The History of Memorial Day !

USA_FlagAs you are preparing to enjoy your day off this upcoming Memorial Day holiday, you may be wondering about the history of Memorial Day. Memorial Day officially became a holiday on May 5, 1868, as proclaimed by General John Logan. However, the holiday also began to be observed on the 30th of May by other groups of U.S. citizens during that same year, and has since evolved to be celebrated on the last Monday in May each year. In addition to the national holiday, in the year 2000, the U.S. government enacted the National Moment of Remembrance, which observes an official moment of silence at 3 p.m. in each of the U.S. time zones for prayer and reflection. You may be planning to celebrate Memorial Day outdoors at a picnic, barbeque, the beach, or at a party, enjoying time with your friends and family; however, let’s not forget the real reason this day is a holiday, and take a few moments at 3 p.m. in the midst of your celebrations to remember those who have fallen in defense of the freedoms you are enjoying as a citizen of the United States. And if you see a veteran, be sure to thank him or her!

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BYOD and the end for Fixed Line Telephones !

iPhoneAs Bring Your Own Device Flexes Its Muscles, Is It the End for Fixed Line Telephones?

One of the only things which grows as quickly as software and high technology hardware is the number of books produced by management gurus predicting The Next Big Thing.

Management gurus were amongst the first people to realise that the high tech revolution would not only enable them to sell more books and produce even more theories, but that it would allow these theories to multiply faster than Japanese knot weed in a wet garden. And right now, on both sides of the Atlantic, there are a lot of very wet gardens.

In which case it’s not surprising that the gurus have been egging each other on to adopt and execute trends faster than anyone else can possibly manage.

One of the more enduring trends of the year, both in its entertainment and business value, is bring your own device (BYOD). The latest prediction is that BYOD will make traditional fixed line phone systems redundant as early as – in the case of some of the more extreme forecasts – the end of 2015.

At first glance, this might seem wildly optimistic. However, RingCentral , a cloud business communications solutions provider, recently conducted a study (reported in Fierce Wireless) which found personal mobile devices are now so prevalent in the modern workplace that they are rendering traditional Voice phone systems completely obsolete.

Among the survey’s key findings are:

  •  Half of respondents use mobile phones even while sitting at their desk, with a traditional desk phone in front of them
  •  88 per cent of employees use their mobile phones for work purposes while on personal time, including evenings, breaks, weekends and vacations
  •  70 per cent of respondents believe office phones will eventually be replaced by mobile phones
  •  Millennial workers are particularly likely to believe all the above is true

“Mobile devices are turning into true business tools and are transforming the workplace as a whole, from shifting traditional business hours to changing how employees interact via voice, video, text and other business applications. We believe that all these changes are making legacy on-premise phone systems obsolete, as they do not meet modern business needs.” said RingCentral President David Berman.

Praful Shah, RingCentral’s VP of Strategy, told FierceMobile that his firm has been seeing a “tremendous behavior change going on with BYOD”. He confirmed that a growing number of companies are giving in to their employees’ desires to use their own mobile devices for work: as a result, for some employees the traditional company-provided phone is seeing little use. Obviously, this isn’t happening with all employees, but it’s taking place with enough to be impacting the demands placed on phone systems.

Asked what stood out for him in the research, Shah suggested it was the degree to which employees are using their personal devices to carry out work. He said he had previously assumed the practice to be popular, but not to the degree the revealed in the survey. He noted: “Eighty-eight per cent of employees are using mobile phones in their personal time for work. That is a phenomenally high percentage.”

These are impressive figures, which are matched by other statistics on mobile phone use. For example, a recent Gartner Group study into mobile phone take-up within the enterprise also noted that 76% of all website visits are carried out on a mobile phone.

The result is a shift in what organizations may need to provide in terms of physical fixed line handsets. This concentration of mobile use will almost certainly reduce the traditional fixed line to an anachronism, like the fax machine: something which sits on the corner of your desk and is rarely used. The reality will almost certainly be that fixed line telephones will only be provided, in future, as conference call facilities in boardrooms or as an executive status symbol.

Combined with the increase in home and mobile workers, there seems no doubt that the fixed line telephone is on its way out, at least as a business tool. Increasingly, we’ll see very few companies moving into new premises and installing fixed line phones, to the point that we will be hard-pressed to find a fixed line in any enterprise other than for data traffic. Why install something if it is an unneeded cost centre?

Like the trusty red BT telephone box, the fixed line voice handset will go the way of all flex. The only question remaining for the management gurus to answer is when?

What say you !

Thanks to Bill Boyle for the post !

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The Era of Unified Communications !

iPhoneThe Era of Unified Communications

There are varying definitions for unified communications (UC) and if you speak to just a handful of leaders from different industries, they will most likely have a different take on the topic. Put simply though, unified communications ties together the ways we communicate, allowing people to send a message on one device and receive the same communication on another.

Emerging in the 1980’s, UC quickly turned from a long-term trend to a key investment and opportunity, which played a role in the growth of enterprise. Over the past decade, CIOs and IT Directors have used UC to help companies improve efficiency and achieve growth. The need to communicate seamlessly across a variety of devices is paramount to surviving in today’s globalised economy. Now, according to a Frost and Sullivan report, more than 52% of employees surveyed used UC applications.

UC brings with it a number of benefits for companies and their employees. Connected information and teams allow for a collaborative working environment. Access to video on demand across mediums is simple and hassle free. Company productivity and output tends to increase as a result as mobile workers are always connected to the corporate network.

But what about the drawbacks to UC? This is where TEM plays a role. Although unified communications aims to ultimately improve productivity and increase efficiency, it can be costly to implement. This is identified as one of the main drawbacks – in fact 73% of companies, with more than 5,000 employees, cited cost as an obstacle to implementing UC.

One of the core challenges of unified communications is ‘cost displacement’. This occurs when calls are answered from an end point that is outside of the VoIP network. As a portion of the call must be established between the closest gateway on the network – this will ultimately be charged by the PSTN service provider and usually to the company implementing UC.

Today’s TEM solution’s addresses this challenge, complementing VoIP cost management by connecting to and collecting information from key network components. This information is then reconciled using smart algorithms, taking many complex factors into consideration and providing reports that visually represent the results. This solution provides many of our global clients with a clear graphical data visualisation and insight into where off-net calls are occurring across their VoIP network.

Although unified communications has been a key investment and opportunity for the past 10 years, the world and working environment is become increasingly mobile. Gartner is predicting that by 2018, more than 50% of users will use a mobile or tablet first for all online activities. Ultimately this means that although UC has received investment for more than a decade, it’s a constant work-in-progress.

What say you ?

Thanks to Ben Mendoza for the post !

 

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Mobile World Congress

The Shifting Mobile Landscape Combines Hardware, Software And Networks

Last week, many companies  attended the 2015 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. As many market leader’s in Telecom Expense Management (TEM) and Market Data Management (MDM) solutions attended the event, they realize the importance  to attend significant exhibitions and conferences. It not only provides them with a chance to present their work to industry leaders and heavyweights, but also allows them to discuss new developments in the field. Much of the work crosses the mobile industry and the 2015 Mobile World Congress outlined some thought provoking future plans from some of the world’s biggest technology players.

One of the most noteworthy projects announced was Google’s ‘Project Nova’. The move will see Google transfer into the wireless carrier network industry and allow users to seamlessly switch between mobile networks and Wi-Fi. Similarly to Tesco Mobile, it will operate as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).

What’s interesting though is that Google state they’re not aiming to compete against traditional carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint, but rather work with them and “help drive a set of a set of innovations which we think the ecosystem should adopt”. Google states that – similarly to the Google Nexus – it will be low cost, but high performance. It doesn’t aim to eradicate the competition, but show the market their capabilities and inspire carrier partners – if they’re of a high enough standard – to adopt them.

Project Nova appears to be part of a wider initiative from Google to combine the three-pronged approach of hardware, software and networks. Another Google project discussed at the 2015 Mobile World Congress was ‘Project Loon’, which started two years ago and is anticipated to launch commercially by 2016. The project plans a series of ‘balloons’ floating in the stratosphere, partnered with telecommunications companies to share mobile spectrum and ultimately enable end users to connect to the ‘balloon network’ from their phones and other smart devices.

It appears it’s not only Google who wish to get the offline population connected. Facebook is also looking to connect the 4 billion people who ‘live offline’. Partnering with telecoms companies including Samsung and Nokia, Facebook aim to bring more people online by providing free access to specific websites. This project has already launched in developing regions of the world including India, Africa and Colombia. Zuckerberg’s desire to connect developing countries is admirable, but offering Internet access for free can be worrying for telco’s such as Vodafone and Airtel, as you have to ask, who’s picking up the bill?

What’s exciting to see though is the connectivity and growing synergy between technology and telecoms. The technology giants of today see now as the prime opportunity to combine hardware, software and network capabilities and we’re all intrigued to learn more about the consequences and effects on the wireless industry.

It will be a heck of a ride !

Thanks to Ben Mendoza for the post !

 

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Malware Attacks are on the rise !

Malware Attacks Are on the Rise – Is Your Business Ready?

With malware attacks on the rise in all parts of the industry, and the growth of enterprise mobility practices such as BYOD on the increase, it seems a good time to publish a primer on the subject, covering what threats to expect and how to guard against them.

Malware: The Basics

Malware is on the rise, with 28.4 million1 cyber attacks involving financial malware in 2013 alone. But what is it?

Malware is software code specifically designed to disrupt, damage or invade a computer system, most commonly for monetary profit or to access sensitive information. Some malware, such as viruses, infects all systems with which it comes into contact and spreads either by automatically installing and running itself on the host system or by actively transmitting itself over a network. Other malware, such as “Trojans”, includes software which is designed to remain concealed, monitoring and accessing your private data, such as bank details, etc.

The most obvious point of danger within a business is your server and the data it holds, and the risk of the dreaded “data breach”. Understanding how malware works and is used is the first step towards improving detection and preventing threats.

Attacks via the internet are increasing every year, and don’t discriminate between multinationals and small businesses. If a hacker can find a way to infiltrate malicious code into your server and access files or log information exchanges, they have ready access to sensitive information such as customer data, credit card information, passwords and more.

Exposing client or customer data in this way can lead not only to legal action and lost business with the customer themselves, but also significant impact on the organisation through reputational damage and loss of credibility with the market – and that’s apart from the direct costs of additional labour charges, compensation and hardware and software repairs.

While some malware can attack and disrupt your server, other code is designed to attack your customers directly via, for example, spam emails or pay-per-click advertising. Phishing attacks are becoming more effective through the use of social media, as hackers learn to customise their malware and target their victims more successfully.

More importantly for larger organisations, malware can be placed on your website which instantly downloads to a customer’s device whenever they visit your page, or redirects them to another site which contains a concealed infection.

Smartphones and tablets are increasingly being targeted by hackers, especially Android devices who attracted 98.05%2 of all detected infections in 2013. The growth of mobility within the enterprise in general, and BYOD in particular, is particularly significant, bringing with it a plethora of devices and operating systems which make it increasingly difficult for the IT Dept to monitor threats and take pre-emptive action. In the absence of central policies and enforceable procedures, users struggle to keep their anti-virus and security software up to date, while companies put off urgent patch upgrades in order to minimise disruption to the business. With so many new platforms and IT struggling to cope, hackers are constantly finding new openings.

Prevention

Keeping your staff fully up to date on the risks of malware and phishing attacks is key, so they understand the company security policy and the importance of regularly scanning their devices for vulnerabilities and possible infection. Regular scans of the company and, where hosted internally, website servers are equally important, to detect concealed infections which are quietly stealing information in the background.

With such a playground for hackers to enjoy, guarding your personal device and/or those of your company can be extremely challenging. Security is paramount and the repercussions of neglecting device protection can have serious consequences for your business. Updating security software and running regular checks seems simple when it’s just a few people, but when the company is global or includes tens of thousands of employees, higher level protection solutions are required.

Conclusion

Malware’s purpose is to compromise the functionality of your IT and communication systems, and exploit or compromise the data held within those systems for the publisher’s – or, in some cases, the publisher’s own client’s – commercial or strategic gain.

Hackers are constantly evolving their code to slip past the barriers erected to keep them out. The only solution is constant vigilance, coupled with regular anti-malware updates and thorough checks of the business’ servers and the systems connected to them, either directly over the corporate network or remotely via the internet. With the growth of BYOD, the need is even greater for the organisation to have in place proper Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) and Mobile Device Management (MDM) policies, together with adequate monitoring and enforcement procedures.

Anything less puts your business, your data and your customers at risk.

Thanks to Emma Griffin for the post !

References:

1. http://www.kaspersky.com/about/news/virus/2014/Kaspersky-Lab-statistics-attacks-involving-financial-malware-rise-to-28-million-in-2013

2. http://securelist.com/analysis/kaspersky-security-bulletin/58335/mobile-malware-evolution-2013/

 

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Apple Pay !

Apple Pay Technology and Enterprise

New technologies releases can have a profound impact on enterprise, as businesses adopt novel systems in order to improve efficiency. In terms of enterprise mobility management (EMM), the recent release of the iPhone 6 and 6Plus (and associated software to launch them into the enterprise market) may herald the start of a new era for working on the move – especially with the introduction of Apple Pay, which is due to be released in the US later this month.

Apple Pay is a new payment method which can be utilised by customers of the new iPhones or the Apple Watch. Rumoured to be the final step in merging online and off-line shopping, the new facility allows people to pay for goods using their mobile device whether out on the high street, buying from a website or from the app store. When in a participating bricks-and-mortar store, users can carry out transactions using Apple Pay simply by holding their phone to the appropriate reader with their finger on Touch ID. There is no need to open an app or even to unlock the phone to enable this, and the user is ‘informed’ of payment completion by the phone beeping and/or vibrating.

Using the Apple Watch, the payment will be enabled by holding the device near to the reader and double-clicking the appropriate button (although this facility will not be available until 2015). Making use of Near Field Communication (NFC), the new payment system is described by Apple as easy, secure and private.

Recent reports have suggested that Apple initially wished to join forces with well-known online payment provider PayPal, to start a service which would be considered more trustworthy by users – and which would also open doors when it came to working with numerous retailers. PayPal is generally ahead of the curve in terms of mobile payments, allowing the use of QR Codes and able to work with near field technologies of various kinds – making them the ideal bedfellow for the launch of Apple Pay. However, despite Apple’s early enthusiasm, the deal did not go ahead: rumour has it this was due to the fact that PayPal had already opted to work with arch-rival Samsung on their S5 fingerprint scanner.

Given that contactless card payments are now quite popular among shoppers and retailers, it’s likely that Apple Pay will gradually become more widely used and will pave the way for similar provisions by rival mobile brands. Individual users may find this allows them to keep tabs on their expenditure quickly and easily – but how will this influence the management of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or Corporate-Owned, Personally-Enabled (COPE) plans? With the limited information available so far, this is hard to determine, but we look below into some issues which will need to be addressed for Apple Pay to work in a mobile enterprise:

Multiple accounts – if a device is owned for both personal and business use, will users be able to use more than one account for payments? If so, how easy will it be to specify which to use (will the opening of an app be required, thus making Apple Pay less convenient?) and how easy will mistakes be to track and correct?

Payment information – If a device is used for business and personal use and detailed bills are provided, will these be made available to employers without user amendments? Many employees will not wish employers to have access to all their transaction details, and employers will not want information about business spending potentially hidden.

Security – if Apple Pay is to be used to make business payments, the company will need to reassure corporate clients that the security offered is effective and that, if a device is lost or stolen, the facility can be halted remotely with immediate effect.

Once these enterprise queries have been answered, more and more business users may begin to utilise Apple Pay. Some may have security fears – but how much more or less secure will this method prove to be when compared with contactless cards and the provision of cash? It remains to be seen.

Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !

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The 5G Race is on !

WIFIThe 5G Race Is On

How will the fifth generation of mobile network change the world? Well the race is on to find out, but by recent estimations 5G will run much, much faster than its 3G and 4G counterparts.

Professor Rahim Tafazolli leads the UK’s multimillion-pound government-funded 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey and says: “5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonisation of the radio spectrum.” In other words, 5G will be the solution to current problems with connection speeds and reliability.

3G was first introduced to the UK in 2003 and since then it has taken 10 years for the development and roll out of 4G. Despite 4G not being abundantly available in the UK, there is much excitement about the potential for 5G and its increased capacity. The much-discussed Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to flourish when 5G is actually able to support the expected 26 billion connected ‘things.’

Hand-in-hand with IoT comes developments in Machine-to-Machine (M2M). M2M communication has expanded vastly over the past 50 years and the amount of power and time needed for information to be communicated between machines has reduced dramatically. For the purposes of tracking assets and collecting data from equipment, a 5G connection just isn’t currently deemed necessary.

Primary applications for M2M networking do not require much capacity or speed to send small amounts of data. We deal with clients using SIM cards in elevators to text back diagnostic messages and vehicles to send their location information. It is when enhanced applications are developed that solutions will eventually require a transition to faster, higher capacity networks, ultimately leading to an increase in cost.

It is important to remember that many technologies are competing to dominate the Internet of Things market. Gartner analyst Nick Jones said to Techworld this month: “I expect that the overall IoT networking space will remain very confused for several years, and at least 10 different networking technologies will gain significant traction for IoT applications.” For example, the LoRa Alliance promotes the global standardisation of LPWAN (Low Power Wide Area Networks) protocol specifically to power M2M networking and IoT.

Although it will likely be years before the standard of 5G will be established, expectations are being set high. There are claims it will be ‘unbreakable’, ‘more energy efficient’ and ‘more cost effective’ than its predecessors. However, this level of ambition requires funding, innovation and importantly, government backing.

Practical considerations for M2M today are; how do I keep track of which SIM is in each device? Or should SIMs be activated on order and can they have a multi-state capability? The answers involve integrating network technology into these business processes and this is where a good partner can help !

More to come but it certainly will be exciting !

Thanks to Ben Mendoza for the post!

 

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Network 2020

Fixed Mobile Convergence and Network 2020 – The Next Steps in Telecommunications?

As technologies adapt, so must their providers and users.

For a number of years communications options have been somewhat fragmented, with options for web-based video calls, mobile calls and traditional wired landline calls co-existing. While this provides choice and is important to avoid the complete absence of the ability to communicate if one system fails, there is a move amongst mobile providers to unite forms of communication on mobile phones and tablets to increase efficiency and reliability.

 

Encouraged by the GSMA, the concept of all IP mobile communications is addressed in their Network 2020 initiative. Started in 2010 with the ambition of encouraging and assisting mobile providers to adapt to a world increasingly reliant upon improving internet provision, Network 2020 marks a major change in telecommunications.

 

Underpinning Network 2020 is the fact that mobile providers need to change in order to remain competitive – consumers require reliability, and many of the legacy systems used by providers are outdated and require improvement. As time progresses, internet-based systems will allow what is referred to as a ‘mesh’ based system. This will provide the best in reliability as connections can be re-routed quickly and efficiently around any problematic network areas, increasing communication speed and quality. As bandwidth provision increases to meet demand, the quality of video conferencing will also improve, making such options more popular with organisations of all sizes.

 

Traditionally, internet communication has centred on Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) methods but, as connectivity improves with the introduction of faster broadband in the form of 4G (and because mobile communications such as SMS and voice calls need to remain a source of revenue for providers) attention is now focused on options including Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE).

 

This will allow calls to occur via any of the given options – and provide the capability to switch between these options depending on availability and cost, enabling seamless, cost-effective services. Called Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), the technology is to some extent in use already, although its definition appears to vary between providers and the infrastructure and handset technology modifications required to allow it to function most effectively will take time and investment. The ability to provide users with the service they need, when they need it, is the holy grail of telecommunications and it appears that – if providers work together (and that’s a large “if”) – this will become a distinct possibility.

 

As with any method of mobile communication, the move to FMC with IP, LTE and WiFi services will have implications for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) – in particular, for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) plans. It can be a challenge to track business voice and video calls in order to ensure employee obligations are being met and the amounts paid for phone services are accurate, especially for organisations operating on an international level. As with any area of business, it’s important the best value for money service is sought in telecommunications expenses – another reason why TEM can prove invaluable.

 

As it stands, integrating the new communications infrastructure as outlined in Network 2020 could fully enable FMC and prove to be a great boon to business, with reliable, high quality communications available on the move. Although it may seem as though telecoms are increasingly costly, it is likely that improvements to services will see a significant increase in value for money, as users get more from their spend.

What say you ??

Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !
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Network Security “Worst Practices “

Network Security 1Here’s a post from Andrew Lerner of Gartner !  Good Read

Network Security “Worst Practices”

by Andrew Lerner  |  January 15, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Network security comes up in a lot of my client interactions, as there is a ton of overlap between networking technology (data center, wan, campus networks) and network security (firewalls, SWG, NAC, IPS etc.).

Sometimes, networking and security teams are very well-aligned, but often times – not so much. This got Jeremy D’Hoinne (Gartner colleague who covers Network Security) and myself thinking, and we decided to publish research on the 12 most common “worst practices” in network security. These dirty dozen include:

  • Shiny new object syndrome
  • Culture of no
  • Insufficient focus on users and business requirements
  • Defense with inadequate depth
  • Organizational misalignment
  • Suboptimal branch architecture
  • Security blind spots
  • Uncoordinated policy management
  • Noncompetitive vendor selections
  • Hazardous network segmentation
  • Inadequate end user education
  • Inadequate security event management

For each “worst practice”, we provide a definition and real-world examples, identify their impact, and provide specific guidance to avoid them. Here’s an example (a snippet from the research), which is one of my personal favorites:

Shiny New Object Syndrome (AKA “best of too many breeds” and “technology of the year”)

As technologists, IT personnel are encouraged to look for technical solutions to problems. This mentality is further encouraged by vendor hype and marketecture, with many vendors claiming “this is the last tool you’ll ever need,” or “this is the year of X.” However, in many instances, new technology products or services are not the ideal solution.

Instead, changes to policy/process, leveraging an existing technology and/or simply waiting will achieve a similar impact. In many instances, avoiding acquiring new products can simplify the technical environment and reduce operating expenditure/capital expenditure (OpEX/CapEX).

Action: Gartner recommends that CISOs foster an organizational culture that addresses the following questions before introducing any new technology:

  • Can the root issue be addressed via a policy or process change?
  • If we wait a year, will this become a commoditized capability from established providers (or my existing providers)?
  • Do we have existing network, security, or management capabilities that can address the bulk (i.e., 85%) of the technological requirements?
  • Do we have the right process and staff expertise to properly leverage the new technology?

You can check out the full research here:

Avoid These “Dirty Dozen” Network Security Worst Practices

http://www.gartner.com/document/2958617

Summary: This research identifies 12 commonly observed network security practices that reduce network availability, increase expenditure or risks, and alienate end users. CISOs should avoid these practices, and they can do so without sacrificing security posture or breaking the bank.

Thanks to Andrew for the post !

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Happy New Year !

Times Square2015 has arrived !

By all accounts it’s looking like a year with much promise ! The economy is doing better, employment is up and in a few weeks we can start to think about baseball and our beloved New York Teams !

This is the year you need to continue to build your strategies for the future

Areas that we see getting a lot of attention are :

Security- are you protected ?

Cloud strategies- will it really reduce my cost ?

Managed Service- Op X vs Cap X

Trade Shows- Is it time to budget for a few

At Web Associates LLC we decided this is the year of Quality not Quantity ! We are putting more focus on less programs..

No matter what your game plan it looks like a good year to move the yardsticks forward !

Have a Happy and Healthy 2015 !

 

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