Monthly Archives: April 2012

  • April 30, 2012

    Responsive Design Works for Email, Too!

    In the past, accommodating different email systems has largely consisted of simply offering an HTML formatted message, and a “plain text” version of the message for those who can’t (or won’t) receive HTML emails.

    But unlike those in the past, today’s mobile phones do actually support HTML-formatted messages. While best practices for email template design have dictated a narrower width than typically used for web pages (usually 600 pixels vs. 980), even this narrower approach is problematic for all but the largest mobile screens, leaving your users either looking at tiny text or having to scroll horizontally to see your text.

    This is particularly important when you consider that the share of email read on a mobile device is now around 25% and growing (based on trends from a year ago). Fortunately, the same responsive design techniques used for making websites mobile-friendly can be used in HTML email templates! Though CSS support among email clients varies significantly, popular mobile email clients (like those for the iPhone, iPad and Android) correctly understand an interpret CSS3 media-queries.

    Responsive design for email allows designers to develop templates for smaller sizes — we recommend a query to target anything smaller than 620 pixels wide (which works well if your “desktop” design is 600 pixels wide), and within that using percentages and max-widths to keep your layout and images behaving. Bumping up the tezt size for smaller screens is also a good idea.

    Thus, your responsive email code might look something like this:

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    @media only screen and (max-device-width: 620px) {
    table[id="outer"] {
    max-width: 600px;
    width: 100%;
    }

    img[id="header"] {
    max-width: 600px;
    width: 100%;
    height: auto;
    }

    td[class="content"] {
    font-size: 18px;
    }
    }

    (Note that we’re using the technique pioneered by Campaign Monitor to get around an issue with Yahoo! Mail here)

    You may have to spend some time carefully planning out your code and CSS to avoid conflicts between your media query and any inline CSS you might be using (a common practice when it comes to email, regrettably sometimes necessary), but it’s time worth spending! Your readers will be more likely to read your email when they don’t have to side-scroll or zoom in just see your message.

    Some email service providers, such as MailChimp, officially and actively support media queries in their template system. Others may not formally support it, but unless their system actively strips out CSS it thinks is invalid, you should be able to take advantage of this advanced CSS approach to make your messages more user-friendly on mobile devices.

  • April 25, 2012

    User Experience Virtualization In-Depth

    Now that we’ve scratched the surface of User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) it’s time to dig a little deeper and explore how to start utilizing it.

    There are three principal components you’ll need to implement in order to take advantage of UE-V:

    1. Folder Redirection + File Shares
    2. UE-V Agents
    3. UE-V Templates

    For the first item, it’s important to note that UE-V is a settings-focused technology. It’s not designed to move user data between locations (although you can customize templates to scan for and move particular data locations) and as such, you’ll need to implement technologies such as Active Directory Folder Redirection (via group policy) or move data to a platform such as SharePoint Online or Office 365. Implementing folder redirection is an easy technology in Windows 7, but if you’re still running a mixed environment with some legacy XP boxes, you’ll need to plan carefully how to implement to reduce headaches down the road.

    Once you’ve ensured your data is in a central location, you’ll need to setup a file share to enable UE-V to centrally located its template files and user settings. The benefit of using a central file share for UE-V is that is neatly solves the most thorny of problems in the current roaming profile environment: how to roll back settings to an earlier version. By utilizing a central file share, you can roll back settings to an earlier state easily for staff, even for specific applications. You’ll use the

    Now that the data repositories are taken care of, it’s time to deploy the UE-V agents themselves. Nicely, UE-V is a fairly minimal application that can be deployed in any number of scenarios. The most enterprise friendly, of course, it to use System Center Configuration Manager 2012, to ensure that every device on the network receives it. Alternatively, you can use Windows Intune to help deploy the agent to machines. Because of the way UE-V operates the agents will need access to the template files, so although remote staff can make use of UE-V, they’ll need to start fresh to ensure their profile data is stored in the proper location. (Having a large roaming profile, while on the road won’t be mitigated by installing UE-V!) The other key item to the agent is that the UE-V template location is controlled by group policy (or the registry) and so using SCCM, AD or Intune to distribute those policies is key.

    Once you’ve configured the template locations, the agents are ready to roll. The only thing left to do is to configure the templates themselves! To do so you’ll need to fire up the UE-V generator, a simple application that takes snapshots of applications looking for modified files and registry settings. Because the architecture of UE-V is an “opt-in” profile technology, you’ll need to sequence any applications that you wish to pull into the mix. Applications you don’t choose to sequence will continue to work in their existing mode (either as part of a local profile, or a roaming profile). The generator itself is a very easy to use program: while sequencing the application you’ll have the option to select additional files, or additional registry keys, that you want to sequence. Once the generator finishes, you’ll have an easy to manipulate XML file in case you wish to make future changes. As an added benefit for those of us disinclined to edit XML, the generator allows you to edit existing templates easily with the same wizard used to create templates, as well as validate whether a particular template is formatted correctly.

    Through proper user of templates, the real advantage of UE-V begins to shine: administrators can deploy custom application settings to different groups, ensure that the operating system is never again slowed down by a poorly coded application, and new features like App-V 5.0 still retain their settings in a central location that can be adjusted by administrators. Because templates are simple XML files, they can also be shared between organizations, ensuring that if you’re looking for a template for a 3rd party application, another UE-V admin may have already solved your problem for you! The current UE-V template gallery contains a wide variety of applications, even when the technology is still in beta.

    If you’re interested in exploring UE-V, or helping to drive down the cost of supporting your staff, New Signature has the expertise to get a pilot off the ground and showing immediate benefits. Reach out to us today!

     

  • April 23, 2012

    Improve Windows Operating System Deployments With Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2012

    An operating system refresh has always been a thorn in the side for administrators. Be it an upgrade, a replacement or even a repair, the process of providing a new OS to a workstation has always been a tedious and sometimes harrowing experience. Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2012, helps you come closer that IT Nirvana of Automated lite-touch OS deployment.

    Before we dig into MDT 2012, let’s take a quick trip back to see some of the ways that workstations have been provisioned in the network over the years.

    Manually

    In the beginning, this was our only option. The process went a little something like this.

    • Walking over to the workstation, putting in the CD/DVD and installing the OS after you have clicked through a multitude of option screens.  Don’t forget to make a backup of all of your data!
    • Rinse and repeat the process for every application the user may need to use.
    • Make sure everything is up to date.
    • Restore all the user’s data and hope you didn’t miss anything.

    Pros: If you need customization on a per user level, you are able to do so. Not much else, unless you enjoy watching paint dry

    Cons: Too many to list. You have a manual process that is managed by a human being at every step of the way. An error will always creep in no matter how good your people are.

    Imaging

    Along the way, a market for imaging products came along. An image was a revolutionary idea for the workstation deployment community. It built itself upon the process of removing the repetitive and often error prone tactics of a manual install. There are both file based and disk based imaging products out there and both have their pros and cons. For this review, I’m lumping them into one process which goes a bit something like this

    • IT develops a ‘gold master’ of the system they want to deploy, every piece of software that a user could need is installed and loaded into the master image.
    • The image is stored on media (or a deployment server) somewhere in the network.
    • Walk over to the machine, back up the data, and boot to the image deployment software.
    • Pick your image and watch the paint try.
    • Restore the users data.

    Pros: The time to deploy an image is much shorter as you don’t have to spend time deploying every single piece of software and update as that has been done once already. It also ensures that at the end, the workstation configuration will be identical (at least initially) across all machines in your organization.

    Cons: Images are tough to maintain. Every time new software comes out, needs to be updated or security patches needed to be applied, the whole image had to be rebuilt. Even if you started from the previous image, this became a very tedious process. Also if there are multiple hardware profiles in the network you often had to maintain multiple copies of the image

    Microsoft Deployment Toolkit

    To be fair, the process behind MDT is file based imaging, however MDT is much more powerful than any previous process. Based on the same WIM installer format that was developed as part of Windows Vista, the MDT process is as follows:

    • Create your master image; this should be as bare bones as possible. In fact, you can even start with the base windows media if you want.
    • Create silent installers for your required programs; you do not need to build them into your image.
    • Identify any drivers that you need for your image.
    • Create a task sequence that loops it all together–built on SCCM task deployment framework.
    • Utilize user state migration (USMT) to ensure that your users data is automatically transferred from the old machine to the new.
    • Using your favorite deployment method (hard media, usb, network pxe) deploy the image to your end users. You can even mix and match deployment methods on the same image.

    However that’s not all! MDT has the following additional features:

    • Offline servicing – if you find you need to add additional drivers or updates to your image (such as after a major patch Tuesday or service pack) you don’t need to reload your image, you can inject the updates offline. You can do the same for your applications as they are all independent of the master image.
    • Remote Monitoring – because MDT is built on the Windows PE framework, network drivers are built into the boot media, because of this you can have a central place to manage your image deployment from, Using Dart 7 or higher, you can even get remote access to the machine during the imaging process. No more trips to the floor just to re-image a computer.
    • User Driven Installation – If customization is your thing, you are able to provide a user options during their install such as selecting time zones, computer name, or even which applications they wish to install. This allows you do maintain one master MDT image but still provide the deep customizations that your users require.

    MDT gives you the best of both worlds; you get the total customizability of the manual install with the automation and simplicity of an image install. When combined together with System Center Config Manager (2007 or 2012). You are able to provide true 0 touch OS installs from the comfort of your desk. The framework is also already been prepared to handle Windows 8 and the enhancements that will come with it.

    If you’d like to learn more about MDT or need help customizing your deployment, contact New Signature, our teams of Microsoft Certified consultants will help you build a process that can speed up your windows deployments, provide a better service to your users and being to future proof your investments in technology.

  • April 22, 2012

    Microsoft Management Summit 2012 – A Retrospective

    This past week was the Microsoft Management Summit (MMS) out in sunny Las Vegas. This yearly event is a key time for Microsoft to showcase and provide information as well deep technical guidance for its partners and customers on tools and strategy that often doesn’t get much public attention but is absolutely essential to every business, system and infrastructure management and operations. The event provides an opportunity for key players in the Microsoft community to have a change to interact directly with the product teams at Microsoft as they introduce their latest products as well as provide information and guidance on the next version. New Signature was proud to have been in attendance of such as key event.

    Providing a great experience for your end users is only possible if you have great tools for your IT team to be able to manage, deploy and maintain the network. From storage and network management all way to the deployment and maintenance of applications to your end users and customers, Microsoft realizes that the only way to efficiently manage that process is to have an end to end solution that provides IT professionals the tools and resources they need to manage that experience and advance along the Core I/O model as they build and grow their dynamic datacenter operations. To help IT teams to reach the holy grail of technology management, Microsoft has released what we believe is its most comprehensive and ambitious suite of tools yet. System Center 2012.

    System Center 2012 is as a suite is the next generation evolution (and sometimes revolution) of many key Microsoft Products

    • System Center Configuration Manager
    • System Center Operations Manager
    • System Center Orchestrator
    • System Center Virtual Machine Manager
    • System Center Data Protection Manager
    • System Center Service Manager

    As a suite of products, the System Center package allows IT to have control and insight into the organization in a way it never has before. From the desktop to the datacenter and everywhere in between, Administrators everywhere now have a way to at a glance to see snapshots and trends of their entire organization and will help to bring together your storage, network, server and development teams in a way that has not been seen in the past. Whether you’re looking to manage your private cloud, your public cloud or any combination in-between, the system center suite is THE end to end tool to handle it.

    Having this type of vision is great for the administrators, however it doesn’t mean anything if your users cannot find and use the tools they need to do their job quickly, easily and efficiently. Along with that, staff are more connected than ever with smart phones, tablets and other personal devices. Staff expects to be able to work from anywhere and maintain the same great usability experience that they have come to expect. This ‘Consumerization of IT’ is here to stay and Microsoft has realized it. Gone are the days of the desktop being the center of the IT universe for staff. The experience has now shifted to a ‘User Centric’ design model and is a key design goal of System Center 2012. IT now has the ability to manage and publish services to all of a user’s devices at once and ensure that no matter what tools they are using to access their data (Desktop, Laptop, Thin Client, Tablet, even your smartphone) that they have an identical experience across the board.

    New Signature has always been a very strong believer in a customer centric philosophy. We know that if you cannot deliver a compelling and well received experience, even the best laid plans, applications and initiatives will never be as successful as they could be. Whether you’re looking to implement your own cloud or deliver application self-service for you staff, New Signature can help you with the strategy, tools, resources and experience you need to deliver the best experience possible.

    2012 is shaping up to be an amazing year for technology and with what we saw this week, the best is still yet to come.

    Look forward to upcoming posts where we look deeper into some of the new products and technologies that were revealed and introduced this week and how they help you take your operations and user experience to the next level!

  • April 20, 2012

    Windows Intune 3.0

    Microsoft has just released to beta testing the latest version of it’s flagship cloud device management ​service: Windows Intune 3. The feature list is lengthy, and for those who have seen Intune 2 in action, the latest version expands in a number of key areas, notably mobile device management, administration and application deployment.

    On the mobile device front, Intune will now support mobile devices running operating systems such as iOS and Android. At the moment, Intune leverages ActiveSync to provide this functionality, and thus, is dependent upon an on-premise Exchange server to enable these features. For some organizations looking to go “all cloud” this is disappointing news, but for the vast majority of shops with existing on-premise Exchange environments, it means that the setup time is relatively low. A simple connector is available to install into an Exchange environment which will link mobile devices into the Intune console itself. Once mobile devices are added, one of the cool new features is that they can be tied to individuals, rather than as standalone items.

    Intune appears to be moving towards a user-centric model, rather than a device-centric one. This is a major shift for Microsoft, who has traditionally viewed the “device” as being the key in a business environment. Now as many individuals possess multiple devices (desktop at work, laptop for travel, mobile phone, slate/tablet for fun) making the shift to focusing on the user is a huge benefit. Intune also shifts the burden of consuming applications to the end-user, rather than the administrator. The new portal, seen below, allows staff to install apps onto mobile devices, slates or laptops, as well as managed those devices and additionally ask for support from the corporate IT group.

     Intune User Portal

     

    Application deployment has been streamlined in the new release with the addition of a useful wizard to quickly add .msi and .exe applications, not only for Windows machines but also for the Android and iOS platforms. Beingable to deploy apps across multiple devices is a huge win for Intune. Once the applications are published, they’re available in the metro-themed Intune app portal, as seen below:

    Installing the application is as simple as selecting it and allowing the process to operate. Finally, in one of the greatest improvements, Intune has cleaned up many of the processes behind the scenes for easier administration. One of the more tedious chores with the old version was the policy creation process. Now, instead of having to build default policies from scratch, Intune comes with default policies pre-baked for easy spinup. In addition, better reporting allows for easier access to providing information to clients. The installation of the client itself is quite easy, and there are only a few moments during the process that might give corporate administrators pause (be sure to uninstall any SCCM client before running the installation, for instance!). In the largest change yet from an administration side, purchasing and provisioning is now done through a new portal, eliminating the frustrating experience many clients had signing up for Intune. Because the new portal mimics the Office365 portal, you’re also able to easily add administrators, and even integrate Active Directory credentials into the mix, giving Windows Intune true integration into corporate environments. See the shot below for the Office365-esque site:

    Intune Admin Portal

    These changes to Intune catapult it to the top tier of management software on the market today. With no infrastructure, deep reporting capabilities, endpoint protection and application deployment to multiple operating systems including mobile devices, Intune is moving quickly to set a new standard for features. New Signature has been working with this particular technology for several years, even before it was released to the general public and we’re happy to showcase the entire Intune solution to organizations looking to drive down the total cost of ownership for device management, and drive up staff satisfaction.

  • April 18, 2012

    New Signature and CEO Christopher Hertz Nominated for Chamber’s Champions Small Business Awards

    New Signature and CEO Christopher Hertz have been selected by the DC Chamber of Commerce as part of the 2012 slate of nominees for the Chamber’s Champions Small Business awards.  The awards are Washington’s premiere small business honor, recognizing the region’s most innovative and successful small businesses and the people that support them. They are presented to companies or individuals who embody the entrepreneurial spirit, demonstrating characteristics such as civic community leadership, outstanding contributions to the community, social responsibility or who have made a significant social and/or economic impact in the District of Columbia’s business community.

    Winners of the Chamber’s Champions awards will be announced during a ceremony at the Small Business Awards and Expo, held on May 16th at the Renaissance Washington hotel.

    The slate of nominees for the Chamber’s Champions awards is as follows:

    Small Business Person of the Year

    • Christopher Hertz, New Signature
    • Necole Parker, The ELOCEN Group, LLC
    • Michelle Hoffman, Hoffman CFO Consulting

    Young Entrepreneur of the Year

    • Christopher Hertz, New Signature
    • Thomas Sanchez, Social Driver
    • Jonathan Cogley, Thycotic Software
    • Zach Axelrod, Skyline Innovations
    • LaKeshia Grant, Virtual Enterprise Architects, LLC

    Non-Profit Organization of the Year

    • Urban Alliance
    • The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged
    • Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities
    • Hope for the Warriors

    Small Business Champion of the Year

    • New Signature
    • Skyline Innovations

    Women in Business Champion of the Year

    • Shiela Brooks, SRB Communications, LLC
    • Necole Parker, the ELOCEN Group, LLC
    • LaKeshia Grant, Virtual Enterprise Architects, LLC
    • Michelle Hoffman, Hoffman CFO Consulting
  • April 17, 2012

    Separate Mobile Site or Responsive Design: How Do You Choose?

    So your client comes to you for a website redesign, and hallelujah, they’ve seen where the market is going, and they want to make sure their new site is mobile friendly.  You have several paths available to you, including building a separate mobile site or choosing a responsive design strategy. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.  How do you choose?

    Take a deep breath and set aside whatever personal preferences you may have developed. It’s time to take a look at the needs of the project and its end users.

    Begin by Asking Questions

    What are your users’ goals?

    When someone visits your site, what are they looking for?

    • Do they just want to pass the time?
    • Are they doing research?
    • Are they checking on the status of something?
    •  Do they have an urgent task to perform?
    • Are they urgently looking up information?

    The goals of your user should inform not only the design of your mobile site, but the design of your site overall.

    What devices are they using?

    • Who is your audience?  Where are they located geographically?  The distribution of phones in the United States will be different from Europe or Africa, and each of those regions is located on a different point in the smartphone adoption trend. (Europe is ahead of the US, Africa is behind.)

      See Tomai T. Ahonen’s Communities Dominate blog for a detailed breakdown by geographical region.

    • Check the site’s log files.  Google Analytics logs which browsers have hit your site.  From there, you can infer screen size and resolution.  If you choose responsive design, this will help you establish the points where the layout of your content will change.

      Regardless of your strategy, make sure you test your site on the devices your audience will be using!

      diagram of mobile device widths

      The above graphic is from metaltoad.com.

    • Pay attention to current sales trends and the state of the market. Yes, the mobile market is competitive and rapidly evolving. While there’s no way we can accurately predict the future, it’s still beneficial to keep an eye on what’s coming around the next bend in the road. One resource is Gartner Research.

    Do you want to serve the user the exact same content in the mobile environment?

    • Pros: don’t set up expectations in one environment that are not deliverable in another. As Jeremy Keith wrote in his Adactio blog,

      “More and more people are using mobile devices as their primary means of accessing the web… They are looking for the same breadth and richness of experience that they’ve come to expect from the web on other devices. Hence the frustration with mobile-optimised sites that remove content that’s available on the desktop-optimised version.”

      Be wary of making assumptions about your user’s context!

      Assumption: You mobile user wants focused content, easily accessible, and has a bad internet connection.

      Reality: All of your users want easily-accessible, focused content. All of them want content that downloads quickly. Some of them may have bad internet connections, but be wary of limiting the mobile experience based on your assumptions. Yes, someone browsing a restaurant website may just need the address for driving directions or the phone number to place a reservation. However, they could just as easily be sprawled on the couch at home, watching TV, with a speedy internet connection, looking for a great menu and ambiance for a Friday night date.

    • Cons: Sometimes, there’s a lot of content, both to arrange for a small screen and for the user to download. Ask yourself, “Can some of the content can be left out of the mobile version, and if so, why not leave it out altogether?” If there is still a compelling argument for separate content, then you will probably gravitate towards a separate mobile site.

      There are some great features available on mobile phones (GPS, taking photos, etc.).  Why not take advantage of them?

    Make Your Decision

    When it comes down to choosing a mobile strategy, start at the beginning of the project, and make decisions based on conversations with the client and the needs of the end users. Choose the strategy that best meets their current situation and needs.

    Addendum

    Side note: Yes, there are mobile apps.  No, they will not replace the need for a mobile-optimized version of your site.  For one explanation why, check out Jason Grigsby’s Cloud Four blog. Another great resource is Luke Wroblewski’s Mobile First book, available from A Book Apart.

    A final note: Sometimes, your client will not have the budget for a full-fledged responsive or mobile strategy – or sometimes they simply want improve their current site right now. As Aaron Stanush of Four Kitchens has said, the best thing you can do for any website to make it mobile friendly is to make it fast.  You mobile users will love you for it, and the rest of your users will also benefit.

  • Microsoft Windows 8 Version Comparison

    Microsoft has announced a simplified approach to Windows licensing.  Windows 8 will come in four versions: one for home use, one for business, one for devices running ARM chips, and one for large enterprises who buy in bulk.  “Windows 8″ is designed for home users, “Windows 8 Pro” for business users, ”Windows RT” for tablets that run ARM processors, and “Windows 8 Enterprise”–available only to enterprise customers with Software Assurance agreements.  Windows 8 Enterprise will offer a superset of Windows 8 Pro.  These features will allow IT organizations to enable advanced PC management and deployment scenarios. Microsoft has not announced the details on features included with the Enterprise edition.  PC World has created this very useful chart detailing some of the differences:

    Windows 8: Key Features by Version

    Feature name Windows 8 Windows 8 Pro Windows RT
    Upgrades from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium x x
    Upgrades from Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate x
    Start screen, Semantic Zoom, Live Tiles x x x
    Windows Store x x x
    Apps (Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, SkyDrive, Reader, Music, Video) x x x
    Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote) x
    Internet Explorer 10 x x x
    Device encryption x
    Connected standby x x x
    Microsoft account x x x
    Desktop x x x
    Installation of x86/64 and desktop software x x
    Updated Windows Explorer x x x
    Windows Defender x x x
    SmartScreen x x x
    Windows Update x x x
    Enhanced Task Manager x x x
    Switch languages on the fly (Language Packs) x x x
    Better multiple monitor support x x x
    Storage Spaces x x
    Windows Media Player x x
    Exchange ActiveSync x x x
    File history x x x
    ISO / VHD mount x x x
    Mobile broadband features x x x
    Picture password x x x
    Play To x x x
    Remote Desktop (client) x x x
    Reset and refresh your PC x x x
    Snap x x x
    Touch and Thumb keyboard x x x
    Trusted boot x x x
    VPN client x x x
    BitLocker and BitLocker To Go x
    Boot from VHD x
    Client Hyper-V x
    Domain Join x
    Encrypting File System x
    Group Policy x
    Remote Desktop (host) x
  • April 11, 2012

    Microsoft Is Updating Their Certification Program–For the Better

    If you follow the Microsoft certification scene at all, today was a big day. Microsoft unveiled the dramatic changes to their certification program they’ve been talking about all year. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the certification program, Microsoft Learning overhauled the program to better fit the needs of the industry.

    Solutions, not Technologies
    The old certification model was predicated on individual technologies, e.g., Exchange 2010. Let’s take a look at the different levels in the old hierarchy.

    • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Exchange 2010
    • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Exchange 2010
    • Microsoft Certified Master (MCM): Exchange 2010

    The more tests you took in a particular technology, the higher up the food chain you climbed. This model of certifying experts in a specific technology posed a problem in the industry, however. Today’s IT jobs require designing and recommending multiple technologies to solve business problems, so there was no easy way to qualify an individual for a modern solution. For example, if you wanted to find someone to deploy or administer a private cloud solution for your company, you’d have to look for someone who had experience with virtualization, System Center, and Windows Server. If you didn’t have any experience in private cloud, you might have to do some research just to figure out what products the candidate would need to be certified in. The new model reaches beyond product expertise, and focuses on job roles and holistic solutions. With the new model, you would simply find someone who has the private cloud certification (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Private Cloud).

    What this means for employers is an easier time identifying the right candidates. What it means for candidates is that they’ll need a broader and deeper skillset to demonstrate their expertise, but also that they’ll be much better equipped to solve business problems with IT solutions.

    Cloud Centric
    Microsoft recognizes that the future is in the cloud. More and more companies are moving services to public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid solutions. The new certifications will reflect this, and to obtain a certification for a solution you’ll need to have expertise with the product in all the various scenarios—that means on-premises, public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid.

    The New Hierarchy
    The new Microsoft certification model reaches beyond product expertise, and accredits candidates for job roles and holistic solutions. The first tier, the Associate level, certifies candidates in foundational, core concepts required to start a career in IT. The second tier, the Expert level, will be the target for most IT professionals; it accredits professionals with the expertise necessary for a particular job role or solution. All of the Expert level certifications require Associate level foundational certifications as prerequisites. The third and ultimate tier, the Master level, takes that solution-oriented expertise to the next level, and is for the elite few who are seeking world-class recognition for their skills. (more…)

  • April 10, 2012

    Three New Signature Websites Win Top Honors at the 16th Annual Webby Awards #Webbys

    ioby, ThinkProgress, and the National Archives Transcription websites have been selected as Official Honorees of the 16th Annual Webby Awards.   We are excited that these innovative websites we helped build for our customers received the Internet’s highest honor.  This year the Webby Awards received nearly 10,000 entries from all 50 US states and over 60 countries, the Official Honoree distinction is awarded to only the very top of all work entered. The websites were honored in the following categories: ioby (Activism), ThinkProgress (Blog – Political), National Archives Transcription (Government).

    New Signature was thrilled to have the opportunity to assist the amazing team at the Center for American Progress and ThinkProgress in building the ThinkProgress website.  The Center’s web technology team and online communications team produced an innovative design and we had the opportunity to bring our WordPress expertise to bear on some really interesting and challenging business requirements.  A special thanks to the entire team at the Center that we worked with, and specifically to some of the key project leaders, including: Faiz Shakir, VP and Editor of Think Progress; George Estrada, VP for Technology;  Harold Neal, Manager of Web Technologies; and Matt Pusateri, Art Director.

    For the National Archives Transcription, New Signature teamed with Viderity and the phenomnal team at the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to help build this groundbreaking crowd sourcing platform that allows citizens contributors to help improve the accessibility of historical documentsand.  As a special thanks to Rachel Everett, CEO of Viderity, and Sarah Araghi at NARA.

    The Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Established in 1996 during the Web’s infancy, The Webbys is presented by The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, which includes an Executive 1,000-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities, and Associate Members who are former Webby Award Winners and Nominees and other Internet professionals.

    Winners are chosen by the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences a global organization whose newest members include CEO of Skype, Tony Bates, shft.com co-founder Adrian Grenier, CEO of Rovio Mikael Hed, and co-founder of Instagram Kevin Systrom, as well as director Darren Aronofsky, Martha Stewart, Huffington Post Media Group President Arianna Huffington, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, musician David Bowie, Internet co-creator Vint Cerf, Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson, and R/GA Chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg.

    Recognition by the Webby Award puts these websites in the esteemed group of industry leaders and former winners such as Twitter, Google, eBay, Yahoo!, iTunes, Skype, FedEx, BBC News, CNN, The Guardian, The New York Times, Aol, Tumblr, Wikipedia, ESPN, Funny or Die, Comedy Central, PBS, The Huffington Post, the Sundance Channel, and The Onion.