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April 1st, 2015

The new and improved Large Hadron Collider, located in CERN (a high-energy particle physics organization headquartered in Geneva), and credited for discovering the Higgs boson in 2012, is about to make history, once again, when it goes back online in a few weeks.   

The upgrade of the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider promises to shed light on the mysterious Higgs boson. The ‘God Particle’ is known to help other particles acquire mass, but many of its properties are currently unknown to physicists.  

In an interview with ZDNet, Alberto Pace, the IT data and storage services group leader at CERN, says the challenges he faces there are “unmatched in many areas.”

The Grid processes more than two million jobs each day – the equivalent of a single computer running for roughly 1,300 years, according to CERN. The CERN tech team is using a combination of old and new technologies to meet the unprecedented storage and data demands of the Large Hadron Collider.

According to the ZDNet report, some of the technology that IT professionals use at CERN is so new it hasn’t been released publicly. The organization tests many of their new products through a public-private partnership called CERN openlab. Such collaborations help CERN gain access to early technology years before it reaches the market, while companies get to see how their products work in a highly demanding environment. Frederic Hemmer, CERN IT department head told ZDNet that their partnership with Intel, for example, has exposed them to early CPU (central processing unit)technology.

Other partners in CERN openlab are Huawei, Oracle, and Siemens, while Rackspace and Seagate are contributors and Yandex is an associate. “The ongoing collaboration with Huawei is in the area of storage,” says Hemmer. “We have been evaluating the latest solutions for cloud storage, and this is a good example of something that has become a product now available on the market.”

In contrast, there’s one old-school technology that CERN favors. It stores raw data from the experiments on magnetic tapes, a medium first used to record computer information in 1951, on a UNIVAC device. The IT team at CERN uses tapes rather than disks because they find it more reliable, more secure, and cheaper. They also explain that it writes data at a high rate and allows the team to verify data on the fly, synchronously, when the data is written. CERN demonstrates that tape, a 60-plus years old storage medium, is far from being obsolete, and can, in fact, be improved upon to meet high storage demands. ZDNet reports, “For the Large Hadron Collider run two, IT experts have improved the tape infrastructure to support cartridges with over 8TB of capacity each, a measure that will grant an increased archival capacity of the data center.”

So while most of the time it’s the physicists that get all the credit for big breakthroughs at CERN, the tech team and its innovation provides the backbone for the Higgs boson experiment.

An example that supports the importance of the tech team in discovering solutions we use today is the invention of the World Wide Web. According to ZDNet, Sir Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the World Wide Web in 1989 while working at CERN to facilitate communications within the organization: “He wrote a memo, passed it on to his supervisor, and after some time he was told he could do this project in his spare time. His supervisor wrote on that piece of paper ‘Vague, but exciting’.”

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015
    By Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder & CTO

    At Sinu, we standardize the solutions we use across our customers so we can master them and bring more value. Our philosophy is to encorporate proven technology into our platform, know it intrinsically through repetition and experience, and keep it at optimal performance and age.

    While we are always testing new technologies, we typically opt for widely-used and tested technologies for our customers. This allows us to tap into the combined knowledge of a large ecosystem of skilled experts if there is an issue. The shared experience of hundreds of our customers also allows us to use that information to provide guidance on how to best use the technology in a wide variety of situations and for dozens of different industries.

    We also find that our customers are in a much better place when they don’t keep outdated and/or custom solutions for which there are better alternatives off the shelf. As technology ages, its user base becomes smaller and more niche, causing the cost of maintaining that solution to rise and increasing risk. I am seeing this first hand with my old VW hobby car – as it ages there are fewer and fewer people in the world who know how to fix it and the cost of maintaining it continues to increase, plus it’s more of a risk to drive without causing more wear and inevitably breaking something. Some of the techs at a VW dealership were born after my ‘91 VW GTI was made and have never touched one before, which is why I have had to learn to maintain it myself in my rare spare time. That’s okay for a hobby car which I don’t need every day, but a business that holds onto obsolete technology eventually loses productivity and increases risk. The cost of maintaining old technology goes up over time and most companies try to phase out support in about five years. Even if you try to pay a company to continue to support your old solutions, over time fewer people at the company will be familiar with the older versions and compatibility issues will increase as new software which integrates is introduced all around the solution.

    However, the same can happen when solutions are too new; they have a niche audience of early adopters who are willing to ride out the updates to fix the quirks and flaws often inherent before a technology is widely tested. Not only is your team unfamiliar with this new solution, but also there are few experts around to support it. This is why we always advise waiting until a solution has gained enough of a business customer base so that you can easily find experts to support the solution. Like driving a racecar, it’s all about keeping the revs in the right range – not too low and not too high.

    It is a tech balancing act. Your business solutions have to be at the optimal age to produce the greatest value for your business and also have to have a large enough audience to be able to support it with a reasonable budget so you don’t have to seek out the rare expert in a very custom or niche solution. So while some traditional solutions might initially look like they don’t have all the bells and whistles of the newer, just-launched start-up app, some will have decades of history and huge eco-systems behind them that brings incredible value.

    For instance, today you can go to any temp agency and hire someone trained in Microsoft Office, but you will be hard-pressed to get someone who knows Trello or one of the other newer web-based apps at that same agency.

    Balancing the choice of your IT solutions by making sure they have a large enough ecosystem, multiple support options from the maker or from third parties, and are not about to become obsolete is a great way to keep your business solutions delivering the most value to your team.

Topic Articles
April 1st, 2015

By Larry Velez, Sinu co-founder & CTO

In our new world of connectivity, where the Internet of Everything provides us with the opportunity to control our home’s temperature from work and watch our pets on our smartphones while we are away, I sometimes like to step back and take inventory of what really gets the job done. And sometimes, I find, simpler really is better.

Now, I love the latest technology and inventions and how all of it can come together with a simple elegance. That is what I stay up thinking about at night – how the myriad of ever-changing technology can come together to create an elegant, seamless solution for people to make their lives and jobs easier.

But it’s easy to get distracted by the noise – the greatest, shiniest new solution that promises more of, well, everything, and often turns our attention away from the proven solution that just does a better job…simply.

As an example, look at seatbelts. This is simple technology introduced as standard equipment in cars in the 1960s, and few developments to this technology have been made over the past two decades. Yet, use of seatbelts increases your chance of surviving a crash by about 50%. The introduction of airbags, a newer, more complex and costly technology (on average it costs about $3,000-$5,000 to replace them after a collision), increases chances of survival to only 54% when used with seatbelts. (From National Center for Statistics and Analysis, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Used alone, the effectiveness of airbags in preventing fatalities is only about 14%.

Add even newer, pricier technologies that promise to help us humans avoid collisions. For example, collision-avoidance systems including radar, cameras, ultrasound and lidar are now available in many cars, with more on the horizon. Global sales of anti-crash sensors will total $9.90 billion in 2020 – up from $3.94 billion in 2014, predicts IHS Automotive, a research firm based in suburban Detroit. While there is some evidence that these technologies do help prevent collisions, it seems there is still no replacement for the effectiveness of the basic seatbelt.

There are many parallels in business technology. For instance, you could have all the encryption on your hard drives but your team is using ‘baseball’ as a password. Studies show that 80% of all data breaches are caused by weak passwords. This is by far our weakest link to data security. It’s like relying on airbags without using the seatbelt. No doubt encryption, like airbags, increases the effectiveness of securing your data when used with good passwords, but the seatbelt is by far is the easiest and most effective way to improve the odds of surviving a car crash. Sometimes it’s easy to get distracted by the noise – the effective marketing and the shiny new gadget featured on the nightly news. Once in a while it is good to step back, and remember that sometimes the simple solution can provide the best results.

Topic Articles
March 31st, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Mar31_ARegardless of the size of your company, chances are you’ve heard of data warehouses, but perhaps are unsure exactly what they are and how your organization can benefit from them. Successful companies all have one thing in common - they make the best decisions based on the data at hand, which usually lead to good business results. A data warehouse is a business intelligence tool designed to manage huge volumes of data from multiple sources. Here’s what you need to know about data warehouses and the advantages they offer for your business.

Data warehouses defined

A data warehouse is a centralized store of all data generated by the departments of a large organization. It is specially designed for data analysis, generating reports, and for other ad-hoc queries. A data warehouse extracts the huge streams of data from a company’s operational and external databases and turns them into meaningful data, so business decisions can be made based on this information.

Differences between data warehouses and databases

The purpose of a database is to record and store current data from users. A database is suitable for the traditional type of data storage method. For instance, a bank ATM uses a database to record their customers’ money transactions in real-time. A data warehouse, on the other hand, is a type of database but specifically designed for data analysis. It is used to store and summarize large volumes of historical data.

Benefits of data warehouses

A goal common to all businesses is to make better business decisions than their competitors. Once a data warehouse is implemented into your business intelligence plans, your company can benefit from it in many ways.
  • Better decision-making - Corporate decision makers will no longer have to make important business decisions based on limited data and hunches. Data warehouses store credible facts and statistics, and decision makers will be able to retrieve that information from the data warehouse based on their personal needs. In addition to making strategic decisions, a data warehouse can also assist in marketing segmentation, inventory management, financial management, and sales.
  • Quick and easy access to data - Speed is an important factor that sets you above your competitors. Business users can quickly access data from multiple sources from a data warehouse, meaning that precious time won’t be wasted on retrieving data from multiple sources. This allows you to make quick and accurate decisions, with little or no support from your IT department.
  • Data quality and consistency - Since data warehouses gather information from different sources and convert it into a single and widely used format, departments will produce results that are in line and consistent with each other. When data is standardized, you can have confidence in its accuracy, and accurate data is what makes for strong business decisions.
A data warehouse is essential for any business that wants to profit from sound business decisions. If you’re looking to implement a data warehouse into your business, give us a call today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 25th, 2015

Productivity_Mar25_AMeetings are meant to be hotbeds of production, where decisions get taken, people get updates and projects get moved forward. Yet all too often, they become a strain on your workforce’s productivity, hours out of the day when staff are taken away from their jobs to sit in inefficient sessions which are too long and lack pace and focus. But meeting productivity platform Do.com is trying to change that. The service just made two important announcements - here’s why you’ll want to add Do.com to your productivity suite.

Do.com aims to end what it terms ‘meeting hell’, and the platform is currently used by more than 5,000 organizations from top businesses like Dominos to sectors of the US government. When you add Do.com to your company’s productivity strategy, you benefit from a host of meeting-oriented features including management of agendas, notes and actions. The tool can also be used to share files for the purpose of discussion during meetings, and to display a timer to keep deliberations on track and avoid that ultimate hell of never-ending meetings.

The cloud-focused application has signaled it is on an upward trajectory, recently adding $2 million in funding. The additional capital will be used to further expand Do.com and its features, as well as the team behind it. Consequently, it appears that now is a great time to be getting onboard, with lots more to come from it. The most recent technical development to be announced is its new integration with Office 365. This will give Do.com further relevance and usability value to business owners around the world who are already taking advantage of the numerous benefits of the Microsoft cloud-based suite of productivity applications.

Do.com can already be used in conjunction with Evernote and Google Apps like Drive and Docs, but the move to integrate with Office 365 puts it in reach of an ever larger audience. Those not yet accustomed to high-tech meeting solutions may still be using pen and paper to manage their company get-togethers. But Do.com identifies its technology-based competitors as core cloud applications such as Dropbox, Trello, Evernote, Google Apps - everything from Docs to Calendar to Drive - and even good old email. Yet Do.com does something these individual apps don’t - while they all tackle one particular element of the organization and follow-up to a meeting, Do.com handles the whole lot with a single holistic, meeting-centered approach. With its latest moves, that’s what the platform hopes will be attractive to productivity-deprived business owners.

Want to find out more about Do.com and other productivity and cloud-based technologies? Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Productivity
March 24th, 2015

164 BizV_AYou’ve been using your break/fix contractor for years. For the most part, he’s been reliable and helped your business run a smooth IT operation. But you’ve been hearing more and more about Managed Services, and it’s peaked your interest. If you’re thinking about making the jump from break/fix to Managed Services, here are a few compelling ideas to consider.

The ultimate break/fix nightmare

Your business is running smoothly. Profits and staff productivity have been up, and you haven’t had a single IT expense in months. Times are good. You kick back in your leather chair and break out that Cuban cigar you’ve been saving for just such an occasion.

But then the BIG ONE hits. Your servers crash. No, not just one - all of them! Your business comes to a grinding halt. None of your staff can work. You call your go-to break/fix IT provider, but he’s overloaded with work and can’t make it out to your offices till next week. Next week?! In a panic, you call the first IT contractor you find on Google. Thankfully he’s available. But since you need this work done immediately, he charges an unbelievable fee for a last minute fix. You have no other choice, you hire the contractor. You’re left hoping he fixes everything properly and none of your crucial data is lost in the process.

This is the precarious nature of break/fix IT services. And while this is a worst case scenario, situations like this can and have happened. So let’s look at the reasons why it pays to to hire a Managed Services Provider (MSP) instead.

MSPs prevent problems. Break/fix profit from them.

Think about the relationship dynamics of Managed Services compared to break/fix. If you’re a business owner who currently use a break/fix contractor, when your IT goes down your contractor gains profit. Your problem equals his reward.

How motivated do you think he is to do an effective job of fixing your issue? If that problem pops up again later, it equals more reward for him. Now that’s not to say all break/fix contractors aren’t fixing your IT to the best of their abilities. But think about the basic mindframe of a break/fix contractor: problem=profit.

The MSP system works differently. You pay a set fee every month to your IT provider. So the reward for the MSP comes every month. If something goes wrong during that month, you don’t pay anymore. Yet it costs the MSP more money, and therefore affects their profit margin. Because of this, the MSP is rewarded for taking preventative measures to ensure your IT is working as effectively as possible, always.

That’s not to say problems won’t happen with an MSP. But when they do, they’ll end up costing the MSP provider, and they certainly don’t want that. So for an MSP, the basic mindframe is: healthy IT=profit.

MSPs extinguish budget surprises

Everyone likes surprises, except when it comes to losing money. And when you have a break/fix IT service provider, big surprises can and do happen - and not the good ones, either.

An MSP is working to prevent problems from happening in the first place. You pay a monthly flat fee, so you always know what you’re paying. You can plan and predict your budget accordingly.

With break/fix, it’s true that some months you won’t have any IT expenses from your contractor, which is great. But other months, you could have bills that are astronomical. So you never know just what you’ll be paying for your IT budget in any given month. And if you don’t have that money set aside, then what?

MSPs might just make you happier

Yes, as silly and simple as it sounds, with an MSP you’ll probably be happier. The main reason is you won’t have to deal with the frustration of unexpected IT problems eating away at your budget and the downtime that comes with it. Your IT will run more smoothly (which will create a foundation for your business to do the same) and your budget will be predictable.

Even better, you’re more likely to have a fruitful relationship with your MSP provider since you both have the same goal: effective smooth running IT for your business. What business owner doesn’t like the sound of that?

Want to learn more about Managed Services? Contact us today to learn more about this effective alternative.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 23rd, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Mar23_AA business continuity plan (BCP) is often defined as a method of putting businesses back on their feet in the event of a disaster. With this in mind, companies are increasingly concentrating their efforts on developing a BCP so that, when unexpected disasters strike, they can minimize damage and continue to function as normally as possible. But with many abbreviations and terms that may sound unfamiliar to average employees, or even business owners or managers, understanding these common BCP terms is vital.

Battle box - a tool box where necessary equipment and vital information are stored. These objects and pieces of information should be useful in a disaster. Typical items include a first aid kit, laptop, protective equipment, and communication devices.

Business impact analysis (BIA) - a process to evaluate the impact that a disaster may have on a business. The BIA shows what a business stands to lose if some parts of its functions are missing. It allows you to see the general picture of your business processes and determine which ones are the most important.

Call tree - a comprehensive list of employee contacts and their telephone numbers. Call trees are used to notify out-of-office employees about a disaster. Companies can use a software program to contact people on the call tree by sending automated emails and text messages. In order for a call tree to work, employees should provide alternative contact options and their information must be up to date.

Data mirroring - a duplication of data from its source to another physical storage solution or the cloud. Data mirroring ensures that crucial information is safe, and companies can use the copied data as backup during a disaster.

Exercise - a series of activities designed to test a company’s business continuity plan. When an exercise is carried out, there will be an evaluation to decide whether a BCP is meeting standards or not. An exercise can identify gaps in, and the drawbacks of, a BCP and is therefore used as a tool to revise and improve a business continuity plan.

Hot site - an alternate location equipped with computers, communication tools and infrastructures to help a business recover information systems affected by the disaster.

Plan maintenance - a process of maintaining a company’s business continuity plan so that it is in working order and up to date. Plan maintenance includes scheduled reviews and updates.

Recovery time objective (RTO) - a period of time in which companies must recover their systems and functions after a disaster. This is the target time for a business to ideally resume its delivery of products and services at an acceptable level. RTO may be specified in business time (e.g. one business day) or elapsed time (e.g. elapsed 24 hours).

Business continuity plans can be a hassle to design and implement without proper understanding of their requirements. If you want to learn how you can protect your business from disasters, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 18th, 2015

Security_Mar18_AWe all know that it’s important to maintain high security vigilance across whole spectrum of your IT, from changing your email password regularly to locking your work computer when you are away from your desk. But there are few areas where it couldn’t be easier to score an own goal and make life easy for fraudsters than in the realm of financial services. From your online banking system to mobile payment platforms, these are accounts where it’s absolutely vital to be on your guard against possible intruders. Peer-to-peer payment provider Venmo just made it a little easier to do that.

The Venmo platform is known for its convenience and ease of use, and is commonly used to split the cost of drinks, dinner, taxis and the like. The app is now adding a raft of new security-focused features, in response to criticism of its record for ensuring the security of its customers and their financial transactions.

Back in February, a Venmo user discovered his account had been hacked and used to withdraw almost $3,000 from his credit card. The intruder had also thought to change the email address associated with the Venmo account and to disable notifications of payments, but Venmo did not tell the genuine user about the changes that had been made. Venmo was decried for letting basic lapses in security exist in its trendsetting platform.

Now the service is doing what it can to pick up the pieces and up the ante on the security front. The most obvious change is to incorporate automatic email notifications when changes are made to the basic personal details associated with a Venmo account - a feature which many believe should have been built in from the word go. But the app will also add multi-factor authentication, another name for the two-step verification that can be enabled within Google Apps and other services. This feature makes it more difficult for would-be intruders to gain access to your account, even if they manage to get hold of your password.

Multi-factor authentication works by requiring not only your password for login, but also a second piece of information such as a one-time code - often generated on-the-spot and sent by SMS to the user’s cell phone - or the answer to a pre-set security question. Insisting on two phases to the sign-in process allows another opportunity to stop potential fraudsters in their tracks. The changes being implemented by Venmo also reflect the growing awareness on the part of technology companies for the need to get serious about security and protect the integrity of their systems and their users’ data.

You can put multi-factor authentication to use in your IT systems to keep your business protected. Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
March 17th, 2015

BusinessIntelligence_Mar17_ABusiness intelligence is all about taking valuable raw data from your company’s operations and turning it into useful, understandable insights that help you understand what you are doing well, what you need to improve on and where your company is headed. Insights gleaned from business intelligence can also help you to identify new opportunities for further growth. But if you’re just getting started, understanding business intelligence can be a headache in itself. Here are three terms to get under your belt as you make your debut.

Reporting

Whether simple or more sophisticated, reporting forms the foundation of business intelligence and is key to knowing how your company is doing - and how to make it do better still. No matter the size of your company, financial reporting helps you to understand your position in terms of revenue and expenditure. Typical reports you might produce on a regular basis include balance sheets, cash flow statements and profit and loss accounts. Business intelligence tools like Enterprise Resource Planning applications can help you get a hold of these reports and customize them to suit your needs, to a level of detail and usability that most of us just aren’t going to manage with a spreadsheet alone.

Data Visualization

Having access to reams of business data is all very well, but in reality it’s not of much use if it doesn’t mean anything to everyday humans. You and your colleagues are business focused and, while you might know your way around a bit of data analysis and your IT systems, you don’t want to spend your lives with your head buried in sheet after sheet of formulae. Frankly, you’ve got better things to be doing than that - like getting on with the day-to-day management of your business.

That’s where visualization comes in. Just what it sounds like, visualization is about taking your raw data and presenting it in a way that’s instantly understandable and meaningful to its audience - whether that’s you as business owner, your boss or your company’s investors. Visualization can help you to convey a high-level overview of business performance, before you drill down to consider more specific areas of your products and services. Some business intelligence tools also offer interactivity to allow you to get exactly what you need from complex data.

Corporate Performance Management

The performance of your business depends on a huge number of factors, and if you are properly preparing for the future then you are considering a multitude of scenarios depending on how those factors play out. That can leave you with multiple versions of your budgets and cash flow statements but, without effective business intelligence software, you’re likely to have that information stored in a messy tangle of spreadsheets.

A better solution is a business intelligence application that allows you to import data from various locations, and adjust your reporting output according to variables in the numerous factors you are forecasting. With speed that those clumsy spreadsheets just couldn’t replicate if they tried, you’ll have at your fingertips a set of responsive, adaptable reports that enable you and your team to spend more time on analysis and making plans for the future.

Want to learn more about using business intelligence to propel your company to greater heights? Get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 16th, 2015

SocialMedia_Mar16_AWhen taking your business online, it’s crucial you make use of different tools to help boost your online presence. Hashtags are an example of such tools; they are the key to social media buzz and have been added to various social media platforms. Isn’t it time you got a comprehensive view of how different social media sites make use of hashtags, as well as how you can get the most out of them for your business?

Twitter

Twitter hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, * but do support letters, numbers and underscores. There are no hashtag limits as long as you keep your message within the usual 140 characters.

The best way to use hashtags in Twitter is through hosting and participating in Twitter chats. You don’t need to be in an event to network with people through the official hashtag; event organizers usually market the official hashtag very well. In other words, you’ll get additional exposure if you use it.

Useful Twitter hashtag tools include:

Hashtagify which tracks trending hashtags and shows related hashtags for any base terms you provide. TwChat lets you discover, participate in and host Twitter chats. This is best used for monitoring and archiving any hashtag streams.

Instagram

Just like Twitter, Instagram hashtags don’t support special characters like +, !, $, %, -, ^, &, *, but do support letters, numbers and underscores. You can add up to 30 hashtags to a single photo or tag your photo after publishing it by listing the hashtags in the comments.

After you tag your post with a hashtag, you’ll be able to tap on the hashtag to see a page that shows all photos and videos people have uploaded with the same hashtag. Instagram hashtags can dramatically increase your following, especially if you use hot and trending hashtags which are easily found here.

The best use of hashtags on Instagram is to participate in hashtag games like #tbt (Throwback Thursday) and #MondayBlues. Both can increase your following and interactions since people click on these specific hashtags to see photos of other participants. Additionally, location-based hashtags also work very well on Instagram, whether abbreviated or in full, for example #LA and #LosAngeles.

Facebook

Facebook hashtags are similar to other social platforms; they support the standard set of characters including numbers, letters and underscore but don’t support special characters.

However, searching by hashtag on Facebook is a little unlike the rest, in that when you search for a hashtag you often end up on a Facebook page instead of a hashtag search result page. But there’s an easier way to generate hashtag search results - simply add the hashtag text after facebook.com/hashtag/, for example facebook.com/hashtag/cats.

You can also bring up hashtag search results by clicking on any hashtag in your Facebook stream. Do keep in mind that Facebook’s ranking algorithm is complex and seems to classify hashtags according to how closely you are related to the person posting the update, as well as how often the two of you interact.

The growing use of hashtags has changed how we use different social media platforms for the better. Still, it’s important to understand how these different platforms make use of hashtags in order to optimize them to your business’s advantage. Looking to learn more about how social media can help your business? Contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media