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The tablets are coming! The tablets are coming!
Tablets have taken the consumer computing space by storm. In November, IDC released a report showing that the market for tablets grew by almost 50 percent in the preceding year. That was mostly prior to the release of Windows 8 and Windows RT and the slew of tablet form factor devices running those operating systems that are still hitting the market.
As with other consumer technologies, tablets are making their way into the corporate environment, as part of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend. In fact, some are predicting that tablets will come to dominate enterprise IT as they become more powerful and more capable. Bill Gates’ dream is finally being realized. In 2001, when he demonstrated the first Windows XP Tablet Edition devices at Comdex, Gates predicted that tablets would become the most popular form of PC within five years. His timing was off by more than half a decade, but the transition is now poised to take place.
IT departments are still coming to grips with what this means in practical terms, both for IT pros and for the users they support. The mobility afforded by tablets makes it feasible to have a capable computer at your fingertips almost anywhere and at any time. That (theoretically, at least) results in greater productivity and better communications within the organization and with people outside of it.
The early models of this wave of tablets, such as the iPad and the first Android tablets, were seen primarily as content consumption devices. Such devices have a definite place in the enterprise; in many jobs, the ability to access information (patient records for healthcare personnel, sales records for business people, etc.) is the primary use for which they need a portable device.
In other job roles, however, content creation is the main task. Writers, artists, programmers and others need to be able to easily, comfortably and accurately input information. The first tablets fell far behind traditional desktop or laptop computers in that regard. Even the best on-screen keyboards don’t lend themselves well to touch typing, and the keyboard takes up much of the already-small screen so that you have trouble seeing what you’re writing. You could use a Bluetooth physical keyboard but then you had to carry around two pieces of hardware, negating one of the big advantages of the tablet – its extreme portability. Those first tablets didn’t support accurate digital pens, either, so it was difficult to draw on them.
Then there was the software. Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android are simple, lightweight operating systems that work great for content consumption but don’t run the heavy duty business applications that workers are accustomed to working with on their “real computers.”
That’s all changing now The Asus Transformers have detachable keyboards that let you go easily from content consumption device to content creation device. . My Galaxy Note 10.1 with the S Pen is great for drawing, handwritten notes, and advanced photo editing. There are dozens of great new Android tablets on the market that attempt to appeal to business users in various ways. But what’s really exciting is the entry of a modern generation of Windows tablets into the fray.
Lenovo’s Yoga convertible models have excellent keyboards that can be folded back to use the device in tablet mode. The Yoga 13, which I’ve had an opportunity to use, is a fantastic smallish laptop, although a bit large and heavy in tablet mode. But it runs Windows 8 and all the applications you need, and comes with up to 8 GB of RAM and an i5 or i7 processor capable of handling pretty much whatever you want to throw at it. The Yoga 11 is a smaller Windows RT device. You can’t load third party desktop programs on it but it comes with Office 2013 and that’s all some information workers really need. A new Yoga model, the 11S, is scheduled to be released later this year and combines the best of both: the smaller, more tablet-like size and the full Windows 8 OS.
Then there’s the Surface. Microsoft released the RT model first, back in October. I think that was a mistake; IT pros and serious workers were waiting for a Windows 8 machine. I had no interest in an RT device whatsoever – until I tried one. I found it to be much more capable than I’d expected for getting work done, but it’s not going to replace a real laptop. The Surface Pro, however, just might be able to do that. I’ve heard from a few IT people who plan to use it in just that way. I’m writing this article on the day of the Pro’s release, and I’ll be giving it a good workout and reporting back on my experiences later this month on the TechRepublic web site. The Surface Pro, running Windows 8 and most legacy Windows applications, just might turn out to be the perfect enterprise tablet.
All this tablet goodness is great for the user. For IT, though, the invasion of tablets can mean a management nightmare if it’s not handled properly. The plethora of choices is one of the biggest problems. In a BYOD world where users can bring in whatever tablets they own, you can end up having to support at least three completely different computing platforms. The security implications are challenging, to say the least. In the next two weeks, I’ll be doing an article for TechRepublic called Alternatives to the BYOD Free-for-all that addresses what corporate IT can do to make the influx of tablets and smartphones more manageable while still allowing employees flexibility. Keep an eye out for it.
As for my opinion about desktops vs. laptops vs. tablets vs. phablets and smartphones, I believe there is a place for each type of device, and I don’t think any of them will disappear completely for a long time. The market is changing, though, as the way people work changes. IT has to adapt to those changes – whether we like it or not.
By Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MVP
Quote of the Month - To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. – Thomas Paine
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3. WindowsNetworking.com Articles of Interest
4. Administrator KB Tip of the Month
Enabling Windows Firewall Audit Logging
Windows Firewall with Advanced Security can log firewall activity such as dropped packets or successful connections. By default the firewall log is:
You can configure firewall logging by using Group Policy if desired. But what if you want to collect more detailed logging of firewall activity, such as kernel mode connections/drops and other filtering activity? You can do this by enabling Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) audit logging as follows:
Auditpol /set /category:"System" /SubCategory:"Filtering Platform Packet Drop" /success:enable /failure:enable
Auditpol /set /category:"System" /SubCategory:"Filtering Platform Connection" /success:enable /failure:enable
Note that this form of logging may be very verbose, so be careful when enabling this on a computer in your production environment.
For more great admin tips, check out http://www.windowsnetworking.com/kbase/
5. Windows Networking Tip of the Month
Do you need a lab environment where you can demonstrate Windows Server 2012 failover clustering? If so, then you need a way to provide shared storage to the cluster. I suppose you could put together a SAN and carry that SAN around with you, but that’s a pretty tall order. It would be better if you could use a virtual machine to would present itself as shared storage to the cluster. But how do you do that? You can do it by configuring a Windows Server 2012 virtual machine as an iSCSI target. It’s pretty easy to do. To find out how to do it, check out Mitch Tulloch’s article series over at http://www.windowsnetworking.com/articles-tutorials/windows-server-2012/configuring-iscsi-storage-part1.html
6. Windows Networking Links of the Month
7. Ask Sgt. Deb
I understand that I can now store virtual machine files in an SMB 3 share in a file server failover cluster and have high availability and transparent failover. That’s pretty cool! But I also run some ESX servers and it would be cool if I could get something similar with NFS. Do you know if Windows Server 2012 supports NFS for remote storage for virtual machine disk and configuration files?
Thanks! – Manny.
Yes, you can do that. Windows Server 2012 includes a number of improvements to NFS so that you can host the virtual machine disk and configuration files on a file server cluster. Check out the blog post Server for NFS in Windows Server 2012 for information about what’s new and improved in the Windows Server 2012 NFS. For a full list of NFS related blog posts by the NFS storage team at Microsoft, check out this post: http://blogs.technet.com/b/filecab/archive/tags/nfs/