Software vendor EG Innovations will release version 7 of its EG Enterprise software, its end-user experience monitoring tool, on Jan. 31.
New features and updates have been added to the IT monitoring software with the goal of making it more user-friendly. The software focuses primarily on monitoring end-user activities and responses.
“Many times, vendor tools monitor their own software stack but do not go end to end,” said Srinivas Ramanathan, CEO of EG Innovations. “Cross-tier, multi-vendor visibility is critical when it comes to monitoring and diagnosing user experience issues. After all, users care about the entire service, which cuts across vendor stacks.”
Ramanathan said IT issues are not as simple as they used to be.
“What you will see in 2020 is now that there is an ability to provide more intelligence to user experience, how do you put that into use?” said Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. “EG has a challenge of when to engage with a customer. IT’s a value to them if they engage with the customer sooner in an end-user kind of monitoring scenario. In many cases, they get brought in to solve a problem when it’s already happened, and it would be better for them to shift.”
Synthetic and real user experience monitoring: Users can create simulations and scripts of different applications that can be replayed to further help diagnose a problem and notifies IT operations teams of impending problems.
Layered monitoring: Enables users to monitor every tier of an application stack via a central console.
Automated diagnosis: Lets users use machine learning and automation to find root causes to issues.
Optimization plan: Users can customize optimization plans through capacity and application overview reports.
“Most people look at user experience as just response time for accessing any application. We see user experience as being broader than this,” Ramanthan said. “If problems are not diagnosed correctly and they reoccur again and again, it will hurt user experience. If the time to resolve a problem is high, users will be unhappy.”
Pricing for EG Enterprise v7 begins at $2 per user per month in a digital workspace. Licensing for other workloads depends on how many operating systems are being monitored. The new version includes support for Citrix and VMWare Horizon.
Microsoft added no significant end-user features to on-premises Skype for Business in 2019, closing out the year with a December update that mostly fixes bugs.
Microsoft’s lack of investment in Skype server underscores how the company views the product as a placeholder for businesses not yet ready to move to the cloud.
In recent updates, Microsoft extended location-based routing to Skype for Business mobile clients. The feature, now a standard component of modern business phone systems, helps companies reduce PSTN costs by keeping audio traffic in-network when possible.
Microsoft also this year began a phased replacement of the Skype server’s IT control panel, which is based on outdated technology. Another update gave IT admins new tools for automating user settings on a large scale.
Otherwise, the vendor’s July and December updates contained mostly bug fixes and security tweaks for the Skype server. In years past, those updates would have included significant features for the Skype product. But more recently, the vendor has focused its research and development efforts on cloud-based Microsoft Teams.
Consequentially, many organizations are not even bothering to purchase the latest iteration of Skype server, version 2019, released last October, said Tom Arbuthnot, principal solutions architect at Modality Systems, a Microsoft-focused systems integrator.
Instead, those customers are sticking with the previous iteration, version 2015. Microsoft has scheduled extended maintenance for the 2015 and 2019 versions of Skype to end simultaneously in 2025, giving businesses little incentive to make the costly switch.
“I don’t see load and loads of people upgrading to 2019. They will string out 2015 until they are ready to go to Teams,” Arbuthnot said. “[Microsoft is] disincentivizing you from going to 2019.”
The 2019 server introduced new ways to integrate the on-premises product with cloud services, such as cloud voicemail and Azure Active Directory. It also uses more recent security protocols. But it offers virtually no new end-user features compared to what was added to the 2015 version.
Microsoft’s decision to stop investing in its on-premises unified communications product stands in contrast to Cisco. The rival vendor has continued to enhance the features of the messaging app Cisco Jabber even while building out a cloud portfolio based on the Webex suite.
Microsoft appears more focused on winning subscribers to Office 365, a cloud-based suite of productivity apps that includes Teams. In particular, the company has taken aim at the collaboration app Slack, a competitor to Teams.
Microsoft announced last month that Teams had gained 20 million daily active users, more than Slack’s 13 million. But those figures still represent only a fraction of Microsoft’s base of customers, which includes 200 million commercial users of Office 365.
Microsoft has not revealed how many organizations are still using Skype, but it likely remains one of the most-installed UC apps in the market. More than 100 million people used Microsoft Lync as of 2015 when the product was rebranded to Skype for Business.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has announced that it will shutter Skype for Business Online, a cloud-based product within Office 365, on July 31, 2021.
MINNEAPOLIS — Contextual security and end-user self-service capabilities in the new version of Jamf Pro are welcome features for IT professionals who use the software to manage Apple devices.
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Jamf Pro 10, which Jamf shops have been awaiting for more than a year, will also come with updates to the IT management dashboard, new patching and compliance features and an overhauled user interface.
“We like the new format; it’s more user-friendly now,” said Bobby Tishaw, vice president of IT operations at Comprehensive Pain Specialists, a healthcare organization in Franklin, Tenn. “It hasn’t been really intuitive before.”
The new version will be generally available next week, Jamf Software said here at its annual user conference, Jamf Nation. At last year’s conference, CEO Dean Hager said the plan was to ship Jamf Pro 10 in the first half of this year. But in a June letter to customers, Hager said it was “taking longer than we thought” because of all the major changes being made to the product.
What’s new in Jamf Pro 10
Jamf Pro allows IT to configure, secure and manage Apple Macs, iPads, iPhones and Apple TV devices. Formerly called Casper Suite, its features include app distribution and management, self-service capabilities for users and asset management capabilities such as license tracking, device inventory and compliance reporting and alerting.
New in Jamf Pro 10 are a redesigned interface that aims to provide simpler navigation and dashboard reports that let IT more easily view compliance information. The software also provides security warnings based on end-user context. When an admin sets up a configuration profile for a Mac, for example, he might get a notification that he needs to configure additional settings to meet the company’s security standards.
Comprehensive Pain Specialists is doing a Jamf Pro proof of concept for its macOS and iOS devices and is eager to implement Jamf Pro 10, Tishaw said.
“Having the security messages pop up is really handy,” he said.
Jesse SandstromApple systems administrator, Jive Communications
The new version also includes more features that allow IT to automate some aspects of software patching and more easily see what devices need patches, especially for third-party software. These capabilities may help some organizations eliminate the need for third-party patch management tools.
“The patch management is going to be huge for us,” said Jesse Sandstrom, Apple systems administrator at Jive Communications, a unified communications provider based in Orem, Utah. “To have something that’s more automated and does things for us in Jamf, a tool that we already use, is really going to bring it all together.”
IT ‘excited’ about self service
The automation comes in with a new feature that lets IT set notifications to remind users to download and install patches and set a grace period in which they have to do it. That’s all part of Jamf’s self-service portal, where end users can manage their app downloads and updates, bookmarks, printer connections and more on their own.
“Our engineers seem to be really excited about it,” said Jeff Rivers, technical specialist at Commerce Bank, based in Kansas City, Mo.
The bank uses Jamf Pro in a test environment and plans to move to Jamf Pro 10 in production for about 100 Macs in 2018.
“We’re trying to guide things more into self-service,” Rivers said. “When they can click on something and it’s all there, the users are happy.”
The updated Jamf Pro 10 self-service portal will include more bookmark customization capabilities, plus more detailed information on in-progress app downloads and updates. Organizations can also add their own branding to the portal.
Sandstrom and the Jive Communications’ marketing team have been working on logos and icons to include in the self-service portal while awaiting Jamf Pro 10, which the company plans to upgrade to.
“If we can make it more familiar to [users], they’ll use it more,” he said.
The self-service improvements are the most appealing aspects of Jamf Pro 10, said a senior technology architect at a healthcare IT solutions provider in Kansas City, whose role is specifically geared toward ensuring user satisfaction.
“We want to make things as simple as possible for them,” said the architect, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak with press. “For the user experience, the branding is huge.”
Microsoft and Jamf also demonstrated the new integration between Jamf Pro and Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) suite. The capability, announced at last month’s Microsoft Ignite conference, allows IT to block users from using non-compliant Macs to access applications that are connected to Azure Active Directory. Users must register any devices that they want to access those apps from — including Office 365. And when users attempt to access them, Microsoft Intune works with Azure’s conditional access policies to either allow or prevent access based on compliance standards that IT sets.
Tishaw’s company will consider doing macOS and Windows management together through the new integration, he said.
“We have a lot of Windows too, so that was interesting,” he said.
The Kansas City healthcare solutions provider already uses Jamf and Intune, so the new capability is particularly enticing, the architect said.
“That integration piece and the ability to say ‘this device is compliant, this device isn’t compliant’ is important,” he said.
The Microsoft integration will be available later this year, Jamf said.
SAN FRANCISCO — An internal culture change can help organizations put end-user security on the front burner.
If an organization only addresses security once a problem arises, it’s already too late. But it’s common for companies, especially startups, to overlook security because it can get in the way of productivity. That’s why it’s important for IT departments to create a company culture where employees and decision-makers take security seriously when it comes to end-user data and devices.
“Security was definitely an afterthought,” said Keane Grivich, IT infrastructure manager at Shorenstein Realty Services in San Francisco, at last week’s BoxWorks conference. “Then we saw some of the high-profile [breaches] and our senior management fully got on board with making sure that our names didn’t appear in the newspaper.”
How to create a security-centric culture
Improving end-user security starts with extensive training on topics such as what data is safe to share and what a malicious website looks like. That forces users to take responsibility for their actions and understand the risks of certain behaviors.
Plus, if security is a priority, the IT security team will feel like a part of the company, not just an inconvenience standing in users’ way.
“Companies get the security teams they deserve,” said Cory Scott, chief information security officer at LinkedIn. “Are you the security troll in the back room or are you actually part of the business decisions and respected as a business-aligned person?”
Brian Roddyengineering executive, Cisco
When IT security professionals feel that the company values them, they are more likely to stick around as well. With the shortage of qualified security pros, retaining talent is key.
Keeping users involved in the security process helps, too. Instead of locking down a user’s PC when a user accesses a suspicious file, for example, IT can send him a message checking if he performed a certain action. If the user says he accessed the file, then IT knows someone is not impersonating the user. If he did not, then IT knows there is an intruder and it must act.
To keep end-user security top of mind, it’s important to make things such as changing passwords easy for users. IT can make security easier for developers as well by setting up security frameworks that they can apply to applications they’re building.
It’s also advisable to take a blameless approach when possible.
“Finger-pointing is a complete impediment to learning,” said Brian Roddy, an engineering executive who oversees the cloud security business at Cisco, in a session. “The faster we can be learning, the better we can respond and the more competitive we can be.”
Don’t make it easy for attackers
Once the end-user security culture is in place, IT should take steps to shore up the simple things.
Unpatched software is one of the easiest ways for attackers to enter a company’s network, said Colin Black, COO at CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity technology company based in Sunnyvale, Calif.
IT can also make it harder for hackers by adding extra security layers such as two-factor authentication.