This year I was invited to attend the Appsense Elevate conference over in New Orleans, as TD is the largest partner within the APAC region. Over the three days of lectures, technical briefings and deep fried food, I was given a taste of some of the things to come within the Appsense range of products, informed that Appsense had been bought out and also introduced to the concept of Hickory Coffee and Beignets, which essentially ended up being the highly healthy fuel powering my trip.
The thing that really stuck out to me straight away from the keynote is that Appsense have a compelling set of applications outside of their most recognised product, Environment Manager. Application Manager, DataNow and Insight provide some truly great features that complement end user usability, operating system security and visibility stacks that every IT department adheres to. I’m going to quickly go over what I thought was the best to come from the soon to be released version 4.0 of the product sets, designed to work with Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016.
The concept of DataNow is quite simple and powerful – Give the user the same experience, regardless of client machine. This is simply achieved by decoupling the user profile from the Operating System and storing it locally on a central repository. This simple concept changes the way we can think about the user profile and their settings. Doing a Windows XP, 7 or 8 (condolences and props to the IT teams who had to admin this for 4+ years) migration to Windows 10? Easy – Install DataNow, gather the profiles and let the users continue to work while you develop your Windows 10 SOE image. Then, once you’ve got your new Windows 10 SOE deployed in Configuration Manager ready to go, deploy it. Don’t bother using the USMT tool as part of your task sequence, just put the new SOE over the top with its applications and the DataNow Agent. The next time the user logs into that machine, they’ll get their profile. This of course can be applied to the Citrix farm you might have, which means that once again the user logs into a new environment and receives the same user profile.
The other thing that I thought was simply brilliant with DataNow is the upcoming ability to attach OneDrive for Business drives as a Network Drive. If we stop and think about this for a second, it means we can give the user 1TB of personal storage, and they don’t need to change the way they would access this, we don’t need to encourage new habits for accessibility and if the user is savvy enough to already have the OneDrive for Business App on their phone or tablet, they can continue to work this way too. For some customers, having to deploy the OneDrive for Business on an end user machine and then manually ask the user to follow the bouncing ball to sync their drive sometimes, is enough to pause an enablement of this technology, sadly. This process is too much of an interruption to the end user’s workflow. This concept of mapping it as a Network Drive removes these roadblocks, and advanced features such as stubbing means we can manage how much data is pulled down on sync, ensuring we’re not going to bring the internet to a halt!
Simply put, this product in its 4.0 state was impressive. At TD, we do a lot of Active Directory health checks of the environment, and most of the time it’s because there is a perception of slow login times, or something quirky is going on with Group Policy because someone who has now left the organisation, applied a change to the default domain policy that no one knows about. And while the inbuilt admin tools give us some idea of what’s going on, usually it’s a case of running GPResult and going through everything manually. Insight changes this, and in a big way. Insight is able to produce reports about what Group Policies ran at start-up, in which order and provide a metric on how long each of these took to actually run. Combining this data with the manual process you may run to understand Group Policy in your organisation finally shows the whole picture as to what’s going on in a simple, easy to follow format. Combine this data with Environment Manager where you can start running Group Policy in parallel, and you can really speed up your login times for your end users dramatically.
Cryptolocker. We all know about it, and I’m not going to do any fear mongering about it here. We all know how terrible it is to be hit by it or often hear stories about it, how it’s a constantly evolving, somewhat impressive form of ransomware (remember when all we had to deal with was Spy Sherriff? Good times!). While Antivirus products are getting smarter, and so are the mail filtering solutions out there, all of these products rely on knowing the signature in a constantly updated AV database. And we all know how good everyone is at constantly applying updates as soon as they come out right? There’s never been such thing as the road warrior sales guy who has his own laptop with no AV and yet has access to all of the corporate data possible, right?
As you’re nodding or cringing about this scenario, think about this; what if the only applications that could run on a machine were ones approved by the administrator? This is where Application Manager comes in. Application Manager applies application whitelisting based on a pre-determined set of executable signatures to secure down an operating system. Think of it like an old school, firewall network access control list, where out of the box it denies all traffic and only allows what an admin writes a rule for. Now, apply that same concept to the everyday applications a user uses and you have a compelling way to help stop Cryptolocker dead in its tracks. This stops the random employee from opening the wrong attachment, inserting the wrong USB key or just performing some kind of mistake and compromising your data.
So all in all, Appsense have a great set of products with exciting new features slated for release this year.
**If any of this was interesting to you, if you would like a demo, or if you’d like to know, more feel free to reach out to us here)**