The Big Concerns On CIOs’ Minds? Virtualisation and Security

April 10th, 2015

CIOs and IT professionals are under pressure from all quarters.In an increasingly fast-paced environment they’re struggling to implement more compex IT solutions on one hand and fend off a range of security threats with the other. What are their key concerns?

CIOs are seeing their job scopes continue to expand and develop, but they share a small number of key concerns. Overwhelmingly, research indicates, they’re thinking about just a few key things – but they’re thinking about them a lot.

The big concerns for CIOs are virtualisation and security. Protiviti’s 2015 IT Priorities Survey found that, of the 1000-plus CIOs, IT VPs and IT directors who responded, 86% cited virtualisation as this year’s ‘most significant’ concern.

Why? Well, for well over half of the companies polled, they expected to undergo a major IT transformation starting this year, but which they expect to last a year or longer. That transformation is likely to leave IT staff architecting and implementing complex systems in partnership with new companies or alone – all while keeping the lights on at the same time. The three main reasons IT staff gave for undergoing IT transformations were cost and simplification at 64%, new functionality at 55% and service assurance at 48%. These concerns, and the benefits that virtualization can bring, are likely to be magnified for smaller enterprises, with the slashed TCO offered by virtualization making more of a difference to a smaller balance sheet. Whether an SMB opts to repurpose existing servers for virtualization or look for a fully managed solution, or something in between, it’s an issue the majority of IT leaders will have to decide on going forward.

The other major concern for IT leaders is security, with 83% citing malware and virus threats as their main concern and the same number pointing instead to data breach and privacy laws. Proviti’s managing director, Jonathan Wyatt, commented: ‘gone are the days when information security and data privacy issues are viewed as just technical issues,’ arguing that they now called into play questions of ‘critical business policy, governance, compliance and communications that must be addressed across the enterprise.’ That’s probably why many CIOs and IT leaders were working to extend and strengthen their internal relationships, reaching out to C-level and senior executives, boards of directors and business-unit leaders. One result of the changes in IT implementation might be a more integrated approach to data handling, security and infrastructure across the whole enterprise.

Other major concerns for IT leaders included enterprise architecture, at 81%, and patch management, pointing to the ‘cleft stick’ many IT staff find themselves in: running to keep up means they struggle to implement newer, more efficient and secure solutions.

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4 Undercover Google Drive Tips

April 8th, 2015

Google Drive is how most of us are meeting SaaS for the first time. No more hunting for data sticks, no more ‘it’s on my other computer’ – but while we might be pleased with it, how well do we really know it? Here are four ways to get more out of Google Drive.

Google Drive is intuitive to use. For one thing, it quite closely resembles certain other applications… for another, it’s simple and there’s help available. But using it and getting the most out of it are two different things. Here’s how to use Google Drive to push your productivity like never before.

1: You Can Work Offline

Yes, it’s the equivalent of boasting that your airplane also has wheels. But sometimes you do have to work offline, and when that happens you can stay with Google Drive. There’s an ‘offline’ mode that lets you view, edit and create documents, though you need Chrome to use it. In Chrome, go to your Google Drive account, click on the gear icon and select Settings. In the General tab, select ‘Sync Google Doc, Sheets, Slides, & Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline.’ Chrome will save all your changes, then sync them with Google Drive when you’re back online.

2: Track Revision History

If multiple people are working on a document, it can get hard to remember what it looked like to start with. Losing your past versions can be hard if you’re used to desktop apps that let you go back and compare. Actually, Drive does too: go to File and click See revisions history, and you can select from multiple prior versions of the same document. You can even use the Show more detailed revisions option to group revisions by your own criteria.

3: The Web Clipboard

One of the least-known features of Google Drive is its Web Clipboard feature, which is weird because it’s one of the most useful. You can copy and paste data across multiple Docs, Sheets and Slides, it holds multiple items at once (unlike OS clipboards!) and you can access its contents from any of your devices. If you want to use it, select an item and go to Edit > Web Clipboard > Copy to web clipboard. Items you haven’t accessed within 30 days get automatically deleted, though, so don’t start using it for storage!

4: Search for Links in Documents
Normally when you want to add links to a document, you have to go to the page and copy the link. Not any more. Instead, highlight some text, go to Insert > Link, and a search box appears, letting you do the whole process right in your Doc.

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Disaster-Proofing Your Data

April 3rd, 2015

What stands between your data and disaster? You do.

IT disasters cost US businesses $1.2 trillion every year. Worldwide, the total is $6.2 trillion. And more of that comes from so-called ‘silent disasters’ software bugs or malware and hardware failures than you’d think. Everyone thinks about preparing for floods or hurricanes, because they’re high-profile and high-impact. Fact is, they’re also low-probability.

And with leaking, hacking and security risks riding front-of-mind for so many, it’s easy to forget that many of the the disasters that put your whole company IT system up on blocks are just that – accidents. It really doesn’t matter, after all, where they come from. What matters is how you respond to them.

1: Plan For Disaster

Anticipate likely problems before they arise. No, you can’t get ready for everything – but you can build data loss templates that reflect the most likely threats you face. Map out two to four of the most likely scenarios and base your preparations on those. Look at the data losses you’ve suffered in the past, or those that affected other enterprises in your business vertical and geographic location, and build on that knowledge to prepare.

2: Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Ensure that the processes and technology to deal with the treats you’ve identified are in place. Have backup and recovery, snapshot and replication capacity ready for when it;’s needed. A good disaster recovery plan will need all these in place to cover any eventuality. Augment their efficacy and prevent overuse by building in a monitoring tool that’s sensitive and accurate, with a low number of false positives.

3: Test It!

Just like a fire alarm system is only as good as the last fire drill, so a data recovery plan, too, is only as good as its last test. When was the last time you tested yours? If the last time you tested your data recovery plan, the solution involved switching out a blown valve, you need to step up testing. Otherwise you just think you’re ready – when you need your data recovery plan the most, it might let you down.

With a resiliency plan in place, you’ll be equipped to hit the ground running if disaster does strike, as well as being more likely to catch internal problems like ailing hardware or buggy programs in the bud, before they can trigger a disaster.

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3 Essential Elements of a Secure Mobile Strategy

April 1st, 2015

Mobility and BYOD are a gift for companies looking for improved agility and productivity. But they come with downsides built in, including security worries. If you strategise them right, though, you can get their benefits without falling prey to any of the pitfalls.

These are the top 3 essential elements of a secure mobility strategy.

1: Manage What Matters…

…and stop trying to manage everything else.

The days when the IT department had a realistic chance of controlling data flows through an enterprise are over. Instead, it’s time to triage: vital data must be managed and protected, while the majority of data can simply be ignored by IT. One way to do this is MDM – Mobile Device Management. This allows you to check whether a device remains secure before it accesses your company network – whether it’s owned by a worker or the company. Another is MAM – Mobile Application Management, which involves diffusing an app but centralizing its security settings and controls. Finally, virtualization and sandboxing holds out the hope of making the spread of conventional malware all but impossible and preventing large-scale hacking too.

2: Automate the Outcome You Want

It’s the things we don’t have to think about that boost productivity. How many business bloggers have you seen, talking about the power of habit? It’s the same in IT. Set up your systems so the right thing happens automatically. When an employee gets a new device, whoever owns it, make all their work materials available on it with the click of a single URL. When employees move from one physical location to another, pre-configured controls adapt the level of access that’s available to avoid security risks – and tell the person what’s going on and why. Use Active Directory to assign containers – sets of information, apps and access privileges – to roles rather than individuals, so that when someone new enters or leaves a role, everything they need is available.

3: Avoid the Dreaded Quadruple Bypass

A ‘quadruple bypass’ refers to the leakiest, most insecure setup you can have: BYOD on a consumer-grade device, handling sensitive company information and going straight to cloud. Completely sidestepping the control and monitoring of IT at every stage, this ‘bypass’ is ripe for hackers, leaks and malware. This is the structure you’ll find if IT hasn’t been involved in implementing BYOD and cloud!

This is the nightmare scenario for IT and it must be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, that’s not that difficult. It has to be by making other options more attractive, though. Give workers a superior user experience on IT-approved, secure systems and they won’t wander from it. It’s the best guarantee of security.

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Getting Ahead of the Internet of Things

March 27th, 2015

IT techs need to be ready when the IoT lands. It’s estimated that well over 20bn devices will be a part of the IoT, ranging from consumer goods like toasters to complex sensor arrays in smart homes and vehicles. The volume of data created by this network will be gigantic, requiring a rethink from organizations in terms of how they view, manage, store, and even think about data.

Getting Ready for IoT

Over the next decade, the growth in the number of IoT networks will be very large and very fast. Every industry vertical will be involved, because no-one will be able to afford to turn down the benefits associated with IoT. Its effects will be felt everywhere from manufacturing to healthcare, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

Re-evaluate Database Architecture and Data Management Strategies

Right now, most companies have a core database that houses transactional data. IoT data won’t replace that, but it won’t behave the same way either. Look for solutions that will support multiple deployment scenarios. Your database technology should be capable of scaling up and down, to be device-agnostic while having the potential to accommodate a huge amount of data.

Remember: Not Every Database Will Cope With IoT

You need to select a database that’s built to cope with the volume, velocity and variety of data that’s going to come to you from IoT sources. Time-series and geospatial-oriented databases will cope far better than general purpose databases.

Deploy Data Management Technology

Consider the potential value of deploying data management technology both within the network and on its borders. As the volume of data generated by IoT networks grows this is likely to become an unavoidable necessity, and those enterprises that implement data management, processing, and analysis will have a significant advantage in that, while they might not have more data than their competitors, they will have more useable data.

There’s More to IoT Than Coping With The Data

At first glance, IoT seems to offer one main challenge: how to cope with all that data. But how well companies emerge from the early days of IoT is going to depend more on how they respond to some other challenges, including the access IoT will grant to new markets and new applications within existing markets. As the number of devices capable of gathering and sharing data grows, so more and more enterprises will find it cost-effective to leverage the increase.

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Why BYOD Has a Bright Future

March 25th, 2015

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device – was an incipient trend in 2014, but it’s expected to fully breach the mainstream in the year ahead as enterprises learn how to make the most of it.

BYOD Teething Troubles

BYOD faced some troubles starting out. The trend comes with some privacy concerns, since workers naturally tend to take their own devices home with them and connect them to non-work-approved networks. There was even a major lawsuit in California that, by ruling that company workers for the ri use of their own devices, seemed to presage the end of the BYOD trend. What really happened was that the trend went from strength to strength as other technologies and techniques caught up with it. 2015 looks set to be the year when it enters the mainstream for good.

Contractors

BYOD makes sense in a world where enterprises are decentralising everything from IT to workforces. An increasing number of white collar workers – just the people most likely to bring their own tablet into work – are independent contractors rather than employees. They’ll take their own devices with them from gig to gig, allowing companies to hire workers and working equipment at the same time rather than acquiring hardware.

Cloud

As data increasingly moves onto the cloud, public, private or hybrid, the privacy concerns over BYOD become less prominent. BYOD is a natural fit for cloud. And when everything from data to unified communications, calendaring to email, is cloud-based, the importance of the device used to access it recedes. Privacy concerns about sensitive company data stored on someone’s iPhone also recede, for the same reason.

Momentum

While companies figure out what to do about BYOD, it’s already happening. Many companies have adopted a ‘if they want to, let them’ attitude to worker-led BYOD adoption. The longer an ‘unofficial BYOD’ policy persists, the more likely a data breach is, but by the time it comes, it’s going to be almost impossible to get rid of BYOD.

Hybridization and Split Billing

Many companies are going to wind up with mixed BYOD/CYOD policies. Senior staff will be using BYOD while lower-level employees will be on a more secure CYOD setup. Data accessible to both via the cloud will mean the main division will be between high-ranking salespeople and C-level staff, and the rest of the company.

BYOD is so underreported that the chances are that it’s not just coming, but really is already here. And this year, it’s going to take over.

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Peak App: Do We Really Need More?

March 20th, 2015

The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ has achieved the ultimate in internet acceptance – it’s a hashtag and a meme. It’s also increasingly true – apps have proliferated at a massive rate. But does that mean there are now too many, and should you think of building one?

Apps are the lifeblood of mobile internet, and they’re among the fastest growing sectors anywhere in the economy, so it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people want to get in on the action. But it’s not always a good idea to become an app creator.

Apps are an explosively growing sector. Between January and November 2014, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and iOS App Store each grew by more than 50%. And it’s part of a long term trend going back to at least 2010. iOS App Store is worth 10 times what it was then, and in 2014, iOS App Store sold $10 bn worth of apps. Maybe that’s why the three big players now have 1, 024, 000 developers working on apps between them – over half of whom work at Google.

All of which sounds like a digital gold rush. Why wouldn’t you want some of that?

Apps take up 86% of a typical mobile web user’s online time. That sounds like another fabulous stat showing why apps are the market to get into. But it’s actually deceptive. It sounds like, if you’re an app maker, you’re competing for 86% of a mobile user’s attention.

The reality, though, is that if you don’t make games, which account for 32% of app time, you’ll struggle. Facebook and social messaging account for another 27% of app time, leaving 41% to play for. Twitter, Youtube and utilities absorb another 18%, leaving just 23% of app time actually in play. That’s spread across an average of 26 apps used on a monthly basis. If you’re one of them, you’re competing for less than a percent of the typical user’s time.

What will that competition look like? In an increasingly frantic marketplace, it will often look like financial outlay. Each app download costs the developer an average of $1.30, but some run far higher, as much as $70 in some cases. And half the users you acquire this way will be gone in just three months.

None of this is a reason not to build an app: some apps are massively successful, and plenty that aren’t are providing value for their users and profits for their developers. But it is a good reason to think about whether you need an app – and to reconsider search. Mobile search has been eclipsed by consideration of that 86% figure – but in fact, as we’ve just seen, a new app developer is competing for just 5% of the average mobile user’s internet time, as against the 14% accounted for by browsing.

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5 Creakily Ancient, But Still Really Useful Office Tips

March 18th, 2015

So Microsoft Office isn’t exactly a hot new app. In fact, you probably have it open in the background right now, right? And no doubt, you feel like over the past million years you’ve been using it, you’ve figured out how to use it pretty well. But there are shortcuts and tips that can save you hours of time – and they’re not always obvious, even to experienced users.

Microsoft Office is kind of like what John Lennon said about life: it’s the application you use while you’re busy making other plans. That means it isn’t very glamorous. But most people who sit down at a keyboard for a living will be using Office most days. Let’s look at some ways to cut corners, trim fat and boost performance. You can even use Office for things you’ve been opening other programs for!

1: Remove the Background From An Image

You can remove the background to an image in MS Office. Here’s how:
first, select the image and click the contextual Format tab in Picture Tools. Go to the Adjust options, select Color and choose Set Transparent Color. Then click on the image, and like that… no more background.

2: Select By Style

In MS Word, you can find text by selecting it by style. That’s especially useful if you want to check all your subheadings, titles and so on. Click the dialog launcher for the Styles group, then right-click the style you want to locate instances of. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want all instances of that style, and told how many there are, in the drop-down.

3: Close Docs, Not Apps

If you want to keep Word open when you close your last document, press [ctrl]+[F4] when you close the last document. The document will close, but the application will remain open.

4: Quickly Select Rows and Columns in Excel

There’s a keyboard shortcut to quickly select rows and columns in Excel. To select the current column, press [ctrl]+[spacebar]. To expand the rows, it’s [up arrow] and [down arrow], without releasing the [ctrl] key. To select the current row, press [shift]+[spacebar]. To expand the columns, it’s [right arrow] and [left arrow] without releasing the [shift] key.

5: Nudge to Budge in Powerpoint

Sometimes you want to move an object in Powerpoint without dragging it. We’ve all had the problem where just picking it up to drag it moves it too far and sends you running to that old favorite amongst Office shortcuts, [ctrl]+[Z]. Nudging can be the answer here. Select the object, then hold down [ctrl] and press the appropriate arrow key. You’ll see the object move a tiny amount, enough to fine-tune your layout.

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The secrets of YouTube

March 13th, 2015

YouTube has come a long way from its origins as a place to look at kittens and home videos of people’s dogs. There’s a multimillion dollar industry based around it, a new generation of media stars who got their start on the channel and its connection with Google and its ubiquity, to say nothing of how easy it is to embed, mean it gets a lot of use for business purposes too.

With that in mind, you’re probably not getting the very best out of your Youtube experience. Here are a few ways to get the normal stuff done faster – and a couple of tricks you probably didn’t even know were possible!

1: Space Bar

Most of us know that the space bar is play/pause on YouTube. If you want to watch something in slow motion, though, hold the space bar down! This is really useful for detailed how-tos.

2: Jump Around!

J jumps you back 10 seconds in the video. L jumps you forward 10 seconds. No mouse required. You can also use K as play/pause, if you’re watching a video entitled ‘how repair space bar.’

The arrow keys fast forward and rewind, and the number keys jump to percentage locations in the video: 1 is 10%, 5 50%, 0 the beginning.

These don’t work in fullscreen mode, by the way.

3: Lean Back!

…is the name of an app that allows you to turn YouTube into a keyboard-only experience with a totally new interface that can be conveniently browsed with only the arrow keys and ‘enter.’ This doesn’t seem to work on Macs, though.

4: Do What You Feel!

YouTube has a hidden feature called Moodwall (yes,I’m aware that we’re moving away from tricks that are useful in the enterprise, but I thought you’d want to know). Moodwall lets you select your mood from a sidebar. YouTube then shows you videos appropriate to your mood. If you disagree, double click on the mood you chose, and the videos will all change.

5: Ride the Snake

OK, so now we’re moving from ‘not useful in the enterprise’ to ‘not useful at all,’ and it’s also not really a secret – it’s even on YouTube’s Wikipedia page. On any video you’re watching, pause it and hold down the left or right arrow key for a few seconds. Then press the up arrow key to start the game, and hey presto! Your computer and YouTube together have created the ‘snake’ game that made Nokia owners the world over miss public transportation throughout the early 2000s.

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The worst passwords of 2014 – and what we can learn from them

March 11th, 2015

2014 was the year of the leaky, hacked, unsecure internet – the year we all came face to face with the fact that our details aren’t safe. And that harsh lesson really didn’t sink in. Most hacking is done through old-fashioned channels like email fraud, but when passwords are leaked, it often turns out there was no need, to judge by some of these.

Password management firm SplashData released its list of last year’s worst passwords,and they’re exactly as bad as you can imagine. The company got its data by analysing the 3 million or so passwords that were leaked last year, and arranged them in league order of most to least common. Of course, the more common your password the easier it is to guess – but when it’s both really common and really weak, it makes you wonder why hackers bother to steal it when they could just guess.

The top 5 offenders

These are the 5 most common leaked passwords of 2014:

1: 123456
2: password
3: 12345
4: 12345678
5: qwerty

Yes, seriously.

Lessons to learn

First, never ask IT why your password has to be 14 characters long!
Second, look at what these characters did and do the opposite to create a strong password.

These passwords all display a total lack of thought. Faced with a decision – which password? – these people tapped a few keys without thinking it through at all. So, consider: any keys that are already next to each other on the keyboard are a bad choice, so is a long numerical sequence like ‘1234.’ And ‘password’? Also not good.

Widen the net: your name? Out. Your company’s name? Also a bad choice. And if you live in LA, ‘Lakers’ isn’t too great either. What unites these bad choices is that they’re easy to guess if someone knows one other thing about you. For the same reason, your partner or children’s names aren’t good choices.

Creating a strong password

Strong passwords are strong because they’re really hard to guess. Using things like the letter ‘3’ for ‘e’ or the number ‘4’ for the word ‘for’ are now predictable. Instead use a password using unconnected words with symbols, caps and numbers scattered throughout. It’s also a good idea to have a different password for each account: having the same keys for car, garage, house and office obviously spells trouble, and the same logic applies here.

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