Category Archives: Technology

Is your Organization Really Prepared for its Move to the Cloud?

Is your Organization Really Prepared for its Move to the Cloud?

Is Your Organization Really Prepared?

Cloud computing is playing a transformational role in how businesses function. It’s a disruptive technology that is influencing the growth trajectories of businesses. Irrespective of the industry, cloud computing is being adopted at breakneck speed. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that if a business is to survive and prosper in today’s times, it needs to leverage the benefits of the cloud.

cloud-business

But making a move to the cloud or at least moving a section of your data to the Cloud is not easy and if you don’t go about it in the right manner, you are liable to make mistakes; this in turn interferes with your business’s ability to maximize cloud potential to trigger strategic growth.

One of the biggest errors that organizations make while thinking about moving to the cloud is that they see the cloud purely from a technical perspective. This is wrong because a move to the Cloud also impacts the work culture of the organization; roles, processes, deliverables, and objectives change.

Before you actually begin the process of migrating assets to the cloud, you need to be very sure that your organization and employees are actually ready for this move.

So, what are the aspects you must consider before you actually start migrating processes to the Cloud?

Let’s take a look:

  • Skillsets

Moving to the cloud is a good thing, but in order to make the most of this move, you need people with the right skillsets who can manage and control your organization’s presence on the cloud. It’s of mission critical importance that you hire people with expertise and experience in cloud technology. You also need to initiate training programs that help your existing employees get a better understanding of cloud technology and how its use can be optimized. There is a surprising lack of skilled cloud personnel on the market. You might be hard pressed to find a CIO who is well-versed in the Cloud and its interlinked technologies. So, first get this part sorted out, everything else comes later.

  • Is your Cloud Approach only about the Money?

One of the most prevalent myths about cloud computing is that the use of this technology only helps your organization save a lot of money (overheads).

A move to the cloud is much more than just a means of saving money. What your business essentially profits from is the elasticity, scalability and reliability of the cloud. Cloud technology allows you to improve business processes by enhancing collaboration and access to data. With the cloud, you can shorten the time taken to market your products, speed up product upgrades, and respond faster to the competitive challenges facing your business. This is what helps drive the growth of your business. And all this happens without making a massive investment into the proceedings.

Before you implement a cloud strategy, clearly underline what you want to achieve with the cloud; thinking of the cloud as a technology that helps you save money is self-limiting.

  • Transition of IT

The IT department of your organization must get used to the idea of a transition and change in priorities. There will be a rethink as far as their portfolio of responsibilities is concerned. IT personnel might find they are no longer in charge of systems administration and maintenance and don’t have to configure, secure and manage a computing service or application.

They will find that they are now asked to become innovators and tasked with generating more value for the organization.

Is the department ready to perform this role?

The cloud can take care of their usual responsibilities, thus making it possible for them to play a more strategic and proactive role in an organization’s growth strategy. It is important they are made well aware of this transition in advance and are imparted the necessary training that will help them make this transition smoothly.

  • Are you Thinking Long Term?

The cloud shouldn’t be seen as a short term solution for the existing lacunae in your organizational processes. It does fill the existing gaps, but it also helps you plan a long term growth oriented strategy for your business. The advanced infrastructure that you thought was beyond your reach is now available as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); the platforms that were prohibitively expensive are now within your budget, courtesy Platform as a Service (PaaS); and all those software that you coveted but never got round to using because of the cost perspective can now be tapped into, with the help of Software as a Service (SaaS). This essentially means your business can leverage cloud computing for the long term and keep benefiting from it.

Learning from Mistakes

If you’ve already got the 4 pointers mentioned in this article sorted out, good for you! But this doesn’t mean your organization’s move to the cloud will be seamless. There is always a chance of missteps occurring for e.g. you might choose to move to a public cloud when a hybrid cloud has been the right choice for you. Or you might pick a cloud provider whose services might not reach the ideal levels of security compliance.

Such mistakes shouldn’t act as an impediment, but must be seen as a learning opportunity.

Learn from them and move forward with your cloud strategy.

Conclusion

Preparing your organization for a move to the Cloud is one of the most important parts of your Cloud strategy. If you want your move to succeed, make sure everybody in your organization looks at this move positively and has the required skillsets to accept this move and take it towards its logical conclusion.

By Suraj Kumar

Cloud Infographic – Stormy In The Cloud

Cloud Infographic – Stormy In The Cloud

Stormy In The Cloud

Provided is an infographic with some concerning statistics by Safenet regarding IT security.

  • 47% of respondents said the IT security team are hardly involved in the decision making process.
  • 44% of corporate data stored in a cloud environment is not managed or controlled by the IT department.
  • Only 34% of companies have policies that require the use of security measures such as encryption as a condition to using cloud services.

Also, be sure to take a closer look at this comprehensive visual on information governance.

cloud-data-security

Will Coin, Plastc, or Apple Pay Replace Your Wallet?

Will Coin, Plastc, or Apple Pay Replace Your Wallet?

Paper or plastic? Which form of payment do we use the most? A Federal Reserve study reveals cash still accounts for 40% of all transactions, but credit cards surprisingly only command 17% of total transactions. Debit card payments makeup a quarter of total transactions, showing that even in 2014, cash is still king. The same Federal Reserve study shows electronic payments account for the highest value transactions, representing 27% of the value of all transactions across payment types, and over 30% of all transactions worth $100 USD or more are made with electronic or digital payment.

As consumers have become more aware of the benefits of digital payments, startups and tech producers have been swift in their production and delivery of digital payment products to the market. The digital credit card will make our wallets thinner, perhaps even make them obsolete, and facilitate electronic transactions at the point-of-sale; three electronic payment solutions have made their way to the forefront:

Payment Solutions

Coin
Plastc
Apple Pay

But which of these digital credit card alternatives will make its way into consumers’ wallets? One of the consolidated physical options, or the all-digital, cloud-based direction Apple has taken with Apple Pay?

With Coin, Plastc and Apple Pay, users can connect all of their ATM, debit, credit, (and in some cases gift) cards to the device, allowing for seamless transactions at the point of sale. With their payments connected, consumers can change the form of payment from the device as needed. Coin, Plastc and Apple Pay produce transaction reports for users via mobile apps and email receipts, affording record management with a log of all purchases made.

Coin and Plastc both look and function like traditional credit cards, processing transactions with the “swiping” motion. Both can also complete transactions by “passing” over or “tapping” with swipeless payment technologies like Near-Field Communications (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

Without testing the product, it appears that Plastc stands superior to Coin, storing up to 20 cards versus Coin’s 8-card storage capacity. Plastc also displays full card information on its E link strip across the front of the card, whereas Coin can only display basic information on its small LED screen. Apple Pay, however, is functions as part of the Passport app in the iPhone 6’s iOS 8 operating system, rather than using a physical medium to substitute for the cards. It only has the capability to complete swipeless transactions with NFC or RFID technologies, unlike Coin and Plastc.

Apple Pay has the advantage of using a cloud-based platform for its storage – you can link your credit card and bank account information using the Passport app on your iPhone 6 or 6+, and instantly use Apple Pay using that same card. Also, there is no purchase required, as with Coin or Plastc – all that is required is one of the newest Apple smartphones.

Security remains the largest concern for all three digital payment options, as consumers look for the safest payment methods available. Plastc and Coin can both be connected to a user’s smartphone, alert the user when the card and phone are “too far” apart. By 2015, all credit cards in the U.S. will be required to have new security technology called the Eurocard Mastercard Visa chip (EMV) as standard. This chip incorporates a PIN technology that makes credit card transactions safer. Plastc and Apple Pay will come to the market with the EMV standard, but Coin has delayed its August 2014 product launch to Spring 2015 as its producers look to integrate it to the new EMV standard. All in all, it seems that these three products will likely be about the same in terms of safety for the consumer. However, with Apple Pay, there remains a question of security in their cloud services. If you do not have the utmost confidence in Apple’s iCloud security, then Apple Pay may not be the most prudent choice for linking to your bank account.

If you are looking for the best all-around option that incorporates as many aspects of the new payment technologies, then Plastc stands out as the most versatile competitor, incorporating contactless NFC technology as well as the standard swipe-to-pay capability. However, if you are looking to taking your payments fully digital and slim down your wallet, then Apple Pay is likely the best choice for you.

By Jason Edelman

The Internet of Things – As Easy as Child’s Play

The Internet of Things – As Easy as Child’s Play

The Internet of Things – As Easy as Child’s Play

Google, Apple, Samsung and Amazon – the leading tech companies of the world would have you believe that designing devices and software for the internet of things is technically challenging, expensive, and requires great expertise. How else could they justify charging some of the sky-high prices for their latest products?

A twenty three year old is now challenging that notion with ‘SAM’ – dubbed as being the ‘lego of the internet’. Its aim is to offer an electronics kit made up of wireless, rechargeable, Bluetooth-connected modules that enable kids – along with anyone else without coding knowledge – to build everything from smart doorbells to intelligent home appliances.

Its developer – an entrepreneur called Joachim Horn – hopes to encourage budding engineers and inventors to create games, products and apps for the ‘Internet of Things’, where everyday objects can send and receive data through the web. “I was always scared of the dark magic of electrical engineering,” he said. “Stuff never works, there’s always a bug, and you can’t duct tape it into correctness… I wanted to find a way to make it fun for people to learn circuitry and coding. [I wanted to build a] human-centred model that would be easy to use and that taught you while you worked with it”.

sam-project

By using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Horn has easily smashed his £50,000 target, eventually closing with 817 backers and £125,546 when the investment window closed. He plans to use the raised capital to make SAM networks accessible from smartphone, and design more aesthetically pleasing casings for the components. Ultimately he hopes to add another round of funding that will be in the region of £1 million – thus allowing him to develop more advanced components such as accelerometers, LCD screens, and camera modules.

Currently SAM is only three months old, and while Horn thinks it will help “level the playing field” to allow more people and start-ups to enter the sector with low levels of investment, easy prototypes, and increased autonomy, it has already seen some impressive products developed by enthusiasts and early adopters.

An eight-year-old used the SAM app, two motors, and three proximity sensors to build a self-driven car that moves round his room and dodges obstacles, a British man in a long distance relationship with a woman in Rome made a mailbox flag that is raised whenever he gets an email from her, and SAMs were used to create glasses that tell a blind person where to walk to depending on their surroundings.

Given how much can be designed and stylised with Lego, the possibilities for SAM appear endless at this stage. What do you think? What would you design if you had a SAM kit? Let us know in the comments below.

By Daniel Price

Dreaming of a Cloud Transition and Transformation Framework

Dreaming of a Cloud Transition and Transformation Framework

Cloud Transition and Transformation Framework

Many years ago I was introduced to the concepts that comprise the visual architecture process. During the process of learning about the concepts and process of visual architecture, I adopted many of the concepts, ideas and tools to use in my own processes.

In particular, there was a component that has resonated for me all these years later. To create a positive vision statement about a solution by looking forward 5 years after a successful implementation of the overall solution and reviewing the what and how of success.

I’ve been talking and arguing quite a bit about the need for a unifying theory related to the overall concept of a cloud transformation framework. The loosely coupled solutions companies, governments and even individuals could use to securely and happily move their solution to a cloud service provider. The Rosetta Stone for cloud migrations.

How did we end up with a flexible vendor-neutral cloud transformation framework?

First off it wasn’t easy. A number of CSP’s built their own cloud transformation frameworks (CTF) so the initial work we had to do was sort through all the different frameworks to find the right mix of components to have a rationalized framework.

The creation of a standards body that was comprised of CSP’s, SI’s, interested organizations and members from various leading cloud standards groups was the next step. That took some time more because of all the different CTF’s that were out there and because of the overall politics. Luckily there were the cloud neutral sites such as CloudTweaks, that kept us on track. See the whole cloud not just the part you are considering.

The biggest hurdle ended up being the move. We had to push CTF programs to governance within the various architectural groups that were out there. CTF’s weren’t just moving data and applications from on premise solutions to cloud solutions they were about shifting governance to a new model.

Getting people to see in the end that it was about governance and shifting governance to a new cloud-based solution brought the whole thing together. The last hurdle that we cleared recently, in fact, was the terminology. That was a kettle of fish to open. Different parts of the industry (customer, provider, support) had different views of words and their meaning.

Developing building and in the end agreeing to the common taxonomy of cloud transformation terms was the fun part. We agreed that the term migration meant you were moving the user’s security information, the application, the data and in the end any connections and interfaces to any other system. We agreed that a cloud transition could have steps but for the most part should be an automated move of resources from one system to another. A cloud transformation was the concept of improving the processes, procedures and the application itself.

We got there. We developed common data standards, common definitions of terms and words and finally we had a great party. The first successful cloud transitions happened within weeks. The first big cloud transformations began happening almost right away.

It’s how we built the Cloud Transformation and Transition Framework.

By Scott Andersen

Apps That Violate IT Policy – What and How?

Apps That Violate IT Policy – What and How?

Apps That Violate IT Policy

Over the last two days we’ve looked at  whether or not Shadow IT is a opportunity or a threat, and the security risks that unapproved apps pose to businesses and organisations. To conclude the mini-series, today we look at a new report that’s been released by Netskope. The Netskope Cloud Report typically compiles the most interesting trends on cloud app adoption and usage based on aggregated, anonymised data from the Netskope Active Platform.

The key theme in the Q3 report for 2014 is how mobile devices have been using the cloud. They note that more than half of all ‘send’ or ‘approve’ activities occur on mobile, and a shockingly high number of activity-based policy violations also occur on the platform. The most frequent offenders aren’t social, but largely “prosumer” apps – demonstrating that IT departments are still finding it difficult to move employees on to a single, approved app for a single, specific purpose.

Enterprise Ready

In total, businesses are using on average a mammoth 579 cloud apps, of which a worryingly high 88.7 percent are not enterprise ready – failing to meet standards in either security, auditability, or business continuity. To reinforce the belief that Shadow IT is spiralling out of control, Netskope cite one business which used more than 3,000 apps. As we discussed on Monday, this is a huge problem for IT departments, especially given more than one-third of all policy violations are currently occurring via mobile apps.

With the exception of ubiquitous apps such as Dropbox and Evernote, line-of-business apps are the most common. Marketing apps are the most common (60 per business), then human resources (36), finance/accounting (29), and CRM (24). Of those apps, the threat posed to an organisation’s security is vast – 98 percent of marketing apps are not enterprise ready, 96 percent of HR, 98 percent of finance and 91 percent of CRM.

Policy violations can take many forms – ranging from downloading personally-identifiable information from an HR app to a mobile device, to alerting when users share documents in cloud storage apps with someone outside of the company. With 44 percent of all download activities occurring on mobile devices, and with 40 percent of all sharing happening via mobile, it’s quickly apparent why IT departments struggle to track, update and manage the Shadow IT within an organisation.

In terms of the apps with the largest volume of policy violations, the top five categories which offend most frequently are cloud storage, CRM, collaboration, HR, and finance. From these categories, the five activities which most frequently constitute policy violations are logins, views, downloads, edits and uploads.

Top 10 App Violators

The top ten apps that violate IT policy were also highlighted in the report. The high usage of these apps by employees should provide yet another serious concern for IT departments.

What do you think? Do you use these apps at work? Perhaps your employer has banned them? Let us know in the comments below.

NS-Cloud-Report-Oct14-IG-00_001

By Dan Price

Will Virtual Reality Replace The Virtual Desktop?

Will Virtual Reality Replace The Virtual Desktop?

Ever since Facebook acquired the rapidly growing Oculus Rift, it seems like virtual reality has not stopped gaining attention in the tech world. Virtual reality is becoming more than just a sci-fi special effect as the quality and wearability continue to improve.

People like Oliver Kreylos, who works for the Institute for Data Analysis and Visualization at the University of California at Davis, are even pushing virtual reality to mainstream status with enterprise business and collaboration applications.

But even with all this excitement around VR and the advances we’ve seen recently in augmented reality devices like Google Glass, the fact remains that this technology is not advanced enough to be practical in the workplace and it’s likely that it never will be.

When we think about virtual reality’s place on the office, we have to consider innovation versus practicality. Sometimes advancing technology is not necessarily the most efficient use of resources and can actually slow productivity. With VR, this is no different. Let’s examine the benefits and costs of virtual reality in the workplace.

Infinite Virtual Desktops

Probably the biggest advantage of virtual reality in the workplace is the ability to create an unlimited number of virtual monitors. Say goodbye to all those cables you have snaking throughout your desk to get your 2 monitors working. How would you like to get your desk space back as well? In looking at the possibilities a VR environment would create, it’s possible that deploying monitors would be as easy as opening a new tab in your browser.

Imagine the benefits this would have for stock traders. You’ve seen these guys. They’re the ones with a 3 by 2 wall of monitors with real-time graphs updating on each one. Imagine if they could have 18 monitors all going at once.

Collaboration

In a virtual workspace, collaborating with colleagues across the country will be miles beyond web conferences or Skype conversations. Imagine your business partner or client is standing right by your side in a virtual office. You can both manipulate the environment in real-time, side-by-side.

Unfortunately the quality of putting projecting your whole body in a virtual envrionment is not quite up to snuff. You can see below in an experiment by Oliver Kreylos what it looks like when a person’s whole body is embedded into a virtual environment.

VR

(Source:http://kotaku.com)

Adjustment Period

According to a recent TechCrunch article, one of the biggest drawbacks of a virtual reality system is that you cannot see your hands or the physical equipment in front of you. This means that if you’re operating a keyboard, you have to memorize the keys and motions.

Alex Sarnoff, CEO of Control VR, a startup in the virtual reality space, believes their own wearable technology and camera quality will actually make it possible to operate keyboards in the virtual environment. Sarnoff says, “The sensors and software we use provide for incredibly accurate clean data and are a testament to many years of research, development and progress by our founders.“

While that’s all fine and well, this means we’ll have to relearn to operate keywords and other equipment in a virtual world. It will be awkward and difficult and might take more time than it’s worth.

Feasibility vs. Productivity

Oliver Kreylos’ virtual desktop demo isn’t exactly on the same level as UC Davis’ CAVE VR installment (below) which surpasses it in quality and usability. But can you imagine if every office, or every cubicle for that matter, had a CAVE?

VR-T

(Source: http://ucdavis.edu)

The point is that this equipment is not only expensive, it’s a hassle to house in a physical office space. There are multiple cameras that need to be set up, the equipment is likely awkward to wear and the quality of the virtual environment is quite poor. For most enterprise businesses it’s going to be difficult to justify the need for a setup like this unless you are the day trader mentioned earlier.

The reality is, this technology is “interesting” at best. The quality and feasibility is not there yet for most businesses. It’s exciting to think that one day we’ll get to a point where virtual reality is a part of our everyday worklife but right now it’s not ready for the mainstream and there is not enough need to justify it.

By Scott Taft

Shadow IT – Threat or Opportunity?

Shadow IT – Threat or Opportunity?

Shadow IT

christoper-rentropShadow IT – sometimes referred to as Stealth IT – describes the usage of IT systems and solutions that are built and used inside businesses and organisations without explicit approval from IT departments and/or management. Fueled by the growth of BYOD policies, Christopher Rentrop, Professor of Informatics at Konstanz University of Applied Sciences, believes it now includes “all applications that are acquired without the IT department’s involvement and whose use is not covered by IT service management

His definition means the term includes software, cloud apps, workflows and even hardware. While Shadow IT can play an important role in the fields of innovation, research, and development, it also causes problems by frequently failing to adhere to a company’s need for control, documentation, security and reliability.

Compliance

But how much of a threat is the area? Can a company be seriously compromised by unchecked Shadow IT within its walls? We know hardware can be identified by network management tools, but monitoring social media platforms and other cloud-based applications is very difficult. For example, staff can use Facebook or Dropbox to send or publish documents unobserved and pose a compliance risk, while non-approved software and services consume bandwidth, slow networks, and ultimately add to the workload of IT departments. Indeed, half of the IT managers questioned believe that 50 percent of their budget is being eaten up by the management of shadow IT alone.

Some analysts believe that Shadow IT now threatens the very existence of IT departments. They claim that the traditional procurement process is dying, replaced instead by individual departments servicing their own IT needs away from the eyes of the IT departments. Three reasons for this are normally forthcoming; 1) IT departments are slow and cumbersome in terms of action, 2) the IT departments lacks the expertise necessary in certain apps, and 3) the IT department is too expensive and too complex. Research by Gartner suggests that at least 90 percent of all IT spend will be managed outside of the IT department by 2020, with Forrester adding that central IT departments will become largely obsolete.

Current IT Landscape

Rather than posing a problem, it can be argued that this instead represents an opportunity. The reason the traditional procurement processes are dying isn’t the fault of IT departments per se, but because lots of organisations insist on using a method that is 25 years old and out of touch with the current IT landscape. IT departments need to listen to the staff, aiming to become a powerful and forward-thinking force that helps make companies more efficient, effective and profitable.

Staff should not be accused of circumventing IT departments wilfully. Typically they have a problem that they need solving fast. When the world outside the office sees such solutions a download away, it is unrealistic to expect a different, lengthy procedure in work. Such a situation explains the soaring growth of services like Dropbox – emails cannot cope with large attachments, so employees use Dropbox and the problem is solved – with or without the blessing of the IT management.

Shadow IT Infographic: Vanson Bourne

What do you think of Shadow IT, is it a threat to organisations’ internal security, or an opportunity for them to amend and improve their practices? Let us know in the comments below.

Tomorrow we look at the security risks round apps frequently used within the Shadow IT umbrella.

By Daniel Price

CloudTweaks Comics
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