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Windows 10 October 2018 Update: The five best new features for business

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When looking at a new version of Windows, it’s tempting to focus on new features that are visible in the user experience, especially when one of those features represents a change to the way a task or activity used to work. Those sorts of changes (“Look, File Explorer now has a dark mode!”) make for easy demos and screenshots. But some of the most important changes in the latest update are essentially invisible.

Also: The top new features for IT pros

In this post, I focus on a handful of changes that are of special value to businesses and might otherwise go unnoticed, because they’re not an obvious part of the user experience.

1. The update experience

This might be the single largest pain point, but it’s also the linchpin of the entire “Windows as a service” experiment that defines Windows 10. Over the past three years, Microsoft has tweaked and tuned the Windows 10 update process, moving more of the installation process to the background, allowing administrators to set active hours during which updates shouldn’t be installed, adding notifications to lessen the risk of surprise reboots, and shrinking the size of downloads for each update package.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: The 7 best new features CNET

For this release, Microsoft also claims to have done substantial work on the logic that determines when your system reboots to install a pending update. The idea is not just to confirm that a device is not being used but to try to predict whether you’ve left for a long break or just stepped away for a cup of coffee.

The actual impact of these changes, of course, won’t show up until this new version rolls out, but once that update engine is in place across a wide swath of the Windows 10 installed base, the predictive model can be fine-tuned based on feedback (and a few screams) from users.

2. Timeline

The Timeline feature represents probably the single greatest change in the Windows user interface since the Start menu. This feature, which debuted in the April 2018 Update, keeps track of your activity history across devices, and then it displays that history along with the list of open program windows when you press Alt+Windows key or click the Task View button to the right of the search box on the taskbar.

The initial release of Timeline was useful for anyone who uses Microsoft Office and Windows 10’s built-in Microsoft Edge browser. Some third-party apps, including Adobe’s Creative Cloud family, have added support for the Timeline APIs as well.

With extensions for Chrome and Firefox, you’ll soon be able to search your full web history in Timeline.

Being able to search your Web history along with files is a crucial part of what makes Timeline work. That’s unfortunate if your preferred browser is Chrome or Firefox (as is the case for the vast majority of Windows 10 users), because neither Google nor Mozilla has added Timeline support, nor have they announced plans to do so.

Also: How to install Windows 10 October 2018 Update right now CNET

As a workaround, Microsoft plans to release extensions for both Chrome and Firefox that will allow Timeline to include your activities in those browsers. (They’re “coming soon,” I’m told.) In addition, the new Launcher app on Android devices can now share activities to the Timeline for a signed-in account, and an update to the Microsoft Edge app will bring similar for iOS, due for release in November, will bring similar features to Apple devices.

3. Usability improvements

One of the biggest benefits of the Windows-as-a-service model is that it doesn’t take years for new features to address usability issues that affect your day-to-day experience. The October 2018 Update includes a handful of changes that fall squarely into this category, including the following:

  • Bluetooth device battery life indicators, which allow you to see at a glance how much life is left in a Bluetooth-powered keyboard or mouse
  • Magnifier tool customization options
  • The Cloud Clipboard, which keeps a history of items you cut and paste, with the option to sync those saved items to other devices. (A new Snip & Sketch app makes it easier to capture screenshots and then annotate, edit, and share those captures.)
  • Systemwide text size adjustments that don’t require changes to the overall scaling of Windows (one reader told me “I am ecstatic about this great improvement”)
17-1809-gallery.jpg17-1809-gallery.jpg

You can now adjust text size systemwide without changing display scaling.

4. RSAT features available on demand

If any part of your job requires you to administer a Windows Server, you know the Remote Server Administration Tools are valuable. In previous versions of Windows 10, installing those tools required jumping through multiple hoops starting with a manual download, and then you had to repeat the installation after each upgrade.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: What you need to know TechRepublic

Beginning with the October 2018 Update, all of the RSAT tools are available on demand and can be installed from Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > Manage Optional Features.

rsat-add-a-feature.jpgrsat-add-a-feature.jpg

Remote Server Administration Tools are now available as Optional Features instead of requiring a separate download.

5. Windows Defender Application Guard and other security features

Microsoft Edge has one compelling feature for large organizations. A feature called Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) allows users to visit websites in an isolated, Hyper-V-enabled container. That approach means a malicious site can’t access a user’s credentials or your enterprise data. As administrator, you define which sites are trusted in an Application Guard window. All other sites are considered untrusted.

Also: Windows 10 October 2018 Update: How to use the new Storage Sense features TechRepublic

The October 2018 Update dramatically improves the performance of Application Guard windows and also adds the ability to download files. That feature is off by default, for security reasons. If you turn it on, downloaded files go into an Untrusted Files folder.

RELATED AND PREVIOUS COVERAGE:

Windows 10 October update problems: Wiped docs, plus Intel driver warning

Back up files before upgrading to Windows 10 1809, and if you get a warning about Intel drivers, do not proceed.

Microsoft releases new Windows 10 19H1 build to Skip Ahead and Fast Rings

Windows 10 Skip Ahead and Fast Ring testers are getting a new test build, 18252, which includes some new networking-related features.

Microsoft is working on Android app-mirroring support for Windows 10

Microsoft is planning to add the ability to mirror Android applications on Windows 10 PCs, as it continues to try to get users to rely on PCs for tasks usually done directly on phones.

Windows 10 October 2018 Update: How to get it, how to avoid it

Microsoft will soon begin delivering the official release of Windows 10 version 1809, the October 2018 Update. If you do nothing, it will arrive via Windows Update some time in the next few months. Here’s how to take more control over the process.

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Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

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It seems like every day the news brings new stories of cyberattacks. Whether ransomware, malware, crippling viruses, or more frequently of late—distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. According to Infosec magazine, in the first half of 2020, there was a 151% increase in the number of DDoS attacks compared to the same period the previous year. That same report states experts predict as many as 15.4 million DDoS attacks within the next two years.

These attacks can be difficult to detect until it’s too late, and then they can be challenging to defend against. There are solutions available, but there is no one magic bullet. As Alastair Cooke points out in his recent “GigaOm Radar for DDoS Protection” report, there are different categories of DDoS attacks.

And different types of attacks require different types of defenses. You’ll want to adopt each of these three defense strategies against DDoS attacks to a certain degree, as attackers are never going to limit themselves to a single attack vector:

Network Defense: Attacks targeting the OS and network operate at either Layer 3 or Layer 4 of the OSI stack. These attacks don’t flood the servers with application requests but attempt to exhaust TCP/IP resources on the supporting infrastructure. DDoS protection solutions defending against network attacks identify the attack behavior and absorb it into the platform.

Application Defense: Other DDoS attacks target the actual website itself or the web server application by overwhelming the site with random data and wasting resources. DDoS protection against these attacks might handle SSL decryption with hardware-based cryptography and prevent invalid data from reaching web servers.

Defense by Scale: There have been massive DDoS attacks, and they show no signs of stopping. The key to successfully defending against a DDoS attack is to have a scalable platform capable of deflecting an attack led by a million bots with hundreds of gigabits per second of network throughput.

Table 1. Impact of Features on Metrics
[chart id=”1001387″ show=”table”]

DDoS attacks are growing more frequent and more powerful and sophisticated. Amazon reports mitigating a massive DDoS attack a couple of years ago in which peak traffic volume reached 2.3 Tbps. Deploying DDoS protection across the spectrum of attack vectors is no longer a “nice to have,” but a necessity.

In his report, Cooke concludes that “Any DDoS protection product is only part of an overall strategy, not a silver bullet for denial-of-service hazards.” Evaluate your organization and your needs, read more about each solution evaluated in the Radar report, and carefully match the right DDoS solutions to best suit your needs.

Learn More About the Reports: Gigaom Key Criteria for DDoS, and Gigaom Radar for DDoS

The post Defeating Distributed Denial of Service Attacks appeared first on GigaOm.

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Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Networks

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Blog Title: Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Network Technology

Companies are taking note of how Low-Power Wide Area Networks (LPWAN) can provide long-distance communications for certain use cases. While its slow data transfer rates and high latency aren’t going to be driving any high intensity video streaming or other bandwidth-hungry situations, it can provide inexpensive, low power, long-distance communication.

According to Chris Grundemann and Logan Andrew Green’s recent report “GigaOm Radar for LPWAN Technology Providers (Unlicensed Spectrum) v1.0,” this growing communications technology is suitable for use cases with the following characteristics:

  • Requirement for long-distance transmission—10 km/6 miles or more wireless connectivity from sensor to gateway
  • Low power consumption, with battery life lasting up to 10 years
  • Terrain and building penetration to circumvent line-of-sight issues
  • Low operational costs (device management or connection subscription cost)
  • Low data transfer rate of roughly 20kbps

These use cases could include large-scale IoT deployments within heavy industry, manufacturing, government, and retail. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report are currently filling a gap in the IoT market. They are certainly poised to benefit from the anticipated rapid adoption of LPWAN solutions.

Depending on the use case you’re looking to fulfill, you can select from four basic deployment models from these LPWAN providers:

  • Physical Appliance: This option would require a network server on-premises to receive sensor data from gateways.
  • Virtual Appliance: Network servers could also be deployed as virtual appliances, running either on-premises or in the cloud.
  • Network Stack as a Service: With this option, the LPWAN provider fully manages your network stack and provides you with the service. You only need devices and gateways to satisfy your requirements.
  • Network as a Service: This option is provided by mobile network operators, with the provider operating the network stack and gateways. You would only need to connect to the LPWAN provider.

Figure 1. LPWAN Connectivity

The LPWAN providers evaluated in this report are well-positioned from both a business and technical perspective, as they can function as a single point of contact for building IoT solutions. Instead of cobbling together other solutions to satisfy connectivity protocols, these providers can set up your organization with a packaged IoT solution, reducing time to market and virtually eliminating any compatibility issues.

The unlicensed spectrum aspect is also significant. The LPWAN technology providers evaluated in this Radar report use at least one protocol in the unlicensed electromagnetic spectrum bands. There’s no need to buy FCC licenses for specific frequency bands, which also lowers costs.

Learn More: Gigaom Enterprise Radar for LPWAN

The post Assessing Providers of Low-Power Wide Area Networks appeared first on GigaOm.

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The Benefits of a Price Benchmark for Data Storage

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Why Price Benchmark Data Storage?

Customers, understandably, are highly driven by budget when it comes to data storage solutions. The cost of switching, upkeep and upgrades are high risk factors for businesses, and therefore, decision makers need to look for longevity in their chosen solution. Many factors influence how data needs to be handled within storage, including data that is frequently accessed, or storing rarely-accessed legacy data. 

Storage performance may also be shaped by geographic location, from remote work or global enterprises that need to access and share data instantly, or by the necessity of automation. Each element presents a new price-point that needs to be considered, by customers and by vendors.

A benchmark gives a comparison of system performance based on a key performance indicator, such as latency, capacity, or throughput. Competitor systems are analyzed in like-for-like situations that optimize the solution, allowing a clear representation of the performance. Price benchmarks for data storage are ideal for marketing, showing customers exactly how much value for money a solution has against competitor vendors.

Benchmark tests reinforce marketing collateral and tenders with verifiable evidence of performance capabilities and how the transactional costs relate to them. Customers are more likely to invest in long-term solutions with demonstrable evidence that can be corroborated. Fully disclosed testing environments, processes, and results, give customers the proof they need and help vendors stand out from the crowd.

The Difficulty in Choosing

Storage solutions vary greatly, from cloud options to those that utilize on-premises software. Data warehouses have different focuses which impact the overall performance, and they can vary in their pricing and licensing models. Customers find it difficult to compare vendors when the basic data storage configurations differ and price plans vary. With so many storage structures available, it’s hard to explain to customers how output relates to price, appeal to their budget, and maintain integrity, all at the same time.

Switching storage solutions is also a costly, high-risk decision that requires careful consideration. Vendors need to create compelling and honest arguments that provide reassurance of ROI and high quality performance.

Vendors should begin by pitching their costs at the right level; they need to be profitable but also appealing to the customer. Benchmarking can give an indication of how competitor cost models are calculated, allowing vendors to make judgements on their own price plans to keep ahead of the competition. 

Outshining the Competition

Benchmark testing gives an authentic overview of storage transaction-based price-performance, carrying out the test in environments that imitate real-life. Customers can gain a higher understanding of how the product works in terms of transactions per second, and how competitors process storage data in comparison.

The industry-standard for benchmarking is the TPC Benchmark E (TPC-E), a recognized standard for storage vendors. Tests need to be performed in credible environments; by giving full transparency on their construction, vendors and customers can understand how the results are derived. This can also prove systems have been configured to offer the best performance of each platform.

A step-by-step account allows tests to be recreated by external parties given the information provided. This transparency in reporting provides more trustworthy and reliable outcomes that offer a higher level of insight to vendors. Readers can also examine the testing and results themselves, to draw independent conclusions.

Next Steps

Price is the driving factor for business decisions and the selection for data storage is no different. Businesses often look towards low-cost solutions that offer high capacity, and current trends have pushed customers towards cloud solutions which are often cheaper and flexible. The marketplace is full in regard to options: new start-ups are continually emerging, and long serving vendors are needing to reinvent and upgrade their systems to keep pace. 

Vendors need evidence of price-performance, so customers can be reassured that their choice will offer longevity and functionality at an affordable price point. Industry-standard benchmarking identifies how performance is impacted by price and which vendors are best in the market – the confirmation customers need to invest.

 

The post The Benefits of a Price Benchmark for Data Storage appeared first on GigaOm.

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