Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ICANN Opens Up Custom TLDs


I wonder if this will be the next IPv6, or if companies will seriously invest in their own custom top level domain.  I would expect the larger guys like IBM, Microsoft, Google, etc. to jump on this.  Anyone with a product that is delivered via a browser definitely seem to me to be likely candidates for early adoption.  But what about the smaller guys?  I am not so sure we will see the like of .salesforce and definitely doubt we will see .bobshardware.  (Maybe .lowes or .hd/.homedepot?)

It was inevitable that we would exhaust all reasonable TLD names before we exhausted the demand for them.  Given that ICANN has a directive to try and prevent similar sounding domains from being registered, I do not that I think they have been overly successful historically, but have definitely improved.  For example, it was common knowledge that whitehouse.com had nothing to do with the US capitol, but it has since been snatched away from the porn industry and is now a pointer to house.com.  Google has registered gogle.com and googl.com as pointers to them selves, but someone else owns gogle.com (which triggered my antivirus program the second the page loaded).

ICANN stated that they are setting the initial price high enough to prevent squatters from trying to snatch up desirable domains with unscrupulous intentions, and intend to put a screening process in place that will evaluate all applications for TLDs.  This should help prevent .facebook from becoming a bargaining chip in the war for social supremacy, but I don’t think it will help the likes of mySpace become any less tawdry in the public eye.

Friday, June 17, 2011

LotusLive vs. Office 365: Trial 2 (Email)

Now that I have my five test users in both Office 365 and LotusLive, the first thing I would expect an organization to want to do is start communicating.  With the exception of maybe the most advanced social businesses, the dominant mode of business communication today is still email.

Both offerings provide you with a link to access your web based email in just one click from the landing page after signing in.  Their interfaces are similar enough in that you have an Inbox, Drafts, Sent Items, Trash, and Spam/Junk on the left side in the typical location.  The main pane opens to your Inbox in a list format.

Office 365 displays a preview of the selected message, in just the same way that Outlook does.  LotusLive does not have a preview from the list view by default.

LotusLive provides tab style links at the top of the user interface to quickly access your individual Contacts, Calendar, and Preferences.  There does not appear to be any facility for ToDo’s within your Mail.  (This functionality can be performed elsewhere in LotusLive.)


Office 365 also provides quick access to your Calendar and Contacts, but in line with your other left-hand navigation.  In addition to the common features, Office 365 presents the users with Tasks (or ToDo’s) right in the mail interface, just like their rich client. (Outlook)


Web-based email has become more feature rich, both in on-premise products and in freely available products.  We expect common features like flag for follow-up, spell checking, folder management, search capabilities, attachment handling, and others I am sure to be missing.  This list of features is present in both solutions and intuitive enough to use, in my opinion.

That said, web based email is not realistic for laptop users who need access to email while off-line or disconnected.  Both LotusLive and Office 365 state they support Outlook as a rich client, so I will try to configure Outlook 2010 to access both and contrast the experience.

Here is the video of setting up Outlook for Office 365. 

Before I started configuring Outlook for LotusLive, I found the help documentation to explain how to do it here.  The instructions indicated you needed to supply your IMAP/SMTP server information in the format of yoursiteID-smtp.mail.lotuslive.com.  This was not very intuitive to me, but fortunately, IBM supplies this information in the Administration section of LotusLive.  To locate your server information, log into LotusLive and enter the Administration area.  Click on iNotes on the left hand side, and locate your server information at the bottom of the page.


Armed with the nitty-gritty, it was time to get to work.  Here is the video of me configuring Outlook for LotusLive.

Both solutions support Outlook 2010 as advertised.

Office365 provides your organization with GAL features like an on-premise deployment of Exchange would, where LotusLive does not.  You still have access to personal contacts, and calendaring with both services.  I would imagine the delegation of email and calendaring to function when using Office365, but it does not work when using LotusLive as your back-end.  This is because LotusLive simply provides IMAP (inbound) and SMTP (outbound) basic services for the Outlook client, while Office365 is powered by Exchange.

For basic email functionality, taking your own email off-line, and the ability to use Outlook (which may already be on your system), either service is sufficient.  If you are looking for a similar experience to running Exchange within your organization, but do not have the facilities or skills to do so on your own, Office365 gives you a very viable alternative.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

LotusLive vs. Office 365 : Trial Comparison 1

In the posts I published today ( Office 365 | LotusLive ), I set out to register for both LotusLive and Office 365 for a small group of 5 users to pilot the features of these competitive products.  Initial reactions were:

Office 365

  • Simple and intuitive interface.
  • Straight forward set of features, Document Sharing, Email, Calendar, Instant Messaging, and Online Meetings.


  • Comprehensive set of features.
  • Excellent list of native and third-party tools available for the trial.

The immediate contrasts that I recognized were:

  1. Office 365 only gives you the basic services, while LotusLive immediately makes a LARGE number of applications available to you during the demo.  LotusLive gives you Activities, Forms, and Charts which seem extremely useful in a business deployment.
  2. LotusLive only allows you to use their sub-domain while Office 365 gives you the ability to make a custom sub-domain to personalize your experience in a unique way.
  3. LotusLive has a more prominent link to their help to get you started.
  4. Office 365 appears to make ActiveSync available to trial members, while it seems mobile email access would be achieved through IMAP or POP3 for LotusLive’s trial.
  5. Branding of the LotusLive interface is well documented in the product help.
  6. Office 365 immediately presents you with links to help configure your native PC applications (Outlook, Office, etc.) to work with their service.  LotusLive has documentation on configuring local applications to interact with their service, but it requires more steps and user intervention.
  7. LotusLive has content tagging built intuitively into their offering.  Office 365 does not have as comprehensive of a content tagging system.
  8. As one would expect, the social aspect of LotusLive (Connections) is much more prominent, while Office 365 is very centered around document based collaboration and simplicity of access to common office computing facilities like email and calendaring.

In all, it is obvious to me that these are competitive products.  The experience similarities of the common features like email, calendaring, etc. is what you would expect of rival products from IBM and Microsoft.  The largest difference to me is that IBM’s solution gives organizations more tools or applications.  Integrating with third party CRM solutions, document signing/validation, and so many other apps gives an organization a full spectrum solution in which to run their business.  Office is really focused on bringing Office content to users everywhere and anywhere a browser or smart phone can reach.

The documentation, videos, guides, wikis available and easily accessible for LotusLive are as comprehensive as their offering, but you could argue that it needs to be.  Without some guidance, I can see how someone looking for just the office basics could be lost.  LotusLive does give an administrator the ability to shut off or unsubscribe from applications they do not intend to use which will certainly clean things up for the users, but out-of-the-box… everything is turned on.  Office 365 feels lacking to me in the documentation department, but arguably, its simplicity and smaller set of features enables users to more easily just stumble through the service with little need for hand-holding.

I like both offerings.  Office 365 does make it a bit easier to get a whole group up and running as it provides an interface for importing a list of users in a few simple steps as I discovered, and LotusLive does not allow for multi-user registration without seeking the intervention of an IBM representative.

When evaluating these two products, it seems to be a good idea to seek some references.  Ask for opinions of others who have already adopted each solution and see what features they like/use the most.  What do they not like.  These opinions, when filtered through what your organization finds to be important, canl make for an easier time navigating these two different approaches to cloud delivered enterprise tools.

Other considerations I see include:

  • Migration Process
  • Costs (which I understand to be comparable)
  • Accessibility for Users
  • Existing IT Assets to Integrate with

I personally like both offerings, each for their own strengths.  I hope this insight helps.

LotusLive: User Registration

I signed up for a 60 day trial of LotusLive to test drive the features and user experience.  The registration process was simple enough to navigate.  The only hiccup I experienced was upon completion of my registration, there was no intuitive way to progress.  The next step was actually to wait for an email to complete my registration and setup my password.  This was not clearly defined as the path and I felt abandoned on the completion page.

Once I confirmed my registration, I was presented with My Dashboard.  First impression is that the LotusLive suite of tools available to me is very comprehensive.  It is way more than just email, chat, meetings, and file sharing.  We will spend some time on these features in another post.  The first step, just like I decided was the initial step for Office 365, is to register my users.

From My Dashboard, I selected the Administration link at the top of the page.


I then selected User Accounts from the left side of the Administration page.


From here, I clicked on Add User Account.


The form that was presented asked me for the necessary information to setup the user and map this ID to my available licenses and applications.


You must reach the bottom of the form to find the field to setup the user’s email address in LotusLive.


The completion indication takes you back to the User Accounts summary and informs you of the ID creation status and the number of available IDs you have left to license.


I then proceeded to locate the facility to allow me to import a list of users for my trial.  I did not find anything intuitively, so I clicked on the Administration help guide.  The User Registration help read:


So there you have it.  As a trial, you can only register users one at a time.

Office 365: User Registration

After filling out the necessary information to start my Office 365 Beta, the first thing I wanted to do is add my users to my subscription.  You can either enter users one at a time, or generate a CSV file to perform a bulk upload.  I walked through the process to manually setup a single user, and it is extremely straight forward.  The process to add bulk users was not difficult, but seemed worthwhile to document.

The first step would be to log into an administrative account.  This is typically the first account setup when the organization was setup.  I pointed my browser to https://portal.microsoftonline.com and logged in with my credentials.


There is a link on the overview page to Add Users, but that takes you to the form to add an individual user.  Click on Users in the navigation pane on the left.


From the New menu, select Bulk add users then select the link in the middle of the page to download the CSV template.


Typical download dialog will appear based on the browser you are using.  I am using IE8 for this exercise.


Using Excel, I populated the columns with the information I had available for each user.  The only two required fields are User Name and Display Name when importing users with this method.  The User Name field should be the Office 365 email address you intend to assign to the user, and the full name can be simply First Last.


Once I completed filling out the CSV with the information necessary, I saved the modified CSV (using save as… maintaining the csv format) under a different name.  I then went back to my portal page to upload the completed file.


I used the Browse button to find the CSV and upload it to the site.  Office 365 validates the CSV before taking action with it.


You will then have to select the users’ disposition as to are they allowed to sign in, and then specify their location.


Next you will need to assign your available licenses for the application that are part of your organization.


The results of the operation will be emailed to you.  Validate your email address and click Create to complete the operation.


The results page will display the users email addresses and their temporary passwords.


I have found this process to be rather intuitive and simple to navigate.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Data in the Mobile World

I have been part of multiple discussions with customers lately that center around mobile computing.  The dramatic enhancement to features and functionality we are seeing in the tablet devices, relatively low cost of smart-phones, increases in mobile network speeds and other factors are all contributing to this renewed interest many are expressing in mobility.  The dominant communications method among mobile users is still email, but we are also seeing social capability and functions in every major vendor’s smart phone and tablet.

Freeing the workforce from the physical constraints of an office environment has many benefits.  I am sure we can find case studies on employee satisfaction, productivity, etc that all speak favorably about mobile computing and enabling multiple means of access to corporate data and services.  This freedom, however, cannot sacrifice the security you have developed around your sensitive data.

Increasing demands and restrictions on data security is an ever present concern among security officers in the industry.  They always need to know who is seeing what information, and should they be seeing it.  Mobile devices make it easier for data to be stolen by simply lifting the device or eavesdropping on someone’s screen.  I can’t tell you how many times I have noticed someone in an airport concerning them selves with the goings on of someone else’s laptop close by.

So how do we address this concern?

The answer is not to ignore mobility.  If you try that approach, your users will find ways to work around your security measures and gain whatever level of mobility they can.  This could be far greater of a risk as you will have no governance over the devices or data, nor will your users be educated about handling the responsibility you are now entrusting them with.

The balance of accessibility and security is an age old issue facing IT professionals.  The approach needs to be a strategic and logical one.  I would suggest generating a data security matrix, outlining the disposition of each type of data your organization deals with.  You may already have such a document, but unless it includes a few data points specifically related to mobile access, I would consider it incomplete.

I would setup the matrix to include the following, at least, as an example:

  • Data Owner (Who is responsible for the content and access to it?)
  • Data Maintainers (Contributors to the content that may not be the owner.)
  • Proprietary Yes / No?
  • Confidentiality
    • Scope of Confidentiality (Individual, Role-Based, Groups, Organization Wide?)
  • Regulated Data (What regulations and requirements are put on the data?)
    • Penalty of Infraction
  • Storage Requirements
    • Encryption / Encoding
  • Data Expiration / Maintenance Cycle
  • Elimination Procedures
  • Recovery Procedures
  • Scope of Access (On site, Remote, etc.)

As this data matrix is developed, I aim to address as many use cases as possible.  I think about the users and their roles, where they work, the devices they use, and the type of interaction they have with the data.  Paying particular attention to the sensitive and regulated data.  As the use cases become more defined and the sensitivity of the data is established, appropriate procedures for handling the data becomes evident.

I find this logical approach to allowing alternate means of access to enterprise data a very intelligent use of time and resources.  Remaining ahead of user demands in this area often discourages users from finding means of working around the restrictions in place and posing a greater threat than necessary to your organization.

As with almost any security initiative, as most will agree, there is no real substitute for end user training and education.  Empowering your mobile users with the knowledge and tools necessary to keep them selves and your data safe as they roam about the world is another critical component to a comprehensive approach to this demand on your IT organization.

I hope this has given my readers a few useful pointers, or at least opened up the discussion a bit more to help keep everyone safe.  As a leading airline says, “You are free to roam about the country!”

- Happy and Safe Travels!