Which Mobile App Delivery Method is Right for Your Organisation?

Are you ready to let your employees use mobile apps? You have more to consider than just what apps you’re going to let them access – you have a few delivery options as well. Picking the right one depends on what you need in terms of security, IT management and device compatibility. Here are a few considerations to get you started.

You need: No data stored on the device

Choose: Virtualisation or cloud

Enterprise users will make up about 75 per cent of the market for cloud-based mobile apps by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Both virtualising your mobile apps and delivering them through the cloud keep data off the device. Both approaches also can put more control in the hands of the IT department, which can oversee access to applications and manage how they are used.

Security buffs are likely fiercely nodding their heads, but keep in mind that if you virtualise, there could be usability issues surrounding the need for constant network connectivity and how a mobile app looks and performs on a device. Delivering mobile apps through the cloud can ease these usability issues, but your security concerns will only be abated if you know where your data is sitting.

You need: To take the app migration burden off IT

Choose: An enterprise app store

By 2014, 60 per cent of IT organisations will have private app stores, according to Gartner. These stores work similarly to Apple’s app store by allowing employees to quickly and securely download certain applications they are authorised to use. This takes a lot of the burden off IT as they don’t need to provision apps to different users and devices.

However, building an app store does come at a cost, and users might grumble if your app store doesn’t resemble Apple’s. That means you need to consider the ability to rate apps, search for apps, recommend similar apps and allow user feedback.

You need: Compatibility across a wide range of devices

Choose: Web apps

Their ability to run in browsers means web apps don’t require a distribution system, so users can access them from any number of devices. Plus, IT doesn’t need to create several incarnations of one app, which leads to easier delivery and management. Internet connectivity will always be a concern to run web apps, however; if it’s poor, even refreshing the screen will cause problems.

These are just a few reasons for considering the different mobile app delivery methods. If your organisation needs additional help with taking its enterprise applications into the mobile world, Datacom’s Enterprise Mobility Applications practise can help. We handle application development, integrate apps with devices and offer field service support to ensure you applications run smoothly.

How are you delivering mobile apps in your organisation?

The 7 Secrets of a Successful Windows 7 Migration

If you’ve clung to Windows XP for this long — or have already invested in a labyrinth of patches and workarounds for Vista —, your organisation might as well wait to deploy Windows 8, right? Not necessarily. In fact, far from it.

By the end of 2011, Windows 7 earned its spot as the most popular operating system worldwide. In 2013, Microsoft will have discontinued XP support for nearly 60 per cent of many critical business apps, withextended support for the operating systemending in early April 2014. The lack of support, combined with the worldwide acclaim of Microsoft’s current operating system, might justify the jump to Windows 7 for many organisations.

As you plan your desktop deployment, find a provider that will guide you through these seven key elements of a smooth Windows 7 upgrade.

1. Assess the environment — including the network, desktops and peripherals. Any successful large-scale desktop deployment demands an exhaustive inventory. When planning to make the Windows 7 leap, everything from servers to desktops to the dinosaur printer for Accounts Payable is affected. Completing an organisation-wide inventory will likely demand a large portion of your IT staff’s time. If your provider offers an audit of your current IT environment, the cost-benefit analysis may prove it to be a worthwhile investment.

2. Evaluate the merits of upgrades. Though the inventory might be demanding, many companies benefit from discovering how many relic peripherals, programmes and processes their departments and employees still rely on. If Windows 7 doesn’t support certain programmes or hardware, determine what will be upgraded, when and how it will affect other operations. While you might want to upgrade everything immediately, the delays and added cost might not be justifiable.

3. Ensure stable releases. Whether you do your desktop project yourself or rely on an IT provider to do it for you, you’ll need to leverage a few tools to ensure your deployment is compliant. For instance, Datacom uses tools such as Microsoft System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM), Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT), Altiris and Acronis to enable a secure desktop deployment.

4. Include virtualisation in the mix. A Windows 7 upgrade isn’t solely focused on upgrading desktops. As you move to the new operating system, focus on virtualising many of the applications your employees use frequently to allow them access to their productivity tools from any location. This step not only helps boost productivity but also prepares for an eventual Windows 8 migration.

5. Streamline the licensing process. If you’ve yet to secure a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement, now is likely the time. Some organisations can achieve discounts of around 40 per cent off. You can also ensure compliance by allowing your provider to manage volume license agreements. Your staff will save time now by reducing their paperwork load and negotiation responsibilities and have an automated system in place to alert them when licenses approach expiration.

6. Test applications for compatibility. While Windows 7 is generally very stable, no operating system is perfect. Before flipping the switch, ensure all applications have been tested. You could use application compatibility tools, but you’ll likely need to conduct a manual software audit as well to ensure all apps are accounted for.

7. Include desktop support in the contract. If problems arise after the deployment, you don’t want your IT staff scrambling to get everything back in working order. Nor do you want to spend time negotiating a contract with your provider when systems are down. Ensure your provider is obligated to work through any hiccups that arise within a reasonable timeframe.

In our experience, organisations that have followed these steps have enjoyed a smooth and productive Windows 7 deployment. What tips would you add?

3 Tips for Planning a Desktop Virtualisation Project

By Lauren Fritsky

When it comes to desktop virtualisation, you can’t just pick a product or delivery method at random and hope it sticks. Like taking on any major IT transformation, you should first see how desktopvirtualisation fits in with your current information and communications technology environment. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure you have the network infrastructure to support whichever virtualisation delivery model you choose. And finally, you’ll need to take a look at the different kinds of users at your organisation to determine the best method of virtualising.

1. Determine how desktop virtualisation fits with other IT plans

A 2011 Forrester survey reported 38 per cent of IT managers planned desktop and application virtualisation with Windows 7 migration. If you have a similar project in the works, it might make sense to execute desktop virtualisation at the same time. But there’s more to consider in the realm of mobility, collaboration or remote work plans. For instance, are you envisioning a Bring Your Own Device program? Then virtualising through an application-level streaming approach is probably your best bet because these users will only need certain applications to run on their personal device, not an entire operating system image.

2. Assess network requirements

Any type of desktop virtualisation affects your network. For server-based virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and terminal services, the end user’s experience is affected by network latency and the bandwidth availability. To determine bandwidth needs, your organisation will need to categorize its workforce – task or power users, for instance – and determine which types of functions they will need to perform and how often they will perform them. If you’re choosing VDI, you might need to consider a WAN optimization solution to decrease latency. Datacom can work with your organisation to design and implement a VDI solution that takes your network needs into consideration.

3. Plan for profile management  

How will you let your workforce enjoy a consistent end-user experience with their virtualised desktop? If you don’t properly plan profile management, users could wind up with lost desktop settings and an inconsistent look and feel when accessing the corporate desktop from different devices. Depending on the method of IT virtualisation and the product you use, there are several potential ways to execute a profile strategy.

For example, products from Citrix and Cisco, with which Datacom has experience implementing and integrating virtualisation solutions, optimise the desktop so settings and applications are carried over to whichever device the user accesses. Having a profile management tool in place can also prevent “logon storms” when every member of your workforce is attempting to access the desktop at the same time each morning.

The Resurrection of VDI for Desktop Virtualisation

By Lauren Fritsky

It costs too much. It’s too hard to implement. End users aren’t happy with it.

These have been some of the top complaints surrounding traditional virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). In fact, many enterprises seemed so dissatisfied with the technology that IT experts and media outlets predicted it would become nearly obsolete.

Early into 2012, VDI’s future seems to be looking a bit brighter thanks to better education around alternative delivery methods and new technological capabilities that make it easier for IT departments to manage and better for end users to experience.

The management issue

Moving all the desktops into the data centre for traditional on-premise VDI implementation saw costs surge dramatically because of the SAN storage and data centre infrastructure required. For all that expense, IT departments then had a more complex environment to manage, plus users squawking about a cookie-cutter desktop experience.

Software as a Service (SaaS) and Desktop as a Service (DaaS) cloud deliveries have emerged as ways around these hurdles. These cloud approaches alleviate the pain of central storage management, software or hardware procurement and in-house technical support for the IT department. They can also slash CAPEX investments and typically give the enterprise lower, set monthly costs. Companies such as Microsoft and Citrix have partnered with cloud service providers to offer DaaS VDI hosted either onsite or in the private cloud.

Easier on-premise deployment

Other VDI providers have found ways to reduce the amount of infrastructure needed when virtualising the desktop onsite.

Through consolidating desktop provisioning and management, connection brokering, load balancing and availability without the need for shared storage, businesses can reduce about 60 per cent of their traditional VDI infrastructure. Companies like Citrix offer this delivery method through grid architecture reliant on local storage of off-the-shelve servers, which removes the need for individual management and connection servers. The company’s VDI-in-a-Box is targeted at SMBs, which research shows have traditionally hedged on virtualising the desktop due to cost and complexity issues.

A more personal experience

Easier access for mobile employees was the second most common reason listed for looking at a cloud-based VDI solution, according to users polled in an InformationWeek survey. But employees bringing their own devices to work want customisable experiences, which is where traditional VDI has struggled. Providers such as VMware have found a way around this by including persona management technology. IT management can create an individual desktop experience whether it’s being accessed from a traditional PC or a mobile device.

VMware View 5 offers persona management so IT management can centrally manage the desktop through an on-premise cloud while giving a personalised experience to users.  Employees can also access their work desktop on other laptops, PCs or thin clients from home through VMware View Client or on mobile devices through VMware View Client for iPad or Android.

The Datacom team works with a variety of vendors to deliver desktop virtualisation solutions, including VDI or alternative VDI delivery methods. We will reverse engineer from your current environment to develop a customised desktop virtualisation solution that makes sense for your business goals. We have a proven track record of large-scale desktop deployment for enterprises around Australia.

Help Out this Earth Hour by Virtualising Your Desktop

By Lauren Fritsky

By 2014, Australian businesses will spend US$3.1 billion on sustainability efforts. The figure undoubtedly shows the environment is an emerging concern for companies across the country. While there are many ways to tackle energy-efficiency improvements at your business – going paperless, cutting down on electricity and choosing environmentally-conscious vendors –, one way to save the environment and simplify IT needs at the same time isvirtualisation. And with Earth Hourapproaching on March 31, there’s no better time than now to take your virtualisation plan to the next level.

If you’re one of the many companies that has already virtualised its servers, you’ve most likely realised the energy-saving benefits, which include using fewer high-powered servers and stopping energy waste by unplugging underused hardware. But going a step further through deploying desktop virtualisation can maximise your energy and cost savings by:

  • Replacing old PCs with low-energy thin clients that consume up to 75 per cent less power
  • Aggregating resources in the cloud to reduce power consumption
  • Relying on fewer pieces of hardware and, therefore, less energy to power them
  • Wasting less energy during idle periods by migrating the desktop VM between the end user’s physical machine and a VM server

As an ARN Green IT Award winner in 2007, 2008 and 2009, Datacom can deliver virtualisation for your enterprise-grade businesses while keeping the environment in mind. Our consultants will also assist you in other components of desktop management.

4 Reasons to Do Desktop Virtualisation Now

By Julian Buckley

Good on you if you’ve already virtualised your servers. But you’re missing out on immediate manageability benefits and key long-term cost savings by not virtualising your desktop too – something CIOs still shy away from due to cost and implementation concerns, according to an article on CRN. Going that extra step in IT virtualisation to manage your desktops from a central location will bring quick improvements in four key areas.

Mobility leads to productivity

Think of how productive your staff could be if you could immediately let them work from the road or at home. IT virtualisation lets employees connect to the desktop from anywhere and any portable device. Allowing staff to use mobile applications to manage email, projects and tasks increased productivity by 45 per cent at enterprise businesses surveyed by research firm Aberdeen. Virtualisation can let you quickly deploy desktops and applications to overseas or remote workers and allows employees to work from home during a natural disaster or other major event.

Energy savings

Want to cut next month’s energy bill? Desktop virtualisation brings many of the same energy-saving benefits of server virtualisation. One of the main ways you can help the environment through a desktop virtualisation deployment is by replacing clunky, high-power PCs with lower-energy machines.

Streamlined security

Imagine being able to quickly and efficiently identify and solve security issues on any machine. IT virtualisation of the desktop lets you do this. In fact, more than half of CIOs surveyed by Citrix said immediate isolation of a compromised application was a top security benefit realised by virtualising the desktop. Secure data and application delivery was an additional reason for deploying desktop virtualisation, according to 66 per cent of CIOs surveyed.

Through IT virtualisation for the desktop, you can maintain control over data, applications and devices from one place without temporarily reducing end-user access to these areas. Virtualised desktops also allow you to issue security updates and patches to all systems from one location, giving you instant time savings.

Better compliance

Imagine how much time your IT staff can save by removing the hassle of checking each individual employee’s machine to ensure he or she is complying with security, search and usage guidelines. Virtualising the desktop allows you to immediately start monitoring employee behaviour from a central platform. Managing the desktop from this unified location also allows IT staff to ensure volume license compliance across all desktops and improves Software Asset Management by allowing faster software inventory.

As a company that supplies managed IT virtualisation services to enterprise businesses, Datacom has seen this solution help companies reduce operational expenditures and cut the time it takes to conduct certain IT tasks from weeks to minutes.

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.