Aug 19 2011

Certified Cloud – BizTech Quick Take

BizTech Quick Take is our weekly digital tour of the web, serving up news and notes on IT and business that you need to know — and some things you’ll simply be glad to know.

Certified in Cloud Computing

Does having an official university program dedicated to doling out certificates in cloud computing mean the cloud has fully made the transition from IT buzzword to valuable technology model?

Sourya Biswas of CloudTweaks reports on the University of Washington’s decision to launch a cloud computing certification program within its Continuing Education division.

While many people are still figuring out the cloud, the fact that it’s reached a stage where it can be taught in a university setting speaks to a certain maturation level. For those interested in possibly entering the program, course highlights include:

  • Cloud computing models: software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (laaS) and database as a service
  • Market overview of cloud providers including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google, RightScale, CloudSigma, GoGrid and Force.com
  • Strategic technology choices and development tools (including Eclipse and other IDEs, Heroku, Force.com and Elastic Beanstalk) for basic cloud application building
  • Web-scale analytics and frameworks for processing large data sets using Hadoop and MapReduce
  • Advanced topics including database query optimization, consideration of NoSQL solutions, memory caching, fault tolerance and disaster recovery

Read more about the University of Washington’s cloud computing certification program on CloudTweaks.

Is Shopping by Tablet the Way of the Future?

The tablet revolution has been praised for the changes it’s fueled in content consumption. And we’ve already seen businesses put tablets to good use in diverse ways. But retailers should be prepared for another tablet-driven trend, writes Josh Smith of GottaBeMobile.

Citing a report from Forbes, which found that 9 percent of web shoppers use tablets, Smith believes that it’s only a matter of time before more retailers offer tablet-focused shopping experiences through apps or mobile sites. He praises the tablet computer in particular for its strength in comparison shopping.

When I pick up my iPad to do some shopping, I typically begin my shopping adventure, which means a lot of browsing and comparisons. This works well on the iPad. I can do major comparisons, like that on the HDTV, much easier with the tabbed browser in iOS 5. This allows me to look at multiple reviews, price comparisons and videos of the product without the hassles of switching tabs in earlier versions of iOS.

This could mean that retail businesses, and subsequently their IT workers, will need to factor in the mobile experiences they create, optimizing for tablets specifically where possible.

Read more about shopping by tablets in Smith’s post on the GottaBeMobile blog.

5 Tips for Strengthening Your Wireless Network

Wireless networking, coupled with Wi-Fi–enabled devices, has made it easy to set up and deploy Internet services to a network of users in a snap. Routers and access points often come pre-configured, further simplifying the process of getting users up and running. But getting users online isn’t the only step IT workers should worry about; they should also worry about network security.

If you’re relying on the pre-configured settings on your router or access point to do the heavy lifting on IT security, then you’re making a big mistake.

Sampa Choudhuri of Cisco’s Small Business blog points out five ways that IT workers can strengthen their wireless networks. The first place to start is with changing all default user names and passwords on the networking equipment:

1. Change all default user names and passwords. This seems obvious but a surprising number of people forget to change the login user name of their wireless network—also called the Service Set Identifier (SSID)—on the router and each access point. The default user name is often the name of the device vendor, such as “Cisco,” and the preset password is typically “password,” a fact every hacker knows. Make sure to change the SSID as well as the preset passwords.

A default SSID isn’t necessarily a security risk, but it does act as a beacon to intruders, pointing the way to a WLAN with lax configurations. Experts recommend changing login names and passwords to an obscure, random combination of 10 letters and numbers that aren’t tied to the name of your company.

Learn more about Cisco’s advice for increasing wireless network security on the Cisco Small Business blog.

The Problem with Authentication

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) technology is supposed to make communication on the Internet more secure, but there’s a major vulnerability that makes relying on SSLs for security problematic: authentication.

Chester Wisniewski of the Naked Security blog points out how the authentication process can easily be compromised by unwanted parties. Let’s just say there are “trust” issues involved with the process.

Authenticity today is verified by a list of "trusted" certificate authorities (CAs). Marlinspike points out that you must trust these CAs, and today the average browser trusts more than 600. Can you say you trust each and every one?

But there are people out there thinking of ways to better secure authentication, Wisniewski writes. In his post, Wisniewski highlights a potential solution for the authentication dilemma, proposed by Moxie Marlinspike, an independent security researcher. The crux of Marlinspike’s idea is that he thinks having a series of notaries assist in the certificate vetting process could make everything more secure.

Read more about SSL authentication and security in Wisniewski’s post on Naked Security.

Find the Right PowerShell Command by Keyword

Remembering every command in PowerShell is a daunting task, even for those IT workers with the memory of an elephant. Thankfully, IT workers have the option of searching for the command they’re looking with GET-COMMAND.

Paul Cunningham of Exchange Server Pro has put together a useful tutorial on how IT workers can search for commands by keyword in PowerShell.

He showed off this capability by searching for commands with the noun “calendar” in them.


----------- ---- ----------

To learn more about the GET-COMMAND in PowerShell, read the full tutorial on Exchange Server Pro.

How IE 9 Benefits Small Businesses

Internet Explorer has been the dominant web browser around the world for the last decade, so it’s a familiar friend for millions of users. Each subsequent version of the browser has pushed itself to improve on usability, features and security; the latest version, IE 9, is no exception.

But people tend to fear the unknown, and compatibility issues can make many companies hesitant to upgrade browsers across the board.

Stephanie Faris, a writer for Small Biz Technology, outlines the key improvements that she believes make upgrading to IE 9 a smart decision for small business.

Small businesses have an even greater need for security than larger corporations. Your small business likely does not have the funding and IT staff necessary to erect the stronger-than-steel firewalls used by larger companies. IE9 has built-in security features, which work in tandem with Microsoft’s own Security Essentials and Malicious Software Removal programs, now standard updates with Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Read more about small business and IE9 in Faris’s post on Small Biz Technology.

From Information Technology to Business Technology

The cloud computing operational model is often talked about as a new shift in hardware and software, but Ken Oestreich of Fountainhead sees it as a fundamental shift from information technology to business technology.

Cloud computing’s focus on services rather than technology means that IT workers need to better align with the businesses they serve. He explains further in his blog post:

My thesis is that Cloud computing - whether Private cloud, or a mix of Private/Public (Hybrid) - is really the means to a bigger end: Enabling IT to serve and enable the business, rather than simply respond to technology requests.

Think of IT as an internal Service Provider (ITaaS) - developing, marketing, pricing and refining technology to meet the specific needs of Line-of-Business users. Forrester research even makes the valid observation that IT (information technology) needs to undergo the conceptual transition to BT (business technology).

Read more about IT becoming BT in Oestreich’s post on Fountainhead.

Configuring FOPE in Office 365

If your business has already made the switch from Microsoft Business Productivity Online Services to Microsoft Office 365, then you might have fiddled around with a new feature: Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE).

FOPE offers antivirus and antispam protection for Office 365 mailboxes, which will no doubt come in handy for IT workers tasked with managing Office 365. But since the product is still relatively new, there are a few configurations for FOPE that you might have missed out on.

J. Peter Bruzzese details 4 useful tips for configuring FOPE in Office 365 in this article from BizTech.

Find great content from the bloggers listed here and other IT blogs by checking out our 50 Must-Read IT Blogs.