The Anywhere Home Drive

I thought I’d put pen to paper to discuss a topic that was raised during the most recent UK Citrix User Group meeting. Discussions in the afternoon session were focused around user data, mobility and possibly the end of the user home drive as we know it. There has been lots of talk about how insecure DropBox is and the desire for businesses to implement an on premise solution. Obviously there are other commercial and open source services/products in market today that were not covered, e.g. Box, Google Drive and SkyDrive etc.

Ultimately we had AppSense, Citrix and RES in the same room demonstrating their respective products; DataNow, ShareFile and HyperDrive.

The ways in which these products are implemented varies significantly and they’re seemingly targeted at different markets or are trying to solve slightly different problems (some of which I’m not convinced really exist). For example, AppSense take a data aggregation perspective whereas RES are outwardly targeting DropBox with their current release.

From a UEM perspective there is obviously the desire for both AppSense and RES that the users’ personalisation is moved to a solution that also enables ubiquitous access within their respective UEM solutions. Synchronisation of favourites and signatures etc. regardless of device would be a massive boon for corporate users. Microsoft are doing some of this with Windows 8 today via SkyDrive.

My feeling is that regardless of what solution is implemented the vendors need to make using their product easier to use than “free” consumer products. I’m sure the majority of corporate users will happily utilise an alternative solution if it’s as easy or easier to use then their existing tool of choice. Key to this process is ensuring that a user does not have to move their data to a new solution and that their existing workflows continue to work. How many linked spread sheets are entrenched within businesses today?

Out of the solutions demonstrated the other week AppSense appear to have a head start. DataNow will currently (only) make a user’s existing home drive/directory available via the DataNow client on iOS and Android devices. This will be extended to other SMB shares and SharePoint in the future with the DataNow Enterprise product. You never know, it might actually make using SharePoint bearable!

Contrary to the DataNow product, the HyperDrive appliance is targeted directly at replacing DropBox with an on premise alternative. The caveat here is that data still needs to be moved from its existing location to a secured area managed by HyperDrive. Now don’t get me wrong; DropBox users do this already so this should not be huge undertaking. However, moving and duplicating data is not a long term solution.

Citrix announced at Synergy in Barcelona that the “Control Plane” that federates authentication and management for it’s ShareFile product is now available within the EU (Germany). For European organisations that was always going to be necessary requirement. One can only assume that this will be extended to further geographies in the near future?

The introduction of Storage Zones for ShareFile enabling on-premise data storage is something of a (welcome) surprise considering the relationship Citrix have with both AppSense and RES. OK; I’m not really surprised but it has happened quicker than I thought it would. Unfortunately for Citrix, until the Control Plane is able to run on-site it is likely there will still be some reluctance from enterprises as you’re still reliant on Citrix data centres for access to your data.

In summary all three of the products still need some development before they’re adopted by enterprises en masse, if at all.

  • The DataNow Enterprise product isn’t currently shipping (the Essentials version is) so it’s hard to recommend but looks promising.
  • HyperDrive is functional although a “little rough around the edges” but this should be expected for a v1 product. As a direct replacement for DropBox it is workable.
  • ShareFile has some fantastic opportunities with the Citrix Receiver integration but you’ll need both ShareFile Enterprise and CloudGateway Enterprise to the get the most out it. Would a smaller “point” solution be cheaper and easier to implement?

So who can deliver first…?

Move Machine Based Context Menus to Per User (Part II)

In Part I of this two part blog post, I described how you go about denying access to the machine based content menus, this blog post will describe how you now can target these same context menus to specific users or groups i.e. moving them to per user based.

Before we go on another further, you’ll need to retrieve those .REG files we modified and saved in Part I – you know the ones where we replaced HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT with HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Classes.

So as you might have guessed to target the context menus are specific users or groups we simply need to inject this .REG file or its values for those users or groups. This can be achieved by various means or methods such as:

  1. Login Scripts (BAT, VBS, PowerShell);
  2. Group Policy custom ADM or ADMX’s;
  3. Group Policy Preferences;
  4. User Environment Manager (RES Workspace Manager or AppSense Environment Manager to name a couple).

I’m not going to detail how you would go about doing this for options 1 – 3 as there are numerous articles on the internet to aid with that process. What I will say is that you get a lot more flexibility using option 4 with regards to who, what and when these context menus are applied for users or groups. In most of my environments we tend to use RES Workspace Manager, so I’m going to cover what needs to be done to target the context menus at users and groups.

As a simple overview this is how I configured RES Workspace Manager to achieve this:

  1. Create a Location and Device (PowerZone), that determines if the application is installed that these context menus are associated with;
  2. Create a Global User Registry setting that adds the required registry keys and values by importing modified .REG, and changing the ACL to target the specific users or groups and the PowerZone created in step 1;
  3. Create a Global User Registry settings that removes the registry keys and values set in step 2, the ACL can be set to “All Users” but more importantly the order of execution for this setting must be HIGHER than that of step 2.

Step 1

To create this PowerZone use the “File or folder exists” rule for RES Workspace Manager 2012 or “File version” rule for RES Workspace Manager 2011 and below, that will check for the installation folder or file in the directory. My example here is using RES Workspace Manager 2012 to determine if WinRAR is installed.

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Step 2

This registry setting will only get applied when both the user is part of the ACL and where the application is installed on the computer they are using; why apply these settings if the application isn’t installed!. These settings are applied at a Global level to ensure they are there, should the application be required to be started from the context menu and not just when the managed application is started.

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Step 3

This step is import because should the user have access revoked to the application we need to make sure that context menu is removed from the users local cached profile. Make sure the order of execution for this setting is HIGHER than that of step 2, otherwise it will remove these settings after step 2 has applied, therefore removing the context menu for users or groups that have been granted access.

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That’s all there is too it – any questions just post a comment.

Enjoy!

Nathan

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD…

I promised myself it would never come to this and I’m writing this against my better judgement. However, when my independence, professionalism and credibility are called into question I feel that it warrants a response. The root of this seems to stem from some tweets I sent last night as can be seen here:

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In particular the “I think you’ll find it’s more one sided (as usual)” comment hit a nerve or two. I awoke this morning and nearly spat my coffee everywhere after reading this Direct Message (identity purposely removed):

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I would not normally air this in public but I could not send a DM response back as they chose to “unfollow” me after sending the message. Therefore, I can only make this public response.

To set the record straight, I’m not on anyone’s side. Virtual Engine as a company do not sell licenses of any product. We deliver consultancy and implementation services of various products. We’re here to ensure that our customers get the right solution for their requirements and do recommend AppSense, Liquidware Labs, RES or any other product that fits. Each product suite has its strengths and weaknesses. Period.

Believe me, I am highly critical of the RES suite of products (just ask anyone attending one of my training courses or a member of Product Management!). The simple fact that they OEM’d some of the technology for HyperDrive and lead everyone to believe differently doesn’t sit well. I don’t understand the reasoning and surely they knew that this was going to be uncovered at some point? That is what the above tweets say (just not in so many words!).

What my “one sided” comment was referring to is the seemingly non-stop “bashing” of the competition from the boys in green. This “one-upmanship” and playground antics is tiresome.

I don’t understand what the purpose of this is and if anyone can enlighten me, I’ll gladly listen.

I can only perceive that it’s for one of two reasons; 1) increasing sales or 2) attempting to throw so much mud that it sticks and forces the company out of business. Now, I hope that it’s not the second option as competition is good for everyone; the end users and the vendors. It will probably never work and even if it did, I wouldn’t want that on my conscience.

If the purpose is to increase sales then I think this approach is ultimately flawed too. Constantly being negative will eventually turn the customers and the channel off. Sure keep a very close eye on your competitors. However, don’t constantly criticise their approach or their ill-informed decisions. Use these perceived misadventures to your advantage and outmanoeuvre them with a better solution! That’s what successful businesses are all about.

So How Can AppSense Fix This?

In my opinion it’s very simple; people would like to know why they should be buying AppSense’s products. What are the differentiators between their offerings and the competition? Some might call this good old fashioned marketing?! For example, to the majority it doesn’t matter that a product has OEM’d components/technologies or is written in native code etc. What people want is a product that works and does what they need to do.

Now I will go on the record and state again that the AppSense suite of products are great and they have some fantastic technology. There are new technologies coming down the line that our existing and potential customers can leverage so please do bang the drum (and very loudly too) about how great DataNow and the other products are. Do tell us why we should be buying them! Just please, please, for the Love of God, focus on the marketing of products and not spreading FUD.

Rant over! If you feel offended, then it’s not my intention and I’m happy to discuss any of this with anyone if you feel it’s off the mark or factually incorrect. You can contact me via the usual channels or leave a comment. Now lets start afresh and move on.. Iain

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