Category Archives: Mobile Computing

Are the Advantages of BYOD Worth the Security Risks?

Check Point Software recently released their Third Annual Mobile Security Survey, highlighting the impact of mobile devices on IT security. They surveyed more than 700 IT and security professionals in the U.S., Canada, Germany, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand, and the respondents were spread fairly evenly across the spectrum of business sizes, with the largest segment (29%) coming from businesses with between 100 and 1,000 employees.

Here are some of their key findings (quoted from the site linked above):

  • The Greatest Threat Resides Within Your Organization – 87 percent of surveyed professionals believed that the greater security threat to mobile devices were careless employees. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents believed that recent high-profile breaches of customer data were likely due to employee carelessness.
  • Proliferate Use of Personal Mobile Devices on the Corporate Network – Despite careless employees as the weakest link into businesses, 91% of IT professionals saw an increase in the number of personal mobile devices connecting to their networks over the past two years. In 2014, 56% of those surveyed managed business data on employee-owned devices, up from 37% in 2013.
  • Mobile Security Incidents Expected to Rise – 2015 is shaping up to be a risky year, according to those surveyed. Of the security professionals surveyed this year, 82% expect the number of security incidents to grow in 2015. Additionally, nearly all of the respondents (98%) expressed their concern about the impact of a mobile security incident, with the greatest concern being the potential for lost and stolen information.
  • Cost of Mobile Security Incidents Continue to Rise – 2014 saw an increase in remediation costs for mobile security incidents. Of the IT executives surveyed, 42% noted that mobile security incidents cost their organizations more than $250,000.

Consider some additional trend data:

  • Computerworld predicts that BYOD smartphones will continue to grow at roughly a 30% CAGR through 2017 – from only 88 million two years ago to 328 million in 2017.
  • Rapid7 quotes a Cisco prediction that by 2016 there will be 1.62 billion mobile devices (of all kinds) in the workplace. They also state that more than 80% of the mobile devices in the workplace today are employee-owned.
  • Over a year ago (back in May, 2013), Gartner predicted, based on a global survey of CIOs, that, by 2017, more than half of companies will require their employees to supply their own mobile devices.

So let’s recap: 98% of the Check Point respondents were concerned about the impact of mobile security incidents on their businesses, 42% said that such incidents had already cost their businesses more than a quarter of a million dollars, 82% expect the number of security incidents to grow in 2015. Yet nearly all have seen an increase in the number of personal mobile devices connecting to their networks over the past two years, and, by all indications, the BYOD trend will continue and, if anything accelerate. Which brings up two obvious questions: (1) If BYOD is such a security risk, why are businesses overwhelmingly moving in that direction? And (2) What can a business do to leverage the benefits of BYOD while still limiting the exposure to security risks? Let’s look at these two questions…


  • It reduces the business’ capital outlay for mobile devices. Even in cases where businesses give their employees a cash allowance to purchase the mobile device of their choice, the company generally saves money in the long run by not being responsible for the maintenance and repair of an employee-owned device.
  • Employees are more productive when working on their preferred device. Someone who has been using an iPhone for years isn’t going to be happy about being handed a company-owned BlackBerry device. A Mac user isn’t going to want to deal with a company-owned Windows laptop – and vice versa. Younger workers in particular, who have grown up with technology, want to use what they’re accustomed to using, and will be more productive if allowed to do that.
  • Employees who use mobile devices for both work and personal matters tend to put in more hours per year – some surveys suggest as many as 240 more hours per year – than those who do not.
  • Given the above, business who do not implement BYOD may find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

How to Do BYOD Safely
First of all, more and more organizations are implementing some form of mobile device management (MDM). According to the Check Point survey, 56% of organizations were managing the business data that exists on personal devices, up from 37% in 2013. There are numerous MDM products on the market, but I would suggest that managing the mobile device itself is only part of the problem. A complete solution would also include mobile application management (MAM) - some mechanism to deploy secure applications to a mobile device…applications that would be “sandboxed” away from an employee’s personal applications, such that the data accessed by those applications would be isolated from the personal applications, and information could not be copy/pasted from a secure application into a personal application. It would also be nice if the organization could selectively wipe the secure applications and associated data from a mobile device while leaving the employee’s personal data and applications untouched. Citrix XenMobile Enterprise is such a solution, and the following 16 minute video does a great job of demonstrating the XenMobile Enterprise user experience:

And, of course, if your users need access to full-blown Windows applications, not just mobile apps, they can securely access those applications via Citrix XenApp or XenDesktop, as we’ve been doing for years.

Bottom line: BYOD is here to stay. Businesses are increasingly turning to BYOD because of its advantages, even though they recognize that it brings with it significant security risks. It is, however, possible to gain the advantages of BYOD without compromising the security of your company data, and VirtualQube, by virtue of our longstanding partnership with Citrix, can help.

Scott’s Book Arrived!

We are pleased to announce that Scott’s books have arrived! ‘The Business Owner’s Essential Guide to I.T.’ is 217 pages packed full of pertinent information.

For those of you who pre-purchased your books, Thank You! Your books have already been signed and shipped, you should receive them shortly and we hope you enjoy them as much as Scott enjoyed writing for you.

If you haven’t purchased your copy, click here, purchase a signed copy from us and all proceeds will be donated to the WA chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

Why Not Amazon Web Services?

Thinking about moving to Amazon Web Services? Address these 4 Concerns FIRST

We’ve been hearing a lot of debate recently about using Amazon Web Services for all or part of a cloud infrastructure. Many people sing their praises whole-heartedly, and we here at VirtualQube have even explored their offerings to see if there was an opportunity to bend our own cost curve. But there really is a mixed bag of benefits and features. How do you know if the move is right for you? We’ve narrowed it down to 4 concerns you should address in light of your own circumstances before making the move.

1. Business impact

First of all, let’s analyze the business model for AWS. Amazon rents out virtual machines for a reasonable price per desktop. But in order to get their best price, you have to pony up 36 months of service fees in advance to rent the space. If you’re an enterprise with three years of IT budget available, this is a great deal. If not, take a closer look.

The pricing from AWS also assumes that virtual machines will be spinning-down 40% of the day. If your workforce mostly logs in within an 8:30am – 6:00pm time frame, you will greatly benefit from this pricing. If your employees have much more flexibility in their schedules (due to travel, seasonal workload spikes, or shifting hours for coverage), then you may need to look at another provider.

AWS also allows for 1GB of data to flow into their cloud for free, and only charges for the outflow of data. This is great for storage if you only use it sparingly, or in the case of a disaster, but can add-up quickly if you need to access your data frequently. While this doesn’t seem to be a concern now, as businesses exchange more and larger files, the cost of this pricing model could quickly outweigh the benefits.

2. Operations impact

The operational capabilities of Amazon truly are world-class. However, to achieve scale and offer its best price/experience the lowest cost of operations, AWS has one set way of operating and its customers are required to interact with AWS in this one way alone. So AWS may not offer the flexibility that would make it easy for you to add services to your existing operations.

If your firm fits AWS’s standard use case, it could lead to an easy transition, but if you have unique requirements, the friction caused with your organization could quickly lead to discord, operational changes, and many other business costs while trying to fit the mold AWS promotes.

3. Technology impact

The technology benefit of AWS is really second-to-none. Their infrastructure has the best hardware and capabilities offered by any of the cloud vendors. The efficiencies of scale mean you can get access to best-of-breed hardware faster than you would otherwise. The only caveat is this could give you a false sense of security.

How we approach business is to think of all the things that CAN go wrong, because many times they eventually do. We coach our customers to prepare for the times when technology will fail. And fail it will. We have consistently seen multi-million dollar technology fail unpredictably, even in hundred million dollar installations. These cases are NOT supposed to happen, and may not happen frequently, but they will happen. And if the failure impacts your business, it doesn’t matter how expensive the underlying technology is. And when the technology does fail, will you be able to get a senior engineer on the phone to immediately address your concerns?

4. Flexibility impact

The ability for AWS to match your business needs during hyper-growth and/or significant volatility could make the business case alone. With AWS’s web interface, your internal technology leader can order additional computing capabilities and they will be ready as soon as you hit “Enter.” The days of placing hardware into a room, hooking up cables, creating and testing images are truly over for all cloud users, and AWS does shorten the timeline for creating these technologies from minutes to seconds. Companies with significant growth who are doubling or tripling in size within a year many years in a row are a perfect match for AWS. No question.

Your final decision…

To sum it all up: AWS works well for you if:

  • You have a scale of operations and support for tens of thousands of users
  • There is three years of IT spend on the balance sheet and it can be invested today
  • You are a typical player in your industry, which fits AWS’s definition of your industry
  • Your IT needs to meet business demands that fluctuate exponentially, immediately, and unpredictably
  • You take advantage of some advanced features for business continuity

For an more in-depth discussion on this topic, check out this: LINK. For an in-depth cost analysis, check out this: LINK. Please note, you will have to be a Citrix Service Partner to access the cost analysis.


The Psychology Behind Taking Desktops Virtual

Our great friend and strategic partner, Michael Fraser of VDI Space  posted a great article on LinkedIn today about the psychology aspect of going virtual (cross-posted by permission):

The Psychology Behind Taking Desktops Virtual

Desktop virtualization is not a new technology; it has been around for years. The desktop is going through radical change. Think of desktop virtualization as puberty. I can sum it as one phrase – RADICAL CHANGE. What end user likes CHANGE, let alone RADICAL CHANGE? There is a true emotional attachment to the desktop. An end user is like a teenager, in the sense of the fact that they feel an entitlement to have their desktop setup however they want, and if they cannot, they will try every way to rebel and customize their system. A lot of organizations have their users all setup as administrators, so like a teenager, can you imagine if you had total freedom, and then one day that freedom is taken away. How would a teenager react? They would be very angry. This is how end users view desktop virtualization. Even the smallest change can send end users off the deep end. This is not the end users fault. It is human nature to dislike change. The one sure thing in the technology world is change. Realizing this, we need to dish out what we as IT professional have a hard time doing, compassion. Now, I am not trying to be all new age when I say this. We have to realize that change is difficult, so we need to do things that will help mitigate the end users stress levels when going through this major shift in how end users will be using their desktops.

The desktop is a very intimate tool for end users. It is something they spend more time with than their own family. This creates an emotional bond. The traditional desktop is a tangible object; a user can reach out and touch it, and make it their own.

Do you remember when you bought your first new computer? When that computer arrived you took it out of the box, and you took ownership of it not only physically but also subconsciously. You imprinted on it, and made it yours, an extension of yourself. Well this is how almost all end users view their own desktop, an extension of themselves. They sort their icons a specific way. They line up apps just like they want on the taskbar. There is a picture of their family on vacation on their desktop. The personal emotional connection to their desktop is real. So we need to put this into perspective when we look into desktop virtualization. There has to be a plan in place to ensure that the transition to desktop virtualization is somewhat transparent to users.

A proof of concept is the best way to start, and involve the end users to help gain trust in the difficult transition. Pick from all different kind of users to do the POC. The most difficult users, those who will give good feedback, power users, you get where I am going. Do not just go with the easiest users, as they might get the POC to go from a concept to production, but you will run into issues when the power users complain and ask management to rip the entire system out. Trust me, it will happen.

One of the main drivers to get an organization to go to desktop virtualization is Windows 7 or 8 upgrade. This by itself is RADICAL CHANGE from Windows XP (now past EOL), or from Windows 7 to Windows 8. Now you can deploy Windows 7 or 8 virtual desktops, but what of the end user experience? Their current desktop might be converted to a thin client, or an actual thin client will be installed. Existing monitors will be used, because they still work. But something is missing, all of those little apps the end user installed themselves are nowhere to be seen. The desktop icons look like a war zone, complete chaos to the end user. Things get worse, as there is a whole new interface that is completely foreign.

What does the end user think now about the virtual desktop deployment? Remember perception is everything, and you only have one chance to win over the end user, and that is the first time they have to log into their virtual desktop.

Now you can see why a POC is important right out of the gate before a production deployment. It helps vet out a lot of these underlying user issues. There are always tweaks to the new environment, but remember the old adage, “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”.

The next step is to take virtual desktops to the cloud. The biggest hurls, Microsoft licensing and user experience. Stay tuned to additional articles on Desktops-a-a-Service.


To read more blog posts by Michael Fraser please head over to VDI Space’s blog.

Fujitsu Ultrabook First Impressions

Last night I had the opportunity to configure a new Fujitsu U Series Ultrabook. I like my computers like I like my cars, sleek and fast, and this U904 Notebook delivers that and more! This system is carved out of a single slab of titanium and is ultra-light and ultra-thin. The multi-touch 14” screen is a blast to use and creates a whole new experience when using Windows 8.1. This system is hands down one of the sleekest systems I have used, and has plenty of power for demanding applications.  I would highly recommend you give Fujitsu a look the next time you are in the market for a quality notebook.