Ways to handle virtualization security risks

By EDITOR 

Online blogs and forums mostly cover networks and the cloud when it comes to cybersecurity, leaving other types of technology — particularly virtualization — overlooked and unsecured. If you don’t have the right defense plans in place, your business will be vulnerable to all types of cyberthreats. Here are some of the major risks of insufficient virtualization security and some methods to prevent them.

Security risks of virtualization

Complex infrastructure – Much like virtualization itself, the infrastructure of a virtualization solution can oftentimes be confusing to small businesses. In fact, the complex configuration alone can be a big headache for it’s more difficult to spot anomalies and unusual events happening in your virtual machines and network.
Dynamic design – Virtualized environments are dynamic by nature and constantly changing. Unlike adding physical equipment, the addition of virtual machines can go almost completely unnoticed as they’re created in a matter of minutes and aren’t visible in your workspace. The danger here is the age old adage, “out of sight out of mind.” And if you add too many, they can easily become difficult to manage and protect, creating security holes in the process.
Quick moving workloads – As your virtualized infrastructure grows, there will come a time when you need to move data from one machine to another. While this may sound harmless, the real issue is that your virtual machines will likely require different levels of security. And when you’re juggling multiple workloads over multiple virtual machines, you may accidentally move mission critical data to a machine that has minimal protection.

How to mitigate risks

While these three risks may sound alarming, they can all be mitigated. The key behind effectively securing your virtual machines all comes down to process. Put some thought into your security processes and then implement them. Here are a few areas to cover:

  • Organization – Decide how and where to separate your test, development, and production virtual machines.
  • Audit – Develop a system to regularly audit your virtual machine security. Whenever possible, use tools to automate your security checks, balances, and processes.
  • Patches – Perform regular security maintenance to ensure the patches are up-to-date for all virtual machines.
  • Overflow management – Create a system to monitor all your virtual machines, identify what each of them is used for, and manage them accordingly.
  • Responsibility – Designate an IT technician to watch over your virtual machines to ensure zero security gaps.If you prioritize proper management of your virtual machines, security doesn’t have to be an issue. Get in touch with Lanlogic if you’re interested in getting additional assistance for your virtualized infrastructure or if you’re planning to implement a new virtualization solution. Call Lanlogic today! (925) 273-2333.

 

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Is your continuity plan doomed to fail?

By EDITOR 

Like all things, business continuity plans are not perfect. They have pitfalls that can result in your business’s failure if not taken into account immediately. Don’t blame it all on the IT guy; often, the way a system is designed can also have loopholes. Here are a few of the reasons why business continuity plans fail.

Over-optimistic testing

The initial testing attempt is usually the most important. It’s when IT service providers can pinpoint possible weak points in the recovery plan. However, what usually happens is that they test the system in full, instead of via a step-by-step process. This results in them missing out specific points, with too many factors overwhelming them all at the same time.

Insufficient remote user licenses

A remote user license is given by service providers to businesses so that when a disaster strikes, employees can log in to a remote desktop software. However, a provider may only have a limited number of licenses. In some cases, more employees will need to have access to the remote desktop software than a provider’s license can allow.

Lost digital IDs

When a disaster strikes, employees will usually need their digital IDs so they can log in to the provider’s remote system while their own system at the office is being restored. However, digital IDs are tied to an employee’s desktop, and when a desktop is being backed up, they are not automatically saved. So when an employee goes back to using their ‘ready and restored’ desktop, they are unable to access the system with their previous digital ID.

Absence of a communications strategy

IT service providers will use email to notify and communicate with business owners and their employees when a disaster happens. However, this form of communication may not always be reliable in certain cases, such as when the Internet is cut off, or there are spam intrusions. Third-party notification systems are available, but they are quite expensive, and some providers sell them as a pricey add-on service.

Backups that require labored validation

After a system has been restored, IT technicians and business owners need to check whether the restoration is thorough and complete. This validation becomes a waste of time and effort when the log reports are not easy to compare. This usually happens when IT service providers utilize backup applications that do not come with their own log modules, and have to be acquired separately.

These are just some reasons why business continuity plans fail. It is important for business owners to be involved with any process that pertains to their IT infrastructure. Just because you believe something works doesn’t necessarily mean that it works correctly or effectively. If you have questions regarding your business continuity plan, get in touch with our Lanlogic experts today, (925) 273-2333.

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Getting ready to switch to VoIP phones

By EDITOR 

Voice over Internet Protocol, commonly known as VoIP, allows you and your employees to make and take phone calls over the Internet using your existing broadband connection. It saves you loads of money and increases team efficiency. If you’re considering moving to a VoIP solution, here are some of the most important aspects to address before the switch.

Network stability

Implementing a VoIP phone system presents unique challenges, such as maintaining a consistent internet connection. Backup internet connections and uninterrupted power supplies are just some of the hardware you should have to ensure reliable VoIP calls. If your internet goes down or the power is knocked out, business goes on as usual.

Bandwidth

Beyond a stable connection, VoIP calls also need minimum network speeds to function. Estimating your current bandwidth and VoIP’s needs is crucial to ensuring your calls are clear and free of drop outs. Before benchmarking your internet speed, decide on how many users, handsets, and calls per day your new VoIP solution will need to handle.

Security

As with anything connected to the internet, VoIP is susceptible to cybersecurity threats and breaches. You could fall victim to information theft and malicious attacks if you don’t have robust and preventive security measures in place. Your best bet is to deploy a firewall to monitor the flow of traffic and protect your systems from security threats.

Budget

VoIP is a long-term money saver for small businesses, but there are relatively small upfront costs when upgrading from a traditional phone system or another subpar VoIP solution. You need to take into account things like whether you’ll purchase deskphones, potential cabling challenges, and installation costs for VoIP-specific routers.

Staff

Employee training is key to a successful VoIP integration. You help these efforts by asking one, or several, of your staff to work with the vendor or IT provider to learn the new system and become in-office resources. While most people are already familiar with video conferencing software such as Skype, it helps to create user guides and manuals to educate those that aren’t as tech-savvy.

VoIP systems create countless cost-saving and business-enhancing benefits, but they should not be installed without certified help. Our dedicated professionals streamline the whole process so your solution is configured and optimized as quickly as possible. Get in touch with Lanlogic today at (925) 273-2333 for information on how to embrace this groundbreaking technology.

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What to do when tech doesn’t work

By EDITOR 

Almost every employee in every role relies on technology in order to do their job. When technology is working, everything hums along and productivity is solid. The second our technology stops working however, we can find ourselves struggling to even complete the most basic of tasks. The result can be a dramatic drop in overall productivity. The thing is, we know our systems will eventually breakdown. But, do you know what to do when this actually happens?

What to do when your systems stop working

Often, our first reaction when our technology or systems stop working is to either panic, or get angry. Once we are over this, we often feel desperate to get the problem fixed but may be at a loss as to what to do.

When technology does breakdown, here are some recommended steps you should take:

  • In the words of Douglas Adams, “Don’t Panic!” – One of the more popular quotes from the immensely successful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is “don’t panic”. This rings true for the vast majority of tech problems. While you may feel like you are facing a big issue at the time, most systems can be fully recovered. This is especially true if you have backup solutions in place.
  • Note what you were doing before the problem occurred – This is an important step, as when something does go wrong, one of the first things tech support will ask you is what you were doing before the problem occurred. The more information that you can give them, the more likely they will be able to solve the problem faster.
  • Ask your colleagues if they are having the same problems –Because so many business systems are networked together, many techs will want to see if problems are localized to your computer or are network wide. Armed with this information, it is far easier to work out the most effective solution.
  • Try turning it off and on again – When faced with many tech problems, you will be asked to turn the system – be it your computer, an app, server, etc. – off and on again. Sometimes the fault lies in the software or short-term memory (RAM) of systems, and turning the system off and on again is enough to fix this.
  • Google it – If an issue persists and it is related to the software on your computer, or a website, try searching the Internet for an answer. If the page doesn’t load, you then know the problem is related to the Internet connection. Should the problem be with a cloud service, checking the provider’s website or social media feeds is useful to check for post status updates of their systems.
  • Don’t rush into a supposed fix – It can be tempting to try out the first supposed fix you come across or someone suggests. The problem is, some ‘fixes’ can actually end up harming a system even more. For example, you may find suggested fix for a phone that has been dropped into water that says to take the device apart and dry it with a blow dryer. This will damage components, and also void your warranty, which could make the issue even more expensive to deal with. Instead, you should seek the advice of an expert like us.
  • Don’t overreact – Have you ever felt so frustrated you have wanted to reach out and smack your computer? While this may make you feel better on one level the reality is that you could make a bad situation worse. When faced with any tech troubles it is best to walk away for a short time so that you can deal with the situation in a calm and collected way.
  • Call your IT partner or IT helpdesk – If the system doesn’t work after restarting we strongly recommend stopping there and reaching out to your IT helpdesk or an IT partner like Lanlogic. We have the experience to investigate the problem, and we can usually come up with an answer and hopefully a fix in a short amount of time.

Preventative steps you should take

While it is inevitable that systems will eventually breakdown, it doesn’t mean we are powerless to prevent this from happening, or at least minimizing the potential fallout. One of the easiest preventative measures you can take is to try and take care of your devices and systems. This includes being careful to not physically damage them, while also being sure to watch what you install on your systems, and implementing security standards.

We also strongly recommend working with an IT partner like us. We can help manage your systems and implement measures to keep them working long into the future. Beyond that, we can help monitor systems so that should something start to go wrong, we can begin to implement a fix even before you notice it. And, if something should break down, we can either fix it ourselves or recommend an expert who will be able to help.

Looking for help keeping your systems running and employees productive? Contact Lanlogic today at (925) 273-2333 to learn more about our services and how they are designed to help.

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PhishPoint attack looks like SharePoint

By EDITOR 

Have you ever received an email that claimed to come from a bank or government office when it obviously didn’t? It was probably a phishing scam trying to trick you into downloading malware. The most recent campaign duplicates a trustworthy Office 365 email and can fool even the most skeptical users. Here’s how to stay safe.

Step 1 – Invitation to collaborate email

The first thing victims receive from hackers is a message that looks identical to an email from Microsoft’s file sharing platform SharePoint. It says, “John Doe has sent you a file, to view it click the link below…”

In most cases, the sender will be an unfamiliar name. However, some hackers research your organization to make the email more convincing.

Step 2 – Fake file sharing portal

Clicking the link opens a SharePoint file that looks like another trusted invitation from a Microsoft app, usually OneDrive. This is a big red flag since there’s no reason to send an email containing a link to a page with nothing but another link.

Step 2 allows hackers to evade Outlook’s security scans, which monitor links inside emails for possible phishing scams. But Outlook’s current features cannot scan the text within a file linked in the email. Once you’ve opened the file, SharePoint has almost no way to flag suspicious links.

Step 3 – Fake Office 365 login page

The malicious link in Step 2 leads to an almost perfect replica of an Office 365 login page, managed by whoever sent the email in Step 1. If you enter your username and password on this page, all your Office 365 documents will be compromised.

Microsoft has designed hundreds of cybersecurity features to prevent phishing scams and a solution to this problem is likely on the way. Until then, you can stay safe with these simple rules:

  • Check the sender’s address every time you receive an email. You might not notice the number one in this email at first glance: johndoe@gma1l.com.
  • Confirm with the sender that the links inside the shared document are safe.
  • Open cloud files by typing in the correct address and checking your sharing notifications to avoid fake collaboration invitations.
  • Double check a site’s URL before entering your password. A zero can look very similar to the letter ‘o’ (e.g. 0ffice.com/signin).

Third-party IT solutions exist to prevent these types of scams, but setting them up and keeping them running requires a lot of time and attention. Give Lanlogic a call today at (925) 273-2333 for information about our unlimited support plans for Microsoft products.

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Boost productivity with valuable Word tricks

By EDITOR 

Microsoft Word is the top choice for businesses when it comes to word processing. You can create professional documents and even incorporate tables and graphs when you’ve got lots of data. But there are a number of hidden features that, when utilized properly, could greatly enhance your Microsoft Word experience. And since Word is updated constantly, let’s take a look at a few tricks that will help you get things done faster.

Edit simultaneously
You and your colleagues can now edit the same Word document at the same time. Just save yours in the cloud on OneDrive, click Share, then send the link to your colleagues. You’ll even be able to see them editing in real time.

Continue your work with Word Online
Don’t have the Word app on your computer, tablet, or smartphone? Go to word.office.com, sign in with your Microsoft account, and open Word Online, the browser version of Word. By clicking the blue Share button, your colleagues can access your document using Word Online or the Word app, which means anyone with the link and an internet connection can jump right in

Keep editorial control
With the Track Changes function, Word monitors all the edits that everyone makes to your document so you can go through the changes and accept or reject them accordingly.

To turn on Track Changes, click on the Review tab then select Track Changes. When reviewing a colleague’s edits, you have control to click on Accept or Reject as you see fit.

Format the easy way: Write first, format later
The Style Gallery in Word makes it easy to format your document, despite the huge number of font types, sizes, colors, and effects to choose from. After finishing writing and editing your document, click the Home tab and you will see the Style Gallery prominently on top. Select the appropriate Headings in the font, size, and color that you like, and change any other text in any way you like — just make sure you don’t make any changes to the actual content that’s already been edited!

Insert photos faster, more conveniently
No need to open your browser to look for photos for your document. Just place the cursor on the area where you intend to insert the photo, click on the Inserttab, select Online pictures (type “clip art” on the search box if that’s what you need), select a photo, then click Insert.

Edit a PDF file
Click on the File menu, select Open, and choose Browse. Highlight the PDF you want to edit, then click Open. Word will convert files to the new format using text recognition, so double-check if the conversion is correct. Make the appropriate changes, then click File, then Save As, then Browse. A “Save as type:” dropdown menu will appear at which point you will choose “PDF” then click Save.

These tips may seem straightforward, but over time they can make a big difference in helping you work faster. Want to learn more about Microsoft products? Get in touch with our Lanlogic Microsoft experts today! Call us at (925) 273-2333.

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How to protect private info on Windows 10

By EDITOR 

It takes seconds to infiltrate and obtain private information. Although it’s unlikely that Microsoft will cause your business financial ruin with their data collection, the fact is that Windows 10 gathers a large amount of private information from users. So here are some tips that will enhance your privacy when using the operating system.

Slip off the grid

Thanks to location tracking, nearby restaurants and future weather predictions are at your fingertips. While some might not mind this feature, there are others who wish to enjoy some privacy from their smartphones every once in a while.

To turn it off, launch the Settings app, tap Privacy, and disable the Location tab. If you wish to share your location with certain apps, scroll down and activate the ‘Choose apps that can use your location’ tab and choose your desired apps.

Say goodbye to ad tracking

Every time you surf the net, you leave a trail of breadcrumbs that lead directly to your online profile. This problem is easily solved by deactivating ad tracking. Windows 10, however, goes a tad further by using an advertising ID, which gathers information based on web browsing usage and whenever you use Windows 10 apps.

To take care of that, launch the Settings app, go to General, look for “Change privacy options,” then move the slider from on to off. If you want to make sure you have no virtual stalkers, head to choice.microsoft.com/en-us/opt-out and disable the “Personalized ads whenever I use my Microsoft account” tab.

Disable Wi-Fi Sense

This feature is designed to let you easily share Wi-Fi connections with specific users, but hackers can misuse it to log on to your network without your permission. To disable it, launch the Setting app, go to Network & Internet > Wi-Fi > and click on Wi-Fi Sense. From there, deactivate two bars: “Connect to suggested open hotspots” and “Connect to networks shared my contacts”.

Cortana, why so clingy?

Albeit helpful, the digital assistant Cortana requires access to your personal information. But you can stop her from collecting data by logging in to your Microsoft account and clearing all the information Cortana and other Microsoft services (ex. Bing maps) have gathered.

You can also clear the information in your interests section or head over to the “interest manager” tab to edit the interests you want Cortana to track.

More privacy options

All of these tips are easy to follow and will take only five to ten minutes to implement, but if you like to make very detailed adjustments to your system’s privacy setup, launch the Settings app and go to Privacy.

We hope you find these five privacy protection tips helpful. If you need more help protecting your information or securing your network, give Lanlogic a call.

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How does virtualization improve business?

By EDITOR 

Truly understanding the ins and outs of virtualization is not for the faint hearted. It’s a complicated field that is constantly evolving, but one thing mostly remains the same: its benefits. Read on for a simple recap of just a few of virtualization’s greatest advantages.

More technology uptime
Virtualization vendors use fancy names for the features of their technology, but behind all the technobabble are some revolutionary concepts. Take “fault tolerance” for example. When you use virtualization to pool multiple servers in a way that they can be used as a single supercomputer, you can drastically increase uptime. If one of those servers goes down, the others continue working uninterrupted.

Another example of this is “live migrations,” which is just a fancy way of saying that employee computers can be worked on by technicians while users are still using them. Let’s say you’ve built a bare-bones workstation (as a virtual machine on the server), but you need to upgrade its storage capacity. Virtualization solutions of today can do that without disconnecting the user and restarting their computer.

Better disaster recovery
Data backups are much simpler in a virtualized environment. In a traditional system, you could create an “image” backup of your server — complete with operating system, applications and system settings. But it could be restored to a computer only with the exact same hardware specifications.

With virtualization, images of your servers and workstations are much more uniform and can be restored to a wider array of computer hardware setups. This is far more convenient and much faster to restore compared to more traditional backups.

More secure applications
In an effort to increase security, IT technicians usually advocate isolating software and applications from each other. If malware is able to find a way into your system through a software security gap, you want to do everything in your power to keep it from spreading.

Virtualization can put your applications into quarantined spaces that are allowed to use only minimum system resources and storage, reducing the opportunities they have to wreak havoc on other components of the system.

Longer technology lifespans
The same features that quarantine applications can also create customized virtual spaces for old software. If your business needs a piece of software that won’t work on modern operating systems, virtualization allows you to build a small-scale machine with everything the program needs to run. In that virtual space, the application will be more secure, use fewer resources, and remain quarantined from new programs.

In addition to software, virtualization also encourages longer life spans of old hardware components. With virtualization, the hardware an employee uses is little more than a window to the powerful virtual machine on the server. Employee computers need only the hardware required to run the virtualization window, and the majority of the processing takes place on the server. Hardware requirements are much lower for employees and equipment can be used for several years.

Easier cloud migrations
There are several ways virtualization and cloud technology overlap. Both help users separate processing power from local hardware and software, delivering computing power over a local network or the internet. Because of these similarities, migrating to the cloud from a virtualized environment is a much simpler task.

There is no debate about the benefits of this technology. The only thing standing between your business and more affordable, efficient computing is an IT provider that can manage it for you. For unlimited technology support, virtualization or otherwise, on a flat monthly fee — get in touch with Lanlogic today!

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Get more done on Google Drive with these tips

By EDITOR 

Google Drive provides flexibility and accessibility for organizations across the country. But whether you’re new to the platform or a long-time user, you may not be using the service to its maximum abilities. If you’re unsure whether or not this applies to you, read on to discover some Google Drive tips you may not be aware of.

Use keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are all the rage these days, and Google Drive is not immune to this phenomenon. Here are a few that are quite helpful:

  • n: rename a selected item
  • d: show or hide the details pane
  • /: search Drive
  • z: move selected item to a folder
  • Shift + s: add a new spreadsheet
  • Shift + p: add a new presentation
  • Shift + t: add a new document

For a complete list of all Google Drive shortcuts, check out the official Google page.

Utilize revisions

Perhaps you want to see the revisions a coworker made to one of your documents. Or perhaps you hate your latest draft and want to recover an older version of it. With Google Drive, it’s all possible. Simply open the desired document, click File>See revision history, and all your revisions will appear in a sidebar to the right of the document. Then click on the revision you wish to see. If you’d like to revert to an older version, instead of your current draft, click on Restore this revision in the right sidebar.

Benefit from Suggesting mode

If you’re collaborating with another person on a document, Suggesting mode allows you to make suggestions to it without actually changing the text. Your suggestions will be seen by the initial writer, and he or she can then either approve or disapprove of them. To switch to Suggesting mode, click on the pencil shaped icon in the upper right corner of a document. When the drop down menu appears, click on Suggesting (Edits become suggestions).

Share large files

There has likely been an occasion where you wanted to send a very large file to another colleague, friend or family member, and were unable to do so through a free service. Google Drive offers a workaround for this dilemma. To take advantage of it, create a shared folder and upload your file to that folder. Once complete, you can share the file with whomever you wish by right-clicking on it, selecting Share, and then entering the person’s email address of who you wish to share it with. They’ll receive an email with the link to the file, and can access it from there.

Try Google Drive add-ons

Add-ons have become quite popular with Google Drive. To discover the wonderful world of Google Drive add-ons for yourself, click Add-ons in between Table and Help in the upper menu (above the toolbar). There are plenty of helpful add-ons to choose from, including tools such as writing aids, mind mapping, charts, music notation and more. Once you install an add-on, it will appear in your Add-ons drop down menu.

If you follow these five Google Drive tips, you are one step closer to getting the most out the service. If you’d like to learn how else you can leverage Google’s products to better your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Lanlogic experts.

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Cloud: 4 common myths debunked

By EDITOR 

Overhyped reports of cloud hacks and server failures can lead some small business owners to be wary of a service that has so much to offer. So what are these common misconceptions about cloud computing? Here are a few myths people believe about the cloud.

#1. Cloud infrastructures are unsecure

Information security is a necessity for every business. And the most prevalent misconception about the cloud is the idea that cloud services lack appropriate security measures to keep data safe from intruders. Most users also think that the data stored in the cloud can be easily accessed by anyone, from anywhere, and at any time.

But the truth is it’s actually more secure for small businesses to use cloud services. Small companies usually can’t afford to hire an IT department let alone train them to deal with online security threats. Cloud providers, on the other hand, offer services such as multi-layered security systems and antivirus protection that not only specialize in keeping infrastructures safe from hackers but are available at a price that is much lower than you would pay for in-house IT staff.

Additionally, large cloud-based services such as G Suite and Office 365 are supported by an infrastructure that constantly installs updates and patches, which helps manage security breaches. This frees you from the burden of installing the updates yourself and managing the overall security of your system.

Users should understand that no company is completely safe from security threats regardless of their IT infrastructure. But data is likely to be more secure in the hands of cloud providers as they are the most prepared and qualified to protect your digital property.

#2. The cloud lacks proper encryption

Most people misunderstand how encryption is implemented to keep your data safe. For example, encryption is generally used for data in transition, where data is protected from anyone seeing it as it travels from one internet address to another. But encryption can also be applied to data at rest, where data is encrypted on a storage drive.

With this in mind, you should understand what types of encryption your business and its data require. When it comes to choosing the right cloud service, it is best to inform yourself about the security measures that a cloud infrastructure implements and look at how it can protect your company’s digital property.

#3. With the cloud you are no longer responsible for data security

While cloud security is important, protecting data ultimately rests on the users who have access to it. Misplacing unlocked mobile devices can leave your data vulnerable and compromise your entire cloud infrastructure. This is why we recommend strong verification mechanisms in place for devices that are used to access the cloud.

#4. The cloud is never faulty

Like many IT services, cloud-based services are not immune to technical difficulties. For example, some cloud businesses have suffered outages and server failures which corrupted files and may have lost data in the process.

Hacking is another reason why some cloud services fail. Using a less than optimal cloud service that is vulnerable to attacks can lead to stolen or deleted data, which would be near impossible to recover if you did not have any offline backups.

Before signing up for any type of cloud service, clarify with its provider what is guaranteed. Most cloud providers make promises about a service’s uptime or its safety from provider-related breaches.

Security is truly one of the biggest barriers to the adoption of cloud computing in a small business. But as cloud services expand and encryption technologies advance, cloud adoption is increasingly becoming the most cost-effective solution to meet the small business owner’s IT demands. Contact Lanlogic today to learn how your business can take advantage of all the cloud has to offer.

 

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