How cave fish may help prevent IoT jamming

Jamming is a potential crippling blow to internet of things-enabled hardware. It can bring down drones from the sky, disrupt network connections and lead to economic downtime. In the cybersecurity arena, jamming is more commonly known as dedicated denial of service attacks. According to a CORERO DDoS trend report, this method of cyberattack increased by an incredible 91 percent in 2017.

IoT devices are behind this surge in DDoS attacks, as many lack comprehensive cybersecurity protocols and can be easily jammed. While this deterrent is not enough to slow the pace of IoT adoption, enterprises hoping to make use of mass IoT market penetration must be aware of the risks, as well as what is being done to prevent IoT jamming.

Luckily, a recent study published in Optics Express gives some hope against rampant DDoS cybercrime. As with many technological innovations, the potential salvation is inspired by a system that already works inside the animal kingdom.

Studying the Eigenmannia
The Eigenmannia are a species of cave fish that exist in total darkness. Without light, these creatures need another way to hunt, communicate and otherwise “see” within the perpetual darkness. The researchers studying these fish discovered that they emitted an electric field to sense the environment and communicate with other fish.

Because two or more of these animals could emit the field near one another, the species had to have a way to stop the signal from getting disrupted, otherwise the fish couldn’t thrive. The scientists learned the Eigenmannia have the ability to alter their signals. This capability is due to a unique neural algorithm in their brain activity. The purpose and function of the field remains in tact, but its frequency is changed just enough to avoid confusion.

This same trait can be harnessed to help create a light-based jamming avoidance response device.

Drones if jammed run the risk of damaging hardware and products. If jammed, drones run the risk of damaging hardware and products.

Creating a jamming avoidance response device
When two IoT devices operating on the same frequency come close to each other, the fields become crossed, and jamming occurs. The closer the two pieces of hardware drift, the more the disruption intensifies.

However, with a JAR device, similar to the natural solution used by Eigenmannia, these IoT components could adjust their frequency, preserving the function of the signal while avoiding jamming. Using a light-based system would enable IoT devices to shift through a wide range of frequencies.

The resulting machine, created by the research team, shows promise.

“This could allow a smarter and more dynamic way to use our wireless communication systems without the need for the complicated coordination processes that currently prevent jamming, by reserving whole sections of bandwidth for specific phone carriers or users such as the military,” said team lead Mable P. Fok.

While it won’t single-handedly eliminate the threat of DDoS attacks, JAR device usage on a large scale has some advantages. Essentially, it is a low-cost solution for any agency that utilizes a plethora of IoT content. In addition to the aforementioned military use case, health care facilities like hospitals, air traffic control towers and even educational institutions could find immediate value in this technology.

Since a JAR device would likely lower the bandwidth needed for IoT hardware interaction, DDoS attacks could become less expensive. As these attacks continue to become more prevalent, the value of this research will likely increase. Designing IoT devices on software that can shift frequency will reduce costs and, hopefully, a more secure IoT landscape.

The potential of Project Kinect for Azure

When Microsoft first debuted its Kinect hardware in 2010, the product had nothing to do with edge computing, AI or machine learning. The Kinect served as a controller interface for Microsoft's Xbox 360 video game console. (Later versions were released for Windows PC and Xbox One.) Using cameras and sensors, it registered a player's body movements and inputted these gestures as controls. While it was innovative, Kinect struggled to gain a footing.

Despite going through various upgrades, it was fully discontinued as a consumer project in 2017. However, Microsoft did not fully abandon its Kinect hardware. At this year's Build developer's conference the company revealed a new use for its one-time video game accessory: edge computing.

Specifically, the new Kinect project factors into the greater themes of Build 2018, namely combining cognitive computing, AI and edge computing. 

"Microsoft has ambitious plans to bring its Cognitive Services software to Azure IoT Edge."

Microsoft at Build 2018
Edge computing is at the forefront of technological innovation. Capitalizing on the internet of things, this method of data processing de-emphasizes a central hub. Remote sensors receive computer processing power to analyze the data near its source before sending it back, greatly reducing bandwidth needs. This system is also more dependable because the sensors store the data, at least for a limited time span. Network outages or dropped connections won't result in lost or fragmented information.

However, these sensors are, at the moment, fairly basic equipment. Microsoft aims to change that. At Build 2018, the company announced ambitious plans to bring its Cognitive Services software to its edge computing solution, Azure IoT Edge. According to TechCrunch, the first of these programs will be the Custom Vision service.

Implementation of this software with Azure IoT Edge can allow unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones, to perform more complex tasks without direct control from a central data source. It will give these devices the ability to "see" and understand the environment around them, analyzing new visual data streams. This technology can also be used to improve advanced robotics, autonomous vehicles and industrial machines.

This advanced method of machine learning can increase productivity because all of these devices will be able to continue to perform complicated, vision-based tasks even with network connection disruptions.

Microsoft has also partnered with Qualcomm to bring cognitive vision developer's tools to devices like home assistants, security cameras and other smart devices.

However, this technology, Qualcomm and its Custom Vision service, while useful only work with devices equipped with sensors and cameras that can process visual data. To increase the variety of edge sensors that can benefit from these new tools and software services, Microsoft resurrected the Kinect. 

Allowing advanced robotics to "see" will enable them to perform far more complex actions, even without a constant relay of instructions. Allowing advanced robotics to "see" will enable them to perform far more complex actions, even without a constant relay of instructions.

The power of the Kinect 
In an introduction on LinkedIn, Microsoft Technical Fellow Alex Kipman discussed Project Kinect for Azure. In his piece, Kipman outlined the company's reasoning for opting to return to the commercial failure. First, Kinect has a number of impressive features that make it ideal as a sensor.

These benefits include its 1024×1024 megapixel resolution, which is the highest among any sensor camera. Kinect also comes with a global shutter that will help the device record accurately when in sunlight. Its cameras capture images with automatic per pixel gain selection. This functionality allows the Kinect to capture objects at various ranges cleanly and without distortion. It features multiphase depth calculation to further improve its image accuracy, even when dealing with power supply variation and the presence of lasers. Lastly, the Kinect is a low-power piece of hardware thanks to its high modulation frequency and contrast.

Utilizing the Kinect sensors for cognitive computing makes sense. When looking at the product history, Microsoft had already developed more than half the specifications needed to create an effective sensor. The Kinect was designed to track and process human movement, differentiate users from animals or spectators in the room and operate in numerous real-world settings. It was also made to endure drops and other household accidents. Essentially, the Kinect was a hardy specialized sensor interface a market where it had to compete with precise button pressing.

In an industrial space, Kinect can fair far better. Augmenting existing data collection sensors with this visual aid will increase the amount of actionable data that is recorded. The Kinect brings with it a set of "eyes" for any machine. This advantage will let developers and engineers get creative as they seek to create the advanced edge computing networks of the future.

How a holistic approach to data analytics benefits cybersecurity

Almost everyone, regardless of industry, recognizes the growing importance of cybersecurity. Cyberattacks are on the rise and growing increasingly varied and sophisticated. According to data collected by Cybersecurity Ventures, the annual cost of cybercrime is estimated to reach roughly $6 trillion by 2021. An effective information security policy is, in many cases, the only thing standing between companies and possible financial ruin.

The danger is especially real for small- to medium-sized businesses. Data from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found that only slightly more than a third of SMBs (40 percent) survive for longer than six months after a successful data breach. For these types of organizations, cybersecurity is literally a matter of life and death.

The good news: Many businesses recognize the need for effective cybersecurity strategies and are investing heavily in personnel and software solutions. The bad news: Many of these same companies are only reacting, not thinking about how to best deploy this protective framework. Effective cybersecurity isn’t as simple as applying a bandage to a cut.

It can be better equated to introducing a new nutritional supplement to the diet. The whole procedure is vastly more effective if integrated into every meal. To best use modern cybersecurity practices, businesses must rethink their approaches to corporate data structure. Data analytics is a vital tool in providing the best in information protection.

“Segmenting data spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy.”

Siloed data is unread data
As organizations grow, there is a tendency to segment. New branches develop, managers are appointed to oversee departments – in general, these groups tend to work on their projects and trust that other arenas of the company are also doing their jobs. The responsibility is divided and thus, easier to handle.

While this setup may make the day-to-day routine of the business easier on executives, it spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy. This division process creates siloed or segmented data pools. While a department may be very aware of what it is doing, it has far less knowledge of other corporate branches.

Many organizations may figure that an in-house IT team or chief information security officer can oversee everything, keeping the company running at full-tilt. However, this assumption is only half-true. While these staff members can and do oversee the vast majority of business operations, they will lack the data to make comprehensive decisions. A report from the Ponemon Institute found that 70 percent of cybersecurity decision-makers felt they couldn’t effectively act because of a surplus of jumbled, incoherent data.

Data analytics, or the study of (typically big) data, provides facts behind reasoning. To gather this information, companies need systems and software that talk to one another. Having the best-rated cybersecurity software won’t make a difference if it can’t easily communicate with the company’s primary OS or reach data from several remote branches.

CISOs or other qualified individuals can make practical, often less-expensive strategies with a clear view of the entire company. Without this type of solution, a business, no matter its resources or personnel, will essentially be operating its cybersecurity strategy through guesswork.

Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process. Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process.

Centralized businesses may miss real-time updates
Businesses face another challenge as they expand. Data collection has, in the past, slowed with remote locations. Before IoT and Industry 4.0, organizations were bound with paper and email communications. Remote branches typically grouped data reports into weeks or, more likely, months.

This approach meant that the central location effectively made decisions with month-old information. When it comes to minimizing the damage from data breaches, every hour matters. Luckily, many institutions can now provide data streaming in real time. Those that can’t must prioritize improving information flow immediately. Cybercrime looks for the weakest aspect within a company and tries to exploit the deficiency.

For data analytics to work properly, businesses need access to the full breadth of internal data. The more consistent and up to date this information is, the better CISOs and IT departments can make coherent and sensible decisions.

Visibility may not sound like the answer to fighting cyberattacks, but it is a crucial component. Companies need to be able to look within and adapt at a moment’s notice. This strategy requires not just the ability to see but also the power to make quick, actionable adjustments. Those organizations that still segment data will find this procedure difficult and time consuming.

As cybercrime becomes an expected aspect of business operations, those who still think in siloed brackets must change their mindsets or face expensive consequences.

Is a hybrid cloud solution right for your company?

Over the last decade, many companies have been shifting IT responsibilities to the cloud, a solution that allows various users and hardware to share data over vast distances. Cloud programs frequently take the form of infrastructure as a service. A company that can't afford in-house servers or a full-sized IT team can use cloud solutions to replace these hardware and personnel limitations.

Large companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google are all behind cloud services, propelling the space forward and innovating constantly. However, there are still limitations when it comes to cloud adoption. For as convenient as theses services are, they are designed for ubiquitous usage. Organizations that specialize in certain tasks may find a cloud solution limited in its capabilities.

Those businesses wishing to support service-oriented architecture may wish to consider a hybrid cloud solution, a new service becoming widespread throughout various enterprise application. As its name suggests, a hybrid cloud solution combines the power of a third-party cloud provider with the versatility of in-house software. While this sounds like an all-around positive, these solutions are not for every organization.

"Before businesses discuss a hybrid solution, they need three separate components."

Why technical prowess matters for hybrid cloud adoption
TechTarget listed three essentials for any company attempting to implement a hybrid cloud solution. Organizations must:

  1. Have on-premise private cloud hardware, including servers, or else a signed agreement with a private cloud provider.
  2. Support a strong and stable wide area network connection.
  3. Have purchased an agreement with a public cloud platform such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud.

Essentially, before businesses can discuss a hybrid solution, they need all the separate components. An office with its own server room will still struggle with a hybrid cloud solution if its WAN cannot reliably link the private system with the third party cloud provider. And here is the crutch. Companies without skilled IT staffs need to think long and hard about what that connection would entail.

Compatibility is a crucial issue. Businesses can have the most sophisticated, tailored in-house cloud solution in the world but, if it doesn't work with the desired third party cloud software, the application will be next to useless. It isn't just a matter of software. Before a hybrid cloud solution can be considered feasible, equipment like servers, load balancers and a local area network all need to be examined to see how well they will function with the proposed solution.

After this preparation is complete, organizations will need to create a hypervisor to maintain virtual machine functionality. Once this is accomplished, a private cloud software layer will be needed to empower many essential cloud capabilities. Then the whole interface will need to be reworked with the average user in mind to create a seamless experience.

In short: in-house, skilled IT staff are essential to successfully utilizing a hybrid cloud solution. If businesses doubt the capabilities of any department, or question whether they have enough personnel to begin with, it may be better to hold off on hybrid cloud adoption.

Without being properly installed, a poorly implemented solution could cause delays, lost data and, worse of all, potentially disastrous network data breaches.

Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.Cloud technology has been designed to keep business data secure. Poorly installing a hybrid solution could weaken this stability.

The potential benefits of the hybrid cloud
However, if created the right way, a hybrid cloud solution brings a wide array of advantages to many enterprises, particularly those working with big data. According to the Harvard Business Review, hybrid cloud platforms can bring the best of both solutions, including unified visibility into resource utilization. This improved overview will empower companies to track precisely which employees are using what and for how long. Workload analysis reports and cost optimization will ultimately be improved as organizations can better direct internal resources and prioritize workers with stronger performances.

Overall platform features and computing needs will also be fully visible, allowing businesses to scale with greater flexibility. This is especially helpful for enterprises that see "rush periods" near the end of quarter/year. As the need rises, the solution can flex right along with it.

Hybrid cloud services are also easier to manage. If implemented properly, IT teams can harmonize the two infrastructures into one consistent interface. This will mean that employees only need to become familiar with one system, rather than learning different apps individually.

Companies processing big data can segment processing needs, according to the TechTarget report. Information like accumulated sales, test and business data can be retained privately while the third party solution runs analytical models, which can scale larger data collections without compromising in-office network performance.

As The Practical Guide to Hybrid Cloud Computing noted, this type of solution allows businesses to tailor their capabilities and services in a way that directly aligns with desired company objectives, all while ensuring that such goals remain within budget.

Organizations with skilled, fully formed IT teams should consider hybrid cloud solutions. While not every agency needs this specialized, flexible data infrastructure, many businesses stand ready to reap considerable rewards from the hybrid cloud.

Data Madness: Physical and digital, ensuring that critical data stays safe

With March winding down, it is important to remember the significance of confidential corporate information. Data has been called the new oil, however, as Business Insider pointed out, this is not a great comparison. Unlike oil, more data does not intrinsically mean greater value. The nature of this information greatly matters.

So really, data is more like sediment. Some bits are just pebbles – numerous beyond count and basically interchangeable. However, certain information – like say personal identification information and dedicated analytical data – is immensely valuable. These are the gemstones, the gold, and this data must be protected.

To avoid data madness, or the immense financial and irreparable damage done by lost confidential information, follow these tips to safeguard valuable data:

"Around 23 percent of IT thefts occur in office."

Securing physical data
While many organizations worry about theft from cars, airports or other public places – not enough information is paid to a real danger: the office. According to a Kensington report, 23 percent of IT thefts occur in office. This is nearly 10 percent higher than hotels and airports.

The same report found that over a third of IT personal have no physical protection in place to prevent hardware from being stolen. Only 20 percent used locks to protect hard drives.

While organizations worry about small devices like wearables and smartphones, basic security cannot be overlooked. Companies must take steps to ensure that only employees or approved guests have access to the premises. Even then, not every worker needs universal access. Server rooms and hardware storage should be kept behind additional locks.

IT teams should also be required to keep a thorough inventory of all network-enabled data devices. This will alert the organization quickly should a theft occur. While cybersecurity grabs headlines – the importance of a good, strong physical lock cannot be overstated.

Malicious third parties are not above using simple and primitive tactics.

Protecting digital data
While physical protection is essential, cybersecurity is rising in importance. Gemalto data states that, since 2013, more than 9 billion digital records have been stolen, misplaced or simply erased without authorization. More troubling is the recent increases in data loss. Gemalto also recorded a steady rise data breach occurrence and a dramatic uptick in misplaced or stolen information.

Cybercriminals adapt quickly and their tools are constantly evolving. Deloitte released a report chronicling the increasing tenacity and sophistication of ransomware, a disturbing cyberattack that strips away essential data access from organizations and charges them to get it back. Infamous attacks like WannaCry made headlines last year and unfortunately these incidents are expected to become more common.

When enhancing cybersecurity, take a company-wide approach. Every employee with network access needs to be educated on basic risks. Network administrators should also structure internet connectivity to run on the principle of least privilege. As with the physical server room, not every employee needs access to every file. Permissions should be given sparingly.

Lastly, businesses need a concrete plan if and when a data breach do occur so that they may respond efficiently and swiftly to contain the attack. 

Finding  the point of breach quickly can reduce the damage done by cybercriminals. Finding the point of breach quickly can reduce the damage done by cybercriminals.

The Cloud Advantage
One of the reasons that cloud services are so popular is that they alleviate certain cybersecurity concerns. Many businesses, especially smaller organizations, have budget restrictions, whereas a cloud services provider like Microsoft annually invests $1 billion in cybersecurity, according to Reuters.

Handing off information security concerns to a trusted organization with more resources is a way to help safeguard your data, backing it up so that it will never be lost or stolen by a malicious third party.

Data Madness: Exploring the reliability of in-house data vs. cloud servers

Much is made today about choosing the right kind of data storage. When you’re running a team, the last thing you want is for some crucial information to go missing. Such a setback can be disastrous, especially if the data lost was from a survey or customer response. In addition, you have the added anxiety of only hoping the data was lost, not stolen.

As data madness continues, we’re exploring the most secure methods to backup essential data. In today’s article, we’re putting the two most popular solutions under a microscope: in-house servers and cloud data storage. For many companies, success literally hinges on data security. Know the best method and keep your organization running.

How to keep in-house servers running effectively
The longer a server is in operation, the more likely it is to break down. A Statista report found that only 5 percent of servers broke after the first year. By the fourth year, that number had more than doubled. By year seven, nearly 20 percent of servers failed. While the likelihood of a break is still relatively low after seven years, organizations are clearly taking a huge risk. Executives at this hypothetical company might as well tell their employees that there is only an 80 percent chance for productivity each day.

Servers should be continually replaced and upgraded to be effective at securely housing data. However, age is not the only factor that can cause a server to malfunction. RocketIT stressed the need to continuously upgrade server software to keep it protected and compatible with modern systems.

Since servers are gold mines of confidential data, they are the prime targets for any malicious hacker. Keeping servers up to date not only keeps them running smoothly, it also reduces the risk of viruses and malware being able to infiltrate the hardware.

Lastly, if your business opts for servers then it needs a dedicated, maintained space in which to house them. According to Serverscheck, the ideal server room temperature is between 64-80 degrees Fahrenheit with no more than 60 percent humidity. Servers work best with constant conditions so any change could impact device functionality. In addition, if there is a flood or water leakage in the room, then the organization is at serious risk of data loss.

Servers need dedicated, environmentally-controlled space in order to function at peak levels. Servers need dedicated, environmentally-controlled space in order to function at peak levels.

Choosing the right professional cloud services provider
If your company instead opts for a cloud service provider, it must choose the right provider. There are currently numerous options in the field, with Amazon and Microsoft standing out as the dominant players.

Many cloud service providers use physical servers themselves. Essentially, they handle all the maintenance, storage and cybersecurity responsibilities and charge clients for the operations. While some servers, like Cisco in a recent fiasco, have lost client data, the problem has so far been a rare occurrence, according to The Register.

However, there is another side to cloud data. It can keep existing even when the order is given for deletion, as some celebrities learned in an unfortunate way, according to Wired. If an organization is going to store data through a cloud provider, they should be very careful if and when additional backups are made. Data that survives its intended expiration can be dangerous, especially if the parent company has no idea it exists.

And the most secure data storage method is…
Oxford Dictionaries chronicled the phrase “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” as a way of summarizing that you need to choose only one option. With data storage – you can eat as much of your cake as you want, while still having an infinite supply left over. For companies serious about safeguarding data, the best option is simply both.

Backing up data to multiple sources is one of the best ways to ensure that it is never accidently deleted. Just be sure that every copy is secure, to keep classified information out of malicious hands.

Storing data in multiple sites ensures that it lasts longer. Storing data in multiple sites ensures that it lasts longer.

Exploring Microsoft’s new partnership with Symantec

 

Early in February 2018, Microsoft and Symantec announced a partnership, one that allows Symantec to integrate its security solutions with Microsoft Azure and Office 365. The move is an expansion of service alignment, following the October 2017 announcement that Symantec will use the Azure cloud to deliver its Norton consumer-grade cybersecurity software, according to Microsoft.

Both companies have praised the initial move as a win-win. Microsoft gained a valuable vendor and Symantec expanded its potential audience size and improved the delivery system for its products. Evidently, the two organizations enjoyed working with one another, as this latest move represents a definite ramp up in the partnership.

Symantec secures Microsoft’s Cloud
“The collaboration between Microsoft and Symantec brings together advanced network security and intelligent cloud infrastructure… Symantec’s full suite of security and compliance controls complement our broad set of Azure security solutions to provide customers with an ideal, trusted cloud platform,” said Scott Guthrie, executive vice president, Microsoft Cloud and Enterprise Group, during the expanded partnership announcement.

It is easy to see what Microsoft stands to gain from this partnership. Despite the reputation and history of the product, Azure has been playing aggressive catch up to Amazon’s AWS in terms of user base. According to Gartner research, AWS still leads the market in turns of overall usage, especially in the infrastructure-as-a-service sector. While Microsoft is in secure control of second place, the company is likely looking for ways to transform Azure into the superior product.

Since both Azure and AWS market themselves as widely flexible cloud solutions, the clear advantage may come in terms of cybersecurity standards. Symantec has long been seen as a leader in the antivirus and cybersecurity market. Outfitting the Microsoft Azure and Office 365 platforms with Symantec Web Security Service enables corporate Azure and 365 users to better manage cloud data, prevent information leaks and guard against data breaches.

Cloud services providers are rushing to diversify their solutions to serve a variety of clients. Security measures are still catching up to this design choice. Cloud services providers are rushing to diversify their solutions to serve a variety of clients. Security measures are still catching up to this design choice.

Looking ahead to 2018
Symantec clearly sees the role of cybersecurity providers growing in 2018. The company blog outlined a series of new challenges that it expects to see in the coming year. While 2017 headlines included the dramatic WannaCry ransomware attack, Symantec feels that blockchain – digital record-keeping software made popular through Bitcoin – may headline 2018’s largest cybersecurity concerns. Part of this comes with its wider adoption.

Nokia announced earlier in February that it will use blockchain to power its financial transactions in its new sensing-as-a-service platform and other companies are expected to follow. As blockchain handles increasing amounts of money in the digital space, it is logical to assume the number and intensity of cyberattacks will increase. Symantec expects that cyber criminals will even use artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve their attack methods.

Symantec also expects organizations will struggle with IaaS (the large theater where Microsoft and Amazon are the two main providers). The company feels the flexibility and scalability of these solutions will be the main problem as both will increase the change of errors in implementation and design. This scenario seems likely as not every client using IaaS has an in-house IT team to help facilitate the transition.

Giving Azure and 365 the extra Symantec coverage may be the difference maker in which of the two leading IaaS providers avoids a massive 2018 data breach.

How schools can upgrade their online infrastructure

Nothing is perhaps more important to the U.S.'s future than maximizing the potential of education. It is through mass schooling that children learn the essential social and learning skills that will prepare them for adult life and professional work. While education is a complex process with many different factors affecting outcomes, access to technology clearly plays a role in children's learning.

It is unfortunate then to learn that 6.5 million students in the U.S. still lack broadband, according to Education Superhighway. Broadband is an essential communication medium for educational facilities with large student and teacher populations, as it allows for messages and online actions to be completed simultaneously.

However, broadband is only one crucial aspect of improving online infrastructure in schools and other educational facilities. Further complicating the matter are tight budgets that many of these institutions must operate within. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported, state and local funding is still recovering and is well below what it was in 2008.

With this in mind, schools may have to focus on the most essential upgrades first, spreading out the investments in a way that maximizes learning potential.

The advantages of a fiber connection
Sites like Education Superhighway are big on the advent of fiber in the classroom. According to Techno FAQ, one of fiber's biggest advantages is its reliability. Fiber functions on symmetrical connections, allowing downloads and uploads to happen at the same time without impacting connection speed. The system also tends to be more passive and separated from power lines, meaning that it will likely remain operational during a storm.

Time is precious in schools and fiber is designed for high-speed connections, typically over 1Gbps. This allows educators to stream video content in seconds, without having to pause constantly for buffering videos.

A fiber connection allows for high bandwidth and enables faster broadband. A fiber connection allows for high bandwidth and enables faster broadband.

Planning for increased bandwidth usage
Think of bandwidth like a highway: the more lanes there are, the more easily traffic can flow. In a school situation, every student and teacher is a car on that highway – meaning that things will slow down very quickly with only a couple of lanes. Without proper bandwidth, hardware investments will not work the way they should. Even the most up-to-date tablet cannot magically conjure efficient internet connection on its own. 

Bandwidth management can keep everything flowing smoothly. While schools can (and should, up to a point) purchase more bandwidth, management will help reduce the amount of spending while maximizing efficiency. Techsoup for Libraries recommended bandwidth management to help prioritize which programs get access to the connection speed first.

For instance, a student wrongly downloading a new mobile game should never receive the same bandwidth as a teacher trying to stream a news program for a class. Student devices can even be put on a separate, slower network, freeing up room for the educators to use on lessons.

While schools can have their own servers – many universities do – a cloud services provider can help alleviate this investment. Just be sure that any contracted third party has the proper security certification to be a trusted partner.

"Wearable technology like smartwatches are starting to enter the educational space."

Factoring in IoT and BYOD
Whatever the plan, make sure spending accounts for more than just the computers in the classroom. Everyone, student and teacher, has a smartphone. Numerous other wearable technology like smartwatches and similar products are also starting to enter the educational space. As the internet of things continues to grow, each one of these devices could sap bandwidth away from where it is needed.

This represents a cybersecurity issue, especially as most faculty and students are bringing their own devices. School online infrastructure should carry a layered password system to ensure that access is restricted to authorized users. In addition, the principle of least privilege should be applied.

This will ensure that students on have as many permissions as they need, keeping them away from confidential teacher data. Ideally, the IT team will have oversight and the only administrator privileges on the network. This way if there is a breach, the potential damage will be contained.

Remote monitoring programs are useful tools for school systems that cannot afford to keep a dedicated IT staff in every building. While this software is convenient, schools should be wary of investing in any solution without doing the proper research. A report from Schneider Electric analyzed a possible danger in certain solutions as, if compromised, they provide an open window for cyber criminals to inflict damage.

Students can be placed on a separate network, freeing up bandwidth and reduces the likelihood of a school data breach. Students can be placed on a separate network, freeing up bandwidth and reduces the likelihood of a school data breach.

Preparing for 5G
Any education institution investing in wireless internet infrastructure needs to consider 5G. While not readily available now, 5G has already begun limited rollout and is expected to start becoming widespread in 2020, according to IEEE 5G. This will serve as not only the next telecommunication standard but will also empower higher capacity, massive machine communications.

Essentially, the bandwidth concerns of today may be outdated and a whole new set of possibilities and problems will open up. While it is still too soon to definitively say with certainty what kind of wireless internet infrastructure 5G will bring, schools that need to design systems between now and 2020 should incorporate easy scalability into the infrastructure. It makes no sense to optimize exclusively for platforms that may soon be obsolete.

As schools and other education establishments begin improving online infrastructure, a solid IT solutions provider can help smooth the transition and reduce cost spending. ISG Technology stands ready to do its part in ensuring that the U.S. education system empowers the most complete learning experience in the world. Contact us today to learn how we can help update your infrastructure.

How to choose an effective UC solution

Creating and maintaining meaningful connections is an essential part of business that can impact supplier, partner and customer relationships. Having the right solution on hand can make all the difference in supporting employee needs and facilitating critical opportunities across important assets. Unified communications appears to be the answer to many business interaction needs, but it can be difficult to know where to start when looking at potential options. Let's take a closer look at how your can choose an effective UC solution:

1. Consider organization growth

The number of staff within a business isn't a permanent figure. People join and leave, but all organization leaders plan with the belief that the company will grow. When considering a UC solution, it's not only important to look at the amount of staff you currently have, but to also prepare for scaling in the future. TechTarget contributor Chris Partsenidis noted that most UC platforms support a specific number of users and are designed around these limitations. This could create major problems in the future as the business grows, forcing organizations to seek out new solutions.

Organizations will need to team up with a UC vendor that not only serves current needs, but also acts as a partner for strategic development. A capable provider should be able to scale features and services up or down depending on business requirements. This will guarantee the flexibility that companies need as they develop while still ensuring that employees have quality tools.

UC solutions should be able to scale alongside business growth. UC solutions should be able to scale alongside business growth.

2. Ensure mobile enablement

When businesses start out, they might only choose a few of the most important, basic communications tools that they'll need. As time progresses and technology preferences change, organizations must ensure that their strategies encapsulate user demands. Today's modern organizations are still scrambling to meet remote and mobile work expectations, facilitating bring-your-own-device policies and other similar initiatives. Mobile capabilities are becoming a necessity for employees, making it essential for UC solutions to effectively support this functionality.

With the insurgence of consumer devices in the workplace, that means that IT departments no longer have tight control over everything that goes on within their networks. Network World contributor Zeus Kerravala noted that UC applications will be an essential component to ensuring that users can switch devices on the fly and access UC functions. This type of freedom can boost collaboration opportunities and improve overall productivity.

"Use your business objectives to customize your UC solution."

3. Align with your objectives

Any new initiative must be able to prove its value to stakeholders and users alike. The benefits of UC have been widely reported, but seeing is believing. To get the most out of your UC solution, you must have a clear view of your business objectives and use them to customize your UC system, digital content specialist Rajesh Kulkarni wrote in a LinkedIn post. By aligning the UC solution with your goals, you can deliver maximum value and ensure that the offering makes sense for your organization's needs.

UC initiatives must be planned out carefully to ensure that workers are engaged and motivated to use the tools. Leaders must put a training mechanism in place to facilitate even adoption and improve receptiveness to changes caused by UC. Employees are expected to leave behind familiar solutions, making it essential to align with objectives and deliver in a way that will help cushion the impact for staff.

UC is the next big necessity for businesses to keep up with user demands and offer flexible communication options. By following these tips, you can choose the most effective UC solution for your needs and ensure it benefits your organization. To find out more about what UC solutions can offer, contact ISG Technology today.

How to create a successful data management strategy

Data is king for today's businesses to yield actionable insights and drive educated decisions. Organizations actively collect and analyze information to improve their offerings, better serve customers and identify trends that they might be able to capitalize on. With more data being generated than ever before, it's important for company leaders to develop a clear plan detailing how information will be handled. Here are a few tips to help you create a successful data management strategy:

1. Map your data

First of all, it's important to know exactly what information you have within your infrastructure. Data comes from a multitude of different sources and can come in a variety of forms like files, videos, photos and more. It will be important to understand not only how to make effective use of these types of data, but also how to protect them. Accenture noted that data mapping will help leaders look at major end processes to understand how data is used and trace it back to the source. This process will enable your organization to better acquire, manage and protect information.

Mapping your data will help determine how to store and protect it.Mapping your data will help determine how to store and protect it.

Data mapping can also drive critical decisions, such as how data should be stored and what control processes should be in place. Organizations can more easily identify potential risk indicators to ensure compliance and adhere to data management policies. With this information, leaders can provide the appropriate access and transparency while effectively protecting data from unauthorized individuals.

2. Determine data retention periods

Some pieces of information are useable for a short period of time, while others must be kept. Data about a client's transaction behaviors, for example, must be stored to help serve that customer and quickly troubleshoot any potential issues. Industry regulations might also dictate how long certain information must be stored, such as patient files.

However, it's going to be impossible to keep up with all of these retention requirements by legacy or manual processes. Information Age noted that by automating data management, the process works effectively and is free from human error. This way, users can set retention periods and entrust it to system automation.

"Consistent data refresh will help create more inquiries and leads than those with poor data hygiene."

3. Maintain data continuously

Information may change over time, and it's important that these adjustments are reflected in your own data repositories. Dun & Bradstreet noted that inaccurate data wastes resources and degrades marketing campaign performance. By appending high-quality data to incorrect records, you can better target buyers and influence sales. Data management services can deliver ongoing maintenance to ensure that your records don't become stale. Consistent data refresh will help create more inquiries and leads than those with poor data hygiene.

Organizations are beginning to use data for a variety of functions, including better serving customers and improving their own capabilities. By continuously maintaining data, determining retention periods and creating a data map, you will be able to create a successful data management strategy. For more information on how to manage your data effectively, contact ISG today.