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SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Microsoft Buys Forerunner Software Tech to Boost Power BI Reporting

By: Pedro Hernandez | April 03, 2018


PowerBI 2The acquisition of Forerunner's Mobilizer and Report Viewer will help Microsoft improve Power BI's reporting capabilities for mobile and web apps.

Looking to grow its Power BI business intelligence and data analytics ecosystem, Microsoft went shopping close to home for its latest buy.

Microsoft has acquired enterprise report rendering technologies from fellow Redmond, Wash., technology firm Forerunner Software for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on April 2. Specifically, the software giant has snapped up Forerunner Mobilizer and Report Viewer.

Forerunner Mobilizer enables organizations to turn business insights from Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) into reports that can be viewed on a variety of mobile devices. Forerunner Report Viewer can be used to embed reports derived SSRS into web applications.

The acquisition effectively spells the end of Mobilizer and Report Viewer as commercial products, although Forerunner pledged to provide support to current customers through Oct. 20, 2020. Meanwhile, Microsoft has some big plans for the software.

"This technology includes, among other things, client-side rendering of Reporting Services (*.rdl) reports, responsive UI widgets for viewing reports, and a JavaScript SDK for integrating reports into other apps—a testament to what our partners can achieve building on our open platform," wrote Christopher Finlan, senior program manager for Power BI at Microsoft, in an April 2 blog post.

Forerunner's technology will also help pave the way for SSRS reports in the Power BI service, using client-side rendering capabilities to help deliver the experience, added Finlan. Power BI is Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence (BI) offering, using the company's public massive public cloud infrastructure to crunch the numbers and generate interactive data visualizations, dashboards and reports.


The deal will also help Microsoft squeeze SSRS reports into smartphones and other mobile devices. Finlan expects the Power BI mobile apps to provide a snappier, more responsive user interface while users await report parameter values and navigate within reports.

Finally, Forerunner's rendering technology will offer developers more options.

The ReportView rendering control from Microsoft is based on ASP.NET Web Forms, explained Finlan. After completing its integration work, his team hopes to deliver a client-side, JavaScript solution that can be integrated "into any modern app," Finlan said.

Microsoft's mission to popularize BI in the workplace goes beyond the typical mobile devices that today's business professionals tote around.

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Don’t just add the Security “S” to your Managed Services

Author: Ryan Delany, Trend Micro MSP Solution Marketing Manager

Expanding and putting more focus on your current security offerings is a great way to find new business opportunities.

Adding the “S” is the easy part; just ask any managed service provider that views security as just a “checkbox” and offers one of the cheaper or RMM-integrated security offerings without giving much thought to customers’ security needs or total Securitycost of ownership. As a managed service provider though, you are in the business of taking on risk for your customers and security is one of the best ways to reduce and mitigate this risk and add value for your customers and for your business.

2017 was a noteworthy year for cyber security, with major incidents such as WannaCry, Not Petya, Spectre and Meltdown making worldwide news. As a result, security is now top of mind for your customers. The opportunity to expand and focus on building out your security services offering is greater than ever. According to Kaseya’s recent 2018 MSP Benchmark Survey, 33% of respondents cited security as the top challenge or need, while all others were less than 10%. The survey also pointed out that security was the top revenue driver and most popular service for growth. As we know, with challenge and need comes opportunity

So exactly which areas are ripe for opportunity?

Office365

As the adoption of Office 365 and other cloud services continue to grow it is important to encourage customers to think about how they are protecting their data and other Office 365 assets (i.e: email, One Drive & Sharepoint). According to the Trend Micro Cloud App Security 2017 Report, we detected and protected against over 3.4 million threats within our customers Office365 environments, and that was after everything had been scanned by the native security features and deemed safe. Customers in regulated verticals moving to Office 365 not only have to worry about threats but also meeting compliance, so adding additional layers of security is a great way to increase your value and mitigate your customer’s risk.

Public Cloud

Public cloud security is another area of growth. Security in the public cloud is a shared responsibility and a lot of customers forget this piece, so it’s up to you to help them remember. As a managed service provider, you may already be in the business of helping your customers design, architect & migrate workloads to the public cloud. While the public cloud brings a lot of cost savings, it also brings a lot of challenges and risks. If you aren’t taking security in public cloud infrastructure in to consideration, it’s time to start! 

Endpoint

As mentioned above, 2017 was a big year for cyber security, which makes this a great time to re-evaluate your endpoint security offerings while you’ve got your customers’ attention. The endpoint and the user are one of the most easily attacked vectors as humans tend to be the weakest link in the security chain.  It is important to have a robust security offering to provide maximum protection for your customers and reduce or eliminate your costs related to remediating security related incidents. Things you should consider:  Does my current endpoint security offering include encryption, data loss prevention, application control and URL filtering? Is my current endpoint security offering cloud-based? Does my current endpoint offering leverage the latest detection technologies such as machine learning? The more robust of an offering, the more services you can build around that offering.

When you’re ready to do more than just add the “S” to your managed services, come visit us at http://www.trendmicro.com/msp and learn more about how we can help you transform your business as you increase value to your customers.

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Better Storage for Better Business

By , Contributor, Network World |

File storage modernization for the small and midsize business

Evaluating the myriad options for small and midsize business that want to upgrade their storage architecture, including on-premise, cloud storage, hybrid-cloud architectures and managed service providers.

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In our last two columns, we’ve focused our discussion on industry trends that are impacting storage architectures, as well as a few “broad stroke” architectures that may help businesses address the issues those trends created. For this month’s column (as well as more than a few future ones), I’d like to instead focus on solution strategies for improving and modernizing the storage architectures for today’s businesses.

Market drivers for SMB storage

Let’s start with looking at small and midsize businesses (SMBs). By our definition we’re talking about firms with less than 1,000 employees. While that’s hardly FORTUNE 500 territory, firms with hundreds of employees still have a deep need for enterprise-class file storage capabilities. Think design firms, software developers, architectural firms, creative businesses, etc. – all of these SMBs rely on their data and file storage as the lifeblood of their business.

The key drivers for SMBs that are looking to modernize their file storage are many times identical to the drivers for the rest of IT. In the cloud era, these firms want to take advantage of the clear business benefits in adopting the scalability and reliability of the cloud. SMBs also are almost always multi-office once you get above 10 employees, and these companies also commonly use freelancers or shared workspaces. As a result, the reasons for moving to the cloud are quite clear; SMBs need to maximize ROI by leveraging cloud solutions rather than buying, managing, and maintaining on-premise infrastructure. Why would you do this when Amazon, Azure and other solutions beckon?

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Microsoft shows IT how to get bigger bang from Windows Analytics

New documentation, still in draft form, details how companies can craft specialized reports and custom alerts from Windows Analytics' data and integrate the data with other info.

By Gregg Keizer

Senior Reporter, Computerworld | Apr 10, 2018 9:19 AM PT

 big data analytics analysis thinkstock 673266772 100749739 large

Microsoft has published preliminary documentation that enterprise IT can use to customize reports generated by the free Windows Analytics service.

The documentation, emblazoned with "Draft," spelled out how internal staff - or Microsoft partners in the business of producing custom solutions - can craft specialized reports and build custom alerts from Windows Analytics' data, and integrate its data with other information for more in-depth analysis.

Windows Analytics is the umbrella label for three separate services - Upgrade Readiness, Update Compliance and Device Heath - which each pull from the telemetry Microsoft collects from Windows PCs. Windows Analytics is a benefit of Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education licensing, and so is available only to customers running those editions.

The services offer insights for devices powered by an Enterprise or Education SKU (stock-selling unit), such as Windows 10 Education or Windows 7 Enterprise.

Of the trio, only Upgrade Readiness harvests data from Windows editions other than Windows 10. As its name implies, that service identifies the Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs most likely to successfully migrate to Windows 10. Upgrade Readiness also pinpoints Windows 10 systems that have the best shot at moving to the next feature upgrade, like this year's 1803 or 1809.

The remaining two services, Update Compliance and Device Health, report the update deployment status of Windows 10 PCs, and monitor and report on some of the most common problems on an organization's devices, respectively.

While IT administrators can generate reports from the Windows Analytics dashboard, the advanced functionality can be accessed using the now-documented APIs (application programming interfaces) and called with the ready-to-use examples (or PowerBI templates). Or the examples and templates can be rigged to do custom jobs.

"There is also an underlying data platform that can be used by IT admins, partners and ISVs [independent software vendors] to extend the built-in functionality and unlock additional value," the documentation says.

Because Windows Analytics' data is stored in Azure Log Analytics, using the API requires knowledge of the underlying Analytics data schema, and knowing how to retrieve that data from Azure Log Analytics, Microsoft said.

Customers who do create custom reports or alerts, or merge Windows Analytics' data with their own, will have to redo that work down the road, Microsoft noted. "Disclaimer: This [data] schema is subject to change as breaking changes will be introduced in the next year, so any queries you create will need to be forward ported at that time," the documentation said.

 

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Computer system transcribes words users 'speak silently'

Electrodes on the face and jaw pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular signals triggered by internal verbalizations

Arnav Kapur

Arnav Kapur, a researcher in the Fluid Interfaces group at the MIT Media Lab, demonstrates the AlterEgo project.
Credit: Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that can transcribe words that the user verbalizes internally but does not actually speak aloud.

The system consists of a wearable device and an associated computing system. Electrodes in the device pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalizations -- saying words "in your head" -- but are undetectable to the human eye. The signals are fed to a machine-learning system that has been trained to correlate particular signals with particular words.

The device also includes a pair of bone-conduction headphones, which transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear. Because they don't obstruct the ear canal, the headphones enable the system to convey information to the user without interrupting conversation or otherwise interfering with the user's auditory experience.

The device is thus part of a complete silent-computing system that lets the user undetectably pose and receive answers to difficult computational problems. In one of the researchers' experiments, for instance, subjects used the system to silently report opponents' moves in a chess game and just as silently receive computer-recommended responses.

"The motivation for this was to build an IA device -- an intelligence-augmentation device," says Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, who led the development of the new system. "Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that's more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?"

"We basically can't live without our cellphones, our digital devices," says Pattie Maes, a professor of media arts and sciences and Kapur's thesis advisor. "But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that's relevant to a conversation I'm having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I'm with to the phone itself. So, my students and I have for a very long time been experimenting with new form factors and new types of experience that enable people to still benefit from all the wonderful knowledge and services that these devices give us, but do it in a way that lets them remain in the present."

The researchers describe their device in a paper they presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's ACM Intelligent User Interface conference. Kapur is first author on the paper, Maes is the senior author, and they're joined by Shreyas Kapur, an undergraduate major in electrical engineering and computer science.

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