O.K., so it's the afternoon. I spent my morning helping a client with a server and reflecting upon the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King. So...here's this week's tidbits...
Backups, We Don't Need No Stinkin' Backups!
It is 2012, right? In the last month I think I've encountered at least a DOZEN people and businesses who have come to me with some kind of data loss story and not a single one of them had any kind of backup in place. Do we really need to have THAT conversation? Seriously? Sorry, I'm just stunned. And they sit there and look up at me all doe-eyed as if I'd just suggested they need to re-oscillate their transfibulator.
Back. Up. Your. Data. And yes, that includes your workstations if you have any important data stored there (like Outlook data). All hard drives are going to die, back them the heck up. Otherwise you're going to be paying somebody like me a heck of a lot of money to try and get your data back when that drive fails.
Here's an article that might help: http://www.officeforlawyers.com/lawtech/backups.html
Google Gets All Social Wit It
That mild din you heard arising from the tech and social media community was anger that Google has started incorporating Google+ results in their search results *AND* has started excluding Facebook and Twitter results.
Newsflash: Google is a for-profit company. Not a real shock that they'd promote their own products ahead of competitors. YouTube results are coming back high in Google Search results too. (Want to guess who owns YouTube?)
I'm not particularly offended by what an overtly for-profit company does as long as it's not illegal or unethical. There's nothing illegal (as far as I can tell) in them highlighting their own properties in their search results. I think Bing probably does something similar themselves. I guess it's reasonable to criticize Google for a bit of hypocrisy - seeing as how this does seem a bit contrary to the values they've long espoused - but again, I don't really see anything wrong with it as long as we understand that's what's happening.
I am curious to see how this is going to affect the quality of the search results. I think it may be a very different experience for me (with Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks to draw from) than it will be for my mother who Google's quite a lot but doesn't social network whatsoever. Presumably she'll get a far more generic set of results.
I suspect this will ultimately improve search results, but it certainly seems like it will change the game for SEO folks and marketers. Not going to be enough to just load your page up with hidden keywords anymore - you might actually have to get out there and network online.
O.K., so continuing with my Tech predictions for 2012...
2. The Cloud Will Continue To Gain Momentum
Hey, I told you some of them would be obvious. There are a lot of things to like about the Cloud (and a few things to be concerned about). Among it's attractive features:
- Lower cost of entry
- Less hardware to maintain on-premises
- Less on-premises support
- Regular upgrades (double-edged sword)
- Relatively easy remote/mobile access
And there are a lot of evangelists out there pimping the Cloud.
Reality is, for a lot of firms the Cloud makes sense, at least for some applications. Another reality is that when pitched with the promised cost savings of the Cloud a lot of firms are just going to blindly jump for it without really giving it a lot of thought. In some cases that's because they don't have the technical background to give it a solid evaluation; in other cases the promised savings to their operational budget will override any legitimate concerns they might have.
My advice to firms considering the Cloud:
- Evaluate it not just on a yes/no basis but on a use-by-use basis. E-mail in the cloud? Often a good idea. Accounting system in the Cloud? Maybe not. Documents in the Cloud? For the wills/trusts guys it's often a good idea. For the patent/IP guys...really need to think about that. Case management in the Cloud? Maybe.
- Don't mistake price with cost. And don't overlook the CUMULATIVE price. One of my clients got pitched a system that was going to cost them about $170 a month. Not bad, but that's $170 a month every month. In three years that's more than $6,000 - 50% more than the projected cost for them to buy their own server and host themselves in-house. And if you're going to be reliant upon the Internet for a mission-critical application you'll probably want to invest in redundant Internet connections. Don't look at the "$40/user/month" price tag and see it only as a super bargain. There can still be other costs.
- Make sure if you host your data with an outside provider that you can get a copy of your data, in a portable format, ANY time you want at no cost. Otherwise you're effectively held hostage if your relationship with that provider goes bad.
- Ask where your data will be located. You probably don't care too much if your data is being hosted in Oregon or Iowa. If your data is being hosted in Venezuela, Egypt or China that could give you pause.
- Consider if you need the data/applications you're considering to move to the Cloud to integrate with anything else. Integrating Cloud-based apps with on-premises (or other Cloud-based) apps is often tricky. For example: if you want to integrate your document management system with your time & billing system but one is in the Cloud and one is on your server...that may not be so easy. Doubly-so if each is hosted with a different Cloud-based company.
The Cloud *IS* a good solution in many cases. But not in every case. Give it careful thought and see which category you're in before you make a move.
3. Somebody Will Get Burned in the Cloud This Year
My less-obvious Cloud prediction for 2012...somebody is going to get burned. What does that mean?
It means that some law firm(s) in America is going to suffer a serious problem related to their Cloud-hosted applications or data. Perhaps a big embarassing data breach. Perhaps the business failure of a Cloud provider that causes the firm to lose (or at least lose access to) mission-critical data or applications. Perhaps some infrastructure failure that causes them to lose access to critical systems at a critical time - maybe they'll miss a deadline or be shut down just when they're supposed to be in court.
It'll be a big enough deal that Monica Bay and the Law Tech news people will be talking about it for a while. It'll be embarassing and very damaging to the firm(s) affected. And like many disasters it'll be quickly forgotten/dismissed by many in favor of continued cuts to the operational budget.
Next Prediction will probably have something to do with mobile devices....you'll just have to wait and see.
O.K., so I thought I should take a moment and make a few predictions for 2012. Since I don't have time to write these all up in one batch, I'll do them as a series of posts. Here's the first one...
1. RIM Will Get Acquired
Let's face it, RIM is swirling around the drain. They had a DISASTROUS 2011. How disastrous? The guys at Borders are saying "Wow, you guys are in trouble." Not a real shocker if you look at it objectively.
- Blackberrys are preferred by companies and IT departments; but increasingly it's end users selecting their portable devices and end users usually want iPhones and Android devices.
- Blackberry Enterprise Server is a pain in the rear to administer and companies running Exchange Server (which is most of them) have realized that most of the other smartphones on the market will integrate natively with Exchange ActiveSync. Cleaner, simpler, more reliable (though less secure - we'll hit that in a moment)
- The Blackberry Playbook is a business-oriented tablet that doesn't (natively) do what business users on the go MOST want to do: e-mail. In order to get e-mail on your Playbook you have to have a Blackberry phone. So basically they've limited their potential sales to companies that already have Blackberrys deployed and they were never going to get 100% of those. Releasing the Playbook without e-mail was either naivete or arrogance - and I suspect it was the latter. Watching their marketshare on smartphones plummet they released a tablet that required their smartphone in order to get e-mail...expecting that users would gladly buy BOTH devices because...hey...they're Blackberry! They made their fortune on mobile messaging.
- Well, hey at least Blackberry Messenger runs natively on the Playbook right? Umm....
- At $499 it was playing in the iPad's sandbox and the iPad just ate its lunch in almost every respect. Why would you choose a Playbook over an iPad - especially if you weren't already a Blackberry user?
O.K., so they've got issues. Nothing a few software fixes and new devices won't remedy, right? Well...except now they're saying that it may be late 2012 before those devices show up! And a software update for the Playbook that gives it native e-mail should be easy enough right? Well...I guess it's not.
So...what next for RIM? Well, they could just flop around until they run out of money and close the doors, but I suspect that before that happens somebody will step in and acquire them.
For all of their troubles RIM *DOES* have some technologies that are appealing. Blackberry Messenger is a rare success for them and Blackberry devices do generally rank as among the most secure and reliable (their sometimes dodgy network not withstanding). So I could see one of the other players in the mobile market acquiring RIM in part to get their patents (more ammo in the increasingly disgusting patent wars) but moreso to get their technologies. To incorporate Blackberry Messenger in their own devices or use some of their messaging technology to improve the security and reliability of their own platforms.
RIM undoubtedly does still have some talent in the ranks that other mobile device makers would love to have on board. They'll become free agents if RIM folds, but you can secure them (as much as anybody can) if you just acquire the company.
Well, Microsoft is one possibility. They're enterprise focused already and could use some help getting Windows Phone out there. Adding Blackberry Messenger to their devices could give them a boost.
Google is always a possibility. They acquire companies at an alarming rate and the Blackberry patents might help them better protect Android.
My dark horse candidate, though, is Apple. They really could use some enterprise sauce to enhance their consumer-oriented products and maybe some of the Blackberry technology would help them get in the door with corporate IT departments that are still not very comfortable with the way the iToys handle security and compliance. Apple is sitting on a ton of cash so they can certainly afford it.
Maybe they'll get swallowed whole or maybe just picked over for their best parts but I predict that RIM will be owned by somebody else and won't exist as we currently know it when the sun rises on 2013.
CD and Album sales fall 13% in 2010 while digital album sales RISE 24%. And an entertainment industry group claims that piracy is to blame.
The fact is that fewer people want physical CDs anymore. Most of us have an MP3 player of some sort in our pocket, whether it's an iPod, an iPhone, an Android phone or whatever. More people are using Pandora, Spotify and other online services. Many of us have taken our increasingly dusty collections of CDs and either sold them at used music stores or stuffed them in a closet.
Furthermore the days of wanting to pay $15 to get an entire CD just for that one song you like are long since over. Amazon and iTunes make it possible to get that one song you wanted - often for less than $1.
But the entertainment industry is hot to get SOPA or PIPA passed in the United States and similar legislation passed elsewhere to give them unprecedented powers to control what happens on the Internet, even though neither of those bills has much hope of actually slowing down piracy. And so they are going to blame piracy for every news story that comes down the pipe.
Album sales down? Blame piracy. (ignoring the fact that digital sales are WAY up)
Artist revenue lagging? Blame piracy. (despite the fact that they really aren't)
Global warming? Blame piracy.
Anything and everything to try and bolster their case that SOPA and/or PIPA need to be passed. Throwing millions of dollars in lobbying money at Congresspeople won't hurt their efforts either, of course.
Let's talk Carrier IQ, OneNote for iOS and Twitter Clients...
O.K., so now we know a lot more about what Carrier IQ does (and doesn't) do. (Here's a PDF file the company published) It appears that it's not quite as sinister as it was originally feared to be. But when reading about Carrier IQ be sure to pay close attention to the words. A recent denial that Carrier IQ shares data with the FBI said that they "don't" share data with the FBI. When it comes to information security there is an ocean of difference between "don't" and "can't".
Carrier IQ has badly handled this whole situation and it starts at the beginning. If you tell people "Hey, we've got a diagnostic mode on the phones that will let us know if you drop a call so that we can fix the service" I think most people would be o.k. with that. Doubly-so if they gave people an easy way to opt-out of that and uninstall the software. But by hiding the software and then making it difficult for the average user to disable or remove they all but guaranteed there would be an uproar when it was eventually discovered.
Transparency is the order of the day when you're doing such things.
OneNote for iOS
Yesterday Microsoft released an update to the OneNote app for iOS (Version 1.3) and it included three things that have been much anticipated and one thing that has been vaguely dreaded...
First and foremost they finally released an iPad version of the app. Yes, the old version ran on iPad too but it didn't scale to the 10" screen so it didn't look very good. Now they have an iPad-optimized version of OneNote.
Secondly the iOS app now supports viewing tables in OneNote. In past versions if you had a table in your notes (created with the OneNote for Windows client) they wouldn't appear in the iOS app. Now you can read them on your iPhone or iPad.
Third, and this is one that most folks might not have thought of, they released the app to a lot more regions. Initially the app was U.S.-only, which caused a lot of criticism internationally. Then they released it to a limited number of mostly English-speaking countries. U.K., Canada, etc. Now it's available in a much wider set of countries including Japan, Germany and so forth.
For all that goodness the other shoe finally dropped as well. OneNote for iOS is no longer a free app - now it's a "freemium" app. What that means is that there is still a free version but it's limited to 500 notes. When you exceed 500 notes you'll either have to upgrade to the premium "unlimited" version which costs $4.99 for the iPhone or $14.99 for the iPad or else you'll not be able to create or edit any of your notes on the iDevice.
Microsoft always said the app was "Free for a limited time". Well, that limited time has apparently expired. Frankly if you're a real user of OneNote it's worth the money.
Wish List: There are a couple of things I really wish we'd see with OneNote
- OneNote for Android. Those of us who don't have iDevices or Windows phones would like to be able to use OneNote on our smartphones too. And yes, I'm sure we'd pay for it. There are third-party alternatives but they're just not as good.
- The mobile app should be able to sync to SharePoint, at least with Office365, in addition to SkyDrive. A lot of my clients would love to use OneNote mobile but they're not willing to locate their company notes on SkyDrive. They want to sync to SharePoint the way OneNote 2010 does.
For more info...OneNote-Tips.com
Twitter Hits the Deck
So the nice folks at Twitter acquired Tweetdeck, a popular Twitter client and the one that I've been using for a while, not long ago and they just released their first new version of Tweetdeck to coincide with the updates to the Twitter site and other Twitter clients. Unfortuately...they messed it up.
- Fewer Features - The new Tweetdeck ONLY supports Twitter. No more LinkedIn. No way to set a per-column filter anymore. Scheduling Tweets is a little harder
- New look - I like the new look generally but now it doesn't support partial columns. I used to get 4.5 columns on my screen - the .5 column was enough to at least see if there were new posts in that column that might be useful. Now it gives me 4 columns and an inch or two of blank space.
- Buggy - Tweets disappear for no apparent reason or never appear at all. If I click to see the extra columns on the 2nd page (to the right) and come back to the 1st page often times one or more of the columns on the 1st page will have mysteriously cleared itself - all the tweets in it are gone. The "Me" column (formerly "Mentions") is totally unreliable. Yesterday I opened Tweetdeck to find 5 posts in the Me column. But the Twitter website showed that there were at least 4 new Tweets mentioning me and what happened to the hundreds from before that? The 4 new Tweets never did show up in Tweetdeck. Made me wonder what else I was missing.
Maybe Twitter will release a new version that fixes these issues but if they do...how will you know? There's no apparent place in Tweetdeck to find out what version you're running now and no obvious "Check for Updates" mechanism. For a week or so quite a few of my tweets were complaining about the problems with Tweetdeck. Finally I decided that rather than shout at the darkness I might as well light a candle.
So...I'm evaluating other options. In brief...
- MetroTwit (Freemium) - One of the best looking clients. Currently only supports a single Twitter account. Multi-account is "coming soon" but only in the "Plus" version which costs a few bucks.
- Seesmic (Free) - Has a desktop app and a browser app. Supports scheduling and multiple accounts. All in all pretty good EXCEPT...searches don't work at all. They just spin and spin and spin but never return any actual results.
- Hootsuite (Free) - Powerful suite that supports Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more. Multiple accounts, scheduled Tweets, searches actually work. In my opinion has the ugliest UI of the batch so far, but seems to be the most functional.
So that's where I'm at. Currently using Hootsuite, might try something else before the day is done. Wish Twitter hadn't screwed up Tweetdeck but I may give them another try if they fix those issues. If Seesmic's searches worked I might go that way. Metrotwit is awfully pretty - but I need multi-account.
What's YOUR favorite Twitter client? Tweet me at @bschorr.