Category Archives: Technology

Useful SaaS Tools For Marketers

Useful SaaS Tools For Marketers

SaaS Tools For Marketers

Growth hacking really isn’t much more than a modern form of marketing, but with the renewal of the designation comes a few other significant changes. For starters, growth hackers are more often found in startups with small budgets and big ideas. Since startups are typically high-risk organizations with the potential for prodigious growth, growth hacking tools (extensive list) are often viewed as performing tremendously effectively, particularly when contrasted with the low costs involved. Of course, the flip side is that ineffective tools aren’t given a second thought, are simply disregarded, and tend not to affect the positive opinion of the growth hacking arena. Fortunately, the confidence in these new age marketing tools has encouraged a better breed of amenities which are developing the marketing framework of every organization bold enough to advance. Here’s a look at some of the top tools for a few principal marketing fields.

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Generating Leads & Growing Your Customer Base

Optimizely

Increase customer engagement and interaction through this experimentation platform. By keeping track of the changing behaviors of your customers, it’s possible to increase revenue, better engage customers through captivating experiences, and charm loyal users. Optimizely makes it possible to accomplish a host of site optimizations in just a few minutes and offers a free trial to get you started.

Bounce Exchange

Using Exit Intent technology, Bounce Exchange helps you grab visitors as they leave with invitations that help “turn abandoning visitors into valuable customer.

KISSmetrics

For real customer information that connects data to real users, KISSmetrics lets you track and analyze customer behavior for a higher visitor to customer conversion rate. Easy to set up and with a free trial to get you hooked.

Increasing Traffic & Participation

Colibri.io

Helping businesses find opportunities on social networks and in search engines, Colibri.io offers a free trial to assess their value before agreeing to one of their paid plans. This smart tool helps organizations seek out conversations about their brand, products, services or competitors, and through participation in Google-crawled places boosts SEO and brand positioning.

Twilighter

A free tool for product promotion, Twilighter encourages the sharing of content for increased visitors to your site. Site visitors can easily highlight content and immediately share via Twitter without any hassle. And let’s be realistic, in today’s world of automated apps and low attention spans, you’ve got to keep it effortless. As a bonus, Twilighter highlights the most popular content on your site for new visitors.

Automate Your Marketing

Infusionsoft

All-in-one automated sales and marketing software that helps organizations stay in touch and follow up automatically via social marketing and email. Infusionsoft promises increased leads, greater conversion rates, and better management of sales processes.

Email Marketing

ListBuilder

A free plugin that makes the acquisition of email subscribers quick and easy, ListBuilder works on both desktop and mobile, integrates with services like MailChimp, and provides ‘smart popup mode’ prompts for discreet email collection.

MailChimp

A popular email marketing tool that lets you send targeted emails based on site activity, provides optimal send time recommendations based on past performance, and segments your mailing list. With e-commerce integration and a host of features that help businesses thrive, MailChimp is definitely worth a look.

Research & Feedback

Qualaroo

Putting analytics to use, Qualaroo makes it easy to survey site visitors for qualitative information that gives a better picture of who your customers are and what they want. Available for both desktop or mobile visitors.

Olark

Connect with site visitors through the Olark chat application. You’ll know who’s on your site, where they’re located, and what they have and are looking at on your website so as to connect with them in the most meaningful way. Integration with major CRMs and handy customization features round off this choice tool nicely.

Just the very tip of the modern marketing tools iceberg; if you can imagine it, someone’s probably developed the tool you need… and many others you haven’t yet conceived.

By Jennifer Klostermann

The Next Wave of Cloud Computing: Artificial Intelligence?

The Next Wave of Cloud Computing: Artificial Intelligence?

Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence

Over the past few years, cloud computing has been evolving at a rapid rate. It is becoming the norm in today’s software solutions. Forrester believes that that cloud computing will be a $191 billion market by 2020. According to the 2016 State of Cloud Survey conducted by RightScale, 96% of its respondents are using the cloud, with more enterprise workloads shifting towards public and private clouds. Adoption in both hybrid cloud and DevOps have gone up as well.

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The AI-Cloud Landscape

So where could the cloud computing market be headed next? Could the next wave of cloud computing involve artificial intelligence? It certainly appears that way. In a market that is primarily dominated by four major companies – Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM – AI could possibly disrupt the current dynamic.

In the past few years, there has been a surge of investment in AI capabilities in cloud platforms. The big four (Google, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM) are making huge strides in the AI world. Microsoft is currently offering more than twenty cognitive services such as language comprehension and analyzing images. Last year, Amazon’s cloud division added an AI service which lets people add analytical and predictive capabilities to their applications.

The current AI-cloud landscape can essentially be categorized into two groups: AI cloud services and cloud machine learning platforms.

AI Cloud Services

Example of AI cloud services involve technologies such as Microsoft Cognitive Services, Google Cloud Vision, and IBM Watson. In this type of model, organizations incorporate AI capabilities in applications without having to invest in expensive AI infrastructures.

Cloud Machine Learning Platforms

On the flip slide, there are cloud machine learning platforms. Machine learning is a method of data analysis which automates analytical model building. It enables for computers to find patterns automatically as well as areas of importance. Azure Machine Learning and AWS Machine Learning are examples of cloud machine learning platforms.

IBM and Google Making Waves

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Recently IBM and Google having been making news in the AI realm and it reflects a shift within the tech industry towards deep learning. Just last month, IBM unveiled Project DataWorks, which is supposedly an industry first. It is a cloud-based data and analytics platform which can integrate different types of data and enable AI-powered decision making. The platform provides an environment for collaboration between business users and data professionals. Using technologies like Pixiedust and Brunel, users can create data visualizations with very minimal coding, allowing everyone in the business to gain insights at first look.

Earlier this month at an event in San Francisco, Google unveiled a family of cloud computing services which would allow any developer or business to use machine learning technologies that fuel some of Google’s most powerful services. This move is an attempt by Google to get a bigger foothold in the cloud computing market.

AI-First Cloud

According to Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google, computing is evolving from a mobile-first to an AI-first world. So what would a next-generation AI-first cloud like? Simply put, it would be one built around AI capabilities. In the upcoming years, we could possibly see AI being key in improving cloud services such as computing and storage. The next wave of cloud computing platforms could also see integrations between AI and the existing catalog of cloud services, such as Paas or SaaS.

It remains to be seen whether AI can disrupt the current cloud computing market, but it will definitely influence and inspire a new wave of cloud computing platforms.

By Joya Scarlata

Where Are Your Users Learning About The Birds And The Bees Of Cloud?

Where Are Your Users Learning About The Birds And The Bees Of Cloud?

Clouding Around

Where did you learn about the birds and bees – from your adolescent peers? How did that work out for accuracy? Today it’s from peers and the Internet. The same is true for your users and the cloud with the same sometimes disastrous consequences. You’re the CIO, shouldn’t they be learning cloud from you? Stop lamenting like Rodney Dangerfield how IT gets no respect. Step up and reach out.

Cloud use is spreading rapidly but most of your users have a vague or misguided concept of what cloud really is and its promises and pitfalls. Want proof? Often quoted are Gartner’s Top Ten Cloud Myths. But that is just scratching the service. A little digging reveals lots of misconceptions about SaaS, like here and here. Even your peers on the management committee hold foggy notions of how it works but are reluctant to admit it. Instead, they echo some of the buzzwords, quote an article they read in the WSJ, etc. Let’s face it. Your firm is already pregnant with cloud. Why not take a page from what your peers do and get ahead of the curve.

Your head of HR works hard at building and executing an education program for the company’s staff. It’s designed to encompass the many different facets of management and leadership to facilitate employees’ progress. It also points out all the policies and laws that need compliance. Attendance and regular testing is mandatory and for good reason. To grow, your firm needs knowledgeable leadership and a strong culture. To stay out of trouble, employees need to understand the firm’s and society’s norms and boundaries.

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Your CFO does the same. Folks are regularly exposed and held accountable to the business metrics and methodologies used to manage and steer the enterprise. The how and why you do what you do is critical for staff to understand, if the firm is going to reach its goals. Likewise, there are a lot of regulations where compliance is essential. They range from those covering all businesses, like SOX or FCPA, to those that are industry specific, like HIPAA or Dodd-Frank.

It’s a good bet that your operations, marketing, and other functions in the company do the same: provide development and tools for success while also pointing out the guard-rails between which actions can be taken in accord with company culture and society norms.

What are you doing for IT leadership? Let’s guess. Odds are you focus on the guardrails. You teach them good passwords, how to avoid phishing emails, perform safe browsing, use corporate data on their mobile devices, etc. All worthy topics but that’s not the half of it. As the fundamentals of your business become increasingly digital they are spending buckets of money on cloud computing. Who is teaching them about cloud? Who is helping the company’s staff make good decisions and avoid bear traps in cloud?

Safe bet it is not you. SaaS vendors go right around you directly to them. Their peers and buddies during meetings and conferences buzz about the latest cloud-based tool – and it’s even free to try! You turn around and surprise, everyone is on Salesforce.com and they are asking you to link it to your old Oracle order management system.

Why not get ahead of the curve and emulate your peers. Teach your users about cloud. Give them the basics, dispel the myths and paint relevant case studies to your industry and environment. Give them the big picture, too. Cloud is pretty prominent in the press these days: all the way from how everyone can use it to how it is transforming whole industries.

NetSuite is bought by Oracle. Salesforce.com elects to use AWS. Workday announces they will use IBM’s cloud for development. Is any of this relevant for your enterprise? Why not write a short note to all users or a post on your internal social media giving your point of view? Are you too busy to write something? Send a link to an article of blog post you particularly liked.

Make yourself the “go to” guy when different parts of the company contemplate using cloud. Do it for the company and do it for you. The CIO and IT’s role are changing and you need to negotiate a difficult path. Some even predict the CIO position will disappear. Nothing is certain but wouldn’t it be better if your users viewed you as a valuable and essential member of the team?

(Originally published Oct 13th, 2016. You can periodically read John’s syndicated articles here on CloudTweaks. Contact us for more information on these programs)

By John Pientka

Three Reasons Cloud Adoption Can Close The Federal Government’s Tech Gap

Three Reasons Cloud Adoption Can Close The Federal Government’s Tech Gap

Federal Government Cloud Adoption

No one has ever accused the U.S. government of being technologically savvy. Aging software, systems and processes, internal politics, restricted budgets and a cultural resistance to change have set the federal sector years behind its private sector counterparts. Data and information security concerns have also been a major contributing factor inhibiting the adoption of new technologies such as the cloud. Keeping data on-premise has long-been considered to be the more secure option; however, ever-increasing incidents of hacking, data breaches and even cyber terrorism within government entities from the IRS to most recently, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), indicate that change is needed, and fast.

Slowly, but surely, a technology revolution is taking place within the public sector. Due in large part to the introduction of the Obama administration’s “Cloud First” policy in late 2010, the establishment of the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), a standardized approach for conducting security assessments, authorizations and monitoring for cloud technologies, as well as innovations in cloud offerings themselves, cloud adoption among federal agencies is taking off. The General Services Administration (GSA), Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), NASA, and even the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and NSA are just a few of the many agencies who have embraced cloud solutions in recent months and years. Further, with IDC’s recent Federal Cloud Forecast projecting sustained growth through 2018, the public sector is nearing its tipping point in cloud adoption.

Should this trend continue as expected, below are three reasons that cloud adoption can be the answer to close the federal government’s technology gap.

Availability of Clear Guidelines for Cloud Adoption

In the past, government agencies lacked a clear roadmap for evaluating and selecting authorized cloud providers, making it difficult for the technology to break through in the federal sector. According to the FedRAMP website, this resulted in, “a redundant, inconsistent, time-consuming, costly and inefficient risk management approach to cloud adoption.”

The introduction of FedRAMP has provided agencies with much-needed guidelines and structure to accelerate the use of cloud technology in all facets of the government. Today, cloud systems are authorized in a defined (and repeatable) three-step process: security assessment, leveraging & authorization, and ongoing assessment & authorization. Among its benefits, the federal program estimates that its framework will decrease costs by 30-40 percent and will reduce both time and staff resources associated with redundant cloud assessments across agencies.

Incentives to Focus on Cyber-Security

In October 2015, U.S. federal government CIO Tony Scott professed his support for the cloud during a Google at Work webcast, saying:

I see the big cloud providers in the same way I see a bank. They have the incentive, they have skills and abilities, and they have the motivation to do a much better job of security than any one company or any one organization can probably do.”

He’s right, and his comments represent a stark departure from the general consensus in the public sector just a few short years ago. Applying the same security measures and best practices to legacy, on-premise solutions requires both time and significant spend—both of which the government lacks. The competitive nature of the cloud business in recent years has challenged providers to adopt agile security practices, resulting in solutions that are secure, reliable and execute seamlessly. From email management systems to data storage services, continued cloud adoption at the federal-level will enable agencies to achieve long-term benefits that will eventually be impossible to achieve with on-premise systems, including advanced cybersecurity capabilities, guaranteed business continuity, as well as enhanced performance management functionality.

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Bring Greater Efficiency in IT Spending

In February 2015, the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers (IAITAM) released a report criticizing the U.S. government on its IT spending. The report suggested that while the federal government spends over six times more on IT per employee than its private sector counterpart, it also wastes 50 percent of its more than $70 billion IT budget due to a lack of standardization and controls. Combined, these factors have created a breeding ground for IT failures and exploits from threats inside and outside government walls. This is further indication that the existing status quo is inefficient and is putting the government (and U.S. citizens) at risk.

Over time, leveraging the “pay-as-you-go” model of the cloud, federal sector can decrease its IT spending, creating new efficiencies. Software and application management for example, which requires abundant resources to oversee in on-premise deployments, is virtually eliminated with a cloud-based solution. From business continuity and software maintenance to eventually, compliance and IT risk-related activities, the onus, falls on the cloud provider, not the customer. Thus, federal IT workers are freed up to focus on more mission-critical initiatives, rather than spinning wheels on inefficient technology, programs and processes.

While it will take some time before the cloud truly takes off in the federal sector, it’s hard to ignore the benefits that both the private sector and forward-thinking government agencies have seen with the technology to date. The time is now to make a change for good. If the U.S. wants to be viewed as one of the most technologically advanced nations in the world, it’s prudent that the government itself practice what it preaches, doing what’s needed to establish the country as a leader, rather than a follower, in this rapidly-evolving digital age.

By Vibhav Agarwal

The Five Rules of Security and Compliance in the Public Cloud Era

The Five Rules of Security and Compliance in the Public Cloud Era

Security and Compliance 

With technology at the heart of businesses today, IT systems and data are being targeted by criminals, competitors and even foreign governments. Every day, we hear about how another retailer, bank or Internet company has been hacked and private information of customers or employees stolen. Governments and oversight organizations are responding to these attacks with calls for tighter control and regulations, from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) beefing up its requirements for members to new proposed regulations targeting financial institutions in the State of New York. It is no wonder that as enterprises embrace the public cloud to run their critical applications, (See image) compliance remains one of the top concerns.

Biggest Barriers Holding You Back

cloud-barriers-security

Enterprises used to regard IT compliance audits and certifications, e.g., HIPAA for hospital IT systems or PCI DSS for banks and e-commerce companies, primarily from the perspective of staying on the right side of the law. But this is changing – companies across all industries are now willing to spend on IT security and compliance, not only to deal with legal requirements but also to win customer trust and ensure that they don’t make headlines for the wrong reasons.

Security and compliance in public-cloud environments are fundamentally different from private datacenter security. Old techniques and controls (e.g., connecting to physical switch TAP/SPAN ports and sniffing traffic, installing gateway firewalls at perimeters) do not work in the cloud any more. With compliance playing a key role in IT security and governance, it is important to keep a few guidelines in mind when it comes to managing public-cloud environments.

1. Start with a dose of security common sense: Common data and information security best practices lie at the heart of compliance standards such as HIPAA and PCI DSS as well as of security frameworks such as the CIS Benchmarks for Amazon Web Services (AWS). For example, compliance rulesets for cloud environments typically stipulate password policies, encryption of sensitive data and configuration of security groups. Enterprise IT and security teams would do well to incorporate these rules into their security management, irrespective of compliance requirements.

2. Remember the shared-responsibility model: Public cloud providers such as AWS follow a shared-responsibility model; they manage the security of the cloud and leave security in the cloud (environment) to the customer. These clouds have invested heavily to build security into their products and develop customer confidence. AWS has robust controls in place to maintain security and compliance with industry standards such as PCI and ISO 27001. In going from datacenters to public cloud environments, security administrators need to understand what aspects of security compliance they are responsible for in the cloud. This requires cross-functional collaboration between the operations and security teams to map the security controls in the datacenter to those in public-cloud environments.

3. Stay compliant all the time: In the software-defined world of public clouds, where a simple configuration change can expose a private database or application server to the world, there are no second chances. Enterprises are going from periodic security checks to continuous enforcement and compliance. Businesses that develop and deploy applications in clouds need to bake security and compliance checks into the development and release process. A software build that causes a security regression or does not meet the bar for compliance should not be released to a product environment. Enterprise IT needs to ensure that the tools they use for compliance monitoring and enforcement allow them to check applications for compliance before they are deployed.

4. Automate or die: Manual security and compliance processes don’t work in the dynamic, scalable world of the public cloud. When a business’ cloud environment spans hundreds or thousands of instances across accounts, regions and virtual private clouds, just the process of gathering the data required to run a compliance audit can take days or weeks, driving up the time to compliance and increasing the risk of errors. Even a team of qualified security personnel may not be able to detect vulnerabilities and respond in a timely manner. Automation is key to survival in the public cloud. It is no wonder that Michael Coates, the trust and infosec officer of Twitter, said “Automate or die. This is the biggest thing I stick by in this day and age.” In selecting the tools to manage compliance in cloud environments, enterprise IT must regard automated data aggregation, compliance checking and enforcement of security gold standards as table stakes.

5. Don’t just find it, fix it: There is an abundance of security-monitoring products in the market today that allow administrators to find security misconfigurations and vulnerabilities but do not offer the control to fix these issues. These tools are limited in scope and utility and force enterprise IT to use a patchwork of tools to manage the security and compliance lifecycle. Businesses should pick comprehensive “find it, fix it, stay fixed” platforms that do not stop at identifying issues with the environment but offer the tools required to fix them and put safeguards and controls in place to ensure that security best practices are enforced.

Public clouds are transforming the world of enterprise IT by offering unprecedented agility and a pay-as-you-grow operational model. Clouds are also changing the rules of the game for IT security and compliance management by offering new controls and capabilities. The tools and processes that served IT well in datacenter environments will not work in the public cloud. It is time for security and compliance to be transformed as well.

By Suda Srinivasan, Vice President of Growth at Dome9

suda_dome9Suda is the Vice President of Growth at Dome9, where he oversees marketing and customer growth. Prior to Dome9, Suda held a senior marketing role at Nutanix where he was responsible for defining, communicating and driving the execution of the go-to-market strategy for the company’s enterprise cloud platform. Suda is a seasoned leader with extensive experience in technology, having worked in engineering, strategy consulting and marketing roles at Nutanix, Microsoft, Coraid and Deloitte

Is Complete Cyber Security Possible?

Is Complete Cyber Security Possible?

Cyber Security Concerns

Every minute, we are seeing about half a million attack attempts that are happening in cyberspace.” – Derek Manky, Fortinet global security strategist

Pricewaterhouse Coopers has predicted that cyber security will be one of the top risks facing financial institutions over the course of the next 5 years. They have pointed at a number of risk factors, such as the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, increased use of mobile technology, and cross border data exchange, that will contribute to this ever growing problem.

Gartner has estimated that by 2020, the number of connected devices will jump from around 6.4 billion to more than 20 billion connected devices. In other words, there will be between two and three connected devices for every human being on the planet. Derek Manky of Fortinet, told CNBC that “The largest we’ve seen to date is about 15 million infected machines controlled by one network with an attack surface of 20 billion devices. Certainly that number can easily spike to 50 million or more“. So in a world where Cyber Security seems almost unattainable, is it still possible for you, or for large companies, to remain protected?

threat-cybersecurity

According to Cross Domain Solutionscomprehensive security is possible by making all security data accessible and automating security procedures”, which allows threats to dealt with in real time. They suggest an approach focused on data confidentiality, data integrity and the authenticity of users and data placeholders. Although it is theoretically possible, this is unlikely to provide total cyber security in practical situations.

The expansion and widespread adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT) has become the most pressing cyber security issue over the last 5 years. Smart phones, smart watches, smart TVs and smart homes, amongst other devices, have increased the surface area for hackers to take advantage of exponentially. This combined with the problems of perimeter security in cloud-based services, the sheer size of data collection by IoT devices, and the lack of security on many modern IoT devices, mean that complete cyber security (for businesses or individuals) will become increasingly more difficult. In a move that shocked the world earlier this year, hackers made off with tens of millions of dollars from Bangladesh’s central bank by using malware to gain access to accounts. Cyber Security is a very real issue for any business that has valuable information or assets stored digitally.

james-lewisIt has been suggested that we should focus on strategies to reduce risk that use formulas such as cyber risk = threats X vulnerabilities X consequences; thus by reducing one of the factors to zero we can achieve complete Cyber security. The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures list has more than 50,000 recorded vulnerabilities (with more added every hour), so it is almost impossible to ensure your network can deal with an incessant wall of hackers trying to get in. James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), commented recently that businesses need to stop worrying about preventing intruders from accessing their networks. They should instead be concentrating on minimising the damage they cause when they do gain access. According to the Cisco 2015 Annual Security Report, “Security is no longer a question of if a network will be compromised. Every network will, at some point, be compromised”.

Fortunately for the tech world, the same capabilities that make networks more vulnerable can help to strengthen defences as well. Financial institutions are able to utilise big data analytics to monitor for covert threats, helping them to identify evolving external and internal security risks and react much more quickly. Whilst total cyber security may not be practically possible, the technology exists for businesses to be as security conscious as they feel they want to be. Both consumers and businesses should be assigning cyber security as the highest priority.

By Josh Hamilton

SAP Digital Consumer Insight: SAP’s Data-as-a-Service Tool Helps Business Owners Know Their Customers

SAP Digital Consumer Insight: SAP’s Data-as-a-Service Tool Helps Business Owners Know Their Customers

SAP’s Data-as-a-Service Tool

There was a point not too long ago when futurologists believed that all retail would be going online, with anonymous transactions and drone deliveries meaning you would never have to leave your couch to satisfy all your shopping needs. In fact, the opposite has happened. Brick and mortar retail stores have embraced and incorporated big data, cloud computing and the internet to deliver a much-improved retail experience for business owners and consumers alike.

When Jud and Julie Soderborg opened the fashion boutique Koan in New York’s East Village, they wanted to really understand the identity and the behaviors of the people who were walking by their store, and could be potential customers. So the husband and wife team initiated a three-day data gathering project using SAP’s Digital Consumer Insight tool. They began by focusing on when foot traffic peaked and when it was at its lowest, then dug deeper to find out where people were coming from, who they were in terms of age & gender and even what sort of devices these people were using.

Peak Traffic

When they collated all the data, they discovered that the foot traffic past their location was primarily millennials from the Williamsburg / East Village area who were using Apple devices. As a result Koan was able to shape their offerings accordingly and target their marketing tone to suit the foot traffic, confident that they were appealing to the correct demographic.

You can read more of their story, as well as many more use cases here: http://digital.sap.com/sap-digital-consumer-insight-case-studies-and-use-cases

E-commerce retailers have known for a long time who their customers are, due to their ability to track their clicks and their online behavior. SAP’s Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Becher explains, “This offering does to retail stores what Web marketing has done for websites.” For example, an online retailer can track the path to purchase, the time to taken to get there and the demographics of a consumer. “What we’ve done for the first time is to take all this information that people have figured out in the digital world, and make it available to the physical world.

Where are they coming from?

The benefit of these insights can be applied in a number of ways for retailers. Everything from proximity marketing to location planning, sales strategies and campaigns will benefit from the snapshots provided by SAP Digital Consumer Insight. Through the data, retailers are striving to achieve a way of delivering a consistent, personalized product mix to customers across multiple channels that local consumers will relate to. It stands to reason that the deeper the understanding of customer behavior that there is, the easier it becomes to attract loyalty and increase the conversion rate and average basket value of purchases.

Consumers need not fear that their privacy is being violated in any way. The data which is collected and presented via Digital Insights is anonymized and aggregated, thus giving the business owner a snapshot of the traffic in the area while maintaining the privacy of the individuals.

SAP built its formidable reputation working with big businesses, but 80% of their customers are small and mid-sized so the company learned how to take what works at enterprise-level and adapt it for smaller businesses that realize how much they can benefit from actionable information.

Small business owners don’t have the time, skills or resources to build complicated data analysis systems. SAP Digital Consumer Insight is the perfect vehicle to address those concerns. Consumers can simply purchase a single data ‘Insight’ for $439.00, or they can select a bundle of five data ‘Insights’ for $1,429.00 – and begin to see their Insights instantly.

Visit the SAP Store to purchase the SAP Digital Consumer Insight package and take a massive step towards understanding who your customers are and what they need.

Sponsored spotlight series by SAP

By Jeremy Daniel

5 Ways Cloud-based Tools Can Help Accountants Escape The IT Treadmill

5 Ways Cloud-based Tools Can Help Accountants Escape The IT Treadmill

Accountant Cloud Tools

Digital tools and software have become an inseparable part of any accountant’s profession. There are software for almost every need of accountants. From managing payrolls to filing taxes, technology is able to automate them and offer a great simplicity to the accountants. Now to maintain the best of productivity and remain competent in the market, it is important for the accountants to find a solution that avails the optimum utilization of the available accounting tools. This is where cloud solutions come in handy for the accountants.

Cloud accounting or online accounting allows you to run the applications and store the accounting data on a remote server for better accessibility, agility, features and more. Here are some detailed benefits that accounting professionals can gain by switching to cloud-bases software:

  1. Streamlined Integration

The software market has a number of options to offer that need to be integrated together to deliver a reliable accounting automation. For example, a fine amalgamation of ship tracking, inventory management, CRM, ERP, and accounting software is required automate the all-end accounting of a manufacturing business. Considering that you are using the desktop version of these software, there are inevitable challenges you would be facing. Limitations of the local server resources (memory, storage, processing speed, etc.) to first of those challenges. Then on, specification necessities with Operating System and cross-compatibility factors are further hassles one needs to deal.

Accountant Cloud Tools

Going with the cloud-based accounting software allows an ease of scalability for resources as required. So, you can choose resources and upscale or downscale them as you add or remove any accounting tool. Moreover, the integration between different tools is easier as the specification requirements of the local machine don’t hold significance anymore. Self-governed version upgrades add more convenience to the integration capabilities of the cloud.

  1. Enhanced Automation

Offline software may be able to process the information and commands, once provided. However, information update is mostly a manual task with offline software, which limits the ability to pace up the processing and chances of error with the information are higher. Also, with the growth in online transaction and payment mediums, the necessity for the instant, remote, and automated update has also grown. Think about it – a sales order is received and updated on CRM, now your accounting software, banking applications, and inventory management software will have dependent actions to take. So, you will have to update them all separately.

Integrate on the same platform, and all the actions (update the sale on CRM, the books on accounting software, status on inventory tool and payment verification in banking app) can be processed automatically. This automation takes off the chances of delay and errors significantly.

  1. Better Workforce Distribution

Managing the entire accounting operations for a business or a number of clients is a herculean job and therefore, various tasks are distributed for timely and smoother actions. To and fro of the email exchange, multiple copies of the same files, limited control and tracking of the changes made by different users – these are some of the hassles that traditional accounting setups face.

Cloud-based applications have a great advantage in managing a large number of users working together. Firstly, admin holds the right to create and restrict the access of different users. Then, it also allows different users to work on the same file at the same time, even from different locations. So, the chances of file redundancy, storage limitation, and sharing hassles are nullified. At the same time, user tracking remains enabled to track which user made what changes and you can even recover changes if required. So, the task assigned to the workforce is immensely simplified and to enhance the productivity.

  1. More Secure and Reliable

As mentioned in the above section, cloud-based tools are centralized under the surveillance and control of the admin. It allows a reliable control on all users and the automated integration of different tools reduces the chances of errors and delays. But that is not all that cloud has to offer for the accounting solutions. Cloud technology rides on the automated backup and data protection advantages.

Most of the cloud-based tools enable multiple backups of the latest data to keep it available in case of any data loss – be it a manual mistake or a natural disaster. Further secured with the encryption, firewall, and other security features, it offers an impeccable environment for running accounting applications and storage of the data.

  1. There’s More Saving

The first and biggest saving that cloud introduces is that it does not require any dedicated local machines and servers to run applications. Since hardware makes one of the biggest expenses, cloud saves the significant amount. But the savings do not end with it. Cloud computing solutions save plenty on the maintenance, upgrading and other IT expenses. As most of the hardware remain with the hosting provider, its maintenance is their task. Serving a larger group of the hardware for a number of clients, the overall charges are much lower at the hosting provider’s end.

Other factors that contribute to the cost-cutting with cloud are because of reduced local infrastructure and on-the-go accessibility, which enables the modern work cultures, such as – BYOD and Work from Home. With so many of the ways available to save money, no accounting professional would like to miss on them.

Wrapping Up

Technology gifts simplicity of use even with the most complex operation. Cloud has been doing that to a number of industries. Accounting is one of the industries that adopted it quite late, but its potential is immense. Citing which the shift to cloud solutions is noticeable and still growing. If you are still not sure if the cloud is a fine choice, you are probably going to miss out on a lot of opportunities.

By Kirti Khanna

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The Internet of Things – Redefining The Digital World As We Know It

The Internet of Things – Redefining The Digital World As We Know It

Redefining The Digital World According to Internet World Stats (June 30th, 2015), no fewer than 3.2 billion people across the world now use the internet in one way or another. This means an incredible amount of data sharing through the utilization of API’s, Cloud platforms and inevitably the world of connected Things. The Internet of Things is a…

Cloud Infographic: Programming Languages To Build Your Cloud

Cloud Infographic: Programming Languages To Build Your Cloud

Programming Languages What programming languages are the building blocks to help develop and facilitate these present and future cloud platforms? Where can we learn and develop these skills in order to help us build our own careers? A couple of options would be to visit sites such as Stackoverflow which can provide you with a good source of information.…

Using Big Data To Analyze Venture Capitalists’ Ability To Recognize Potential

Using Big Data To Analyze Venture Capitalists’ Ability To Recognize Potential

Big Data To Analyze Using Big Data to Analyze Venture Capitalists’ Ability To Recognize Potential For those who are regularly involved with SMEs, venture capital, and company valuations, it is common knowledge that start-ups that exit for more than $1 billion dollars are extremely rare – often termed ‘unicorn’ companies. Despite their rarity, it should…

Cloud Infographic: IoT For Automotive Deconstructed

Cloud Infographic: IoT For Automotive Deconstructed

IoT For Automotive Deconstructed The IoT automotive industry is moving rapidly with many exciting growth opportunities available. We’ve written about some of the risks and benefits as well as some of the players involved. One thing for certain as that the auto industry is starting to take notice and we can expect the implementation of a…

Digital Marketing Hubs And The Cloud

Digital Marketing Hubs And The Cloud

Digital Market Hubs Gartner’s recently released research, Magic Quadrant for Digital Marketing Hubs, recognizes the big four marketing cloud vendors as leaders, but also points to many challengers. Adobe, Marketo, Oracle, and Salesforce inhabit the leader’s block of the Magic Quadrant, reflecting both their growing capabilities as well as marketing technology platform scopes. Gartner believes…

What the Dyn DDoS Attacks Taught Us About Cloud-Only EFSS

What the Dyn DDoS Attacks Taught Us About Cloud-Only EFSS

DDoS Attacks October 21st, 2016 went into the annals of Internet history for the large scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that made popular Internet properties like Twitter, SoundCloud, Spotify and Box inaccessible to many users in the US. The DDoS attack happened in three waves targeting DNS service provider Dyn, resulting in a total of about…

Who’s Who In The Booming World Of Data Science

Who’s Who In The Booming World Of Data Science

The World of Data Science The nature of work and business in today’s super-connected world means that every second of every day, the world produces an astonishing amount of data. Consider some of these statistics; every minute, Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content, YouTube users upload over 72 hours of content, Apple…

How Your Startup Can Benefit From Cloud Computing And Growth Hacking

How Your Startup Can Benefit From Cloud Computing And Growth Hacking

Ambitious Startups An oft-quoted statistic, 50% of new businesses fail within five years. And the culling of startups is even more dramatic, with an estimated nine out of ten folding. But to quote Steve Jobs, “I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” So while…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

Box.net, Amazon Cloud Drive The online (or cloud) storage business has always been a really interesting industry. When we started Box in 2005, it was a somewhat untouchable category of technology, perceived to be a commodity service with low margins and little consumer willingness to pay. All three of these factors remain today, but with…

Mobile Connected Technologies – The Future Of The Healthcare Industry

Mobile Connected Technologies – The Future Of The Healthcare Industry

Mobile Connected Technologies Clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities are embracing new mobile technologies in order to be more efficient in their daily tasks. With faster communication and better collaboration, clinicians can spend much less time handling medical devices and more time administering care to their patients. Industry experts are stating that mobile connected technologies…

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

How to Identify and Authenticate in the Expanding IoT Ecosystem It is a necessity to protect IoT devices and their associated data. As the IoT ecosystem continues to expand, the need to create an identity to newly-connected things is becoming increasingly crucial. These ‘things’ can include anything from basic sensors and gateways to industrial controls…

Cloud-Based Services vs. On-Premises: It’s About More Than Just Dollars

Cloud-Based Services vs. On-Premises: It’s About More Than Just Dollars

Cloud-Based Services vs. On-Premises The surface costs might give you pause, but the cost of diminishing your differentiators is far greater. Will a shift to the cloud save you money? Potential savings are historically the main business driver cited when companies move to the cloud, but it shouldn’t be viewed as a cost-saving exercise. There…

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Password Challenges  Simple passwords are no longer safe to use online. John Barco, vice president of Global Product Marketing at ForgeRock, explains why it’s time the industry embraced more advanced identity-centric solutions that improve the customer experience while also providing stronger security. Since the beginning of logins, consumers have used a simple username and password to…

Cloud Security Risks: The Top 8 According To ENISA

Cloud Security Risks: The Top 8 According To ENISA

Cloud Security Risks Does cloud security risks ever bother you? It would be weird if it didn’t. Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, but also a lot of risks if done in the wrong way. So what are the most important risks? The European Network Information Security Agency did extensive research on that, and…

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Despite Record Breaches, Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority

Secure Third Party Access Still Not An IT Priority Research has revealed that third parties cause 63 percent of all data breaches. From HVAC contractors, to IT consultants, to supply chain analysts and beyond, the threats posed by third parties are real and growing. Deloitte, in its Global Survey 2016 of third party risk, reported…

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Beacons Flopped, But They’re About to Flourish in the Future

Cloud Beacons Flying High When Apple debuted cloud beacons in 2013, analysts predicted 250 million devices capable of serving as iBeacons would be found in the wild within weeks. A few months later, estimates put the figure at just 64,000, with 15 percent confined to Apple stores. Beacons didn’t proliferate as expected, but a few…

The Fully Aware, Hybrid-Cloud Approach

The Fully Aware, Hybrid-Cloud Approach

Hybrid-Cloud Approach For over 20 years, organizations have been attempting to secure their networks and protect their data. However, have any of their efforts really improved security? Today we hear journalists and industry experts talk about the erosion of the perimeter. Some say it’s squishy, others say it’s spongy, and yet another claims it crunchy.…