Archive for the ‘Cloud Computing’ Category

Are You Aware of the Unintended Consequences of SaaS?

Remember the good ol’ days when software had to be downloaded and accessed on-premises? Well, the advent of SaaS changed all that and made life easier for everybody involved. Scalable, easy to install, and most importantly, cheap, Software as a Service (SaaS) has a host of benefits, including the ability to optimize the individual business functions efficiently so that departments can now procure and use the desired systems. However, everything has a good side and a bad side, and this applies to SaaS as well. Everywhere you look now, there’s data present and every system possesses its own dataset that is stored in multiple formats. So, it is getting harder to combine and rely on data.

Fusing one or more dissimilar dataset into a trusted, unified dataset is difficult, not to mention time-consuming. But it is not impossible. You just have to watch out for these five challenges and figure out ways to avoid them. Find more details below:


  1. Duplicate Data



Believe it or not, but the removal of duplicate data takes a long time and consumes a lot of your valuable business resources. However, this process is a must unless you want to risk the onset of inaccuracy in your consolidated dataset. For example, without duplicate data removal, you might be dealing with contacts or accounts that have not been consolidated into specific records.

You need a two-pronged approach if you’re going to tackle the duplicate data problem. First, you must begin the de-duplication process within a certain silo to prevent applications from having more duplicate data inside them. Once that’s done and you’re ready to merge datasets, you have to connect similar records throughout all the systems in your organization. If you require duplicate cleanup work within a certain application, then you must load the non-duplicate data and flag any duplicates you find for cleanup within their systems of origin.


  1. Conflicting Data



A big advantage of SaaS systems is how several business processes and users contribute to a shared database to power the application. However, an unintended consequence of this method is how different apps end up with different data on the same clients. If your system shows records of a customer having two separate accounts, your analysis encounters some severe obstacles. Even a single update is capable of spangling various databases, tables, and even rows, with conflicts. And resolving these kinds of conflicts “by hand” is not only difficult but impractical as well.

Thankfully, there are two approaches – both automated – that can help you resolve conflicts existing in your data, viz. Last Modified and System of Record (SOR). While the latter focuses on the ranking of the system to find out which one is the winner in case of a conflict between two types of data, Last Modified involves using the most recently updated information across different systems for a specific field. It is possible to use a single approach to avoid any future data conflicts or a mixture of both, depending on the circumstances.


  1. Inconsistent Formats



While conflicts jeopardize the accuracy of your company data, inconsistent formats cause the values to conflict with one another. What this means is, even if the data is not wrong, one system might format the dates as YYYY-MM-DD and the other might use the DD-MM-YYYY format. So, even though both the details are technically correct, querying the same information can prove a hassle. From Booleans to states, phone numbers to capitalization, when you’re applying a certain standard to your data, you can update the formats for a countless number of fields.

The solution here is to standardize all your data into a single format and establish consistency. This will help improve the speed of the comparison processes as the databases will no longer have to verify the different formats against one another at a specific time.

Creating rules about which formats are going to be treated as the canonical standard for every type of entity helps make sense of the acronyms, abbreviations, order matching, and casing. Thanks to the removal of inconsistencies, improvements in data quality become noticeable, analysis becomes more reliable and querying speeds up.


  1. Critical Data on Related Objects


The relative objects tend to differ considerably when a SaaS solution is built and deployed in isolation. Related objects encompass a vast range of data associated with a specific contact, such as their opportunities, account, support tickets, departmental activities, and so on. However, a lot of the related data gets lost during data extraction, thereby causing problems with the completeness of consolidated datasets.

The best solution is to compare records on common identifiers between non-identifying and identifying fields. For matching a Contact record, for example, you must begin with an email address, since this common identifier offers the greatest probability for a singular match across different systems. There are multi-level de-duplicating keys that incorporate extra supporting data like company, address, and name. No matter what sort of common identifiers you use, related objects should always be mapped so you’re able to achieve a complete standard data schema for powering your analytics.


  1. Data in Source Apps Are Continuously Updated



Data constantly gets updated, which signifies that the consolidated data sets manufactured by your business might become obsolete if a part of the source data changes. It is difficult to keep data constantly updated. When connected data sources are no longer in sync, the data used to feed business intelligence tools, like dashboards, start outputting less reliable reports.

It’s tedious to query siloed systems for the latest data every time the data inputs are changed. It is better if you spend your time analyzing different datasets, finding insights, and sharing recommendations with others in your company. Use automated pipelines to join the dots between the data in apps and your central database to analyze, bridge the gaps between analytics and apps.

In such situations, data is going to be updated in almost real-time, anywhere from five minutes to 24 hours. This unified and consolidated data not only saves data prep time but also provides trusted data resources. This ensures that every customer record in your company is available in a centralized, trusted source, but at the same time allows separate SaaS apps to perform vital business functions.


Concluding Remarks


So, there you have it – the unintended consequences of SaaS and how to successfully overcome them. Thanks to these handy tips and tricks, you won’t have to worry about accessing your software online or mishandling of data.

How to Make the Best use of Cloud Services?

Not long ago, cloud computing’s use for organizations was primarily centred on storing data online. Of course, that’s just one of the several use cases that different cloud service models enable. Syncing data with a local system, using online productivity enhancement tools, making the cloud-stored data available for 3rd party apps, document management and collaboration – you name it, and there’s a cloud-based service for that. Too many times, companies make the mistake of being dazzled by the technology used to make cloud-based business use cases possible, rather than imagining how the use cases are so relevant for them. In this guide, we will help you understand how you can maximize the use of cloud services for your business.



Get Significantly More Storage Space

Let’s start with storage space. Using the cloud to store your data comes with significant operational, cost, and security advantages. There are 5-10 superb cloud storage solutions available for SMBs and enterprises. All of them offer a small amount of free upfront storage to get you started. That, however, might not be sufficient for you to truly experience the performance of the platform.

So, be smart and look for promotional offers. Some tips:

  • Subscribe to newsletters from cloud storage services so that news of any promotional offers jumps straight into your mailbox.
  • Dropbox offers anything like 15 to 25 GB storage for free if you purchase HP, Samsung, or Lenovo devices; this is just one example of similar promotional campaigns run by storage service providers.
  • Leverage the referral plans on offer, which get you free additional storage per person you refer to the platform.

Of course, this tactic works best when you need additional storage to evaluate the service; eventually, you will need to subscribe to enterprise plans.

Make Document Sharing Easier Than Ever

Arguably, one of the best benefits offered by cloud-based document management services is by transforming your files and folders into links. This also means that you don’t have to upload anything if you want to share it with anybody; just add the link to your message, and you’re ready, without any email size limitations.

Also, because cloud-based document management systems come with basic office document view and edit functionalities (Word documents, images, videos, presentations, worksheets, etc.), it becomes possible for anybody to access information on the move, on their mobiles, without having to use specific playback software.

Also, most cloud-based document management systems can be integrated with popular email services by using an app integration tool such as Zapier.


Quick Notes on IaaS and PaaS

It’s supposed to be obvious, so we’ll keep it short. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) brings a tremendous amount of infrastructure to the marketplace, available for organizations in a pay-per-use format. This reduces the cost of investment to own the infrastructure to a fraction and also eliminates most of the maintenance and upgrade costs.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a service model wherein the development capabilities of sophisticated platforms are made available for organizations, for them to deploy applications much quicker than ever, again in a pay-per-use format. The result – availability of ‘premium’ development platforms at affordable prices, to improve speed to market and sophistication of application developed by organizations.


Cloud Computing - In the Cloud


Hybrid Cloud: A Practical Answer to Difficult Cloud Procurement Questions

The public cloud brings the benefits of unchallenged affordability, while private cloud enables organizations to wield complete control over their data and applications. When an organization is not sure of the volume of cloud resources it needs for its application workloads, the hybrid approach helps. This is because enterprises can test their workloads, and hence avoid a situation where their initial investments could have been wasted because of over-estimation. Also, hybrid cloud proves to be invaluable for managing limited periods of peak load. The option of quickly provisioning more resources, as needed, on a pay as you need basis, means they’ll not have to struggle through the peak period.


Cloud for Disaster Recovery

Preparedness for disaster recovery is a key capability for any data-driven business. Cloud computing has massive benefits to offer here. Traditionally, disaster recovery is dependent on limited physical locations and fixed assets, with very rigid operational procedures, several constraints, and huge costs.

Instead, trust a cloud-based disaster recovery solution, where you get the advantage of several physical locations serving your data recovery needs, at a much lower cost as compared to traditional disaster recovery services. Also, a cloud-based disaster recovery solution provider will make sure that its application capabilities are constantly upgraded and secured, without you having to spend a penny!


Know What Not to Take To Cloud

To make your company’s cloud strategy an enabler of success and competitive edge, you’ve got to know what to move to the cloud model, when, and at what cost. Also, you need to resist the temptation to move certain applications to the cloud! Take, for instance, the case of a business that has already been using an ERP for 5+ years, and has majorly customized it to fit the unique business processes and requirements. Now, there are several factors that make it unsuitable for this company to discard its on-premise ERP in preference of a cloud-based ERP:

  • Cloud ERP market is yet to mature, and the solutions still need to time to come at par with industrial strength ERPs
  • The money spent on customizing the existing ERP will fail to return its value.
  • The cloud ERP, it’s a fair estimate, will not lend itself to large scale customizations of the kind already implemented in your on-premise ERP
  • The ‘ecosystem’ aspect of ERP software means you will need to evaluate the cloud movement in the context of all bolt-ons, interfaces, and related 3rd party apps.


Concluding Remarks

Cloud-based digital service models are, arguably, the best thing that happened to businesses in the past decade. However, companies need to be on their toes to make the most of these models. Be shrewd about leveraging the ‘freebies’, explore hybrid models, and know what not to change, and you’ll do alright.



Author : Rahul Sharma

Why US Government Organizations Should Move to Private Cloud



Since its inception, cloud computing has managed to transform the business landscape in unforeseen ways. While the private sector has been capitalizing on the multiple benefits of cloud computing for a while now; government organizations have also aggressively started to embrace the cloud. As it stands, the IT environment of most government organizations is typified by poor asset utilization, duplicative processes, a fragmented demand for resources, poorly managed environments, and prolonged delays in getting things done. The end result is an in-efficacious system that has a negative impact on the organization’s ability to serve the American public. The innovation, agility and cost benefits of a private cloud computing model can significantly enhance government service delivery. A move to the cloud for government organizations directly translates to public value, by improving operational efficiency and the response time to constituent needs.

 The Cloud First Initiative

In February 2011, the first Federal CIO, Vivek Kundra, announced cloud first. The policy was presented as a crucial aspect of government reform efforts to achieve operational efficiencies by cutting the waste and help government agencies deliver constituent services in a more streamlined and faster way. Up to 2014, the adoption rate was slow. A 2014 report by the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that only 2% of IT spending went towards cloud computing that year. However, the tide has shifted in recent years. Agencies across the federal government have espoused cloud computing solutions and architectures to facilitate services to constituents and reduce the reliance on the large-scale, traditional IT infrastructure investments.

Currently, AWS reports that GovCloud, has grown 221% year-over-year since it was launched in 2011. Microsoft also claims that Microsoft Cloud for Government, which includes office 365 government, Dynamics CRM, and Azure Government. Has attracted over 5.2 million users. Despite its palpable success, Cloud First has had its share of critics, including those censorious of the trouble-prone launch of Critics have blamed the perceived slow adoption on the lack of federal technical experience in cloud deployments. Below are some of the compelling reasons why government agencies should adopt a private cloud computing model.

I. Reduced Infrastructure Costs

By consolidating server footprints via virtualization and cloud efforts, govt agencies significantly reduce the cost of IT ownership. Agencies that operate in house IT gear have to deal with data center security on top of hardware, software and network maintenance. These are all resource intensive workloads that cloud vendors handle on behalf of their clients. The minute an agency offloads all of it, it free itself up to focus on the particular capabilities and features it has to offer. Private cloud computing solutions are typically bundled with asset management, threat and fraud prevention and detection, and monitoring programs. Adopting a private cloud model enables government agencies to become agile and responsive towards changing business conditions.

II. Big Data Consensus

The IDC reports that approximately 2.5 exabytes of data is produced on a daily basis. Government agencies have a ton of data and having a human look at all of if is virtually impossible. The old model of data distribution greatly diminishes that data’s value to end-users, and ultimately to the taxpayer. A private cloud computing model is the answer to big data analysis. Tools that utilize artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing can be used to quickly and accurately examine terabytes of data for anomalies and patterns; thus helping federal officials to make informed decisions. Additionally, once data has been made available via the cloud, its is readily accessible, meaning resource requests that previously took months to processes can be handled in a short time.

III. Data Sovereignty and Regional Concerns

When it comes to the cloud, ownership of data assets leads to more questions. Erosion of information asset ownership is undoubtedly a potential concern when resources are moved to any external system –public cloud included. There is an inherent difference between being responsible for data as a custodian and having complete ownership of it. Despite the fact that legal data ownership stays with the originating data owner, a potential area of concern with a public cloud deployment is that the cloud vendor may acquire both roles. The EU has been at the forefront to clear up the confusion and on the 25th of May 2018 will introduce a directive that establishes new rules to aid its citizens retain full control over personal data.

Another area of concern includes the complex legal, technical and governance issues that surround hosting government data in varying jurisdictions. Governments are known to like concrete boarders; but the cloud is global, it transcends physical spaces and boarders. Since the services exist globally, and users can interact and share data remotely; what states or municipalities are responsible for the data? Whose laws apply or don’t apply to any given exchange?

US government agencies have to adopt cloud strategies aimed at retaining sovereignty over government data. For any government agency seeking flexible and scalable data center solutions, a private cloud deployment can tie a range of integrated and end-to-end solutions that leverage cloud capabilities together. With a private cloud, the complexity of legal and government regulations are taken out of the equation. The data is maintained by the govt agency employees and is made available via internally-managed technology platforms or SaaS solutions like FileCloud. The ownership or jurisdiction of the data is no longer in question.

IV. You Deployed it, Now Secure It

Security is typically the top concern for federal IT managers when it comes to the migration of applications and data into the cloud. Governments understand that information is power, data is a crucial asset. Federal agencies represent a huge chunk of the globes largest data repositories, ranging from tax, employment, weather, agriculture and surveillance data among others. A recent study by MeriTalk revealed that only one in five of the Federal IT professionals surveyed believe that the security offered by cloud providers is sufficient for federal data. However, the same study also concluded that 64 percent of federal IT managers are more likely to place their cloud-based applications in a private cloud.

Why private cloud? Control. A private cloud deployment meets the required, strict security needs with more resource control and data isolation. Government organizations have to send and receive sensitive information while ensuring it’s only accessible to authorized users. Additionally, that have to maintain control of each user’s read and write rights to said data. Public cloud solutions simply don’t fit the bill for most govt agencies because the deployed applications and data have to remain completely under agency control. Private cloud solutions enable govt agencies to leverage their existing security infrastructure, while staying in control of their data. Since the deployment functions within your existing framework, the need to reinvent govt processes or security policies is eliminated.

Fed RAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program) standardizes security services and streamlines assessments so that any cloud vendor being considered by federal agencies is only evaluated once at a federal level. Safeguarding the security and integrity of data falls upon individual government organizations. A private cloud model gives organizations better performance and security control over the physical infrastructure that underlies its virtual servers.

V. Cross Agency Collaboration

Government agencies require a digital terrain through which to comfortably and confidently collaborate across, irrespective of agency or department. For example, different agencies may need to share compliance data, regulatory documents, case information or disaster response plans. For optimal collaboration efficacy, these resources have to be accessible to the workers within their respective organizations, to outside contractors, and the general public, when needed. Government agencies can leverage the security infrastructures and on-premises directories of a private cloud. Ensuring that sensitive data remains within the control of the organization, and only authorized persons have access to it. A private gov-cloud allows government organizations to collaborate both internally and across extended ecosystems in a compliant, secure and audit-able manner.

VI. Citizen Service Delivery

Most local, state and federal government agencies offer a variety of citizen services. Cloud computing helps in the delivery of those services and subsequently improves the lives of citizens on all those level. For example, enabling constituents to monitor water and energy consumption encourages them to be more vigilant about their usage. Quick and transparent access to service requests such as loans and application improves awareness and inclusion. A private cloud computing model is an ideal way of empowering and informing citizens.

In Closing

Cloud computing delineates an amazing opportunity to drastically revolutionize how government organizations manage, processes and share information. Although addressing all the challenges associated with cloud adoption can seem ominous, especially if a government organization lacks the expertise in cloud migration and deployment. Nevertheless, its clear that government agencies wish to perpetuate high standards of privacy, security and cost management, in their pursuit to transform operations into a flexible, dynamic environment. The most ideal solution for them is a private cloud.

Author: Gabriel Lando


Cognitive Search: A New Generation of Enterprise search

Enterprise search
A lot of organizations have begun making significant investments in digital transformation in order to fill their operational gaps. One of the areas seeing this transformation is search, mainstream search is broken. Data volumes are growing at an exponential rate – the digital world is expected to create 163 zettabytes of data in 2025, a 10x increase compared to 2016. The concern for a lot of companies will be making information easily accessible to employees and customers. Employees already spend too much time searching for content. According to one study, knowledge workers spend 20 percent or more of their day searching for relevant and timely content. Employees should have the ability to find information, and gain insight, via a spoken question, an image, a natural language text input, or virtually any other way that feels intuitive and natural. Traditional enterprise search functions have shortcomings that make it difficult or at times impossible for users to find the information they seek. Modern, machine-learning based search is capable of transforming the way employees find answers and gain insights. This approach is commonly referred to as ‘cognitive search’, an increasingly powerful way to handle the data and knowledge-sharing challenges that modern enterprises commonly face.

Cognitive search is radically transforming the process of retrieving files. Search has now transcended basic keyword matching; it has evolved to become ‘cognitive’ – the ability to provide relevant answers to natural language questions. Manually searching for documents and files within enterprise systems is declining. Large enterprises have begun showing a dire inclination towards this disruptive technology. With all the hype around cognitive search and artificial intelligence (AI) in general, it’s seemingly difficult to grasp how to actually apply these new technologies to improve the workplace. Having a basic understanding of cognitive search and how it relates to traditional enterprise search is the first step towards establishing an effective cognitive search system and setting it up for ongoing growth.

Enterprise Search Vs Cognitive Search

In a recent brief, Forrester, research firm, defined cognitive search as – “the generation of enterprise search solutions that utilize AI technologies like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to ingest, understand, organize, and query digital content from several data sources”. Cognitive software mimics human behavior like perceiving, inferring, reasoning, and making hypotheses. And when coupled with advanced automation, these systems can further be trained to perform judgment-intensive tasks. Enterprise platforms with cognitive computing abilities are capable of interacting with users in a natural manner. With time, they can learn user behavioral patterns and preferences. This allows them to establish links between related data from both external and internal sources.

The major drawback of traditional enterprise search is that information is typically poorly defined and datasets are dispersed across multiple systems. Although it allows for in-depth indexing, tagging and keyword implementation, this is not always sufficient when making data based decisions. Cognitive search fills in the gaps, and augments what enterprise search is capable of doing.

Cognitive search offers the potential for phenomenal improvements in the efficiency, relevance, and accuracy of insight discovery. While some may view cognitive search as simply traditional search augmented by artificial intelligence and machine learning, there is actually a complex combination of capabilities that distinguishes, and makes it superior to traditional enterprise search. Cognitive search transcends search engines to amalgamate a vast array of data sources, along with avant-garde tagging automation, greatly improving how an organization’s employees find, discover and access the information they require to complete their tasks.

Most of the design elements used to build enterprise search can be utilized as the foundation for implementing cognitive search. While enterprise simply locates the data, cognitive applies user analytics to it in order or enhance understanding while also unearthing deeper trends that may have otherwise been missed.

The Impact of Cognitive Search

The workflow of an estimated 54 percent of global information workers is interrupted a few times or more per month, when trying to get access to answers, insights and information. Cognitive search can shift that paradigm by extracting the most relevant piece of information from large sets of varied and intricate data sources. According to the Economist, while content doubles every 90 days, 80 percent of the content information workers rely on for core revenue generation activities remains unstructured. This dramatic growth of unstructured content has become a challenge for several enterprises.

With cognitive search, knowledge worker searching internal systems are more likely to find the information they need. Customers looking through a company’s website can more easily find answers to their queries online. From a customer service and marketing perspective, this is a huge plus since it directly translates to a reduction in call center volumes while increasing overall customer satisfaction. Like humans, cognitive systems learn on the job, as more information is made available to them. That’s excellent news, given the rate at which the digital universe is growing each year.

Most companies are already using cognitive applications to target marketing campaigns; however, cognitive search is yet to be widely adopted. This is starting to change, as NLP – which previously required complex hardware, approaches mainstream appeal, primarily via the cloud. Cognitive search will likely have a greater impact on enterprise operations.


Author: Gabriel Lando
image courtesy of

Is Network Monitoring System Worth the Investment?

Your business’ digital network is your most important operations-enablement asset. A network problem could bring mission-critical business applications to a grinding halt. Inaccessible websites, unusable ERP applications, excruciatingly slow loading application screens, the inability of one system to connect with and communicate with another – and the list goes on.



Network Monitoring Tools – A Solution


Network downtime costs you severely. Maintenance, hence, is not only better than cure, at least from a network management perspective, but also financially a much smarter option. To do so, network administrators need to measure the network’s performance regularly, in terms of important KPIs. These measures are compared to threshold values to detect possible issues or potential problems in the making. This is made possible by network monitoring tools. These tools keep a stern watch on the network performance, push real-time updates to administrators, and carry out automated tests on the network to detect and report anomalies.


Why Does the Question of Evaluating Usefulness Come Up?

Enterprises want reliable and power packed software for everything they manage. Network monitoring software must bring about seamless and total network visibility round the clock, equipment monitoring capabilities, automatic alert setup, reporting, etc. Of course, there are costs associated with these features.

However, it must also be understood that enterprises are almost always prepared for minor application outages, and even tolerate them to a great extent. A few minutes or a couple of hours of downtime doesn’t bring down a mountain. Then, IT managers are always under pressure to reduce costs, are anyways overwhelmed with complex projects, and not easy to convince to approve the budget for new tools.



Are These Tools Worthy Investments?

How does one make a case for network monitoring tools? Are they even worth the investment? Well, these questions don’t have easy answers.

For an e-commerce business, a remote education business, and a financial institution, for instance, even an hour of downtime could cause serious branding damage, sales loss, and customer attrition. For others, the odd outage of a few minutes or hours might not be such a showstopper.

One approach to finding answers, however, is to understand the value they add, the problems they solve, and calculating ROI accordingly.


The Costs of Network Monitoring Software

For any ROI analysis, you need to know the denominator, and that’s the cost of the network monitoring software. Here are the most important cost components:

  • Licensing costs of the software, particularly in case of enterprise level network monitoring tools
  • Maintenance and upkeep costs, particularly if the same is not included in the licensing deal
  • Salaries of internal IT consultants and network admins necessary to manage the tool
  • Costs of hardware and software storage for the tool
  • Cost of training users
  • Post-implementation consulting issues


Dedicated network management systems that include monitoring tools as a part of the larger suite are obviously more expensive than standalone monitoring systems. It can be challenging to apportion an appropriate cost percentage to the monitoring tool if an enterprise commissions a complete network management suite.

Even if you go for an open source network monitoring tool, there will be associated costs. Understand all of these costs to be able to calculate a realistic and representative ROI figure.



The Simplest Analysis – Damage Prevented versus Cost of Software

A quick (and often reliable) method of evaluating the investment worthiness of network monitoring systems is to compare their annual cost (annualize long-term costs over a 5-year period, let’s say) with the estimated annual damage caused by outages.

Annual damages = Damage via lost sales (DLS) + Damage to employee productivity (DEP)


DLS: Average sale value per hour x Average duration of each outage x Average number of outages per year

DEP: Average cost of employee hour x Average duration of each outage x Average number of outages per year x Number of employees affected


Add these up, and compare the cost of the software. Simple enough?


Sophisticated Analyses

Of course, there is such a thing as an oversimplification, and it could often lead to unnecessary and expensive purchases. So, we’re also going to cover some nuanced benefits of network monitoring systems which positively impact their ROIs.


Staff Salary Saving

If a network monitoring tool allows enterprises to cut down its night shift to half, and to reduce the monitoring staff strength to 50%, that’s a significant saving annually.


Early Detection Benefits

Network monitoring tools offer advanced reporting on network aspects such as utilization rates, transmit/receive stats (such as packets per second), error percentages, round trip times, and percentage availability. This helps network engineers and admins to prevent outages, reduce time to response and time to resolve in case of outages, and in general, improve network performance.


Reduced Support Incidents

Network issues easily result in a spate of support incidents raised by employees from affected teams. To close these calls, network engineers need time. Often, the need to close calls within the stipulated SLAs requires network teams to add resources. Sophisticated network monitoring tools, however, because of the advantages listed in the last section, allow admins and engineers to make corrective changes, and issue workaround practices to reduce these support calls.


Reduction in Time to Fix

Network technicians often find it challenging to locate sources of network problems, particularly when it’s linked to one or more devices in a geographically separated and distributed network. Because network monitoring systems offer geographic maps and live diagnostics data feeds, engineers can actually find these problem sources without leaving office. This can knock of several hours from the average problem fix times.

Understand all these benefits, evaluate their significance (as contextualized for your business), and factor them in your cost-benefit analysis for network monitoring tools.


Concluding Remarks

When IT budgets are tight, enterprise IT decision makers need to determine ROIs and perform accurate cost-benefit analyses to make a purchase decision. Network monitoring tools offer concrete benefits and come with concrete one time and recurring cost heads. This guide offers a framework to help you evaluate.


Author: Rahul Sharma

Backup Mistakes That Companies Continue to Commit



Imagine a situation where you wake up, reach your office, and witness the chaos. Because your business applications are not working anymore. And that’s because your business data doesn’t exist anymore! Information about thousands of customers, products, sales orders, inventory plans, pricing sheets, contracts, and a lot more – not accessible anymore. What do you do? Well, if your enterprise has been following data backup best practices, you’ll just smile, and check what the progress on the data restoration is. Alas, problems await. That’s because your people might have committed one of the commonplace yet breakneck mistakes of data backups. Read on to find out.


Fixation of the Act of Backup

Sounds weird, but that’s what most enterprises do, really. Data engineers, security experts, and project managers – everyone is so focused on the act of backup, that they all lose track of the eventual goals of the activity. Recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO) should govern every act in the process of data backup. Instead, companies only focus on ensuring that data from every important source is included in the backup.

Nobody, however, pays much heed to backup testing. This, for instance, is one of the key aspects of making your data backup process foolproof. Instead, companies end up facing a need for data restoration, only to realize that the backup file s corrupt, missing, or not compliant with the pre-requisites of the restoration tool.

The solution – make rigorous backup testing a key element of your backup process. There are tools that execute backup tests in tandem with your data backup. If you don’t wish to invest in such tools as yet, make sure you conduct backup testing at least bi-annually.

Not Adopting Data Backup Technologies

What used to be a tedious and strenuous task for administrators and security experts a few years back can now be easily automated using data backup tools. These tools are much more reliable than manual backup operations. What’s more, there will not be the dreaded problems such as those associated with data formats, etc., when the time for restore arrives.

Scheduled backups, simultaneous testing, and execution of backup and restore in sync with your RTO and RPO goals. Of course, businesses must understand the data backup tools available in the market before choosing one.


Unclear Business Requirements (In Terms Of Data Backup And Restore)

Take it from us; one size won’t fit all organizations or processes, when it comes to data backups, whether manual or controlled via a tool. Project managers must understand the business requirements around data to be able to plan their data backup projects well. The backbone of a successful data backup process and plan is a document called recovery catalog. This document captures all necessary details centered on aspects such as:

The different formats of data owned by the business

  • The time for which every backup needs to be available for possible restore operations (RPO)
  • The priority of different data blocks from a recovery perspective (RTO)
  • The recovery document will go a long way in helping you enlist the tools you need for successful management of data backup and recovery. Also, it will help you design better processes and improve existing processes related to the entire lifecycle of data backup.

Right Requirement, Wrong Tool

Your CIOs expectations from your team are governed by the business’ expectations from the entire IT department of the company. There’s nothing wrong with the expectations and requirements, it’s possible, however, that the tools you have are not well suited to fulfill those requirements.

For instance, in an IT ecosystem heavily reliant on virtualization, there are already built in cloning capabilities within these virtualization tools. However, these backups can take disk space almost equal to the entire environment. Now if you need to change your VMs often, your storage will soon be exhausted as you keep on making new copies of updated environments.

If you have clarity on the most important business applications, it becomes easier to work with IT vendors and shortlist data backup tools that can easily integrate with these applications. This could be a massive boost to your enterprise’s data backup capabilities.

Failure to Estimate Future Storage Needs

No doubts, the costs of data storage are on their way down, and chances are they’ll continue to do so. However, almost every business only buys storage based on its estimation of what’s needed. It’s commonplace enough for companies to completely ignore the fact that their data backups will also need space to stay safe. And this is why it’s so important to estimate the data storage requirements after accounting for your data backup objectives. While doing a manual backup, for instance, if the executors realize that there’s not much space to play around with, it’s natural for them to leave out important data. Also, account for the possibilities of increased frequencies of backups in the near future.

Not Balancing Costs of Backup with Suitability of Media

It’s a tough decision, really, to choose between tape and disks for data storage. While tapes are available inexpensively, in plenty, and pretty durable from a maintenance perspective, you can’t really store essentials systems data and business critical applications’ data on tape, because the backups are slow. Estimate the cost of time lost in the slow backup because of tapes while deciding on your storage media options. Often, the best option is to store old and secondary data on tape and use disks for storage of more important data. In this case, you will be able to execute data restoration and complete is sooner than depending purely on tape media.

Concluding Remarks

There’s a lot that can go wrong with data backups. You could lose your backed-up data, run out of space for it, realize the data backup files are corrupted when you try to restore them, and in general, fail to meet the RTO and RPO goals. To do better, understand what leads to these mistakes, and invest time and money in careful planning to stay secure.


Author: Rahul Sharma

MSP Trends That Will Reshape the Market in 2018

The digital economy works on the currency of ‘cloud’. For so many years now, the shout out has been for companies to move over to cloud-based storage, infrastructure, and application solutions. In the era of Anything-as-a-Service, enterprises need to think of vendors as strategic partners, and need to onboard those with capabilities to deliver end to end support. Because of the ever-increasing number of cloud technologies that a company has to work with, the relevance of managed service providers (MSPs) is at an all-time high. In this market, there are a few defining trends and transitions brewing, which have the potential to permanently re-shape the market in 2018. Let’s take a look at these trends.



Erosion of Margins Driving Changes in the Market

There’s been undeniable erosion in gross margins of MSPs in the past 2-3 years, primarily because of the emergence of a large number of players. Apart from increased competition, there are other factors responsible for this margin shrinking. For instance, MSPs are commoditizing services. Also, customers are clamoring for getting more services at lesser prices. This is even forcing MSPs to bundle valuable services such as security management into their service offers, for free, or for prices that hurt the bottom line. This is driving a major change in operations for MSPs. There’s a tremendous focus on automation of sales, billing, provisioning, and support of cloud services. This is being supplemented with efforts to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency. Also, MSPs look to offer whole solutions instead of one-off services.





Clients Expectations around Security

The threat landscape is changing rapidly; new attack vectors are added to the threat system, which means that enterprises need to keep evolving themselves. When enterprises engage large MSPs offering a wide range of cloud-based applications and infrastructure services, they expect them to also take complete responsibility for their information security needs. MSPs, however, need to brace up for tough conversations with clients. This is important for both the stakeholders – MSPs, as well as clients.


The key concerns to address, for both parties, are:

  • The need to embrace a growing number of security tools, all of which may or may not be supported by the MSP
  • The concept of shared responsibility for information security, and to explicitly mention the granular details in the contract
  • The role of the MSP in helping the enterprise recognize its network vulnerabilities and data security loopholes, via simulated cyber attacks
  • The need for regular awareness exercises carried out by the MSP to educate the enterprise leadership


Cloud Complexity

In 2018, there’s every reason that the race among SMBs to move more servers to the cloud computing model will intensify. Not only is this approach inexpensive, but also safer and reliable in many cases, as compared to the on-premise model. This will also add a lot more complexity to the cloud ecosystem for SMBs and enterprises. More cloud-based applications mean more user accounts, more movement of data between systems, and data transfer from cloud to on-premise systems. In general, this means that companies (and their MSPs) need to manage more, and do so in a landscape becoming increasingly complex. Because businesses are reliant on cloud technology for their routine operations, MSPs are bracing themselves to manage and deliver upon the disaster recovery and business continuity. In such an ecosystem, MSPs that can offer reliable disaster recovery and continuity will be the ones that get long-term contracts from businesses.


The Changing Market Dynamics Because of Evolving SaaS-MSP Relationships

There is going to be a lot of market focus on the relationship between SaaS companies (the creators of cloud-based business applications) and MSPs (companies that sell and support these services). Traditionally, SaaS vendors have not shown the inclination to figure out how the channel works. However, considering the major contribution of MSPs in the revenue mix, it’s likely that they will now have the motivation to work along with MSPs to strengthen their hold. This also means that we need to watch out for MSPs that try to push a specific SaaS company’s products on its own consumers. As per data released by Cloud Technology Alliance, 26% vendors distribute services via MSPs. The number is all set to skyrocket in 2018 and beyond.


The Need for More Choices

In the early days of cloud computing-based services, the major motivator for enterprises was the move from the CapEx model to operational expense model, which passed on major benefits to the bottom line. However, enterprise IT leaders now understand cloud-based applications and want to try out solutions from different vendors. Education is easily available, and because of it, enterprises now look for choice. This is a cue for MSPs to think big, expand their service offering, and embrace their clients’ preference for more choices within cloud applications.


Bundling – The Way Forward for MSPs

To boost revenues and to enjoy continued business from a customer, MSPs realize the need to offer wholesome services bundles. These bundles are made to appeal to specific verticals and customer segments. Many MSPs already offer such bundled services, spread across network management, information security management, cloud applications, and storage. All these services are made available for a monthly fee.


In the times to come, all MSPs will need to integrate IaaS and SaaS services to stay aligned with the ‘industry-specific solutions’ approach to service delivery. MSPs will invariably need better technologies to be able to integrate services with each other, as well as with their clients’ core business processes. Instead of strengthening back-end systems, MSPs need to develop their cloud capabilities.


Concluding Remarks

There are certainly a lot of forces, some working in parallel, and some against each other, but all of them impacting the current state of the MSP market nevertheless. For enterprises looking to work with an MSP, and for service providers looking to expand their offerings, it’s super important to keep track of these trends and align their strategies and tactics to accommodate them.


Author: Rahul Sharma

Identifying The Top 10 Most Common Database Security Vulnerabilities


Cyber networks are the 21st Century’s principle attack fronts. Digital warfare is increasingly gaining prominence, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. From tampering with elections to attacking businesses and personal accounts, attackers are leaving nothing untouched.

Currently, hackers are targeting systems every 39 seconds, affecting a third of Americans each year. And the risk is consistently growing with each network field expansion. By 2020, there will be 200 billion connected devices- translating to countless vantage points for perpetrators. This will push annual damages to $6 trillion, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

While there are multiple areas to attack in an organization, cybercriminals are particularly fond of going for the database. That’s where the bulk of sensitive information like corporate secrets, intellectual property, and financial records, is usually locked away. Generally, the higher the sensitivity, the more the profit hackers stand to make from the data.

Due to such imminent threats, the U.S. government is constantly reviewing its cybersecurity spending every year for improved protection. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when it comes to other organizations. Despite 54% of enterprises having experienced successful attacks, only 38% believe that they are prepared to protect themselves against a sophisticated attack.

So we’ll attempt to reduce the gap by walking you through 10 of the most common vulnerabilities that attackers might capitalize on to successfully infiltrate your database:

  1. Deployment Failures

Deployment is a complex process because of the multiple variables and steps involved. In addition to comprehensively assessing IT needs, enterprises should systematically deploy various components whose architecture integrates with standard processes, then adequately review and test the entire system.


Since it’s a challenging process, it’s acceptable to make errors or omissions. Of course, these should be identified and mitigated at the review and text stage. But, some IT teams fail to conduct comprehensive checks. Any resultant unresolved problem becomes a vulnerability that could ultimately be used by attackers.


  1. Poor Password Management

The password is essentially the main key to the entire system and all its files. But, surprisingly, 67% of passwords scored poorly on a typical test. 33% were rated “good”, and none could meet “very good” standards. Even more shocking is the fact that 18% of the individuals surveyed reuse the same password on multiple platforms for easy remembrance; while 39% write it down on a piece of paper; and 10% chose to secure it in a computer file.


If perpetrators fail to guess correctly, they might as well access the passwords from unsecured computer files, or simply stumble upon papers with password details.


  1. Excessive User Privileges

It’s common for system administrators to grant other employees excessive database privileges that exceed the requirements of their job functions. Unfortunately, this increases overall risk because some workers may eventually abuse their permissions, and consequently trigger potentially detrimental data breaches.


If the job functions of respective users are not clear, CIOs should link up with their human resource departments to establish distinct clearance levels.


  1. Lack of Segregation

Leveraging a holistic and centralized database simplifies the whole integration process. But taking a literal approach results in a unilateral database that is fully accessible by not only the administrator and employees but also third-party contractors.


Even in a centralized database, files should be systematically segregated according to their sensitivity. The sensitive data sets should be adequately secured in a vault-like sub-sector of the database, accessible only by cleared parties.


  1. Missing Patches

According to the Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, 5,000 to 6,000 new vulnerabilities are emerging on an annual basis. That translates to at least 15 every day, all principally targeting system weaknesses. Software vendors subsequently respond with patches. But database administrators are often too busy to keep up with all the releases.


The longer a database runs with missing patches, the more susceptible it is to developing malware. If manual updates are proving to be a bit too cumbersome, enable auto updates across the board.


  1. Poor Audit Trail

Maintaining appropriate database audit details has always been important not only for compliance but also for security purposes. But many enterprises are leaving it off at the compliance level.


The resultant inability to comprehensively monitor data across the board represents serious vulnerabilities at many levels. Even something as simple as fraudulent activity cannot be detected in time to contain a breach.


  1. Inadequate Database Backups

A breach can be bad. But data loss is potentially catastrophic. As a matter of fact, 43% of enterprises that experience this never re-open, and 51% eventually collapse after two years. But despite this fact, many enterprises are still running inadequately backed up servers.


A good backup architecture encompasses primary, secondary and tertiary backup strategies that are repeatedly tested. It should also provide multiple restore points and real-time auto-updates.


  1. Unencrypted Data

While encryption has become standard during the data transmission process, some enterprises are still yet to implement the same for information held within their databases. Hackers love this because they are able to easily use stolen data in its rawest form.


  1. The Human Factor

Although malware is progressively getting sophisticated, human error is behind more than two-thirds of data breaches. And it’s expected to be the leading cause for the long haul, especially since enterprises are yet to implement sufficiently tight policies to protect their databases. While such a measure does not completely eliminate the risk, it will increasingly reduce vulnerabilities emanating from human errors.


  1. Database Management Inconsistencies

Overall, the lack of consistent database management continues to collectively contribute to all these system vulnerabilities. Database developers and system administrators, therefore, should have a consistent methodology of managing their databases to minimize vulnerabilities, prevent attacks, detect infiltrations, and contain breaches.


All things considered, a stable and secure database should mirror FileCloud’s efforts at maintaining risk-free servers. Get in touch with us to learn more about the features that make us industry leaders in data security.



Author: Davis Porter

Top 10 Cloud Security Threats In 2018 And How To Avert Them


2017 has seen a plague of cyber-attacks- from ransomware shutting down hospitals in Europe, to Equifax data breach, and malware targeting established brands like FedEx. By mid-year alone, the number of attacks in the U.S. had risen by 29% compared to the same time in the previous year. According to the Identity Theft and Resource Source, the organization that had tracked them, more attacks were expected at a growth rate of 37% per year.

Sadly, they were right. As a matter of fact, their prediction turned out to be barely an underestimation. By the end of the year, they had recorded a drastic upturn of 44.7% growth rate compared to 2016. Undoubtedly an all-time high.

If you assume that that must have been the hardest 12 months for cybersecurity, wait until we are done with 2018. According to the Information Security Forum (ISF), the data security organization that had predicted an increase in the number of data breaches in 2017, 2018 will be another painfully dire year. The number and impact of security attacks are expected to rise again over the next couple of months.

The year is also expected to be very thrilling for cloud computing, as more enterprises continue expanding their computing frameworks to the cloud. As a result, the volume of sensitive data in cloud servers is expected to expand at an exponential rate. And that translates to increased vulnerabilities and targets for cyber attackers.

But contrary to popular belief, method and scale of attack will not be changing drastically any time soon. IT professionals are already aware of 99% of the vulnerabilities that will continue to be exploited through to 2020.

So to help you tighten your defenses in the cloud, here are the top 10 threats we expect through 2018.


  1. Data Leak

The average cost of a data breach, going by figures published by Ponemon Institute, currently stands at $3.62 million. Hackers continue to target cloud servers they think have valuable information they could use. And unfortunately, many of them might turn out to be lucky due to vulnerabilities even as simple as private data shared on public domains.

In addition to defining and implementing strict data policies, organizations should invest in data security tech like firewalls plus network management solutions. Most importantly, they should only leverage proven cloud solutions with state-of-the-art security features.


  1. Data Loss

A data leak might be unfortunate, but not as much as data loss. While the former mostly occurs when your cloud server is successfully infiltrated, the latter is mostly caused by natural and artificial disasters. When you think you have all your enterprise data intact, it vanishes completely after physical destruction of the servers.

It’s difficult to predict natural disasters. So, to avoid going out of business due to data loss, implement a multi-layered backup system that consistently runs in real time.


  1. Insider Attacks

Netwrix conducted an IT Risks Survey and established that many enterprises are still experiencing difficulty gaining comprehensive visibility into their IT systems. They consequently remain vulnerable to data security threats emanating from both authorized and unauthorized users. Such an attack could be potentially detrimental since users can easily access even the most sensitive information.

Organizations should, therefore, implement strict user policies, plus effective administrative measures to track and maintain visibility to all user activities.


  1. Crime-as-a-Service

Cybercrime has developed to a level that malicious individuals can now hire hackers to target organizations. The ISF predicts an escalation of this in 2018, as hackers continue to access infiltration tools through the web, and criminal organizations develop complex hierarchies.

Since this mostly targets intellectual property and trade secrets, enterprises should encrypt data both at rest and during transmission.


  1. Human Error

The human factor continues to be the weakest element in cloud security. Your organization’s cloud users might, for instance, mistakenly share that extremely sensitive information you’ve been trying to secure from hackers. Unfortunately, this risk multiplies with every user added to the network.

In addition to strict user privilege management, organizations should invest in IT training to teach employees on cloud use, potential threats, and data handling.


  1. AI Weaponization

Researchers and information securities have been leveraging neural networks, machine-learning strategies, and other artificial intelligence tools to assess attacks and develop corresponding data security models. The downside to this is the fact that hackers will also use the same tools to analyze cloud vulnerabilities, and launch systematic attacks.

Since this threat is increasingly dynamic, it requires an equally multilayered system of data security strategies to prevent attacks from multiple vantage points.


  1. IoT Challenge

Enterprises are exceedingly capitalizing on the cloud to facilitate remote file sharing and access. But this introduces the threat of BYOD devices, which could serve as entry points for malware.

CIOs should, therefore, prioritize not only on server security but also device security. All devices allowed to access enterprise networks should be thoroughly scanned, and adequately tracked.


  1. Account Hijacking

If perpetrators figure out user credentials, they could easily gain access to the corresponding cloud account, hijack it, then manipulate data, eavesdrop on ongoing activities, and tamper with business processes.

In addition to closely protecting user credentials, accounts should come with multi-factor authentication, and the ability to regain control in the event of a hijack.


  1. Denial Of Service

By forcing cloud services to consume an excessive amount of system resources like network bandwidth, disk space, or processor, attackers continue to clock out legitimate users from server access.

An adequately updated antivirus and infiltration detection system should be able to pick up such an attempt, while a firewall will block off subsequent data transfer.


  1. Insecure APIs

Cloud services continue to provide access to third-party software and APIs, which facilitate collaboration and improve service delivery. But some of these APIs come with vulnerabilities that hackers are able to take advantage of to access the primary data.

This requires CIOs to comprehensively review and vet all third-party services before proceeding with subscriptions.


All factors considered none of these aversion measures would be effective on a cloud service that’s poorly secured. So get in touch with us today to learn more about the world’s most secure Enterprise File Sharing Solution.



Author: Davis Porter

GDPR Presents Opportunities for MSPs

In today’s digital world, the issue of data privacy is provoking constant debates with large corporations and even governments being objurgated for invasions of privacy. According to online statistics firm Statista, only about a third of internet users in the United States are concerned about how their personal is data is shared. However, that number is likely to rise as privacy compliance becomes a ubiquitous business concern due to the growing number of regulations formulated to curb the unauthorized access and use of personally identifiable information. The GDPR is one such legislation. No other legislation measures up to the inherent global impact of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Gartner’s prediction that more than half of companies governed globally by the GDPR will not be fully compliant by the end of 2018 has come to fruition. With less than a month to go, a survey of 400 companies conducted by CompTIA inferred that 52 percent were still assessing how GDPR applies to their business. The research also showed that only 13 percent were confident that they are fully compliant. GDPR will without a doubt be a disruptive force in the global marketplace that cannot be ignored. This presents prodigious business opportunities for MSPs to leverage their experience in network security offerings, class analytics solutions, and their own experiences implementing strategies around this new development.

1. An Opportunity to Become GDPR Compliant

As an MSP, it makes sense to protect your business from any reputational and financial consequences by becoming GDPR compliant. It is said that charity starts at home, it would therefore be incongruous for an MSP that is yet to achieve full GDPR compliance to offer guidance in the same aspect. The experiences you gain in your journey to compliance will be of great value to both current and potential customers.

2. An Opportunity to Engage and Educate Your Clients

Most non-European businesses are yet to establish whether the GDPR will apply to them. And for those that are aware, their MSP will likely be the first place they turn to for help; whether its to set up reporting tools, work on data encryption, conduct audits, or implement new data management practices. MSPs should ensure that their clients fully understand the extent and impact of the regulations, and prepare them for GDPR. Since they are already aware of their client’s internal practices and processes, managed service providers are better suited to architect solutions that incorporate GDPR compliance and governance.

MSPs will have to re-onboard clients to make sure their prescribed SaaS offering will meet GDPR requirements. Gather resources and links that can help educate your clients. The use of informative marketing campaigns, or a resource center on your site will help create channels for dialogue – which may subsequently lead to new business projects.

3. An Opportunity to Understand Your Clients Data

Data is a crucial asset, however, most MSPs know very little about the data their clients possess. The only way an MSP can offer guidance and services related to GDPR is by understanding what data your clients have and the location of said data. MSPs should be ready to make an extra effort beyond protecting business applications to protecting personal data. The only way to accomplish this is by analyzing your client’s existing data. Through this process, you will be able to identify any security gaps and create customized security offerings to fill them. Additionally, the data discovery will allow you to adjust your pricing accordingly and push your customers towards more secure technologies or sell additional services that mitigate the risks their current business systems present.

4. An Opportunity to Offer Compliance and Security Related Services

MSPs tend to act as virtual CIOs for their customers. In most cases, the line between packaged service and free consultation tends to get blurred somewhere along the line. GDPR guidance could easily follow the same track – unless the value you offer is presented as a bundle that can be allotted a price tag. Compliance and security services are a potential gold mine for service providers who have acquired the management expertise to satisfy and simplify the complexities associated with the General Data Protection Regulation. Since having a designated Data Protection Officer (DPO) is a mandatory requirement under GDPR regardless of the size of the company; MSPs can use that as an opportunity to establish a DPO as a service model geared towards SMEs that may lack the resources to recruit costly, in-house compliance staff.

5. An Opportunity to Expose Your Brand

Marketing a compliance culture with transparency builds greater relevance and trust among current and potential customers. Companies looking to achieve full GDPR compliance are likely to align themselves with a service provider that has a demonstrated track record. Publicly documenting your GDPR compliance milestones on blogs, social media and your website confirms your familiarity with the subject. Once achieved, full GDPR compliance will act as a quality standard that can be placed on marketing channels to attract and reassure prospective clients.

In Closing

As the weight of the General Data Protection Regulation continues to impact the globe, sagacious MSPs will have an opportunity to assist their customers prepare and gain incremental revenues while supporting the European Unions effort to create a digitally secure global marketplace. Despite the current rush to beat the May 25th deadline, compliance isn’t a one off activity. Companies will always have a budget for comprehensive strategies aimed at achieving and maintaining privacy compliance.

image curtesy of freepik



Author: Gabriel Lando