Jul 29 2011

Competing with Shadow IT – BizTech Quick Take

BizTech Quick Take is our weekly digital tour of the web, serving up news and notes on IT and business that you need to know — and some things you’ll simply be glad to know.

Why IT Departments Need to Compete with Shadow IT

Cloud computing is changing the way that technology and information are delivered. And it’s also changing who delivers the technology and the services on which users rely.

In the old days, technology marketer Ken Oestreich writes on his Fountainhead blog, a company’s in-house IT department was essentially a monopoly: The company supplied the devices and set the security standards, leaving its internal users with little to no choice if they needed assistance. But these days, if IT doesn’t supply the technology or services that users want, they will find a way to get it on their own.

The prevalence of this practice of going outside the realm of the IT department, known as “Shadow IT,” has two inevitable implications, according to Oestreich:

  • IT [staff] cannot resist this transformation. It will be forced upon them because of the use of, and competition from, Shadow IT — as well as from the increased demands from [line of business]. So IT needs to be better-acquainted with the competition, their services, their [service level agreements], their pricing. Like any competitive situation, IT needs to do *external* benchmarking in all of these areas. Because if they don’t, their CFO will do it for them.
  • IT needs to think competitively. IT orgs need to think in terms of winning the internal business by actively selling and creating demand for products (services). This is opposite from how they’ve been conditioned to behave — so IT has to develop basic business skills and even organizations to operate in a competitive business environment. These include product marketing, product management, financial management, and even competitive analysis and sales skills.

Read Oestreich’s full post, “IT-as-a-Service: IT Competing for Business vs. Shadow IT,’” at Fountainhead.

Take Advantage of Built-in Switch Features

The job of managing a network requires plugging many holes. In fact, IT workers often find themselves having to use multiple devices to get different jobs done.

What you might not realize is that the additional devices you’ve deployed to complete one or two tasks on your company’s network can be replaced with the multifunctional features of a robust network switch. Even if you’re not overwhelmed with hardware, there’s a lot more functionality you can get out of just your network switch alone.

Suzette Pereira-Beardsley, chief marketing officer for Cisco Systems elaborates on a few key features that a network switch can handle in a July 27 post on Cisco’s Small Business blog:

  • Web management: A switch with a graphical user interface makes setting up and managing a switch much easier. A browser-based tool provides a more intuitive means for configuring the switch, including security and quality-of-service (QoS) settings, making it possible for nontechnical employees to set up the switch pretty quickly. Some web management tools function much like a “wizard” in a desktop application. For example, the Cisco 200 Series Smart Switches device manager software moves the user through the logical order of configuration options and also offers context-sensitive help.
  • Command-line interface: For those comfortable with a more technical interface, a command-line interface (CLI) provides more advanced configuration options, in addition to the same options offered by a browser-based management tool. With the Cisco 300 Series Management Switches, for example, the CLI allows you to build templates with preset configurations, which saves time if you’re installing multiple devices. In addition, 300 Series switches support an auto-configuration capability using Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), which allows you to pull down the configuration template from the network, eliminating the need to manually configure the switch.
  • Simple Network Management Protocol: A standards-based management platform, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) shows how well your network is running and if any of the devices on your network are experiencing trouble, and allows you to manage and configure other devices — both from Cisco and [from] other vendors — on your network. SNMP also provides remote management capabilities, enabling you to make changes to the devices on your network and repair any problems through the web-based interface, without having to directly connect to the switch itself.

Read more about network switches’ versatility on the Cisco Small Business blog.

Windows 7 and IE9 Are Good for Business

Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system has been adopted widely, receiving praise for its improved efficiencies, interface and security. But consumers aren’t the only ones jumping on board.

Businesses also have been deploying Windows 7 with positive results, along with Microsoft’s latest incarnation of its signature web browser, Internet Explorer 9.

With Forrester Consulting’s help, the software giant pulled together some data and feedback on businesses using the upgraded browser and operating system. They found, among other things, that business is soaring for these users:

Customers deploying IE9 and reported a potential risk-adjusted savings over $3.3 million based on a composite organization with 60,000 employees using IE9 over IE8 within just three years.

Customers also reported some productivity improvement for power users and browser-intensive users and potential benefit in the form of the HTML5 support that allowed developers to write the same markup, reducing the costs of creating new applications.

Read more about how businesses are benefiting from the one-two punch of Windows 7 and IE9 on the Windows Blog.

Pentagon App for Stress Relief Worth a Look for Frazzled IT Workers?

A research project of the U.S. Department of Defense helped spawn the Internet, so it’s not all that surprising that the innovative agency is leading the technological charge to combat stress.

This week, GottaBeMobile reported on Breathe2Relax, a mobile app that’s meant to combat stress. The app, which includes useful breathing exercises (among other features), was developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a component center of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury and part of the Military Health System.

Breathe2Relax was created to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, but there’s a case for civilian use as well. Such stress-inducing events as the network going down or a server crashing come to mind.

To learn more about the Department of Defense’s mobile apps for relaxation, read the full story on GottaBeMobile.

7 Useful UNIX Commands for the Mac

If you’re trying to troubleshoot a VPN but are unfamiliar with the Mac’s UNIX commands, you could be left up a creek without a paddle.

Scott Lowe, a chief technology officer for EMC, has assembled seven useful UNIX commands that can help you find the IP address of the default gateway, the interface name of the default route and more. For example:

To find the IP address of the default gateway:

To find the interface name of the default route:

To find the IP address assigned to the interface for the default gateway:

To read the full list of UNIX commands for the Mac, read Lowe’s July 25 post on his blog.

How Client Virtualization Is Liberating Workers

One of the beauties of thin clients is the flexibility they provide. Because these devices’ applications and operating system are centrally managed, users can access their desktops from the office, their kids’ soccer games or a sprawling conference center in Las Vegas.

In a recent post to the Intel Open Port IT Community, technology evangelist Ed Jimison explains how client virtualization has freed us from being tied to the device:

So remember that device-independent mobility isn’t about working more hours. It’s about making it easier to get access to whatever information you need as you go about your busy day. Intel envisions a Compute Continuum that provides a seamless, consistent experience across devices.

It makes sense to include IT applications and services as part of this continuum. We’ve already started big with e-mail and calendar access on personally owned devices. The next challenge is to take our services to in-vehicle infotainment systems, smart televisions, context-aware tablets and whatever else the world comes up with.

Read the Jimison’s full post on the freedom client virtualization enables on the Open Port IT community.

5 Benefits of Hosting a Private Cloud

Cloud computing has become a front-of-mind concern for organizations of all types. But what benefits can a business that decides to host its own private cloud realistically expect?

Jonathon Linnell, a writer for CloudTweaks, identifies these five advantages:

  • Unparalleled Customization: Cloud computing offers advanced customization, giving users the power to choose only the services they require.
  • Advanced Availability: The cloud is comprised of layers of redundant resources. If one part of a layer fails, another steps in to take its place. Layers also provide instant scalability. Sudden, heavy pulls on resources are handled with ease.
  • Adaptability: The ability to adapt to a rapidly changing business environment is imperative. Cloud computing quickly accommodates itself to meet the inevitable changes in business procedures and practices.
  • Sophisticated Control: Administrators easily control services and user access within the cloud.
  • Cost-effective: Cloud hosting is a pay-as-you-go service. Users pay only for the resources actually used.

Read Linnell’s full post, “Changing Business with Cloud Computing,” at CloudTweaks.

What to Expect When Moving to Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft’s cloud computing productivity and collaboration suite, Microsoft Office 365, will be replacing the company’s Business Online Productivity Services (BPOS) suite in the near future. BPOS users must prepare to make the transition, if they haven’t already.

What features can Microsoft Office 365 users expect? For starters, there’s a new Outlook Web App, increased accessibility in the Team Site and more collaboration with Lync 2010 Online.

Learn more in this article from BizTech.

Find great content from the bloggers listed here and other IT blogs by checking out our 50 Must-Read IT Blogs.