Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Battery Woes for Mobile Devices

In the “old days”, you could get away for the weekend without the need to take your cell phone charger, much less have to recharge your battery.  But with the growing technology being built into smartphones and tablets today, powering these devices is draining batteries quickly.  Thereby, requiring you to be tethered to your charger and re-charging your battery during the day. 

Most smartphones today use Lithium ion batteries.  These batteries are approaching their power capacities, especially when you take into consideration that power requirements for all mobile devices are increasing at a rapid rate.  Smartphones and tablets crave battery power and battery technology is not keeping up the pace.

One problem with battery capacity involves the chemical nature of the battery itself.  Lithium ion battery technology hasn’t changed much in the last 15 years.  However, smartphone and tablet technology is changing very quickly.  These devices get faster processors, higher-resolution displays, and powerful new software updates every few months.  It’s been said that these handheld computers are more powerful than the hardware NASA used to send a man to the moon.  And with the varying high demands people are placing on their smartphones and tablets today, the battery is definitely the bottleneck.

Not only is the chemical and physical limits of batteries a problem, apps are also battery killers.  Free apps are among the worst offenders of inefficient power consumption.  Many of these apps use GPS technology to record your geographical location, download ads that are displayed within the apps, use the smartphone camera and compass tools, and even send information about you to advertisers over the Internet. 

Apple takes steps to examine an app’s power usage when deciding to approve it for sale in the App Store and will reject an app if they think it may intentionally ruin battery life.  Most seasoned app developers try not to use more battery life than they need to run their app.  Perhaps because users may delete their app or give it a low rating if they notice the drain on their battery.

Research has shown that advertising-related tasks typically take up 65% to 75% of the energy used to run a free app.  As with the popular game Angry Birds, only 25% of the energy used is actually used for playing the game – the advertising function uses 75%.  Games are not the only power hogs – applications can also utilize these methods of draining battery capacity. 

Many free apps today use embedded advertising software to send information to the Internet - such as updating user information, downloading ads, and for tracking users.  This software fails to close its connection to the Internet once these tasks take place therefore forcing another program to do the clean up and thereby wasting energy in the process.  Typically, this connection to the Internet should be complete within a fraction of a second.  However, research has found that  seven seconds per interaction can be wasted this way.  The thought is that software developers should modify apps to circumvent this problem. 

So, are free apps really “free”?  Not when you consider the costs of reduced battery life.  Batteries in mobile devices are very efficient compared to batteries used a decade ago – but they are reaching their capacity.  The use of smartphones and the app market will no doubt continue to increase in popularity.  But it is also likely that battery life and power consumption will remain a big factor in their usefulness.  Until battery technology picks up the pace with improvements in efficiency and software developers design apps for more efficient use of battery power, expect your smartphone or tablet battery to use more energy than really necessary. 

What can you do?  To further help you with your smartphone and tablet concerns, can give Kardon Tech a call.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cloud Backup HIPAA Style

With the advent of cloud computing, there has been an explosion of internet-based software and software solutions. One of the specific areas of development is cloud-based storage. The importance of data backup has always been at the forefront of any smart company’s technology needs. That need has moved from tape drives to external drives to DVDs and, now, online solutions.

It is imperative that companies look to offsite backup for their data. The protection it provides is second-to-none when considering the impact a loss of data can have on your company. This need has been capitalized on by dozens of competitors. There are big business and personal solutions, regular constant backup and weekly backups, small file storage and complete drive backup.

While all of these different solutions can be overwhelming, it is important to first focus on security. This is your company data and there needs to be proper protection in place. Now this blog may get a bit technical. A great read if you are setting up your solutions. But if time is a concern, Kardon Technology can offer relief.

Recent changes in health care legislation have put in place several compliance issues that are required for the storage and protection of electronic patient health information. If your company deals with private patient data, then your backup must be HIPAA compliant. That is a tall task for some backup solutions and is something businesses need to be aware of when they back up their computers.

Covered entities are required to follow HIPAA standards and, in regards to data and data security, the Security rule standards used to protect an individual’s electronic personal health information. The security rule can be found here. It is a pretty dry read. And, to be honest, the plot drags along and the character development is awful. For a quick summary that provides a good bulleted set of information, check here. Or better yet, contact Kardon Technology. We have already done the research and offer a variety of back-up solutions. But...

According to the Security Rule (45 C.F.R. §164.306), covered entities that maintain or transmit protected health information are required to do the following:
  • Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all ePHI they create, receive, maintain or transmit;
  • Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information;
  • Protect against reasonably anticipated threats to the security or integrity of the information;
  • Ensure compliance by their workforce.

When deciding on a solution, covered entities are allowed to consider (a) its size, complexity, and capabilities, (b) its technical, hardware, and software infrastructure, (c) the costs of security measures and, (d) the likelihood and possible impact of potential risks to ePHI.

Now, that is a lot of information. It can also be tough to get a handle on just what you need to expect from a solution. Again, at Kardon Technology, we've done the research. It may be easier to just let us know what you need. However, there are a few checks to look for to know if your potential backup solution is HIPAA compliant.

Cloud backup solutions should do all of the following:
  • Allow personal creation of a private encryption key without transmitting it to storage servers
  • Encrypt secure data before data transmission
  • Transmit data in a secure and encrypted format
  • Store data in the encrypted format
  • Storage of data in redundant secure restricted access data centers
  • Archive data for failsafe recovery, data management, and audit issues

Many backup companies can provide extensive security whitepapers and information that will allow you to research and choose the solution that is right for you.

Carbonite is an industry leader in online backup. The software is easy to install and setup and they have a consistent track record of competitive pricing and top-notch security. Considering HIPAA compliance, they use respected Blowfish encryption and fulfill the ideas of encrypted data in-transit and at-rest. Their data centers are guarded with restricted access while providing redundant data storage.  However, and most importantly, they do not currently fulfill all compliance issues in their business solution. Carbonite does not support private encryption key management with their Carbonite Business product.

SOS Online Backup and Intronis both provide backup designed to be HIPAA compliant from the outset. Information about their compliance can be found here for SOS Online Backup and here for Intronis. Now , these are not the only solutions out there, but it is important to remember the list of checks you need to look out for when deciding. Both of the above solutions provide information discussing their compliance with the above checks.

Additionally, remember that you are not in this process alone. Considering the client list of Kardon Technology and Kardon Group, HIPAA compliance is one of our major concerns, as well. With that in mind, we have spent time developing solutions that work for us and can work for you. Be sure to bring up your concerns and issues or check out our compliance services to help protect your company.