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Mark your calendar and register for the region's
biggest and most comprehensive online event dedicated to virtualization, cloud
computing, and end-user computing – VMware Virtual Cloud Day 2013 – on Thursday,
30 May 2013.
Join up to 15,000 IT practitioners across Asia-Pacific and
Japan to learn about VMware's cloud and desktop solutions.
What's on this
This year, we will share how VMware's
software-defined data center can transform the way IT is delivered by
abstracting, pooling and automating all data center resources and services to:
Reduce CapEx by up to 30%1
application downtime by up to 36%2
diagnostics and problem resolution time by up to
We will also address the various
cloud infrastructure management challenges faced by IT organizations, and
explore the complexities of the fast growing trend – mobility at the workplace –
through on-demand webcasts on:
Cloud computing and management.
your Tier 1 business critical applications.
Windows migration and modernization under one hour.
your new mobile workforce while ensuring highest security and
Highlights of the
Keynote address by Pat Gelsinger, CEO, VMware.
and securely build your mobile workforce through our latest innovative solutions
in end-user computing.
our virtual booths to download resources and chat with VMware and partner
experts on topics ranging from getting started with virtualization to cloud
with your peers at our networking lounge.
forward to seeing you at Virtual Cloud Day, where our experts will guide you on
the next phase of your cloud journey.
30 May 2013, Thursday
10:00am – 1:30pm (IST)
This is an online event. You will be provided
with a link and login details upon registration.
Learning the basics of Citrix XenApp 5 for Windows Server 2008 is a fairly easy process. However, understanding all the installation options, configuration settings, management consoles and administrative processes for all the various Citrix software and hardware components that can go into a Citrix farm can be a daunting task. This series of articles will lead you from the very first step to the very last step of installing, configuring and testing XenApp 5 on a single server running Windows Server 2008. The goal – to get you installing and running a Published Application in the shortest amount of time.
Aside from email, one of the most known and widely used “cloud” services is data storage. As I continue my 30 Days With the Cloud journey, I have a wide choice of online storage options to choose from. Today I will take a look at some of them, and some of the pros and cons of using cloud storage at all.
Google provides online storage for data with Google Docs. The advertised storage allocation is 1GB, which doesn’t sound like much. However, as I pointed out on Day 6, the files I create in Google Docs or convert to Google Docs formats when uploading are not counted against the quota, which means it is virtually unlimited storage.
There are so many other options out there, though, that it is virtually impossible to do them all justice in the course of one short blog post. Microsoft has SkyDrive. Apple recently rolled out iCloud. There are a myriad of startups and other players filling the online storage space as well: Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, SkyDox, ADrive, and more.
Pros of Cloud Storage
There are a number of benefits to storing data online. First, having your data stored in the cloud means that you have access to your data from virtually anywhere as long as you have access to the cloud.
In addition, most online storage services also provide some means of sharing files with others--making it easier to collaborate on or deliver large files without clogging up the email system with massive file attachments.
These are two big benefits in favor of cloud storage. If you have ever forgotten a crucial file on your desktop PC, and not had remote access to get it, or if you have ever dealt with the frustration of trying to share and work with a 10MB or larger file via email, you will appreciate the advantages of cloud storage.
Google Docs provides free online storage, but I prefer to use Box.
Cons of Cloud Storage
There are some potential down sides to storing your data in the cloud as well, though. For starters, having universal access from anywhere you can connect to the Web only works if you can connect to the Web. That means if you don’t have an Internet connection, you don’t have any data.
There are also security concerns to consider. Hopefully the data you store in the cloud is being stored encrypted to it is protected from casual access. However, if the storage provider controls the encryption keys you are A) trusting that the it will do securely and that the keys won’t fall into the wrong hands, and B) trusting that the employees of the storage provider won’t abuse their access to the encryption keys.
One other issue is that when you store your data online you run the risk that it may just be gone one day. The storage provider could have a data center meltdown and your data could just be gone. Buh-bye.
Call me paranoid, but I don’t trust my data in the cloud. Actually, it is more accurate to say that I don’t trust my data solely in the cloud. As much as online storage vendors preach redundancy of data centers and tell me that my data is safe and secure, nobody cares of my data the way I do.
Of course, I also don’t trust my data solely on my local drive either. Basically, when I am using local software and storing my files locally, I back up to the cloud so I know I will have my data even if my house burns down. Now that I am working and living in the cloud and storing my data online to begin with, I feel compelled to back it up locally to guarantee I will still have my data no matter what happens to the cloud storage provider or its data centers.
I am using the storage provided to me by Google Docs, but I have been a long-time user of Box and I like the fact that Box is integrated into many of the mobile apps I use on my iPhone and iPad, and that Box enables me to sync data to a local folder on my PC as well so I can rest assured that I will still have my data no matter what happens to Box.
Of course, I also have accounts with SkyDrive, iCloud, and Dropbox…and maybe a few others. I prefer to try and be consistent, though, so I don’t end up with files scattered willy nilly across the Internet.
Most talk about the cloud is focused on the magic ability to access tools, services, and data from virtually anywhere because the cloud is everywhere…except when it’s not. I got to experience that fun first hand today, and it highlights a serious drawback to relying on the cloud.
I woke up, made some coffee, and started streaming some music from the cloud in preparation for getting to work this morning. I stepped away from my desk for a few minutes and returned to a silent office. What happened to my streaming music?
What happened to my streaming music is that my Internet connection went down. If it were just the music service itself that went down, I could get by. I am sure I can get my work done without listening to Adele, but it is much harder to do anything productive when the entire Internet connection is gone.
No Internet means no Google Docs, which means no writing. It means no Gmail, which means no email. It means no access to the Web, no Facebook, no Twitter, and no Google+. What do you do with a PC when you depend on entirely on the cloud, and the cloud isn’t there?
Before starting the 30 Days With the Cloud project, at least I had more options. I still wouldn’t have access to new email, but I’d be able to read and respond to whatever emails were already in my Inbox (Granted—the responses wouldn’t actually be sent until I got connected to the Internet again). I could still open up Microsoft Word and write.
Sometimes the cloud can rain on your parade.
Because I have access to a number of gadgets and technologies, I didn’t stay disconnected long. I just turned my iPhone 4S into a Wi-Fi hotspot and jumped back online while I waited for Comcast to come back to life. But, not everyone has a “Plan B” for connecting to the Internet.
In fact, a lack of stable connectivity or sufficient broadband speed are reasons that the cloud may not be for everyone in the first place. I can ramble on about the trials and tribulations I experienced today when my super speedy broadband had an outage of some sort, but in many parts of the country there is no super speedy broadband to begin with.
I am sure I will come back to this issue later in this 30 Days series. The fact is that the cloud provides a variety of benefits and advantages, but it also comes with one very serious Achilles heel.
For yesterday’s 30 Days With the Cloud post, I spent time choosing a cloud-based email service, and getting it all set up. In the comments, there were some issues raised about how or why I set things up the way I did, so today I am taking another look at the issue of email in the cloud.
For those who haven’t yet read Day 7, I decided to use Gmail for my webmail service. I don’t necessarily prefer Gmail, but because of other factors that led me to choose Google Docs as my cloud-based productivity suite, Gmail seemed to make the most sense.
However, the way I set up Gmail led some to suggest I was “cheating” on the premise of 30 Days With the Cloud. Basically, I chose Gmail, but set up my established personal email address as a POP account within Gmail, then set up Gmail as a POP account within Microsoft Outlook. The net result is cloud-based email that I can access from the Web if necessary, but that is downloaded and stored locally on my PC by default.
There seemed to be two primary issues that some readers had with this set up. First, my use of Microsoft Outlook to store my “cloud” email locally, and second, my use of POP as opposed to IMAP as the protocol for setting up my email.
There is more than one way to configure and use Gmail.
First, let’s address the POP / IMAP issue. There seem to be some strong opinions about using IMAP over POP. The primary advantage of IMAP is that the information is actually retained on the server. The same thing can be achieved with a POP account by simply checking the box telling the email client to leave a copy of the message on the server.
The other benefit of IMAP, though, is keeping things in sync. Where POP will simply download my messages to my PC, iPhone, iPad, or wherever else I choose, I then have to maintain each device separately when it comes to deleting or archiving emails. With IMAP, the different local repositories are synced up with the server, and subsequently with other devices. So, if I delete an email, or move an email to another folder, those changes should be automatically propagated to my other IMAP clients as well.
There is a problem with using IMAP--at least for me. First, when adding my personal domain email account to Gmail it seems the only option is POP. There is an option in the Accounts and Import settings to “Import mail and contacts,” but it isn’t clear whether that is an IMAP connection that will be ongoing, or just a one-time import of the existing data.
Frankly, I am not sure yet what exactly it will import from my email@example.com account. It says it could take days to complete the import and that I just need to check back under the Accounts and Import settings to see when it’s done. I’ll have to wait and see how that works out.
As far as using POP to download my Gmail account to Microsoft Outlook, or using Microsoft Outlook at all, I have given it some thought and decided that perhaps some of the comments are correct. It would be nice to have the email data kept in sync across multiple devices, so IMAP has it’s advantages, but I preemptively jumped to using Outlook to download and store my email locally for when (not if) I lose connectivity to the cloud and need access to my email.
But, in the spirit of the 30 Days With the Cloud series, it makes more sense to just use Gmail in the cloud, and cross that bridge when I come to it, so that is what I will do.
To sum up—my personal email account is set up as a POP account in Gmail because I need to continue using my actual established email account and I am not yet sure what “Import mail and contacts” in Gmail is going to do for me. Aside from that, though, I am going to use Gmail from the Web as intended.
Email is my primary method of communication, and a crucial function of my computer and mobile devices. As I spend 30 Days With the Cloud, I need to explore the Webmail options, and make sure I have access to my email from the cloud.
Email was one of the first tools to embrace the Web and make the transition to “cloud-based”. Services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, and Gmail have millions upon millions of users. The actual numbers may be a bit misleading, though, because many people--like me--have accounts on all of them (multiple accounts in some cases), but don’t really use any of them.
Choosing a Webmail Service
With all of the various webmail options out there, the question is “which one should I use?” As I said, I have used a variety of webmail clients off and on over the years. They all work in terms of providing the basic service of sending and receiving email.
Some of the things worth considering are the junkmail filtering and malware protection capabilities of each service, and its track record in terms of outages and issues. None of them are perfect, though, and the big names like Gmail and Hotmail are relatively equal.
All else being equal, it makes sense to choose the webmail service that ties in with my choice of productivity platform. If I were using Microsoft Office Web apps, Hotmail would make the most sense, but since I am going with Google Docs, it makes sense to choose Gmail to handle my webmail needs for this series.
Taking My Email to the Cloud
There is one big problem with switching to Gmail--I have my own domain that I use for my primary email address. I guess some people might welcome the clean start that comes with setting up a new email account, but I have been using the same email address personally and professionally for years.
I want people to be able to find and contact me, so even if I planned to abandon local software for good and just live in the cloud indefinitely, I would not want to abandon my email address.
This is simple enough to fix. I can just add my primary email account to Gmail so that any email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will be delivered to Gmail. Voila! Now I can receive, read, and respond to my emails from the cloud while still using my established primary email address.
Since I am using Google Docs, Gmail just makes the most sense for cloud-based email.
Keeping the Cloud Local
I have two big complaints about relying on webmail. First, I don’t really like any of the webmail interfaces. Second, I don’t want my access to my email to be limited by my cloud connectivity.
Google does have a Gmail Offline app that works with Google’s Chrome Web browser to allow me to read, search, and respond to emails while offline. I like Microsoft Outlook, though, and I would prefer to use my familiar email client. Just because I am using a cloud-based email service doesn’t mean I have to use its cloud-based interface.
I set up Gmail as a POP account in Outlook so I can stick with the email client I am most comfortable with, and have my email downloaded locally so it is available even if I happen to be flying at 30,000 feet, or lose my Internet connection for some reason.
I also have my Gmail account set up on my iPhone and iPad. The iOS mail client isn’t my favorite, but it does the trick and at least my mail is still downloaded so I can read and respond to messages even when I am not connected to the cloud. Of course, my responses won’t be delivered until I connect again, but at least I can remain productive with or without the cloud.
It seems sort of circular and convoluted, but it gets the job done. My established email address is set up to deliver to Gmail so I can get my email in the cloud, and my Gmail is set up to download and store my email locally in Microsoft Outlook so I can still access it even if I am not connected to the cloud.
I want to stress, though, that my choice of Gmail is not necessarily a ringing endorsement of Gmail, or any sort of commentary on rival webmail services like Hotmail. What I am finding as I go through this cloud journey is that many of the tools and services are interrelated, and that the path of least resistance is to choose the integrated collection that works best for the big picture.
This is the third day of the 30 Days With the Cloud series dedicated to assessing the online productivity suite platforms and selecting one to use for the remainder of my month in the cloud. Today I am exploring Microsoft Office Web Apps.
When I consider the look and feel of the user interface for these cloud-based productivity platforms, it is in relation to what I am used to--which is the Microsoft Office suite. I was not at all surprised to find that Microsoft Office Web apps provides the closest user interface to the one I am comfortable with.
The Microsoft Office Web apps menus and tools lack the ribbon interface from Office 2010, though. It has a ribbon-ish interface, but it is significantly limited compared with the flexibility and capabilities of the ribbons in the actual Microsoft Office equivalents. The graphic interface is there, but the options are more like what Zoho Docs offers.
Microsoft relies on its own SkyDrive cloud storage for Office Web Apps. In fact, the SkyDrive site is essentially the Microsoft Office Web apps home page. SkyDrive displays the files and folders I have stored there, and at the top are icons to create new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or OneNote files using the Web apps.
Microsoft offers Web-based versions of the Office tools I am used to.
Because I am measuring compatibility based on how well the different cloud-based suites work with standard Microsoft Office file formats, it's no shocker that Microsoft Office Web apps is the clear winner here as well.
The formatting and fidelity of Office Web apps is a given--as long as you don’t get too fancy. Standard formatting functions like bold, italic, underline, highlighting, and inserting images work fine. When it comes to more complex documents with edit tracking enabled, or comments, the files can be viewed from SkyDrive, but can not be edited with Office Web apps.
Sharing and Collaboration
Microsoft has made significant strides in this area, but it still lags behind Google when it comes to real-time sharing and collaboration on files. In July Microsoft added a co-authoring feature for the Word Web app. It does allow for multiple parties to collaborate simultaneously on a document, but it doesn’t reflect the changes instantly like Google Docs.
As I would expect, Microsoft’s cloud-based productivity tools work best with Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 smartphones. Go figure. Windows Phone 7 is tightly integrated with SkyDrive and Office Web apps.
For those who use Windows Phone 7 smartphones, it makes choosing Microsoft Office Web apps a virtual no-brainer--just as those who have Android devices are probably best off with Google Docs. Of course, I have an iPhone and an iPad, and both Google Docs and Office Web apps falter on iOS in comparison with their own native mobile platforms.
Having spent some time with each of these three cloud-based productivity platforms, I find myself torn between Google Docs and Microsoft Office Web Apps. I genuinely prefer Microsoft Office Web Apps personally. I like the apps themselves better. I appreciate the integration with the Microsoft Office software installed locally on my PC--and the additional functionality that comes with that.
If those were the only considerations, Microsoft Office Web apps would be a slam-dunk decision. However, other people I interact and collaborate with operate from Google Docs, and I prefer Box.net to SkyDrive, so Google Docs has the edge there. When push comes to shove, I don’t like Google Docs nearly as much, but it provides a better overall experience for me in terms of what I do and how I need to use it.
It is hard to declare a clear winner. The decision is entirely subjective and can be swayed significantly depending on the mobile platform you use, what your customers or co-workers use, and other factors beyond the productivity platform itself. It’s a toss-up, but I am going to choose Google Docs as my productivity platform for the remainder of this series.