Choice and Efficiency: The 2 Things Your Users Want in the New Desktop

Much ado has been made about the “new desktop” – the desktop that is something sleeker and lighter on power usage, or used at home or on the road, or accessed via VDI. The new desktop isn’t one-size-fits-all – it’s a customised animal that serves the many different users in your organisation, not the masses.

If there’s one commonality amongst these new desktops, it’s that they’ve moved away from what IT is willing to support and provide and towards what end users want. Smart organisations have realised that force-feeding a working style and device type can actually do terrible things for employee satisfaction and, as a result, productivity and creativity. Here are the two things your workers want in this new desktop.

1. Choice in their desktop

While Bring Your Own Device has been a bit slower to catch on in the Asia-Pacific region than in places like the United States, Gartner predicts that by 2013, 80 per cent of organisations will let workers use tablets. By the following year, 90 per cent of organisations will allow corporate applications on personal devices. The catalyst for this change is employees, who are initiating the discussions about incorporating their tablets and smartphones into their work life before their managers have even figured out what BYOD means. Rather than the prescribed desktop, users want a seamless computing experience between work lives and personal lives, which are increasingly becoming blurred.

Whether it’s a tablet, smartphone or laptop, Gartner believes most organisations are still in the initial phase of the consumerisation trend, where the focus is on devices and applications. Post-2014, they expect employees to concentrate more on data and peer-to-peer interaction.

2. Efficiency in their desktop

“Wait, I let them bring in their iPhones and now they want me to make sure they work OK?”

You might think it’s too demanding, but here’s a news flash: if employees can’t access the desktop applications and tools they need to do their jobs on their corporate desktop, whether it’s a corporate PC or a smartphone, they will find ways around it. Left unchecked, employees at organisations around the world are signing up for cloud services so they have a more efficient way to get things done. A third of employees are using their own cloud-based services for file-sharing, according to a survey sponsored by EMC. That’s your data being used in a most likely public cloud service over which you have no control.

Cloud isn’t the only answer, but it does lend the agility, speed and on-demand provisioning workers want to tap into. And doing cloud on your terms means you won’t have to worry about security and compliance issues. The overall point is to listen to what your employees want in their applications and services. If you don’t, you will have an organisation being run by the technology whims of your workforce and not your IT-business strategy.

What employee needs or wants will you be considering as you further implement your desktop strategy?

Unified Communications in the Cloud – Your Key to Interconnected Mobility?

With all the potentially disparate technologies unified communications and collaboration involve, pinpointing what you should look for in your UCC solution is no easy task. Add in a Bring Your Own Device scenario, and there’s certainly something for everyone – and more for your overtasked IT department to manage. If you listen to all the voices, you’ll likely wind up with a jumble of technologies that don’t work together or across devices, which defeats the very aim of your foray into UCC.

One solution to achieving interconnectedness and mobility in unified communications is by using the cloud. Cloud lends an easier approach to implementing and integrating various UCC technologies and making them available to users both on and offsite using corporate or personal devices.

Mobility is driving unified communications adoption

The increasing presence of the mobile device in the workplace is the biggest impetus to implement unified communications and collaboration solutions, according to a survey by IDGE Enterprise. Stretching everything an employee can do at his or her desk to a mobile device is a goal for 67 per cent of those IT leaders who responded to the survey. Smartphone and mobile desktop access is already involved in 80 per cent of unified communications deployments, according to a separate poll by CDW.

At the same time, internal IT departments don’t always have the skills or knowledge to support unified communications technologies across devices. A survey by Siemens shows IT departments have problems implementing and managing new unified communications and collaboration tools in 78 per cent of organisations.

How cloud helps

Cloud brings together different unified communications technologies and components and delivers them to these different device types, with little need for extra infrastructure or physical deployments. With this approach, organisations can transform their dearth of disparate devices into a connected employee network. There’s a benefit to remote or mobile employees as well. By deploying unified communications through the cloud, these workers can get communications while they’re off the company network.

As for the management aspect, UCC delivered through a cloud provider could give organisations a window into security and access controls for different mobile devices. As new technologies get added, the organisation doesn’t need to worry about migrations or replacing old systems because cloud allows different technologies to coexist.

What are the goals you’re hoping to achieve with your UCC solution?

How Software Assurance Can Make Your Windows 8 Experience Better

You’ve probably already heard some of the main benefits your organisation can gain through Software Assurance for Microsoft volume licensing. SA makes software upgrades, license management and desktop support easier for enterprises regardless of the operating system they’re using. With the impending launch of Windows 8, however, organisations with SA can get a number of new perks. Consider which benefits might suit your organisational needs in the years to come.

Windows 8 Enterprise availability and features

Organisations can get the rights to run the Enterprise version of Windows 8 if they have SA for Windows 8 Pro or Windows Intune and Windows Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) licenses. Even when the SA term ends, organisations will still have access to the use rights for the Enterprise edition. Organisations with SA can also run the Microsoft Desktop Optimisation Pack, which enables features such as desktop and application virtualisation and the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT).

Workforce mobility

Much of the new SA benefits for Windows 8 Enterprise customers are aimed at enabling greater work flexibility and mobility. To allow employees to access their corporate desktop from anywhere, Microsoft has implemented Windows To Go. Organisations with SA will have the right to use a USB drive to power up a portable desktop image on their company-owned device or home computer.

What about personal devices? Microsoft licensing will cover that space with the Companion Device License. For employees with personal, non-Windows devices, this license will allow them to run their corporate desktop on four different devices in a Bring Your Own Device scenario as long as they have a main SA-licensed PC. Employees will be able to access their desktop through Windows To Go or virtual desktop infrastructure.

Not only can employees access their desktop through VDI on their personal devices — they will now be able to take advantage of extended VDA rights for Windows RT, a Windows 8 version for ARM devices. If used as a companion device of a PC with SA, Windows RT can run a VDI image.

Do you have more questions on Microsoft licensing for Windows 8? Fill out our form to get in touch with one of our licensing experts.

5 Bring Your Own Device Best Practices

By Julian Buckley

Just because Bring Your Own Device is new to your organisation doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done — successfully — before. We can learn from those businesses that immediately jumped on the BYOD bandwagon. Use these lessons of right and wrong to do even better with your BYOD programme.

1. Give controlled freedom

Yes, BYOD is all about the employee and what mobile device and platform he or she wants to use. That doesn’t mean your IT department can’t implement some restrictions, such as allowing workers to choose from a pre-approved list of devices it has already “tried and tested.” The hard truth is that IT will only have capacity to support certain devices. It’s the organisations that let their workforces choose from a BYOD buffet that tend to see support costs soar; locking this down to a known list of devices can help organisations baseline these costs.

A best practice identified by the International Data Corporation (IDC) involves IT letting employees choose from a shortlist of mobile devices that can be supported in-house. How do you create this shortlist? Do something bold — actually talk to your employees. Ask them about the devices they use at home, why they use them and how they differ from the devices offered at work. You’ll be able to get an early picture of what your BYOD programme will look like — and how your IT department can support it.

2. Don’t put all your apps in one basket

Do you really need to make all your legacy applications available to your mobile workforce? Focus first on business-critical apps that carry solid value, such as dashboards covering metrics and goals and workflow charts. You can use the same survey approach here that you did with the devices: which tools and applications help employees get their jobs done best?

Also keep in mind the need for ongoing mobile app development, especially if different versions need to be written.Outsourcing application development to a provider that can tackle mobile device integration and connectivity so all your employees can take advantage of the custom mobile application is one way to avoid sucking up your IT staff‘s resources.

3. Innovate and compromise

Many organisations are finding that an innovative, supportive BYOD strategy helps retain staff, attracts new hires and ensures better use of technology within a workplace. Just because there’s a new operating system (Mac’s Mountain Lion or Microsoft’s Windows 8) out on the market doesn’t mean your organisation should ban or block it from entering into your BYOD strategy. Enabling your workforce to use the latest and greatest can be a great productivity-improver and assist with staff morale and greater freedom.

4. Secure the data and the device

Treat the device as the first barrier to entry and lock down the data where possible. What if the worst happens and a hacker or street-side thief does get into the phone or tablet? If corporate data is inaccessible — sitting in the data centre instead of on the actual mobile device, for instance, — the rogue individual won’t be able to steal it. Leveraging technologies such as Citrix XenApp or VMware Horizon can bring the applications to the users whilst retaining the data centrally in your environment. Having user policies in place that restrict access to corporate information and applications for certain employee groups also prevents sending too much sensitive data into the world.

5. Reduce support costs by educating users

Your new BYOD-inspired workforce might have some legitimate tech support issues. Many others will stem from a lack of self-help enablement and complex guidelines for things like user enrolment, switching approved devices and password reset. Give users the ability to do as much as they can on their own so they aren’t needlessly flooding the help desk with inane enquiries.

What BYOD best practices would you add to this list?

Julian Buckley is the Business Manager of Professional Services for Datacom in QLD.  Julian leads a team of solution architects, project managers and consulting engineers that evangelise, design, scope, deliver and implement purpose-built, client-focused infrastructure and virtualisation solutions for our customers. His team in QLD focuses on long-term relationships with clients, building end-to-end enterprise ICT architecture for corporate, education and government clients across Microsoft, Citrix and VMware technology sets. A local leader in virtualisation in the QLD market, Julian’s team can help all clients achieve greater return on investment, reliability and performance through best practice, industry-leading solutions.

How to Make Everyone in Your Organisation an Information Security Officer

Your employees might not know what technological faux pas they have committed to cause a kerfuffle for the IT department. In fact, a recent report in SC Magazine’s Australian edition stated that while the overwhelming majority of organisations have an IT policy governing security, a quarter of employees are unaware of its existence. And 35 per cent of the employees who work in environments with said IT policy claim their IT department provided no rationale or explanation justifying the existence of these security rules.

The good news is most employees are willing to participate in a holistic approach to information security; IT just has to ensure staff know the why, what and how of these guidelines. With the proper education and a reasonable (and understandable) security policy, you can move your organisation beyond a because-I-said-so culture to a secure environment. To make this transformation a reality, consider these guidelines.

  • Act as a sales rep for IT security. In this instance, change begins at the top and trickles down. If your managers are wandering around the office connected to the network on personal smartphones — after all, they know what they’re doing, right? —, it’s time to get everyone on the same page. In order to push your security message, you have to demonstrate that the higher-ups can (willingly) abide by protocol. 

And as all sales reps will tell you, you have to speak your prospect’s language. As you communicate the importance of cyber security and which aspects fall on your employees, remember to not only break down technical points into something digestible but also emphasize the benefits of the policies. When employees understand the implications of their actions, they’re more likely to follow information security guidelines.

  • Security starts on Day One. Transforming your information security policies into something simple and sharing them with employees will make great strides in improving security. But what happens when new employees start? Can you trust security-debriefed employees to share the policies when their chief concern is training new employees for their real jobs?

Work with your HR department to include IT security training in your organisation’s new-hire orientation. You’ll help immediately set the tone for security responsibilities while ensuring all employees are on the same page. Setting up periodic mandatory cyber security meetings through HR will help employees stay abreast of changes. You could also consider sending out a newsletter or posting an intranet article on the latest IT security updates and possible threats of which to remain aware.

  • Your IT security policy is a living document. Technology changes. Current information security protocols become unnecessary. New policies require training and updates. In the last few years, many organisations have struggled with the boom of employees using personal laptops and mobile devices for work, particularly for communicating with clients.

Some IT departments are struggling to stop employees from initiating Bring Your Own Device without addressing the key question: Why are employees using personal devices in the first place? What isn’t IT providing to give employees a technological edge? You must weigh security against productivity to find the perfect balance — and that balance will always be changing.

You don’t have to stonewall employees clamouring for BYOD — you just need to make them aware of how to act when given this privilege. Requiring mobile infrastructure to remain in a trusted, compliant state and centrally issuing security patches and updates to mobile devices are some of the tips Datacom’s Technical Security Services (TSS) unit gives clients looking to institute a BYOD programme.

Once employees know their role in cyber security — and that following procedures won’t hamper their productivity —, everyone in the office can act as an information security officer.

Have Your Considered Virtual Desktop Infrastructure to Manage Bring Your Own Device?

There isn’t a single approach to managing Bring Your Own Device at organisations. A slew of different mobile device management and mobile application management tools exists for allowing access to apps and data on employee-owned devices, and organisations can choose one or several of these tools to work in tandem to cover all the different devices and platforms.

Other organisations are managing Bring Your Own Device through virtual desktop infrastructure. There’s some debate in the IT industry and the media over whether using VDI for this purpose is smart. You can decide for yourself by reviewing the benefits and disadvantages to this approach.

The pros

VDI delivers desktops through the data centre to any mobile device. This means all devices can essentially be managed from one location, providing easier administration and deployment and a more streamlined way to enforce compliance for all users. It also gives the end users better ability to connect to their virtual desktops from any device whenever they want.

Security is also strengthened because no corporate data is actually sitting on the employee’s phone or tablet—it’s all in the data centre. If an employee device falls into the wrong hands, the thief won’t be able to access work information.  IT retains complete control over both the operating system and the apps on the device.

The cons

With VDI virtualisation, users have to connect to the data centre to access the corporate desktop. This means network connectivity and bandwidth become factors the IT team needs to worry about for anyone in the company trying to do work from a personal device. Network performance can affect even the most basic of tasks if the network is sluggish. VDI also presents issues with running rich media on virtual desktops, which can prevent users from accessing certain functions, such as video, and can cause screen resolution problems.

There are also issues related to the lack of desktop customisation that crops up when you’re provisioning an image to a user’s device. In this way, VDI runs the risk of defeating the purpose of BYOD: allowing employees to have the user experience they want on their device of choice. The act of turning mobile devices into desktops via a VDI image means users won’t get the native experience of the device. There could also be problems when certain users need access to different apps and extra licensing costs for accessing the desktop through VDI on personal devices.

How to decide if it’s right for you

Deciding how to manage BYOD is a big decision for your organisation. Doing it in a way that allows your IT department to retain the right level of control while also letting users work the way they want on their personal devices is crucial. The right IT outsourcer will be able to assess your current infrastructure and systems to determine if your environment is right for both VDI and BYOD. If VDI isn’t the way to go, your IT provider will be able to make recommendations on the right approach and guide the design and implementation process.

How do you manage BYOD at your organisation?

Shaping Your Mobile Device Management Strategy: Part II

By Jean-Pierre Walle

Often I sit down with a company looking for a mobile device management solution to oversee a Bring Your Own Device programme only to discover they don’t have any policies guiding the use of personal smartphones or tablets at work. In my research, 72 per cent of organisations do not have defined policies for BYOD.

MDM tools are the vehicles by which you enforce company policies for BYOD; they do not set these policies for you. Fortunately, Datacom mobility experts can help organisations develop these policies in the early stages of their BYOD programmes. But this is just the first step. There are other boxes to tick before you choose a MDM tool for your workforce. Most crucial are deciding how you want your MDM solution to handle security, provisioning and configuration, user support, enrolling new users and exiting former ones, personal data and end-point protection.

Do you auto-lock your devices? Less than 10 per cent of people who bring their own devices to work use auto-lock, according to an ESET/Harris Interactive study conducted earlier this year. If a device isn’t locked – the most basic security measure –, no MDM solution will be able to protect it. Before you even entertain managing devices, you must ensure every employee enables auto-lock on their mobile device. Start with your own phone or tablet so you lead by example.

Which device types will you support? This is the million-dollar question for many organisations and being choosy can reduce the chance of too many devices taking over the workplace. You will need to consider platforms, operating systems, models and versions to get a sense of how much support you will need to allow through your MDM solution. You might also consider blocking unauthorised, modified or jail-broken devices. If you’re struggling with choosing which devices to support, Datacom mobility experts can tell you which devices are more manageable than others.

How will you classify and manage assets? You can group mobile devices by operating system or version, classify them based on whether they have been provisioned or decommissioned and monitor specific physical details and device location. You also have choices related to integrating this inventory with your other hardware assets. You can elect to report on these assets, tracking any compliance status and policy violations.

How will you activate the MDM solution on each device? IT can do this physically on each device or you can allow desktop or mail gateway sync. Datacom also offers organisations the ability to conduct over-the-air enrolment and configuration. Keep in mind how you want to remove users who leave the organisation.

How will devices be configured? You can choose to self-service provision, which personalises devices, activates security policies and sets up the network connection.

How do you want to secure the device? What sort of password policy do you want for personal devices? How many characters will be required and how many login attempts are allowed before it must be reset? MDM services offered through Datacom also allow two-factor authentication and may be able to leverage native device encryption depending on the device OS. Your BYOD policies will guide much of the end-point protection you leverage.

How do you want to secure the data? This item is separate from device security, as how you protect the data is ultimately what will keep corporate information safe should a device be compromised. You can elect to do a remote data wipe if you find the device has been left in a public place, operated by another user or lost.

What restrictions will you enforce? It’s possible to restrict access to music downloading applications, cameras and non-enterprise applications and block document sync.

How will you monitor apps? MDM services allow you to keep an inventory of which apps have been installed, lock access to the app store and host custom enterprise apps. You can also offer enterprise software via downloading, web links or access to third-party stores.

Who will help users when they need it? MDM tools can be configured so users can help themselves for easy tasks such as password reset. You can also allow your help desk to interact with remote users through settings on certain MDM products.

Jean-Pierre Walle has over 23 years of experience in IT and telecommunications. He currently serves as a Business Unit Manager for Datacom NZ, a role in which he oversees End-User Services. His teams specialise in managed services for mobile device management, 24×7, global remote desktop support and end-to-end service for SME/SMB customers. In addition to managing these teams, Jean-Pierre oversees the service delivery, P&L and development aspects of these managed services. He is also an ITIL® practitioner. 

Using an Application Manager to Make BYOD Better for IT and End Users

By Jonathan Cousins

 

Bring Your Own Device is sometimes viewed as a free ride for the workforce and a headache of migraine proportions for the IT department. The reality is that potential challenges exist for both groups. Deploying business-critical applications to smartphones and the like brings up a host of security and compliance issues for the IT department. End users, on the other hand, don’t always get a streamlined desktop experience when on their own devices and may struggle to access applications quickly and easily.

So how do you still deliver a personal, enterprise-grade desktop to the workforce while also allowing IT to maintain control? You use an integrated management tool that lets users have the desktop experience they want on the device they want while letting IT take the reins on how applications are delivered. Datacom has seen organisations that use an application manager tool simplify IT management, lower costs and speed up application deployment time.

1. Flexible, on-demand access to apps

Application managers that keep the focus on the user – essentially, allowing them access to whatever they need, when they need it, on the device they choose – help create an experience that appears seamless. Centralised deployment of a variety of apps, such as web and Software-as- a-Service apps, in addition to single sign-on across devices to access apps, lets the Bring Your Own Device workforce quickly get all the software and services it needs. The on-demand nature of this delivery can increase productivity and collaboration regardless of location.

2. Centralised IT management

Datacom knows one of the biggest challenges at organisations inviting Bring Your Own Device is that the IT department has to potentially manage a whole host of different smartphones and tablets. They then have to oversee which employees can gain access to which apps at which times (consider contractual workers who pop in for three-month stints twice a year). An application manager can allow the IT department to easily control access to applications and provide a single location for reporting and managing software licenses. Streamlining supervision of devices, application deployment and performance management can cut down on support time and costs, freeing up your department for other projects and more strategic endeavours.

3. Policy-driven approach

Do you want the employee you just made redundant to still have access to company email? IT must be able to quickly change permissions and settings for new users or users no longer with the organisation. Tools such as the Horizon Application Manager 1.5, for instance, rely on a web-based platform used either in the cloud or on premises to manage permissions with a policy-driven approach. This means IT management can set access to apps by location and device, enabling immediate response should an employee lose his or her device or have it stolen.

Your organisation doesn’t have to shy away from the changing nature of the desktop. You just have to balance the needs of your IT department with the needs of your workforce to get the most out of this evolution. The right application manager can cater to both groups by permitting easier software deployment, stronger security and a more seamless end-user experience.

Jonathan Cousins brings more than 26 years of IT experience to his role as National VMware Practice Manager for Datacom. Based in the Perth office, he initially joined Datacom as a principal engineer in 2010.

With a background in working for solution providers, he has a strong vendor and technical expert focus in the areas of virtualisation, storage and archiving.

Why Bring Your Own Device Needs the IT Department

By Lauren Fritsky

A recent CIO article asks readers if the Bring Your Own Device trend has made the IT department redundant or if it might have this impact down the line. The author makes the case that Bring Your Own Device might siphon control away from the IT department and keep it tightly clenched in users’ hands. End users can’t just walk into work and start accessing corporate applications on a whim, however. IT is still as relevant, if not more so, in this BYOD world for a few key reasons.

IT understands why users want to bring their devices to work

The CIO article makes the claim that BYOD has taken off because internal hardware and support aren’t good enough at many organisations. This could be true in some cases, but the overwhelming sentiment seems to point to users wanting a more streamlined experience that mimics their personal computing environment. Users have fallen in love with their devices, not just what these devices can do. Bring Your Own Device likely springs more from the desire to incorporate a beloved possession into one’s work environment than a perceived failure on the IT department.

IT manages compliance with company policy

Bring Your Own Device isn’t a free-for-all. Any organisation considering BYOD will likely require employees to review and sign a user device policy, something Datacom recommends when working with companies implementing this programme. This agreement will typically outline which devices employees can bring in, which applications they can access and which employees can access them.

IT links the device to the company system

Employees can’t bring a smartphone or tablet in and instantly access all their work applications. They need IT to hook up personal devices to the network and identify specific support needs for different devices.

IT oversees security and access to apps

The IT department is charged with issuing password protection, allowing and denying access to certain apps and decommissioning devices that are lost or stolen. It’s also their responsibility to keep track of new users to ensure proper user settings are in place and that corporate data is wiped if an employee is leaving the company.

IT elevates, not demotes, its position with BYOD

Rather than looking at Bring Your Own Device as decreasing the need for the department, a case can be made that this move enables more strategic IT. The department stays on the pulse of what users want and can assume a crucial role in creating policy for additional technology initiatives going forward.

What do you think: Has BYOD had a positive or negative impact on IT?

What Type of Desktop Virtualisation Should You Use?

By Lauren Fritsky

 

Who told you desktop virtualisation only comes by way of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)?  There is more than one flavour for delivering virtual desktops to your workforce, such as app streaming, operating system provisioning and Remote Desktop Services (RDS). While any delivery model can improve IT management, the method you choose has a lot of do with the main problem you’re trying to solve. Here are a few example scenarios to guide you.

Scenario 1

You need: To deliver entire desktop images to remote employees

Then choose: VDI

VDI enables IT to deploy an entire desktop image to workers no matter where they are. For companies with multiple offices or a lot of workers scattered across locations, VDI provides a more secure way to access data and applications through the data centre. A key benefit for the IT department is it no longer has to worry about repairing a computing device or troubleshooting a glitch for an employee far offsite. Users must be able to connect to the network – keep in mind this means the end user’s experience is affected by network latency and available bandwidth.

Scenario 2

You need: Business-critical applications available across operating systems and devices

Then choose: RDS

For this hosted type of virtualisation, users just need to connect to a network on any device to access their applications. The setup makes this delivery model ideal for enterprises embracing the Bring Your Own Device trend, as it enables users to access specific apps on different devices. IT management is improved, as the department can oversee the applications and switch user settings if need be without worrying about apps being compatible with the operating system.

Scenario 3

You need: Tight control over app management

Then choose: Application streaming

The IT department retains ultimate control over who can access which applications when with this model. If you hire a lot of contract workers, this client-based virtualisation model also allows you to schedule when the license expires on certain applications. Users can access applications, which are delivered on-demand, when off the network, and IT gets the benefit of being able to run legacy applications on newer operating systems.

Scenario 4

You need: Employee mobility

Then choose: Virtual containers

You can lock down certain applications and use them offline with this virtualisation delivery model, which adds big convenience for mobile employees who regularly travel, such as sales associates. There’s a security win here as threats can be contained and the OS and apps are delivered through the IT department.

Scenario 5

You need: Reliable uptime

Then choose: Operating system provisioning  

This client-based delivery model solves the uptime issue because only the OS and the applications are downloaded, which avoids burdening the network. Users can very easily access an operating system image by restarting their computer or moving to another desktop. This delivery method also, in effect, wipes the data from the device when the user powers it off, as everything is stored in the data centre. This delivery model works well for organisations with the same desktop image on a lot of different devices, such as contact centres and schools.

Have more questions on which desktop virtualisation delivery model to choose? A Datacom expert can discuss the options that best suit your business.