TelePacific Blog: Telecommunications Insights

Security and “the New Normal”

The observation that “the cloud is the new normal” has permeated the landscape as we move into 2015. If you haven’t made the leap to the cloud, we can help you do so safely, securely and cost-efficiently—just reach out to your TelePacific representative and we’ll make it happen. If you have adopted cloud services already, congratulations on being ahead of the curve!

In either case (adopting or already adopted), security has become a major concern this year. On-site security failures are far more common than failures in the cloud, but digital security failures generate headlines, so security is front-and-center for business owners and IT departments. We found this tip-sheet from SearchVirtualDesktop for creating a more secure cloud desktop environment and thought it was worth reviewing with our customers, along with some of our own insights.

Don’t believe the hype: As we mentioned above, many more information attacks occur on-site. In fact, clouds are usually more secure than traditional IT systems. The difference, of course, is that breaches with major cloud providers can impact thousands of users, which generates headlines. The article also points out that most hackers don’t care about most companies’ data (it’s unspoken in the article but the point is that an on-site attack is clearly focused on that one particular company whereas a cloud attack is a shotgun approach).

Pick a provider you trust. This is a big part of how we became involved in the cloud and security services at TelePacific. In fact, even though we have roots in connectivity, cloud and continuity make up two full parts of our connect, cloud and continuity value proposition. We partnered with and sourced best-in-class solutions to deliver our customers the strongest available cloud and security services.

Work your SLA. The point of this is to attach some sort of remedy for service provider failures as many providers do not offer SLA-level protection for uptime and security. We’re going to toot our own horn on this one – since you work with TelePacific, you’re covered. We back our services with market-leading SLAs.

Only host desktops and applications that make sense. We couldn’t agree more on this front. We provide a wide range of business-ready cloud services to our customers so we can take away as many day-to-day operating headaches as possible, but we can’t offer every feasible app for every industry.   Moreover, if you’ve got ultra-secret data that begs for targeting (e.g., government, pharmaceuticals, etc..), whether or not to use the cloud for certain instances requires careful, case-by-case evaluation.

Only allow certain workers to use cloud desktops and apps.   Just as you would limit certain workgroups with access to certain files and information on-site, controlling which workers have access to which cloud applications can limit your risk profile in the cloud. When a worker needs a desktop, you can call up that instance until the project is completed, and then you can delete the instance.

We deal with network, cloud and data security every day, and are happy to help you make sure you’ve got a strong plan in place for your activities in the cloud. Contact your TelePacific Representative today and we’ll be happy to set up a consultation.

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You Need Data Security Too – Not Just Celebrities

Every month, we learn of more major security breaches. Most recently, we learned of an attack on JP Morgan Chase and, of course, the already infamous attack on the iCloud accounts of celebrities, followed by widespread distribution of their private, and sometime explicit, personal pictures.

Often, however, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to protecting our online data. We stumbled up on a Mashable article suggesting several simple steps we all can take to make our data more secure. They didn’t provide a whole lot of detail, though, so we took the liberty of providing some more info so you can take these steps yourselves. We also suggest sharing them with your employees—it’ll help them keep their personal lives more secure and will also train them to be more secure when managing company data while they’re at work.

Use Secure, Unique Passwords on Accounts and Devices

We all know the pitfalls of using passwords based on names or birthdates or addresses or social security numbers (or, or, or…) But do you know the best practices? Here are the “dos” and “don’ts” according to Krebs Security:

Do:

  • Create unique passwords that use combinations of words, numbers, symbols, and both upper- and lower-case letters.
  • Rely on 3rd-party software tools to safeguard passwords.

Don’t:

  • Use your network username as your password.
  • Use easily guessed passwords like “password” or “user.”
  • Use words that can be found in the dictionary.
  • Use simple/adjacent keyboard combinations (e.g., qwerty, asdzxc, 123456, etc.)
  • Use the same password on multiple websites
  • Store your passwords on your computer in plain text.

Use Two-Factor Authentication When Available

Not sure what this is? Here’s a pretty good summary from a CNET article:

“Two-factor authentication adds a second level of authentication to an account log-in. When you have to enter only your username and one password, that’s considered a single-factor authentication. 2FA requires the user to have two out of three types of credentials before being able to access an account. The three types are:

  • Something you know, such as a Personal Identification Number (PIN), password, or a pattern
  • Something you have, such as an ATM card, phone, or fob
  • Something you are, such as a biometric like a fingerprint or voice print

Enable Locks and Passwords on Computers and Smart Devices (e.g., phones and tablets)

In other words, enable those password-protected screen savers that pop up when your hardware device reboots or hibernates. (And don’t use the same password for protected apps inside those devices! If an intrude gets into the device, don’t make it easy for him to cause even more trouble.)

Keep Your Operating System Up to Date

Many of those annoying software updates we have to deal with include security patches to fix holes and exploits uncovered by hackers. When you’re prompted to update your software, treat it like you’re changing the locks in your house after you’ve lost your keys. In many cases, this is essentially what you’re doing.   This applies to all software, not just your antivirus programs.

Also…

This didn’t make the Mashable list, but we suggest that you log out of programs when you’re not using them. If a hacker or intruder gets into one of your devices, you can dramatically limit the damage they can cause by shutting off easy access to your applications.

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The Four Personas of Cloud Adopters

Sometimes you just can’t escape the 80/20 rule. This month, we find that it holds true again, with new research from Intuit and Emergence Research finding that 78% (let’s call it 80 so our rule applies) of small businesses will have “fully adapted” to cloud computing by 2020. While this may not be news to an agent on the street like yourself, the study identifies four types of adopters (the report calls them “personas”) with distinct needs. Whatever you call them, these four profiles will dominate your cloud sales activity in the future:

Plug-in Players

Plug-in players are prime targets for the “focus on your own business” value proposition. These are companies that use the cloud to outsource basic business functions (e.g., accounting, marketing, HR) while they focus on “mission-critical” operations.

Hives

Hives represent business opportunities served well by solutions like the Contact Center for TelePacific Hosted PBX solution we rolled out last month. These are small, virtual businesses or teams sewn together by cloud applications.

Head-to-Headers

These are the giant slayers (or would-be giant slayers) that leverage technology to compete directly with larger corporations. With plugin-services and other smart platforms, these entrepreneurial types hold the potential to shake up some industries the way dot-coms overturned travel businesses in the 1990s. (Think: Uber or AirBnB.)

Portfolioists

Portfolioists are simply freelancers. Through cloud technologies, they can attract and manage more work from more sources without having to scale up or establish hard facilities while they do so.

If you’re looking at this list and thinking that many customers have more than one of these angles at play, and they’re likely to evolve from one type to the other with business success, you’re not alone. We see it, too. But these “personas” offer a starting point for customer categorization and, more importantly, some talking points for sales activities.

Perhaps more importantly, this wide range of cloud-adoption personas will help to drive greater demand for devices that relying on cloud connectivity to function, which in turn drives greater cloud demand.   And we are starting to see forecasts based on this cycle.   For example, new Gartner data forecasts that Chromebook sales will triple by 2017, largely on greater cloud adoption.

All things cloud are fluid, but we’re reaching the stage where even broad-based adopters are being grouped by purchasing driver and business need, and devices dependent upon constant cloud access are taking a foothold in the marketplace. As an independent agent, these developments suggest very strong cloud adoption in your client base for the balance of this decade. Make sure you get your fair share…

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Geared for Expansion and Efficiency…Yours

This year, you’ve heard a lot from us about the philosophy that underpins our ‘Three Cs” value proposition of connectivity, cloud and continuity. When we talk about developing and delivering services under these umbrellas, and freeing you up to focus on your business instead of ours, we are making a commitment that, to us, is deeper than just being a service provider. We’re methodically developing products – both individually and in compatible product sets – that are designed not only to take away many of your IT and telecom burdens, but to deliver technology-based solutions that can give you a competitive edge.

For example, we deliver the marketplace’s only true ‘Ethernet ecosystem’ solution because to us, Ethernet everywhere means everywhere you have locations, not just everywhere we happen to have fiber. This is not a trivial difference between TelePacific and our competitors—70 percent of commercial buildings in the country do not have access to fiber connections. So, while we have Ethernet-over-fiber for your locations near fiber centers, we also have developed Ethernet-over-copper, Ethernet-over-TDM and Ethernet-over-Fixed-Wireless solutions for all of your other locations. Our Ethernet product set is built around you, not us.

It’s with this philosophy in mind that we are introducing Contact Center for TelePacific Hosted PBX. Just as our Ethernet ecosystem’s approach to anywhere, multiple ways to connectivity frees you from the constraints of fiber availability to access market-leading services, Contact Center frees you from the geographical restraints that come with running your own contact centers. It reduces the need for office space, letting operators work remotely and enabling them to respond instantly to fluctuating call volumes from different offices, their homes or other remote locations – a capability that can remove the need to staff a boiler room operation or outsource service overseas. Since Contact Center with integrated call queuing is instantly scalable via an easy-to-use user interface, you can turn call demand responsiveness into an effective, just-in-time process that maximizes the use of our resources while enabling consistent customer responsiveness.

Here are the “with you in mind” advantages of Contact Center:

Savings: Since Contact Center is cloud-based, it offers a much lower total cost of ownership than premise-based solutions. There are no equipment, software or integration costs, which delivers savings right up front but also through the elimination of ongoing maintenance costs. And if you factor in the potential office space savings that Contact Center can deliver (location routing, remote workers, etc.), the potential economic benefits far exceed the direct costs associated with the technology itself. It’s truly a next-generation solution.

Scalability: You can turn up agents instantly, giving you increased power over your operation’s scale— not just for dealing with spikes in call volume, but the ability to grow your own business operations with unprecedented flexibility.

Reliability: Since Contact Center is a TelePacific solution, it’s backed by carrier-grade reliability and redundancy that far exceeds premise-based solutions. In fact, because calls can be rerouted during office outages, Contact Center delivers redundancy to your own operations as well.

These are just a few of the benefits of Contact Center. Your TelePacific account representative will contact you to detail all the ways this innovative new product can help you stay ahead of your competition.

 

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Three Reasons the Cloud will Dominate Your Company’s IT Future

We’ve been talking an awful lot about cloud services lately, and there’s good reason for that. You’re our customer and we don’t want you to fall behind in competitiveness under our watch. Cloud is so important to your future, in fact, that we made it one of our three service pillars (the “three Cs” of cloud, connectivity and continuity) and developed a services platform comprised the most rock-solid, reliable cloud services in the market.

We must confess, however, that this was more about forward-looking strategy than a leap of faith. Many signs point to a cloud services future. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Here are three trends pointing to why the cloud will dominate your company’s IT future, and why you should be adopting today:

1. Your company’s using the cloud more than you realize. This isn’t the first time we’ve pointed this out, but new information from cloud analytics firm Netskope reveals that IT departments are unaware of most instances of cloud adoption in their firms. The odds are very high that at least one cloud application somewhere in your business (and probably more), has become an essential component in a vital business process.

2. Your competitors are using the cloud already. If it’s happening in your firm, it’s happening with your competitors. The question is who’s going to get their arms around cloud adoption first, eliminate redundancies and develop best practices in order to gain competitive advantage. As your supplier and business partner, we’re rooting for you to ride the wave rather than paddling along behind and trying to catch up.

3. Tablet adoption is off the charts. Apple has a knack for getting in the last laugh. When the iPad was released, the jokes ranged from “It’s an iPhone without a phone that’s too big for your pocket” to whether or not it was named after a feminine hygiene product. Apple, many believed, had finally made a misstep. Now, just four years after its launch, the tablet market (in which the iPad is the tip of the spear) is the fastest growing technology in history, according to IDC. Tablets are tailor made for the cloud and remote applications, and with them on pace to start outselling PCs in the year 2017, demand cloud services in all enterprises – including your own – will increase significantly as more and more employees become tablet adopters.

Your success is important to us and we make it easy to get your arms around your cloud services. Call one of our specialists today.

 

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Summer of Loyalty – SMB Marketing Tips

Summer presents ripe opportunities for building summer loyalty.  The SBA offers some tried-and-true SMB marketing tips (see the sidebar) but we’ve got a few tips and tweaks of our own to wrap around them.

Sidebar: SBA Tips for Summer Marketing

1. Participating in summer festivals and fairs to build your brand and attract new customers.

2. Take your customers out. From golf and sporting events to winery tours and chartered fishing boats, the summer presents all kinds of opportunities to reward your most important customers.

3. Take your business on the road. This doesn’t work for all businesses, but if you’ve got a food business or appropriate retailer, you can follow your customers to vacation spots and sporting events.

4. Summer contests. If you serve up food, consider eating contests or cook-offs.  If you’ve got a landscaping business, launch a “worst yard” contest for a free landscaping makeover.  If you run pet stores or groomers or veterinary hospitals, organize pet shows with prizes.  You get the idea – find something relevant to your business and make it fun.

5. Dress up your website. Many businesses decorate their websites for the holidays. Why not add some summer graphics to keep your image relevant and in sync with your customers?

* Note:  Some of these activities require licenses, permits and other legalities.  Make sure your paperwork is in order.

Our Tips for Summer Marketing

1. Give the gift of giving. We know what you’re thinking – if you host a customer appreciation event, you’re already giving back to your customers.  No argument there. But summer is the season of fun and high spirits, and research demonstrates that nothing makes people happier than helping others. And doing so doesn’t mean that you have to choose between marketing and giving. Cook-off proceeds can go to a local soup kitchen, pet shows at your veterinary hospital can benefit the local shelter, and so on. These simple tweaks to promotion plans can turn your customers into partners and build employee morale while you’re at it. Plus, you’re a “people.” You’ll feel great about it, too.

2. Treat key customers like they’re key customers. Here’s an old-school method that consultants specializing in customer retention use to help executives gain perspective on the true value of their large customers: Take your ten largest customers, calculate their annual spend with your company and then multiply that by 10, assuming your goal is to hold those customers for at least a decade. When you have that number, ask yourself this: What are you doing to keep those customers, representing that level of spend, satisfied? The answer’s usually “not enough.”  An exercise like this can put’s tickets to the game, a day on the golf course or a fishing trip on a chartered boat in a different light.

3. Show, don’t tell. In recent years, customer satisfaction surveys have become a marketing tactic – a method for communicating to customers that a company cares what its customers think. And with this shift in focus from inbound intelligence to outbound communications, customers have become numb to survey requests. You can break through the noise by sharing survey results while detailing how your company is responding to customer feedback, and summer customer loyalty or marketing events offer prime opportunities to maximize the reach of those efforts.

4. Remind customers of your value proposition. Sometimes, seasonal promotions become so much about the season than the company or the offer.  Make sure you keep your own brand and value proposition up front. Using our own company as an example, we might point out that by letting us take care of your connectivity, cloud and continuity requirements, you have more time to focus on your company’s core business activities, like planning summer marketing and customer loyalty programs. (Yeah, we really did just slip that in there…)

5. Get testimonials. Whether you’re pursuing marketing campaigns, customer loyalty programs or both this summer, you’ll have prime opportunities to get customer testimonials while they’re happy. Keep your smartphone handy.

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