Head in the Cloud

There is an infuriating post over at Wired’s Innovation Insights titled MDM is Dead, Long Live the (Enterprise) Cloud.

Let’s start with the obvious. The author, Israel Lifshitz, is the founder and CEO of Nubo.

Who is Nubo you might ask?

Nubo is, from their site: REMOTE Enterprise Workspace for all mobile devices. It says that right on their homepage.

Nubo

Well, almost all mobile devices. iOS and Android.

They’re a Cloud company (I’m going to use the capital C when referring to the hyped marketing term). The CEO of a Cloud company wrote a fluff piece about how Cloud is going to do away with managing devices and that BYOD (with the Cloud) is going to rule all things, forever.

First, I want to believe in this future. I really do. The idea that anyone can bring any device and get all of their work done without any issues is indeed something I would love to see. It would free IT up from having to manage devices so that we could work on providing new technology to people and maybe even, *gasp*, training them as well instead of fighting fires.

However, I think that we grossly underestimate what that might mean for not just IT, but for our colleagues as well.

Moving to an entirely Cloud-based future puts all of the strain on networking, for one thing. Your internet connections become the only way for you to get work done. Don’t have a ton of options or can’t easily afford redundant connections so that if one provider goes belly up for a little bit everything doesn’t grind to a screeching halt? Well, too bad. It is in the Cloud, so hold tight because it will come back.

That’s not always acceptable … so you better be ready to have an answer for that besides an SLA with a few 9s attached to it.

Here’s a quote:

If nothing is stored on our personal devices, IT has nothing to manage. The can take data out of your control. Ultimately, isn’t that the purpose of MDM and EMM?

The problem with the idea that there will never be anything to manage is that you’ve moved the management from company-owned devices to person-owned devices … which still need to be watched. Updated. Fixed. Cleaned. You get the idea. What you have done is expanded the number of types of devices that IT is now supposed to support.

Does your new Enterprise Cloud support the latest version of IE 11? No? Too bad, three people in Finance just updated their machines to IE 11 so you need to find a way to support them. Also, the person in Recruitment just called and updated to Mavericks and the Enterprise Cloud currently does not support that either.

It’s coming. Soonish. You’ll need to purchase the next service pack in order to continue to have access to that. Also, don’t think about ending your service contract anytime soon because now all of your information is stored in an Enterprise Cloud and getting it out could prove tricky.

Mobile is happening right now and IT needs to catch up, but I’m not convinced that BYOD is going to be some great liberator of the masses from their technology hatred because, shocking, most people don’t love their technology like IT does or can. People want to get work done, in the easiest way to do it, and in a consistent way that will continue to work.

BYOD brings in inconsistency, no matter how well things might work. Even Facebook acts differently and I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to find an Enterprise Cloud with the narrow focus of Facebook nor the resources available. They have a hard enough time.

Big changes are coming, but let us be certain not to throw out the good in the endless cycle or searching for the perfect. We’re going to end up very disappointed.

Episode 10: Accidentally Misunderstood

Wow, it has been a LONG time … but I’m back for a short episode. I’m focusing mostly on misunderstandings about why Apple does what they do and how they go about doing them.

In regards to web technologies, or what people think are web technologies.

The Outsourcing Conundrum

The first round of “outsourcing” was focused around the physical shift of employees from their one country to another for cost savings (moving support staffing from the United States to India for example, or moving manufacturing to China).

The current round of outsourcing doesn’t necessarily have to do with shifting geography, but from shifting responsibility and skill from an organization to a third-party. It could be about using managed services or moving to “the cloud” in some form or another.

The question now doesn’t seem to be “if” an organization should be outsourcing, but “what” and “how much”. If some administrators would have their way, it seems like they would completely and totally outsource their information technology needs to an outside provider in the hope that things would work out.

I can’t help but think going that extreme is nothing less than a huge and glaring mistake.

So if we can’t outsource everything, what things should we be working to keep “in-house” when it comes to technology?

Basically, ask yourself this: what are the goals of the institution? If something is directly involved with the mission or goals of the institution or organization, those things should be kept as close to home as possible.

What are you held accountable for by law? That might be a good place where you DO want to invest some effort into keeping it as close to home as possible. This is another lens through which to look at a pending decision.

Think about what sorts of skills you want your IT workforce to have. What do you need a quick response to? If you are outsourcing major parts of your IT staff and infrastructure, when something happens, you are now bound to that company. Even if you have a good relationship, that company does not care as much about you as you and your own staff do, say experts at 360ict in London.

Outages happen (even to Google, I can assure you), so try not to look outside every single time but think hard about what outsourcing is going to mean for your organization and talk with your current staff to get their perspective on things. They might have some ideas on how to improve things too.

SaaS: A Double-Edged Sword

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service, Cloud Services, etc.) are a fact of life for most people and companies. If you are using Gmail, or YouTube, or Campfire, or Basecamp, or GitHub … you are using software housed on someone else’s servers.

SaaS

This is wonderful on many levels. You don’t have to worry about the software, they’ve taken care of that for you. You can access the software from any relatively modern internet-connected computer from almost anywhere in the world. Your information is store, backed-up (hopefully), and watched-over by someone else on their own time.

These are all very cool things.

However, the power of SaaS cuts both ways, and recently that has been made abundantly clear by Google Apps for Education.

Google made the new compose feature the default about 3 weeks ago, and it has been rocky for some people. While a relatively minor change overall, it is still a change which affects how many people use email every single day. It had been there, of course, for a very long time as an option for people to try out, but they flipped the switch and no-one was able to stop them.

Google Apps also had a major outage this morning, with their Control Panel along with many services being down for about a half-hour this morning. This has happened in the past a number of times as well.

While it is nice to be able to tell people “it is a Google outage, nothing we can do about it”, it still stinks when that is the ONLY thing you can tell them.

The worst part is the loss of control. You can’t “wait” on features: they get rolled out constantly and sometimes, more often than I wish, they can break something in a really strange way.

As an example, Gmail recently would flash onscreen and then it would just go white. Every other webpage I tried would work, but Gmail just would not work. Came in the next morning and *poof* it was working correctly.

Frustrating.

You are at the whim of your service provider, and that can be a little frightening when you are a small private college because you have no clout at all. When Google drops support for versions of Internet Explorer, you now have to carve out time to make sure everyone has access to their email by updating browsers or even whole operating systems so that they can have an updated version of Internet Explorer.

That might have been something that could have waited until the next hardware update, but not anymore. Email is too important.

SaaS is wonderful and it is not going away, but native applications with version numbers can be nice as well. The amount of control you have can be a real asset.

Remember that ceding control to someone else is just that, handing over control of some portion of your technological destiny. As long as you are aware of that, it can be very beneficial.

However, that blade cuts both ways. Watch out.

More on IT Partnerships

My friend, Nate Beran, just posted a great article about his views on IT partnerships. I recommend you go and take a look yourself if you have any interest in the seemingly endless talk about shipping more and more things away from internal IT departments to 3rd parties.

Here is the salient paragraph for me:

So what does a partnership mean to me now? It is a relationship where an MSP/vendor provides me services I need AND assumes enough of my risk to create a vested interest in my success and growth.

Very good. Very, very good.