Quest for Integrated Collaboration Service

Examining the ever-changing landscape of online collaboration, and assessing the growth of social networks, Cisco announced findings from a recent market study about end-user collaboration applications and individual preferences within the workplace.

Within the group of respondents using social networking for work, fifty-nine percent say that their usage of social media applications has increased over the past year. The study also found the most frequently used application for collaborating with others is email (91 percent).

However, what people want from their email application is changing -- the findings highlight the potential for email service evolution.

The market study, conducted by Harris Research, surveyed more than 1,000 end-users from across the United States and found that email is the preferred collaboration application at work for a variety of reasons.

Navigating within the Comfort Zone
Respondents like the fact that email provides an easily-accessible record of communication and the ability to communicate with many people at once. Users also rank email prominently among various online collaboration tools because there is a high-level of comfort in using the application to easily communicate with others inside and outside their organizations.

However, the poll showed there are many problems associated with the way most email solutions function today.

Many survey respondents complained they receive too much irrelevant email (40%) and that they lack the ability to collaborate in real time (32 percent). End users also dislike the fact that they have very limited storage (25 percent) and that large volumes of email come into their inbox with no organizational structure (21 percent).

In addition to email, the Harris poll found that other applications being used by respondents to collaborate with others in the workplace include shared spaces (66 percent), voice calls and teleconferencing (66 percent), web conferencing (55 percent), video conferencing (35 percent), instant messaging (34 percent), and social networking (17 percent).

Half of those using social networking for work by-pass IT restrictions to do so. The study participants who prefer to use social networks indicated they would like to have control over who sees their content as well as be able to share with groups of users using different tools.

Designing an Intuitive Collaboration Experience

The respondents also indicated the desire to collaborate in real time without having to open up an additional application.

To address the needs of end users, Cisco is focused on providing an integrated collaboration experience between its recently announced hosted email solution and a variety of the company's other collaboration offerings including enterprise social software, unified communications, IP telephony, instant messaging, and presence.

This collaboration platform combines various data sources and allows communications to turn into shared content. This new type of collaboration -- plus the evolution of email -- helps enable better teamwork, whether ad-hoc or formal, internal or external, and will deliver improved inbox efficiency, via topic organization, to accommodate growing email volume.

Managed Security Services Gaining Adoption

Enterprise leaders say that it's becoming difficult to find the highly qualified IT and network security talent they need that's affordable, and so they look to service providers for a solution. According to the latest market study by Forrester Research, demand has been growing.

That said, Forrester believes that using a managed security services provider (MSSP) is more than just a lower-cost alternative to doing the same work in-house. MSSPs are not just managing devices, they also provide insightful analysis that can help with business decisions.

CIOs and other business technology leaders used to resist out-tasking their IT and network security requirements. The talent scarcity issue has helped to change that mindset.

Now, one in four out-task their email filtering, and another 12 percent are very interested in doing so in the next 12 months. Another 13 percent already out-task their vulnerability management and an additional 19 percent say they are very interested in doing so within the next 12 months.

CIOs Budgeting for Managed Security
Although security-related spending didn't grow during most of 2009, Forrester estimates that the managed services market actually grew by approximately 8 percent.

Managed security services (MSS) has evolved considerably. Service offerings exist in various forms -- from pure system management to more sophisticated log analysis using a number of delivery mechanisms, from software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud services to on-premises device monitoring and management.

According to Forrester's assessment, while many MSSPs have started to respond to the human resource challenge by offering consulting services, not all providers are equally capable. However, CIOs should expect more MSSPs to further invest in qualified professional services capabilities to provide appropriate integration and consulting guidance.

Managing Security within the Cloud
Forrester said they've received inquiries about providers offering cloud services -- such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection and clean-pipe services. Broadband network service providers that own the access circuit have an inherent advantage, because they typically detect and prevent potential attacks sooner than others.

Again, lower cost was the primary driver for moving to a managed services provider, but now cost only ranks fourth in decision criteria. Today there are a number of other incentives to use MSSP services. They include improving the quality of protection; gaining 24x7 support; getting better skill sets and competencies; a reduction is the cost of protection; and decreasing complexity.

Internal security managers are now expected to provide value-added services in support of business objectives -- such as enhancing privacy, achieving compliance, and protecting intellectual property. Therefore, they are demanding additional services from MSSPs, which in return are responding by broadening their traditional service portfolio.

In summary, Forrester offers a key procurement recommendation. They suggest selecting a provider that excels in the specific area you're looking to out-task. They believe that it's extremely important to assess organization culture. It's considered the most important factor that determines whether a relationship is going to succeed. So, start the process by talking to some of the provider's customer references.