Klisto™ Mobile Database for the iPad, iPhone and iPod touch is now available on the Apple AppStore

Your data on your devices, organized and in sync

The Klisto Cloud

Klisto™ is a mobile database app for your iPad and iPhone that syncs with the cloud to keep your data organized and accessible. Organize your business and personal data. Create and customize any list for your needs. Works with the cloud to keep your data in sync on all your devices. You can also access your data through a web browser at Klisto.com.


The 5 Traits of Great Cloud-Syncing Apps

Some of the most useful mobile apps sync their data with cloud storage. Apps sync either with a custom-tailored cloud service (ex: Things and Klisto™) or using services such as Dropbox or iCloud. Cloud syncing is critical for users with multiple devices, but there are certain app features that are required to make this an ideal experience.

Abbey Pumping Station - Beam Engines

Image © Copyright Ashley Dace and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

1. Automatic Syncing

An automatic sync should start on app launch, when returning to the app from multitasking, or after updating a data record. Customers cannot be expected to remember to sync. Forgetting to do so results in confusion from incomplete or stale data. Duplicates or conflicting updates may be entered if a user does not see the latest entries. This is especially important for multi-user solutions.

One of my favorite apps requires me to manually sync to Dropbox by clicking a button. Syncing at startup or app switch should be just as simple but is not supported. I have had more than one occasion where I wasn’t sure what happened to my latest entries, (“didn’t I already add that password?”), only to find them when I synced. This doesn’t happen often but when it does it is very frustrating.

2. Sync On Demand

There is something very reassuring about being able to click a button and know all your data is updated and in sync. Sometimes a user just wants to be sure. Without the means to sync manually, users are less confident: they feel they have less control of their data.

Whether manual or automatic, it is critical that all updates are synced when this takes place, by both downloading the latest changes from the cloud to the app, and uploading your changes from the app to the cloud.

3. Keep you informed

“When did I last sync? What is the progress of my current sync?” This is information the customer needs to know. A timestamp should be displayed, preferably on the same screen as the manual sync button. During a sync, the user needs to know what is happening.

The worst train rides I have experienced involved breakdowns where nobody told us what was happening for what felt like forever. Communication is vital to good service, and a cloud-enabled app is no exception.

4. Ubiquitous

Apps are not just for smartphones any more. Customers want to use their data on all their devices and platforms. The best products give you options, including tablet and desktop OS or web interfaces.

5. Just work

No worries! Users need to feel confident that the data they are looking at is the latest and is consistent. Data needs to be available, even when an internet connection is not. Uploads and downloads should be as fast as possible and let you continue working. Any conflicts or issues must be made known immediately.

Apps that do these five things well make syncing almost an afterthought. The technology does its job and users can keep working. Apps that struggle in these areas become a burden or concern, which will make customers hesitate to use them and look for alternatives.

What cloud features do you look for in your mobile apps? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Beta testers wanted for Klisto™ mobile database

The Mobile Database Built for the Cloud

We are looking for beta testers for Klisto™, the mobile database built for the cloud. You can join via TestFlight. Details including the latest screenshots are available at http://www.infogenium.com/klisto.php.

Klisto for iOS

Protecting your mobile data

What could happen to your personal data if you lose your mobile device? It depends on what security you have in place.

Defense in depth is a security concept whereby an attacker must clear multiple hurdles before they can access a target. With this thinking in mind, let’s consider the hurdles someone must overcome to access your data if your mobile iOS device is lost or stolen. Even if you don’t own an iOS product, consider the following protections versus the features your mobile platform offers.

Image: High security! (chris whitehouse) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Passcode Protection

This first hurdle requires a passcode to access your iOS device. Make sure you have a device passcode set. Be sure that you are using a strong passcode and avoid commonly used PINs.

For an even stronger passcode, go to Settings > General > Passcode Lock and turn off the Simple Passcode option. Simple Passcode limits you to a 4 digit number, which only provides 10,000 possible combinations, which could be cracked quickly by an automated program. Create a passcode of at least 8 characters, using both upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. With an English language keyboard on iOS you will have 52 alpha, 10 numeric, and 23 symbols, providing 858, or 2,724 trillion possible combinations.

Enabling the Erase Data option on the Passcode Lock screen will erase all your data after 10 failed attempts and will provide even more protection against guessing your passcode.

None of this protection will help if you are using a common PIN or have not set your passcode.

App Protection

Many apps provide the ability to set an app passcode to restrict app access. Evernote is one example. The same rules cited above apply. This provides an additional obstacle to attackers and should be used if available. Be sure to use a passcode that is different from your device passcode.

File System Access

You used strong passcodes, so can the attacker still get access? Yes. Unless your app data has been erased from the device they can still access your mobile device filesystem. Using jailbreak techniques and third party tools run from a desktop computer, it is possible to get file system access. The data itself must therefore be secured.

Data Encryption

App data that has been encrypted properly cannot be understood without the right key. Many apps secure data directly by using industry standard techniques such as AES and Public Key Cryptography, resulting in secure data storage. File system access alone will result in viewing jumbled meaningless data that can only be translated to clear readable text using the proper key. This reinforces the importance of strong app passcodes/keys. Make sure that any application you are using to store personal data such as bank accounts, medical information, or any Personally Identifiable Information (PII) makes use of strong encryption.

Apple requires confirmation that any app using strong mass-market encryption (any industry standard algorithm using greater than 64-bit symmetric, such as AES256, or greater than 1024-bit asymmetric encryption) has been registered with the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security before it is approved for sale in the App Store. Since this is a legal requirement due to national security from the standpoint of the U.S. government, you can feel more confident that your data is secure with these levels of encryption.

Another option for securing app data is Apple’s Data Protection APIs, which became available with iOS 4. This protects app data at the file level, without any custom encryption/decryption code from the app publisher. Data protection must be enabled by the app and requires that a device passcode is set. Used properly, app data can remain encrypted while the device is locked, providing another method of data protection if your device is lost or stolen.

Is it safe?

Consider the obstacles cited above the next time you enter data into your mobile device. How safe is your information? Think about what apps store which data, and how secure those apps are. If you are not sure what encryption method an app publisher is using, if any, don’t be afraid to ask them. You’re the customer and you have a right to know. Use strong passcodes for both your device and app. Finally, think twice about the apps you use to make sure that they are not misusing your personal or device data.

iOS Security Whitepaper
AQ Toolkit CommonCrypto – provides crypto functions for iOS developers
Protecting Data Using On-Disk Encryption – iOS App Programming Guide

Google Nexus 7 and Consumer Tablets

The competition for consumer oriented tablets is finally starting to heat up:

InfoWorld reports here that “The Nexus 7 is primarily a media consumption client, specifically for content from the Google Play store… In pairing Google Play’s media and entertainment offerings with superior hardware at the $199 price point, Google has set its sights squarely on Amazon and the Kindle Fire.”

Will smaller Android tablet devices work for SMBs? We still have to wait and see what the marketplace decides.  App developers will play a critical role.  Things are certainly getting more interesting for mobile, and the next iPhone release is around the corner.

Microsoft’s new app store for Windows 8

“Apple still keeps its Mac and iOS realms separate. Microsoft wants to collapse mobile devices and the desktop into one ecosystem.”

With so many developments in mobile, it will be interesting to see how Apple, Google and Microsoft maneuver to gain a competitive advantage.  Competition will be great for mobile, especially for consumers and businesses that leverage these platforms. One consideration that should not be forgotten: who will provide the best interoperability with third-party systems?

via Deja vu? Microsoft’s new app store for Windows 8 – May. 24, 2012.

GoodReader: Another App I Can’t Live Without

My favorite app for reading documents on iOS is GoodReader. This app does an excellent job of rendering various document formats. This is a great way to go paperless. GoodReader allows you to annotate a document, with markup tools for highlighting, text boxes, sticky notes, and freehand drawing. I mostly use the highlighting tools, as it helps me mark important information. Bookmarks are also helpful for keeping track of where you left off or reference items.

I’m now in the habit of buying books in PDF format when available instead of print and reading them on the iPad. I favor PDF because the file format does not lock you into a specific platform or vendor. They can also be created using a number of free tools. Even the Chrome web browser supports Print to PDF.

Two tech publishers that I believe do an excellent job with e-book distribution are Apress and Addison-Wesley. I became convinced this is the best way to read tech books after buying a softcover PHP and MySQL reference that is rated at 3.4 pounds and is thicker than the Yellow Pages. It included a CD with the book in, wait for it… PDF format. I ended up using the digital copy much more than print once I had my iPad.

Cloud access is a huge plus with GoodReader. I can keep documents on Google Docs or Dropbox and download or upload from within the app as needed. Any docs I find online through Mobile Safari can be opened in GoodReader and then uploaded easily. This makes viewing product manuals online a breeze.  If you anticipate having limited wireless access then you can download your docs to GoodReader for offline viewing.

This app has so many features I really can’t list them here, but I have mentioned those I use regularly. GoodReader is priced separately for iPhone and iPad, but I still think it is a great value. I own both versions. I would not use my iPad as much without it. I have a lot more room on my shelves but I’m still reading more, and as a small business owner I do a fair share of reading on tech and marketing topics. The iPad plus GoodReader make me much more productive.

GoodReader on iTunes

Ian Thane: “Mobility in business is now a necessity”

Ian Thane wrote an insightful blog posting entitled “Mobility in business is now a necessity” in which he asserts:

“Smart businesses won’t just think of mobile applications as extending existing systems, but look at how new systems can free your workforce to create value in a multitude of environments and in more innovative ways.”

I think this is a great statement. The current generation of smartphones provide capabilities that are still very new to us, and we are only beginning to understand how to leverage them. The way to accomplish this is to listen to your internal and external mobile customers. They probably have some fantastic and profitable ideas.

I find it very exciting to think where mobile businesses will be five years from now.


HTML5 Links

Still wondering what all the fuss is about HTML5 and mobile?  Here are some links that you may find helpful…

Why companies are flocking to HTML5 – Fortune Tech

HTML5: A Look Behind the Technology Changing the Web – WSJ.com

Will HTML5 replace native apps? It might: here’s how to figure out when – Guardian Technology Blog

but be sure to consider the pros & cons of Native vs. Web Apps:

Mobile applications: native v Web apps – what are the pros and cons? – mobithinking.com

Which is better, native or web?  There is no simple answer based on the many ongoing debates.  I think the best quick answer is “it depends.”  What are you trying to build and for whom?

Apps, Your Personal Data, and Ethics

There have been headlines in the past few weeks concerning the practice of mobile apps transmitting your private data without permission, most notably Path. Judging by the outrage of customers and mobile users in general, the first question that came to my mind was “What were they thinking?” I still can’t see how anyone thought a customer would be OK with an App collecting and transmitting their smartphone Address Book data without being asked for permission first. The first time I heard of a program secretly accessing data like this I think it was called the Melissa virus.

I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t speak for the legality of such practices. I do believe they are in violation of clear App Store policies. The more important question I would like to pose: Are these practices ethical?

Ethics is a complicated subject, but the best advice I received is to use the “New York Times Test.” Put simply, how would you feel if something you did, or failed to do, showed up on the cover of the New York Times, for all the world to see? Imagine everyone you are related to, have worked with, or will work with in the future knowing about it.

If you feel what you are doing is acceptable, can be explained logically and clearly defended, and you can honestly say that your customers and/or stakeholders will not have a problem with it, then chances are good that what you are doing is ethical. “No chance of embarrassment here. We are in the clear. I truly believe we are doing the right thing.”

If however you would be uncomfortable having your actions put in such a public light, would have to defend yourself with complex explanations, and would probably have your reputation impacted, then it is a pretty good bet what you are doing is unethical. “If our customers knew about this they would not be happy. We can make excuses or explain it somehow, but in the end people will not like us.”

I think any reasonable person will say that collecting a user’s personal data from their mobile device without their knowledge or permission fails this test. Once your customer knows about it there is a lot of explaining to do, i.e. Damage Control. I believe that the practice is unethical.

Still not sure if what you are doing is ethical? Why not just ask your customer? “Would you be OK with this?” Ask permission.

Are the data mining, network effects, and other phantom advantages worth it? I can’t imagine how this is a good idea long term. Short term there may be benefits, but consider the cost. We as software vendors need to live up to high standards so that our customers can feel confident that we are providing them with solutions to their problems without causing them new problems. As an industry it is in our best interest to be ethical. Failing to pass such tests could result in litigation, and even worse, unnecessary government regulation that will stifle our growth. I believe the Mobile Space is our best chance to get the American economy out of its current doldrums. Let’s be careful and err on the side of protecting our customers and behaving ethically.

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