Mobility in the middle of your lifestyle


Lucky me, I am working for a company where mobility is truly part of the way we work. When I joined Microsoft, they gave me a “package” of technologies that I use every day. Check this picture:

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·        A Laptop: running Windows 7 for now 6 month (I love Win7), strong enough to run Virtual Machines.

·        A Cell phone running Windows 6.5 and a BT headset (I hate fines when I am in my car 😉

·        A .net smart cart for authentication, but also used to sign documents with RMS.

·        A 3G USB key used to reach the internet even if there is no Wifi connection around, via 3G networks (cell phone infrastructure)

·        A VOIP headset

·        A conference POD also connected to our VOIP system

On the other side of the virtual Wire (internet) we can access to all Microsoft products that makes mobility totally true today thanks to these technologies:

·        I personally use a lot IAG/UAG to reach all of our internal web applications. My favorite is of course “vacations”, but we have around 200 of them including Microsoft and non Microsoft products.

·        RPC over HTTP and OWA for messaging, and soon I will move to the windows 2008 “Direct Access” technology (Windows 7)

·        Communicator for chat, presence, and also VOIP

·        Live meeting for presentation, support and audio conferencing

 

With all these features, I can say that as a pre-sales technical person, I can cover 9 countries (last year Central and Eastern Europe, and this year Middle East and Africa), talk to my customer with reduced costs (VOIP), provide remote presentations (Live Meeting), provide remote assistance and implement “Proof of Concept”, without even having to travel. Last year I just had to travel twice for IDA events in Poland and Russia, all the other actions were “remote”.

I thought that it could be interesting to share that with you, because such technology seem “scifi” when you don’t have them, but becomes really important as soon as you can experience all the good things it brings.

This mobility package is definitely linked to my day to day activity, as an IT Person, covering a large region. But it is important also to notice also all the good things that mobility in general can bring in other scenarios, for both companies and citizens. Here is a list of few real live examples :

·        Ability to do home working if your job is compatible with, most of the time partial home working is always possible.

·        Ability to cope with private life constraints: sick kids, etc…

·        Traffic Jam: I am based in Paris, and if I want to be at 9 in my office, it takes me 2H30. If I can be there at 11H00 it will take only 40 mn. So if my agenda is compatible, I usually do home working between 8 to 10 (mostly emails, telephone calls, …) then I jump in my car. With that approach I am more efficient, and I lower the costs and nobody can even notice (I mean customers).

·        Weather problems : snow, rain, ice,

·        And more !

So YES, mobility is a very nice thing for the companies, but also for all citizens. Of course it requires a bit of change in the management style, but technology speaking it is very mature. Good thing working at Microsoft, we have all the products required to provide such service in our portfolio and they know how to co-work together, so my communicator can talk to my sharepoint (people presence for example), I can organize my Live Meeting in Outlook, etc.

WARNING : As you know, the world is fighting with the Flu (keywords :

). Some countries are currently fighting with it, some other expect acceleration in September or October 2009. One of the good things to prevent your employees to be infected would be to provide them some of these technologies. Based on my experience, most of the people have Cell phones, but what is missing is the ability to access company’s applications.

Some of the companies have already implemented technologies to provide such service (VPN, VPN/SSL, Terminal Server, etc) so now it is just a matter of coordination and your ability to have sufficient internet bandwidth. But still most of the companies don’t have such service, especially small and medium-sized ones.

If you read this post and don’t have such service, here is my free advice to fix that problem as soon as possible, and be prepared to that major constraint:

·        Implement a mobility Box, such as Microsoft IAG:

o   Good thing with IAG is that it is an appliance (preinstalled, pre-hardened). So you rack it, provide an IP, create a portal and 15 mn later it is up and running. Available as “Appliance” or “Virtual Appliace” (Hour hardware, HyperV in the middle).

o   It provide all the technologies you need: VPN/SSL (easier/quicker way to provide mobility), reverse proxy & port forwarder (stronger in terms of security, slower to implement), … It is not intrusive, and prevent some discussion with network/security people who like to work in project mode.

o   It can (I would say it has to) be easily combine with strong authentication, including the smartest one such as One Time Password, etc. Cool thing is that newest technologies do not require hardware tokens, so lower costs, and easy to deploy.

·        Make sure that you upgrade your internet line to cope with the traffic : would recommend to change bandwidth for minimum September/October/November if you are in the north (winter arriving, flu likes cold weather)

·        Train/inform your users about how to connect and how to use it : create a flyer, send email, …

IAG is preinstalled pre-hardened, and can be implemented either as an appliance (hardware + IAG image preloaded) or as a virtual appliance (Your hardware, an IAG Virtual Machine, both talking to each other via Win2008/HyperV technology).

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THE VERY NICE THING is that this kind of service can be implemented in less than 2 days, with all security requirements. It is also important to notice that such “remote access” solution is not that expensive. It has a cost of course, but compared with the service (and the loss you may have if your employees our stuck at home) it is very interesting.

Most of the Microsoft Gold Partners are trained and ready to install quickly such technology… later when the crisis will be out, you will have time to go into a “project” process to leverage such technology, enhance the implementation, implement “application layer security”, etc. All these features are in IAG, you just need time to discover during a second phase.

If you want more information, ping me and I will route you to the appropriate person depending on where you are located (fesnouf@microsoft.com).

 

Go “mobile” !

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