‘Our home page should be attractive, simple and helpful …’
Add a Little Razzle-Dazzle
Still to Come
This article excerpt, by Joelle Farley, originally appeared here: http://www.cmswire.com/social-…/
We can’t really it hammer it home any more than we have – it would benefit your business to switch to Office 365. With rare exception, we’re recommending Office 365 to most of our small and medium-sized business clients. In fact, we’ve been talking about it for quite some time on the blog. If you’ve been considering a migration because of licensing or equipment costs – know that there’s another reason to consider it: your employees. Check out these three reasons your employees need you to switch to Office 365:
Employee happiness is about more than annual raises and BBQ events. It’s a comprehensive undertaking. Technology plays a massive role in the satisfaction of your employees, and every moment they have to spend working on subpar technology is contributing to their level of engagement with your organization. If you want to employ savvy, quick people, you need innovative, quicker technology. Take a moment and assess the true impact that a transition like this can have on your employees and consider making the switch to Office 365.
This article excerpt, by Business 2 Community author Buddy Marti, originally appeared here: http://www.business2community….
This article excerpt, by Business 2 Community author Buddy Marti, originally appeared here: http://www.business2community….
Microsoft announced this week that it has acquired the assets from Event Zeroto improve its Skype for Business online offering. The terms of the deal have not been disclosed.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Microsoft said the acquisition of the technology assets underlying the UC Commander product suite from Event Zero will allow the company to improve the built-in management tools for Skype for Business.
Event Zero, a provider of management software for Skype for Business Online, will continue to serve its customers and partners.
“Our goal is to make the Skype for Business management tools as powerful and easy-to-use for IT professionals as Skype is for end users,” Zig Serafin, corporate vice president, engineering, Skype for Business said in a statement. “Today, customers of our calling and conferencing services can use the Office 365 administration center to acquire and assign phone numbers to their users in minutes, view reports of audio and video conferencing usage, and quickly access aggregated call quality information using our Call Quality Dashboard. In the future, using the technology acquired today, we will be able to add strong diagnostics and troubleshooting capabilities with even more extensive reporting and analytics for online audio, video conferencing and media streams — all within a unified management and admin system.”
According to a blog post by Microsoft, the company plans to integrate Event Zero’s monitoring, reporting and analytics capabilities with Skype for Business Online management tools.
Serafin said Microsoft would share more details about the integration in the coming months.
This article excerpt, by Talkin Cloud author Nicole Henderson, originally appeared here: http://talkincloud.com/cloud-computing-mergers-and-acquisitions/microsoft-acquisition-beef-skype-business-management-tools
This article excerpt, by author Paul Bolt, originally appeared here: http://blog.rackspace.com/shift-happens-cloud-migration-azure/
As the amount of data generated by always-connected consumers continues to increase, IT departments are scrambling to deploy technologies that are able to put that data to use. Understanding how to safely leverage this data using established business systems is a major challenge. Historically, this task fell to legacy identity and access management (IAM) technologies, which could easily manage hundreds or thousands of corporate employee identities and devices. Customer identities and devices, however, number in the millions, and managing that much data exposes several shortcomings in traditional IAM technology.
Scale and Scope
The largest on-premises IAM systems are designed to accommodate users and devices that number in the hundreds of thousands – occasionally, millions. Managing consumer-generated data can multiply those numbers by 100 or more. In addition, IAM solutions integrate primarily with internal applications and processes in order to simplify and enhance the employee or partner experience. Managing consumer identities entails integration with a set of applications that have different functionalities and purposes.
IAM systems are built on highly structured, relational data schemas. However, the majority of consumer data is unstructured. In order for these unstructured attributes to have value, they must be normalized so they can be queried alongside structured data.
IAM providers use perimeter-based security measures that are less-effective when handling customer identity data that must interact with multiple third-party services and identity providers, while remaining relevant and secure as profiles are progressively built over time.
Initially, IT professionals addressed these shortcomings by adapting IAM systems or building custom solutions themselves. Now, specialized customer identity and access management (cIAM) vendors are developing cloud-based platforms to manage the volumes of unstructured consumer data and generate actionable insights. Best-in-breed cIAM systems feature:
- Enhanced user experiences – Self-service registration and password management plus single sign-on access across websites, mobile applications and other Web properties reduces friction and drives customer engagement.
- Valuable customer insights – Omni-channel data synchronization maintains a single, definitive customer view gained through functionality – such as progressive profiling – which provides a deeper understanding of customers and builds trust over time.
- Security and compliance – API-focused transactional security, data encryption and redundancy, plus automatic compliance with social network privacy policies and government regulations keep businesses safe and compliant in a changing marketplace.
- Robust cloud platform – The cloud’s flexibility enables plug-and-play integrations that accelerate time-to-market, as well as scalable architectures for rapid change and growth. The streamlined deployment process reduces development costs associated with custom integrations.
Cloud-based cIAM platforms offload the burden of safely managing structured and unstructured customer data. The technology excels at connecting multiple APIs in a multi-tenant environment, delivers extreme operational flexibility, and includes built-in software integrations for greater agility and flexibility. Customer and internal data assets remain discreet, minimizing the impact of breaches.
Security Takes Center Stage
Cloud and on-premises solutions face the same types of attacks and breaches. According to a 2014 Alert Logic Cloud Security Report, overall attacks remain much more likely to occur in on-premises environments than in the cloud. But, breaches are on the rise in cloud-based environments, likely due to wider adoption of cloud-based over on-premises solutions, and the migration of “higher value” data into the cloud. In response, cloud providers strive to build strong security measures into their core architectures.
Cloud-based cIAM platforms rely on API-focused security, rather than firewalls, which tend to control access for classes of users. These identity-based security policies have evolved with cloud technology. API-based protocols used by identity providers have a largely open-source background, allowing them to easily adapt. Best practices for working with self-provisioned identities indicate that each transaction should carry within it the attributes required to authenticate and authorize users.
Since leveraged customer data will typically be acted on at many endpoints, best-in-breed cIAM solutions have strong authentication, authorization and auditing policies in place, such as OAuth 2.0 and SAML. In addition, personally identifiable information is encrypted when stored and transmitted. Strong roles and permissions policies enforce tight control over user access, and robust audit logging tracks errors and bugs in the system.
Finally, risk-based authentication minimizes friction for users by evaluating risk on each login instance and triggering a two-factor authentication only when necessary. As the “Internet of Things” grows in scale and complexity, this methodology will become increasingly important for practically all digital transactions.
Best-in-breed cIAM platforms also provide auto-compliance with data-privacy policies. A recent survey found that 96 percent of U.S. consumers are at least somewhat concerned about their data privacy. Working with user-provisioned data means businesses must stay in compliance with frequently changing social network privacy policies, as well as with government regulations that apply to any service that interacts with that data. Maintaining this level of compliance on an ongoing basis is risky and time-consuming. Cloud cIAM solutions automate this process.
Cloud Platforms Deliver the Best Solution for Managing Customer Identity Data
Many revenue-driving business systems rely on customer identity management functionality that is outside of the scope of legacy IAM technology. Best-in-breed cloud-based cIAM platforms offer a streamlined deployment that shortens time-to-market, scales to fit business needs, and enables faster and easier integration with applications that help businesses monetize their customer data. Finally, cIAM’s API-based security ensures more secure transactions, while building customer trust and protecting data privacy.
This article excerpt, by Gigya author Suresh Sridharan, originally appeared here: http://cloud-computing.tmcnet….
The upcoming version of Pexip Infinity adds support for deployment to Microsoft Azure cloud.
It is a well known fact that “The Cloud” impacts organizations and businesses. “The Cloud” impacts how we work, how we interact with customers, and how we perform financially.
The shift and transformation to the cloud helps all organizations operationalize their use of IT infrastructure. From the technology to the finances, features and functions become easier to turn on and off on demand while driving up usage and scale easily and affordably. Cloud computing is a convenient tool and asset for many, and it continues to transform businesses every day.
As a direct result of customer requests, Pexip Infinity 12 introduces support for Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. As one of the three large native cloud platforms (Amazon Web Services — which is already supported by Pexip Infinity — and Google Cloud make up the two others), Azure provides organizations the ability to align cloud hosted compute under the same umbrella as other IT workflows. Many organizations are adopting Azure at scale today, and Pexip is the first vendor to bring scalable and interoperable video, audio, and web conferencing into this environment.
The promise of The Cloud
Enterprises want flexibility. They want flexibility in how they consume services and products, and they want flexibility in how they can scale up or down according to requirements. The cloud simplifies decision-making, reducing the need to plan long in advance for large hardware or infrastructure investments. The resources are available and can be leveraged in a moment’s notice.
And, according to a recent survey conducted by Harvard Business Review, Cloud Computing Increases Business Agility, the holy grail for many enterprises. No wonder leaders want to explore their options of how to deploy, manage and consume IT.
Pexip Infinity on the Azure Cloud
From version 12, Pexip Infinity can be deployed on the Microsoft Azure cloud service. Azure provides an infinitely scalable computing capacity and eliminates the need to make upfront hardware investments, so customers can deploy Pexip Infinity faster, and with less effort.
With Pexip Infinity on Microsoft Azure, customers can launch as many or as few virtual servers as needed, and use those virtual servers to host a Pexip Infinity Management Node and as many Conferencing Nodes as necessary to support their conferencing capacity requirements.
In a similar fashion to other Infinity cloud-hosted compute models, Infinity on Azure cloud can be combined with on-premises deployments for a seamless hybrid model.
Cloud bursting elasticity — the ability to automatically* use cloud resources when necessary and turn them off when they are not required — provides Pexip customers with a unique ability to leverage the best that cloud hosting has to offer without incurring the heavy costs associated with always-on services.
Customers have the flexibility to scale up to handle changes in requirements or spikes in conferencing requirements as needed. Azure’s APIs and the Pexip Infinity management API can be leveraged to monitor usage and bring up or tear down Conferencing Nodes as required to meet conferencing demand.
How do I manage Pexip Infinity on Azure cloud?
Once set up, there is no difference to how you manage Pexip Infinity on Azure. The user experience is just the same, whether you choose an on-premises solution, an Azure cloud solution, or a combination of on-premises and cloud.
How do I get Pexip on Azure cloud?
Pexip will publish disk images for the Pexip Infinity Management Node and Conferencing Nodes. These images may be used to launch instances of each node type as required.
There are a few basic principles ensure that visual communications deployments are what they supposed to be. In the past, these video conferencing roll-outs were relatively simple. They were mostly confined to meeting rooms, with only a few desktop end points reserved for executives, and they usually connected colleagues either to one another at the office or, occasionally, to home users. Today that’s all changing and the key catalysts are Unified Communications (UC) and Activity Based Working (ABW).
There’s a rapid shift towards video everywhere. Networks are expanding to include 4G and high speed internet connections, and employees are starting to use WiFi. Meeting environments are transitioning from rigid old meeting rooms, to video available on laptops, tablets and smartphones. The people we connect with are no longer just colleagues but now clients and suppliers as well as connections to home and mobile workers. The landscape is completely different from what it was.
This ‘explosion’ in video demand and usage is forcing many businesses to think more carefully about managing the user experience, which will drive wider adoption of visual communications solutions and, in turn, ensure better return on investment. The best approach is to consider the fundamentals of successful visual communications and move forward from there.
The key is to recognise and accept that the number of video calls will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled, and demand to use them skyrockets. Eventually, you may have as many as three or four devices per person, plus your usual meeting rooms, all demanding access to video facilities. Scalability is therefore all about whether your infrastructure and support processes can grow as fast as the increasing demand. Will you continue to provide a good user experience regardless of how rapidly the solution scales? One solution to management scalability the “as-a-service” model turning the whole solution from capital intensive to a consumption based OpEx model.
As demand increases, the service scales accordingly, and does so faster and more smoothly than businesses can do so internally. Another possible option is outsourcing the infrastructure itself. Platforms like Microsoft Skype for Business Online can now be used with legacy video endpoints for example to provide an elegant, cost effective solutions. If the business needs to scale the number of end points, the supporting infrastructure grows accordingly with no additional capex, no need to wait for change controls, and no arduous procurement processes.
Business buyers are beginning to see that visual communications services involve more than purchasing a software licence or a piece of hardware. It’s about the whole solutions (end point, the infrastructure, management, installation, Audio/Visual accessories and support) so that the outcome is quality and uniform across the organisation.
The key challenge for business today is achieving the same standard and quality of visual communications across all of their office locations. Often, the experience is fair at its headquarters or major offices, which usually have high-touch support on hand. But it’s not the case with remote sites or home offices. As a result, the utilisation of visual communications at headquarters sites is often much higher than at remote offices, and the user experience is equally better.
Uniformity requires the fundamentals to be in place, such as having a single directory, making sure the correct architectural controls are implemented, and then delivering the service consistently wherever the user’s may be. This is often easier said than done for a business whose key focus is not communications technology. A visual communications service provider like Generation-e that’s able to deliver such services can do so at a fraction of the cost that the business can provide internally and without the risk of employing, training and retaining personnel to do so.
Adoption & Change Management
Much has been said about the importance of user adoption and change management in the success of visual communications. Again, the uniformity of the user experience across locations contributes to both ease-of-use and increased usage. It’s important to keep your most “luddite” users in mind − those who show an inherent reticence for using unfamiliar technology. A concierge service may be an option to help these users, enabling them to enter a meeting room and simply meet but training and familiarisation is really the best approach. If employed, the concierge meets and greets the participants to ensure that the call is set correctly. The concierge then leaves the meeting, but keeps monitoring the call, and can re-join if necessary.
It’s always worth considering a formal usage and adoption programme so that you people get the best out of the technology. This helps sustain users’ awareness of the benefits of the solution, as well as assisting the business to understand what their users want and need from the solutions.
Video end-points will increase rapidly over the next few years, as more smart devices become video-enabled and as workers become more distributed.
What users want today may be very different from what they expect in future. It’s important to maintain the improvement of the visual communications strategy on an ongoing basis. The balance between what’s ‘cool’ and new versus what’s practical and truly useful. Previously it would have been questioned that there was real value in connecting to socially driven networks such as Skype. Today, with the massive adoption of such platforms, it is mandatory so we can communicate with our customers.
Any visual communications strategy you develop should tightly integrate into the businesses broader unified communications strategy. Look out for ‘walled gardens’ solutions, in which you’re only able to call within their infrastructure or you may have no choice but to use that provider’s services which are often expensive or the provider may quite simply not support that call. The net result is that visual communications often remains a poorly adopted technology. Consider partnering with a managed service for provider like Generation-e that can provide advanced services and utilises an open-standard architecture which can integrate into your overall unified communications approach.
Microsoft gave notice on its older Active Directory synchronization tools, giving IT pros almost a year to move to its newer Azure Active Directory Connect tool.
Today, Microsoft announced a “deprecation schedule” for Windows Active Directory Sync (DirSync) and Azure Active Directory Synchronization Services (Azure AD Sync). The announcement appeared to be somewhat retroactive, though.
Microsoft will no longer develop those products after April 13, 2016. It won’t support them after April 13, 2017, per the announcement.
In the recent past, Microsoft had said that DirSync and Azure AD Sync would be deprecated, but it hadn’t specified an exact date. The “deprecated” term means that the products continue to work, but Microsoft stops developing them. It’s Microsoft’s way of signaling a dead product.
Monty Python’s “” comedy sketch maybe provides an apt metaphor for what this actually means for IT pros.
Going forward, Azure AD Connect is Microsoft’s favored sync tool. It has the most capabilities of all of Microsoft’s synchronization tools so far, according to Microsoft’s recently updated Azure article, “Hybrid identity directory integration tools comparison,” linked here (Microsoft tends to move this document around, so search for the title if the link fails). Even Microsoft Identity Manager 2016 currently lacks some capabilities that are enabled by the free Azure AD Connect tool.
Azure AD Connect is a wizard-like tool aimed at simplifying directory synchronization tasks. It used to be that only some sync tasks could be performed by using the older tools, but Microsoft seems to have quietly removed those restrictions.
IT pros using the two older tools have two options to move to Azure AD Connect, according to this Azure article. They can perform an in-place upgrade to Azure AD Connect under certain circumstances. Alternatively, they can perform a parallel deployment (also known as a “swing migration”), which involves using a new server running Azure AD Connect.
Microsoft also has a tool known as the Azure AD Connector for Forefront Identity Manager and Microsoft Identity Manager. Microsoft’s article linked above indicates that this tool is at “feature freeze.” It’s not formally deprecated, Microsoft claims, but “no new functionality is added and it receives no bug fixes,” which sounds very much like a deprecated product. In other words, it has ceased to be. Microsoft wants you off it.
DirSyn users and users of the Azure AD Connector for Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) won’t have the option to perform an in-place upgrade to Azure AD Connect, according to this Azure article:
An in-place upgrade will work for moving from Azure AD Sync or Azure AD Connect. It will not work for DirSync or for a solution with FIM + Azure AD Connector.
Moreover, Microsoft only recommends an in-place upgrade when organizations have “less than about 100,000 objects” on a single server. The reason for that restriction is that it will take a lot of time to perform the upgrade under that circumstance. With more than 50,000 objects, it will take “more than 3 hours to do the upgrade,” Microsoft explained, in this Azure article.
Consequently, some organizations will need to go through the swing migration process to move to Azure AD Connect. The swing migration process involves using two servers to perform the upgrade.
Despite all of the complexity involved in the retooling with Azure AD Connect, Microsoft has claimed that IT pros prefer using Microsoft’s free tools over third-party software tools to sync up with Azure AD. Earlier this month, Microsoft indicated that it had 100,000 customers syncing their on-premises directories with Azure AD. Alex Simons, director of program management for the Microsoft Identity Division, said that the tools use breakdown was as follows:
45k are using Azure AD Connect, 46K are using DirSync, 7.5K are using Azure AD Sync and just over 500 are using Microsoft Identity Manager or FIM. The remaining 1% are using other solutions.
Back in January, Simons had described the use of Azure AD sync tools in terms of percentages. He said at that time that Azure AD Connect was used by 17 percent of tenants. In contrast, DirSync was used by 50 percent, while Azure AD Sync had a 9 percent use rate. Based on those figures, it seems that Azure AD Connect’s popularity has rapidly grown in just a few months’ time. It’s the preferred tool for multiple forest environments, which the older tools can’t handle.
This article first appeared in Redmond Mag.