Archive for the ‘Tablet PC’ Category

10 things we learnt in 2010 that can help make 2011 better

December 23, 2010

This is the end of a tough year for many organisations across all sectors. We found ourselves snowed-in last winter, were stuck abroad due to a volcano eruption in spring, suffered from the announcement of a tightened budget in summer, and had to start making drastic cost-saving plans following the Comprehensive Spending Review in autumn. Data security breaches and issues with unreliable service providers have also populated the press.

Somehow the majority of us have managed to survive all that; some better than others. As another winter approaches it is time to ask ourselves: what helped us through the hard times and what can we do better to prevent IT disruptions, data breaches and money loss in the future?

Here are some things to learn from 2010 that may help us avoid repeating errors and at the same time increase awareness of current issues, for a more efficient, productive and fruitful 2011:

1- VDI to work from home or the Maldives

Plenty of things prevented us getting to work in 2010; natural disasters, severe weather and industrial disputes being the biggest culprits. Remote access solutions have been around for a long time, but desktop virtualisation has taken things a stage further. With a virtual desktop, you’re accessing your own complete and customised workspace when out of the office, with similar performance to working in the office. Provided there’s a strong and reliable connection, VDI minimises the technical need to be physically close to your IT.

2- Business continuity and resilience with server virtualisation

Server virtualisation is now mainstream, but there are plenty of organisations large and small who have yet to virtualise their server platform. When disaster strikes, those who have virtualised are at a real advantage – the ability to build an all-encompassing recovery solution when you’ve virtualised your servers is just so much easier than having to deal with individual physical kit and the applications running on them. For anyone who has yet to fully embrace the virtualisation path, it’s time to reassess that decision as you prepare for 2011.

3- Good Service Management to beat economic restrictions

With the recent economic crisis and the unstable business climate, the general message is that people should be doing more with less. It’s easy to delay capital expenditure (unless there’s a pressing need to replace something that’s broken or out of warranty) but how else to go about saving money? Surprising, effective Service Management can help deliver significant cost-efficiencies through efficient management of processes, tools and staff. Techniques include rearrangement of roles within the IT Service Desk to get higher levels of fix quicker in the support process, and adoption of some automatic tools to deal with the most common repeat incidents. Also getting proper and effective measures on the service, down to the individuals delivering it, helps to set the bar of expectation, to monitor performance and improve processes’ success.

4- Flexible support for variable business

An unstable economic climate means that staffing may need to be reduced or increased for certain periods of time, but may need rescaling shortly afterwards. At the same time epidemics, natural disasters and severe weather conditions may require extra staff to cover for absences, often at the last minute. Not all organisations, however, can afford to have a ‘floating’ team paid to be available in case of need or manage to get contractors easily and rapidly. An IT Support provider that can offer flexibility and scalability may help minimise these kinds of disruption. In fact, some providers will have a team of widely-skilled multi-site engineers which can be sent to any site in need of extra support, and kept only until no longer needed, without major contractual restrictions.

5- Look beyond the PC

Apple’s iPad captured the imagination this year. It’s seen as a “cool” device but its success stems as much from the wide range of applications available for it as for its innate functionality. The success of the iPad is prompting organisations to look beyond the PC in delivering IT to their user base. Perhaps a more surprising story was the rise of the Amazon Kindle, which resurrected the idea of a single function device. The Kindle is good because it’s relatively cheap, delivers well on its specific function, is easy to use and has long battery life. As a single function device, it’s also extremely easy to manage. Given the choice, I’d rather the challenge of managing and securing a fleet of Kindles than Apple iPads which for all its sexiness adds another set of security management challenges.

6- Protecting data from people

Even a secured police environment can become the setting for a data protection breach, as Gwent Police taught us. A mistake due to the recipient auto-complete function led an officer to send some 10,000 unencrypted criminal records to a journalist. If a data classification system had been in place, where every document created is routinely classified with different levels of sensitivity and restricted to the only view of authorised people, the breach would have not taken place as the information couldn’t have been set. We can all learn from this incident – human error will occur and there is no way to avoid it completely, so counter measures have to be implemented upfront to prevent breaches.

7- ISO27001 compliance to avoid tougher ICO fines

The Data Protection Act was enforced last year with stricter rules and higher fines, with the ICO able to impose a £500,000 payment over a data breach. This resulted in organisations paying the highest fines ever seen. For instance Zurich Insurance which, after the loss of 46,000 records containing customers’ personal information, had to pay over £2m – but it would have been higher if they hadn’t agreed to settle at an early stage of the FSA investigation. ISO 27001 has gained advocates in the last year because it tackles the broad spectrum of good information security practice, and not just the obvious points of exposure. A gap analysis and alignment with the ISO 27001 standards is a great first step to stay on the safe side. However, it is important that any improved security measure is accompanied by extensive training, where all staff who may deal with the systems can gain a strong awareness of regulations, breaches and consequences.

8- IT is not just IT’s business – it is the business’ business as well

In an atmosphere where organisations are watching every penny, CFOs acquired a stronger presence in IT although neither they nor the IT heads were particularly prepared for this move. For this reason, now the CIO has to find ways to justify costs concretely, using financial language to propose projects and explain their possible ROI. Role changes will concern the CFO as well, with a need to acquire a better knowledge of IT so as to be able to discuss strategies and investments with the IT department.

9- Choose your outsourcing strategy and partner carefully

In 2010 we heard about companies dropping their outsourcing partner and moving their Service Desk back in-house or to a safer Managed Service solution; we heard about Virgin Blue losing reputation due to a faulty booking system, managed by a provider; and Singapore bank DBS, which suffered a critical IT failure that caused many inconveniences among customers. In 2011, outsourcing should not be avoided but the strategy should include solutions which allow more control over assets, IP and data, and less upheaval should the choice of outsourcing partner prove to be the wrong one.

10- Education, awareness, training – efficiency starts from people

There is no use in having the latest technologies, best practice processes and security policies in place if staff are not trained to put them to use, as the events that occurred in 2010 have largely demonstrated. Data protection awareness is vital to avoid information security breaches; training to use the latest applications will drastically reduce the amount of incident calls; and education to best practices will smooth operations and allow the organisations to achieve the cost-efficiencies sought.

Adrian Polley, CEO

This article has been published on Tech Republic: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=2100

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Does the future of business mobile computing lie in hybrid tablet devices?

September 28, 2010

As a legion of hybrid laptop/tablet devices are thrown into the market, riding the wave of the trendy but not-so-business-friendly iPad whilst trying to overcome its limitations in a bid to conquer a place in the corporate world, a few thoughts come to mind as a reflection on the future of business mobile computing.

Tablets in their pure and hybrid forms have been around for several years, but it is only recently that they have reached some sort of success thanks to the right marketing, targeting and perhaps timing. Perhaps they could only be accepted as the natural successor to smartphones and e-readers, and had to hit the gadget-thirsty consumer market before they could be introduced in a corporate environment.

However, tablets like the iPad aren’t specifically built for work. Apart from the security issues that are still to be fully assessed, there are some technical aspects which makes this device unfit for business in its present form. Its touch-screen technology is not ideal for writing long documents and emails, for instance, and the attachable keyboard is an extra expense and an extra item to carry around, making it less comfortable than a normal laptop. Another issue is that the screen does not stand on its own. To write on it, the device has to be held with one hand, leaving only one hand free to type, or placed horizontally on a surface or one’s lap, an unusual position which makes it harder to compose long texts. A holder can be purchased, but at an extra cost. It must be said that consumers of mobile computing are not eager to carry around extra detachable parts. That’s what mobile computing is all about – compact and lightweight devices to access resources from different places or while travelling.

The latest hybrids launched on the market try to overcome these issues, for instance keeping the laptop’s two-piece, foldable, all-in-one appearance and merging it with the touchscreen concept introduced by tablets. For instance, Dell is launching a 10-inch hybrid Netbook/Tablet device where the screen can be rotated to face upwards before closing the machine, so that whilst the keyboard disappears it remains on the upper surface, appearing exactly like a Tablet. Toshiba’s Libretto, instead, is an even smaller device (7 inches) that looks like a normal mini-netbook but is composed of two screens with touch-screen technology. One screen can be used for input and the other for displaying information, but they can also be used together as a double-screen, for example to read a newspaper the ‘traditional’ way.

Although the two hybrids both show an effort to meet market requirements for a marketable device – small and fast, easy to carry around, one-piece, foldable, able to stand on its own, touchscreen – this still doesn’t make them ideal and safe for work. It is possible that they become popular among a niche of professionals to whom the design and some of their functionalities may appeal, but it is highly unlikely that they will replace traditional laptops in the IT department or in organisations where IT needs to be efficient and extremely safe.

First of all, the capacity and speed of these devices is limited, and so is the screen size. Furthermore, although the touch-screen technology may probably become the way forward at some point in the future, at the moment it is not advanced enough to make it better than a traditional keyboard. When typing on a touchscreen there is no tactile response at the fingertips, hence it is necessary to keep glancing at one’s fingers to be sure you are hitting the right keys. Finally, the risk of a ‘cool’ device is that it is an easy target for theft, which can represent a risk to the business from a data protection point of view especially if the device does not allow a sufficient level of security or has some faults to due its newness.

Although the mass of tech-crazy professionals that populate organisations in all sectors are looking more and more for a one-for-all device, it is unlikely that this becomes the mainstream solution. It is more likely that people will have a travel-size device for their free time or when they are on the go, a smartphone for calls and quick email checking and a super-safe and bulky laptop for work.

The problem, here, will be how to access the same resources from the various devices without having to transfer and save all the documents and applications onto all of them. This could be overcome with desktop virtualisation which makes a user’s desktop and resources reachable from any device and anywhere in the world – abroad, home or on a train. Unfortunately this requires a reliable, strong and stable internet connection which at present is still not available everywhere, and especially not outside homes and offices.

As for the far future, portable devices will probably be very different from what we are used to – they will be as thin as a sheet of paper, with touchscreen technology that is more advanced than the one at present, and users will be able to roll them away and carry them in a pocket. The projected keyboard might become popular as well – although it already exists, consumers are still not embracing this new way of inputting information but this might change with time.

In fact, the future of computing is not only determined by technological developments. Adoption in the mainstream culture is essential and it can only happen when consumers are ready to accept variants of what they are used to. It is only through a cultural change that things can really progress onto new forms and it is through the choices and preferences of the new consumer/professional figure that the future of mobile computer will ultimately be determined.

Will Rodbard, Senior Consultant

Find this article on Business Computing World: http://www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk/does-the-future-of-business-mobile-computing-lie-in-hybrid-tablet-devices/

The quest for a portable office – are all mobile devices safe for work?

June 22, 2010

“Free as a bird, is the next best thing to be,” sang the Beatles. This is what modern workers want more and more: they want to be able to work while commuting, on a business trip and at home, even in the middle of the night or at weekends.

Naturally, the need for greater out-of-hours and out-of-office accessibility to work resources has grown with the development of new, smaller and lighter devices that are constantly coming out and gaining ground in the market.

With the choice getting wider by the day, professionals, who are getting more and more tech-savvy, want to be able to have their say when it comes to choosing their mobile devices. They want to be free to use what they like and are used to, for example their own mini Netbook or smart phone, rather than being forced to use machines approved by the IT department, often heavier and less discreet.

Some organisations have considered setting a budget for hardware expenses and allowing each individual to choose their own machine. Although arguably democratic, this move can turn out to be a disaster for two main reasons: firstly, the organisation would need to provide widely skilled, up-to-date support to cover all of the machines; secondly, and most importantly, the trendiest and newest gadgets often present the most risks concerning security.

While iPads and iPhones may appear more attractive than laptops, Blackberry and other handheld mobiles, it is not by chance that they are not popular in the workplace: they are not suited for remote VDI access and lack security lockdown features. Many smartphones were not originally designed for business or corporate use, therefore do not support data encryption. In addition to this, because of their novelty they may be more vulnerable to viruses and hacking. Let’s keep in mind that trendy devices are more eye-catching and at a higher risk of being stolen. If the device is not effectively password-protected and its data encrypted, then the thief will have full access to the crown jewels.

Another risk linked to mobile devices is that the smallest, lightest ones have less storage capacity, therefore users end up transferring and storing data through the use of external devices such as memory sticks, and sometimes other unconventional tools which allow data storage, such as digital cameras memory cards or mp3 players, perhaps to conceal sensitive information. While small devices like memory sticks are easy to lose, the unconventional ones do not provide adequate levels of data protection.

Even with the new Data Protection regulations which came out this year, forcing private companies to declare breaches to the Information Commissioner who is free to make them public, and facing breachers with fines up to £500,000, it still seems that many organisations do not fully understand the need to enhance their security measures. A survey conducted by ICD Research in association with CBR found that organisations are planning to spend 42% more on mobility this year, whilst 36% will spend the same budget as the previous year. However, surprisingly, 61% are planning to spend the same amount of money on security as the year before, and only 28% are going to increase spending in that area. From this data, it appears that although organisations recognise the need for mobile devices and to embrace mobility, they do not completely realise the importance of security, which becomes even more crucial when work is taken outside the office doors.

To be effective, security must work in layers, and protect access equally from the outside and from the inside. Apart from passwords and physical barriers to impede external access, it is important to update antivirus software regularly, especially on the more modern devices, which are typically more vulnerable to bugs and attack by hackers.

It is important as well to allow data to self-protect, in case the previous measures fail to be effective or in the not uncommon case of human error. Only recently, the news came that a police officer emailed some 100,000 criminal records to a journalist by mistake, due to the auto-complete function in his email account. Although human error cannot be automatically prevented, there is a way to save the organisation from a breach of data security, and that is to encrypt all documents, even when they are just sent between co-workers. Data is exposed to risks whilst in transit, attached to emails, when the transmission channel is owned by an external provider.

To insure an enhanced level of security, training should be provided to all members of the organisation, as most breaches happen at end point. A security culture must be introduced with mobility to reduce the attendant risks and, most importantly, a loss of reputation for the whole organisation, and not only the employee responsible for the breach. It is only embracing such measures that mobility, efficiency and security can finally meet.

 

 

Ayodele Soleye, Senior Consultant

Find this article online on Director: http://www.director.co.uk/ONLINE/2010/06_10_ipad_security.html

Will Tablets rule the future?

June 17, 2010

Apple CEO Steve Jobs recently announced the start of a new, post-PC era, declaring that Tablets such as the iPod might be replacing PCs just like ‘old trucks were replaced by modern cars’. Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer reacted by saying that PCs are undergoing many transformations and tablets are just one of the experimental forms we will see, adding that the PC market has still a lot to grow.

As an experiment Keith Smith, Senior Consultant and Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director take the sides of Jobs and Ballmer and discuss the two different viewpoints.

Are Tablets the future? 

It’s a strong possibility.

Keith Smith, Senior Consultant

Nowadays there is an increasing need for light and easily transportable devices, which are at the same time aesthetically pleasing. From this point of view, Tablets tick all the boxes: they offer flexibility and mobility in use as they are not restricted to a keyboard, and because of their shape they can be used in places or positions not conducive to a notebook such as in bed, standing or with one hand. Apart from this, what differentiates Tablets is that they give users the possibility to write directly into the device using their own handwriting, which is something normal laptops do not allow. Users can then share their “ink”, the data which is input and displayed as handwriting, with other tablet and non-tablet users and integrate it with other business applications, for instance Word. There is also the option of using the traditional mouse-keyboard combination, although the elements have to be purchased separately.

After the warm welcome the iPad received, it may prove difficult to go back to portable PCs as we know them. This is especially because the Tablet offers the “touch environment” which makes navigation easier than notebook equivalents of keyboard, mouse and touchpad in certain situations, and offers faster input for creating diagrams or playing games.

The fact that users can use a stylus to input information, which builds on peoples’ traditional use of a pen, makes it even more accessible as for a lot of people it is easier to use than a keyboard.

The functions that characterise Tablets make it ideal for personal use first, which may then leak into the business world when issues such as security will be properly addressed. Although a lot of work still needs to be done, especially to gain credibility in a business environment, Tablets can be seen as the first step to a technology that is minimal, versatile and why not, democratic.

 __________________________________________________

I don’t think so!

Adrian Polley, Technical Services Director

There is a lot of fervour around this ‘innovative’ piece of technology, but contrary to what many seem to believe, Tablets are not so shockingly original, nor can really be considered the anti-PC – there have in fact been PC-based Tablets since 2001. These are generally standard Laptops with a rotating screen that can be used to write on, so that they have the general functionality of a laptop with the convenience of a pen-based device. This device was lauded as the natural successor to the laptop, but even though marketing enthusiasm has increased with both the Windows Vista and then the Windows 7 launches, take up has been relatively small compared to overall laptop sales. The dual functionality made these types of Tablets considerably more expensive than comparable laptops, which could be a reason for their limited success. There is commercial appeal in the iPad because of its ease of portability and accessible price, but these are both possible because it lacks traditional PC or Mac components. This might make it lighter and sexier, but does it meet normal functionality needs?

There is a major issue with Tablets that concerns user input.  In spite of 20 years’ worth of development of voice and handwriting-based input, the vast majority of user input to a computer is still done via the keyboard, which is considered to be fast and accurate. The lack of an equally efficient means of input into a Tablet device relegates it to those tasks which are primarily consumer based, such as viewing and interacting with content that is provided without having to input a lot of information.  This may suit consumer applications, but only a certain class of business applications. Until the input problem is resolved, Tablets will always be an item in the business world that is niche and not mainstream.  As has already been proven with PC-based Tablets, users are generally unwilling to pay the premium required to get the Tablet functions on top of a standard laptop, let alone to lose some of its main functions completely.

Apple’s Tablet may have sold to millions of technology fans, but widespread day-to-day and business adoption is probably not going to become a reality anytime soon.

Disclaimer: this is a role-play exercise and may not represent the writers’ real views on the subject.