Enterprise IT Watch Blog

October 7, 2009  1:41 PM

Why you should fire your Hotmail users

Posted by: Michael Morisy
GMail, Google Guerillas, Hotmail, Yahoo!

At mid-sized and larger companies, the question is not if data has been compromised in the recent Hotmail, Yahoo and GMail phishing attacks, but how much and how effectively the company can recover without embarrassment, fines or worse.

The truth is many modern knowledge workers don’t care about IT policies designed to protect sensitive data, and these employees often workaround HR policies and even IT controls on e-mail and files. Even Alaskan governors have been burned, after all. But with 8% of companies firing employees for social networking-related offenses, how many companies actively seek out and discipline employees for forwarding the occasional “internal-use only” document on their @hotmail.com, @gmail.com, or @yahoo.com address?

In tightly-controlled industries, like medicine and finance, it’s more likely to be common practice with strict enforcement, but time and again I heard even law firms bend the rules or just look the other way for the sake of convenience.

So the question is: Is your personal e-mail policy clear? And is it enforced? I’d love to hear what you see at your own business, so leave a comment or e-mail me directly at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. If requested, I’ll keep your name and any other identifying details private.

More on personal e-mail in the enterprise:

October 6, 2009  1:26 PM

Is Facebook killing the American economy?

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Facebook, policy, productivity, social networking

As my time reporting for SearchUnifiedCommunications.com wound down, there was one story I kept coming back to again and again: How social media and social networking were playing out in the enterprise. For some companies, social media was the creative lifeblood of their employees, letting them quickly and efficiently connect with the right people more deeply and directly than IM or e-mail allowed. For other companies, all it took was a CEO to stroll down cubicles all tuned to Facebook and the firewalls came crashing down.

But talking with a lot of companies, it seemed the movement was towards a more liberal policy – Freedom with responsibility, as it were – when it came to social networking. Generally, IT departments were at least allowing it during non-peak hours, or for certain departments that could justify the benefits.

Now Mashable brings word that fully 50 percent of companies are blocking social media access, but buried in there was the truly startling statistic: “8% of companies in the US have fired staff over social media misuse.”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/JIKaIriiK8w" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

With those kind of numbers, you’d think that it was Facebook that was single handedly driving all the unemployment as those who still had jobs frittered away their productivity by posting cute animal videos and eBaying. I’m skeptical about what those numbers mean, to say the least: Were some of those 50% of companies limiting social networking during peak hours to conserve bandwidth, for example? Almost none (with a few exceptions) of the companies I’ve spoken to over the year have a black-and-white policy on this stuff, and while nuance doesn’t make eye-grabbing survey data, it often maeks a lot of sense.

Although IT departments rarely have the final word on these policies, I’d love to hear your advice on developing and implementing social media guidelines, from both a technical and policy perspective, since it’s something that almost every enterprise has started confronting. I’ll try and write up some of the best ideas later this week, so feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or e-mail me directly at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

October 6, 2009  8:18 AM

Shake things up to catch a cybercrook

Posted by: Michael Morisy
cybercrime, data leakage, Swine Flu

Resident expert Kevin Beaver recently pointed to a great post about 5 Ways to Protect Against Employee Theft over at BizMore. It included a lot of common sense advice on security, and particularly data leakage, but one idea stuck out to me in particular:

5. Once in awhile, shake things up. Don’t always have the same employees doing the same things. Theft often comes to light when a person stops working in his or her usual position for a few weeks and doesn’t have the opportunity to cover up any improprieties. Have a manager fill in for employees who are out sick or on vacation. Switch crews around periodically. Move managers between divisions. Enforcing mandatory vacations can be one the best tools for catching crooks.

(emphasis mine)

Mandatory vacations to catch crooks? Sounds like a win-win to me. It’s also not a bad way to make sure your disaster recovery (DR) plan has position redundancy: If Steve is the only Cisco sensei you have, you need to make sure someone else gets prepared to hold down the fort if, say, a nasty case of Swine Flu hits unexpectedly.

Any other cybercrime prevention strategies you’ve seen? Let me know in the comments, or directly at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com.

October 2, 2009  9:37 AM

Robert Scoble kicks off Google Wave blowback

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Google, Robert Scoble, Wave

Wednesday, I wrote about the potential for Google Wave to end up all wet if the rollout isn’t handled well:

An analyst friend of mine, with a less technical background, recently got an invite. He was pretty optimistic about Wave’s potential, but admitted that, as of now, his team had been able to do very little with the offering. There just wasn’t much there for the average end user yet, and if early users are turned off by being prompted by a blank canvas, it won’t matter how great that canvas really is because the word of mouth will be negative.

Well, tech blogger Robert Scoble has now kicked off the discontent with a scathing blog post that rather than replacing e-mail, IM and meetings, Google Wave gathers the worst elements of each:

… it’s a productivity sink if you are trying to just communicate with other people.

It also ignores the productivity gains that we’ve gotten from RSS feeds, Twitter, and FriendFeed.

What do I mean by that?

It is noisy, but the noise often happens way down in a wave deep in your inbox.

This is far far worse than email. (New email always shows up at the top of my inbox, where Google Wave can bring me new stuff deep down at the bottom of my inbox).

It’s far far worse than Twitter (where new stuff ALWAYS shows up at top). It’s even far worse than FriendFeed, which my friends always said was too noisy. At least there when you write a comment on an item it pops to the top of the page.

And, worse, when I look at my Google Wave page I see dozens of people all typing to me in real time. I don’t know where to look and keeping up with this real time noise is less like email, which is like tennis (hit one ball at a time) and more like dodging a machine gun of tennis balls. Much more mentally challenging.

Ouch. But Google’s Android faced early criticism too, and now (thanks in part to the developer community behind it) has won over many former critics. Google Wave’s handler just need to figure out the best way to manage the hype cycle before the service goes belly up due to criticisms like Scoble’s.

October 1, 2009  7:58 AM

Vendor sports: What’s the biggest tech news of the week?

Posted by: Michael Morisy
news, Play of the Week, Vendor Sports

There’s a lot of IT news out there every week, and we can’t possibly cover it all in the IT Watch Blog, but we hope to bring you the most important news and trends.

This week, I’d love to hear your thoughts: What was the biggest vendor news you’ve seen, whether it’s a big product announcement or a competitive setback? Let me know what you’ve read, heard or seen, and we’ll compile the biggest vendor plays of the week tomorrow. If you’re an ITKnowledgeExchange community member, leave your username and you could even win a couple of extra knowledge points for the best submission.

Enter your submissions here, or read other’s submissions here.

September 30, 2009  5:07 PM

Could Google Wave hype kill its own potential?

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Google, Wave

When Google Wave was first announced, it reminded me of the iPhone debut: Dubbed the “Jesus Phone”, it was the be all, end all device that would revolutionize the way we look at phones. And somehow, despite some problems, Apple’s been able to ride that hype perfectly, and in many ways the iPhone actually did revolutionize the industry. Bully for Apple, but can Google duplicate their success?

The company has had its share of quiet duds, and from my talks with analysts, developers and some early end users, Wave could become another one of them if not handled right.

1. The killer app question Telecom analyst, ITKE blogger and Wave developer Tom Nolle has been bullish on Wave’s potential since the beginning, but is worried that its true potential is in enabling new technologies, not in improving old applications. If these “improved old applications” take the spotlight, Wave could be lose out: Sure, an improved commenting system, as Mashable suggests, would be nice, but the infrastructure and complexity that Wave brings to the table make it a bit overkill for marginal improvements that could be done another way.

Instead, Nolle told me today he expected Google’s next major announcement to be touting an orthogonal application to current uses, throwing out the idea of a next generation message board, wiki or meeting place in favor of something that just isn’t doable today — without Wave.

2. A business model Kicking dirt in the eyes of Microsoft, Cisco and other tech giants is all well and good, but why try and kill Microsoft Office, WebEx and a host of other enterprise applications if you can’t turn a dime on it? Besides, even if they didn’t produce Wave, Google Apps already have the collaborative advantage.

Nolle said Google is walking a fine line between staying open and letting Wave be so easy anyone can do it. That could point to trying to grab future revenues by being the primary, if not only, Wave host. Amazon’s found great success in the unexpected cloud services realm, and Google App Engine‘s made clear that’s an area Google wants to get into.

3. Rolling out to the right people For whatever reason, I’ve been lucky when it comes to Google roll-outs: I received invites early on for both GMail and Google Voice (formerly Grand Central). But I’ve never seen the hype build like it has around Wave invites. Google’s been very choosy about who gets invites: Currently, it’s mostly developers who have received the invites.

There’s a good reason for that.

An analyst friend of mine, with a less technical background, recently got an invite. He was pretty optimistic about Wave’s potential, but admitted that, as of now, his team had been able to do very little with the offering. There just wasn’t much there for the average end user yet, and if early users are turned off by being prompted by a blank canvas, it won’t matter how great that canvas really is because the word of mouth will be negative.

September 28, 2009  1:05 PM

Is Xobni coming to an e-mail inbox near you?

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Google Guerillas, Outlook, Xobni

Xobni, the plug-in that supercharges Outlook search, has built a steady buzz for itself since its 2006 founding. As Cruncbase describes it:

Xobni creates an information profile for each person you interact with, and surfaces historical information that is relevant to what you are working on. Xobni displays contact information, threaded conversations, attachments, related people, email usage statistics, and information from the web. Xobni organizes your communication data and makes it available through intuitive navigation and super fast search.

Now, the company appears to be moving a darling of some tech early adopters to a wider audience. On a recent drive, I heard a radio voiceover helpfully explain “Xobni, that’s ‘Inbox’ spelled backwards,” while more mainstream websites are bearing big, brand awareness-raising display ads, signaling that Xobni hopes to win over the hearts and minds of end users along with IT. Have you seen it, or a similar productivity-boosting program, enter your organization, either installed by IT or end users themselves? Exchange’s native search can be a powerful tool, but it’s often clunky.

Even if Xobni’s big push isn’t successful, the company seems to be on to a leading trend: HP is attempting similar inbox-life integration with Friendlee, while Gist duplicates some functionality with a more social approach. Michael Scalisi, an IT manager in California, has a thorough overview over at PC World for those who’d like some first hand experience.

September 24, 2009  10:31 AM

Another GMail outage, but Google provides a workaround

Posted by: Michael Morisy
GMail, Google, Google Guerillas, Service Outage

Google’s GMail last went down in a big way at the start of this month, and now GMail’s facing more outages. At least they have a temporary solution, although it would be nice if it were a bit more prominently displayed for users and administrators (why not link to this on the front page?):

We’re aware of a problem with Google Mail affecting a small subset of users. The affected users are unable to access Google Mail, but we’ve provided a workaround below. We will provide an update by September 24, 2009 11:29:00 AM UTC-4 detailing when we expect to resolve the problem. Please note that this resolution time is an estimate and may change.

You can access Gmail via IMAP
Not the most convenient solution, but for business-critical applications, setting it up shouldn’t be too hard. Here are some tutorials for setting GMail with IMAP up for:

More on Google in the Enterprise:

September 23, 2009  2:28 PM

Cryptography for kids, CEOs and people who like stick figures

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Comic, Security

For the lay person, even basic cryptography can seem almost completely indecipherable (*cringe*), but it’s also incredibly important: Just how vulnerable e-mail is to basic attacks, for example, is routinely underestimated, and too many users think that because their data is locked behind a Windows password, it’s secure. Fortunately, we have individuals like Jeff Moser to deftly break down even the most obtuse lessons into a fun, funny and, most impressively, comprehensible stick figure lesson on cryptography, and specifically the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

Ok, so the guide probably won’t be the best pitch in updating woefully inadequate security practices, but you’ve got to start somewhere, right?

Hat tips to Abner Germanow and Shamus McGillicuddy.

September 23, 2009  12:47 PM

Windows 7 tries to be life of the party (but we’ll wait for oFone)

Posted by: Michael Morisy
Marketing, Microsoft, Party, Windows, Windows 7

Windows 7 QuestionsBrendan Cournoyer at Windows Server Notebook points out Microsoft’s Windows 7 marketing strategy: House parties. And lots of ‘em:148,252 if Microsoft’s party page is to be believed. And what will all those people be doing at these parties? Not to be too cynical, but we’re guessing that a good percent of the hosts are just using the party as a chance to snag the free copy of Windows 7 Signature Edition that hosts get. Because really, would you want to attend a party where the structured events are demoing how to block games, transfer user accounts from one PC to another and “have your guests try clicking through some of the WET screens*.”

Even Microsoft’s best marketing efforts don’t make it seem like too much fun:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/1cX4t5-YpHQ" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Thanks, but we’ll hold our party for the Microsoft’s oFone finally makes its debut. Now that is software worth celebrating:
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/WazA77xcf0A" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
In the meantime, we’ve got plenty of Windows 7 resources to help you plan your party, so click below to get ideas for your shin dig, or send me your activity ideas in the comments or at Michael@ITKnowledgeExchange.com. Maybe we can put together a slightly more entertaining list.

More on Windows 7:

*May not be legal in Utah.

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