If you spend most of your time engrossed in the day-to-day operations of your business, it's likely that you can't spend a lot of time reading the latest tech headlines. Never fear -- we've done the work for you. In the past month, one of the world's biggest cloud providers suffered an outage that took several of its customers offline for hours. Meanwhile, Microsoft revealed its latest piece of gaming technology -- and Comcast announced plans to enter the wireless industry. Read on to learn more about those and other top tech headlines from March 2017.
Microsoft Reveals Specifications of Next Xbox
The Story: Microsoft plans to release an updated version of its Xbox One console before the end of 2017. The console -- called "Project Scorpio" internally -- will be approximately 42 percent faster than Sony's PlayStaton 4 Pro in terms of raw graphic processing power. Project Scorpio will feature an AMD Ryzen CPU, 12 GB of video memory and 8 GB of system memory. It will operate at a consistent 60 fps when running games at a resolution of 4K.
Small Business Takeaway: AMD has heavily promoted its next-generation Zen architecture as a power-efficient solution for everything from embedded devices to high-end servers. Few devices tax processors more heavily than game consoles. The performance of Project Scorpio may be a strong indicator of how the Zen architecture will fare in data center environments.
New Startup Aims to Improve Browser Privacy
The Story: President Trump recently signed into law a measure giving Internet Service Providers permission to collect and sell information about customers' Internet usage without permission. Many Internet users are now looking for methods to ensure their online privacy. Brave is a new open-source browser with the ability to connect directly to the TOR network. Brave also blocks ads and tracking scripts. It forces websites to use encrypted connections whenever possible.
Small Business Takeaway: Online privacy is a great thing. If the Brave browser catches on, though, it could create challenges for online marketers. Measuring the conversion rates of campaigns and attributing marketing efforts to revenue earned typically requires some level of customer tracking. Products such as Brave will make lead capturing more important than ever for small businesses.
Comcast Enters the Wireless Business
The Story: Comcast has announced plans to enter the wireless industry with unlimited talk and data plans costing $65 per month. Lower-priced subscriptions will also be available for Comcast X1 customers when the service launches around the middle of 2017. Reuters suggests that entering the wireless industry is a move to increase customer retention during a time in which people are ditching their cable providers en masse. Some analysts believe that Comcast may even plan to ultimately acquire a mobile network. Initially, Comcast will use Verizon's network and will sell the service only to Xfinity broadband subscribers.
Small Business Takeaway: If Comcast becomes a major wireless carrier, it could put downward pressure on the very high prices that consumers and business pay for wireless communication. Since Comcast is already America's most hated company, though, we aren't holding our breath.
Human Error Causes Amazon Cloud Outage
The Story: On the last day of February, an Amazon cloud worker inadvertently caused an outage while conducting a routine maintenance procedure. The worker made a typing error when executing a command intended to take a small subset of servers offline. The error caused other servers to go offline, rendering websites such as Quora, Medium and Slack temporarily unavailable. Many Internet-connected devices such as light bulbs also stopped working during the outage. The service disruption lasted more than four hours.
Small Business Takeaway: If the success of your business depends entirely on the availability of just one cloud provider, you should examine the provider's contingency plans for outages carefully. While a cloud environment is inherently more secure and reliable than any other network configuration, outages can still occur. We expect Amazon to announce a contingency plan for coping with outage situations in the future.
System Administrator Gets Fired, Wreaks Havoc, Faces Prison Time
The Story: On March 30, Joe Venzor -- former system administrator of boot company Lucchesse -- pleaded guilty to tampering with his former employer's computer network following his termination in 2016. Venzor set up a network backdoor disguised as a printer and used it to delete the core files on the company's servers. He then removed the network permissions of the individuals in the company with the knowledge necessary to restore the servers to normal operation. The company had to hire an outside team to fix the mess and suffered decreased revenue for weeks. The court will sentence Venzor in June. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
Small Business Takeaway:
Although it is rare for terminated employees to commit malicious acts against their former employers, the people who know the most about a company's internal workings have the potential to cause the most severe damage. Your company should revisit its employee termination process periodically to ensure that it takes your current technology setup into account.