CIO Symmetry

August 12, 2011  3:50 PM

IT cost reduction strategies: Can cloud computing help?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Ah, yes, these are the heady days of Q3, which means that it’s time to start working on your 2012 budget. Is your IT department feeling like a panhandler these days?

CIOs today are certainly no strangers to tough economic times and working up IT cost reduction strategies, but when the economy doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and as they wait out the possibility of a double-dip recession, CIOs are finding themselves at the end of their technological rope. Delayed buying decisions have left them with geriatric server, storage and networking infrastructure that is no longer nice to replace but necessary to replace. But with every pundit in the universe screaming about cloud computing — and when you’re working with a budget as dry as the Sahara after six years without rain — how do you justify new capital expenses to the business?

If we lift our heads above the noise, confusion and discomfort of economic austerity, IT infrastructure investment can be a good dollar-and-cents move you can easily justify to the business.

Cloud computing is often presented as a sort of panacea when it comes to IT cost reduction strategies and eliminating IT complexities. There are IT cost reduction strategies that involve moving to the cloud that will save on capital expenses and maybe even improve reliability and remote access. For midmarket companies, email infrastructure can be handed off to a cloud/Software as a Service provider. Lots of companies offer Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes or more generic Web-based mail and calendaring, and our old pal Google even offers Gmail as a service for businesses. These services often have highly redundant infrastructure to protect your data and offer better access for remote users and branch offices. They come bundled with security and spam filtering as well, further reducing infrastructure needs in the data center.

Life without spam — doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? I read recently that as much as half of any company’s bandwidth is consumed by spam. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving.

But as with most things, moving services to the cloud has its complexities. One argument against shipping off crucial IT services is whether we aren’t also eliminating the need for IT roles in the future. Of course, there are many IT functions that simply cannot be shipped off to the cloud. In-house applications, sensitive data and low-latency applications must stay in the company data center, as should the ownership of the technological advances developed by the company.

Don’t buy into the fear and panic, folks — we live in the most technologically advancing time in world history, and CIOs are at the wheel driving the change.

Even if you wouldn’t know it by looking at your 2012 IT budget.

August 9, 2011  5:13 PM

Is iPhone 5 ready to overpower competitors for business users?

Lmartinek Lisa Martinek Profile: Lmartinek

I was with some friends last week when we landed on the topic of phones. The conversation began when one person said she was planning to buy a new phone within the next couple of weeks, but it wasn’t long before her brother interjected. He began adamantly telling her she should wait for the iPhone 5 and described why waiting a few months would be a better decision than buying a new phone now.

This conversation illustrates what more and more people are realizing — the iPhone is the best way to go. Recent studies show that 35% of consumers plan on buying the iPhone 5. If that isn’t enough to put fear into iPhone competitors, then maybe this will: Only 47% of Android users will buy another Android, with 42% switching to an iPhone; BlackBerry is speculated to lose 67% of users to the iPhone. Meanwhile, Apple has a 94% retention rate.

People are waiting and ready to switch to the iPhone 5, and some iPhone competitors may be showing their fear. Over in the U.K., Vodafone has dropped HTC’s Evo 3D from release. Although no official comment was made, it is widely speculated that they fear facing the iPhone 5. It makes you wonder what other companies are really thinking.

And all of this is occurring without an official release date. You can find plenty of speculations online, though — the most widely accepted being a September or October release date. Regardless, when the next iPhone does release, it will undoubtedly outsell any other brand with consumers. But what about businesses that have yet to dive in? Apple has been making strides to improve the iPhone in the business realm. When a newer model is released, people will be willing to accept the idea that the iPhone is ready for business use. And with the expected features in the iPhone 5, like improved security and the already large collection of business apps, you have to ask: How long before Apple dominates it competitors not only with consumers, but also with businesses?

August 8, 2011  8:16 PM

Law and Order: Hacker Protection Unit

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Every week, we scour the wealth of information on the blog circuit and give you the finer talking points to help you score erudite points around the Twitter water cooler. Here’s the latest sampling from last week’s blog posts, including the latest from the Black Hat conference, lessons in personality and personal space, and why it might be a good time to give your hacker protection a checkup.

How is your hacker protection? Last week, the Black Hat 2011 conference in Las Vegas drew thousands of security professionals. Meanwhile, the hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous broke into 70 law enforcement websites. Anonymous also hit Syria’s Ministry of Defense website. What a world, what a world.

Midmarket companies are dealing with significantly more IT risk, making safety measures crucial for the concerned CIO.

Forget about reviewing prospective job candidates’ résumés — ask to see a photo of their workspace instead.

We all know that the best communicators use nonverbal communication, including using body language and personal space to their advantage. Some think it’s part of the reason that women and men have different styles in the boardroom.

For all those CIOs who use Gmail either personally or professionally, your life just got a little better — Gmail now supports a preview pane. Aw, yeah.

Seth Godin looks at the Palm example as a lesson about when a company needs to make the giant leap — or fall flat on its face.

Watch Google Chrome get hacked in real time. Lest you think hacker protection is all about information security, think again. Between the text hacking of Subaru Outback cars, this 10-year-old hacker, and this guy who claims he can hack into insulin pumps and kill people long-distance, just who is going to rock us to sleep tonight?

August 4, 2011  11:17 PM

Intrusion testing means thinking like a hacker

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, I had two acquaintances who called themselves “hackers.” Being a burgeoning geek girl myself, I kind of figured that they were affecting the moniker to be cool. Back then, the image of a hacker was different, more like the Robin Hoods of the Internet age. It was before we really knew how destructive those forces could be regarding the loss of identity information and the carnage inflicted across the globe by nefarious groups bent on destruction or collapsing infrastructures. Think only back to the Sony security breach or the nightmare with Epsilon data loss, and you know that the popular opinion is that hackers seem less like Robin Hood and more like Freddy Krueger.

Flash forward to today: One of those hackers has his own security firm and consults with companies on vulnerability testing and intrusion testing, highlighting their weaknesses and blind spots and helping them do network security audits.

In this capacity, for instance, he foiled a large corporate system by tricking one of the company’s own employees into holding a door open for him. Then he set up shop in an unused conference room, logged into the network and spent two days downloading gigabytes of proprietary and confidential data. No one ever even questioned him about what he was doing there.

When thinking about security and intrusion testing, you have to think like a bad guy. Law enforcement does it all the time, hiring criminal informants and infiltrating crime syndicates by going undercover (at least, this is what my years of watching Dexter and The Wire tell me). Speaking of crime shows, not all hackers are that altruistic. That other guy with whom I was acquainted? He’s currently incarcerated for terrorist-like activities.

Have you engaged in third-party vulnerability testing of your network defenses? What was the outcome? Is intrusion testing worthwhile? How frequently do you perform a network security audit? The comments are eager to hear about how you defend your company against the dark arts.

August 2, 2011  5:02 PM

What cleaning computer viruses can teach you

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

In my spare time I run a little PC service repair business, mostly for friends and family. It’s mostly cleaning computer viruses, installing wireless networks and sometimes building gaming systems.

No matter what the job is, however, I always end up lecturing the owners about security and data backup. I recently worked on a system that had years of digital photos on it, gigabytes worth, and none of them were backed up. The machine caught a virus and put all of those memories at risk.

Back up your data, encrypt your Wi-Fi, and keep your OS and security software updated. And here’s another tip about file sharing. This is the kind of common-sense stuff that every person who owns or operates technology, from servers to smartphones, should do. It rarely gets done.

Is it any wonder that we see the same security issues in the enterprise? As I’ve noted before, security is a major risk factor, and it should be everybody’s business. If you want to hear it from the experts, log on to our free online seminar next week, Enterprise Risk Management: Mitigation Strategies for Today’s Global Enterprise

August 1, 2011  3:35 PM

Info on the new iPhone 5 release and Silicon Valley salaries

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Whatever happened to the lazy days of summer? Things are smoking around the blogosphere, thanks to the impending new iPhone 5 release, the U.S. debt ceiling compromise and the general malaise of the U.S. economy. We’ve scoured the headlines and are giving you an executive summary of what happened last week in 60 seconds or less:

• Did you ever wonder what your life would be like if you moved to the IT version of the Emerald City? Check out this infographic from Focus for the brutal truth on salaries versus cost of living in the Silicon Valley.

• We’ve wondered aloud why there aren’t more women in IT, but the tide may be turning, thanks in part to the social network revolution and the urgings of Google Vice President Marissa Mayer.

• While the news of the U.S. debt ceiling was everywhere last week, President Obama urged Twitter users to tweet to members of Congress to urge them for a bipartisan compromise. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer confirmed that emails and Tweets did indeed influence the course of this weekend’s events.

• Is the government tracking our physical location via our Androids and iPhones? The possibility was discussed at a confirmation hearing in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Tuesday.  Forget RFID-proof wallets, it might be time for aluminum foil pants to be back in style.

• Hope you wrote that new iPhone 5 release date on your calendar in pencil rather than ink, as sources say that you’ll have to wait until October for the new iPhone 5 release rather than September, as was first rumored.

July 29, 2011  1:21 PM

Does your Internet usage policy make your employees cry?

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

How are you feeling today? Lonely? Upset? Vaguely withdrawn from society? If so, quick — check your Twitter stream on your smartphone. Better now?

We’ve all heard BlackBerry jokingly referred to as a “CrackBerry,” but according to a recent study of 1,000 U.K. workers, 53% of technology users experience real psychological trauma when disconnected from the Internet, whether it’s checking email or their social media sites or just checking the news of the world. Research indicates that the feeling really is like getting a bit of an addictive fix.

This explains so much. I have many friends and acquaintances whose employers have a “locked down” Internet usage policy, preventing them from going to certain websites like Google+, Gmail, Facebook and YouTube. Those same people rarely have much good to say about their job. Let’s not fool ourselves: They’re still getting to those websites while at work — they’re just doing it much more creatively, either by finding proxy sites or by using their mobile devices. If a well-meaning executive thought that she could prevent productivity loss by Internet surfing, she’s completely mistaken because people will do anything, even defy corporate policy to get their Twitter fix. Instead of the risk of losing data, the policy has guaranteed a loss of employee satisfaction and risks them heading over to with their resumés in hand.

I’ve heard CIOs remark that a strict Internet usage policy is meant to prevent data theft or proprietary information being broadcast on social networks, but just as employees will find a way to get to their email, if they really wanted to take home proprietary information, they will. There’s always the ever-handy USB drive, not to mention the old-fashioned printer room, with its convenient fax machine.

So tell me, CIO Symmetry readers, do you block some portion of the Internet on the corporate network? If so, is it just obviously inappropriate sites, or do you also prevent employees from accessing their personal email or places where proprietary data could leave the building, places like Google Docs and Dropbox? If you are selective, which kinds of websites are considered safe? Wikipedia, for instance, allows users to upload content but has a huge benefit — is that kind of website prohibited? And is your Internet usage policy a point of contention? Can you explain your strategy behind this practice?

The comments are eager to hear your theories on the perfect Internet usage policy.

July 26, 2011  6:35 PM

IT transformation means one thing: New IT job skills needed

Scot Petersen Scot Petersen Profile: Scot Petersen

I found it amusing/disturbing during the NFL player lockout that players were worried about making ends meet. Many players should certainly learn new job skills for when their playing days end, but their worries are nothing compared with everyday working people with mortgages, kids in college and retirement looming.

In the information technology industry, however, worries may be justified if professionals don’t start planning now. IT job skills are changing — not because technology is changing, but because of “IT transformation,” because of the way companies are using technology and IT departments.

Our package on IT transformation outlines where we are in this process, and what to prepare for in the years to come. Service architect, technology broker and integration specialist are just some of the new IT functions companies will need, according to the Corporate Executive Board.

The change we are seeing is real. IT pros will never be locked out of a job, but they may be out of a job if preparations aren’t being made to develop new roles and specialties now.

July 25, 2011  5:29 PM

Gear up to install OS X Lion

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Massive heat waves in the South and Midwest have us scurrying for the cool, comforting glow of our monitors in the delicious air conditioning, so we’ve been scouring the Web and have found some choice selections for your Monday reading pleasure. Check out the scoop on installing OS X Lion, innovation in a slow economy and why your addictive personality might just give you an advantage in the board room.

Ze cloud computing is all the rage in Europe. C’est la vie!

The next time you get sucked into a level on Angry Birds, don’t beat yourself up — addictive personalities can be the mark of a true leader, according to David J. Linden, a professor of neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University.

One of the best ways to get creative is to cripple your own technology, at least for an hour or so.

Years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote about homes heated by CPUs, which forces us to question why we’re wasting all that heat in our data centers?

The bad economy can be good for innovation, unless you’re Borders bookstore, which is a good lesson on why we can’t ignore technological trends.

Holla for all the Mac fan kids in the room: Are you cowardly about Lion? Here are 10 reasons why you need to install OS X Lion ASAP, and then here are nine things you should do right after you install OS X Lion.

July 22, 2011  2:12 PM

A green data center starts with a bucket of white paint

Wendy Schuchart Wendy Schuchart Profile: Wendy Schuchart

Every CIO knows that sometimes the littlest changes can make a big impact on the bottom line.

For instance, recently former President Bill Clinton suggested that one of the fastest ways you can save on cooling costs for your data center starts by looking up: What color is your roof? If it’s like most buildings in the U.S., chances are the roof is covered in some kind of dark material, maybe even old-fashioned black tar paper. Cheap black roofs were fine half a century ago, when a muggy, hot day was just a nuisance for the employees, but today, our network servers are not as heat-tolerant as our co-workers and require stringent data center cooling. While the way we’ve thought about what’s in our office has changed, chances are that your roof is still much as it was half a century ago.

Clinton suggests that it’s time for a change from the top down — literally. An easy, carbon-friendly change on your facility can significantly reduce cooling costs.

[Black roofs] absorb huge amounts of heat when it’s hot. And they require more air conditioning to cool the rooms. Every black roof in New York should be white; every roof in Chicago should be white; every roof in Little Rock should be white. Every flat, tar-surface roof anywhere! In most of these places you could recover the cost of the paint and the labor in a week. It’s the quickest, cheapest thing you can do.

It’s a lesson in the scientific term albedo. In nature, fresh snow has the highest ability to reflect sunlight, while dark soil absorbs the most, so you simply make your roof look less like soil and more like snow. Simple, right? Well, one would think. The western approach into San Jose’s Mineta and Las Vegas’ McCarran airports has demonstrated that a fair number of arid-based companies already practice this method of greener cooling management, but the approaches into Chicago O’Hare and Los Angeles LAX airports show a sea of black tar paper.

This isn’t breaking news. During the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu claimed that making all of the country’s roofs and pavement white would offset 44 billion tons of CO2. That’s as carbon-friendly as taking all of the planet’s cars off the road for 11 years.

Being kind to the earth is a lofty and admirable goal, but building a green data center is sometimes difficult to sell back to the business. While many carbon-friendly green IT initiatives cost more than traditional “gas hog” technologies, Secretary Chu predicted that a white roof would save 10% to 15% on cooling a single building, while Clinton suggests that it’s actually closer to 20%.

Given that IT tends to be the single largest consumer of energy in an organization, this is an excellent opportunity for you to lead positive change for your organization that affects the entire business as well as the cooling of your data center.

Besides, a bucket of white paint is cheap and if these estimates are correct, it would pay for itself over Labor Day weekend alone. It seems silly not to grab a roller and get painting.

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to: