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December 30, 2014

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Technology Predictions for 2015, Part 1

Every organization on the face of the earth shares the same core goals. Operate more efficiently. Become more agile, flexible and productive. Create a better customer experience. Make more informed decisions.


Having a clear understanding of the technological landscape has become essential to achieving these goals. The challenge is to separate reality and practicality from big talk and sales pitches. Many technological advances grab headlines when introduced but take years to become widely used – if they ever are. A rare few have an immediate impact on business operations, and those who are slow to adopt them find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.


With that in mind, here is a list of predictions that we expect to take center stage — not five years from now, but in 2015.


Windows 10 will make businesses very happy. Although Microsoft continues to dominate corporate desktop operating systems, Windows 8 has been a nightmare. Microsoft can’t turn the page soon enough. Windows 10 promises to provide an infinitely better user experience across all devices with significantly reduced licensing costs. We believe the newest Windows product will be well-received by businesses large and small, although we admit that it would be difficult to look bad next to Windows 8.


The Internet of Things will explode. The Internet of Things has largely been discussed in conceptual terms, describing a world in which billions of objects would be connected to the Internet. However, we expect the Internet of Things to take off beyond the IT and telecom sectors in 2015 as several key pieces – pervasive Internet connectivity, improved sensor technology, and improved ability to automatically store and analyze large volumes of data – fall into place. It will have an impact on industries as diverse as healthcare, manufacturing, retail and more.


Wearables will see mixed results. Most people have heard of smartwatches and Google Glass. Many athletes use fitness bands to monitor their workouts, and wearable devices can also be embedded in clothing. As innovation continues and new use cases emerge, the wearable market will grow, but advances in smartphone technology that can deliver similar results could very well stunt the growth of wearables.


Enterprise mobile applications will see a spike in demand. In order to improve productivity and agility, especially among the “non-desk” workforce that is underserved by technology in many cases, a growing array of enterprise mobile applications will be developed. These applications will be designed for an organization’s specific use cases while simplifying management and improving organizational security.


In Part 2 of this post, we’ll share more of our technology predictions for 2015 related to the cloud, big data analytics and 3-D printing.

December 23, 2014

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How Cloud-Based Antimalware Strengthens Security

An FBI memo has revealed that the type of malware used in the cyberattack on Sony Pictures is capable of using Windows management and network file sharing features to destroy data on Windows computers and attack Windows servers. The malware installed itself as a Windows service, which gave it unrestricted access to the network, and then communicated with attackers through scattered IP addresses from systems likely hacked to hide the origin of the attack.


Yes, this is how well-planned and organized today’s criminals are.


According to AV-Test, the population of malware increased 35 percent in 2014. 720 security breaches identified by the Identity Theft Resource Center exposed more than 81 million records, an increase of almost 25 percent. The use of ransomware such as CryptoWall, which encrypts data and holds it ransom, is on the rise. Malware like Heartbleed that exploits internet protocols continues to emerge. Spear-phishing campaigns are being used to infiltrate even the most secure networks. Many of the world’s largest brands, including Apple, Home Depot and Sony, have fallen victim to cyberattacks. Reputations and consumer trust are eroding.


Security threats are only expected to become more dangerous in 2015 as both the volume and sophistication of malware continue to increase. Some security experts expect to see malware designed to simply avoid detection and collect data for long periods of time. Mobile devices are expected to become both targets and sources of more cyberattacks, while the growth of the Internet of Things provides hackers with millions of potential portals into corporate networks. Retailers, healthcare companies, financial institutions and government agencies are expected to be prime targets for the most sophisticated criminal groups and terrorists.


Traditionally, antimalware software, or antivirus protection, has been installed on individual computers and devices. The expansion of cloud computing has led to the introduction of cloud-based antimalware, which offloads most security workloads to a service provider’s infrastructure while maintaining lightweight software on the device. Scans are sent to a cloud-based server for processing and analysis, and instructions for any actions that need to be taken are transmitted back to the user’s device.


Cloud-based antimalware offers several key benefits. Instead of waiting for weekly automated software updates, cloud-based antimalware will always be updated and have the latest data. This eliminates the need for software updates on the device, which can be lengthy and cause performance issues. Cloud-based antimalware scans traffic before it reaches the network, which enables better protection, reduces bandwidth congestion, and allows for faster Internet connections. Many service providers even run several antimalware programs to maximize security. Like most cloud services, the cost of cloud-based security is often less expensive than locally installed software.


The 2015 outlook for security threats is grim as malware continues to become a primary weapon for both small-time criminals and global terror organizations. The only thing organizations can do is ensure that they are using the best possible security tools and employing the most effective strategy. Let ICG show you how cloud-based antimalware can help fortify your defenses and reduce the risk of a security breach.

December 19, 2014

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Why IaaS Makes Sense for Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

The ability of an organization to recover company data and applications and continue business operations with minimal disruption is absolutely essential. If a major power outage, hurricane, flood, fire or security breach occurred, how long would your organization be out of commission? Would it take minutes, hours, days or weeks to recover? How much money would be lost? How much would your company’s reputation suffer?


Increasing technology investments and an increasing reliance upon real-time data and communication have led many organizations to update and overhaul their disaster recovery and business continuity strategies. Challenged to minimize the impact of disaster while simultaneously reducing costs, more and more organizations are finding that the best solutions reside in the cloud. In fact, a recent report from Infiniti Research estimates that the global infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) market will grow approximately 43 percent annually over the next five years, driven in large part by disaster recovery and business continuity planning.


IaaS is a model that enables an organization to leverage a third-party service provider’s technology, including storage, servers and networking infrastructure. The provider is responsible for managing, updating, maintaining and securing this infrastructure. Business applications, operating systems and other tools can be controlled by the organization’s IT department through an online management console.


The first and most obvious benefit of IaaS is that it significantly reduces capital hardware investments and operational costs for maintenance, power and cooling. Organizations pay for what they need and can automatically scale resources up or down according to business requirements. Rather than investing in IT resources that may only be used periodically, workloads can be transferred to the cloud during peak periods.


From the perspective of disaster recovery and business continuity, IaaS provides redundancy that removes the risk of having a single point of failure. Instead of spending days waiting for the data center to get back up and running, the service provider simply shifts IT resources to remote infrastructure, which can be accessed through any secure Internet connection. IaaS ensures a reliable IT environment with little or no disruption to business operations. Security, traditionally a top concern for organizations considering cloud deployments, is typically more robust when using the IaaS model.


Simply put, IaaS minimizes the risk of an outage while reducing capital and operational costs. Let ICG show you how to use the power, flexibility and cost-efficiency of IaaS in your disaster recovery and business continuity strategies.

December 10, 2014

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Overcoming the Challenges of Mobile Software Development

In previous posts, we discussed why you should outsource software development and what factors to consider when evaluating development firms. Perhaps the biggest driver behind the increased focus on software development is the need for mobile business applications. If mobility is driving your software development initiative, there are additional factors to consider.


It may seem logical to simply mobilize existing enterprise applications, but it can be difficult to scale these applications to the degree that would be required. Also, the user experience on mobile may fall short of user expectations and business demands.


Native applications often deliver the best user experience because they are built for a specific mobile device and operating system. Developers must create a separate version of the app for each device to be used because the application is installed directly on the device. Because these applications are highly specialized, they require developers with expertise in the particular mobile platform.


On the other hand, mobile web applications are accessed through a browser and can be deployed on multiple devices and operating systems. Using an HTML5 development approach, applications can often be built faster than native apps, and specialized platform expertise isn’t required. A hybrid application combines the user experience of native with the simplicity of mobile web. Most organizations will use all three approaches at some point, depending on what is required in specific use cases.


Whatever approach you choose, mobile software development is particularly challenging for a number of reasons. The primary challenge is delivering a user experience that enables people to do their job better or that meets a specific business or customer need. This means the application must work well on screens that can range from three to 10 inches. How do you make the best use of screen real estate? Will the application’s functionality and layout be equally effective on a smartphone and large tablet? Will it sap the device’s memory or battery life? Is it simple and easy to use?


Security is always a major concern with any mobile-related initiative because various device and operating system architectures require different approaches to security. Encryption is a critical component of security, and IT should be able to remotely wipe application data if devices are lost or stolen. Software developers also must balance user authentication requirements with the users’ general distaste for multiple usernames and passwords. Again, delivering the best possible user experience must be considered during every phase of development.


Another challenge of mobile software development is that new tools, platforms, devices and languages are constantly being introduced. Most IT teams just don’t have the bandwidth to learn and then utilize the latest advancements and products effectively. This is why outsourcing makes so much sense.


ICG’s history with mobile software development dates back to the PDA days, when people poked PalmPilots and similar devices with a stylus. Our developers have a proven track record of success creating customized, strategic business applications that enable more efficient operations and competitive advantages while delivering an optimal user experience. Let us design and implement mobile applications that will help your organization succeed.

December 1, 2014

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8 Factors to Consider when Outsourcing Software Development

In a previous post, we discussed why you should consider outsourcing software development instead of hiring a full-time employee or contractor. Software developers are in demand, making them hard to find, expensive and difficult to retain. When you outsource software development, you gain access to an entire team of developers and greater accountability. Costs are also reduced because you only pay for the services you need, and the software development firm is responsible for purchasing and maintaining the technology resources that developers need to do their jobs.


The decision to outsource can be a relatively easy one. Choosing the right software development firm is a different story. Here are eight factors to consider during the evaluation process.


1) Look for a firm with diverse experience. A firm that has worked with a variety of customers and technologies will likely bring more to the table in terms of flexibility, adaptability and innovation than a firm that specializes in very specific technologies and industries. Of course, the firm should have plenty of experience in your industry and understand how your business works.


2) Don’t choose based upon name recognition. Big name software companies are often more expensive because you pay for their reputation. They may have a great team of software developers on staff, but you won’t be guaranteed to get the cream of the crop for your particular project.


3) Understand their development methodology. A reputable, experienced firm should have a well-defined process for software development that minimizes risk and includes regular communication. Avoid firms that are unable to clearly explain their methodology in detail.


4) Make sure they have enough developers. You software development needs will increase and decrease according to your business needs. The firm you hire should have enough developers to handle increased workloads.


5) Get and contact references. A reputable software development firm should be willing and able to provide references. Call them to find out what went well and what went wrong so you can learn from their experiences. If the software development firm doesn’t have a portfolio on their website, ask to see samples of their work.


6) Look for frequent deployments of application updates. Applications always need to be fine-tuned. Frequent releases – every one or two days – allow you to test and report bugs and benefit sooner from updates and improvements.


7) Find out what kind of support is offered. In most cases, you’ll need help configuring new applications, understanding various functionality, and learning how to use the software. The support you receive after the application is installed is just as important as the development process.


8) Test their responsiveness. Contact them by phone and email and see how long it takes to get a response. Ask a lot of questions and make sure the answers are sufficient. Poor communication and a lack of transparency should be deal breakers.


ICG has been designing, developing and deploying custom applications for more than 35 years. Let us use our experience and proven development processes to provide your organization with the software tools it needs to succeed.