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Doug's Mailbag: Security Collaboration, Office and the Cloud

One reader discusses the need for collaboration with Microsoft and other third-party software companies:

There are three programs that ought to somehow be included in Microsoft Updates -- Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, and Java Runtime. These three programs are probably on almost all Windows PCs. Yes, Oracle and Adobe have started providing notification of updates -- the problem is you have to be an admin to install them, and most business users are not going to be admins on their PCs. That means that those of us who are admins have to figure out ways to keep these programs up-to-date. While there are work-arounds for doing this, nothing is as simple and seamless as Microsoft Update.

While we have not been "attacked" through these three products to this point (that I am aware of!), it only takes one machine that does not get an update to ruin your day.

I have heard rumors of collaboration among these three vendors to distribute updates through Microsoft Update. I hope they can look past their differences and work together.
 - Jim

Here are a reader's thoughts on Office and some of the cloud-based alternatives:

When I put my Information Security hat on, I cannot imagine putting any business information into the cloud, since I'd have to explain the security risks and mitigation with my business partners (I work for an insurance company). Putting my IT idea-man hat on, I can tell you that we've done a little experimentation with various alternatives to MS-Office. Here are the conclusions we've reached:

  • The RIBBON is awful. It very hard for me to convince anyone to move off Office 2003 when they will have to face a huge learning curve and months of frustration.
  • MS-Office costs a whole lot of money, but has a whole lot of features, specifically Excel and Outlook.
  • Open Office works well, but many of the features (keyboard shortcuts, etc.) seem to be missing.
  • Google apps work well, but even more of the features are not there.
  • Microsoft Office Live (or whatever it's called) doesn't work well at all. After experiencing the non-intuitive interface, confusing "collaboration" tools, and near-total lack of collaboration, we're convinced that this is just so that Microsoft can claim that they have what Google has. They don't.


Doug asked if Office 365 is compelling enough for enterprises. Here's one reader's response:

Nope. Not compelling at all. Microsoft is trying to live in both worlds: the world of the enterprise and the world of the consumer.

IBM introduced Bill Gates to the world of the enterprise and he soon recognized that the consumer who is also an enterprise employee could drive demand for desktop systems in the enterprise. Gates saw an opportunity and jumped on it. Once PCs were established as the dominant desktop platform in the enterprise, he tied those desktops together with enterprise-class servers.

By and large, the great bulk of Microsoft's customers are in the enterprise. They are either business customers with a large number of Windows desktops (all tied together by Windows Servers) or they are OEMs that are SELLING Windows desktops to consumers.

The emergence of cloud computing threatens Microsoft Office sales to OEMs so Microsoft is trying to provide a consumer-grade solution to protect the Office franchise. The problem is two-fold:

  • After decades of excessive retail (shrink-wrap) pricing consumers are not much interested in buying anything directly from Microsoft. For consumers, companies like Google offer a much more attractive one-stop shopping experience.
  • Cloud computing doesn't have much to offer the enterprise unless "the cloud" is sitting in the enterprise machine room. The security and "up-time" issues are just too great for the enterprise to trust a third party to protect their data while offering a smooth migration path as technology changes.

Unless I miss my guess, the enterprise is never going to be too interested in "the cloud" and consumers are never going to be too interested in using Microsoft branded cloud-services.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 11/08/2010 at 1:18 PM


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