Strategize and Organize – SMBs’ Best Use of the Cloud

Why your SMB cloud strategy could benefit from an integrated approach

Via ZDNET (Heather Clancy)

For many small businesses, one of the biggest perceived advantages of migrating to cloud applications and infrastructure services is the management proposition, the idea that it will free up their staff from an unwanted IT burden.

In some ways, that’s very true, since updates happen behind the scenes and provisioning usually can be handled very easily by individuals.

But if your small company decides to embrace a whole suite of cloud services – especially if it wants to integrate them with existing applications hosted within an on-premise server — it should consider working with a managed service provider (MSP) to make the administration simpler. The benefits of doing so include being able to offer employees access from a centralized Web portal for all applications, consolidating where data is stored and secured, and ensuring that collaborative processes can bridge multiple applications.

There are literally dozens of former VARs and IT solution providers cropping up to offer this sort of functionality as a managed service. One example is TOGLcloud, a hosted offering developed by a group of MSPs that felt most of the current offerings weren’t designed with smaller businesses in mind.

I’m not going to try to name all the options here, but there are several lists published by MSPMentor that offer a good jumping off point for anyone wanting to research their options. (Warning, you’ll have to register to get to most of the content.)

One of the more established players included on MSPMentor’s North American lists that is focused specifically on helping small businesses build an integrated approach to cloud strategy is eight-year-old ComputerSupport.com, with its ITAnyWhere Cloud offering.

“Small businesses can log into one place, all their files, all their productivity tools are there. Their Salesforce.com is there, too,” said Kirill Bensonoff, founder of the company. “They no longer need to have any infrastructure other than these services.”

What makes ComputerSupport.com interesting are relationships with some pretty big–name players when it comes to hosted desktop and cloud infrastructure services: it is an Amazon Web Services Consulting Partner, specializing in the cloud service provider’s QuickStart services; a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner that can migrate small companies to a managed Office365 service; and a Citrix Silver Solution Advisor and Service Provider that offers access to the cloud through Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenMobile. It has VMware, ShoreTel and SonicWall credentials. What’s more, ComputerSupport.com is even a member of the Apple Consultants Network.

The ITAnyWhere Cloud service, currently in its third generation, runs on top of AmazonWeb Services, for scalability, compliance support, security and multiregion access. Small companies can log in through a portal, where managers can handle provisioning, or remove and add users quickly. The services are supported 24×7 by ComputerSupport.com, which also handles migration of legacy applications into the hosted environment if appropriate. It’s a fixed-fee offering, but Bensonoff declined to reveal pricing. That depends, in part, on the migration and setup required by the business.

Most of ComputerSupport.com’s customers are small businesses with 30 to 50 employees that originally had at least one server managed in-house, Bensonoff said.

Maybe all of this is more than your business can handle, but if a piecemeal cloud apps strategy is starting to create management headaches as your team grows and becomes more mobile  — and you don’t have the in-house staff to sort them out — a turnkey approach like ITAnyWhere Cloud might be worth an evaluation.

Advertisements

Indie Capital? It’s a Movement, Not a Place

By Bruce Nussbaum Indie Capitalism

Here’s a shocking truth: Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party actually agree on something. They both hate crony capitalism, and they both love Steve Jobs. If this sounds freaky, let me add another weird fact: Practically all my students at the New School in New York, where I teach a course on creativity and capitalism, want to start their own companies. The New School is renown for being a bastion of lefty thought, going back to the 1930s and ’40s. My students want to be entrepreneurs. They want to be Kickstarter, kickass entrepreneurs. These students want to belong to what I call Indie Capitalism.

creative intelilgence by Bruce Nussbaum

I use the term Indie deliberately to reflect a new economy that shares many of the distributive and social structures of the independent music scene—and the value system as well. Indie bands are hyperlocal, and Indie Capitalism is a post-global, local economic phenom (think 3D printing, locavore eating, and crowdfunding new products). Indie capitalists are über-urban, too, feeding off the cultural/entrepreneurial energy of cities—New York, Portland, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Austin. And they are, of course, super-participative. Indie Capitalists believe in our making of all things, with no clear boundaries between consumer and producer, investor and shopper. We are all of them.

There are many Indie Capitalists already among us. Alice Waters’s groundbreaking organic restaurant Chez Panisse has served as a model for the “source-local” food movement. Blue Marble Ice Cream, “Made in Brooklyn,” uses only local New York State cow milk and hires folks from the neighborhood. Chrysler Group tapped into the Indie culture when it hired Wieden + Kennedy to come up with the “Imported from Detroit” ad, with a song by Detroit-born Eminem.

My favorite Indie Capitalist is entrepreneur Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal (EBAY). He’s handcrafting Falcon rockets and Dragon capsules to take people and cargo to the International Space Station—and even to Mars. His company SpaceX integrates creativity, creation, and capitalism. So does his other company,Tesla Motors (TSLA), which is assembling and selling all-electric sports cars and four-door sedans out of an old California factory.

Indie Capitalism has three foundational principles:

• Creativity generates economic value. Creativity is the source of profit. Yes, efficiency can squeeze more out of what exists, but creativity gives us originality, which translates into a market advantage and big margins.

• Creativity drives capitalism. These past few years we have been victimized by the disastrous results of “creativity” applied to the financial sector (mortgage-backed securities, for starters). What we lost sight of is that the scaling of creativity to actually make things of value sold in the marketplace is the true heart of our economic system. It is the true generator of net new jobs, wealth, and tax revenue.

• Creative destruction is crucial to economic growth. Crony capitalism, which relies on monopoly and political power, is antithetical to entrepreneurial capitalism. A faster cycle of birth, growth, and death of companies boosts creativity, economic value, and growth.

The contours of Indie Capitalism are only just coming into view. They will change over time, as my students and millions of others build this new economic system. But in the reconnecting of creativity to capitalism, we have something to look forward to.

Nussbaum, a former assistant managing editor of Businessweek, is a Professor of Innovation and Design at Parsons The New School of Design and author of the forthcoming book, Creative Intelligence (HarperBusiness, March 2013). Follow him on Twitter or visit his Tumblr.
Related Articles

Enterprise Tech’s Latest Buzz…

SDN? OMG!

From The Business Insider, Julie Bort

Software-defined networking, or SDN, is a new technology that has the hardware industry in a tizzy. But what exactly is it? To answer that, we talked to networking veteran Arpit Joshipura, Dell’s vice president of marketing for its networking business.  He shared the graphic below.

Networking hardware is a $37 billion market, and everyone from Cisco and Lucent to Dell and HP and even software players like Oracle andVMware are angling for a piece of it.

Software-defined networking could seriously upend the way networking hardware is bought and sold, favoring cheaper, simpler boxes running more sophisticated software.

Its arrival has already lead to some big acquisitions including the $1.26 billion purchase of 100-person startup Nicira by VMware in July, and Oracle’s acquisition of Xsigo.

With SDN, some challengers see the potential to topple Cisco. But Cisco, which is making its own investments in SDN, could seize it as a big opportunity. HP and Dell could grow their networking business, too, if they create new products to cater to it.

SDN will certainly fuel a whole new crop of startups includingBig Switch Networks, Midokura, Embrane, Contrail Systems, and others.

Point is, it’s all up for grabs.

Take a look at this graphic. That spot on the right, circled in red, is what all the fuss is about.

Dell software defined networking

You’ve got hardware on the left. That’s the traditional way of thinking about putting a network together.

The new way, powered by software-defined networking, is on the right. SDN lets you stop worrying about the hardware and focus on the services that run across your network. It lets networks be more flexible.

A network’s job is to send data from one point to another. Say you want to view a video posted on the Web. That data has to get from the server hosting the video to your computer. All along the way, it hits various pieces of networking hardware running networking software.

In addition to simply transmitting the data, network equipment also controls its flow. It chooses the fastest or cheapest route, prioritizes some kinds of data (voice or video) over others (email), and keeps it all secure.

SDN inserts a new layer of software in between the hardware dealing with data, and the software that controls it.

This layer tricks applications into thinking they’ve got the network to themselves when they are reallying sharing it with lots of other applications. It lets more servers use the network, saving companies money. More importantly, it will also let companies information-technology departments move pieces of the network around as they need them.

“The physical network is decoupled from the control plane, so IT can write apps on their own and can give you much faster service,” explains Joshipura.

For instance, let’s say your board of directors decides to meet in a conference room that isn’t set up for videoconferencing. With SDN, IT can, in a heartbeat, add more capacity to accommodate that new usage scenario.

That’s very different than how the network works today where someone has to physically install switches and configure them.

So SDN is a good thing. The question is who’s going to make the most money off of it.

Don’t miss: The 10 Most Disruptive Enterprise Tech Companies

Revenge of the SMBs – How Small Businesses Can Turn the Tables on Showrooming

Summary: Brick and mortar stores were leapfrogged by Internet retailers in the dot-com era. Now it’s their turn to leapfrog their e-commerce rivals.

Eric Lai

By Eric Lai – Republished from UberMobile

 

showrooming ecommerce retail Traditional retailing, at least in the U.S., is in a funk. Of the 100 largest U.S.-based retailers according to STORES magazine, only 17 are growing in the double digits. Fast risers are either growing overseas or are in hot categories like mobile phones (Verizon Wireless and AT&T) or discount goods (Dollar General).

You could blame this on the uncertain U.S. economy. But I put equal blame on the mainstreaming of e-commerce. Everyone I know who is my age or younger buys a ton online. There are sexy category specialists – Newegg, Gilt Groupe, Groupon and Zappos – but Amazon.com gets the lion’s share of their dollars.

Fittingly, Amazon.com is the fastest riser on STORES’ list (42.5% year-on-year growth). Ranked 15th, Amazon.com already sells more than Safeway, Sears and Macy’s. It is the poster child of how to win in e-commerce: low prices, speedy shipping and personalized offers that leverage its rich data on customers. Add a fourth factor: the hot trend of consumers “showrooming” goods at a brick-and-mortar store while checking online prices via a smartphone, from whom they will presumably eventually buy.

How can retailers fight back? I don’t think it’s through expensive attempts to amp up the EQ (Entertainment Quotient) of their stores. It doesn’t fly with time-pressed moms, who control the majority of household budgets.

Nor is the solution to further streamline their supply chain in order to compete with Amazon.com and its ilk on price. Most of the retailers around today survived the initial dot-com onslaught by deploying ERP software and successfully adopting lean and Just-In-Time techniques to cut costs.

In other words, they’ve done a good job of playing defense. Now, it’s time to play a little offense – use technology to enhance customer service, boost sales and, rather than lamenting sales lost through “Showrooming,” take advantage of it.

Mobile Point of Service

On customer service, retailers are arming their floor salespeople with smartphones and tablets and apps that allow them to reprice items, check inventory for customers and speeding transactions by conducting them where-ever they are in the store.

showrooming retail ecommerce wal-martLarge retailers doing this include Lowe’s, which has given iPhones to all 42,000 employees, Sear’s, J.C. Penney, Costco, Sam’s Club, Nordstrom, Apple, Urban Outfitters and Sephora, the 1,300-store cosmetics chain.

Sephora is using the Mobile Point of Sale app for iOS developed by SAP and partner, Agilysys. Check it out at the SAP Retail Forum North America in Dallas this week.

 

 

 

Precision Retailing

Good customer service is not just providing information on demand and accelerating purchases. It’s also about anticipating consumer wants, and delivering them personalized discounts and offers not just in real-time, but at the right time.

If it sounds like I’m going to talk about marrying Big Data and mobile, you’re right. This is taking customer data from every channel, from Web to POS, and applying predictive analytics to it, so that you can augment the in-store shopping experience with mobile coupons and reminders that are relevant and not spammy.

“Instead of old-school loyalty programs with their points and reward schemes, you want to give consumers real, meaningful relevant information based on what they’re looking for,” said Colin Haig, the retail industry principal for SAP.

In other words, the exact opposite of that scene in Minority Report where Tom Cruise is bombarded with ads as he runs through the shopping mall.

That puts the Precision in Precision Retailing.

Rather than describe how this would play out real life, I’ll let this video do it so much better. Click on the image below or this link. Added bonus: there’s a rom-com storyline cuter than a Katherine Heigl movie and a box full of kittens:

sap precision retailing video

SAP is showing off a Precision Retailing solution, which combines a mobile app with cloud-based analytics courtesy of SAP HANA on the back end. Retailers from L’Oreal, European grocer Groupe Casino and the Montreal Transit Agency are already using SAP Precision Retailing, said Haig.

Haig says that Precision Retailing’s ability to help shoppers build lists of recurring items (think kids’ clothes, batteries or toothpaste) and offer them discounts means that the solution today makes it perfect for grocery stores and other general stores (think Wal-Mart or Target).

But Precision Retailing can also help speciality stores, the kind that offer high-ticket items or are beset by showrooming customers. Here’s how. First, we must note that only 25% of shoppers who check competitor prices in a store actually end up buying the item online.

That means 75% of shoppers or more are potential net new customers for the store. And the amount of sales lost to showrooming can be reduced – through precision.

Imagine a consumer visiting a retailer’s Web site to check if a large-screen TV is in stock. That raises a red flag to a retailer that the consumer may be coming to a store soon to inspect that particular item. When he or she enters the store, the store’s app on the customer’s smartphone can immediately open and buzz, alerting him or her to a coupon that for that item or category of items that would match or beat competitors’ online prices.

Such tactics can win back the shoppers who came into a store fully intending to showroom, says Roland Gonzalez, senior directory for mobile industry marketing at SAP.

“Retailers have always been customer-centric. But now they are trying to be customer-intimate,” Gonzalez said.

Related Articles

The Costs of “Free” Social Media to SMBs

Summary: About one-third of SMBs are spending an average of $845 per month to manage their social media messages, according to new research from cloud marketing company Vocus.

Heather Clancy

By for Small Business Matters | September 25, 2012 — 22:55 GMT (15:55 PDT)

Social media marketing is referenced often as an especially cost-effective tool for small businesses.

Even so, 36 percent of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) spend an average of $845 per month on tools or cloud services for managing their social media accounts, according to a new survey sponsored by Vocus.

Another 32 percent of those surveyed on behalf of Vocus said they spend $1,000 or more on social media management, while 22 percent are outsourcing these functions to someone else (the amount of that investment wasn’t given in the materials I reviewed for this post).

The average number of tools used by the SMBs to deal with social media accounts is three, while social media activities represent about 25 percent of the respondents’ overall marketing mix, the data show.

The research conducted by Duct Tape Marketing has an error ratio of +/- 4.9 percent.

“What I’ve been noticing more and more is there’s finally this acceptance that social media not only isn’t going away, it’s an essential element of the marketing mix and the real challenge now is to figure out how to integrate it into the total online and offline marketing presence,” said John Jantsch, marketing consultant and creator of Duct Tape Marketing.

Here are some other findings of the research:

– 76 percent of the respondents use referral traffic to their Web site or e-commerce platform as the primary means of measuring social media’s effectiveness

– 87 percent believe social media has been “somewhat helpful” or “helped a great deal”

– 40 percent are focusing on a small but highly engaged audience

– For 91 percent of the respondents, the most common use of social media is information sharing

Personally, $845 per month seems like a lot to spend for an especially small business or sole proprietor. But if you consider where else that money might go — newspaper advertisements, flyers and such — as well as the high potential impact of social media engagement, the investment makes more sense.

Reasons Why Many Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Fail to Survive

SMB Small business failure trendIt’s a known fact that small and medium sized business failures have continued to increase over the past three years. Some businesses are failing in the first three to five years. It can’t just be bad luck that causes so many companies to lose ground permanently. Below are some of the biggest reasons small and medium businesses don’t survive.


Poor Planning

To have a successful business, planning and innovation is required. The amount of pre-planning that must be done before a business starts up can be exhausting but necessary. A good business ownerwill have a good methodical and systematic approach to ensure business goals are implemented and met. Smaller companies often fail at this step. They tend to start right off without a future plan and end up far from where they expected.

Avoid Technology

Technology can enhance a business in so many ways. Small and medium sized businesses can take advantage of automated accounting, internet, e-purchasing and sending e-catalogs to their current and potential customers. When a business fails to see how important technology is in their day to day business, they won’t be able to keep up with the market demands or business goals. Businesses that don’t take advantage of things such as SEOand PPC won’t be able to stay up to date with their competition. This can lead to little or no sales.

Lack of Funds

Many small and medium sized businesses underestimate the funds they need to help the business survive. Unrealistic expectations can add to the risk of bankruptcy. All businesses need to have a very good idea of how much funding is needed for starting up a business and staying in business. Business owners have to be prepared to make an investment into the business for years before it can make good profits.
Quality
Many businesses fail because they neglect quality. Providing quality can cost the business more up front, but it will produce better results in the long run. When businesses neglect having quality, they usually experience a downfall. Doing things below quality can significantly affect your customers. Customer service is always critical for a business to survive. If customers are not given the proper attention, if they are not treated with professionalism and respect, it can be the downfall of your business. Customers who receive good customer service can be the ones who stabilize your business.
Product Range 
When businesses offer a wide variety of products, they have more chances for success. Businesses have to consistently be proactive when it comes to modifying, endorsing or even eliminating products. When a business isn’t open to new ideas, or when they are not flexible with their products, they may not be able to keep up with their competition which can lead to failure. When a customer changes what they need, the business must be ready to change the product.
Small and medium sized businesses can do well when their owners have a good bit of knowledge about systems, processes and technology. It also benefits a business owner to be skills-associated with production, distribution, cash flow and employees. Following certain practices and rules can help small and medium businesses survive.
Max Boddicker writes about business, economics & more at www.homeequityloan.net.

Day of Reckoning? Influential Insider Now Supports Break Up of Big Banks

In Defining Hypocrisy, Weill, Who Led Repeal Of Glass Steagall, Now Says Big Banks Should Be Broken Up

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Who is Sandy Weill? He is none other than a retired Citigroup Chairman, a former NY Fed Director, and a “philanthropist.” He is also the man who lobbied for overturning of Glass Steagall in the last years of the 20th century, whose repeal permitted the merger of Travelers of Citibank, in the process creating Citigroup, the largest of the TBTF banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.” As The Nation explains, “Weill was instrumental in getting then-President BillClinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on financecapital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.” Of course, by overturning Glass Steagall the last hindrance to ushering in the TBTF juggernaut and the Greenspan Put, followed by the global Bernanke put, was removed, in the process making the terminal collapse of the US financial system inevitable. Why is Weill relevant? Because in a statement that simply redefines hypocrisy, the same individual had the temerity to appear on selloutvision, and tell his fawning CNBC hosts that it is “time to break up the big banks.” That’s right:the person who benefited the most of all from the repeal of Glass Steagall is now calling for its return.

Hypocrisy defined 5:20 into the interview below:

I am suggesting that [big banks] be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won’t be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable… I want us to be a leader… I think the world changes and the world we live in now is different from the world we lived in ten years ago.

How ironic is it then that at the signing ceremony of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley, aka the Glass Steagall repeal act, Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.”

How ironic indeed. And how hypocritical for this person to have the temerity to show himself in public, let alone demand the law he ushered in, be undone.

Weill discussing all of the above and more with a straight face here:

For those curious to learn a bit more about Weill, here is some good reading:

Weill is the Wall Street hustler who led the successful lobbying to reverse the Glass-Steagall law, which long had been a barrier between investment and commercial banks. That 1999 reversal permitted the merger of Travelers and Citibank, thereby creating Citigroup as the largest of the “too big to fail” banks eventually bailed out by taxpayers. Weill was instrumental in getting then-President Bill Clinton to sign off on the Republican-sponsored legislation that upended the sensible restraints on finance capital that had worked splendidly since the Great Depression.

Those restrictions were initially flouted when Weill, then CEO of Travelers, which contained a major investment banking division, decided to merge the company with Citibank, a commercial bank headed by John S. Reed. The merger had actually been arranged before the enabling legislation became law, and it was granted a temporary waiver by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The night before the announcement of the merger, as Wall Street Journal reporter Monica Langley writes in her book “Tearing Down the Walls: How Sandy Weill Fought His Way to the Top of the Financial World… and Then Nearly Lost It All,” a buoyant Weill suggested to Reed, “We should call Clinton.” On a Sunday night Weill had no trouble getting through to the president and informed him of the merger, which violated existing law. After hanging up, Weill boasted to Reed, “We just made the president of the United States an insider.”

The fix was in to repeal Glass-Steagall, as The New York Times celebrated in a 1998 article: “…the announcement on Monday of a giant merger of Citicorp and Travelers Group not only altered the financial landscape of banking, it also changed the political landscape in Washington…. Indeed, within 24 hours of the deal’s announcement, lobbyists for insurers, banks and Wall Street firms were huddling with Congressional banking committee staff members to fine-tune a measure that would update the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial banking from Wall Street and insurance, to make it more politically acceptable to more members of Congress.”

At the signing ceremony Clinton presented Weill with one of the pens he used to “fine-tune” Glass-Steagall out of existence, proclaiming, “Today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down those antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority.” What a jerk.

Although Weill has shown not the slightest remorse, Reed has had the honesty to acknowledge that the elimination of Glass-Steagall was a disaster: “I would compartmentalize the industry for the same reason you compartmentalize ships,” he told Bloomberg News. “If you have a leak, the leak doesn’t spread and sink the whole vessel. So generally speaking, you’d have consumer banking separate from trading bonds and equity.”

Instead, all such compartmentalization was ended when Clinton signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act in late 1999. In his memoir Weill brags that he and Republican Senator Phil Gramm joked that it should have been called the Weill-Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. Informally, some dubbed it “the Citigroup Authorization Act.”

Gramm left the Senate to become a top executive at the Swiss-based UBS bank, which like Citigroup ran into deep trouble. Leach—former Republican Representative James Leach—was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 to head the National Endowment for the Humanities, where his banking skills could serve the needs of intellectuals. Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration treasury secretary who helped push through the Citigroup Authorization Act, was the most blatant double dealer of all: He accepted a $15-million-a-year offer from Weill to join Citigroup, where he eventually helped run the corporation into the ground.

Citigroup went on to be a major purveyor of toxic mortgage–based securities that required $45 billion in direct government investment and a $300 billion guarantee of its bad assets in order to avoid bankruptcy.

Weill himself bailed out shortly before the crash. His retirement from what was then the world’s largest financial conglomerate was chronicled in the New York Times under the headline “Laughing All the Way From the Bank.” The article told of “an enormous wooden plaque” in the bank’s headquarters that featured a likeness of Weill with the inscription “The Man Who Shattered Glass-Steagall.”

Repost.Us - Republish This Article
Repost.Us has millions more stories to embed. Find your story

Market Shadows (http://s.tt/1iYWY)

%d bloggers like this: