Your shout! On whether spammers own the internet

In response to Simon Moores' Thought for the Day (computerweekly.com), who suggested that the internet is becoming overrun by spam and is inherently insecure

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On whether spammers own the internet

In response to Simon Moores' Thought for the Day (computerweekly.com), who suggested that the internet is becoming overrun by spam and is inherently insecure

Maybe a radical solution to the problem of the free internet is a new privately owned and managed global network with a subscription fee plus legal terms and conditions for usage.

Each user on the network would be known as part of the registration process and some of the yearly registration fee would be used to set up and run a global security team. The global players could form this new managed network under an alliance.

This may be a hypothetical scenario that opens up a lot of questions, but nevertheless it does move away from the unmanaged internet that we have today. A quick thought of my day activated by your article.

Ian Porter, Reuters

On the seriousness of a disaster recovery plan

In response to Robin Laidlaw, who said in Strategy Clinic that companies should try to have a contingency plan to guard against their disaster recovery plans not working (Computer Weekly, 15 June)

I was somewhat disappointed to read Robin Laidlaw's response. In my opinion, a thoroughly developed and tested business continuity plan is a need-to-have not a nice-to-have.

Our experience has shown that 40% of businesses who experience a disaster without business continuity will never re-open, 40% will fail within 18 months, 12% will fail within five years and just 8% will survive.

According to a recent report issued by Meta Group, less than 40% of companies have rigorously tested disaster recovery or business continuity plans. Fortunately, this figure is on the increase, and Meta predicted that this figure will rise to 60% by the end of 2005.

The report showed that of those companies that have tested their disaster recovery plans, more than 20% found they were not effective. As businesses can lose up to £5m an hour (Datamation statistics), the importance of implementing a plan and rigorously testing it is clear - without it your business will fail if disaster strikes.

Keith Tilley, UK managing director, SunGard Availability Services

On why advisers do not spoil outsourcing deals

In response to the results of an Ernst & Young survey, where it was reported that some advisers were not working in the client's best interests (Computer Weekly, 22 June)

The results expressed in Nick Huber's article were completely the opposite to my experience.

As an outsourcing adviser dealing with more than 50 different suppliers a year, I can state that in almost every case suppliers have been extremely positive about the adviser's role.

This is for a number of reasons. The first is that when advisers are involved, the customer's requirements are far better articulated as the adviser understands how best to extract what they are seeking to achieve.

As a result, the scope of the services to be outsourced, the evaluation criteria and procurement cycle can be shared early with potential suppliers.

The adviser will also ensure the project is viable for the supplier - I have been involved in assignments where the customer was going to walk away, but with our advice and expertise, the business case was proved and the project went ahead. Without us the supplier would never have won the business.

Orbys has commissioned a survey by Benchmark Research, where 100 senior executives involved in outsourcing over the past year were interviewed and the results reinforce my views.

This is that the senior executives believe that advisers provide value in terms of reducing risks, reducing timescales and optimising the contract in question.

Alex Blues, Orbys Consulting

Making government IT projects work

The "Lifecycle of a public sector IT failure" in the feature (Computer Weekly, 22 June) has two factors at its core.

First, many democratic electoral systems result in a finite government lifetime of approximately four to five years. IT projects initiated within that time are likely to last longer. This might suggest that the views of cross-party stakeholders are vital when testing project feasibility. With the current situation, cross-party involvement generally happens after the event when analysing conceptual failure.

Second, Tony Collins stated that "new personnel... repeat the mistakes of the past". This might indicate that those who hire, train and promote these new personnel are those who have made the mistakes of the past.

One obvious remedy would be to tackle skills gaps by making it a condition of IT project involvement that the required IT and project management knowledge of the personnel reaches guaranteed standards. This would then make it easier for personnel to give "well-rounded answers to questions" concerning IT projects from MPs and others.

Mark Elkins

Proprietary middleware can add to IT costs

Although I was not surprised by the comments on the cost of integration and middleware (Computer Weekly, 22 June, p27), the article did make for depressing reading, considering the amount of money invested in such software over the past 10 years.

As we all know, integration software is meant to reduce the overall cost of IT by allowing organisations to re-use existing systems to solve new business problems. Unfortunately, this promise has too often simply not been delivered.

One reason is the reliance on proprietary approaches with dependence on scarce skills and, in a worst-case scenario, the user becomes dependent on the supplier for maintenance. The resultant spiralling costs should come as no surprise.

Thanks to the recent adoption of integration standards such as XML, integration need not rely on old supplier-specific approaches. Standards-based approaches have demonstrable and well-proven benefits: staff skills are less scarce and easier to acquire and users have a greater power to change suppliers if they feel they are not getting a great deal.

Given that this is the case, any organisation should think long and hard before selecting proprietary technology for integration purposes.

Ronan Bradley, chief executive, PolarLake

NHS staff want to be involved - and informed

Richard Granger, director general of NHS IT, has missed the good news about the national programme for IT in the NHS.

At a recent conference, responding to comments about a lack of consultation with health professionals, he is reported to have said, "Last year was characterised by clinicians believing it wasn't going to happen. Now there is a dawning realisation that we are deadly serious - people are now saying they want to be involved where a year ago they were uninterested."

Yet successive Medix surveys, from early last year to today, have found that many doctors support the principles of the programme. Despite knowing little about it, they neither believed it was not going to happen, nor were uninterested. A major survey of nurses found that they were, if anything, even more supportive. What health professionals have asked for is more information.

Robin Guenier, Chairman, Medix UK

Explorer must be run as app code to be secure

It is great that Microsoft is about to introduce new memory-protection features into XP (Computer Weekly, 29 June).

If this had been a feature of Microsoft's operating systems with the availability of the 3/86, as it was with Linux, there would not have been the raft of security problems that have bedevilled Microsoft software.

Similarly, if Microsoft wants to ensure secure browsers and e-mail, Internet Explorer and Internet Exchange must be removed from Windows and run as application code, just as other browsers and e-mail clients, such as Mozilla, that run on Windows.

It is satisfying to see that Microsoft is recognising the need for secure software, but why has it taken so long for it to understand the need for its operating systems to use hardware memory management correctly?

Eddie Bleasdale, Netproject

Public sector records system needs overhaul

The Bichard inquiry into the records of Ian Huntley makes for alarming reading. It shows that the public sector has yet to fully integrate the adoption of new technology with systemic management and practices that can reap the fullest rewards.

Within the private sector such a lack of alignment results in expensive waste. But in the public sector, as we have seen, the consequences can be far more detrimental.

Integrated document management is a mature technology with advanced processes and an abundance of training and support available. Precisely because of its age it is not perceived as a particularly "sexy" technology.

However, it is obvious from the Bichard report that such cultural issues cannot be tolerated in the public sector - there must be disciplined and enforced practices for the creation of records and the information captured within these must be shared across relevant agencies.

It is here that the private sector has a role to play - not only in providing the solutions or practices, but also in actively contributing to the education and training needed to ensure that records management pulls its weight within the public sector.

Reliable, affordable, effective solutions exist that can cope with a wide spectrum of challenges, including the records of an offender's history to medical papers for a patient or tracking down pension entitlements.

However, unless changes are made within the public sector to adopt document management, it will remain a pebble the public sector will keep tripping over.

David Chalmers, Macro 4

This was last published in July 2004

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