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Archive for July, 2012

July 31, 2012

Why Standardized Software Across IT Makes Sense

I’m not certain what drives some users to clamor for the latest software. Maybe it’s about keeping up with the Joneses or just the thrill of having something new. Regardless, it wreaks havoc on an IT department. Managing multiple versions of software is a headache. It complicates licensing, deployment, updates, maintenance, integration, and in the end, drains your IT budget.

What’s more, IT life isn’t likely to get any simpler. The perfect storm looks to be on the horizon. A recent study by the Accenture Institute for High Performance and reported by Mike Vizard of ITBusinessEdge suggests that IT departments are “likely to be shaped more by forces outside the control of the IT organization” than by the IT department itself.

While we wait for the big blow, there are a lot of squalls IT has to navigate just to get through the day. I came away from some recent customer visits with this list of IT challenges they face:

  • Demonstrate the ROI of all technology investments.
  • Ensure solutions don’t indirectly drive up the cost of IT, such as more help-desk calls, unnecessary additions to the IT footprint, or difficult deployments which strain IT resources.
  • Buy solutions that fit within the IT infrastructure. Because of the large investment within existing systems, any solution that doesn’t fit within the established standards requires a very strong business justification.
  • Acquire programs that can enhance the value of existing infrastructure by driving higher usage are appealing.

So why make IT more complicated than it needs to be? Companies like yours have standardized on Adobe Acrobat to address many of these pain points. They simplified the licensing that supports enterprise-wide deployment and with that software license management. They benefit from enterprise-wide maintenance and support that helps them get the most out of the investment. Plus, Acrobat integrates easily to the IT environment.

For example, Arup, a global engineering and design firm, standardized its operations on the latest version of Acrobat using the Adobe enterprise license agreement (ELA) to distribute software to employees worldwide through the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager suite—a virtual software store. Arup employees can simply request Acrobat, submit the request for approval, and IT support will download the software directly to their desktops in an automated process.

For RSM McGladrey, a tax and assurance consultancy, the enterprise program with Adobe streamlined Acrobat licensing and deployment on an ongoing basis. Today, the company spends about two hours annually tracking and updating Acrobat software licenses—a 98 percent decrease over the previous time spent by IT.

Similarly, since moving to the enterprise contract, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has reduced IT maintenance and administrative costs because everyone throughout the agency is using the same version of Acrobat. In addition, predictable budget requirements result in more effective fiscal planning.

Bottom line, by standardizing on Acrobat across your IT environment you can save a lot of time and money. Check out the Adobe ELA to see where you can cut costs and save time.

Mark Grilli, senior director of Acrobat Solutions product marketing

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8:36 AM Permalink
July 25, 2012

Three Common Adobe Reader and Acrobat Security Questions

I get a lot of great questions regarding Adobe Acrobat and Reader security. Recently, a few have been asked more frequently than others. So, I thought I’d share those with you.

Q: What is the Adobe Acrobat and Reader update schedule?

About three years ago, we moved to a quarterly update schedule for Adobe Reader and Acrobat. It was part of a major initiative to strengthen the security of our products. At the time, three-month update cycles seemed like the right cadence given the threat environment and the pace we were adding new mitigation capabilities into the products. Fast-forward three years, and technologies like Protected Mode in Adobe Reader and Protected View in Acrobat (sandboxes) have provided effective layers of defense, reducing the need for the ongoing quarterly cadence.

So, recently we announced a closer alignment with the Microsoft Patch Tuesday model. Instead of delivering updates on a quarterly schedule, we will provide Adobe Acrobat and Reader updates on the second Tuesday of any given month as needed throughout the year to best address customer requirements and keep all of our users safe. We will also continue to publish a prenotification on the Adobe Product Security Incident Response Team blog three business days before we release a security update, and we will continue to be flexible and respond “out-of-cycle” to urgent needs, such as a zero-day attack.

Q: How is Flash content being handled in Adobe Acrobat and Reader?

Starting with Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.5.1, we have classified Flash content into two categories, “known” and “unknown.” Known Flash content has been authored by Adobe and ships with the product. For instance, Portfolio Navigators and user interface elements are classified as known Flash content. Unknown Flash content has been authored outside of Adobe and does not ship with the product. For example, Custom Portfolio Navigators and Flash content embedded into PDFs are considered unknown. With this classification scheme, we are able to selectively render Flash content with different Flash Players. In 9.5.1 and later, we render known Flash content with an internal component embedded inside of Adobe Reader and Acrobat, and let the system Flash Player (NPAPI version) render the unknown content.

Since an attack would leverage unknown, as opposed to known, Flash content, this means that Adobe Reader/Acrobat 9.x users will no longer have to update Adobe Reader/Acrobat each time we update the Flash Player. This is particularly beneficial to customers in managed environments, because fewer updates means a lower cost of ownership, while maintaining a vigilant security posture. Keeping in mind that there is no silver bullet when it comes to security, we do follow a defense-in-depth security strategy. Therefore, even though we run all Flash content inside the sandbox in Adobe Reader and Acrobat X, where we’ve had great success thwarting attacks, we’ll still implement this new handling of Flash content into those products in the future. We’ll let you know when that happens.

Q: Can you explain the new security ratings?

In the past, security ratings were based on the worst-case scenario of a vulnerability without taking into account the presence or likelihood of an exploit. For a bit of background, a vulnerability is a code defect that can potentially be leveraged by an exploit to attack a system. Imagine the exact same code defect in two products. One product has a known exploit, while the other product has extra layers of defense that thwart the exploit from working. If you only consider the vulnerability, the security rating would look the same. But, if you consider the presence (or lack) of a functioning exploit as part of the security rating, you’ll get a different answer, and a better understanding of the threat, which in turn, provides better guidance on how quickly you should deploy the update.

This has happened with the introduction of new security mitigation technologies, like Adobe Reader Protected Mode (sandbox protections), which has made vulnerabilities much more difficult to exploit. Therefore, we’ve taken the degree of difficulty for exploit creation and included it in our new update priority ratings. We feel that this is the best way to clearly communicate real-world risk associated with the vulnerabilities addressed in any given security update.

Steve Gottwals, Group Product Manager, Adobe Acrobat Solutions Security

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6:21 AM Permalink
July 23, 2012

Customer Spotlight: New Hepatitis B resource empowers users to manage their own healthcare

The need to give people everywhere timely, accurate information about Hepatitis B is greater than ever, as the disease already affects nearly 400 million people worldwide. Unfortunately, even with the broad reach of hepatitis B, many patients and caregivers still lack resources and a complete understanding of the disease. On July 28, 2012 people around the world will come together to mark World Hepatitis Day and raise awareness of viral hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to recognize viral hepatitis as a major global health problem in order to advance prevention and control.

“There is a large information gap for chronic hepatitis B patients between their initial diagnoses and the long-term management of their disease,” says Grainne Maguire, associate director at healthcare agency TogoRun. As part of an initiative called PATH B (Patients and Professionals Acting Together on Hepatitis B), TogoRun teamed up with creative agency DiViDi Projects and used Adobe Acrobat and other Adobe solutions to create an interactive and informative tool that reaches patients worldwide.

PATH B—My journey with chronic hepatitis B is a dynamic information resource in Adobe PDF containing hundreds of pages of critical health and service information to improve the lives of people with hepatitis B and their caregivers. Graphics and interactive components were created with Adobe Creative Suite software to enable readers to better understand essential information, including test results, treatment, and disease management, while collaboration and editing of all the rich content was streamlined using Acrobat and Adobe SendNow.

“Adherence to medical advice is usually much higher when a patient can understand and process the information,” explains Maguire. PATH BMy journey with chronic hepatitis B offers a unique, comprehensive way to present information and simplify understanding, empowering patients to take greater control over their health and work more closely with doctors to treat the disease.

The impactful informational resource in Adobe PDF can be viewed anywhere using free Adobe Reader, and it has been endorsed by patient advocacy groups and medical organizations alike. “Adobe Acrobat created an interactive experience that everyone could embrace, and provided an essential resource for millions of people worldwide,” says Maguire. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/K2zxw0.

Ali Hanyaloglu, senior marketing manager, Acrobat Solutions

On 28 July 2012 people around the world will come together to mark World Hepatitis Day and raise awareness of viral hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to recognize viral hepatitis as a major global health problem in order to advance prevention and control.

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8:51 AM Permalink
July 18, 2012

How eSignatures Can Align Marketing & Sales

Since marketing and sales departments exist to make life easier for customers, I’m surprised to see so many teams drop this customer-centric philosophy at the most critical moment of the business-client relationship – the contract process. Adopting eSignatures helps sales and marketing teams save a lot of time and resources, while closing more deals with customers.

My recent article in Marketing Tech highlights several ways eSignatures benefit both the business and the customer.

For the business, eSignatures remove the contract process from the multiple steps needed to secure signatures offering a digital option that automates the many back-and-forth conversations between a sales rep and a client. Digital contracts also offer a way to collaboratively work on documents and provide an easy way to track, store and access contracts.

For the customer, eSignatures offer convenience as prospects can access contracts on the Web from their laptop, desktop and even mobile device essentially giving them 24/7 access. Most eSignature solutions don’t require software downloads, making it even more attractive for customers to sign this way. All eSignatures are backed by the federal ESIGN Act, ensuring the legality of the contract, which should put the customer at ease.

Read the full post in Marketing Tech to see how eSignatures can help increase ROI and customer loyalty.

Loretta Jones, head of marketing, Adobe EchoSign

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8:59 AM Permalink
July 11, 2012

Can Acrobat Save Me Money?

That question comes up often when I’m on the road, especially from companies looking for ways to reduce the costs of running their IT operations. Which is pretty much everyone I visit these days. It stems from the common IT pain point of having to do more with less and being sure your IT investments are going to the right places. I like this quote from InformationWeek’s Eric Lundquist, commenting on a recent MIT Sloan Conference, where academics and in-the-trenches CIOs and IT execs debated the merits of risk taking: “Rampart storming may work for startups with no legacy to consider, but for larger companies IT investment is more about making the right bets.” These days, common sense rules.

But back to the question. Can Acrobat save you money? Short answer is yes.  Adobe Acrobat and its free companion, Adobe Reader, can have a positive impact on return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) across the enterprise.  But don’t take my word it.

Customers from a variety of businesses are finding that Adobe Acrobat is a proven solution that helps reduce IT cost and complexity. For example, tax consultancy, McGladrey, expects to save $600,000 over four years by standardizing on Acrobat, and that, they said, did not even begin to factor in all the IT time and effort saved.

Pharmaceuticals company, Astellas Pharma, who introduced Acrobat via the Adobe Volume Licensing program, which best suits large purchases, achieved cost reductions and centralized license management. “We can upgrade without incurring any other charges when a new version is released during the agreement term. This is extremely valuable to us,” said Shuichi Hiraki, associate manager of Infrastructure, Information Systems for Astrellas.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said that in addition to saving $1.3 million in licensing costs in the first year, it estimates it will reduce costs by $750,000 per year by reducing the number of purchase transactions from more than 500 to a single transaction each year.

Quantitative Research

Recently, we commissioned the Forrester Consulting Group to look into the question, too. The study, “Total Economic Impact™ Study of Adobe Acrobat X,” looked at seven current Adobe Acrobat X customers and identified a series of IT and end user productivity costs savings by standardizing on Acrobat X. These include reimaging systems cost savings, end user productivity gains from more efficient patch deployments, IT cost savings in managing patch rollouts, and cost savings from converting PDF to Microsoft Word or Excel.

Based on the interviews, Forrester created a financial analysis for a composite organization of 1,000 Adobe Acrobat X users. Over three years, the IT staff time that the composite organization devoted to patch testing and release declined from seven months (pre-Acrobat X) to three weeks (with Acrobat X).  IT also saved three hours per machine on hardware reimaging by automating the deployment of Acrobat X using Microsoft SCCM. The three-year, risk-adjusted ROI for Forrester’s composite company was 112 percent, with a breakeven point (payback period) after deployment of 11.8 months.

The Forrester study helped confirm some things we already know about how Acrobat X can benefit an IT organization:

  • Enhance existing systems and processes to increase organizational productivity
  • Help safeguard systems and data
  • Easy deployment and management across the entire enterprise
  • Quick data collection using fillable PDF forms
  • Streamline PDF tasks
  • Expedite document reviews and approvals

Mike Vizard of IT BusinessEdge wrote recently, “Most companies are looking for a way to do what they have always done more efficiently rather than experimenting with something totally new and different no matter how much upside potential there might be.” If this is you, stay tuned.

In future posts, I’ll look at some of the topics from the Forrester study and pass along what customers are saying about the impact Acrobat is having on their IT organizations. In the meantime, check out the Acrobat IT Resource Center for tips and tricks and insights into how to make Acrobat work for your IT shop.

 Mark Grilli, senior director of Acrobat Solutions product marketing

 

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9:02 AM Permalink
July 9, 2012

Customer Spotlight: Automate Event Information Management with Adobe FormsCentral

As a one-man IT department of a construction trade union with 7,000 members and 30 colleagues, I have a lot to do. In addition to managing IT, another big task is capturing and managing event information—registrations, logistics, attendance, meals, confirmations, and more—and sharing it with my coworkers.

Previously, I relied on a combination of email, custom code, phone calls, and spreadsheets. I spent most of my time cutting and pasting information between spreadsheets and making sure I had the details right, versus making our events better.

With Adobe FormsCentral, I designed professional, branded forms by customizing sample templates. I was initially drawn to FormsCentral because of the professional-looking templates. When I saw the reasonable price, I was pleasantly surprised.

I embed the forms on our website and make them available to members and non-members. The form links current members to an email invitation system that sends each member a unique ID. Once members receive their invites, they can log in to register for events electronically.

Today, data submitted in the forms is more complete, consistent, and accurate than it was in the past, and I no longer endure the tedious cut-and-paste spreadsheet method. Event and banquet managers can log in to online tables or charts, or view the data in spreadsheets offline to see who is confirmed to attend, making event logistics, meals, and topics easier to manage.

I’m happy that I can now add genuine value. For a recent event, a trade union executive wanted to survey attendees while the event was in progress by asking questions about topics conference-goers would like to see in the future. Within 30 minutes, I created a survey on FormsCentral and projected it onto the 10-foot screens in the room.

For me, Adobe FormsCentral has streamlined the forms management process by 100% and given us all great ideas for applying the data—not to mention making me look good to my boss.

To learn more about United Association Local 46 and its use of Adobe FormsCentral, read the full story here: http://adobe.ly/MYpd3L

Ryan Skalko, information technology director, United Association Local 46

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8:25 AM Permalink

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