Thursday, November 15, 2018

Network Monitoring with Open-source Tools

Open Network Monitoring System (OpenNMS) is a service-grade, enormously integrated, open source platform designed for building network monitoring solutions. There are two distributions of OpenNMS: Meridian and Horizon.

Meridian is advisable for organizations and businesses looking out for stability and long-term support. Horizon is suggested for quick innovations and is right for monitoring new technologies and IT ecosystems. Both distributions are completely open-source.

Network monitoring is vital to keep computer networks and programs secure from the various cyber attacks that are so common in recent times. This article presents the purpose for network monitoring, along with a few select open source network monitoring tools.

Network monitoring is used to maintain an eagle’s eye on different computer networks, looking out for sluggish and failing components. It is pretty essential, specifically in case of sudden outages and other troubles. Network monitoring is taken into consideration as to be part of network control. Enterprise networks must cope with large data sets being accessed by various devices. Such networks should provide a reliable and fast service that doesn't add too much value to the business.

The demand for open source software tools continues to grow and network management tools have ridden that wave. Instead of spending a small fortune purchasing software tools which might or might not do what you need, look out for a free open source tool to monitor, configure and map your networked devices.

Basic goals of network monitoring

There are 3 fundamental goals for network monitoring, which cover three functional areas for network management, based on the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model.

1. Performance Monitoring

This arrangements with estimating the execution of a system. There are multiple measurable parameters in a network. But from the list of parameters, relevant ones should be selected from the business value and performance perspective. Such parameters to be measured are known as a network since they indicate the performance attributes of the network.

2. Fault Monitoring

This arrangements with identifying the issues or issues in the system.. It covers the special layers of the network because a problem can arise in any one of them. It requires establishing the ‘normal’ traits for the network. There are always a few errors inside the network, however, this does not imply that the network has persistent problems.

3. Account Monitoring

This deals with how any person makes use of a specific network. The network keeps a record of all of the devices on it, which are utilized by people and additionally how often they are used. This sort of records is normally used for billing users for network usage and also for predicting future network utilization.

Different Open-source Tools used for Network Monitoring

Not only are there free and open source network monitoring solutions available, but the options are also diverse and abundant. Below, I’ve mentioned a few of the most popular free network monitoring software:
  1. Nagios
  2. Zabbix
  3. Incinga
  4. Libre NMS
  5. Pandora FMS
While it is conceivable to physically screen a system (contingent upon the measure of the system and how basic the assets on the system are), you will presumably be in an ideal situation utilizing apparatuses particularly intended for such a reason.

IBM® Network Performance Insight software tool to view and configure the performance analysis reports for a network

Network Performance Insight is a Dashboard Application Services Hub - based network monitoring tool by IBM that gives you a complete traffic flow and metric data analysis. The movement perception dashboards are rendered from Network Health Dashboard and Device Dashboard after you coordinate with IBM Tivoli® Network Manager IP Edition.

IBM Networks for Operations Insight is an optional feature which can be included in the deployment of the base IBM Netcool Operations Insight solution. The capabilities of Networks for Operations Insight include network discovery, visualization, event correlation and root-cause analysis, and configuration that provide service assurance in dynamic network infrastructures.

What Network Monitoring Tools do you use? Feel free to share your views in the comment section.

Guest Post

Friday, October 26, 2018

5 Reasons to Get a POS System for your Supermarket Business

Supermarkets are frequented by many people on a daily basis. Serving such a huge traffic without a POS (Point of Sale) system can be cumbersome. This is because you may enter some figures incorrectly and end up incurring huge losses. Besides that, doing the math of every sale can keep the customers waiting for too long. However, there are some supermarket businesses that don’t appreciate the importance of using a POS. They regard it as unnecessary expense. On the contrary, a POS is very easy to operate. In fact, you don’t need to have any special skills. The system is also economical because you only buy it once and for all. Here is a comprehensive list of reasons why every supermarket business should get a POS system.

1. Improved Productivity

When your cashiers use a POS system at checkout, they are able to serve more customers as opposed to when they do everything manually. This is due to the fact that the barcode scanner is much faster in reading the prices of items. You only need to hover the scanner’s light beam over the products and it will retrieve their prices. The other advantage is that you don’t have to keep checking your inventory because the system monitors the number of items that are in stock and notifies you when the level is too low so that you can restock. Advanced models even send an alert to your suppliers and vendors.

2. Reliable Source of Information

Any entrepreneur that has tried any of the 3 best supermarket POS systems of 2018 will tell you that they make it easier to manage your business when you are away. If your employees have been reporting to work late when you are not around, the system can help you know the time they started working. This is because the system is connected to an app that’s installed in your phone. The app gives you access to all purchases that are made at the supermarket. Moreover, every receipt indicates the time of transaction and the employee that printed it. You can also know the products that are moving fast out of the shelves.

3. Enhances Customer Relations Management

With a POS, you don’t have to print a receipt for every sale. This is because you can send receipts via email. All you need to do is refer to your customers’ base when processing receipts. Such receipts are usually more convenient because they can be accessed from any location as long as you have a device that’s connected to the internet. You can also use such emails to inform your customers about upcoming offers on various items. It also makes it easy to identify loyal customers.

4. Prevents Human Error

Errors are inevitable when you add the figures manually. Such errors happen because employees are overwhelmed by the number of customers that are waiting to be served. When an error happens, the customer is usually undercharged or overcharged. Using a POS reduces the chances of wrong calculations. This is because the system is very accurate as it can’t use prices that are not in the database of the inventory.

5. Enhances Transparency among Employees

It’s easy for employees to steal from your business when you don’t have a POS system. You will only realize that your inventory is reducing drastically but there is no money in the till to match with the sales that have been made. The problem is that you can’t trace how such items are disappearing from the shelves because your employees have ways of covering their tracks to avoid getting caught. When you have a POS system, employees will not even dare to steal any item because they know you are monitoring the inventory in real time. Every item that’s removed from the shelves has to be accounted for in the system.  

Can you think of any other reason to get a POS System for your business? Please share your reason in the comment section.

Guest Post by Dan

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

AWS Bill Shock & Root Account Security


  1. Your AWS root account email must NOT point to a specific person email Id.
  2. NEVER ever share your AWS root user credential to anyone.
  3. Do NOT use root user for day to day operations.
  4. DO Activate MFA (multi-factor authentication) on your root account.

P.S. There can be a dozen of reasons for a bill shock. The objective of this article is to fix some of the basic root account security anti-patterns (for beginners). I’ve focused on the Root Account security as most of the beginners tend to take its security for granted. As Root Account has unrestricted access any breach with root credentials will have large (yes, unlimited) blast radius!

Cloud Bill Shock Lightning

Google it & you may come across 100s of instances where cloud service accounts of various individuals/companies have been misused by new age cyber pirates (euphemistically called Crypto Miners / Bitcoin Farmers).


Without an iota of doubt, AWS offers you unlimited capacities protected with state-of-the-art security practices. However, consider your bank has an excellent security practice and a perfectly secured website but can it prevent your account from an online robbery if you go on sharing your internet banking Sign-in User-Id and Password with others?

Ignorance is Bliss?

May be that’s true to some extent in real life. However in online world ignorance will be punished sooner than later. Cybersecurity is only as strong as your weakest link - and the weakest link most of the time is YOU (& your employees). Bot exploits are quite common & reported on a regular basis where hackers are running bots to look out for Access Keys in repository hosting services.

From last few weeks, I started consulting a few startups & SMEs who have recently migrated to AWS or have newly created the account & are about to migrate. A few clients were more than willing to share their root user credential without a second thought.  A few are innocent enough to believe that as they're yet to deploy any of their assets (source code, data etc.) to the newly created account so there's no risk even if the credentials are compromised!

It seems not everyone is aware of the risk that their credentials can be misused by launching 100s of high-end virtual machines which can easily lead you to a staggering 5 figure bill within a day!

The security & compliance on AWS (or for that matter any cloud platform) works on the shared responsibility model. As per this model, the global AWS cloud infrastructure is secured by Amazon but OS level security, firewall configurations & more importantly the application level security is solely your responsibilities.

Security Anti-Patterns in AWS Account Management

(Yes! the most popular ones with the beginners)

1. Your root account email (i.e. AWS sign-up email) should not point to a specific person email Id.

Best Practice First & foremost, Sign-up AWS with an email alias – this disconnects the account from an individual user’s mailbox. The alias should point to a team distribution list addresses (i.e. multiple persons can receive alerts when Amazon is trying to warn you via email in case of a breach). Apart from being a security best practice; this arrangement also helps you when the employee (with root account email)quit the organization.

Although the root user eMail points to an alias (distribution list), at any point in time, only a single person should have the credentials to Sign-in. Others are simply receiving the emails and can inform the person responsible for root account handling in cases of an emergency.

2. Root account & other high privilege user accounts are NOT activated with MFA (Multi-factor Authentication).

3. Sharing root account credentials to a 3rd party or even to your own employees.

4. Having a single AWS account with unrelated teams (or business objectives).

5. Not setting up the AWS billing alerts.

6. Using a weak password for the Root Account.

6. Not using IAM at all.

7. Not applying an IAM password policy. This means that you'll definitely have many IAM users with weak passwords without any expiration.

8. Not following the principle of least privilege while assigning permission for IAM users.

9. Tying up the Root Account MFA to a personal mobile phone. (It’s a dependency. What if the person quits the company?)

So, what's the Best Way to Share your AWS Account with a Consultant?

For startups & smaller organizations, at times it may happen that you don't have the essential in-house competency to look into say why your billing has suddenly spiked (cost optimization) or whether your team is following the best security practices or you may have Scaling or Performance issues which you want to be sorted out with an external help.  Or simply, you may wish to go for a review of your overall AWS architecture and want to bring in an external partner or independent AWS consultant for the task. So, what's the best way to go ahead till the required trust is built between you and the consultant?

One way which most of you may suggest (& practice) is to present your AWS console via a screen sharing application (Skype / Hangout / TeamViewer / GoToMeeting etc.). Well, this can work out to some extent but it does have a few limitations like:

What if the consultant wants to refer the architecture/console again after the meeting? Also, this approach requires a lot of coordination between your team and the consultant as both need to be present at the same time (even if it is remotely done).

IMO, the simplest, most efficient and secure way to start working with an independent consultant is to:

1. Share a Read-Only Access - The consultant can look into your architecture but CAN NOT CHANGE anything over there. For you, It hardly takes 5 minutes to set up a Read-Only IAM user via AWS console.

Here's a simple stepwise article to follow if you've not done it before.

Additionally, if there’s an S3 bucket in your account which has confidential information then it’s recommended that you assign an explicit deny policy for that bucket for that IAM user.

P.S. Similarly, if you want to provide Billing Dashboard access to a consultant for cost optimization then you can follow the steps mentioned in this article.

2. Share a Cross Account Access - Setting this up is definitely NOT as simple as the first approach. It requires more effort and a little more understanding of the AWS console. In this approach, the consultant can Sign-in to his own account and can access your account from there without any need of sharing credentials. You can define whatever permission you wish to grant to the consultant.

Here's a stepwise guide from Amazon support.

Is security still an afterthought for your organization?

It should NOT be. Are you following any of the above anti-patterns? If yes, go ahead & fix it before it's too late. Make security a zero-day job - fix it now.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

5 Branding Mistakes That May Down Your Profits

Be it a startup, small enterprise, or even the big shots of the businesses world, all do and require consistent branding.Branding is like painting a picture of your business for the world to see. Through which prospective clients will judge your product, service, loyalty and everything else that matters. So, it’s essential to include right colours coupled with perfect strokes, and timely touch-ups, making sure your brand identity never goes out of style.

Branding is important, as it portrays everything that your band is or aspires to become in future. Such is the power of branding that if all the right notes are hit, one doesn’t need to bother about the competitors.

What does branding do for you or how it actually benefits a business?

·       It creates trust in people mind for your product or service
·       Gets you a loyal customer base
·       Intrigues prospective customers towards your business
·       Brings in unquestionable goodwill
·       Helps employees stay focused on company's goals, as they are very well understood 

Being such an essential aspect of business makes branding a tricky subject. As one wrong move can push your profits down the hill. The history of the business world is stocked with examples where companies like Pepsi, Guess have incurred millions of dollar of loss due to a branding blunder. While the well-established reimburse for their mistakes in millions, startups and small business can be killed forever as a result of unchecked poor branding.

Therefore, when a big business house makes a branding mistake, it pays for it in money and bad publicity. But very soon it is seen back in the race with same level of energy, thanks to all the right things done in the past and a strong customer base. Best example that fits the situation is Maggie, that was banned in India by the government on account of detection of unhealthy substances. After a ban of few months, when Maggi came out clean it was back in the game, all thanks to its strong customer base that it has created over the decades.

However, when a startup commits a branding mistake, it is not forgotten quickly and many times never. Do you know 9 out of 10 startups fail?  Marketing studies show that customers cut-off from a brand if their initial customer service experience is unpleasant. So, they need to be a little more cautious than their established counterparts.

Helping you in this tricky branding game, here are five mistakes that should never be committed. Check them out and make sure your brand never suffers on account of a branding blunder.

1. Start right; rushing would do no good

This is an important point to be considered by all startups planning to land in the business field. Marketing experts suggest that a business should build its brand over a solid foundation that is before starting off with the whole branding process create a firm set up. It can be in the form of a website, social media, or offline means.

Brands are often seen jumping straight into marketing with a hope that it will catch up instantly. As expected, it never happens, and as a result, all efforts go down in the drain.

Do the necessary market research, competitor’s analysis, perseverance, and create innovative strategies. A brand is built over a period, and once established it’s difficult to alter. So, take time, think it through as customers will recognise your product via its brand image.

2. Focus on your target audience

A product or service cannot suit all; it has to have some restriction in regard to its client base. It is crucial for a startup to understand this factor. It is always wise to do some research and figure out your favourable customer base.

Businesses that fail to zone it down end up with massive losses and many times incur irreversible damages. Don’t think about pleasing all, instead focus your branding to a set audience. With a focused goal, you’ll be able to engage your audience better, and as an advantage, via right publicity, your product or service acquires more clientages.

It is often seen that business adopt wait and watch practice, wherein they wait for the response and then work on future strategies. Though experimentation is necessary every once in a while when the business is in its initial phase, you should work on creating a brand around the target audience.

3. Not sticking to core brand essentials

We have long been talking about creating a brand, how it is vital for business success and lastly the mistakes that should be avoided. But in this process, let's talk about the essential elements, or we can say the defined guidelines for creating a brand. Though it’s true that a business should not stick to rules and be innovative, however, few essentials form the base of every brand campaign.  
     Create a visual identity with a stunning logo
     Add a catchy tagline
     Think of fitting colours and typography
     Suitable voice for promotional activities
Though the list can be further extended depending on the nature and scale business. However, what we have mentioned are the basics for branding. In case, you are a small business, start with a logo that’s catchy and easily recognisable as it will go on every promotional material. Free designing tools like Canva can be used to create a logo and other business material.

4. Not using social media effectively

Using social media for branding is not just about having a brand page on channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and others depending on the targeted audience. To create a strong brand effective operation of social media is essential, the list includes
     Regularly posting engaging images, text & videos
     Promptly replying to customers comments and queries
     Keeping the page interesting, not going overboard with self-promotion
     Never participate in unnecessary  political or controversial discussions
     Beware of any negative publicity, it is one of the biggest con of social media and can prove dangerous.
5. Underestimating the power of influencers

Customers these days like to remain informed and do thorough research before settling for a product. Here, your strong social media presence can play an important role but that’s not enough to please the customer as its all self-promotion. Enters influencers, they have a loyal following and can promote your product and spread the word about it, ultimately helping create a strong brand image and helping you meet the end goal of earning profits.

Wrap up

It goes without a doubt that branding is essential to business success and helps it maximise profits. In addition to the above-mentioned pointers, take a note to remain original, consistent, and respectful of your customers to create a brand of the status of the established counterparts.

Author's Bio:  Prince Kapoor is an Independent Marketing Analyst and Blogger. While not working, you can find him in gym or giving random health advises to his colleagues which no one agrees on :D. If you too want some of his advises (on health or on marketing), reach him out at @imprincekapur

Saturday, January 13, 2018

5 Creative Technology Tips That Every Computer User Should Know

So you think you know everything there is about using your computer? Well we have a few tips that you may not be aware of and at some point you will be glad you know about them. So let’s take a look.

Install Adblock

Do not confuse this with anti virus software. Adblock is an application that can be installed onto your computer, laptop and even your smart phone. It is the ad that people click that can cause all sorts of problems. The worst-case scenario is that you get some kind of message telling you that your device has a serious security risk and you can’t get rid of it. Another problemthat can be caused by ads is slowing down page loading times. It can be extremely annoying when you are trying to read something and up pops an ad. Or you have more than one tab open and you hear someone talking. You wonder where on earth that is coming from, but discover a video ad is playing in another tab. It’s so annoying. Adblock will stop that and it is free and easy to install.

Out of Ink

It’s happened to us all. You need to print out some important documents, I mean let’s face it, no one prints anything out these days unless they HAVE to. You probably haven’t used the printer for months and totally forgot the ink cartridge needed replacing. The simple solution is to select the text on your page and change the colour of the font to dark blue. It hardly looks any different and you have got yourself out of a difficult situation.

Start Up Sound

This is especially relevant to laptop users as you are more likely to be in a situation where you want to be quiet. The last thing you want is that annoying start up sound to be heard by people around you. Well you can stop it from playing by holding down the mute button as you switch on your device.

Tidy Leads

I know you can get cable ties for keeping leads organised, but if you are using a laptop or you just can’t be bothered to mess around with cable ties, there is a quick and easy solution. A metal binder clip is the answer. For smaller cables such as headphones and audio leads, you can simply wrap the cables around the two metal clasps and attach the clip to the side of the desk. For thicker cables you need a larger clip. With this method you place the cables into the clip and attach it to the table. It keeps them off the floor and allows you to slide them in and out of the clip for movement. No need for DIY, just a trip to the stationary cupboard.

Cleaning Between The Keys

If you have post it notes on your desk, after using one run the sticky side of the post it along the sides of the keys on your keyboard. It will pick up the dirt that gets stuck in there.

Jen Starr is part of the community team at NextDay PC. Jen enjoys staying on top of the latest tech trends and sharing how new tech can positively impact people’s lives.
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