TelePacific Blog: Telecommunications Insights

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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Shadow IT Purchasing Much Larger Than You Realize

Here’s a sobering thought for you and your IT department: There’s a good chance that you are aware of only a small fraction of the cloud use in your company. You know those moments when you discover that your special projects manager or head of accounting has adopted an awesome new cloud solution that’s organized your data or improved productivity or reporting? These are serendipitous moments for business owners and managers – employees finding and adopting solutions that make your company better. But what if you learned that there are many, many more of those applications in use than you realize, and many are redundant or out of compliance?

Cloud analytics firm Netskope has released statistics revealing that these situations happen far more than anyone realized.  Ten times more. You read that right. Statistically speaking, for every cloud instance you or your IT department is aware of, another nine exist.

This means that your company probably has redundant storage and file sharing services. If you have multiple locations, you may (in fact, probably, if you’re like the companies in the study sample) have different HR applications in different offices, and some may not be in compliance. And your company may have multiple backup services. And varied levels of security. And…you get the picture. There are lots of “ands” in this particular equation. When it comes to the cloud, there really can be too much of a good thing. Here are some tips for getting your arms around your firm’s cloud adoption.

1. Perform an audit. Get every employee a form or a link to an online survey and figure out which apps they’re using. Make sure you capture apps they may use personally but are sharing in the business environment.

2. Take this list and organize it into applications categories so you can easily identify redundancies.

3. Establish best-of-breed applications and organize migration to common apps and platforms.

4. Look for multiple accounts of the same application and consolidate them under one master account to leverage bulk discounts.

5. Establish cloud adoption policies to curb future fallout from shadow IT purchasing.

Keep in mind that potential confusion and chaos in cloud adoption is why we rolled out our TelePacific Cloud Solutions Suite.  We’ve tackled core cloud solutions in the same way we tackled the telecom space – with customer-centered solutions that put the burden of operations on us so you can focus on your business.  From hosted exchange and data protection to server backup and collaboration tools, we provide you with a single-source solution that takes care of many of your core business needs.  Contact us today for a free cloud services assessment.

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Worried the Target Breach Could Happen to Your Company? Easy Tips for Shoring Up Your Defenses

2013 may go down in history as the year of the breach.  Major security breaches started in June with Edward Snowden leaking NSA files that, in turn, revealed how much private data was accessed by NSA surveillance programs.  In October, a security breach at Adobe exposed three million credit cards and user data from tens of millions of Adobe customers, including names, email addresses and passwords.  Of course, the granddaddy of all breaches happened in October, when hackers penetrated Target’s network and obtained 40 million debit card and credit card numbers and 70 million records of personal information, including names addresses and mobile phone numbers.

If these events have you thinking about your company’s digital security strategy, you’re not alone.  Executives across the country are focusing on security measures to protect company and customer data.  As the old adage claims, no system is foolproof, but there are some steps you can take right now to beef up your company’s security and sleep better at night.  Below are some cyber security tips based on security guidelines from the FCC:

1.  Train employees in security principles.   Establish security policies including strong passwords, Internet usage guidelines, rules for handling customer information and vital data, and penalties for violating your cyber policies.

2.  Limit public Internet exposure.  Educate your clients on the limitations of offerings riding over the public Internet.  Draw a clear picture of the tradeoffs between price and security so they can make informed choices by considering connectivity options like MPLS, VPLS and EPL as well as  hosted private cloud and continuity solutions.

3.  Protect information, computers and networks from cyber attacks.*  Keep machines clean and security software up to date.  Make sure you’re using the best possible defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats and always scan your systems immediately after security software updates.

4.  Provide firewall security for your Internet connections.*  Makes sure firewalls are installed and operational. If you have remote workers, make sure their home systems have firewall protection.

5.  Create a mobile device action plan.  Mobile devices often contain confidential information or can access corporate networks.  Users should be required to protect devices, encrypt data and install security apps to protect information when phones and smart devices are connected to public networks.  Establish reporting procedures for lost and stolen devices.

6.  Back up vital information.  Establish regular backup routines to automatically back up all computer data.  When the FCC released these guidelines in 2012, they suggested at least weekly backups.  Today, daily backups are the standard.  Make sure you store backup copies offsite or in cloud solutions, such as TelePacific’s RemoteStor, which is compliant with SEC Rule 17a-4, 21CFR Part 11, HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, DoD 5015.2 and other regulations that require off-site backup.

7.  Control physical access to computers and create user accounts for each employee.  Don’t let unauthorized users access company computers, even if they ask to simply check their email accounts or Facebook pages.   Lock up laptops, tablets and other easily stolen equipment, and require all users to have their own accounts with strong passwords and other security measures.  Limit administrative privileges to trusted IT personnel.

8.  Secure Wi-Fi Networks.  Password-protect access to your Wi-Fi routers and make sure they are not broadcasting your Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs) / network names.

9.  Employ Best Practices On Payment Cards.  Work with banks and merchant processors to ensure you’re always using the best and most trusted fraud protection programs and equipment.  Isolate payment systems from less secure programs and never use the same computer to process payments and surf the Internet.

10. Limit employee access to data and limit authority for software installation.*  No employee should be able to access all systems, and system access should be limited only to those systems necessary for an employee do his/her job.  No employee should be allowed to install software without permission from the IT department.    

11.  Passwords and authentication.  Employee passwords should be unique and should change every three months.  The same should apply to suppliers with access to your networks (and they should only have access to what they absolute need to in order to fulfill their commitments to you).  Consider multifactor authentication that requires more information than a password to gain access to software, hardware and networks.

* No company can completely free you from all of your security requirements, but we relieve you of far more of the burden than other connectivity, cloud and continuity providers with our market-leading OneSecure continuity and security solution. OneSecure delivers firewall protection, a active intrusion protection system (IPS), gateway antivirus, web content filtering, spam filtering and VPN services so you can spend less time on security and more time growing your business.  Check out our OneSecure demo here.

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Consumer Devices Using Employer Networks Will Double In 2 Years

Information technology professionals expect the number of personal smart phones and tablets accessing their networks to more than double in the next two years, according to a recent survey by CDW. Looking ahead, nine out of 10 IT professionals expect the growth of personal mobile devices to present a broad set of challenges and have major impacts on their organizations’ networks including:

- Increased bandwidth requirements (63%)
- Increased server requirements (44%)
- Increased network latency (39%)
- Increased storage requirements (37%)

Core messaging applications (email, text, voicemail) are the most important end user functions to be supported, the study concluded. Accessing organizational data was viewed as key by about 47 percent of survey participants, illustrating the importance of content consumption from mobile devices.

At the same time, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for organizations to support the mobile devices that employees are using to access corporate content. We offer Mobile Device Manager to help make that easier. Moreover, as a full service communications provider and single point of contact, we’re doing everything we can to simplify the management of your entire telecom infrastructure so you can focus on your business.

Indeed, your business priorities are behind our entire approach to “Connectivity, Cloud and Continuity.” More than a mantra, it is embodied by a robust suite of telecom solutions designed to provide you with the access anywhere abilities and assurances you need to compete and succeed in today’s ever-changing and any-everything environment.

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Uptime and the Bottom Line

If your company is similar to most small to mid-sized business today, its employees have experienced the sense of loss and helplessness when a network or important application temporarily “goes down.” Even if a company hasn’t suffered a total network outage, it’s easy to understand how even just email being down for as little as an hour can negatively impact customer service, hamper internal communications or halt a project altogether. Even more stressful is when outages happen right before that important deadline.

While employees must deal with the stress and anxiety of an outage, the company overall feels the bite in the bottom line. According to a recent report from Aberdeen Group, for instance, the average cost of downtime for the typical mid-sized company (with revenues between $50 million and $1 billion) is a whopping $215,638 per hour. For smaller companies with revenue of less than $50 million, the damage is significantly less but still a significant $8,581 per hour of downtime, on average.

Counted as a combination of labor costs and revenues lost, those numbers grow even more daunting when considering that the poorest performing companies of any size, when it comes to business continuity and disaster recovery efforts, averaged 3.92 downtime events during the past 12 months and each event lasted an average of 17.82 hours, show Aberdeen figures. It adds up to nearly $600,000 a year for a small business.

On the bright side, investments being made to ensure or improve business continuity and disaster recovery (BC-DR) are providing an encouraging return. Whereas the average amount of downtime per event for BC-DR adoption laggards was nearly 18 hours, businesses that have successfully deployed BC-DR capabilities experienced average downtime per event of 0.16 hours. And while laggards experienced nearly four events during the past 12 months, best-in-class adopters experienced just 0.56 events.

“Reducing the number of these events is the most important performance metric that can be measured,” writes Robert Brady, research director, IT infrastructure for Aberdeen and the study’s author.

The length of time it took laggards to recover from their most recent downtime event was a stressful 27.11 hours, compared to 1.13 hours for leading adopters of BC-DR solutions and resources.

What’s more, the study found that 43 percent of those best-in-class organizations reported a decrease of more than 90 percent in downtime events, while 20 percent experienced no downtime events since implementation. Companies across the board also enjoyed shorter durations per downtime and increases in critical application availability after a BC-DR implementation. Leading adopters enjoyed a 33 percent increase in critical app availability, while average performers saw a substantial increase of 20 percent in availability, as well.

Considering the price businesses pay for downtime, those reductions can represent a substantial chunk of hard savings. And with the help of TelePacific’s suite of BC-DR solutions, companies can put those dollars right back into the bottom line.

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