Category: General Page 1 of 11

How to Run an Agile Retrospective Meeting?

Agile Retrospective is a formality held at the end of individually Sprint where team members together analyze how things pass away in order to expand the process for the following Sprint.

Agile

Agile Retrospective

An Agile retrospective is a conference that’s conducted after an iteration in Agile software development (ASD). Through the retrospective, the team imitates on what occurred in the iteration and finds actions for development going forward.

Agile Retrospective Steps

Set Stage: Involves set up of the meeting by the organizer (PM., scrum master, etc.) and transfers a meeting request to all the essential team members and leaders.

Gather Data: Once the meeting begins, collect all the thoughts, opinions, anxieties that the team associates might have. This can be complete via many agile retrospective meeting like Start, Stop, and Continue, Paint Me image, etc.

Close: Thank the team for their time and their contribution. Make sure that the conference discussion and act points are documented and distributed to the team members for easy reference.

Generate Insights: After the information is gathered, expressive analytics have to be recognized and designs have to be formed. The idea is to find tendencies and resolve them. If the team followers are unfortunate about the long regular stand-ups then we have to figure out what is producing this. It could be dissimilar discussions, the lateness of the team followers, the improbable time set up that does not put up the number of updates, etc.

Create Actions: Once the fundamental issues are recognized, create action ideas to resolve them. Action ideas should be allocated to a responsible person who will be in charge of resolution by the definite due date.

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Agile Retrospective Meeting Principles

> Sprint Planning meeting

> Daily Stand-up

> Sprint Review

> Sprint Retrospective

Running the Play

Project sets can run this at the end of the particular sprint, or go somewhat extensive. Check-in with the full-time holder to see if there are any exact items, they’d like you to cover. Service teams can check in with a superintendent or executive

Why Should You Run A Sprint Retrospective?

If you’re working some sort of agile method, prospects are the sprint retrospective is earlier part of your repetitive. Ironically, routine strength is an issue that some manufacture teams face. Often, groups can fall into their rhythm, and vital formalities like the sprint retrospective meeting can become so run-of-the-mill that groups aren’t using them to their planned advantage.

Start, Stop and Continue

One of the most up-front ways to run a Retrospective is the Start, Stop, Continue exercise. All you essential is a graphic board with “Start,” “Stop,” and “Continue” posts and a load of sticky records. In each development, people write their notes about the Agile as they tell the following types:

Start: Movements we should start taking

Stop: Activities we should stop or remove

Continue: Activities we should keep liability and formalize

Incorporate Novelty

Another method is to incorporate games & other changing strategies into your sprint retrospectives. Pick one that creates the maximum sense for your team or project period, and be definite to run through it at smallest once beforehand so you’re familiar. These can be entertaining, active, and creative but only when the implementer is ready! One of my choices is the LEGO Retrospective.

Make It Action-Oriented

Most just, but perhaps most prominently, make sure you’re assigning anything actionable to somebody on the team. They don’t all want to fall on the project manager. They shouldn’t. The conversation can be as productive and helpful as possible, but the ripples will not be felt except the change is applied across the team. Keep a list visible for everyone to see, and create sure that prospects and limits are set.

Change Things

A specific retro can feel excessive to air out feelings, to derive up with some effects your team can try, to talk about things that aren’t working. But don’t disremember the purpose of retro: to mindfully repeat on the process. That means that you want to do the action items you wrote down. Nothing executes team morale fairly similar consuming the same old cache come up again and do not anything to fix it.

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Vote

After enough ideas have been made, have team associates vote for the most significant item or items. It’s frequently clear when it’s period to do this because the thoughts have died down and new ideas are not pending very quickly.

The Next Retrospective

In the next retrospective, I propose the ScrumMaster carry the list of ideas produced at the earlier retrospective–both the ideas selected to be worked on and those not. These can help jump-start conversation for the afterward retrospective. I tend to write them on a huge sheet of paper and tape it to the wall deprived of any fanfare or argument. The items are just there if the team wants them or wants to refer to them. I then simplify a new start, stop, continue the discussion.

Amplify the Good

Retrospectives are integrally destined for finding ways to develop your work. Safe spaces stand-in open discussion, which is great, but open discussion of the wrong nature can lead to finger-pointing, which assesses people instead of the work. If bogged down in what persons did or didn’t do, your retro will quickly become somewhat your team dreads.

Create Clear Actions

This point rates to attitude alone since uncertain movements are perhaps the major sticking point in retrospective meeting. Whenever someone criticizes, they don’t see the value in these meetings, their prevention can almost always be traced back to miscommunication.

Don’t Jump to A Decision

Specialists say smart decisions result from two types of reasoning processes: instinctive and rational. It’s important to follow the instinct to a point. If the result doesn’t get the team excited, they probably won’t create it effectively. But like root cause analysis, decision-making should be scientific and entrenched in facts and that’s where practical plans can help.

Conclusion

There are several other Retrospective plans and activities you can use to expand these meetings. If your team starts to drop into a channel using one format, change to another or alter structures of your existing format. Small changes like beating all cards on the panel at once vs. going all over the place the room one at a period can be enough to re-spark commitment. Keep things interesting, and don’t be terrified to try new preparations just since they don’t have the same features as your old one.

How to Find System Integration Services

Selecting a system integration services provider is an important decision, as you will want to work with a company that can deliver the highest quality work possible. System integration refers to the process of unifying digital components into a single system, updating outdated legacy systems and transferring systems to the cloud.

System

System integration providers offer services such as consulting, designing, engineering, managing, installing, training and maintaining these services for your business. The right system integration consultant can create code in a variety of programming and scripting languages. However, the system integration process is tricky, so it’s wise to be careful when choosing a company to work with. Here’s how you can get started.

Be Picky About Your Selection Criteria

You will want to research the system integration space and learn how successful a company’s previous projects have been. A systems integration services provider with range can go a long way, as your pick should have a good track record in your particular field. The company should also offer a wide range of options so the process will be tailored to your unique business.

The company you pick should have a staff that is experienced enough to handle the many moving parts your project will require. You may want to consider which system integration providers have helped other companies in your industry. After you learn who is leading the charge in your particular niche, you’ll want to find a system integration services provider that can match your vision.

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Create a Set List of Expectations

The next step is to define your objectives in a clear, focused manner. Create a list of what exactly you’re hoping to achieve and compare your goals with the products and services offered by the system integration services providers you’re considering. After creating your business plan and examining the available options, you’ll be able to identify a shortlist that fits your needs.

After comparing various companies, ask them for references and examples of projects they have completed. Make sure the potential system integration services providers have the equipment and manpower in-house to complete your project within your desired time frame.

Compare and Contrast System Integration Services

Be wary of companies that over-promise. If a provider says that handling your integration project will be simple and easy, make sure it actually is. They should be able to explain why it’s simple, walking you through how they will help you reach your goals.

It is important that they understand your requirements and how much it will cost. When you do find providers who are familiar with your requirements, compare prices and make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Spending a little extra is worth it if your provider will provide better work.

Also, see if the integrator considers how the initiative will impact other areas of your business. These could include new components that would improve the efficiency of your operations, automating tasks and suggesting new ways of connecting your brand with clients. A company that takes a comprehensive approach is preferable to one that uses a set template to carry out their work.

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Ask Key Questions

Your system integration services provider needs to offer you an integration process that matches your systems and goals. As such, you’ll want to ask yourself a lot of questions throughout the process of choosing an integrator, including:

  • Is your integrator asking questions about your project? This could be a good sign, as it indicates they are interested in creating a customized systems integration plan rather than simply following a template.
  • What is the company’s culture like and how does it line up with your business’ culture? There should be a sense of mutual respect and collaboration from top to bottom.
  • What are the team members’ backgrounds? It’s best to work with a well-rounded team. This may mean working with an integration team made up from members with a variety of different backgrounds, although you’ll still want to be sure they have experience in your industry.
  • How has the company dealt with unforeseen challenges in the past? It’s a good sign if your integrator has experience with a wide range of technologies since they will likely have more creative solutions to any challenges that arise.
  • How can the integrator assist me moving forward? Look at how your system integration services provider will aid you in the long-term with upgrades and routine maintenance checks.

Once you ask yourself all these questions and research your system integration services provider, you should have a good idea of where you’d like to go with your project. The goal is to find a team with a professionally diverse background coupled with the equipment, manpower and technical expertise to handle your system integration.

5 Signs to Replace Your Security Technology

Security Numerous “look ahead” articles of CIO priorities for 2020 downplayed the importance of cybersecurity or gave it lip service as an ‘ongoing concern.’ In numerous such lists, cybersecurity either didn’t appear or was only a subset of other concerns, like cloud computing or AI. And faced with so many competing demands, this is especially true in the SMB space, where there isn’t the staff to address every need simultaneously.

Security
Cyber security is an exercise in constant vigilance, and, like it or not, there are going to come times when something happens that shows you it is time to consider replacing your security technology. Whether you are looking for a reason to replace your existing security technology, or avoiding one, this list of five key signs will help you either reinforce or re-evaluate your decision.

Growing Pains

The first sign is actually a nice problem to have. In this case, you need to consider replacing your security technology because your business has outgrown what you have used in the past.

As you have expanded and staffed up to meet growing demand for your products or services, you’ve added more users, more computers and devices, and more systems to your network. While this is a good sign that your bottom line is healthy,  your organization now has a greater surface area for cyber-attack (aka, attack surface), introducing new vulnerabilities, due to both technology and human error.

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Use It or Lose It

If your security management tool was a physical toolbox sitting on a shelf, would it have a thick layer of dust on top? Be honest. If the answer is yes, and you haven’t logged into your security management tool in a while, you should take this as another sign that it’s time to re-evaluate your security technology.

And what if you have logged in recently? Ask yourself, do you have the time and expertise to extract the necessary value from the tool? Again, the back burner isn’t a place for your cybersecurity program. If you aren’t actively detecting, containing, and disrupting threats with your tool, what value does it provide?

Technological Evolution

Technology is changing all the time. You must adapt your security solutions with it.

If your security management tools are at least two years old, it’s time for an upgrade. If your systems infrastructure has changed recently—think more cloud computing or more work from home and remote workforce options—then it’s time for a security solution that takes those realities into account.

Regulatory Change

CMMC. NYDFS. CCPA. GDPR… in recent years we have seen an unprecedented development of far-reaching regulations in privacy, industry standards, and even cybersecurity. And regulators recognize that specific capabilities are required in order to keep things private and secure.

At any time, your industry or your geography may introduce new regulations that have security and compliance implications for your business. Is your security solution able to adapt and accommodate these new requirements? If not, a new solution is in order.

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Leaky Roof

And saving the best (Worst? Most obvious?) for last, if you are the victim of a cyberattack, then it is clearly time to reconsider your security technology.

Have you done a full assessment of how you were breached? You can find some suggested steps here. But the biggest thing that you can and should do is reconsider how you are protecting your business so that something like this doesn’t happen again.

How IntelliGO Can Be Your Upgrade

For an SMB like yours, we suggest the IntelliGO Managed Detection and Response service (MDR) as your most up to date, affordable choice for comprehensive cybersecurity protection.

By partnering with a trusted ally like IntelliGO for your primary cybersecurity functions, you gain our qualified talent as an extension of your team. Working together, we’ll decrease your exposure, harden your systems, remediate vulnerabilities, and mitigate compliance risks. Our proprietary technology and dedicated Threat Hunters help bolster your defences, detecting suspicious behaviour and responding to attacks in real-time.

Google Tag Manager vs Custom Click Tracker

Google Modern SaaS services are akin to Swiss Army knives – they can do anything. At the same time, clients only use the features of a SaaS service that they need. With time, continuous development of these services becomes very hard, as there get to be too many features to support.

Google 1

The need arises to define which features should be prioritized for further development. The logical way to prioritize features is to invest in the most popular, and the popularity of each feature can be determined by user behavior tracking.

Google Tag Manager as a User Activity Tracking System

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tool for managing marketing activities and tracking various metrics for web-oriented products. The main features of Google Tag Manager include

1) the ability to aggregate all tags (types of data that will be tracked) in a single place;

2) the ability to implement GTM by adding only a single script to a webpage;

3)  the ability to change tracking settings without changing page code or involving developers.

How to use Google Tag Manager with SaaS:

1) Register the product that needs to be tracked on the GTM website.

2) Customize tags on the GTM website.

3) Receive scripts that need to be integrated into the tracked product in order to complete setup.

When you implement GTM into your SaaS product, your Google Analytics account will start receiving data on user actions. Google Analytics provides extensive tools to further organize and visualize this data.

Using Google Tag Manager to Track User Activity within SaaS Services

Configuring tracking of SaaS-specific data

Setting up analytics for SaaS involves using Google Tag Manager to configure what data will be transferred, which is done by adding some properties to the DataLayer object.

DataLayer is a regular JavaScript object that’s located on the page and contains properties that will be sent to the Google server with each tracked event.

The retailerId and userId variables contain the ID of a user who performed an action on the website as well as the ID of the tenant this user is associated with. When the trigger fires, the Google Analytics server receives the whole DataLayer object, which allows it to analyze the data for each tenant separately.

You can read more about the DataLayer object here and here.

Any trigger types (page opens, clicks, DOM events, form operations) can interact with the DataLayer object. For example, when the PageView trigger is activated, the DataLayer object is filled with values and sent to the Google Analytics server as soon as the page has opened.

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Exporting data from Google Analytics

Sometimes data you collect needs to be stored on dedicated servers. The Google Analytics service allows you to download aggregated data using the Core Reporting API.

The Core Reporting API provides access to data from the majority of reports available in Google Analytics and allows you to

1) Create special summaries of Google Analytics data;

2) Automate operations with complex reports;

3) Use Google Analytics data for other business applications.

To export data you need to perform the following actions:

1) In Google Analytics settings, enable the API

2) Perform a query for Google Analytics data (see how to set query parameters and how to run queries)

To interact with existing software, Google provides a set of client libraries for various platforms including Java, JavaScript, .Net, Objective-C, and Python. You can read more about client libraries for the Core Reporting API on Google’s website.

Disadvantages of Google Tag Manager

1) Data is stored on Google’s servers and thus can be viewed and used by Google.

2) This solution is fairly pricey at $150,000 per year (the free version doesn’t guarantee that more than 10 million pageviews will be processed, while the SaaS version can process a much larger number of pageviews).

3) All tracking code is located on the client side, meaning

a. tracking will not work if a user has JavaScript disabled;

b. server-side tracking, when the server receiving the request also tracks it, is impossible (server-side tracking doesn’t depend on JavaScript and has lower traffic requirements);

c. each tracked action sends data to Google’s servers, creating additional traffic.

4) Security vulnerabilities – Data on users and their relations to specific tenants of the SaaS service is usually stored in an encrypted format (for example, inside a cookie). The service itself is responsible for decrypting this data, and the decryption happens on the server side. With GTM, since data is sent to a third-party service (Google Analytics), you need to store the data in an unencrypted format to allow filtering by users and tenants.

5) GTM is designed to improve marketing metrics such as number of pageviews from third-party websites, time spent on each page, etc. Such metrics are usually irrelevant for SaaS services, as these services usually have different goals. The most important thing for SaaS services is to provide the best user experience. Therefore, a lot of GTM capabilities aren’t useful for SaaS services.

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Custom User Activity Tracking System

The main advantage of developing a custom user activity tracking system is that you can account for all necessary cases at an early design stage. For example, you can implement server-side tracking, which is more secure than Google Tag Manager as it doesn’t require you to send unencrypted user and tenant data to third-party servers.

dvantages and Disadvantages of a Custom Solution

Google Tag Manager has a number of disadvantages that can be solved with a custom click tracker. A custom click tracker offers the following advantages:

1) Data is stored only on the server of the tracking service and is available only to personnel who develop and maintain the service.

2) There’s no need to store user or tenant data in an unencrypted form. Cookie encryption is performed on the server, as is tracking. This solution is more secure than GTM.

3) Only necessary tracking features are implemented, designed specifically to fit the SaaS service being monitored.

4) You can use server-side tracking (JavaScript is not required on the target endpoint), which means lower traffic requirements overall.

5) Nothing prevents JavaScript from being employed in instances where server-side tracking cannot be used (for example, as part of the SaaS service implemented on specific hardware or some legacy technology).

The cost of setting up Google Tag Manager and integrating it in a SaaS service is lower than the cost of developing a new solution from scratch. However, after Google Tag Manager is implemented you still need to pay a subscription fee of $150,000 a year.

At the same time, implementing a custom tracking solution includes paying for development and data storage, the requirements for which are constantly increasing. However, there will most likely be no need to increase server capacity, since you need only one lightweight server to receive data and write it to the database. The technologies used to implement a custom tracker are free, and the necessary software and operating system are already employed by the used. The price of development can also be reduced if you have an in-house development team available or are using an experienced subcontractor.

Top 5 Web Hosting Companies of 2020

Top Web hosting companies “web hosting services providers” are the link between your business website and web visitors of potential and current companies as they provide allocated spaces on their servers to host your website files and data making it accessible for anyone who types your website domain name into his browser.

Top

Web hosting is a bundle of integrated services and solutions provided by web hosting companies to facilitate the creation and management of your business website and to make it always available for visits of potential customers with optimal website loading speed including:

  • Offering the domain name for your business website
  • Allocated regular or virtual spaces on their servers or a dedicated server
  • FTP Accounts to upload, access and edit your website files and databases
  • Site builder tools and compatibility with “Content Management Systems” Like WordPress or Joomla
  • Dedicate and easy to use control panel to manage your website efficiently
  • Limited or unlimited bandwidth and storage plans for your website data transmitting and storage
  • Limited or unlimited databases and email accounts connected to your website domain
  • Security guarantees and shields including SSL certificate and DDoS Cloudflare protection
  • Daily or automatically data backups for your business website
  • Professional customer support solutions and troubleshooting services

Each trouble or issue your website may face including more downtime “Not available for any types of visits”, slow loading speed, security concerns or hacking activities, emailing problems or shrinking storage will lead to financial and other business loses unless you avoided these types of issues and concern by choosing a professional affordable web hosting provider from the best web hosting companies available in the market.

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Types of web hosting companies’ services

Before searching for the best web hosting companies for offering web hosting solutions for your website, you should learn about all the types of web hosting services to choose the suitable type for your business needs, website nature, size of your website files, expected visits volume and available budget.

The main types of web hosting services are:

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting services and plans are offered by all web hosting companies and the favorite choices for small businesses, startups, and personal websites or blog owners as they are the cheapest hosting solutions.

Your website will share the same server with other websites and the server is fully controlled and managed by your web hosting provider.

Your website loading speed, bandwidth, other resources and security level is affected by other activities occur on the shared server like increasing visits volume for any website uploaded on the shared server or maintenance or hacking activities.

Virtual Private Server “VPS”

Virtual private server “VPS” is an upgraded type of shared hosting services as you share the same server with other clients but there’s an allocated virtual space for your website preventing sharing allocated resources or tools with other websites or being affected by other activities not related to your website.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting solutions are a differential option provided by many web hosting companies enabling your website to be connected and hosted on many servers “cluster of servers”.

Your website will run efficiently even when there’re problems with one of the servers and providing more security against any site attacks as your website hosted on a virtual network and you’re only charged for the used resources and tools.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is a premium solution for large businesses, brands and enterprises to dedicate a whole server for your website with high fees in exchange of many competitive advantages including higher performance with increasing visits, higher security level, more bandwidth & storage for websites files & content “high-quality images & videos” and better loading speed.

You’ll be responsible for the server maintenance for dedicated hosting solutions but you can avoid that through choosing “Managed Hosting” solutions with less control over the server.

Reseller Hosting

Reseller web hosting is a type of transferrable allocated web hosting solutions provided by web hosting companies enabling clients to become a web hosting provider reselling web hosting plans and controlling their clients’ accounts through a dedicated specific control panel “cPanel” suitable for a professional web design & development company.

WordPress Hosting

This type of web hosting solution is limited to WordPress websites optimized to achieve higher loading speed, more uptime and more security than many shared hosting solutions in addition to dedicated expert support but less customizable with many unpermitted and non-altered plugins.

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5 Best Web Hosting Companies

Considering the mentioned factors to evaluate and choose the best option of web hosting companies and based on a detailed search in addition to personal experience with our website and the websites of our clients, we reached a conclusion about the top 5 web hosting companies to deal with which are:

#1. SiteGround

SiteGround is the first name to remember when we talk about tailored cost-effective web hosting services and solutions for small & midsize websites, e-commerce platforms, CMS platforms including and enterprise websites through shared, cloud, dedicated and WordPress hosting solutions.

#2. Bluehost

Over 2 million websites all over the world agree with us to consider Bluehost as one of the best web hosting companies as they depend on Bluehost web hosting solutions continuously for many reasons including:

  • Best uptime “99.99%” and fast average loading speed “0.406 seconds”
  • Affordable initial cost for the basic plan $3.95/month with many included feature “Free Domain name for the first year – Free SSL Certificate – 1-click install for CMS like WordPress & Joomla – Easy to use admin panel & control panel – 50 GB storage and unlimited bandwidth for data transmitting” with 30 day “Money Back” guarantee

Diversified types of affordable upgraded plans with unlimited storage and unlimited websites & domains

#3. HostGator

HostGator Another efficient choice of the best web hosting companies for many reasons including:

  • Acceptable uptime “99.98%” and fast average loading speed “0.432 seconds”
  • Free Site Migration, Free SSL Certificate, Free Domain name for the first year
  • Multiple hosting options including VPS, dedicated and WordPress hosting
  • Unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage space
  • Fast efficient 24/7 customer support through live chat
  • Low initial cost $2.75/month but with a high renewal cost after the first 6 months
  • HostGator is one of the dependable web hosting companies if you have no problem with the high renewal cost.

#4. A2 Hosting

It’s logical to mention A2 Hosting as one of the best web hosting companies as they offer many competitive advantages for their clients including but not limited to:

  • The fastest average loading speed “0.336 seconds” with acceptable uptime “99.92%”
  • Many hosting options available including shared, VPS, dedicated, reseller and WordPress hosting
  • Low initial cost for shared hosting $2.94/month and affordable renewal cost with permanent “Money Back” guarantee
  • Free, Easy and Supported Site Migration & Free SSL Certificate
  • Unlimited bandwidth and storage space & Free automated backups
  • Compatible and optimized setting and security for different CMSs and E-commerce platforms
  • 24/7 Customer Support through Calls, Live Chat, Emails and Real Customer Review about A2 Hosting solutions efficiency & professional customer support

Fastest loading speed, affordable initial and renewal cost and anytime “money back” guarantee making A2 Hosting a wise trustworthy choice of many web hosting companies available.

#5. Namecheap

Over 1.5 million websites for small, midsize businesses and enterprises have full confidence in Namecheap as the favorite choice of web hosting companies for many reasons related to their needs and goals:

  • Free Domain name and Free Supported Site Migration
  • All types of web hosting solutions available including shared, VPS, dedicated, reseller, private email and WordPress hosting
  • Cheap initial cost starts with $1.44/month for shared hosting with 30 Days “Money Back” guarantee
  • Cost-effective web hosting solutions even for the basic cheapest plan with “Free SSL Certificate for the first – up to 3 websites hosting – unmetered bandwidth – 20 GB storage – 50 FTP accounts –  50 MySQL databases – Easy to use cPanel – 2 Backups per week – Acceptable uptime & average loading speed – 24/7 Customer support”
  • Positive reviews from existing customers about how professional and efficient their web hosting services and solutions are

Namecheap web hosting plan is your choice for a long-term professional cost-effective investment.

5 Awe­some Apps a New Mac User Must Install

Apps If you just got yourself one of those amazing new MacBooks and are new to the Apple ecosystem, you might be wandering what are the must-have apps you have to download to get yourself started.

Apps

Well, here you have a list of a few native Mac apps that we find essential if you want to stay safe, productive and connected.

1. ULYSSES

If all the writing you do on a daily basis consists of simple notes, then the Notes application might be enough for you. But if you want something far more capable and elegant without having to upgrade to something like Pages, then Ulysses is a great choice. The greatest virtue of this writing app is its flexibility. It is just as perfect for writing a 100 page essay as it is for keeping a few notes organized. And the app is available on iPhone and iPad as well, where it is amazingly fully-featured and look fantastic.

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2. CLOUDMAGIC

This one is more of an acquired taste, but if you like apps with minimal interfaces and are looking for alternatives to OS X’s Mail app, then CloudMagic fits the bill. It is the desktop version of the great iPhone and iPad app and supports the most popular Mail and Gmail shortcuts. So if you are a fan of those you are also covered. It is not as flexible as other email apps though, offering a single view option and little to no customizability, so that’s something to consider before taking the jump.

3. REEDER

While for most people news readers are a thing of the past, the truth is that if you have a ton of sites and news outlets you follow, there is no better way to sort and manage all their news items than with a news reader. And of all the ones available out there for Mac, Reeder for Mac is by far the most feature-complete and easy to use. It also doesn’t hurt that it is also the best-looking of the bunch either.

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4. WHATSAPP

Just recently, Facebook (owner of WhatsApp) released a native Mac version for the most used messaging app out there and it is great. For years, millions of users have been enjoying WhatsApp on their mobile devices and have clamored for a native desktop app. And the new Mac desktop app provides the full messaging experience.

5. 1PASSWORD

We have previously gone through how great 1Password can be on your iPhone and iPad, but having it on the Mac makes it a snap to add and manage many items at once.

One of the great aspects of the native Mac version of 1 Password is that it offers a menu bar icon that gives you easy access to it, so you can interact with the app just to add an item or open the full application to sort and manage all your passwords.

There you have them. With these applications, you are sure to be set on the right track with your new Mac. But if you are wondering what other apps are great for your specific needs.

Can HIPAA Data Be Stored in the Cloud?

For those organizations who have yet to employ cloud computing, the key question might be “Can HIPAA data be stored in the cloud?” The answer is yes. End of story. No need to read on.

HIPAA

Of course, it’s not as easy as that. Take, for example, covered entities. In this case, we’re referring to healthcare providers and payers that create, receive, or transmit PHI. When utilizing cloud computing, these organizations must take certain precautions to verify they’re compliant with the Security Rule of HIPAA and its administrative, physical, and technical safeguards. Is it worth the effort to even both with cloud storage?

Again, the answer is yes. These organizations enjoy a host of benefits by utilizing cloud computing, including reduced storage and operating costs, enhanced scalability and flexibility and remote file sharing.

Taking the Necessary Steps

Nonetheless, covered entities that don’t comply with the rules and regulations of HIPAA can be subject to assorted fines and penalties, both civil and criminal. Therefore, they must have a full grasp of how ePHI and other data should be stored in the cloud to achieve compliance and security. It’s about more than simply selecting a big-name cloud service provider (CSP). It’s having a comprehensive plan in place for their data, performing a risk analysis on the option of cloud computing, and finding a solution that will grow as they do.

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Obtaining Proper Proof and Documentation

Even though some CSPs tout their ability to comply with HIPAA, covered entities should require proof of their adherence to its guidelines. They should verify that the CSP’s service level agreement (SLA) doesn’t interfere with this compliance and can prove they have up-to-date certifications for items such as encryption levels and System and Organization Controls (SOC) auditing and reporting.

Covered entities also should confirm the CSP they select meets all their HIPAA protocols and follows regulations on who can access their ePHI. Any reliable CSP should have no problem answering questions about HIPAA compliance for customers and providing any requested documentation for verification. It’s important to note that any healthcare organization covered under HIPAA that ceases use of a cloud service should receive back all of its stored data.

Brokering Through a Business Associate Agreement

Another HIPAA requirement for healthcare organizations that utilize cloud computing is a Business Associate Agreement (BAA). A business associate may consist of a CSP, managed service provider (MSP) or organization that processes patient data through the services it conducts.

As we mentioned in a previous blog, the BAA is contract between a covered entity and a business associate that establishes the permitted and required uses and disclosures of PHI by the Business Associate (BA), provided that the BA will use PHI only as permitted by the contract or required by law, use appropriate safeguards, and report any disclosures not permitted by the contract. It basically manages the chain of custody and clearly defines what the roles and responsibilities are for each party involved in the process.

Focusing on Encryption

As with other methods of storing data, encryption should be a focus for healthcare organizations using cloud computing, both for files in transit and at rest. Even when ePHI is encrypted, HIPAA requires CSPs to maintain the availability and integrity of it. The data still can be in danger of cyberattacks and natural disasters. If a covered entity is the victim of a breach of unencrypted PHI, that organization is required to report it to HHS’ Office for Civil Rights. Before choosing a CSP, healthcare organizations should verify that vendor utilizes a minimum of 128-bit encryption.

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Achieving Compliance with Connectria

At Connectria, we know that a simple mistake in setting up workloads in the cloud could result in a data breach that costs your healthcare organization millions in fines and remediation. We assist healthcare organizations of all sizes in maintaining compliance with HIPAA security standards for the storage of Protected Health Information (PHI) and have solutions for private and public clouds along with on-prem environments. Plus, our TRiA Cloud Management Platform (CMP) has more than 200 built-in IT security and compliance checks which cover common standards, including HIPAA.

For SaaS software developers or MSPs serving customers in the healthcare industry, our managed and private hosted clouds can help you offer HIPAA and HITECH compliant cloud-based solutions to your customers as well. Contact us to learn how we’re able to implement an environment to meet HIPAA/HITECH standards across a wide range of IT environments.

 Further Reading

Visit our HIPAA Compliance Solutions page to find out how our experienced team partners with customers to help them achieve their HIPAA and HITECH compliance objectives.

As you search for a partner to help with HIPAA compliant hosting, we recommend our article,  “Four Ways to Vet a Private Cloud Provider.”

The Importance of Scalability In Software Design

Software design is a balancing act where developers work to create the best product within a client’s time and budget constraints.

There’s no avoiding the necessity of compromise. Tradeoffs must be made in order to meet a project’s requirements, whether those are technical or financial.

Software Design

Too often, though, companies prioritize cost over scalability or even dismiss its importance entirely. This is unfortunately common in big data initiatives, where scalability issues can sink a promising project.

Scalability isn’t a “bonus feature.” It’s the quality that determines the lifetime value of software, and building with scalability in mind saves both time and money in the long run.

What is Scalability?

A system is considered scalable when it doesn’t need to be redesigned to maintain effective performance during or after a steep increase in workload.

Workload” could refer to simultaneous users, storage capacity, the maximum number of transactions handled, or anything else that pushes the system past its original capacity.

Scalability isn’t a basic requirement of a program in that unscalable software can run well with limited capacity.

However, it does reflect the ability of the software to grow or change with the user’s demands.

Any software that may expand past its base functions- especially if the business model depends on its growth- should be configured for scalability.

The Benefits of Scalable Software

Scalability has both long- and short-term benefits.

At the outset it lets a company purchase only what they immediately need, not every feature that might be useful down the road.

For example, a company launching a data intelligence pilot program could choose a massive enterprise analytics bundle, or they could start with a solution that just handles the functions they need at first.

A popular choice is a dashboard that pulls in results from their primary data sources and existing enterprise software.

When they grow large enough to use more analytics programs, those data streams can be added into the dashboard instead of forcing the company to juggle multiple visualization programs or build an entirely new system.

Building this way prepares for future growth while creating a leaner product that suits current needs without extra complexity.

It requires a lower up-front financial outlay, too, which is a major consideration for executives worried about the size of big data investments.

Scalability also leaves room for changing priorities. That off-the-shelf analytics bundle could lose relevance as a company shifts to meet the demands of an evolving marketplace.

Choosing scalable solutions protects the initial technology investment. Businesses can continue using the same software for longer because it was designed to be grow along with them.

When it comes time to change, building onto solid, scalable software is considerably less expensive than trying to adapt less agile programs.

There’s also a shorter “ramp up” time to bring new features online than to implement entirely new software.

As a side benefit, staff won’t need much training or persuasion to adopt that upgraded system. They’re already familiar with the interface, so working with the additional features is viewed as a bonus rather than a chore.

The Fallout from Scaling Failures

So, what happens when software isn’t scalable?

In the beginning, the weakness is hard to spot. The workload is light in the early stages of an app. With relatively few simultaneous users there isn’t much demand on the architecture.

When the workload increases, problems arise. The more data stored or simultaneous users the software collects, the more strain is put on the software’s architecture.

Limitations that didn’t seem important in the beginning become a barrier to productivity. Patches may alleviate some of the early issues, but patches add complexity.

Complexity makes diagnosing problems on an on-going basis more tedious (translation: pricier and less effective).

As the workload rises past the software’s ability to scale, performance drops.

Users experience slow loading times because the server takes too long to respond to requests. Other potential issues include decreased availability or even lost data.

All of this discourages future use. Employees will find workarounds for unreliable software in order to get their own jobs done.

That puts the company at risk for a data breach or worse.

[Read our article on the dangers of “shadow IT” for more on this subject.]

When the software is customer-facing, unreliability increases the potential for churn.

Google found that 61% of users won’t give an app a second chance if they had a bad first experience. 40% go straight to a competitor’s product instead.

Scalability issues aren’t just a rookie mistake made by small companies, either. Even Disney ran into trouble with the original launch of their Applause app, which was meant to give viewers an extra way to interact with favorite Disney shows. The app couldn’t handle the flood of simultaneous streaming video users.

Frustrated fans left negative reviews until the app had a single star in the Google Play store. Disney officials had to take the app down to repair the damage, and the negative publicity was so intense it never went back online.

Setting Priorities

Some businesses fail to prioritize scalability because they don’t see the immediate utility of it.

Scalability gets pushed aside in favor of speed, shorter development cycles, or lower cost.

There are actually some cases when scalability isn’t a leading priority.

Software that’s meant to be a prototype or low-volume proof of concept won’t become large enough to cause problems.

Likewise, internal software for small companies with a low fixed limit of potential users can set other priorities.

Finally, when ACID compliance is absolutely mandatory scalability takes a backseat to reliability.

As a general rule, though, scalability is easier and less resource-intensive when considered from the beginning.

For one thing, database choice has a huge impact on scalability. Migrating to a new database is expensive and time-consuming. It isn’t something that can be easily done later on.

Principles of Scalability

Several factors affect the overall scalability of software:

Usage

Usage measures the number of simultaneous users or connections possible. There shouldn’t be any artificial limits on usage.

Increasing it should be as simple as making more resources available to the software.

Maximum stored data

This is especially relevant for sites featuring a lot of unstructured data: user uploaded content, site reports, and some types of marketing data.

Data science projects fall under this category as well. The amount of data stored by these kinds of content could rise dramatically and unexpectedly.

Whether the maximum stored data can scale quickly depends heavily on database style (SQL vs NoSQL servers), but it’s also critical to pay attention to proper indexing.

Code

Inexperienced developers tend to overlook code considerations when planning for scalability.

Code should be written so that it can be added to or modified without refactoring the old code. Good developers aim to avoid duplication of effort, reducing the overall size and complexity of the codebase.

Applications do grow in size as they evolve, but keeping code clean will minimize the effect and prevent the formation of “spaghetti code”.

Scaling Out Vs Scaling Up

Scaling up (or “vertical scaling”) involves growing by using more advanced or stronger hardware. Disk space or a faster central processing unit (CPU) is used to handle the increased workload.

Scaling up offers better performance than scaling out. Everything is contained in one place, allowing for faster returns and less vulnerability.

The problem with scaling up is that there’s only so much room to grow. Hardware gets more expensive as it becomes more advanced. At a certain point, businesses run up against the law of diminishing returns on buying advanced systems.

It also takes time to implement the new hardware.

Because of these limitations, vertical scaling isn’t the best solutions for software that needs to grow quickly and with little notice.

Scaling out (or “horizontal scaling”) is much more widely used for enterprise purposes.

When scaling out, software grows by using more- not more advanced- hardware and spreading the increased workload across the new infrastructure.

Costs are lower because the extra servers or CPUs can be the same type currently used (or any compatible kind).

Scaling happens faster, too, since nothing has to be imported or rebuilt.

There is a slight tradeoff in speed, however. Horizontally-scaled software is limited by the speed with which the servers can communicate.

The difference isn’t large enough to be noticed by most users, though, and there are tools to help developers minimize the effect. As a result, scaling out is considered a better solution when building scalable applications.

Guidelines for Building Highly Scalable Systems

It’s both cheaper and easier to consider scalability during the planning phase.  Here are some best practices for incorporating scalability from the start:

Use load balancing software

Load balancing software is critical for systems with distributed infrastructure (like horizontally scaled applications).

This software uses an algorithm to spread the workload across servers to ensure no single server gets overwhelmed. It’s an absolute necessity to avoid performance issues.

Location matters

Scalable software does as much near the client (in the app layer) as possible. Reducing the number of times apps must navigate the heavier traffic near core resources leads to faster speeds and less stress on the servers.

Edge computing is something else to consider. With more applications requiring resource-intensive applications, keeping as much work as possible on the device lowers the impact of low signal areas and network delays.

Cache where possible

Be conscious of security concerns, but caching is a good way to keep from having to perform the same task over and over.

Lead with API

Users connect through a variety of clients, so leading with API that don’t assume a specific client type can serve all of them.

Asynchronous processing

It refers to processes that are separated into discrete steps which don’t need to wait for the previous one to be completed before processing.

For example, a user can be shown a “sent!” notification while the email is still technically processing.

Asynchronous processing removes some of the bottlenecks that affect performance for large-scale software.

Limit concurrent access to limited resources

Don’t duplicate efforts. If more than one request asks for the same calculation from the same resource, let the first finish and just use that result. This adds speed while reducing strain on the system.

Use a scalable database

NoSQL databases tend to be more scalable than SQL. SQL does scale read operations well enough, but when it comes to write operations it conflicts with restrictions meant to enforce ACID principles.

Scaling NoSQL requires less stringent adherence to those principles, so if ACID compliance isn’t a concern a NoSQL database may be the right choice.

Consider PaaS solutions

Platform-as-a-service relieves a lot of scalability issues since the PaaS provider manages scaling. Scaling can be as easy as upgrading the subscription level.

Look into FaaS

Function-as-a-service evolved from PaaS and is very closely related. Serverless computing provides a way to only use the functions that are needed at any given moment, reducing unnecessary demands on the back-end infrastructure.

FaaS is still maturing, but it could be worth looking into as a way to cut operational costs while improving scalability.

Don’t forget about maintenance

Set software up for automated testing and maintenance so that when it grows, the work of maintaining it doesn’t get out of hand.

How to Avoid Getting Your Email Sent to Spam

When you think of spam, you may think of the canned food that can survive even the apocalypse, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Simply put, spam, also known as unsolicited commercial email, is email you don’t want to receive.

You either didn’t sign up for it, the email is abusive, or the email is misleading — or all of the above. Spam is sent by spammers, who can send unsolicited commercial email on behalf of advertisers for their products, or for their own.

How

In 2003, spam was so widespread that Congress passed the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. This law “prohibits the inclusion of deceptive or misleading information and subject headings, requires identifying information such as a return address in email messages, and prohibits sending emails to a recipient after an explicit response that the recipient does not want to continue receiving messages,” according to the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School.

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What is a spam filter?

spam filter is software built into an email program that automatically deletes or diverts spam into a “junk” folder, according to PC Magazine.

Spam costs businesses and individuals time and bandwidth (which translates to money, in many cases) to take care of spam email. Spam email accounts for 50% of the 269 billion email messages sent each day, according to Entrepreneur.com.

Spam is determined by different data points, including the content in the email, the sender, the reputation of the sender, and permission filters, according to Return Path from Validity. For instance, content filters review the email copy looking for any inappropriate language, whereas reputation filters prevent known spammers from reaching your email (hopefully).

Basically all of the email you don’t want to receive, because you didn’t sign up to receive said email, should theoretically end up in the spam filter. If you didn’t sign up for the email, it should not be coming to your inbox. But just like all things in life, the spam filter doesn’t always work exactly as it is meant to.

But you’re not a spammer, so why is your email getting caught in spam filters?

This is an excellent question with a long answer. You can review the main requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 here.

This is straight from the Federal Trade Commission, and it means business. For every email in violation of this law, one can be subject to penalties of up to $42,530. Review each of these requirements carefully. It’s worth noting that Square includes your address in the footer of your email and allows buyers to opt out.

Sometimes spam filters can incorrectly identify your email as spam. This may happen because the email is poorly written, there are too many symbols (!@#$%^), or there is inappropriate language in the email.

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So, how can you avoid spam filters?

Keep it interesting

Send well-written email with interesting content. Great content is important, because the more engaging your content is, the more likely your users are to click through. When readers click through, filters know that you’re not sending spam.

Follow the rules

Follow basic grammar rules. This means using sentence and title case where appropriate (read: not ALL CAPS) and ensuring your spelling is correct.

Keep it clean

Keep it simple with one font, and avoid different font sizes and colors.

Update lists regularly

Review your email list on a regular basis, and don’t be afraid to purge your list of users who aren’t reading your email or haven’t visited your business lately. If you keep users on your email list who aren’t engaging with your content, then this signals to the spam filters that you’re sending content that people don’t want to read, and you may be a spammer.

(Please note, this action is specific to email addresses you collect through a Square email collection tool or on your own. At this time you can’t remove an email captured automatically through the Square network.)

Avoid spam filter trigger words

Mequoda put together a list of words that spam filters search for to indicate spam. Do your best to avoid using these words, especially in the subject line, and you should (hopefully) be able to avoid getting caught in spam filters.

9 of the Biggest Botnets attacks of the 21st century

Botnets are responsible for hacking, spamming, and malware—here are the most significant botnet attacks with the worst consequences.

Botnets

Individual systems, commonly known as zombies, combined with the criminal’s system (from where all other systems are controlled) are known as a master of the zombie network or “bot-network.” A bot-network can deliver a DDoS attack on a large-scale. Botnets target to send millions of spam emails, pull the websites down for ransom, or harm the victim financially or even emotionally.

EarthLink Spammer—2000

EarthLink Spammer is the first botnet to be recognized by the public in 2000. The botnet was created to send phishing emails in large numbers, masked as communications from legitimate websites. Over 1.25 million malicious emails were sent to collect sensitive information, such as credit card details, in the span of a year.

Cutwail—2007

Cutwail, a malware that targets Windows OS through malicious emails, was discovered in 2007. The malware was distributed via the Pushdo Trojan to turn the infected system into a spambot. Message Labs, a security organization, identified that Cutwail had compromised 1.5–2 million infected systems and was capable of sending 74 billion spam emails per day.

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Storm—2007

Storm may not be the most malicious piece of malware in the history of a botnet, but it is on track to be the most successful, with the number of systems infected at more than 1 million. Storm is one of the first peer-to-peer botnets that can be controlled from several different servers.

Grum—2008

Grum is a massive pharmaceutical spammer bot that was identified in 2008. It appeared to be more complex and larger beyond the imagination of the experts. During Grum’s demise in July 2012, it was able to send 18 billion email spams per day.

Kraken—2008

Remember Storm botnet? Now imagine a botnet that is twice as powerful as Storm, and that is how big Kraken is. Damballa, an internet security company, was the first to report Kraken. Unlike, peer-to-peer techniques, Kraken uses command and control servers located in different parts of the world.

Mariposa—2008

Originated in Spain in 2008, Mariposa botnet hijacked around 12.7 million computers around the world in 2 years duration. The word “Mariposa” stands for butterfly in French. The botnet got its name because it was created with a software called Butterfly Flooder, which was written by Skorjanc illegally.

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Methbot—2016

Methbot is the biggest ever digital ad malware that acquired thousands of IP addresses with US-based ISPs. The operators first created more than 6,000 domains and 250,267 distinct URLs that appeared to be from premium publishers, such as ESPN and Vogue.

Mirai—2016

Mirai infects digital smart devices that run on ARC processors and turns them into a botnet, which is often used to launch DDoS attacks. If the default name and password of the device is not changed then, Mirai can log into the device and infect it. In 2016, the authors of Mirai software launched a DDoS attack on a website that belonged to the security service providing company.

3ve—2018

3ve botnet gave rise to three different yet interconnected sub-operations, each of which was able to evade investigation after perpetrating ad fraud skillfully. Google, White Ops, and other tech companies together coordinated to shut down 3ve’s operations. It infected around 1.7 million computers and a large number of servers that could generate fake traffic with bots.

Botnets have been a constant threat to the IT infrastructure of the industry, and dealing with them requires an aggressive, assertive, and skilled cybersecurity approach. If you want to be a pro in combating botnet attacks and other similar cybersecurity attacks, you should be a Certified Ethical Hacker (C|EH).

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