Category Archives: Business

Most painful experiences in life with the cloud for superior customer service

Along with enduring root canals and eliminating malware, dealing with customer service call centers probably ranks near the top of the “most painful experiences in life” list for many people.

Causes for the discomfort include: complex telephone trees that require a preposterous number of key presses to get anywhere; interminable hold times; agents who lack all but the most child-like expertise; and, most maddening: when a customer finally connects with someone who might actually help — they are frequently disconnected.
There has to be a better way. And, there is… in the cloud.

Cloud-based services and applications are making headway into reducing this customer service mess, allowing small business owners to affordably improve the customer experience with cool features that people love, including social media and mobile device interfaces.

The importance of customer service management (CSM)
According to a ClickFox survey

More than 50 percent of disgruntled customers will spread negative information to others in their social circles.
More than one-third of unhappy customers will completely stop doing business with a company that has wronged them.
Even worse, 60 percent of those people exposed to these negative comments in social media are influenced by them, meaning most people will avoid you if their friends say you stink.
Not only does this represent lost revenue from these particular customers, but it can wreak havoc on SMB marketing efforts (and budgets) that now have to overcome not just their competitors’ advertising messages but also the negative perceptions and bad word-of-mouth caused by these unpleasant customer service experiences.

Cloud solutions
Placing your customer service in the cloud better meets the expectations of customers who are increasingly connected to the web via mobile devices and, therefore, expect instant answers. Rather than deal with a call center, many even prefer self-service answers for their support issues, searching online to bypass traditional help desks altogether.

Businesses can enable this migration of customer service functions with an ever-increasing list of services, including Zendesk, Service Cloud, Desk.com, Parature, and Zoho. Most provide not only traditional phone, email and chat functions, but also integrate with social networks such as Twitter and Facebook to offer robust self-service options.

Mobile-specific CSM apps include Gripe, available for both iPhone and Android, which enables consumers to vote positively for a company with a “cheer” or complain with a “gripe,” both of which get posted to their Twitter and Facebook accounts while also messaging the company’s customer service department for quick resolution.

Tangible benefits
According to a Frost & Sullivan report, one 500-seat cloud-based implementation provides up to twice the cost savings of a 100-seat dedicated center over a five-year period. Imagine the impact on your business and customer retention to have five times the customer service agents at half the cost!

There are other advantages of cloud CSM, such as:

Eliminating server equipment and maintenance costs
Improving agent productivity and first contact resolution rates (Solutions are moved from spreadsheets and other arcane local systems to easily searchable online databases.)
Achieving scalability by adjusting agent numbers as required (Some solutions offer instant additional part-time agent rentals for as little as $1 per hour.)
Reducing call volume, thanks to social media and self-service elements
While the benefits of the cloud are clear, there is one caveat: The increase in unprotected mobile endpoints increasingly used to access these remote systems leaves local signature-based antivirus protection schemes inadequate to safeguard against the torrent of malware. Fortunately, real-time cloud-based antivirus protection safeguards users without the need to download and update massive signature files.

Smartphones and tablets make them more like a horror movie

Trojans, worms and spyware sound like elements straight from a summer blockbuster, but the kind of action/adventure they provide on your PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets make them more like a horror movie.

By deploying effective endpoint security, you can help prevent attacks and keep your users safe from viruses and other malware, such as spear phishing and advanced persistent threats. Today’s state-of-the-art endpoint security has come a long way from its early roots in “antivirus” and has morphed into a complex suite of sophisticated protections against modern threats.
But good protection isn’t free; so, how can you save money, while still protecting your computers? Here’s how to reduce your investment….

Keeping users safe
In an ideal world, users would be perfectly security conscious. These mythical users wouldn’t:

Click on suspicious links.
Open file attachments emailed by criminals pretending to be their friends.
Respond to phishing messages that appear to be from a bank.
Disable software updates because warnings and reboots are annoying.
Disable a security product because it slows down their PC.
Install free software from an untrustworthy developer, because their friend “liked” it on Facebook.
Sadly, our world is less than ideal. Much, much less: A recent report said that 86 percent of U.S. businesses surveyed had lost sensitive data during the previous year.

User awareness training helps, but it isn’t sufficient. That’s why your endpoints need securing. Doing so helps prevent your users from accidentally exposing sensitive business information, such as your banking credentials, secret-sauce recipes or future product plans.

Save time and money on endpoint security
Your challenge is to protect your users while minimizing costs: How do you save time and money, while keeping your company safe?

Look for a modern endpoint security solution – not one thrown together from an old antivirus program and a fresh coat of paint.

How can you tell?
A start-of-the-art solution does the following:

Works intelligently in the background, without bogging down the user’s computer
Scans for malware in seconds, not hours
Uses a reliable, built-from-the-ground-up cloud security service to identify malware, not a huge signature file that’s quickly out-of-date
Works intelligently while offline, reconnecting with the cloud service to check changes made while disconnected
Fixes infected PCs, if necessary, by rolling back the computer’s state to a known-good point
Automatically monitors untrusted software executions to prevent infection
Allows you to enforce certain policy settings, such as use of USB ports, and prevents users from disabling security features
Doesn’t fight with competing installed products, to allow you to test it safely

Get corporate network access for their mobile devices

Are you tiring of users continuously badgering you to get corporate network access for their mobile devices? Does your corporate management want to buy tablets for the sales team? If so, your small- to medium-sized business (SMB) needs to start proactively addressing mobile security breaches such as malware.
Modifying your existing security policies and protocols, establishing new policies and educating your mobile workforce are economically sound frontline solutions for securing your corporate enterprise and trade secrets.

Here are some tips on how to address mobile device security breaches beforethey happen:

Establish corporate information access guidelines. It’s important to pre-determine how mobile device users will access corporate information. Will users download data to devices? Will they access the data remotely? The answer will vary from company to company, so be sure to consider your situation uniquely. If your company has to be in compliance with a regulatory body like PCI Data Security Standards (DSS) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), then consult with your auditor before enabling network access to mobile devices.
Establish device control policies. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) can be full of benefits like saving on corporate hardware purchases and increasing productivity for your mobile workforce and SMB. However, the negatives can outweigh all those positives when a BYOD device brings malware into your network. Create a policy that governs how your corporate IT staff can gain control over a personal device, while maintaining your network security. Include information about how to keep personal information private (e.g., via a mobile device backup strategy that doesn’t touch personal data) and define corporate ownership over data and applications.
Enforce device-level security. Both corporate-owned and personal devices should have secure passwords and screen locks; document this requirement in your mobile device policies. In addition, make sure it’s clear that both personal and corporate mobile devices maintain up-to-date corporate-approved (and preferably corporate-managed) antivirus and security software installed to guard against malware and other security risks.
Develop and deliver mobile workforce security training. Education can be just as powerful a security tool as technology. Develop and deliver mobile workforce security training built around keeping your mobile workforce productive and prepared to be the first line of defense against malware and other security threats to their mobile devices. Spell out your corporate policies and include a participant sign-off stating that they understand and will abide by the policies.
Determine deal breakers for your mobile device policies. In establishing mobile security policies – regardless of your industry – there are going to be deal breakers when you have to deny certain user requests.
Deal breakers might include devices not running the current version of its OS, or they may be jail broken. There should also be a defined escalation path for deal breakers so the denial can be dealt with in an official manner with reasons formally documented in your mobile device security policies.
Let your business drive mobile device security policies and training. Remember to let your own business requirements and culture drive the policies, training and other upfront work you do to support your mobile workforce when it comes to mobile device security and access.

Headaches and save money with today’s secure providers

Just a few short years ago, the image of an IT department for small and medium businesses was one of Dilbert-looking technicians noodling around with Cat 5 cable and speaking in a blend of Klingon and Robot. In other words, IT seemed completely remote, complicated and inaccessible to most employees. Additionally, each new hardware and software deployment, including installing malware protection, could take weeks to manually implement across the enterprise, and rarely went smoothly.

One solution – outsourced IT – has found greater acceptance in the past few years as its benefits have become more tangible to even small businesses. It is estimated that globally, 74 percent of companies use some form of outsourced IT solution, up 25 percent from 2009.
Read further for compelling reasons why a small or medium business should consider the IT-outsourcing trend.

Cost savings
Moving IT off-site can save an SMB thousands of dollars per year. As most business decisions are predicated on the bottom line, this is often the main driver in the decision to migrate. Areas of savings include:

Reducing hardware expenses. Servers, storage, cabling, cooling, and datacenter square footage expense can now be on a cloud vendor’s dime, not yours.

No salary or benefits expenses for IT employees.

Potential tax savings by converting capital expenditures (servers), that depreciate slowly over time, to a monthly cost which can potentially be deducted in the current tax year.

The latest software versions – hassle-free
Outsourcing IT means software, including malware protection for endpoints, can be updated automatically by the provider. This obviates the need for a local tech to run around taking workstations offline for upgrades.

Furthermore, updating software not only unlocks newer features, but also closes exploits in older versions that might allow hacker penetration. So it’sworth exploring any platform that can make this process painless and automatic, such as a cloud service.

Focus on your business, not technical issues
Anyone who survived working in Corporate America from the 1980s onwards is familiar with the spectacle and lost productivity that accompanies the proverbial “system going down.”

When outsourcing IT to the cloud, this nightmare occurs less often as data is often distributed redundantly across many servers that are monitored constantly, leading to greater stability and uptime, and less worrying about IT matters.

Improved security
Reputable outsourced IT providers are dead serious about security against malware, zero-day hacks and other intrusions and constantly monitor and update their protection schemes.

For most SMBs, outsourcing will provide a more frequent and secure back-up solution than their existing IT setups. Furthermore, as the data is kept off-site, it is well- protected from a local catastrophe, such as a fire or flooding.

No new employees to manage when scaling up
Scalability is easy with outsourced IT – simply contact the vendor for more storage, memory and processors as needed. There is no longer any need for job postings, interviews, expensive training, personality clashes, worker’s compensation or other common HR issues and liabilities just to get tech personnel to handle the increased operations.

Instead, you can focus your payroll budget on production or sales staff that directly drive revenue.

Businesses can take advantage of BYOD

The corporate workforce is changing: Employees used to stay chained to their cubicles, plugging away on company-issued PCs. Today, remote workers perform the same tasks on their own high-tech tablet or laptop while soaking up the atmosphere at their local coffee shop.
Employees are increasingly using their own devices as the mobile workforce grows in importance. A Computing Technology Industry Association study found that 84 percent of professionals surveyed use their smartphones for work, but only 22 percent of their companies had a formal mobility policy. The upshot of this mobile shift is that corporate networks will be increasingly vulnerable, unless these devices are reined in with a BYOD enterprise program.

If your company lacks a mobility policy, consider incorporating the following five elements into your BYOD program to save time and money.

1. Include clear, written rules
Eliminating risky end user behavior through clear BYOD policies saves IT expenses right off the bat. Some of the most salient points to cover in writing include:

Prohibited devices, such as jailbroken phones
Blacklisted applications
Procedures for lost or stolen devices, including the possibility of wiping out all data on a device
Privacy disclosures, such as what personal information the enterprise has access to on a device
Some of these issues, like whether the company can legally wipe out data on a device they do not own, should be cleared with your human resources and legal departments to minimize the risk of lawsuits.

2. Make sure it’s formally presented
It is not enough to have employees sign off that they have read the policies – formal classroom or online training is recommended to ensure comprehension and compliance – especially for less tech-savvy workers who might not understand that seemingly innocent actions can expose the company to risks.

3. Ensure that it’s scalable and flexible
Make sure your security software can be painlessly installed on new devices. Cloud-based services do this particularly well and are typically available on a per-user subscription model, which saves money by protecting only what is needed at any given time.

Also, consider exceptions to rules, such as allowing peer-to-peer networking programs for certain users who might benefit from these tools. Otherwise, employees may risk bypassing your security protocols in order to use forbidden applications.

4. Secure against the greatest number of threats possible
Risky behavior such as opening email attachments from strangers or visiting dubious sites on BYOD devices should be addressed in the written policies and further safeguarded via antivirus software.

There are other exploits to be aware of, which might not be as obvious, such as fake antivirus scanners that users might innocently install, and social engineering (or phishing) threats. A good endpoint protection program will keep employees up-to-date on these lesser-known attack vectors and continually inform them on how to best protect their devices. This does not require much expense but does involve staying abreast of threats and implementing a solid communication plan.

5. Allow for remote monitoring and control
You have to have a degree of oversight over which BYOD devices are accessing your corporate systems. This is where a third-party mobile device management tool (MDM) can pay valuable dividends. MDM services provide benefits such as malware blocking, policy enforcement, logging, encryption and remote wiping, all from a single, centralized platform.