James Gaskin: Report from ManageFusion – Managing Secure Devices

[Smallbiztechnology.com welcomes James Gaskin, consultant, speaker, author as a contributor] jamesgaskin.jpgHello, I’m James Gaskin, and I’ll be playing commentator in this space. I’ll talk to technology creators and users, then translate any geek-speak into business person terms, and tell you what’s important for small businesses and what is puffery. Think of me as a universal translator, or a network news anchor without the suit.

Let me tell you what I heard in Las Vegas last week. I was mingling around 1,500 users at the ManageFusion conference at the Mirage Hotel.
ManageFusion is the user conference hosted by Altiris for their network and client management software products. Altiris was acquired by Symantec almost exactly a year ago. Folding a 1,000 person company like Altiris into an 18,000 person company like Symantec usually means the culture and value of the smaller company disappears. Not so in this case, as Symantec has put some of their people and products, like the Norton Ghost disk imaging product line, into Altiris management hands.

There were two big trends I saw at the show. First, the official corporate slogan for the new Altiris/Symantec says something like, “a secure device without management really isn’t secure.” This explains one big reason why Symantec acquired Altiris.
A secure device, like a computer or server, has all the essential patches and updates to the operating system and additional protection against viruses, spyware, and other malware. Small and very small companies don’t have the budget for management tools like those sold by Altiris, but they can still successfully manage by hand. Paper charts and manual client updates take more time, but they do work.
I recommend companies seriously consider management tools when they realize their one technology person is about to be overwhelmed. Adding automation will allow one person to support scores more systems than can be handled by hand. A company may spend $10,000 or more getting their initial management tools in place, but that’s way less than the cost of a second technology person. Keep that in mind as you grow.
The second area of concern was whether or not to integrate consumer tools into your company network. These range from whether to allow users to plug in music players to their computers at work (these act as hard disks and can suck stolen data files into the player in
seconds) to handling social media products like Facebook.
A panel of writers, editors, and analysts I watched were all in favor of integrating any and all consumer products, like Facebook and user-owned smart phones, into the company network. Several reasons were given, including the problem of weaning young workers away from Facebook and Instant Messaging they grew so dependent on in college.
I’m less accepting. Too many technology experts think every user is a white collar college graduate sitting at a computer all day. Those in the real world know those types of people often impede, not do, real work.
Whether your employees are new college graduates hooked on Facebook or high school dropouts with dirt under their fingernails, you have to choose the right technology to get your work done. Period.
Evaluate all technology for the value it brings to your business rather than blindly following advice from outsiders. Even when the advice is mine.