Manufacturer Boosts Productivity, Morale With IT Overhaul

Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Argus Machine Company has made custom parts and pipeline threading in Canada for oil and gas fields since 1958. But in three buildings totaling 100,000 square feet, unreliable, piecemeal technology was increasingly frustrating some 100 employees.

Workers in its plants rely on software that instructs manufacturing and assembly machines, but frequent network outages forced them to upload commands manually, causing product delays. Staff in sales, marketing, accounting, and administration had a rough time accessing the corporate intranet and documents, as well as the printing, e-mail, and accounting systems.

The existing technology mixed HP tower servers, an IBM e-series blade chassis, and an old VMware ESX 3.0 server with only 2GB of RAM and four memory-starved virtual machines. A broken Microsoft Exchange server with 2GB of RAM constantly swapped out to the hard drive for extra memory. The main server room overheated, sapping the equipment's power and life expectancy.

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Managing Smartphones in Your Business

Over the last decade, smartphones have evolved from relatively simple mobile communications devices to robust palm-sized computing platforms that have transformed travel time from a loathsome efficiency drag to a productive part of any workday. Workers can now go more places with less downtime. But this benefit is offset somewhat by the increased burden they place on IT administrators to effectively provision and maintain them, and the security risks of carrying sensitive data on portable devices.

A recent RingCentral survey illustrates just how attached business professionals have become to their smartphones. An overwhelming 83 percent of those surveyed would give up their morning cup of coffee before parting with their smartphone. Nearly 80 percent cite their smartphone as the phone they use most to conduct business. So it's clear that businesses need to work fast to get control of this essential communications channel.

The Challenges

iPhone

Widely regarded as a consumer toy more than a business tool when it was launched, the iPhone has forced its way into the corporate culture. Apple does not have the same degree of network integration or enterprise capabilities as RIM or Microsoft, but it has developed the tools small businesses need to simplify and centralize management of the iPhone.

iPhone & iPad
The iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0 is available for both Windows and Mac OS X, and provides IT administrators with a robust set of tools to manage iPhones. Passcode policies can be configured and enforced using the iPhone Configuration Utility 2.0. IT administrators can establish that a security passcode is required on the iPhone, and define the parameters for it--length, complexity, expiration. Passcode policy can also be used to set the amount of time before the iPhone auto-lock kicks in, and to set the number of failed logon attempts that occurs before a wipe of all data is triggered.

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Protect Windows XP from Zero-Day Flaw in HCP Protocol

Earlier this week was Microsoft's Patch Tuesday for June--a busy Patch Tuesday with ten new security bulletins fixing 34 different vulnerabilities. However, there is now a publicly disclosed vulnerability with potentially dire consequences that didn't make the list of patches this month. IT administrators need to understand the risks, and act now to mitigate the threat and protect Windows XP systems from the HCP protocol vulnerability.

A Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) blog post explains, "We are aware of a publicly disclosed vulnerability affecting Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. We are not aware of any current exploitation of this issue and customers running Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008 R2, are not vulnerable to this issue, or at risk of attack." [the emphasis is Microsoft's, not mine]

Andrew Storms, director of security operations for nCircle, commented via e-mail, "Microsoft has had a zero day every month this year, and in their position as the industry leader in enterprise security standards, this has got to be disheartening for them. It's also not doing their reputation in the security community any good."

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The Case for Holding Out for Windows Phone 7

Microsoft is coming fashionably late to the next-generation smartphone party. New cutting edge Android devices seem to come out monthly, and Apple just unveiled its big iPhone overhaul for 2010, but with Windows Phone 7 looming on the horizon, businesses may have reason to delay any decision until they can directly compare the benefits and drawbacks of all three platforms.

The headlines have been dominated by smartphones like the HTC Incredible, HTC EVO 4G, and this week's launch of the next-generation iPhone 4. It seems as if iPhone and Android are the only two smartphone platforms, but the reality is they aren't even the top smartphone platforms.

In fact, RIM is still the number one smartphone platform, with more market share than second place Apple and third place Microsoft combined. Android, while it has been gaining significantly since its launch, is still the fourth place smartphone platform with only 60 percent as much market share as Microsoft.

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Productivity On the Go with Office Web Apps

Microsoft Office Web Apps are officially live online. Businesses that rely on the Microsoft Office productivity suite now have new cloud-based options that foster sharing and collaboration with peers and partners, and enable mobile business professionals to remain productive using virtually any Web-enabled device from anywhere in the world with Web access.

You can now go to office.live.com, log in with a Windows Live ID, and launch the online equivalents of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. The online functionality is much more limited than what the actual desktop versions of the Microsoft Office applications are capable of, but they do provide a Web-based alternative for creating, viewing, and editing Microsoft Office files.

The features that are there are familiar and consistent with the interface users are accustomed to seeing when working with Microsoft Office. What's better is that files maintain their look and feel--or fidelity--when switching from Microsoft Office to Office Web Apps and back.

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Patch Tuesday Updates Fix Critical Flaws in IE and DirectShow

Microsoft's Patch Tuesday for June 2010 is here. Microsoft released a total of 10 new security bulletins, addressing 34 separate vulnerabilities, including critical flaws in DirectShow and the Internet Explorer Web browser. Let's turn to some industry experts and security professionals for additional insight on the Microsoft security bulletins, and perspective on how to prioritize and protect against the potential threats.

June is another big month for Microsoft Patch Tuesday with 10 new security bulletins.
Seven of the security bulletins are rated as Important, while the remaining three are Critical. The Critical security bulletins include MS10-033 for DirectShow, and MS10-035 which addresses six different vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.

Joshua Talbot, security intelligence manager for Symantec Security Response, points out that "This is the largest Microsoft patch release of 2010 and ties the record for the most vulnerabilities ever addressed in a single month; a record set in October of last year. This month's release also features the largest ever single bulletin, with 14 vulnerabilities in Excel being addressed together."

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IOS4 v. Android 2.2: Which is Better for Business?

With the launch of IOS4 -- the rebranded iPhone OS 4 -- and the recent unveiling of Android 2.2, the leading edge smartphones have new OS platforms to build on. There are a lot of cool "bells and whistles" type features in both, but when it comes to deploying the smartphone as a business tool, which OS is better for business?

The new iPhone 4 will come with the latest IOS4 operating system.
Perhaps neither of these smartphone platforms is "best" for the enterprise environment. RIM is the leading smartphone platform by a wide margin, and even third-place Windows Mobile -- now Windows Phone 7 when the next generation hits the streets -- is a more established business tool with tighter enterprise integration.

However, iPhone and Android are the best smartphones in general available right now, so business professionals and IT administrators need to be able to weigh which is better for their business needs.

For IT Administrators

Availability. IOS4 will be available as a free platform update for existing iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPod Touch devices later this month. When the iPhone 4 launches on June 24 it will also be equipped with IOS4. Apple has only one hardware platform and only one supported OS version, so there is more stability and consistency in terms of managing the devices.

The Sprint EVO is the most advanced Android phone available today and beats the iPhone on paper in many areas.
Android is a much more fragmented platform. Android 2.2 has been rolled out to the Nexus One, and is expected to be officially available on other platforms "soon". However some Android smartphones may never get the update.

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