Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Good Resources for Support with IBM Connections and Verse 1: Linked In Groups

I was originally hoping to produce a single list of all of my (so far) collected resources. Of course, the problem with that is that I have to review the sites to make sure that they're still relevant -- and provide at least some added value.  

I've decided, that in the short term, I'll just point out some useful groups of sites. This is the first of a bunch of posts on the topic. This time, I'm covering LinkedIN. 


If you're not a member of LinkedIN, it's well worth signing up (it's free anyway).

LinkedIN has matured over the years and while people are usually still "too serious" on the site, It's no longer just a place for jobs.  There's some great technical discussions and articles that come up on there.

LinkedIN isn't the best resource for connections but it's one of the easiest ones to engage.

IBM Messaging & Collaboration Professionals

This group has 29,000 members and it's fairly active (with at least weekly posts on interesting articles). There are questions on IBM Notes, information on Sametime, links to bootstrap articles and summaries of connections events.  It's probably the best of the linkedIN groups to join.

IBM Enterprise Social Software Technologies

This group has 9,000 members and it's probably  the most active of the IBM Connections LinkedIN groups with new posts every couple of days.  Subjects covered include training, connections features, verse on mobile devices and more.  This is a good second group to join. 

Social Connections - The IBM Connections User Group

This group has around 4,000 members and seems to post weekly. It covers news about IBM and Connections. It seems to be good for non-technical information. 

Lotus Software Users Group

This painfully titled group has only 3,000 members but it does cover quite a bit of ground from Verse to Notes/Domino, to XPages and OpenNTF.  There's a little spam in this group and it's updated fortnightly but there's still some good info and contacts. 

More to come?

I hope to follow this post up with posts about connections resources at IBM, in Connections, on Twitter and on other people's blogs, so stay tuned. Also, if you have any other good LinkedIN groups, please feel free to comment them. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Turn off Location Services on your iPhone to Conserve Power

My iPhone has been driving me crazy these last few weeks. The power has been draining so fast that I need to recharge by lunch time if I still want a phone (and not a brick) by the afternoon.

I'd been blaming my iPhone for being old but as it turns out, the problem was much simpler than that - It was location settings. 

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. After all, you have to assume that if your phone is going to communicate with the satellites (and other receivers), it's probably going to need a bit of power to get up there. Then of course you factor in the number of apps which are using location services (it's exploded since I last looked in there).... and of course, many of the apps use location services "always".

Yep, that's right... even when you're not using the phone.

So, how do you turn these things off?

First, you need to get to Location Services.
The easiest way is via these three icons;

  • Settings
  • Privacy
  • Location Services

Once you get there either slide it to the OFF position (which I did for a couple of days)


Go through all of the settings and set them to NEVER.
In my case, I left Camera, Google Maps and Map my Walk but only "While Using".

If there's anything that says "Always" shut it down for sure.

The proof is undeniable. I've not made any other changes to my phone and it's been going 15 hours and I still have 54% battery left. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Cloud is great but IBM Verse misses a step in Business Continuity

Today's world is all about cloud. 

We have email in the cloud, document storage in the cloud, data, applications and even development in the cloud.

Why Cloud is Best

From one point of view, cloud is an excellent choice. You no longer need to worry about;

  • Physical servers which can suffer hardware failures.
  • Storage and rack space for servers
  • Local services, such as Air Conditioning and the Water Supply in the computer room.
  • Local environmental factors, such as storms which can directly impact your infrastructure.
  • Local backups, which can take hours and require special software
  • Tape management (or streaming backup services)
  • Server failover -- this is managed by the cloud sites.
  • Hotfixes and patches to operating systems and applications.

Most of the cloud systems offer some pretty good restore functionality too.

For example; IBM Connections has some great version control tools which allow you to roll back to previous versions of your file.  This means that if a user damages a file (or even if some malware damages the files), you can easily restore old versions of the files -- individually, of course.

There doesn't seem to be any kind of en-masse restore option. This could become a problem if something like CryptoLocker which traverses the directory structure, was involved. 

Verse Folder Issues and Restoration

So, apart from en-masse restoration, (and of course the myriad of much discussed privacy issues) what's missing? why am I worried?

We've been experiencing a few folder issues in IBM Verse lately because although IBM appears to be discouraging the use of folders, we have a number of users in our organisation who swear by them.

One thing that we've noticed is that IBM appears to have done some upgrades on the structure of our cloud-hosted mail files.  That's okay, we should expect that as a constant part of the general development of verse. 

What's not okay is that these changes seem to have affected how folders work in the Notes client.

We've also noticed that some of our users are reacting to these changes by attempting to move folders around via the Notes client. When they do this, quite often, the folders are disappearing entirely from Verse and from Notes.

Now, folders these days are just another form of tagging, so the original messages are all still okay. They're just no longer neatly organised into a folder.

Our users have been asking to get these folders restored.

In the pre-cloud days, we'd have restored a copy of the mail file and used that to determine which mails were in the folder and then rebuilt the folder and re-foldered that mail.  It's a time consuming task but it's one that many of our users would prefer to do, rather than lose the structure that the folder provided.

Guess what... that option is no longer available to us.

We talked to IBM. In fact, we raised a PMR on the issue.
It got noted.
and then....

we got this;

I have checked materials and discuss in whole team, I am sorry to say that there is no way to restore the folders deleted by user himself. He needs to create folder and restore emails from "All documents" manually.

Sure, I accept that it's a manual process but right now, we're still working with IBM to find a way for the user to get a LIST of what exactly was in their folder prior to its removal. 

How Wide is the Issue?

In our case, all of our mail is forced through the Symantec/Veritas Archive system -- another cloud service. Mail in that system can't be deleted, so it means we have a permanent record.   Of course, the system doesn't support foldering because it uses "Journalling" to capture mail as it is sent or received. Foldering tends to be something that occurs long afterwards.

I have to wonder though....  what about the organisations without a separate archive system?
Do they still think that they can restore their mail? Do they still think that they're compliant with their email retention policies?

How many of us have really done proper DR testing on our cloud infrastructure?

Thursday, June 09, 2016

How to set IBM Verse as your Default Email Client

We've recently rolled out IBM Verse and we're trying to get our staff members to use it (willingly) rather than mandating the change. 

One of the issues that we've come up against is the humble Mailto link. 

If you go to any web page that has a mailto link and click it, it goes to Notes.

Obviously we want those links to go to Verse.

It's a simple fix, here's how to do it.

How To

  1. Open IBM Verse in Google Chrome
    (it might be possible to use other browser but I haven't tested them).
  2. Click on the Service Handler Icon in the Address Bar (Right hand side)
  3. A dialog box will appear asking if you want to allow Verse to open all Email links.
  4. Choose Allow.
  5. Click Finished.
That's all there is to it.  Now you can browse around and find a mailto link like this one and click it.  

and here's a picture (click on it if it's too small).

Monday, June 06, 2016

Harnessing the Power of Shadow IT

There seems to have been quite a bit of press lately about “Shadow IT” and it gives the impression that it's a new thing. Perhaps having a formally recognised name is new but shadow IT has been around throughout my (so far 28 year) career in IT and I suspect that it's much older than that.

What is Shadow IT?

Shadow IT is what happens when someone, not associated with the IT department, starts offering IT services to other parts of the business.

Shadow IT can take the form of someone bringing in software from home, downloading software or even writing their own.

Sometimes hardware is involved too with work PCs being opened, repaired, upgraded or otherwise "enhanced".

In particular, since the emergence of cheap network hardware and the explosive growth of USB, its become very common to find users trying to plug their own hardware into work systems and networks.

Sometimes new systems are developed. In one place I worked, a marketing employee rolled out a Large Lotus Approach database to interstate arms of the company before anyone noticed. Once the software was in use around the company, it couldn't be recalled. It filled a gap. Unfortunately, it also became a nightmare to support.

In recent times, shadow IT seems to be responsible for the proliferation of business data onto smartphones and tablets.

Why is Shadow IT bad news?

In the short term, Shadow IT seems helpful. They can reduce support calls and grant "technology wishes" within the organisation, particularly when IT or corporate management is slow to respond. Certainly Shadow IT is "IT for the people" and it makes employees generally happier.

Unfortunately, since Shadow IT usually lacks formal training in IT, they usually know "just enough to get themselves into trouble". The solutions they implement are often ill-considered. They often don't fit in with the corporate objectives, create incompatibilities and cause licensing headaches. They can hide deficiencies in the IT budget or corporate planning. Worst of all, they can open the business to security issues.

Can Shadow IT be positive?

The individuals who form shadow IT are often more aware of the technology problems that employees face on a day to day basis than the IT department. This is partially because the IT department is usually a "service department" and their primary objectives are to provide services and security to the business rather than to actually “further the business” of the company.

Shadow IT on the other hand, tend to come from within the business itself. They’re usually from core areas of the business and they’re aware of the difficulties in processes and the needs of people around them. Shadow IT can also help to highlight training issues within the organisation.

What does Shadow IT mean for the Business?

Every medium sized (or greater) business will have at least one or two elements of shadow IT but if you find that more than just a single individual is very active, then it means that the business has unresolved issues.

It means that either the business hardware or software isn't meeting the needs of the users, that the security is either too tight or too lapse or that there is a need for training. Quite often it means that more than one of these things is out of balance.

What can be done about Shadow IT?

While it’s not uncommon for CIOs to want to get rid of the individuals causing IT problems, the best thing to do is to actually bring shadow IT in as an informal part of the IT team.  One of the best ways to do this is to set up a regular meeting between IT and the various shadow IT people (ideally the most tech-savvy person from each department).

Give the group a name like, "technology experts" or "support team" and get the meetings formally recognised by management. Little rewards, like training, being the first to get a new PC or software can really help these people feel appreciated.

In your meetings, talk about impending systems changes, outages, frequent helpdesk calls and systems issues. Ask your group about technology problems, wants and needs and what each of their departments have been up to.

Be careful not to give outright "no" answers without due consideration -- even when you know the answer is going to be no. Remember that you're trying to help them see that IT is "here to help".

Take notes and ensure that documentation from those meetings reaches management.

Harnessing the power of Shadow IT can significantly extend the reach of your already stretched IT resources.