Securing Your Cloud: Tips to Prevent Misuse of Tech

What do Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have in common? Answer: These three giants of technology, considered the most important cloud providers (cloud computing), have had their services attacked by hackers. Corporate users with little experience on the cloud platform run a higher risk of suffering from cyberattacks, due to the drastic change in the technological environment. If your company is taking part in the recent adoption of this technology, check out the following protective recommendations to be followed by companies that need to manage users, data and security on remote servers. 

1. Know Your Place

There are three main segments in the implementation of any service in the cloud: the cloud provider, network service provider and the company. Once the cloud should be treated as an extension of the central company data, the questions arise: can a common set of services and security policies to be applied in all three segments? What are the security issues? 

When selecting your cloud provider, ask what kind of security services they offer, and how it works with hybrid systems. The cloud is a dynamic environment and requires constant updates in its security architecture to keep fight the latest threats. 

2. New Applications, New Reinforcements

Ready to move an application to the cloud? First, consider new ways to strengthen security. For measures to filter access to cloud applications, have a granular pattern of access to information, with privileges of restriction according to the user's level of access. This will add an extra layer of protection in case someone steals the keys to login to your team. To strengthen the login process, consider implementing a two-step authentication, which confirms the user’s authenticity with use of unique codes that are generated for each access. 

3. Adopt Encryption

Encrypting information is one of the most important security implementations for the cloud and should be required due to the heavy traffic of files and e-mails being sent back and forth day to day. You can protect your business and save your company from significant data breaches with dense encryption software. Ask your cloud provider for data encryption schemes. Discover how to encode your information. To understand what kind of information should be encrypted, it helps to know where it is - whether on servers of your cloud provider, outsourced servers, employee laptops, office computers or USB memory. 

4. Struggling with the Virtual

The move to the cloud allows companies to reap the benefits of virtualization, but a virtual environment presents challenges for data protection. The main problem has to do with the management of security and data traffic on leased equipment and virtual machines. 

Physical security devices are not designed to handle the information that is in the cloud. Virtual security devices are what ensures the safety of traffic from one virtual machine to another. These devices are built to handle the complexities of running many applications. If you are building your own private or hybrid cloud, consider adding virtual security products. 

5. Do not be in the dark with the Shadow IT

There are many reports that indicate how the unauthorized use of applications / services (so-called Shadow IT) cloud grows in companies. This lack of control generates security threats and management challenges. Your new cloud application may be at risk. Visualize a simple scenario in which your employees use their smartphones to open a document. This could result in that same file being sent to an unauthorized location, such as a personal backup drive during the phone's daily backup routine. Sensitive information for your company was transferred to a non-secure location. 

The most effective way out is to educate users about the use of technology to understand what kinds of situations can arise and cause issues. Encryption, network monitoring and tools for security management can help defend against malicious attacks or even blatant misuse of company software and information. 

Restaurants to Become More Localized in 2018

Imagine going to your local restaurant down the street, knowing that they brew their own beer, grow their own food from a local garden, and all their meats are imported from a local distributor. Would you be more likely to dine at a restaurant that so heavily supported localized business? That's what restaurant owners are banking on according to National Restaurant Association's "The State of Restaurant Sustainability 2018". And they're banking on it because "consumer interest in locally sourced foods has grown in the past two years", according to nearly eight in ten restaurant operators. Restaurants are looking to become incredibly localized, supporting their communities in a way that makes consumers happier and will strengthen their segment's economy.

The first step is to source food locally, supporting local butcheries, farms, breweries and the like. However, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2018 "What's Hot" report, chefs are saying that restaurants becoming "hyper-local" is the No. 1 culinary concept on restaurant menus in 2018.

Just what is "hyper-local"? It's exactly what it sounds like. Restaurants grow their own food in gardens they run and own, brew their own beer on-site, and produce other house-made items. Restaurants, essentially, abandon a large part of theirimporting of supplies and instead produce a large portion of it themselves, in turn creating more stable jobs and opportunities to local workers looking to stabilize their careers. 

So why go "hyper-local"? How does this benefit the restaurants? Well, it's no secret that one of the hottest ongoing topics in politics is the workforce in America and creating opportunities for local work to flourish. By supporting local businesses and establishing "hyper-local" means of production on-site, restaurants are allowing small, family-owned businesses to thrive in today's economy, while simultaneously producing jobs for those yearning to build a career in the dining industry. This is something people almost universally want, and thus will create more consumer satisfaction as small businesses gain popularity amongst the millennial population.

Giving back is also a huge part of the sustainability effort for restaurants. According to the Sustainability report, 50% or more consumers consider restaurants making efforts to reduce food waste. Recycling things like plastic, bottles and cans, as well as donating leftover foods are huge factors towards why they choose what restaurant they want to dine in. There are more factors than simply ambiance, service and food selection that can sway a person's decision. Thus, restaurants are supporting their local community by giving back, as well as turning the heads of potential guests to their restaurant to consider them over the competition.

The restaurant industry is changing, and the localization of the modern restaurant is something bound to increase over the next few years. More and more people yearn for small businesses to thrive, and this is a huge step towards allowing that to happen. With such an overwhelming percentage of restaurant operators looking to localize in 2018 and beyond, we can expect to see a monumental difference sooner rather than later at how the menus will look in the future.

The Cloud is Set to be a Core Standard of Business Infrastructure

Cloud storage has been around for quite some time, but it's getting to the point where it's no longer a question of whether or not companies are using the cloud, but rather how advanced are they in using it, and what type of cloud services are being used the most. 96% of respondents to the RightScale State of the Cloud 2018 survey say they are using cloud, whether it be public, private or a hybrid of both, and while hybrid cloud is still the most popular option, the trend shows that sooner than later, public cloud will be the go-to option for companies, with 38% of enterprises seeing public cloud as their top priority, up from 29% last year.  

It's easy to see why. The cloud is easily accessible from multiple sources and allow for remote work to get done in a pinch. With public cloud becoming more and more viable with reliable security promises, companies are more comfortable storing their sensitive information on a public forum for their employee to easily access to get their work done, even remotely. The data shows companies are relying on this: 79% of workloads for companies are done in the cloud, whether they be private or public, with only 21% of all workload being done offline.  

As the use of the cloud matures, however, challenges arise for businesses to handle, with security being a top priority. With sensitive company information stored online and accessible remotely by employees, it also opens the door for that information to become accessible to maliciously prying eyes as well. Costs are also a top challenge for big-name enterprises; while 50% of SMBs spend less than $10k on cloud services, 26% of enterprises are spending over $500k per year, with another 26% spending between $100k-$500k, and it's only going to go up. 20% of enterprises plan on doubling their public cloud spending in 2018.  

The cloud is suddenly becoming a core facet of the modern business model. Enterprises are dumping huge amounts of money into the cloud to improve efficiency, and if they're going to do so, they need to do everything they can to maximize their usage. According to RightScale, companies are wasting, on average, 35% of their cloud costs per year, so naturally with companies looking to heavily increase their cloud spending, a top priority for companies finishing in 2018 and onward is optimizing their existing cloud use. This means moving more workloads to the cloud, getting better financial reporting, and implement cloud-first strategies for their companies. By doing this, companies will make better use of their investment to improve their workload efficiency. 

For those looking to startup a business, understanding the cloud, how to best utilize it and how to properly govern the costs of it is key to building a successful infrastructure. It's no secret that the cloud is here to stay and is only growing in usage across the world. Making sure your cloud is secure, consistent and cost-effective is a part of what we do here at MakesSense; we can get you paired up with the most efficient cloud service plan for your business, no matter the size or scale of your team and projects. Head over to to learn more! 

The World Needs Computer Science Majors

We’re not hunters and gatherers anymore, that’s for sure. 

If you’re a parent of a young, budding mind, it’s time to seriously start thinking about computer science. I know, I know; computers are “poison” for a young mind, it’s important to stay active and outside instead of sitting in front of a computer all day. Yes, this is important, but it’s equally important for young minds to actually be adept at not just using a computer, but to understand the complexities of the coding and hardware that goes into the technology. 

It starts with growing up with it. A lot of us learn languages, simple math equations and the basics of history by just growing up and learning them from our parents. As a salesperson at Best Buy, I sell a lot of technology, and one of my favorite things I sold this past holiday season was a computer game designed to teach young children how to code, a game developed by Osmo. It made me realize how different things are now, and how essential this skill is becoming in our society. It’s time for our children to learn computing skills as well as they learn their native language. 

Not only will it help prepare their minds for a technologically-driven world, but it will also give them the skills for numerous jobs when they get older. It’s also a skill that we, as a country, desperately need: according to the Computer Science Education Coalition (CSEC), “there are over 500,000 computing jobs currently unfilled in the U.S., [but] only 42,969 computer science students graduated from U.S. universities into the workforce last year.” In a time where it’s common to hear college graduates struggle trying to find jobs, this is a great opportunity for people to take advantage of a budding industry and get involved in a now-essential field.  

There are many opportunities around, from internships and startup jobs to careers with some of the most famous names in the software industry, such as Google and Microsoft.  

It’s time to roll-back the criticism on computers and tablets being used in grade schools and stop negatively commenting on how times are changing, because in a country always clamoring for jobs, this is a great opportunity for work. All it takes is an open mind and a willingness to accept change.  

Should Restaurants Further Diversify the Mainstream Menu?

There's the mantra that most chain restaurants are more of the same; they all have a similar selection of cuisines, with each of them offering their own specialty option, whether it be a unique burger or a tower of onion rings. At any chain restaurant, you'll find the common components of the mainstream menu: steak, burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads, pizza, pasta. Rarely do chains stray too far from the common menu. But what if restaurants provided a more ethnically diverse selection? Would the public receive it well?  

Studies show, they would. According to the National Restaurant Association, 75% of consumers like it when restaurants with mainstream menus serve ethnic food, and 8 in every 10 consumers eat at least one ethnic cuisine per month. Ethnic food is increasingly popular, with two-thirds of consumers eating a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than they did 5 years ago. It's a huge opportunity for restaurants to not only make changes to improve the variety of their options, but to invite an evolving and diversified consumer base to enjoy different kinds of food. 

So, what kind of ethnic cuisines are begging to be introduced into mainstream menus? According to the NRA, three of the least known cuisines are Ethiopian, Brazilian/Argentinian, and Korean. Tell me the last time you saw any of these cuisines in a mainstream chain, and if you have, kudos to them.  

The restaurant industry is constantly growing; sales are up over $200 billion since 2010, and so far this year in 2018, sales are already up another 3.8% against a year ago. More and more people are dining out; it's no secret that 9 in 10 people enjoy going out to eat. With a growing market, restaurants must capitalize by diversifying their menus and bringing in unique cuisines people have never tried before. Consumers take pride in having tried a lot of different cuisines, and in turn, the first restaurants to start offering unique food options, will be the first to take the most advantage of this uptick in dining revenue. 

All statistics, data and information was gained from the National Restaurant Association.

The Exponential Growth in Cybersecurity Threats to Businesses

According to the NTT Security 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report, "ransomware increased by 350% in 2017 representing 7% of total malware," placing a heavy threat on all types of businesses in terms of cybersecurity. 17% of ransomware targets have been reported to be businesses and professional services, with ransomware being the reported "cybercriminals' weapon of choice." With a huge spike in 2017, and technology continuing to evolve and become more a part of a company's infrastructure than ever before, we can only expect the threat to increase exponentially in 2018. So, going forward, how can companies combat the imminent threat? 

First and foremost is to understand the enemy, how it works, and thus how to avoid it. What is ransomware? To put it simply, it's malicious software that locks out sensitive information that will only be unlocked by the cybercriminals after the victim pays a typically substantial monetary ransom. It's easy to see why big businesses are so heavily targeted.  

However, ransomware is not the only threat. Spyware and keyloggers are the most common form of malware, coming in at 26% of all malware globally and 39% in the Americas. Trojans are right behind at 25% globally. And who are they targeting? The finance, technology, and business sectors, who, in the Americas, absorbed a staggering 79% of all cybersecurity attacks in 2017. 

This data is all coming from just last year, one of the worst cybersecurity years on record. It's incontrovertibly imperative for companies to take these types of threats seriously, because it can destroy a business.  

Keeping employees up-to-date on the latest forms of malware is a key factor in avoiding malicious attacks. One of the most popular types of documents passed around day-to-day, the Microsoft Word document, is one of the most dangerous files to look out for. According to the NTT Threat Report, "in the past year, malicious Microsoft Word documents accounted for 78% of phishing campaign attachments in the US." Suddenly sending over a bit of copy to be proofread doesn't seem like such a monotonous task, and constant vigilance is a must during this explosion of cyberattacks.  

Keeping your company up-to-speed, having a reliable resource in terms of cybersecurity software and consulting, and constant vigilance and awareness is how to prevent these threats from increasing. Getting together with a consulting firm to discuss your options and potential disaster recovery strategies is a great first step towards a safer, more secure business. 

At MakesSense, our goal is to help your company thrive, and that includes getting you set up with the right solution for cybersecurity. If you're looking to revamp a security plan, or start one up entirely from scratch, we'd love to help you. Start by going here to learn more about how we can help and getting in contact with us to get started. 

Food Culture in Boston: Where to Eat to Maximize your Boston Experience

Every city has their niche food. You go to Kansas City ready to devour some barbeque, you head to Philadelphia for a delicious cheesesteak. It's one of the biggest talking points of visiting any new location, "what's the best food to get around here?" Of course, you wouldn't want to eat the same type of food you'd eat at home! You want to maximize your experience. 

When visiting Boston, there are a lot of things to see, and activities to do. Whale-watches are an incredibly fun, relaxing and popular form of entertainment in the city, on top of the many museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Science Museum. The Franklin Park Zoo and New England Aquarium are great to visit if you're the animal type, and especially if you're bringing kids. But what about food? What type of food is a must when visiting Boston? 

New England Clam Chowder. This is a pretty easy one, and one that the New England area in general is very well-known for. This is something you can get pretty much anywhere, though one of the most renowned places for their clam chowder is the Island Creek Oyster Bar in Kenmore. If you're a fan of night life, you could also check out Ned Devine's Irish Pub, which turns into a bumping party after hours, and to boot their clam chowder is ever so good. 

Lobster Rolls. Are you sensing a trend? Yeah, seafood in general is a pretty big deal in Boston, but one of the best types of seafood to get around town is a wicked fresh lobstah. Better yet, you can get some of the best lobster rolls in the area right near Fenway at Eventide Fenway, so go ahead and eat up before headed inside to watch the Sox play nine innings (probably a good idea to eat ahead of time – while Fenway Franks are yummy, they're very expensive!).

Italian. In general, Boston has a pretty heavy Italian population, and in turn there are a lot of great Italian eateries, particularly in the North End. We actually talked about dining in the North End in a previous article, so click here to see the hottest places around to dine Italian! 

Burgers. There are burger places galore in Boston, and not just Boston Burger Co. - while great and filled with ridiculous variety, do yourself a favor and head to Harvard Square and check out Flat Patties. Absolutely delicious, fresh burgers, one of my personal favorite burger spots anywhere, and I'm a pretty big burger advocate. If you're headed to Fenway and not a big seafood person, you can't go wrong with Tasty Burger, which is just outside of the ballpark.  

The Indie Experience at PAX East

I went to PAX East a couple of weeks ago. 

I was attending for purely recreational purposes; I had no plans to write an article about my experiences there. I went for the first three days, April 5th-April 7th, and enjoyed a plethora of video game and tabletop game goodness, and enjoyed every minute of it (well, outside of waiting in the rain for 40 minutes for Chicken & Rice Guys. But it was worth it.)  

Before I get further into it, I'm sure some of you aren't entirely clear as to what PAX East is. It's a gaming convention: there are several events year to year, with, yes, a PAX West, South, etc., that revolve around gaming in general. It most closely focuses on video games, but also has a significant tabletop presence as well. It's a place for gaming enthusiasts, such as myself, to gather and play new unreleased titles, get discounts on gaming hardware, and meet their favorite streamers, gamers and developers. 

So why are you reading about a video game convention on a blog for an information technology consulting firm? Well, we're also a startup company, if you hadn't noticed, and while perusing the various stands I had a lot of fun in the indie game area. There was a large section in the center of the exhibit floor dedicated to indie developers who were showcasing their generally smaller-scale games, which was such a different experience than standing in the very long lines at the Playstation and Xbox booths. Most of these booths had actual developers and creators of their respective games, created by companies I had never heard before. One of those games was Battery Jam, developed by Halseo. 

Battery Jam is a simple four-player party game where four players compete for territory. That territory is based on the color of their character, and you knock other players off of the small stage you are on in order to gain territory. The game has a time limit, and at the end, the player with the most squares of their own color win the round.  

I was introduced to Battery Jam by the two people standing at the Battery Jam booth simply holding out a controller and asking me and my friend, "wanna play?" So we played, quickly got a grasp on the mechanics and had a blast. Eventually we were shouting and yelling competitively, and we both wanted to keep starting a new game every time we finished a match. They gave us codes for special skins for the game, told us where we could purchase it (on Steam for $9.99! Great deal!), and their eyes lit up when we told them how much we enjoyed it. 

It reminded me of when we brought Chowdown to TechDay last year in 2016. TechDay is a technology-centered convention revolved around startup companies, and while talking showcasing Chowdown to the hundreds of people that came by our booth, their excitement got us excited, it made our eyes light up, we were thrilled with everybody's enthusiasm about our idea. You can read my article about our experience at TechDay here.  

Starting up a company, headed by a new innovative idea, is daunting. You ask yourself many questions...can we do it? What if it's all for naught? Is our idea unique enough? Will people buy into this? So to see people visibly take interest in your ideas, enjoy them and get excited about it, that is a reward in itself. So to meet these developers for these games, enjoy their creation and tell them how excited I am for it to come out, or for me to go home and simply download it that night, I really appreciated how they felt a degree, I've been there, too. 

We Have a Long Way to Go with Technology

It’s possible, today, to go home and have your lights automatically turn on with geofencing. You can throw on a pair of high-tech goggles and immerse yourself into impossible-to-exists worlds. You can write on digitized paper that plays back recordings with the tap of a specialized pen. 

There are so many phenomenal ways technology has entered our lives, reinvigorating them and allowing us to live comfortably. Every year, there are countless advancements in tech that make it feel more and more as if we are living in the movies we watched when we were younger.  

There are still places for improvement, however. Where we feel an expanse of technological improvement in one space, there are still pockets of old-style livelihood within our society, or spaces that still don’t feel as fleshed out as they could be.   

One of the most glaring issues I've noticed in day-to-day life is the ineptitude of the public transit system. Its processes have hardly changed as I've grown older, and still feels horribly out of date – most public transits I go on still require cash or a specific card, where in Boston it is the CharlieCard. There is no support for mobile payment, which would expedite the process heavily. On top of that, the trains themselves still operate very poorly in their own right, and lack greatly in performance compared to other nations' transit systems, such as the famous trains in Japan known as the Shinkansen; Japan's transit system is widely renowned for their reliability and efficiency, far surpassing anything you could find in the United States today. 

Public transportation is not the only form of travel that is still behind, however, as personal transportation also is in need of an upgrade. Elon Musk has been hard at work with his Tesla car line, but for many people they are still not as affordable as many other options, and until the electric car is more of a standard in today's society where a majority can reap the benefits, it still is, to me, not a completed step in the right direction– but it's a start. A large majority of vehicles we see on the road today still consume gasoline to run, and this does damage not only to our wallets by refilling our gas tanks but also the environment, emitting fumes into the atmosphere unfit for our lungs. It's only common sense to move vehicles towards being universally electric, but it's still not practical, as not only are current options very expensive, but there is also the issue with longevity, and long travel. There is still a ways to go. 

Backtracking to mobile payments being a huge potential beneficiary to expediting public transit, it would also heavily benefit shopping in general. Registers do support mobile payments, but the process still feels cumbersome and hardly any time is saved in the process. Amazon's "Amazon Go" stores are introducing a revolutionary way of shopping which entirely eliminates the need for the checkout process, which is a step in the right direction for technology, and gives businesses the opportunity to direct their employee focus on customer service over efficiency in checking out in a timely manner. It's an idea that is, for now, restricted as a prototype on a limited basis, but is an interesting approach towards a new way of living. 

Similarly to shopping, dining out is a process that is still heavily based on seemingly ancient practices, and no, your local coffee shop with their sleek touchscreen registers do not constitute a technological leap in the infrastructure of the modern restaurant. Luckily, your friendly neighborhood minds here at MakesSense are already hard at work on this project, with Chowdown looking to change what it means to go out to eat every night. Servers are still scribbling down our every word as we fumble over coffee-stained menus, while a stressed mother of four several tables down is waving her hand feverishly because her youngest just spilled his chocolate milk all over his mashed potatoes. It's a high-stress environment in many ways that technology has yet to remedy, and it's high time we get with the program when it comes to dining out and create a system that expedites ordering, paying, and getting service. 

Technology is constantly growing, and it's so exciting to see, but there are still so many ways we can advance our livelihood even more. For those minds out there, looking to give life to that new idea and find a market to put it in, consider this: what is an aspect of your life, or life in general, that you think needs remodeling? Consider the points in the article here, but there are so many more. Let us know if you think of anything else you'd love to have technology renovate. It's an ever-growing industry in a constantly upgrading world. Ten years ago, you wouldn't have believed what we have today, so what you don't believe is feasible now, will be a reality in another decade. Get to it. 

Set Your Business Straight: Consulting Firms are Worth It

Everybody has that bright idea. That spark that goes off in your head that you get really excited about. You tell everybody you know, regardless if they actually care or not, constantly saying "this is such a good idea, I can't wait to get started on this." 

But...wait. Why are you telling people you're going to get started on it? Why haven't you already started on it? 

So many of us have bright ideas we let sit, and never touch upon again. We avoid starting them because it's daunting, or it's unrealistic to pursue. A lot of the time, we don't even know where to start– which is okay. There's nothing wrong with not knowing how to do something, everybody doesn't know how to do something at some point. The point is, go out and find out how to do it. 

You could read articles online about it. You could ask a friend who kind of knows about it. But what about real, professional help? What about talking to somebody who knows the industry inside and out, and can give you real, wholesome advice on whatever it is you're pursuing.  

Business consulting is severely undervalued by many while it should be a top priority for anybody looking to start up a company. It's not hard to find one, either. It's a huge industry; the global consulting industry itself was worth over $250 million in 2016 alone, according to Statista. It's a booming industry because it works.  

Get the advice you need. Consulting firms are designed to help startups get out in the world. How do you set up the infrastructure of a company? What do you need to consider? What paperwork do you need to fill out? What are competitive salaries to offer new hires? What are the standard market prices for your product? How do you promote your product or business, so investors become interested in the traction you have? There are so many factors that come into play when running a business, so to ignore consulting as an option is a means for failure.  

Here are some specific reasons you may want to consider consulting. 

1. You don't know where to begin. 

One of the easier reasons to lead to consulting, you just need to understand where to begin. What's the paperwork like, how much money do you need to realistically start working on whatever it is you’re building, what staff will you need, all of these things and more are factors to consider when starting a business. 

2. You lack a skillset within your team to do a certain job. 

Sometimes, you have a team you're really happy with, but you're having trouble finding someone to fulfill a certain need. Maybe you need a professional marketer to organize some social media campaigns. There may be a need for a technological guru to give you advice on what equipment to purchase. Sometimes, nobody on your current team fits the bill, and all you need is a bit of advice to get going on the right path. 

3. You've hit a wall. 

You've been in the game for awhile, and you've hit a wall. Investors aren't interested enough to hand over a check. Your product isn't selling the way you had hoped. Maybe all it takes is a tweak here and there to get you going again, and having some fresh eyes from the outside looking in to take a look around and see what needs fixing is all you need. 

Consulting is a service entirely designed to help a company. It's not out to get you, it's not there to slow you down or simply cost you money. These are professionals who love to help people and see businesses succeed at what they're passionate about. Consider a consulting firm for your business, it could go a long way. We'd be more than happy to talk to you, even. Check out our consulting services at