Posts

The Google Apps / Gmail Breach That Isn’t

Health Check News over the past few days that hackers have posted almost 5 million email addresses and passwords on an online forum has caught the media’s attention in large part because about 4.7 million of the addresses appear to be gmail accounts.

This is NOT, however, a breach of Gmail or Google Apps.  

The information appears to be from other sites and sources for which users provide their email address as their login.  In fact, several people that have found their address on the list report that the information is not their login information for Gmail or Google Apps.  As reported by Mashable, your risk is low.

Given it is not a Google Apps or Gmail breach, are you at risk?

Maybe!  Google has already analyzed the list and found some users that may be using their Google account password for other sites.  Google has notified these users and is forcing them to change their passwords. For the bigger picture:

If you use the same username/email address and password for all of your services, and one service is breached, then you are at risk of hackers gaining access to some or all of your services.

If a service is breached and you have granted the service access to your Google Apps environment, your data may be at risk.

Recommended Actions

Step One:  It is not easy, but avoid using the same password for multiple services, sites, or accounts.  And don’t write passwords down to remember them.

Step Two:  Be careful when and how you allow services to connect with one another.  For example, LinkedIn needs your gmail.com password if you are going to import contacts. While this may be safe to do, other services may not be as trustworthy.

Step Three:  Read and understand security permissions when you install apps on your mobile devices.  Many apps recognize and request access to other apps and services already on your phone.  Human nature is to say “grant” or “allow” without reading or fully understanding the implications, risks, or the trustworthiness of the app’s creators.


Note for Businesses, Governments, and Schools running Google Apps: Users installing 3rd party apps, particularly on cell phones, may be granting access to data stored in Google Apps.  To see if you have a risk, we offer a Google Apps Security Health Check that will document access rights and evaluate your level or risk, if any.  

Click Here for Information

 

7 Reasons Outlook Users Learn to Love Gmail

Gmail
One hesitation that business leaders have when deciding to move to Google Apps is how their staff will react.  People can feel attached to Outlook, as it is likely the work email client they have know for years.

While many employees already use Gmail personally, they may hesitate when it comes to work email.

Share these 7 Reasons why Outlook users learn to love Gmail and help your users make the transition.

  • Filters. Gmail has a thorough automatic spam filter. Employees can also set up individual filters that will opt out, unsubscribe from, and label superfluous messages, as well as organize emails that help individual productivity.  Unlike in Outlook, filters are not “local” to any system; they work regardless of the device used to access Gmail.
  • Instant IM. Google maintains the user’s most recent email recipients on a chat list, which is on the same screen as the inbox. With one click, Gmail users can start secure IM chats or initiate Google Hangouts.  Hangouts gives instant access to voice and video conferencing between individuals and with groups of up to 15 people.
  • Priority inbox. Gmail predicts which emails are most important based on what your employees have read in the past or have selected as important. Employees can also flag emails with a star as they go through them, which helps identify which messages are most urgent.
  • Labels. Instead of organizing emails into just one folder, labels allow employees to tag emails that fit into more than one category.  Labels work with Filters and Search, from any device.
  • Search.  Google is good at search.  Gmail leverages Google’s outstanding search functionality, allowing users to find emails with a quick keyword search.  While Outlook requires you remember where you saved your emails or use the clumsy advanced search window, Gmail searches across all Labels automatically, or refine your search to one or more labels.
     
  • Performance. Gmail doesn’t have the service hiccups that Outlook often has. Outgoing emails are sent quickly, incoming emails appear instantaneously, and inbox management requires no waiting.
     
  • Mobile. Employees can easily check Gmail when they’re on the go! Gmail has a dedicated mobile app that makes email messages easy to access on Android devices and iPhones.

 

5th of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the  5th of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Google Apps is (also) for Business

Not surprisingly, schools looking at Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks, and Tablets with Play for Education focus intently on classroom computing.  In doing so, however, schools and districts often overlook that Google Apps works well for business … for administrative computing.  Some districts even elect to keep a separate email server for administrators while using Google Apps in the classroom. By size and scope, many school districts are comparable to the small and mid-size businesses we serve.  They also have many of the same needs, such as budgeting, human resources, team projects, and resource scheduling, just to name a few.

By adopting Google Apps as a business tool, district and school administrators can improve efficiency and effectiveness.  Here a just a few ideas of how administrators can use Google Apps:

  • Collaborative budget process with automatic roll-up from departments and/or facilities
  • File storage and sharing across departments and buildings
  • Individual, team, and project calendars
  • Intranet for HR with policies, procedures, and forms
  • Resource calendars to schedule use of conference rooms, speciality rooms, AV equipment, fields, vehicles, etc.
  • Public calendars for school and student events
  • Public web site with distributed content management
  • Video meetings, with screen/document, sharing for teams that span buildings or campuses
  • Survey and feedback forms
  • Interactive Wiki’s for proposing and obtaining feedback on curriculum changes
  • Accept and manage maintenance and facilities requests by email and/or web page, with shared inbox and dispatch for handling requests
  • Lesson planning library and collaborative, cross-team, lesson planning

While certainly not a comprehensive list, using Google Apps administratively offers many means to work more efficiently.  And, by adopting Google Apps for administrative computing, districts can further reduce their dependence and spending on servers, desktops, and other hardware.

 

Security Breach? There are Apps for That

Here’s a Story …

Emily tells Dan about a cool app on her iPhone that helps her stay organized when she is out of the office.  Dan looks it up and downloads it to his Android phone.  The App is cheap and has great reviews.  When Dan installs the app, he gets a screen about permissions with only a few items listed.  He scans the list.  Dan is not a techie and the list seems reasonable; he clicks “Allow” and the installation finishes.  Dan uses the app and is happy.  Over the next few weeks, Dan has trouble finding docs he saved in Google Drive.  Some were uploaded Word and PDF files, while others were created in Google Docs and Sheets. Asking IT for help, they find some documents in the trash, others appear gone for ever.

Here’s the Lesson …

When Dan installed his cool new app, he granted the app full access to the content of his Google Drive account and to other content in Google Apps.  The app had a bug (we do not want to assume malice) that set all of Dan’s files to public on a periodic basis.

Third party applications, including mobile apps, create a security and privacy risk for your Google Apps environment.

Here’s the Offer …

Partnering with CloudLock, we will conduct a Google Apps Security Health Check for your Google Apps for Business or Government Domain.  Normally costing $1,000 to $5,000 (or more!), through September 30, 2014, we will perform the check for $300 (or less!).

Please click here for more information or to request your Google Apps Security Health Check.

4th of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe
At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the  4th of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Build Skills with Expectations and Milestones

Within any organization, some people enjoy change … pushing the envelope and are comfortable with technology. Some are comfortable with change and/or technology if others show them the way. Some are uncomfortable with change and/or technology, or lack the confidence to adapt and move forward.  These differences are common, natural, and expected human behavior.

In an educational setting, however, these personal differences can lead to radically different educational experiences and opportunities for students.

Working with hundreds of schools and districts across North America, we often see how professional development covering Google Apps, Chrome devices, tablets, and the myriad of apps and content available within the ecosystem are readily pursued and absorbed by those most comfortable with technology, change, and emerging methods for facilitating learning.  And, while it is exciting to see the enthusiasm and creativity, it is also clear that the many educators will “wait, see, and follow”, and others will simply avoid the opportunity.

If schools want the technology, flexible online content, apps, resources, games, and teaching methods to have a meaningful impact, they must be put to use across the system and not just within select classrooms.

The ability to use devices, apps, content, and related methods in the classroom must become a core skill on par subject matter knowledge and other key teaching and facilitation skills. 

Without these skills, disparities will increase and technology programs — particularly 1:1 programs — will fail to obtain their educational objectives.  To avoid these pitfalls, we recommend that faculty and administrators work cooperatively to:

  • Define a baseline skill set for teachers covering in-class technology use and integration, along with time frames by which all staff should be at these skill levels.
  • Create a program for obtaining baseline skill sets with methods to match faculty member’s learning style (classroom/workshop, self-paced, etc.).
  • Identify, secure, and commit funding and time to enable completion of the program.
  • Create a process for experimentation, measuring results, and and identifying best practices.
  • Create a means to share best-practices and to provide cross-training among faculty and staff. Include a process to encourage or require adoption of best practices across the school by grade level and/or subject.
  • Provide teachers with budgets for purchasing or renting tools, apps, and/or content in line with curricula standards and lesson plans.
  • Define professional development standards and expectations that relate specifically to use of technology, apps, content, and related methods in the classroom, along with time frames by which all staff should be integrating these capabilities in their lesson plans, curricula, and classroom activities.
  • As with basic skills training, create a professional development program that provides the time, money, and other resources necessary for faculty and staff to succeed.
  • Actively track best practices and emerging standards related to technology in the classroom.  Evaluate, experiment, and adopt as appropriate.

Adding skills related to technology and related content and methods to expectations for teacher qualifications and performance is no easy task.  For many districts, this effort may become a contractual issue as well as a professional development program.  Regardless, of the effort, ensuring that all teachers have the skills, resources, and confidence to leverage the new generation of technology-enabled resources is critical to successful educational outcomes.

If you are interested in a professional development assessment covering Google Apps, Chromebooks, and/or Play for Education tablets, please contact us.

 

Edit MS Office Docs using MS Office from Google Drive

Watch the Demo

Click on the image for the demo!

 

One of the hurdles many face when moving to Google Apps is how to deal with MS Office. Some users feel they cannot live without some of the advanced formatting and features; others are concerned that they receive and work on MS Office documents received from others.

Until now, in order to edit MS Office documents in their native format, users had to download or sync files to their local disk or use the limited editing capabilities of the Chrome browser extension.   Both are less than ideals.

Can you click on a Word doc saved in Drive, have it open in Microsoft Word, and have the file save to Drive?  … YES!  Yes, you can!

With AODocs File Server and the AODocs SmartBar Extension for Chrome, you can use Drive in your Chrome browser, select and edit MS Office files, and have them save directly within Drive.  You can effectively replace Windows Explorer with Drive + AODocs.

Click Here to see a quick demo with Word.  The solution works for Excel and Powerpoint files, too.

Want to know more? Contact Us for a 1:1 demo of the full AODocs File Server solution.

3rd of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe
At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the  3rd of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Learn, Plan, Execute, Review, Repeat

As noted in the first post in this series, your Google Apps deployment gets you to the starting line.  The race, however, is a marathon and not a sprint.  Schools often set lofty goals and objectives with the intent of doing as much as possible as soon as possible.  While aggressive plans are fine, districts need to avoid overwhelming staff with initiatives that require new skills, tools, and methods.  While training and professional development is critical, rushing to pull it together to meet arbitrary deadlines creates stress and makes integration of Google Apps, devices, apps, and content more difficult.

Educators must be confident in their own ability to use and manage the technology and methods before they stand in front of their classes.  Allow teachers and staff to learn, incrementally, and to apply what they’ve learned before moving forward.

Some of the elements of a successful professional development program include:

  • Clear long-term goals and near-term objectives
  • Established tracks based on roles: administrator, teacher-centric, student-centric, etc.
  • Sufficient training on basic use of Google Apps — what it can do and the clicks you need to do it.
  • Use-case centric education on applying the features of Google Apps to classroom use.  Using suggested edits and comments to facilitate paperless homework and collaborative lesson planning are two examples.
  • Allow educators time to plan and use what they have learned before moving forward.  Holding a half day workshop every 3 months can be more effective than two full days of training in August.
  • Help faculty integrate the use of technology and the Google Apps ecosystem into lesson plans.
  • Provide a means for faculty to practice in front of peers, with feedback, before using new technology in front of students.

When it comes to integrating Google Apps, Chrome devices, tablets, and other technologies into the learning process, professional development must be more than a set of classes for continuing ed credits.  A sound curriculum and plan, that helps faculty and staff advance their capabilities of time, is a key to success.

If you are interested in a professional development assessment covering Google Apps, Chromebooks, and/or Play for Education tablets, please contact us.

Chromebook SSO Eases Access Administration

google-chromebook
Single Sign-On (SSO) enables users to access multiple systems and applications with a single username and password, and a single login screen.  And while many schools and businesses use SSO for Google Apps and related solutions, Chrome devices have always required a separate login.

To easy access administration and simplify user logins, Google has launched SAML-based SSO login for Chrome devices.   Organizations running current versions of Chrome on devices registered via Chrome Management licenses can now extend their Google Apps SSO login to the registered Chrome devices.

Feel free to contact us if you would like more information or assistance with your setup.

 

More Office/Docs Integration with Suggested Edits

Click to Enlarge; Opens in New Window.

 

Google recently added Suggested Edits to Google Docs as a way to make edits that can be accepted or rejected by the owner.   As many of us still work with people still using Microsoft Word, and some of us still use Word for some tasks, Google is extending Suggested Edits to further improve interoperability between Google Docs and Microsoft Word.

When opening a Microsoft Word .docx file in Google Docs, “Tracked Changes” are now converted to “Suggested Edits”.

The biggest concern for most users about moving to Google Docs is the ability to work with those still using Word.  With this new feature, the gap continues to narrow.

 

2nd of 5: Leadership and Google Apps in Your District

Google EDU Globe
At the NJ Google Apps for Education Summit this month, we had the opportunity to briefly present and discuss the role and impact of Google Apps in K-12 Education with administrators and leaders from several districts.  This post is the 2nd of 5 on Leadership and Google Apps in Your District.

Create an Equitable and Sustainable Ecosystem

Every district and school we work with for Google Apps, Chrome, and/or Play deployments has a population that spans some measure of socio-economic conditions. These socio-economic factors will play a part in funding technology.

As schools move to 1:1 programs, socio-economic differences across the student population can also weigh heavily on students and their families.  Depending on how a district structures its 1:1 program, the district can create an equitable resource for all students or can further exasperate the digital divides.  Poorly crafted 1:1 programs may also lack the financial stability to remain sustainable following the initial equipment purchase or first refresh cycle.

Schools can avoid these hazards with sound, long-term planning guided by a mandate for equitable opportunity and sustainability.

Here are few considerations.

  • 1:1 Programs with BYOD can create a systemic bias based on family wealth, unless the district is willing and able to ensure all students have access to a default device that is comparable in form, function, performance, and reliability to those brought from home.
  • 1:1 Programs in which families purchase specific devices are often a financial hardship for lower and middle-income families, particularly those with multiple children in the system.
  • Districts should consider policies covering if and when students may use applications and resources not provided by the district for school work.
  • Initial 1:1 program plans should look forward through at least 2 equipment refresh cycles, to ensure that funding is stable and equipment life cycles (reliability and usability) are consistent across classes and grades.
  • 1:1 program funding should be a recurring operating expense rather than a discretionary budget item.  Delaying purchases and refresh cycles reduces the effectiveness of the program across the student population and can result in higher overall costs.  Fair market value (FMV) leases help even out annual costs and maintain refresh cycles
  • 1:1 Programs with equipment and applications purchased by the district ensure all students have equal access to resources, but place the greatest potential financial burden on the district.
  • Districts should consider policies related to “Technology Fees” or “1:1 Program Fees” as a means of mitigating 1:1 program costs.  Districts should consider if and when to subsidize or waive fees based on financial need.
  • Professional development for faculty and staff should be an ongoing process that develops skills and sets expectations for technology integration into the learning process.
  • Districts should consider the ability to leverage technology in the classroom as a skill set on par with subject matter expertise and other teaching skills.

With a well-considered, long-term plan and a commitment to equity and sustainability, districts can design and execute 1:1 programs that provide all students with an equivalent learning environment. Schools will always need to deal with socio-economic differences across their populations, and it is impossible to ensure all things are equal.  Solid leadership as districts adopt technologies and methods, however, can ensure equitable access and opportunities to learn.

 

 

into available grants and other sources of funding,  these factors can also weigh heavily on the