Is Your Business Data Secure? Using Cloud Storage to Secure Your Data

Using Cloud Storage to Secure Your Data

There are few things more precious to a company than the contact lists, financial information and account history which comprise its success. However, given the importance of this information – and keeping it out of the wrong hands – it makes it all the more necessary for it to be protected and secured in the event of server issues, natural disasters and other types of data loss. Many businesses are shifting away from a paper-bound system, and with 82% of companies surveyed by NSK Inc experiencing money savings after making the switch, there’s sure to be many more that make the move. Whether a business owner or an interested party, here are the important details about this type of storage and how Arkit may be able to change the traditional way of dealing with data.

The Scoop On Cloud Storage?

The concept of the Cloud may be something that many people use each day, whether with their iPad or personal laptop, but it’s easy to have a sense of what the cloud does without knowing what exactly it is. Whether you’re photo-sharing with users all over the world or propping up the backbone of your company, the cloud is an easy-access and instant tool that provides information which is actually stored on a remote server, not on a personal device or on-site at a business location. While this information can be accessed via the Internet, the information and system maintenance is actually looked after by the provider of the cloud service. As Arkit utilizes Amazon Web Services (AWS) for its cloud storage, the hardware required for cloud storage is owned, maintained and monitored by AWS.

The Benefits of Cloud Storage

According to the research and advisory firm, Gartner, by the end of 2016 more than 50% of the world’s Global 1000 companies will be storing their sensitive company data in the cloud, which means this type of storage is gaining prominence for businesses that want to outsource their data management services. With the 24 hours monitoring and accessibility of cloud storage through Arkit, it should be no surprise that the benefits of the cloud are quickly attracting businesses from all over the world at an accelerating pace.

A Storage Size Specific to Your Business

The costs of having to manage your own data and provide your own services can add up very quickly, and the financial toll of this can be significant if your company either has too little storage space or requires too much. One of the benefits of cloud storage with is that, instead of having to pay for goods that you will not be able to use entirely, cloud storage will enable you to pay for – and access – exactly the amount of storage your business requires.

A Lower-Cost Storage Solution

Another benefit associated with cloud storage is that many different customers will be using the service provider you use, which means that there will be a storage cost of about 3 cents per gigabyte in order for your provider to take care of your data. While paying for your own data management would ordinarily be a cost your business has to shoulder on its own, utilizing a service like Arkit will automatically achieve a lower overall cost.

In The Event of Emergency

There was once a time where a paper copy was the most reliable means of managing important business documents, but when it comes to a disaster – like an earthquake, fire or flood – paper is highly unreliable. Instead of having to worry about major data losses in the event of an unpredictable event, cloud storage easily ensures that you or your company will have your information reliably backed up.

The Latest and Greatest in IT

Instead of having to invest in upgrading your resources consistently, utilizing the cloud will enable your business to use the most up-to-date resources without having to worry about nurturing development in your office. This will not only improve your IT cost; it will mean that the resources used by your business are consistently up-to-date. According to Seagate Technology, more than 60 percent of businesses currently utilize the cloud for performing IT related operations.

Cloud Storage with Amazon Web Services

Arkit utilizes AWS which offers a variety of different services in 12 regions around the world. With everything from storage to networking to analytics to application services, data that AWS is responsible for is stored in their highly secured data center, and is readily accessible as it’s needed.  AWS ensures there is encryption in transit with TLS across all of their services and network firewalls are built into Amazon VPC.

Features of Amazon Web Services

Many of AWS’s services come with a service level agreement (SLA), and these services offer three copies of the data that is included with the service, ensuring the safety and security of data you store. AWS guarantees 99.95% uptime for all of your storage, which means that the approximate downtime you will experience per month is equivalent to 21.56 minutes. According to RightScale, 57 percent of their survey respondents in 2015 were running application in AWS, making their cloud storage service the most popular out there.

SSL Encryption & BCrypt Authentication

You can use SSL (Secure Sockets Layers) to encrypt a connection in an isolated database environment that runs in the cloud, and this can be implemented using a variety of different applications like Oracle, Aurora and MySQL. AWS also features Bcrypt authentication, which will provide only a series of hashed passwords in the event that data has been compromised. While this can be beneficial, there are some ways that these hashed passwords can be determined using different hacking strategies. Algorithms like Bcrypt, provided by AWS, ensure that password data is quite resistant to brute force attacks from outside sources.

With the gradual evolution over to a paperless system, there are still many security concerns that surround cloud storage for many organizations. However, with the growing adaptation to this type of storage, more businesses are choosing to adopt this method of data management all the time. With so much emphasis on this type of storage and many security developments to back it up, this solution to storage that can be provided through Arkit is sure to widen its influence and use in the next few years.

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Green Is The New Black

Arkit Environment • Technology • 9 minute read

For many years, it’s been a popular trend to think of more environmentally friendly methods for day-to-day life from taking the bus to work to the ethos of reduce-reuse-recycle. While there are little differences we’re all capable of making in our life, this same innovative spirit of sustainability has become an important force in the fields of civil engineering and construction, where a friendlier footprint is a matter of prime importance. Few things can have a more marked influence on our environmental impact as the cities we live in and the way we build them, and these industries are prepping for a more sustainable future. Whether it involves the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials or the creation of homes that exist entirely off the grid, here are some means by which the world is set to become a little greener in the years to come.

Energy Use Of Net Zero?

The perfect solution for eliminating greenhouse gases all together may not be known yet, but the venture-backed startup Acre has created a zero-energy building that approaches architecture and construction from an entirely different perspective, with innovation and the planet in mind. The goal for each Acre home is that the amount of energy used by the building annually is equivalent to the amount of energy the home is creating each year. Though these buildings cannot always rely on solar energy, they do consume approximately 90% less energy and 70% less water than the traditional home. While the use of sustainable materials means that these homes are currently priced between 400 and 500 thousand, there are future plans to put a more affordable home on the market so that sustainability, in the form of this structure, can reach the masses.

Concrete That Won’t Crack

The stats say that cement is responsible for approximately 7 percent of annual global emissions, but with this popular material being used in so many construction projects, it can be problematic to re-consider its use entirely. Fortunately, researchers at Bath University in the United Kingdom are working on a solution to the problem of cement crack-ups. Since cracking is a serious construction problem and requires maintenance that leads to the release of even more damaging emissions, these researchers are trying to concoct a material using bacteria that will instantly react by producing limestone when water appears, so cracks cannot permeate to the core of a structure. While this invention is still in the development stages, this concept could mean a marked improvement for global emissions annually.  

Paving The Way To Electrical Energy

It might seem like the road beneath your vehicle is something that can be easily bypassed, but the Italian company Underground Power has discovered a way to utilize the kinetic energy that is instantly created by driving. Known as the “speed absorber”, Underground Power has come up with a technology called LYBRA which is installed flush with the pavement in areas where vehicles are required to slow down. As the car breaks, the kinetic energy that is lost during deceleration is collected and converted into electrical energy. The statistics determined by UP show that in a roundabout that is used by approximately 10,000 vehicles per day, this product produces 100,000 kWh per year, equal to the energy used by about 40,000 families. Since LYBRA can be customized for different roadways, it has the ability to be used in a variety of different circumstances to harness energy that would otherwise go to waste.

Buy A Small, Solar Jagpod

The price of real estate is quickly becoming unattainable for millennials and the middle-aged alike, but Jaguar Containers, which was started by William Coit, has come up with the concept of a small-sized home with an environmentally friendly outlook. Utilizing the unique concept of a shipping container as humble abode, these home units known as Jagpods are approximately 144-300 square feet and start at a price of $30,000. Each space is equipped with 2-4 solar panels that are 235 Watts, and have the ability to store energy so that no other energy source is required and owners can live off the grid. While the hope of the founder is that Jagpod can offer a quick solution for shelter in the event of natural disasters or other calamities, this environmentally friendly concept may have great future prospects given its progressive spirit.

Making It Modular

At some point in our youth, most of us played with Lego and put together a room or building only to add it onto some other, larger piece, but the increasingly popular use of modular construction actually takes a page from this very book. Traditionally, buildings were all built on site from top to bottom, but the utilization of modular techniques means that certain components of a larger structure are actually built off site - using the same materials and methods - and then transferred to the structure following completion. While this may seem like a much fussier method of construction, it’s actually a more sustainable process that can easily streamline construction. Due to the need to move parts after completion and the determination of logistics beforehand, there are fewer vehicle movements, which leads to less overall waste per project.

A Hobbit House In Real Life

The concept of the Hobbit house rose to prominence with the movie trilogy “The Lord of the Rings”, but DIY home designer Kristie Wolfe has taken it into her own hands to bring these houses into real life in the area of Chelan, Washington. Wolfe’s first Hobbit home is 288 square feet and built into the mountainside, with its internal size and style designed to be consistent with the concept of the Hobbit house. However, from the solar panels that make this home completely off the grid to the water from a nearby tower that feeds into the home, this undersized space is also entirely progressive and takes its environmental footprint into consideration. While the first home has now been completed and is ready to be rented through Airbnb, there are two more currently being built with a projected completion date of Summer 2016.

Mapping The Assets

There can be a number of environmental downfalls when it comes to equipment that is not properly maintained, but asset mapping is a means of ensuring that when certain equipment is on its last leg, it will be detected before it finally goes. Utilizing the information provided by serial numbers and firmware, asset mapping gathers the date from multiple devices and systems into one single map that can be monitored with ease. This means that anyone has the ability to see the location and condition of their equipment and systems instantly, with a smart phone or device. Instead of having to worry about where and when things will go, asset mapping will send out an alert so that the appropriate parties can be proactive and address the issues before they become problematic. As a result, this functionality means that energy costs and the carbon footprint will be considerably reduced.

The Advent Of LEED Buildings

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system has been around since 2002, but this environmentally responsible initiative for buildings is recognized in 150 countries and remains a progressive concept today. Since most structures actually generate up to 35 percent of all greenhouse gases and approximately 70 percent of the local water supply is consumed in and around buildings, LEED is something that will come to have a significant impact on the world of construction as sustainable methods become more popular. There are now more than 1800 LEED buildings in the world that function to make for a greener, healthier work environment that features improved air ventilation, natural light, and reduced waste and water consumption. With plant roofs and siding that absorbs moisture and light, the initiatives of this program make a marked difference for what the future of construction can hold.

As the world changes around us and the environment demands more sustainable solutions to serve our lifestyle, there is a lot of innovation driving future success in the fields of civil engineering and construction. Whether it happens to be the sustainable initiative of a LEED certified building or the possibility that exists on the horizon for concrete that can resist cracking, there are plenty of solutions that are set to change the way we live. When it comes to being sustainable and environmentally friendly, these sectors should see many effective, exciting shifts in the years to come.

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Tips and Tools to Successfully Manage Your Field Team

Arkit Management • Technology • 10 minute read

In environmental and civil engineering, as well as in the energy sector, managing remote teams is a way of life. Remote work is becoming more and more popular for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it offers employees and contractors a better work-life balance and it helps companies to save on overheads. That said, managing a remote team is also a unique challenge that requires a specific set of skills and tools in order to ensure that the whole team stays connected and productive. So how can you successfully manage your team in the field, no matter where they are? Here are just a few great tips and tools that will make managing remote teams easier.

Tip - Don't Focus on Work Hours; Focus on Deliverables

When you're managing an in-office team, you have control over your team's work hours and what activities they tackle and when. But with a remote team, you no longer have that same control – and trying to dictate your team's hours and activities down to the minute will often backfire and result in lower job satisfaction. After all, one of the reasons why remote work is so attractive to employees and contractors is that it gives them more control over their daily schedule.

This will require you to change your benchmarks for judging what constitutes good work and what constitutes hard work. Instead of measuring the amount of time that your remote workers dedicate to your project, measure their deliverables. Did they meet their deadlines this week? Is their work of a high caliber? These are the details that matter when managing a remote team.

Tip – Stop Trying to Micromanage; It Simply Does Not Work

Typically, people in supervisory and management positions have their own unique management styles. One common style of managing is known as micromanaging, also known as hands-on or over-the-shoulder managing. If you're a hands-on manager, you'll need to re-train yourself in order to succeed with a remote team. Not being there in person to look over your team's shoulders and keep things running smoothly means you will need to develop trust in your team and transition into a more empowering management style.

Step one: Remember that you've put your team in place because you believe they are the best people suited to the task at hand. You need to have faith in your team's abilities and in your judgment, and allow your team members the freedom to do what they do best.

Tip – Change Your Mindset to "Remote First"

Software startup Trello uses a remote-based marketing team for its advertising initiatives, and the team manager and VP of Marketing, Stella Garber, says that she had to completely change the way she approaches projects in order to better manage both an in-person team and a remote team. Says Garber:

"It took a while to get our rhythm down, especially from a management perspective…(the 'remote first' mentality) is an essential practice for us at Trello. It means that even if one team member is remote and the rest are in the office, everyone will default to a videoconference. That way, remote workers don't feel left out…there will always be a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) when dealing with remote teams, so I've found that over-communicating is often better than assuming team members will find things out through the grapevine (or by message in a bottle)."

Tip – Don't Forget About the Social Aspect

When it comes to managing on-site versus remote teams, one key difference is in the social contact – or lack thereof – that each group has with key members. In fact, one of the biggest reasons that remote teams fail is that they don't end up actually developing a rapport. If you want your team to act like a team, you need to make them feel like a team – and that starts with giving them opportunities to simply socialize.

These team members aren't bumping into each other at the water cooler or making small talk in the lunchroom, so you need to re-create those opportunities in the virtual space. Encourage your team to regularly videoconference just to ask each other what's going on and simply bond as a team.

Tool - Arkit: Collaborate Quickly and Easily with an All-in-One Suite

Arkit is a map-based project management and collaboration solution that provides large enterprises with powerful new remote communication and project management functions. Arkit's project map makes it easy for on-the-ground employees, site managers, off-site contractors, and upper-level supervisors to view project details and communicate about project needs. Arkit offers powerful organizational capabilities like lab data management, document uploads, task lists, budget outlines, task assignments, and a project history. That means even though you're not in the same place as your team, you can still see everything they're doing in almost real time and adjust project deadlines, budget allocations, and strategies as the need arises.

Arkit's project activity stream serves as a detailed permanent record of everything that happened, so nothing gets lost. Arkit also provides an overview of man-hour utilization across sites, which managers can use to better allocate talent and avoid inefficiencies and redundancies. And with intuitively designed visual reports, you can quickly see detailed graphs and charts that show you which sites are about to overspend their budget, which sites don't have enough people assigned to the crew, and which sites are falling behind schedule.

Tool - GoToMeeting: The Gold Standard in Enterprise Videoconferencing

Project management suites are great for organizing files, listing project objectives, and keeping the team on the same page. But when you're managing a remote team, it can be challenging to work around communication barriers, especially if your team is comprised of people whose core communication competency is spoken rather than written. And considering the fact that a full 93% of human communication happens through tone of voice and body language, simply writing back and forth with team members isn't the most efficient way to communicate.

That's where a videoconferencing program like GoToMeeting can help. With GoToMeeting, you can host group video chats seamlessly to keep everyone on the same page. And with GoToMeeting's ability to host conferences with more than 10 people, it's better for managing large teams compared to one-on-one solutions like Skype.

GoToMeeting also allows users to share their screens with each other, which is great for troubleshooting errors or resolving communication problems. Your remote team can't simply drop by each other's cubicles to help each other solve problems, but sharing screens is a great substitute.

The GoToMeeting user interface admittedly leaves much to be desired in the intuitiveness department, but what it lacks in usability it more than makes up for in video quality and conferencing features. Quite simply, it's just about the only videoconferencing tool on the market that's designed to meet the needs of enterprise-level organizations.

Tool - HelloSign: Seamlessly Get Remote Signatures Without Headaches

Getting signatures on contracts and project proposals is still a necessity for online businesses and remote workers, but sadly, it's not as simple or straightforward as meeting in person and just signing a piece of paper. Getting a remote signature on a contract has traditionally involved all manner of unnecessary complications like printing the contract, signing it, scanning it, and then emailing it. Even digital signature applications haven't typically been very easy to use – especially when multiple parties are involved.

But no more.

HelloSign is a gorgeous, highly secure eSignature tool that allows you to easily request signatures from up to 20 people at the same time – and then automatically send the contract to the signatories. HelloSign also offers convenient app integrations with Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Evernote, Box, OneDrive, and Dropbox, and you can even add your company's branding to the documents you're having signed.

That means whether you're getting signatures on non-disclosure agreements, independent consultant contracts, or project budgets, it's easy to send documents to your team and get their signatures – or send a document with your signature to your team. And if you're determined to start running an entirely paperless business in order to help the environment or cut down on administrative inefficiencies, HelloSign is a great way to reduce your paper needs.

Managing a field team isn't easy, but with the right tools in place, you can overcome communication barriers, minimize inefficiencies, and keep your whole team productive and engaged. Want to learn more about how project management suites like Arkit can help you manage a remote team? Contact us today.

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Top Technology Trends to Watch in Civil Engineering 2016

Arkit Civil Engineering • Technology • 11 minute read

Civil engineering has always readily adopted new technologies, using innovations like suspension systems to build bridges and GPS to plot new roads. And as technology continues to evolve, we can expect that the civil engineering field will only keep incorporating this new technology in increasingly creative ways. In fact, it already is. New technologies – those that have been released within the last 5 years – are about to change the civil engineering field and allow innovations previously not possible. So what are some of the big technological advances we can expect in civil engineering this year? Here are just a few developments that are likely to unfold.

Drones: Advanced Mapping and Scanning Capacities for More Accurate Visualizations

Civil engineering is ripe with applications for unmanned aerial vehicles, which can aid in scanning and mapping work sites as well as capturing photos and videos for promotional purposes. UAVs often represent a cost-saving measure for businesses that need aerial mapping, as a drone doesn't require a pilot, but rather, a programmer. UAVs are also easy to program to fly multiple times around the same worksite, which means in the future, firms will be able to capture a variety of images and videos while the project is being completed – and that will enable firms to better manage project progress.

UAVs will also revolutionize civil engineering through the use of photoscanning, an image capture process that uses photos (rather than lasers) to capture images. Photoscanning captures not just the ground surface, but also buildings, plants, benches, and other nearby structures – and represents them in three dimensions. With these advanced capabilities, drones will allow for more accurate and more interactive 3D representations of civil engineering projects.

The primary disadvantage of drone use in civil engineering is the initial capital expense required to purchase drones and train pilots, however, the cost is expected to decline over time. There are also potential issues involving FAA regulations, citizens' right to privacy, and how liability insurance would address drone usage.

3D Printing: Marrying Design and Construction

3D printing is gaining a lot of ground not just among hobbyists, but also in business – and with 3D printers coming down in price each year, it's not long before we'll see them used in civil engineering. 3D printing offers benefits for both design and construction, essentially tying the two processes together. With 3D printing, it's easy to design custom construction supplies and then build them using nearly any kind of material imaginable. In fact, 3D printers are already in use in construction projects in Europe. Dutch construction company Heijmans – most well known for its "smart highway" and its glowing bicycle paths, which use luminescent paint to clearly mark road lanes at night – has created the world's first 3D-printed bridge in collaboration with startup MX3D and designer Joris Laarman. The bridge, which was first designed in October 2015, will span across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal when it is completed in 2017.

MX3D's 3D printer, though, isn't like those that we've traditionally seen. Rather than a desktop 3D printer, MX3D's technology consists of a set of large mechanical arms that hold a torch-like tool for welding. These robot arms build 3D objects in an open warehouse space rather than inside a box as most 3D printers do. The arms can also print in all directions, unlike typical 3D printers, which allows for much more creativity and variability in the design stage. Heijmans Innovation Manager Jurre van der Ven says that 3D printing joins design and construction into a single process, rather than two separate processes as has traditionally been seen in construction. Van der Ven notes that this change will require site managers and designers to start looking at the design process in a new way.

However, 3D printers do pose several challenges for civil engineering. First and foremost, 3D printers are limited in the kinds of materials they can print – for instance, 3D printers that can print circuit boards are still in development and may not be ready for commercial use for several years. 3D printers also pose a threat to manufacturing jobs, and training staff to use 3D printers may require a significant capital investment.

PlasticRoad: Improving the Durability and Lifespan of Our Roads

Plastic is one of the most commonly recycled products, with plastic materials often being recycled into bottles, bags, toys, containers, and much more. But now, a Dutch company is attempting to recycle plastic into something much larger: Roads. VolkerWessels is a Dutch construction firm that is preparing to build a PlasticRoad in Rotterdam. While VolkwerWessels' PlasticRoad is still only a concept, it's becoming quite popular in Holland, where 96 million tons of carbon dioxide are released into the air through road building and maintenance alone. VolkerWessels expects that its PlasticRoad will reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making roads stronger and increasing their lifespan.

Holland's infrastructure industry expects that these new roads will radically change the way Dutch development occurs. Relative to laying an asphalt road, building a road out of plastic is significantly faster, and (at least in theory) could take as little as just a few weeks. The PlasticRoad also allows for easy infrastructure upgrades, as the road is hollow, which enables city planners to run pipes and wires inside the road itself. Civil engineers say the road's hollow cavities may also be useful in draining floodwater in the event of rainstorms. Should Holland's plan succeed, it would serve as a viable proof of concept that could forever change the way civil engineers all over the world approach road building.

There are, however, concerns about the plastic roads that Holland plans to build. Environmentally, there are concerns that the plastic may leach into the soil and harm the local flora. The road's components are also somewhat volatile, and exposure to chlorine will cause the road to give off hydrogen chloride – a colorless gas that, when exposed to atmospheric humidity, turns into hydrochloric acid. When it becomes sufficiently concentrated, hydrochloric acid forms an acidic mist that can cause irreversible damage to human tissue – and if it is combined with an oxidizing agent, hydrochloric acid synthesizes into toxic chlorine gas. That means the engineering process will require stringent safety protocols in order to protect the on-site crew, and the materials engineers responsible for the plastic road will need to create a safeguard or additional waterproof layer that prevents leaching and exposure to chemicals.

Holographic Computers: Giving More Accurate Information to Engineers in Real Time

The next revolution in wearable tech is here, and it's going to forever change information management and communication processes in the civil engineering industry. Microsoft has been promoting its new HoloLens technology for over a year, escorting the world's most respected technology journalists to a secret underground bunker at the company's Redmond campus for tightly controlled product demonstrations.

HoloLens is a mixed reality headset that layers 3D holograms over physical world images in order to convey helpful information to the wearer. Using the HoloLens, civil engineers can see digital input drawn over physical objects, share that input with collaborators via Skype, fine-tune designs in 3D, and explore designs in real time. A variety of businesses are currently using Microsoft HoloLens to alter the way production happens. Volvo, for instance, is using HoloLens technology to design and configure its vehicles in completely new ways. Meanwhile, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory is planning to use the HoloLens to make holographic representations of the Mars landscape based on Mars Rover images. Currently, businesses in the architecture and construction industries are piloting the HoloLens and developing innovative new processes that leverage 3D holographic models to improve the design phase.

However, the HoloLens does come with certain disadvantages. The headset could serve as a workplace distraction that hinders productivity. The prototype version also has a very limited field of view, allowing augmented reality vision of only certain objects.

Contactless Security Cards: Improving on RFID to Boost Security

Site security is always a priority, and with technology evolving, site managers need more and more security measures at their disposal. The next big thing in site security is contactless security cards. These cards can be programmed with individual profile information to uniquely identify each cardholder, and can give users access to secure offices, secure parking, and even computer networks. The great advantage that these smart cards offer is that security becomes much easier to manage. Employees can check themselves into and out of the worksite with just a swipe of a card, and managers have a turnkey security solution that doesn't require their constant presence. However, security cards do present certain disadvantages.

Firstly, security cards can be lost or stolen, unlike a memorized four-digit security code. That means security cards that are reported as stolen or lost will need to be immediately deactivated, which increases the amount of administration required. Card-based site access systems are also vulnerable to hacking, just as most security systems are. Hackers can copy RFID information using an RFID scanner by simply standing near people with privileged access, and site workers won't even know their card has been copied.

Civil engineering is a rapidly changing industry, with new technologies constantly arising to challenge established norms and revolutionize traditional practices. These major technology trends are expected to shake up the industry yet again in 2016, so watch for civil engineers to start incorporating these tools in projects. 

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