Category Archives: Technology

Cloud Pinup: Security Scorecard – Highly Automated, Extremely Effective

Cloud Pinup: Security Scorecard – Highly Automated, Extremely Effective

Security Scorecard

Security Scorecard offers a fresh approach to online security. Instead of just worrying about a single company’s assets, Security Scorecard’s monitoring services can keep watch over entire ecosystems, monitoring partners and even competitors to watch for vulnerabilities. The monitoring service can also help your company compare its performance with industry standards.

Security Scorecard is raising eyebrows in the industry because it offers an effective yet highly automated and unintrusive way for companies to monitor their security. The company works from the outside and uses a number of advanced algorithms and other techniques to probe for weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Once a problem is found, Security Scorecard can offer solutions and suggestions.

product-image

Security Scorecard goes way beyond the usual scanning provided by malware and anti-virus scanners. Interestingly, the service can even help company’s identify disgruntled employees, or people who are vulnerable to social engineering. This is especially noteworthy as hackers often look for human errors in order to find ways to circumvent security systems.

threats

The company has already attracted a lot of interest from investors, having raised $14.7 million dollars in funding so far. Sequoia Capital participated in the last round of funding, and managing partner Michael Goguen has already said, “Security Scorecard is on the way to becoming a great Sequoia company.” Other funders include Atlas Ventures, Boldstart, and Evolution Equity Partners.

Alex YampolskiySecurity Scorecard’s management team is also unique in that several members of its management staff were previously managing security for various online companies. CEO and cofounder Aleksandr Yampolskiy, who has a PhD from Yale in cryptology, has cited his experience managing security for Gilt Groupe, a shopping website, as one of his chief motivations for developing Security Scorecard. COO Sam Kassoumeh also served at Gilt as their head of security and led global security at Federal-Mogul. The rest of the management team is filled out with seasoned and experience professionals.

We see a lot of great companies over here at CloudTweaks, and Security Scorecard appears to be among one of the more promising security based cloud services. This company is backed with serious funding and has an experienced and diverse management team. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on Security Scorecard, its products, and its performance going forward.

(The CloudTweaks Cloud Pinup series covers some of the biggest and brightest new startups on the planet. Contact us for consideration if your company provides an innovative SaaS solution, has exceptional management and has been in business for less than 3 years.)

By Brian Brinker

The True Power And Potential Of Wearables

The True Power And Potential Of Wearables

The Power of Wearables

The potential of wearable computing for efficiency and innovation is enormous. For business leaders and CIOs, wearable technology represents an opportunity to find more intelligent solutions to real problems and to leverage these devices for the benefit of the organization. But before wearables can successfully realize these expectations, there remain basic constraints which must be overcome.

Chief among these is limited battery life, which prevents many use scenarios from being cost effective enough to put into practice. At its root the problem is a simple one: wearable devices must be as small and light as possible, but powerful batteries are large and add weight. Breaking this trade-off and extending the battery life of wearable devices is crucial to ensuring they can make headway beyond early consumer adopters and fuel innovation for business and enterprise.

wearable-charging

Device Pairing

It’s clear that, when using a smart watch or fitness tracker, some tasks are going to drain the battery more than others. With the Apple Watch, users are able to increase the battery life significantly if they make fewer calls and use fewer apps. Earlier this summer, however, researchers at Microsoft delivered a paper that introduced another way of increasing the length of time between charges. Rather than seeking to improve the battery directly, the WearDrive system works by reducing the strain on a wearable device’s power supply. In this model, a smart watch or equivalent wearable is paired with another larger device, which then takes on the most intensive tasks and operations via a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. With storage and other tasks offloaded onto the other device, the battery life of the wearable device improves and users have to make fewer compromises about the apps they use. WearDrive was tested on an Android phone and compatible device, with two devices automatically pairing whenever they’re in close proximity. The necessity to pair a wearable with another device could be seen as another constraint, but this sort of system could equally be seen as a practical way of maximizing the potential of wearable computing.

Energy Harvesting

Much of the media coverage of wearable computing is inevitably focused on consumers, with the focus on fitness trackers, smart watches and augmented reality glasses. The functionality of such devices means that they have relatively large screens and that they are generally energy intensive. (Image Source: http://wearableworld.co)

Wearable-World-Infographic

For many businesses, however, the real potential of wearable computing rests in less powerful devices. For sensors, medical implants and other similar devices, we are fast arriving at a point where it is feasible for batteries to be replaced with energy harvesting technology that draws energy from ambient light, heat and movement. While there may not be a kinetic smart watch, the integration of energy harvesting technology could well make up part of a larger package for improving battery performance. This technology looks set to become increasingly commonplace as the Internet of Things takes shape; indeed, it seems ready-made for data harvesting devices designed to send and track specific information, whether for fitness, medical or business purposes.

wireless

Wireless Charging

The convenience of wireless charging solutions for enterprise and consumer use has seen it attract a good deal of investment. From Samsung’s Wireless Charging Pad to the new Smart Connector for the iPad Pro, it’s apparent that there is an element of competitive advantage to be gained here. Wireless charging is popular with consumers because it’s perceived to be more convenient than having to use cable connectors which often break or are easily lost. For wearables, wireless charging solutions still face the same problems as wired alternatives, and at present many of those being produced by Texas Instruments and others are better suited to less power-hungry devices. But, particularly for smart watches, there is still benefit in the greater flexibility afforded by wireless charging. The Moto 360 smart watch, for example, can work with any Qi charging base, thereby harnessing the potential for interoperability afforded by wireless charging. For CIOs considering ways of integrating wearables into BYOD and device management policies, Qi charging bases could help to facilitate this.

For wearable computing to make its mark on innovation and efficiency, businesses will have to find ways of overcoming the current constraints in battery life. In the absence of a silver bullet, any solution will have to be based on a holistic approach that combines better battery technology, smarter power management, wireless charging and energy harvesting. In this way, organizations should be able to better explore the value and potential of wearable devices.

By George Foot

Cloud Infographic: Getting Productive With The Cloud & More

Cloud Infographic: Getting Productive With The Cloud & More

Getting Productive With The Cloud & More

The world is a competitive place, there’s no doubt about that. Companies across the globe have to compete with one another, and if a company isn’t as productive or efficient as it could be, the risks of going out of business are very high. Productive companies are rewarded while unproductive companies are driven out of business. That’s how markets work, and that’s why human civilization has progressed so much over the last century.

Creating an efficient work place is a necessity as this infographic shows (via Entrepreneur.com), there are a lot of things that you can do to make your workplace more productive.

cloud-office

Unsurprisingly, cloud computing was found to be one of the most effective ways to increase the productivity and outcomes of companies. In one survey, 69 percent of senior IT professionals reported that cloud computing increase productivity, while 63 percent saw a reduction in costs. With more and more companies tapping into the growth potential of cloud computing, getting on the cloud if all but essential for just about every company.

Other tech tools, such as dual monitors can also result in huge increases in productivity. One study found that dual monitors could increase productivity by anywhere between 9 to 50 percent. Giving workers laptops, which allow them to work on the go or remotely, can result in a 100 hour increase in productivity per year. Couple that laptop with the cloud and you’ll likely see an even greater increase.

Another thing you should consider are the physical attributes of your workplace. For example, the perfect office temperature is about 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit (21/22 Celsius) and each degree deviation from this ideal results in a .3 to .4% drop in productivity! Outdoor views can also increase productivity. You might think that people would be distracted by the sights, but in fact one study found that those with the best outdoor views performed 10 to 16% better than those without any view at all.

Interestingly, people are at their peak mental capabilities right around the middle of the work day, with mental capacities increasing at about 11 a.m. and dropping off around 2 to 3 p.m. Given this, you should avoid the most mentally strenuous acts during the early mornings and late afternoons.

Other things like giving employees ownership, and using company resources to develop their skills and can also increase productivity. So too can good leadership skills, such as leading by example, being approachable, and setting realistic deadlines. There are tons of things tech managers and company leaders can do to increase productivity, so make sure you consider all of the options!

By Brian Brinker

5 Ways The Latest Cloud Tools Can Help Increase Sales

5 Ways The Latest Cloud Tools Can Help Increase Sales

Cloud Tools Can Help Increase Sales

How new cloud technology can help you source, manage and close more leads. We take a look at how you can use cloud software to boost your sales team’s productivity and clinch more of those all-important deals!

Selling and Marketing is integral to every business and a company’s sales team is undoubtedly crucial to its success. Often sales processes are disjointed and individual salespersons work to their own agenda; fierce competition usually means that the best sellers keep their methods close to their chest. This makes the task of tracking and optimizing processes difficult for managers.

However, new developments in cloud based software are providing sales teams with some innovative solutions that can dramatically improve processes and subsequently help sales departments close more deals! In 2013, Gene Marks, writing for Forbes, concluded that cloud services were too expensive for small businesses, but prices are coming down as the marketplace becomes more competitive and infrastructure relatively cheaper.

Manage relationships better

CRM

A good cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) platform allows employees to quickly access and share customer details, improving the flow of information within a sales team. Keeping CRM systems updated reduces time wasted chasing down client contact information. Often new customer leads are lost in email archives, or worse, on scraps of paper, but a good sales team manager should ensure that all leads and customer information are added to the CRM database so they can be easily accessed by everyone.

Cloud based CRM software provide instant access to customer information. The benefit of opting for a cloud based system rather than building an in-house database is that the CRM system is accessed over the internet. This means that the field sales team can access and update information using their smartphones or laptops, regardless of where they are. Many CRM solutions provide apps for Apple and Android devices that allow details to be updated even when a roaming internet connection is not available; the info is then synced when the device next links up to the web.

Task management

A team that works together will always achieve greater success. Cloud-based project management software allows managers to delegate certain jobs to staff and track their performance. Tasks can be assigned, deadlines set, and progress recorded by any member of the team.

Most importantly, tasks are not forgotten. If somebody is away from the office on a day they had planned a follow-up call for a big prospect, another team member can step in to close the deal.

Performance management

high-performance-management

A sales team leader needs to know that each member of their team are pulling their weight and bringing in new deals. Cloud based planning tools allow managers to track results in real time (so long as the sales team keep the tools updated). Transparent platforms that allow all team members to view each other’s progress can make sales staff more competitive and eager to sell more. SalesForce is one of the leading sales management solutions, and they have also moved all of their services to the cloud.

Channel your best resources

Some sales staff will outperform their colleagues at different times. Cloud sales systems such as PipeDrive and Zoho allow managers to monitor sales results and delegate the best sales people to the most important deals.

Ensuring that each employee to working to their strengths will help forge better relationships with clients and ultimately boost your sales figures.

Staff performance management is a key feature of many sales tools; it takes the guess work out of determining which team member is the best and determines which employees are meeting their performance targets (and, of course, who is failing).

Real-time reports

Sales is an incredibly dynamic area of business. In the past managers would often rely on monthly reports prepared by office assistants that detailed how well each salesperson performed. This system meant that decisions were reactive. Real-time reporting delivers a constant stream of sales data that can be used to proactively adjust strategies to take advantage of new opportunities and identify bottlenecks in the sales process.

Cloud systems are rapidly moving from data storage to complex data analysis and reporting, which is providing new challenges for IT support services, who are having to adopt new solutions and implement more complex networks, while also keeping costs to a minimum to attract SMEs. This is good news for businesses, providing them with invaluable data to help improve processes, optimise strategies and gain a competitive edge.

Cloud-based CRM, sales and project management platforms are helping businesses to grow faster in a crowded market, making them a crucial investment for any organisation that wants to develop a competitive edge in their sector.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Gary Gould 

Cloud Pinup: DoorDash – SaaS Restaurant Delivery

Cloud Pinup: DoorDash – SaaS Restaurant Delivery

DoorDash – SaaS Restaurant Delivery

People love eating out. One of the most observable trends over the last few decades has been the increased propensity for people to head out to dinner, rather than cooking at home. Fact is, people are busy and cooking can be a huge hassle. Not only do you have to cook, but ingredients need to be purchased and dishes have to be cleaned. Sometimes, even eating out can be a hassle. Perhaps you had a long day at work or are feeling a little under the weather. You don’t feel like cooking, and at the same time you don’t feel like going out to eat. In the past this often meant throwing something in the microwave or having a pizza delivered.

door-dash

Luckily, the cloud is providing an ever increasing number of SaaS restaurant delivery app options with sites such as Justeat, Grubhub, UberEats and now with DoorDash. With DoorDash, you can now have premium restaurant cooked meals delivered right to your door. The service is currently available in numerous cities and regions across the United States, including Silicon Valley, Manhattan, Houston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. DoorDash is also rapidly expanding, so if their service isn’t available in your area yet, make sure you keep your eye out.

Unlike other food delivery services, there is no minimum order size, and the company aims to have food at your doorstep within an hour. Local restaurants as well as major chains, such as California Pizza and the Cheesecake Factory, have already signed up, so customers have plenty of options.

DoorDash is another one of those great dorm room startups, founded by students at Stanford University. The company is focused on building a highly-efficient logistics system and aims to empower local communities by creating jobs and making it easier for local restaurants to sell their food. Like Uber, food drivers -called “Dashers”- are subcontracted, can set their own hours, and can potentially earn as much as $25 dollars an hour.

tony-xuOn the company side DoorDash is being led by a group of young enterprising entrepreneurs armed with top-notch degrees and a good mix of real world experience. Cofounder Tony Xu holds a Stanford MBA and previously worked for McKinsey. Cofounder Stanley Tang also holds a Stanford degree, is a successful online entrepreneur, and has written the popular “eMillions” book. Andy Fang, another cofounder, is likewise a Stanford graduate and worked at Facebook.

DoorDash recently received a $17.3 million dollar round of venture funding led by Sequoia Capital, Khosla Ventures, CRV, and Pejman Mar Ventures. With heavyweights like Sequoia backing the company, it’s unlikely they’ll have trouble raising capital in the future.

This company looks promising, to say the least, and could be the next industry game-changer in this burgeoning industry.

By Brian Brinker

How To Get Ahead In Drone Advertising

How To Get Ahead In Drone Advertising

Drone Advertising

I have written two posts recently here on CloudTweaks about Drones. The first post references the Pizza Delivery Drone, and provides a somewhat comical look at what we may possibly see with future drones. The other post focuses on what is more likely in our immediate future, and looks at the concept of a modular drone. Modular drones can handle having a large number of Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) attached to the drone itself. This would include cameras, which are pretty prevalent in space today. There are also sonar devices and 3DLaser Mapping cameras that can be attached to drones, as well as any number of CPS devices (like thermal imaging, infrared, and other technologies).

Since writing those two posts, a number of things have happened in the drone world which you should definitely know about. For instance, a drone violated air-space over a US airport and nearly caused a passenger plane to crash. Another drone crashed while illegally hovering over the courts at the US Tennis Open in New York City. Not only that, but a video clip of a drone carrying and firing a semi-automatic pistol was posted on various internet sites.

drones
(Image Source: Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock)

As I thought about these instances, but especially the drone at the US Open in particular, my wheels started turning. Based on the drone concepts I previously shared, I started wondering when we will see marketing drones? I imagine it sort of like that old cartoon of the person walking along with their own personal dark cloud hanging over them; the rain is only falling on them. Except, with a personal advertising drone, the device would be displaying things you could buy or that you needed. It’s a strange idea, that in the end probably doesn’t make much sense. Drones have limited air time; would we really waste it on advertising? That aside, the truth is that, over time, the impact of drones will be tremendous.

drone-tech

(Image Source: Instructables)

3D Laser Mapping

There are a few great examples of things we could easily do today using drones that would have a great and fast impact. One such example would be using 3D laser mapping capabilities mounted on a drone to run continuous monitoring of roads. A laser map would show the road’s surface as it is right now. You then lay that over the existing map and you can dispatch repair trucks quickly and effectively. A new pothole would appear as an abnormality in the 3D laser mapped image. You could use dispatch software to have the repair crews move from pothole to pothole in a structured manner (less travel, more patching) as well. This allows the city, county, state or federal roads to be repaired quickly and kept pothole free. One pothole can quickly generate significant cost, lost time (as you sit by the side of the road with a completely flat tire), bills sent to the state, county, local offices of the government for payment, as well as impact traffic flow as people come to a stop or try to avoid the pothole and hit another car. Using drones equipped with 3D Laser Mapping would really help in the world of potholes. Another thing we could do in this day and age with drones is 3D scanning of larger objects.

Traffic Monitoring

speedingticketsOne could use a drone equipped with a 3D scanner to scan large statues and other large works of art. Or they could be used short-term and you never know where they would pop up, like monitoring the speed limit, or traffic incidents. While the overall cost of the system is higher, the reduction in collisions and accidents (and money earned by issuing tickets) would probably balance out that cost.

Currently, there are useful tools available for realtors to create VR images of a home they are selling, but using a drone to fly over of the roof and the property could also be interesting. Solar companies could use drones to give the home owner before and after pictures of their solar installation. Insurance companies could do preemptive neighborhood roof checks. After hail storms they could fly drones over a neighborhood and then notify the home owners with damage before unscrupulous contractors wander through the neighborhood and create a larger number of claims than is really necessary.

All of these are things afforded by the use of aerial drones. There is an entire world yet to be seen. There are underwater and land based drones as well. Sonar imaging gives you a picture of the landscape of a pond. Sending a video system attached to an underwater drone allows you to see what is actually going on underwater. Police and Fire Departments use drones today to enter burning buildings and remotely disable explosive devices. All of these things provide more and more value as they expand from specialized markets into the broader commercial markets.

The number of things drones could do to improve the world around us is tremendous. Using your aerial drone with a thermal imaging camera you can find the mole in your backyard and remove it before your dog digs up the entire back yard. (Not that I am advocating you kill the mole. Rather that you pull the mole out of your yard and relocate it.) A drone could quickly lift your automated gutter cleaning system from one section of your roof to another. Fire departments could fly a thermal imaging drone over a roof before they go up there in an effort to find the hot spots where the roof might be weak. Fishermen could connect a fishing line to a drone with sonar attached then remotely release the line when they find a school of fish using the sonar device and a remote monitor. When you think about the endless possibilities available to us because of drones, it starts to make you wonder why they haven’t already become the hottest, newest mainstream item.

Anyway, I have to go now. There is a drone on my front porch saying I owe for a pizza. I am not sure I even ordered one.

By Scott Andersen

Building Better Businesses In The Cloud

Building Better Businesses In The Cloud

Building Better Businesses

A look at the day’s technology headlines will often yield a wide variety of stories about startups. Like a technological gold rush, it is obvious there is something of a space-race between venture capital firms, investors, and angels to find and fund potential new businesses online and on the cloud. The flaws in this shotgun-spray approach are numerous as statistically many of these startups are doomed to fail. In fact, according to Forbes, nine out of ten startups will inevitably fail. This is because banking on unproven concepts, consumer adoption, and timing simply introduces too many variables.

investment

While some companies are satisfied with the existing venture capital model, there is obviously a need for refinement. One company working to uniquely reduce investment risk is Momentum Ventures. Based in Montreal, Momentum Ventures actually takes pride in being a self-described “anti-venture capital” firm says CEO Matthew Keezer.

We are not bankers, brokers, or investors,” says Keezer, adding ”venture capital to me is essentially a capital investment crapshoot and feels like a disconnect from the process of actually building good businesses, where as we build successful brands and products based on proven business models.

The strategy is rather straightforward. Rather than focusing on the idea, Momentum Ventures actively seeks out exceptional business leaders who will build teams and run online and cloud-based companies built around proven business models. This process, which unfolds entirely out of Momentum Venture’s home office in Montreal, has resulted in the successful launch of seven unique brands in seven attempts since 2007, a perfect record.

flight-hub

A prime example of this plan in action is FlightHub. Launched in 2012, FlightHub was built and designed to be the best online travel agency in the marketplace by observing the competition, identifying its weaknesses, and exploiting them. Since its launch, FlightHub has become one of the top online travel agencies in North America, producing over $1.5 billion in annual sales and employing over 400 people worldwide. Other businesses under the Momentum Ventures banner include businesses in the online streaming, ad-serving, and marketing sectors.

By focusing on personnel as the common denominator in successful business building, Momentum Ventures has created a new and successful model for creating profitable online and cloud-based companies. While traditional venture capital firms will from time to time launch extremely lucrative businesses, Momentum Ventures, and its unique approach to business building, has proven that its investment model is statistically more efficient.

By Keith Holland

IoT And The User Experience Design (UX)

IoT And The User Experience Design (UX)

Building Our Future

Designing for IoT involves many facets, but User Experience Design (UX) should not be overlooked. Getting the user experience right will guarantee your success. While most companies make sure they’re delivering products or services that are necessary, desired, or in demand, the user experience is often the true make or break factor. UX designers have a multitude of tools at their disposal, including workflow diagrams and wireframes for initial layout design; experience testing; targeted persona research; and persona scenario roleplaying. There are, however, a few significant spheres.

invision

IoT Specifics

Though many aspects of UX are relevant for all products, IoT devices require some specializations. With varying input and output capabilities, interaction handles, and connectivity abilities, the inter-usability of devices should be considered, providing a distributed user experience across multiple devices. Keeping in mind that devices won’t always be connected to the net is crucial, because your IoT product must be able to handle and function through network outages. And remember that IoT is all about data, so be sure to pull in and implement available data in your product design.

Less is More

An ingenious product should easily stand out among its competition, but it shouldn’t be distracting. Users might find all the bells and whistles exciting in the beginning, but if you’ve created something so detailed it’s difficult to navigate, or filled with unnecessary gimmicks, your audience is going to dwindle. Understand who will be using your product, and how much investment they’ll be putting into it. If you’re confident they’ll stick around long enough to learn all the ins and outs, great. If not, get to the point.

Asking for Directions

shutterstock_244896892

Testing is necessary for finding and rectifying technical errors, but the usability of the target audience is sometimes forgotten or left too late. By testing with your market as you design and streamline, you’re creating a uniquely tailored product, instead of one altered to fit. Talk success rates and navigation are critical, and users should be able to do what they need or want to in as few clicks and seconds as possible. Quick and easy guerrilla usability testing often requires only a small sample of user tests but uncovers the majority of would-be issues.

Looks Aren’t Everything

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UX design isn’t graphic design. Though the fields need to work together, usability, interaction design, and content are as much a part of a user’s final experience as what they see. Confusing navigation systems, reduced responsiveness, or non-intuitive reactions are likely to frustrate your users, no matter how beautiful your design. First take care of the content, then implement an effective interaction design, and finally install striking visuals. Flashy graphics can only take you so far.

Go with the Flow

Popular products don’t force users to adapt to their needs, they ask, how can I help you? Unless you’ve invented a diet pill that lets your users eat cake and lose weight, forcing them to do anything they don’t want to do is a recipe for disaster. If you’ve done adequate usability testing, you’ll know what your targeted users want and understand how they behave. Nothing beats a product that does what you want, the way you want and expect it to. Keeping usability in mind from concept formation, through product development, design, and finally implementation is a sure path to success.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Jennifer Klostermann

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The Rise of BI Data Every few years, a new concept or technological development is introduced that drastically improves the business world as a whole. In 1983, the first commercially handheld mobile phone debuted and provided workers with an unprecedented amount of availability, leading to more productivity and profits. More recently, the Cloud has taken…

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority Research has revealed that third parties cause 63 percent of all data breaches. From HVAC contractors, to IT consultants, to supply chain analysts and beyond, the threats posed by third parties are real and growing. Deloitte, in its Global Survey 2016 of third party risk, reported…