratch. Now, if some of the people I reach are in Idaho, state sales taxes kick in.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem paying my fair share, but this law raises lots of difficult questions. Whose responsibility is it to know that taxes are due? If I have to figure out the tax implications of every client I take on based on their physical location, my business might actually grind to a halt.

Also, why is Idaho taxing the services over the cloud when it doesn’t tax services in-person? It certainly sounds like they are attempting to collect taxes from out-of-state businesses. You know, people who can’t vote them out of office.

Finally, who really has the authority to collect taxes for cloud services? Is it where I live, where my business is registered, where the cloud platform is physically located, where the clients work… theoretically lots of governments, national and local, could decide to get into the mix.

Like I said, I’m all for paying my share, but I can’t help notice the potential for double or triple taxation.

The trend that has me worried isn’t the Idaho tax per se, but the geographic hodge-podge of laws taxing what is truly a transnational business-model. Arizona, Indiana, New York and other states are also starting to tax cloud services, while Tennessee, Rhode Island and more have decided against it. There’s no predicting which way a state will go (party lines don’t offer a clear indication), and depending on how the tax codes are written in each state, the cloud business model could find itself in quite a bind.

It looks like the Idaho legislature is changing their position after a bit of local backlash, but we should still think about how the cloud ought to be taxed. In the long run, arguing that the cloud should be exempt from all taxes is a losing battle, and we may be better off helping officials draft sensible tax policy that won’t rob our businesses of the agility and efficiency that are our greatest strengths.

By Jan Brass,

Jan is a tech industry veteran and self-described geek.  An avid blogger, Jan covers cloud technology news and publishes opinion pieces on cloud computing on her blog, http://janbrass.org.

The Office 365 vs Google Apps Battle: Who Will Dominate Enterprise Software?

The Office 365 vs Google Apps Battle: Who Will Dominate Enterprise Software?

Long ago in the days of yore, computing looked very different. Everyone had a PC that they were tethered to at their desk, and that PC almost always had Microsoft Office installed. Eventually, people were hard-pressed to do their job without it; it became an omnipresence, a giant. It’s no surprise that this occurred; Office was designed for the era of PCs, and it worked very well with them.

But one day something happened: the cloud came along. And eventually, it started raining hard on the Microsoft Office parade. Google Apps emerged as a fellow giant, and it had one thing that Office did not: it was designed for the cloud world. It started picking up market share, and is now used by over 5 million businesses worldwide. Google Apps scored 23 out of 42 US government contracts last year (Microsoft only won 10); even Chicago Public Schools has gone Google.

Microsoft is suddenly finding themselves in the middle of a battle for what they’ve always done best. They’ve been rushing to catch up by launching Office 365, which takes their existing suite of products that have always done so well and “cloudifies” it. The problem with this approach is that Microsoft is trying to shoehorn the past into the future while Google Apps is busy innovating from scratch. Google Apps just gets how work is done now, and it’s been expressly designed with the modern workforce in mind.

Consider the two companies’ approaches to document collaboration. In the modern workforce, the ability to collaborate on projects and documents is key. In Office 365, two people can edit the same document at the same time, but a user’s edits do not become visible to other users until the one making the edits clicks “Save.” And if they’re co-editing, a user will be locked out of the section that the other one is editing.

In Google Drive, you can see where the other user’s cursor is so you don’t step on someone else’s edits while you’re making yours. And of course, there’s no saving; all updates are immediately autosaved and show up in real-time. You can actually watch someone else typing in a shared Google Drive doc.

And what about videoconferencing? As the cost of travel grows steadily and more companies find themselves scattered across the globe, videoconferencing has become a crucial part of how work gets done. Microsoft, recognizing this, has purchased Skype, which is a great way to video chat. But when you look at the Skype website, you see that there are different plans and pricing, some features are free, others are not – pretty typical of a Microsoft offering. By contrast, Google has baked Google Hangouts into their Google+ experience as well as into Gmail. How many times have you started typing a long email and thought, “Nah, this will be easier to explain face-to-face”? Google treats videoconferencing as a feature instead of as a separate product because they understand how it’s going to be used.

As we get farther into the future, the real test is going to come down to how well the two companies understand an increasingly mobile workforce. Microsoft recommends running Windows 7 for the best Office 365 experience. Unfortunately, today’s BYOD landscape has users accessing their work across a patchwork of devices and operating systems – where does that leave them? In addition, Microsoft charges extra for mobile sharing while Google Apps provides the same experience across any browser, OS or device. Today’s workforce is only going to get more mobile, and anyone who isn’t playing catch-up in that space has a huge advantage.

An interesting indicator to follow as these two giants continue to strive for the top spot is how many other companies are betting their businesses on each one’s success. Our team at Spanning made a huge bet on Google Apps when we built our flagship product, Spanning Backup for Google Apps, and we’re in good company. Watch the kind of companies that start building products for the Google Apps Marketplace and the Office 365 Marketplace, and you’ll have a good gauge of which provider is making the biggest strides.

Two giants in one battle for the hearts and minds of an evolving workforce. One has decades of experience, and while that is valuable, experience without evolution still leaves you in a tar pit. Google has a long way to go to dominate the enterprise space, but end users are left with the feeling that Google is honestly trying to understand and adapt to them while Microsoft offers up a new version of the same old thing.

Andrea Bridges-Smith, Content Marketing Manager, Spanning

Sponsored Post By Spanning.com 

Startups In The Cloud Era – Things Have Changed

Startups In The Cloud Era – Things Have Changed

There are numerous startups of all varieties of purpose and goals. We have seen great successes and great failures. We have seen a lot of money being made on fabulous exits, but also seen a lot of money lost as well.

Things are changing for startups, and in turn, they are changing for investors as well. What affects how startups must work affects how investors must forecast chances of success, and which ponies they want to back. Of course, with progress, change is inevitable and ubiquitous, but the past couple of years have seen the steepest change in this industry’s history. What is this culprit? Cloud computing.

To appreciate the change, and what aspects it is wrought upon, let’s first talk for a minute about the classic challenges faced by startups.

First, of course, is the venture capital issue. This is really why investors exist, but startups can’t solve some of the initial monetary issues they face before approaching investors. Many investors won’t even consider investing in someone with no early demonstrable prototype of some sort. Sadly for startups, that requires some money to achieve 9 out of 10 times, and for that step, they are unfortunately on their own.

The next problem investors can’t really directly help startups with either, is their marketability. Sure, if investors believe in a cause, they can throw money at marketing, but it’s up to the startups themselves to have a product or service that meets a proper demographic, and can overcome the obstacle of them being a newcomer. Unless their service or product is absurdly novel and earth shattering, the startups have to be heard above the din of countless established and successful providers of the same service/product. All investors can do is arm them with the loud speaker, but it’s mostly luck if the batteries work.

But, if startups manage to overcome this, and they have won the investors’ approval with a working prototype of their service/product, they still have to give the investors some justifiable expenses. Just starting out, there’s no success rate to gage them by, obviously. So, when costs for infrastructure such as web hosting, computing equipment and the like come up, how much do they expect investors to invest in? There’s a fine line between optimism and being rational with this. Investors have to be a bit stoic, even if we don’t like to be.

But, cloud computing is changing some of this, especially in the software industry. With cloud computing, operating environments for prototypes and virtual environments are affordable to access, so much so that startups need very little initial capital to implement them.

They no longer need powerful infrastructure to develop and demonstrate upon, rather offloading this to a server somewhere that they rent on the cheap, due to sharing it with others, over a daisychain of machines.
Cloud computing doesn’t alleviate their problem of being heard, though cloud and software service models for easy advertising and outreach online are starting to appear. They’re not really ready yet, but this will change this problem soon enough, though I can’t see it being an end all solution.

People are fickle creatures, and just because information reaches them does not mean they will choose to notice or acknowledge it. The same infrastructure they later expect investors to invest in, however, is entirely more affordable, so what they may expect investors to enable is a fair deal more than it once was. This is great for investors, as it means their startups of choice have a greater chance of success with less risk to us.

In light of this, here are some tips I assembled from experts for startups out there, in this new cloud age, for success, and for gaining investors:

Focus on Your Current Platform Right Now

Unless you’re designing something mobile specifically, don’t worry about mobile for the moment. Trying to bite off too many platforms to chew will be costly, and the complicated models of deployment this spawns will turn investors off. If you’re primarily mobile, the same goes for other platforms in its stead.

Prototypes Can Wait

With cloud computing being so affordable, you have time to test your concept in a number of scenarios before even approaching us with prototypes. Through this you can see room for improvement, added functionality and overall improvement of your model. Knowing cloud computing is giving you better initial facilities will mean we will raise the bar on what investors expect out of the first “ugly” prototype.

Take Advantage of Cloud Computing Collaboration

Utilize the collaborative nature of cloud computing to reduce your costs in development time and monetary expenses. With cloud computing, you can work on your product collaboratively from different locations, even from your mobiles while you shop if you like. Take advantage of this team omnipresence, because investors will be expecting you to.

Multi-Prong Profitability Structure

Have a plan that uses cloud computing’s multi-prong profitability structure to get maximum gain from any implementation. If you want a free model, investors expect you to use ad software services to make it still profitable.

Accessibility for Investor Observation

Cloud computing makes it possible for investors to easily access revisions of your prototypes in real-time, which saves you money and time, and pleases us as potential investors. Take advantage of live box cloud software which lets investors see your current prototype builds as they are worked on and released. Investors like being in the know, and will be more willing to divulge further investments more easily if we have this level of observation at our disposal.

Unfortunately, cloud computing can’t entirely solve the outreach. It also can’t guarantee a product or service is a good idea, or that the people will care about it. It also cannot resolve all man our issues, and cannot guarantee investor interest.

So, cloud computing is changing how investors judge proposals, and it should be changing how your startup is approached as well. Being flexible is preferable being stiff. Investors are changing in light of cloud computing’s ramifications. Startups must join in this transformation.

By Omri Erel,

Omri Erel is the lead author and editor of “SaaS Addict”. And Marketing Director at WalkMe – the World’s First Interactive Website Guidance System.

Netflix: Plumbers Of The Cloud

Netflix: Plumbers Of The Cloud

Netflix: Plumbers of the Cloud

Although much was made in the blogosphere of the Amazon cloud service outage on Christmas Eve — the one that brought Netflix’s video streaming grinding to a halt — cloud media proponents should actually take heart in the news.

An interruption of cloud service being so widely referred to as an “outage” means, if nothing else, that the notion of video-on-demand (and with it, cloud computing in general) has achieved an important step toward banality; no one even thinks about a home’s plumbing until the water stops pouring from the tap, and everyone’s got a tap.Netflix_logo

And just as, in that modern, first-world home, no one walks to the village well at their specified time for water, events suggest viewers are growing increasingly tired of waiting for their media to be delivered at its network-appointed hour. Except in the most ritualistic, “let’s go out to the movies” sense generated by a premiere or other special event, traditional cable television is being treated these days as just one more in a hundred sources of information and entertainment consumers must work into their day. You’ve got to compete to be seen, and offering a single showtime is just the kind of inflexibility that can sour the deal.

Netflix, of course, has been a revolutionary since it sent its first return-postage-paid DVD in the mail, spotting changes in viewing trends before the next guy and adjusting its business model appropriately. It’s therefore about as surprising as sunrise that they’re positioned so well with a cloud-based model, just at the time that such a model is seen as the survival solution for an industry increasingly at risk of losing its “attention share.”

When Porsche contemplated building the Cayenne, it’s first-ever SUV, they did so because a room full of marketing experts in Leipzig convinced them there was a willing market in the U.S. just ready-and-waiting to buy a Porsche-tagged sport utility (they were right). Almost a decade later, Netflix CEO Reed Hasting abandoned those sorts of experts in favor of an analytics model that told him a TV series with a certain set of characteristics would sell well, based on what the model knew about his subscribers. It was right, too; “House of Cards,” Netflix’s foray into original programming, has been immensely successful, not just because it was a good show, or was well-done, but because big data said it would be.

Hasting, of course, took things to the next level, and offered the entire first season — 13 episodes — at once, ready to stream from the cloud at the viewer’s convenience. In retrospect, again, success should have been as surprising as sunrise.

By Robb Magley

Top 5 Reasons To Rename DROPBOX

Top 5 Reasons To Rename DROPBOX

#5: Too cutesy and meaningful.

A lot of research has been done proving that names with hard consonant sounds that mean nothing and are easy to pronounce are winners. How do you think Google has made it this far? Dropbox contains ALL soft sounds, it actually means something, and it’s just too cute. They should have just figured out the phonetic equivalent of a cat coughing up a hairball and gone with that. Creccqt works for me…”I didn’t email it, the file was way too big. I put it in your Creccqt instead.”

#4: The word “box” gives a false sense of security.

You put something in a box and close the lid—voila! It has suddenly and mystically been transformed into a hidden object of mystery. Boxes are not transparent. When they are, they’re called cases. Unfortunately, Drop Case sounds like something lawyers do when they don’t want to work too hard.

#3: The word ‘box’ makes you think of pizza. Or Christmas.

Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I don’t equate box with anything digital. I’ve bought plenty of computers—those came in a box—but giving a cloud-based application a name with “box” in it seems counter-intuitive. I’ve never found a pizza or a Christmas present in my Dropbox, just more work to do, stuff to read, etc. Maybe BuzzKillBox would be more appropriate.

#2: The cloud is overhead, not under your feet.

Thanks to Isaac Newton, the term “drop” implies something falling toward earth. The last time I checked, nothing that I dropped floated upward. Looks like Anti-GravityBox or You’re on GlueBox could be in the running.

#1: Too many negative connotations.

In a world where everyone seems to feel a need for a constant flow of happy peppy positives, the word “drop” just doesn’t seem to cut it. He dropped the ball, drop dead, eye drops, drop your drawers—you get the picture. Maybe Upbox would be a better fit. Then again, that name could conjure up some pretty derogatory applications as well. Ultimately, the best name is just an ethereal, innocuous humming sound. mmmmmBox.

By Mark Astle

CloudTweaks Comics
Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

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The Internet of Things Lifts Off To The Cloud

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Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

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The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

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