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Have You Named Your VPA’s Yet?

Rumor has it that the personal cloud and the digital workplace will, in the very near future, blend together to provide one source of information and applications, all from one tiny device. According to Gartner, “by 2018, 25 percent of large organizations will have an explicit strategy to make their corporate computing environment similar to a consumer computing experience.” For those who can also see the big picture, this presents some not so unique business problems – namely security, potential rise of data breaches, and inadvertent exposure of confidential information.

Who, or should I say what is going to pull all this together? The Virtual Personal Assistance (VPA) of course. I prefer to tell mine to shut-up unless it is giving me directions, but I’m not a power user. The VPA is supposed to provide pervasive support for both the users’ personal clouds as well as enterprise information. I suppose since Apple, Google, and Microsoft have jumped on the real and potential capabilities of the VPA who am I to say they are wrong?

Let’s get back to security again. Gartner sees the future as multiple VPA’s catering to my every whim. One for personal data, one for work, potentially one for teams or groups, and who knows what else. This approach is to provide IT some control over the enterprise or business VPA, yet allow the personal VPA to co-exist while preventing access to corporate information. What if one of my VPA’s spills the beans to one of my other VPA’s? Who is responsible, me or the VPA? An additional problem that has already come to pass, is the enormous amount of personal information, applications, and non business related data that is flowing freely in the enterprise Internet cloud, most of which, IT doesn’t even know that it exists.

I suppose I find some of this silly, but then I would never describe myself as a visionary. I will try to eagerly await the arrival of my VPA’s. I have already started thinking of names.

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Guess how many times a week your company is hacked?

Most organizations are actually pretty easy targets for attackers. I’ve always wondered though, why the particular companies that have massive invasions the reason the hackers targeted them? Supposedly a credit card number can get you $1.00 on the black market. I assume if you have stolen say 2 million that’s quite a handful of chunk change. The more personal information you can steal, the higher the price.

In every survey, what are organizations concerned about? Security. How many are proactively doing anything about it, or have they evaluated the risk and it is of low value. The recent IBM/Ponemon survey, ‘IBM 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study’, indicates attacks are going up alarmingly and so is the price tag.

In another recent article, Coviello tackles cloud privacy, government’s key escrow plan I found one particular series of statistics very interesting and sobering. Acuity Solutions President Kris Lovejoy painted a gloomy picture of cloud data privacy, which by the way this is an excellent article.

According to Mr. Lovejoy,”An average organization of 15,000 would look at approximately 1.7 million security events per week. Of those 1.7 million security events, 324 of those events were security attacks. Those security attacks were deliberate attacks carried out by motivated attackers,” she said. “For those attacks, 2.1 of those 324 attacks would result in a compromise. So 2.1 times a week a bad guy was getting into the organization.”

Kind of frightening isn’t it?

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Time to Tighten Your Belts – Would you rather be safe or sorry?

According to Osterman Research, 95% of business users primarily communicate via email. Of emails sent, 98% were sent with attachments. Secure? Highly doubtful. Mobile devices and BYOD, has unlocked a hornets nest and has put security of confidential information at risk. In the BYOD world, who owns the content, the owner of the device or the organization? Does the organization have the right to access the device to identify confidential information? Current court cases will decide the outcome.

Complicating security issues, social has entered the business world. Accepted in a court of law, the organization is responsible for tweets, social postings, Facebook, and instant messaging, even if it is an end users personal account. Security breaches should be an organizational priority. Did you know that most breaches are caused internally, either through negligence or deliberately? And the security holes only grow deeper into sink holes with no escape.

Oddly enough, C-level folks state unequivocally that they are concerned with cloud security. Rightly so. On the other side of the coin, they tend not to do a lot about it. Some have the attitude that a couple of million dollars to remedy the situation is pocket change as opposed to being prepared for the worst. It isn’t only the money, for better or for worse the impact on the brand and the attitude of customers can be worth much more than remediation. It takes years to build a brand, and depending on the data exposure, it can be destroyed.

They have made their perimeter a fortress, but most exposures are internal. Spending time documenting your security holes within the organization may influence organizations with lax rules to tighten their belts on security processes, access, and define what is and what is not confidential.

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Keeping the Lights On When Your Cloud Provider Can’t.

Does your organization have a business continuity plan as well as a disaster plan if your SaaS provider goes belly up? For whatever reason, goes out of business, abruptly turns out the lights, catastrophes, server crashes, data breaches? If you don’t why not?

Sponsored by Iron Mountain, IDG in its white paper ‘When the Cloud Evaporates’, one-third of the survey respondents said they had subscribed to mission critical SaaS applications and the provider did not meet expectations of support. What was the result? I guess it was quite a surprise and some organizations were totally unprepared. According to the survey, the organizations:

“Transferred workload to another vendor and filed a lawsuit
•Caused numerous setbacks and problems
•Incurred costs
•Needed to find a tactical solution until a long term strategic solution could be put in place
•Scrambled to pick up the application, provide on-going maintenance, and engage in an alternative partners
•Some solutions have had to be done in-house as work arounds”

In any event, not a pretty situation. IDG recommends not only a business continuity plan as well as a disaster plan. “You need something more: a business continuity strategy that works in any situation not addressed by the providers Disaster Recovery strategy. This gives you access to your applications and data to keep the lights on even if you SaaS provider can’t.”

This was a short white paper, but very interesting. I would recommend reading it if you do have business critical SaaS applications – or even if you don’t but are thinking about the cloud. (Registration is required)

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Collaboration is Great! Says who?

A couple of years back, executives were very strongly against collaboration and business social applications. The tide has turned and they are gung how now. During this same period, end users became stubborn and for the most part refused to participate or engage in these approaches. This is still the biggest reason for lack of adoption and abandonment of tools expected to encourage communication and sharing of information. At least that’s what 99.9% of analysts tell us. No one will use them. The exception – Google.

I just read a Google survey, conducted by Raconteur, where results were consistently highly positive on the benefits of collaboration. In a nutshell, the survey found:

  • 88% of response indicated their company fosters a culture of knowledge-sharing and collaboration’ agree that ‘employee morale and job satisfaction is high in their company
  • 73% of respondents agree that their organization would be a more successful organization if employees were able to work in a more flexible way
  • 56% of respondents ranked a collaboration-related measure as having the biggest impact on their organization’s profitability
  • 53% of respondents are confident that collaboration is currently having a positive and tangible impact on their organization

I am often not able to connect the dots without assistance. In this case, I did. I then went back and looked at who the survey was sent to. Guess what? The survey included senior staff and C-suite executives at 258 North American companies representing a wide range of business sectors and sizes. So, the responses are not really surprising. I would like to see the same survey using the responses of the business users.

Interesting follow-up project.

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Collaboration versus Social – It’s time to redefine the terms

A new report, ‘Microsoft Collaboration Usage‘, written by suggests the most common activity among business people using Microsoft collaboration tools is document sharing, and much of that activity occurs early in the week, on Monday and Tuesday. If you ask the typical end user they will define collaboration as email.

So, that’s what collaboration is all about? Something is wrong here. Not that I am against document sharing or easy access, it’s just in my mind I don’t associate that with collaboration. The definition of collaboration by Merriam Webster is: “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something”. File sharing and document access doesn’t seem to jive with the definition. The report, by is a very interesting paper and, although it focuses on Microsoft, it could apply to any enterprise cloud platform. I would assume the end statistics would be quite similar.

According to the report, the most popular activity conducted by users on mobile devices using was online and offline document access, both  81%, but I would have expected that percentage to be high. On the other hand, “business users opened documents 68 times more often than they participated in Yammer discussions. Just three percent of users conducted document searches, and less than two percent participated in Yammer discussions, viewed activity streams, or looked up a colleague’s SharePoint profile, according to”

I think it’s time to redefine the term collaboration. Collaboration is much more than accessing documents. Social, on the other hand, the Yammer’s of the world, is focused on communication. If we really delineate the terms, social is pretty much of a bust, according to this report and the term collaboration, in reality, doesn’t even exist. I say call it what it is. Document access both online and offline. It is not collaboration as I see it.

Do you see it differently?

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Choosing a Social Tool? Did you think of millennials versus baby boomers?

I was reading an article, “Why CIO’s can’t sell enterprise collaboration tools”, and one of the reasons given included the difference between how millennials versus baby boomers does come into play. To be quite honest, the thought never entered my mind. But, it is rather intriguing.

This may seem a minor point, but social and collaboration tool adoption is pretty dismal. And as the baby boomers age (unfortunately), sooner or later the millennials will be the majority and running the organization. According to the article, “Millennials are more comfortable with video, short messaging and have embraced newer collaboration tools like Slack and HipChat while older execs are still trying to master WebEx and GoToMeeting, and unfortunately there’s no common ground.” Rather brought a smile to my face, as the statement hit the mark.

I am a huge proponent of end user participation in the purchase of any type of collaboration or social tool. Since the primary problem with these tools is end user adoption – then ask the business professionals and end users to participate in the decision. How many times somewhere in your career, did you think of management as clueless as to what really happens in the trenches? Most likely, the baby boomers are the execs and the worker bees are the millennials. Acknowledge the differences and try to find common ground. It might make all the difference in success or failure.

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