Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Enterprise IT cloud wish list for 2012

For the past two years, enterprises have been asking themselves one of the most important questions in IT: “What role can cloud computingplay in my business?” While most enterprises believe they’ve come to better understand cloud, few can confidently answer the question of its role.

With surveys showing that enterprises have rejected more cloud installments than they’ve accepted, it seems that more IT admins can more easily explain what cloud can’t do.

It’s not that enterprises want the cloud to fail; evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. However, cloud hasn’t met expectations in several areas and enterprises still don’t have all the answers they need.

So, what are enterprises missing from the cloud? This cloud wish list outlines the top five features cloud computing needs to succeed.

"It’s not that enterprises want the cloud to fail; evidence to the contrary is overwhelming. However, cloud hasn’t met expectations in several areas and enterprises still don’t have all the answers they need"
1. Cost-effective strategy for mass storage
The high cost of hosting a core repository in the cloud has been the largest barrier to cloud adoption. On the other hand, departmental-level server deployment exploded in the past five years because of low storage costs -- $100 buys 2 GB. Though the price for enterprise-grade storage is five times that or more, cloud storage costs 10 to 30 times as much. Until cloud storageprices drop to match enterprise-grade storage, the majority of enterprises will stay away from mass storage in the cloud.

2. Seamless, holistic methods for hierarchical storage
There are already multiple technology options for storing data in the data center -- in-memory, flash drives and rotating media. Cloud adds another layer, and if we presume that cloud storage will develop price and performance tiers, it could add two more layers. To control the migration of data between layers, cloud planners want a virtual storage map for on-premises and cloud storage that’s based on policies for access efficiency, price and availability.

3. Standard set of management APIs for SaaS, PaaS and Iaas
Technologists familiar with network and device management know that each class of network device has a basic management information base (MIB) that can be extended for special devices or vendor features. They’d like the same for the cloud; basic problem determination and management standards across multiple providers and cloud models -- Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

4. Comprehensive and auditable way to manage cloud security
Most enterprises don’t name security as the primary barrier to cloud adoption; cost holds that position. But all will agree that where costs permit cloudsourcing, security issues are a major headache. Steps toward government certifications for cloud data security are helpful but not definitive, particularly in the private sector.

"A major underlying problem with cloud projects may stem from enterprises’ misconceptions and false expectations of the technology’s benefits."

Enterprises need an audit practice that would verify risk levels and validate protection methods. Some providers offer these capabilities, but enterprises are lukewarm on the state of the security-management space overall. If and when cost issues are resolved for the cloud, security will be the next major hurdle.

5. Realistic coverage of the cloud market, with accurate data on costs and benefits
A major underlying problem with cloud projects may stem from enterprises’ misconceptions and false expectations of the technology’s benefits. Senior operations management, conditioned by claims that the cloud will save money as a large-scale replacement for internal IT, have pushed cloud adoption to applications for which there are no proven benefits. IT admins expressing doubt about market claims have been ignored. It would be extremely helpful, cloud professionals say, if senior management launched cloud projects with a true sense of the benefits and downsides.

A cloud wish list isn’t as discouraging as it may seem. In fact, it’s a hopeful sign for cloud adoption. With any new technology there’s initial confusion on where, when and how to apply it to meet business return-on-investment goals. Any pilot project will create real issues; every market depends on a harmony of value between buyers and sellers. These five cloud wishes are key to achieving cloud harmony in the enterprise.

By: Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


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Using Dropbox for corporate file sharing

If you’re an IT professional who has grown tired of fighting employees’ Dropbox use for corporate file sharing, there are ways to embrace the service and tailor its use to your company’s needs.

Dropbox allows users to store documents in the cloud and access them across a number of devices. Users can also share documents and specify which collaborators can access which folders. For corporate file sharing, Dropbox for Teams gives more control to IT administrators.
Both Dropbox and Dropbox for Teams have a place in the corporate world. Either way, employees benefit from the easy-to-use file-sharing capabilities they want at work.

Dropbox in corporate environments

With the consumer version of Dropbox, installation occurs on a user-by-user basis, and data security is left up to individuals as well.
To set up Dropbox, all a user has to do is sign up and download the Dropbox client onto his or her devices. The desktop client creates a folder that appears to be local but actually stores its contents in the cloud. By default, everything in the Dropbox folder is synchronized to the local computer, but users can specify which folders need to be synchronized and which don’t. This capability is great for devices with limited storage space, because if a user doesn’t need a certain file on his device, he or she can just keep it in the cloud.

Users can share entire folders in Dropbox, even with people outside of their own company’s IT infrastructure. On a typical Windows server, users can share files only with others in the same Active Directory. But with Dropbox, corporate file sharing is done through emailed links, which are not tied to corporate user identities. To share a Dropbox folder, all a user has to do is right-click it, select the option to share it and enter the email addresses of the intended collaborators.

Corporate file sharing with Dropbox for Teams

Dropbox for Teams takes the cloud service to the corporate level, adding more IT controls and making Dropbox a viable alternative to corporate file servers. With Dropbox for Teams, administrators can place users into groups that all access the same folders. Establishing a team of up to five users with 100 GB of storage space costs $795 a year.
From the corporate perspective, the most important benefit of Dropbox for Teams is that it allows for the separation of personal user information from corporate data. (Existing users can continue to utilize their personal accounts and convert them into Teams accounts, however.) IT controls access to the data in the Dropbox for Teams account, and keeping that data separate reduces the chances of a user accidentally confusing files and sharing corporate data with the wrong people.