Friday, December 15, 2017

How inevitable is SEO for your business?

Research has shown that about 68% of the world’s population relies on internet searches for almost everything. The use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a tested strategy for helping business to be front-runners in search engine results through the use of a good architecture website that contains the right content. Investing in this SEO strategy ensures that a customer reaches out to your business over your competitors due to the traffic generated strategically on your website.  Google receives over 57,000 searches per second on any given day, and almost 93% of Google users do not step beyond the first page of search as they deem all other content immaterial. The use of SEO strategies ensures visibility, branding, credibility, traffic generation, exposure, cost-effective mode of marketing, demographics based targeting, ROI, customer trend analysis, and the edge over competitors.
According to Sam McRoberts, CEO of VUDU Marketing and a widely published expert in the SEO field, “SEO is far from dead. It’s changed so drastically that people really need to learn to think of it as less of a marketing tactic, and more of a branding play.” An SEO optimized web infrastructure that is mapped as search-engine friendly, ensures the existence of any business which might otherwise become obsolete in the technologically fast-paced world.
Two main reasons why SEO is crucial to businesses are:
  1. SEO is evolving: Although there have been changes regarding organic traffic in the recent years, SEO strategies are progressing towards focus exclusively on optimal user experience by generating higher positioning on search engines. Even video and audio files relevance on the search engine results are based on keyword searches. Having SEO strategies in place ensures that a business’s website is built soundly on rich content with tactical keyword placements without which the business could end up on an irrelevant page. Moreover, mobile optimization is on the rise as customers have started relying on smartphone searches for their immediate needs. This has paved the way for local search optimization techniques via SEO to ensure that the business’s relevance in its own locality is secure. This technique also helps with specific placement and positioning of the business’s brand on social media platforms, which in turn increases organic traffic on the main website. All these advantages need the proper installation, use, and regular updating of SEO stratagems to ensure maximum ROI.
  2. SEO in the long term: Most common reason for the failure of businesses that employed SEO strategy is the expectation of results overnight. The employment of SEO tools helps to prepare for the adaptation and placement of the changing algorithms of search engines. Having a dedicated module towards SEO along with regular updating of website content and maintenance of website infrastructure generates the results eventually. To quicken the process, the website should be focused better in terms of content, and also be regularly cross-checked with market trends since online algorithms are constantly evolving. It is also important to have an update of competitor strategies for better placement. Proper maintenance ensures that the current customer base expands and also passively accrue traffic by being listed in the business’s top 5 search words online.
All these strategies will only pan out if the right SEO tools are employed for prime results. The tools employed should include analytics review, keyword research, competitive analysis, on-page analysis, content and link audit, and technical site analysis. Some of the top rated SEO tools available in the market are: Reload SEO, Magento SEO Suite Pro extension v4.4.0, Advanced SEO Suite by Mirasvit, Free Magento SEO Extension by Creare, Ultimate SEO Suite by AheadWorks v1.3.8, SEO Suite, SEOSpace Ultimate Magento Extension, etc. The use of these tools helps to analyze the on-page factors, generate content words, identify structural mistakes on the webpage, study traffic trends on the website, among other functions. Using professional help may go a long way towards successful use of SEO.

Key Tools used in SEO Strategy

Search engine optimization (SEO) is highly dependent on the employment of an effective strategy to ensure that a businesses’ website is crawled on and ranked for by search engines in order to enable maximum visibility to users and potential clientele. One of the primary requirements of SEO success is to employ effective tools that are updated in real time because otherwise, not only the tool, the effect of the business website starts to tend towards a negative spiral.
Some of the best tools that have proven to be assets are:
1) Research and analytics tools: The main purpose of these tools is to provide keyword ranking and content alerts. Ahrefs and SEMrush are tools that have been rocking the SEO strata because they
  • Provide the most effective keyword research in the market
  • Provide comparative competitive intelligence
  • Analyze and strategize both traffic and content
  • Identify new keyword opportunities
  • Track both past and current rankings
  • Enables effective traffic management
  • Suggest available advertising opportunities
  • Help create an effective guest blogging strategy
  • Handle timely panda updates, and
  • Perform real-time backlink analysis. The Google Keyword Planner is an operative keyword research tool that exclusively generates daily search volumes and price estimates.
2) Monitoring tools: Screaming Frog SEO Spider is an effective analysis tool equipped to analyze several on-site elements, such as page titles, meta descriptions, URL structure, response codes, images, etc. This tool is a must-have for any web designer/marketer as it helps to not only optimize a website but also boost its performance in search result pages. Google page speed insights is another handy tool which evaluates a businesses’ front-end performance as well as offer page performance optimization suggestions. It offers a more thorough analysis of server configuration and checks the HTML structure of a page and the use of external resources such as images, Javascript and CSS. The use of these tools helps understand the gaping holes in technical architecture which may have otherwise been ignored.
3) Webmaster tools: Both Google and Bing webmaster tools are designed for constant web analysis and the generation of error reports to spot out any anomalies on the page. The main benefits of employing these tools help with the disavowal of spam links, filter out negative SEO, evaluate sitemap and URL parameters, explore Geo targets and inbound links, and run crawl information. Google Analytics helps to study statistics of search insights by providing customer related interests towards the path of the business website, frequent choice in the business webpage, and visitor segmentation that will help to fine tune the business needs. Similar Web is another application that details out website domain information. SEO site checkup is an audit and score checker tool that helps keep tabs on the functionality of the businesses’’ website on the search engines.
4) Important extras: Copyscape is a plagiarism checker tool that checks and ensures the originality of the content as well as help avoid unwarranted repetition and such. Schema Creator is a structured tool to enable pass effectively through crawling’s semantic intelligence.
The tactical employment of these tools in any operative combination enables the success of any SEO strategy as they rely heavily on real-time updates given the fast expiration of data on the internet.

Staging Module Significance in Kentico

So you are all set with the content updates for the web page. Great! But are you sure on how the content will be appearing live? That’s where the staging module will come into the picture. Staging module allows you to easily transfer changes made to pages or objects in a Kentico instance on one server to a different instance on another server. You can also perform complete synchronization of all pages and objects. All connected instances must use the same version of Kentico. Staging is particularly useful if you need to synchronize multiple environments during development, for example:
Development  > Testing/Staging  >  Live (production)
Content staging is the practice of deploying changes to one or more servers outside of the development environment, such as content review, quality assurance, security validation or performance testing, before deploying to production. Despite the name, content staging is not just about staging visible content.
Why stage content? Organizations have many reasons for wanting to stage changes prior to deploying to production:
  • Does the content adhere to organizational compliance policies and standards?
  • Is the content grammatically correct?
  • Have accessibility requirements been taken into account?
  • Has a custom component/code been tested?
  • Does a new template or layout adhere to organizational or departmental design guidelines?
  • Does the content duplicate existing content?
● Review All Content Before It Gets Published
The Staging module synchronizes content from your authoring environment to the live server. You can review all changes made to the site on your local server before showing them to the visitors.
● Separate Authoring and Live Environments
Content staging not only adds extra approval and QA steps to your publishing process, but it also separates the authoring and lives environment. It means you can disable the administration interface on the live site and make all changes on your local server to increase security.
Having an internal authoring server also improves the user experience for your content administrators as they access their internal server, instead of making changes on the live server.
● Publish Content to Geographically Distant Servers
Since you can synchronize content to multiple servers at the same time, you can run multiple geographically distant Kentico CMS servers around the world and keep their content synchronized with your authoring server. It’s useful when you need to run servers in Europe, North America, Australia, and China at the same time while providing site visitors with a highly responsive website.
● Deploy New Templates and Other Code Across Servers
As with content, you can also synchronize development objects, such as page templates, CSS stylesheets, transformations, and others, across servers. This makes incremental updates of the website possible with only a few clicks.

Friday, November 24, 2017

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Beginners

With the whole world progressing towards digital consumption, business players are grabbing their tickets to this future marketing form as traditional methods for marketing offline through print media and such has taken a back seat. Digital marketing is not only cheaper in terms of cost, but also yields steady output for businesses to track consumer trends in real time and instantly adapt their marketing strategies to maximize returns through blogs, internet banner ads, websites and SEO content, pay-per-click advertising, online video content, email and social media marketing, and mobile marketing. Businesses that are new as well as those that have thus far relied on the old marketing styles have to move forward and adopt the modern technological methods without which they will go extinct.
According to market research, marketing has undergone a major transformation online in the past two years as compared to the last 50 years. Content Marketing Institute, based on a survey in 2015, pointed out that “55% of B2B marketers say they are unclear on what content marketing success or effectiveness looks like. To get to the right target customers with the right strategy and to build a strong base for online visibility, here are some of the most productive tips to enhance oneself in the world of digital marketing:
1. Stepping up
One of the most common misconceptions about digital marketing is that brand awareness and lead generation are one and the same and that they work in tandem. While the latter is a fact, the need to know when one should roll out brand awareness or lead generation is critical to determine the success or failure of the company. Ideally, brand awareness is essential to establish the business in the virtual world and from there on work towards expanding the customer base for growing in the global world. This in turn would generate leads that can be effectively converted into fulfilling sales. Nevertheless, both these objectives should be constantly monitored and adapted online without which a business can dwindle down into a spiral collapse.
2. Connecting with the customers
Everyday, online users which is a major portion of the world’s population, have questions that need to be resolved. At most times, the answers to these questions end with a purchase. Given this scenario, each company should focus on connecting with their customers on an emotive level rather than a mere functional purposes because customer bases grow when they find they can find a business that looks out for them and settles all their unease in everyday life. Instead of simply posting an online ad, businesses have to reach out by promoting new content innovatively that leads them to the desired end result.
3. SEO
Having enough traffic to lead to sales is just one functional chapter of SEO. Using content not only puts your business in the competitive run, but having best content ensures that your customers stay with your business definitely. SEO also helps understand the constantly evolving consumer behavior trends and allows for the business to develop its strategy to fit the customer needs.
4. Test and play
One cannot simply generate content and expect that content to be the base of a successful campaign. Having structured campaigns requires intel on the trends, which can be got accurately through SEO. This in turn ensures that your campaign is on the right track. Setting up a dedicated team to monitor the content flow, study trending patterns, build, test, launch, and edit campaigns, etc, are strategies that are effective for the long run.
5. Time
Having a schedule goes a long way to effectively churn out the best results. Decide the timing of your launches, consider the local sales patterns and amp them up in case of any important days like Black Friday, etc. The simple task is to set a calendar for the regular monitoring and content creating activities, and a time for taking it out into the open. Every business has its unique needs. In the digital arena, businesses that stand out are the ones that are able to perform steadily with a strategy from the beginning.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Top 5 SEO Tips for Startups

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial element for many business startups because having an SEO strategy ensures the online survival of the business over time. According to Duane Forrester, the Senior Product Manager of Bing, On a broad scale, I see SEO becoming a normalized marketing tactic, the same way TV, radio, and a print is traditionally thought of as marketing tactics.” A business always needs proper marketing strategy online because search engines have about 80-90% market share as a result of customers always going online for a quick review before making any form of purchase. Having an updated SEO strategy ensures that the business invests in the right branding efforts to help customers pick out their products or services over various other open options on the internet. The failure to implement an organic SEO presence diminishes the ROI and negatively impacts the business. A better online positioning is possible for any startup, provided they focus on maximizing their users’ experience through the employment of the right methodic strategy.
Every startup can get a sizeable bite in the market provided they understand the successful implementation of SEO. Top five pointers that can help get SEO strategies into focus are:
1. Set up a targeted strategy
Any startup that is just testing the waters with SEO needs to set up a list of achievable targets for the short run because SEO strategies change quickly based on consumer behavior. The goal setting in the initial stages ensures that the targets are achieved via the maximum usage of the SEO strategy employed, and in the case of unachievable targets, the gaping holes in the SEO strategy are exposed. Keeping track of this progress is crucial because the changes in the website behavior enhance the insight into the true working of the SEO model, thereby enabling any startup to adapt before hitting rock-bottom.
2. Using keywords to get to the top
Any content, however original and perfect, can get to the search engines the first page only if the words match the consumer’s search behavior. Keeping tabs on the word behavior and implementing them into the business’s content ensures that your official page is not lost in a pile. According to market research, nearly 75% of users do not look beyond the first search page display because they consider the remaining to be stale or not as best as the ones on top. Using the right set of keywords and long-tailed phrases better the chance of visibility.
3. Keep track of the posted content
An effective SEO strategy requires the businesses to keep track of the content within their websites to study the site’s performance behavior. One cannot leave unattended or un-updated content online because that will lure the site to the end of the competitive market and cause a fallout. Actively tracking the content, date, and state of publication, the relevance of keywords, etc., helps decide the shelf life of the content. Taking the help of professionals or having a dedicated SEO team to study market trends ensures definite success in the long run.
4. Mobile optimization
A startup cannot set up separate links for each device mode used to view the content. Since the growth of smartphones had generated quite a lot of online traffic due to easy accessibility for users, the startup business should ensure that there is a solid software infrastructure to take care of the device optimization automatically. This not only favors user experience but also generates good returns.
5. Focus on off-page strategies too!
Any seasoned SEO expert would advise you to spend sufficient attention on off-page SEO activities as well. Off-page SEO coupled with on-page efforts will result in effective long-term results. Some of them include social media marketing, content strategy and listing the website and content is good and relevant web directories.

Monday, November 6, 2017

How Magento Makes you Festival Ready

The last quarter is undeniably the busiest season of the year for every e-commerce retailer as the beginning of festival sales opens the channel for growth and surplus sales to ramp up revenues and build up your customer base. Letting your website exist as it is, hoping that your e-commerce site gets all the needed attention by itself will not allow you to be a part of the festival league. Having a pre-planned and tested strategy is the only fool-proof method that can tide you through the season with customers having seamless and hassle-free shopping experience to choose you over your competitors and return back for more without any second thoughts.
After all, the first impression is indeed the best impression. According to Statista and the National Retail Federation, the holiday season accounts for around 20% of the retail industry’s annual sales and can account for as much as 30% of an individual retailer’s total sales. The shopping days beginning from Black Friday through Christmas pulls in almost 50-100% more revenues than any other shopping periods during the normal course of the year. E-commerce retailers can enhance their website’s presence and visibility by getting into the following practices for ramping up their sales this season:
  • Integrating the rating module using Magento’s development tools can aid with building a trust factor with the customers by enabling them to view the previous reviews. Trusting a 100% online portal depends purely on the feedback of its regular users.
  • Hiring a Magento developer to take care of all your social media promotions. Today world is highly driven by the opinions and promotions on social media. Cashing in on this platform to regulate one’s business requires proper integration of sources and captivating marketing.
  • Keeping the e-commerce site’s social pages buzzing with the season’s celebrations by promoting contests, offering freebies, etc, will definitely drive the traffic of the website and definitely regulate sales if the expectations of the customers are visually appealing and fairly priced.
  • Customizing using Magento themes and installing google analytics into the e-commerce platform will the business to thrive by building upon sales via promotion of these commonly sought after products which are advertised extensively through the internet.
  • Build the brand by displaying all laurels won by the e-commerce platform. This helps the customer to know that your e-commerce platform is also free from scams and establish yourself as a genuine customer portal.
  • Keep the promotional offers interesting. One size does not fit all, and there should be good incentives that will drive your customer for more purchases rather than being bored with just a few promotional offers on repeat. Getting creative and enabling these promotions through Magento’s tools will prove effective.
  • Integrating SMS API will enable text promotion which will be driving factors for sales in last-minute shoppers looking for sales at the closing. Last minute offers are always tempting to the customer and this method of promotion is the fastest since most of the population is hooked to the phone.
  • Having an in-house Magento developer will be beneficial, especially during the festive season, because the developer will be able to constantly update and keep track of the website’s progress for zero-downtime sales.
While these pointers are sales boosters, some of the other preparatory steps to take note of to boost the holiday performance include; theme modifications, working payment portals, responsive customer service team, upgraded server capacity, device compatibility for apps, customization offers portal, including accurate product descriptions with product videos, and a interactive homepage with top brand lists based on customer trends.

Why Kentico is a Preferred CMS Platform

Kentico is an all-in-one CMS, E-commerce, and Online Marketing platform developed with ASP.NET and MS SQL. From developers to content editors, it’s easy to use and allows users to make edits and update the system quickly, enabling companies to operate both more efficiently and effectively. The beauty of Kentico is that it’s loaded with features such as WYSIWYG editor, workflow, permissions, multilingual support, full-text search, online forms, newsletters, e-commerce, blogs, polls, web analytics and other modules.
There are three basic development models provided by Kentico.
  1. Portal Engine: Provides you with a browser-based interface using web parts components to create websites. Coding with the Visual studio is only required while creating custom components.
  2. ASPX templates: The developers can find varied templates to suit the website needs and this can be further customized using standard ASP.NET architecture and standard development tools, such as Visual Studio. This model requires you to be familiar with ASP.NET web form development and have at least basic programming knowledge of C# or VB.NET.
  3. MVC: Kentico allows you to create websites using the Model-View-Controller architectural pattern (based on the ASP.NET MVC framework). Note that, not all features are supported for MVC development; see Supported and unsupported Kentico features on MVC sites for more details.

Why Kentico?

1. Ease of Use
Kentico CMS is out of the box one of the easiest CMS systems to use. Anyone who has ever used the Internet has all the skills required to add and update pages, add dynamic content, and create stunning, feature-rich websites. Kentico administration system comes with plenty of tips and descriptions to guide users through nearly every process. Additionally, Kentico provides step-by-step guides and tutorials directly on their site along with videos, blogs, and forums.
2. UI Personalization
The Kentico Administration site provides the feature of UI personalization. The UI personalization application enables you to provide certain users of the website with a simplified user interface. This is useful for business users who don’t need to see all the applications, tabs, menu items, or parts of UI pages which they do not use. Setting up a personalized UI can significantly decrease the learning time for users, new to the system and makes the system generally easier to use and understand.
  1. UI personalization does not apply to users who have the Administrator Global administrator privilege level. Administrators always have access to all UI elements, regardless of the system’s UI personalization settings.
  2. Do not confuse UI personalization with the permission system in Kentico. Permissions control what users can do, such as create or modify objects, while UI personalization controls what users can see. A user may be able to see a part of the UI but still not have permissions to perform any actions.
3. Content Staging / Continuous Integration
One of the challenges of updating content on a site is the repeated effort to migrate changes from one platform to the next. Often companies will have different environments for their staging (QA) content and their production (live) content. With Kentico, publishing data from one environment to the next is accomplished easily through the use of “content staging”. With a few clicks, a user can migrate content between the systems and quickly synchronize all environments. With the use of the “Scheduled Tasks” feature, this process can even be accomplished on a daily or hourly basis to increase productivity even further. This minimizes administrative time and easily allows a company to define a concise process for updates and deployments.
4. Workflows
Workflows in Kentico allow content to be moved through a set of predefined steps. These steps are easily created and configured in the Kentico system and can be quickly applied to any or all content. An editor can make changes to a page, and then submit it for approval. The approving manager gets notified automatically by the Kentico system of the change. The managers can then view the edits, submit them back to the editor for correction, publish the changes, or even edit the edited content. Workflows can also be configured to have several steps that must be completed before content is published to the site.
5. Smart Search
Smart Search in Kentico is a Lucene-based search functionality that quickly analyzes and locates content. Through the use of this module, defined content is indexed and stored in the system to allow searches to be completed much quicker than traditional database-based methods. Search results can be customized to only return relevant content and images. The Kentico system constantly updates the search results as new website content changes to keep the results accurate.
6. Feature-rich CMS
Off the shelf, the Kentico CMS system allows for eCommerce, blogging, forums, messaging, and a number of other critical functions. With the Ultimate license, companies have full access to every feature and can quickly add new functionality to their sites. Many other CMS systems require a series of add-ons to obtain the functionality readily available in Kentico. Even if a company decides to add modules, later on, all that is required is a simple update of the license and the features for the module are unlocked. Having such a wide range of features allows a company to focus on their business, not piecing together functionality.
7. Smooth Updates
Kentico provides step-by-step guides for every product update. Their installation packages are professionally written and provide a solid, concise process for applying the updated content. Any special requirements are clearly defined and easy to follow. Updates come complete with documentation and files targeted at a number of environments (.NET 2.0,3.5,etc.) so that all clients can benefit from their improvements.
8. Customer Recognition
Kentico is constantly gaining market share and quickly becoming a premier CMS software company. Kentico constantly communicates upcoming changes with their clients and values their input. Kentico listens to its partners and strives to deliver a product that meets their needs. For the training program, Kentico reached out to several of their “Gold” level partners to create the training material and guidelines. This type of customer involvement demonstrates Kentico’s commitment to their clients and their success.
9. Constantly Evolving
As each day passes, new technologies and functionality are being created. The folks at Kentico embrace these changes and are constantly incorporating them into their product. They test their code using the latest development environments and servers (Visual Studio 2010/Windows Server 2008) to ensure compliance. Kentico integrates a number of third-party components (CKEditor, Lucene, AJAX, etc.) and utilizes the latest source code that is available. All of these efforts allow Kentico to deliver the latest technologies and functionality that drive dynamic, interactive websites.
10. New Documentation
With the release of each new version of Kentico, it keeps on adding a lot of developer-centric functionality. With this, there comes a lot of questions from the community on how to utilize them and best practices. With the release of each new version of Kentico, they also keep updating their documentation to provide the information to get developers heading in the right direction. It really helps the developers to understand the new features and help them implement within the applications.

Monday, October 9, 2017

How to make your website secure?

When we talk about website security there are 2 levels of security we should consider
  1. Application Level Security (Secure Website Development)
  2. Server Level Security (Maintain a secure website)

Application Level Security:

Creating Secure Websites shows how we can meet the most important security challenges when developing websites. Some of the security challenges are mentioned below.

1. Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site Scripting (XSS) is client-side code injection attack where a hacker/attacker can execute malicious scripts into the web application, can steal user’s cookie which can be used for impersonation. XSS is amongst the most common of web application vulnerabilities and occurs when a web application accepts unsanitized input from a user and displays output instantly.
For example user or attacker added a comment with malicious script and when it displays, it will display like
<h1>Recent comment</h1>
   window.location=”” + document.cookie

 How to Prevent that:
Validate and sanitize (HTML Encode, URL Encode, Removing dangerous tags data, input by the user

2. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF) is an attack that forces an authenticated user to execute unwanted actions on a web application without their knowledge.

For example, a banking website is not protected against CSRF. Typical GET request to transfer amount is HTTP://$50.

An attacker can change this script to transfer $50 to their own account and can share a link via email  HTTP://$50 with reading more link <a href=”HTTP://$50″>Read more</a>. So as soon as a user clicks on that link from email/text/blog and if user’s session is active in then $50 would be transferred to Attacker.

How to Prevent that:

From Application End: Generate unique random tokens for every session request or ID when a page loads. Tokens would be checked and verified by the server on every request or form submission. Session requests having wrong tokens or duplicate tokens or missing values would be blocked.
From User end: Sign out from an application when not in use and not allowing a browser to remember passwords.

3. SQL Injection
SQL Injection (SQLI) is a common attack where the attacker can execute malicious SQL statements that control web application’s database server. This is most dangerous attack as it may destroy complete database of the application.

For example, a website A is not prevented with SQL injection then an attacker can get access of any user without login using user id and password.
For Example in login form user needs to input User Id and Password and query may run in database to validate user is

select * from users where user_id =’amit’ and password = ‘password’

So attacker may log in to amit’s account without knowing a password. The attacker will input below details in both boxes:
User Id: amit
Password: ‘ or ‘1’=’1

So query would be select * from users where user_id =’amit’ and password = ‘’ OR ‘1’ = ‘1’
As OR operator is being used and 1=1 always true so it will return details of user_id Amit and an attacker will get logged in access of amit’s account.
Even more dangerous impact could be deleting complete table or database

User Id: ‘; DROP TABLE users; /*
Password: */—

So query would be select * from users where user_id =’’; DROP TABLE users; /* and password = ‘password’ */—

As there is semicolon then 2 queries would be executed and second query “DROP Table users” will completely delete user table and application will break completely.

How to Prevent:
  1. Use Prepared Statements: The use of prepared statements with variable binding ensure that an attacker is not able to change the intent of a query, even if SQL commands are inserted by an attacker. In the example above, if an attacker were to enter the userID of Amit and password of ‘ or ‘1’=’1, the parameterized query would not be vulnerable and would instead look for a password which literally matched the entire string ‘ or ‘1’=’1
  2. Validate user Input: Always validate input provided by a user and escape it before putting it in a query.
  3. Cast User Input: If a numeric input expected from a user then cast it to INT so that nonnumeric would be removed automatically.
  4. Restrict Privileges: Application Database user privileges should be restricted. It should not delete database or tables.
4. Session Hijacking

Session hijacking is a type of web attack in which attacker takes advantage of the active sessions (Temporary Identification) of logged in user.
 The actual user has logged in his account and then attacker steals the cookies to hijack the active session and play the role of a genuine user.

How to Prevent:
  1. SSL (HTTPS): Use Secure HTTP (HTTPS) so that attacker can not hijack sessions.
  2. Session Destroy: Destroy session automatically if no activity from user after a certain time
5. Brute Force Attack

A brute force attack is a method which is used to obtain information such as a user password or personal identification number (PIN). An attacker would be continuously using different passwords to log in to a system until it succeeds.
How to Prevent:
  1. Strong Password: Encourage the user to use strong passwords Alphanumeric with special characters.
  2. Captcha: Ask a user to enter captcha answer if a user fails login 3-4 times.
  3. Lock Account: Lock user account for some time if login is failed multiple times.

 6. Web Form Spam

Web form spam is common attack by which attacker submits forms using Bots/Script to get more backlinks of their website. A form would be submitted thousand times by the Robot.

How to Prevent:
  1. Track Form Render and submission time: If form renders and submission time is too fast then it might be from script/bot
  2. Hidden Text box: Add a textbox in form with class required and hide it from CSS. A human cannot add data on that box as it is not visible but script may think that it is required field & add data. If data is added to that field then definitely it is script and does not store that data.
  3. Use Captcha: Use captcha so that script cannot read and submit a form.

Server Level Security:

  1. Keep plugin / CMS up to date: It is really important to update your site as soon as a new plugin or CMS version is available.
  2. URL & Password: Keep Admin URL different and something hard to guess instead of Admin, Database, Server password should be strong and IP restricted.
  3. Access and Permission: It’s important that every user has the appropriate permission they need to do their job. If they need permissions temporarily, grant it, then change it once the job is complete. Double check what user/resources (Directories, files) has what access and permission. Restrict permissions based on access.
  4. Change Default CMS Settings: Many attacks happen on the default settings being used. We can avoid a large number of attacks by changing the default settings when installing CMS.
  5. Server Configuration: We should know our web server configuration files. Apache web servers use the .htaccess file, Nginx servers use nginx.conf and Microsoft IIS servers use web.config. These files are very powerful. These files allow us to execute server rules that compromise website security.
  6. Install SSL: SSL is important for website security and any website that accepts form submissions with sensitive user data. The SSL certificate protects visitor’s information in transit which protects us from noncompliant with PCI DSS.
  7. Back Up: Always back up a site so that we can recover our site even though it is being hacked or security compromised.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Get Your Website Ready for the Festive Season

Recent statistics from the year 2016 has revealed that smartphones and tablets drove a record $259 million in online sales on Black Friday last year, and $419 million in online sales on Cyber Monday last year. A report provided by CNBC and Business Insider respectively has stated that Amazon has captured more than half of all online sales growth in the last year and Walmart’s e-commerce sales rose by 63% just in the last quarter!

While all e-commerce sites are aware of this sales peak, the real question lies in how to prepare for this heavy traffic and how to make the most of it for your individual business?

Understanding the intricacies of handling your e-commerce sites as well as your customer goes a long way in boosting your sale. Here are some tips to enable a well-planned and prepared strategy for advancing your eCommerce sales during this holiday season:

Adapt to only small and avoid significant changes:

While most marketers would tell you to make substantial changes to your sales strategy, the changes on your e-commerce platform should be significant at the appropriate turns and not completely redo your website unless customers have remarked regarding the ease of use. Shoppers have the tendency to compare prices between sellers and if they are used to your site then they would be back to buy despite the marginal difference in cost provided they are comfortable around the easy navigation of your portal as well as happy with your payment options. Given the remarkable progress in digital money, looping in e-wallet platforms and offering flashy discounts or cash back options for your returning customers would help convert your sales rate into bigger numbers.

Be accessible to your customers:

Customers have constant queries related to products and service options alike. Having a separate customer support team to address every single question would be hard to keep track of, and therefore providing a self-servicing option would be a wise choice. While for constantly repeated queries keeping the FAQ section up to date would be ideal, adding in a feature of live chat would not only be a remarkable advantage of building confidence in the buyer to purchase from you but also help to convert them into returning customers to be highly satisfied with your e-commerce responsive customer service.

Market you and your product:

The primary step to get your sales reach desired proportions is to start by planning early. The holiday calendar is fixed and planning your strategies well ahead of time helps you to not only regulate sales effectively but also enable you to channelize them prospectively. Starting from doing a detailed market study of the current year’s trends to drawing up your shipping calendar and price plans will be the best markers from your marketing to sales conversion strategy.
  • Pick your desired festivals for sale, and draw up the promotional calendar which will outline your sales and marketing strategy from day one of your sale.
  • According to Roy Erez, CEO of Loop Commerce, a buyer hesitates to purchase gifts online due to infeasible return or refund options. Amping up your return and exchange policy through a regulated shipping channel will ensure a wider customer base. Do not forget on effective shipping strategy because 88% of online shoppers have rated free shipping as their driving factor for purchase.
  • Get all your planning done well ahead of the sale. Ensure that your ad copy, promotional email list, design and graphics, landing page, etc, is all prepared before the last minute of sale in order to both improvise on your strategy and to avoid technical glitches for a hassle free sale. Ensure your server does not crash due to overload as a frustrated customer would avoid purchase on your site.

Strategize the intricacies of your website and reap its benefits this holiday!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Ecommerce Strategy: 5 Reasons to Start Selling Online

The growth of e-commerce has spiked up in the recent years as compared to the traditional brick and mortar businesses because of the consumer reach through technological advancement and the availability of improved and flexible logistics. According to reports from the National Retail Federation, the growth of online retail has been expected to rise from 8% to a minimum of 12% in 2017 which would mean that the total revenue form e-commerce sales would fall somewhere between $427-$443 billion. Every sector of business, be it a startup or an established one, the advantages of expanding into the e-commerce domain are plenty. Below is a list of the top 5 reasons why starting the e-commerce venture is worthwhile:

  1. Couch start: The business arena today, whether it is the sale of a product or service, is driven by the advancement in technology. While expanding or starting a brick or mortar business will take a considerable amount of time to be fully functional, getting to the e-commerce platform is simple and just a few clicks away. There are various pre-existing websites that allow sales through their channels, as well as established vendors who can create the required web portal within a few hours. Without an actual retail outlet or a business center, an individual can easily sell from the confines of their lodging space with just a computer and internet access.
  1. Cost efficient: Most businesses require a significant amount of money to invest in marketing a product for sale. The e-commerce platform can enable a seller to start growing their business with a small investment and with the profitable returns the organization of an established business is easier. Some of the leading e-commerce websites are not easy and free to sign up but there is also the flexibility of using the certified logistics for a reasonable price, and a seller can essentially avoid the large upfront investment needed to grow a business. The use of resources like social media, Google AdWords, and organic search can help greatly with the marketing aspect, and also save on payroll costs.
  1. Online brand awareness: According to statistics and market trend reports, it is a recognized fact that customers first check out the products online regardless of whether they buy it online or through a retail store. Reports have shown that in 2014, close to 81% of shoppers followed this trend, and this number has only been growing ever since. Having an e-commerce platform for your product launches you in front of the customer and with the appropriate online marketing-strategy tools, these products can also be accelerated to be among the top searches or sales lists. This would also pave the way for potential customers to relate and order your product easily.
  1. Internet boundary: The sale via a typical brick and mortar shop may limit its sale to the geographical location, but the launch of an e-commerce platform enables the seller to reach customers in the global market. This not only ensures the widespread of sales but also aids with the gathering of new customers in varied markets around the globe.
  1. Growth in online sales: According to comScore reports, while the level of online purchasers was 47% and 48% in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the rate of online purchasers has grown to more than 51% currently. Taking to the e-commerce platform ensures that your sales are projected towards where the purchaser crowd in high than confining your product to a 4 walled-store.
In the words of Hil Davis, Co-Founder of the Online Men’s Retailer J. Hilburn, “e-commerce and mobile commerce have dramatically changed the way brands reach customers, making it faster and easier for consumers to make purchases on the fly while avoiding the hassles of going to the store.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Why Laravel is the best PHP Framework of 2017

If you are wondering about some of the best PHP frameworks, then we would recommend Laravel. Many of top websites are built in 2017 are based on Laravel. With 33,356 stars on GIT till date, it is among the most popular PHP frameworks.

Let us understand why we think Laravel is an excellent PHP framework:

1) Developing an authorization and authentication systems :– Each web application owner wants to integrate role based application. Where users using the application should be authenticated and they can view and access the content based on their role. While developing this requires a lot of efforts, Laravel makes authentication and authorization development very straightforward. It is easy to develop and understand. The framework also provides a manageable way of organizing authorization logic as well as control resources access.

2) Object Oriented Concepts :– An important point which makes Laravel the popular PHP framework it is, is has Object Oriented libraries and many other pre-installed ones, which are not found in any other admired PHP frameworks. One of the pre -installed libraries is the Authentication library. In spite of the fact that it is easy to implement, it has many significant features, such as checking active users, bcrypt hashing, password reset, CSRF (Cross-site Request Forgery) protection, and encryption.

3) Artisan :– The key feature which Laravel offers is a built in the tool named as Artisan. A developer has to usually interact with the Laravel framework using a command line that creates and handles the Laravel project environment. Laravel provides the fitting tool for command-line called Artisan. This tool allows us to perform the majority of those monotonous and tiresome programming tasks that most of the developers avoid performing manually.

4) MVC :– Additionally, the reason which makes Laravel the supreme PHP framework is, it supports MVC Architecture like Symfony, ensuring accuracy between logic and presentation. MVC helps in improving the performance, allows better documentation, and has multiple built-in features.

5) Application Security :– Nowadays, the importance of application security has emerged as a leading factor for companies. While developing an application everyone has to use some or the other ways to make the application secure. Laravel takes care of the security inside its framework. It uses salted and hashed password, which means that the password would never be saved as plain text in the database. It uses Bcrypt hashing algorithm for generating an encrypted representation of a password. Laravel uses prepared SQL statements which make injection attacks improbable. Along with this, Laravel provides a simple way to escape user input to avoid user injection of the <script> tag.

6) Database Migration :- Developers are always in dilemma, how to keep the database in sync between development machines. With Laravel database migrations, it seems a doodle. After the long work hours, you may have made a lot of changes to the database and, in my opinion; MySQL Workbench is not a great way to sync databases between development machines. Instead, use Laravel Migrations. As long as you keep all of the database work in migrations and seeds, you can easily migrate, the changes, into any other development machine you have. This is yet another reason which makes Laravel the supreme PHP framework.

7) Profound Tutorials (Laracasts) :– Developers need to keep learning and evolving his/her knowledge constantly. Unlike others (Codeigniter, Yii, CakePHP etc.) Laravel offers Laracasts which features a mix of free and paid video tutorials that show you how to use it. The videos are all made by Jeffery Way, an expert and master instructor. He seems to have his finger on the pulse of the essentials and offers clear and concise instructions. The production quality is high, and the lessons are well-thought out and meaningful.

8) Blade Templating Engine :- Blade is a simple, yet powerful templating engine provided with Laravel. Unlike other popular PHP templating engines, Blade does not restrict you from using plain PHP code in your views. In fact, all Blade views are compiled into plain PHP code and cached until they are modified; meaning Blade adds essentially zero overhead to your application.

9) Unit Testing :– Developers also like Laravel in the way it greases the wheel for Unit testing. Laravel is built with testing in mind. Testing with PHP UNIT is reinforced and included out of the box, and a PHPUnit.the XML file is already setup for your application. The framework also ships with convenient helper methods allowing you to expressively test your applications. Additionally, it performs several tests to make sure that any new update made by a developer does not unexpectedly break anything in the application.

10) Caching :– Caching is one of the important aspects of web development. Laravel provides a unified API for various caching systems. It makes it easy for us to switch out how we want to cache to be generated. It is extremely easy for us to switch out the drivers. The cache configuration is located at config/cache.php. Laravel supports popular caching backends like Memcached and Redis out of the box.

In Conclusion
Development of a web application is an alloy of common and creative tasks. Fine developers like to do all these common work (repeating from project to project) in as little time as possible (without loss of quality) before starting to write custom functions. Web frameworks are tools that make it easier to solve regular tasks quickly with the point to focus faster on own application’s logic (creative tasks).
Not all frameworks are able to solve each of the described problems equally well. The Supreme web frameworks such as Laravel help developers to do it and this means that Laravel-based development will make software delivery on time and cost-effective. Besides, Laravel is scalable. Also, it is not a problem finding new developers as this framework is well liked.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Five Reasons Why Business Intelligence Implementation Can Fail

 While there are loads of advice on how to institute a business intelligence (BI) tool into an organization’s curriculum, there is hardly any foresight on how to turn the BI tool into a part of the organization’s culture for effective usage. Scientific facts state that a smartphone is a tool that people just flash for having a sense of belonging with the crowd and use it only for limited purposes, and thereby fail to expend the smartphone’s full capabilities. Similarly, BI tools are not effectively expended and thus lose their value or fade out over time. Consequently, the critical question is: is it the smartphone’s fault or the user’s?
Bill Hostmann, a vice president and renowned analyst at Gartner, stated that “Despite years of investing in BI, many IT organizations have difficulty connecting BI with the business, and to get business users fully involved and out of the ‘Excel culture’ “. Periodical surveys have indicated that the following five reasons are the root cause for the implementation of BI tools to fail:
  1. Using The BI Tool As A Depository :- There has to be an efficient system of data management and the tradition of transcription culture among the employees should be imbibed in their system and the business support team should aid in the process of constant result generation. Nobody used computers when they were introduced, but today the whole world of business is progressively built around computers.
  2. Not Allowing Free Flow Of Data :-  Often employees collect data from the BI tools and transcribe them into the excel sheets or other similar formats and leave it there. This leads to stagnation, thereby leading to withholding of analysis from being circulated around the company. When crucial data is unavailable, the BI tools become ineffective to produce competent results. Instead of just collecting data, employees should have the responsibility to feed their results back into the system and allow access to other users, failing which there would be a slow motion domino collapse of the data.
  3. Plugging In A Third Man To Get The Answers :-  When organizations hit a rock wall, they give up and bring in third-party experts to take care of their business needs. This results in business decisions being formed from an outside-source rather than an in-house expert. Only employees that are part of the organization will be able to tackle and estimate the businesses’ problems because to an outsider it’s just meaningless numbers. The individual has to take the pick at the buffet table and not eat from another’s plate.
  4. Play Against Strategy :-  Most employees just think about the BI tool installed as a one stop shop for answer, but they need to strategically equip themselves to use the tool to their advantage. This also means that the BI tool should be up to date with the market and quality checked to ensure that the data is not being lost in transaction. Having a combined team of IT experts and business analysts dedicated towards the BI tool will ensure quality results.
  5. Failing To Train And Adapt :-  Employees believe that they are always right and that the software is beneath them. Having a positive approach towards change and trying out a handy BI tool only makes life easier. A BI tool only provides a wider berth of data to swim in, so adapting with technology only showcases the employees potential and does not undermine them for using a resource.
In the words of James Richardson, a research director at Gartner, “Business users must take a leadership role in the BI initiative — only with their full engagement will investment in BI ever realize its potential.”

Monday, August 28, 2017

Five ‘Must Haves’ in the Self-serving BI Tools


The world of business analytics has seen some major shifts in its analytical frame. The current demand for instant usability and conformability has made the traditional lengthy-process of getting out reports via business analyst or analysis-specific IT teams redundant. Even before the data reaches the actual business users for ultimate decision making, the time taken for the data travel and subsequent conversion causes it to expire upon arrival.

The rise of self-service business intelligence (BI) is indeed unfathomable. Several BI companies have established a strong foothold in BI and Gartner has also predicted that “self-service BI platforms will make up 80% of all enterprise reporting by 2020”. Self-service BI tools, as the term denotes, will not only eliminate the need for a mediator to transliterate the information into usable data but also help beat the time delay.

The major perk of a self-service BI tool is that, in comparison to a lot of BI data analytics tools in the market that require SQL developers or BI experts, a person of reasonable understanding would be able to use the tool’s dashboard to easily manipulate the data into the required track. Without any specialized training, the management, marketing, business development, or any controlling department within the business could easily access the businesses’ database to build the necessary reports to answer crucial business questions.

Here are the top 5 ‘must haves’ when you consider a self-service BI tool:
  1.    One Stop Shop – The tool must be able to correlate data and not be a restricted user interface requiring multiple individuals to manually generate statistics and then have another one drive the final report. In short, one tool should be the one stop for all business needs.
  1.    Easily Integrated – Tool should be easy to integrate into existing systems in order to be able to get it working without any delay or the requirement of a major system upgrade in the existing database. Adaptability is a priority.
  1.    Real-time – Constant real-time update feasibility to ensure that the numbers are live and not require a constant error due to poor data feeds.
  1.    Simplified Decision Making – Avoid “decision fatigue” that can be the downfall of a business. It is important for the BI tool dashboard to allow a user to ease of access to even high-end data processing so that warranted decisions can be taken without a glitch.
  1.    Time & Money Saver – Lastly, the tool should not be a time or money consumer, because otherwise, businesses tend to take a negative approach towards the BI tool.
Bernard Marr, author of ― Big Data: Using SMART Big Data, Analytics and Metrics To Make Better Decisions and Improve Performance, stated that “As business leaders, we need to understand that lack of data is not the issue. Most businesses have more than enough data to use constructively; we just don’t know how to use it. The reality is that most businesses are already data rich, but insight poor.”  The scope of self-service BI tools is to try and cut through the precise data by having department specific users navigate through the abundant data and use it to their leverage instead of the traditional group of BI experts salvaging random data.

In nutshell, self-serving BI tools anticipate providing independent access to critical data without any constraints. Nevertheless, it is important to factor in that every tool needs regular maintenance and appraising without which an error-free analytics tool would completely collapse over time.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Build Automation using PowerShell

Now that we know why build automation is needed, in this detailed post I will cover how to approach build automation using PowerShell. Since this is a technical post I have included the list of acronyms and some useful links towards the end for reader’s benefits.

Background & Requirement

We use Microsoft Visual studio to develop our .Net projects. For a modestly sized client project with both web services and windows services, we were initially relying on manual approach to create daily builds and deploy it on QA, UAT and Production servers. On an average, this was taking around 2 hours of a DevOps Team member and more if some issues crop up. QA was getting delayed every morning getting the link for QA server with new build. We needed to automate this workflow as much as possible.
I was asked to undertake the task. Being a newbie to this, I did some research and found that doing Continuous integration (CI) means to use different tools and tool sets. Tools that I could use were Team City, Jenkins, Team Foundation Server, Bamboo, Circle CI and so on. Most were excellent tools supporting entire stages of CI but these also cost money in terms of licenses, either per user or per seat. Besides cost, there were also learning curves and their own limitations.
I have worked with PowerShell since its alpha release in 2005 and grew fond of its power and versatility over time. I use it for most of my automation needs, be it personal or work related. A relatively new windows command shell, it is integrated with C# which makes it much more powerful than traditional windows CMD shell. Much loved and rarely rebuked, it has very vibrant user community in System management and automation space. Just do a Net search for common System Management tasks through PowerShell.  Through Powershell Core , it is also making its way in Linux world. PowerShell is released with many inbuilt cmdlets to do most of day to day work and a lot of windows components & other vendors have provided their own cmdlets to manage their environments through PowerShell command line.

Justification & Business Case

Faced with licensing costs & other constraints of traditional CI tools and my own comfort with PowerShell, I decided to script the whole Build Automation workflow using PowerShell. It was a wonderful decision. Automation has been working very well since 2 years and saving minimum 2 hours per day for a small project with 5 web services and 3 windows services and code stored in SVN repository. Later on, we extended it to work with much bigger project with 11 Visual Studio (VS) solutions and 71 VS projects with code stored in TFS (Team Foundation Server). It saved 3 hours per day on the second project. We could deploy this on any windows machine where Windows Management Framework (WMF) 4.0 can be installed. Everyone on development team was aware of the code build status and DevOps could use output of this process to deploy it inside client VPN.

Creating Build Management Framework

For our Build Management workflow, I used the below tools, cmdlets and techniques
  1. Retrieve code from source control using SVN command line and TFS PowerShell
  2. Modify Solution files and Project files which are plain XML and easily manipulated from PowerShell.
  3. Use exe to download on-demand packages.
  4. Use MSBUILD and MSDEPLOY to build and deploy to desired location.
  5. Use IIS PowerShell cmdlets to manage Web services and deploy them.
  6. Use Out of the box PowerShell cmdlets to manage Windows services.
  7. Validate deployments and do BVT using Invoke-WebRequest, Invoke-RestMethod and other out of the box cmdlets.
  8. Invoke our test suites written in TestNG or nUnit directly.
  9. Use Send-MailMessage to send mails with results and the attachments. Securely save Sender password in system through PowerShell Secure Capabilities.
If I had been automating build created in other environment like Java, Maven/Ant & Git, I could have easily installed these on my build machine and use the corresponding command line to get code and build it.

Major Benefit of the PowerShell based approach

Major benefits of using PowerShell to do Build Automation as per me are as follows
  1. Easy availability and No Licensing cost – All things mentioned here are available free of cost on any windows computer. There is no ongoing cost beyond initial development cost.
  2. Easy deployability – This setup can be easily deployed anywhere on a windows computer and it can start working without much hitch.
  3. Easy maintenance – Once used to tweaking the configuration files required for it, even a novice DevOps engineer can maintain this. If DevOps team is well versed with PowerShell, they can even debug and update the scripts as and when needed.
  4. Modularity – I divided my solution in 4 parts, SVN fetch, Solution Modification, Build, Deploy. Most of the code in this is easily reusable across various .net projects.
  5. Longevity – Microsoft is committed to enhance PowerShell experience across the board, as also many vendors. Investment in this is not going to be wasted down the line.
  6. Existing knowledge – Most DevOps engineers have some exposure to PowerShell and can utilize their knowledge very easily in this rather than learning a new UI tool.
  7. Full control – PowerShell cmdlets and other command line tools usually expose more information and allow more fine-tuned control than any UI based tools which always need some scripting support.
With PowerShell, immense power is available with a DevOps engineer to tweak things as needed. Why run around and struggle with various evolving tools when everything is available easily to do most of the build automation tasks through out of the box tools?
Added advantage of a build automation project undertaken through PowerShell would be major knowledge upgrade for the DevOps team. They will be exposed to many tools & concepts and become more nimble & productive with effective usage of PowerShell in their day to day life.
Cmdlets available from others and coming with new software installation

As I noted earlier, many vendors have extended support for PowerShell through their own PowerShell cmdlet packages. I will list out few now which do not constitute an exhaustive list by any standards but gives a glimpse of what can be done through PowerShell from a DevOps architect perspective. If your workflow constitutes more steps than mentioned earlier, you may need to use one of the below.
  1. AWS tools for Windows PowerShell – Manage AWS services from the Windows PowerShell scripting environment.
  2. Azure PowerShell
  3. SQL Server PowerShell – SQL Server 2017 supports Windows PowerShell. PowerShell supports more complex logic than Transact-SQL scripts, giving SQL Server administrators the ability to build robust administration scripts.
  4. Oracle Cluster and PowerShell
  5. Net and Data Access – Connecting to Oracle Database from PowerShell.
  6. PowerShell for Docker – Under construction now, under open source project but very promising.
  7. Manage VPN Connections through PowerShell – If needed; connect to VPN before code download or deployment.
  8. Manage Windows Clusters through PowerShell
  9. Microsoft Office PowerShell cmdlets – Automate editing of Office Files.
  10. PowerShell in Jenkins – Use PowerShell scripts in Jenkins.

Links, Acronyms & Further readings

  1. PowerShell learning from Microsoft Virtual Academy
  2. Continuous integration – A development practice that requires developers to integrate code into a shared repository several times a day. Each check-in is then verified by an automated build, allowing teams to detect problems early.
  3. Windows management Framework – PowerShell upgrade
  4. List of Build Automation tools
  5. Some CI tools – Team City , Jenkins , Team Foundation Server , Bamboo , Circle CI
  6. SVN – Apache Subversion
  7. TestNG – TestNG is a testing framework inspired from jUnit and nUnit but introducing some new functionality that make it more powerful and easier to use.
  8. nUnit – NUnit is a unit-testing framework for all .Net languages
  9. QA – Quality Assurance
  10. UAT – User acceptance testing
  11. Cmdlets – a lightweight command that is used in the Windows PowerShell environment. The Windows PowerShell runtime invokes these cmdlets within the context of automation scripts that are provided at the command line.
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