Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And The Extension/Expansion Of Virtual Reality

Virtual Immersion And Virtual Reality

This is a term I created (Virtual Immersion). Ah…the sweet smell of Virtual Immersion Success!

Virtual Immersion© (VI) an extension/expansion of Virtual Reality to include the senses beyond visual and auditory. Years ago there was a television commercial for a bathing product called Calgon. The tagline of the commercial was Calgon take me away. The concept was simple, a mother or father frustrated with their day (and their children) whisked away by the wonderful Calgon bathing product. By soaking in the tub, all the troubles disappeared. Imagine having a really tough meeting. You walk back to your cube and wander off to the most beautiful place on earth (at least for you). You finish your working day enjoying a picnic in the foothills of the alps. Or you wander around your favorite shopping center. Virtual immersion offers so many possible ways to get away from where you are, while still being able to finish the things you have to do!

shutterstock_30774235

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By clicking a button your cube becomes Waikiki beach in Hawaii or for the adventurous types, the main campus of the NSF Antarctic expedition. For people with fear you could help them gradually reduce that fear by introducing them to an environment with what they fear in it. But it would be an immersive environment that they knew was safe going in. So the fear could slowly be increased until it wasn’t as much of a fear.

Connected Sensations

The concept of Virtual Immersion© would be one step beyond Virtual Reality. Not only the auditory and visual experience but smells, feelings and sensations.  For young drives you would equip an immersive suite with a driving unit that responded similarly to a real car and let them loose. They wouldn’t ever hit anyone because it was a virtual road but they could learn about how to drive in rain and snow.  Instead of giving out tickets the police could pull people over for speeding and have them take a mandatory (right then) Virtual Immersion© defensive driving class. Or why not to drive in the HOV lane with only one person in the car. (or is that last one a counting issue, me, myself and I, Well I can use the HOV lane I have three people in the car).

virtual-conferencing

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Virtual Immersion© opens the door for family experiences. JIBO is a device built to aid elderly people who want to be independent. You could, with Virtual Immersion© be right there with your loved ones no matter where in the world you live. Surgeons could be there, experiencing the actual smells in the operating room (I think you nicked his bowel). Hospice organizations could offer a Virtual Immersion© experience for those that cannot travel as their loved one is passing. The value proposition for education, the ability of the remote instructor to see the faces, body language and behavior of the remote students. Perhaps a Virtual Immersion© (and uncomfortable) principal’s office for students that aren’t taking the instructors seriously.

The doors that this opens are amazing. I can’t thank the inspiration for this idea enough. The reality of Virtual Immersion© is the integration that could quickly be built into an IoT environment that supported the concept. A shirt with heating and cooling coils built in. A smell generator that allowed you to generate the smells of your favorite locations. An immersed future where everything would be possible.

Space Journey 

Mars-Virtual-Reality

Want to experience outer space without, well the 3-day trip through space? Or for that matter virtually anywhere we can launch the VI apparatus. Movie experiences could be more real. You, right there with the main characters, smelling and feeling the same experiences. Walking out of the theater soaked in sweat. “Did you just run here?” A friend you bump into on the way out asks. “No” you answer “I just saw the new VI Dinosaur experience movie.

It will whisk you away from a bad day at work, by turning your cube into someplace you want to be. IT will increase productivity by allowing people to work in an environment that stimulates and encourages them to be productive. VI makes VR personal.

Plus, you won’t have to wonder what the bottom of the ocean smells like anymore, I mean if you do wonder that.

By Scott Anderson

How Far Away Are We? Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

How Far Away Are We? Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

Hyundai’s ‘Iron Man’ Suit

There’s a fine line between cinematic tech and real world applications, and treading that line is South Korea-based Hyundai with an Iron Man-like suit it revealed on its website last month. The article displayed several photos and scarce information about the exoskeleton, making several comparisons of the prototype to the Marvel film. While the suit may not have repulsor beams or arc reactors like its movie counterpart, it still achieves some impressive feats.

The project holds several purposes, namely in the manufacturing industry. The exoskeleton gives the wearer “superhuman”-like strength, allowing the operator to lift “hundreds of kilograms,” increasing productivity and lowering the risk of potential injury. The company also asserts that the strap-on suit, weighing in at 110 pounds, could be useful for defense purposes, allowing soldiers to move more quickly with heavier baggage.

iron-man-suit

(Image Source: Hyundai)

It can also be used during medical rehabilitation. One photo demonstrates the suit’s ability to aid paraplegics in learning to walk again, showing a man sporting a partial suit and ascending a flight of stairs. Of the venture, Hyundai makes stark promises (pun intended): “wearable robot development of the Hyundai Motor Group will eventually lead to the free movement of people and things,” the company states, further propelling the overall goal to achieve what it refers to as “Next Mobility.”

Still, the vague post failed to answer logistical questions, like when it will come to market, how much it costs, and what the battery life is.

Exoskeletons for Military Advantage

But Hyundai isn’t the only company looking into the future of robotic wearables. Panasonic released three types of lightweight exoskeletons to aid factory workers in everyday tasks, with each suit tailored to a specific type of task: lifting heavy objects, walking and running, and a heftier “Power Loader” designed for public works, construction, and disaster relief.

Additionally, the U.S. Army has already begun enlisting a similar variation of Hyundai’s Iron Man prototype called the Tactical Assault Operator Suit (TALOS) that combines ballistic protection with superhuman strength. It operates as an armor that includes a physiological system to monitor the wearer’s body temperature, heart rate, skin temperature, hydration levels, and more.

Likewise, Lockheed Martin’s HULC suit offers another take on the military-geared power suit, which allows the wearer to carry up to 200 pounds on front and back loads, while its flexible design allows for crawls, deep squats and upper body lifting.

Robotics: The Road To Recovery

On the rehabilitation front, Ekso Bionics showed off their version of an exoskeleton at San Francisco’s Engadget Expand this year. This bionic suit tailors to the medical field—one tester, who was paralyzed from the waist down following a car crash, was able to find her balance with the Ekso in just one training session. Currently, the Ekso bionic suit is used at over thirty rehabilitation centers.

How close are we to creating a real Iron Man Suit?

Many hardcore Iron Man fans and scientists alike have evaluated the Iron Man suit and its capabilities. For starters, we are a long way away from creating a suit that flies as seamlessly. For one thing, the suit would require a portable power supply that could support sustained flights at high speed.

iron-man

(Image Source: Tinxi / Shutterstock)

Then there’s the issue of control: how would the wearer easily control the flight of the suit, particularly when it comes horizontal flight? Currently, there are a few versions of the “jet pack,” like the Martin Technology JetPack, which climbs to 5,000 feet and can deploy a parachute at 3,000 feet. There is also a wearable carbon fiber jet pack pioneered by Yves “Jetman” Rossy, (comprised of carbon fiber wing and 4 tiny jet engines) that can perform quite an impressive flight. But at 100 pounds and lasting just 10 minutes on fuel, these innovations still fall short of true “Iron Man” capabilities. The material of the Iron Man suit also poses a problem: it can withstand significant damage while still retaining its agility. There’s nothing currently in the works that would be light enough to wear, but powerful enough to withstand military-grade weapons.

In Summary:

While we may not be using the practical technological aspects of the Iron Man suit for any super-hero missions any time soon, there’s a clear demand for comparable versions within the healthcare, industrial, and military industries. As companies prepare themselves to move forward with different exoskeletons, the goal is create applications that make lives easier.

By Samantha Cortez

samantha-cortezSamantha is a journalist who resides in New York, NY.  Over the years Samantha has written for a number of publications such as Business Insider, 20/20 magazine and the NY Daily News. She has also been a contributor to Wearable World and ReviewFix.com.

Samantha spends much of her time traveling from New York to San Francisco meeting and writing about many of the most innovative tech startups.

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Virtual Reality Cloud

We’re lucky to live in an era where virtual reality is no longer relegated to the confines of a sci-fi movie universe. Thanks to technology introduced by products like Oculus Rift, consumers now have access to virtual environments with fully immersive graphic capabilities. As a result, companies have only just begun to address the wealth of opportunity in merging the worlds of VR and cloud computing. If certain obstacles can be adequately addressed and overcome, the possibilities are endless.

The role of GPU virtualization

Some laymen may not realize that there’s much more to virtual reality than just a neat pair of goggles. The most crucial element of the VR experience is the GPU, or graphics processing unit, since it is responsible for rendering the display image. Real-time response is necessary in VR in order to avoid the user’s physical discomfort, which places a responsibility on the GPU to maintain a certain frame rate. Bob O’Donnell, president and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, states that “all elements of an online infrastructure [can now be combined] to get better performance from the cloud than from a local machine,” a process called virtualization. Recently, companies like nVidia are taking steps to virtualize GPUs, which means big things for those in the VR integration camp.

VR usage necessitates a higher standard of graphics and memory in order to function at full capacity. As this can prove to be a limitation in some circumstances, cloud computing would ideally come into play by making processing resources available on demand. Hypothetically speaking, a company with in-office VR stations could outsource to a third-party provider in order to externally host servers with virtualized GPU and applicable software. As the servers would handle the GPU end of the integration, the in-office stations would be free to focus on purchasing the best display hardware (goggles, etc.) to work in tandem with these hosted servers. Between the external host and quality local hardware, this synthesis could theoretically lead to a seamless VR user experience.

Financial benefits of Virtual Reality/Cloud Integration

The feasibility of functional cloud outsourcing leads to dispute in the tech world, however. There are potentially significant cost benefits that come with the third-party host setup. While expensive hardware was required on the clients’ end in the past, the cloud could now open up the VR experience to many more individuals by offering it on a reduced-price basis. This increased availability also benefits developers, meaning there is now potential for greater demand as more apps and products can be made.

(Infographic Source: Touchstone Research)

Ultimately the benefits of VR/cloud integration are the same as any other application being ported to the cloud. The cloud is essentially a more reasonable pricing model allowing for on-demand payment—a welcome alternative to the eternal cycle of purchasing updated hardware. Cloud integration, in this instance, would make VR that much more accessible.

Downsides of integration

rob-owenLatency is the main disadvantage to VR/cloud computing integration in its current state. “Instant response is key to VR immersion,” says Jaq Andrews, information manager at Zco. “A virtualized server farm, either local or in the cloud, could theoretically run a bunch of VR systems, but it would have to include a number of hardware graphics processors.” Rob Owen, chief architect at CDI, adds, “Hosting this type of graphics power in the cloud just isn’t viable because of the latency associated with getting to and from the cloud for input and output from the peripherals… In order for VR to become a reality in the cloud we would have to overcome some pretty serious hurdles due to the physics boundaries that currently exist.” Experts seem to reach a general consensus that latency would need to be dealt with before successful integration could occur. Some are even entertaining the possibility of caching, which could potentially improve the latency issue in certain application scenarios.

Bandwidth presents another problem, as the amount needing to be transferred would increase greatly due to the VR component of the integration. The issue can be amended by increasing the amount of data that can be transferred at one time—and making it affordable in the process. We’ve obviously come a long way on bandwidth in the last decade (with Google Fiber taking the lead), so perhaps all we need is more time to increase bandwidth speeds and make cloud computing a universally viable VR option.

Is it just too soon?

Indeed, the feasibility of VR/cloud computing integration depends heavily on how developers plan to expand and build upon existing technology in the coming years. When a perfect VR experience hinges upon the ability to seamlessly manipulate one’s environment, a significant responsibility falls to those creating the technology that makes VR possible. “This notion of using virtual GPUs is pretty new, so not as many people are aware of it,” says O’Donnell. As more companies discover, incorporate, and even specialize in GPU virtualization, it’s quite possible that cloud computing options will consequently diversify in just the next few years.

Virtual Cloud

However, another time-sensitive issue is that of application. VR technology presents primarily in the entertainment industry, but alternative applications of the technology itself (for simulation of hazardous scenarios in firefighter and military training contexts, for example) still seem underdeveloped and disappointingly hypothetical. After all, virtual reality is not a new concept. Seems like there’s still a need for that one killer app that will push VR onto the central stage of the tech world and significantly increase mainstream demand.

In conclusion

For obvious reasons, the next few years will be a crucial time for VR and the cloud. If companies continue to develop virtualization resources—particularly in the realm of GPUs—it’s possible that the current barriers could be overcome with time and effort. In the end, cloud integration would ultimately make VR more financially accessible and increasingly commonplace. It’s up to developers to agree that VR is a concept worth pursuing.

By Leo Welder

How To Use Technology To Increase Productivity

How To Use Technology To Increase Productivity

Increased Productivity

Sponsor series in collaboration with Hubgets.com 

Technology has improved overall workplace productivity dramatically, with communication and collaboration technology enabling remote and flexible employment structures, advanced team interaction, and better information management systems.

The Benefits of Employing an Appropriate Platform

Businesses that implement appropriate and constructive communication and collaboration technologies improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and work more efficiently. Moreover, employing one platform that successfully manages the majority of these needs prevents confusion and distraction.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

The following benefits of such technology ultimately result in greater productivity and business success:

Secure, consistent access to information

  • Because you’re able to react quickly and appropriately to new information and developments, you have a competitive edge. Fast and reliable communication and collaboration tools allow employees to access information in real time.

Any time, any place

  • The remote tools within the right collaboration platforms allow team members to stay productive while on the move, and the communication tools available enable them to connect with their workmates in real time.

Comfortable environment

  • We’ve all had a text message misinterpreted or an email reply stranded at the bottom of the inbox, which is why today’s top communication systems include a number of channels to choose from, as well as the ability to record and track interactions. Smooth collaboration between employees, customers, partners, and suppliers is an indispensable method of boosting efficiency, and features such topic-centric group chats with file sharing, voice, and video help maintain an aligned and contented workforce.

Mobile to the nth degree

  • Communication and collaboration platforms allow employees to access the company phone network wherever they are. It’s no longer necessary to bounce from one answering machine to the next, but instead, one phone number can ring on multiple devices, making missed calls and message slips a thing of the past. Customers always get into contact with the right person, teammates can communicate instantly, and staff can access communication channels from anywhere.

Reducing travel time

  • Not only is time spent traveling a cost to the company, it negatively affects productivity. Topic-centric group chats as well as one-to-one instant messaging with file transfer, voice and video tools can reduce off-site meetings, impacting positively on staff time and safety concerns.

Employee satisfaction

  • Inefficient communication tools lead to duplication of effort, mistakes, frustration, and ultimately, employee unhappiness. By implementing the right collaboration and communication technology, you ensure your staff is untroubled by workplace practicalities and instead invested in their core objectives.

A Steady Focus

Hubgets provides collaboration and communication solutions that encourage transparency and enhance productivity. Their intelligent presence system is a unique feature that detects when users are too busy to be disturbed, so while other applications may compete for a user’s attention, Hubgets keeps teams connected and avoids distracting, counter-productive interruptions. Consider the amount of time spent attending to distractions; research has highlighted that we spend an overwhelming amount of time changing focus from core tasks to side notes, providing feedback, emailing, and attending meetings, and this means less time put into our actual jobs. However, these functions are necessary and can’t be entirely ignored. This is where a tool like Hubgets, featuring chat, voice, video, file sharing, and team knowledge management capabilities, puts a business ahead of the game.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

While Hubgets recognizes the benefits of chat tools, they’ve adopted a notification system that adapts to your mood. Besides the “Busy” option that puts notifications on hold and the “Available” option that leaves you wide open to conversation, they’ve implemented a third option called “Hubgets Knows Better” that uses an advanced algorithm. The catch behind this unique presence feature is that it allows Hubgets to interpret whether or not you’re too busy to be interrupted, based on your activity. While replying a direct message or participating in a Topic conversation you probably have time for notifications, but when deeply focused in a different browser tab or some document, Hubgets knows not to disturb you. Of course, all communications are stored and made available for when you do have the time to interact. The handy Team Board makes it easy to check out what fellow team members are up to, ensuring everyone’s always in the loop.

By Jennifer Klostermann

The Week In Tech – NVidia AI Inception Program and Google Goes Wireless?

The Week In Tech – NVidia AI Inception Program and Google Goes Wireless?

The Week In Tech

Much of the news coming out of the technology sector this week focused on looking ahead to new challenges, and deploying new technologies to solve difficult global problems.

Here are some of the standout developments in the technology sector this week.

Nvidia, the American pioneer in GPU-processing, announced the establishment of a comprehensive global program to support startups that are driving breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence and data science.

The Nvidia Inception Program , “provides unique tools, resources and opportunities to the waves of entrepreneurs starting new companies, so they can develop products and services with a first-mover advantage.” Startups that qualify will receive access to Nvidia’s deep-learning technologies, its global network, technical training and funding. Senior Director of Business Development, Kimberley Powell, said that “We’re committed to helping the world’s most innovative companies break new ground with AI and revolutionize every industry.”

Google Going Wireless

Alphabet executive chairman Eric Schmidt told a gathering of shareholders that the company is getting serious about beaming the next generation of wireless technology into people’s homes. The project Google Fiber, which initially launched in 2010 is now looking for ways to provide wireless internet services without having to lay fiber-optic cables and dig up infrastructure in order to do so. “There appears to be wireless solutions that are point to point that are inexpensive now because of the improvements in semiconductors,” said Schmidt.

The company is planning to have a test network up and running by year’s end in and around the Kansas City area.

GoogleFiberKansasCity

(Image Source: Wikipedia)

Verizon Still Leading Candidate

Speculation has been rife for some time over who would be interested in acquiring Yahoo’s core internet business, since the once mighty search company announced that it would be auctioning off its non-core assets earlier this year. This week, it emerged that the leading contender for these assets is telecommunications company Verizon.

The Wall Street Journal reportsVerizon, which acquired AOL Inc. last year for $4.4 billion, is seen as having the clearest path to turning around Yahoo. The telecom giant likely would combine Yahoo’s web properties, which together attract more than a billion users a month, with its growing business in online ads. That would enable Verizon to offer more than at least some other bidders.”

Potential suitors are expected to bid between US$2 and 3 billion, a figure that has fallen sharply since CEO Marissa Mayer’s sale presentation revealed the true state of the company’s advertising revenue business.

By Jeremy Daniel

HP Delivers Industry First Converged System for IoT

HP Delivers Industry First Converged System for IoT

New IoT Solutions, Services and Ecosystem Provide Device Security and Enables Decision Making at the Edge

LAS VEGAS, NV–(Marketwired – Jun 8, 2016) – Today, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (NYSE:HPE) unveiled the Edgeline EL1000 and Edgeline EL4000, the industry’s first converged systems for the Internet of Things (IoT). These systems integrate data capture, control, compute and storage to deliver heavy-duty analytics and insights at the edge to enable real-time decision making. In addition, HPE announced enhanced IoT security capabilities, new services and an industry leading partner ecosystem to advance the adoption and impact of the Internet of Things.

With the proliferation of IoT devices, or “things” generating petabytes of data every day, organizations have an opportunity to quickly capture, process and analyze that data to enable real-time control and decision making. Oil and gas, manufacturing and telecommunications industries face specific IoT challenges — they need to harness data in remote environments, from windmills in the desert to smart energy grids and manufacturing plants, to drive timely business decisions. Until now, the remote data would have to be transported to a data center or cloud for analysis, which can be a slow, risky and inefficient process. HPE today introduced new IoT solutions that enable organizations to harness the power of their data by delivering real-time analytics and machine learning at the edge, where the “things” are.

“Organizations that take advantage of the vast amount of data and run deep analytics at the edge can become digital disrupters within their industries,” said Dr. Tom Bradicich, vice president and general manager, Servers and IoT Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “HPE has built machine learning and real time analytics into its IoT platforms, and provides services that help customers understand how data can best be leveraged, enabling them to optimize maintenance management, improve operations efficiency and ultimately, drive significant cost savings.”

HPE Edgeline IoT Systems: Deep Data Capture and Analytics at the Edge

HPE is unveiling the Edgeline EL1000 and Edgeline EL4000, the industry’s first converged systems for the IoT, integrating compute, storage, data capture, control and enterprise-class systems and device management built to thrive in hardened environments and handle shock, vibration and extreme temperatures. The EL1000 and EL4000 are optimized to deliver heavy-duty data analytics and insights, graphically intense data visualization, and real time response at the edge.

In addition, HPE announced today that the HPE Vertica Analytics Platform runs on the Edgeline EL4000, delivering historical and predictive analytic insights from in-database machine learning algorithms across a broad range of IoT analytic use cases. Vertica on Edgeline brings applied machine learning to the edge to deliver closed-loop analytics that enable organizations to derive immediate insights from their IoT initiatives. In addition, to easily secure traffic back to the data center, the EL1000 and EL4000 support Aruba’s Virtual Intranet Access™ (VIA) VPN client. Aruba’s VIA™ provides organizations an automated, zero-touch, secure VPN, and is available for both commercial and high-security government IoT applications.

Dynamic IoT Security

Securing enterprise networks for the onslaught of IoT devices is also a primary concern for IT professionals today. Networks need to automatically add, detect, profile and secure new and unknown IoT devices without manual intervention. With enhancements to Aruba ClearPass, IT can profile new IoT devices, enforce security policies, and exchange policy status with other security systems including mobile device management systems. ClearPass integrates with existing network infrastructures from any vendor enabling IT teams to easily automate and scale rather than become an inhibitor for new digital transformation initiatives.

IoT Expertise – Helping Customers Transform, Design and Run IoT

HPE also introduced the HPE IoT Transformation workshop (TW), an interactive HPE facilitated workshop that helps customers to define their IoT vision and strategy and gain business technology alignment. This structured discussion takes a fact-based, analytical approach to help customers achieve alignment on their vision, identify current and future states, and determine a set of specific transformational IoT projects. The IoT TW is the first step in a full suite of services designed to help customers successfully implement IoT solutions based on business needs and industry parameters. In addition, HPE’s Analytic Consulting and Predictive Maintenance Services deliver advanced analytics to business processes to achieve objectives, reduce costs and improve efficiencies.

Partnerships

HPE is partnering with industrial IoT leaders like GE Digital, National Instruments and PTC as part of its go to market plan to deliver joint solutions to customers. These solutions address industrial use cases to combine the very best of Operational Technology (OT) and IT to support the aerospace, oil and gas, manufacturing, automotive and energy industries.

HPE also announced four IoT Innovation Labs and expertise across the globe. HPE and Intel® operate these labs to help customers envision how IoT can be applied in their industry, build and test IoT applications, and access technical expertise. In addition, partners and customers are able to engage, interact, assess and collaborate on solutions development and their applications. The labs are now open and located at HPE facilities in Houston, Texas, Grenoble, France, Bangalore, India and Singapore.

About Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Hewlett Packard Enterprise is an industry leading technology company that enables customers to go further, faster. With the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio, spanning the cloud to the data center to workplace applications, our technology and services help customers around the world make IT more efficient, more productive and more secure.

Data Breaches: Incident Response Planning – Part 2

Data Breaches: Incident Response Planning – Part 2

Incident Response Planning – Part 2

Continued from Part 1… As an estimated 50 million consumers were yet to be informed more than a month after the breach discovery, a Senate health committee had to intervene. But that wasn’t the end of Anthem’s missteps — it took customer’s days after calling a dedicated phone line to receive a call back…

What Post-Breach Response ‘Should’ Have Looked Like

As Verizon so aptly observed in its soldier analogy, it’s challenging to defend your perimeter if you don’t know what to expect. There’s no doubt that some of the incident-response scenarios that played out in the public eye would have been different if the companies had been better prepared to not just address a breach but also plan for the right type of scale.

In eBay’s case, for example, knowing that there is no such thing as a foolproof security might have led them to an “assume compromise” philosophy. Which means having a clear understanding of where the data resides, and what risk each category of data is exposed to, based on what systems are compromised. Refusing to give an estimate a week after a breach is the first ingredient in the recipe of a PR disaster.

Socil Media

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Social Media Voice

The second ingredient in that recipe is ignoring your own social media channels — eBay’s reaction should have been immediate in urging customers to change passwords, with a promise of more information to come as soon as details were available. One component of a communications plan in a crisis like a data breach is a handful of pre-approved templates, with ready-to-go messaging, that can be immediately disseminated to stakeholders. These messages need not alarm customers but should be transparent in stating that a potential breach was being investigated and that as a precaution customers should change passwords for their protection.

Another channel that eBay should have quickly used was its own website — and not by posting confusing, hard-to-see banners. That same collection of templates in the crisis communication plan should have had a succinct but transparent message about a potential breach and what the company was doing to secure the customer’s information.

The great thing about a well-thought-out plan is that it involves various internal and external teams, not just IT or PR but everyone from legal to risk. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to know which teams should be activated — but with advance planning, this “all hands on deck” scenario will unfold much smoother.

Basic Elements of an Incident-Response Plan

Even with the increased awareness about cybersecurity risk at the BOD and C-suite level, organizations are still lagging in planning for breaches. In its an annual Global Information Security Survey, EY found that of the 1,755 executives who responded, only 43 percent had formal incident response programs for their organizations. Worse yet, only 7 percent of those that had plans integrated a comprehensive approach that included third-party vendors, law enforcement and playbooks. Much work remains to be done in this regard.

hacks

Let’s look at some basic components of a plan and rewrite the Anthem response scenario to show how things could have played out differently.

  1. Start with an inventory of data — what types of data your company collects, processes and stores; where it’s stored and how it’s transmitted; who has access both in-house and at third-party contractors, and so on. In our Anthem scenario, with a precise inventory, the insurance provider would know immediately that among the impacted stakeholders are third-party customers, and the risk would be communicated to stakeholders accordingly.
  1. Outline your procedures for monitoring access and conduct regular audits. While monitoring may be mostly an IT concern, it should be spelled out in your plan because it involves cross-company functions and it’s one of the steps that determines the extent of your breach.

Take advantage of the built-in cybersecurity capability of vendors like Salesforce, which not only offers robust security but also provides training for your employees.

  1. Secure the infrastructure. This goes hand in hand with inventorying and monitoring. It should already be part of your daily IT routine but should also be integrated into the master response plan, with additional post-breach steps such as contacting outside forensic investigators.
  1. Create your crisis-communications plan. As previously discussed, this plan should include exact messaging, pre-approved and ready to go with a few “fill in the blank” areas, for different types of incidents. This should also include the categories of recipients for the communications, the delivery schedule and dissemination vehicles (typically more than one channel).

Based on this plan, in the case of the ideal Anthem response, a process would be in place to reach not only its 80 million employees and customers but also its various associates, like Blue Cross and Blue Shield, who were also compromised. Additionally, the digital media team would go all-hands-on-deck to update website and social media information, monitor social channels and respond to common questions and concerns. Plus, an external vendor would be activated temporarily to fill a 24/7, designated customer service center fielding calls related to the breach and signing up customers for credit monitoring.

  1. Assess the legal risks. These are not just based on government regulations and other legal obligations. The possibility of lawsuits is very real, and your post-breach actions can add fuel to the fire if not properly executed. It’s a good idea to engage not just your regular counsel but an outside firm that specializes in breaches, and begin that engagement in the planning stage. This will allow you to begin your public disclosure and mitigation immediately instead of waiting to start a process.

This list is just a basic starting point. Incident-response plans are highly tailored to the individual organization, but best practices should be used when developing them. Not unlike a marketing plan or HR hiring manual, this plan is an important tool that helps address your organization’s success. When a breach happens, you’re likely not going to be less stressed with a plan in hand, but you will know exactly how to proceed without second-guessing your actions and missing critical steps.

By Sekhar Sarukkai

Cloud Computing Then & Now

Cloud Computing Then & Now

The Evolving Cloud 

From as early as the onset of modern computing, the possibility of resource distribution has been explored. Today’s cloud computing environment goes well beyond what most could even have imagined at the birth of modern computing and innovation in the field isn’t slowing.

A Brief History

Matillion’s interactive timeline of cloud begins with the first stored-program computer, the Manchester Baby, developed in 1947. Quickly, time sharing became necessary as the 250 computers available in 1955 were rented to users in efforts to ensure as little downtime as possible. When packet switching was introduced in 1960, the foundation for resource sharing and the internet was laid and shortly thereafter, in a speech at MIT, John McCarthy suggested that computer resources would one day be shared like any other service.

cloud-past-future

Through the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, the world saw the development of the internet and mainstreaming of computers, and in 1996 the term cloud computing was first used by George Favaloro and Sean O’Sullivan, executives at Compaq Computer. During the 2000s mobile and smartphone technology took off and very quickly access to the cloud was common. Of course, the last five years have seen the greatest advances in cloud computing, as seemingly with all technology, it develops exponentially. Global giants such as Amazon, Google, and Apple rely heavily on the cloud, and in 2013 it was estimated global spending on cloud services reached $47 billion.

The Evolution

From digital assistants to smart cars to virtual reality to the internet of things, all of the latest modernizations rely on cloud technology. But so too do most of the traditional services individuals and organizations rely on. Although we’ve seen new products and services focused on managing money, the traditional banking institutions are developing their own services and the environment is nearly unrecognizable to that of ten years ago. Who can even imagine a world without internet banking?

banking-vault

Healthcare similarly has advanced, and not only in the laboratories and offices of pioneering doctors and scientists. Large hospital and patient management institutions are taking up the reigns and following suit, albeit more slowly, and patient care programs are being implemented to combine the benefits of modern devices such as wearables with healthcare regimens. Already two years ago, an HIMSS Analytics survey of cloud adoption in healthcare organizations found 83% of those surveyed were using cloud services. Common uses included the hosting of clinical applications and data, health information exchange, and backup and data recovery.

And the benefits cloud computing promises education are immense. Already, cloud technology is changing the way students learn and extending access to schooling into remote and impoverished areas. Though schools and universities are adopting cloud technologies themselves, many startups such as Education Modified, Kiko Labs, and HSTRY, are coming up with new methods and platforms which enhance and further learning.

Into the Future

It’s predicted that the cloud service market will be worth around $108 billion next year, and by 2020 the number of connected devices worldwide is expected to reach 25 billion. Further estimates suggest cloud computing offers green benefits too, and US organizations moving to the cloud before 2020 will save $12.3 billion in energy costs. Gartner points to a hybrid cloud infrastructure in the coming years, and says Ed Anderson, “I start to think of a multi-cloud environment as a foundation for a next wave of applications.” And according to Forrester Research, we’re on the cusp of the second wave of cloud computing, with service providers focused on next-gen applications that require omnichannel support, time-based analytics, and micro service support. The barrier to entering the cloud seems likely to shrink significantly due to adjusted compliance requirements and regulations, and although security already is a primary focus, with the expansion of cloud, its importance will be magnified. Finally, due to the high demand for cloud services, service providers will soon, if not already, be building next-generation architecture on hyper-converged platforms further reducing maintenance costs and speeding up scalability.

By Jennifer Klostermann

CloudTweaks Comics
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