Resolutions for 2015: Security & Communications

2015 orangeTwenty-fourteen had businesses on the edge of their seats. Cyber attacks and data breaches have made the headlines on too many occasions this year. Then there was the Heartbleed Bug that left so many “secure” websites vulnerable (see our blog post, “Plugging the Heartbleed Bug).

The Internet resembles a modern Wild West. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to protect your online identity before getting taken at the ole saloon. Remind yourself and your coworkers about these five simple tips—and make a new year’s resolution to follow them:

Tip #1: Make stronger passwords. “Password,” your name and any other password that wasn’t difficult for you to make will probably be easy to crack. Try using a phrase, or adding numbers and symbols.

Tip #2: Change your passwords. A lot of businesses require that you change your passwords every six months or so. It seems pesky, but it’s actually a great way to ensure that your password is YOUR password only.

Tip #3: Careful where you login. Mobile and cellular networks are notoriously unsecure. As this opinion piece from Computerworld demonstrates: “Are your calls being intercepted? 17 fake cell towers discovered in one month.”

Tip #4: Don’t open files and emails from unknown individuals. This is something we’ve known since dial-up Internet, but people still do it.

Tip #5: Update software and hardware whenever possible. Anti-virus software quickly gets outdated and critical systems frequently need patches. As software gets better, new hardware needs to be installed to keep up with the software’s requirements.

Speaking of software updates… did you know that Windows XP retired in April? Microsoft stopped supporting the operating system. No more updates or patches. Windows XP was so prevalent that Microsoft got the word out far ahead of time so businesses and consumers could quickly upgrade to a newer operating system.

If you haven’t migrated from Windows XP to another operating system, it’s still not too late. Better late than never (see our blog post, “D-Day for Windows XP is April 8th”).

End of support for Windows Vista is expected on April 11, 2017, for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020, and for Windows 8 on January 10, 2023. Windows 10’s release is on the horizon (Why is it called Windows 10 not Windows 9?).

Looking Forward to 2015

The trends are saying that video conferencing technology and other ways of uniting dispersed workforces will become more dominant. A couple of recent products that we’ve seen do this very effectively, and in their own way, is the SMART kapp capture board and Cisco Meraki network hardware.

smart-kapp-mobileSMART kapp is a dry erase board with digital capture technology. Through a mobile device with the SMART kapp mobile app, a user in the room can share captures from the board with remote users. Remote users on a laptop or computer can watch ideas develop as if they were in the same room. Cloud services are also compatible with the mobile app.

meraki-topologyCisco Meraki is a line of switches, wireless access points and other devices that are manageable from the cloud. An entire network can be mapped out and controlled from anywhere. Updates and new features are regularly released by Cisco and downloaded from the cloud. Meraki is not entirely new, but Cisco updates the platform so frequently that it remains fresh and innovative for a long time.

If you’re making a resolution to update your office technology, we recommend taking a look at these products and other ways of unifying your workforce. The boost in productivity is well worth the investment.

Closing Out 2014

Thank you for a fantastic 2014 and we hope your holidays were wonderful! We’ll see you again in 2015—just a couple of days away.

Green Data Center Arms Race

Cloud computing. Ooo ahhh, it’s the new buzz word for networks. So where is all of the data going when you send it to the cloud? From hosted VoIP phone systems to storing your favorite vacation photos, the information has to go somewhere.

Data centers house all of the hardware and software, servers and applications that make the cloud, websites and our virtual world alive. As all of our information is increasingly being stored somewhere else and the Internet continues to grow in size, data centers are being built en masse to keep up with the demand.

What you might not know about data centers is that they are one of the biggest polluters. The power requirements of the data centers can turn on the lights in whole communities or cities. Cooling systems to keep the servers at optimal operating temperature can take up a lot of resources. A lot of the servers’ hardware also remains unused, but sits idly by, pumping out excess heat.

green data center

An ironic example of this is presented in an article on National Geographic’s website. The article (see it here) talks about the University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Center, which monitors how climate change is affecting arctic landscapes. The center requires 100 kilowatt hours of fossil fuel power to process data and cool the hardware.

Cooling the data center through a huge air conditioning system is expensive and burns a lot of natural resources. Using the naturally cold Colorado air, solar panels and water cuts the utility bill and saves resources.

A recent article by Gigaom presents another interesting example (see that here). Desalination plants can take in seawater and pump out clean drinking water. The plant is essential for areas that have access to limited ground water, but the process requires a lot of space and an enormous power source. The water does come from deep in the ocean to prevent affecting underwater ecosystems, at least.

To offset the power requirements, the plant in this article has suggested: “hey, who wants to build a data center next to us?” The data center would use the cold, deep-sea water to cool its hardware. When the water reaches the desalination plant, it is partially warmed up, which makes processing the water much faster and more efficient. A win-win, “symbiotic relationship,” as the article suggests.

Facebook, Google and tech giants are fueling the data center arms race. With that, they are also leading the charge towards making data centers more resourceful and easier on the environment, whether that means changing the virtual landscapes or the buildings’ architectures. Recent federal regulations are also pushing data centers to become more efficient.

Want to read more about data centers? Check out this article by Data Center Knowledge, which talks about the enhanced customization options that are allowing “a lot more diversity within the modern data center.”

If your data center or servers are sending your business’ utility bill through the roof, contact TriTech. With all of these innovations, simply upgrading your old hardware can make a dramatic different.