Cloud computing’s rapid gain in popularity has created certain challenges for the community of users that are considering adopting cloud technology, and also for the companies that are developing and delivering cloud services technology. From the user’s perspective, perhaps the greatest challenge is negotiating service level agreements that fairly represent both parties, have measurable performance criteria, are understandable, and that contain recourse if and when service delivery or other (i.e. security breach) issues arise.
From the standpoint of the cloud service provider, their concerns include the legal challenges of protecting and distributing data - sometimes across international boundaries, developing their applications and services within a set of guidelines that are also understood by sub-contractors and other delivery partners, and providing service delivery that remains within confines of the legal infrastructure of the lands in which they operate or deliver services.
If it’s been over three years, you’re in a good position to reap big benefits, including reducing your monthly expense, improving employee and customer satisfaction, your business’s image, and overall productivity.
Voice and messaging applications are the “other” set of applications that often get ignored by small and mid-sized businesses as the focus is more often on the data software and application set supporting the business.
However, when you consider that communication is the basis for virtually any business activity, and that voice and messaging applications are the backbone of communication, it’s understandable that you can reap considerable benefit from a review and tune up of the application stack and carrier services that support voice and messaging for your business.
Changing technology can be daunting for small business owners. Take the case of the business owner who’s eyeing all of the ‘improved benefits’ of the latest and greatest information technology – it was cloud computing they were considering. They had that sense of euphoric excitement thinking about how wonderful life would be for them and their employees when the new systems were in use.
But during the installation, the first signs of trouble appeared.
When and why does it make sense for small and mid-sized companies to get independent perspective when there are internal staff that profess knowledge about an area of technology being considered? Here’s a real life example of what can happen.
Ever heard conflicting views about the value of IT in business? This might shed some light for you.
I just finished reading the Forrester Consulting report "The Business Technology Value Scorecard" published in September 2013, for which 19 different chief information officers (CIO), chief financial officers (CFO), and chief marketing officers (CMO) of various enterprises were interviewed. There was significant difference between the perspectives of the technologist (the CIO) and the business leader (the CFO and CMO). For example:
Productivity in the workplace is a much different thing now than it was 10 years ago. We have the potential to accomplish so much more in a short period of time, but also have more distractions than ever before. Technology and electronics can be part of the solution and part of the problem.
We are all looking for ways to stay organized and do more in less time. Finding apps that help us accomplish that could be a full time venture in and of itself. We've done some investigation - here are three to set and track your goals.
Goal setting has long been an important part of effective business management, and now it is easier than ever to create, track, and monitor goals. There are a huge number of goal setting apps available today, but not all of them are effective. The best applications provide a system of task management, organization, and tracking accomplishments. Here are a few of our favorites:
Viruses, data interception, malware and spyware have long been issues for computers and computer-based devices, and smartphones are no exception. The number of potential threats to your device increases each day. It is extremely important to be protected, even if you only use your phone for basic things such as making calls and checking email.
Strong passwords are an essential part of using technology. An amazing amount of sensitive information is now located on computers and other electronic devices, and it makes sense to protect this data. Using passwords that cannot be cracked will greatly reduce your risk of data theft.
The most basic first step to protecting your technology network is to get a firewall, and password-protect it. The very first thing a network attacker (human or virtual) will do is scan your network for open ports. If an open port is found, your network and everything on it can and probably will be accessed. A firewall prevents this by closing any port that does not need to be open.
How do you use your smartphone? Are you aware of its capabilities? Many smartphone users simply do not know how powerful these small machines are. If you use your phone for business, you can save time and increase productivity by taking advantage of some of our favorite applications. Here are our top four must-have apps for business users.
Where Do We Go From Here?
During these difficult economic conditions, business owners I talk with have made deep cuts in expenses. On the flip side, many I've talked with recently are struggling with how to grow revenue; they feel they've cut expenses as deeply as possible, and now must sell their way out of the situation.
Information technology (IT) either disappears into the background, because it's always working well, or it comes at you in a disruptive fashion. Hearing an employee say "The server's down", or "I can't get to the Internet", or "I think my PC has a virus", can cause business owners to cringe.
Hopefully, you're not worrying about "When did we last do a backup of our critical data?" or "I wonder if we have a working firewall on our network?".
During a presentation to small and mid-sized business owners this past week, I had a question that caught me unaware, and ultimately, I'm concerned that the audience didn't get my best response. The business owner who asked the question was concerned about risk to their data. My mistake was focusing on what was happening technically, and not answering the question directly.
Have you heard anything like the following?
"The server needs to be upgraded, we can't easily control document versions for pricing and proposal templates, we think some of our employees are using pirated software, and some of our PC users have slow machines or machines that lock up and need to be restarted. Our IT support person helps us on an hourly basis, but we're not confident they have a strategic perspective, and they seem intent on selling us more hardware and software."
In July 2009, Information Week published the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) definition of cloud computing as part of an article that confirms "...a growing number of federal agencies are plugging into the cloud."
The article defines cloud computing as "A model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction."; in other words, easy access to applications and IT infrastructure, without a lot of hardware, software, or service provider overhead.
The current economic climate has caused growth in unified communications (UC) deployments (ref. Information Week, September 2009 "6 Tips for Optimizing UC Adoption" by Jim Koniecki); reasons being that a correctly-implemented UC project can realize rapid return on investment and essentially fund itself.
So what is UC and how can it help business owners? Essentially, UC incorporates or "unifies" elements of phone systems, video conferencing, instant messaging, mobile telephones, data communications networks, and IT systems. But, that's technical jargon.
What's the Buzz About?
Using PCs and PC Servers for personal and business productivity is nothing new. What is changing is how small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are saving money using those machines differently.
Total cost of ownership (TCO) for PCs and PC servers is comprised of:
In the current economy, businesses with a viable web strategy for sales/marketing have posted 26% increases in revenue (year to year periods). The way they're doing it is by integrating CRM, email marketing, contact management, and web presence (read web sites). Businesses going through merger and/or acquisition are faced with integrating two often-different, and sometimes outdated IT infrastructures. There's a play available to accomplish both goals.
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