15 Non-Certified IT Skills Growing in Demand

Whether you’re a senior IT executive evaluating staffing needs and preparing budgets or an IT pro deciding where to invest your time to gain new skills, knowing what technologies are in demand should be a key part of your strategy.

The Hottest Non-Certified IT Skills for Growth in 2014
Architects, mobile developers and IT pros who are proficient in several flavors of big data and analytics are the top dogs in this look at the non-certified IT skills poised for growth in 2014. Last week, Foote Partners released its Q1 quarterly report, the IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Report. Its data tells a story of more incremental improvements for both certified and non-certified IT skills.

Non-certified IT skills have seen eight consecutive quarters of growth. According to Foote Partners data, gains in database, systems, and information security skills are driving growth in both areas with assistance from network, communications and management, methodology, process and architecture, project management and process skills.

Foote Partners IT Skills Demand and Pay Trends Methodology
We spoke with David Foote, co-founder, chief analyst and research officer and other industry professionals to find out which of the 354 non-certified IT skills reported upon will generate the largest gains in 2014.

Programmers and IT pros with the skills on this list are getting what Foote refers to as a skills premium above base salary, and that increase is predicted to grow over the next six months.

Apache Cassandra Skills
Big data is driving demand for Apache Cassandra and several other skills on this list. As more companies get on the big data bandwagon, demand will increase. “We absolutely see demand for this skill. Apache Cassandra is designed to handle large amounts of data, and data management continues to be an in-demand skillset,” says Matt Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm.

Apache CouchDB Skills
“Relax” is the battle cry of the CouchDB developer. CouchDB is an open source document-oriented database that is scalable and commonly referred to as fault-tolerant. This skill has seen more than 22 percent growth in the last 12 months and, according to Foote Partners, is predicted to continue its upward trend.

Big Data Analytics Skills
Analytics is the point where all of these big data skills meet. Finding patterns and actionable data in the mountains of information collected is a skill that will likely increase well into the future. “This is a big one. While anything, big data related is a hot skillset/job, analytics is really the spear-point of industry demand,” says Matt Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm.

Business Intelligence Skills
IT pros with business intelligence skills facilitate transformation of raw data into meaningful and useful information to move business objectives forward. Demand for this skill is consistently high and will likely grow as more brick and mortar companies go digital.

“BI has consistently been one of the most in-demand skillsets over the past years and we see that demand grow regularly each year. Modern businesses increasingly need intelligence and strategic input from their IT departments, so an IT professional with BI skills is a strong career combination to wield,” says Matt Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm.

Capacity Planning/Management Skills
According to David Foote of Foote Partners, demand for this IT skill is driven up by cloud adoption. The scalability of the cloud is one of the reasons it’s so popular, but that capability to scale fast means doing things different than they’ve been done in the past and through a third-party, making capacity planning and management a much-needed skill.

Data Architecture Skills
The amount of data we are keeping is growing. IBM estimates that the world creates 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data a day. According to research analysts from IDC, if you are an adult between the ages of 45 and 59, you create 1.8 million gigabytes of data about yourself each year. This is on top of the 4.1 million gigabytes of ambient information that already exists about you in the digital universe. That’s a lot of data and someone needs to architect its capture, storage, flow and usage. These highly knowledgeable individuals have a vision from beginning to end, visualizing how data will be channeled through several databases to create an effective flow of business data.

Data Governance Skills
With all this data being collected, it becomes more important to define who is the custodian/owner of that data and controls how it is used, stored, secured and made available. That’s where data governance comes in. IT pros with this tech skill will help create and implement policy and processes and ensure compliance regarding the many different sources of data. Different companies will have different needs depending on their size and industry, but in general the more compliance and regulations needs you have the more critical this becomes.

HBase Skills
Continued demand for HBase talent is driven by the adoption of big data and is generally used for real-time read/write access to large datasets. Gains for this much-desired skill has increased more than 36 percent over the last 12 months and are projected to continue.

Information Management Skills
Information management skills entail using technology to collect, process, coordinate and disseminate information. The bottom-line is furthering strategic objectives and goals through the creation of and effective use of information from varying sources. According to the University of Toronto, information management consists of six closely related activities.

Identification of information needs
Acquisition and creation of information
Analysis and interpretation of information
Organization and storage of information
Information access and dissemination
Information use

Mobile Applications Development Skills
Mobile development has been one of the hottest growth areas inside of IT for a while and it’s not slowing down. Having the right skills in this area means you can write your own ticket.

David Foote of Foote Partners says that up to this point companies have perhaps been taking people already in the organization — maybe a Java programmer and paying them a premium, but not necessarily giving them the title mobile application developer. “We’ve had enough interest from our customers asking us if we have information on these jobs that we think it’s starting to become a legitimate job title,” says Foote.

Some other IT job titles getting used most recently according to Foote, senior software engineer mobile front-end and senior software engineer mobile…

Mobile Security Skills
Getting data stolen isn’t good for your customers or your brand, so it’s no mystery why this skill is here (but you’re probably wondering why every type of IT security didn’t make the list). As the popularity of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have skyrocketed so have the potential security risks. Cyber battles wage on with no end in sight and because of that IT pros with mobile security skills will continue to be a sought after commodity.

“We see mobile applications demand manifested particularly in application testing and security,” says Matt Ripaldi, senior vice president of Modis, an IT staffing firm.

MongoDB Skills
Another open source, cross-platform, document-oriented database, MongoDB, uses JSON-like documents with dynamic schemas to store your data, instead of storing your data in tables and rows as you do in a relational database. It’s easy to see how much affect big data is having on IT organizations everywhere by looking at how many of the hottest skills are being driven by companies trying to capitalize on the promise of big data.

Network Security Management Skills
Your data and information is only as secure as the network you store it in, making network security management an essential component of any IT security strategy. “Companies must protect their customers’ sensitive information no matter where it resides — be it on a PC, mobile device, corporate network or data center, ” Anil Chakravarthy, executive vice president of the information security group at Symantec.

NoSQL Skills
The nonrelational database system that NoSQL provides creates better scalability and performance when working with extremely large datasets than does traditional relational databases (RDBMS). Demand for NoSQL is being driven by big data adoption. As more companies look to gain a competitive edge through the big data, skills like HBase, NSQL, MongoDB and other related IT skills, will likely continue to increase in demand.

Oracle Applications Developer Framework Skills
Java is the backbone of many industries and always a favorite on the Tiobe Programming Index, so it’s no surprise that Oracle made the list. These professionals work to develop, test, implement and document applications. Testing, debugging and refinement are all part of the job as well.

Honorable Mention Slide
These IT skills also made the Foote Partner’s list of non-certified IT skills that earn workers above average pay premiums. All of these skills have been earning above average rates over the past six months, Foote Partners says that they are likely to continue to gaining market value over the next three to six months.

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Hey Microsoft, where’s the next Mac Office?

Microsoft’s suite for OS X is overdue when compared to past development benchmarks

Where is the next Office for the Mac?

Microsoft is behind the schedule it used for the last several iterations, and has not breathed a word about its Mac intentions. In fact, the blog kept by the California-based development team that works on Office for Mac hasn’t been updated since Aug. 5, 2013, more than seven months ago.

That’s what those in the trade call stealth mode.
The last time Microsoft launched a new Office for OS X was October 2011, when it rolled out Office for Mac 2011. Prior to that, Microsoft issued upgrades in January 2008 (Office for Mac 2008), May 2004 (Office for Mac 2004) and November 2001 (Office v. X).

The average spread between Office for Mac editions — going back as far as Office v. X — has been 1,088 days. But as of Thursday, it had been 1,213 days since the launch of Office for Mac 2011.

Historically, Microsoft has hewn to a three-year development cycle for both Office on the Mac and the far-more-popular Office suite for Windows, with a new version of the former following the newest of the latter by several months at a minimum.

Office for Mac 2011, for instance, followed Office 2010 on Windows by 134 days, or just over four months. Office for Mac 2008, however, came 351 days, or nearly a year, after the debut of its Windows sibling, Office 2007. But even the longer lag time of the latter has now been exceeded: Office 2013 for Windows launched Jan. 29, 2013, 13 months ago.

The development team responsible for Office on the Mac, dubbed Macintosh Business Unit (MacBU), requires the lag time to incorporate changes that other engineering groups made to the Windows predecessor. The Windows and OS X Office development teams don’t work in tandem, but in sequence, with Windows taking the lead and OS X following.

What odd is Microsoft’s silence about the next Office for the Mac. The last cycle — for Office for Mac 2011 — the company was comparatively loquacious, announcing its intentions to craft the suite about 14 months before shipping the software, and it gave semi-regular updates on its MacBU blog.

News of the next Office for Mac? Nothing.
There’s no chance that Microsoft will pull Office for the Mac from its portfolio: The company has touted Office 365, the rent-not-own subscription plans for both consumers and businesses, as providing up to five licenses for either Windows or OS X editions of the suites’ desktop applications. To dump the Mac suite, even though its sales are Lilliputian in comparison to that for Windows, would be an embarrassment at least, and seen as a betrayal by those who committed to subscriptions rather than buy traditional “perpetual” licenses.

Still, Microsoft looks out over a different landscape than 40 months ago when it launched Office for Mac 2011.

Last fall, Apple set free its rival suite, iWork, giving away the three OS X applications of Pages, Numbers and Keynote to every new Mac buyer. In households — but not businesses — with multiple Macs, that effectively means all the machines can be equipped with iWork for free.

How Microsoft will deal with a free iWork is unknown. Currently, Microsoft charges $140 for the single-license Home & Student edition, $220 for a one-license copy of Home & Business, and $100 annually for an Office 365 subscription. Even that third option, with its five licenses, may seem pricy to Mac owners used to the free iWork and satisfied with its fewer features.

Also important is the ticking clock on Office for Mac 2011.
Microsoft supports Mac editions of Office for just five years, half the support lifecycle of the Windows’ suite, and Office for Mac 2011’s retirement date is not that far away: Jan. 12, 2016. Microsoft could extend support for Office for Mac 2011 — it did that for Office for Mac 2004 — but if it does not, it needs to provide a replacement soon to give customers time to migrate.

In the past, Microsoft has used the Macworld trade show and conference to demo its upcoming Office for Mac. This year, Macworld, now called “Macworld/iWorld,” is slated to run March 27-29 in San Francisco. (The Macworld/iWorld conference is run by IDG, the parent company of Computerworld and its sister publication and website, Macworld.) However, Microsoft is not on this year’s exhibitors’ list for the trade show.

The next Office for Mac is already overdue by Microsoft’s past practice of following the latest version for Windows within a year.


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Top 5 ways that IT wastes money

A number of common IT projects that seem like they should add value rarely do. Here are what I consider the top IT projects that waste budget dollars.

The role of the CIO has changed more in the past five years than any other position in the business world. Success for the CIO used to be based on bits and bytes, and is now measured by business metrics. Today’s CIO needs to think of IT more strategically and focus on projects that lower cost, improve productivity, or both, ideally.

However, many IT projects seem to be a waste of time and money. It’s certainly not intentional, but a number of projects that seem like they should add value rarely do. Here are what I consider the top IT projects that waste budget dollars.

Over provisioning or adding more bandwidth
Managing the performance of applications that are highly network-dependent has always been a challenge. If applications are performing poorly, the easy thing to do is just add more bandwidth. Seems logical. However, bandwidth is rarely actually the problem, and the net result is usually a more expensive network with the same performance problems. Instead of adding bandwidth, network managers should analyze the traffic and optimize the network for the bandwidth-intensive applications.

Investing in fault management tools
On paper, it makes sense to invest in fault management. You deploy network devices, servers, security products, and other infrastructure, so of course you would want to know when devices are up and down. However, the fact is that today we build our network so redundant that the loss of any single device has little impact on the performance of applications. Also, most of the fault management tools have a big blind spot when it comes to virtual resources, as the tools were designed to monitor physical infrastructure. IT organizations should focus on performance solutions that can isolate what’s been “too wrong for too long” to solve those nagging “brown outs” that cause user frustration.

Focusing IT energy only on the “top talkers”
When I talk to IT leaders about new initiatives, it seems much of the focus is on the top 5 or 10 applications, which makes some sense conceptually as these are the apps that the majority of workers use. Instead, IT leaders should monitor all applications and correlate usage to business outcomes to determine and refine best practices. For example, a successful branch office could be heavy users of LinkedIn, Salesforce.com and Twitter. In aggregate, these might not be among the company’s top 10 applications, and the usage would fly under the radar. If organizations could monitor applications and then link consistent success to specific usage patterns, unknown best practices can be discovered and mapped across the entire user population.

Using mean time to repair (MTTR) to measure IT resolution success
ZK Research studies have revealed a few interesting data points when it comes to solving issues. First, 75% of problems are actually identified by the end user instead of the IT department. Also, 90% of the time taken to solve problems is actually spent identifying where the problem is. This is one of the reasons I’m a big fan of tools that can separate application and network visibility to laser in on where exactly a problem is. This minimizes “resolution ping pong,” where trouble tickets are bounced around IT groups, and enables IT to start fixing the problem faster. If you want to cut the MTTR, focus on identification instead of repair, as that will provide the best bang for the buck.

Managing capacity reactively
Most organizations increase the capacity of servers, storage or the network in a reactive mode. Don’t get me wrong, I know most companies try to be proactive. However, without granular visibility, “proactive” often refers to reacting to the first sign of problems, but that’s often too late. Instead, IT departments should understand how to establish baselines and monitor how applications deviate from the norm to predict when a problem is going to occur. For example, a baseline could be established to understand the “normal” performance of a business application. Over four successive months, the trend could be a slight degrade of the application’s performance month after month. No users are complaining yet, but the trend is clear, and if nothing is done, there will be user problems. Based on this, IT can make appropriate changes to the infrastructure to ensure users aren’t impacted.

The IT environment continues to get more complex as we make things more virtual, cloud-driven or mobile. It’s time for IT to rethink the way it operates and leverage the network to provide the necessary visibility to stop wasting money on the things that don’t matter and start focusing on issues that do.

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11 best places to take a techie on a date

11 best places to take a techie on a date
Not too late to plan a Valentine’s Day extravaganza

For Valentine’s Day, drag your techie sweetheart off the couch and into the real world. We’ve looked across the U.S. for a sampling of the best spots to mix romance and geekiness.

Bell Museum of Natural History: Birds & the Bees (Minneapolis)
Reservations are required for Valentine’s Day night: “The great outdoors are indoors at the Bell Museum making it the perfect place for an intimate Valentine’s Day picnic with your special someone or friends. We’re turning the lights down for this evening event among the dioramas and focusing on the “birds and the bees” —quite literally in fact! Enjoy special honey bee programming and the opportunity to tour Audubon and the Art of Birds, Birds & DNA and From the Field.”

Computer History Museum (Mountain View)
If you’re in Silicon Valley and have had enough of the young social media tycoons and their inventions, go old school and take a trip back through the history of computing at this museum. The History of Computer Chess, Revolution: The First 2000 years of Computing and the Hall of Fellows are among current exhibits worth checking out. Here’s a handy 1-hour tour guide if you want to combine the visit with other activities.

The Shire of Montana (Trout Creek)
No kids allowed at this resort that features Hobbit houses intended to whisk you away to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Loved to Death shop (San Francisco)
This shop in the Haight-Ashbury district started out as an art endeavor making Victorian-theme anthropomorphic taxidermy dioramas, but has evolved into much more than that, as fans of the Science Channel’s “Oddities: San Francisco” program can attest.

Mapparium (Boston)
Walk inside a three-story stained glass globe across a 30-foot glass bridge. Better than It’s a Small World at Disneyworld. This globe is located at the Mary Baker Eddy Library near Northeastern University. This activity will take less than an hour. If you’re really into maps, check out the map room at the Boston Public Library and if you’re really into globes, the 25-ton outdoor globe at Babson College, 20 miles west of Boston.

Museum of Science Fiction (Washington, D.C.)
OK, we hate to be a tease, but this museum doesn’t actually exist yet. But it could! Head over to crowdfunding site Indiegogo and lend your support to the creation of this planned nonprofit mecca for sci-fi.

IMAX movies (many locations)
So you don’t live in one of the big cities highlighted so far: How about visiting a local IMAX theatre and checking out a Hollywood or educational film (yes, mutually exclusive). This site has listings for IMAX theaters around the country.

Pinball Hall of Fame (Las Vegas)
Take a break from the ringing and lights at the casinos and check out the ringing and lights at this one-of-a-kind tribute to arcade games of the mostly past. For 25 or 50 cents per play, we’re smelling a very cheap date at this 10,000 square foot facility.

DisneyQuest Indoor Interactive Theme Park (Orlando)
Five floors of virtual worlds, 3D encounters and classic video games. Attractions include Cyberspace Mountain and a Virtual Jungle Cruise.

National Museum of Mathematics (New York City)
This museum surely gets overshadowed by the Empire State Building and Central Park, but how can you resist a place that caters to those aged 105 to 5? Not to mention the Square-Wheeled Trike, Hyper Hyperboloid and coaster rollers.

Museum of Science and Industry (Chicago)
It’s pretty hard to pick just one museum of science, as there are many good ones across the country and many are being more and more interactive. And while a lot of exhibits are geared more for kids than dating adults, there’s typically something for everyone. At the Chicago museum, for instance, you can see a German submarine, a futuristic sustainability game and artifacts from Walt Disney’s collection.

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Microsoft offers multifactor authentication to Office 365 users

Since June last year, users with administrative roles had the facility

Microsoft is offering multifactor authentication free as an option to all users of the enterprise versions of Office 365 suite, a hosted set of Microsoft Office tools and applications. It will be available to users of Office 365 Mid-Size Business, Enterprise, and other plans, but not to consumer or small business editions.

The company also plans to add multifactor authentication for Office 2013 client applications, with native multifactor support for applications such as Outlook, Lync, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PowerShell, and OneDrive for Business, planned for release later this year, Paul Andrew, technical product manager on the Office 365 team, wrote in a blog post Monday.

Microsoft also plans to integrate third-party multifactor authentication systems and smart cards such as the Common Access Card of the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. federal Personal Identity Verification card.

Multifactor authentication has been available for Office 365 administrative roles since June last year.

The multifactor authentication requires the user to enter other authentication factors besides the basic password. These could include mobile phones, biometric verification or a personal identification number. “The multifactor authentication increases the security of user logins for cloud services above and beyond just a password,” Microsoft said. Office 365 administrators can enroll users for multifactor authentication through the Office 365 admin center.

The company said in September it was offering multifactor authentication on its Windows Azure cloud platform, whereby in addition to an user name and password, users can authenticate through an application on their mobile device, automated voice call, or a text message with a passcode.

The authentication for Office 365 ranges from acknowledging a phone call, entering a six-digit code sent by text message on the portal to confirmation through apps on smartphones, Microsoft said. “Only after this second authentication factor has been satisfied can a user sign in,” it added.

Microsoft is also adding App Passwords for users so they can authenticate from Office desktop applications as these are not yet updated for multifactor authentication. Once the users have logged in with multifactor authentication, they will be able to create one or more App Passwords, which are 16-character randomly generated passwords, for use in Office client applications.

The company is offering multifactor authentication for Office 365 to midsize business, enterprise plans, academic plans, nonprofit plans, and standalone Office 365 plans, including Exchange Online and SharePoint Online. Organizations on these subscriptions can use the service for free.

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6 dirty secrets of the IT industry

6 dirty secrets of the IT industry
IT pros blow the whistle on the less-than-white lies and dark sides of the tech business

IT pros usually know where the bodies are buried. Sometimes that’s because they’re the ones holding the shovel.

We asked InfoWorld readers to reveal the dirtiest secrets of IT — the less-than-white lies and dark sides of technology that others may not be aware of. We then ran those “secrets” through a BS detector, fact-checking them with experts in the relevant field. In some cases the experts concurred, in other cases they did not.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Take heed, young techies, of these 10 hard-earned lessons of a lifetime in IT and beware these 7 fatal IT mistakes that will get you fired. | Think you got it bad? Check out InfoWorld’s dirty IT jobs hall of shame for a dose of perspective. | Get a $50 American Express gift cheque if we publish your tech tale from the trenches. Send it to offtherecord@infoworld.com. ]

Do sys admins wield power far beyond the CIO’s worst nightmares? Are IT employees routinely walking off with company equipment? Can the data you store in the cloud really disappear in an instant? Are you paying far too much for tech support?

Dirty IT secret No. 1: Sys admins have your company by the short hairs When the IT fox is guarding the data hen house
Anyone who’s followed the Edward Snowden story knows what kind of damage a sys admin with an agenda can do. But even IT people may not realize the full range of unfettered admin access and the kinds of pain it can bring.

“There are no secrets for IT,” says Pierluigi Stella, CTO for managed security service provider Network Box USA. “I can run a sniffer on my firewall and see every single packet that comes in and out of a specific computer. I can see what people write in their messages, where they go to on the Internet, what they post on Facebook. In fact, only ethics keep IT people from misusing and abusing this power. Think of it as having a mini-NSA in your office.”

This situation is more common than even most CIOs are aware of, says Tsion Gonen, chief strategy officer for data protection firm SafeNet.

“I’d estimate this is true in 9 out of 10 organizations,” he says. “Enterprise security is only as secure as the ethics of trusted IT administrators. How many of them have sys admins who abuse their access privileges is harder to say — but enough to hit the news almost every week. The scariest thing is that the same people who present the greatest risk are often the very people who approve access.”

David Gibson, VP of Varonis, a data governance solution provider, agrees that admins are often able to access data they shouldn’t without being noticed, but he puts the number closer to 50 percent. He adds it’s not just the admins; most users have access to far more data than they need to do their jobs.

He says the solution comes down to getting a better handle on two things: reducing access to get to a “least privilege” model, and continuous monitoring of who is accessing data.

“The organization needs to be able to see who has access to what data, who the data belongs to, and who has been accessing which files,” he says. “From there, IT can involve the data owners directly to make informed decisions about permissions and acceptable use.”

Dirty IT secret No. 2: Your employees may be helping themselves When “retired” IT assets enjoy a surprise second career
Old tech equipment rarely dies, it just finds a new home — and sometimes, that home is with your IT employees.

“Employee theft of retired equipment is commonplace,” says Kyle Marks, CEO of Retire-IT, a firm specializing in fraud and privacy compliance issues relating to IT asset disposition. “I have never met someone from IT that doesn’t have a collection of hardware at home. To many, taking retired equipment is a victimless crime. Most don’t view it as a security threat. Once equipment is retired, they act like it is fair game.”

The problem with taking equipment bound for the scrap heap or the recycling bin is that it often still contains sensitive data, which if lost could result in massive liability for the company that owns the equipment, says Marks. And, of course, it is still theft of company equipment.

“Theft and fraud are serious situations that create massive privacy liability,” he adds. “A capricious IT insider can have costly consequences if left unchecked. Yet in most cases, the people responsible for making sure assets are disposed of properly — with all data removed — are in IT. Organizations need to have a ‘reverse procurement’ process that assures assets are retired correctly.”

But does every IT employee really steal old hardware? A veteran of the IT asset disposition industry, who asked to remain anonymous, says the problem isn’t nearly as commonplace as Marks makes it out.

“I’m not saying that theft is nonexistent,” he says. “I am simply stating that I have never met anyone in the industry with that particular mind-set.”

Most equipment that goes missing is simply lost for other, less nefarious reasons — like it was shipped to the wrong place, he adds.

“It sounds like a bad generalization when in essence a lot companies pride themselves on providing secure services and act in a way that is completely honest and full of integrity.”

Dirty IT secret No. 3: Storing data in the cloud is even riskier than you think All the security in the world won’t help when Johnny Law comes knocking
Storing your data in the cloud is convenient, but that convenience may come at a high price: the loss of your data in a totally unrelated legal snafu.

“Most people don’t realize that when your data is stored in the cloud on someone else’s systems alongside the data from other companies, and a legal issue arises with one of the other companies, your data may be subject to disclosure,” says Mike Balter, principal of IT support firm CSI Corp.

In other words, your cloud data could be swept up in an investigation of an entirely unrelated matter — simply because it was unlucky enough to be kept on the same servers as the persons being investigated.

The classic illustration of this principle occurred in January 2012, when U.S. and New Zealand authorities shut down Kim Dotcom’s MegaUpload file locker in January 2012. Along with a trove of allegedly pirated movies, the authorities confiscated the data of thousands of law-abiding customers and refused to return it. Whether those customers will ever get their data back remains unresolved.

“The risk of seizure is real,” confirms Jonathan Ezor, director of the Touro Law Center Institute for Business, Law and Technology. “If there is any legal basis for law enforcement or other government officials to seize storage devices or systems — which may require a warrant in certain circumstances — and those systems contain data of both suspects and nonsuspects, all might be taken. Ultimately, any time an organization’s data are stored outside of its control, it cannot prevent someone from at least gaining access to the hardware.”

Users who want to protect themselves against this worst-case scenario need to know where their data is actually being kept and which laws may pertain to it, says David Campbell, CEO of cloud security firm JumpCloud.

“Our recommendation is to find cloud providers that guarantee physical location of servers and data, such as Amazon, so that you can limit your risk proactively,” he says.

Encrypting the data will decrease the chance that anyone who seizes it will be able to read it, adds Ezor. Another good idea: Keep a recent data backup nearby. You never know when it might end up being your only copy.

Dirty IT secret No. 4: Your budget’s slashed, but the boss has a blank check RFPs are for peons
In virtually every midsize or larger organization, there are two ways to get purchases approved, says Mike Meikle, CEO of the Hawkthorne Group, a boutique management and information technology consulting firm. There’s the official purchasing procedure — a time-consuming process that forces you to jump through more flaming hoops than a circus act. And there’s the special procurement diamond lane, available only to a special few.

“People at the senior leadership level have their own procurement pipeline,” he says. “What takes an IT person eight months to obtain through official channels these execs can get in a few weeks, if not sooner. It’s what I call the Diamond Preferred plan. I’ve never worked with an organization in government or private industry that didn’t have a secret procurement path.”

The purpose of the official procurement process is to make it harder for employees to spend the company’s money, says Meikle — unless, of course, they know the secret handshake. Unfortunately, he adds, the CIO is usually not a member of this club, which means large tech purchases can be made without serious cost benefit analysis or consideration of IT’s strategic vision. 

“They’ll go out to lunch, a vendor will whisper sweet nothings in their ear, and the next thing you know they’ve spent half a million on a mobile application management solution, not realizing you already had one,” he says. “Now you have two.”

Not so, contends a private consultant to the military and Fortune 100 companies who asked to remain unnamed. While there are cases where organizations may bypass standard procurement procedures, it’s almost always for something the IT department needs right away and doesn’t want to waste weeks cutting through red tape to get it, he says.

“Nontechnology executives don’t know enough about IT to make a large purchase decision,” he adds. “If a senior executive circumvents the procurement process, that purchase order has to have a signature on it before the supplier will ship it. If anything goes wrong with that technology, the executive would be accountable and traceable. That’s like kryptonite to those guys.” 

Dirty IT secret No. 5: You’re getting the short end of the customer support stick That technician is just another script kiddie
Stop us if this sounds familiar: You’re on the phone with a support technician halfway around the globe, but you get the distinct impression they know less than you do and are just reading from a script. Guess what? They probably are.

“IT support is a cheap commodity,” says Tim Singleton, president of Strive Technology Consulting, a boutique support firm catering to small and midsized businesses. “Tools that do most of it for you are free, and computers require less knowledge now than they used to. Your neighbor’s daughter or the tech-savvy guy in accounting can probably fix your computer as well as any IT company.”

But some say that assessment is too broad. While that may be true for the simplest problems, it’s not true for more complex ones, notes Aramis Alvarez, SVP of services and support at Bomgar, which makes remote IT support solutions for enterprises.

“The problem with calling IT support a ‘cheap commodity’ is that not every problem is created equal,” says Alvarez. “Some basic issues can be diagnosed by any tech-savvy person, but difficult ones, such as viruses, cannot. Your neighbor’s daughter may be armed with enough knowledge to be dangerous, but she could end up destroying the data on your computer.”

Then you may end up paying much more later to clean up the mess, adds Joe Silverman, CEO of New York Computer Help — which often happens when companies cut corners by shortchanging or overburdening internal IT support.

“We have gone to many NYC offices and apartments to see the leftover tracks of a shoddy computer repair or IT job from another company, family member, or friend who acted as the go-to IT guy,” he says. “The guy in accounting who sometimes takes care of computer issues is most likely too busy and too inexperienced to fix a failed hard drive, motherboard, or power supply. If the network or server crashes, do you want to really depend on your accounting guy to get the job done, or a senior network engineer with 20 years of experience?”

Dirty IT secret No. 6: We know a lot more about you than you think Going all in on data collection
Think the NSA has you under surveillance? They’re punks compared to consumer marketing companies and data brokers.

One of the biggest offenders are casinos, says J.T. Mathis, a former casino database manager and author of a self-published expose about his experience titled, “I Deal to Plunder: A Ride Through the Boom Town.” When you enter a casino, you’re gambling with more than just money — you’re risking your most personal data. Mathis estimates that his former employer’s marketing database contained the names of more than 100,000 active and inactive gamblers.

“From the moment you enter the casino, everything you do is tracked,” says Mathis. “If you sit down at a slot machine, they know exactly where you’re at, how many times you’ve pulled the handle, and how much money you’re putting in. They know you like to eat at 4:30 and order the lobster platter. They know your favorite cigarettes and wine and whether you watched porn in your room. And when you arrive during the summer they know the lady you’re with is not your wife, so employees make sure to call her Cindy and not Barbara.”

Former casino executive and LSU professor Michael Simon confirms Mathis’ story. But, he adds, it’s not that much different than the kind of data collection performed by companies like CVS, PetSmart, or Amazon.

“I teach an MBA class on database analysis and mining, and all the companies we study collect customer information and target offers specific to customer habits,” he says. Simon, author of “The Game of My Life: A Personal Perspective of a Retired Gaming Executive,” adds, “It’s routine business practice today, and it’s no secret. For example, I bring my dog to PetSmart for specific services and products, and the offers they send me are specific to my spending habits, and I like that. PetSmart on the other hand gives me what I want instead of wasting time sending me stuff I won’t use like discounts on cat food or tropical fish.”

One thing that is different: When Mathis was laid off in May 2012, he still had copies of the database in hand. When he tried to return it, he was out of luck — the casino refused to return his calls. Talk about gambling with your data.

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Microsoft’s long, messy, occasionally clumsy CEO search is about to end

Microsoft could name a new CEO within the next week, after making it clear that whoever gets the job at this point was a back-up choice.

Microsoft could be ready to announce a new CEO within the next week, and it looks to be an insider, after the lengthy outsider search failed to produce results.

Re/Code and Bloomberg both report that Satya Nadella, the head of the server and tools division and 22-year Microsoft, is now the leading choice, although Tony Bates and Stephen Elop remain in the running.

Whoever among this group ends up getting picked will be a second choice. Microsoft’s board chased a lot of outside people, and to pick Nadella or the others suggests the board gave up and just went with the inside guy.

Consider: first it was Allen Mulally of Ford and John Lawrie of CSC. Lawrie faded fast but Mulally hung in there for months before bowing out. Then came word that the job would go to former VMware CEO and ex-Microsoft exec Paul Maritz, who turned it down immediately. Then there was talk of Steve Mollenkopf, COO of Qualcomm, who ended up being promoted to CEO. Finally, there was Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg, who also shot them down.

How would YOU feel to be the sixth choice for anything?
There is still the chance for an outsider. Re/Code boss Kara Swisher is still rooting for current VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger, who would be a great choice, but there have been no hints about him in any direction.

Swisher says this protracted search is making a mess inside Microsoft. It’s disrupting the reorg announced prior to Ballmer’s announcement and has left the company in a state of uncertainty. On the one hand, you want the Microsoft board to make the right decision, but on the other hand, they can’t drag this on much longer.

Both Re/Code and Bloomberg report that Steve Ballmer will step down from the board, a wise decision, but there are conflicting stories between the two over Bill Gates. The founder and 800-pound gorilla is either going to become more involved or leave as Chairman. John Thompson would replace him.

Nadella would be wise to demand this. He needs those two out of the way to do what he must and should demand it as a condition of his acceptance.


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