Tag : capabilities

Windows Intune – Optimistic View

BVA has been in the cloud for sometime.  Obviously being in the cloud means alot of different things to alot of different people.  Everyone seems to have their own spin on the term.  For some time now we have wondered if Microsoft would come out with System Center for the cloud (BPOS). The overall BPOS solution has been fairly stable and successful yet there have been a few pitfalls but have worked through them with support.

As its core, Windows Intune is a cloud-based version of the desktop management capabilities customers could previously get by deploying Microsoft System Center technologies. For those that do not know that Microsoft System Center, it’s basically a bunch of older product put together via a large suite of applications.  That being said the applications contributed are valid and great products.  It’s basically the old SMS desktop management system and basically MOM.  These are tried and tested application that BVA has deployed for several years, yet all required their own on-premise servers.  Therefore, Window Intune, rather than hosting a System Center server on-premises and managing desktops from the server, administrators using Windows Intune load a client onto the desktops.  Administrators can access, via a browser, the management software and tools in the cloud and manage and secure those desktops through the cloud. In addition to the product features, the monthly subscription will include upgrade rights to Windows 7 Enterprise for every covered desktop and an option to buy the otherwise hard-to-get Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP).

When the first limited beta of Windows Intune arrived in April, Microsoft described it almost exclusively as a midmarket IT-focused offering, with a slightly lower-end core audience than the System Center suite of products reaches. Core capabilities of Windows Intune include the ability to centrally manage the deployment of updates and service packs to PCs, to manage protection of PCs through the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine, to receive alerts that help administrators proactively monitor PCs, provide remote assistance, track hardware and software inventory, and set security policies.  For users familiar with Microsoft’s other product families, Windows Intune combines a Web-based management console with the desktop malware protection and reporting of the Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite and the update management, inventory and software deployment of Microsoft System Center Configuration manager 2007 or Microsoft System Center Essentials. Windows Intune also has the operating system distribution capabilities of Configuration Manager.

After reviewing all the facts it seems that this will be a great offering for our client base.  We are going to try this out at a client next month and we are looking forward to really seeing the real-world applications and cost savings.  I think it is fair to say that I am a little apprehensive about the security associated in imaging desktops through the cloud, but time will tell.  As a collective unit, BVA is staying positive with the security and ease of use.

Capabilities and Limitations of the Apple iPad in a Standard Business Network Environment

The iPad is a great device. It’s light, ultra-portable, and you don’t have to take it out of your carry-on for airport security. It’s sleek and sexy. It’s remarkably versatile. Many people wonder: can I replace my Window laptop or MacBook with it? If I add a Bluetooth keyboard, is it a netbook?

You can try, but it’s like trying to get a Corvette to replace a pickup truck: they both serve the same fundamental purpose, but they each excel at different things. You can try to get your pickup up to 180 MPH, and you can try to haul a ton of bricks in your Corvette. With enough effort, “McGyver”-ing, and aftermarket accessories, you could no doubt accomplish each. But is it a good idea? And if you think it through ahead of time, do you really want to?

The longing to replace a laptop with an iPad is easy to understand. An iPad travels well. It’s simple to connect it to a Wi-Fi network, and you don’t have to wait for it to boot up. The battery lasts. When you’re not working, you can use it to play music, movies, or games. It’s a terrific reader for news and e-books. It’s a great email client for Gmail, AOL, and (if your company’s mail system supports it and the corporate policies allow it) Exchange mail, calendar, and contacts using ActiveSync.

But it’s important to remember that the iPad is NOT a laptop or a tablet PC. And, despite being an Apple product, it’s NOT a MacBook. It isn’t built on Windows or Mac OS X – its operating system (iOS) was originally developed for the iPhone. The interface uses multi-touch gestures and an accelerometer, making possible applications that can’t run on a PC or Mac. That also means that applications written for a PC or Mac can’t run on an iPad – unless the author specifically develops a version for iOS. Even then, they would need to publish their application through the Apple App Store (thus sharing their proceeds with Apple) – or you would need to jailbreak your iPad, voiding the warranty.

Importantly, the iPad (like the iPhone and iPod Touch) does NOT support Adobe Flash or Java, meaning that websites that use those technologies won’t behave as designed. Why not? Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the Adobe product insecure, buggy, battery-intensive, and incompatible with a touch interface.

The iPad is better at consuming information than it is at creating it. It’s great for creating and editing smaller emails and documents, but you’ll want a PC to create large or complex documents. Another challenge: once you’ve created or edited the smaller documents, you can email them from the iPad, but only one file per email. To send multiple files, you need to send multiple emails. This can be pretty cumbersome. You’ll note that as you explore the iPad you won’t even encounter the concept of a “file” as you would on a PC or Mac.

To think of the iPad as a replacement for a netbook, notebook, or MacBook is like thinking of the Corvette as a replacement for a Ford F350. Is it fair to call the iPad an overgrown iPhone? No. It’s a terrific multi-function device with some very valuable business purposes in specific situations. Should you expect it to behave like a Windows machine or Mac? You’ll only end up frustrated if you do.

Love the iPad for what it is, and don’t hate it for what it isn’t. And don’t expect your IT consulting company to help you make it do what it’s not designed to do – they can’t fit a ton of bricks in a Corvette, either.

So… what CAN the iPad do in a business network environment? In other words, what is reasonable to expect your company’s I.T. team to support?

  • Email access. If your company allows remote email access from a smartphone using POP or IMAP protocols, you can do it from your iPad. Note, however, that it’s up to you go get the iPad connected to the Internet on the remote Wi-Fi. If you have a 3G iPad, getting it on the Internet is strictly between you, Apple, and AT&T.
  • Calendar/Contact synchronization – if your company has a fairly new Exchange server and the network is configured to allow ActiveSync access. If you have a non-BlackBerry smartphone that wirelessly syncs Calendar/Contacts, your iPad can also.
  • Remote Desktop to a Terminal Server – if your company has a Terminal Server. If you have access using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection software for either Windows or Mac, you can have access from your iPad. Be sure to get a good RDP app such as iTap RDP, which makes it easier to operate a Windows desktop from with the iPad’s smaller display, and makes the best use of the iPad’s direct manipulation and multi-touch gestures.
  • VPN access. If your company allows VPN connections from other devices, such as an IPSec VPN tunnel to a Cisco firewall or a PPTP connection to a Windows RAS Server, you can have the same connection from your iPad. You might use it to establish a Remote Desktop Connection to your office workstation, if your company’s policies allow this.

Now… what CAN’T you expect your company’s I.T. team to support? Pretty much anything not listed above. At its heart, the iPad is a consumer device, and is probably not included in the list of officially-sanctioned “clients” for your company’s server-based applications. There’s no doubt that the iPad will continue to evolve, and new apps are released every day that enhance its functionality and usefulness. But, as a mobile network device, it presents challenges in terms of data security, bandwidth usage, and compatibility. These translate into significant I.T. support costs, so don’t be too surprised if your company won’t support it.