Archive for December, 2008

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Security with Convenience – the next Killer App?

December 18, 2008

The History of the Killer Application

What is a “killer app”? A Killer Application is something that changes the way people do business. So what was the first killer Application? (Take your time, I’ll wait……)

It was Word Processing. Think about it, do you remember type writers and correction tape or white out? If not you should visit the Smithsonian 🙂 Word Processing changed the office for ever, no more typing pools, carbon paper, or re typing a page because it had too many errors on it. It was word processing that put the original DOS based PCs on the desk in our Offices.

What was the next Killer app? It was email! For better or worse it changed the way we all communicate. Can you image business today without email? I can’t. And while it has not yet completely replaced faxing (which was its own killer app in its day) it has clearly supplanted faxing as the communication method of choice for transferring documents between offices, clients, or customers.

An aside note, the killer app that got girls and young women into computing? IM (Instant Messaging) and social networking. For boys it was gaming.

So what’s next?

There has been a convergence of technologies that has finally allows us to have security with convenience. These two words have always been mutually exclusive, but not anymore. Most networks have matured and stabilized to the point of predictability. TCP\IP has won the protocol wars, even MACs and Novell use this as their main protocol now (remember Appletalk & IPX?). PDFs has all but won the format wars. And the percentage of networks that now run a Microsoft Active Directory is extremely high. And this has led us to leverage the AD for security purposes other than the Company Servers & email. Using the Active Directory to authenticate users on an MFD is not particularly new, nor is it without its problems. End users HATE to type thier logon credentials on a little virtual keyboard on a little touch screen twelve times a day (or more) just to use the ****ing copier!!!! They often become frustrated, they may even revolt at the idea of having to type their user name and password 20 times a day on a virtual keyboard (painful experience). Many of the Manufacturers are now offering a real QWERTY keyboard that can be added or even mounted to their newest MFDs.

A savvy Network Admin knows not to harass their end user community unnecessarily. But for some companies security is non negotiable! It is just too important and a complaining body of end users won’t change that. But wouldn’t it be great if their was a way to allow your end users to easily log in to your Active Directory at the MFD. That would be a real WIN WIN! Well, you need not put it on your Christmas list because it is already here. Here are two ways to accomplish it.

Biometric Readers on your MFD.

A biometric reader reads something that you are (a thumb print, a vein pattern, your eyes retina), and if you associate that physical attribute that is unique to you with your Microsoft Active directory account you can easily and quickly log in to an MFD while maintaining the needed security.

RFID (or magnetic swipe) cards on your MFD.

So many companies are already using RFID security cards to allow or deny access to the physical security of their buildings. Why not tie those same cards into the end users Microsoft AD log in. End users then simply walk up to the MFD and tap their RFID card on an RFID reader and they are now an authenticated user.

Current Products

EFI SendMe has a terrific Biometric Thumb reader. This product is a Scan Station that works with an MFD and allows both Secure Scanning & Secure (local) printing. You can even tie it in to their Internet PrintMe application.

Canon’s UniFLOW solution allows you to currently tie your RFID security cards into your MFDs or eCopy Scan Station for not only secure print & scan but true “Follow Me Printing”. An End User who is logged on to your Active directory prints to one of two available Canon UniFLOW Print Queues (Color or B&W). Then they walk to the nearest Canon MFD (and if that one is down or busy they walk to another) tap their RFID card on the MFD’s RFID card reader and release their secure print job. We are being told that the Biometric (Thumb Reader) will be available Q1 of 2009. This UniFLOW solution will even allow your end users to access BOTH the Canon MFD and the eCopy (embedded SSOP) or external stand alone eCopy Scan Station with the same RFID login, no need to authenticate separately to the MFD and eCopy Sharescan app. What does this mean to your organization? You have achieved security with convenience! And they said it couldn’t be done 🙂 UniFLOW is a Canon only solution. They own 70% of this company, I guess they learned their lessson with eCopy. 🙂

Konica Minolta’s Biometric (Vein Pattern) Reader mounts directly to their MFDs. I have not yet seen this tied into the Active Directory (only to the local MFD authentication) but I am told it can be done with PageScope. I hope to see and test this in the near future. The original firmware on the KM MFD had less than perfect results with certain people reading their finger (vein Pattern), but we recently updated the Konica Minolta MFD’s firmware and this has improved the recognition greatly. If you tried it and were unimpressed you may want to look at it again with the new firmware.

The Benefits to your IT dept.

When you use your existing Active Directory user list as authentication for your MFDs you no longer have to create and manage a separate list (like you did on the MFD or with eCopy Scan to Desktop). This significantly reduces the effort that the IT Department spends on supporting the MFDs. If you delete or lock an AD account then that user no longer has secure print or scan capabilities. With no extra effort on your part.

With the EFI Sendme Scan Stations that I set up for one customer if an end user had not used it before when they first placed their thumb in the Biometric reader it would say that it didn’t recognize them and present them with a standard windows type login screen, and ask them to log in. The end user would login, and then be asked to place their thumb on the Biometric Reader 4 more times. At that pointb they were set up and could from that point on use it (as their selves) just by placing the thumb in the reader, with NO IT INTERVENTION! The IT support guys we were working with were giving each other high fives in the hall way.

Benefits to your End Users

As long as an end user has active AD credentials and either an RFID card or a Thumb. They can easily set themselves up without having to bother, or wait for IT to do it for them! We had end users stop us in the hall to tell us how much they loved the EFI Sendme. It is rare that you can provide a solution that makes both the IT dept and the end user community extremely happy all the while maintaining security and convenience. This only happems when technology converges as it has here.

Technology or science usually makes its greatest jumps when their is a convergence of technology or ideas. Sir Issac Newton made the statement “If I have seen further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants”. Microsoft’s Active Directory is not new. RFID cards and Biometric Readers are not new, Multifunction Digital copiers are not new, but bringing these three separate technolgies together have equalled, for the end user security with convenience and that is new!

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@Yahoo.com



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PSA: Don’t sit on the Copier during your Office Christamas party!

December 6, 2008

It’s that time of year again and your office Christmas Party is fast approaching. I will share with you advice that I use to give to a new employee when I was a Field Service Manager. “Your goal at this office Christmas Party is NOT to be the person everyone is talking about on Monday morning.” Unfortunately there always is someone who doesn’t take this advice.

Over the years I have seen many things copied on the office copier, hands, faces, breasts, and yes butts! Yes it’s still funny in a sophomoric way, and yes I like the Three Stooges (I guess that makes me a guy). All of the above can usually be done without too much danger, except copying your Butt. Copying your Butt involves certain amount of risk to your body & your job. I am not talking about the sexual harassment laws. I’ll let the PC Police handle that issue. What I am referring to is the following two dangers:

1) The physical danger. To copy your Butt you must sit on the glass of the copier. Usually the copier is too high off the ground to place your Butt on the glass and still keep your feet on the ground. Which means the person will get a chair or something to help them get into this precarious position. Normally excessive amounts of alcohol are involved at this point. I think we all know, at least when we’re sober, that the copier glass is not meant to hold the weight of the average adult.  So this brave\stupid individual perches on the copier glass and presses the green button. In some cases they are successful and people laugh, except the PC police. But sometimes, often times, the glass breaks and they crash through onto the scanning assembly and cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in copier repairs. Also consider on a number of copiers the voltage on that scanning system is high, it could REALLY HURT if your butt makes contact with the frame and the power of the scanner (OUCH!!!). But you don’t have to break the glass to break the copier. The distance between the scanner and the copier glass is very tight. All you need to do is flex the glass slightly and it will cause the scanner to hangup midway throught he scan and severly damage the copier (big time cost). By the way when the copier tech shows up on Monday morning and sees the damage, he may laugh, but he will also charge you. This is not covered by your service contract. For some strange reason they call it abuse 🙂

2) The other great danger is to your career. If you do turn out to be the person that everyone IS talking about on the Monday morning after the Office Christmas party because you broke the copy machine and cost your company hundreds to thousands of dollars in non covered service charges then don’t be surprised if you find yourself looking for a new job to go with the New Year. I pretty sure that you won’t win this one at the labor board.

So, this has been a PSA (Public Service Announcement) from the connectedcopier. Have a great time at your office Christmas party but don’t be that person who every one talks about on Monday morning, even if you somehow manage to keep your job it will take a decade to live down the story. Merry Christmas!

Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@Yahoo.com

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Selling Value!

December 4, 2008

As sales people we all have heard that if you aren’t “selling solutions” you are going to starve. Copiers have become a commodity. If you doubt it just ask someone who is not in the industry “what type of copier do you have?” The answer will either be I don’t know, or I think it is a…, so much for brand loyalty. They all pretty much do the same thing, copy, print, fax, scan to email, scan to folder. So how do you separate yourself from the guy down the street. Please don’t say “lower price”, there will always be someone willing to go lower than you. And being the lowest price is a good way to become poor. You didn’t go in to sales to not make money.

That brings us back to what can you do to separate yourself. The conventional wisdom is to “sell solutions”, but that has become a trite phrase. Scanning to email is a function NOT a solution! So how do we make it a solution? My definition of a “true solutions sale” is a combination of hardware, software, and know how to solve a customers business problem. If it doesn’t solve a customer’s problem it is not a solution.

Last week I was speaking to a IT manager who was frustrated with the Canon equipment that they had previously purchased. The Purchaser handles the last acquisition of equipment and price was his main concern. So he didn’t buy Canon’s Universal Send (Push-Scan). He didn’t see the value in it. But that’s not his fault. It’s our fault because my previous sales person didn’t sell him value. He was just happy to get a multi-machine deal, and he got it, but we ended up with a very frustrated IT manager. So they brought me in figuring that I could “speak his language”. We started out by sitting down in a conference room and letting him talk (sometime vent) about how frustrated he was with his limited scanning functionality. I asked him the key question, what is it you want to do, from a business point of view. The IT manager lit up, he said we need to be able to send paper documents, sometimes client records to our nurses in the field. I said GREAT! We can set your equipment up with Canon Universal Send (an option that they didn’t originally purchase) which will allow you to scan to email. He said we have a Hosted Email server (from Verizon). A few years back that would have been a problem but now we have a number of ways we can send an authorize email (smtp auth. or pop before smtp) we generally  have no problem setting up Scan to email through a hosted server anymore.

I went on to tell him you also need the encryption option for Canon’s Universal Send so you meet your HIPPA requirements. I reminded him that email was not a secure medium. Now I really had his attention. He said thank you so much for bringing that up. He knew he had HIPPA requirements but he had not tied it in to the discussion of this technology. By encrypting the PDFs when they scan to email they can both deliver the patient records to their nurses in the field and meet their HIPPA requirements, now that’s what I call a solution sale!

What is the outcome of selling this way. Do you think that Toshiba, or Sharp, or Panasonic are going to come in behind me and say we have a cheaper copier!!! So what! We are no longer comparing apples to apples, not in this customer’s mind. And now the IT manager is our champion inside the company, because we helped him accomplish what he wanted to accomplish, We helped him look good! Do you think he will want to do business with us again? Do you think he will be more likely to take our recommendations and suggestions in the future? Yah, me too! Even if another dealer or the dreaded manufacturers’ sales rep comes in and says “we can do that too!” Again, so what. We listened to the customer’s frustration and provide them with a genuine solution that solved their business problem. We aren’t telling them we “can” do it, or we can match someone else’s solution. We “Have done it”, and well done is better than well said!

That’s My $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz

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Questions to ask Ricoh-Ikon regarding Canon Service

December 1, 2008

The Canon Ikon letter has been out for a while now, and the following statement seems to be getting the most attention.

“…Canon will continue to sell spare parts and supplies to IKON for three years, and will provide certain technical support to IKON for Canon brand business equipment for at least one year.”

The first thing that comes to mind is I hope that you didn’t just enter into a 4 or 5 year (service included) lease with IKON on Canon equipment since they will only be able to obtain Canon parts for three years. But if you did you have time (and options) to make some decisions on what will be best for your company.

The more interesting part of the Canon statement is that Canon will provide “certain technical support… for at least one year.” Even when you ask someone at Canon they will not give you a clear definition of what that means. They fall back on the legal disclaimer that it is a private agreement between IKON and Canon and that they either don’t know or can not disclose the exact terms. OK, Fair enough, but where does that leave you as a business person trying make sound business decisions about your company and who will service and support your current Canon equipment. As business people we make our decisions based on the best information available to us at the time.

The above statement as to what type of support Canon will or will not give IKON in the next year or beyond seems to be vague by design. But don’t worry,  I am going to help you get to the bottom of what kind of support you can expect from IKON on your Canon equipment.What you can do is ask your IKON-Ricoh Sales Rep, or IKON-Ricoh Service Manager to respond in writing to the following questions. These are questions that an Authorized Canon Dealer can answer “Yes” to.

Q1. Can the IKON technician call Canon Technical support? Do the IKON technicians have active Canon support IDs?

Q2. Do the IKON service technicians have access to the Canon eSupport Web Site and knowledge base?

Q3. Can the IKON service technician open up a problem ticket with Canon tech support?

Q4. Does the IKON service technician get access to all current Canon modifications for the Canon equipment  that s/he services?

Q5. Does the IKON service technician get access to all current firmware, and patches (including security patches), on all current Canon equipment that they service?

Q6. Does the IKON service technician get access to all Canon Technical Publications (Tech Pubs) for all of the Canon equipment that they service?

Q7. Can the IKON service technician escalate a technical problem to Canon Engineering?

Q8. Can the IKON service department request and receive an on site visit form a Canon technical specialist at your site, to help them resolve a service problem in the field?

Please get the answers to these questions in writing, or via an email. If the answer is yes to all of these, I will be surprised if it is, have them go to the Canon eSupport site http://www.support.cusa.canon.com/ Ask them to log in to this site in front of you. See what they can access.

But if it turns out (as I suspect) that the answer is “no” to some or all of these questions then you will have a basis to make an informed decision on just how much value your company lost when IKON lost their status as an Authorized Canon Dealer. After all they were an Authorized Canon Dealer when you purchased your Canon equipment from them, and they were an Authorized Canon Dealer when you entered into a Service contract with them. And it is IKON not you who changed the agreement, by losing it’s standing as an Authorized Canon Dealer. If their loss of standing costs your business the level of support that you originally negotiated for, then maybe you have a basis to break that contract (consult your legal department).

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@Yahoo.com

PS: Is the proper spelling on the new Ricoh-Ikon entity Ricon or Rikon? 🙂 I guess that will depend on who in management still has a seat when the music stops.