We’re always saying it, but flexibility is one of the big advantages of cloud. For some, that flexibility is all about being able to deploy resources on demand and that’s as far as the story goes. However, that’s a very high-level view. What about if we think about how cloud can be used to make the working lives of end-users (that’s you, me, even “Technical Dan” sat next to me in our support team) easier and more productive?
In the latest of our Guest Expert posts, Steve Barker of Sistena Limited takes us through a hectic day in his life as director of a busy IT services company. Read on for a refreshing illustration of how the ins and outs of mobile working saves his day…
As always, Capital Radio rings in my ears at 6:30am.
Reaching over to do the usual multi-task of hitting the snooze button and grabbing the mobile, I slyly open one eye to take a quick look at the calendar entries dictating the day’s movements.
Two meetings are planned in the city, one with a customer and the other with a potential partner to discuss growing each others businesses via a mutual proposition. In addition, I have a couple of reminders that need attention during the day. I must catch up with the accountant about the expenses for the VAT return and the other director needs to go through the quarterly forecast since the sales guys need keeping in check. All of these reminders and alarms are in the phone so I can forget about them while I get started on the day.
Laptop, mobile, iPad, watch, wallet, keys — check. I jump in the car, and head into the city. Once there, another quick check of the phone and the emails have started.
First, the accountant needs the expense spread sheet immediately. Thankfully, all of my documents are backed up on the cloud so I can securely access them from any device. A quick log-on to the iPad over 3G, and I can immediately locate the spread sheet, and email it over.
15 minutes later and the accountant is on the phone — he needs me to verify some of the purchases that appear to be incorrectly calculated since they were not VAT rated. The iPad lets me run a thin client to my cloud desktop where I have the full version of Microsoft Excel available to me. I can then edit the formulae to correct the values and the spread sheet is back with him in a matter of minutes.
iPad off — into the first meeting…
I remember that I needed the performance figures added to the presentation for this customer meeting. My partner has them so I ring him quickly and ask him to update my presentation in the cloud so it is ready for my meeting.
Our potential customer has some highly sensitive data that cannot be allowed to leave the company. They are very nervous about letting their mobile workforce have access to such data when on the move.
So, I get out the laptop, connect to our data centre over 3G and with the newly updated presentation that my partner has been working on for me, I am ready to go through the proposal. My laptop runs a small program which allows me to show our customer the presentation without any lengthy download / waiting for an email or the frustration of having an out of date presentation.
Understandable questions such as “What if the laptop or smartphone is stolen?”, “What about industrial espionage?” and “How can I give my employees access to information from anywhere, so they can work effectively?” start heading my way.
The obvious challenge is that the two requirements are initially frowned upon as being contradictory. My mobile needs the data anywhere, whereas I need the data to be kept in-house and secure.
Luckily, we already employ technology to bring these two requirements close together. Cloud technology lets us store the data in a secure data centre and allow mobile devices to access it as required.
We can limit which data remains on the mobile device (or laptop / home desktop etc.) and ensure its removal at any point in time. This protects our data from data leak, theft and unauthorised sharing while giving our workforce the ability to react. If the unfortunate happens then we can simply wipe the device data (or subset of it) and our intellectual capital is safe.
What about home workers? How can we ensure that our systems do not become infected with malware or viruses? I am asked.
- Me: “Simple, we do not allow any data to get to your home workers PCs!”
- Customer: “How can they work then?”
- Me: “We keep all data in the data centre and allow users to access it without it ever being transmitted. Applications run in the data centre too so that you don’t ever have to worry about distributing programs or updates.”
- Customer: “What about security?”
- Me: “We employ strong passwords, secondary authentication and encrypt all traffic that exits the data centre. Strong enough?”
- Customer: “And what about my end users with multiple devices?”
- Me: “All applications, data, desktops, email is available on any device, anywhere — your end users can simply switch off one computer and carry on using their smartphone or tablet device — no interruption.”
The conversation continues. How did we ever get by with the 9 to 5?
The meeting closes.
Quite satisfying to see someone understand what is available with a little technology nowadays. A real potential on how their business can transform into a truly agile workforce without compromising security.
I am getting rushed, I have to catch the tube in 10 minutes so I can make the partner meeting.
I have to update a couple of documents prior to the meeting so I can do that on the cached copies on the iPad while on the tube. The documents are stored in a secure area on the iPad so that I can edit them while offline. This gets done pretty quickly and I can get it uploaded automatically at the end of my journey.
Off the tube, time for a quick coffee in costabucks. The document is finished and I let it update. I have about 15 minutes to kill so I get the iPad out just to check a couple of emails.
I get to the partners offices and then start to go through the proposal. All seems to be going well, but I realise half way through the meeting that my iPad isn’t there — I must have left it in the coffee shop!
There is a lot of information stored on there — I know most of it is secured in a protected area, but I don’t want any customer information being shared or lost. I quickly access the Mobile Device Manager software from my smartphone and issue a wipe command to the iPad. All my data is replicated in the data centre anyway so I don’t need to worry about losing anything — I just need to ensure that it is safe from prying eyes. That done, I can relax and look forward to the entertaining conversation with the insurance company — we all know how helpful they can be!
I get out my laptop and reconnect to my virtual desktop in the data centre and I can show the partner my presentation that I have made to the potential customer an hour earlier and go through the other business. I want to share some documents with him, so quickly upload them to the secure share file area. An automated email is sent to him and he can get the documents he needs.
The meeting went well and I can now head home.
So, one day, two meetings, three devices (well, two left), a happy potential customer and a good meeting with the partner.
A touch of nostalgia makes me think back to the days of a computer under my desk spending an age ensuring I have all my information and paperwork with me prior to the day’s meetings. No more — I can use any device for my business, I can access the most up to date data anywhere, and I can feel secure that my business data is safe. I can work with colleagues, partners and customers even when I am away from my desk in such unusual locations as the tube, and in the event of a disaster (losing my iPad), I don’t have to worry about anything important being lost.
How can Sistena help you?
Has Steve’s practical illustration got you thinking about how useful this particular application of cloud could be to your business?