Peer to Peer Magazine

March 2012

The quarterly publication of the International Legal Technology Association

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GLOBALIZED DESKTOP Supporting a No Such Thing as Standard When it comes to management and technical challenges, the problems you face in your local office will also exist in the global desktop; products fail, software gets corrupted and users load unapproved software for work or personal use. Just as you face challenges in your domestic offices with different practice groups having varying business needs (e.g., different applications, printing needs, access to sites, etc.), global offices bring additional needs, such as foreign languages and fonts, documents in two languages, foreign language spell checkers and keyboards with different character sets — to name a few. The bottom line on the technical side is that there will be no such thing as a "standard" configuration across all of your international offices. They may all use MS Word, but it will be configured differently to meet each office's unique needs. When you are supporting global desktops, your job will be to design and support one that is as consistent as possible across all offices, but uniquely designed and implemented to fit the needs of each global office and user. From the Expected to the Unexplainable The biggest technical challenge I faced in my 15 or so years of providing international support was bandwidth/latency to connect global offices. If you have "cheap" (it's all relative) high-bandwidth WANs connecting your offices, great! Add a WAN optimization product such as Riverbed to offset the latency factors, and your WAN performance/challenges will be greatly reduced. However, if your global office is in Dubai, for example, and you have to use the Internet to connect that office because the cost of MPLS or a single T1 to London is in excess of $40,000 a month, your challenges increase greatly. You would have to deal with latency of 150-200ms on good days and possibly reach the range of 500ms or more on a bad day. A worst-case scenario occurs when a ship anchor drags across the fiber cable in the Mediterranean Sea, cutting the cable to Europe and bouncing your data from Dubai to Hong Kong before reaching London. Suddenly a system you designed to work at an acceptable level at 150ms runs like cold maple syrup at 500+ms. Lawyers don't like that! The moral here is that you have to design the WAN/LAN and server systems to account for real-world latency and WAN failures. Believe me, it will happen. When you travel to a foreign country to set up a connection, unanticipated problems always seem to pop up right as you thought everything was set and you were finally going to do a little sightseeing. T IP: Get your sightseeing done before you start the work when abroad, or the only "sites" you'll see will be during the commute between the airport, your hotel and the office. And then there are the odd problems that can't be explained. One office I supported in London had problems that just did not make any sense. We often joked that the office must have been haunted. Sometimes I started to believe the jokes were real! Unexpected and unexplainable aside, here is a list of some of the more common technical challenges you will face: • WAN links might be undependable or too expensive. • Backup WAN circuits might be undependable or too expensive. • You might experience Internet latency and packet loss issues. • Your "standard" equipment might not be available in a foreign country, and you might not be allowed to ship the equipment to that country. • Software/patch management might be more difficult. • When multiple languages are required, there might be display problems with fonts/special characters (UNICODE can help). • Multiple characters/languages in applications might not be supported. • VDI/Citrix still requires unique setups for each office. • You might need to install required specialized apps. • VoIP can reduce costs significantly, but you can't apply QoS to the Internet link. • Equipment disposal laws vary greatly from country to country. • Data security could be a concern. • Determining which disaster recovery vendors to use in a foreign country could be difficult (ask your ILTA peers for references). • Determining which business continuity vendors to use in a foreign country might cause issues (ask your ILTA peers for references). Keep in mind natural disasters and emergencies like earthquakes, tsunamis and rolling blackouts. • Finding the right offsite storage vendor might take some investigation (ask your ILTA peers for references). Peer to Peer 53

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