Welcome to IoT (the Internet of Things)!

It’s all the rage now: you speak out loud to the internet connected device in your home and poof! An Uber/Lyft car appears at your doorstep. Pretty great and a huge timesaver, right? Or you’ve seen that commercial where the husband on the beach chair locks his SUV from one thousand miles away. Wow, problem averted, right? Well, not so fast.

All your internet connected devices are huge convenience for you and a potential huge opportunity for a hacker. The potential for threat is obvious enough that a movie or two has already been produced showing what could become possible. So does life imitate art or does art imitate life?

“But I love my __(You fill in the blank)__,” I can hear you bemoaning. Not to worry; here’s what to do:

  • Get some education. (Okay, you’ve started that because you are reading this. Check!)
  • Verify you have a router with a firewall built-in and make sure it has a DMZ capability. More about that later…
  • Put those internet-compatible (IoT) devices on the DMZ zone
  • If this sounds daunting, hire a Security/IT professional to do this for you. Don’t go cheap on your security!
  • Come back here often to read up because this is evolving daily.

Now the details: This is an oversimplification to be sure. There is a lot more to a DMZ and how it protects your home/business network. There are other more significant threats out there today but we have to stay alert. IoT is all the rage today and shows no signs of diminishing. As sophistication increases, devices will build more security into them. Be certain of this: if someone promises you a secured device and won’t put any financial assurances behind those promises, it may be possible they are more concerned with speed to market at the expense of security considerations. We recommend you contact your IT person with any questions you may have, or call the North Chamber so we can redirect you to a member who specializes in this specialty. You wouldn’t go to your eye doctor if your feet were bothering you, right? Get a specialist!

6 Questions To Ask Before You Move To VoIP

Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and ever-improving cloud technologies, the phone-service options available to you as a small business are plentiful, with more features at a lower cost than were ever available before.

However, with all the options and vendors, separating the good from the bad and navigating the hype can be difficult. Not only are some VoIP systems a complete waste of money, but fees can be “hidden,” so what appears to be a big cost-saving decision can end up costing you more in the long run once you’ve calculated in ALL costs over a three- to five-year period.

Here are six revealing questions you must ask to cut through the hype, half-truths and “little” white lies that could bury your company.

  1. What will the call quality be like on my new system? Companies that sell phone systems and do not install and support computer networks – which is what your VoIP system is running on – are often NOT qualified to recommend or install a VoIP phone system for your office. One of the biggest reasons for VoIP failure (poor sound quality, slowed Internet speeds, etc.) is that the person selling you the system does not understand how to properly assess your company’s firewall, routers, network traffic, Internet connection speeds, as well as a host of other factors, to make sure their phone system will work as advertised in YOUR SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENT. That’s because they’re phone-system sales guys, not network engineers.
  2. How many data centers do you have and are they geographically dispersed? If the answer is only one, run away! What happens if their ONE data center goes down? Or, more commonly, what happens when the VoIP equipment inside the data center goes down? Your business is without a phone until they get their systems back online! Insist on at least two redundant data centers that are states away from each other to lower the risk of a natural disaster wiping out both data centers at once.
  3. What was your uptime last year? What’s your guarantee for uptime? If it’s anything less than 99.999%, find a different provider. And don’t just take them at their word; ask for documentation proving the reliability of their network in the previous year. If they can’t even do that, don’t buy their system!
    NOTE: Uptime is the system’s ability to make and receive calls. If an individual office happens to be down due to an Internet outage, this does not affect the overall reliability of the system, because the system was ready and able.
  4. If my phone is unreachable, do you have automatic failover to another phone? If your provider’s system isn’t constantly monitoring the status of your network, VoIP system and VoIP phones, you should consider going with another provider. If your Internet goes down, or even a single phone stops working, the system should know that within a few minutes and automatically forward the calls to a predetermined destination (like a cell phone or another office location).
  5. Do you monitor my phones and system 24/7/365 for any potential issues? If you have to tell your provider the phones aren’t working, then find another provider. Any quality vendor should be monitoring and maintaining your system for you, using remote management tools. If you are missing calls, move on to a different system.
  6. Do you offer a money-back guarantee? If your provider is not willing to back up their claims with a WRITTEN, no-small-print, money-back guarantee, free of “weasel out” clauses, look for a vendor that does. Every phone-system sales guy is going to tell you how wonderful their system is and how you won’t experience any problems. If they’re THAT confident, have them guarantee it in writing so you’re not stuck paying for a new system that doesn’t work.

Retail trends to watch in 2016; Mobile First and Digital Strategy

This article excerpt originally appeared here

The retail industry no longer looks at omnichannel as a revelation, in fact, the term has become somewhat ordinary within the industry. In 2016, the rise of mobile devices and accessibility will see retailers accelerate to mobile-first strategies, alongside other new growing technologies relevant to both the in-store and online experience.

Note: See an in-depth definition of “omnichannel”



According to a Forrester report, by 2017 the number of mobile phone users will have reached 4.8 billion, with 46% of these smartphone users. In the US, 1/3 of all sales will have a mobile element, from product research to an instore experience. Media goods (e.g., video, music, books), clothing, and consumer electronics account for the majority of the approximately $142 billion in mobile phone and tablet eCommerce sales. Other categories such as travel and food-services/restaurant ordering, are not part of Forrester’s definition of online retail.

This blends into a new focus, a mobile first mind-set.

Mobile first, therefore, encompasses an approach purposefully defined for mobile devices only, before linear investments into more traditional devices will be committed to, desktops and laptops, for instance. This requires a new strategy that covers design, user experience, and the development of the interface itself that places handheld devices at the forefront of efforts. By doing this, users will be able to browse products and solutions that have been created solely for mobile access.

As the expectations of consumers consistently evolve, retailers must be willing to explore latest technologies that introduce new levels of convenience and accessibility.



As retailers commit further to digital investments, it goes without saying that defining a clear strategy behind this is paramount. Beneficially, marketers are able to bring with them experience and know-how from more traditional channels and combine their skillsets positively with the additional benefits of new technology.

The evolution of mobile management will take a turn from what we have perceived as the norm up until now. Desktop or laptop strategies based on the click of a mouse and keyboard will be joined by mobile platforms, designed for touch and gesture interactions. Traditional means of marketing such as emails, websites and everything involved with them, social media, etc., will see reshuffles to cater for new modes of accessibility. User experience must incorporate a few considerations, for instance, the context, behavior, audience, and targeted behavior after engagement.

Digital media spending is moving at an alarming speed, far quicker than more conventional digital products and services. Mckinsey foresees that by 2019 digital media spending is set to hit $2.1 trillion, up $1.6 on 2014’s figure. Alongside this, digital advertising was the fastest growing category in 2014, and within this, retailers must continue their transition into digital marketing avenues to utilize the opportunities created by the digital revolution.

From now on, marketing will be less impeded by device and platform, it’s the content and UX that will be under the spotlight. Power is truly in the palms of the consumer, and those who are to take advantage will be those able to embrace a data-driven era, to power innovation and progression.

Key Licensing Considerations

Like most things these days, licenses come in many different varieties. Depending on the license and the parties’ circumstances, several different considerations may come into play. Here are a few of the important provisions that frequently need to be considered in a license.

1. License Grant

The license grant provision sets out what is being licensed and describes the scope of the license. For software licenses, the license grant may name a software application or provide access to a SaaS portal, and may identify the number of users, processors or locations authorized to use the software. A licensee should negotiate a scope of license calculated to accommodate not only current needs but also further growth and commercial focus.

2. Restrictions

The license may contain express restrictions, such as prohibitions on reverse engineering, sub-licensing or use for the benefit of third parties. Among other things, a licensee should evaluate whether its disaster recovery plan, corporate affiliate structure, and anticipated end-use will violate any of the restrictions.

3. Exclusive or Non-exclusive

Licenses may be “exclusive,” which means that only the licensee can use the thing licensed – not even the licensor can use it. A “non-exclusive” license permits a licensor itself to use the thing licensed, and to license it to other parties. A “sole” license generally permits both the licensor and licensee to use the thing licensed, but no other party. A licensee seeking an “exclusive” license usually pays a premium for that privilege, and must typically pay minimum royalties or license fees.

4. Field of use

Licenses and exclusivity provisions may be limited to certain fields of industry or application. Such limitations may allow licensors flexibility to license to the “strongest” licensee in each field, thus maximizing licensing revenue. As with license scope, a wise licensee will carefully evaluate future business plans to ensure relative freedom to operate as desired during the life of the license.

5. Territory

License agreements often contain restrictions on where a licensee may use the thing licensed. Often, territory restrictions result from commercial considerations like those for field of use restrictions. In some cases, however, territoriality restrictions may result from legal requirements, such as export laws and privacy regulations. Licensees seeking a multi-country license must often convince licensors of their business prospects in each of those countries.

6. Sublicensing

Sublicensing rights are particularly important for licensees that include third-party solutions in their product offerings. Many software companies, for example, will through-license third party applications to their end-users. Or, a licensee with distribution and sale rights may desire to sublicense sale rights to certain independent retailers. As another example, for licenses that involve manufacturing rights, a licensee may wish to have another party manufacture some or all the licensed technology, and if so, the license should expressly allow for that.

7. Transferability

Licenses often restrict the licensee from selling the license agreement or obligations under the agreement to third parties. That may be because the licensor does not want to risk license revenue on an unknown third party or inadvertently leak technology to a rival. Licensees typically want the flexibility to sell their business assets – license and all. Parties often compromise by requiring licensor consent before transfer, or allow a licensee to transfer the license along with the business to which the license pertains.

8. Affiliates

For licensees that use one company to procure technology for a group of affiliates, expressly addressing such activity (and appropriately defining “affiliates”) in the license will avoid headaches down the road. For companies with an active M&A history, addition and divestiture of affiliates should be squarely addressed, along with any competitive concerns and degree of permitted disclosure of confidential information during buying and selling affiliates.

9. Improvements

Technology does not – or at least should not – stagnate. From a licensee’s standpoint, the license should preferably include a reasonable amount of licensor improvements, and the parties should address who will own licensee-created improvements. The respective costs and responsibilities for continued R&D should be reflected in the license price.

10. Confidentiality, Publications, and Data Security

These provisions address both the degree of publicity that the license “deal” will receive, and how the parties will treat the information that they exchange and develop under the license. Some licensors will ask for permission to brag about the license. Conversely, licensees often desire to keep such information secret for competitive purposes. For trade secret licenses, the confidentiality obligations will be paramount. For other types of licenses, such as SaaS licenses, transmission of legally-sensitive data (such as personal health and financial information) requires careful analysis of the risks involved.

11. Warranties

The license warranties can provide a base level of assurance regarding quality and ability to use the thing licensed. Basic warranties can address conformance to technology documentation and the level of skill at which services are performed. Some warranties might address whether use of the technology will infringe third-party intellectual property. Warranties may come with expiration periods, and so a careful licensee will want to ensure that warranty periods are long enough for defects to be discovered.

12. Liability, Indemnification, and Insurance

These “risk” provisions address how much each party will be liable to the other party or third parties for damages arising out of the license relationship. Licenses typically limit the liability of one party or the other, and limit different types of damages. Indemnification obligations typically require one party to defend the other party against certain types of lawsuits and other risks, such as patent infringement lawsuits, or product liability lawsuits.

13. Consideration and Minimum Payments

The “economic” provisions of the license are typically negotiated early on, and embody each party’s sense for risk and reward under the license. These provisions may take a wide variety of forms, such as periodic license fees and per-unit royalties, and may be scaled per a variety of factors, such as sales volume or license “seats.” A licensor will typically incentivize a licensee to actively commercialize under the license. Licensees typically look for a long commercialization runway, or a low threshold for staying current under the license.

14. Term and Termination

Term and termination provisions set out the ways in which the license may end. Some will expire after a set term, while others may renew automatically. Licensees concerned with business continuity (such as technology companies passing technology through to end users) will want to restrict the licensor’s termination options, and allow protective provisions to survive termination.

15. Reporting and Audits

Licensors often require licensees to report compliance with the license to make sure that the licensee is paying the correct number of fees. Licensees will try to minimize those obligations, and protect themselves from inadvertent non-compliance.

16. Governing Law, Venue, and Dispute Resolution

The location where license disputes must be resolved can be a big deal for a small company. Rather than fight over whether the small company must travel to another state, the parties might agree to arbitration in a mutually-inconvenient location under a “neutral” but well-established body of law. Typically, licensees and licensors seek a collaborative and mutually-beneficial relationship, and so dispute escalation clauses may be used to encourage face-to-face resolution of issues before they degenerate into vindictive feuds.

OIT Research Computing Support Group Supports University’s Tier One Mission

08-OIT-data-center Technology departments have moved far beyond break fix solutions. Across industries, IT is asked to develop innovative solutions that support enterprise needs surpassing standard computing to support the mission and vision of the organization. At UTSA this often means research.

The Office of Information Technology’s (OIT) Research Computing Support Group (RCSG) was formed by a committee of faculty researchers with support from OIT to provide necessary support for UTSA researchers who are dependent on high performance computing.

The RCSG, led by Director of Research Computing Support and Innovative Solutions Brent League supports UTSA’s research community by facilitating growth, enabling productivity and innovation, maintaining and supporting the Research Data Center, offering High Performance Computing solutions and managing the UTSA Advanced Visualization Lab (VizLab).

High Performance Computing Support and Tier One

One of the goals of the university is to reach Tier One research intuition status. Across disciplines from art to neuroscience, research has increased and similarly the requirement to have tools to collect and interpret large data sets. The RCSG’s main goal is to support world class researchers, which directly supports the 2020 Blueprint priority of innovative research and discovery. The 2020 Blueprint, which builds upon the university’s strategic plan was developed to maintain the momentum toward Tier One which was seen with the 2016 Shared vision.

The UTSA Research Data Center houses high performance computing equipment that are categorized as UTSA research or grant funded. Through RCSG, faculty and student researchers now have access to computing, storage and visualization resources to support research that has specialized or highly intensive computation, storage, bandwidth or graphics requirements. “In the past, faculty researchers were encumbered with providing technical support for their computer systems,” stated Brent League, “but now OIT’s Research Computing Support Group has stepped in to fill that role, leaving faculty researchers to focus on the scientific goals of their research.”

Interactive Collaborative and Innovative Tools

Previously a showcase for technology, with the RCSG team’s support the VizLab is now a core research facility that allows researchers from all disciplines of art, science and engineering to conduct simulation and visualization research to better understand complex phenomena and translate data into images on large-scale and high resolution visualization walls or other display devices. The laboratory is staffed by OIT RCSG and supports UTSA’s mission of teaching, research and community engagement and contributes to UTSA’s goal to recruit the world’s top computational researchers.

There are several resources available through the VizLab including:

  • The VizWall, the VizLab’s 14.4’ by 6’ tall visualization wall. It is comprised of 24 high-definition (HD) 30” monitors and has a maximum resolution of 98 million pixels.
  • SHAMU, which is the largest high performance computation cluster at the university. It consists of 80 computation nodes, 1328 CPU Cores, 16 TB of shared memory and 96 TB of shared storage.
  • NEMO, a high performance computation cluster for the VizLab. It consists of 12 computational nodes and is powered by dual Hex-Core Intel Xeon X5660 2.80 GHz processors (12M Cache) and dual nVIDIA Quadro FX 5800 graphics cards (4GB each).
  • Haptic manipulators, which provide researchers and students a tactile experience with virtual models in computer-generated simulations.
  • Oculus Rift virtual reality (VR) headsets, which use state-of-the-art displays and optics designed specifically for VR.
  • Z Space, an interactive 3D teaching tablet that allows users to visualize, create and experience in ways beyond the traditional computation environment.

08-OIT-VizLab-presThe RCSG is working to make sure that the technology available is not simply perceived as a novelty but are teaching tools that can be used to create interactive approaches to learning and research. The technology and resources are available at no additional cost to faculty and students. An increase in interest and use of these impressive resources to enhance and expand research at UTSA is anticipated. From research on interactive teaching visualizing Maya and other architectural sites to predicting tumor growth, the research possibilities are endless.

UTSA Advanced Visualization Laboratory is managed by the Office of Information Technology and has been funded by the National Science Foundation under the Major Research Instrumentation Program.

Mobile And Cloud Computing: Benefit Or Threat?

08-mobile-cloud There’s no doubt about it – the Internet and mobile and cloud computing have made our lives easier and our businesses more productive, cost-effective and competitive. But make no mistake about it: the Internet is also a breeding ground for thieves and predators, not to mention an enormous distraction and liability if not used properly. It is causing people to be casual, careless and flat-out stupid about their privacy in an increasingly litigious society where heavy fines and severe reputational damage can occur with one slip up – which is why you cannot be casual or careless about introducing it to your organization. You can’t turn on the TV or read a newspaper without learning about the latest online data breach. And mobile devices are easily misplaced and stolen. Because of all of this, if you are going to allow employees to use mobile devices – particularly personal mobile devices – to access, store and use company data, then it’s critical that you have these 7 security measures in place.

  1. Implement a mobile device policy. This is particularly important if your employees are using their own personal devices to access company e-mail and data. If that employee leaves, are you allowed to erase company data from their phone? If their phone is lost or stolen, are you permitted to remotely wipe the device – which would delete all of that employee’s photos, videos, texts, etc. – to ensure YOUR information or your clients’ information, isn’t compromised? Further, if the data in your organization is highly sensitive, such as patient records, credit card information, financial information and the like, you may not be legally permitted to allow employees to access it on devices that are not secured, but that doesn’t mean an employee might not innocently “take work home.” If it’s a company-owned device, you need to detail what an employee can and cannot do with that device, including “rooting” or “jailbreaking” the device to circumvent security mechanisms you put in place.
  2. Require STRONG passwords and passcodes to lock mobile devices. Passwords should be at least 8 characters and contain lowercase and uppercase letters, symbols and at least one number. On a cell phone, requiring a passcode be entered will go a long way in preventing a stolen device from being compromised.
  3. Require all mobile devices be encrypted. Encryption is the most effective way to achieve data security. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that unlocks (decrypts) the data.
  4. Implement remote wipe software for lost or stolen devices. If you find a laptop was taken or a cell phone lost, “kill” or wipe software will allow you to disable the device and erase any and all sensitive data remotely.
  5. Backup remote devices. If you implement Step 4, you’ll need to have a backup of everything you’re erasing. To that end, make sure you are backing up all MOBILE devices, including laptops, so you can quickly restore the data.
  6. Don’t allow employees to download unauthorized software or files. One of the fastest ways cybercriminals access networks is by duping unsuspecting users to willfully download malicious software by embedding it within downloadable files, games or other “innocent”-looking apps.
  7. Keep your security software up-to-date. Thousands of new threats are created daily, so it’s critical that you’re updating your mobile device’s security settings frequently. As an employer, it’s best to monitor remotely and manage your employees’ devices to ensure they are being updated, backed up and secured.