Category Archives: Technology

The Importance of Password Management – Do the Eyes have it?

The Importance of Password Management – Do the Eyes have it?

The Importance of Password Management

One of the main drawbacks to the borderless space that comprises the cloud is that of security. Recent breaches such as Heartbleed, Target and Home Depot demonstrate that crucial data – the passwords and PINs that keep the bad guys away from our money and information, need constant vigilance and upkeep, primarily in terms of keeping passwords complicated and unique.

For many, this becomes too much work, which is why the most common passwords, such as 123456 are still heavily used.

The importance of security has always been paramount, but is about to become a whole lot more critical as the Internet of Things opens the world of data up from simply PCs and phones to refrigerators, baby monitors, home automation systems and much more. With each of these items able to talk to each other across a common platform, any one simple misappropriated password attached to one device becomes the entryway that can infect an entire system, much like the hugely complex human body can be brought down by a single insect bite or infected needle.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) recently released a list of the top ten security weaknesses of the Internet of Things, which included Insecure Web Interface, Insufficient Authentication/Authorization, Lack of Transport Encryption, Insufficient Security Configurability, and Poor Physical Security.

One company that seeks to change this is Eyelock, a New York City-based company whose new product, Myris, promises to deliver secure access literally in the blink of an eye. It sells an inexpensive device that consists essentially of a mirror and a camera to read the unique pattern of a person’s iris, and can do so even if the individual is wearing glasses. Eyelock’s people state that the application can also distinguish between a real eye and a picture of an eye.

eyelock

Iris and retina readers are the newest and most James Bond-like of security devices, but just below them on the glamour scale rests another concept, that of the online password keeper. Applications such as LastPass not only remember all the passwords that a user might have for his/her many applications and websites, but also generates highly complex ones consisting of numbers, letters and symbols. The idea behind LastPass is that the only password needed from this point on is the one that opens up the LastPass application itself.

Such sophisticated approaches to defending data are only as strong as the weakest link, which, as always, is the human user. From the overly simple (123456, qwerty and the actual word “password” topped the Huffington Post’s annual ranking of bad passwords for 2013), through to sloppy human usage – leaving a browser open, leaving passwords written down, or forgetting to log off – human actions will always be the ones that will leave a computer – and every single device that the computer can talk to – open and exposed.

Literacy, in the age of the Internet of Things is about information management, and this includes protection of that information.

By Steve Prentice

5 Things to Consider When Building Business Apps in a Hybrid Environment

5 Things to Consider When Building Business Apps in a Hybrid Environment

Business Apps in a Hybrid Environment

Cloud computing has hit its stride; it has become a part of IT strategies across the globe, and the benefits of turning to a hosted environment can’t be ignored. But it often seems like companies are viewing their options as “go cloud, or go home,” rather than thinking strategically about their needs as an organization. While it’s important to embrace emerging technology and strive to modernize operations, this view of cloud is simply not realistic for most organizations.

Typically, cloud offerings are simpler in structure and less feature-rich. However, they’re also much easier to use, and offer scalable and flexible environments that can be tailored for an organization’s specific needs. This seems to resonate well with business buyers, as cloud offerings provide the necessary functionality without the obligation of investing in add-ons and extra features businesses don’t need. Users get the tool they need—and can use–when they need it.

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(Image Source: Shutterstock)

But, even with the numerous benefits of the cloud, it’s not a silver bullet solution for most organizations. Today’s dynamic environment often requires a combination of on-premise platforms and cloud-based solutions to meet the complex needs of the enterprise. Often, the right answer is a hybrid environment that enables organizations to build business applications on the fly, across the enterprise, while reserving on premise solutions for areas of the business, like security for example, that may not be a fit for the benefits of a virtual infrastructure.

Turning more specifically to application development, deploying applications in the cloud is helping make solutions by end-uses and for end-users easier than ever. But when legacy systems or governance and regulatory requirements restrict business data to live in the cloud, end users can find themselves up a creek without a paddle. This is where the promise of hybrid environments that are able to connect back to the on-premise world makes an impact. In a world where users can build and bring their own apps in the cloud and, as a key driver to make that a success is the ability to securely reach back to the business IP that’s locked up in on-premise and legacy systems.

5 Things To Consider

With that in mind, here are five things to consider when building business applications for a hybrid environment:

1. Less can be more. In general, enterprise applications should be kept simple and easy to use, but this is especially true when information needs to go to and from environments. Consider a no-download, no-install, no-code required environment that is directly connected to line of business data. Eliminating the need to lobby the IT department will spell a win for everyone involved: IT, end users and ultimately the business.

2. Accessibility. Applications have become a primary way people access information across devices, both inside and outside of the office. At last count, there are more than 1.2M apps available from Apple and more than 1.3M from Google, according to the companies respectively. Bring Your Own App (BYOA) trends are changing the way we do business as employees take matters into their own hands. Businesses need to understand that this shift is inevitable, and provide guidance for the employees and management to responsibly embrace the trend, especially when a hybrid environment is at play.

3. Recycle. With all of these business applications at the users’ fingertips, leverage best practices from industry, users and trends to offer a new approach or resource that stands out and solves specific business challenges. Apps, dashboards and mashups are all disposable, but the real asset to be protected is the information behind them. To make the most of time and resources, provide secure and fluid access to a line of business systems and data with easy ways to create disposable apps comprised of forms, process modeling and reports. Repurpose functionality from previous iterations when possible and continuously learn from and improve upon those designs.

4. Leverage tech-savvy advocates. Some employees will embrace the cloud more than others, especially those who understand agility and have a desire to control technology. Leverage this to create a new and willing market, which enables users to quickly surface the features they need in a matter of hours or days with the help of, not in spite of, IT. To convince skeptical employees of the value, invest in an experienced strategist and champion who can help guide employees toward success, and minimize failed attempts that may discourage them from adopting new technologies.

5. Sometimes on-premise is the answer. Yes, for a lot of companies, a hybrid solution is a great idea. But not for everyone. Remember not to get caught up in “what’s hot and what’s not” when evaluating software. Every organization leverages highly valuable, and usually on premises solutions such as BPM, CRM and ERP. The trend towards cloud doesn’t’ mean you should ditch these systems or that the move has to be made at once. Instead, take responsible, progressive steps to seamlessly and securely take on-premise systems work in the cloud and on mobile, and consider ways to integrate this system via hybrid options. For software vendors with deeply entrenched interests in the existing way of doing business, it can be a painful transition to the cloud. Be prepared to have those conversations about what applications need to be in the cloud, and when an on-premise solution makes sense.

It is important to look outside of corporate confines for technology solutions that allow employees the flexibility to get their jobs done quickly and efficiently. However, many of these solutions still require access to internal systems and data, making plans for these hybrid IT scenarios critical. The outcome will provide a level of governance that keeps critical business data and systems secure, while empowering users across the organization with ways to solve their problems faster and deliver better results.

Finding a toolset or platform optimized for hybrid solutions allows IT to develop secure data connections that can be surfaced for business users to access with easy-to-use tools, allowing for rapid solution delivery while still maintaining a level of control and security.

By Koos du Preez, CTO, K2

Cloud Infographic – The Digital Doppelgängers

Cloud Infographic – The Digital Doppelgängers

The Digital Doppelgängers

Cyber crime is rampant and will continue as long as there are opportunities available to maliciously gain from the exploitation of individuals and businesses. Prevention will never be 100% foolproof, but security firms are aggressively looking for solutions in order to help minimize damage caused by the exploits of cyber criminals.

Included is an infographic provided by the group CreditExpert.co.uk which profides some interesting fast facts related to cybersecurity.

Credit Expert Data FINAL

Cloud Infographic – Cloud Service Management

Cloud Infographic – Cloud Service Management

Cloud Service Management

We have been hearing a fair bit over the past several months about field management services. This looks to be a very exciting industry as the potential is huge.

“This USD $15 billion industry has only just begun to dip its toe into the huge pool of possibility thanks to software-as-a-service, the tablet and smartphone revolution, and senior management’s recognition that service is indeed strategic.”

Provided is an infographic by ServiceMax which looks into some of those numbers.

cloud-feild-service-info

From storage to processing – the cloud’s next step?

From storage to processing – the cloud’s next step?

What is the cloud’s next step?

When speculating about where the cloud is heading next, we often think about extra security layers and how hybrid models might grow in prevalence. However, collaboration on the cloud is becoming more of a consideration as files grow.

Could the cloud’s next big step be from mostly storage to mostly processing?

Cloud computing or PaaS?

As always with commonly misunderstood areas such as the cloud, there are a host of phrases being bandied around which often mean the same thing to some people, and different things to others. When people talk of cloud computing, they could either be talking about ‘the cloud’ in general, or they could be talking about cloud processing – the act of actually collaborating on a file online, for example, through Google Docs (at its most simple). However, PaaS, a variation of SaaS, is closer to this definition.

PaaS (Platform as a Service) can be quite lightweight, but, in fact, delivers environments as a service, helping people build applications on the provider’s infrastructure. What this requires, however, is fast processing, and speedy access to data. As SIRE’s Russell Cook points out, this often doesn’t give a good user experience, and people tend to make local copies that are then uploaded to the cloud in order to save time.

Equally, that provokes cost considerations – high fluctuations in cost due to unknown factors can be detrimental.

The rapid evolution of cloud processing

Basic cloud collaboration has taken off significantly of late, with simple collaboration software providers giving a single point of access for document sharing and collaboration within or outside of the company. Even the age-old Lotus Notes (now IBM Notes) has been transformed into a social collaboration tool worthy of an intranet or external customer-facing piece of software.

This is easy enough with light files such as Word documents, but where it develops in complexity is when heavy files such as raw images are handled over the cloud, requiring significant processing power, as well as a guarantee of up-time during the processing which can be lengthy.

This isn’t too far – Pics.io is one of the first online photo editors in the cloud, allowing photographers to edit their images in a browser. Again, it’s raw (no pun intended), and the technology isn’t yet fully ready, but this shows us the direction cloud computing is going – we’re moving rapidly from storage of files, held locally and uploaded to the cloud – to files exclusively held on the cloud and maintained, evolved and completed on the cloud.

The underlying problem is the processing power and the challenge to come is how to price this reasonably. Once we see these two challenges fade into the distance, the cloud will have taken its next significant step forward – a true collaborative cloud, if you will.

By Gareth Cartman

Minimizing Downtime During Mergers & Acquisitions

Minimizing Downtime During Mergers & Acquisitions

Minimizing Downtime

As economic conditions gradually improve, North American companies are starting to recover their confidence, and are looking beyond mere survival. A recent survey by KPMG focusing on mergers and acquisitions demonstrated cautious optimism, with 21 per cent of companies planning to initiate at least one acquisition this year, and 16 per cent planning for at least two.

The survey outlines a number of criteria that companies would seek before feeling confident enough to initiate an acquisition. The single most important factor, according to 38% of respondents, was a well-executed integration plan, and it is in this respect that cloud-based phone service can provide significant benefits during the often-frenzied transition process.

downtime-call

Importance of Reliability and Continuity

During a merger or acquisition, reliability and continuity of communications are key. Onsite systems cannot provide the same level of redundancy as a cloud-based service because they are by nature confined to a single physical location. Cloud-base phone service offers a continent-wide network of independent data centers, delivering redundancy improved by orders of magnitude. If your company has a legacy communications system, and is on the verge of becoming an acquirer (or acquire-e), try to position the move to the cloud underway now.

Merging Multiple Locations

What about a scenario in which the company has multiple physical locations, all of which must be merged into a unified service plan under a new corporate umbrella? Cloud-based providers use the concept of “locations,” and each account can have multiple locations under it. All extensions within the account can directly call each other, with no need to dial outside numbers and no long-distance costs. Physical location becomes irrelevant under such a scheme; the service sees all extensions as “belonging” to the same entity. Managers can then view and control all extensions from a single, intuitive web portal.

Staff may also change roles as part of a merger or acquisition, or even shift from one physical location to another. During that transition time, client service must continue to operate in a responsive manner, and call queues are an excellent tool. These structures allow managers to assign any number of agents – again, regardless of their physical location – to a given queue, such as Sales, Support or Billing. If an agent in the queue isn’t available during the transition period, the call will roll to alternative agents, with options to continue ringing into different queues or even to outside devices such as smartphones.

Streamline Processes Post Merger

Looking ahead to the period immediately after a transition, it is often the case that new management searches for ways to streamline company processes and workflow. Cloud-based service offers a solution set that can be closely tailored to the industry or niche in question. The KPMG survey reveals that some of the primary targets for acquisition include companies in the technology, media and healthcare. Taking these verticals as examples, cloud-based phone service provides direct smartphone integration, for technology professionals who are rarely tied to a desk, offer on-demand, large-scale conference call solutions for media companies discussing PR strategies with clients and allow for HIPAA-automatic compliant call recordings at healthcare offices.
Growth-oriented companies know that there are already enough moving pieces to worry about in an acquisition or merger. Ensuring that communications systems are built for the company’s needs – both immediate and foreseeable – is just good business.

adam-simpsonBy Adam Simpson

Adam is the CEO and co-founder of Easy Office Phone where he oversees the creation of new sales channels including a North American Dealer Program, plays a leading role in software development, manages the company’s network infrastructure, and builds dedicated teams of sales, support and engineering staff. Under Simpson’s leadership, Easy Office Phone has grown rapidly and steadily into a highly respected provider of Hosted PBX service to clients throughout Canada and North America since its launch in 2005.

The Most Powerful Free Cloudware Tools Available to Modern Businesses

The Most Powerful Free Cloudware Tools Available to Modern Businesses

5 Essential Cloud Tools for Your Innovative Business

Why these cloudware tools are a must for any modern business

Smart business owners are always on the lookout for ways to save money. One of the best ways is capitalising on some of the best free cloudware tools available to businesses. Sixty percent of small and medium enterprises are already using cloud-based tools. The cloud has made it even easier to store and access files, across locations and on a variety of platforms. You can even collaborate and share documents and photos with clients and colleagues. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend a fortune on clever cloud tools. We’ve collected what we believe are the top five must-have cloudware tools for any modern entrepreneur.

Read on to find out how these apps can grow your business, all for free.

LinkedIn

If you’re not using LinkedIn, you’re missing a massive trick. Not only is it a great way to find out a little bit of background on potential customers, but you can also keep up to date with news from your industry in the ‘Pulse’ newsfeed.

Endorse your peers for skills and encourage others to do the same for you. If possible, get recommendations from ex-colleagues and clients too. LinkedIn works like an online CV, so having social proof that you do what you say you can do is paramount for building new client relationships and growing your status as an industry expert.

Connect with thought leaders and professionals in the many forums and participate in discussions and debates. Having a LinkedIn profile makes you look like a serious business professional, just make sure your photo is business-appropriate.

Dropbox

Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud-based file storage solutions. Create a folder on your desktop that syncs with an online cloud folder. You can access files in this folder from any device, using your Dropbox account. Dropbox allows you to edit documents, play videos or share photos, from any device.

Dropbox offers 2GB of free storage space, but if you refer friends, you can earn a further 16GB of additional online space.

Your files are safe and secure with two-step verification and 256-bit AES encryption.

Gmail

Gmail is the go-to free email service for businesses around the world. Not only is it fully customisable and offers decent tagging and filing options for messages, it also offers 10GB of storage space. You can prioritise incoming messages and manage mail with promotional and social tabs. Take advantage of Gmail’s Boomerang system and schedule emails to be sent out whenever you want. This is perfect for dealing with clients overseas who may prefer you to email during business hours (local time).

Zoho

Zoho is a free CRM system for up to three different users, making it idea for start-ups testing the water with CRM systems. You can keep up to date with ongoing sales projects and easily find out your customer’s history. You can even find out competitor information. The dashboard is your hub for sales analysis and reporting, and you also have the option of linking with your customer’s social media channels.

The free Zoho edition also offers unlimited cases and unlimited contacts.

Mavenlink

Manage your tasks and projects properly with Mavenlink, the project management software system that combines software and services into one powerful system. Advanced project management, resource planning, collaboration and finance management services are brought together so that you can keep tabs on every area of your business. Mavenlink offers excellent customer service, including 24 hour live chat, where you’re unlikely to have to wait more than a minute to speak to a human to ask for help.

In a world where many CRM systems offer similar tools, providing a robust and reliable customer support service is a strong selling point. A client is four times more likely to switch to a competitor if they have a problem with customer service.

Many of these free cloudware tools offer an upgrade option. This gives you further access to more functionality and tools. Experimenting with a free version of a cloud-based app is a great way to find out if it suits your needs and is a good fit for your business.

By Gary Gould

How To Define The Internet of Things – Security First

How To Define The Internet of Things – Security First

Define The Internet of Things

Given the amount of prose dedicated to the internet of things, it would hardly be foolish to assume that the term is well-defined and well-understood. In reality the opposite is true – professors, tech companies, the media, and individual blogs all disagree on what exactly falls under the umbrella of internet of things.

The problem seems to be that until recently, the internet of things was a relatively niche area. Its gadgets hadn’t yet become mainstream and ubiquitous, all-compassing connectivity was nothing but a glint in the eye of tech giants. However, today the term has become incredibly broad. It includes everything from Apple’s smart watch to city planning and from airport technology to health monitoring. It’s so broad that almost any internet-connected device can reasonably claim to be part of it.

The problem is comparable to that faced by cloud computing five years ago. At the time, the term ‘the cloud’ seemingly referred to everything stored online in some way – as if the entire cloud was one single model. As the market developed and matured, and the adoption of the cloud became increasingly widespread by personal and business users, a more refined set of terminology developed. Today it has been broken down into a number of subsets – for example, PaaS, SaaS, IaaS, etc.

As the internet of things sector matures and the industry develops, we will no longer be able to bundle all these very different things under one generic umbrella term. Much like ‘cloud’ or ‘big data’ in the past, it’s incredibly overused, and to some degree, almost too vague to be useful.

Security

The answer appears to be rooted in security. As with the important distinctions in cloud computing – each which requires the business using the service to negotiate a different balance between trust and control with the cloud provider – a similar set of distinctions must now be made for the internet of things.

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New Security Control Room – Milan Subway

Viappy / Shutterstock.com

After all, it is a significant challenge to establish trust and control across an enormous range of ‘things’, particularly when they are widely distributed, deployed on a scale of millions, and handle highly sensitive data. The information flowing through a network of smart ovens is very different from the information generated by a installation of earthquake detectors. Therefore, it is impossible to discuss to define the internet of things effectively without first breaking it into parts. Failure to separate the IoT into differing levels of security will lead to trying to secure all data on all devices – an impossible task.

How or what those terms may be is a job for skilled professionals – the same professionals who secure nearly every website on the planet and the payment systems we use every day. The coming years should be a fascinating time.

If you’ve got any ideas about how the internet of things should be broken down we’d love to hear them – just let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

CloudTweaks Comics
Cloud Security Risks: The Top 8 According To ENISA

Cloud Security Risks: The Top 8 According To ENISA

Cloud Security Risks Does cloud security risks ever bother you? It would be weird if it didn’t. Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, but also a lot of risks if done in the wrong way. So what are the most important risks? The European Network Information Security Agency did extensive research on that, and…

Cloud Infographic – Disaster Recovery

Cloud Infographic – Disaster Recovery

Disaster Recovery Business downtime can be detrimental without a proper disaster recovery plan in place. Only 6% of businesses that experience downtime without a plan will survive long term. Less than half of all businesses that experience a disaster are likely to reopen their doors. There are many causes of data loss and downtime —…

Big Data – Top Critical Technology Trend For The Next Five Years

Big Data – Top Critical Technology Trend For The Next Five Years

Big Data Future Today’s organizations should become more collaborative, virtual, adaptive, and agile in order to be successful in complex business world. They should be able to respond to changes and market needs. Many organizations found that the valuable data they possess and how they use it can make them different than others. In fact,…

Big Data and Financial Services – Security Threat or Massive Opportunity?

Big Data and Financial Services – Security Threat or Massive Opportunity?

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Infographic: The Evolving Internet of Things

Infographic: The Evolving Internet of Things

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Protecting Your Web Applications In A Hybrid Cloud Environment

Protecting Your Web Applications In A Hybrid Cloud Environment

Protecting Your Web Applications It’s no secret that organizations are embracing the cloud and all the benefits that it entails. Whether its cost savings, increased flexibility or enhanced productivity – businesses around the world are leveraging the cloud to scale their business and better serve their customers. They are using a variety of cloud solutions…

The Future Of Cybersecurity

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The Future of Cybersecurity In 2013, President Obama issued an Executive Order to protect critical infrastructure by establishing baseline security standards. One year later, the government announced the cybersecurity framework, a voluntary how-to guide to strengthen cybersecurity and meanwhile, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to approve the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), moving it one…

Why Hybrid Cloud Delivers Better Business Agility

Why Hybrid Cloud Delivers Better Business Agility

Why Hybrid Cloud Delivers Better Business Agility A CIO friend of mine once told me that a hybrid cloud model enables him to “own the base, rent the spike” when it comes to unplanned events. Let’s face it – maintaining unused infrastructure for rare or random IT events is expensive and unnecessary in a cloud…

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions Running a cloud server is no longer the novel trend it once was. Now, the cloud is a necessary data tier that allows employees to access vital company data and maintain productivity from anywhere in the world. But it isn’t a perfect system — security and performance issues can quickly…

Cloud Infographic: Programming Languages To Build Your Cloud

Cloud Infographic: Programming Languages To Build Your Cloud

Programming Languages What programming languages are the building blocks to help develop and facilitate these present and future cloud platforms? Where can we learn and develop these skills in order to help us build our own careers? A couple of options would be to visit sites such as Stackoverflow which can provide you with a good source of information.…

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Cloud Beacons Flying High When Apple debuted cloud beacons in 2013, analysts predicted 250 million devices capable of serving as iBeacons would be found in the wild within weeks. A few months later, estimates put the figure at just 64,000, with 15 percent confined to Apple stores. Beacons didn’t proliferate as expected, but a few…

Four Recurring Revenue Imperatives

Four Recurring Revenue Imperatives

Revenue Imperatives “Follow the money” is always a good piece of advice, but in today’s recurring revenue-driven market, “follow the customer” may be more powerful. Two recurring revenue imperatives highlight the importance of responding to, and cherishing customer interactions. Technology and competitive advantage influence the final two. If you’re part of the movement towards recurring…

Your Biggest Data Security Threat Could Be….

Your Biggest Data Security Threat Could Be….

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Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

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The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

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Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

There is a Difference – So Stop Comparing We are all familiar with the old saying “That’s like comparing apples to oranges” and though we learned this lesson during our early years we somehow seem to discount this idiom when discussing the Cloud. Specifically, IT buyers often feel justified when comparing the cost of a…

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…

The Rise Of BI Data And How To Use It Effectively

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Using Cloud Technology In The Education Industry

Using Cloud Technology In The Education Industry

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