We’ve all seen the graphs showing data growing exponentially, and how much data has been created in the last two years, and how much data we are all going to create in the future, so it’s natural that we talk about the Volume (V1) of data.
Then, there is numerous sources of data, all different that we are having to deal with, our next accepted fact is that the is a large Variety (V2) of data coming in.
Next, we talk about the speed of data creation, the Velocity (V3), with new sources comes a new generation of data sources, presenting an ever-increasing problem for vendors and customers alike.
Also, multiple disparate sources of data lead to a Variance (V4) in quality and data types , in turn leading to further problems for staff.
However, the most important V is Value, the value quality data can bring to a business, the competitive advantage it bestows, and the ability to change the entire business direction.
We hear ‘Data is the New Oil’; it’s not a view I subscribe to. As oil needs to be refined and treated properly to become of use, so data must be treated properly to deliver true business value. Which is why I believe the Ps of data are much more important than the universally accepted Vs.
The first important P is PREPARATION. As oil need to be refined to provide benefit, so data needs to be understood and nurtured to allow the data-driven business to exist. It’s critically important to understand data sources, and the ultimate desired outcome. Once sources are identified data needs to be ingested, this is now where we get onto the topic of Edge Computing, but I’ll save that for next time.
Data then needs to be cleansed to ensure quality, erroneous and duplicate entries need to be removed, driving true quality into data sets is crucial to deliver the desired outcome in the most efficient manner.
Then the next P comes into play; PLATFORM. Prepared data needs to reside on the optimum platform to allow the creation of intelligent business Information. The platform should align with the criticality of the content to the business. This can be on-premises or Cloud as appropriate. Obviously some data needs to remain in a datacenter, however Cloud-based platforms can now offer previously unachievable levels of performance. Whilst the Edge-Core-Cloud model still prevails it is important to investigate options, both in terms of performance & cost, ensuring user requirements are met is paramount.
Once PREPARED & PLATFORMED, the real benefits can be achieved; PRODUCTIVITY. This is where the only important V is relevant; business Value. The ability to use data, and it’s more important sibling, Information to transform a business is at the true heart of digital transformation. There are simply too many use cases to list, but simply defining smart initiatives and involving key stakeholders across the business will allow organisations to identify and validate their use cases, and quickly gain a competitive advantage. They can become truly Data-Driven.
The Final P is probably the most important; PROFIT. The Data-Driven business will simply out-perform their competition. The ability to PROFIT from data does not necessarily have to be commercial, it can translate in many ways.
So, next time someone talks about volume and velocity, remember the four Ps are the real key to data value;
….and I didn’t even mention PROTECT. Until the next time…
Let’s face it, nobody likes passwords, but now that everything we access exists online, they are hard to escape. As organisations look to consume more SaaS applications and cloud-based services, they will be faced with not only new security risks but also increased costs: 20% of support calls are about forgotten passwords. At a time when digital identity has never been more important, could we be contemplating the possibility of passwords being a thing of the past?
As we’ve seen in the news, people will often create the simplest password they can get away with to make it easier to remember. The drive to keep us secure is now in itself a security risk. Here’s some advice from one security website I found ‘a phrase like “security breeds success” can become a password of “S3curityBr33d$Succ3$$” ‘. Brilliant, thanks for that. I’ve typed my password in 15 times today and it’s only 2pm. A BBC article, in 2004, revealed that more than 70% of people would tell someone their password in exchange for a chocolate bar. Now that is a long time ago and most people are more aware now, but phishing remains the easiest way to gain access to account information, largely in more sophisticated ways than bribery through Lion bar but the outcome is the same.
The proliferation of systems we authenticate to every day means multiple usernames and passwords, which has led to Identity Access Management (IAM) being a major focus for our customers. IAM solves the problem through single sign-on but the importance of that single password then becomes even greater. You can, of course, add another layer of security by implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) but let’s be honest no-one likes that either. By that I mean no-one likes traditional MFA, where you end up having to remember a password, a PIN and carry a hardware token around with you. Multi-factor is the key to this problem, we must just implement and view it differently.
Consumerisation influences all areas of IT. Our expectation has become that how we use technology at home should be reflected in how we use it at work. Vendors appreciate this and have benefited by trialling products in the consumer world to gain experience before bringing it into organisations.
We love the fact that we can use our fingerprints, or face, to authenticate to applications on our smartphones and it’s that user experience that we have started to expect at work. Websites, however, can be accessed from any device and so need a different solution. Those solutions are now being trialled by companies like Microsoft and Google. Both of whom allow you to access services using only your phone as a source of authentication. I can’t remember the last time I used my password to access my Outlook account from a device that I trust. In fact, I’m not even sure what my Outlook password is.
In business-to-employee security, organisations are starting to adopt Windows Hello for Business to alleviate the password problem but a barrier to adoption will be a reliance on the hardware required to support it. It also requires everyone to be running a Windows Operating System which goes against the trend of increasing device choice. Solutions that make use of smartphone technology are agnostic of primary device, they also benefit from often being more up to date than many people’s laptops and something your unlikely to ever be very far from. This should make us consider the additional use cases and possibility of allowing business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions to have a similar simple and secure mechanism to enable people to prove who they are. This would truly digitise many traditional businesses and services, from mortgage applications, to insurance services, money transfers, and more.
The traditional view of authentication is based upon three common factors; something you know (your password), something you have and something you are. Biometrics, along with industry standard authentication specifications (like WebAuthn and FIDO2), can remove the inconvenience of that first factor thus delivering an enhanced user experience, while reducing cost and simultaneously improving security.
Just imagine for a moment that you’ve just changed your Windows password for the last time. Picture never having to click a ‘reset my password’ link ever again. It’s a lovely thought and the reality is not that far away. Until then try taking a phrase from your favourite film, replacing various letters with numbers, adding some random capitals and try to squeeze an ampersand in somewhere just to be on the safe side. Don’t forget to repeat that across all your accounts and be prepared to make changes every 60 days.
World waits to see what it means.
Microsoft have almost always done virtual desktops, well, published desktops at any rate. So, why, since its announcement at last year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, has Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) generated such interest? Last week, it was finally released as a public beta, so now we can validate whether WVD is aimed at small and medium businesses or can really compete in the Enterprise space.
Cloud desktop adoption is growing as organisations move more applications out of their datacentres and increase their consumption of SaaS, thus reducing the need to site resources locally. The attraction of the ability to deliver a disaster recovery platform without investing in ageing hardware is a compelling one. Similarly, the ability to deliver any virtualised desktop platform without paying for compute upfront removes a barrier to adoption. So far, VMware and Citrix’s Cloud desktop offerings have tried to remain platform agnostic, so can Microsoft make a success of an offering that limits you to only Azure? Here at four features that may convince you.
If you’re a Microsoft 365 E3/E5, Windows E3/E5 or M365 Business/F1 you are already licensed for it. You will, of course, still need to pay for your Azure VMs and any supporting solutions, but it removes the need for the additional cost of desktop virtualisation licensing.
- Windows 7 support
It should come as no surprise to any of you that Windows 7 goes EOL in January 2020. If you haven’t migrated all your desktops to Windows 10 and wish to remain supported, you are going to have to pay for that extended support unless you migrate those Windows 7 desktops to Azure. With WVD you will continue to receive security patches for the full three-year term, if needed, at no cost.
- Windows 10 multi-user support
Windows 10 multi-user is a feature of Azure, rather than WVD specifically, and will come with native Office 365 support. The expectation is that providing a session-based desktop on a client OS will give greater application compatibility, better GPU integration, and an improved user experience than you get with on a server OS. It also gives you an alternative solution for when support for Office 365 is dropped from Windows Server 2019.
- Office 365 support optimisation
Through Microsoft’s acquisition of FSLogix, WVD offers support for Office 365 in non-persistent desktops through their layering technology. This means you can deliver your desktops in the most cost-effective way while maintaining user experience and performance.
So, this is great, WVD will replace the need for additional licensing from Citrix and VMware? Well, don’t forget Microsoft has always delivered basic services in this area and other vendors have enhanced that functionality for people that needed it. So, is WVD any different? At present, Citrix can sell WVD (there’s a whole other discussion here…) and intend to offer Citrix DaaS as an enhancement but what that means isn’t clear. VMware have yet to make any announcement but continue to develop their own Azure offering to rival Horizon Cloud on AWS.
The Microsoft of today is all about agility. WVD is only at the public beta stage, over the coming weeks and months, we’ll see the product rapidly mature I’m sure. But, and it’s a big but, do you want to put everything into Azure? Every customer I talk to has a multi-cloud strategy. Even those that have gone heavily into Azure are transforming their applications to microservices and containers to simplify their portability. Perhaps Microsoft will look to use Azure Stack to extend their functionality to on-prem. They are unlikely, however, to ever allow you to run workloads in other Clouds. In the past Microsoft had little incentive to make massive investments in RDS because every Citrix or VMware license pulled through a Windows one. Now though, those investments are going to drive Azure consumption. Citrix and VMware both have mature virtualisation solutions that offer flexibility as well as wider desktop portfolios, but will it be enough to fight of this new competition?
If you are looking at a tactical desktop virtualisation project and/or you have decided that Azure is the platform for you, WVD needs to be considered. Let’s not forget that this solution hasn’t even been released yet, but Computacenter are certainly investing time to understand what it means for us and what it will mean for our customers.
Iain Mobberley, a new member of the Computacenter family, reflects back on the past seven months he has been with the company.
So this will be my first blog since joining Computacenter UK to drive our Public Cloud go-to-market in July 2018. What a seven months that has been.
I have just returned from our Group Kick Off which was in Berlin. Anyone that has experienced this either at Computacenter or at other business will understand just how exhausting a few days that can be. This was both a celebration of the company’s performance during FY18 and a look forward to the financial year that we have just started.
This was also about recognition of outstanding performances from team members and business units across 2018. The anticipation of the individuals with regards their individual recognition is somewhat unprecedented. To all that received recognition, I congratulate you. It should of course not go unmentioned that this is almost singularly focussed at the ‘front end ‘of our business. The leadership, the sellers, the marketeers, the partner managers, the technologists and the partners. There is a vast staff within the business that of course ‘makes it all happen’. My focus here though is the part of the business I work in, the part I have very quickly grown to love.
Why? Well that is a very simple answer; there is great leadership, a fantastic culture which works in partnership internally and externally whether it be with our customers or our suppliers.
This has led me to think back to when I was looking for a new role back in 2018. Almost a year ago I was starting to think about what I wanted to do next. There is a huge amount of choice. I took time to identify what was important to me. I was looking for brand in the market, great people, culture and a sense of strong leadership. Oh, and scale! Well, I can confirm all of that is present in Computacenter and more.
Now, I believe that two of the hardest things to get right within a business are culture and leadership. Lots of businesses talk about guiding principles, they often talk about culture, often leaders state their aims but in reality, culture and leadership come from the top. This is exemplified by Mike Norris, Computacenter’s Group CEO. It cascades very quickly through a seasoned group leadership team to a set of country managers that reflect this, embrace it, and provide a huge amount of energy to the business and its employees. One of my original conversations at interview with the UK & Ireland MD, Neil Hall (@NeilHall75), was about culture, fit and leadership. I do not think in the history of my employment I have often witnessed these principles being exhibited by so many. Not just Mike, Neil or others, but by every individual within the organisation. It is quite staggering. It is not that every individual is a leader per se, but every single person reflects a fantastic set of values within the business and reflects them in everything that they do.
There are too many highlights to call out from the last couple of days, but I thought it worth identifying a few; three to be precise.
The first was during the UK&I Country session where we were joined by new colleagues from CC America (more later). It was quite brilliant, to see Lizee Butler for her first time take to the ‘big stage’, in front of a large audience and then to talk with so much passion about people, equality, respect and to open our eyes to always be fair and considerate in everything we do was just amazing.
The second was the story that Kevin James (@K22KJJ) our Group Commercial Officer told on the second day about our partnership with Dell Technologies. Wow! The story was described in the very traditional Computacenter way. However, the compelling thing that clearly came through was leadership and partnership. A joint desire to make a success of something which at the very start looked to be built on slightly rocky foundations. The determination of a team of people to achieve great heights was clear. Our customers now benefit hugely from this strong partnership and long may that continue.
The last was from our Group CEO. The essence of the organisation encapsulates his passion, determination and ability to celebrate when appropriate and steer and lead when needed. The way he commanded respect during the formal sessions and celebrated through the team in the celebration sessions was something to behold.
So lastly, I said I would mention @ComputacenterUS . This part of our business is relatively new. Here are a group of individuals that seem like-minded, passionate and seemingly have embraced everything that is Computacenter. It is astonishing that parts of this business have only been with us since the last quarter of FY18 following the acquisition of FusionStorm. It was hugely interesting to see how the business as a whole has welcomed the new employees to the business but for me the hand of friendship extended by the UK team to help accelerate the partnership and culture seems to be a key to success.
So why write this short blog post and why at this time? The answer is simple really; the decision to join a business can be a daunting prospect, at any level. The questions asked are often: am I a good fit? Is the business a good fit for me? Can I be successful? Well, after seven months I find that Computacenter is everything it claims to be and more. If you are considering a change in employment and important values to you are #celebration #leadership #culture and #partnership then look no further than Computacenter.
Iain is Director for Sales Development, Platform & Hybrid IT at Computacenter UK.
We’ve known this date is coming for a while, but today marks exactly one year to the end of Windows 7 support, and therefore the deadline date for your transformation to a “Modern Client” platform such as Windows 10.
No doubt you’ve been thinking about this a lot, and many organisations are already progressing their activities to meet this deadline. However there may be some who are taking a different approach, and asking themselves “what exactly is there to worry about” – for example:
- Nothing will actually stop working on January 14 2020 – if we’re still on Windows 7 it will continue to work – wont it?
- Microsoft announced last year that they were extending support for Windows 7 through to 2023 – didn’t they?
- We’ve been told the transition to Windows 10 is the simplest and easiest yet – isn’t it?
All of the above statements are true, to a degree, but I’d like to flip the conversation around. The market has been dominated with the impact of “Windows as a Service” (Evergreen) and the challenges and problems that a regular update cycle will present. The above questions pose more of a “Why do I need to?” rather than a “Why should I?”. Let’s answer both.
Why do I need to move off Windows 7 by January 14th 2020?
- Microsoft will stop providing security and update patches on this date, leaving your devices exposed to security vulnerabilities and your organisation potentially open to compliance issues.
- The “Extended Support Updates” to 2023 are not free – and the price is high for something that’s not moving you forward at all.
- Your organisation and users are using 10 year old technology (Windows 7 was released in 2009). Think about what has changed in the technology world in 10 years and the opportunities you are inevitably missing out on by using old tech
- Your application providers and partners will be modernising their solutions to work on modern technology and keep pace with the market. How long will they support the “legacy?”
So that’s the negative, arguably the “FUD” angle. Now look at this the other way around:
Why should I be running a modern platform such as Windows 10?
- Significant security enhancements within the Operating System, and integrated in the hardware to mitigate security threats of the modern connected world.
- Enhanced mobility with an effective touch interface – meaning your users can work flexibly on the device of their choice in an array of location and circumstances.
- A modern look and feel – more commensurate with what people are used to at home, supporting the ethos of “Digital Workplace”.
- Better user experiences – higher performance, more stable, more functionality, and more regularly updated
There are a range of other benefits, these are just a few examples – but it’s clear there should be a “Pull” to upgrade as well as a “Push”.
Or from another perspective….
So all of this is logical and evolutionary. What about a more radical revolutionary approach?
In the world of consumer choice, cloud services and pervasive mobility there are other options. You don’t need to continually furrow a Windows platform strategy. What about adopting Apple to delight your users? We’re seeing significant growth of Mac in enterprise and it’s viable for all use cases now. What about alternative technology types? Does it need to be a PC – what about a Tablet or Smartphone to help your users mobility to be productive and improve customer service? With some minor tweaks you can radically change your workflows and provide a step change in how you engage your customers and enable your people.
There are various options – the point is you don’t NEED to relentlessly pursue a Windows only option – there are now very viable alternatives.
Either way, it’s going to be a busy 2019 – and its only just begun! So if you need any help to get started or accelerate your activities, feel free to get in touch
Happy New Year and I hope the festive break was “a break”. Some continue to work throughout the festive season (or the global economy would meltdown), but for many back to work for 2019 started in earnest this week. I have so far avoided 2019 “predictions”, “prophecies”, “educated articulation of interesting stuff” to date based on so many of them circulating the social media and email landscape. However, a fair few messages asking for a perspective on the networking and security world for 2019 have stimulated me to scribble a few words.
And here comes the shock, I will be quite boring with my summary of the market and technology impacts for 2019 (well at least the first half) because I will continue to encourage to all who will listen that the most important edict they can institutionalize in their own psyche and the organisational operational IT approach is to ensure the basics are “brilliant”. Modern business should only have a single state, secure business with an unintentionally insecure environment almost unthinkable in the digital age. As the creation, processing, analysis and management of digital data streams continue to underpin and energize both user and business outcomes an intentionally secure by design philosophy is the only way to stem the attack tide.
Security isn’t the task of security professionals alone, but every application or system user with a level of consciousness about the consequence of breach or failure must now acknowledge “intentional security” is the responsibility of all.
Ensuring the basics are brilliant, with security controls mapped to business activity, outcome and consequence, with auditing and automation leveraged to optimize operations will increase the level of certainly of a user or organisations security posture.
· Privileged account security
· Multi factor authentication
· Managed encryption.
· Vulnerability management PLUS
· Identity management PLUS
· Enterprise anti phishing with associated user education
· Intelligent endpoint security (user or things)
Can you embrace how boring the list above may seem – hopefully that’s the case. The list above are subset of the “Brilliant Basics” that MUST underpin the secure defences of all. You are possibly about to click away from this screen buoyed by the view “we have got all of those” and that may be the case. But even with great guidance from Cyber Essentials, CIS, NIST, etc many organisations I meet are a snippet of “luck” away from a comprehensive breach due to absence, failure or poor execution of the controls above with the negative consequence avoidable.
If there is no auditable and actively managed operational state of the items mentioned above integrated together to ensure security is seamless, intentional, proactive why consider the wealth of advanced and esoteric new products showcased daily – get the basics right.
So my 2019 ask so early in the year is to be brutal and rigorously appraise the brilliance of your “basic” security controls. Are they operational consistent, audited, integrated, holistic, bidirectional from an information and threat exchange, automated where possible – score your current state.
Why make it easier to be breached when organisations highly engineered, often very expensive, operational complex defences fail due to the failure to control the controllables or optimise the known basic elements.
Until next time.
LOB CTO – Networking and Security Computacenter UK
Note: This perspective is the viewpoint of Colin Williams and does not constitute an opinion of Computacenter Group.
This must be the “strangest” of strange states as our consumer society evolves from zero “Black Fridays” to two – and gives my original article a second lease of life. The early bird resellers launched Black Friday part one last week attempting to steal a march on the masses, but the real frenzy and furore starts now with the default Black Friday fast approaching followed by Cyber Monday just around the corner.
These two shopping days were absent from my childhood as I lived a world of window shopping that on the odd occasions evolved to in store browsing when I sought to interact and engage with the myriad of products I hoped I could one day afford to buy. Click and collect didn’t exist but via a very thick paper based catalogue “click and deliver” was a highly rewarding activity with the click of buttons on the home phone followed by that feeling of Christmas when the catalogue item was delivered via the postal service (nothing ever fitted or looked as amazing as the catalogue pictures).
But as we fast forward to the present day with frequent announcements of the demise of the high street, much of our in store browsing is online (and frequently from a mobile device), click and collect / deliver an essential way of life and our approach to product selection and purchasing is now unrecognisable from a decade ago. Our immersion in social networks, digital procurement platforms and financial systems have helped to make many of us digital by default when we shift into product buying mode because the sheer breadth of offerings and convenience is unmatched.
But it comes with a health risk. The “digital me (or you)” and our always on entity existing on both known and unknown public platforms, ensures we become valid targets for attackers seeking to emulate our digital personas for financial gain. Black Friday signals the start of one of the busiest and most frenzied trading weekends of the year. The mix of in store and online price reductions results in both “want and need” based purchasing to ensure “too good to be true” deals are not missed, culminating on Cyber Monday with an online price war second to none.
Secure business, secure purchasing, secure user experience are often assumed by customers without a second thought of the cyber threat spectre waiting in the wings. This leaves many combing the net for deals, offers, codes or any other digital token to make “cheap” even “cheaper”, blissfully unware that many of those “benefits” are fake, malware ridden or designed to harvest personal credentials for future use.
Cyber Monday 2017 surpassed $6.7bn of sales which for both retailers and cyber treat actors is a prize too lucrative to ignore (stat CNBC). For retailers, getting the security basics right will be essential to ensure successful and secure consumer trading outcomes. DDOS mitigation, enhanced phishing protection, web application security, anti-malware, access review and least privilege are essential controls that must be tested and optimised in advance of the starting gun for Black Friday.
For consumers / users, education and heightened levels of cyber vigilance plus a realisation that too good to be true – “is too good to be true” when interacting with online systems prior to and beyond the Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend. This is the time of year where spam and phishing Email volumes reach unprecedented levels with social engineering used to make those “offers” too compelling to ignore. DONT CLICK emails for “amazing deals and offers” – pure and simple as a moment of weakness may result in malware, ransomware or other forms of compromise taking hold of your digital persona and potentially that of your company. Its safer to visit the website of the vendor in question “directly”, no need to click a link that may not be from the company in question.
If you want to be “online smart” a few simple things can deliver HUGE security enhancements to your Black Friday shopping experience. Ensure you turn on the two-factor (or multi) authentication and notification options on your various online email services and accounts with further security improvements gained by using a password manager to ensure different passwords are applied to various services you use.
Building the walls higher just won’t do, both vendors and consumers must work in tandem to ensure the most secure possible online and digital trading experience is realised by all reducing the potential for data breach or subsequent misuse.
Safe and happy shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 (and beyond).
Until next time.
LOB CTO UK: Networking and Security – Computacenter UK