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workplace

Why HyperloopTT uses Facebook’s Workplace for team communications

With a scattered workforce largely employed on a part-time basis, Hyperloop Transportation Technologies faces some unusual challenges as it seeks to revolutionize mass transportation with a “crowd-powered” organization model.

One of the biggest challenges is making sure all of the company’s 800-plus team members can collaborate effectively on the design and launch of hyperloop technology.

“When we started out, we worked with different tools – some of the teams used Slack, others used Google Docs – and let everybody figure out what they liked the most,” said HyperloopTT’s founder and chairman, Dirk Ahlborn. “Now, for several years, we have consolidated everything and moved onto Workplace.”

The company, which was created in 2013, still uses Google Docs in conjunction with Workplace. But Slack is no longer a main tool for collaboration and communication.

A key reason for selecting Workplace is that it offers a combination of instant messaging, social and file-sharing capabilities. That combo has helped strengthened the sense of community among workers and enabled staffers to work together more effectively, said Ahlborn. 



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BlackBerry says its new Digital Workplace eliminates need for VPN, VDI

BlackBerry has unveiled its Digital Workplace platform, a web portal and workspace for secure online and offline access to corporate on-premise or cloud content,  including Microsoft Office 365 resources.

Digital Workplace, announced last week, integrates a secure browser-based workspace sold by Awingu, a Belgium company that penned a partnership with BlackBerry in 2018. Businesses can access their legacy Windows, Linux, SaaS or internal web apps, desktops and files inside of Awingu’s secure managed browser. Awingu’s unified workspace runs Windows, Linux, web and intranet apps.

Based on BlackBerry’s Zero Trust Architecture, Digital Workplace eliminates the need for a VPN or VDI infrastructures and is designed to provide continuous threat protection using artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable users to securely work anywhere and from any device, according to BlackBerry.

Zero trust is an enterprise security architecture or network where there is never a “default trust” option that automatically authorizes end-users or systems; instead it requires a form of verification for any attempt to access business systems.

The system relies on multifactor authentication, analytics, encryption and file system-level permissions and includes dynamic enforcement of access rules – not only for a user’s identity but also for their device and the context in which they’re attempting access. The result is that users are given the minimum amount of access to accomplish a specific task.

blackberry zero trust BlackBerry

“We break everything down to an actor, an action and a target. So who am I, what device am I trying to do, over what network am I trying to do it, and based on analytics should I have more or less friction for what I’m trying to do?” said Alex Willis, BlackBerry’s vice president of sales engineering. “Friction could be multiple forms of authentication, or block access.”

Awingu’s browser was available prior to Digital Workplace through BlackBerry UEM and as part of its BlackBerry Access mobile browser offering. Digital Workforce also incorporates BlackBerry’s own Desktop management platform as well as AI-driven security software from Cylance, a company acquired by BlackBerry about a year ago.

“[It’s] not just Awingu, but all the connectivity through either the email calendar contacts applications within Digital Workplace as well as BlackBerry Access Browser” Willis said. “So, the access browser is connecting to the BlackBerry infrastructure just like our applications would on your iPhone or Android device. So, we’re facilitating the secure connectivity behind the firewall. The user doesn’t know if it’s going through a VPN. All they know is they start the browser and get to their corporate internet.”

For auditing purposes, IT admins can also video record every end-user for their entire session or when they access a specific application, Willis added.

In some ways, BlackBerry’s Digital Workplace is something of a re-packaging/licensing announcement instead of a set of new products, as the capabilities and partnership with Awingu are all things BlackBerry has had for a while, according according to Chris Silva, a vice president of research at Gartner.

While other vendors such as VMware and Citrix offer unified workspace solutions, BlackBerry is “somewhat unique” among other unified endpoint management (UEM) providers in that most of its customers are using an explicit container. That means end-users are relying on BlackBerry’s UEM app to access email, contacts and calendars, versus the native apps, according to Silva.

“They’re also the only vendor with a container that can be consumed on desktop and mobile,” Silva said via email. “Addressing the Windows app issue was of great importance to keep competing in the UEM market, especially as VMware and Citrix both now offer licenses that include both UEM and their virtualization technology.”

Through its Awingu partnership, BlackBerry’s browser-based access capabilities are a unique variant to VDI, according to Nick McQuire, a senior vice president of research at UK-based CCS Insight.

“By integrating this, it gives BlackBerry more options to upsell customers on new use cases, especially on the desktop,” McQuire said via email.

More importantly, McQuire said, the Digital Workspace implements some key BlackBerry components in security, too, such as Cylance and its secure network.

“This enables BlackBerry to apply conditional access policies to the workplace application such as through machine learning, determining whether the device has malware before allowing user access or whether the user is displaying risky behavior,” McQuire said. “Conditional Access is now becoming a key tenet in a zero trust security model which, although [it] is a massive buzzword now in security, is starting to gain ground with IT pros – at least conceptually.”

ConvergeOne, a Bloomington, Minn. IT services provider, deployed BlackBerry Digital Workplace last year. ConvergeOne’s employees are issued corporate laptops – a total of about 3,000 endpoints. For traditional email, calendaring and access to a global address list, the company was allowing Active Sync connections for personal devices to the Microsoft Exchange environment, enforcing corporate policy on the entire device.

ConvergeOne’s employees are highly mobile and up to 75% of ConvergeOne’s end-users rarely set foot in corporate office. The company had been hindered by the traditional security stack, interfering with workers’ mobility and ability to deliver to ConvergeOne’s clients, according to Collin Buechler, the company’s information security and compliance officer.

“Some of these hinderances included client networks blocking VPN to ConvergeOne, device failures while on the road, and the rigidity of the traditional security stack of security controls,” Buechler said via email. “[BlackBerry] Access only needs an outbound internet connection to work, the solution does all the rest.

“With BlackBerry Digital Workforce we can have a team member back up and running on any compatible solution within about 10 minutes if their laptop is stolen or blue screens right before a client presentation,” Buechler added.

With the inclusion of Digital Rights Management on documents sent to clients or outside of the ConvergedOne, Digital Workspace enables better compliance with requirements in NIST, ISO and FARs in terms of knowing where the data is and who has accessed it, Buechler said.

“ConvergeOne can retroactively disable this access if necessary, or if the document was acquired nefariously, it is encrypted with government-grade encryption and is useless to any nefarious types that may get access to the file,” Buechler said.

BlackBerry’s marriage of UEM and security is part of a nascent industry trend, and further evidence of BlackBerry’s “seismic shift” in direction towards enterprise software and security over the past five years, according to McQuire.

“The UEM space is heading in multiple directions, but we see competition coalescing at the moment at the intersection of UEM, security – particularly mobile security – and identity,” McQuire said. “As a result we are seeing more of these wider workspace offerings as customers are looking to the market to not only secure all of their devices, but also their data, which means tighter security around the user and the applications employees use daily.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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CERN bails on Facebook’s Workplace, cites cost

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information about CERN’s rationale for moving away from Facebook Workplace.

Research organization CERN will replace Facebook’s Workplace with an open source alternative after deciding not to move to a new free version of the collaboration software that would eliminate enterprise management features.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, first rolled out Workplace’s free Standard version in 2016.

The organization has since been testing the premium version of the enterprise social network with staff, including CERN’s HR and IT teams. About 1,000 staffers currently use Workplace, with around 150 active weekly users on the platform. 

Facebook initially waived the costs of Workplace Premium, but then unveiled new payment plans last July. CERN was told to either begin paying for the full service or move to the free “Essential” version of the app. That change would have ended access to single sign-on and other enterprise features, CERN said.

“Paying for such features, for a tool that was not part of our core offering for the CERN community and where the existing level of control of our data did not correspond to CERN’s needs, was not suitable. Therefore, we will end the trial of this platform,” the organization said in a blog post.

CERN now plans to use Mattermost, an open-source tool, for instant messaging; it will join several other internal communications tools already available to staffers. It requested that all content hosted on Facebook’s servers be removed.

CERN had initially said it planned to ditch Workplace because moving to the Essential tier would result in the loss of control of its data, which it said would be sent to Facebook. That statement was changed on Friday, with that claim retracted.

According to Facebook, a customer retains control over their data. “A community admin manages the community and the company owns and controls the data. The community admin can modify, delete or export your data at any time.”

Facebook called CERN’s fears about data control “inaccurate” and argued that cost was the primary reason CERN opted for Mattermost.

 “Last year we announced an update to our pricing and packaging,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “As part of this we moved from two tier offerings (one free, one paid) to three (one free, two paid). CERN [was] originally on our Premium tier for free, and we asked them to either pay for the technology or downgrade to our free tier. They declined for cost reasons….”

Alongside the free tier, Workplace now has two paid plans: Workplace Enterprise, which costs $8 per user per month, and Workplace Advanced, at $4 per user per month. The latter has limits on certain features such as storage and the number of people who can join group calls.

On all three tiers, “Facebook acts as the data processor, and our customers act as the data controller,” the spokesperson said. “Our customers retain all rights, title and interest (including intellectual property rights) to their data.

“CERN saying that they were given a choice to pay or lose their administrative and data rights to Workplace is not accurate. They could join Workplace today on our Essential tier, which would allow them to use Workplace for free and retain the same admin and data rights.”

CERN declined to discuss the move to replace Workplace in more detail.

Concerns over Facebook’s use of data

There are 3 million paid Workplace customers, according to the most recent data on the app. That number includes deployments at large enterprise such as Nestle and the Royal Bank of Scotland. 

However, concerns have arisen in the past about how controversies around handling of data in Facebook’s consumer business might affect its enterprise operations. A survey by CCS Insight last year showed that 42% of employees felt their trust in Facebook had decreased in the last 12 months.

“…This is something we’ve seen become an increasing issue over the last couple of years following the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” Angela Ashenden, a principal analyst at CCS Insight, said before CERN changed its explanation for the move to Mattermost. 

“Overall, the Workplace team has done well to manage the impact of this on its enterprise business, but it’s inevitable that there will be some fallout as a result…,” she said.

Ashenden added that, while the Workplace free trial attracted a lot of interest from a range of companies and helped to kick-start its traction in the collaboration market, a move to a revenue model was inevitable, with most organizations accepting they have to pay for enterprise-grade security, governance and full control.

Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, said it’s not unusual to see data management concerns among large organizations. 

“This highlights that … SaaS services like Workplace might not be a good fit for every company; this is further reinforced by the fact that CERN stated they are relying on services like Mattermost, which does provide companies with full control of their data.

“It is also notable that several members publicly stated that they did not trust Facebook in terms of data privacy,” he said. “While Facebook has stated that its enterprise solution functions as a separate entity to their consumer services, they could benefit from expanding their efforts to address these concerns.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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CERN bails on Facebook’s Workplace, cites cost and data management concerns

Research organization CERN will replace Facebook’s Workplace collaboration application with an open source alternative, citing concerns around the management of user data following changes to Workplace’s payment plan.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, began a free trial of the enterprise social network in 2016. It has since been testing the app with staff, including corporate HR and IT teams. Approximately 1,000 members of CERN’s staff have a Workplace account, with around 150 active weekly users on the platform. 

However “reactions were not always positive,” CERN said in a blog post this week. explaining the move. “Many people preferred not to use a tool from a company that they did not trust in terms of data privacy.”

While CERN had accessed the app as part of a free trial, it was told to either begin paying for the service or use a free version after Facebook announced new payment plans in July 2019. CERN said the move to a free version would remove admin rights and involve handing data to Facebook. 

“Losing control of our data was unacceptable, as was paying for a tool that was not part of our core offering for the CERN community; therefore, we will end the trial of this platform,” the organization said.

CERN now plans to use an open-source tool, Mattermost, for instant messaging, alongside several other internal communications tools already available for staffers. It has requested that all content hosted on Facebook’s servers be removed.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is “sorry” about CERN’s decision: “Last October, we announced an update to our pricing and packaging. As part of this we started renewal conversations with some of our customers and we’re sorry CERN [is] no longer trialing Workplace. 

“We make it easy for Workplace customers to upgrade and downgrade based on their organization’s needs,” the spokesperson said. “Each pricing tier comes with different features and terms, all of which adhere to our strict security and privacy standards. We serve thousands of highly-regulated companies, like banks and governments, and have industry-standard security certifications like SOC2, SOC3, ISO27001 and ISO27018.

“We also offer our technology for free to global charities, educational institutions and emergency services organizations through our Workplace for Good program.” 

Workplace has two paid plans: the Workplace Enterprise tier costs $8 per user per month, while  Workplace Advanced, a paid option (at $4 per user per month), has limits on certain features such as storage and the number of people who can join group calls. It has a payment option aimed at frontline workers, which costs $1.50 per user per month. 

There are 3 million paid Workplace customers, according to the most recent data on the app. That number includes deployments at large enterprise such as Nestle and the Royal Bank of Scotland. 

However, concerns have arisen in the past about how controversies around handling of data in Facebook’s consumer business might affect its enterprise operations. A survey by CCS Insight last year showed that 42% of employees felt their trust in Facebook had decreased in the last 12 months.

“There are clearly trust concerns among CERN’s staff about using a tool developed and hosted by Facebook, and this is something we’ve seen become an increasing issue over the last couple of years following the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” said Angela Ashenden, a principal analyst at CCS Insight. 

“Overall, the Workplace team has done well to manage the impact of this on its enterprise business, but it’s inevitable that there will be some fallout as a result, as we’ve seen here.”

She added that, while the Workplace free trial attracted a lot of interest from a range of companies and helped to kick-start its traction in the collaboration market, a move to a revenue model was inevitable, with most organizations accepting they have to pay for enterprise-grade security, governance and full control.

Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, said that CERN’s decision points to data management concerns among large organizations.  “It is notable that CERN explained that their decision was based on not having control of their data, even after they discontinued their use of Workplace,” he said. 

“This highlights that … SaaS services like Workplace might not be a good fit for every company; this is further reinforced by the fact that CERN stated they are relying on services like Mattermost, which does provide companies with full control of their data.

“It is also notable that several members publicly stated that they did not trust Facebook in terms of data privacy. While Facebook has stated that its enterprise solution functions as a separate entity to their consumer services, they could benefit from expanding their efforts to address these concerns.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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CERN bails on Facebook’s Workplace, cites data management concerns

Research organization CERN will replace Facebook’s Workplace collaboration application with an open source alternative, citing concerns around the management of user data following changes to Workplace’s payment plan.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, began a free trial of the enterprise social network in 2016. It has since been testing the app with staff, including corporate HR and IT teams. Approximately 1,000 members of CERN’s staff have a Workplace account, with around 150 active weekly users on the platform. 

However “reactions were not always positive,” CERN said in a blog post this week. explaining the move. “Many people preferred not to use a tool from a company that they did not trust in terms of data privacy.”

While CERN had accessed the app as part of a free trial, it was told to either begin paying for the service or use a free version after Facebook announced new payment plans in July 2019. CERN said the move to a free version would remove admin rights and involve handing data to Facebook. 

“Losing control of our data was unacceptable, as was paying for a tool that was not part of our core offering for the CERN community; therefore, we will end the trial of this platform,” the organization said.

CERN now plans to use an open-source tool, Mattermost, for instant messaging, alongside several other internal communications tools already available for staffers. It has requested that all content hosted on Facebook’s servers be removed.

A Facebook spokesperson said the company is “sorry” about CERN’s decision: “Last October, we announced an update to our pricing and packaging. As part of this we started renewal conversations with some of our customers and we’re sorry CERN [is] no longer trialing Workplace. 

“We make it easy for Workplace customers to upgrade and downgrade based on their organization’s needs,” the spokesperson said. “Each pricing tier comes with different features and terms, all of which adhere to our strict security and privacy standards. We serve thousands of highly-regulated companies, like banks and governments, and have industry-standard security certifications like SOC2, SOC3, ISO27001 and ISO27018.

“We also offer our technology for free to global charities, educational institutions and emergency services organizations through our Workplace for Good program.” 

Workplace has two paid plans: the Workplace Enterprise tier costs $8 per user per month, while  Workplace Advanced, a paid option (at $4 per user per month), has limits on certain features such as storage and the number of people who can join group calls. It has a payment option aimed at frontline workers, which costs $1.50 per user per month. 

There are 3 million paid Workplace customers, according to the most recent data on the app. That number includes deployments at large enterprise such as Nestle and the Royal Bank of Scotland. 

However, concerns have arisen in the past about how controversies around handling of data in Facebook’s consumer business might affect its enterprise operations. A survey by CCS Insight last year showed that 42% of employees felt their trust in Facebook had decreased in the last 12 months.

“There are clearly trust concerns among CERN’s staff about using a tool developed and hosted by Facebook, and this is something we’ve seen become an increasing issue over the last couple of years following the Cambridge Analytica scandal,” said Angela Ashenden, a principal analyst at CCS Insight. 

“Overall, the Workplace team has done well to manage the impact of this on its enterprise business, but it’s inevitable that there will be some fallout as a result, as we’ve seen here.”

She added that, while the Workplace free trial attracted a lot of interest from a range of companies and helped to kick-start its traction in the collaboration market, a move to a revenue model was inevitable, with most organizations accepting they have to pay for enterprise-grade security, governance and full control.

Raúl Castañón-Martínez, senior analyst at 451 Research, said that CERN’s decision points to data management concerns among large organizations.  “It is notable that CERN explained that their decision was based on not having control of their data, even after they discontinued their use of Workplace,” he said. 

“This highlights that … SaaS services like Workplace might not be a good fit for every company; this is further reinforced by the fact that CERN stated they are relying on services like Mattermost, which does provide companies with full control of their data.

“It is also notable that several members publicly stated that they did not trust Facebook in terms of data privacy. While Facebook has stated that its enterprise solution functions as a separate entity to their consumer services, they could benefit from expanding their efforts to address these concerns.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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