Category Archives: Technology

Insights From AWS Reinvent: Three Steps To Ensure Cloud Propels Your Digital Business

Insights From AWS Reinvent: Three Steps To Ensure Cloud Propels Your Digital Business

Cloud Digital Business Success

It was an exhilarating experience at AWS invent, from learning about all the innovations by Amazon Web Services (AWS) through various sessions and discussing cloud monitoring and management challenges with hundreds of attendees at our booth. There has been a lot of coverage about “what” the AWS team had announced and the respective benefits.

But what are the key broader action items that you can take from the show?

Cloud Digital Business Success

Here are three of them:

Innovate first with the cloud to win:

Cloud promises more agility and operational efficiency than traditional IT. No wonder all the upcoming and disruptive startups are mostly based on the cloud. We saw several companies such as Twilio and Workday highlight how AWS enables their business to be disruptive. If you are trying to adopt the cloud in your enterprise, first identify new product or services as the initial candidates for the cloud. The new “project” is more likely to be a success since there are no risks associated with migration and the agility of the cloud would make it more likely to succeed. Getting a big win under your belt will make it easier for you to convince rest of the organization to use the cloud.

Break barriers to cloud adoption through a holistic hybrid management approach:

Once you have demonstrated success of cloud with your new project(s), you need to develop a holistic hybrid cloud and IT management approach. Let’s admit it, traditional IT is going to be around for some time. The better your cloud services can integrate and work seamlessly with your on premise resources or technologies, the easier would be cloud adoption. AWS recent partnerships with VMWare highlights how traditional vendors are working to make this happen. A hybrid approach can also help with the migration of additional resource to the cloud as you have end to end visibility and control to make the transition smoother.

Leverage end to end analytics to drive superior customer experience:

Customers and internal users today demand a relentless experience. They really don’t care about the hybrid, complex infrastructures that IT teams have to deal with. Andy Jassy talked about IT having “X-Ray vision” (AKA Analytics) as a necessity for understanding your customer needs. These analytics not only should span your cloud but also traditional infrastructure, providing insights across your entire application and infrastructure stack so you can proactively optimize experience to delight your customers.

How are you going about ensuring the successful adoption of cloud in your organization? Thoughts on using the above three strategies? Anything else I am missing? 

By Umair Khan

How Big Data Is Helping In Customer Service Environment

How Big Data Is Helping In Customer Service Environment

Customer Service Environment

Do you remember the last time you spoke to an agent over the phone seeking some help? Did you get the solution immediately or did it take some time to reach a convincing answer or solution?

The answers to these questions decide how intelligently your customer support system has been designed to face such challenges of the customer service and how effectively the customer data is being used with total focus on the customers.

The specificity in the service that is sought by an individual customer is a vital factor to maintain a good rapport of the customer service. The ability to answer such specific needs comes with a sheer understanding of the customer behavior. The existence of data is unavoidable and its importance is immense. The idea for good customer service lies in data analysis. It always helps to keep an innovative approach towards making good use of the customer data and bring corresponding changes, accordingly.

Customer data is the factor which helps to improve your services substantially and when data analysis gets involved, the behavior of the customers become more predictable. And predictability helps to manage things better. The productive insights coming from data, help to get expected results, provided the unstructured data of your company is given due worth and is utilized well.

Let’s look at the scenario in more detail and understand that how data plays a crucial role in the customer service environment.

Giving Shape To The Bulk Of Data

Data comes involuntarily on every step taken in business as well as by customer activity. This bulk of unstructured data gives many cues for innovations in the contemporary business environment. But you have to acquire the right tools to analyze this bulk of data and get meaningful results out of it. Today we have tools that help us analyze the unstructured data towards meaningful deductions. Most of the businesses are dependent on such data for better results.

So application of analytics helps you to understand patterns and trends that customers are looking for in the customer support environment.

Furthermore, intelligent data analysis also leads to powerful customer insights. A seamless customer experience is a matter of understanding the customers well and prepare a plan to respond with them effectively. The accumulated data supports and structures this plan.

Data And The CRM Strategies

A 2014 Gartner report suggested that 50% of CRM programs failed to meet client expectations. The same is true in old time as well. A company uses CRM tools to make a point that every aspect of good customer service should be taken into consideration for the best possible strategies. It also helps in taking the most efficient steps ahead of the benefits of the company.

The proliferation of the software industry and start-ups led many companies towards instant results. So most of the companies integrated CRM tools in their system without knowing that it was not on par, as the insights from data didn’t show up aptly and didn’t help to bring any meaningful changes. The supreme reason behind it was, they didn’t use the customer data effectively.

With the arrival of cloud technology, call center software came into existence and virtual call centers took shape. With specific details related to the customers that can be easily integrated into the company’s CRM, one can find an immediate solution to help the customers with much better customer support. Because the data is already there, the best one can do is, use it.

Customers differ in their interests and preferences for the same reason, it is necessary to give individual attention to the customers. While the customers avail the services they give many cues regarding, how efficient the services are and more. A data driven customer relationship management becomes crucial to maintain a sound customer support.

Individual Customer Preferences

Most of the companies have a huge bulk of unstructured data , it’s their ability to reap the benefits out of it, which decides their efficiency for purposeful customer engagement. The data that is collected to help know the customers individually and provides a medium to the service provider to restructure and redesign the services to its best potential.

Customer Service Environment

The best possible way to keep the performance of customer service high, depends on how effectively the customer choices and preferences are taken care of, by giving attention to the minute details related to the customers. By keeping an eye on the individual customers with the help of complex analysis of data, the scenario becomes more and more customer centric.

Virtual call centers have gradually turned out to be very meaningful in this stake as they work on a Call center software that uses meaningful deduction out of the data.

If the agent-customer conversation has more specific details related to the individual customers then customer specific points are brought in during the conversation that eventually lead to favorable results like sales acceleration and a better customer retention.

Data Is The Base Of Today’s Customer Service

The customer related data is the base of today’s customer service environment and because of the same reason the best ideas of the customer benefits are the ones that totally depend on the results of data that give forward-looking insights about customer service.

Virtual call center tools use the customer related data and keep the deductions applicable for the best possible solution, that too without much wastage of time. Nowadays the virtual call centers using their data effectively have tremendous competitive advantage over others who are lagging behind in the usage of data.

On a Final Note

Data is crucial and so is the way to handle it. Cloud technology is one of the best ways that has shown relevance to use this data productively. Cloud is undoubtedly the best solution for usage and retrieval of data.

Innovation depends on the results that one can rely on and these results totally depend on effective usage of data. In this current scenario, it is not affordable to miss out on the importance of big data that has great potential to face contemporary challenges, successfully.

By Kirti Khanna

Expect Open Source Security to Become a Major Focus in 2017

Expect Open Source Security to Become a Major Focus in 2017

Open Source Security

There is no doubt about it: We are living in the middle of the Digital Age.

But we didn’t get here alone. Thousands of people from all over the world have come together to develop programs, apps and software to get us where we are now. In order to maintain the level of technology that we have become accustomed to, we need the help of coders and programmers from all over to help solve problems and make changes.

When the coding community is invited to manipulate the source code of a program, it is known as open source. But what does open source really mean for your software — and your security?

Open Source vs. Closed Source

Open Source Security

(Infographic Source: Kinvey)

Behind each program you are running, there is a set of codes that allow your computers, cellphones or tablets to read. For large companies, this code is heavily protected. When a company does not allow customers or users to manipulate the code of the program, this is known as closed source.

A company may choose to keep their code secret in an effort to protect their ideas or property. They may fear a competitor stealing their code to make a similar program, or they may not want to lose control of how the program or app runs. But in keeping the code a secret, customers and users are unable to understand how it works or make changes for themselves.

On the other hand, an open source code is available for users, coders and programmers to manipulate as they see fit. For example, Vid.ly is an open source video platform and an excellent example of the benefits one offers. Another popular example is GitHub, an open source community where developers and coding fanatics can follow or create projects.

Using an open source code rather than a closed source code gives users the opportunity to solve problems for themselves or recruit coders to make necessary changes for them. Open source code also gives users the opportunity to see and understand how the program works.

But open source codes can also bring up questions of security.

Why Is Open Source Security Important?

When code is open source, anyone can make changes or view the code. There are not restrictions on who can access that information, make adjustments or pull details.

Unfortunately, this means that hackers also have access to open source codes. Does this mean that open source is less safe than closed source? Not necessarily.

Having a source code open to the public means that many individuals can look for potential areas where hackers may attack. When multiple professionals can make changes when they are needed, codes are updated more frequently. Users can also browse through the code to determine its safety and security, something they are unable to do with closed code.

As we move into 2017, open source codes are only going to become more popular. This also means that security for open source codes will continue to grow.

What Open Source Security May Look Like in 2017

While open source code is no stranger to the world of database management systems, 2017 will be the year that it truly takes off. As more companies adopt open source codes as the standard, there will also be a new focus on how to keep that code safe from hackers.

As the demand for open source code grows in 2017, so will the demand for open source security. With more companies using open source code to run their programs, it can be expected that 2017 will see an increase of attacks on open source codes. To combat this and protect users, open source security will increase as well.

With the right security measures, there’s no reason to believe that open source code is less safe than closed source. By allowing teams of coders from all over the world to find potential problems and recommend solutions, open source code may actually be safer than closed source. In 2017, we will continue to see that level of security increase as more companies focus on protecting their open source codes.

By Kayla Matthews

How Venture Capital Has Changed Online Travel Agencies and Travel-tech Start-ups

How Venture Capital Has Changed Online Travel Agencies and Travel-tech Start-ups

Venture Capital and Travel-tech Start-ups

For the last decade, investment in Online Travel Agencies and Travel-tech start-ups from Venture Capital has been on the rise. The main driving factor behind this transition towards OTA’s has been the rise of the smartphone. The computing power of smartphones has increased exponentially over the last few years, with Wired even predicting in 2015 that, by the end of this year, we could be using our smartphones as our only computer. While that still seems a way off the prediction explains the mass investment in Travel-tech start-ups, especially those who focus on a mobile platform.

Atlas Venture’s Jeff Fagnan commented that “the major driver is how easy it is, the device factor has changed travel in itself,” – noting that the ease of booking has been the central reason for the shift towards mobile devices. Consumers now have the ability to book a last minute flight, a hotel, and an Uber to and from the airport in a matter of minutes on their smartphone – a trend which is only accelerating.

Travel-tech Start-ups

Investors have rapidly moved beyond mobile digital models of traditional travel services like booking a hotel room or a flight, towards more innovative and abstract businesses and ideas. FlyteNow the private plane ride-sharing service, Fishfishme a worldwide fishing charter booking platform, and Sailogy the on-demand yacht chartering service all raised new rounds of investment at the beginning of 2014.

This onslaught of investment can also be attributed to the fact that travel is typically one of the first markets to monetize online in emerging markets. Brian O’Malley of Accel argued that the lower physical barriers in terms of established consumer base and target markets, mean that there is much more opportunity to successfully monetize traffic.

The market today for Travel-tech start-up investment is not as pretty a picture as it was 2 years previous. However, total worldwide travel start-up investment in Q3 2016 has been estimated by venture capital research firm CB Insights, to reach $3 billion – a significant drop from the record breaking $4.5 billion raised in funding in 2015. However, it has to be noted that these figures do exclude Uber, who have now raised $15 billion in equity and debt, following an injection of cash from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

The drop off in funding (if you can call it that) was somewhat unexpected, but a record breaking year is rarely followed by a subsequent record breaking year.

Katherine BarrMany investors are waiting a bit longer to see more traction in companies before they invest,” said Katherine Barr, an investor and founding partner at Wildcat Venture Partners in a July 2016 interview with Skift. She postulated that many VC firms were simply adopting a “wait and see” approach in an attempt to moderate the highly optimistic company valuations of 2015.

Matt Keezer of Momentum Ventures has long been a believer in a more marked approach to VC investment, more like the investment market we have today. Although VC investment has begun to move towards Travel-tech start-ups and away from Online Travel Agencies, there is still huge potential for profit when investments are more cautiously managed. Skyscanner, has recently been valued at £1.4 billion when VC firm Scottish Equity Partners sold one third of it’s stake to a Chinese firm for £465 million – a massive return on their 2007 investment of £9 million.

Matt Keezer has helped to invest in, and grow, Flight Hub and Justfly, two hugely successful OTA’s through smart investment and a cautious approach to investment. That said he is in the minority as Travel-tech investment has begun to move over-seas in the past few years, to emerging markets in Asia and Africa.

Venture Capital Investment and the rise to prominence of the smartphone as a booking platform, pushed investment in Online Travel Agencies and Travel-tech start-ups to incredible heights in 2015. Yet, with emerging markets becoming increasingly more stable and thus lucrative, especially in terms of travel-based investment, VC investment in the US has declined and begun to move towards these emerging markets. Investment in Online Travel Agencies and Travel-tech is unlikely to hit the wild heights of 2015 in North America again, but markets in China, Singapore, Africa, and other emerging nations, is unlikely to peak anytime soon.

By Josh Hamilton

A Resilient Cloud Strategy: Standardize or Diversify?

A Resilient Cloud Strategy: Standardize or Diversify?

A Resilient Cloud Strategy

Over the past few years, I have seen IT organizations adopt cloud in very different ways. Some organizations prefer to standardize their cloud infrastructure to drive efficiencies in their data centers. As a result, they eventually reduce the number of suppliers across their entire IT value chain. Conversely, other organizations adopt a ‘best of breed’ approach and tend to put in place complex and heterogeneous IT environments that enable them to optimize their IT infrastructure for the specific applications they need to run.

For example, a large enterprise – whose CIO recently visited our executive briefing center – runs their backend ERP system in their data centers; they rely on public cloud providers primarily for a portion of their office productivity applications. They also have multiple LoB applications running in their self-managed on-premises private cloud. Additionally, they have deployed a large portion of their customer-facing billing applications in a hosted private cloud environment managed by a large system integrator. This type of mix of environments to suite different business needs is typical in the organizations I have worked with.

As organizations continue to increase their appetite for cloud services, do we expect senior IT decision makers to increase or decrease their choice of cloud providers? We asked IDC to help us understand these trends on a global scale and we sponsored a broad cloud market research study, which was completed earlier this year. The market study highlighted important findings. 

Organizations with Advanced Cloud Strategies Use Multiple Cloud Providers

Diversify, Diversify, Diversify. I know just common sense you may think … We see this principle being applied by smart investors (they diversify their investment portfolio to better manage risk across a number of possible and unpredictable market conditions.) We also see the same principle applied when selecting suppliers (for example to increase your bargaining power.) We can all think of other examples I am sure. So you may wonder, why would we expect the thinking behind the formulation of cloud strategies to be radically different?

The use of multiple cloud providers is another hallmark of mature cloud organizations. The most mature organizations expect to be able to choose from multiple cloud providers based on location, policies, and governance principles. This was one of the key findings of the IDC study.

More interestingly, as organizations get better regarding their ability to extract maximum value from their cloud environments their appetite to consume cloud services from multiple cloud providers grows. In fact, 84% of organizations with ‘optimized’ cloud strategies expect to choose from multiple cloud providers. Similarly, organizations with more mature cloud strategies are more likely to have implemented collaborative business and IT governance to define cloud management policies and SLAs. 

The Challenge

However, multicloud environments can increase complexity. The challenge many organizations face is that of being able to manage and orchestrate that diverse portfolio of cloud-based applications. And this where we can help.

Specifically, Cisco CloudCenter™ is an application-centric hybrid cloud management platform that securely provisions infrastructure resources and deploys applications to data center, private cloud, and public cloud environments.

With our Cisco CloudCenter application-centric technology, you can:

  • Model: Quickly and easily build a cloud-independent application profile that defines the deployment and management requirements of an entire application stack.
  • Deploy: Use one click to deploy the application profile and related components and data to any data center or cloud environment.
  • Manage: Apply a wide range of application lifecycle actions to set policies to enable in-place scaling, support cross-environment bursting or high availability and disaster recovery, and stop the deployment.

Cisco CloudCenter administration and governance capabilities span applications, clouds, and users. Administrators can centrally manage cloud accounts, better control costs with financial plans, and report on use. They can also manage tenants and users and provide tag-based governance and role-based access control (RBAC). If you focus on the application, you can tailor IT services to meet the unique needs of your users. With an application-centric service model – IT stays in the loop wherever workloads are deployed.

All of this helps IT organizations pursue a well-diversified and hybrid IT strategy that includes IT as a service (ITaaS), automated DevOps or continuous delivery, temporary capacity augmentation, and permanent application migration capabilities. And if you need help navigate the multicloud maze our Cisco Cloud Professional Services portfolio can provide additional guidance and reduce your risk profile.

Originally published on November 29th, 2016

By Enrico Fuiano, Senior Solutions Marketing Manager, Cisco Cloud Marketing

Autonomous Vehicles – Are European Drivers Ready To Go Driverless?

Autonomous Vehicles – Are European Drivers Ready To Go Driverless?

Driverless Autonomous Vehicles

Technology is progressing so fast that we are able to now do things that were never thought possible. We can step inside of our cars and relax while the car drives itself. These are called autonomous vehicles (AV’s), and are certainly the future.

One of the biggest tire manufacturers on the planet, Goodyear, decided they wanted to know more about this emerging industry. They decided to collaborate with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on a study. They study would find out European’s attitudes towards driverless cars via an online survey in 11 different countries and a focus group in 4 countries.

The results of the study seem to be largely mixed. One on side, respondents believed that AV’s would likely be safer and that accidents would be lowered because most are caused by human error. However, a majority of respondents said they wouldn’t be comfortable being driven around and would want to maintain some kind of control and would worry about the car malfunctioning. Overall, it seems like people can see the benefits of driverless cars, but simply don’t know enough about them or how they would work to feel totally comfortable with relinquishing all control to the AVs.

To the General Director of the Goodyear Innovation Center, Carlos Cipollitti, the results were not too surprising:

AVs are coming. Understanding how drivers experience the road today and how they feel AVs should fit in is crucial. Goodyear is exploring some of the key areas that are shaping the future of mobility. We hope that the insights generated by this research will help all relevant stakeholders to work together towards a successful introduction of AVs.

This study was a part of the ThinkGoodMobility platform that Goodyear has. This platform is looking to the future and analyzing the relationship between cars and their drivers. It also aims to look at smart and sustainable mobility. However, the existence of AV’s is more than just a new technology, as Dr. Chris Tennant of the LSE explains:

AVs are not simply another new technology. They are emerging in an intensely social space with a wide range of factors influencing the public’s levels of openness towards them.”

Driverless Autonomous Vehicles

(Infographic Source: Goodyear/Marketwired)

The 11 countries that were included in the study were: Spain, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Serbia, France, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. Of these countries, those from the Netherlands and Italy seemed the least concerned about the possible drawbacks of AVs, while those from the Czech Republic were the most concerns. Nations such as Poland and France were on the fence as they showed some belief in the technology, but also some concern as well.

By Kale Havervold

STC Group Is Leading A Biometric Authentication Revolution

STC Group Is Leading A Biometric Authentication Revolution

Biometric Authentication

The explosion of online services that involve personal data, classified information, and the free flow of wealth around the globe has brought with it the need for innovative top-notch security systems. Sophisticated online fraudsters with access to massive resources are able to collect passwords and data, which enable them to cause massive disruptions to the way we do business today. Biometric data is increasingly viewed as the most secure method of protecting data and ensuring that the people who we are interacting with online are actually who they say they are.

Market Growth

There is no doubt that the market for speech recognition software is growing rapidly. The sector is projected to be worth just under US$10 billion by 2022, with a compound annual growth rate of 15.87%, according to market research firm, Markets and Markets. The firm cites many factors as being behind the growth, including “the growing instances of fraud in several end-user industry segments such as enterprise, healthcare, and so on and the adoption of mobile banking by several national and international banks and e-commerce retailers.

social-data

While the primary market focus at the moment is on security applications of the technology, there is a widespread expectation that speech and voice recognition software will be seamlessly integrated into the emerging Internet of Things, to facilitate interactions with appliances such as refrigerators, thermostats and vehicles.

Major companies such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft are leveraging their large customer base and neural networks to process, understand, and take decisive actions based on real-time voice inputs from the user...”

Speech recognition’s share of the market is increasing due to growing popularity of using on voice recognition instead of a text-based interface. One of the largest drivers of growth, according to the research, is the fact that mobile devices are becoming increasingly powerful and manufacturers are actively integrating speech and voice recognition technologies into them.

Fraud

One of the most intractable problems facing the industries in which the data safety comes as a top priority is the issue of fraud. Banking industry is a prime example of one. For instance, when a bank receives thousands of voice calls every day, it becomes a prime target for global fraudsters to try and access someone else’s account via the telephone. The standard security processes include asking for full Name, ID number, date of birth etc. However, that type of data can easily be hacked, stolen and used. In much the same way, the answering of secret questions is a widespread securitization method, but that too can be discovered and exploited by sophisticated algorithms.

Biometric data on the other hand is almost fool-proof. From fingerprints to eye scan to the growing field of voice recognition, biometrics are the next wave of security.

Biometric Authentication

A biometric system implemented in a bank speeds up verification process, thereby improving the quality of interaction with clients and provides world-class security in a seamless fashion. During any conversation, whether incoming or outgoing, the system starts the user check in the background as the call begins, and collects a sample of the voice data. Then it matches that data against a reference sample which it has in a database. This whole process takes only a few seconds before the results appear on the operator’s monitor, giving them the all clear to carry on with the process, or raising a red flag, which requires further investigation.

It is important to note that biometric systems mainly do not rely on language in any way, so it is still reliable if a client speaks from any device and in any language.

Ultimately, there is a very strong case for biometric software to replace the use of passwords and more traditional security methods. As the number of cases of malware or Trojans use increases, victims are targeted in ways that improve conversion rates to monetize corrupted accounts. Biometrics, and in particular voice and speech recognition, are far more secure than traditional passwords can ever be and they provide easier and simpler access for most users who struggle to remember multiple passwords over time.

The Banking Environment

Belorussian branch of Austrian group Raiffeisen represents one of the largest commercial banks in Belorussia and is one of the leading local financial institutions in terms of efficiency and profitability. Data analysis revealed that the number of voice calls the bank was receiving that required active identification was increasing every year. They took the decision to implement voice identification software that would dramatically cut the time needed to perform identification, provide excellent reliability and accuracy, and take place in the background so that clients were not even aware that they were being verified unless there was a problem.

money-big-data

Raiffeissen turned to the technology company STC to develop the software.

The CEO of the STC Group, Dmitry Dyrmovsky, explains: “A multimodal biometric authentication platform can be easily used for providing safe and secure user authentication, and at the same time decreasing the cost of remote services.”

STC’s platform called VoiceKey is at the heart of several solutions offered by the company. One of its key features is the ‘’liveness detection” technology, which makes it impossible to use photos or recordings to fake authentication. STC has also developed a programming interface for user application so that it can be integrated into various software applications for use in banking, hospitals, call centers as well as mobile applications. Anywhere that identification is key to an online process, VoiceKey can be adapted and integrated seamlessly.

One of the latest innovations developed by STC is OnePass – a multimodal biometric authentication solution based on both face and voice identification. As the service is cloud-based, it can easily be integrated into any mobile application, web service or corporate information system. High level of security, reliability and simplicity of verification process can help attract new customers, decrease the demand for offline customer services (therefore, costs), increase customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Company

STC Group is a global provider of innovative systems in high-quality recording, audio and video processing and analysis, speech synthesis and recognition and real-time, high-accuracy voice and facial biometrics solutions.

STC Group is extremely well positioned to ride this next wave of security technology, with a global footprint and solid experience that will see them at the forefront of biometrics, in both security and the internet of things, in the foreseeable future.

By Jeremy Daniel

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Is Machine Learning Making Your Data Scientists Obsolete?

Is Machine Learning Making Your Data Scientists Obsolete?

Machine Learning and Data Scientists In a recent study, almost all the businesses surveyed stated that big data analytics were fundamental to their business strategies. Although the field of computer and information research scientists is growing faster than any other occupation, the increasing applicability of data science across business sectors is leading to an exponential…

Maintaining Network Performance And Security In Hybrid Cloud Environments

Maintaining Network Performance And Security In Hybrid Cloud Environments

Hybrid Cloud Environments After several years of steady cloud adoption in the enterprise, an interesting trend has emerged: More companies are retaining their existing, on-premise IT infrastructures while also embracing the latest cloud technologies. In fact, IDC predicts markets for such hybrid cloud environments will grow from the over $25 billion global market we saw…