TelePacific Blog: Telecommunications Insights

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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Why Mobility-Enabled Sales Teams Perform Better

The ability to connect and enable mobile and remote employees often is seen as a way to boost productivity, enhance communications or even just to make the employee work experience more flexible and enjoyable. In one area of operations, however, mobile enablement is becoming an absolute necessity; and it’s an area of the business that most companies simply cannot afford to handicap: sales.

A recent survey from Aberdeen Group found that nearly two-thirds of companies’ sales teams members are now primarily remote workers. What’s more, the research shows that mobility enabled sales teams achieve stronger performance around quota attainment, customer retention and forecasting accuracy, as well as other common sales metrics.

Among companies that support sales mobility, for example, 76 percent report total team attainment of sales quotas. That number falls to 53 percent among all other companies. And whereas 39 percent of non-mobilized sales reps report to achieving sales quotas, more than half (56 percent) of reps working for companies that support sales mobility regularly hit sales quota. Sales forecasting accuracy, meanwhile, is achieved by 61 percent of firms that have adopted mobile selling practices versus 44 percent of those that haven’t, show Aberdeen figures.

“The overall takeaway here is that while companies are highly varied in their depth of sales mobility deployment, those with best performance – around quota attainment, lead conversion effectiveness and customer loyalty – lead the way with ‘anywhere, anytime’ sales enablement,” argues Peter Ostrow, vice president and research group director for Aberdeen.

Some 92 percent of sales teams surveyed by Aberdeen now have access to email on their handheld devices. But true mobile sales enablement is about much more than a smartphone connected to a Web mail server. Indeed, companies now realize that reps or account managers seeking to educate, influence and close a deal should have any and all content, communications or data that they may need in the palm of their hands, regardless of how the on-site meeting, conversation or pitch progresses, argues Ostrow. Today’s frontline sellers succeed most often when they not only have their presentations and content mobilized but also can readily achieve Web-based and secure data, as well as communicate in real-time with colleagues and partners, he continues.

This can include checking inventory, obtaining manager’s approval, confirming credit terms, asking for help in negotiations and accessing marketing or other content assets, as well as shipping and logistics information, sales forecasting and commissioning. Essentially, mobile sales enablement means “duplicating the same systems they use within the office to ‘seal a deal’ and service accounts,” says Ostrow, all the while ensuring that there are no losses in security and privacy.

The good news for businesses is the tools to enable sales staff mobility – from MPLS VPNS to mobile devices and plans to mobile email to hosted PBX to applications such as Lync and SharePoint – increasingly are at their disposal. And in the case of TelePacific, all those tools are provided and managed by a single carrier and invoiced on one monthly statement.

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4 New Marketing P’s

The original marketing mix introduced many decades ago included four P’s (price, product, promotion and place), a list of ingredients that marketing professionals needed to pay attention to in order to ensure that their product succeeded.

Now that customers have infinite choices in a connected economy and they get to control the conversation, branding strategist Bernadette Jiwa insists that we need to consider four different P’s in a new marketing mix:

  • Purpose: Not what you do, but why you do it. What’s the reason your company exists? Bringing a product to market isn’t enough.
  • People: Who you serve not what you sell. Crafting your intention around the difference your product or service will make in the lives and stories of your customers.
  • Personal: Becoming more relevant and significant to those people. How you make them feel about themselves in the presence of your brand is what matters, more than how they feel about your product.
  • Perception: Being believed and believed in, not just noticed. What your customers believe about you far outweighs anything you tell them to think. Don’t just seek to find holes in the market or to gain mindshare. Set out to fill a void in people’s lives.

Concludes Jiwa: “Sixty five years ago the focus was dominance. More was the shortcut to becoming an unbeatable Goliath in the marketplace. Today the shortcut to more is to matter.”

Jiwa, author of the recently published Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 keys to a great brand story and why your business needs one, is a protégé of marketing guru Seth Godin. Her blog and Amazon bestsellers focus largely on the need for companies to tell engaging stories and project meaningful visions that resonate with buyers.

The Dollar Shave Club is a great example of what Jiwa is evangelizing. Check out the video on the company’s homepage. Its tone is humorous and unserious, but the meaning and value of the company’s product comes through loud and clear while entertaining the viewer.

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