InnoTech Oklahoma 2014 Cloud Facts

Jumbled business and technology glyphs over ominous sky pretty much says it all. No one really knows when the cloud started. Microsoft introduced Hotmail as the free web mail service in 1996. By 1999, Google dominated with search. Those few building blocks have propelled us to the cloud world we have today.

In the 2014 comedy Sex Tape, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz inadvertently have their escapades shared to the world with the memorable line “Nobody understands the cloud!”. However, we all innately know that cloud computing just means that we are connecting to a server somewhere on the Internet.

Legacy cloud of the early and mid 2000s was all about the facilities. We experienced heat waves, power outages, tsunamis, floods, wildfires, tornados, hurricanes, ice storms, and blizzards. Relocating servers to a hosting or cloud provider began to make sense. Most organizations didn’t have hardened facilities, emergency generators, or redundant Internet connections. The rub though is that legacy hosting is simply added cost for the illusion of safety. Customers must still deal with planned obsolescence in servers and the challenges of the waterfall effect for replacement hardware and upgraded software. Plus, questions start to arise about the ruffians who may work for the host, data replication, and even the feasibility of getting to the host facility in the event of a disaster.

Today, hosting at local or regional providers has been displaced by cloud computing of three major players: Amazon, Microsoft, and Google. Amazon emerged as an early leader with a low cost strategy similar to Wal-Mart. Microsoft differentiates with security and productivity. While Google bills itself as a utility, leveraging the massive infrastructure required for search.

You might be thinking “What about Apple?”. Computer was dropped from the company name almost two decades ago and any cloud service will likely center around streaming music rather than business computing. The Mac has never had more than 6% market share versus PC. While dominant in the U.S., iPhone has only 14% of the worldwide market share. With recent security vulnerabilities in the consumer iCloud service and the raging battle with Android, Apple must decide if it wants to compete in cloud or continue with the existing consumer and music strategy.

In Cloud 2.0, there is a global perspective. For example, Microsoft Azure has 16 regions of geo-redundant datacenters around the world. Each region has enough capacity for more than 640,000 servers.

Modern data centers generally are not brick and mortar. They are placed in remote areas and not designed for public access. Modular design means preconfigured trailers of equipment are coupled together with power and network connections. This approach provides limited physical access with the ability to move or change the data center in large sections.

Despite the numerous acronyms for cloud computing, there are generally two categories: platform and productivity. You can have virtual servers at Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Compute Engine. Microsoft Office 365 leads the productivity space followed by Google Apps. Microsoft also has expanded to device security with Windows Intune and customer relationship management with Dynamics CRM Online.

Security is what separates major players in cloud computing. That starts with Federal Information Security Management Act compliance and down. Regional and national hosts stop at HIPAA and PCI. Small cloud providers often cannot achieve compliance much above ISO 27001 or SAS 70.

To date, there have been no iconic security breaches for major business services like Google Apps or Office 365. Consumer cloud security breaches have been prevalent and highly publicized. Target and Home Depot failed to patch know vulnerabilities in Point-of-Sale software. Apple iCloud and Sony PlayStation Network had poor password security. JP Morgan Chase was the likely victim of a phishing scam or Linux vulnerability.

Linux is now the most vulnerable platform as shown by recent examples like Heartbleed, Shellshock, and iWorm. The most popular web servers are Apache and Nginx. Android dominates smartphones, followed by Apple iOS. All of these solutions are variants of Linux. It’s a myth to continue claiming Linux security by obscurity or limited usage. Further, consolidated and automated security updates with malware protection is urgently needed.

Encryption will be one of the main strategies for preventing security breaches. Google leads the industry by encouraging websites to encrypt all traffic by default. This practice not only protects web browsers, but ensures reputable sites with verifiable owners and locations to even be able to obtain a website SSL certificate. As for e-mail, Pretty Good Protection (PGP) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) are no longer enough. If you’re not logging into a secure portal for encrypted e-mail, you might as well assume your private messages are exposed to the world.

Two form authentication is the other way to greatly lessen security vulnerabilities. Most cloud services offer the capability to require a password and a pin number that is texted to your phone in order to logon. With a password you know and a phone you must have, hackers have a much more difficult time accessing your account.

So what happens if someone steals your phone? Well, you should always make sure you use a pin to access your phone, but that’s where products like Microsoft Intune come into play. Intune has the ability to lock, disable services, and wipe Android, iOS, and Windows devices. The ability to control devices connected Internet is becoming a standard requirement.

Modern networks have morphed from layers of hardware and software infrastructure protected at headquarters to distributed applications at multiple cloud providers. This strategy allows for high business continuity in disaster recovery and limited downtime for any one particular application. The game has changed to ensuring Internet availability and secure access anywhere, rather than cost failover sites with the liability of employees traveling to the facility during emergent situations.

We’ve moved from physical servers housed on premise to virtual servers running in the cloud. That makes computer time like money because we must pay for the run time per hour and storage.

Even so, cloud offerings like Office 365 are a 34% savings over 10 years versus on premise servers, software, and maintenance. Cash outlay is relatively flat and business disruption is much less by escaping planned obsolescence and challenging upgrade every 4 years.

For $240 per user per year, an organization can now provide complete productivity with access to communications, files, and applications on up to 5 devices per user. For another $72 per user per year, that same organization can control and protect 5 devices for that user. People can now use their own device while companies can control access to data.

Such flexibility comes with greater personal responsibility. If you wouldn’t say it in church or to your mother, then you should be just as respectful in e-mail, instant messaging, or social media posts. Just like there is no excuse for not knowing the rules of the road, you must take extra effort to learn and understand the technology you use. Being trustworthy and capable requires more discipline in the virtual world than the real one.

It’s likely the height of hypocrisy to rail about privacy, while we willingly share many aspects of our personal lives in social media. The truth is that every keystroke is recorded on your device for diagnostics and files are not truly deleted. Cameras, microphones, and wireless connections are everywhere. You need to assume that your actions are generally being recorded.

It’s not Skynet, but machine learning will soon change our world. We now have self-driving cars and software that automatically scales servers and provisions new processes based upon forecast usage. If you think you’ll just get off the grid, social media is already discovering your likely profile by family and friends that are on the service.

With over 90% of the world’s data generated in the last few years, successful people of the future will focus on making sense of the overload of information using dashboards. Power Business Intelligence is just one of the early tools to do things like converting a series of spreadsheets into key performance dashboards with no programming.

Similarly, if you’re going to compete and be found in a sea of data, you’re content and approach must be different. Use a TED format for presentations, so you have interesting visuals for a story or concept, rather than mind-numbing bullet points. Make sure your titles are unique in Google. Repurpose your presentations and link together for a blog post, podcast, or video.

Above all, push anything about you or your organization to the background and give answers or inspiration. Frank Sinatra begins to sing “My Way”, as we see a moving backdrop of New York City from Derek Jeter’s view inside the limo. You see the newspaper stand with the headline “Goodbye, Captain!” and Derek decides to get out and walk the rest of the way to the stadium. He talks to fans, wanders through a local pub, and signs lots of autographs. At the stadium he stops to reflect, gets dressed, and goes up the steps touching the sign reading “I want to thank God for making me a Yankee” one more time. Derek then turns back toward the camera and you see the Gatorade cooler stand. Then he’s up the stairs and on the field waving his hat to the fans as Sinatra ends the song.

Someday maybe we’ll all market as well as Gatorade. I hope that you picked up a few facts about cloud and maybe you’re inspired to get into Orbit and try the cloud now.

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Competing with LinkedIn Pulse

 

Pulse InvitationLike millions of other LinkedIn users, I was recently invited to publish on LinkedIn Pulse. The invitation went directly to my Marketing folder via an automatic inbox rule. In truth, it could have been a week or two before I circled back and saw the message.

I’m a LinkedIn fan with posts like 10 Tips for LinkedIn Ranking, but my inbox is for customers. The myriad interrupting noise of offers, newsletters, white papers, event notices, and ad nauseam are reviewed later – at a time of my choosing in less than 5 minutes. If there’s been more than a couple of weeks and the volume of messages seems like a high number, all the messages are simply deleted. The world always continues to spin and there’s never been any negative repercussions. All of you die hard e-mail marketers can take a break and have a good cry or whatever.

My gut reaction was a phishing scam with classic ego message of you’re special and deserve to be recognized. The subject read: “Congrats Kevin! You’re invited to publish on LinkedIn”. The white status bar at the top made it sound simple – Write. Share. Get recognized. The image of the smiling and creative people with the open text editor beckons you to start sharing your knowledge and improving your reputation.

About a year ago, the LinkedIn Today Influencer program was closed to new applicants prompting posts like Conan LinkedIn Influencer Overlord. Today, if you choose to compete with posts on Pulse, Influencers will always be listed first in status updates. Daniel Roth, LinkedIn Executive Editor, does a good job with The 7 Secrets to Writing Killer Content on LinkedIn.

There are three critical things to add:

  1. Right motivation. Give valuable knowledge for your target customers without mentioning your leading organization or fantastic product or service. Have a different message from your industry competition AND the thousands of other LinkedIn posts.
  2. Rigorous determination. The implied posting schedule is weekly. Follow Roth’s prescribed tips, especially including an image or video like the Critical LinkedIn Profile Tip of 2013. Definitely, Google that headline to make sure it is unique. Content marketing is a strategy and Pulse may be one of many tactical things you try.
  3. Routine evaluation. Don’t just share and feel good about your latest post. How many followers do you have? What posts received the most interest? Are your customers moving down the sales cycle and eventually buying?

Whether we want to admit it, digital advertising is the game today because cold-calling, e-mail, direct mail, and traditional commercials are ignored. With weekly posts to two different blogs that hit both my profile status and LinkedIn company page, I’m not sure I currently have the bandwidth to do justice to Pulse.

Pulse does seem to rank well with Google. However, there seems to be numerous low quality posts on Pulse. The average user should be cautioned from posting just to create content which could possibly lower their reputation. Maybe someday we’ll all master selling like Gatorade with some background product placement in a YouTube video that is published by most of the major media. Perhaps Pulse will be that type of marketing vehicle for you in the future.

 

Top 5 Things to Change About Your Home Page

Rising Star ImageIt’s 2014 and everyone should start to recognize and correct these common home page mistakes:

  1. Possibly the most boring, but also the most popular website color is blue. Why not try to be different?
  2. Stop bragging about Inc 5000, CRN 250, or popularity contests from past years. Even small firms can qualify with just $2 million in revenue for Inc or CRN and dated accolades scream tired and desperate.
  3. Ditch the blog posts that you and hundreds of other organizations re-post from the blog service. You’re fooling no one, just damaging your search results with duplicate content, and generally turning off prospects and customers.
  4. Ditto for removing the contrived testimonial from 4 years ago. It’s not believable to customers and they want to know what you’ve done lately.
  5. Change your home page more than once a year. That graphic carousel should be changed monthly. Get rid of the keyword stuffing with events, promotions, or how-to information.

The last point is probably the most jarring. It means you have to do marketing regularly to become a rising star. Otherwise, if you keep making the same mistakes above, your site is just more web spam to be ignored. Add some mundane social media updates and you’ll be sure to drive customers to your competitors.

 

9/11 Vigilance

9-11 VigilanceOn 9/11/2001, I was driving to Muskogee to implement Windows Terminal Services for the Veterans Administration Medical Center. My CFO called my cell and said Tower I had collapsed from a plane crash. During college, she was a nanny for a wealthy family in New York City. My mother’s family was from the Empire State and I often spent summers seeing the sites in NYC. Both of us were very familiar with the landmark and I really couldn’t process what she was saying.

Upon arriving at the hospital, the facility was in lockdown. Instinctively, I knew then that many of our freedoms had been taken. All vendors were released except HP and Matrixforce. It wasn’t an honor, but a matter of security expertise and all I really wanted was to go home too.

As the years continue to pass, Americans should be vigilant about preventing technology threats on 9/11. While the mainstream press covers a few sparse 9/11 tributes, we must especially not become complacent today:

  1. Remind staff to be weary of virus and phishing emails.
  2. Mass e-mails about 9/11 should NOT be opened or forwarded.
  3. Don’t provide passwords or sensitive information to unknown persons.
  4. Be skeptical of Internet posts and unknown websites.
  5. Technology pranks, jokes, or surprise audits are especially discouraged on this day.
  6. Pay close attention and report suspicious utility, communication, or police vehicles.

It’s important to remember those that died and reflect on the changes we have endured. Let’s be vigilant, but live without fear as our way of life is what terrorists seek to destroy.

12 Reasons Not to Buy iPhone 6

Umbrella Corp iPhone 5The iPhone 6 announcement is just a few short hours away…

Sorry. I dozed off for a second.

Oh and iWatch will be announced too, even though watches are one of the things not to buy anymore because everyone has the time on their phone.

Two years later Apple catches up to the market with a larger screen size for the iPhone and continuously jeers at competitors, while today offering various Nokia colors.

Perceived prestige is gone, along with quality or technological advantage. Why would you pay more for less technology?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane that isn’t so pleasant and outline a dozen reasons not to buy the iPhone 6:

  1. You better hope the connectors for charging and communication haven’t changed like the previous iPhone 5.
  2. Let’s see if the antenna problems have been corrected or maybe you just hold iPhone 6 with your right hand.
  3. Bigger processor and more screen, there’s no way there will be another weak battery life problem.
  4. There can’t be any screen tint issues like previous models.
  5. Surely the new improved moisture sensors won’t invalidate the warranty when you simply set your iPhone in the drink tray.
  6. Will that infamously slow camera shutter keep you from capturing that important moment?
  7. You can buy some Beats instead of that tin sound on the iPhone.
  8. You won’t be able to reliably and effectively schedule meetings or know that you have all of your corporate mail for Exchange, because Apple insists on using their buggy ActiveSync from 2007.
  9. Your iPhone 6 will still operate slowly, especially when compared to Android or Windows Phone.
  10. iTunes randomly wipes all your data like before when you try to do an update.
  11. It may be too soon after the recent security breach, but Apple iCloud is a joke for security and privacy.
  12. iPhone 7 will be out next year and have the 5 things Apple already had developed and knows people want now.

My firm derives no income from the sales or advertising of any smartphone manufacturer.

WWW Prefix Recommended

wwwIf you’re the average person, just type whatever you want in the browser address bar. The technology will automatically open the site adding a www. prefix or open a list of search results.

Some technologists and digital marketing types are beginning to spout that www is arcane noise and should be eliminated. The fact is that your website URL should always redirect to http://www.yourdomain.com.

  1. Google is the best example of sites that redirect to www. Type google.com in the address bar and you are automatically redirected to http://www.google.com. It takes only a few lines of code to simply remove www and you know the king of search has the brain power and understanding to make this happen. Obviously, there is no advantage to removing www in search results.
  2. WWW is technically required. The only way a Content Delivery Network (CDN) can provide high availability and performance for a large website is by using DNS to resolve the www record that is the closet version of a site. If your local network is the same domain name as your website, then the only way to view the website locally is by using http://www.yourdomain.com.
  3. WWW is one of many services for your domain. Beyond your website, you have hostnames or prefixes for mail, blog, remote, portal, and more. This paradigm allows different services at different places separate from your main domain name.

Today, the vast majority of websites redirect to www. The prominent few that don’t are interestingly search engine sites and most of those appear to be adopting an exclusively forum format. Twitter is the only social media site that does not use www and it will be interesting to see when that changes with growth.

For more information on this subject, Tim Ware had a good article from 2012 of “WWW vs non-WWW for your Canonical Domain URL – Which is Best and Why?“. For many months, no-www.org was down and it appeared the argument may have been over. Even though cookies are no longer in favor, the technical reasons for using www will likely always apply.

WPC 2014 Insider Perspective

WPC 2014

WPC, otherwise known as the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, was again a huge event this year with over 16,000 attendees descending on Washington D.C. July 13-17. This was my 8th WPC since first attending in 2003. Having traveled most of the nation, D.C. was one of the few cities I hadn’t previously visited. The historic landmarks made an impressive backdrop and the weather was warm, but nothing like the heat of Oklahoma.

Nobody does a conference as well as Microsoft, especially on such a large scale. In 20 minutes I was back in my hotel room, having registered and purchased the Surface 3 conference deal. The WPC app let you schedule the ten different sessions you could do each hour in seconds, while providing you full event information. Every aspect was well staffed and executed with an army of Microsoft people everywhere, including audio-visual techs in each of the hundreds of meeting rooms. From training sessions to evening parties at over a dozen famous venues, the longest I ever waited was for the light to change crossing the street.

Even though there are over 300 Microsoft Partners in the state of Oklahoma, I only ran into one other Sooner. This is not surprising, as IDC still reports that 70% of technology firms are not profitable. Microsoft also reports that only 3.5% of the 640,000 global Microsoft partners transact cloud services. Most partners can’t afford to go, much less spend one second away from their business without it going under. Unfortunately for clients, those same technologists also don’t have time for the continuing education in an industry that changes 10 times faster than any other. The partners that say “I’ll just get everything from digitalwpc.com”, never set aside the 40 hours to review – not to mention comparing experiences with other partners or meeting with key Microsoft personnel.

The tracks this year were:

  • Leadership, Sales & Marketing. I suppose these areas were grouped together because technology people generally have no clue about business, but leadership is and always will be a separate category. For certain today, sales is DEAD and you simply market and tell a story. Traditional sales people are absurdly ineffective with huge bravado, while being perpetually terrified about answering technology questions. Customers hate being sold, but love to buy from the people that are different. Your website better be mobile optimized and your look and story better be different than your competitors.
  • Mobility & Devices. 14% is the current market share of Windows devices in smartphones and tablets. Snicker if you want, but a Surface 3 does twice what an iPad and Mac Air do together for less than half the cost. Many of our clients are already deploying Surface 3 as the only equipment for employees, instead of  traditional desktop, notebook, and tablet combination. I’ll take my Windows Phone over a Droid or iPhone any time. The biggest exposure for both Google and Apple is security. Microsoft is decades ahead with fewer vulnerabilities and secure device management using Windows Intune.
  • Cloud. The winners will be Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Microsoft Online Services will soon pass the $2 Billion annual revenue mark. While the mantra was that cloud partners make more money, this statement is only true if you’ve been doing it for the past 5 years and have the volume of 5,000 subscribers or more. On-premise solutions are twice as profitable for partners. Customers should utilize partners that have been doing cloud for at least 5 years and traditional partners better stick to what they know or go bankrupt trying to catch up.
  • Enterprise Social. Somehow you found this blog and I’d say that Matrixforce is better than average at social media, but not yet stellar. Social is definitely not going away and no matter what you do, some employees don’t know what is going on without this curious medium. Some of the best information I’ve gotten about Microsoft solutions and offerings has come from Yamjams (kind of like a Reddit IAmA discussion over an hour), in spite of all the e-mails and websites. Overwhelmingly, the best demo of the conference was using Skype real-time translation, where the presenter on stage spoke in English to a woman in Berlin speaking German.
  • Big Data. Microsoft is ahead of the times, with offerings like Power BI (Business Intelligence) to take a series of spreadsheets and quickly create key performance dashboards. Established businesses have been clamoring for a way to make sense of massive information, but small business either won’t be mature enough to appreciate or will need to help to utilize.

More than anything this year, Microsoft continues to demonstrate the ability to adapt and tell their own story such as 88 Acres. While Apple churns out the next Mac and iPhone with no new benefits and Google just continues to increase ad costs, Microsoft is differentiating with productivity and security for business and consumers.

Although most Microsoft detractors are currently dumbfounded by Microsoft’s continued and improving profitability, some in the press couldn’t resist throwing some dirt and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) during WPC. Business Insider released Microsoft to Cut 18,000 Jobs trying to suggest that Microsoft is doing poorly. The first comment hysterically states Microsoft won’t exist in 20 years and then the comments degrade to discussions about H1B workers, even though the article explains that Nokia employees are being downsized from the acquisition. CNBC tried to keep Apple relevant with Apple, IBM in massive enterprise hardware, software partnership. Let’s take an unsecured device and unknown app and try to do business. Besides, IBM makes it money from consulting and financial services today.

Satya Nadella ended the final day keynote with the Nietzsche quote “Courage in the face of reality”. The meaning was really more for partners, as Microsoft has already made the transition to devices and services. The transformation is amazing given the massive size of Microsoft. Maybe Microsoft is using the Mike Michalowicz Pumpin Plan to kill off most partners leaving the 25,000 or so that truly help customers and Microsoft.

My focus for WPC was Azure and digital marketing, two things mid-sized businesses can’t afford to misunderstand. I’ll be briefing Guardian clients during CIO Reviews and if you’d like to know more about what I learned at WPC, please ask questions in the comments below.