07/11/17 Three mistakes enterprises make with the cloud

     Companies are too eager to move to the cloud due to all the hype surrounding the cloud. When deciding on moving to the cloud, careful planning is necessary. Here are some of the most common mistakes companies make.

     Moving computing resources on the cloud while keeping the data in-house; your valuable data can be will face greater security risks and you will have slow access to your data since the data has to travel from your data center to the cloud.

     Firing your current IT staff before making the full transition to the cloud; the transition to the cloud may take a year or more and you will never completely get all your applications on the cloud.

     Your ROI will fall short of your expectations because of all the hype over cloud computing. Your return will vary a great deal depending on how you plan, transition and train your IT staff to cloud computing.

07/16/2017 Cloud computing and security breaches

     In today's high tech environment, you can't go a day without hearing in the news that yet another company has been hacked and data has been stolen. Even more ominous are the headlines that government entities are involved in the hacks. Much of the stories involving data breaches have been tied to information stored on the cloud; given the trend to move to the cloud, it is even more critical that your cloud solution addresses these security concerns. The good news is that if planned correctly, these security concerns can be mitigated. There are 3 areas that you need to consider in order to address your security concerns: security measures, data protection and data center security procedures audit rights.

     Security measures can include industry standard certifications such as SAS 70 or PCI Security. If industry certifications will not meet your security needs, you need to discuss your specific needs with the cloud vendors. Also ask where the data centers are physically located since it may impact governing law and jurisdiction in case there is a dispute. Your organization may also have regulations that require your data be held in US locations only. Also ask what the procedures are in case of a data breach. How will you be notified? will you be given the nature of the breach? What information was compromised?

     Data protection should include backup plans for your data as well as access to your data at all times. One overlooked detail is who owns the data; you should clarify that you maintain ownership of the data. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that your agreement contains provisions for the cloud vendor to provide a complete copy of all your information and data upon a written request. Vendors may charge a fee and the fee should be determined upfront. Retrieving your data in the event that you terminate your business relationship with your vendor should also be clarified.

     Lastly, your organization should have the ability to conduct an audit of your cloud vendor to ensure compliance with your security needs. This will allow your organization to be proactive in minimizing security risks. Unfortunately, data breaches aren't going away anytime soon so your organization needs to be doing everything possible to mitigate your exposure.

07/18/17 Don't jump on the cloud band wagon just yet

     We're hearing and reading all the hype about the "Cloud," and cloud services. Nowadays, there are many reports and articles on how cloud computing and cloud services will provide opportunities to save on IT costs and although it may, there are some caveats.

     Before jumping into the cloud, there is alot of issues that need to be addressed. First and foremost is to list out what your business needs are. What type of software will you be running? What are your security concerns? How will the services be accessed? How will all this new technology work with your existing IT environment?

     About half the companies that adopt cloud technologies without planning end up jury rigging their old IT environment with cloud technologies and spend year(s) stabilizing their hybrid environment.

07/19/2017 Ransomware on the rise

     On May 12th, WannaCry hit networks around the world, locked up computers and held them ransom. WannaCry hit fast and spread quickly around the world including government entities. Health organizations, utilities, small and large businesses were all hit; no was was immuned.

     WannaCry exploits a vulnerability initially discovered by the U.S. National Security Agency called EternalBlue. This encrypts data stored and the computer and then demands hundreds of dollars for the decryption key. WannaCry also uses a timer that when it runs out, data is lost for ever. WannaCry also has the ability to spread quickly to other computers which allowed it to be quickly identified.

     How do you protect ourselves from this type of threat? Keep your computers up to date with the latest security patches and update legacy OS's like Windows XP. Also employ an endpoint management solution that will help prevent intrusions into your network. There are plenty of products on the market that will help you with this, but selecting the right one that fits your specific needs aren't easy so you need to do your homework.

07/20/2017 Cloud is safer when it comes to cyber attacks

     WannaCry ransomware hit last month and Petya hit a couple of weeks ago; they both took advantages of security issues in older operating systems that allowed them to spread. Yet, in the past few years, no major cloud were affected by this type of attack.

     Cloud providers are less likely to be breached because of many reasons; multiple layers of security, pro-active monitoring of activities, and automatically applying security patches behind the scenes. Very few companies have the resources to keep up with their security needs and can't keep up with the ever changing environment. While it is true that the cloud had some outages, but no major cloud provider has been affected by malware attacks in the last few years.

07/22/2017 Two cloud security myths

     When it comes to cloud security, there are two main groups out there: those that believe that the cloud is systemically unsafe, and those that believe the cloud is unhackable. They are both wrong and cloud security isn't as black and white as some would have you believe.

     With the proper planning, your data will likely be more safe in the cloud than in traditional systems. Remember that with all the data breaches that have been reported in the last few years, no cloud vendors have been involved. The reason is that the cloud providers are proactive and update their security constantly. Most traditional, on site systems have outdated security and tend to be reactive when it comes to security.

     Just because your cloud vendor proactively take precautions doesn't mean that you don't have to do your part when it comes to security. Nothing is completely secure; less penetrable doesn't mean impenetrable. You need to be concerned with identity and access management (IAM), multifactor authentication and encryption. The biggest factors in cloud security are usually related to people: simple passwords, keeping passwords written down everywhere, and sharing same passwords for multiple accounts.

     Cloud security depends on how much time and resources you spend planning out your cloud strategy. Cloud security is not an all or nothing approach.

07/25/2017 Cloud based analytical systems becomes the tipping point for business

     Many enterprises need big data analytics for their business intelligence but many balk at the high costs until now; Cloud computing makes the need for massive, in house infrastructure obsolete. Many enterprises are making the paradigm shift to the cloud? Here are some reasons why.

     Big data requires massive expenditures in infrastructure, computing power, and most of all, time. Cloud based offsets this by minimizing the burden on in-house IT to purchase and manage the infrastructure. For the most part, all the IT department needs to provide is an internet connection and an ordinary PC.

     Cloud is ideal storage facility for all the generated data. Cloud not only saves money on the storage but also on the specialized equipment and infrastructure involved in housing the storage. This allows the data scientists to focus on high-end data analytical issues rather than developmental teething issues.

07/26/2017 The public cloud is fast becoming a strategic tool

     There is a shift among forward thinking CIOs; they are no longer looking at the cloud to cut cost but an opportunity to get out of the business of managing data and focus on strategic, business projects. CIOs think of the cloud as a way to develop software quicker by embracing flexible devops and design-thinking philosophies. The public cloud enables these changes and are reflected in the revenue of public cloud services companies.

08/03/2017 New virus doesn't a file during infection

     Anti-virus company Trend Micro detected new malware called JS_POWMNET that uses a fileless infection chain. A fileless infection chain never saves a file to the machine and makes it harder to analize via sandbox. It is unclear whether users unknowingly download it or other malware drops it onto the infected machine. Regardless of how it gets in, an autostart registry entry receives a url to fetch malicious JavaScript. This enables the regsrvr32 to execute arbitrary scripts without saving the xml file to the computer. The malicious script then downloads TROJ_PSINJECT which runs a Powershell script which downloads an encrypted file called "favicon." Then, finally, the favicon is decrypted so it can load up its payload. To protect against fileless malware, experts recommend segmenting their networks to limit access and to disable Powershell if they don't use it.

08/04/2017 How Cloud will change IT, look at Microsoft

     Microsoft is planning to reorganize it's global sales staff to focus on selling cloud software. What does this mean to your business? More and more enterprises will outsource their data centers or move them to the cloud. IT staff that are responsible for purchasing hardware and software will shrink drastically. Executives that fight the cloud and focus on cost heavy, traditional systems will either change their tune quickly or become a relic.

10/27/2017 Smartwatches that learn your every move

     Current smartwathces can recognize a limited number of activities that were programmed in advance. There is a new algorithm that can detect new activities as they happen in real time. It is no longer limited to only a few, predefined set of activites.

     The current way recognizing activities is to bundle together bursts of activity to estimate what the person was doing and for how long. An example is when a someone takes a bunch of steps, it is clustered into a walk. The new algorithm tracts ongoing activity, especially to transitioning as well as the activity itself. Up comming watches will be better able to track our activities and learn new activities as we engage in them. This will provide a better picture of our daily lives and can be used in healthcare and behavior research.

10/30/2017 Intel releases first Optane SSD for desktops

     Intel just released their Optane SSD 900P series solid state hard drive in 280GB and 480GB sizes. The new drives come in either U.2 or HHHL form factors and have read speeds up to 2500MB/s and write speeds of 2000MB/s. Intel's Optane technology is so fst that it can even be part of the system memory. Optane uses what Intel calls 3D XPoint technology which promises seven times the speed of regular SSDs.

     The new drives have some drawbacks, they come with only a 5 year warranty opposed to 10 years for most other SSDs. They also require more power than other SSDs. They priced much than their regular SSD counterparts; $389 for 280GB and $599 for 480GB versions. Up to now, Optane has only been used as an accelerator since Intel was primarily focused on the data center market. Still gamers and other PC enthusiasts are eagarly awaiting their release to the desktop market.

11/03/2017 Nvidia releases GeForce GTX 1070 Ti

     Yesterday, Nvidia announced the GeForce GTX 1070Ti graphics card to plug a hole in their lineup between the GTX 1070 and the GTX 1080. It's main competition is the AMD Radeon Vega 56. The GTX 1070 Ti uses the same GP104 GPU as the GTX 1080 and GTX 1070. The CPU speed is close to the GTX 1080, 2560 CUDA cores for the GTX 1080 vs 2432 for the GTX 1070 Ti. The GTX 1070 Ti clocks in with 1607MHz and 1683MHz boost clock. The card comes with the same vapor chamber cooling and five-phase dual-FET power design as the GTX 1080. It packs 8GB of GDDR5 memory. Like it's little brother the GTX 1070, tie Ti uses a 256-bit bus for a bandwidth of 256GBps. The card has the same 180W TDP and 8-pin power connector as the GTX 1080.

     The price of the card slots neatly between the GTX 1070 ( $350 ) and the GTX 1080 ( $500 ) at $450. It will make is appearance in custom PCs as EVGA and PNY variants are being sold. The GTX 1070 Ti challenges both the Radeon Vega 56 and it's big brother the GTX 1080 in both price and specs.

11/07/2017 Intel and AMD team up against Nvidia

     For the first time since the 1980's, rivals Intel and Advanced Micro Devices ( AMD ) are partnering to create a new mobile chip that will contain an Intel processor and AMD GPU. It will pit the two companies against Nvidia. The new chip will be tailored for ultra thin laptops that have the processing strenght to play graphics intensive games. The new chip will be part of Intel's eighth generation Intel Core line of processors.

     The laptops built with the new chips won't be competing with AMD's own Ryzen chips. According to AMD, the Ryzen chips aren't specifically designed for serious gaming whereas the new chips will be. The new CPU/GPU architecture is called EMIB, short for Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge, will allow information to be passed quicky according to Intel.

     According to Chris Walker, vice president of Intel's Client Computing Group, this new chip will address a nagging problem: as VR becomes smaller, the notebooks with the graphics horsepower to run VR is still bulky and heavy. This may be what both Intel and AMD needs as it continues the battle in the AI chip market as Nvidia dominates and other, non traditional chip manufacturers enter the market.

11/13/2017 Samsung GDDR6 memory with 16Gbps speeds comming soon

     Samsung has stated officially that they will be producing the fastest and lowest power DRAM for next generation products. It has transfer rates of 16Gbps with a 64GB/s bandwidth while only using 1.35V of power. To put that into perspective, it is able to transfer 12 full, HD DVDs per second. Compared with GDDR5 DRAM, which has 8Gbps and 1.5V power consumption, it is a dramatic improvement in both speed and power usage. GDDR6 will come in 8Gb and 16Gb densities followed by 32Gb densities as production ramps up.

     When it comes to potential customers of GDDR6 memory, Nviddia tops the list. Nvidia has already confirmed that the Volta GPU will be using GDDR6 memory next year. AMD didn't make any announcments about using the GDDR6 DRAM and may continue to use HBM2 DRAM on their Vega cards. This may be due to their partnership with Hynix but that may soon change as Hynix may offer GDDR6 memory in the future. Another potential customer may be Intel, who recently hired AMD's ex-graphics technology head, Raja Koduri. They may plan on developing their own discrete GPUs. The future is looking brighter for high end graphics cards in the years to come.

11/17/2017 Two Microsofts: the good and the not so bad

     In Microsoft's latest quarterly earnings, even with a booming quarter, it looks like there are two Microsofts, one that is booming and the other that is waning. Microsofts cloud business is doing well but it's OS department is slowly fading.

     Microsoft has a major lead in enterprise cloud with Azure. Azure grew 97 percent year over year. The ease of moving enterprise, on-premise infrastructure made up of Windows based servers into the Azure cloud is a major reason that enterprises are moving to Microsoft's Azure. With other cloud services such as Google's Compute, Amazon's AWS, SAP and Oracle is making inroads with their own cloud offerings, Microsoft has a huge lead due to the easy transition. Microsoft's dominance in workstation and sever OS makes the transition very easy compared to the others.

     On the other sied, Windows continues to be a sore spot for Microsoft as PC sales slows down, little market share in the tablet OS market and near zero share of the phone OS market. Even Surface's garnered many good reviews, its sales were down. Microsoft's gamble to switch Windoiws from a buy once model to a subscription based model simillar to Microsoft Office 365 may help prevent the slide but it may take 3 to 4 years before it pans out.

     Microsoft's dual pronged strategy may payoff in the long run as cloud computing gains momentum. Get people hooked on the Microsoft Windows model to ease their transition to Microsoft's Azure. Currently, almost two-thirds of its revenue comes from it's cloud offering. The Business software such as Office 365 and Dynamics 365 is on par with the consumer division ( Windows and Xbox ). PC OS is shrinking but business productivity and cloud offerings are more than making up for the decline. Microsoft is activly transitioning from an OS company to a cloud company and if it is successful in converting Windows to a subscription based service, Microsoft will continue to dominate the computer industry.