More touchscreens in the enterprise?

prodLinkAre you ready for more touch screens in the enterprise?

Windows 8 is an operating system built for touch.  Whether its running on a PC, tablet or phone, its been designed around the touch being the main form of interaction.

We already use touch screens regularly with our phones and tablets but how would they work as your own form of computing?

Personally, I don’t see it working for me but thats because of what i do and how I do it. A touch screen isn’t ideal for me…at least in current technological forms. That said, could touchscreens become even more common place in organizations?

There are plenty of companies betting that the answer is yes.

Dell has released a few new products to take advantage of the new Windows 8 touch capabilities.  Of course they have a tablet in the XPS 10 Tablet but there’s also an ultrabook version with the XPS 12 Ultrabook.   Both of these devices are form factors that we are all quite used to seeing and using and are both excellent platforms for a touch screen OS.

In addition, the touch screen technology has also been added to a few of Dell’s “all in one” PC’s with the Inspiron 23 All in One computer.    This (and others like it) is the machine that is vying to replace your desktop…but can it?

Sure you can use a mouse and keyboard with it…and most probably will…but will the touch features be used widely in business?     At home, I can see a touch screen PC becoming something that is used often as it morphs into a part of the living room as a media player, etc…but at work I’m not sure i see touch becoming the main interaction method with PC’s, especially for those employees that are heavy users of analytic’s and word processing tools (e.g., Word, Excel, databases, etc).

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how Windows 8, an operating system designed for touch, works for non-touch PC’s and environments.  Is there enough of functionality and features for those folks who aren’t interested in using a touch-based PC on the desktop?

From what I can see, Windows 8 can ‘transition’ to a non-touch PC fairly easily by moving away from the new ‘grid’ and back into a Windows 7 like environment.  In my research and demo’s of Windows 8 devices, I’ve not  run across any issues using a non-touch device with this touch-centric OS, but I haven’t been using a Windows 8 product as my sole platform either.

Back to the original question…will this touch-centric OS mean more touch screen’s in the enterprise? I think it will. I think many people and organizations will be migrating to Windows 8, and as part of that migration, touch-screen tablets and laptops will most likely start to trickle into the organization. I see those two platforms (tablets and laptops) as being the most used in organizations

What does more touch screens mean for the IT group?  It mean that there will be new training required as well as new approaches to support Windows 8.  That aside, I don’t see there being any additional undue burden on IT support staff from Windows 8’s touch screen approach – the biggest support issue will be just supporting a new OS, regardless of whether touch is involved.

Touch won’t take over the enterprise…yet. Heavy users of word processing, email and spreadsheets (the majority of business users) won’t be able to replace their physical keyboards. That said, we are going to see more touch devices in tablets, ultrabooks and phones.

Are you ready for more touch devices in your organization? They are coming.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell

Windows 8 and the Enterprise – Bring your own Device (BYOD)

prodLinkOne of the big issues in the IT space is the growing acceptance by organizations that employees want to bring their own devices into the office.  This trend, called “bring your own device” or most often called “BYOD” has been gaining traction over the last few years.

One of the largest issues with BYOD is a simple yet important issue and has to do with the most basic of IT Functions – security.   Allowing users to bring in their own devices and connect to the corporate network is just asking for headaches for the information technology team.

In the past, IT has had to build special processes to allow users to bring in their own devices. This often meant that an IT professional would have to take the device, scan it for security issues and work through a large security process to get the new device onto the network.

With the release of Windows 8 for both mobile devices and PC’s, in addition to new Microsoft management features, the headaches found with BYOD might just be solved…or at least alleviated.

A few features that Windows 8 brings to the table to help with the BYOD headaches:

  • Windows To Go – provides for a full Windows 8 desktop environment that can be stored on a USB drive. This would allow a user to bring in their own PC, but run a fully-functional, corporate sponsored version of Windows 8while on the company network..
  • New Security Features – new Windows 8 security features provide for much more restrictions on files and applications
  • Data Access – DirectAccess, a new Windows 8 feature, allows remote PC’s to connect to the enterprise infrastructure without using a VPN.  This feature also allows for easier direct management of these remote computers.

While these are just a few of the new features in Windows 8, they are important ones and will go a long way toward removing BOYD headaches for IT professionals.

In addition to features within Windows 8 and new security/management features, new PC’s, tablets and phones are coming into the marketplace to help take advantage of mobility and BYOD. With the release of Windows 8, Dell has released a few enterprise and consumer devices with Windows 8 available.   A few examples of some of Dell’s new machines:

  • Dell XPS 12 – an ultrabook that could be quite useful at home or at work.  The great thing about this machine is Dell sells it with Prosupport to allow it to fit nicely within the Enterprise.
  • Dell XPS 10 – a tablet optimized for Windows 8 RT.  A perfect machine for someone who’s always moving around and mobile
  • Dell Latitude 6430 – another ultrabook built for business environments

By combining new features in Windows 8, new management functionality and new Windows 8 machines, IT professionals and consumers can start to alleviate some of the headaches that BYOD has historically meant for IT groups.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell

Windows 8 Migration Tips for Small Businesses

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, you’ve seen the announcement of the release of Windows 8 from Microsoft.

For individuals purchasing a new computer you’ll most likely be forced to buy one that has Windows 8 installed.  This may cause some consternation at first with having to learn a new operating system…but after a few days, weeks or months, you’ll pick it up. If the idea of another new Windows release scares you, you’ll be able to find computers with Windows 7 installed if you look hard enough (e.g., Dell sells computers for “business” that will have Windows 7 installed).

For businesses looking to roll out new computers now (or over the next year or so), you’ll be able to continue to use Windows 7 but a migration plan to Windows 8 is most likely being discussed.

If you are on the fence about migrating to Windows 8, it might be worth taking a few minutes to review some of the sites out there focused on what Windows 8 delivers. Dell has a pretty good page titled What You Need to Know About Windows 8 that provides some basic information about the new OS.

Large organizations have most likely been planning a Windows 8 migration for quite some time now using pre-release versions of Windows 8. This allows IT professionals to test out features, functionality and think through integration and roll-0ut plans.   For most of these organizations, there’s a group of people focused on this migration plan and how they will (or won’t) roll it out over the coming months/years.

I’ve spent time in projects like this and can tell you there is quite a lot of work involved for an organization of any size to roll-out a new operating system.  Not only do new processes and procedures have to be created but documentation has to be updated, user training created and a full roll-out of new computers has to be performed.

From my experience, the decision to migrate to a new operating system (OS) is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The large organizations have the abilities, skills and people to plan out these types of migrations, but many small businesses are completely in the dark when it comes to migrating to a new OS.

Most small businesses have no capabilities to plan for a migration like this. The IT staff of most small organizations are completely understaffed or non-existent.  If an IT staff exists, they’re usually overloaded by just keeping things running on a shoe-string budget.  Rolling out a new OS is just adding to that overload.

For the small business owners and managers out there, it is still worth finding some time to look at Windows 8 and think through a migration plan.  As a way to kick-off that thought process, a few steps that you can take to better prepare for Windows 8 are provided below.

  • Get buy-in from your users – whether you have 100 users or 10 users, if they are dead-set against Windows 8 (or any OS change), you may want to spend time understanding and addressing their concerns. You can built the best OS migration plan in the world, but if your users mutiny when it rolls out, you are in trouble.
  • Test the OS –  This is time consuming and may require some outlay of capital to get a new Windows 8 computer (or computers), but it is money well spent.   Find a tech-savvy user within your company (or better yet, a few of them) and provide them with a Windows 8 computer.  Start this test slowly and allow them to keep their old machines for day-to-day work and have them slowly migrate to the new machines over a few weeks.  Have them test all your organization’s applications from a user’s standpoint.  Ask them to do everything they would normally do with the old machine and have them note any issues they find in a central document/repository.  These ‘notes’ will need to be addressed before a larger roll-out.
  • Use a “roving” computer – When buying your ‘test’ computers, buy an extra machine that can be passed around the organization to multiple people. The more people that can get their hands on a new machine with the new OS, the more change you have of dispelling any negative feelings/rumors that might exist.  Build a calendar that allows people to use the machine for a few days/weeks at a time before handing it off to another user.
  • Test the Security – One of the biggest issues for any new OS migration revolves around security. Windows 8 uses AES encryption in Windows Bitlocker Drive Encryption system, so one of the first things you’ve got to do is test out how that encryption works. Does it slow the computer down? Does it cause any issues for a user? It shouldn’t cause a problem…but you’ve got to test these types of things out.
  • Test out the Cloud – One of the big pushes for Windows 8 is the integration with the ‘cloud’.   While I’ve not physically tested out this integration, what I’ve read and seen in marketing materials is impressive.    The Cloud is here to stay so it’s worth the effort to figure out how to uses the features for day-to-day work….and how best to secure against any private information making it into any non-private cloud locations.

This might seem  like a lot of extra work for an already overloaded small business, but its work that can be done in parallel to day-to-day operations, especially if you get a few of your tech-savvy users to help test things out.

For additional tips and information about migrating to Windows 8, check out Dell’s Windows 8 Migration site for some excellent content around migrating to Windows 8 for organizations of all sizes.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell

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