Author Archives: CloudTweaks

Cloud Infographic – Where Sensitive Data Resides

Cloud Infographic – Where Sensitive Data Resides

Where Sensitive Data Resides

Data security remains a top concern for enterprises deploying popular cloud applications. While most will instinctively think of cloud data security and compliance as being handled only by IT departments, many enterprises are realizing that all aspects of security – from selecting a cloud service provider (CSP) to monitoring cloud use over time – requires involvement across the organization. Gerry Grealish has some additional advice and other compliance factors to consider.

Included is an infographic provided courtesy of Perspecsys which provides some insight into many of the challenges of data security visibility. Be sure to take a look at one of their other security related infographics on the history of security.

Perspecsys_Final

Cloud Computing Checklist For Startups

Cloud Computing Checklist For Startups

Checklist For Startups 

There are many people who aspire to do great things in this world and see new technologies such as Cloud computing and Internet of Things as a tremendous offering to help bridge and showcase their ideas.

The Time Is Now

startup-checklist

This is a perfect time for highly ambitious startups to make some noise. CMS (Contact Management Systems) such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal are either free or inexpensive.

Being a small startup you’re probably looking to bootstrap and scale as you go along. If you can’t afford to hire your own team to monitor website and application security, you may consider any number of the Managed WordPress Hosting services on the market. This is a growing area and we expect to see a high number of acquisitions in the future as the need for low cost managed wordpress hosting continues to rise. Next, you’ll need to attract eyeballs to your startup so you’ll need to start building some content and you can either do this yourself or use any number of the many blogging services on the market to help get you started.

Pitching To Win

Once you have an innovative product/service and a functioning desktop/mobile website, you’ll be ready to start pitching your ideas to investors. Entrepreneur magazine has put together a tremendous list of early stage VC investors that you can review to determine which ones may be the best fit.

vc100

Another excellent option is to register and list your company with angel.co in order to attract some serious investor interest.

In Closing

For those still unsure about about the attraction of the cloud. Here are some benefits of moving your startup business to the cloud:

1. Low costs. When setting up your business for cloud computing, all the expenses that you would have incurred if the system was setup in-house are non-existent. There will be no hardware purchases for servers and no over spending on the man-hours that it would take to setup everything.

2. Scalability. Because of its nature, cloud services scale dramatically from very small needs of home businesses to huge corporate demands. Because of its pay to use model, clients will only need to pay for what they need and scale up if ever their needs grow.

3. Collaboration. Since SaaS applications can be accessed from anywhere and at anytime, it is easier to collaborate with employees who are not in the same geographical location and makes it easier to manage a global workforce.

In the eyes of this proponent of all things technology, the benefits that cloud computing brings to a business, far outweighs the downsides and concerns.

By Brent Anderson

Cloud Infographic – Big Business Is Still Learning

Cloud Infographic – Big Business Is Still Learning

Big Business Is Still Learning

Although the Cloud has been around for some time now, there continues to be many myths about how it works and what advantages it holds. Many businesses remain hesitant to implement fully-hosted solutions within their organization, specifically for functions like unified communications (UCaaS), despite the fact that the clear majority of IT professionals said they recognize the cloud’s benefits and believed quality of service would not suffer due to the transition.  It seems that many companies and IT managers still have concerns about the cloud’s costs and security.

Over 300 IT managers were surveyed and while the clear majority realized the benefits of the cloud and believed quality of service would not suffer due to the transition, many remain hesitant to implement fully-hosted solutions, especially in regards to UCaaS.

  • More than half of IT Managers said they don’t believe communication services providers offer sufficient security checks alongside their cloud telecommunications offerings
  • 54% expect to recoup the entire cost of shifting to the cloud while 46% disagreed, saying the ROI is not there just yet
  • Just 40% said their organization has plans to move voice/telephony communications to the cloud

Infographic and survey provided courtesy of the group at West IP.

WestIP-Cloud-Infographic-FINAL

The Evolution of Technology Devices

The Evolution of Technology Devices

Evolution of Technology Devices

We’re all aware that technology is developing at a rapid rate, but the fact that the first iPhone was only invented in 2007 makes you realise just how quickly it’s evolving. It seems that size definitely matters – though bigger isn’t always better.

In 1971, IBM introduced the commercially available floppy disk under the name Minnow. In 1970 IBM had applied for a U.S patent Nr. 3678481 which was granted in 1973. The first floppy disk was available with 80KB of capacity, and in 2003 PCs were still being shipped with floppy disk drives. Today, your 1TB USB stick is holding 728,177 times the data of one of those floppy disks, and taking up a lot less space in your office.

The average size of television screens in the 1960s was 17” and cost around 7% of the average household income, while 2015 boasts an average screen size of 60” costing only 2.5% of the average household income. With regard to screen size, I think we’ll all agree that bigger is better! Or perhaps the smaller price takes the cake?

Connectivity has rocketed from 56kbps in the ‘90s to today’s 1gbps, and mobile phones have morphed  from their early ‘brick’ form, to compact flip phones, to the slim-but-large-screened smart phones of today.

internet-speeds

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

While technology might suggest that newer is always better, The Guardian points out a few instances where our hopes for the future have been dashed.  The modern jetpack doesn’t quite live up to the stylish option James Bond travelled with, and though today’s hoverboard is nothing to sniff at, it’s nothing like the flying skateboard of Back to the Future. Looking at some of these examples, it’s really no wonder Retro is synonymous with cool.

Attached is an infographic provided by the crew at TSG (Technology Services Group) offering an interesting perspective.

Data-Storage-Infographic

Jumpstart The Cloud For Small Businesses

Jumpstart The Cloud For Small Businesses

The Cloud For Small Businesses

Cloud computing provides the perfect mix for small startups to jumpstart their business quickly and inexpensively. The utilization of Cloud based SaaS applications as well as benefiting from one of the several managed cloud service providers (Reducing IT costs) can save your company a fair bit of money. You will require a company website and the good news is, there are several CMS offerings available for you to work with offering varying complexities and prices.

Number Crunchers

One of the major to-do lists for any small business is to have a qualified accountant, or if you love numbers, a SaaS accounting program to help manage your business startup.

Attached is an infographic courtesy of Waspbarcode which outlines some of the accounting challenges faced by small businesses.

    • 74% don’t understand how ghost assets impact their books and inflate taxes, insurance or money owed.
    • Only 17% of small businesses use an asset management system that allows auditing.
    • Accountants ranked among the top professionals in order of importance to small businesses; and, 88% of small businesses are very or somewhat satisfied with their accountants.

Accounting-cloud

The Growth Of Rampant Digital Diseases

The Growth Of Rampant Digital Diseases

Rampant Digital Diseases

Keeping ‘Rombertik’ at Bay – The New Malware that Destroys Hard-Drives

A new form of malware is still on the loose, and this one takes malicious to a whole new level. Nicknamed ‘Rombertik’ by Cisco Systems, the malware attempts to infiltrate the victim’s browser to procure confidential information; fairly standard operating procedure for malware. Where Rombertik differentiates itself from other malware is the way in which it avoids detection, and how it fights back if it is detected.

Kowsik Guruswamy, CTO for Menlo Security, on the subject. Kowsik says,

“It’s a scenario that we’ve seen time and time again – none of the existing security solutions have been able to protect enterprise users from malware infection. We’ve thrown signatures, sandboxes, big data, analytics and numerous other seemingly innovative security technologies at it yet nothing works. In the State of the Web 2015: Vulnerability Report we published last month, we found that one in three web sites out there pose some sort of risk to the user. We really need to be thinking about ways of eliminating malware that doesn’t involve keeping up with the latest trends – something more definitive that just takes the problem off the table.”

How Rombertik Stays Invisible

Rombertik employs a number of advanced mechanisms that render it almost completely undetectable.

compromise-flow-wm

(Source: Talos)

First of all, Rombertik devotes a lot of information – around 97% of its binary data – to appearing perfectly innocent. Only 3% of the program actually functions as malware; the rest of it is a collection of harmless images and functions. Furthermore, the program uses a bogus data generator that, at the beginning of its operation, writes 960 million random bytes to memory, effectively creating over 100GB of log files that analysis applications have to trawl through.

These mechanisms make it extremely hard for any malware detection application to detect Rombertik.

Advanced Sandbox Detection

Rombertik deliberately makes invalid function calls that are designed to invoke specific errors – errors that are typically suppressed by a virtual machine. By doing so, Rombertik can check whether or not it is running within a sandbox. It is only once it determines that it is not running within a sandbox that it begins unpacking itself.

Detection and Self-Destruction

If Rombertik detects that it is in fact running inside a VM, it decides that it has been flagged as a suspicious program, and initiates a self-destruct sequence that ultimate destroys the host computer’s hard drive. Its first priority is to access and overwrite the Master Boot Record of the host hard drive. Essentially, it completely overwrites the MBR partition data with null bytes, making it next to impossible to restore the hard drive.

If it is unable to gain access to the MBR, Rombertik instead encrypts all the files (using an RC4 key) within the C:\ drive’s administrator folder.

Prevention is better than a Cure

The best course of action, as with any virus or malicious software, is to avoid getting it in the first place! Rombertik, as with most cases of malware, gets installed when people click on links or attachments sent through email. The trouble is, these emails can often come from trusted sources – sources that people would never suspect to be harbouring malicious software of any sort. Even Forbes, a well-respected and widely acclaimed website, had fallen victim to hackers back in November 2014, who had used it as a platform to spread malware. The reality is that this can happen to anyone, anytime and anywhere. These are rampant digital diseases that are becoming more and more powerful. We need much better systems in place to find preventative methods before situations become that much more terminal.

By Vanja Daskalovic

Unlimited Cloud Storage Is Often Anything But

Unlimited Cloud Storage Is Often Anything But

Cloud Storage

The promise of unlimited technology has always enamored consumers. From unlimited texts to unlimited data, users want more, they want better and they want it now.

This obsession with unlimited is influencing the cloud computing field. Many cloud storage providers now offer affordable, unlimited storage systems to house the growing volume of data. Yet, for most providers, the notion of unlimited is a theoretical one. These providers claim to meet the demands of more, better and now, but let’s take a closer look at Amazon’s Cloud Drive to see why this claim is not always accurate.

The Everything Package

cloud-storageJust over a month ago, Amazon unveiled its unlimited cloud storage solution. Amazon Cloud Drive comes at two levels. The first is an $11.99 per year unlimited ‘photo’ storage version. The second is a $59.99 per year unlimited ‘everything’ storage version. The e-commerce company’s unlimited Cloud Drive would sit unrivaled as the market’s cheapest yet largest cloud storage solution.

It would, if it were actually unlimited.

The misnomer here is not unique to Amazon. Rather, it plagues many of the storage’s biggest players such as Dropbox and Box. The problem is this—while Amazon ensures that its unlimited ‘photo’ storage version does not take up space on a user’s hard drive, the same guarantees are absent from Amazon’s ‘everything’ package. Of course, ‘everything’ is more useful, but its limitations are severe.

Such limitations are common when cloud storage providers engineer their cloud solutions around synchronization. With synchronization, when a user uploads a file to the cloud, it’s first stored on a user’s hard drive. Platforms may offer users unlimited cloud storage space, but personal hard drives cripple this boundlessness.

Reliance on a user’s own hard drive is increasingly problematic considering how over-utilized a hard drive can be. From documents to games to music, hard drives get stuffed. It’s as if providers have given users an endless supply of paper, and only a single, stubby golf pencil to write with. Or, it’s like these storage providers have laid out a digital buffet—and provided all of the plates to eat from—without recognizing how little users’ stomachs can expand. Unlimited storage space can exist, but not using the synchronization method.

Considering the sensitive nature of information stored on the cloud, transparency is concerning. And, for billion dollar companies like Amazon and Microsoft, clear communication is particularly important. As such, recent cloud storage advertisements beg this question: why do providers offer ‘unlimited’ storage when their synchronization storage method prevents users from optimizing the space?

The answer—it’s easier. Utilizing personal hard drives through synchronization is, by design, simpler than building out the cloud as a separate storage space. It’s also less time consuming. However, synchronization is a lazy choice, and it signals a possible lack of confidence in a cloud storage provider’s protection capabilities. With the slew of high-profile hacks, cloud storage providers should not utilize systems with proven flaws if they can create better versions themselves. It’s safe to assume that cloud storage leaders can.

If generating separate cloud storage space is a more secure option, why don’t more cloud storage provides take the time to do so? Unlimited cloud storage offers leaves many questions with few answers. What happens when users run out of space on their own hard drives? How will users track their storage usage? When will providers come up with a better, more honest solution? Will cloud storage providers be able to compete with market trends as others start to produce truly unlimited solutions?

Storage & Encryption

The question we do have an answer to is what users should look for when choosing a cloud storage provider. Two things: cloud exclusive storage and client-side encryption.

  • Cloud Exclusive Storage: Some cloud storage providers offer platforms where storage happens only on the cloud. This ensures that a user’s hard drive is not impacted by storage. The creation of an independent cloud storage system also indicates a provider’s confidence in their security features. With the synchronization storage method, two copies of every file exist. However, with pure cloud storage, only a single copy is accessible. In reducing the number of files saved, storage providers demonstrate conviction in their ability to protect user data.
  • Client-Side Encryption: Cloud storage providers need to properly encrypt files, especially when just one copy of a file exists. The best way to do this is through client-side encryption. Traditional end-to-end secures files in transfer but leaves them vulnerable on both the user and provider ends. Client-side encryption improves security by giving users complete control over the encryption process.

Amazon’s flaws do not suggest that the company is moving in the wrong direction. Like many leading cloud storage providers, Amazon recognized an industry need and is working to find an effective storage solution. However, providers can overreach when they maximize space and security. Solutions like Amazon’s are certainly attractive, but unlimited storage at such an affordable rate sounds too good to be true.

And when something sounds too good to be true, most of the time, that’s because it is.

By Tunio Zafer

Cloud Pinup: HappyApps Streamlines Application and System Monitoring

Cloud Pinup: HappyApps Streamlines Application and System Monitoring

HappyApps New Monitoring Experience

This is part of our ongoing CloudTweaks Pinup series featuring new startups. Contact us for more information on how to get involved. 

Happyapps.io is a young yet promising start-up that provides cloud-based, real-time monitoring services for applications across a wide range of platforms. Founded in 2015, the company is a newcomer to the application management game – a game which has seen fierce competition since 2013. In fact, the sheer volume of companies attempting to create their own monitoring services has proven overwhelming for a number of businesses; businesses which, for the most part, are still looking for a clean and simple way to monitor the services and applications which lie at the core of their business.

happyapps.ioThe foremost issue with the current big players in the system monitoring game isn’t their capability – as far as effective and accurate monitoring of applications goes, the big names (companies like Nagios, New Relic, SolarWinds etc.) are more than capable of carrying out this task. The issue is with the clutter and usability.

A well-known problem with certain monitoring companies is the sheer number of notifications that the service sends out. In fact, it is not uncommon for a user to receive upwards of 200 email alerts per day, the majority of which are, for the most part, unnecessary. Such notifications are generally repeating issues that have already been identified, and as such are entirely redundant. Unfortunately, this means that significant energy must be expended to sift through the pile of notifications in an effort to identify the ones which are genuine.

happy_apps1

Most often, the fault of monitoring systems is that they provide their users with floods of raw data – data which requires some degree of technical knowledge to interpret. While high-level software developers and engineers may find this useful, many users are simply not interested. What users really need is a system that provides status reports in a readable, easy-to-consume fashion. The user wants a report detailing whether or not the core systems are performing to the required expectations, not a mountain of graphs representing CPU usage, memory, IO, etc…

That is exactly where HappyApps has focused their approach. Providing a next-generation cloud-based monitoring service, they deliver real-time status updates for core applications, databases, and information systems. HappyApps has the capability to monitor systems over a variety of clouds (including Amazon), where the complexity of data from a multitude of sources is processed and presented in an incredibly user-friendly, understandable format.

Users have the ability to create an easy-to-understand dashboard, where the overall status is visible in real-time across all of their application services. Monitoring checks across a wide variety of systems (including MongoDB, MySQL, Postgres, Web Servers, and many more) can be set up quickly and easily, with the ability to set up and customize groups that can collectively monitor the applications.

Best of all, HappyApps was designed with sophisticated noise reduction technology, ensuring that all notifications that are sent out are meaningful. No more false positives, and no more group incidents that repeatedly send out the same notification.

By Vanja Daskalovic

CloudTweaks Comics
The Internet of Things Lifts Off To The Cloud

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Do Small Businesses Need Cloud Storage Service?

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Cloud Computing Services Perfect For Your Startup

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Cloud Infographic – The Internet Of Things In 2020

Cloud Infographic – The Internet Of Things In 2020

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Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

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The Fully Aware, Hybrid-Cloud Approach

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Cloud Native Trends Picking Up – Legacy Security Losing Ground

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Is Machine Learning Making Your Data Scientists Obsolete?

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