IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS: Which One is Best for Your Business?

As more and more organizations consider switching their business assets to the cloud, it is important to understand the differences between the three models of cloud service: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). By comparing IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, you can choose the best model for your organization.

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

As you can see with the below diagram, with an on-premises, non-cloud system your organization takes care of everything, from the servers to the software. With IaaS, your servers and storage are taken care of with virtual, cloud servers. With PaaS, cloud service providers also supply the middleware. And with SaaS, third party providers supply everything, including the software.

IaaS_PaaS_SaaS

Let’s take a deeper look into each option.

IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS is sometimes referred to as “your data center in the cloud.” With the IaaS model of cloud services, third party providers host virtual hardware equipment such as servers and storage systems. IaaS providers may also take care of associated services such as ongoing system maintenance, data backup and business continuity.

Organizations that use IaaS are typically billed on the amount of storage they need, which are tabulated by the hour, week or month, depending on the service contract. This makes IaaS platforms highly scalable IT resources. If your organization grows, you simply need to pay for more storage rather than buy costly hardware. If your organization shrinks, you can reduce that storage. You also don’t need to maintain an IT staff solely dedicated to run servers.

This model is particularly attractive to small businesses and startups that may be growing, and companies that experience temporarily high workloads, like retailers during the holiday shopping season. However, you have to be careful to monitor your usage. In the metered world of IaaS, you only want to pay for what you need.

Examples of IaaS include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Compute Engine (GCE).

IaaS offers many advantages, including:

  • Easy to automate storage, networking, servers and processing power
  • Avoids wasteful spending because server/storage is based on consumption
  • Clients retain complete control of their infrastructure
  • Highly scalable

PaaS: Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service (PaaS) delivers a platform to clients, which lets them develop, run and manage their business applications. Like IaaS, PaaS comes with virtual servers, storage and networking. But with PaaS, developers also have the tools to build customized software without having to worry about operating systems, software updates, storage or the underlying infrastructure.

PaaS is a pay-as-you-go service.

PaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Resources can easily be scaled up or down as business changes
  • Saves time and money with developing or deploying in-house apps, and significantly reduces the amount of coding needed to create them
  • Streamlines application management, and lets multiple developers work on the same project more efficiently

Examples of PaaS include Google App Engine, OpenShift, AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Windows® Azure.

SaaS: Software as a Service

When you consider IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS, Software as a Service is likely the most familiar to you. This is the most common cloud model used by businesses, and provides a wide variety of individual software applications such as email and collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), billing/payroll processing, sales management, human resources management, financial management, database management, enterprise resourcing planning (ERP), content management and document editing and management.

Organizations typically pay for SaaS applications via a subscription fee on a monthly or annual basis, often based on the number of people using the application, or the number of transactions that are run. Because of this fee structure, one of the major advantages to SaaS is its ongoing scalability and the ability to add or subtract users as needed. Since the apps are delivered via the web, SaaS also eliminates the need to have IT staff available to download and install applications on each individual computer, and third party vendors manage all potential technical issues. This allows IT staff to spend their time on more pressing, organizational matters.

Examples of SaaS include Google Docs (and many common Google apps such Google Calendar), DropboxTM, Cisco WebexTM and Salesforce.

SaaS has many advantages, including:

  • Applications can be accessed anywhere, and on mobile devices
  • Organizations can access many applications, including those used infrequently
  • Apps are always kept up-to-date; no need to install patches or updates
  • Scalability and cost savings

IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS

Each cloud model, whether you are considering IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS offers specific features and functionalities. Whether you need cloud-based software for storage options, a platform to develop customized applications, or complete control over your entire infrastructure, there is a cloud service option for your organization.

Still not sure? At Single Path, we work with many small-to-medium sized businesses, school districts and other organizations to help them find the cloud services best for them.

Contact us to learn more about how to move your assets to the cloud.

Why DDoS Security is Critical for your School (and what is DDoS, anyway)?

If you regularly follow our blogs, you’ve read about the dangers of Phishing and Ransomware, but there’s a third method of cybercrime that can be just as damaging: a DDoS attack, or “Distributed Denial of Service.” A DDoS attack occurs when a hacker takes control of thousands of computers and aims traffic at a single server, overwhelming its network to knock it offline or slow it to a crawl. Without appropriate DDoS security protocols, an attack can cause mass and immediate disruption.

EdTech Magazine reports that DDoS attacks “are on the rise. For schools, the attacks can shut down websites, phone systems and prevent users from accessing the internet and applications.” Here are some recent examples of school-related DDoS security issues in recent years,:

  • The Miami-Dade County Public school system was unable to provide online testing for three days after a series of DDoS attacks crippled their new, high-touted computer-based standardized testing system.
  • Minnesota Department of Education twice had to suspend its state testing when a DDoS attack kept students from logging into its online assessment system.
  • The St. Charles, Illinois school district lost online access for employees and all of their 13,000 students. According to a report from eSchool News, “the hackers cut off the entire district’s internet access for four hours at a time and then repeated the process 10 more times over the following six weeks.” Eventually, two students were charged in the attack.
  • Rutgers, Arizona State and University of Georgia have all been victims of recent DDoS attacks. After an attack, Rutgers spent $3 million dollars and raised tuition 2.3% just to upgrade their DDoS security, and then became a DDoS victim again less than a year later.

The Simplicity of a DDoS Attack

Many schools, even those that are on the alert to cyberthreats, may not be paying much attention to their DDoS security. But it doesn’t take a cyber-genius to launch a DDoS attack. You can find relatively simple how-to videos on popular sites such as YouTube. The ease of launching such an attack, combined with inadequate DDoS security, makes this scheme popular with a wide variety of groups as a form of protest, as an act of “revenge,” as a distraction from another cyberattack, or even just for “fun.”

The lack of DDoS security can also harm schools through their vendors or partners. In September of last year, millions of families across 45 states were impacted by a DDoS attack on the app Infinite Campus, which provides a “Parent Portal” allowing parents and students the ability to check grades and other information.

How To Implement Your DDoS Security

Schools have become a target for cybercriminals, accounting for 13 percent of all data breeches in the first half of 2017, which involve nearly two billion student and parent records. But schools can incorporate numerous strategies to increase security, including their DDoS security, such as by switching to cloud networking, monitoring cyber-traffic for abnormal patterns, and adding backup internet service providers to keep networks up and running. School districts can also upgrade their firewall protection and their network architecture. Sounds like a lot of work? It can be.

That’s why Single Path partners with schools to help protect their IT technology from hackers, and to make upgrades and changes as easy and as turnkey as possible. We consult and implement, provide continual monitoring, and can also educate your staff on data security best practices. We also provide a wide variety of Managed/Cloud Services. DDoS security can be challenging, which is why you need a team like Single Path to help protect your organization from harm.

Ask us how to get started!

 

 

 

After Hurricane Maria Hit, We Helped One School Fight Back

Hurricane Maria was the worst hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, with winds reaching almost 200 miles per hour amid torrential rains and flooding. The disaster left millions of people without power, hundreds of thousands without access to basic necessities and 10,000 people homeless. The world watched with concern and compassion.

But when School Superintendent Jim McKay and Single Path’s Bill Spakowski saw the news, they decided to make a difference.

As superintendent for School District 117 in Antioch, Illinois, Jim McKay had helped send supplies to Houston after Hurricane Harvey. But he knew, this time, supplies were not enough. He needed to do more.

Jim knew the devastation would impact families and children most, and he also understood the vital role schools play in a community. “My mind is with kids,” said Jim McKay. “It’s with helping. When I heard kids in Puerto Rico were not being served, and maybe not being able to attend school for months, I knew I had to do something.” Jim reached out to other area school districts and business and community leaders . Jim had worked with Single Path to set up his own district’s 1:1 learning environment just a few months earlier, so Bill Spakowski of Single Path was near the top of his list of people to call. As Jim suspected, Bill jumped at the chance to help.

Puerto Rico already had considerable education challenges. An estimated 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s students receive specialized education, twice the average on the U.S. mainland. According to the New York Times, only 10 percent of seventh, eighth and 11th graders achieved proficiency in a standardized math test in 2017. Escuela Rafael de Jesús, an elementary school in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, was faced with similar challenges, even before the hurricane. This district serves 300-400 students of mostly low-income families (86% of them receive a free or reduced lunch) and a great number of special needs kids. They didn’t have the funds to recover from the hurricane on their own, at least not without a miracle. Jim, Bill and the group they named “Relief Through Leadership” became the school’s angels.

The amount of money and equipment Relief Through Leadership raised was impressive, and reflects the environment of caring and giving that both Jim and Bill advocate in their respective organizations.

Donated supplies and technical assistance from Single Path were married by similar efforts from other organizations. The group solicited no tax dollars. Volunteers who went to Puerto Rico paid for the trip out of their own pockets. And the amount of donations, work, and organization, was staggering. For example, local schools donated desktops and notebooks. CDN logistics trucked four pallets of computers from Lake Villa, Illinois to Miami. Carnival Cruise Line shipped those pallets to San Juan. The Mayor’s Office delivered the equipment to the school. And everything was donated. “We were one of the few volunteer groups that were able to crack the sea-transport challenge,” admits Jim McKay.

Jim, and his group of volunteers, which included two people from Single Path and eight school superintendents, flew down to Puerto Rico and got to work. Bill and his colleague not only helped set up two hundred computers, including desktop classroom computers and Chrome Books, but they joined the team spending time (and sweat) scraping paint from ceiling and walls and repainting the school building with paint purchased by Single Path.

Before the hurricane, their school library only had two computers. Now, Rafael de Jesús has its own computer lab. Said Jim McKay, “These computers changed their world. Literally.” He added, “In the world of education, the opportunities are significantly less if you don’t have access to the Internet. With technology, kids today are able to learn and grow so much faster. And we were able to go in and give them the chance to learn and grow in way they couldn’t have before.”

Jim McKay remembers how surprised the mayor, local leaders and the school’s staff were when he and his group arrived in Puerto Rico. “Honestly, when I talked to their principal back in February I don’t think she believed me,” he said. “Talk is cheap. But when we showed up she, and other faculty members, were nearly overcome with emotion.”

Neither Jim nor Bill feel their job is done. Today, Puerto Rico is still impacted by the lingering effects of Maria. While travelling through the island, Bill noticed the blue tarps still covering the roofs of many homes, and the debris of destroyed or damaged buildings that may never be replaced or restored. More than a quarter of Puerto Rico’s schools have closed since the storm and many were without electricity for months. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the island permanently, including many doctors and educators. Much of the relief the island has received, including a significant percentage of its educational funding, has been lost to waste, corruption and questionable spending practices. That’s why Relief Though Leadership plans to continue donating directly to the school, visiting annually, providing equipment and even new classroom furniture. Both Jim and Bill feel that acquiring and donating two thousand computers a year is a realistic goal. They also hope to set up a connected learning environment between local Illinois schools and Escuela Rafael de Jesús.

The time and energy provided by Relief Through Leadership is about more than making a difference today. It’s about the kids who will be the future of Puerto Rico. Said Bill Spakowski, “It’s about giving back and helping to develop the next generation of leaders. We’re a company that cares about making a difference, and truly cares about students.”

You can view a video showing some of the before and after images of Puerto Rico and Escuela Rafael de Jesús, and the relief efforts by Relief Through Leadership here. To learn more about Single Path, contact us.

The Value of an Emergency Alert System

Emergencies happen, and when they do, the ability to immediately communicate with your team and emergency responders can be critically important. A natural disaster. A weather alert. A gas leak. Or, something darker. Regardless of the problem, having a communication system in place can make the difference between keeping people safe or leaving them in peril, and keeping your data and equipment safe, too.

We recently worked with a major league baseball team and built a reliable emergency alert system for them. With tens of thousands of fans at their games, plus dozens of employees and players, a lack of communication during an emergency could have had severe consequences. Whether your organization has a thousand students spread out over a campus, hundreds of employees on multiple floors, or a dozen coworkers in relatively tight confines, communication could be the key to not only their safety, but your organization’s recovery.

In Case of Emergency

Benefits of an automated Emergency Alert System include:

  • Keeping staff and students safe from large-scale threats (major weather patterns, pandemics, terrorist activity and more)
  • Reducing the spread of misinformation
  • Communicating protocols: Automated alerts can specify exactly what to do in the time of crisis
  • Faster response times: Quicker alerts can save lives, and minimize business disruption
  • Web-based system: Alerts can be sent from anywhere
  • Regulatory compliance: Many organizations have different requirements for emergency mass notifications
  • Acknowledgment receipts: So organizations can be confident recipients understand the threat and know what to do

One System, Many Alerts

We’ve recently started working with Cistera to offer their instant communication system, and we feel acquiring this system, or one like it, should be carefully considered by your organization. Cistera already works with organizations around the globe to help keep customers, employees and students safe. Their supply call recording and emergency alert software provides a number of distinct options and benefits for many different kinds of organizations.

For schools, Cistera is particularly advantageous. Their AlertIT bell schedule, notification broadcast and emergency alert software is an integrated application that lets school administrators provide alerts such as emergency closure or other automated announcements to teachers, parents and students. These alerts can be sent via a customized, set schedule or manually, as needed, in seconds. Alerts can also go out to first responders, such as by making automated 911 calls and communicating with campus security and public safety departments during a crisis to unify action plans.

The Cistera AlertIT system lets you:

  • Lock down your school from a mobile or desk phone
  • Connect with security and first responders in an emergency
  • Deliver on-campus and parent announcements and alerts

We’re your partner in safety

A comprehensive eBook published by nonprofit research organization RAND Corporation titled The Role of Technology in Improving K-12 School Safety lists a number of best practices including the importance of ensuring existing systems work with new technologies, creating a comprehensive hazard plan, and examining possible threats. We can help. At Single Path, we work with school systems, organizations and businesses of all kinds to ensure top safety solutions are in place. Whether we’re helping determine the best options to solve a problem, training staff, enhancing an existing system or starting a new one from scratch, our Security Solutions can help any organization stay safe.

Ask us how to get started!

 

 

 

 

Let’s Get Smart: Resources and Information About Illinois Senate Bill 1

As you probably know, the passing of Illinois SB 1 creates what many feel is a school funding formula that is equitable and includes a roadmap to adequacy. At the very least, that gust of wind you’re hearing is a collective exhaling from educators along with a great sense of relief for a landmark bill that many view as a major victory for public education in Illinois.

As reported by the Illinois State Board of Education, in a letter from ISBE Chief Financial Officer Robert Wolfe, this “measure incorporates General State Aid and other line items into a new evidence-based funding (EBF) formula.” The bill releases money to districts, provides funds to the neediest districts first, and also assures no districts lose money.

Another heralded aspect of SB 1 is how it deals with CPS’s pension issues. With this bill, CPS’s normal cost of pensions moves out of the school funding formula and into the Pension Code. This means more money to CPS, and protected pension payments for teachers. Other provisions link tax credits to school performance with greater clarity, makes provisions for property tax relief, and provides guidelines for student scholarship eligibility.

Your SB 1 Information Headquarters

Below are links that shed more details on this historic agreement.

  • You’ll find the Full Text of the Bill here.
  • Download a concise and informative Fact Sheet here.
  • Full details on preliminary Base Funding by District can be found by downloading this document here.
  • A series of videos detailing the Evidence Based Funding Model can be found here or view the individual videos:

Four Major Components Overview

Adequacy Target

Base Funding Minimum

Local Capacity Target

Tier Distribution

Let Single Path Create Your Own Formula For Success

Although state-financed funding finally provides more clarity and a modicum of certainty, at least for now, that doesn’t replace the daily fiscal responsibilities schools have to use that money intelligently, and in a way that improves learning and student achievement. As highlighted in a past blog post, “EdTech: How to Invest Wisely,” smart tech investments need to take into account a lot more than the bottom line when making technology choices—such as setting goals and defining ways to measure success.

A partner like Single Path can help you reach those goals through consulting, procurement and other solutions. We work with school districts to help them set the bar higher, find those resources that will allow them to clear that bar, and do it within budget—faster, easier, and more seamless than they might imagine.

Whether we’re helping craft a sustainable technology integration plan, incorporating virtual reality devices for the classroom, or improving teacher-to-parent or teacher-to-student communications, among countless other technology challenges and solutions, Single Path can guide your district down a smart and financially sound path

Ask us how to get started!

12 Potentially Dangerous Apps for Kids

dangerous apps for kidsThe average teen spends more than 9 hours a day in front of a screen (kids ages 8-12 spend six hours in front of a screen every day). It’s no wonder 54% of teens think they spend too much time on their cellphones, since they don’t have to worry even if the cellphones break, since services as Finet Wireless offer equipment repairs for everyone. And what are they doing? Using their apps. Mobile apps account for nearly 90% of mobile use! The average smartphone user has between 60-90 apps on their phone, and while many are helpful, some can pose danger, especially to teens and kids. But which of these apps should keep parents awake at night? We think these 12 dangerous apps for kids are worth noting. We’ve chosen them due to their popularity and risk.

1. HIP

HIP is short for Hide it Pro. This app looks like a music manager, but its actual purpose is to store secret photos, videos and text messages. Kids use it to hide inappropriate material from their parents along with …

2. Calculator+

Another “hiding” app, this time using a simple calculator icon. By entering your own code, you can access hidden photos, contacts, browser history and passwords, all kept safely from a parent’s prying eyes.

3. Snapchat

If you have a teen or tween in your house, you probably have at least heard of Snapchat, which has more than 180 million users. Snapchat allows its users to send a photo or video from their phone, which then disappears after a few views. This “disappearing” feature, however, encourages the sharing of inappropriate photos. Unfortunately, it is fairly easy for the recipient to take a screen shot, keeping the image or text forever. For more information, we recommend connectsafely.org’s “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat.”

4. Tinder

This popular app has more than 4 million users. On Tinder, you can post a selfie and people can “like” you. If you like him or her back, you can connect—the app even includes GPS tracking to help you find one another. Tinder describes itself as “the fun way to connect with new and interesting people around you,” but it’s mostly used as a dating tool or for one-night stands, even between teens and tweens. You only need to be 13-years old to use it, although there is no way to verify someone’s age. It attracts online predators which is why one blogger calls it: “The Worst App Ever for Teens and Tweens.”

5. Whisper

Whisper lets users, including kids, anonymously share whatever they’re really thinking. Does that sound good to you? It even includes a “nearby” section where you can see posts from people who live near you. Lots of trolls post racist, sexual, or abusive content, with plenty of guys asking teens for pictures of themselves. A 12-year-old girl in Washington was reportedly raped by a 21-year-old man who met her on Whisper, making this questionably-appropriate app one of the most dangerous apps for kids.

6. Kik

Kik lets users exchange videos, photos, sketches and gifs to anyone, even to people they are not friends with. There are no parental controls and kids can password protect their information so parents can’t see it. Since it lacks age authentication, predators can easily interact with kids. The app has also been connected with cyberbullying; Rebecca Sedwick, a 12-year old from Florida, committed suicide after receiving messages like “Go kill yourself.” As of 2016, Kik was reportedly used by approximately 40% of all teenagers in the United States.

7. Ask.fm

Ask.fm is a Q&A site where users can ask other users questions anonymously, which makes publishing suggestive or insulting questions pretty easy, and routine. A number of child suicides have been linked to cyberbullying from this app, making it another one of the most dangerous apps for kids.

8. TikTok

TikTok is an incredibly popular app for creating and sharing short videos, with more than 100 million users, many of them children as young as 10 or 11. Special effects can be added, and kids are encouraged to show their creativity. But there is also a lot of inappropriate language in the videos, and by default all accounts are set to public, letting strangers contact children easily.

9. YouTube

The video giant YouTube is one of the Internet’s most popular sites, with more than a billion users. It’s a great resource for educational videos and has robust privacy settings. Unfortunately, it’s also a great resource for inappropriate content, some of which is spliced into cartoons and other videos aimed at children. The most widespread problem, however, may be from user comments, which can be hurtful and bullying.

YouTube also attracts pedophiles. As Wired Magazine reports, “Videos of children showing their exposed buttocks, underwear and genitals are racking up millions of views on YouTube—with the site displaying advertising from major cosmetics and car brands alongside the content. Comments beneath scores of videos appear to show pedophiles sharing timestamps for parts of the videos where exposed genitals can be seen, or when a child does the splits or lifts up their top to show their nipples.”

10. Tellonym

Tellonym is an anonymous messenger app that calls itself “the most honest place on the internet.” It’s one of the most dangerous apps for kids because the app allows kids to ask and answer questions anonymously. So, as you might expect, cyberbullying, violent threats, and sexual content are prevalent. Messages can connect to social media accounts, so if a user writes something terrible about a classmate, it can be shared loudly with the rest of the world. Tellonym is particularly popular in middle schools and high schools.

11. Tumblr

On Tumblr, users can keep a diary, share photos and videos, and chat. This is another very popular website and app, with more than 450 million active blogs. But, like many sites that have no or uneven policing, users can post pornographic, violent and other inappropriate content. Common Sense Media says Tumblr is “too raunchy for tykes” and also notes that privacy settings aren’t easily set up. Plus, anyone can search for terms such as “suicide” and see hundreds of graphic images and blog articles, some of which glorify dangerous behavior. Tumblr has officially banned all “adult” content, but their efforts are not foolproof.

12. Instagram

With more than one billion users (and owned by Facebook) this photo-sharing site is incredibly popular. Users can add filters or create collages to share on social media platforms. While this site does not have as much inappropriate content as Tumblr, users can still find mature or inappropriate content and comments. People leaving mean-spirited and anonymous comments are common.

Be Smart about These Potentially Dangerous Apps for Kids.

In fairness to all of the apps in this list, or at least most of them, when used safely they can be fun, and help children connect with each other. But when in the wrong hands, or accessed by mean-spirited or an unintended audience, they verge from fun to potentially dangerous apps for kids.

Parents should be aware of the apps their children use, how they are being used, and educate their kids on their dangers. Knowing the best apps to use, along with the best Internet safety tips for kids can be incredibly important. At Single Path, we work with educators and businesses on cyber safety, security and education every day. If you have any questions about any of these potentially dangerous apps for kids, we invite you to reach out to us. We are always happy to answer your questions and help the wonderful world of the Internet be safer for everyone.

Contact us for questions, or to get started protecting your organization.