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The WebPal Wire

Get our latest updates as we bring you new insight on how cloud computing is already changing in its infancy. Security, content and business process are just a few categories within of wide range of topics covered in our blog

Archive for November, 2011

RECAP: #WebPalTO Cloud Content Management Panel

30-11-2011 Markus

Tuesday night we had a great crowd of cloud enthusiasts gathering at the ING Direct Café in order to discuss Cloud Applications, Cloud Security and Canadian Cloud Adoption. I was happy to be part of a very knowledgeable panel of experienced entrepreneurs and technologists and it was great to see that we had a lively discussion on various points. The team at @wearethirdocean did a great job in co-organizing this event and it seemed that most attendants took value from the panel discussion, which lasted from 7 – 8pm.

Matt Hartley from the National Post (@thehartley) made sure that none of us were stepping out of line. In particular, it was good to see that the panelists did not agree on all points, and we had a few good questions from the audience, starting a debate. Our panelists were (in order of seating): Ashish Patel, Chief Cloud Architect at IBM, Markus Latzel, CEO at Palomino Inc, Karl Dionne, Founder at KPDi, Karim Awad, Founder at bigtime Communications Inc.

Some of the points made:

  1. “The Cloud” is a marketing term which by over-use has caused some confusion for end-users as to what it really means.
  2. “The Cloud” has become an accepted synonym for an “outsourcing your data” mind-set.
  3. Clients are more open to off-site data storage if the term “Cloud” is used.
  4. The cloud is all about bossting an organizational core-competency while turning capital investment (servers) into out-sourced resources (cloud computing).
  5. Cloud infrastructure is becoming commoditized, yet many agencies and solution providers find it hard to compare apples with apples when evaluating multiple Cloud Hosting providers.
  6. Cloud infrastructure is generally more expensive then traditional hosting.
  7. There is a valid monetization model for free Cloud services, using Freemium or Ad-driven models.
  8. Canadians are lagging slightly in Cloud-adoption partially because we are more conservative, less core-competency-driven, or simply have less opportunity to host security-sensitive Cloud Applications within our jurisdiction.
  9. Data Security is a BIG issue for Cloud adoption. Data loss and data theft were identified as two separate risks.
  10. There is no reason why cloud hosting infrastructure should be more costly or less performant in Canada compared to the US.
Many of these points above are valid and true, others may be debatable. We certainly did not have enough time to discuss the full depth of this topic, but the questions and conversations proved that everyone in the room had a vested interest in The Cloud.
I am looking forward to carry on the discussion, virtually, or in-person!
Markus Latzel, CEO
Palomino Inc.


Think you know the cloud? Think again.

29-11-2011

Is your company using cloud computing services? Think carefully before answering because you may get it wrong. According to a Microsoft Canada survey conducted by Leger Marketing, 19 per cent of C-level executives across all sectors who say they are not currently using cloud services were in fact using them. The survey also revealed that those who are not using cloud-based services (67 per cent) admit they didn’t know enough about cloud computing to make major decisions about it.

“The market is rife with misinformation and myths surrounding cloud computing, and Canadian businesses are losing out as a result,” says John Weigelt, National Technology Officer for Microsoft Canada. “The truth is that the cloud can deliver huge benefits such as cost-savings, increased productivity and greater efficiency, but businesses don’t know where to start.”

The University of Toronto is moving into the cloud, by implementing Microsoft Live@edu email and software service for 70,000 students in an effort to promote online collaboration and document sharing.

One way businesses can make sure they get off to a good start is by getting advice from the right people. Toronto privacy lawyer Michael Power suggests businesses seek legal advice to ensure they comply with Canadian laws in regards to disclosing private information, providing the government with notice of data storage outside of Canada and (in some provinces) restrict the storage of public information outside the country. He also suggests finding out how to deal with data breaches.

Another source for information is the WebPal.net Event Launch at the ING Direct Café on Yonge Street tonight at 6:30pm. We will be discussing the cloud, its security and adoption rates in Canada, successes and failures of the software, and its future. To register for the event, click here.



#WebPalTO Cloud Content Management Panel Tomorrow 6:00pm

28-11-2011 Markus
Open Mike

The Mike is open for tomorrow's Cloud Panel

It’s Monday night and we are all excited to welcome a group of very knowledgable panelists, one of the most tech savvy moderators, and an exciting crowd to a fun get-together on cloud content management tomorrow night at the ING Direct Café, 221 Yonge Street, Toronto.

The team at Palomino and ThirdOcean have been working together on this and we are quite proud of the program we have put together:

With doors open at 6:00pm for mingling, hors d’œuvre, Steamwhistle and Shiraz, we expect a room full of cloud enthusiasts ready to talk content management, collaboration applications, security and entreprise services. The cloud panel will be introduced by Matt shortly thereafter:

The Panel:

Matt Hartley (Moderator), Editor Financial Post Technology

Karim Awad, Founder of Big Time Design and Communciations. Karim has years of experiencing developing cloud based applications for clients.

Karl Dionne, Web Strategist who has developed Content Management and Cloud applications a plenty.

Ashish Patel, VP Global Cloud Commercialization at the Canadian Cloud Best Practices Council & Chief Architect, Cloud Computing at IBM

Ian Graham, Information Technology Specialist at the Bank of Montreal.

If you have not registered yet, be sure to enter your contact information at webpalto.eventbrite.com in order to qualify for winning a door prize! If you have no time to register, just come on by anyways.

Looking forward seeing you there!

Markus Latzel, CEO, Palomino Inc.

ING Direct Cafe Map


Jumping on the online application train leads to success

24-11-2011

Enterprise 2.0 encompasses so many things, which makes it difficult to define. It refers to web-based technology that improves processes, gathers important customer and employee information, and generally makes companies and organizations more efficient. We see new Enterprise 2.0 technology coming out all the time, whether it’s social media applications, document sharing applications or cloud-based applications. One thing is for certain though: the next step for companies in becoming more efficient is online applications.

Everyone wants to jump on the online application movement, including Google Apps. It’s currently treading on the turf of Microsoft Office by introducing similar software that exists on the cloud. Instead of purchasing a product in-store, you download it from your web browser. Microsoft has denied that Google Apps is a threat, saying that worldwide Office software is sold every second, and their entrance into the SaaS market has been successful. The benefits of taking traditional productivity software and turning it into an online application are two-fold:

  1. It’s cheaper to own AND operate
  2. It encourages more interaction between people, whether it’s among employees or clients.

“Businesses are inherently about people and relationships,” said David Girouard, who runs Google’s App business. Online applications have been even more coveted as businesses began to see how social features could be integrated in them.

“More companies are realizing that relationships, people, culture are their competitive differentiator,” argues Rachel Happe, President and Co-Founder of The Community Roundtable, a peer network for community managers and social media practitioners. “We are just learning how to optimize people.”

As is inevitable that in such a broad space, a lot of hybrid applications are emerging and some of them spread themselves too thinly by trying to do everything in one application. Tim Young, founder of Socialcast and Vice President for social software at VMware says that less is more.

Simple tools are incredibly powerful,” said Young during a keynote at Enterprise 2.0 in Santa Clara. He also says it is very difficult to solve a complex problem with a complex tool.

There are so many facets of the online and cloud-based software and applications that it can hard to tell if it’s right for your business. Luckily, #WebPalTO can help relieve confusion. On November 29th, WebPal will officially launch in the heart of Downtown Toronto at the ING Direct Café. We will be discussing information technology, productivity and collaboration during a panel moderated by Matt Hartley, of the FP Tech Desk at the National Post. Come to mix, mingle and learn about how you can benefit from some of the most innovative business solution technology of the day. To register for the event, click here.



Government 2.0: BC government moves their document management practices to the cloud

21-11-2011

Corporations can’t seem to get enough of the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) software market, it seems. The International Data Corporation announced this week that “worldwide document solutions software revenues will grow from $3.4 million in 2010 to $5.5 billion in 2015.” Now the Web 2.0 movement has inspired the provincial government of British Columbia to ramp up their IT and document management systems. Welcome to Government 2.0.

“This strategy sets out a vision for how the BC Public Service will bridge the apparent gap between the complexity of government and the need for more accessible services to citizens,” states a report on the new program. A major part of the new program will incorporate ECM in order to address the state of “chaos” that currently pervades document management in government on every level. A government report on document management practices notes that there are substantial risks and liabilities to not having important documents readily accessible, as well as retaining unnecessary documents.

Besides being a security risk, the lack of centralized content management is costly and inefficient. “White collar workers will spend anywhere from 30 to 40 per cent of their time this year managing documents… the province could nominally investing $450 million annual to manage content,” says the report.

Document management isn’t a new concern for the BC government, the report goes on to say. Whatever previous attempts were made to institute centralized document management have resulted in silos and limited access. An ECM initiative that exists in the cloud would enable more accountability, information sharing and transparency.

This adoption means great things for ECM, as they plan on creating a platform that is multi-faceted:

“ECM (as it first emerged in the IT space) was an umbrella term to include: records management, document management, digital asset management, web content management, XML content management, collaboration tools and social media tools… Today ECM is at a cross roads, [because content management] is too broad and no one vendor does all these things well.”

Government 2.0 plans to address those issues.

This is just one of many revisions planned for summer 2011, and Government 2.0 will turn BC’s IT focus to a “citizen at the centre” approach, as well as the consolidation of their various platforms.

There’s only one more week until the WebPal.net Launch Event, and it’s sure to be an exciting platform to discuss any cloud, document management or enterprise IT issues that you want to know about. To register for the event that will be held on November 29th at the ING Direct Café on Yonge Street, follow this link.



News from Cloud Expo 2011

17-11-2011

The past weekend, cloud enthusiasts gathered in California for the fourth annual Cloud Expo, and some recurring themes quickly became evident. The first is that the adoption of the cloud is easiest for small businesses (SMB), mostly because SMB’s lack a institutionalized technology system. So the question is, how does a large-scale enterprise leverage the power of the cloud?

A wired.com article points out that “The challenge that cloud faces in the enterprise is that the enterprise needs something that the SMB segment does not: control.” To seize control, here are a few cloud options that would be beneficial for the enterprise:

Private cloud: this is where IT owns and runs the whole thing and the cloud is brought up in the corporation’s data centre.

Managed cloud: In this case, a data centre sets up the system and does a certain amount maintenance during its operation.

Hybrid cloud: The hybrid is the most hyped version of the cloud. It means the corporation uses either a managed or private cloud that can move to the public cloud during peak usage. The hybrid seems to attract the most attention from enterprises.

The second trend that appeared in most talks over the course of the weekend was “appification” and the mobilization of cloud services. In this case, not only can documents and other managed content be accessed from any computer, but any smartphone as well. Having a variety of apps will also help diversify the cloud services, and will make it easier for enterprises to tailor the cloud to their needs.

Security is still a major issue for many corporations looking to adopt the cloud. However, all the major IT figures in the U.S government (i.e Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel; Head of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, General Keith Alexander; CIA CTO Gus Hunt; and others) say that private cloud servers can be more secure than more traditional servers “if you do it right.” The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) have released a guide to cloud security to help enterprises with this.

If you want to expand your companies IT into the cloud, join us on November 29 for the WebPal.net Event Launch at the ING Direct Café.



Canada’s research endeavours in information technology takes a hit

15-11-2011

Did you know that there’s an information technology institute in New Brunswick that is producing innovative research in global IT sectors? The Canadian National Research Council Institute for Information Technology has pioneered projects such as “3D Imaging and Modelling Metrology,” “Mobile Adult Literacy Support Application for Experiential Learning,” and the “Intelligent System for the Classification of Multiple Tumor Types.” The site in Moncton was instrumental in the discovery of two critical biomarkers for cancer in conjunction with Atlantic Cancer Research Institute.

The problem is the institute will likely not exist by spring 2012.

Warren McKenzie, the chairman on the advisory board at the institute, was the first to sound the alarm last week at a dinner for the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Computer Science.

“Unfortunately, it is my belief that IIT will soon cease to exist as an institute and its talent, or at least those who remain, will be absorbed into as-yet-undefined programs,” McKenzie stated.

The following day, NRC President John McDougall confirmed that the institute is set to “evolve,” moving from “curiosity research” to a short list of flagship projects:

  1. Research into higher-output wheat strains;
  2.  printable electronics;
  3. composite materials made from biomass; and
  4. CO2-ingesting algae

And you know what happens when innovation is put in to a box; It stops. This means a loss for Canada’s IT environment as a whole. The official website of the institute declares it is “strengthening Canada’s leadership in information and communications technologies by creating and commercializing software and systems technology to help Canada prosper in the knowledge economy.”

The University of New Brunswick has a large stake in the institute as it pairs its students with various research projects, and president of the University of New Brunswick admitted his shock to the revelations.

Not only has the institute made breakthroughs in IT, but its involvement with the university helps to prepare the next generation of IT workers. Why would the NRC slash such a great program?

While the institute has helped diversify the Maritime economy, the decision ultimately lies with the federal government. Some people are claiming that it is regionalism, and a focus on the central Canadian economy. The Premier of New Brunswick, David Alward, is in support of the institute and the jobs it creates for the province, but he fears there is little he can do.

Alward proposes a “third way” to move into the future (as opposed to program cuts and selective taxes): Growing the economy from within by strengthening the apparatus necessary for innovation, technology advancement and, ultimately, permanent, high-value job creation.

Doesn’t that seem to fit the bill for the Institute of Information Technology? What do you think about the Canadian government’s take on innovation? Should the IT environment expand from Silicon Valley North (a.k.a. Toronto)?

Make sure you don’t miss the WebPal.net Event Launch at the ING Direct Lounge on November 29.

Editor’s Note:

We received a telephone call yesterday from the Media Relations Officer of the National Research Council Canada which was then followed by this clarification:

First, let me confirm that the speculation about the closure of the Institute for Information Technology that’s been in New Brunswick media this week is inaccurate.

The National Research Council of Canada is evolving to better address the needs of all Canadians and is currently undergoing a reorganization of its structure and resources.

Information Technology will remain a core part of its activities in New Brunswick and will operate within NRC’s reorganized structure as a program-based research and technology organization.

The National Research Council will continue to maintain an effective presence in New Brunswick and contribute to its long-term sustainable prosperity.

The National Research Council’s new strategic direction and business approach will create exciting opportunities for stakeholders and innovative companies in New Brunswick.

During this transition period, the National Research Council of Canada is operating business as usual.

The NRC is indeed undergoing a reorganisation of its structure. However, while “institutes” will no longer be the underlying structure of the NRC, Information Technology and our presence in New Brunswick will remain an important part of the new NRC, operating within the reorganised structure of a program-based research and technology organisation.

The name “institute” may disappear, but information technology will keep thriving in New Brunswick.



What is the growth potential of IT?

10-11-2011

There are a select few industries that have flourished during the recession: IT and cloud computing are among them. According to Gartner, worldwide software as a service (SaaS) revenue is on pace to reach $12.1 billion in 2011, a 20.7 per cent increase from 2010. And while unemployment in the United States and Canada continues to increase, cloud recruitment figures have increased by 52.9 per cent in the past year.

These statistics, as well as the prosperity of the IT-based industries, led one writer at CBS News to suggest an Occupy Silicon Valley movement. Companies are able to increase their productivity while hiring and recruitment remains stagnant or even decreases in some circumstances.

“[The US Bureau of Labour Statistics from 2009 indicate that] With a few notable drops in to negative territory, the clear trend is one quarter of increased productivity after another. In English, that means companies continue to find ways to do more work with fewer people, even as the corporations grow revenues and profits,” says Eric Sherman.

Not everyone sees the negative though. In a previous post, we cited an article on CIO.com that refers to Jevon’s Paradox (technological processes that increase efficiency tend to increase the rate of consumption), and suggests cloud computing will create new IT jobs and opportunities in place of the old ones. The President of Modis, Jack Cullen, says that while large financial institutions are “tentative” with plans to increase headcount, technology companies “have a very positive outlook for the hiring in 2012,” and cloud computing holds with most growth potential.

But to make sure you exact the growth potential from new cloud computing services at your company, infoworld.com has a few things you want to avoid: 1. Put the right person on the project. You need someone who is knowledgeable and is willing the try new things. 2. Put security first, as in before deployment. 3. Select the right business problem to solve with cloud computing.

If you would like to find out more about the growth potential of the cloud and IT in the current economic environment, join us at the WebPal.net Launch Event at the ING Direct Café on Yonge Street on November 29.



Data Security and Cloud Computing

09-11-2011 Markus

I often have discussions with clients and peers about the effect of cloud storage and cloud applications on privacy and data security. In  a previous article, security and control of data was cited as the #1 reason for Canadian organizations to not move their IT operations into the Cloud yet.

BNA International identifies data privacy guidelines for hosting personal data in the Cloud. Beyond PIPEDA however, Cloud Application stakeholders should be going through a checklist of threat risk assessments when considering cloud storage of sensitive and mission-critical data.

Again, I think it is important to remember the breakdown of Cloud Computing and distinguish between Private Cloud and Public Cloud infrastructure, as well as the level of security provided by the Application that runs on top of this setup.

There are several threats that any organization would want to protect their data against:

  • Protect against data loss and application downtime due to hardware failure.
  • Protect against data loss due to software failure.
  • Protect against data loss due to human error, e.g. accidental deletion, wrong usage, etc.
  • Protect against data loss and application downtime due to malicious attacks (manual or virus).
  • Protect against data compromise due to system compromise.
A professional Risk Analyst Each tells me that each of these threats has a prevention strategy and a mitigation strategy. These two are entirely different strategies but both can help us sleep better at night. Often, mitigation is the more important strategy. It assumes that no system is ever 100% fail safe, and rather than resting on a wrong assumption of security, it deals with the “Plan B” scenario.
Some examples of risks to be identified and how the Cloud can help:
  • Hardware failure: Virtualization in the Cloud offers built-in mitigation for this case, which makes every hardware component of the infrastructure redundant, including the CPU. Once data is lost, private clouds offer superior recovery options.
  • Software Failure: this is where private clouds shine – they offer fine-tuned and manual recovery processes that allow to restore from multiple restore points, bringing your application back to its heathy state
  • Human Error: The Cloud does not prevent this, and some argue make it easier to happen. However, we find that with the ability to scale and keep all applications in a single environment it becomes easier to monitor user behaviour and catch misuse early.
  • Malicious Attacks: Any system connected to the network is vulnerable to these. Truth is, Private Clouds offer the same firewall protection and private network separate (prevention) as an on-site server, but far more fallback options for the case an attack has been suspected (mitigation).
To summarize, the Cloud helps with both strategies, but has dramatic benefits to risk mitigation. The Private Cloud (or Outsourced Private Cloud) offers all the benefits of risk prevention that a traditional on-site IT infrastructure does, while increasing mitigation options many-fold. The Public Cloud does not fare well on risk prevention, but still offers more mitigation options. In both cases, you can’t lose by going to the Cloud. It just has to be done right.
To enter the discussion on this topic, join us on Nov 29 for #WebPalTO at the ING Direct Café and talk to our panelists on Cloud Computing.


Document Management for Your Business

08-11-2011

There is a lot a company can do with a good document management system. If you look at the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and the Business Process Management (BPM) market analytics, you can see this is a growing industry; in 2009, the ECM market grew by 5.1 per cent, in 2010 it grew another 7.6 per cent and the Gartner Institute estimates this growth will continue at a rate of 11.4 per cent into 2015.

First, we are going to try to define what ECM and BPM entails, although this can be tricky as its usage and implementation is multi-faceted. We’ll start with ECM because it’s slightly less complicated: according to Wikipedia, Enterprise Content Management “is a formalized means of organizing and storing an organization’s documents, and other content, that relate to the organization’s processes.” Business Process Management is defined as a “holistic management approach focused on aligning all aspects of an organization with the wants and needs of clients.” These are broad descriptions, but that just means that the space is filled with endless opportunities.

If your company has a training or promotional video lying around that none of your employees have seen, or documents you want shared with multiple departments, ECM software can help. AJ Hyland, President and CEO for Hyland Software, commented that “ECM is growing for a reason – it’s very relevant to helping today’s organizations meet their productivity goals. But we believe the most effective ECM solutions are more than just relevant. They promote the meaningful use of content throughout an organization, and do so with a balance of focus and flexibility.”

Meanwhile BPM software’s time is now, according to The Huffington Post. This is because it aligns IT with business needs, reduces costs and optimizes operational efficiencies, as well as increases productivity. What’s most exciting about it is that the biggest pushers for BPM are Generation Y employees within an organization, rather than the IT staff. They’re tech savvy and want to adopt technology that allows them to do their jobs more effectively.

ECM and BPM, especially when they exist on a cloud server, can assist in breaking down silos within a large organization, facilitate innovative ideas and make a corporation more efficient. This is becoming more and more important, as Ryerson professor of entrepreneurship and strategy development Steve Gedeon, points out: “The standard things that show up on a balance sheet or financial statement are becoming increasingly unimportant when assessing the overall value of an organization…” To innovate, you have to look at new ways of doing things.


Have questions regarding document management and how to make your company more productive and efficient using ECM or BPM software? Make sure you come to the WebPal.net Launch Event on November 29th at the ING Direct Cafe.