How IoT is Changing Manufacturing

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Well over half of all businesses have adopted IoT into the workplace in 2018, according to a study conducted by Gartner. That trend is only projected to increase moving forward. While many industries are just figuring out how to integrate the Internet of Things into their business operations, manufacturing has been a leader in IoT deployment.

Improved understanding of IoT

IoT grew as more leaders within the industry grasped both the understanding and potential of the devices. According to a study by MESA International IoT Manufacturing and LNS Research, for instance, in 2016, only 19% of company leaders admitted they didn’t understand IoT well enough to implement it in their factories, compared to 44% the year before.

Also, for the first time, more than 50% of manufacturers stated they planned to introduce different IoT technologies into their plants.

Areas where manufacturers have seen an increase of IoT use include:

  • Improved analytics functionality

  • Predictive modelling for the supply chain

  • Machine intelligence

Manufacturing operations management

IoT trends to expect in 2019

Manufacturers report having used IoT to help streamline business operations and improve efficiency. Connected sensors across the plant floor or across facilities have communicated concerns such as:

  • The environmental conditions within the building

  • The operational status of individual pieces of equipment

  • The output status of each leg of the manufacturing process

The ability of the connected sensors to share data in real time and to study stored data to create better, more efficient business models has been the selling point of IoT from the beginning.

There have been a few other trends and changes coming to the forefront that have proven to be invaluable to the modern manufacturing plant.

1. The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT): More manufacturing plants have adopted devices, because more machines are being designed specifically with IIoT operations in mind.

2. New partnerships developed: IIoT and IoT require communication networks that are reliable and easy to use. IT needs rival those in any other industry. Manufacturers are turning more to partnering with network providers, cloud services, and software companies to ensure that that the devices are able to avoid major disruptions and costly downtime.

3. New focus on cyber security: A connected facility is also a facility at risk of cyber-attacks. Especially worrisome is the lack of security that is built in to most IoT or IIoT devices, leaving them exposed to malware, denial of service attacks, and other threats. This has required manufacturers to take a closer look at their security systems.

Current Technologies has helped manufacturers in the Midwest with both physical and IT security. Our experienced team of professionals will create a custom plan to fit your needs and make sure that no matter where your business goes in 2019, the venture will be safe and profitable.

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Manage your endpoints from one screen

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A few IT managers see their servers and network as an Iron castle of order and stability surrounded by a horde of anarchic devices. Other IT professionals know that it's as important to manage the end-point devices as it is the central servers. Understanding a few crucial points can help you adopt the latter’s serene view of their world.

See endpoints as tribes

It can be useful to view each type of your organization's endpoints as a collection of tribes. Each tribe (device) serves its particular set of users in a particular way.

Laptops and tablets serve given groups in different ways. Field sales and human resources employees use laptops in different ways. This means that as an IT manager, you can not manage each tribe the same way. It is rare that a "one size fits all" approach will be the most successful approach, but that doesn't mean you can't use a single framework for managing all the tribes.

Points of convergence

A single framework can implement a lot of different tactics for a single strategy regarding your endpoints. The good news is that a single family of software can take care of that. One of the most significant issues to be managed is configuration: Are the workstations, whether desktop, laptop, or handheld, running the approved version of the operating system, applications, and security components? Proper patching and configuration is one of the central points at which all the tribes converge.

Using agents

Things get much more complicated when employees can (or must) bring their own devices of one type or another. It's one thing for an employee to spend their own money for a work-related tool. It's quite another to ask them to agree to load an intrusive agent on their personal system. Agent-less management systems are available to enterprises, or systems that rely on minimalist agents. How small an agent can manage all your tribes? It might be time to find out.

Choose where you can

Managing the endpoints can mean choosing as many of the endpoints as possible. While most management frameworks will give you control over legacy endpoints, there's no question that current-generation hardware takes manageability to a new level. If you want, or need, the highest degree of managed functionality in your fleet of tribes, you will want to make sure that as many members of the fleet as possible use the same CPU, same operating system, or same support chips. It's your choice—use it wisely.

Manage it all from one screen

New software makes endpoint management a problem of the past. Current Technologies and our partnership with Auvik remote monitoring and management software can make the one screen dream a reality. Auvik Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software allows you to do much more than simply watch your servers and endpoints. By utilizing RMM software from Auvik, it is easier than ever to keep an eye on everything from routers and switches to firewalls. Doing so cuts costs by avoiding outages, optimizing connections, saving time and controlling service level agreements (SLAs).

Auvik cloud based network management software has automated, networking best, practices built into every aspect from alerting thresholds to configuration analysis. Auvik RMM software features state of the art visual topology which gives your IT department the ability to view and monitor every device in your network, allowing them to do more in less time.

For more information on what Current Technologies and Auvik RMM software can do for you, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible

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What is the Internet of Things?

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The “Internet Of Things” is the existence of uniquely identifiable devices interconnected via the Internet. The interconnection of these devices is expected to introduce automation in nearly all fields from medicine to your own home.

There is a lot of hype about IoT, and we are at the point of wondering what it will mean for us as individuals, employees, and businesses.

The IoT will change our lives.

One example could be that your toothbrush might have a chip in it and via Bluetooth will communicate with your mobile device to tell you stuff like how long it has been since you started using it or in the case of the kids' tooth brushes, have they been used recently? Technological advances like these have people wondering, is that too invasive? We will be faced with all sorts of questions about what we do and don’t want connected to the internet.

Wearable technology is already beginning to monitor health vitals and offer connected watches that monitor or report on our movements or calories burnt. One day your refrigerator could know what is inside it and your trash can knows what you threw out. Those will work together so the shopping list on your connected fridge door can ask you to confirm the online order for replacing everything you have consumed this week for delivery tomorrow.

IoT will have very practical uses across our infrastructure as well. The ability to monitor how every piece of your internet technology is running and quickly addressing problems will be vital or businesses in the long run. The Internet of Things will also have a big impact on things like street lights and traffic lights. These will soon have sensors, so those in charge of maintenance know where to replace a burned-out bulb. Pipes will be able to detect where a leak is occurring so that water wastage is reduced (today 30% of our water supply is currently lost to leaks). The infrastructure cost savings by this sort of technology in smart-pipes will equate to billions of dollars and save many valleys from being flooded by new dams.

There are plenty more examples of this sort of sensor information making big differences in our personal lives, and when this is tied to big data and data analytics the world will change quickly and significantly. The impact the IoT will have on businesses will be huge.

IoT will affect your business, so be prepared.

Some of the technology is here today and much of it is in development now. Large companies have embarked on ambitious big data projects, and many small-medium organizations have started collecting what data they can. This is leading to a growing need for data storage systems and analytics tools today.

If your business is not paying attention to the current changes in IoT technology and looking at what it means to your industry, whether you are in education, manufacturing, healthcare or consulting services, there are changes coming to technology and the IoT that will change the way your industry thinks and works. The IoT will allow organizations to minimize waste and overall be more efficient.

We will post more updates on how IoT is affecting local businesses, but in the meantime stay alert, not alarmed, and proactively seek out how the IoT changes in your industry.

How can we make the IoT work for you?

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Keys to Mobile Security

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Business mobility is sitting high up the priority list for CIOs in 2019. New research shows 64 percent of enterprises rank improving mobility and mobile security as a top priority. They see mobile access as key to improving employee talent, internal communication, making decisions faster and cutting costs. Mobility, however, comes with challenges. Top of that list is security.

Worries include:

  • Data leak prevention

  • Intrusion detection and prevention

  • Managing access to data

  • Preventing data loss when devices are lost

The concerns of IT leaders are easily justified. 82% of those surveyed said mobile devices can access most of their corporate data. As more enterprises introduce bring-your-own-device policies, more data will be put at risk.

88% of Android devices are vulnerable

University of Cambridge computer scientists recently found that the infrequent release and user reluctance of security updates for Android devices has left 88 percent of them vulnerable to at least one of 11 critical security flaws.

Apple is not in the clear either. The nature of iOS makes it hard for the same analysis to be done on iPhones and iPads, but the researchers said they expected the same level of vulnerability in the Apple ecosystem.

The sources of the danger

An employee downloads something infected with malware or connects to an unsecured WiFi network. The routes to compromise are many and easy to conceive. Once the malware is installed, it begins hunting for or capturing corporate data using the device’s access.

The greatest concern in these scenarios is the general lack of visibility that IT administrators have into potential mobile security issues. Most malware cases go unnoticed until it is too late.

Mitigating risk

Given that the growth in mobile usage is unstoppable (desirable, in fact), mitigation of risk is the only remaining approach.

A separate network for BYOD devices gives you a checkpoint to make sure personal devices and mobile apps are validated. A master security policy can set out exactly what information mobile devices can access. Secure mobile access solutions with context-aware authentication, network access controls and a virtual private network help keep access to only authorized users and mobile apps located on validated devices.

Also:

  1. If you develop and deploy your own enterprise apps, put them through a security vetting process

  2. Treat mobiles like laptops permanently connected to a network outside your control

  3. Know what applications your staff use to access your data

  4. Where possible, encrypt data at both ends of the transaction

  5. Protect data first and the device second. (Your mobile data management system should allow you to wipe a device remotely. Losing data on a server is a far bigger headache — loss of business, furious customers, lawsuits…)

We are here for your security needs!

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IT System Management for Academics

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Universities and other learning institutes have developed many different strategies for how they provide computing and infrastructure services to their users. For some schools, a cloud model makes both technical and financial sense as a way for the IT group to deliver applications and services effectively and efficiently. For others, well secured and backed up in-house hardware gets the job done, while most go with a combination of both.

Once upon a time, offering basic services—networking, clients, servers, and applications—was all that an academic IT group would ever be called on to provide. Now departments and schools are asked of a lot more from employees and students. If you’re tasked with meeting those expectations, the infrastructure you build must accomplish three things.

1. Break it down

Services, applications, and infrastructure should be broken into individual pieces and offered on that basis. That means:

  1. Supporting virtual servers to provide those services.

  2. Investing in software-defined networks that provision network capability that changes as rapidly as the demand for computing services from your users.

Thinking of your internet technology in smaller increments means thinking of your infrastructure in more complete terms—servers, storage, and networking, all under the control of software that can manage individual services and allocate resources on demand.

2. Add it up

Breaking up your service offerings into small pieces makes no sense if you continue to account for your internet technology in old ways. An out-of-band management style that breaks things up allows for the feeding data to accounting systems without adding traffic to the production network or servers. Out-of-band management also allows for users to still do what they need to even if your system experiences some unplanned downtime.

Between new services, security, and the avoidance of outages, the importance of out-of-band servers and network infrastructure increases dramatically. You'll want to specify systems (including transaction-ready storage) that can cope with changing demands.

3. Lock it down

Smaller computing units mean a greater number of points of potential intrusion. Security, then, becomes a service that is part of everything else you offer to internal customers.

Current-generation servers offer features that provide tremendous assistance in keeping data and resources safe. Regardless of whether the server CPUs are made by Intel or AMD, similar features allow administrators to:

  1. Explore the ways in which your target operating system (or hypervisor) makes use of these features.

  2. Ensure you have configured the operating system to take advantage of those features.

When you look to the cloud for a model, you add a bit of complexity to your IT operation, but you significantly increase the number of services you can provide and the quality of those services.

Modern academics and employees have built their expectations on cloud services. Make sure:

  1. Your hardware infrastructure is up to the task

  2. You've built the right software for management and accounting

Then you'll be ready to provide the kind of IT service that keeps researchers, academics, and students happy and productive

How can we help you help your students?

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Storing Medical Data in the Cloud

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From doctor-patient confidentiality to insurance non-disclosure agreements, we do all we can to ensure our medical data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands—and for some healthcare organizations, this makes the idea of storing such data in the cloud quite alarming. Though the cloud promises to reduce costs and streamline records management, it’s all too often (and wrongly) associated with the specter of cybercrime and other security breaches. Fortunately, it’s much safer than you might think.

A slow revolution

In 2011, only 4% of healthcare providers had moved to the cloud. Adoption rates have since skyrocketed to over 70%. However, it appears that some in the industry are still reluctant to make the leap, and the main concern among detractors appears to be the possibility of a security breach.

However, when it comes to sensitive data, a security breach isn’t the only thing you have to worry about—data might also be lost as the result of a physical event, like a fire or flood. When keeping your data in the cloud, it is being secured by IT professionals at groups like Microsoft and Google, whose only job it to secure your data. In other words, storing data in the cloud might be the safest option available.

Meeting industry standards with HIPAA

The good news is that you no longer have to determine for yourself whether or not a cloud provider is able to protect sensitive medical data. In 2013, the federal government expanded the privacy and security protections established under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) so that they now apply to electronic health records. The act outlines strict procedures for storing such records using data encryption and destruction. It also imposes significant penalties on non-compliant organizations.

From the clinic to the cloud

When a healthcare organization decides to move to the cloud, it should check that its cloud provider is HIPAA compliant. The U.S. Department of Health doesn’t itself authorize any HIPAA certification programs. However, cloud providers can voluntarily undergo an audit that takes into account the HIPPA Audit Protocols. If they pass, you can be confident that they’re capable of storing your data in a safe and secure environment—which means that the prognosis for your organization’s medical records is very good indeed.

Current Technologies is here for all your data storage needs

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Defend yourself from WiFi hackers

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Wi-Fi is a potential weak link in any network security chain. Whether your employees are using your Wi-Fi to work away from their desks or setting up at the local coffee shop, you need to have appropriate security in place.

Lock down the office first

Wi-Fi routers and access points (APs) aren’t secured in the factory. Step 1 is enabling encryption as soon as you set them up. If you’re lucky, an accidentally unsecured network will be used only by passing freeloaders to check their email and Twitter. At worst, you’re exposing your computers, files, and passwords sent to websites not using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption which can have detrimental impacts.

Get a server

It’s tempting but not secure to rely on a single username and password shared with all employees. Will you remember to change it every time an employee leaves? You should. With a shared password, a malicious employee or ex-employee with network access can snoop on other employees. They won’t even be slowed down by having to crack your password. You gave it to them.

Using enterprise-mode WPA/WPA2 security is harder to set up and requires a server. But what would it cost to have your information stolen? Why secure the office with deadbolts, alarms, and cameras but let your bank account details, intellectual property, and client data leak out of the building?

On the road

Public Wi-Fi is not always all it seems. Hackers are happy to set up free Wi-Fi hotspots and lie in wait for valuable data to pass through their networks. Coffee shops are focused on selling coffee, not Wi-Fi integrity. They are soft targets for hackers.

The best defenses are education and control.

1. Train your employees

Teach employees not to do anything over a public Wi-Fi connection that involves entering a password, personal information, or credit card details. They can catch up on the news or watch YouTube, but they shouldn’t log in to Facebook, the bank, or your network.

By definition, security means extra hoops. Stress to employees that the extra hoops are necessary. If employees know why they’re doing the extra work, they’re less likely to connect to an unknown network just because everyone in that Starbucks looks harmless.

2. Have employees close shared folders

Shared folders are useful for collaborating within the office, but no one on the hotel Wi-Fi needs to see your files and data.

3. Create a virtual private network (VPN)

To an extent, you’re relying on employees to be smart on the road, but you can exercise some control from the office. A VPN encrypts the data traveling between the employee’s computer and your servers. Even if a hacker is watching the public Wi-Fi network—or created it—all they’ll see is encrypted data which is worthless to them.

Current Technologies has been securing APs for 20+ years

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The Right Data Storage For Your School

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A Datacenter Filled With Small Servers


As the economics of cloud computing continues to evolve, many school districts are asking whether moving their entire datacenters to the cloud is the best way to improve IT response and keep IT on budget. There are certainly advantages to some cloud services, and any modern educational IT infrastructure should contain some elements that are cloud-based. But there are also reasons to keep some IT functions local. For those, a datacenter furnished with multiple small servers can be the perfect answer.

Converged, Not Hyper-Converged

The arrival of converged systems means that educational IT professionals have an ideal answer for many applications. Notice that it's converged systems we're talking about and not hyper-converged systems.

The highly virtualized and automated operation of a hyper-converged system is perfect for organizations with rapidly changing load levels and requirements, but most educational IT systems value stability and regularity. For those characteristics, the overhead of the hyper-converged system is difficult to justify.

Converged systems have little additional overhead compared with separate components deployed around a datacenter and a host of benefits. Converged systems tend to reduce, rather than increase, the management load of an IT staff.

  • There are physical savings that come from putting as much as possible into a single rack enclosure

  • There is the assurance that all of the components are certified by the vendor to work together

Ultimately, the key to justifying and successfully deploying small servers in a district datacenter boils down to understanding the applications that prefer the local hosting treatment.

Examples of data that might benefit from staying on local servers rather than being transported to cloud servers include:

  • Sensitive personnel records

  • Student records with personal identification information left intact

  • Financial information

Where The Cloud Comes In

That is not to say there's no role for cloud services in the modern IT infrastructure. The secret is understanding which data can best be stored in the cloud and which needs to remain in the local datacenter.

The decision should be somewhat easier with a converged datacenter because an integrated hardware stack can be configured to more easily be deployed as part of a hybrid system with cloud services.

The networking piece of the converged stack is especially important to ensure that data is shared as part of a seamless process, rather than simply being passed off from one type of computing equipment to another.

From an economic standpoint, the self-hosted pieces of the infrastructure have an advantage in that the ongoing cost will be fixed over the life of the converged stack. That cost can be lower than many professionals anticipate because, for most districts, small servers will be sufficiently powerful to handle the applications and data sets required. Current Techhologies has found that when multiple small, on-site servers combined with the right cloud services, the result will be a secure, economical IT infrastructure that will handle school needs for years into the future.

We Can Build A Custom Hybrid Solution For You

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3 Keys to University Network Policies

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Tightening the reigns on your app and internet policies doesn’t mean restricting freedom. It's the only way to protect your institution's valuable research data and to preserve the privacy of staff and students.

Network security isn't only a concern for businesses and government. Recent US research from BitSight revealed that the education sector is a prime target for hackers, with nearly four times as much ransomware in its systems as the healthcare sector, and nearly nine times as much as the financial sector.

Universities and colleges make tempting targets not only because of the unique data they keep, but because misguided concerns over academic openness mean that so many still leave their gates wide open.

It’s time to take control

In a BYOD (bring-your-own-device) environment, you can’t control every potentially infected laptop and device being used around your campus. But you can, and should, control what they access through your servers.

In an academic environment, internet technology decision-makers (ITDMs) can find themselves facing resistance but it’s your responsibility to convince academics and administrators alike that beefing up security won’t compromise their ideals.

From financial information to research data, a university has many of the same assets as a business. So when it comes to security, you need to treat it like one. It’s also your responsibility to protect the personal information and intellectual property of staff and students, who will all be at risk if you don’t have the appropriate safeguards in place.

How to justify these restrictions

Website blocking is routinely justified in the US, Australia and many other countries to prevent malware, investment fraud, copyright infringement, terrorism and other malicious activity, so there’s plenty of precedent.

If you do find yourself needing to justify controlling access to suspicious websites, app downloads or file sharing through torrents or cloud lockers, the risk of malware should be reason enough.

Blocking or limiting the bandwidth available for file sharing will also reduce the illegal consumption of copyrighted materials on campus, which shows that your university respects the creators’ intellectual property.

Then there’s the practicality of preserving bandwidth. Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing consumes a lot of network resources, which slows things down for legitimate users. The same applies to streaming services and that other controversial culprit – pornography.

While universities don’t have the same excuse as high schools and public network – that they’re protecting children from seeing inappropriate content – the risk of illegal materials and viruses appearing on these sites is another justification for blocking access altogether.

How to block undesired websites

When choosing the method for restricting access to websites, you need to consider your department’s resources and budget.

Internet Protocol (IP) address blocking – the cheapest method, but also the least effective as IP addresses can be quickly changed.

Domain Name Server (DNS) blocking – permanently blocks access to undesired sites at only slightly more expense, though easily circumvented.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL) blocking – more precise, but requires the greatest investment of time and money to configure correctly.

When you’re surrounded by the best and brightest, there are always going to be people who can circumvent the restrictions you put in place by using a virtual private network (VPN) or more advanced techniques. The important thing is that you’re significantly reducing the risks and encouraging students to break bad habits.

With quality filters in place, you can make sure that legitimate websites and apps won’t be blocked by mistake, while protecting students, faculties and your institution alike.

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Is A Hyper-Converged Data Center Right For You?

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What can a Hyper-Converged Data Center do for your Business?


Hyper-converged data centers are taking virtualization to the next level. They offer greater simplicity and scalability to meet business needs.

Virtualization is all about pretending. In a data center, a cluster of computers can pool their grunt and pretend to be a single "virtual" machine such as your file server.
Think of that virtual machine like a Boeing 747, with all four engines combining their thrust to keep the plane in the air. If one engine fails, then there's a drop in overall thrust, but thankfully your mission-critical plane doesn't fall from the sky.

Data center virtualization is also about flexibility. You can easily replace that troublesome engine mid-flight, or even spin up a new plane and transfer the passengers without skipping a beat. Your file server stays in the air, and the business isn't grounded.

So what is a Hyper-Converged Data Center?

Here your virtual servers are managed by an underlying layer of virtualization which pools all your hardware.

Our fleet of 747s now shares a pool of jet engines, with the pilots more interested in available thrust than the performance of individual engines. If an engine fails, or a plane demands extra grunt to handle a heavy load, you can easily redistribute your thrust across the fleet.

Of course, plenty of data centers run multiple virtual servers on a single pool of hardware. Those that rely on pre-configured bundles of computing, storage and perhaps networking hardware from a single vendor are generally called "converged" datacenters.

In a "hyper-converged" datacenter you have a cluster of appliance-style nodes rather than bundles of hardware handling different roles. The nodes are modular appliances that combine x86 computing, storage, and networking in a single box. The software combines the nodes to build the resources it needs, and you can manage every aspect of the data center from a single console.

Now our 747s don't just pool jet engines. Instead, entire planes are built from a pile of standard blocks rather than custom parts. The software builds each plane and reconfigures the fleet as required. Need more resources? Simply tip more blocks into the pile and the software builds what it needs.

What are the Pros and Cons of a Hyper-Converged Data Center?

Hyper-convergence lets you upgrade your data center hardware in bite-sized chunks. Making small hardware upgrades as required can help you break free from the big bang refresh cycle, where you spend big on data center capacity every few years and hope it will tide you over until the next major upgrade.

That said, the all-in-one nature of hyper-convergence appliances can make upgrades expensive if you're only chasing more storage and not computing power, or vice versa. Another downside is you may lose the freedom to mix and match the hardware, depending on your vendor, as you're locked into hyper-converged architecture from a single vendor. Current Technologies is hardware agnostic which allows us to work with hardware partners and can let you tweak box configurations to best suit your needs, custom creating the best possible solution for your business. 

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