Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections Sametime Cloud (Chat) - PART 1

One of the best reasons to move to the new IBM Connections Cloud is IBM Sametime. 

Until recently, we were using the "free" bundled IBM Sametime 7 offering. This was a useful feature but of course, some of us were spoiled by the chat options available in other software (Google Hangouts particularly). The version 7 feature has not aged well.  

We looked at upgrading the functionality some time ago, only to be told by many people that "the new SameTime is too complex to set up". It also required considerably more investment in hardware and software. Essentially it wasn't going to be economical to use and we had ditched the product. 

The plan was to eventually install a replacement, but in the meantime, we were learning to live without it - after 6 months, our users had stopped complaining.

Then along came the IBM Connections version of Sametime.... and it's good. Very Good. 

Cloud: The Fastest Way to Get up and Running
The fastest way to get up and running with the connections version of Sametime is to get some people to connect in the cloud. To do this;

Essentially, this is the new user account process

  1. Login to your IBM Connections Cloud Page.
  2. In the top Right, click Admin then Manage Organization
  3. Click Add User Account
  4. Provide a First and Last Name, a Language and a Department.
  5. Choose a Role (Generally User is appropriate).
  6. Click Next.
  7. On the Subscriptions tab, choose;
  8. IBM Connections Cloud S2 (under collaboration).
  9. Leave the mail alone unless you're using mail/hybrid settings -- that's a whole other post. 
  10. In the Subscription Add-ons, tick [x] IBM Connections Docs Cloud.
  11. Click Next
  12. Ensure that the email address is correct and then click Finish. 
The system will send your new user an email telling them that they now have an IBM Connections account. There's a clickable link in the email and this will enable them to reset their password. Once they're logged in, they'll automatically be available in Sametime.

Note: it's the web version of SameTime, so it will be "gone" when your users navigate away from the page but that's okay. There's some better sametime options which I'll discuss in part 2. 

You may also find that your sametime system doesn't automatically have the names of everyone in your organisation.  The old version used to. I believe that once you connect your Notes/Domino environment to the cloud as a hybrid environment, you'll have that functionality though at the moment, I can't confirm. 

Adding a Colleague to the Chat
If your new user wants to add a colleague who is also on sametime, then these are the steps to follow;
  1. Click on the Cog (top right)
  2. Choose New Contact
  3. Type part of the name (ie: first or last name only) and press Enter.
  4. Your person's name should appear.
  5. Click on it and then Click Add. 

Next Time
In my next post, I'll go over how to get the Connections-based Sametime working in the Notes client, as a Windows app and on mobiles and tablets.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Getting Started with IBM Connections Smartcloud

Last September, when renewing our Notes and Domino Licences, IBM offered us a trade-up to IBM Connections SmartCloud.  Essentially, there we were presented with two options;

1. 50%  of our licenses upgraded to the full services (S1)
2. 100% of our licenses upgraded to a subset of the services (S2)

I chose the first option, knowing that either way I'd have a struggle on my hands with management when I wanted to take advantage of the full services but also knowing that it's easier to justify getting the other half of the organisation onto the new service than it is to widen services for the whole organisation. 

We're still only half there but I'm very hopeful - it's the first time in years that I've had real confidence in IBM's direction. 

So What is this Connections thing Anyway?
It's weird but IBM seems to have come full circle in the Domino product line. They spent years barking up the wrong tree with ideas like the ill-fated "workplace" which was intended to replace Domino but merely destabilized the entire IBM customer base, the equally ill-fated Symphony, which was designed to replace Microsoft Office and Quickr (which went through a few confusing name changes, looked good and then ultimately died).

That's a pretty short list, there's a lot more which I won't go into suffice to say that it takes a tenacious IBM customer to hang on through all of those bad decisions.

I deliberately ignored Connections when it first came out.  It looked like yet another attempt at making a "Lotus killer" - and I'm glad I did ignore it because it's really taken many years to mature.

Connections SmartCloud seems to be a sort of hybrid of the various products which uses Domino and XPages as the "glue" to stick it all together. I was dubious at first but the more I use it, the better it becomes. 

Slowly, Slowly
The key to connections is really to take things slowly until you build up enough understanding to make proper use of the product. In our case, we let our connections licenses sit there idle for about six months before deciding to do something about them (we were very busy with other things).

The key to getting things up and running is to get IBM involved. Right now, connections is a fairly new product and they're trying to gain traction.  They'll be willing to help.

Contact your IBM Business Partner (or if you haven't got one, contact IBM directly) and ask for someone to help explain what connections is to you.  It won't cost you anything and you'll benefit immensely from the experience. 

If you have several servers, you'll find that connections can replace your mail server, your traveler server and your sametime server.  You may also find that it replaces some other services.  Personally, I'd love to use it to replace our file servers but I don't think our organisation is ready for that kind of change... yet.

Start with Sametime
Sametime is probably the easiest way to start with connections -- and the quickest way to see real benefit in your organisation.  All you have to do is create users in connections and then push the passwords out to your people. They'll be able to logon and use Sametime on the PCs, Mobiles and tablets.

In my next post, I'll try to go through the rudiments of Sametime setup.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Cloud Services and the Business

It wasn't all that long ago that cloud services were frowned upon in business circles but 2015 looks like being the year of cloud adoption. So far, I've personally signed up for three major options,

  • Google Apps for Business
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • IBM Smartcloud Connections

 Of course, there's a few smaller options in there too, like Symantec.Cloud which we use for Anti-Spam and Mail Archiving and Telstra's cloud services which we use in other capacities.

Data Protection
One of the things that has kept businesses well away from the idea of cloud services is belief that the US government has more access to data on cloud servers. In a way, this is true, particularly if those servers reside in the US.

Personally I don't understand why the US Government is considered to be such a threat to legitimate business but rest assured, I've seen the reactions. People clearly don't want their data to be snooped.

The problem is that the details of these laws make it clear that not being a US company or not being on US soil makes very little difference to the privacy of your data.  For a start, any company with any point of presence on US soil is subject to the PATRIOT act and may be required to surrender your data -- even if it was never on a US Server.

Secondly, most countries, Australia included, have reciprocal agreements which essentially mean that the government will willingly turn data over to the US if required. There's not a lot you can do about it.

With that in mind, a cloud service stops being quiet so scary. Your data is available no matter which way you look at it. You might as well make sure that you pick a cloud service that satisfies your business needs rather than some imaginary geographical ones. 

I'm not nearly close to a choice of the best service - yet.  What I can say is that of the three big ones I've looked at, Google is the easiest and cheapest to sign up and use.  Microsoft's service was by far the most difficult, it took me more than a week to sort out the licensing - and that was with the help of a Business Partner.

IBM so far sits somewhere in the middle, it's very simple to get started but now a month or so later, I'm still trying to get my head around it all. What I can see so far is that there's a lot of potential there and that it seems to integrate well with our existing Domino solutions.  I'll provide more information as I begin to figure it out.

One thing's for sure though. Microsoft is all about the "Office" and "Exchange" brands, Google is wider than simply applications and IBM is about collaboration -- applications take a clear back seat to the collaborative environment as a whole.