Category Archives: Technology

5 Essential Cloud Skills That Could Make Or Break Your IT Career

5 Essential Cloud Skills That Could Make Or Break Your IT Career

5 Essential Cloud Skills

Cloud technology has completely changed the infrastructure and internal landscape of both small businesses and large corporations alike. No professionals in any industry understand this better than IT pros. In a cutthroat field like IT, candidates have to be multi-faceted and well-versed in the cloud universe. Employers want to know that their IT people can solve problems with minimal micromanagement. For this reason especially, it’s essential for IT professionals to know their stuff and constantly develop skills when it comes to the cloud.

PC World gathered together a group of thought leaders and executives in the cloud computing industry to come up with the top 5 most important skills for IT professionals to master in order to have a successful career in our modern corporate work environment.

IT Skills Cloud

1. Become a service broker

With your understanding of the fundamentals of cloud computing, it’s imperative that you balance between internal and external cloud services and know how to utilize each to best serve the overall goals of your organization.

2. Understand Big Data

The massive amounts of data storage capabilities previously unavailable to companies now means that anyone who can manipulate and utilize big data effectively could become valuable to an organization.

3. Hone information security skills

Protecting sensitive information is often a huge concern for businesses. Knowledge of the evolving threat of hackers and how to keep a company safe are key skills in today’s computer industries.

4. Add VDI to your BYOD repertoire

With the large scale adoption of mobile tech in the business world, understanding mobile is imperative. Now that sales of smartphones and tablets have exceeded laptop sales, this trend is here to stay.

5. Build Business Skills that Transfer Beyond IT

A higher degree of business acumen and knowledge of the company are extremely important. Being competent any various skillsets is a valuable asset to have in any industry. This list is just the beginning. There are many different ways to help advance your IT career. This list means you might have to do a few things out of your comfort zone. You might have to study things they didn’t teach you at university. Becoming a service broker means you must negotiate and speak to clients and service providers, something many traditional IT pros struggle with. But not you. You’ll be ahead of the game.

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By Jason Sander

Cloud Infographic – Data Breaches In The United States

Cloud Infographic – Data Breaches In The United States

Data Breaches In The United States

The growing prevalence of widely publicized data breaches and the end of 2014 brings reflection, as well as a chance to pause and look at what happened during the year in cybersecurity incidents. 27001 Academy, the largest online learning center where you can get training and documentation for implementing the international standard for information security management, ISO 27001, has created an infographic showing the state of data breaches in 2014.

Here are some stats:

  • 2014 has seen an increase of over 27.5% in data breaches in the U.S.
  • Total incidents in 2014: 783
  • Total incidents in 2013: 614
  • 2014 vs. 2013: 27.5% increase

Although the number of breaches increased, the reported number of compromised records declined by 7.1%.

  • Total records in 2014: 85,611,528
  • Total records in 2013: 91,982,172
  • 2014 vs. 2013:  7.1% decrease

The peak in security breaches was registered in January, with more than 100 incidents.

Breaches by industry

For banking and government sectors, the risk of experiencing a data breach was higher than ever, with a 50% to 80% increase in security incidents in the last year. The healthcare sector also sees a persistent and growing threat of breaches, being the most affected out of all sectors analyzed.


By Dejan Kosutic

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips

Cloud Migration – 10 ‘Do it Right’ Tips

Businesses continue to adopt the cloud at break neck speed. Inherent benefits like lower operational costs, no infrastructure overheads, and quick access to better technology make cloud a very attractive proposition for businesses, especially start-ups and SMEs.

However moving from legacy to the cloud environment has its own challenges; the ‘do’s and ‘don’ts’ of cloud migration should be kept in mind before you make the switch. So, how do you get your cloud migration right?

Here are ten tips that will help you migrate to the cloud the right way:


Source: Megapath

1. Figure out how and what to move to the cloud

When it comes to cloud migration do not jump onto the bandwagon because others are doing so. Carefully weigh all the pros and cons of cloud transition. Explore and minutely examine the cloud environment and analyze how moving to the cloud will benefit your business.

Once you are done with that, take the next step; figure out what to move to the cloud. It can be your data, an application(s); a portion of your IT infrastructure or the entire spectrum of IT operations (if you want to completely revamp your infrastructure).

It is great to start a new business without costly IT infrastructure and staff expenses. Cloud saves you a lot of money there.

Many established businesses are also moving to the cloud to cut operational costs and speed up the time to market their products and services. By doing so, they ensure they retain their competitive edge.

So take your time and introspect what to move, when to move and how to move to cloud before you really make the move.

2. Understand the underlying risks

Carry out a risk analysis study prior to the cloud-shift. If you are moving to the public cloud, your cloud service will be shared by many subscribers and your provider will not be able to offer you a service customized to suit your needs and requirements. Confirm with the provider or find the one who can do that for you.

Make sure that your legacy application(s) function smoothly in the cloud environment. If not, explore whether tweaking it a bit or making subtle changes will make it compatible with the cloud. Do that before you migrate. You will save time and money.

Moving your data to the cloud can be a time consuming job because of the voluminous nature of the data involved. Keep that in mind too!

3. Partner with the Right Cloud Services Providers

Cloud Infographic_001

There are many cloud service providers and hundreds of thousands of cloud apps to choose from. So, how will you find the right cloud partner for your needs?

Choose from well-established names in the cloud domain. Make sure that your prospective partner will enable smooth cloud migration and guarantee services that work in the best interest of your business.

Billing should be transparent with no hidden costs. Take a good look at the pricing structure and check the kind of services covered under a particular plan before you subscribe.

You will naturally opt for the most competitive offer but ensure you sign up for a business-specific service with complete clarity on how you will be billed for the service. If your business needs larger RAM-heavy, virtual machines (VM) s then subscribing to cheaper-priced, but smaller VMs will serve no purpose. Act wisely and do not compromise on quality for the sake of getting cheaper service.

Fully evaluate vendor pricing before you commit. Compare prices from different vendors before you zero on the best pricing model for your business.

4. Have a rollback plan ready

Things can go wrong and failure is always a possibility. So keep an escape route open while you migrate. Your prospective cloud partner should be completely transparent and agreeable on this aspect.

Seek a confirmation (in written SLA) from the provider that in the event of a disaster or untoward happening or even if you want to quit cloud, you have complete control over your data. You should be able to access and retrieve it in usable form.

Even if something goes wrong during the migration process, you should be able to safely undo the process and recover all the data intact.

5. Security

Businesses are comfortable with being physically close to their data and have apprehensions about storing it virtually in the cloud. It is a mindset that needs to be changed.

The security of your cloud has nothing to do with where your data is located. It has everything to do with how you access your data.

Cloud providers are now spending more on enhancing the security of their cloud and adopting ISO benchmarks. Major cloud players like Google, Amazon and Microsoft provide public cloud services as per as per ISO/IEC 27018:2014. Treat it as a benchmark and ask for the same level of security from your provider.

6. Transparent outage or downtime reporting

Subscribe to a cloud service that notifies your system outages via alerts, through emails or SMSes on your smartphone. The record of the details of outages is important from the operational cost control point-of -view. It allows you to ascertain the reliability of your cloud provider.

Confirm a transparent downtime reporting mechanism as a prerequisite to service subscription or else keep the exit door open in event of non-compliance. Get a nod from your provider on this aspect because your business should not be the victim of disruptions in the cloud.

7. Understand how migration will impact your staff


If you have a large infrastructure then you might opt for software as a service (SaaS) or platform as a Service (PaaS). Before doing so, consider the impact it will have on your staff.

Your organization may have database administrators, application experts and IT networking staff to manage operating system (OS), servers and backup. They might not be needed if you move to the cloud. Many countries have regulations to protect employees – Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) regulations. If you cannot redeploy, you may face negative consequences.

8. SLA for Cloud Compliance

Getting to the cloud is much easier than staying compliant, so get a written agreement in form of service level agreement (SLA) signed up with your vendor before you move to the cloud.

Mention all your requirements in the written SLA and make it clear to your provider on how you expect the service to satisfy your needs. The agreement should clearly spell out how your virtual environment is segmented from other customers and where your data can (and can’t) be geographically located.

Though a written SLA, does not guarantee compliance from the service provider end, it can empower you to put pressure on the provider if you believe he is not doing what he agreed to do. Below are the various cloud compliance acts that have overlapping clauses which you can use according to the domain of your business.

  • Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX)
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI- DSS)
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
  • SB-1386
  • European Union Data Protection Directive

9. Prefer managed cloud services

Managed cloud service might cost more, but it takes the entire IT infrastructure and management burden off your shoulders so that you can focus completely on your core business.

If your provider is new, insist on going through the run book, which is a written set of procedures for the routine and exceptional operation of the system or network by an administrator or operator. It will tell you, how your provider will be able to handle stressful situations like migration or technical failure.

10. Train staff before and after

You or somebody in your team needs thorough knowledge about how the cloud system works. Take up training sessions with the service provider because the skills required to migrate are quite different from the skills to keep your cloud based system up and running.

Plan in advance to hone skills of your operations team. Invest time and money to balance normal routine work with incremental training as you progress with your migration. It will make your transition smooth with no post-migration hassles.


Cloud transition begins right from the day you carry out research, examine cloud options and test the chosen provider before the migration day (D-day) arrives. So, you need to get it right from day one.

By Stan Roach

Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Big Data Facts You Didn’t Know

The term Big Data has been buzzing around tech circles for a few years now.

Forrester has defined big data as “Technologies and techniques that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical.” The key word here is economical. If the costs of extracting, processing, and making use of data exceed the advantages to be gleaned, then it’s a pointless exercise. Fortunately, as data volumes have grown, so has a technology that helps bring its use into the ambit of most businesses. Cloud technology, whether public, private, or some combination of the two, is an essential component in enabling businesses to generate a substantial ROI from big data analytics.

Big Data Facts

Here are some interesting big data facts you might not know about big data via The Visual Capitalist:

  • Big Data got its start in the 1960’s, as marketers used people’s zip codes to gather info on customers.
  • Locale is a good starting off point, but social characteristics, lifestyles and interests are far more useful for marketing purposes.
  • Google searches and social media sites are the best sources for this data.
  • 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the past 2 years.
  • Data is literally being produced at the speed of light, doubling in size every 40 months.

The evolution of big data companies has certainly been an interesting one. It is now a multibillion dollar industry. Where do you see Big Data going within the next few years? See the infographic below.


The Top 5 Challenges You Cannot Avoid When Adopting a Cloud ERP

The Top 5 Challenges You Cannot Avoid When Adopting a Cloud ERP

Adopting a Cloud ERP

The main challenges to implementing a Cloud ERP solution differ depending on whether the implementation is from scratch or a migration from an existing on-premises solution to a cloud version. However, the core set of challenges is common to both approaches.

Key Challenges

Every business is different, but the key challenges are present for all, in differing degrees:

1. Identifying the optimum architectural and licensing models

For many companies this is a time to pause and consider whether to change ERP horses. Questions to ask include: Is our current on-premise system available in the Cloud? If yes, is the functionality of the Cloud version equivalent (or better)? What variant of Cloud ERP architecture and licensing model would suit us best? Is this a good opportunity to re-visit our main business processes (this could be mandatory with some Cloud ERP systems)?

2. Hybrid Requirements

A typical example of this is with manufacturers and deployment of shop floor systems (e.g. production control) to the Cloud. Important questions to ask include:

How will the company integrate shop-floor data gathering and production control systems into the ‘new’ ERP? Is it feasible even if it is affordable?

As Gartner (2014) phrases it:

…organizations will need to plan for a hybrid ERP environment where the core on-premises functionality will be augmented by a number of specialist applications targeted at specific, user-centric processes that do not fall within the boundary of the core ERP system, many of which will be deployed in the cloud’.

Compared with other industries, fewer cloud ERP options are available for manufacturing organisations that support deep and wide industry-specific manufacturing capabilities. There are many well-established ERP solutions with good industry functionality for midsize and large organizations. Many of these vendors either already offer, or will soon offer, cloud-based delivery of their solutions.


2. Customization


How will your existing customizations be moved to the new deployment? What happens to them in a change to a SaaS platform – will they have to be dropped or will business processes have to be changed to fit the ‘standard software’ corset? Is such a change really feasible?

3. Change Management

The implementation of ERP in the Cloud requires real investment in change management. The cultural change impact (not least that of a potential downsizing of the IT department) must not be underestimated.

4. User Onboarding and Training

Delivering effective training is always an issue, but especially so in this case. Underinvestment in this activity is a fatal mistake, but many companies make it. Companies see training as money lost when employees leave. How can employers square this circle?

Note: Even if the key challenges of Architecture/Licensing, Hybridization and Customization are manageable, the issue of User Onboarding (within the overall context of Change Management) remains the final key to success. We look at this in more detail in the next section.

5. Data Security in Cloud ERP – a Concern but not a Challenge

This is a major concern for all enterprises, and the Cloud conjures up a vision of even higher risk levels. This perception of a higher risk level is, in general, off the mark. In fact, there is credible evidence that putting your data on one of the leading Cloud platforms (such as Amazon Web Services) offers a higher degree of data security than you could enable in-house. After all, governments use commercial Cloud services. Therefore, we do not classify it as a challenge though it is certainly a concern.

So – What Should We Do In Light of the Challenges Listed Above?

A company must first carry out a feasibility study and establish a range of acceptable solution options bearing in mind the issue of hybridization. Then move to the RFP process which should include a customizations list with potential suppliers responding to each functional requirement in turn.

Prepare the troops well in advance, starting even before the ERP migration/procurement process. Make a senior manager responsible for Change Management and identify Change Champions. Develop clear messages to engage users. Don’t forget to make sure that budgets for user onboarding are adequate and protected.

Finally, invest in durable on-boarding and training toolsets – this will ensure that training capital is preserved and carried in a system repository and not in heads of the staff.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Boaz Amidor

Three Factors For Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Three Factors For Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

A few weeks ago I visited the global headquarters of a large multi-national company to discuss cloud strategy with the CIO. I arrived 30 minutes early and took a tour of the area where the marketing team showcased their award winning brands. I was impressed by the digital marketing strategy and the way they were clearly leveraging the world of social, mobile analytics and cloud. So I mentioned to our account manager, who was accompanying me on the tour, that I would compliment the CIO on this when I saw her. “Oh I wouldn’t if I were you,” he replied. “This was all done without the IT department’s involvement. They are working on our legacy ERP implementation, not this new stuff.”

On the one hand, this is impressive as it illustrates what can be done by lines of business with today’s new cloud capabilities. But on the other hand it also shows the widening gulf between the role of the CIO and the business when it comes to digital transformation. Marketing department cloud projects are fine but at some point security and compliance concerns have to be addressed across the whole company. In addition, CIOs do need to be involved so they can protect their company’s data and utilize the in house IT infrastructure to maximum effect in a hybrid cloud model.


What CIOs need is the flexibility to deploy resources and applications on an “as a service” basis built around the right hybrid cloud strategy that co-exists with their legacy application investments. So what’s the best solution? It’s not just a case of looking for the “best” cloud. Instead, they should first develop a cloud sourcing strategy specifically for their organization; one that offers the best user experience and allows the company to be responsive to market conditions.

In an era where IT budgets are becoming decentralized and CIOs are faced with the growing shortage of skilled IT workers, it can feel like a daunting task to create a cloud sourcing strategy. Even so, it’s critical to business success because it means making the best use of your resources today while allowing the flexibility and agility to quickly adapt to the changes of tomorrow. In the face of evolving cloud technologies and consumption models for services and applications, being ahead of your peers in terms of strategic cloud adoption can be the difference between leading your industry and participating in it.

For your cloud strategy, consider a three phased approach: first get grounded in understanding how your company is using cloud today and needs to use it in the future, then leverage that knowledge to better understand what you want to achieve through the cloud, and finally make sure your choices are setting you up for the future. Doing so will put you on the path to cloud success.

1. Understand Your Current Infrastructure

As the saying goes, you have to know where you’re coming from in order to know where you’re going. And understanding what cloud services are in place at the company is the first step when defining your cloud strategy. Most companies that conduct an investigation into their company’s cloud consumption find at least 10 times more unsanctioned or “Shadow IT” applications than they estimated. In addition, only a small fraction of the data stored in those applications is encrypted and secure.

Discovering which cloud services the organization adopted without IT’s input is an excellent opportunity to start conversations with your business peers about their needs. It’s a good time to understand why they didn’t involve IT when they adopted new services and applications. An open discussion not only helps the CIO understand any issues to be addressed within IT (such as “Is IT not deploying apps and services quickly enough?” or “Are there too many restrictions when adopting new cloud-based services?”) but also offers an opportunity to discuss the potential security risks certain cloud services can introduce into the infrastructure, the financial implications when cloud spend is not managed centrally, and the potential for data to be lost should a provider abruptly cease to be in business.

Having this open and collaborative discourse will help you become a partner to the business, a broker of capabilities, and an innovation resource for your peers. Developing relationships with line-of-business decision-makers should be a personal goal for every CIO, encouraging them to turn to IT, not outside vendors, to deliver technical capabilities. The end result is business agility with limited security risks.

2. Maximize Your Choices When Designing the Right Cloud Sourcing Strategy

To optimize cloud effectiveness, CIOs should focus on a sourcing strategy that delivers the flexibility to meet business needs and the agility to quickly adapt to an evolving business landscape. In doing so, they are faced with the classic decision of “Build vs. Buy.” The key to creating the best solution is understanding that there is freedom to choose “Build or Buy” as well as “Build and Buy.” This flexibility enables a CIO to truly harness the cloud’s potential.

For example, a hybrid-ready private cloud can be a highly effective “Build and Buy” choice, provided the hybrid cloud solution is able to extend the benefits of the private cloud (i.e. management, security, pool of in-house skill sets) to the public cloud resources. With such a solution, a hybrid-ready private cloud offers CIOs control of their environment and the flexibility to utilize public cloud resources as necessary.

The most innovative as-a-service (aaS) options offer CIOs a way to complement their existing resources without additional capital expenditures while freeing up staff time to focus on strategy business initiatives. CIOs should be able to choose from an extensive aaS catalog with global reach.

A successful cloud sourcing strategy will help the IT team address the holistic needs of the business by choosing the right mix of private, hybrid, and public cloud services that will foster innovation, enhance business agility, minimize risks, and improve cost efficiencies.

3. Plan for the Future

Cloud implementations must address immediate needs but a successful cloud strategy must be flexible enough to respond to rapidly changing business conditions.

By 2020, there will be more than 50 billion devices and objects connected through the Internet of Things and the Internet of Everything (IoE). With this and similar trends in mind, CIOs must anticipate how this will impact their business in terms of cost, security, customer expectations, speed of execution, and the ability to quickly adapt. A successful cloud strategy should not lead to an architectural and, subsequently, a business “dead end” where choices are severely limited (whether by lack of open-standards or by vendor constraints), control is sacrificed, and positive business impacts are minimized. Instead, the strategy should establish a foundation to keep pace with evolving technology trends and business requirements.

As valued partners of business units, CIOs can align business and IT objectives by driving a thoughtfully crafted cloud strategy.

With cloud, CIOs are faced with the unique business opportunity to navigate the evolving IT and business landscapes to help the business innovate, differentiate and succeed. With concerns about management, visibility, and control, cloud can present a challenging environment, but that makes the commitment to building the right cloud strategy over transactional decisions even more critical. With a deliberate approach to gaining new insights into the infrastructure and the business, maximizing the choices when it comes to matching the right cloud solutions to the right business needs, and establishing the right foundation for the future, CIOs can lead their organizations toward new capabilities, new customers and new experiences, with all of the control and choices they desire.

By Nick Earle

Better Service Thanks To Big Data

Better Service Thanks To Big Data

Better Service Thanks to Big Data

Customer service has gone beyond the days of a warm smile and a kind word. E-commerce has changed things radically and social media platforms are giving consumers ready access to competitors. It all comes down to the incredible amount of leverage the customer now has. Companies need to be able to not just respond to customer needs, but also in some cases try to predict what those demands will be. This is where big data assists customer service efforts.

Numbers are a Crystal Ball

Companies are now starting to gather huge amounts of data on customers. Any number of sites have analytics to help determine what customer desires and needs are. These statistics are used to more accurately predict trends and where the products should be best promoted. Part of customer service is to recommend items that the customer may want to consider. Amazon does that all the time. Whenever person makes a purchase on Amazon they get an indication of what other people are buying in the same category.

Big Data Helps Ease the Pain

Past experience can help deliver the right solutions. If a company records customer complaints properly and surveys the audience carefully, they can come up with enormous amounts of information about possible problems. Identifying the problems with the help of big data allows the opportunity to create solutions. Delta Airlines has been able to develop ways of finding lost baggage because of the data they mined.


Big data also helps identify the favorite communication channel of customers. In the case of a repair call for example, a company can alert the customer by telephone, email, or text message, letting that person know when the technician is going to arrive. It is also possible to let the customer know where he or she is in the line waiting for service. This means that the customer does not have to do follow-up calls to find out if and when service is going to be available. It helps make the entire experience a delight and that is the core principle of quality customer service.

Making It All a Delight

This may sound a bit cheesy but needs to be taken seriously. Customers do not want hassles and companies like Comcast have suffered because of very poor interaction with customers. The consumer does not want to hear customer service representatives repeat identical information or show confusion over the use of the product. Big data helps emphasize customer convenience. The knowledge about customer preferences allows for the crafting of solutions that are quick and effective. Consumers can be very pleasantly surprised when a number of options are provided. Expecting long waits and confused responses the consumer is pleasantly caught off guard. It helps not just by developing repeat business and also cultivating favorable word-of-mouth. Good customer service is party conversation for a lot of people. That can do wonders for brand awareness and appreciation.

Building relationships is important and the numbers crunching gives some ideas. Banks have used information supplied by customers to determine the use of mobile or online banking; whether these are better than ATMs. What is happening is that as banks look to the big data they are thinking less of the product they want to provide and what the customer truly needs. Given the major problems banks and financial institutions have had the last few years, effective use of big data is helping restore confidence with the public by means of better customer service.

The use of all the statistics is taking the guesswork out of customer service. Companies can have a better understanding of the customer base and what the public wants. It is important that data be shared between departments; marketing and customer service need to understand what each other is doing. The use of big data will be driving a lot of customer service initiatives in the coming years. Business is moving towards the concept of enhancing customer experience and big data is helping ease the way.

By Sameer Bhatia

Cloud Infographic – How Much Do You Really Know About The Cloud?

Cloud Infographic – How Much Do You Really Know About The Cloud?

How Much Do You Really Know About The Cloud?

As you probably know by now, Cloud Computing is having a huge impact on businesses all over the world – SME’s and large corporations alike. Here are some facts about the cloud that you might not know, according to an infographic from QuoteColo:

  • Most executives and decision makers use cloud services for their businesses
  • 75% of report service availability improved after moving to the cloud
  • 94% of businesses say their security has improved since adopting cloud applications
  • Key Cloud App usage includes collaboration, file sharing, business productivity, CRM and marketing

Cloud computing continues to innovate and help businesses improve their product or service for their customers. Security concerns appear to be the main roadblock for many businesses reluctant to move to the cloud. Which would seem to be contradictory, as so many businesses report improved security since moving to the cloud. Since 2010, cloud computing has gone from about a $75 billion industry to one of over $150 billion in 2014, with potential to reach over $200 billion by 2016. That is some huge growth in a few short years.


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How The CFAA Ruling Affects Individuals And Password-Sharing

How The CFAA Ruling Affects Individuals And Password-Sharing

Individuals and Password-Sharing With the 1980s came the explosion of computing. In 1980, the Commodore ushered in the advent of home computing. Time magazine declared 1982 was “The Year of the Computer.” By 1983, there were an estimated 10 million personal computers in the United States alone. As soon as computers became popular, the federal government…

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart Change-Induced Network Outages and Breaches

How Formal Verification Can Thwart  Breaches Formal verification is not a new concept. In a nutshell, the process uses sophisticated math to prove or disprove whether a system achieves its desired functional specifications. It is employed by organizations that build products that absolutely cannot fail. One of the reasons NASA rovers are still roaming Mars…


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