Cyber security is a crucial component of a school 1:1 or technology program. Yet, many schools aren’t equipped to tackle this area in a way that incorporates the needs and concerns of parents, teachers, kids and other stakeholders. We spoke with Peter Geale, CMO of Netbox Blue, a provider of advanced security protection for schools’ networks and data, on new cyber security threats, cyber bullying and how to continually educate all of your school’s populations on appropriate online use.
Q: Beyond the typical online threats and cyber safety issues affecting schools, such as bullying and inappropriate images and web sites, is there anything new or unique you are seeing?
A: There are, and often they revolve around specific web sites. For instance, there’s Ask.fm, which by its nature is rather insidious in that it encourages anonymous questions. People can post hurtful things: ‘Why are you so ugly?’ ‘Why would anyone ever be your friend?’ In the past, kids would create a fake account and harass people that way. Thankfully, Facebook’s number of phantom Facebook profiles has dropped dramatically over the last few years.
Security experts will tell you that the biggest risks come from people from within — in other words, people you know. Kids won’t often pick on people they don’t know.
Q: In your opinion, do schools perceive that they have a duty of care to protect students from cyber bullying just as they do for in-person bullying?
A: There’s no question, they certainly do perceive that they have a duty of care. What happens on Facebook on the weekend comes to school on Monday. Teachers know they are dealing with issues. Teachers recognise the impact this is having on educational outcomes. That’s why they are getting involved, not because they want to spy on or control kids’ lives but because it’s affecting day-to-day life. School laptop or 1:1 programs legally require the school to consider online activity that impacts learning as part of their duty of care.
Q: How do you recommend schools come up with a security strategy around 1:1 device use and behaviour online both inside and outside of school?
A: It’s actually not that difficult. The key thing is they don’t try to do it by themselves. Learn from other schools. Most schools are part of a wider group, such as an independent schools association. Even if they are not, most schools post policies on the Internet that you can refer to. Look around and see what’s available publicly.
Early on, absolutely engage all the stakeholders. Not just the school employees, but parents, kids and the organisation the school belongs to. What’s happened in the past is that the IT manager has put together policies and they are not necessarily the right person as they might look at issues from a purely technical perspective and not the holistic approach necessary for a comprehensive use policy. Once the policy is out there, make sure it’s well-taught and make sure it’s monitored.
Q: How do we make sure children have a broad range of ongoing support, education and encouragement in order to make sound decisions online?
A: Broadly, one of the things schools try to do is create a community full stop. The good news is that some types of activities they are doing include engaging with parents — providing info to parents. These are the trends we see happening. For instance, the school shares a message saying, ‘A recent publication in education shows 75 per cent of all issues in respect to social media are on Facebook. Here are some of the areas we think might cause issues down the track.’ Then schools pass this on to parents. This happens a lot in primary school. It happens less in high schools. It needs to happen more in the high school because kids are getting more access to technology.
Q: Some peers and even adults might not be setting a great example for kids in terms of acceptable online use. How do you talk to kids and parents about this, about where kids can find a role model?
A: Earlier in 2013, Professor Donna Cross from Edith Cowan University came out with a statement that said today schools need to be involved and actually using and modelling good Facebook behaviour — if we’re not doing it, it’s like teaching kids how to swim in the classroom versus in a swimming pool. They are only going to get ordinary learning, they are not going to know how to swim. Parents also need to demonstrate positive use of the technology.
Q: What is your advice for engaging parents on issues of cyber safety?
A: There are lots of good opinions on this. For instance, making sure computers are used in public places, no computers in the bedroom and, if they are, only for a limited period of time. It should be viewed in a similar way that parents set boundaries — the same boundaries that exist offline. Kids are going to places online that parents don’t know about, to online playgrounds you don’t know, and they are going to do this in their room or on their mobile phone. Just as these boundaries exist in the physical world, they should be in the online world.
Schools can make sure parents are reminded about technology on an ongoing basis in a newsletter and online forums. Give the parents more understanding and, if they do know nothing, teach them. Make sure the parents are at least informed and know what the boundaries are and support their boundaries at home.
Additional resources to use include:
The Easy Guide to Socialising Online
Who's chatting to your kids?
Cyber Bullying in Australian Schools: The Question of Negligence and Liability
Transitioning to one cloud service or platform carries plenty of implementation challenges. Can you imagine the complexities that can arise when you decide to leverage several cloud services for a multi-cloud approach?
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t opt for a multi-cloud strategy — it just means you may need some extra help to do it successfully. That’s where a systems integrator can come in handy. A systems integrator can oversee the entire process of procuring, provisioning and then managing your bundle of cloud services. Systems integrators procure and combine technology — usually software and hardware — from a variety of vendors to provide a more seamless, and sometimes more cost-effective, system or service. This focus ensures your multi-cloud services are consistently meeting your budget and business needs, even if that means switching to another cloud services provider to take advantage of lower prices or better application performance.
They have innate technology capabilities that lower risk
Using a systems integrator to architect a multi-cloud approach means your organisation gets to leverage key design and consulting capabilities already present in the provider’s scope. This includes creating your path to the cloud, ensuring all design, build, integration and testing is done correctly. As the systems integrator already possesses its own innate technology capabilities, you’ll lower the risks around multi-cloud implementation, integration and performance issues. If you work with a systems integrator with its own cloud capabilities, you can leverage deeper expertise, in addition to a potential extra cloud service, if you require it now or down the track.
They act as your mediator to ensure needs are met
Another key way systems integrators make the multi-cloud transition easier is by liaising with your multiple cloud services providers to negotiate pricing, service levels and security needs. Your systems integrator acts as your facilitator — and a translator of all technical cloud jargon that providers sometimes hurl your way — to ensure the cloud provider can meet your business needs and prevent lock-in. This includes deciphering which cloud might work best for a particular application or workload and helping you balance the changing needs of your business services against the right cloud service.
They manage your cloud services under one umbrella to save hassle
Not only will you save your organisation time in the multi-cloud services procurement step by using a systems integrator, you’ll also reduce billing and management hassles, as all your services will be centralised. This centralised approach to multi-cloud will help your organisation better deal with issues of security and latency between private and public clouds, ensuring the backend technical configurations guarantee performance. No matter how complex your multi-cloud arrangement becomes, your systems integrator will preside over its management so it continues to deliver what your business needs.
Implemented successfully and with a clear strategic vision, 1:1 programs can foster connectedness, continuous communication and authentic experiences that escalate learning. But there are many components that go into getting a 1:1 program right. In addition to surveying all affected school populations to assess their learning and technology needs and concerns, your school must figure out hardware, software, IT support, data storage and other key elements. Another crucial factor not to overlook in the rush to put technology into the hands of students and teachers is a carefully detailed user policy and a means to ensure it is followed.
Such a policy should guide how staff and students can use devices like laptops and iPads both inside and outside of school. Monitoring discussions of your school online is one way to ensure that students and staff are acting in accordance with your policy. A social media monitoring service can help you address sensitive issues around social media use, cyber bullying and inappropriate web content before they’ve escalated.
Gaining visibility over social media
Even if your school doesn’t have a Facebook page, your students and staff likely do. And, more importantly, anyone can create a page that is associated with your school. Unless it’s extremely obscene, chances are slim that Facebook will shut it down for you.
Knowing what’s being communicated on pages created by students can help you identify who exactly might be breaching your user policy and allow you to take appropriate action. As Australian schools have a duty of care to protect students from bullying both in person and online, it’s crucial your school oversees all the places in which students are interacting to prevent potential issues. Not only can this ensure the safety of your students, it can also protect your brand. One bullying case in Australia led to a $1.5 million lawsuit that was paid to the affected student after his school was found in neglect of its duty of care. Cases like this can lead to immeasurable brand damage for a school.
Datacom worked with one secondary school where students created an unofficial page that included unsavoury comments about students and staff. Facebook stated that the page wasn’t inappropriate enough to take down. The school decided to use our social media monitoring service to track posts and comments on the page and address any that were particularly harmful. The school was able to gain visibility over discussions to make sure none intensified, informing their actions offline to address and educate their students and communicate with the wider school community, including ex-students.
Discovering discussions outside of mainstream social media forums
There are a plethora of social media channels, and even more forums and micro-blogging sites. On any of these sites, students and staff could potentially be talking openly about your school. While this doesn’t necessarily mean all discussions are negative, it pays to monitor conversations to ensure nothing demeaning or endangering to the welfare of students is present.
The good news is you can monitor these conversations even if your school is not actively engaging online. By simply listening online, your school can get a real-time snapshot of the types of discussions occurring and where they are happening. Using reporting tools, a social media monitoring service allows your school to search keywords connected to issues such as cyber bullying and potential school violence, regardless of the sites on which these discussions are taking place. Having this type of regular insight allows you to react immediately to a potentially serious comment or post on one of these sites.
You can handle overall technology planning, 1:1 program rollout and social media monitoring with one provider through Datacom. Our education team is led by experienced educators and IT experts schooled in how to implement successful technology programs that drive educational outcomes. Our social media team has worked with a number of schools to track their and other schools’ presence online. To learn if your organisation could benefit from our social media or education services, take our online assessments:
Social media survey
If you’re preparing for Microsoft’s “zero day forever” — the day in April when support for Windows XP ends and that hackers could have a field-day exploiting Windows XP PCs since they will no longer receive security patches —, you might be wondering if making the move to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 makes the most sense. Obviously, this choice depends on your business needs and how much you can accomplish in the fewer than five months left until Windows XP support ends. But here are a few other things to consider when choosing the best OS to upgrade to for your organisation.
Let’s start with the latest OS first. A good reason to upgrade to Windows 8.1 straight from XP is if you have a growing number of very mobile workers who could benefit from the touch component of the year-old OS. There are added mobility and security features with Windows 8.1, including the new Workplace Join that lets you access corporate data from a server that then gets automatically deleted when someone leaves the company. This component basically dismisses the need for a remote device wipe, something many employees have an issue with as it also might remove their personal apps and data. So, if you have plans to ramp up mobility in your organisation in the coming years, considering how Windows 8.1 could fit into your strategy is worthwhile. There are also other new features such as the return of the Start bar to make it easier to perform tasks, better application management across devices through Assigned Access and more options for mobile device management.
If you’re running XP, you cannot upgrade straight to 8.1. You’ll have to upgrade to Windows 8 first and then 8.1, as Microsoft specifies that Windows 8.1 was not designed for installation on devices running Windows XP or Windows Vista. If you do decide to go this two-step route straight from XP, you’ll not only need new hardware but also a whole new crop of applications as well, as many that run on an old Microsoft OS won’t be compatible with Windows 8.1. Datacom has tools that can assist in the assessment of which apps will comply or can be remediated.
Moving to Windows 8 is also a consideration for organisations increasing the scale of mobility in the workforce. Other than mobility, your considerations for upgrading to Windows 8 should be whether you have the budget to purchase Windows 8-compatible desktops for your entire workforce and if you have the time — fewer than five months — to teach them how to use the new touch OS. If you are focussed on Windows 8, factor in support resources to help answer the onslaught of questions and troubleshooting needs your users are likely to have as they get used to an OS like none they’ve ever used before. But on that last note, remember that Windows 8 also has a desktop mode that looks and acts almost exactly like Windows 7. You can also forgo the Modern start screen and boot straight to the desktop. So, don’t let the touch component necessarily be a reason to avoid migrating to the OS.
More than 90 per cent of large businesses will move from Windows XP to Windows 7, according to Gartner. Microsoft itself has urged organisations to continue planned Windows 7 migrations and only deploy Windows 8 to user groups that need it most, such as mobile workers. However, the company has also encouraged businesses to start investing in Windows 8-compatible devices so that if and when they want to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, they don’t have to heavily invest in more hardware. The hardware component is what makes going from Windows XP to Windows 7 most reasonable for many businesses — it does not necessitate a hardware upgrade, meaning organisations can hold onto their PCs for longer.
Regardless of the next Microsoft OS you choose, enlisting the help of an IT provider to design, implement and offer post-support for your migration, in addition to procure any new hardware and software licenses that might be needed, will lower risks and ensure a more seamless transition.
Australian principals, pay attention: More than half of teachers wanted more professional development than they’d received in the last 18 months, according to Creating Effective Teaching and Learning Environments: First Results from TALIS. Whilst this is no surprise, it is interesting to note teachers in Australia especially suffered, falling below the global average for professional development days each year — the majority took fewer than six.
It is well-known that having enough of and the right type of professional learning is crucial to ensure educators are equipped with the right knowledge and tools to drive effective educational outcomes. When it comes to new technology programs such as 1:1 rollouts, it’s especially vital that teachers feel ready to use these new tools and devices to foster individual learning for students. Here are some of the hallmarks of effective professional learning that can help set up your technology program for success.
Tip 1: Ensure professional learning opportunities meet the needs and goals of the teacher
Differentiation is not just for students. Tailoring professional learning to individual teachers leverages their own learning and instruction style to impart techniques they can apply in the classroom. When it comes to technology, your teaching staff will have different skill levels. Being able to identify strengths and weaknesses in technology gives each teacher their own individual path to growth. Elements such as small group professional learning, teacher mentoring, lesson modelling and online progress tracking help ensure the individual teacher doesn’t get lost in a world of new technology — or in a sea of other educators.
Tip: 2 Keep professional learning a continual process that occurs informally as well as formally
Whilst having dedicated, formal professional learning sessions is customary, working out a way to extend these teachings into a continual process of optimisation is where teachers — and your entire school — will see real benefits. An article in Australia’s Capital Magazine pointed out that about 70 per cent of all learning activity happens informally. Having regular discussions about development and offering access to online learning materials are ways to foster this ongoing process. These tools also help teachers address their own unexpected learning needs, which are bound to come up when it comes to navigating new technology programs and devices. The goal of professional learning should not just be to inspire but also to implement change. Teachers should have the opportunity to learn with and from each other as well as their students, particularly in the realm of technology.
Tip 3: Build in accountability to every professional learning opportunity
To demonstrate success, you must track progress. Using a performance management system to give reviews on a term, semester or annual basis is one formal way to hold teachers accountable for transforming their professional learning takeaways into actions that use technology to positively affect student learning. Informal discussions can also help by allowing you to check in with teachers on a more regular basis to see if they have questions, concerns or challenges related to their professional learning action items. Consider utilising an external professional learning facilitator to plan a term-, semester- or year-long professional learning technology strategy for your school that includes built-in progress tracking.
Tip 4: Use professional learning to create a school culture of learning and extend learning to everyone including parents and the wider community
Professional learning for teachers should not occur in a vacuum. Collaboration amongst all the school stakeholder populations will put everyone on the same page to achieve a common vision to which everyone is committed when it comes to your technology implementation. This type of collaboration includes sharing successes and mistakes about lessons, curriculum and procedures, an agreement on broad educational values and allowing teachers to act as independent leaders to choose and adapt specific pedagogical strategies that spur educational outcomes. Professional Learning at Datacom is built on these good learning principles, and our MySchoolDay application unites the learning being done by both teachers and students and makes sure there is a steady communication stream between these two populations and parents.
Make sure to join our webinar on Nov. 27 from 4 to 5 EDST with Anita and two representatives from Mount Sinai College to learn how to use planned professional learning and ICT support for a successful 1:1 rollout.
Establishing the national Professional Learning Services team at XciteLogic in 2009, Anita brings over 20 years teaching experience to Datacom's Education services. She has taught most age groups — from kindergarten through to university lecturing — and has also assumed specialist teaching roles. Her previous teaching and consultancy roles, and current role with Datacom, has seen her work throughout Australia and internationally, teaching students, educating teachers and working at systems levels to help implement learning initiatives where teachers learn alongside their students in a technology-rich environment.
Standardisation is no longer the name of the game when it comes to enterprise desktop upgrades. Today’s workforce is more dynamic, working in individualistic ways and often away from the office. A standard PC configuration will no longer cut it for a diverse mix of mobile, remote and desktop-bound workers. Nor will it work for your IT department, which will be inundated with requests for productivity apps, personal device connectivity or access to cloud-based tools. Whereas these areas used to sit in disparate places in the business, they are now integrated under the umbrella of “enterprise desktop”.
Your next desktop upgrade will take a deeper, more holistic strategy that accounts for the varied and complex needs of your workforce whilst ensuring the IT department can do its job effectively. Consider these tips for plotting your enterprise desktop upgrade and preparing your organisation for a more evolved, interconnected future.
1. Consider new tools and technologies
Different devices are no longer roadblocks to delivering applications through IT. Application virtualisation and virtual desktop infrastructure mean software can now be separated from the device hardware and operating system, which reduces compatibility issues. Gartner expects cloud computing, hosted desktops and application virtualisation to become more common and offer organisations more choice when it comes to enterprise desktop computing.
2. Think about the user
And, for the record, you have more than one type. Identifying user personas is crucial for taking a more holistic approach to enterprise desktop strategy. You can get there with some basic questions around usage patterns. How many of your workers are in the office most days of the week vs. which ones are on the road, for instance? What types of content do different departments create or consume? Perhaps the sales team gets the tablets whilst the knowledge workers stick with laptops, desktops or thin clients. Whatever your workforce split, there’s a technology — or technologies you can combine — to align with these disparate user types.
3. Investigate your hardware and software assets
If you already have a solid asset tracking program in place, this part won’t be as cumbersome. If you don’t, this exercise will make you strongly consider one. Before you get started on your enterprise desktop upgrade, you must know which applications and hardware you have. This will help you not only discover software that’s not being used — a potential cost savings —, but should also provide you with tools to better distribute current resources, identify areas for new investment and give you an understanding of where new applications and computing devices would benefit your organisation.
4. Know how these assets are being used
After you know what you have, you can start seeing exactly how it’s being used. For instance, you’ll be able to learn connectivity patterns — has VPN become more popular, for instance? —, how devices map to computing usage and which devices should be added (thin clients, for example) or retired in the future and whether virtual desktop infrastructure might be a wise investment.
5. Create an integrated management toolset
Varied devices, applications and user needs can quickly make IT management chaotic. Centralising management, security and application delivery across both physical and virtual end user devices can help simplify the IT environment. This centralised management approach will also help IT quickly provision desktop services, no matter the device, that map to the user need and profile. On the software front, having an app store or catalogue can help ease the delivery of applications in new desktop environments.
Gartner has said that organisations will increasingly be bound less and less by hardware and operating systems and eventually be able to cost-effectively deliver applications to any device. They recommend a 10-year enterprise desktop strategy so that organisations can poise themselves to take advantage of future technology developments that can add more business value. As organisations get more enterprise desktop choice, it makes sense to talk out your strategy with an IT provider that can help source, integrate and implement tools and services that will maximise your desktop computing environment now and down the road.
Peter Stein is General Manager of Licensing for Datacom, a role in which he is focussed on nationalising and growing the licensing practice. He is an experienced IT channel professional with leadership experience in sales, marketing and product management. He has managed diverse teams and contributed to the growth of the companies with which he has worked.
Cloud offers your organisation a lot of different hosting options and methods of delivery. Yet for years, many businesses have felt as if they are pigeon-holed into just one choice — one that can prevent your organisation from fully leveraging cloud to automate and optimise key business processes that can drive performance, productivity and innovation. Using multiple cloud services or providers could be the better option for your organisation, as it allows you to use different cloud services to map to specific budget, security and systems needs amongst your workloads. Consider if your organisation might be primed for multi-cloud by looking at these three key areas.
- You have varying types of workloads with different requirements
As cloud computing has evolved, organisations have gotten hip to the idea of best-placed workloads: that is, the cloud that is most suitable for the applications you are running. This concept accounts for changing workload needs or fluctuating levels of cloud performance, infrastructure and price. The portability of multi-cloud presents the option to benchmark applications and workloads across different clouds to see where they perform at their best. So if you have a mix of workloads that have low or partial utilisation levels, such as batch processing, and workloads subject to wild spikes in traffic such as public-facing apps, the ability to leverage and shift amongst different cloud platforms reduces the risk of downtime and helps control costs.
- You anticipate needing to bring a cloud-based project back in-house
A misconception with cloud computing is that once you migrate a service or application to a cloud platform, it should stay there forever. Cloud is meant to provide agility, and there’s no reason to believe you won’t have to shift one of your services to another cloud platform or provider or migrate it back on premise in the future. IDG Enterprise’s Cloud Computing: Key Trends and Future Effects Report found that 42% of cloud-based projects are ultimately taken back in-house. The reasons for this shift include security (65%), technical/oversight problems (64%) and the need for standardisation, or one platform, (48%).
A multi-cloud strategy — especially one overseen by an IT systems integrator — can help your organisation transition systems back on-premise as soon as you need them there. This multi-cloud approach will cut out the complexity of migration issues, service contracts and potential data loss as you already have a multi-pronged arrangement with multiple platforms and providers that understand your need to stay nimble.
- You want to avoid commitment to one cloud services provider
Organisations today are outsourcing to multiple providers for a range of business needs. There is no reason why this trend can’t extend to cloud. According to ZDNet, 39 per cent of IT decision-makers feel locked in with their current suppliers. With multi-cloud, you get more freedom of choice, allowing you to easily switch providers if their SLAs, costs or privacy guidelines change. In fact, the University of Sydney’s School of Information Technologies’ Centre says a hybrid or multi-cloud approach is the most cost-effective, efficient way to manage various cloud computing resources.
A multi-cloud strategy can work for a range of business types, whether you’re a local or multi-national organisation, an SME or large corporation, or one that is already using cloud computing or that is still ironing out a path to cloud. Remember to consider using an IT systems integrator to help make your multi-cloud implementation less complex and ensure cloud computing success.
ZDnet published a piece in August titled “No matter how cool, phones are not tablets or computers. Or are they?” It spoke to the idea that because mobile devices can’t do all the same things and require different accessories or components to run effectively in an enterprise, many organisations today don’t think they can accommodate a full-scale BYOD environment. The story also touched upon the idea that a laptop is still crucial to computing, especially in terms of content creation and editing.
But mobile devices act in many of the same ways as desktops — they’re a vehicle for productivity and task completion. The future state of enterprise mobility — and the desktop — could very well allow employees to do whatever they need to do from whichever device they want. Here are some of the emerging possibilities that might one day make it irrelevant which mobile devices your employees bring into work.
Docking stations for mobile devices
Technology vendors are beginning to market docking stations that allow mobile devices to be used as desk phones and computers, with instant messaging, conferencing and extension dialing. If this trend continues, employees will eventually be able to use these mobile devices to communicate, create more content and leverage powerful productivity apps. According to a June 2012 report by McKinsey & Company, half of CIOs believe smartphones will eventually be modularly docked with a keyboard, screen and related devices in any location. Battery life and connectivity issues have so far kept this idea as only a possibility, but as both mobile devices and docking stations evolve, it stands to get closer to reality.
VDI to manage BYOD
VDI allows users to not only access their desktops from any device but also lets IT manage computing from a central location, providing easier administration and deployment. VDI can also be more secure because no corporate data will sit on employees’ mobile devices. IT maintains control over both the operating system and the apps on the mobile devices.
Increased smartphone power
Some industry evangelists say the increasing power of smartphones will someday squash the current concerns about CPU, battery life and storage ability in these mobile devices. With the power to run and perform well throughout a workday, it will be a matter of connecting these phones of the future to a monitor to use them like the desktops of yore.
The bottom line
In the end, the ZDnet piece concluded it won’t really matter which mobile devices employees use at work as they will all carry, in some capacity, the same general functionality to be productive inside and outside of the office. The form factor will not matter as much as the total capabilities available to employees to get their jobs done. But getting to this future mobility state takes planning. To prepare for what will be possible in the years to come, consult with an IT provider experienced in both desktop deployment and mobility solutions to craft the right strategy for your BYOD users.
In September, non-profit IT association CompTIA reported that greater than six in 10 cloud users have “made secondary shifts of infrastructure or applications following their original transition to the cloud.” This means these organisations are using a “multi-cloud” approach — leveraging at least two cloud services to reduce risk of data loss and performance issues. The idea is that organisations can choose the right cloud type and service to balance the varying needs of their systems and data. Here are some of the benefits of considering multi-cloud for your organisation.
Some notable cloud service provider failures in recent years have prompted many businesses to take a good, long look at the safety of their systems. A multi-cloud approach lets you put your servers in different data centres managed by different providers, so that if one provider fails, it doesn’t cause a catastrophic loss of service to your business. Distributing your servers across providers also reduces the impact of potential electricity and networking provider outages. You have the mobility to take your cloud servers from one provider and move them to another to protect your business.
There’s a standard rule to follow when pondering cloud services for business: What’s secure might not be the most cost-effective and what’s cost-effective might not be the most secure. Organisations might initially be tempted to drop everything in a seemingly fail-proof private cloud — but that can be mighty expensive. Yet there are data and workloads that absolutely cannot legally or compliantly go into the public cloud.
Having a multi-cloud strategy enables organisations to maximise costs, performance and security by switching between providers and cloud types or even moving applications or infrastructure back into their own data centres for security reasons. Organisations have become more opportunistic in how they evaluate cloud services, always looking for a better price, customer service and features, points out the CompTIA research. This approach also prevents vendor lock-in.
Appropriate application fit
Some tasks perform better on certain clouds. If your organisation has a need to deliver elastic services to a wider number of users over the internet, a public cloud option will work best. But even then, each public cloud provider offers different features. A Gigaom article from last year points out that organisations running certain frameworks for data-intensive-real-time apps might suffer from performance issues on more generic public clouds when they try to scale. A multi-cloud approach lets you move these applications to a different public cloud that might be better equipped to handle the latency of this intensive workload.
A multi-cloud approach may be where the future is headed, but it still takes strategic planning and a migration strategy. Enlisting the help of an IT and cloud service integrator can provide a whole-picture approach that takes into account system and application needs, compliance issues and budget to find the right mix of clouds for your business.
Just a year after the release of Windows 8, Microsoft released Windows 8.1 on Friday, the first in the company’s new “rapid cadence” update cycle for its Windows operating systems (the usual release frequency is every two to three years). As a ZDNet story from July pointed out, Windows 8.1 is not just a service pack. It does have several measurable differences from Windows 8 — differences that might provide compelling reasons to consider upgrading to the new OS.
Better application and data management
Windows 8.1 has endeavoured to provide better application security across devices through Assigned Access. This new Windows 8.1 feature initialises a preconfigured set of filters to block access to other applications, giving the user permission for only a specific Windows Store app on the device. You can choose how to manage the applications based on device, work scenario or capability needed. Other security features protect corporate data on Windows 8.1 in BYOD arrangements, such as Remote Business Data Removal, which wipes sensitive data from compromised devices and encrypts all consumer Windows 8.1 devices.
Enhanced device mobility
For organisations with many employees who must connect from outside the office to a corporate network, the Windows 8.1 DirectAccess feature removes the need to launch a separate virtual private network. DirectAccess delivers corporate applications via secure firewall and is able to automatically provide security software and policy updates to remote computers to keep corporate data safe. DirectAccess also helps IT administrators keep remote user PCs in compliance.
More options for device management
Windows 8.1 has an open MDM policy, allowing businesses to enrol either corporate or personal Windows devices with any third-party MDM solution, including AirWatch and MobileIron, that can communicate with Windows’ built-in OMA-DM protocols. The OMA-DM protocols provide secure communication with cloud-based MDM services so your organisation doesn’t need to buy additional infrastructure. Organisation-provisioned devices that regularly connect to corporate networks can be managed by System Center’s enterprise management capabilities.
Stronger IT control
Previously, Windows 8 provided “all or nothing” access to users accessing PCs based on whether they were a member of the corporate domain or not. The new Workplace Join enables users to work on any device while still accessing corporate resources. IT can choose to allow access to certain resources while restricting access to others. Users can enrol in Workplace Join themselves by registering their device with Windows Intune.
If you are considering Windows 8.1 and already use Windows 8, you don’t need to purchase additional licenses — you already own the license for 8.1. An IT provider with specialisation in desktop management can help you upgrade and ensure your workstations are optimised for 8.1.
See how you can sign up for a Windows 8.1 Customer Immersion Experience.