Category: Computer

USB Memory Sticks – Advantages Over Disc Formats

download (17)USB sticks, or flash drives as they are also known, are becoming an ever more popular format for the transfer of data between businesses and also to for business promotion to potential customers. At the current time of creating of this article (March 2016), memory sticks that are capable of holding as much as 512 GB of data can be purchased easily on-line at a surprisingly low cost. Amazingly, a USB drive that will hold 1TB of data can also be obtained, but currently, these are expensive. The rate of technological advance will mean that the current high price will tumble over the next twelve months as order numbers grow and manufacturing costs are lowered due to bulk purchases.

A 512 GB USB stick can contain the same amount of information as over 20 regular Blu-ray DVD discs. The format may currently be a little more costly than the Blu-ray DVD discs but there is little to compare in terms of the convenience of the format as opposed to a pile of Blu-ray DVDs. The USB drive occupies little space and can be secured using a keyring or kept safely in a small pocket in a laptop bag or with ease. 20 Blu-ray DVDs, however, occupy a lot more space and would be much more inconvenient to have to transport.

At the other end of the scale, a memory stick with a capacity of 128 MB can be purchased inexpensively if the information files to be held on it are only small.

USB Sticks – Volume Production and Customised Casings

The ever- increasing sales volumes of the format has resulted in many companies, particularly in the far east, producing them in a staggering array of shapes and sizes. These designs can be both useful, such as a torch with a USB stick moulded into it, or any amount of novelty shapes such as a toy supercar shape that can be put onto a keyring. Many businesses using memory sticks to send out data on-site to employees and offsite to existing or potential clients, use flash drives in the form of a business card or a useful pocket sized shape that can be screen printed with the business or brand logo to further promote the company. Mostly, mass produced USB drives are basic shapes about 5cm x 1.5cm x 1.5cm which can be printed onto, or a business card form which, once more, can be printed through a spot colour screen printing technique. There are also a lot of companies which can produce memory sticks in a custom shape specified by the client.

Making Use of USB Memory Sticks To Give Your Business a Boost

The easy transportation of flash drive means that they are ideal for data storage for use by any company with a need for data distribution, particularly where data files are of a significant size. Where many employees need to be able to view large graphic design files or data/code files then USB sticks that hold large files are perfectly suited. This format is perhaps most commonly used, though, for promotion of businesses at exhibitions and business shows. Here, USB drives have two benefits; if you are employed in the marketing department for your business and are tasked with promoting your company at a tradeshow with the aim of raising brand awareness, or just to promote your company’s services, they can be used to distribute sales information, presentations or applications for potential clients to view on their laptops or desktop PCs. Any data space can then be used for information storage by the user. This convenience means that the flash drive is always on hand keeping the brand in mind whenever the memory stick is used. They are popular freebies and business card or stick type forms can receive a print via the spot colour screen printing technique, with up to 4 separate colours. This is great for printing business logos or contact details onto the body of the drive.

The gain for a business, where USB memory sticks are utilised for promotion, can be enormous. As with almost any mass produced product, the larger the quantity you purchase, the lower the unit cost. If your business lands a lucrative contract or sells a high value product after giving away a memory stick with a small cost, then the benefit is very clear.

USB flash drives account for a large proportion of the data distribution and business promotion markets. Their capacity to hold a very large amount of data in such a small package makes them perfect replacements for CD and DVD discs. Along with the fact that their prices are falling as mass production of USB sticks increases, they are now starting to become the choice format for many businesses that need to distribute very large files quickly, to existing clients or potential new ones, and also existing personnel. Just about everyone seems to possess at least one memory stick and they can be obtained in a vast array of shapes, sizes and colours.

USB Duplication – Producing Memory Sticks in Bulk

A great number of companies based in the UK are consistently placing orders for thousands of memory sticks to enable them to promote their businesses. This growing demand means that there are a growing number of USB duplication companies offering their services to UK customers. Units are readily available that can copy large amounts of data rapidly, to over 100 USB sticks, at the same time. If a duplication suite has several of these units working together, they can then transfer data to many thousands of memory sticks, very quickly. Data transfer speeds are constantly on the increase as the technology advances. The USB 3.0 data transfer standard claims a realistic data transfer rate of 400 MB/second meaning that even a 512 GB USB memory stick can reach capacity in around 20 minutes. This is roughly 10 times faster than the older USB 2.0 standard. The ability to transfer such a large amount of data so rapidly means that duplication expenses can be minimised and flash drives are then a financially attractive alternative to Blu-ray DVDs, as they are also much easier to handle.

These duplication units are readily available for purchase online and many businesses who find they have a regular need for a large amount of USB sticks will either outsource the work or obtain a duplication unit for their employees to use. They are easily set up and take up very little room, meaning that they can be tucked into a corner or even a drawer when not in use and taken out when needed.

USB Memory Stick Security

USB flash drives are also a convenient format for the distribution of sensitive data such as:

  • Legal documents
  • Sensitive internal company data
  • Copyright controlled information
  • Sensitive research documents

The files can be secured through encryption using security software such as Truecrypt or similar, and the key for decryption of the data communicated through another means as an added level of security. Where the files contained are particularly sensitive, the USB drive can be concealed as it can be moulded into just about any form such as a pen or a torch. Even a large capacity memory stick can be contained on a very small PCB, so hiding the drive in a place known only to the intended recipient is a good option.

Many of the world’s major engineering corporations use USB memory sticks to deliver CAD models of projects like household appliances, road vehicles or aeroplanes and military transportation. Such files are usually very large and need a high storage capacity device to hold them. With the mainstream availability of a 1TB USB memory stick on the horizon, this format will see an increase in use across the majority of industries.

 

Data Center, Server, Computer and Laptop Hard Drive Destruction

download (16)An extensive title, but it is all-encompassing none the less. In my 14 plus years of touching devices, I can say that I have seen and felt thousands of pieces of equipment. Though the scenarios in which I am working with the different types of equipment, and the clients certainly do vary. So what are some of the situations that allow for me to handle these various pieces of equipment? Good question, so here is my short list… data center relocations, A/V relocations, data center decommissioning, and green recycling projects.

I would attest that physical security in my field of work is number one, and my clients feel the same way. My thought is the people I work with are so aware (nervous) about chain of custody, CYA, and the end result being nothing less than exceptional. This is no matter the scope of work we are performing. I often find myself hearing clients expressing in a subtle way that they really want to know I care about their project, reputation, and it’s not just about hitting their wallets as hard and fast as I can. My work ethic is such that the part in which I have played in a client’s project makes think I leave a little bit of myself behind each time. So yes I am emotionally involved in each and every client/client project.

Leaving the various scopes of work on hold for a moment, there is one particular aspect often discussed with clients. It’s pretty much standard conversation, and if it isn’t, I am without a doubt going to spark conversation on it. The title of this article says it all, Hard Drive & Media Destruction. I would like to educate you on the simple definition of destruction. Destruction is a noun, pronounced /dYÈstrYkSH(Y)n/; and the definition is the action or process of causing so much damage to something that it no longer exists or cannot be repaired.

I have such a deep emotional tie to the services I am involved in, and look/prepare for worst case 100% of the time. The simple reason (not really) is that I have been performing tech services for over a decade and have seen/heard most of it. To be honest I still see many new things, but this is off topic.

So in keeping this article to the point and direct, there is only one way to create a safe end of life solution for your data storage, BY DESTROYING IT (then green recycle). Companies and people alike take our environment into consideration more now than in the past with green recycling the massive amounts of e-waste. Far more people in the past (and now) did not consider the data held on hard drives, and would call the recycling guy to come down and “haul” their junk to be “recycled”. Like anything in life, all business and work ethic are not created equally. Some of that “recycled” equipment and hard drives that were supposed to be “junked” in fact ended up on online auction sites, and sold locally. This, then and now is a PR nightmare, and can often times never be undone. Especially if the data on the hard drives was extracted by someone who shouldn’t have it. Remember that your companies name is attached to the equipment as well, so we wouldn’t want to hear reports of “junked” equipment being found with your asset tag or serial number down by the local river.

Some fly by night “recyclers” were found not even attempting to remove the data from hard drives, or they were using “formatting” software to “erase” the hard drives. The problem is, if you are a targeted company or person; there are a multitude of people that have the abilities to recover data from a “erased” hard drive. This is one scenario from the past, and it is just as relevant today! Change the story line just a little, and it applies no matter.

IBM sponsored the 11th annual Cost of Data Breach Study, which is the industry’s gold-standard benchmark research, independently conducted by Ponemon Institute. 2016’s study found the average consolidated total cost of a data breach grew from $3.8 million in 2015 to $4 million dollars! In addition to the data breach cost data, Ponemon Institute’s global study puts the likelihood of a material data breach involving 10,000 lost or stolen records within the next 24 months at 26%. These numbers will make you lose your breath, and I hope it doesn’t make you lose sleep because of your last hard drive, media, and recycling pickup.

The entire point of this article is to raise your awareness on data breaches, and theft of data. Unless you plan to keep and redeploy not in use hard drives internally, please mechanically shred all hard drives and media storage! In my opinion the risk in using 3rd party applications to delete drive prior to disposing, or trusting someone to take your intact hard drives away isn’t worth your reputation or your companies.

I believe in what I do, and also base my belief in the end result. An absolute solution for hard drive disposal and destruction is by one simple method, mechanically shredding drives… period.

 

LI-FI – An Economical and Eco-Friendly Alternative

download (15)With the advances in technology, every day a new idea is being nurtured in some one’s mind that might change the way we function. One such ground breaking idea popped in the mind of a brilliant Professor in University of Edinburg, UK, Harald Haas back in 2003. His idea was to use Light Emitting Diodes as a medium to transfer data from one system to another. This topic became widely popular after his TED Talk in 2011.

Now, the question of the hour is what exactly is LI FI?

LI-FI is a short hand representation for Light Fidelity. Fidelity as per a dictionary is being faithful. As per its name, it can be safely said that this technology functions on light.

In simple terms, it is a possible alternate to Wi-Fi. While Wi-Fi uses radio signals wirelessly, LI-FI is the concept of using visible Light Spectrum.

Getting into details, LI-FI works with the LED lights that are turned into wireless transmitters. To receive data from these lights, we need a dongle of sorts, that acts like a modem. This dongle can be connected to a laptop or a tablet. They can be connected to the tablets or laptops through USB Ports. There is a sensor in the modem that catches the light coming down, and then an infrared component that sends the signal back to the light source.

The LED Lights have a networking component that allow multiple users to get connected to a single light source and give the ability to move from one light source to another without losing the connection.

The long term aim of the innovator is to get this technology inside various devices and lighting grids. In order to make this technology widely adaptable, it is necessary to compress the dongle into an ASIC (Application Specific Integrated Circuit) or SoC (System on a Chip), to make it easily incorporated into various devices like smartphones, laptops, tablets, accessories and many more.

Advantages of Adopting LI-FI

  • As light doesn’t penetrate through walls, this technology allows the users to create secure networks with much higher security.
  • The strength of the network can be enhanced with increasing the number of light sources. This can lead to a much efficient network.
  • Once these sensors and dongles become more adoptable, we can use a low cost, low power consuming and environment friendly technology in our day-to day lives.
  • LI-FI has the calibre to boost its capacity to transfer the data at a rate that can be roughly 100 times of Wi-Fi technology by the usage of laser LEDs.
  • The LI-FI network allows the users the roam around the room or anywhere in the installed lightning grid.
  • LI-FI adoption can reduce the strain from the existing networks and free the bandwidth for outdoors.

LI-FI might seem a better option than existing Wi-Fi system, but it is actually complimenting it. It would take a minimum of 10 – 15 years for the technology to be incorporated into our day to day lives.

 

A Brief Introduction to Artificial Intelligence For Normal People

download (14)Lately, artificial intelligence has been very much the hot topic in Silicon Valley and the broader tech scene. To those of us involved in that scene it feels like an incredible momentum is building around the topic, with all kinds of companies building A.I. into the core of their business. There has also been a rise in A.I.-related university courses which is seeing a wave of extremely bright new talent rolling into the employment market. But this is not a simple case of confirmation bias – interest in the topic has been on the rise since mid-2014.

The noise around the subject is only going to increase, and for the layman it is all very confusing. Depending on what you read, it’s easy to believe that we’re headed for an apocalyptic Skynet-style obliteration at the hands of cold, calculating supercomputers, or that we’re all going to live forever as purely digital entities in some kind of cloud-based artificial world. In other words, either The Terminator or The Matrix are imminently about to become disturbingly prophetic.

Should we be worried or excited? And what does it all mean?

Will robots take over the world?

When I jumped onto the A.I. bandwagon in late 2014, I knew very little about it. Although I have been involved with web technologies for over 20 years, I hold an English Literature degree and am more engaged with the business and creative possibilities of technology than the science behind it. I was drawn to A.I. because of its positive potential, but when I read warnings from the likes of Stephen Hawking about the apocalyptic dangers lurking in our future, I naturally became as concerned as anybody else would.

So I did what I normally do when something worries me: I started learning about it so that I could understand it. More than a year’s worth of constant reading, talking, listening, watching, tinkering and studying has led me to a pretty solid understanding of what it all means, and I want to spend the next few paragraphs sharing that knowledge in the hopes of enlightening anybody else who is curious but naively afraid of this amazing new world.

Oh, if you just want the answer to the headline above, the answer is: yes, they will. Sorry.

How the machines have learned to learn

The first thing I discovered was that artificial intelligence, as an industry term, has actually been going since 1956, and has had multiple booms and busts in that period. In the 1960s the A.I. industry was bathing in a golden era of research with Western governments, universities and big businesses throwing enormous amounts of money at the sector in the hopes of building a brave new world. But in the mid seventies, when it became apparent that A.I. was not delivering on its promise, the industry bubble burst and the funding dried up. In the 1980s, as computers became more popular, another A.I. boom emerged with similar levels of mind-boggling investment being poured into various enterprises. But, again, the sector failed to deliver and the inevitable bust followed.

To understand why these booms failed to stick, you first need to understand what artificial intelligence actually is. The short answer to that (and believe me, there are very very long answers out there) is that A.I. is a number of different overlapping technologies which broadly deal with the challenge of how to use data to make a decision about something. It incorporates a lot of different disciplines and technologies (Big Data or Internet of Things, anyone?) but the most important one is a concept called machine learning.

Machine learning basically involves feeding computers large amounts of data and letting them analyse that data to extract patterns from which they can draw conclusions. You have probably seen this in action with face recognition technology (such as on Facebook or modern digital cameras and smartphones), where the computer can identify and frame human faces in photographs. In order to do this, the computers are referencing an enormous library of photos of people’s faces and have learned to spot the characteristics of a human face from shapes and colours averaged out over a dataset of hundreds of millions of different examples. This process is basically the same for any application of machine learning, from fraud detection (analysing purchasing patterns from credit card purchase histories) to generative art (analysing patterns in paintings and randomly generating pictures using those learned patterns).

As you might imagine, crunching through enormous datasets to extract patterns requires a LOT of computer processing power. In the 1960s they simply didn’t have machines powerful enough to do it, which is why that boom failed. In the 1980s the computers were powerful enough, but they discovered that machines only learn effectively when the volume of data being fed to them is large enough, and they were unable to source large enough amounts of data to feed the machines.

Then came the internet. Not only did it solve the computing problem once and for all through the innovations of cloud computing – which essentially allow us to access as many processors as we need at the touch of a button – but people on the internet have been generating more data every day than has ever been produced in the entire history of planet earth. The amount of data being produced on a constant basis is absolutely mind-boggling.

What this means for machine learning is significant: we now have more than enough data to truly start training our machines. Think of the number of photos on Facebook and you start to understand why their facial recognition technology is so accurate.

There is now no major barrier (that we currently know of) preventing A.I. from achieving its potential. We are only just starting to work out what we can do with it.

When the computers will think for themselves

There is a famous scene from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey where Dave, the main character, is slowly disabling the artificial intelligence mainframe (called “Hal”) after the latter has malfunctioned and decided to try and kill all the humans on the space station it was meant to be running. Hal, the A.I., protests Dave’s actions and eerily proclaims that it is afraid of dying.

This movie illustrates one of the big fears surrounding A.I. in general, namely what will happen once the computers start to think for themselves instead of being controlled by humans. The fear is valid: we are already working with machine learning constructs called neural networks whose structures are based on the neurons in the human brain. With neural nets, the data is fed in and then processed through a vastly complex network of interconnected points that build connections between concepts in much the same way as associative human memory does. This means that computers are slowly starting to build up a library of not just patterns, but also concepts which ultimately lead to the basic foundations of understanding instead of just recognition.

Imagine you are looking at a photograph of somebody’s face. When you first see the photo, a lot of things happen in your brain: first, you recognise that it is a human face. Next, you might recognise that it is male or female, young or old, black or white, etc. You will also have a quick decision from your brain about whether you recognise the face, though sometimes the recognition requires deeper thinking depending on how often you have been exposed to this particular face (the experience of recognising a person but not knowing straight away from where). All of this happens pretty much instantly, and computers are already capable of doing all of this too, at almost the same speed. For example, Facebook can not only identify faces, but can also tell you who the face belongs to, if said person is also on Facebook. Google has technology that can identify the race, age and other characteristics of a person based just on a photo of their face. We have come a long way since the 1950s.

But true artificial intelligence – which is referred to as Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), where the machine is as advanced as a human brain – is a long way off. Machines can recognise faces, but they still don’t really know what a face is. For example, you might look at a human face and infer a lot of things that are drawn from a hugely complicated mesh of different memories, learnings and feelings. You might look at a photo of a woman and guess that she is a mother, which in turn might make you assume that she is selfless, or indeed the opposite depending on your own experiences of mothers and motherhood. A man might look at the same photo and find the woman attractive which will lead him to make positive assumptions about her personality (confirmation bias again), or conversely find that she resembles a crazy ex girlfriend which will irrationally make him feel negatively towards the woman. These richly varied but often illogical thoughts and experiences are what drive humans to the various behaviours – good and bad – that characterise our race. Desperation often leads to innovation, fear leads to aggression, and so on.

For computers to truly be dangerous, they need some of these emotional compulsions, but this is a very rich, complex and multi-layered tapestry of different concepts that is very difficult to train a computer on, no matter how advanced neural networks may be. We will get there one day, but there is plenty of time to make sure that when computers do achieve AGI, we will still be able to switch them off if needed.

 

What Is a QSA?

download (13)Since the formation of Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards back in 2004, PCI DSS has setup its requirement for financial service providers and large merchants to use QSAs to carry out onsite assessments and to check on Compliance and security. QSA stands for Qualified Security Assessors; it is a designation awarded to individuals by the PCI Security Standards Council, whom it finds qualifying to execute consulting services and PCI assessments.

Recently, PCI DSS has expanded to take in its guidelines for training QSAs and some other advancement. Still QSAs and the services they provide do vary a lot. With assessors, the thoroughness, methodologies, technical skills and some other areas differ a lot.

The PCI DSS V2.0

The PCI DSS v2.0 released on 30th October includes number of classifications and further areas of guidance for assessments. The standard according to new version states that the first step of any PCI DSS assess is to describe the scope of assessment, by pointing out clear maps (locations and flows) of cardholder information within a system.

A lot of organizations are not aware about every single location where the card holder information is situated in their systems. A QSA must have understanding about application data handling, network architecture, operating system security, storage and database technology, and other business and IT functions in order to carry out those assessments.

Virtualization Technology

A new guidance has also been added in the PCI DSS v2.0 which is its grant of using virtualization technologies and how to assess them. As many organizations are looking to handle cost efficiencies savings through implementation of application and server virtualization, it is a must for the QSAs to know more about this technology and how it differs from the traditional server/client technologies they are using for assessment.

Through virtualization numerous server instances can be developed and run from a single physical system. This has been considered as non compliant by many QSAs in the past. PCI v2.0 Section 2.2.1 permits the use of virtualization; but makes it clear to run only one function on a single virtual server like one machine will run database services, while another will be used for running web services. So it is important for the QSAs to know about virtualization specific controls, virtual network segmentation and the IT controls which come in use with the virtualization platforms.

Choosing a QSA

Once you select a QSA, the relationship might develop into a long one. It is necessary for the organizations to look for a QSA that knows about the same technology that is needed to be audited. In order to hire a QSA, the companies must gather information about business requirements; develop a detailed interview about past experiences (of QSA) and must choose a time for onsite review and planning or meeting. Make sure that the individual QSA you spoke and work with for carrying out collection of data and assessment and who will eventually be coming onsite for managing assessment are the same.

The QSA firm will have great effects on your compliance and security for a long time. Making the right decision regarding QSA selection will turn out in great advantage for both fulfilling the PCI DSS Compliance requirements as well as making your security system for a longer period of time.

 

Is PCI Compliance Expensive?

download (12)There are a couple of reasons on which cost of PCI DSS Compliant depends, which includes the type of your business, annual number of transactions, current IT infrastructure, and the existing credit/debit card network of processing and storing data.

Possible PCI Compliance Fees

According to estimations, the largest merchants of nation, categorized as Level 1 merchants (having more than 6 million transactions a year), spent $125,000 assessing the possible required PCI related work and an addition of $568,000 to meet the PCI requirements.

Reports state that level one 1 merchant, a national retailer having 210 stores, spent about $500,000 to become compliant. Furthermore, Level 2 merchants carrying out annual transactions in between 1 and 6 million may require spending $105,000 for assessment and an addition of $267,000 for compliance.

Level 3 merchants carrying out e commerce transactions between 20,000 to1, 000,000 are supposed to spend $44, 000 for assessing and $81, 000 more for compliance. The level 4 merchants handling e commerce transactions below 20,000 have different prices to pay for being compliant, which depends on the type of business.

Additional Costs

The costs of being PCI Compliant just don’t end here; instead, there are a couple of additional costs. This might include the fee required for software and hardware upgrading, if the data is stored in house. According to calculations an organization having 100,000 credit cards on file is required to give $6 in encryption costs per card. On the other hand, technologies like tokenization can be used by the merchants. In tokenization (in which data storage is remote) there is a per transaction fee in place of upfront cost. In all of these estimates no opportunity and cost labor cost of other profit making endeavors has been included.

Requirements of the Merchants

A merchant accepting, processing or storing credit card data needs to be compliant. It is still essential for small retailers and restaurants using a single POS system or terminal to be PCI Compliant. Both businesses are required to fill out Self Assessment Questionnaire, but the compliance process is much less involved. POS systems used by merchants are required to stay extra careful to make sure that no prohibited card data is being stored improperly and are needed to validate their vendor as PABP compliant (soon to become PA DSS).

Cost for Being Non compliant

Being noncompliant is not an option and every large merchant is required to be PCI Compliant otherwise they will be imposed with huge monthly fines. A merchant being noncompliant has to pay additional interchange cost which will result in higher processing cost. The card brands are most likely to charge fines when a merchant is noncompliant at the time of data breach.

Also, the discovery and face remediation costs can be huge than the fines itself. The cost of data security break can be anywhere from $90 to $305 per customer data breached. Some merchants find PCI DSS requirements quite annoying and get frustrated about it; while some consider it as basic security requirements and think that it should be in place.

 

Should Everyone Become PCI Compliant?

download (11)In PCI Compliance, there is a lot more to your business than your website. If your business is dealing with credit card numbers over phone, or carries out face-to-face transactions, or holds up records of credit card number; then all of this has nothing to do with your website and it is really necessary for your business to meet up with PCI requirements. Well, now a question might come in your mind that does every business needs to be PCI Compliant; the answer to it has already been given above. In this article you will find answers to the question that trouble you with PCI requirements.

Should I Be Worried About PCI Compliance?

A business receiving payments through credit cards from customers needs to be PCI compliant, even if that business gets paid via credit card once in a year. The number of transactions doesn’t matter at all, even if your website is accepting third party services like PayPal or Google Checkout you are required to be PCI Compliant because it is your business that is accepting payments via credit cards and not your website.

What Will Happen If I Am Not PCI Compliant?

If your business is not according to the PCI Compliance requirements and your site’s security happens to get breached; then huge penalties will be imposed on your business ranging from $5,000 to $500,000. The fines are the first thing you will face due to being non compliant and there will be numerous other damages to your business that you will start seeing.

Terminated Merchant File

If your business is not PCI compliant; then you might lose your merchant account, which means that you won’t be able to carry out any credit card payments. Not only this, but you will also be place in the Terminated Merchant File (TMF) of MasterCard/ Visa, which will make ineligible to get another merchant for at least a couple of years. The TMF is actually a BLACKLIST for the merchants from which getting your name removed is nearly impossible.

The Terminated Merchant File is sometimes also known as The Match File, once a merchant gets his added in this file; his name, name of the business, address of home and business all are written in a record. So it is no use to apply again on the name of another family member or business partner because according to documentation, it will be taken as the same business and location (which is already blacklisted).

Card holder Data Environment

Does setting up Firewall Configuration will limit direct public access between internet and any system included in the card holder data environment? Well it depends; the cardholder data includes everything of your website as well as the database. A database server must have its own physical server that should be connected to a VPN.

Even if the data isn’t being stored by your database, it is however giving content to your site which transmits and collects the card holder information that is why it is included in the card holder data environment.

 

The New Role of the CIO – Business Transformation Partner

download (10)It is becoming increasingly necessary for Industries and Organizations to improve Productivity, Reliability and keep pace with the ever increasing demands. Never before has there been such a pressure on Business-the Production and Engineering departments to keep up to these demands.

Business has no other choice but to identify “issues”, adapt “new technologies”, de-bottleneck and implement Engineering/Process IT Innovation drives wherever practical and possible.

Information Technology is not the business, it is an enabler. By enabling the business, the IT strategy, architecture and projects should be dictated by the larger Organization business strategy, architecture and programs. However, we often see a Disconnect between the IT and Business Strategy.

The IT strategy

The CIO or the Chief Information Officer can play the role of a partner and assist the Business team achieve their objectives.

IT is perceived as not providing value to the organization. Why is this?

Typically the CIO and the IT team’s role have been restricted to Implementation, ‘Support’ & ‘Maintenance‘ of Enterprise needs related to IT hardware and Software.

IT teams have in the past procured specific software and hardware, have got tied down by the lock in periods, typically three to four and have eventually got trapped with the obsolete software down the line.

The advent of the Cloud, Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service & Software as a Service has provided the CIO with new possibilities.

Technology trends and landscapes are much more dynamic now and there is an increasing need for CIO’s to look at getting out of the ‘traditional support‘ mode and get more focused on meeting the ever increasing demands from Business.

The Organization now increasingly looks at the CIO for critical support to the Business teams, without which no Transformations would be possible.

A Proactive CIO is the one that sees the cue and takes the lead in these transformational initiatives that can make a big difference to the way the Organization performs.

Most CIO’s of Organizations report to the CFO, I am not sure if this is the right structure. However a smart CIO can take advantage of this structure and ensure that they have the blessings of the CFO to allocate good Budgets to IT and Process and Engineering IT initiatives.

Having said that in today’s recessionary times, these Budget allocations are not easy. A lot is expected to be achieved with a reduced budget and in least time.

Also several IT initiatives related to Business improvements in the past have not been successful, mainly because the CIO and the IT teams has never been considered as a reliable partner to implement and be responsible for such Initiatives and its Implementation.

How can the CIO and his team become a trusted Business partner and how do they first ensure these Budget allocations? How would they get the Management Support and backing?

-A Business Transformation programme

The first phase would necessitate the hiring of a Business Process Improvement Consultant who would on a fast track, identify issues across the Business units, recommend Areas of Improvement.

{We will not get into details here about the way the programme is to be managed}

The Consultant should ideally be asked to recommend a short list of areas of improvement, those which can provide the Organization with the maximum Impact.

-An Innovation drive

There is no point in diluting the efforts of Innovation by identifying far too many areas for innovation and improvement as mentioned earlier.

This should be Targeted and only those Innovations that can meet the new Business needs and challenges must be taken up.

The following would be KEY to the success of these IT Innovation drives.

-Branding Campaign

A precursor to the Innovation project should be a well designed and branded campaign.

This campaigns only objective is to sell this idea within the Business and to ensure that the entire Business team realizes the value of this programme and the Business Outcomes that it is designed to achieve

-THe Right Technology

Identify a tested and proven Technology. It’s a good idea to make site visits to organizations that have implemented these Technologies successfully and get a good feedback

-The Right Leader & Right team

The leader should ideally be CIO who shares the Business & the Organization’s vision. He should be assisted by a Business Leader. The need for small focused teams comprising Leads from IT and Business is absolutely necessary. The right leader needs to assist and lead the team and justify to the Core team, the need for these innovation drives and the resultant Business Outcomes.

-Right Partner to Implement

Identification of the Right partner to implement is another Key need and ideally the selected product or the technology OE is the right agency to recommend the partner.

-The Right Methodology, Framework

It’s very important to ensure the right methodology which ensures consistent internal stakeholder support. How do we manage this?

The idea is to break up these projects in phases and into small projects rather than go with a Big bang approach.

Create small POC’s, demonstrate small success stories.

The best way to show proof of success of typical process Automation or other IT Innovation drives is to get the ‘Business users’ to see and measure success-the best way is to implement a POC, develop a small self service portal, where they are able to key in specific data and see tangible benefits.

Unless the Business Users ‘do not perceive‘ this as an Experiment and a Risk, the project will not meet its objectives.

If this is achieved, not only the Roll Outs of the project is guaranteed but also in the least time and well within the reduced Budgets.

Lessons Learnt

The CIO must make these success stories visible to his Organization at the right times during the project progress. The objective must be to ensure that the rest of the Organization and key stake holders are confident about the success and supports him and the Business teams.

Change is always resisted; people get complacent and comfortable doing things the old way. It’s important for them to experience the Changes Innovation brings and how it lets them achieve their Objectives better and more efficiently.

Smart CIO’s are the ones that are looking to ’outsource’ routine and Typical Support and gearing up to meet the new Business Challenges.

The role of the new age CIO is to lead from the front and move from typical “Supporting” the Business to ”Contributing” to Business through a string of IT and Engineering/Process IT Innovation drives that transforms the Business.

 

Recycle Old Computers Thoughtfully to Prevent Bio-Hazards

download (9)Recycling of old computers and electronic gadgets is not only a matter of accruing profit, but also a clever stride to take, towards the creation of a cleaner world; free of e-wastes. The correct method of e-waste disposal task makes the entire difference.

Technologies and electronic gadgets become obsolete within no time and get vanished away from the market outpacing the speed of their emergence into our lives. The first generation of computers, for instance, provides a perfect example of such discovery of mankind that have gone through the ups and downs of ages to become one the most powerful electronic human-friendly device, the sixth generation of computers; a completely new version of computers that have accelerated the society to reach new heights. But the days are not so far when this wild progression, will cause this smart machine not to perform, but sit idle on the pages of history.

Here the most important question arises regarding about what needs to be done with these time-worn machines and computers. They cannot serve as alluring show-pieces neither can be stacked up to consume spaces inside the cupboards. In developed countries like America, China and Australia, where the self-accelerating society follows the steady rule of development, often find themselves surrounded by heaps of such electronic junks. And in dexterous attempt from coming out of such occurrence, they sometimes mess up while handling e-wastes that play havoc in our environment. E-wastes contain toxic and hazardous components like mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants, which very easily gets leached into the soil and water and contaminates them. The entry of these toxic substances into the human food chain may plague the human race with many kinds of diseases that may become impossible to treat. According to many types of research, underground water in most parts of the world has been declared unfit for drinking due to the presence of high levels of lead, mercury or arsenic in it. It has also been said that the increasing number of cancer patients around the world is the result of e-waste contamination; that is constantly going on happening below our noses.

To resolve such mismanagement the administrative body of such countries have come up with the unique idea of recycling old computers that will not only save our environment from e-contamination but also accomplish the problem of spacing. Recycling old computers is also a profitable affair because old computers contain recoverable valuable metals such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics, and ferrous metals.

 

Customers Get in Touch With New Innovation

download (8)No matter who you are or where you are, you are likely feeling the growth of touchscreen technology. Today, regular flyers typically go into check ins and flight info using self-serve stands and soar through airport check-in, skipping the otherwise long lines. Busy drivers may use automobile touchscreen systems to find instructions, control air temperature level and more. And business people who require interaction access at all times invest in sophisticated communication devices to stay in touch.

Whether it’s utilized by people visiting the ATM to get some quick money or casting a vote, touchscreen innovation is taking off, transforming everyday tasks into quick and convenient experiences.

The innovation appeals to all ages and in a variety of markets. Retail outlet store merchandisers are using touchscreen as a brand-new marketing technique to engage consumers while providing item info at the touch of a finger.

FOA Schwarz, for example, has actually installed 17-inch Planar touchscreens as part of a customer design center for the Custom Car Factory in its New York store. Using the Planar touchscreen stand, buyers can customize their own Hot Wheels car with unique colors, wheels, designs and rims.

Other toy manufacturers are benefiting from touch technology to provide instructional and amusing toys for children who are too young to have actually developed the motor abilities required for a routine computer system.

The dining establishment market also is seeing the benefits of touch-integrated point-of-sale systems to improve order-processing time. Easy-to-use touchscreen gadgets allow servers to get in food orders quicker and more precisely, boosting the total dining experience.

Table side devices in restaurants supply clients with a range of entertainment and details options, such as playing video games or surfing the Web.

Other markets welcoming touchscreen technology consist of automotive (automobile rental details websites, GPS systems), commercial (ATMs, gasoline station service pumps) and health care (outpatient details stands).

Responsive consumers and falling costs have made it possible for touch technology to spread its reach throughout a large range of markets. As an outcome, it is making strong inroads as a main way for customers to get more “in touch” with items, services and details.

No matter who you are or where you are, you are likely feeling the development of touchscreen technology. Receptive customers and falling prices have actually enabled touch technology to spread its reach across a large variety of markets. As an outcome, it is making strong inroads as a primary way for customers to get more “in touch” with products, services and info.