Microsoft retail stores – a grand experiment

There is some leaked info regarding the Microsoft stores which are scheduled to open in the fall of 2009. Many pundits and industry folks think this is hilarious and doomed to failure (MS had a store in San Francisco that bombed years ago). A common opinion is that instead of emulating Apple (or Google, or – the list goes on) MS should stick to what made it rich and famous – software. Let’s not forget that MS is a multi-billion dollar enterprise composed of many separate billion dollar entities. When you are that huge, you can pursue many different opportunities. Some work, some don’t. While we can laugh at them cloning Apple stores, or going after Google with MicroHoo and Bing, the fact is they also have some solid and far reaching products and services which anyone who touches a computer these days is impacted by.

We will not see a MS store in Red Deer and that you can pretty much count on. At present we don’t even have an Apple store and probably never will. Although there were rumors that Mosaic (Apple’s outsourced retail marketing partner) was going to bring us an Apple store within a big-box store (I won’t mention the name but the initials are F&S) it doesn’t look like they completed the deal. BTW: Red Deer does have some great Apple retailers and Apple fans, but a dedicated store just isn’t financially viable.

On the other hand there are some great MS business partners here in town and those types of VAR’s and integrators are what steadily fuels MicroSoft’s billion dollar operation. Products like the Zune and Microsoft Press and their foray into retail store fronts are a pleasant and relatively harmless diversion. Unless you are a MS stock holder, but that’s another story.

Dean

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Advertisements

Quote of the day – Susan Cramm

Susan Cramm is an IT leader who coaches IT and business managers on how to get along and play well with each other. This quote is from her Harvard Business Review blog and the post: How to get IT and the business working together.

Your business processes are fueled by IT and mastery in managing IT (the asset, not simply the organization) is table stakes to lead in this lean, flat, fast-paced, and risky world.

Note: the bolding of “the asset, not simply the organization” is our addition.

Dean

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists


The golden rule – them with the gold make the rules

The current recession has forced the move of IT budget decisions further up the ladder. Now CEO’s are giving the go or no to IT initiatives. Not surprising since a good CEO needs to manage with tighter control during tough times. Talking to the president of a company is not a new sales strategy. In his book The Sales Bible, Jeffrey Gitomer advises going straight to the top and working your way down. It’s a lot easier than starting at the bottom and getting stuck there.

This will be seen by many veteran and senior IT managers as a blow to their power within the organization. The result may be a further separation of the IT department from being a strategic decision maker and move them to strictly tactical roles. The worst that could happen is that the CEO makes decisions based strictly on costs and sales pitches, ultimately setting up the IT department for failure.

The best that could happen is if a CEO looks at the vendor proposals from the strategic advantages their products and services offer and include IT managers in the consultation process. IT managers need to make the most of this new role versus fighting it and ending up with less than they had before. I’ve seen both scenarios and only one of them works well. Guess which one.

Dean

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Two common problems – bad passwords and no back-up

Robert Scoble posted about his experiences with bad passwords and a hard drive failure with no back-up.

These along with poor malware protection have to be the most preventable but common problems with computers. In our personal lives and in our businesses. Why is this? Are we too lazy to take precautions? Maybe we just don’t know about the risks and the measures we can take?

I’ve never had a problem with passwords but on more than one occasion I’ve lost valuable data without a backup. Password design was drilled into me early in my IT support career. Back-ups? Just lazy I guess . . . after all I can always back it up tomorrow!

Dean

Top 5 Technologies for 2009-2011

Following is a list of the top five technologies which will have an impact on how businesses use IT in their operation in the next few years. This is based on a larger list from Gartner Research targeted towards large enterprises but we have picked out the items more relevant to small and medium enterprises. Why do they these matter to your business? They will help you maximise the effective use of IT while driving down costs associated with traditional IT models. Many are easy to setup and low cost to implement. If they work for global enterprises, they’ll work for you.

1. Virtualization

(Definition: Hardware based virtual machines allow the sharing of the physical computer resources between different virtual machines, each running its own operating system. Examples: Running Windows XP on an Apple Mac OS X computer, consolidating many different servers into a single server box.)

Server virtualization is already being used to consolodate multiple boxes into single servers. Storage virtualization offers simplified access by pooling systems and can save big money with storage deduplication. In terms of storage virtualization, deduplication could be a huge money saver because every enterprise has tons of duplicate versions of files clogging up their servers. Desktop virtualization allows users to have a portable personality across multiple systems, delivering a thick client experience with a thin client delivery model. The biggest factor that could drive desktop virtualization will be the advent of low-cost $300-$500 thin clients (nettops & netbooks) based on Intel Atom processors.

2. Cloud Computing

(Definition: Where applications and software services are provided from the internet versus LAN based servers or running locally on desktop/laptop computers. Examples: Google Docs, ZOHO.com, Microsoft Azure)

You need to be very careful about all of the hype, but you need to take it very seriously as well. Deduplication, remote & mobile accessibility, consistency in versions and lower maintenance costs are some of the advantages to cloud computing. It can allow IT to move a significant amount of money from capital expenditures to operating expenditures. Instead of tying up capital in unused infrastructure with cloud computing you only need to pay for what you use, when you use it.

3. Enterprise Mashups

(Definition: Mashups mix content from multiple sources by using feeds from application programming interfaces (APIs). Example: portals.)

Enterprises are now investigating taking mashups from cool Web hobby to enterprise-class systems to augment their models for delivering and managing applications. Portals allow a single sign on point with all required corporate applications accessed from a single point. The advantage comes from efficiency and manageability.

4. Unified Communications

(Definition: The integration of communication services such as voicemail, e-mail, SMS, fax, instant messaging (chat), presence information, IP telephony and video conferencing. Example: BlackBerry accessing applications such as a web browser, texting and email clients which can also be accessed from a desktop computer.)

Enterprises are realizing that they have multiple products and vendors performing the same communications functions, and that this redundancy creates additional expense, makes it more difficult for users to learn, and increases the complexity of integration. Some companies such as Cisco see the desk phone becoming a video and data device. Others see the desk phone going away and mobile phones (with both a business number and a personal number) becoming the sole voice device for most business users.

5. Green IT

(Definition: Green computing is the study and practice of using computing resources efficiently. Example: energy efficient equipment, recycling equipment and printing/document management.)

Many businesses are looking at energy efficiency or ‘green’ products simply for the practical advantages in energy savings. Some companies are emphasizing green activities as part of their social responsibility. Energy will be one of the pre-eminent public concerns of the next decade and energy conservation will be an important part of the discussion. IT departments need to act now to start measuring the energy consumption of IT infrastructure and looking for strategic opportunities to reduce it, before they are forced to act due to government intervention.

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Gen Y and Gen X use of technology and how it affects your business IT

The digital generation ages 18 – 35 have grown up using technology and expect it to exist in business as they know it in their non-business life. Access to the web, high-performance applications, a variety of applications to perform their job, social networking based applications, multiple platforms – desktop, laptops, Windows, Apples and smart-phones, multiple access points – at the office, at home, while traveling or more to the point – anywhere and at anytime. How does your IT plan and support system meet this challenge? Traditional IT can limit system user access to a narrowly defined set of applications and use. Trying to balance the needs of these new workers with the needs of traditional IT users is a challenge as well. It’s not just about new technology but a differing culture between the two age groups.

Courtesy Mike Kline
Courtesy Mike Kline

Number one is to provide the tools your workers need to be productive. Limiting these younger workers to just email as a communications tool and a mainframe based business application written twenty years ago and only accessible from their work station at work may keep these newer workers from performing to their utmost.

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Our tax dollars at work

Here are two examples of government spending you might want to think about.

The CBC reports that the RCMP is funding two separate data bases. One for BC and one for the rest of the country. This costs the RCMP (the taxpayers) an extra $9 million dollars to support two systems that aren’t integrated. Hmmm. The reason why is mostly politics and could be solved with proper IT systems governance.

The Recovery.gov website is being upgraded for the cost of almost $18 million. This is the website which the US government uses as a vehicle to update the rest of the country on the where, who, what and why of their economic recovery plan. Hmmm. That’s a lot of money for a website.

Dean

NAS Drives, a quick and easy option for data growth on small networks

With burgeoning data requirements in even the smallest of businesses, simplifying access to it becomes a major headache. Obviously, dumping data on a PCs internal hard drive isn’t a viable option anymore. The complexity increases with the advent of devices like laptops, smart phones and PDAs, hooking up to the LAN and trying to access data conveniently through a central location.

hdr-nas-graphic-516x276

A NAS (network attached storage) box is an acceptable option for small business networks. Not only are these devices small, but they are equipped with hard drives which can store up to 4TB of data, and connect through an ethernet cable into a network port or router. You can also plug in a USB device such as a printer, to NAS device and make it accessible over the network. These devices are ideal for small offices with 10 to 15 PCs for compact, centralized storage accessible from anywhere, including over the Internet.

HP Mediasmart server

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Trojans accounted for 70 percent of the new malware detected

Trojans accounted for 70 percent of all new malware between April and June 2009, according to data compiled in the latest PandaLabs Quarterly Report. Adware rose dramatically over this period, from 7.54 percent in the previous quarter to 16.37 percent. This is largely due to the increase in fake antivirus applications, a type of adware that passes itself off as a legitimate security solution.

Trojans were also responsible for more infections than any other type of malware over this period. This type of malware was behind 34.37 percent of all infections detected by PandaLabs, an increase of 2.86 percent with respect to the previous quarter. Adware infection levels remained stable, accounting for 19.62 percent of the total. Worms increased slightly (0.89%), staying in the picture due largely to the effectiveness with which they spread.

In terms of specific strains of malware, the number one ranked specimen between April and June 2009 was Downloader.MDW, a Trojan designed to download other malware on to computers. The Virtumonde spyware and Rebooter.J Trojan were also among the malicious codes that caused most infections.

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists

Top 5 easily preventable network vulnerabilities

Large enterprises and small companies have one thing in common when it comes to IT – vulnerable computer networks. Tests were applied to both small and large corporate networks using criteria based on industry best practices from CISCO Networks, the US National Security Agency and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). They all failed with most of them failing a majority of the tests. As a result of not following basic configuration steps and best practices these networks were vulnerable and open to intrusion. Following is a short list made up of the most common errors.

If you are a small business owner and whether you have in-house IT staff or outsource, ask them about these five common mistakes. What’s really critical is that you ask them for proof that best practices are being followed. A penetration test and survey from a third party IT firm is not a bad idea either. Since they don’t know what they are looking at, they’re more likely to find vulnerabilities in systems that your own staff have overlooked.

1. Not changing the default passwords on all network devices.

It’s hard to believe that this happens but it does. A server, switch, router or network appliance with the default password – usually “password” or “admin” – still enabled usually happens when installation is performed by DIY users or unskilled IT techs but it also happens to pros. Why? Lack of familiarity with the equipment or lack of an installation checklist being in place or being followed. Things like, “I don’t have time to set it right now, so I’ll do it later”, but it never gets done since a lot of networks are a ‘set and forget’ project. More than half of all the records that were compromised last year were the result of using a default password on a network device, according to a Verizon Business study.

2. Sharing a password across multiple network devices.

For convenience sake, people often use the same password across multiple servers, and several people know the password. It might be a good password but once it’s shared among several systems, these systems are all at risk. You need a process to make sure that server passwords are not shared among multiple systems, are changed regularly, not shared beyond those people who require direct access and are kept secure. If the password is discovered by a hacker, the hacker can get into many servers and cause more damage.

3. Misconfiguration of your access control lists.

Segmenting your network using access control lists is the simplest way to make sure that systems communicate only with the systems that they should. Having properly configured access control lists would have protected 66 per cent of the records that were compromised last year, according to the Verizon report.

4. Allowing non-secure remote access and management software.

One of the most popular ways for hackers to get into your network is to use a remote access and management software package, such as PCAnywhere, Virtual Network Computing (VNC) or Secure Shell (SSH). Often, these software applications are lacking the most basic security measures, such as good passwords. This problem accounted for 27 per cent of the compromised records in the Verizon Business report

5. Not adequately protecting your servers from malware.

Most malware is installed by a remote attacker and is used to capture data. Typically, malware is customized, so it can’t be discovered by antivirus software. Lock down servers so that no new applications can run on them. Malware on servers accounts for 38 per cent of all security breaches, Verizon Business says.

If you accept credit cards as payment for products or services, here is a bonus mistake.

6. Not following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards.

Dubbed PCI DSS, this set of 12 controls for protecting cardholder information work but most companies don’t even try to meet the strict but basic PCI standards. Even though 98 per cent of all compromised records involve payment card data, only 19 per cent of organizations with security breaches followed the PCI standards, according to the Verizon Business report.

_Sponsors_________________________________________

Nova Media

Strategic Online Marketing

novamedia-logo-april-2008

_________________________________________________

Advanced Systems

Corporate Computer and Network Specialists