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Improve End User Mobile Business Application Adoption with iOS 8

 

July 25, 2014 

Mobile Business Application Adoption with iOS 8The success of the mobile business application you develop depends, in part, on how well you are able to exceed your users' expectations with a good user experience. Apple's iOS 8 mobile operating system, set to release this fall, will give mobile developers never-before-seen tools to make their mobile enterprise apps more useful than ever. According to Apple, this release is the biggest for developers since the introduction of the App Store. It will include over 4,000 new APIs and deeper access to iOS capabilities.

Utilize the following iOS 8 features in the next mobile business app you develop, and you’ll exceed your end users' expectations and improve end user adoption.

 

Touch ID

In iOS 8, the Touch ID feature will be extended to work in third party apps. Touch ID is a fingerprint reader on the home button. It reads the user’s fingerprint, stores it securely, and unlocks functionality when enabled. This feature will allow developers to build an app that lets end users sign into their mobile business apps using only their fingerprint - no password required. The user’s fingerprint data is secured and never accessed by unauthorized parties. After last year’s widespread security breaches, keeping information secure should be top of mind. The Touch ID feature could be useful in any app, but especially useful in business apps that send or receive sensitive information.

 

PhotoKit and Camera API

With PhotoKit, developers can enable their apps to edit photos directly in the device’s camera roll instead of having to import them into the enterprise app first. With this feature, developers will be able to provide to their users photo manipulations such as filters. PhotoKit will be helpful in any mobile business app that uses the camera feature. Additionally, mobile business apps that use the device’s camera will be able to have precise control over settings such as aperture, focus, and white balance.

 

CloudKit

CloudKit is a data transportation feature that sends and receives data between Apple’s iCloud Drive servers and a user’s device. It eliminates a developer’s need to write server side application logic. Using CloudKit, developers can use the full power of iCloud Drive in mobile business apps, and enable users to sign in with their Apple ID. Apple is providing CloudKit for free as long as a user doesn’t surpass certain usage limits.

iCloud Drive allows users to easily drag and drop files to iCloud on one device, then access the file from any device that’s running iCloud. In the enterprise setting, IT Departments will be able to set up rules for controlling which apps can open documents from iCloud Drive. Apple announced that iCloud Drive will integrate with third-party cloud services. It’s speculated that Box may be one of these services, but we won’t know for sure until the operating system launches this fall.

 

For more general use, the new mobile operating system comes with beefed-up enterprise security and productivity features like:

  • Ability to enable S/MIME controls in each mail message
  • Ability to see colleagues’ availability when scheduling a meeting in Calendar
  • Easier access to corporate documents with AirDrop
  • An interactive notifications feature that lets users quickly respond to a notification like a new calendar invite without leaving the app they’re in 

iOS 8 is a huge release, both for developers and everyone else. The new features add flexibility that helps developers write better apps for their users. Each new feature is considerate, and will give users a more customized experience. Take advantage of these new features to make your end users happier and more productive, and to ultimately improve end user adoption.

-Teamstudio

 

Keep reading: How Mobile Application Developers Can Achieve a Flexible UI

 

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Guidelines for Applying Upgrades to IBM Domino

 

July 23, 2014

Guidelines for Applying Upgrades to IBM DominoUpdating your IBM Notes Domino applications to the latest release can be a daunting task. However, keeping your release current will result in fewer problems overall. The greater the leap between releases, the more potential for problems. Having a Domino Upgrades policy in place will aid Notes Domino administrators in executing successful upgrades.

An effective Notes Domino upgrade involves a significant amount of planning. The high level steps include:

  1. An Environment Review
    1. An Infrastructure Review
    2. An Application Review
  2. Upgrade Implementation

The Environment Review 

It’s important to create a separate test environment and test at each step of the process. This protects the organization from unplanned application downtime associated with the upgrade. Downtime can come in the form of a scheduled event, such as the time when an actual upgrade is going to take place, or an unscheduled event, such as when an unexpected application error prevents the application from being used.

Reviewing the environment is essential for a smooth migration. The more issues uncovered during the environment review, the lower the risk. There are two parts to the environment review: infrastructure and application.

 

Infrastructure Review

There are a number of areas that should be considered when reviewing the environment. Each of the items listed below could have a negative impact on the upgrade if not evaluated fully.

  • How the server is managed and how the Notes internal processes are functioning (adminp, catalog, design, amgr and http). Make sure you understand what each server task is doing so you can confirm it’s still functioning correctly after the upgrade.
  • Review the Notes.ini settings to identify items that are missing or can be removed. The notes.ini can give clues about what server tasks are running or what third party add-ins may also need to be upgraded.
  • Review how replication is being used and its model within the organization. Review the size and timings of replications, the number of threads, which servers are initiating the replication and the type of replication being done. Knowing the replication topology will aid in determining the order in which servers need to be upgraded.
  • Review what agents are scheduled, how long they take to run and when they run. Performance benchmarks will help identify performance issues the upgrade may have caused.
  • Review the Access Control Lists (ACL) for the system databases and Templates. Depending on the size of the upgrade, this may be a good time to perform ACL and group clean up.
  • Diagram the configuration of servers and users across the network. A complete network topology in addition to the replication topology will give you the order of server upgrades.

You must also determine the level of Notes monitoring that exists with the current environment. You need to know what monitors you are currently relying on for keeping on top of server health. An upgrade that disables a monitor for whatever reason may result in longer than planned downtime or the omission of a critical event. You should document the types of alarms used including database, mail, disk usage and memory utilization. Make sure that test plans exist to trigger the events so you can be sure they still function correctly after the upgrade.

 

Application Review

An analysis of all Notes applications should take place that documents the real usage history of all applications in use throughout the organization. Gaining an understanding of which applications are in use, who is using those applications and how much will provide invaluable insight necessary in planning the upgrade strategy. Time spent migrating unused applications or reapplying template customizations to unused templates is time better spent elsewhere.

An upgrade analysis should be performed to determine where the new Notes Domino version will have an impact on the existing applications. Areas of concern include obsolete functions, modified views in the Domino Directory, new formulas and new fields.

 

Upgrade Implementation

Once the impact of the new release is well understood, a simple application should be selected to benchmark the time and resources required to complete the upgrade and to make the necessary design changes for each application. 

Once the benchmark application has been upgraded, a decision needs to be made regarding the readiness of all Notes Domino applications. An investigation of all areas identified during the benchmark that may impede the upgrade should occur to determine the organization’s readiness.

An area of concern is maintaining customizations that have been made to standard Notes templates. Prior to any upgrade, it’s important to identify all customizations so that they can be reapplied to the new version of the template provided in the upgrade.

 

Requiring a strict adherence to an organization’s Notes Domino Upgrade Policy should be required in order to effectively support the overall business objectives of the organization. Adhering to this policy will provide management with the ability to manage costs effectively, minimize risks associated with an upgrade, and remain in compliance with organizational standards and applicable regulations.

-Teamstudio

 

Learn more: View the Upgrade Filters Data Sheet

 

How Using XPages Has Changed Your Development

 

July 18, 2014

XPages DevelopmentBack in the early 1990's, a Lotus Notes developer only had to contend with forms, views, and @ formula to make an application work in Lotus Notes.

This was then augmented in 1996 with InterNotes Web Publisher for an R4 server, and we started putting in passthrough HTML into views and hide/when for some fields to only show in a Web browser. That all becomes standard fare in R5, and then it all goes a bit stale for a long while.

Roll forward to 2009 and IBM releases XPages to an unsuspecting developer community. They are highly demanding of change, but don’t know what is about to happen to them.

IBM takes a group of developers to three workshops around the world and has them explain to a selected audience what XPages is and how to develop in it. The result is an instant success with the developers in the room and everyone is hyped up about what they might be able to show at January’s Lotusphere conference. 

What IBM did was add Java Server Faces (JSF), and add it and Dojo to the Domino http engine. In the process, they managed to bring about the most significant change in Notes and Domino development since the introduction of Lotusscript.

Developers could now separate the business logic from the data and from the user interface (UI). These had all been interwoven in previous versions mostly because of Lotus/IBM’s mantra of backwards compatibility. It’s a great mantra to have and even better that IBM has managed to keep it since version one of Notes.

With XPages and Custom Controls, you can create very sophisticated applications that take advantage of less proprietary technologies like Dojo, JavaScript, and JSF. This brings a wealth of ability to the application and also a whole world of JavaScript elements that you can find on the Internet to recycle in your XPages application. Not only that, but you can also use other frameworks such as jQuery or UI frameworks like Blueprint or Bootstrap. With all of this available, it has really opened up what you can do with a Notes app of old.

To make things easier, we develop our XPages and Unplugged applications using a process that highlights how things have changed. Here’s how it usually goes:

 

  1. Design and develop the UI and get it signed off by the users. This pays massive dividends in terms of development time and user acceptance testing. Everyone has a very clear understanding of what it's going to look like in the end, and it's familiar when the User Acceptance Testing (UAT) process starts.
  2. Build the mechanics behind the buttons. Now that you have the interface, it has to do something to be useful, and this is where you start to codify the business and application logic that has been agreed in the requirements gathering phase.
  3. Date loading of real style data will mean that the testing has validity.
  4. Internal testing comes next, and it's vital that this is built from the statement of work and requirements gathering workshops. The bug list that comes out of this gets fixed before UAT.
  5. User Acceptance Testing should be done next and with a limited period of time to be completed. This allows the users the chance to focus on the app and make sure it does what they need.
  6. Bug fix from the UAT is the penultimate stage of the process.
  7. Documentation of what each Custom Control and XPage does and its dependencies is finalised. We use our CIAO! product to help create a record of the design process so that others can see what was done when, and by whom. We also keep this as an internal record and make it available to the support team so the application is easier to support going forward.

 

So now you know how we approach XPages development here at Teamstudio, but how does that demonstrate how XPages has changed your development? Well to start with, you could not separate the data from the UI in traditional Notes coding. We couldn’t build what it's going to look like and then start adding the code underneath that. When you’re building Notes forms and views, it's not possible to separate how they interact with the data at all. In fact, they are the things that define the data and how it works, and this is still true even when designing XPages applications. 

Then again, we could not build the app at all without the data structure to work from, so it’s vital that if you are starting from zero, you get your forms and views right first.

So, the way we approach application development now has fundamentally changed the order in which we pick things up to make the application. It's also meant that we can structure the build of applications so that no matter what they are, we can approach them in the same way as any other application development platform would.

-Tim Clark

 

Build great looking XPages applications - Watch this free webinar replay!

 

How Mobile Application Developers Can Achieve a Flexible UI

 

July 16, 2014

Responsive Web DesignIt’s commonly accepted that responsive web design is the way to go for developing websites and mobile apps. Everyone agrees that having a flexible user interface that provides an optimal viewing experience across various devices is important. Good user interface design practices can make a mobile app look better and function more easily. In fact, UI decisions are some of the most important decisions developers have to make, because the largest factor of poor adoption of mobile apps is poor User Experience: both UI design and performance. 

Apple is an example of a company who has introduced important innovations to the way users interact with computers, music players, and phones. Some of their success can be attributed to their attentiveness to consumers’ need to have a good-looking device that’s a pleasure to interact with. 

But how can you, mobile application developers, achieve good user interface design with a flexible UI? You have quite a few options even after you decide on a mobile architecture. One of the easiest and most popular options is to use a mobile application framework. Mobile application frameworks are software that aid developers in creating mobile apps. Each of the vast number of frameworks supports varying combinations of mobile application platforms. No matter your mobile application platform needs, you can be sure there’s a framework to help you achieve a responsive UI.

A few of the most popular frameworks that allow responsive web design for Web-based (mobile Web or hybrid) apps include jQuery Mobile, Top Coat, Twitter Bootstrap, Kendo UI Mobile, and Sencha Touch. The following is a brief summary of each of these frameworks.

 

jQuery Mobile

jQuery Mobile ranks as one of the most commonly used mobile UI frameworks for mobile Web and hybrid apps. It’s free and open source, and provides a mobile user interface that imitates the same usability of jQuery’s desktop product. The framework has great documentation and a huge number of plugins, themes, tools, etc. It’s criticized for slow performance in mobile browsers, but the team behind jQuery Mobile is reactive and regularly works on issues like this.

 

Top Coat

Top Coat is a free mobile application framework built by Adobe. It relies on CSS libraries over JavaScript to provide everything developers need, giving apps a speed boost. It’s a chic product designed primarily for desktop browsers, but includes a mobile style sheet that features bigger touch targets for controls.

 

Twitter Bootstrap

The Twitter Bootstrap toolkit is a responsive front-end framework that includes base CSS and HTML code for elements such as typography, forms, tables, navigation, buttons, grids, and more. Bootstrap is ever evolving, with updates coming out on a regular basis. One criticism of this framework is its performance in a mobile only setting. While you do need a working knowledge of web development concepts like HTML and CSS to get the ball rolling with the bootstrap mobile framework, it’s not out of reach for those willing to invest a little time into learning these concepts.

 

Kendo UI Mobile

The Kendo UI mobile framework provides both app framework functionality and 13 built-in widgets, with the freedom to create custom widgets as well. Although licensing starts at $199, it comes with excellent documentation and support for developers who make the investment. The framework has a flexible UI with adaptive widgets that change based on the platform to copy the native look of the user’s device, depending on which platform it runs on.

 

Sencha Touch

Sencha Touch is a free and open source framework that requires all user interface code to be written in JavaScript. Although mobile application developers using this framework must have considerable JavaScript experience to get things done, it contains 50 built-in widgets such as a slider, date picker, and other components that you may not expect from a free framework. This mobile focused HTML5 development platform creates web-based UIs that rival native UI performance.

 

Mobile application frameworks like these are unlocking huge opportunities for innovation. Have you used any of the above frameworks for your Web-based applications? Did we miss your favorite? Let us know your experience in the comments section below!

-Teamstudio


Haven’t decided on a mobile architecture yet?
Read this free white paper to find out which is best for your company.

 

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Automating the Build Process with Teamstudio Build Manager

 

July 11, 2014

Teamstudio Build ManagerTeamstudio Build Manager is a tool for the comprehensive control of the movement of Notes database templates from one environment to another. It improves efficiency by automating the steps necessary to make a template ready for the next environment, and mitigates risk by ensuring all necessary steps are completed as specified, thus reducing the risk of human error. It assists with compliance to regulatory standards by ensuring the enforcement of segregation of roles, all at the push of a single button! Whether you’re an IBM Notes Administrator or Developer, it makes your life easier with one-click builds.

 

The Promotion Process

Build Manager allows you to create promotion path documents, which automatically create a template from your design database and promote it through the process to production.

The time to promote varies and is contingent upon the size of the design being promoted, and the network bandwidth. The promotion process starts with creating a backup copy of the existing code to be used as a rollback if the promotion fails.

 

A Technical Look at Teamstudio Build Manager

There are four .NSF components to Teamstudio Build Manager, an executable file, and a DLL file. The code is run from a Notes client, so only the database is installed on the server. The executable and DLL files are installed on each PC that’s being used for Build Manager for promotions. Build Manager users need to be able to write to the Notes and Notes/data folders. The four .NSF components include the following.

 

  1. The Build Manager Configuration Database is required and holds all configuration and build documents.
  2. The Template Registry Database is optional, stores all versions of code promoted out of development, and is the staging area for promotions to QA/UAT/TEST and production environments.
  3. The Workflow Approvals Database is optional and is used to configure approval workflows when approvals are needed to promote code to the next environment.
  4. The Agent Parameters Database is optional and is used for the run agent step that is described below. It takes information from the configuration documents and provides them as easy to access variables to be used in LotusScript agents as part of the build.

 

The actions you can automate using Build Manager are detailed below.

  • Build Path: This step allows you to define the template registry the template will be stored in.
  • Promotion Path: This step allows you to define where the template will be placed so the target application can have the design automatically refreshed/replaced.
  • Make Version: Uses details from the CIAO! configuration document (if you have licensed a copy) to create new versions of the application.
  • Design Audit: Uses Teamstudio Analyzer auditor (if you have licensed a copy) to search for design issues and report on them relative to failure thresholds.
  • Search and Replace: Uses Teamstudio Configurator (if you have licensed a copy) to perform an automated search and replace on the target database to identify and change text in the promoted template.
  • Database Properties: Automatically changes the following database properties: Title, Categories, Inherit From, Template Name, TemplateBuild.
  • ACL: Automatically sets ACL properties and roles using values either defined in this step or derived from a Stored ACL.
  • ACL Entry: Automatically adds ACL entries (people and/or groups) to existing ACLs.
  • Copy Database: Automatically copies the target database to another location.
  • Compile LotusScript: Automatically compiles all or specified LotusScript in the design.
  • Element Properties: Automatically changes the following design element properties: Prohibit Design Refresh, Propagate Prohibition, Design Element Inheritance, Design Element Comment.
  • Enable Agents: Automatically enables or disables the selected scheduled agents.
  • Set Agent Server: Automatically sets the server on which the agent runs for the selected scheduled agent(s).
  • Set Agent on Behalf of: Automatically sets the user the scheduled agent will run under.
  • Refresh Design: Automatically refreshes/replaces the design of one or more databases. There is an option to ignore any prohibit flags in the database to be refreshed so you can ensure the design in the target is what passed testing.
  • Run Agent: Automatically runs any agent in any database. This step allows for custom promotion processes that include steps not defined as standard in Build Manager.
  • Sign Database: Automatically signs the database from a stored or attached ID. The options are the same as if using the Administration Client.
  • Email Notification: Automatically sends an email to one or more individuals or groups when the build is successful.

 

These steps are configured to match your existing processes, so all of them may not be necessary. But using this tool is the perfect time to update your processes to be in line with environment best practices.

-John Coolidge, Technical Director

 

View the Build Manager Data Sheet

 

Mobile App Architecture Options: an Overview

 

July 9, 2014

Mobile App ArchitecturesToday’s mobile marketplace is characterized by ceaseless innovations, rapid changes, and endless updates. It’s an explosive environment that requires mobile applications to be quickly delivered to users who have multiple demands ranging from various screen sizes, operating systems, bandwidths, device capabilities, and user experiences. 

These characteristics present challenges for mobile developers, especially with today’s advances in handheld devices and mobile application frameworks: software that aides developers in creating mobile apps such as jQuery Mobile, Kendo UI, and Apache Flex. Each of the vast number of frameworks support varying versions of platforms such as iOS and Android, development languages such as Java and C++, and user interface features such as widgets and customization. Add to these decisions about whether the framework should support certain hardware features, be free or open source, support SDK or encryption, and whether it should support the mobile Web, hybrid, or native app architecture, or all of these, and it’s easy to see the challenges developers face.

Along with the framework decision, should developers use the wrong client architecture – the mobile Web app, the hybrid app, and the native app that differ significantly – it can lead to poor user experience and adoption. As a result, great care should be taken when choosing the appropriate mobile app architecture. 

Here’s a breakdown of the three architectures and why you would or wouldn’t use each.

 

The Mobile Web Application Architecture

Apps using the mobile Web app architecture run on a mobile browser. The browser hosts the app’s presentation layer that’s created using HTML5. Because of this, the interface looks and behaves like a traditional website, but is designed for the mobile device.

The mobile Web app architecture lets developers reuse existing application code and tweak their JavaScript and CSS. Doing so enables the apps to be more mobile friendly. There are also no necessary installations, upgrades, or uninstallations. Despite its improved browser support, performance, and usability, the mobile Web app architecture has some disadvantageous. Even with HTML5, access to native functionality is limited. It becomes difficult to implement any applications that can work in a disconnected state.

 

The Hybrid Application Architecture

The hybrid app architecture addresses the mobile Web app architecture’s inability to access device sensors such as Bluetooth, GPS, accelerometers, and cameras. It also enables cross-platform support, building HTML5-based applications that run in the browser window, mimicking the look and feel of a native app.

With the hybrid app architecture, developers can reuse existing code with minimal tweaking, and there is access to all native features. Using the native components also results in a richer user experience. Some issues to consider include that the UI is the lowest common denominator between platforms, and performance varies between platforms.

 

The Native Application Architecture

With the native app architecture, the application is custom built for a targeted device’s operating system and its Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kit (SDK). The developer can use standard Graphical User Interface (GUI) components from that platform’s SDK. As a result, users receive a richer overall experience, along with excellent performance, and native look and feel.

From a development standpoint, the native app architecture makes it possible to build complex, rich, responsive applications that supply excellent performance with no need for mobile programming skills. The native app architecture provides users with a high quality user experience and user interface design with very few slowness or lagging issues. However, the native app architecture may need installation, upgrading, and uninstallation, and it’s device and platform-specific. Additionally, some businesses have reported somewhat higher costs due to development time.

 

In conclusion, a mobile Web app architecture is appropriate for creating a simple mobile-optimized version of an existing website. The hybrid app architecture works well for business mobile applications and content applications, and apps with a basic user interface and functionality requirements. The native app architecture works well for applications that can’t compromise on the user experience or performance, and where cost savings and productivity gains from cross platform code sharing is not a goal. Which mobile app architecture is best depends on your specific needs. Considering the above benefits and issues will begin to point you in the direction that’s best suited for your company.

-Teamstudio


Want to read more about mobile application architectures?
Download our white paper: Which Mobile App Architecture is Best for Your Company?

 

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5 Key Areas for Managing your IBM Notes Infrastructure

 

July 4, 2014

IBM Notes ManagementIBM Notes is easy to use and allows rapid application development, but very few organizations know how many applications are in place, where they are, or what they do. Further, changes to applications are made ad-hoc and many times directly in production with no accountability and no change management process.

The result of this lack of control is far-reaching, including:

  • Lack of automated processes leading to errors and bottlenecks
  • Poor end user satisfaction from the application
  • Slow turn-around of change requests by development
  • Costly downtime happens more often
  • Difficulties in functioning as a development team with no version control system
  • Disruptive, time-consuming, costly and labor intensive regulatory audits
  • Lack of global visibility into security and auditing of ACL settings across the entire enterprise increases risk

This leads to wasted resources, wasted space, and wasted opportunity for business benefits. Ultimately, the potential ROI from Notes will not be achieved, which sadly has the effect of causing management to consider other platforms. However, given the cost of “rip and replace” strategies, the only sensible option is to establish a set of fresh policies for your IBM assets.

To effectively manage your IBM Notes infrastructure, you need to develop a strategy with policies, processes, and tools necessary to address your governance requirements. It’s important to consider the human element in managing these processes. You have to be able to track “effective” application access and have the ability to create an audit trail of application access and changes. Automation is the best way to implement control, deliver compliance, and to manage risk. 

We’ve broken the process down into the five traditional areas of the application lifecycle: Requirements, Design, Development, Test, and Production. You begin by auditing your existing policies and practices in these areas. Only then can you consider how to implement Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) for Notes. The following information describes the five key areas you should be concerned about when it comes to managing your IBM Notes applications.

 

IBM Notes Requirements Policies

Requirements policies are those tasks that go into determining the needs or conditions for a new or altered application. Requirements can start out as just requests, which can come from almost anywhere across the organization. Requirements must be measurable, testable, related to identified business needs or opportunities, and defined to a level of detail sufficient for application design.

 

Design

Design policies are where the technical blueprint of the system is created. This is done by designing the technical architecture, and choosing among the architectural designs of software, hardware, and infrastructure that will best suit the organization’s current and future needs. This includes designing the systems model, graphically creating a model from a graphical user interface (GUI), GUI screen design and databases, to placement of objects on the screen.

 

Development

Development policies transform the design into a physical system by building the technical architecture, database and programs that will be used in the system.

 

Test

Test policies provide processes for testing the developed system. Test conditions were created during the Design phase, and are conducted by comparing expected outcomes to actual outcomes. If these differ, a defect is generated and you have to back-track to the development stage.

 

Production

Production policies address moving the applications to the users of the system. Training is provided to the users of the system prior to “going live”. These policies also include keeping the system up to date with changes in the organization and ensuring it meets the goals of the organization by building a Help Desk to support system users.

 

Understanding where your organization is with regard to these policies and practices is essential. It’s also necessary to understand how you might begin to implement an ALM framework using these policies within your IBM Notes environment.

All Notes professionals need to start somewhere. Whether you are at the start of your journey to change a simple existing set up or you are making sophisticated tweaks to a mature environment, understanding these application areas will help you grasp the steps needed to achieve effective governing of your Notes environment.

-Teamstudio

 

Looking for tools that will make it easier to manage IBM Notes and Domino?

 

How to Pass your Business Continuity Drill with Flying Colors

 

July 2, 2014

Pass BCM DrillHaving a documented business continuity plan is an essential part of planning and preparing for serious data breaches and unavoidable natural disasters. Fortunately, according to AT&T's 2012 Business Continuity Study, 86% of companies with revenues of at least $25 million have a business continuity plan in place. However, testing your plan is just as important as having a plan in the first place. In order for your business continuity plan to be effective, it must be tested. Whether your company conducts full-scale tests once a year or more frequently, the following best practices will help your drill run smoothly and will help you report positive results.

 

Have a BCM Plan

If your company falls under the 14% of those reported above who don’t have a Business Continuity Plan (BCP), this paragraph is for you. The first and most important way to pass your business continuity drill is to have a solid plan in the first place. Before your organization ever suffers a disaster, you must have put in the work to develop a business impact analysis and risk assessment, and shared your plan to necessary personnel. By having a researched and well-communicated plan, you will have taken the first step toward successfully passing your drill.

 

Test your BCP Frequently

According to Symantec, a shocking 22% of businesses never actually test their continuity plan, or only test it after an emergency takes place. Another 22% say they only test their plan once a year. Running a full-scale test once a year or more gives a business the opportunity to understand how their BCP will do in various crisis scenarios, and gives the BCM professionals the opportunity to address any problems encountered. Testing is the best way to ensure your business is ready for a disaster.

 

Communicate: “This is Only a Test”

As another important measure, it’s a best practice to label all drill materials clearly with a phrase like "This is only a test." It's important to do so to ensure that if any non-staff or unaffiliated parties accidentally get their hands on the material, they will be fully aware that a real disaster has not taken place.

 

Get All Hands on Deck

When you’re testing your business continuity plan, it's vital that everyone in the organization has a "hands on" experience. Since a disaster would affect everyone in the organization, everyone in the organization should understand what to do in the event of a disaster. The best way to ensure participation is to communicate the planned drill details and objectives to every department. This way, no one is left in the dark about the importance or significance of the test.

 

Hire Outside Help

If your company isn’t large enough to house a dedicated business continuity team, or if you need expertise in a specific area, it could be worth hiring an independent consultant or project manager to make sure the test process goes as smoothly as possible. Independent professionals can bring a wealth of industry best practices and methodologies, and can facilitate the drill for you. They can make suggestions based on what is best for your business in terms of things like BCM products and recovery sites, as well as steps to take after the drill is complete.

 

Incorporate a Mobile Solution

When the unexpected occurs, your company needs a business continuity plan that can be accessed quickly and easily so you can restore operations. Business continuity software brings BCM into the 21st century in such ways as providing a uniform look to your plan’s documents, universally applying personnel record updates, and generating reports, but a mobile solution takes BCM even further. With a mobile solution, you gain access to data anywhere, anytime, even when offline.

 

Undoubtedly, natural disasters, security breaches, and other catastrophic events will occur. Although that reality may be unavoidable, the repercussions of these events don’t have to be devastating. By exercising these best practices around your business continuity plan, you can ensure your organization will be able to continue operations after a worst-case scenario.

-Teamstudio


Watch a demo of our mobile BCM solution!

 

The Unplugged Controls: An XPages Mobile Option for Domino Developers

 

June 26, 2014

XPages Mobile Calendar ControlIf you read our recent blog post on Dojo Mobile, you know that users are becoming less and less tied to their PC in the office and are turning to their mobile devices to access applications. There are a vast number of options Domino developers have to choose from when it comes to XPages mobile app development frameworks. While the previous post focused on Dojo Mobile, this post will explore a different option: the Unplugged XPages Mobile Controls.

 

A brief history

Throughout their development experiences, Rich Sharpe and Matt White looked at mobile app development frameworks such as the jQuery and Dojo Mobile Controls to see if they could use these frameworks for the mobile applications they wanted to create. In 2012 they came to the conclusion that there were too many issues with these, so they began creating their own set of controls.

Under the direction of Teamstudio, Rich Sharpe, Matt White, Mark Leusink, Jack Herbert, and various others created the Unplugged Mobile Controls as a set of open source development tools. The Controls are available on OpenNTF and are specifically designed for creating either Web or native mobile applications to run equally well in a mobile browser like Safari or Chrome, or on the Teamstudio Unplugged mobile application platform. There are currently 18 controls that include headers, footers, form viewers, and form editors, and the development team is always adding more.

 

How to use the Unplugged Controls

To use the Controls, download the latest release from OpenNTF that contains one template database (an NTF) and two sample applications (two NSFs) that you can use as a guide. Once downloaded, copy the required XPages, Custom Controls, and resources from the template database into your application database. Then, like any other XPages application, create a single custom control that will handle the layout. You’ll add two stylesheets to this control: Unplugged.css and font-awesome.css. Begin dragging and dropping controls from the Unplugged Controls set to the layout custom control you created, and customize the properties as you like. After you’ve configured the controls, save and preview the XPage. The application you create will work in mobile Web browsers, and on the Teamstudio Unplugged platform once synced with Unplugged devices. Detailed documentation is available on the GitHub site by Unplugged Controls version number.

 

The pros of the Unplugged Controls

If you’re an XPages developer, the Controls are written in a language you already understand. These Controls can create both simple and complex mobile apps very quickly with very little coding. Use of the Controls is not difficult, so you shouldn't need massive experience with mobile or Web development to be able to create an application.

When it comes to UI, you’ll see three themes right out of the box: Light, Dark, and iOS7. While these give you options, the Unplugged Restyler gives you even more flexibility. Use the Restyler website to create your own custom theme to easily match your corporate branding. User Experience is also crucial. Unlike the Dojo and jQuery Mobile Controls, the Unplugged Controls work well with both tablets and phones on both iOS and Android devices.

Performance is also a key consideration for the Controls. The Unplugged Controls developers aim for their test applications to have sub-second response times when running inside the Unplugged platform. They’ve spent a lot of time optimizing the JavaScript code so you don’t have to.

It’s also easy to add offline capability to applications by using the Teamstudio Unplugged platform. You can sync down Domino data to the device in an encrypted manner, then use it remotely when you don't have network connectivity.

 

The limitations of the Unplugged Controls

Unlike the Dojo Controls, the Unplugged Controls framework has to be added manually to Domino Designer. In order to use the Controls, you must manually copy and paste the custom controls, script libraries, and CSS and image files into your NSF inside Domino Designer.

At the moment, the project is very targeted toward XPages. You won’t be able to use the Unplugged Controls if you use other server technologies besides XPages.

Compared to other XPages mobile controls frameworks, the Unplugged Controls team is small and currently consists of two developers, one graphic designer, one tester, and one project manager. Despite its small size, the team actively pushes development updates for the Controls.

 

Whether or not the Unplugged Controls are your best option depends on the specific needs of your organization and the nature of your applications. A few other frameworks for creating XPages mobile Web applications include:

Stay tuned to this blog series on XPages mobile options for Domino developers for the next post on jQuery Mobile.

-Teamstudio

 

Read more about the Unplugged Controls at the GitHub website.

 

7 IT Security Tips to Prevent Disaster Recovery

 

June 19, 2014

Disaster Recovery PreventionUndoubtedly, the growing number of IT security breaches is one of the top concerns of any business in the private or public sector. According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2013 there were more than 3,000 more information security incidents than in 2012. With the growing number of IT security breaches across every sector, IT Managers and business continuity employees alike should understand why breaches happen and how to prevent them.

What is a Security Breach?

A security breach can be defined as the unauthorized access of private services, data, networks, applications, or devices. Either insiders or outsiders gain access through the manipulation of an organization's security mechanisms. Also called security violations, breaches are an early stage of an attack by an intruder, hacker, or rogue application.

In the event that an organization's policies or procedures have been violated following a security breach, the organization must fall back on an effective disaster recovery plan in order for the business to recuperate quickly. Although a security breach can vary from low risk to highly critical, any security breach has the potential to damage an organization’s image and be extremely costly. In addition to outlining recovery steps, the best disaster recovery plan should include the following ways to prevent security breaches before they happen.


1. Educate your Employees

If you institute an effective security awareness training program, you can reduce the likelihood of using your disaster recovery plan. When you train the employees and stakeholders of your company, you educate them about how to recognize questionable behavior by those with malicious intentions. A training program will also help reduce simple mistakes employees make that can lead to security breaches.


2. Institute an Encryption Policy

While a tenth of laptops will eventually be stolen, it doesn't mean the data stored on the device has to be stolen as well. Instead, institute an encryption policy for employee laptops to protect the data stored on them. Moreover in today's age of BYOD, you should also institute the same policy on employee handheld devices, including any tablet or phone used for business.


3. Deploy an Intrusion Detection and Prevention System

Simply put, any device that has access to the Internet should be protected by a system that watches activity behind a firewall. While an intrusion detection system passively watches for suspicious behavior, an intrusion prevention system actively protects a device by initiating such activities as blocking an IP address. When you deploy intrusion detection and prevention, you add another layer between your data and the bad guys.


4. Prevent Drive-By Downloads

One of the most simple and common ways hackers cause security breaches is through drive-by downloads. Drive-by downloads are used by compromised or malicious websites to exploit your device when it accesses the site by installing spyware and viruses. Instead, help your employees from accessing certain sites that may contain drive-by downloads by educating them about what not to click on and by keeping software up to date.


5. Conduct Vulnerability Assessments Often

As a functioning contributor to your company’s disaster recovery plan, you should conduct regular IT vulnerability assessments. While most businesses perform assessments once a quarter, IT vulnerability assessments should be done much more often. To be effective, vulnerability scans must be conducted for all internal and external systems connected to the network.


6. Apply Patches Frequently

Even though most IT professionals are aware of patching, most fail to patch networks comprehensively. Allowing updates to run automatically isn't sufficient. Instead, you should consider patches for every operating system in your network, and pay special attention to third party applications.


7. Monitor Employees Showing Questionable Behavior

Although employees may aide in preventing an external attack, they could also pose a threat for an internal security breach. Utilizing a system where your compliance officer or HR person could replay or monitor the behavior of insiders can be invaluable. In addition, you can combine this system with a data loss prevention (DLP) technology as mentioned above, which can effectively block the content or data you don’t want to leave the network.


Having an effective disaster recovery plan that addresses IT security breaches is essential. At the same time, you must take the appropriate steps to prevent the violation of your IT security policy. Using strong passwords, a trustworthy firewall and anti-virus software, and the above tips are all key to preventing a breach. Are there any we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

-Teamstudio

 

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