Archive for the ‘Emerging Tech’ Category

What is Geo-fencing? And How Does it Play a Role in Data Privacy?

GeoFencing

 

Geo-fencing is a new term in the digital marketing space that puts the location of the devices to work for the provision of services. The services could be push messages and notifications that a user gets when the device enters a virtual boundary, known as geo-fence. These virtual fences are set up around certain stores, stadiums, event spaces, malls, and so on.

When a user enters this space with a GPS or an RFID enabled device, it triggers an action that results in the user getting some specific promotions about the particular event or store. Certain apps and software interact with the geo-fence that is set up in the area when the device is connected to GPS, cellular data, RFID, or Wi-Fi. This results in the user getting geo-fence specific messages, which is a useful tool for marketers to promote their products and services timely. Perhaps, the user while entering the space, may not have known about a new product or a promotion, etc.

Applications

The applications of geofencing go much beyond the mere marketing push notifications. Its potential is huge and almost all industries are exploring the endless possibilities that it offers. For example, businesses with huge fleets use it to track the movement of their vehicles; the cattle industry also uses it for the same purpose. Field employees are also tracked in a similar way by certain organizations, for automatically logging time.

Similarly, pets and toddlers could also be tracked for their movement. There are instances of authorities using geofencing to track peoples’ movement when they are in COVID-19 quarantine or for lockdown violations. Geo-fences are set up around important spots like airports, or important buildings as well. This helps monitor the movement, including that of drones in the area. So, geofencing does also play a role in security to track unwanted movement within a geo-fence.

Social networking apps use geo-fencing for location-based filters, stickers, and more; prominently, Snapchat is a very good example of this. Also, in Flickr, you can limit your photo sharing with people in a certain locale only. In-store promotions and audience engagement at events are other good examples of its use. Many of the smart home appliances can also be programmed to send you reminders based on geo-fencing.

Geo-fences are used to track movement in parking spaces to understand the availability of spaces. Certain auto brands even allow you to set up geo-fences around your parked vehicle, so you get a notification if it moves out of the same. Certain people are also using it to send messages to target customers entering their competitor spaces to try and lure them. Some marketers are also offering banner ads based on geo-fencing. Most importantly, a geo-fence sending out alerts about a possible hacker in a network can be used as part of the multi-factor authentication system of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy.

Role in Data Privacy

However, there are concerns raised about data privacy in the use of geo-fencing. When you track users in a specific fence, you are collecting information about them which they may not otherwise be wanting to share. In a world where social profiles are built using digital identities, this could be dangerous. For example, a user may not want people to know why he visited a certain clinic, a religious place, a club, or an event. These could be individual preferences, which were meant to be kept private, but, the geo-fence would have collected information about this.

The legal aspect of the use of geo-fence depends on the privacy laws of the land. In Europe, user consent is a must before this service can be activated. Once specific permission is obtained, then the location-specific data being collected will come under the ambit of the GDPR, which is meant to protect the privacy of the users. Unless all the personally identifiable information is masked by the device ID and the IP addresses that are being collected, it will be treated as a violation. This is because, Personally Identifiable Information (PII) also pertains to IP targeting, email targeting, and phone number detection under the GDPR.

Even the CCPA follows these ethics for its privacy laws applicable in the state of California. And it is expected that companies across the US will be affected by the CCPA, to give consumers new rights and protection almost equal to GDPR and that includes geofencing as well.

There is also the concern that geo-fencing may cause an overdose of unwanted notifications which is a disturbance for an individual. An individual may walk into a coffee shop at the end of a morning walk every day and be bombarded with offers. Or, one may just be passing by a shop with a geo-fence and get messages as a result. This can prove to be quite annoying and may even, ultimately put the customer off. There have been a few cases in the US wherein advertising firms have had to deal with legal cases as a result of their geofencing ads. Especially when the information collected is around health care, children, religious preferences, etc., which come under sensitive personal information, the privacy concerns around geo-fencing takes on a serious turn.

Interestingly, even the banking industry is exploring options with geo-fencing to provide improved customer experiences and fraud detection. People walking into a branch are provided inputs on customized services and offers for them to be able to make better choices. Some banks have enabled their ATMs with geo-fencing, so customers are provided with information about the nearest ATM.

Personal Choices

However, apart from the local privacy laws, individuals can control the information collected by the geofencing apps. If GPS is turned off, then geofencing cannot function, and hence, an individual’s privacy is fully protected. Some of the geofencing marketing happens with the help of the specific apps of stores, dealers, etc.

If an individual chooses not to download these apps, or check the settings in the app to opt-out of the geofencing services, then the location-specific inputs and data collection can be avoided. VPNs can be used to mask IP addresses so that no Personally Identifiable Information can be collected by the geo-fences.

Dockers and Containers and Their Importance

 

 

Docker and container

Software deployment or shipping used to happen with specific instructions about the prerequisites about the environment (both software and hardware) in which to run it. These were called the dependencies of the software, without which it would not be able to function. However, with the advent of the Internet and Java, a lot of that changed and containers and virtual machines (VM) became common. Apps could be shipped in a form that made it possible to run them anywhere, without any pre-conditions. The virtual machines made it possible to run the executable in an isolated environment, with the use of hypervisors. The hypervisors made it possible for the machines to run VMs by provisioning separate resources for it appropriately.

As Linux started becoming mainstream, the term open-source also started making waves. The developer community realized the need to have some community wherein collaborative and shared development can happen. That is what gave birth to OSI (Open Source International) and the concept of open-source software. All software classified as open-source would make its design available freely for all, to use, modify and enhance as deemed necessary. This would help in rapid prototyping through collaboration and shared resources through a community. Of course, there are open-source licenses in place to regulate the way people can use, study, modify and distribute this software. But they are far more open and meant to increase the collaboration and not restrictive in any sense.

What is a container?

A container can be termed as a software packaging mechanism that will insulate the software from its environment, making it possible to run it in any computing environment. So, the container unit of software would contain all the dependencies required to run the application successfully. Containerization makes development quick as developers can focus only on the application logic, and not worry about the dependencies part. It also makes it possible to deploy applications faster, to any computing environment, as the app would be able to run independently, once deployed.

In a way, containers are like virtual machines; Like virtual machines, containers also provide an isolated environment in which to run the software independently. Both of these run on top of the host operating system. But while VMs abstract the hardware into multiple VMs running on a single machine, containers virtualize the OS, instead of the hardware. The container abstraction is at the app layer and not the hardware layer. Multiple containers can run on the same machine and share the kernel, and yet function independently of each other. Each VM though, is a full copy of the OS, taking up that many resources, making it slow. Containers are lighter and take up lesser space.

Perse, containers are built, run and managed using some technology. They are built to operate seamlessly, and their runtime management is mostly automated as otherwise, the purpose is defeated. Though containers provide a certain amount of security to the apps purely by their design, this does mean that the apps won’t need any additional security. They ensure consistency and uniformity in the way apps run across environments.

Docker Explained

Docker is an open-source container tool that is used to create, deploy, and run applications by using containers. The Docker engine was launched in 2013 and leveraged a lot on Linux. Later, Docker was also extended to Windows and its functionalities are available on Windows Servers as well, called Docker Windows containers. In June 2015, Docker donated the container image specification and runtime code now known as runc, to the Open Container Initiative (OCI) to help establish standardization as the container ecosystem grows and matures.

Docker allows the apps to use the host kernel and they only need to be shipped or deployed with things that are not already running on the host computer. They are, therefore, lightweight, and highly efficient, as they do not require an OS per the application being run. Being open-source, Docker also allows developers to think out of the box, to modify the software to suit their additional needs if any.

Docker is a very useful tool that helps the developers to focus only on their job – development. They need not worry about any other dependencies about the environment where the software will ultimately run on. Also, being open-source software, Docker comes with a lot of pre-written programs that these developers could use as is, or modify to suit their needs. This brings down the development time by a great margin.

This tool has also become a coveted one for the system administrators/DevOps professionals in recent times. Docker provides them with great flexibility in faster deployment and reducing dependencies with its reduced footprint and overhead. Docker has created the industry standard for containers, so they are highly portable. Docker also provides a great amount of security to the apps running in their containers.

The Benefits

The benefits that containers and Docker bring into modern software development can be summarized as below:

Lightweight: Containers share the OS kernel and are therefore lightweight. They are also small in size and use up lesser resources and can scale up faster.

Portability: Without this, perhaps, containers would not have been what they are. Portability is one of the most important benefits that containers bring in through the removal of dependencies.

Speed: Modern software development is often termed as agile. This means rapid development with aggressive deadlines and multiple deployments within a short period. Dockers and containers make this possible by empowering the developers to concentrate on their work, and system admins and DevOps professionals to deploy with agility. Also, the smaller size, and portability too, add on to the speed of deployment. The Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD) model of DevOps is dependent on container models.

Suited for most architecture: Since a lot of apps nowadays run on microservices architecture, container apps are well suited for such environments. Container apps are also well suited for most forms of Cloud deployment, like even hybrid Clouds.

Migration: Containerizing apps are now the most common method for migrating apps to modernize them, and bring in better manageability and portability. Containers provide much-needed flexibility to scale the apps and services. Also, containers allow migration without the need for having to re-architect these apps, which could be a herculean as well as an expensive task.

FileCloud 20.1 Updates & End-Point Backup

FileCloud 20.1 Updates, End-point Backup and More!

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FileCloud 20.1 Update

With Microsoft Office tag support, expanded notification configuration and much more, our 20.1 update is brimming with quality of life features! Read on for a little more detail about what we’ve done to take your file-sharing experience to the next level.

  • More Ways to Control and Configure NotificationsNotifications — can’t live without ‘em, but they sure can get annoying when they’re pinging you about stuff that doesn’t matter. So we made configuring everything about them including the type of notifications per user and per folder possible. Gone are the days of email clutter!
  • Built-In Microsoft Office Tag SupportFileCloud now allows users to import Office tags into FileCloud as well as to seamlessly search by them. With most organizations using Microsoft Office for daily professional and personal needs, FileCloud has always heavily prioritized Office integrations — and this update is no exception. Users can now even set up Content Classification Engine (CCE) and Data Leak Protection (DLP) rules based on Office tags. Check out our support documentation here.
  • Automatic Team Folder Permission UpdatesNew team folder permission updates are now applied during folder-syncing operations, ensuring that no one is able to access secure data at any point of the syncing process. Read up on how to enable this here.
  • SMS Integration & GatewaysFileCloud now seamlessly integrates with custom SMS gateways to enhance your security and convenience. Receive verifications and authentication from your custom SMS gateways to your personal mobile devices!
  • Integration with Multiple Identity Providers (IdP)FileCloud now integrates with multiple identity providers to support large enterprises who authenticate and authorize multiple IdPs.
    Learn More →

AirSend

The Importance Of FileCloud Endpoint Backup

Seeing a system error and wondering if your data got lost or compromised, is terrifying. Realizing that your data is gone, irretrievable and you just lost hours and hours of tedious work is devastating. We know the feeling all too well and that is why we made sure you will never go through that rollercoaster of emotions!

You can configure endpoint backup settings for all users or specific users, and view all users’ backed up files from your FileCloud account. You can enable this from the server-side to allow “end” users to “backup” all their important files from different devices using FileCloud Sync (Windows/macOS) and mobile applications. All files automatically go to “My Files/Backups,” creating a new folder for each device.

Learn More →

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FileCloud Tips: Microsoft Office365 Preview

FileCloud now supports Microsoft Office365 Preview and you can easily enable this from your FileCloud Admin Portal settings to allow users to see MS Office documents the way they are intended to be seen.
ServerSync

Learn More →


AirSend

AirSend’s Email to Channel

Send messages via email directly to Airsend channels without having to switch windows! You can now choose to message your client directly via our desktop apps, reply from your email with your unique channel email address, or respond via email to a channel notification. Whether you’re using Airsend to communicate with your team, clients or acquaintances, your convenience is always our priority.

 

Top 10 File-Sharing Solutions in 2020

Top File Sharing Solutions

In our age of information, most modern enterprises have started to move towards the digitization of data. Never have there been quite so many enterprise file-synchronization and sharing (EFSS) solutions available on the market — and while a wide range of choice is always good, it also makes it much more difficult to choose the perfect solution for your organization. 

After all, investing in a solution that offers either too little or too much functionality can cost you valuable time, money and resources. And no one wants that! As such, we’ve put together a list (in no particular order) of great EFSS solutions for your consideration, so that you can pick the one that offers all the features your enterprise might need, while remaining affordable and within your price range. 


Our Criteria

Naturally, being one ourselves, we have compelling opinions about what makes a fantastic EFSS solution. Here are the factors that we’re taking into account when choosing our list of Top 10 Enterprise File Sync and Sharing solutions on the market:

  • Pricing: Shelling out the big bucks doesn’t always mean you’re getting the best solution. Aside from the base price, making sure a solution offers the features that you need (for example, unlimited client accounts) could save you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run.
  • User Interface: What good are all the features in the world, if you and your team can’t figure out how to use them — or worse, if they’re hidden in so much clutter that using them feels more like a chore than a convenience?
  • Data Governance & Compliance: If your organization regularly handles sensitive data, you might be familiar with data governance policies, such as HIPAA or GDPR. A good solution helps you comply with these policies and avoid hefty legal fines by offering granular file-access, user policy management and data residency.
  • Data Security: Features like remote data-wiping, encryption in-transit and at-rest, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), and alert notifications help keep your data in the right hands, even when devices are stolen or lost. That’s pretty important!
  • Integration: More than likely, you and your team uses Microsoft Word or Google Docs as your main word processor. Perhaps you send your emails via Outlook. A good EFSS solution integrates with popular office programs such as Microsoft Office 365, Google Drive and Outlook, so that your workflow stays uninterrupted.
  • APIs: Besides integrating with commonly used programs, the ideal EFSS solution should offer a wide range of APIs so that it can work and interact with the software that your team uses.
  • Customization: When your team, customers, partners and vendors access your files, do you want them to see the EFSS solution’s logo plastered across everything, or do you want to be able to label your portal with your own logo, assets and branding?
  • Mobile & Remote Access: You might not have constant access to your office computer, or even your laptop, but most of us always keep our phones around.
  • Administrative Tools: A great EFSS solution doesn’t just make it easier to collaborate and share files, but also to manage your team. An admin panel for you and your sysadmins to manage user policies, view real-time performance reports and a centralized device dashboard, plus other security tools, is a must.
  • Collaborative Tools: As more and more enterprises move to remote work, we believe that it’s not enough for modern EFSS solutions to simply store files, but also to provide tools for easier, more efficient team collaboration. These include common team folders for remote teams to share files with each other, the ability to comment on files and send messages to each other while working.
  • Identity Management: This means integration with standard enterprise identity solutions, such as Active Directory (AD) and Single Sign-On.
  • Virtual Drive: The ability to mount remote files as local files, so that data is only downloaded when they are being accessed and edited. This means a lot less memory usage on your part, and tons of space saved on your hard drive.
  • Content Management: A good file-sharing solution offers file-versioning, metadata classification, user policy management and light workflows for the easier management and organization of your team’s hard work.

Now that we’re on the same page about what the perfect EFSS solution looks like, without further ado, let’s move on to what you’re here for: the list!


1. FileCloud

 

  Pricing: FileCloud Online: $10/user/month (Standard), $15/user/month (Enterprise) || FileCloud Server: $4.20/user/month | FileCloud Server: Contact for Quote

✓  Storage: FileCloud Online: 1TB out-of-the-box, +100GB/user  (Standard), +200GB/user (Enterprise)  || FileCloud Server: Unlimited

✓  Security: FileCloud is compliant with all the most stringent data governance policies, such as HIPAA and GDPR. Encryption at rest and in transit, 256-bit AES encryption, granular file-sharing, password-protected, public and private shares.

✓  Features: From deployment models to unlimited client accounts, branding capabilities and more, FileCloud is filled with incredible enterprise-level features.

Naturally, we’re proud of our own product and firmly believe FileCloud to be one of the most powerful and affordable EFSS solutions on the market. FileCloud offers on-premise, public and a unique hybrid cloud deployment model. This deployment flexibility separates FileCloud from its competitors, and ensures that your team can enjoy the benefits of both on-premise and cloud storage systems — read more on our hybrid infrastructure here.

Our pricing is also one of the most affordable on the market, while offering larger storage plans, better enterprise-level features, and unlimited FREE external client accounts — all great for your wallet and your ROI. Feature-wise, we consider seamless, remote access to your data as the bare minimum that a good file-solution should offer. Collaborative and content management tools, a comprehensive admin panel, plus infinite customization options are all features that ensure not just your team, but also your clients and sysadmins get in on the enhanced EFSS experience.

Last but certainly not least, FileCloud is compliant with most data security governance policies, meaning that you’ll never see your organization’s good name tainted in headlines labelled with “Security Breach” or “Data Leaks”. Plus. it’ll save you tons on the fines and fees that’ll rack up if you go with a less-secure option.

ProsCons
Affordable, no paywalls, money/time-saving featuresUnfortunately, FileCloud isn't an open-source software.
Compliant with all data security governance policies With all these features, FileCloud's UI can get a bit complex for beginners and laymen
Integration with most common office softwares, APIs

2. Google Drive: GSuite

How to Find Anything in Google Apps - The Ultimate Guide to G ...

  Pricing: Free Plan: Free | Basic Plan: $6/user/month | Business Plan: $12/user/month | Enterprise Plan: $25/user/month

✓  Storage: Free Plan: 15GB | Basic Plan: 30GB | Business & Enterprise Plan: Unlimited, or 1TB / user if less than 5 users

✓  Security: Encryption in transit; no option to encrypt individual documents. Multi-factor authentication.

✓  Features: Google Drive comes with powerful, recognized collaborative tools, such as Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

Having quickly risen in popularity over the past couple of years, Google Drive is now a powerful file-sharing solution on the market. A file storage and synchronization program created by Google, it’s best known for its collaborative capabilities via Google Docs, Sheets and Slides, which offer real-time collaborative editing of documents, spreadsheets and slides respectively. 

The solution’s enterprise plan, GSuite, comes with a similarly clean and intuitive UI, as well as integration with popular enterprise softwares such as Autodesk, Salesforce, and more. Apart from this, Google Drive for Business offers unlimited cloud storage, access from any device, offline file access, includes apps like Gmail, Google Keep, Google Sites, as well as enterprise-grade access controls, e-discovery for emails, chats and files.

However, reportedly, users have encountered frequent connectivity and syncing issues while using Google Drive. Plus, while Google Drive has fairly beefy data security with encryption in-transit and at-rest, human error on part of the developers has led to security issues, such as when Google Photos started sending private videos to strangers

ProsCons
Strong team collaborative toolsHas had major security issues through developer error
Clean mobile and desktop softwareOn the pricey end: $30,000 for 100 users/ year
Allows offline mode and offline file-editingKnown occasional syncing issues

3. Dropbox

Dropbox -

  Pricing: Basic Plan: Free | Plus Plan: $11.99/user/month  | Professional Plan: $19.99/user/month

✓  Storage: Basic Plan: 2GB | Plus Plan: 2TB | Professional Plan: 3TB

✓  Security: AES 256-bit encryption for data at rest and AES 128-bit encryption for data in transit; however, known past security issues

✓  Features: Unique “Paper” and “Showcase” features: basic “Notes” and “Portfolio” app respectively

Of course, we’d be remiss to not mention Dropbox in a file-sharing solution comparison post. With its clean, intuitive UI and easy-to-use features, Dropbox has become a well-known, household name in terms of file storage. Dropbox also offers password-protected links, integration for Office 365 and Google Drive, and strong administrative tools. However, while it certainly has its pros, we feel strongly that there are better enterprise-level file-sharing solutions — and here’s why. 

Due to the system’s popularity, it’s always been a popular target for hackers. Even now, it doesn’t offer local encryption. Their customer service certainly leaves more to be desired, as seen from their lack of 24/7 customer support.

And above all that, despite having fewer features than many enterprise-level solutions out there, Dropbox is far from the most affordable on the market, especially with their 5-user minimum. Plus, with their measly 2GB- free storage and paywalls for unlimited storage, it certainly feels like the solution is out to milk their users dry.

ProsCons
Clean mobile and desktop applicationsDisappointing 2GB starting storage space
Automatic synchronization of files and foldersFrequent past security issues
"History" feature allows access to past versionsPricier end of things, 5 user minimum

4. Box

Cloud Storage Services for Business Use - armix.one

  Pricing: Box Starter: $5/user/month | Box Business: $20/user/month | Box Business Plus: $33/user/month | Box Enterprise: $47/user/month

✓  Storage: Box Starter: 100GB | Box Business: Unlimited | Box Business Plus: Unlimited | Box Enterprise: Unlimited

✓  Security: A regulatory-compliant Zero-Knowledge Provider. Tools to manage user perms and customer-managed encryption keys.

✓  Features: Secure collaborative and project-management tools, as well as rule sets for work-flow automation

While perhaps less of a household name than Dropbox, Box, founded in 2005 and based in California, is also an incredibly strong contender on the EFSS market. With tools that integrate with other services, like Google Docs, Box also goes above and beyond in offering custom branding capabilities and letting users create a professional appearance for their organization.

Plus, Box’s security is nothing to scoff about, being a uniquely zero-knowledge provider and offering tons of options for encryption and user management.

Unfortunately, with their heavy local encryption, Box transfers tend to get slow — something that could impede or even cripple the seamless remote workflows that have become the norm today. Box also does not offer any options for on-premise or self-hosting, nor local storage, and does not perform end-point backups. Plus, while it certainly provides tons of enterprise-level features, it’s also significantly pricier than almost any solution on the market.

ProsCons
Platform-independent, apps for most major devicesMore expensive than most competition
Secure, regulatory-compliant solutionLocal encryption can slow file transfers
Tons of features, intuitive to useNo on-premise or local storage

5. Egnyte

Egnyte Business Review | PCMag

  Pricing: Office Plan: $8/user/month | Business Plan: $20/user/month | Enterprise Plan: Contact for a quote

✓  Storage: Office Plan: 5TB | Business Plan: 10TB | Enterprise Plan: Scales with your needs

✓  Security: Standard encryption, includes user and group access permissions

✓  Features: What stands out most with Egnyte is their great auditing system which timestamps user activities, plus a robust access permission system.

Egnyte has recently become one of the leading choices for enterprises, claiming to have been designed with businesses in mind. Egnyte provides the branding capabilities to customize logos, URLs and message headers, providing a more professional look. In addition to useful sharing and collaborative features, Egnyte also provides great security features, such as intuitive access permissions and encryption. It also integrates with most operating systems and devices. 

Unfortunately, there have reportedly been frequent sync/network problems with the solution. While robust in features, Egnyte provides little documentation for these features — combined with poor customer service, creating a steep learning curve for their product. There are also paywalls for features such as audit reports and storage sync, for an already-relatively-high price tag.

ProsCons
Great security measuresMore expensive than most competition
Robust user and group permissionsNo Linux support
Custom branding capabilitiesReported network and sync issues

6. OneDrive

Microsoft updating OneDrive with better web UI and sharing options ...

  Pricing: Business Plan 1: $5/user/month | Business Plan 1: $10/user/month | Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $5/user/month | Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $12.50/user/month

✓  Storage: All Plans: 1TB – extra storage space can be purchased separately for up to 1TB/$9.99/month

✓  Security: Standard encryption, file-locking, paywalls for SSO/SAML Authentication

✓  Features: Advanced sharing, mobility and security. Heavy integration with Office software.

Microsoft OneDrive is a file hosting service and synchronization service operated by Microsoft as part of its web version of Office. Naturally, this Microsoft-based solution heavily integrates with Office 365 programs that most teams use, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, as well as Outlook, which is a huge plus. Certain plans even grant access to said software. It also provides encryption at rest and in transit. Overall, it has robust features that make it a strong solution, as expected from Microsoft.

Unfortunately, data privacy issues have surfaced time and time again with large corporations, and OneDrive is no exception. When using this solution, Microsoft can scan your files for “objectionable content”, stating that file security cannot be guaranteed for said content.

ProsCons
Integration with Office 365 programsFile-size limit of 10GB
Provides file-versioning featuresNo on-premise / self-hosting options
Great security measuresSecurity measures locked behind paywalls

7. OwnCloud

ownCloud Phoenix - rebirth of the ownCloud user interface – ownCloud

  Pricing: Standard Subscription: $3,750/50 users/year | Enterprise Subscription: $9,000/50 users/year | Custom Subscription: Custom pricing for 10,000 users and above

✓  Storage: Unlimited Self-Storage Space

✓  Security: Standard Encryption, Multi-Factor Authentication, NTFS Support

✓  Features: Custom branding, open-source customizability, local storage options

ownCloud is a reliable file sharing infrastructure with a client-server architecture, allowing users to setup a complete private file-sharing service with data encryption server side while avoiding popular public ones like Google drive or Dropbox. An open source solution, it offers rich features and the ability to use on-premise / self-hosting.

However, most potential users balk at the massive price tag of $9,000/50 users/year — even if you divide that into per user per month, it’s still pretty hefty — especially compared to available file solutions that have the same features while staying at 1/4 of that price! Due to being open source, there’s also a lack of a strong support system, and poor documentation. It also doesn’t offer endpoint backup, nor granular subfolders.

ProsCons
Feature-rich, open sourceRelatively high cost
Support for local storage and on-premiseNo endpoint backup or granular subfolders
Work across all popular operating systemPoor support and documentation

8. Citrix ShareFile

Localized ShareFile WebUI available | Citrix Blogs

  Pricing: Standard Plan: $55/5 users/month | Advanced Plan: $85/5 users/month | Premium Plan: $135/5 users/month | Virtual Data Room Plan: $375/5 users/month

✓  Storage: Unlimited Storage Space

✓  Security: Standard encryption and SSL/TLS. Recovery sites in both the US and EU.

✓  Features: Collaborative and productivity-enhancing tools, custom electronic signature tool. File-versioning features.

Sharefile is Citrix’s enterprise-class cloud storage solution, and they’re well-known in the commercial software and service industry. Notable features of Sharefile include an auditing system that generates activity reports, integration with Single Sign-On, download alerts, and two-factor authentication. This cuts down on the amount of time it would take to print out a document, sign it, and scan it to the cloud.

Unfortunately, despite their generous offer of unlimited storage, they do have a file size limit. The solution itself doesn’t support Linux. Plus, with a standard plan starting at $55, paywalls for features and their enforced 5-user pricing plan, it’s safe to say that Sharefile isn’t the most affordable solution for smaller organizations. Reportedly, Sharefile’s licensing plans are also misleading.

ProsCons
Great security measuresFile-size limit of 10GB
Provides file-versioning featuresNo Linux support
Simple to use, clean user interfacePricey, misleading licensing plans

9. NextCloud

Nextcloud 16 introduces machine learning based security and ...

  Pricing: Basic Plan: $2,136/50 users/year | Standard Plan: $3,823/50 users/year | Premium Plan: $5,510/50 users/year

✓  Storage: Unlimited Self-Storage

✓  Security: Standard Encryption, SSO, SAML Authentication, 2FA, File-Locking

✓  Features: On-Premise and Cloud file-hosting, large file support, local storage support, OS compatibility

While NextCloud is a free, open-source software, NextCloud Enterprise comes as a powerful, pre-configured EFSS solution that takes some of the guesswork out of configuring their free, alternative solution. It certainly totes the basics expected of any EFSS solution, such as audit logs, a desktop sync client and user management, and has great security with end-to-end encryption.

Unfortunately, similar to ownCloud, which NextCloud was a spinoff of, the open-source software can come with a lack of support and documentation. As such, many deployments, updates and bug fixes fall to you and your team — wasting precious time that could have been used on other productive activities.

ProsCons
Strong collaborative featuresLack of support and documentation
Good security measures, with encryptionSelf-dependent for updates
Compatible with common operating systemsOn the pricier end of things

10. Syncplicity

Syncplicity Cloud Storage Service Review | Cloud Storage Advice

  Pricing: Personal: $5/user/month | Business: $5/user/month | Enterprise: Contact for quote | Government: Contact for quote

✓  Storage: Personal: 100 GB | Business+: 300GB

✓  Security: Standard encryption in-transit and at-rest, SSO, 2FA

✓  Features: Hybrid solution, remote access and mobility

For a solution that’s much less popular and well-known, Syncplicity offers a surprising punch with their rich features, hybrid hosting options, great security, file restorations and backup. In addition, good things have been said about their customer support, with online chat and a 24/7 phoneline. 

At a price of $60 for even the lowest personal plan and a whopping minimum of 25 users, Syncplicity is far from the most affordable solution on the market. Syncplicity also doesn’t support customer-managed keys. Plus, Syncplicity uses a traditional interface — great for the early 2010’s, but perhaps not the most modern for today’s standards.

ProsCons
Hybrid file-hosting solutionHigh user minimum, expensive
Great customer service, 24/7 supportNo user-managed encryption keys
File restorations and automatic backupLow storage - 300GB

How Containers, Microservices and DevOps are Revolutionizing Enterprise IT

The modern business environment is on the brink of change – software services that were historically considered mere back-office functions are now increasingly being used to deliver core values digitally.

Why?

The Harvard Business Review claims that businesses converting traditional back offices into automated systems generate over 50 percent improvement in customer service and productivity. So, even though they are more important than ever to the business, software services now affect the customers directly.Instead of the central services produced and delivered by the company being physical and in the real world, software-based services now have the power to affect the very core of the business, making them a crucial part of a company’s overall strategy and the services being sold to the customers.

Functionality and features must now be delivered quickly with optimal user experiences and high quality. Prolonged, convoluted app development cycles usually make organizations non-competitive and threaten to disrupt not just the customers of the business but their bottom line as well. For that reason, existing organizations need development processes and architecture resembling efficient factory assembly lines to remain in the competition.

Becoming More Service-Oriented

Enterprises need to start implementing common points of management, including the ability to “trick” operational tools into believing they are managing a common set of systems. The goal is to place multi-layered systems using various interfaces for operations between the single service-oriented abstraction layer. This will allow every system, including the cloud-based ones, to communicate with microservice interfaces, either from containerized apps or not.

Microservices and containerization for ops simplification is the endgame, but that may prove challenging for most enterprises since no best practices are available to explain the way databases, devices, platforms, applications, or other older systems should be microservice-activated.

Why Containers and Microservices are a Match Made in Heaven?

Given the sheer demands placed upon enterprises by today’s competitive market, DevOps methodology and microservices have come into play. Also known as cloud-native applications, microservices are a whole new set of application architecture that decomposes bigger, monolithic apps of the past into smaller, discrete processes and functions that are created and evolve separately from their peers.

Every single microservice stays self-contained, incapable of sharing data with other microservices and being accessible only through its API. The immutable nature of microservices means they cannot be updated as well and scale-out for every independent function.

Microservices help enterprises grow by delivering services, features, and solutions independently on separate delivery timelines. This design methodology makes it simpler to create systems containing reusable component parts so that multiple services and apps throughout the organization can use them, saving precious time for operations and software development teams.

Microservices may be run individually using containers, which serve as lightweight, useful “envelopes” that permit software to be entirely portable. It is possible to dynamically create or destroy as many or as few containers as required for each microservice based on load. Thus, automation is important since the rapid creation of the containers allows for the scaling and high availability of microservices.

Containers usually include the code necessary to execute a specific microservice instance, enabling them to deconstruct a problem into smaller pieces and arrive at isolated, efficient and decoupled execution engines for every service and application.

Arguments have been forwarded regarding the capacity of virtual machines (VMs) to service the same or better purpose as containers. But this line of thought is a dead end since virtual machines – despite having their share of benefits including isolation and security – are not as suited as containers for the microservice dynamic. This could have something to do with their rapid separation and provisioning from the underlying operating system.

Advantages of Agile Development and Containers

If you consider containers to be the portable code envelope and decompose applications into several microservices that can be independently developed and deployed, the final pillar of the latest applications is DevOps processes. Through the encouragement of rapid integrations, regular communication between team members, and a constant flow of technology where operations and QA are interwoven in a predictable and precise way, an agile form of development can offer shorter release cycles, quicker time-to-market for essential new capabilities, better quality software, minimally intrusive updates for customers, and better user experiences.

DevOps methodology allows for:

Constant QA: If an enterprise wishes to ship software at a faster rate but in smaller quantities via microservices and containers, it will demand modular and comprehensive testing executed in parallel. Automation supports continuous sandbox and unit testing at the microservice level, making it ideal for minor changes. Enterprises should make it a point to test often and early to diagnose and resolve errors more easily. Automation is a must for efficiency and thoroughness.

Performance Testing: Customers nowadays value user experiences above everything else. If a software change makes the system less responsive or slower, companies must detect the problem as quickly as possible before it is deployed live and affects customers. It is too late to detect usability and performance problems at the end of a big release. Teams must evaluate the performance impact of minor tweaks when they’re made and resolve the situation fast, thereby correcting any performance or user experience issues at once.

aStaging Automation: Mistakes usually occur when operations teams go from staging to the live development phase, especially when teams conduct this process manually. By embracing DevOps completely, operations teams can automate the move from staging to production and support Green/Blue deployments. This technique not only reduces downtime but minimizes risks by operating two identical production environments running staggered versions, supporting roll backwards and roll forward in case of recovery from problems.

Enterprises can enjoy a whopping ROI on microservices, DevOps and containers, irrespective of the industry. Cloud-scale apps are no longer mere background engines driving and coordinating a business; they now deliver actual services being purchased by customers, which promises better quality, engineering, and real-time user experiences.

Concluding Remarks

The use of modern development process and application software design like DevOps methodology and container-based microservices allow organizations and their respective IT teams to support new software capabilities and services in a more efficient manner, all the while detecting and testing for user experience anomalies constantly.

Author : Rahul Sharma

Top predictions for 2019

Today’s workforce is more versatile that ever, with more and more organizations hiring remote freelancers to work closely with full-time staff. Innovative business collaboration methods can enhance a businesses productivity by twenty to thirty percent. In a cut-throat industry, this could mean the difference between failure and success. Industry leaders now recognize that collaboration is crucial to productivity, which wasn’t the case a few decades ago. Content collaboration platforms have the ability to revamp how teams and individuals work. They add insight and structure when collaboration entails unstructured data, enabling businesses to not only capture the data but to analyze it and find actionable patterns and results.

In a recently published study, International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a steady growth for the content collaboration platforms market. The market is expected to hit $6.2 billion by 2019. A large portion of this growth will be driven by the need to connect unstructured collaboration with structured content-centric enterprise processes – primarily for decision making. Teams usually collaborate around content – whether that be video, image or document; and according to Gartner, by 2022 50 percent of large and mid-size organizations in mature regional markets will rely on a content collaboration platform to improve productivity and implement document workflows. With that in mind, let us make some predictions about what to expect in 2019.

1. Data ownership will be a defining factor for the entire year

Data is at the heart of every enterprise. It is used to make decision, define the business strategy and even forecast future outcomes. So it’s not surprising that data ownership concerns are on the rise. Data ownership refers to both the responsibility for and procession of information. Ownership insinuates control as well as power. The control of information encompasses the ability to create, package, modify and extract benefit from the sale or removal of data, while retaining the right to assign these access privileges to others. Recent cybersecurity incidents have cast a spotlight on the ownership of data. Stringent regulations have also put the hammer down when matters of data ownership and privacy are concerned.

There is little room for error and the focus will only grow. 2019 will see organizations federate data ownership into more complex organizational structures. Most organizations will ensure there is a central individual at the top of the chain, like a Chief Data Officer, to make sure that even federated data ownership can be kept in check.

2. In the wake of GDPR, other countries will follow the EU’s lead and announce new data regulations

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) presented a monumental challenge to companies since failure to comply meant a hefty fine. And while Google searches relating to GDPR may have flat-lined, that doesn’t diminish the regulations’ significance. The EU backed regulation segmented the World Wide Web, with varying rules in various regions and countries that supersede the Iranian Internet Isolation or the Chinese firewall. 2019 will likely see more and more privacy initiatives rise out of the woodwork.

Around the globe, developing legislation intends to offer transparency to the journey of data, from consumer devices to business websites to data servers. India may soon be passing extensive data protection laws, as a Personal Data Protection Bill has been drafted. Chiefly adopted from the GDPR. Axios reported that Gail Slater, special assistant to the President for telecom, tech and cyber policy, is looking into what types of regulations, should be implemented in the United States. This spread of data regulation legislation will be the hallmark for significant progress in consumer protection, and increasing awareness of online privacy issues.

3. Need for data control and ownership will greatly impact the enterprise collaboration market

The increasing popularity of social networking sites coupled with the rapid growth of the BYOD trend is crucial factors driving the growth of the enterprise collaboration market. However, a major hurdle is that of data ownership. This quandary stems from the fact that although a project may be using a specific system for all project communications and documentation, a single stakeholder still ‘owns’ the data. In most enterprise applications, the first control point for visibility is considered the record owner. In 2019 and beyond, data assets will be crucial to success.

4. Complex workloads will migrate to the cloud via hybrid or private cloud

As the cloud computing industry continues to expand and gain maturity, more and more organizations are opting to operate within multi-cloud landscapes rolled out across multiple different service providers. According to a study by LogicMonitor, 83 percent of enterprise workloads will be in the cloud by 2020 – with 20 percent predicted to be private-cloud based and another 22 percent running on hybrid cloud solutions. Strategic partnering and flexible ecosystems will become crucial as the complexity and volume of cloud workloads grow and as vendor’s service/product portfolio expand.

5. Regulations will drive demand for specialists

As business began to come to terms with data privacy legislation, they will have to take a closer look at how they handle data moving forward and train their employees accordingly. Processes and systems will have to be reviewed to make sure that they have the required levels of access, control, and audit. Privacy in itself has now become big business, with contractors, consultants, and lawyers lining up to advise companies on the best way to implement these changes and ensure their procedures and policies are in order. Supply and demand for data security professionals are on the rise. According to Indeed, the number of postings for cybersecurity roles increased by 3.5 percent between March of 2017 and March 2018. In 2019, business will extend their search to professionals with experience in managing compliance reforms.

6. Add-ons will become a major differentiator

The mobile workforce has been granted the comfort they desire and the flexibility they seek to get their work done via the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) concept. It’s not uncommon for organizations to have several platforms that manage their various forms of communication. However, having too many tools and channels to engage with and monitor may hinder productivity. That is where integration and add-ons come into play, and enable multiple platforms and tools to link and seamlessly work with together. In 2019, expect to see integration and tighter coexistence between enterprise tools.

Varying industries utilize EFSS for different purposes. A movie studio, for example, will have different file sharing needs from a finance firm. Enterprise collaboration platforms that provide the flexibility of integrating to other tools will be the top consideration.

7. Phishing attacks targeting large EFSS will increase

Compounding the risks of data leakage is the looming threat of hackers focused on exploiting the points of failure in your enterprise systems. They are getting craftier and more organized with each passing day – by 2019, they could cost businesses over $2.1 trillion globally. Despite declining susceptibility rates, organizations are still bombarded with spam emails and spam data. The global phishing protection market is forecasted to reach a valuation of $1.8 billion by 2025. The increased level of sophistication of cyber-attacks across a number of industries like finance and banking, defense, and consumer and retail banking has led to a drastic rise in protection against spear phishing.

8. More mergers and acquisitions

The decision makers are constantly innovating and increasingly seeking market expansion via various strategic M&A activities. Enterprise collaboration is driving the need for tighter integration between productivity and support platforms. According to 451 research, in 2016, buyers spent $3.7 billion in this space, more than double the spending of any year since 2007. This growth has largely been attributed to the rise of Software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery models. This type of consolidation enables customers to have higher-quality options when choosing collaboration tools for their company. When competitors merge overlapping services and products, the end-user benefits. This not only reduces concerns about a vendors’ legitimacy but also any uncertainties around scale or support.

9. Machine Collaboration is here to stay

Despite the proliferation of the misguided narrative that machines will eventually replace humans at work; It has already been established that AI has the power to revolutionize the way we work –positively. The use of machine learning to further automation efforts is here to stay, and we will have to interact with them collaboratively. Organizations are more efficient when automation works in tandem with content collaboration. Moving forward, the gains enterprises need will mostly come from automation, which enables workers to free up the time they would otherwise spend on repetitive tasks, and instead focus on work that generates a much higher return for the organization.

10. Intelligent analytics will solidify the position of the intelligent enterprise

The modern enterprise is a data-driven one. Most organizations have already come into the realization that the use of self-service and data democratization tools are crucial to improved decision making. This trend will continue in upcoming years as employees at various levels can no longer afford to waste time waiting for IT to generate a report. Due to the growth and innovations of self-service analytical tools, the process of data-governance will undergo major modifications as well. The future belongs to the Intelligent enterprise, which is capable of anticipating constantly changing regulatory, competitive and market challenges and turn them into profit and opportunity.

Author : Gabriel Lando

Blockchain Will Change the Shape of Legal Industry – Here’s How and Why

Bitcoin valuation touched $20,000 per coin in December 2017! A few years back, self-proclaimed text experts were quick to dismiss crypto-currencies as a concept at best. We can bet anybody would be ready to eat their words only to get a Bitcoin or two in their digital wallets, today.

 

 

At this point in time, blockchain technology is being looked upon as something revolutionary, and something that brings groundbreaking improvements in the ways and means of several industries. The technology is also called ‘distributed ledger’; that’s because the core idea of information management in blockchain is to store verifiable blocks spread across thousands of terminals in the network. This also means that each transaction or contract can be verified and follow up actions can be tied to this verification.

This theoretical 100% control and credibility of transactions and exchanges are what makes blockchain technology an exciting proposition for the legal market. Here’s all you need to know to catch up on the impact of blockchain in the legal industry.

 

Smart Contracts: An Existential Risk to Contract Lawyers?

 

Traditionally, corporate contract management has been a market with strong roles for lawyers. Apart from drafting these contracts, lawyers play important roles in ensuring that both parties actually sign contracts physically, and then also take care of the physical storage of these documents.

The power of blockchain is already changing the way contracts are being managed. These ‘smart contracts’ could be digitally created, and because of the distributed information on the network, could always be verified, and hence held legally binding. The crazy bit – these contracts can be executed without the requirement of a lawyer, directly between the two parties involved.

Already, startups in the legal-blockchain interface market are providing platforms for individuals to enter into smart contracts, without the need of a traditional lawyer. Of course, enterprising law firms have an opportunity to activate an entirely digital-dependent revenue chain, offering smart contract services.

 

 

The Impact on the Volatile Intellectual Properties Market

 

As dismal as it sounds, artists have a difficult time getting their intellectual property rights honored, even in spite of there being clear legal guidelines for the same. Because of the nature of the product, the complexity of distribution, and lack of transparency in the way content streaming companies operate, the intellectual property market becomes highly complex.

However, blockchain can bring order to this otherwise chaotic marketplace, and that’s by tying the artistic content to a blockchain powered platform. Startups such as NKOR, for instance, offer a service where artists can register their intellectual property. Also, there is a lot of excitement around concepts such as coding royalties-distribution into the blockchain, to ensure immediate disbursement of the artists’ dues. Legal firms can expand into this space and become the intellectual property protectors for artists throughout their careers.

 

 

Blockchain As An Operational Enabler

 

Apart from opening new revenue channels for law firms, blockchain technology has superb operational benefits to bless the industry with. Before that, let’s understand the 4 attributes of blockchain methodology that make it substantially secure for data or value exchange.

 

  • Information is decentralized.
  • Information is very difficult to alter because that requires making alterations in several data locations.
  • For new data to enter the blockchain, multiple sources are needed.
  • The steps involved in information and value exchange are very little and the time taken is very less, which leaves very little scope for manipulation.

 

Today, law firms face severe compliance challenges. The nature of modern businesses means that these firms need to securely exchange information among teams, clients, and contractors while maintaining strict control and clarity over responsibilities and jurisdiction as data flows across various parties. This makes blockchain a promising platform for law firms to manage how they share data, without risking leakage and ambiguity over responsibilities and ownership.

 

Land Ownership and Deed Management

 

It’s dismal how real estate market is exposed to severe litigation risks because state and central governments continue to struggle with outdated means and methods of information management. Blockchain, however, can solve the problem, by providing a reliable method for all stakeholders to verify the ownership of land by claimants. Also, important information such as the location and area of the land, and the dates on which important exchanges took place, can all be stored in the public blockchain.

 

Blockchain Law

 

More than a decade back, the digital media industry became huge, which led to maturation of the digital media usage related legal market. Today, we are at a point where there are tremendous opportunities for enterprising law firms to become experts in blockchain law, understand the implications of the technology on different markets, and identify stakeholders that will need representation. In the years to come, as the body of law governing blockchain matures, the demand for blockchain lawyers will surge.

 

Chain of Custody

 

Chain of custody refers to a carefully maintained paper trail for all evidence assets, which is maintained until the time the evidence is produced in court. If the chain of custody is not properly maintained, the defense attorney can easily file a motion to make the prosecution’s evidence inadmissible. Physical evidence’s chain of custody is a difficult enough problem for law firms; throw in digital evidence, and the challenges become even more complex. Here, blockchain can offer the dual solution of not only ensuring the maintenance of a reliable chain of custody (particularly for digital evidence) but also help in secure storage of data. This means that evidence management will cease to be a headache for law firms in the times to come.

 

Concluding Remarks

 

From the discussion till now, it’s clear that blockchain will alter the legal market for the better, eliminating several operational bottlenecks as we know them today and opening new revenue generation channels for law firms. Also, because of the inherent information security capabilities of the blockchain, it’s expected that the technology will help law firms secure their information, and offer related services to a wide range of industries.

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

Top CRM Trends That IT Managers Need to Track in 2018

Customer Relationships Management (CRM) software have been around for quite some time now. Some businesses use them as basic sales management solutions while others look to make the most of their features for wholesome customer interactions management. Like every technology, CRM tools also underwent changes throughout 2017, and 2018 will be no different. A bit of planning, prior research, and a basic understanding of the latest trends from the CRM universe will help businesses a lot. We cover all this and more in this guide. Read on.

A Quick Look Back At CRM Progress

Back in the 1980s, CRM software hardly did anything apart from helping businesses manage contacts. In the 1990s, CRM software became more dynamic and started tracking customer interactions. By the beginning of 2000, cloud-based CRM solutions expanded the market size, as these applications became more accessible for all kinds of businesses.

Since then, CRM has remained on track in terms of adding more functionality to the core software, delivering business value in the process. Today, the business of all scales and sizes, across markets, rely on CRM software for customers interaction management, customer lifetime value enhancement, and customer support, among many other related functions. This makes it crucial for IT managers and leaders to be aware of the latest enhancements being made to CRM software. This guide will help, for sure.

Personalized Automation Via Artificial Intelligence Algorithms

Artificial Intelligence algorithms are affecting transformations across business functions. In 2018, the effects will be seen on the CRM front as well. AI algorithms will be able to help customer support personnel in several ways.

AI-powered CRM software will be able to analyze end user level interactions, learn from the patterns, improve workflows by incremental automation, and hence free up a lot of man-hours for more value adding work. AI-based CRM systems will be able to tap into the TBs of enterprise data to find out insightful patterns pertaining to customer-business interactions. Also, this CRM software will be able to predict using patterns and make crucial decisions related to existing customers and new leads, reducing guesswork and cold calling for end users.

This personalized automation is truly the next big leap that CRM software is ready to take.

The Coming of Age for Social CRM

A very prominent trend evident in the growth of CRM in the past few years is the integration of CRM with social media. With social media, customer-business interactions take place at hours the customer decides, in informal language, and are often initiated by the customer instead of the company.

Your customer’s relationships management efforts need to be focused on the channels where your customers exist. Already, enterprises have included social media channels into their CRM mix. In 2018, the leading CRM software vendors are expected to release extended suites of social media-powered CRM solutions. These suites will comprise advanced social media monitoring and listening functionalities. The net result – enterprises will be able to detect customer sentiments on social media, participate in interactions without explicitly being called out to, and take control of customer interactions on all social media channels. This also extends to mobile devices, enabling end users to resolve customer queries on social channels on the move.

Sales Journey Automation

Apart from the individual level, personalized workflow automation we talked about earlier, 2018 will also witness an underlying improvement in customer sales journey automation. Advanced CRM software will be able to tap into the massive enterprise data to design multi-tiered and highly automated customer journeys. This will enable businesses to effectively manage entire customer journeys, from lead stage to loyalty stage, with minimal sales personnel intervention. Lead scoring and behavioral marketing will further improve the effectiveness of these automatic customer journey mappings.

3rd Party Integrations

CRM software cut across quite a few business functions, namely – sales, marketing, and customer support. This also means that CRM solutions must be able to deliver more than a mere peripheral feature set related to these aspects.

In 2018, CRM software vendors will raise their game in terms of allowing 3rd party integrations of their core software with other tools. This is also expected to be accompanied by a call for industry standard interfaces that connect multiple services and solutions. Though the modern breed of CRM software offers a fair amount of integration already, there is still a long way to go before single-vendor CRM suites can deliver intelligent synchronization across platforms. Mobile and web-powered solutions need to work in tandem with the enterprise’s core CRM, and this year will see the onset of these futuristic CRM tools.

Smart Messaging

Gartner predicts that businesses that are not able to implement a stellar customer interactions strategy stand to lose 25% of potential new revenue. Enterprises are looking to formulate multi-dimensional and multi-channel CRM strategies. Proactive and intelligent messaging is a crucial element of these advanced CRM strategies. Personalization is another critical aspect of this long-term CRM strategy. Thankfully, the next-gen breed of CRM software will come loaded with tools and functionalities that make it easy and hassle-free for businesses to achieve success with their CRM strategies.

These tools will be able to ‘estimate’ when to send a message to audiences, and will also be able to personalize and contextualize the content of the message accordingly. Chatbots are already exhibiting their prowess in making use of oceans of customer demographics and interactions history data to manage automated messaging. With similar functionalities, CRM software will be able to send the right message, to the right audience, at the right time, and using the right communication channel.

Concluding Remarks

It’s clear how big data, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence will bring about significant improvements in CRM software in 2018. IT leads and managers need to stay in sync with the latest from the world of CRM software so that they can commission the right tool, and beat their competitors.

 

 

Author: Rahul Sharma

Top IoT Trends That Will Keep on Buzzing in 2018

IoT devices are around us in every direction we’d care to look. These devices are helping doctors monitor patients from far away continents, assisting factory floor managers in identifying assembly line parts that will need maintenance in the coming few days, and monitoring vehicle performance and driving improvements in prototypes. IoT technologies are re-shaping customer journeys in unimaginable personalized ways, helping businesses explore whole new vistas of business growth and service delivery. 2017 was an exciting year that witnessed the adoption of IoT technologies by all kinds of businesses. As we move into 2018, here’s a guide to help you identify the IoT trends that will make the buzz throughout the year.

Rapid IoT Growth Will Continue

Though this might sound ridiculously obvious, the trend deserves a mention nevertheless. That’s because some very specific industries and business processes stand to be transformed for the better by IoT devices in the very near future. Among these, retail is at the top, with smart devices already helping companies explore new service delivery and revenue generation channels. Healthcare and industrial supply chain are the other two industries where IoT is on the brink of bringing in revolutionary changes. Wearable devices for round the clock patient monitoring in health-care, and use of stock quality monitoring IoT technology in industrial supply chains are already a reality. Throughout 2018, we will witness more and more processes and applications bring driven by IoT devices and technologies in industries apart from retail.

Fragmentation as an opportunity as well as challenge

Much like what we observed in cloud computing software as a service (SaaS) space throughout 2011-2015, IoT service vendors will be driven by the need to differentiate. The result – there will be a wave of fragmentation sweeping across the industry. Though the availability of niche IoT players will benefit SMBs, enterprises will have to face the challenge of working with multiple vendors under multiple contracts for the execution of their IoT strategy. Compatibility issues will hit companies in abundance as they try to make things work with multiple IoT systems, all of which might not be made with a view to integrating with other systems. Industry giants, thankfully, realize this problem and are already calling out for standardization in IoT technology protocols. Qualcomm, for instance, is vocal about the potential security challenges that fragmented IoT infrastructures could imply. In 2018, it will be interesting to note whether any serious work gets done as far as standardization of IoT technologies is concerned.

Fragmentation Will Increase Concerns Around IoT Security

A vendor for predictive maintenance algorithms, another for data analytics, yet another from edge computing infrastructure, and still another for smart visual reporting – that’s not a far-fetched reality, and something that enterprises are likely to encounter and experience in 2018. Of course, this makes the IoT ecosystem very complex. The long-term integration challenges that such a complex system brings to the table are hard to appreciate and understand well after the implementation phase of IoT projects. Also, so many moving parts of your IoT vehicle mean that the threat surface area increases. In such a situation, the art of ensuring thorough system security and data privacy becomes a challenge for enterprises. This calls for IT leads to work in close conjugation with the CISO office, to anticipate and address compatibility, privacy, and security challenges for IoT systems.

Low Power Wide Area Network As a Growth Driver

Low power – Wide area network (LP-WAN) technology is advancing at rapid pace. This technology is all about enabling wide area network connectivity across a large area, without using much power. The impact of opening up newer markets and applications for IoT could be huge. Traditionally, the business processes and applications that have not been considered for IoT powered transformations because of lack of affordable internet connectivity, will be open and relevant for IoT projects once LP-WAN projects start getting commissioned at a commercial scale.

The Availability of SaaS-based IoT offerings

In spite of the rapid leaps made by IoT technology vendors in the past couple of years, implementations remain mostly on-premise. This makes the cost of entry from SMBs and small enterprises prohibitively high. However, there has been clear progress in SaaS-based IoT services, and the market is all set to expand throughout 2018.

For enterprises, this means that they can commission small IoT projects without spending a lot. Whether you wish to get started with localized telemetry data analysis or want a machine learning expert to help you draw out tremendous insight from your data lakes, you will have a SaaS-based IoT service to consider in 2018.

Device firmware, server-side scripts, different connectivity and communication technologies, machine learning – this is just the starting point. Instead of managing all this complexity on your premise, you’d want to consider affordable and scalable SaaS alternatives.

The Increasing Importance of Edge Computing

IoT means massive data. And the success of IoT projects invariably depends on the speed, accuracy, and costs of data processing. Among these, the speed of processing is crucial for certain important IoT applications such as unmanned areal vehicles. For all these, it’s important to perform data analytics close to the source of data, so that propagation delay to and from the central analytics engine and database.

To achieve this, edge computing is a practical option for enterprises. IoT leaders like Dell, HPE, and Cisco, for instance, are already investing in edge computing infrastructure. Of course, all the buzz around edge computing as a successor to cloud computing is mere hype, because both infrastructures need to co-exist for enterprises to be able to realize IoT projects with low latency tolerance.

Concluding Remarks

A Business Insider report suggests that business spending on IoT will be $6 trillion by 2021. Expect 2018 to be a milestone year in this roller coaster of a journey. Track the trends mentioned in this guide to make quick and smart moves for your enterprise.

 

 

Author : Rahul Sharma

Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) for Enterprise – Jump on the Bandwagon?


The democratization of high-speed Internet coupled with the development of distributed information exchanges gave rise to the development of blockchain technology. Blockchain is the underlying technology that powers the crypto-currency Bitcoin; however, its uses transcend that. Simply put, a blockchain is public, shared distributed ledger that stores the complete transaction history of different types of records. The validity, uniqueness, and integrity of the stored data is preserved, without the need for a trusted third party to verify it. As such, blockchain has peaked the interest of several enterprises, especially those in the finance and banking industries. Large tech players such as Microsoft and IBM have begun exploring the opportunities blockchain presents in the form of Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) solutions in order to incorporate blockchain technologies into their cloud offerings.

Its no secret that the industry of blockchain based companies is still relatively young. Its future is currently being shaped by experimentation and R&D partnerships between large corporations and start-ups. The main driver behind the rise of blockchain apps, especially in the enterprise, is directly linked to time and cost efficiencies, that are still far from optimal in most industries.

“ Blockchain holds the promise to fundamentally transform how business is done, making business-to-business interactions more secure, transparent, and efficient”

– Amit Zavery, senior VP of Oracle Cloud Platform

What is Blockchain as a Service ?

A Deloitte survey conducted towards the end of 2016 concluded that Blockchain technology would become a crucial business focus for most industries in 2017. The survey, which involved 308 senior executives who were knowledgeable about blockchain, found that most of them placed blockchain among their organizations’ highest priority. 36 percent were convinced blockchain has the potential to significantly enhance system operations, by either increasing speed or reducing costs. 37 percent recognized blockchain’s formidable security features as the main benefit. The remaining 24 percent were of the opinion that it has the potential to facilitate new revenue streams and business models. While there is a consensus amongst enterprise tech decision makers that blockchain has immense potential to reshape entire industries, the adoption plan is not as clear or direct.

Building enterprise solutions powered by blockchain is not a simple undertaking. The setup and subsequent operation of a blockchain environment involves major development and infrastructure challenges. Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) is an intriguing trend in the blockchain ecosystem that aims to ease adoption for enterprises. The idea behind it is that customers can leverage blockchain cloud solutions to create a network of their own applications and smart contracts while the cloud provider handles all the heavy lifting needed to keep the infrastructure operational.

BaaS provides blockchain capabilities as a first class Platform as a Service (PaaS) services. From a functional perspective, a BaaS model enables developers to create solutions that effortlessly combine the aptness of blockchain with typical infrastructure and platform services like storage, messaging, middle-ware, and other functional building blocks of complex software solutions. Additionally, BaaS facilitates a seamless model to manage and scale a blockchain topology without the deployment of any proprietary infrastructure.

BaaS Market Outlook

Blockchain has gained a lot of momentum over the past few years, with good reason. As of Feb 2017, it was the second most-searched term on Gartners site, after a 400 percent increase in the 12 months prior. This shows an exponentially increasing interest in this rapidly developing market. The entire blockchain market is predicted to grow at an annual growth rate of 61.5 percent by 2021, with immutability and transparency as the driving factors behind the growth. Another thing aiding in the expansion of blockchain’s reach has been the proliferation of blockchain as a service (BaaS) solutions from major providers.

The major BaaS players include:

Microsoft

Microsoft first launched the Azure BaaS in November 2015. In 2016 it furthered its efforts with Project Bletchley blockchain middle-ware/ template, which was aimed at helping partners and customers build private consortium Ethereum networks. Microsoft is trying to aid business figure out the best way to build on top of BaaS with Enterprise Smart Contracts. The blockchain framework and middle-ware were created to help enterprises integrate and build distributed applications. Since Azure is a scalable, flexible and open platform, Microsoft claims to support a growing number of distributed ledger technologies that meet specific technical and business needs for performance, security and operational processes. They also claim the the Cortana intelligent service is capable of providing unique data analysis and management capabilities.

IBM

IBM’s BaaS service is based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric. Hyperledger is an open source cross-industry effort to introduce blockchain to the enterprise; by utilizing it, IBM hopes that developers will be able to rapidly build and host secure blockchain networks through the IBM cloud. In order to solidify security, IBM blockchain is underpinned by IBM LinuxONE, a security based Linux server. The IBM blockchain platform claims to be the only fully integrated enterprise blockchain platform built to accelerate the governance, development and operation of multi-institution business networks. IBM plans to offer a framework for cooperate blockchain networks, that automatically scales as members are added to it. The company states that its blockchain platform will be capable of supporting large user ecosystems and transaction rates.

Oracle

Shortly after joining the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, Oracle added blockchain as a service to its cloud offering. The plan to launch the service was initially announced when it joined Hyperledger in August 2017. Its goal at the time was to provide an advanced and differentiated enterprise-grade distributed cloud ledger platform for consumers looking to create new blockchain based apps and/or grow their current IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and on-premise applications.

In Closing

Conspicuously missing from the list of major BaaS providers is AWS. In 2016 AWS announced a collaboration with the New York City based Digital Currency Group (DCG), to provide a blockchain (as a service) experimentation environment for enterprises. So that the blockchain providers on the DCG portfolio can work with their clients, who include insurance companies and financial institutions, in a secure environment. However, this strategy is yet to end up with the development on a new BaaS platform within AWS. Scott Mullins, AWS head of worldwide financial services business development, says that their company is closely working with blockchain providers and financial institutions to prompt innovation while facilitating frictionless experimentation. Google has also been relatively quiet it matters concerning blockchain. However considering the direction other PaaS incumbents are going; we are likely to see BaaS capabilities incorporated into Google cloud in the future.

 

Auhtor: Gabriel Lando