The whole world is suffering from the corona outbreak, and so is the technological sector. Most of the employees are still working from home as the world is not ready for the normal lifestyle yet. As most of the people are sitting at their homes, so the number of people using the streaming services has risen a lot lately. 16 million new subscriptions have come up on Netflix, which is more than double the number the streaming company had forecasted.
One hundred thousand new warehouse workers were hired by Amazon for meeting with the growing demand. There was an explosion in the traffic of Facebook video calling and messaging, and also a 40% increase in the Microsoft software for online collaboration was seen within a week. The actual question here is whether the cloud would be able to handle the exponentially growing demand for bandwidth or not?
In a lot of places, the streaming quality of videos were reduced on Netflix and YouTube to ease the pressure on the internet network of that region.
The Streaming Outbreak
If this kind of pandemic would have happened a decade ago then it would not have been possible for the businesses to work from home, and difficult for the people to pass time without playing online games, and streaming movies. Some of the online services that are making things run all around the world are Netflix, Zoom, Slack, Dropbox, and more. People are finding the internet-powered alternative of the services much more useful and efficient.
It is because of technology, that we are being able to maintain social distance as it is keeping us connected to our loved ones as well as the working colleagues. We have to get what we need without going out, and that is really exploding the cloud servers with the traffic. The education of the kids, the work from home of the adults, all of it is going in a smooth manner because of the online services. Even the accountants who were working on the QuickBooks desktop version have switched to QuickBooks hosting during the outbreak, so that the work does not get hampered in any manner.
Cloud: Need of The Hour
While Netflix, Zoom, Whatsapp, and any of the social networking sites or applications are the forefront of the online revolution, the real thing behind all of these is the cloud. The services of Amazon, Microsoft, Google, all of these services are running on the cloud with a huge load during this period, and that shows how powerful and important the cloud technology is.
Cloud computing is one of the rare industries that is not affected by the economic collapse during the pandemic. The demand of the cloud service is not going to fall even after the covid as people have realized the potential of virtual classrooms, and remote work. The companies that had switched to the cloud before the outbreak have significantly upper hand here. Switching to the cloud saves a lot of your cost as you get rid of the in-house IT infrastructure and most of the maintenance is handled via the hosting provider. With the demand, the cloud can easily be scaled up and down as well with the advanced features remaining intact. This kind of flexibility is what is hiking the demand for clouds right now.
People are getting dependent on the cloud more than anything right now. Through the virtual sessions of activities, the world is being able to run with social distancing. The different companies are trying their best to handle the cloud explosion as that is a need right now for the world to run. The platforms are becoming much more efficient in managing the traffic, so that we do not miss out on virtual socializing, streaming and remote work.
Small businesses must make important decisions for their operations to succeed. Rent their office space or buy it? Purchase new or used office furniture? Hire a receptionist or use an automated telephone answering system?
Another decision small businesses may have to make is whether to implement cloud-based or traditional appointment-scheduling system. With many differences between the two technologies, it’s important for small business owners to analyze their specific needs and conduct ample research into what software packages would work best for them.
AN OVERVIEW OF APPOINTMENT-SCHEDULING SYSTEMS
Appointment scheduling systems are software programs that allow small business owners and organizations-along with their staffers-to more easily book and manage their scheduled appointments. Without scheduling software, most proprietors rely on the more traditional manner of scheduling their appointments: A paper appointment book, pen and receptionist or staff member taking the appointments by phone or e-mail. Some may also utilize basic computer software, such as a database, to keep track of their scheduled appointments. Besides taking appointments, some businesses and organizations also inform their customers, clients, students and patients of their scheduled appointments with some form of reminder, such as a telephone call, e-mail or mailed card. In most instances, this process is inefficient and takes significant staff time to properly manager.
Additionally, a business’s office hours usually dictate when an individual can schedule an appointment. Considering the number of individuals who conduct their personal tasks online, the above appointment process is inflexible and does not allow a person to schedule his or her appointments when it’s most convenient, such as during after-hours.
With proper appointment-scheduling software, these essential-yet oftentimes time-consuming-tasks are managed automatically and with little user effort. However, like many software platforms, there can be many differences between providers. Case in point: Cloud-based appointment scheduling software offers features not found in traditional appointment-setting software packages.
Before we discuss the differences between the two, let’s first describe the general characteristics of each one. Cloud-based programs are a type of Software as a Service (SaaS) whereby users access the software online as a service on demand. As with most SaaS programs, online scheduling services are typically housed online on a secure server. Additionally, many do not require program installation or downloads. All it requires is an Internet connection to access the software.
The more traditional appointment-scheduling software programs are just that: The for-sales packages available at stores and online that require installation on each computer where staff will access it. Think of a word processing or accounting program for your home computer that you purchase and install. They can also be software purchased and downloaded online, but with no direct access to online databases, functionality and services. It’s basically the packaged software purchased through the Internet instead of a retail outlet.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO
Although both varieties of appointment software may offer similar scheduling capabilities, it’s important to note the differences found in each. It could have a dramatic impact not only on your business operations, but on your expectations of the product.
• Accessibility. This is probably the most important difference between the two. An online appointment scheduling system gives you the ability to access your account anywhere, at any time. All you need is an Internet connection. Traditional software you install on an individual computer is typically restricted to that device. Although you may have a program that allows you to access it from outside the office, it creates additional steps and is not an efficient way of managing your appointments.
• Self-Scheduling. More and more businesses and organizations are allowing their customers, clients, patients and students to schedule their appointments online at their own convenience. In fact, those that don’t offer this service may be missing the boat, as some individuals simply will not choose a service provider that doesn’t permit online transactions. Many cloud-based companies offer this feature, which is a natural fit for a SaaS program. Persons simply schedule their appointments in the same manner as other online services, such as purchasing travel or managing a bank account. It’s efficient, it’s easy, and individuals can schedule their appointments outside of normal business hours. Traditional scheduling software may offer this, but most likely would be an expensive alternative to Web-based technology, given the extensive programming and set-up procedures necessary to permit this functionality on existing computer networks and systems.
• Cost. With budget restraints a significant factor in most business decisions, cost of a new online appointment scheduling system is another consideration. Prices vary widely, from free to tens of thousands of dollars (for custom programming). Typically, Web-based software is the more affordable choice and provides the most “bang for your buck.” Additionally, some SaaS scheduling providers offer month-to-month service contracts without requiring a long-term commitment. This can oftentimes be the best option, especially for businesses and organizations with limited budgets or changing future needs.
In the world of online appointment scheduling systems, it usually comes down to two options: Web-based or non-Web-based. Make sure your business or organization examines its specific needs before deciding.
Does anyone besides me remember the big Furby craze that swept the U.S. in the early ’90’s? People went crazy for these little plush dolls and they started collecting them in hopes that they would one day be valuable. Well, that never happened and a lot of people got stuck with expensive toys that they couldn’t get rid of. Is is possible that the current cloud computing craze in IT could be another Furby fad that will fade away?
What Kind Of Services Come In A Cloud?
If a CIO can move beyond the hype, he/she needs to spend some time doing their homework in order to find out what kind of services a cloud could offer that their company could make use of. Neal Leavitt has spent some time studying cloud computing and has boiled cloud services down into four types of services:
- Basic Services: this is not glamorous, but it may be the most popular type of service that a cloud environment can offer to your business. Basically simple Internet based services such as database functionality and capacity, middleware, and additional storage are used to supplement what your company already has.
- IaaS: Buzz word alert – “Infrastructure As A Service”. This is when you are renting a complete computer (CPU, storage, bandwidth, etc.) that you access via the Internet. You would use this infrastructure to run your company’s applications on lock-stock-and-barrel.
- PaaS: Platform-as-a-service – provides your firm with a development environment that your IT staff can use to create new applications for the rest of the company (and your customers) to use. This is computer plus development tools.
- SaaS: Software-as-a-service – this is where you don’t care about what the software is running on, you just want to purchase access to the application. The most famous example of this is Salesforce.com’s CRM application.
Why Bother With A Cloud?
The Forrester research company has done some investigating and they now claim that most company’s data centers are using less than 50% of their total capacity. Despite the hype that is currently surrounding cloud computing, Leavitt has uncovered three very good reasons for looking into having your firm start to use cloud computing:
- Availability: interestingly enough, despite many firm’s misgivings about losing control over their IT equipment, there is a lot to be said to having a professional firm that has the deep pockets needed for redundant systems and tested disaster recovery plans run your IT infrastructure. If you work at a small or even a medium sized firm, this may be especially valuable to you.
- Integration Of Applications: sorry, we can’t do anything about those old apps that you are running. However, the new ones that are developed to run in the cloud will almost automatically be easy to integrate because they will use the suite of Web interface languages/tools (SOAP, XML, etc.) that make this easy to do.
- Flexibility: unlike the majority of cell phone vendors in the U.S., currently most cloud computing service providers don’t require users to sign long term contracts that lock them in. This makes it easy to quickly get more cloud resources when your firm needs them.
It is all too easy for CIOs who are adverse to change to look at the current excitement over cloud computing and decide that it is yet another fad that will fade away in time. The reality is that cloud computing provides several different types of services that are useful to any IT department. This can’t be ignored.
Additionally, successfully adding cloud computing resources to the company’s existing IT infrastructure will mean that a CIOs will have found a way to apply IT to enable the rest of the company to grow quicker, move faster, and do more.
Here are six things you should look for in a D3P to help you make the cloud 17a-4 compliant.
1. Direct Cloud Connector:
The first thing firms need in a cloud D3P provider is a connector built into their software that logs directly into all popular cloud services and archives data. Furthermore, this connector will copy data seamlessly to their system, automatically each night as opposed to using a sync tool to access the cloud. The sync tool is a problem because it adds an extra step to the cloud archiving process which may end up causing gaps.
Similarly, when choosing a cloud provider avoid the less popular ones such as ShareFile, SugarSync or iCloud because they are proprietary and don’t allow direct connections with cloud archiving services. Instead use Office 365, Dropbox, Google Suite or OneDrive. However, for small firms I don’t recommend SharePoint for file storage because its too complex. The best cloud storage combinations are Office 365 hosted email with OneDrive or the G Suite email including electronic records stored in Google personal drives or team drives.
2. Automatic Detection of New Cloud Data
Also, the D3P’s software must automatically detect new cloud data sets as they are created. For example, as the firm adds new users in Office 365, SharePoint, or OneDrive sites, its automatically added to the 17a-4 archive. This applies to G Suite as well where user accounts are frequently added including their personal or team drives. If the D3P has automatic detection, they don’t need to be notified every time new employees are added to the cloud.
3. Electronic Records Retention
Once the provider has the cloud data transferred to their system, it must be retained properly as per 17a-4. Now, here is where it gets dicey because if you’ve actually read the rule, you’ll find an overly complicated laundry list of retention stipulations. For example, the rule states that exception reports must be kept at least 18 months, order tickets 3 years, records relating to customer accounts (first two years in an easily accessible place); for 6 years or default 6-year retention period for those FINRA books and records that don’t otherwise have a specified retention period.
My advice: Ignore the rule here and simply ensure the D3P applies a 7-year blanket retention rule to ALL data relating to the business. With this policy you’re done separating different data types then trying to apply a unique retention policy to each set, which is impossible to maintain, especially for a small firm without an IT dept.
4. Downloading Data:
At the end of the day, the reason you hire a D3P at all is to access archived electronic records or emails when needed. Aside from disaster recovery, the main reason you need a D3P is during the electronic records request when FINRA asks for a sample data set that can go back seven years.
First, its important the D3P has a secure Web portal to access the 17a-4 data archive. What’s key here is data must be downloadable in a format regulators can read, especially when they are breathing down your neck during the audit. Here are the guidelines: emails must be downloadable in pst format, office docs in their native format, and customer data bases should be exported in file formats that can be accessed such a csv or text. Finally, these electronic record downloads from the 17a-4 archive must be copied instantly to a DVD so the regulator can take it back to their office for review.
Secondly, the D3P must retain cloud data for users that have been removed and keep them in an archive state so they can be retrieved. This includes Office 365 mailboxes or G suite users that have been removed and OneDrive sites or Dropbox accounts that get deleted. Keeping electronic records from users that have been removed from the cloud will also help with compliance since old employee data is often requested during audits.
Of course, security is something firms need to worry about every time they make a change in their technology, and the compliance officer will surely get called in if data is compromised. But, security breaches rarely occur on the D3P’s end. This is because they host their systems in secure data centres that are locked down, protected by firewalls, and monitored closely. Instead, most hackers launch their attacks from the end user’s PC. What this means is compliance officers that are concerned with protecting electronic records to meet 17a-4 need to understand that hackers will try to exploit systems from inside the office. Therefore, the best defence against security threats is strong passwords, understanding how to limit administrator rights to cloud systems, locking or logging off computers that have access to the cloud and keeping virus programs up to date to prevent people from downloading malicious malware that will hack into cloud systems.
Finally, when choosing a D3P to archive your cloud data, its important their price structure is based on raw data, not per user license. You want to find one that uses raw data only pricing because it will be cheaper to archive cloud data backup sets since products like Dropbox, G Suite and Office 365 are based on individual user accounts that can increase exponentially as the firm grows but contain little data. Having pricing based on raw data amounts will average out the cost across all cloud users no matter how many you add, therefore the price will only increase as more data is added. Thus, giving your firm more flexibility to control data archiving costs as you grow.
Since cloud providers are not 17a-4 compliant as a compliance officer for a FINRA firm you need to outsource to a designated third party (D3P) that can make the cloud compliant before you begin storing electronic records and emails there. There are six things you need to look for in a D3P that will ensure no gaps appear in the data archiving process, that electronic records can be accessed during an audit, and costs are kept low as possible.
AdvisorVault is the only D3P that has designed their software to help small FINRA firms archive cloud data to meet 17a-4 – focusing on solving this unique problem, our consolidated solution gives firms one vendor to help them satisfy today’s demands surrounding data archiving and supervision. We have created a centralized archiving option that captures data and emails no matter where they are stored – in-house or in the cloud: total peace of mind – out of the box.
Toll-free: 1-866-732-1407 ex 1
Jean Arp / Hans Arp (September 16, 1886 – June 07, 1966) was one the most prolific, venerated and famous German-French sculptor, painter, and poet. His designs were concrete in nature and he would distort reality to express his political viewpoint in the form of art. Arp had adopted many styles, especially ‘Surrealism’ and ‘Abstractionism.’ He also founded ‘Dadaism.’ Jean’s main interest lied in ‘Surrealism,’ as through it, he could liberally express his philosophical and political opinions. In 1931, he ventured for sculpturing, which while being substantial in nature, also symbolized his particular viewpoint. One such most famous sculpture by Jean Arp is “Cloud Shepherd,” unveiled at the Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, Venezuela, in 1953. The sculpture continues to grace the university.
The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas is famous for its architectural brilliance and urban planning. This university was exceptionally famous for its massive and prolific art sculptures, all of which were initially planned by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva. Many sculptors from around the world contributed to this project. Noteworthy among them was “Cloud Shepherd” by Jean Arp. During the construction of the sculpture, the world had just survived from the Second World War. Arp wanted to depict his political viewpoints, which he achieved through this sculpture.
Placed near Plaza Cubierto in the university, this sculpture, made from pure bronze, was quite tangible in nature. This was different from the traditional methods of sculpturing, which were more abstract and deviated from the reality. “Cloud Shepherd” was more real, as it occupied more space, which Arp intended, since he believed that sculpture was a composition like ‘a fruit that grows in man’. This sculpture had clear shape and structure, on which when a sudden gleam of light falls; it illuminates the entire surrounding with its refraction. The curve of the sculpture symbolized the marvels of nature, such as clouds, hills, and lakes to depict his dislike against machines and money, which were the root cause for the wars.
Flavored with ‘Surrealism’ and ‘Dadaism,’ through “Cloud Shepherd,” Hans Arp wanted to express his dislike of the bourgeois capitalist society. Due to its architectural marvel, the site of “Cloud Shepherd,” Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, UNESCO, in 2000, listed it as ‘The World Heritage Site.’ The contribution of Jean Arp for this university project cannot be forgotten, owing to his innovative sculpture “Cloud Shepherd,” a perfect memento to the field of art.