Category Archives: Technology

Digital Transformation: Miracle and Wonder

Digital Transformation: Miracle and Wonder

Digital Transformation

These are the days of miracle and wonder. I’ve been leading a small, global research team at the Tau Institute for the past few years to examine the dynamics of IT adoption in more than 100 countries throughout the world. We’ve developed several indices that show how well these nations are doing on a relative basis. We ranked the nations on an overall basis, and also by region and income level. It’s fascinating stuff.

digital-transformation

Along the way, I’ve continued to write and edit articles about contemporary enterprise computing. I, for better or worse, can date myself back to the early days of the PC, the Internet, and enterprise environments from IBM, HP, DEC, and the rest.

But these are the days of miracle and wonder. It was not that long ago that Sun CEO Scott McNealy spoke of “webtone” and a “ubiquitous Internet.” It was not that long ago that I heard people like Greg Papadopoulos from Sun, Paul Saffo from The Institute of the Future, and many others speak of sprawling, sensor-driven systems. Even noted anti-progressive Larry Ellison was trying to get Oracle to grok “grid computing” a decade ago.

Today, things have come to fruition. Virtualization and cloud computing caught everyone’s eye a few years ago, and now Amazon sells perhaps $15 million of public cloud every day. Once Steve Jobs decided that a phone really could be a computer, the amount of Internet traffic from the edge produced by mobile devices has risen to fully half of all traffic. And the Internet of Things is upon us.

Newish terms are being thrown around, particularly SMAC (Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud) and the Third Platform (same thing). PaaS, said to be subsumed within IaaS last year, is now being touted as the centerpiece of the modern enterprise IT infrastructure. Do you want to distribute your information and processing in a multi-cloud environment? Are you incorporating a NoSQL database? Are you looking at containers and microservices as the way to create and deploy apps and services? All this can be done with a PaaS as the catalyst and referee.

All of these terms, concepts, and technologies are leading us down the path to Digital Transformation. That’s the big picture.

The keys to this transformation are: 

  • a widely distributed IT infrastructure with much data generated at the edges
  • data capture, collection, and processing from all imaginable sources
  • creation of local data mines and enterprise data lakes
  • near-ubiquitous data monitoring and analysis control panels and real-time reports for all organizational levels
  • ongoing, continuous software development, aka DevOps culture
  • an innovation culture that drives new products, services, and efficiencies in operations, customer experience and service, and competitiveness

Digital transformation is occurring at the national level as well as within enterprises. Our view is that those nations who are most enthusiastic about the concept will be those who make the most socioeconomic progress over the next few decades. Places as diverse as Estonia, Kenya, and Singapore are already on this path, each in their own way.

We are now, in these times of miracle and wonder, working to measure the dynamics of national digital transformation into our research, and as part of our overall IoT2040 project. Join us!

By Roger Strukhoff

Cloud Infographic – Working Toward A Positive Cloud Experience

Cloud Infographic – Working Toward A Positive Cloud Experience

Positive Cloud Experience

Cloud computing offers tremendous value to Enterprise businesses and even allows small and medium businesses to compete by providing solutions that were previously out of reach because of the cost.

Here are five ways to help you find the best cloud solutions for your business.

  • Security is one of the biggest concerns in cloud computing because you have no handle on your data. This includes the physical security of the infrastructure that holds your data. Does the vendor have contingency plans for natural disasters or even terrorist attacks? Find out how often they back up and how you can recover your data and how quickly.
  • Find out which aspect of cloud computing is best for your business. Infrastructure-as-a-service or utility computing is best if your business needs infrastructure like databases and file servers. Platform-as-a-service serves organizations that also provide some IT services to smaller clients or runs certain computing platforms in order to carry out their business processes. Software-as-a-service is best suited for small businesses that may not be able to afford all the licenses that they may need if they bought individual software packages.
  • Do an extensive audit of your business processes and determine which aspects of it are in dire need of change. Not everything needs to be changed, some things already work best in the way they already are and changing that may even be bad for productivity. So you must first find out which aspect needs to be placed on the cloud. If you are a small business without a dedicated IT department and with no resources to grow such a department, then it really makes sense to outsource your IT needs on the cloud.
  • Availability is the next question that should be asked when you have determined the computing need and are considering vendors. Will the service be available especially when you need it the most? What is their track record when it comes to availability and downtime?
  • Performance should not be left to “okay” at bestPerformance has always been an issue even when using in-house services, so why settle for less when going on the cloud? Make user that your provider is able to provide performance on top of affordability.

Below is an excellent infographic courtesy of RapidValue which highlights some interesting points for Enterprise Cloud adoption.

Enterprise-Adoption

 

By Abdul Salam

IT Security – Are YOU At Risk?

IT Security – Are YOU At Risk?

IT Security Concerns

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you don’t need to be told how important IT security and risk management is for businesses big and small. For whatever reason, many small to medium sized enterprises (SME’s) don’t seem to have gotten this memo. It’s a good thing there is a fair bit of buzz this week surrounding the RSA Conference in San Francisco with the focus on IT Security services and education.

Today, we’ve discovered an eye-opening Infographic produced by Entechus that goes into some concerning detail.

According the Infographic from Entechus:

  • 66% of SME’s have reported experiencing cyber attacks in the last 12 months.
  • 83% of these small businesses reported not having a cyber security plan.
  • Cyber attacks on SME’s have increased by 300% in the last year.
  • 1 out of 5 small businesses experiences a cyber attack each and every year.
  • 90% of SME’s don’t use data protection for company and customer information.
  • Only 20% of small businesses plan to increase their budget for IT security in 2015.

As we’ve reported in the past, even large corporations like Sony are susceptible to crackers and black hat hackers. Most recently, millions of users of Microsoft OneDrive and Uber are at risk.

From The Daily Mail UK: “Bug found in apps including Uber and Microsoft’s OneDrive is leaving MILLIONS of users vulnerable to hackers. Estimates suggest around 1,000 iPhone and iPad apps like Uber, OneDrive and Flixster are vulnerable with software called AFNetworking used by developers

One thing’s for certain, the amount of hackers with malicious intent will only continue to increase as new technology emerges. What do you think? What will it take for SME’s to catch up and realize that the time to secure all of their sensitive customer and company data is right now?

security-infographic

By Jason Sander

Considerations For Your Business’ Cloud Computing Plans

Considerations For Your Business’ Cloud Computing Plans

Your Business’ Cloud Computing Plans

While you can easily access your cloud data from any spot in the world, you must be rather cautious when using it within your business. You must keep your access plans for your cloud network in check so you will not be at risk of having your data becoming compromised at any point.

data-issue

  1. Manage your passwords the right way.

As useful as passwords can be for your cloud access needs, you must be careful when going anywhere with such passwords. In addition to having complicated or detailed passwords that are hard to predict, you must also use several passwords within your cloud. You can add different passwords for specific access points or even have different passwords for specific accounts that want to reach your cloud setup.

cloud_200

  1. Use a two-factor authentication plan.

A two-factor authentication plan can work by using two different steps in the login process. For example, you can start by working with a password. After that, you can enter in a particular PIN or other code that has been generated through something like a private email or text message. You could even use a fingerprint swipe if you’ve got a mobile device with a touchscreen and the capacity to read such a movement. Anything that adds an extra layer of authentication will always come in handy.

  1. Find the best possible encryption program for your cloud.

A good encryption program may help to scramble all data that is on you network while descrambling it when the right login standards are used. A quality 256-bit setup may be perfect for your security needs. This ensures that your data is protected and will only be read by those who have legitimately logged into your account. This is especially critical for businesses that might have sensitive bits of data on their cloud networks.

  1. Delete old files when you are done using them.

The access standards that you’ll use for individual files must be reviewed too. You must delete old files when you are done using them and you no longer have a need for them. This is to keep others who have access to your cloud setup from accessing data that may no longer be relevant or useful. While it is true that you will have an extensive amount of space to work with when storing things on the cloud, that does not mean that everything related to your business has to be there all the time.

  1. Watch for any automatic log-off features.

Try to find an automatic log-off feature on your cloud program. This feature will automatically sign a user off after the program interface or device is closed or turned off.

If this is utilized then the user will have to log back into the cloud program if the device is ever restarted or if the program was shut down or closed for any reason. This might sound inconvenient to some but it’s critical as it ensures that the program will not stay active even if it has been closed off. This is to reduce the potential for unauthorized users to get into your cloud system.

  1. Be selective about who you share your cloud access data with.

This sounds like a sensible rule of thumb but it’s one that must be emphasized. You must make sure you only share your cloud access data with those who are easy to trust and actually associated with your business. Don’t just go out there and give your cloud access information to anyone. Only let people within your business know how to log into your setup.

Your plans for cloud computing need to be explored with care. As great as it can be, you must make sure you are cautious when allowing people to access whatever you have on your cloud network.

By Sameer Bhatia

Report Indicates $8 Trillion IoT Value At Stake

Report Indicates $8 Trillion IoT Value At Stake

DHL & Cisco Tip the IoT to Give Industry $1.9tn Boost

DHL and Cisco, last week, published a joint report claiming that the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) will lead to a $1.9tn boost to their respective industries.

Both companies are currently working together on a new IoT-driven operation for supply chains and warehouse operations. The companies believe such a new innovation would be a hefty boon to their businesses, according to the report.

Internet-of-Everything

DHL, part of the Deutsche Post DHL Group, and Cisco Consulting Services make the case of embedded sensors in warehouses, stock inventory, and delivery vehicles that create a constantly monitored system, which would, in theory, improve efficiency across the board.

The report was launched at the DHL Global Technology Conference in Dubai, UAE.

The number of connected devices globally is growing, anticipated to reach 50 billion by 2020, but remains surprisingly limited, says Ken Allen, CEO of DHL Express and Board Sponsor Technology, citing figures in their report.  “There is huge potential for countries to further increase their connectedness and prosper through trade, integration and technology,” says Allen. “We believe the Internet of Things will be a primary enabler of this global transformation.”

Cisco’s economic analysis claims that the Internet of Things will generate $8tn worldwide over the next ten years. This includes the $1.9tn figure on supply chains and logistics mentioned above. Other areas include revenue, enhanced customer experience, and improving employee productivity with the Internet of Things.

IOT-Value

Internet of Things sensors and automated technologies could be used in every step of the shipping and deliveries industries from tracking stored and moved shipments to smarter inventory management in warehouses.

Meanwhile in transportation, businesses could track the movement of goods and schedule maintenance more efficiently for faster deliveries for the customer, says the report. “This report clearly demonstrates that digitization and the IoT will deliver long term efficiencies and growth opportunities across a wide range of industries,” said Ciscos’ EMEAR president, Chris Dedicoat.

It won’t be easy by the looks of things though. Industries will need to fully understand every aspect of the value chain and how it can be improved for the most efficient results.

Investing in Internet of Things

Markus KückelhausFurthermore, businesses will need to be open to investing in the Internet of Things for the future and for long term business, according to vice president of innovation and trend research at DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation, Markus Kückelhaus (Seen in image).

To get the maximum global economic benefit, we’ll need to understand how all components in the value chain converge and this will require a comprehensive collaboration, participation and the willingness to invest to create a thriving IoT eco system for sustainable business processes. The new Trend Report is another step towards making sure DHL delivers the benefits of IoT to our customers” said Kückelhaus, DHL and Cisco’s report breaks the use of Internet of Things technology into two distinct parts – sense and sense making. Sense refers to the monitoring and tracking of assets while sense making is the separate field of wrapping your head around the massive amounts of data that will be produced.

The time is right to leverage this data, say the report’s authors, with the technology existing to make sense of the data. “Today, we see optimal conditions for IoT to take off in the industry,” they write. “There is a clear technology push through the rise of mobile computing, consumerization of IT, 5G networks, and big data analytics, as well as  a pull from customers who are increasingly demanding IoT-based solutions. Combined, these factors are enabling logistics providers to adopt IoT at an accelerating rate.

The report goes on to state some practical examples of IoT technology in action in a number of different industries, namely Hamburg’s Port Authority in Germany. As Europe’s second busiest port, it deals with an immense number of shipments in and out every day.

Its IT system was expanded as part of its upgrade and over 300 sensors were placed around the port to monitor to and from traffic as well as check the integrity of bridges for any necessary maintenance. Meanwhile drivers can avail of mobile apps with details on the port like accessibility and parking.

Adopting a similarly proactive approach to Internet of Things technology in the supply chain and logistics could yield impressive results. This is the crux of DHL and Cisco’s report.

Similar reports and predictions have been made for the use of the IoT in other industries, such as manufacturing, and the IoT benefits to logistics have been tabled before in the past. Anyone interested in reading the full DHL and Cisco report, can do so here.

By Jonathan Keane

Customer Success Guidelines – In A World Gone Cloud

Customer Success Guidelines – In A World Gone Cloud

Customer Success Guidelines for Maximum Upselling and Cross-Selling in a World Gone Cloud

With the growth of the subscription economy, companies can no longer assume that a sale means that the deal is closed. Companies need to prove their worth every minute of every hour, every hour of every day and so on. A big part of proving your company’s worth is ensuring customer success, which could make the difference between a consumer being open to upselling and cross-selling or not. Maximizing upselling and cross-selling is one of the most effective ways to ensure profitability. This is because most SaaS revenue generation occurs after the initial subscription process.

customers-upselling

So without further delay, here are key guidelines to maximize your upselling and cross-selling capabilities.

  1. Examine the Basics: Ensure That Your Product and Your Customer are a Good Match.

Customer Success starts with good market research. If your product is not a good fit with the customer segment you are trying to appeal to, you will never be successful. Ensure that your product, support infrastructure, company culture, philosophies, and services are a good fit with your customer. If the customer base does not click it is unlikely that the user will have a good experience. 39% of customers say that the #1 cause of churn is that customer expectations were not met. Facilitating customer success through understanding your ideal market segment provides an ideal opportunity for upselling and cross-selling.

  1. Provide Great Support Through the Entire Customer Lifecycle.

Though the initial onboarding phase of the product is definitely the most support-intensive, it is important to ensure that the customer has access to great support all along the way. Providing your customer base with online tutorials, live chat and webinars will ensure that adequate and appropriate support is at their fingertips. Doing so will minimize frustration, and ensure that the user experience is enriching and engaging. This will increase the chance that the customer will be open to upselling and cross-selling.  Gartner recommends employing user experience design techniques and practices to better engage portal users. 

  1. Use Metrics, but More Importantly Review and Refresh Your Metrics

We all use metrics to see where our product falls short. Tracking user interactions will reveal causes of churn and allow you to address them before they become a problem. This is why it is important to be critical of your metrics. Review your measuring system on an ongoing basis. Do not be afraid to adjust it. You have everything to gain from an increasingly effective methodology.

  1. Think Cross Selling and Upselling from Day One

Keeping the end goal in mind is a life lesson we all aspire to live by. Customer success is no exception. The roots of churn are often found in the initial engagement phase of a sale. Ensure that your onboarding processes are efficient and quickly move customers from the learning phase to the point where they are receiving value from your product. Showing the consumer how to obtain the full value of your product early on, will lay the groundwork for upselling when they reach the point where their needs grow past what the product can offer. Frustrated customers are not only unlikely to renew their subscription, but may also have negative things to say about your product and affect other users.

Upselling and Cross-Selling cannot occur unless the customer is set up for success. Ensuring that the product suits consumer needs, is backed by adequate support, constantly improving, and elicits a positive customer experience helps guarantee future profitability.

  1. Do not Be Afraid of New Technologies. Investigate!

Remember why you came out with your product or solution in the first place? It was probably to make someone’s work more efficient, productive etc. If you sell technology to improve your customers’ work or life, why shy away from using technology to help you sell more and ensuring customer success?

There are a lot of solutions out there that support customer success. Whether it is a great analytics platform, onboarding tool, or onscreen guidance and engagement, it is all there. Stay updated and investigate technologies that can elevate your solution’s user experience and make sure that it is the easiest, most intuitive, contextual and simple. That way your users will be much more receptive to your upselling and cross selling efforts.

By Boaz Amidor

Thinking About Doing Business In China? Consider This…

Thinking About Doing Business In China? Consider This…

Doing Business in China? Consider This… 

China’s economy continues to outperform both regional and global markets with double-digit growth for the last decade. IDC believes China’s GDP will maintain growth around 7.2% until 2020, allowing GDP to reach US$18 trillion or 17% of the world total. And with a population of over 1.35 billion people, the country is expected to have almost twice the amount of Internet users as the U.S. and Japan by 2015.

hong-kong

with rapid industrial growth, is an enticing package. Just look at China’s Wuqing district: it is a modern and innovative hub located in the heart of the nation’s political and economic region that boasts five highways and a high-speed rail capable of transporting commuters to downtown Beijing in only 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, doing business in China is not always cut and dried. If you’re looking to expand your business into China, consider the following communications challenges you will have to overcome:

A lack of transparency: Visibility is one of the most important necessities in business today—specifically when partnering with a virtual private network (VPN). Many networks in the Far East fail to deliver visibility into crucial factors such as uptime, maintenance and support. For example, a company might offer 99.99 percent uptime, but the definition of “uptime” is often a grey area.

Solution: Transparency must be a primary demand before signing contracts to operate in the Chinese IT industry. Executives are highly encouraged to scour fine print when negotiating service-level agreements (SLAs). Failure to read the SLA could result in having to partner with an additional provider when expanding throughout the country or region.

Bandwidth constraints: In today’s competitive overseas market, a lack of bandwidth means missed opportunities. The market is constantly fluctuating, and businesses need to be ready to rapidly scale up or down to accommodate variations in customer volume.

Solution: Avoid the pitfall of getting caught in a bandwidth pinch before it happens. Many companies wind up having to make costly upgrades to service to accommodate spikes in business. When doing business in China, look for an IP VPN provider with flexible pricing packages and on-demand bandwidth.

bandwidth-issues

Technical support challenges: In a mission-critical environment, communication needs to flow between technical support teams and business leaders without a hitch. Language barriers and a lack of 24-hour assistance often impede progress.

Solution: Make sure your VPN service provider has access to around-the-clock bilingual support as well as network monitoring solutions so you can have access to the same data as your facility’s technicians. This will ensure that when important decisions need to be made, you have access to pertinent data. Don’t let communication barriers get in the way.

Inferior network infrastructure: Despite its strong economy, China is still a developing nation. Many facilities and communications lines lack the necessary level of maintenance and operational excellence needed to ensure data transmissions. Be wary of companies that do not actively maintain submarine cables and data center infrastructure. 

Solution: Your VPN partner should be able to guarantee uninterrupted service with fully redundant backbone at all times. Before agreeing to partner with a VPN, make sure that the company will perform routine updates and maintenance without affecting your uptime. You should also be provided with a complete map of connectivity routes throughout the region so you always know how your data is getting from point to point. Make sure the VPN you partner with has multiple PoPs spread throughout the country and diverse connectivity routes throughout the APAC region. Communication needs to be seamless across your global network.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Chi Tat Yan, Vice President, China Business, Pacnet

pacenet-CT-YanBased in Hong Kong, Chi Tat Yan is responsible for driving revenue and sales of services in China by helping customers outside of the country to expand their business in the market. Prior to his current role, Mr. Yan was Chief Operating Officer of Pacnet Business Solutions (PBS), Pacnet’s Joint Venture in China, since 2009. Before joining PBS, he was Senior Director, Marketing and Sales at Pacific Internet (HK) Ltd for eight years managing the company’s sales and marketing operations in Hong Kong. Mr. Yan has more than 15 years of telecommunications experience and built a solid record in sales and channel management in Hong Kong and China. He holds an MBA from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Big Tech Trends For The 21st Century

Big Tech Trends For The 21st Century

Tech Trends For The 21st Century

When the historians of the future look back on the 21st century, what will they say? Inevitably, the biggest stories in the coming century will be political and environmental – wars, revolutions, and natural disasters always dominate historical memory. But perhaps more than any previous epoch, the 21st century will also be defined by its technology. If the Internet was the culmination of the 20th century, what will its equivalent be in the next century?

Internet of Things

Perhaps the most discussed innovation of the 21st century is the Internet of Things. Since its inception, the Internet has been used to link computers, servers, and (recently) mobile devices. But we are just beginning to see the rise of a new internet – one that pervades everyday objects and allows them to communicate with standard Internet-equipped devices. For example, many standard car models already have the capacity to run internal diagnostics and send the results to the owner via email. When it’s time to change the oil, the car can inform the owner automatically. And as this technology improves, the online interaction between vehicle and owner will only get more complex, perhaps to the point that drivers will be able to analyze their own habits in order to find more efficient routes, avoid driving during peak hours, etc.

internet-things

Of course, the Internet of Things will not be limited to cars. Imagine a refrigerator that could automatically scan the barcode of any item placed inside and store attributes like weight, expiration date, and frequency of use. A smartphone app could inform shoppers that they are almost out of milk, or that the jar of hummus they bought last week is about to spoil.

Wearables

wearable-tech

Within the Internet of Things, we can expect that wearable technology will be some of the most important of all the interconnected objects. In addition to vehicles and appliances, human beings will also be outfitted with a variety of sensors that constantly collect data and relay it through the Internet of Things. This sort of wearable technology is already transforming the clothing and fitness world, with FitBit and other similar products monitoring steps, heart rate, body temperature, and various other physical attributes that might be relevant for the user’s exercise regime. The recently released Apple Watch promises to bring an even greater level of interconnectivity through wearable technology – if it’s anywhere near as successful as the iPhone, the Apple Watch will be ubiquitous within just a few years, and millions of people will be able to analyze data on their physical stats and daily habits with the click of a button or the tap of a touchscreen.

Big Data

But all this data doesn’t just sit in a vacuum, and it will not stay solely in the user’s control (at least not for long). It’s far too valuable for that. All these sensors and data-collecting devices will gather a wealth of information on human behavior that will be profoundly valuable to marketers, governments, and social scientists alike. Tech giants like Facebook and Google are already capitalizing on the profusion of personal data and constantly finding new ways to monetize users’ information. Imagine how much more information will be available once people adopt smart cars, smart refrigerators, smart watches, and other Internet of Things innovations become commonplace. Balancing all this data against the need for personal privacy will be one of the most profound political challenges of the 21st century.

 

Nothing is ever certain in the tech industry – indeed, in this dynamic field the only predictable constant is the constancy of change. But the 21st century, already 1/6 of the way over, is beginning to show its direction through the rapid growth of Big Data, wearable technology, and the Internet of Things.

By Brent Anderson

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