7 Signs That Say It’s Time to Consider Cloud Disaster Recovery

What happens to your business in the event of a disaster? How do you bounce back? To secure proper business continuity, whatever the weather, you need a disaster recovery plan.

Read on for seven signs that tell you it’s time to implement a cloud disaster recovery solution within your disaster recovery (DR) plan.

Your business is not prepared for disasters from within

When you think of disasters occurring in relation to your business, it’s tempting just to focus on external factors. However, this could leave you exposed to a multitude of problems from within your organization. Research published by Veritis found that only 23% of disaster incidences are actually caused by external security breaches, with almost three-quarters of incidents originating from within. Make sure that you are prepared for any issues within your own IT architecture or elsewhere within the company.

You can’t remember the last time you tested your disaster recovery plan

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place should not be cause for “resting on your laurels”. Instead, this should be just the beginning. Your field is ever-changing and evolving, which means the risks you face are changing and evolving too. Make sure to test your DR plan regularly, to make sure it is up to scratch and able to support you as you move towards growth.

You can identify too many “fair weather” elements

You can’t expect the hands of fate to be lenient in the event of a disaster, and so your plan needs to be watertight. Try this as an experiment: describe your disaster recovery plan and protocols verbally, at length. Any instance in which you need to say “unless,” “as long as,” “provided that,” or any other conditional allowance for your plan is a weak spot. Make sure that these weak spots are eliminated.

You meet the minimum regulatory requirement, nothing more

The regulations are great. They make sure that all businesses maintain a base level of responsibility and care in how they operate, and they provide protection to the consumer. However, they are a minimum standard — and we really mean a minimum standard. Make these regulatory requirements your baseline and work from there.

You rely too much on untested protocols

If the disaster recovery plan you have in place has not been means tested, it is not battle-ready. And if it is not battle-ready, you have no idea what is going to happen when it’s time for action. As many as 93% of businesses without an effective DR plan will be put out of business if they are hit by a catastrophe, so the seriousness of the situation cannot be understated. Unless you have a whole lot of resources at your disposal for developing your solutions, make sure everything you are using is tried and tested.

Your disaster recovery plans are not people-focused

It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true: your business needs to be people-focused. And this includes your disaster recovery plan. You might have software solutions and other disaster recovery measures set up and in place, but what about your personnel; do they know what to do? Making sure your teams understand exactly what is required of them during the recovery process, and aid them with cloud-based support.

You have no remote Plan B

It is possible that your team members will not be able to approach work in the same way, for example, if a crisis makes office-based work impossible. This is where you must embrace the potential of remote work. Without a cloud solution in place, this is simply impossible and could cost you dearly.

A disaster doesn’t have to shutter your business’s doors. Heed the warnings above, implement a cloud disaster recovery plan, and if the worst-case scenario actually happens, you’ll be capable of dealing with it. 

Showdown: On-Premise Phone Systems vs Cloud Phone Systems

Communication is at the heart of every business.

[Pull quote] “And even in the digital world, phones still matter. Forty percent of customers prefer speaking with a real human on the phone to resolve complicated issues.”

The question, then, is this: which phone system is the best? It’s time for the highly-anticipated showdown.

In the red corner, we’ve got the good old-fashioned on-premise solution. And in the blue corner, we’ve got the younger up-and-comer, the cloud phone system.

Who will come out on top? Let’s put them head to head in four rounds of close combat.

What is an on-premise phone system?

Without getting too technical, an on-premise phone system (sometimes referred to as a PBX) is a physical phone system that is either owned or leased by the business and stored at the business’s main premises or in its data center.

On-premise phone systems can include on-premise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and digital setups.

Typically, you will be responsible for the upgrades, maintenance processes, and expansion of the system. Many businesses do, however, choose to partner with a services provider when using an on-premise phone system.

What is a cloud phone system?

[Pull quote] “Seventy-seven percent of enterprises have at least one aspect of their computing infrastructure – and this number is expected to grow.”

Like other cloud-based services, a cloud phone system is delivered via the internet. In contrast to on-premise phone systems, the only hardware stored in the workplace are the actual phones and a network PoE switch.

Typically, a cloud phone system service provider hosts a large phone system in a data center, and this is segmented into smaller systems for their various clients. The service provider is responsible for all upgrades and maintenance.

Cloud phone systems are also referred to as the following:

On-premise phone systems vs cloud phone systems

Both on-premise and cloud phone systems offer advantages to small- and medium-sized businesses. Both have their drawbacks, too.

To help you decide which is the best option for you and your organization, let’s examine how each service option performs in several key areas. Let’s get started.

Round 1: Available features

Phone systems are significantly more advanced than they used to be. Businesses can now access a whole host of game-changing call features and data analysis if they invest in either on-premise or hosted VoIP systems.

Both on-premise and cloud-based VoIP systems offer the following features:

  • Collaboration tools, including file sharing
  • Call control
  • Voicemail greeting
  • Messaging
  • Mobility
  • App integrations
  • Web management tools
  • Call training
  • Contact storage
  • Analytics
  • And more

The winner: If you go the VoIP route, it’s a tie.

Round 2: Scalability

Your phone system must be agile enough to change and expand with your business. When you grow, you should be able to scale your phone service to meet increased demands.

On-premise systems give you complete control over these changes. You can switch to a new solution, or even mix and match to create a truly customized system. The drawback? Expanding a phone system can be complex, and without a provider, it’s your responsibility to execute changes without causing downtime.

If you opt for a cloud phone system, on the other hand, your provider shoulders the risk. They can scale your service quickly and effectively – and you don’t have to do a thing. What’s more, software updates tend to happen automatically, so your phone system is always equipped with the latest features and security patches.

The winner: Cloud-based phone systems.

Round 3: Cost

As a business owner, you know that every dollar counts. Cost is always a leading concern, so how do on-premise and cloud phone systems measure up?

On the one hand, an on-premise system may be more economical in the long run. There’s no risk of a fee increase, and once you own the equipment, you own it for good. On the other hand, you will need to fork out a fair amount of cash upfront to secure the hardware you need. What’s more, you are responsible for upgrades, maintenance, and repairs, which can add up over time.

Cloud-based phone systems are far cheaper to set up. And you won’t be subject to unexpected repair costs. That being said, your service provider could increase their fee at any time.

[Pull quote] “For the startup business, it’s never been easier or so cheap to set up a business phone system or even a call center.” – TechRadar

The winner: Upfront, cloud-based phone systems are more economical. However, you do risk paying more long term. 

Round 4: Control

Phone systems are not one-size-fits-all, and control over the scale and functionality of your service is critical.

On-premise systems, without a doubt, offer greater control. You and your IT team have total authority over every detail. You can combine distinct solutions to formulate a custom-created system that meets your business’s needs better than anything else on the market.

Do keep in mind, however, that with great power comes great responsibility. Implementations, software updates, and maintenance must be performed by your IT staff or outsourced.

While cloud phone systems don’t offer the same level of control, they do give you access to features that you may not have been able to implement yourself.

The winner: If control is a top-priority, on-premise solutions cannot be beaten.

Which comes out on top?

So, there’s no clear winner. Which phone system works best for your business truly depends on your needs and limitations. What we can conclude is this:

  • If you are an SMB with significant IT resources that requires total control or a fully customized solution, opt for an on-premise system.
  • If you are a business of any size looking to stretch your IT budget or you don’t have in-house IT resources, go for a cloud phone system.

Happy phone shopping!

4 solid file sharing options for SMBs

Today’s businesses rely on digital files for storing and organizing almost all of their important information. In order to be truly useful, though, these files must be easily transferable. This is where file sharing solutions come into play.
Here’s what you should know about file sharing and some of the top solutions that can help your SMB effectively manage and share its files.

What is file sharing?

While it can refer more generally to any method used to transfer digital files from one location to another, the term file sharing is usually applied to specific applications that run in the cloud. Cloud file sharing systems can be used to give authorized users remote access to files stored on cloud servers.
While cloud file sharing solutions are excellent for giving your employees easy access to important files and facilitating collaboration, they also have the potential to come with cybersecurity risks.
With less direct control over your company’s data and the risk of unsecured devices being used to access files, the use of these applications requires careful supervision to maintain cybersecurity. With strong encryption standards and adherence to a robust security policy, though, cloud file sharing can be perfectly safe.
For the next several years, it is expected that at least 95 percent of cloud security breaches will be directly caused by failures on the part of customers.

Four file sharing services to consider

There are many cloud file sharing services currently available, but a few stand out as the major service providers in the market. Following are four of the go-to services that SMB owners new to file sharing may want to consider.

Dropbox Business

With 300,000 business teams and 500 million total users, Dropbox is one of the most popular web services in existence today. Owing to its ease of use and user-friendly integration with device operating systems, Dropbox is a service preferred by many consumers and enterprise-level users alike.

Google Drive

Google’s answer to independent services like Dropbox, Google Drive is a file sharing service with nearly 1 billion users. Google drive offers large amounts of storage space for files at relatively low costs and integrates smoothly with a range of third-party applications, making it a good solution for businesses in need of a cloud file sharing service.
Drive also integrates with other Google products, allowing users to save files from services such as Gmail and Google Photos to their Drive accounts.

Microsoft OneDrive

Like Google, Microsoft has jumped into the cloud file sharing market with its OneDrive service. OneDrive interfaces seamlessly with the Windows operating system and comes standard as part of the latest versions.
Microsoft Office 365, a favorite suite of tools among enterprise-level businesses, is also integrated with OneDrive, allowing users to easily move files out of tools in the Office 365 suite and into storage in OneDrive.


Rounding out the list of the top file sharing options is ShareFile. With ShareFile, business users can protect their files with a range of security precautions that include 256-bit AES encryption, virus scanning and even a remote file deletion feature in the event a company device is lost or stolen.
Thanks to its 100GB maximum size, ShareFile is also a good solution for storing, sharing and accessing large files.

A final word

These are just some of the many file sharing options in the marketplace today. When using these services, it’s important to remain aware of possible cybersecurity vulnerabilities on your end.
Used correctly, though, these file sharing services can help your company remain secure, efficient and flexible in an increasingly data-driven business landscape.

5 straightforward disaster recovery options for SMBs

In a digital environment that’s unforgiving when it comes to downtime and outages, planning for IT disaster recovery is a critical responsibility of the modern business owner. Despite this, an astounding 75 percent of small businesses have no disaster recovery plan in place.

If your SMB isn’t prepared for a disaster, it’s important to start by understanding the basic tools that will help you navigate and mitigate a crisis.

Here are five straightforward disaster recovery solutions your SMB should consider as part of an overall recovery plan.

Cloud backups

Cloud backups can be an excellent tool for protecting your data in the event of a disaster.

A data loss event can impede a small business’s operations and drastically increase its chances of closing within six months. By performing continuous backups to the cloud, your business can safeguard its data and reduce the potential impact of a disaster.

For this reason, cloud backups are becoming increasingly popular among SMBs. Approximately 78 percent of such businesses are expected to back their data up on the cloud by 2020.

Cloud backups also have the advantage of letting you keep data geographically remote to avoid complications from natural disasters. Experts recommend keeping your backups 200 miles or more from your actual location.


Like cloud backups, server virtualization is useful for keeping data safe, as well as for limiting the amount of downtime that your business will experience during a disaster.

Virtual servers allow businesses to create exact copies of their data centers. If a disaster strikes, this copied version can be used to maintain essential functions while the problem is solved. As a result, SMBs can maintain high levels of availability.

Virtualization is also extremely useful for disaster recovery testing, as tests can be run in the virtual environment instead of in your business’s main system.

Mobile communication and collaboration systems

When a disaster strikes, it’s critical that your team members remain in contact. By maintaining communication through mobile devices or social media platforms, your team can coordinate its disaster recovery efforts and minimize the amount of downtime that will occur without having to be in the same place at the same time.

With good remote communication and collaboration systems in place, your business can mobilize more quickly and launch a coordinated effort to mitigate the damage.

Uninterruptible power supplies

Disaster recovery solutions tend to focus strongly on software and data, but protecting business hardware is also an important consideration. For this reason, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) can be a very useful tool in an emergency.

A UPS is a battery device that will provide temporary power and allow you to properly power down your hardware assets.

Monitoring solutions

Disaster recovery is often a race to keep downtime to a minimum. If you are forced to deal with a disaster involving your network, monitoring software that logs changes and unusual activity can help your team identify and quickly resolve the problem. In some cases, you may even be able to head the threat off before it develops into a full-blown disaster.

With proactive security monitoring, you can keep your business safe and keep your IT systems running more smoothly.

Ready for anything

Using these five tips, your business can begin to craft a basic plan for disaster recovery.

The more you can prepare now, the less likely your company will be to experience catastrophic failures when a disaster does occur.


The 4 best cloud backup solutions for small businesses

There are several reasons to consider a cloud backup for data protection for an SMB. These include everything from ease-of-use to cost-effectiveness. But perhaps the most compelling reason simply this—it’s wise to be ready for whatever the future holds.

That’s what data backup is. Preparation for the unexpected.

You can’t guarantee the security of your company’s data if you aren’t ready for natural disasters, cyberattacks and even simple human error. Any number of things could compromise your company’s data, which is why it’s so critical the regularly back up everything.

Cloud computing offers an easy, efficient, secure option for backing up your data, thereby reducing or even eliminating downtime.

But what backup service is the right one for your business? We took a look at some of the most popular and weighed their potential benefits for your SMB.


Veeam is a service that focuses heavily on data availability. While it can function as a no-frills backup from day one, it comes with so much more. Many companies, even SMBs, choose to take advantage of Veeam’s five-step process, moving their business toward Intelligent Data Management.

What is Intelligent Data Management? Not only is your data instantly available all the time, split up across multiple clouds so that it resides where it’s both accessible and safe. Veeam’s advanced backup option will also utilize automation to ensure your data is optimized for use and recovery at a moments’ notice.

That’s convenience that pays off.

From small businesses to universities to the Fortune 500, more and more businesses are trusting their data with Veeam. There are a few different tiers of data protection plans available. Find the license that works for you and scale upwards if/when you need to.

Additionally, Veeam is continually updating and adding functionality to its service. You’ll always have the cutting edge of data security.

Carbonite Online

Carbonite Online employs a wide-net approach to data security. Rather than defaulting to backing up a computer in its entirety, Carbonite backs up what it decides is most critical and relies on the user to further fine tune the process.

It’s a process that works well if you’re using a lot of standard folder designations such as My Documents. In fact, in that case it’s a real time-saver. But if you working out of a more customized setup, you may find it frustrating.

Carbonite uses Continuous Data Protection (CDP) to handle backing up rapidly changing data files more or less constantly. If a file changes within a designated folder, it’s backed up quickly. This is very convenient for users who can’t afford to rebuild a recently-lost file, but need their most recently worked on version recovered as quickly as possible.

Pricing isn’t exactly cheap, but arguably worth it if it’s a good fit.

SOS Online Backup

Is security one of your biggest concerns? SOS bills itself as a backup solution that’s all about security. (Though, in fairness to the other solutions listed here, security is big for everyone.) SOS’s security features range from password protection to privately managed keys and multi-layered 256-bit encryption.

SOS will simultaneously backup to a local hard drive or other computer over your local network for quick retrieval. Like Carbonite, SOS backs up what it considers to be the most important data. You’ll need to customize these settings if they don’t work for you.

The pricing is good—that is if you’re not transmitting massive amounts of data. Yearly subscriptions save you some money over monthly options.


While certainly not the least expensive choice, iDrive is still reasonably affordable and comes with enough options to warrant a spot in our top-four roundup.

Among its most well-liked features is the availability of client software for nearly every type of PC and device. In addition, extra storage enables syncing all PCs as well as mobile devices. As with most of these services, iDrive utilizes CDP options to keep your backup files as current as possible.

iDrive includes several choices for single user plans which will cover an unlimited number of computers and devices. The business user plans also allow for an unlimited number of users, although storage is limited by pay-tier.

Know what you need

When considering your choices for a data backup service, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Examine your needs and compare them to what the various services offer, and at what costs. Among things to look at, include:

  • Operating system and device support
  • Privacy and Security
  • Storage capacity
  • Speed
  • Features
  • Reliability
  • User-friendliness

Once you’ve mapped out your needs and budget, compare them to this list and see which service lines up the best for you.


Should companies embrace Microsoft’s Azure IoT Edge?

As of late June 2018, one of Microsoft's newest software platforms, Azure IoT Edge, is generally available. This means that commercial enterprises and independent consumers now have access to it and, thanks to Microsoft's decision to take the platform open source, can begin modifying the technology to fit specific needs.

Every innovation brings new opportunity and unforeseen challenges, and there is no reason to suspect that Azure IoT Edge will be any different. Even programs created by technology industry leaders like Microsoft have their potential disadvantages. 

What exactly is Azure IoT Edge?
Simply put, Azure IoT Edge represents Microsoft's plan to move data analytics from processing centers to internet of things enabled devices. This sophisticated edge computing technology can equip IoT hardware with cognitive computing technologies such as machine learning and computer vision. It will also free up enormous bandwidth by moving the data processing location to the device and allow IoT devices to perform more sophisticated tasks without constant human monitoring.

According to Microsoft, there are three primary components at play:

  1. A cloud-based interface will allow the user to remotely manage and oversee any and all Azure IoT Edge devices.
  2. IoT Edge runtime operates on every IoT Edge device and controls the modules deployed to each piece of IoT hardware.
  3. Every IoT Edge module is a container that operates on Azure services, third-party software or a user's personalized code. The modules are dispersed to IoT Edge machines and locally operate on said hardware.

Overall, Azure IoT Edge represents a significant step forward in cloud computing and IoT operations, empowering devices with functionality that wasn't before possible.

Devices like drones will be able to carry out more sophisticated tasks using Azure IoT Edge. Devices like drones will be able to carry out more sophisticated tasks using Azure IoT Edge.

The cybersecurity concerns of Azure IoT Edge
It is worth remembering that IoT hardware has a long and complicated history with cybersecurity standards. Considering the bulk of IoT technology adoption has been driven by consumer, rather than enterprise, products – issues like security and privacy were placed second to interface design and price point.

Research firm Gartner found that 20 percent of organizations had already reported at least one IoT-centered data breach within the three years leading up to 2018. This risk has led to IoT security spending that is expected to cost $1.5 billion globally in 2018. Some companies scrambling to make their IoT hardware more secure may want to leave this problem as a priority over incorporating Microsoft's newest software platform.

Another potential issue is Microsoft's decision to make the platform open source. The original code is public knowledge and now available to all to modify for personal use. While this flexibility will greatly help the product's user base expand, open source programs have not historically been the most secure from cybercriminals.

Many ecommerce websites ran on the Magento platform, an open source solution that became the target of a brute force password attack in 2018, which ultimately proved successful. The resulting data breach led to thousands of compromised accounts and stolen credit information.

A Black Duck Software report tracked open source programs as they have become more widespread. While the overall quality of open source code is improving, the study found that many organizations do not properly monitor and protect the code once it has been put in place, leaving it vulnerable to exploitation from outside sources.

"Microsoft annually invests $1 billion in cybersecurity research."

The Microsoft advantage
However, Microsoft is arguably in position to address the major security concerns with its Azure IoT Edge platform. The company invests over $1 billion in cybersecurity research each year. According to Azure Government CISO Matthew Rathbun, a lot of this money is spent  with Azure in mind:

"Ninety percent of my threat landscape starts with a human, either maliciously or inadvertently, making a mistake that somehow compromises security," Rathbun told TechRepublic. "In an ideal state, we're going eventually end up in a world where there'll be zero human touch to an Azure production environment."

Azure IoT Edge represents a bold step forward in empowering IoT technology and improving automated productivity. While there are risks associated with every innovation, Microsoft remains committed to staying at the forefront and protecting its platforms. Companies should be willing to invest in Azure IoT Edge while remaining vigilant about the possible risks. 

How cloud infrastructure can help the retail sector

Cloud computing has caught on in a big way. A recent report from Right Scale found that 81 percent of the enterprise sector has adopted a multi-cloud system in at least some way. Public cloud adoption rates have continued to climb, as well, with the report noting that 92 percent of users now employ cloud technology (up from 89 percent in 2017). Across the board, cloud networks are gaining usership due to its improved interfacing, less dependence on in-house technical teams and flexible program structure.

However, some industry verticals continue to lag behind. The latest international Bitglass survey found that the retail sector has been slow to adopt cloud infrastructure. Only 47.8 percent of responding retail organizations had deployed the often-used Microsoft Office 365 suite, and Amazon Web Services – the most popular cloud system – was only used by 9 percent.

In short, retail is being left behind, and that lag is a serious problem for the industry – in part because retail is a sector that can profit immensely from successful cloud integration. However, cybersecurity concerns and technical knowledge limitations may be slowing down the adoption rate.

Taking advantage of mobile hardware
Almost everyone has a smartphone, that’s not an exaggeration. According to Pew research data, 77 percent of Americans have this hardware, and that number has been climbing steadily. Since smartphones are becoming cheaper and more user friendly, it is unlikely to think this device will be replaced in the near future.

Because smartphones are so ubiquitous and convenient, consumers are using them for a wide variety of tasks, including shopping. OuterBox found that, as of early 2018, precisely 62 percent of shoppers had made a purchase through their phones within the last six months. Another 80 percent had used their smartphones to compare products and deals while inside a store.

With a cloud infrastructure, retailers can better take advantage of this mobile world. Successful retail locations should consider maintaining at least two online networks – one for customers and another for employees. This setup will prevent bandwidth lag and help keep the consumer away from sensitive information. In addition, creating a mobile experience that is user friendly and seamlessly interwoven with the physical shopping experience is paramount.

Rather than building such a system from the ground up, retailers can take advantage of the numerous infrastructure-as-a-service cloud options available, leveraging a reliable third party rather than an in-house IT team.

Shoppers are already augmenting their experience with external online information. Shoppers are already augmenting their experiences with external online information.

Getting ahead of the latest trends
Data drives business intelligence, this is true in every enterprise sector. In retail, housing the right products can mean the difference between turning a profit and going out of business. However, retailers still using traditional sales reporting will be slow to react to shopping trends, as these reports can take months to compile.

Data analytics is the actionable side of big data. In retail, customers convey valuable information about shopping habits before they even enter the store, but if this data is not being captured, it is essentially useless. Bringing in an encompassing data analytics solution, which can read information such as store purchases, response to sales and even social media reaction, can provide retailers with extra information to make actionable decisions.

“This analysis removes the guesswork about what will sell and which styles will flop on the shelves,” Roman Kirsch, CEO of fashion outlet Lesara, stated in an interview with Inc. “We don’t just know which new styles are popular, we can also identify retro trends that are making comebacks, which styles are on the way out, and that helps us to precisely manage our production.”

Improving inventory management
In addition, data analytics can be paired with a responsive inventory management program. Retail-as-a-service solutions exist and can be used to track stock availability, shipping orders and in-store details. With this software, retail companies can get a real-time image of how well products and even entire locations are performing.

These solutions can prevent item shortages before they occur and give retail chains a greater understanding of performance at every location.

Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship either directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need. Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need.

Concerning cybersecurity
Perhaps one of the factors slowing the adoption of cloud technology in the retail sector is cybersecurity. Retail organizations process multitudes of consumer credit information by the day, and the fallout from a data breach can be fatal in this sector. When faced with using cloud technology or in-house data center solutions, retail executives may believe that the safest hands are still their own.

However, this may not be the case. Research firm Gartner predicted that through 2022, 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault, meaning that issues will not come from a software defect but through poor implementation. The firm also concluded that cloud structures will see as much as 60 percent fewer cyberattacks than those businesses with in-house servers.

Cloud infrastructure is secure but must be installed and operated properly. The only thing that retail agencies have to fear when it comes to this new solution is technological ignorance, but many cloud providers and third-party services stand ready to aid in the installation process.

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.

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.

Video: ISG Security – Put Trust On Your Side

Just as quickly as new technologies are developed to secure the information your organization is responsible for, cybercriminals are discovering new ways to get in. And to do it, they’re exploiting one thing – trust.

When you put ISG Technology to work for you, you don’t just put industry leading security experts on your team, you put security at the top of your priority list. You put the concern that someone might be selling you a short-sighted solution to the wayside. You put trust back where it belongs – on your side.

Get Our Whitepaper: 5 Things You Probably Trust, and How They Affect The Security Of Your Business
Download Now