How small businesses can ensure security in the cloud

Trend Micro SaaS vs. securityThe small and medium-sized business (SMB) landscape is defined by its competitiveness. These dog-eat-dog dynamics force business leaders to trim costs, improve worker productivity, and create new, sustainable business models. That’s why almost 90 percent of businesses want a cloud environment and adoption is expected to double in the next four years.

But many small business owners remain on the sidelines, wondering if moving some processes and applications to the cloud is worthwhile. And many of the businesses moving to software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions are making the same mistake, regardless of the industry: failing to improve their cloud security. Though we’ve come a long way in terms of protecting the cloud, risks always exist.

For some, SaaS might not even be necessary, and you won’t have to worry about the risks. But if you use SaaS applications or are considering them, an additional security layer on top of the built-in controls of your SaaS solution is smart thinking. Continue Reading…

Tags: , , ,

Why it’s time for spring cleaning of your data preparation process

Datawatch clean your dataIBM estimates that 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. Of course, your organization produces just a small fraction of that total amount, but it’s the most important data for your business analysts.

Unfortunately, finding what’s important is a major time drain. Data analysts spend 80 percent of their time manually sorting through data to compile spreadsheets. They’re copying and pasting data from one document to another, and building micros and formulas to process complex numbers. Most of this brute force work is time-consuming, expensive, and inefficient; manually preparing, cleaning, and consolidating data from different sources is a near-impossible task, not to mention the potential for error or bias.

Clean, accessible data is no longer a “nice to have,” but a critical business asset that drives compliance in the health care field, for example. The more data an organization collects from disparate systems and applications, the more complicated it becomes to process into clean, easily digestible spreadsheets. All organizations face data challenges, but enterprise organizations in particular are dealing with terabytes of disparate data from a variety of sources, both internal and external. Continue Reading…

Tags: , ,

Are you falling prey to these 2 mobile myths?

Mobile app development Whether it stems from the dream of an app that doubles consumer engagement with your brand or a sales force in need of a new tool, organizations see the opportunity a mobile application holds, and they sprint toward it. More often than not, however, they trip up and follow the wrong, dark path that leads to cost overruns, lost productivity, or mobile apps that simply don’t meet user needs.

Why is that?

Often, it comes down to two major misconceptions many organizations — including many Fortune 1000 companies — have about mobile app development:

  1. The “check box” mentality
  2. The belief that organizations can attack new problems with old strengths

By breaking down these two fallacies, we can figure out how organizations can reinvent their line of thinking to develop apps that people actually want to use, and that positively impact their top and bottom lines.

Misconception #1: Organizations just need to check items off a list: When defining digital strategy, companies often start with a list of what they want — which typically includes a mobile app. These organizations then assemble working groups to discuss the potential of a new app, eventually making another list with assumptions on what that app will need (a login screen, a beautiful user interface, etc.) From there, they believe that all they must do to succeed is to check each box.

However, these organizations often come up short because their big dreams and checklists miss what’s most important: the hard details and data on what users want. As a result, the app they develop is neither great nor terrible because it’s an app thought up in board rooms and not tested in a real-life setting. To avoid this pitfall, you must start by researching, understanding, and designing for your end users, getting their feedback and input throughout every stage of the process.

Misconception #2: Organizations can attack new problems with old strengths: The old adage is generals fight old wars, and organizations are no different. When organizations decide to start app development, they think logically, and assign employees with web-development skills to a new mobile taskforce charged with creating an app across all platforms.

But you shouldn’t try to create a one-size-fits-all application. When you create a web app, you develop on one platform and maintain one project, but you don’t provide the experience users expect because it doesn’t work great on any one device. A web app is a shack; it may appear to be a good investment, because the upfront cost is cheaper, but users won’t like it and won’t use it. In fact, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook’s biggest mistake was building a web-based app and not developing a native app sooner.

The problem is that these web apps are built by web experts, not mobile engineers, and the all-in-one app is usually a buffet of tools with features that are just OK. Think of it this way: None of the world’s great restaurants are buffets. App development for iOS requires a certain set of skills, and Android requires another, and they’re both different from Blackberry and Windows.

The market says the answer is a native app — castles that are specifically designed for a unique platform. These native apps are built by experts specializing in a particular ecosystem, and always perform better than one-size-fits-all web apps. When you create castles, you take the time and energy to develop native apps on each device, maintaining several projects but ultimately providing your users with the experience they expect and enjoy.

The lessons of science class will help

Organizations that believe these two misconceptions succeed in simplifying the value chain, but they also alienate users; those consumers want an app that works and is designed well, and they don’t care what’s easiest for you. Many organizations avoid overspending on app development, only to create apps that aren’t used and are ultimately a waste of time and money.

Instead of falling into those traps, readjust your thinking twofold: through experimentation and focusing on building skills and teams. When organizations take action to capitalize on opportunities (a business strength) and remedy gaps (hiring specialized mobile app developers) they can develop truly useful mobile apps.

Fix #1: Experiment to see what works: Don’t wait until your app is complete to see if you guessed right on what will make your app successful. Start experimenting now, during your planning and design cycle. It’s the only way to determine what users will like. Increasing time spent in the design phase will save you time and money in the long run, because you’ll have the information you need to avoid costly mistakes later.

To better understand your users, invest in bringing a user experience researcher onto your team or hiring a UX researcher consultant. Let the user research guide your design, and continue to get feedback throughout the design phase with user testing. This is a fantastic time to conduct numerous small experiments over a short period and build an app based on your proven or failed hypotheses. These mini science projects could be just a few weeks long and focus on one part of an app. This process creates an agile environment that allows your designers to pivot as you can gain new information about user preferences and learn how to better serve your customers.

Fix #2: Diversify your app development: A single development team won’t cut it. You need experts in iOS, Android, Windows, and any other ecosystem your audience plays in. That might sound like a tall order, but you can achieve this by building up teams and skills within your organization.

For example, create a three-person team for the iOS app: two experts in iOS app development, and another programmer learning iOS development. By creating small teams like this, organizations can develop an app faster while also expanding their skills and mobile capabilities.

Use a slingshot to get app development moving

So where do organizations begin? One option is using a third party to act as a slingshot to move past the check box syndrome and encourage them to begin experimenting and building their mobile teams. This third-party company works with IT and other business leaders to spur development by accelerating the user research, decision-making, and early prepping process, and by filling in skills gaps while the company recruits and trains new hires. In other words, these outside parties enable business leaders to act fast and encourage learning through testing and failing earlier rather than later. Once this catalyst is put in place, the organization can focus its energy on continued iterative testing and app development.

When organizations strip away these misconceptions and get serious with an environment of skill building and testing different hypotheses, they can leverage mobile technology in ways that aren’t possible with web-based tools, creating delightful customer interactions and entirely transformative employee workflows.

What challenges are holding back your mobile strategy? Leave us a comment below.

About the author

Michael Sikorsky of Robots and PencilsMichael Sikorsky (@mjsikorsky) is the CEO and co-founder of Robots and Pencils, a mobile strategy and app development company. Launched in 2009, Robots and Pencils has since created more than 250 apps used by 77 million people worldwide and was named the 34th fastest growing technology company in North America by Deloitte.

Tags: , ,

Everything you think you know about VDI is wrong. Let’s set the record straight.

Dell VDIA virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) is expensive, right? And, of course, it’s way too complex for most organizations. And a VDI user experience surely folds under the weight of power users running intense processes.

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

VDI has come a long way in the past decade – it supports the most extreme demands of power users and can drive down an organization’s operating costs. But VDI misperceptions still linger, to the detriment of many organizations.

Part of the issue is the lack of exposure to new VDI solutions, which have become much more refined in the last 10 years. It’s 2016, and VDI is a realistic option for organizations of all sizes, including school districts and governments. So let’s pull back the curtain on those misperceptions, and see why VDI in 2016 is different than what you remember from 2006. Continue Reading…

Tags: , ,

This is why video communication is the new normal for businesses

BlueJeans video conferencingWhere do you dial into conference calls and meetings from? The conference room, a hotel room, a car, your living room? In the age of smartphones, cheap conference bridges, and “always on” capabilities, it doesn’t really matter, does it?

What does matter is that while we’re supposed to be listening intently on these calls, many of us are working on other tasks, reading and sending emails, maybe even cooking. But the technology that enables meetings from anywhere is now powering a better way to keep employees engaged during those meetings: video conferencing.

Studies show that participants’ average attention span rises to 35 minutes for a video call from 23 minutes for an audio call. And as the workforce shifts to non-traditional office environments (including working from home), video communications give employees a way to interact with clients and colleagues from anywhere using the mobile devices they already own as conferencing access points; of businesses that utilize video communication, 94 percent say it increases productivity.

The video conferencing technologies of 2016 are more refined than yesteryear’s bulky and expensive hardware systems that were relegated to dusty boardrooms. The enterprise video market, which includes video conferencing solutions, will reach $35.6 billion in 2018, up from $11.2 billion in 2015, according to MarketsandMarkets.

That’s thanks to a happy confluence of events that has rendered this cloud-enabled technology easy, cheap, and of exceptionally high quality. Here’s why you should be looking at video conferencing if you’re not already. Continue Reading…

Tags: , ,

The IT superhero that saves money, energy, and time: Here’s hyperconverged infrastructure

Lenovo hyperconverged infrastructureWhy is your morning commute frustrating? Rubbernecking, erratic drivers, and faulty stop lights might contribute to your irritation, but the real reason morning commutes drive us mad is volume – there are a lot of cars on the road at the same time.

Something similar happened when organizations first adopted virtualization. When IT departments moved their computing into virtualized environments, they also moved data into shared storage. All the applications connected to the same storage array at the same time, slowing data retrieval, creating bottlenecks, and missing the target of increased efficiency.

Solving those bottlenecks isn’t always easy – it can be costly to upgrade to the newest technology and the underlying problem of too many applications accessing the same storage arrays doesn’t change. So what can IT do to eliminate these bottlenecks?

The answer might be hyperconverged infrastructure. Though many still see it as a buzzword, hyperconverged infrastructure is helping organizations, including many state and local governments, reduce costs, free up IT resources, and boost employee productivity. There are many advantages to hyperconverged infrastructures, which are significantly simpler to operate, use less energy and space, and offer a quick return on investment. Continue Reading…

Tags: , ,

We all hate latency. Here’s what some IT departments are doing about it.

mobile cloudSometimes latency is a matter of life or death.

That’s what first responders in Arizona’s Maricopa County realized when their 911 system couldn’t supply crucial data quickly enough. When an emergency call came through, operators updated a cloud-based system with details on where the emergency was, who was involved, and what was wrong. Continue Reading…

Tags: , , , ,

Too hot to handle: Is your data center cool enough?

data center coolingHow important is proper data center cooling? If your equipment matters to you, it should be critically important. A data center with poor cooling measures can see temperatures rise 30 degrees in just one hour. That’s a problem, as constantly warm temperatures (80 degrees and up) can damage equipment and shorten its useful lifespan.

Although cooling accounts for around 40 percent of annual data center operating costs, it usually isn’t the first priority when small to mid-size data centers are built. But as computing needs grow and heat production increases, inadequate cooling solutions compromise equipment performance and cause shutdowns. Data center expansion only makes these heat problems worse. Continue Reading…

Tags: , , , ,

Think hackers aren’t targeting your small business? Think again.

cyber criminalThe fallout from the massive data breach of controversial website Ashley Madison probably still hasn’t hit rock bottom.

The names and email addresses, as well as more sensitive information, of about 37 million Ashley Madison customers were exposed after malicious hackers published the information on a dark web forum. The consequences of the Ashley Madison breach are potentially devastating for Ashley Madison’s clientele, and the company is facing serious fallout as well, including class-action lawsuits and incalculable damage to its brand.

Leaders at many small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) might be thinking, “I don’t need to worry about a data breach — no one is interested in attacking my business.” Continue Reading…

Tags: , , , ,

Incident management isn’t enough — here’s what IT really needs

incident managementIn all of the latest IT security threat reports, one theme is clear: Breaches and compromises are on the rise, both in quantity and sophistication, and there’s no sign of them slowing down. Organizations of all sizes are at risk. Businesses need to be ahead of the game, maintain a strong security posture, and be prepared for anything.

But is it possible to be prepared for the unexpected? Yes it is, but only if you focus on developing and implementing sound incident management practices.

This includes everything from initial detection of an intrusion in the IT environment to response and recovery services. But here’s the rub: Incident management programs are useless if they can’t detect an incident or attack in real time. This is the key component to the IT security universe. Continue Reading…

Tags: , , , ,