Today's forecast: Tough sell

Many network professionals would just as soon squash WeatherBug under the sole of a heavy work boot as remove yet another unauthorized copy of the application from yet another desktop. So what was the company that makes WeatherBug doing with a booth smack-dab in the middle of the show floor at the recent Interop conference in Las Vegas?

Many network professionals would just as soon squash WeatherBug under the sole of a heavy work boot as remove yet another unauthorized copy of the application from yet another desktop.

So what was the company that makes WeatherBug doing with a booth smack-dab in the middle of the show floor at the recent Interop conference in Las Vegas?

Taking its fight directly to the enemy (my word, not theirs).

WeatherBug's message? Not only is our application not the nuisance many make it out to be - neither spyware, adware nor a resource hog - but WeatherBug should be welcomed onto corporate networks as a genuine business tool. Toward that end, WeatherBug has developed an enterprise version of its popular free desktop application, which the company hopes will open doors into IT departments that haven't exactly embraced the downloadable version.

Founded in 1992, WeatherBug operates a weather-monitoring network of 8,000 tracking stations and more than 1,000 cameras located at schools, public safety facilities and TV stations. The desktop app has been around for five years.

"The enterprise model allows you to distribute the software via applications like Microsoft SMS and control access," says Chris Sloop, CTO and a founder of WeatherBug. "It is advertising-free."

So how was the company's pitch received at Interop?

"I thought it was great," Sloop says . "A wide range of people stopped by and they listened to what we had to say."

Which isn't to say everyone was buying their rap. The WeatherBug team knows it has yet to persuade everyone in IT that its app is benign at worst and an asset at best. (They could start with my colleague in Network World's IT department, who when asked for his thoughts about WeatherBug chewed my ear off for 45 minutes. His beef in a nutshell: WeatherBug has no meaningful purpose on a typical business desktop, and, much like any unauthorized application, consumes resources unnecessarily and runs the risk of causing unanticipated trouble.)

WeatherBug isn't claiming it's for everyone in every organization. And you can read all you want about the company's counterpoints to various criticisms.

Convincing corporations that desktop weather alerts are a business tool may prove the toughest sell of all. The company distributed a flier at the show headlined: "Q&A . . . Why Should IT Professionals Care About WeatherBug?"

"WeatherBug helps IT professionals protect their IT infrastructure by alerting them when severe weather is coming like high winds, thunderstorms, ice storms, heavy rain and lightning. In addition, company employees benefit from the access to live local weather and traffic information for commuting, planning business travel and monitoring conditions at home or at kids' schools."

Of course, there is some relatively small subset of the workforce - IT or otherwise - that truly needs real-time weather information.

The rest of us, it would seem, should be content to point our browsers at any of the countless Web sites that provide weather data. Or maybe look out the window.

Distributed DoS extortion, continued

Last week we explored the growing phenomenon of extortionists threatening corporations with distributed denial-of-service attacks. Not only are more such attacks happening, more victims are paying up - and clamming up about it.

Any list of countermeasures, I suggested, should include a legal mandate to report an extortion attempt to law enforcement and a prohibition against paying criminals to leave your network alone.

I also suggested that Congress is unlikely to do either.

But now you have a chance to vote. If you're interested in answering our quick two-question poll about this extortion, point your browser here.

Or you can write to me directly, of course. The address is buzz@nww.com.

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