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Cloud Aggregators: What Are They and Should I Care?

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

The tech industry is a virtual cavalcade of buzz words and acronyms. So it’s not surprising when small business leaders who are more concerned with day-to-day functions around pleasing customers and making payroll lose patience with the terminology.

I used the term, “cloud aggregator” in a conversation with a retail executive. Yes, I know. Not my best choice of terms, and this point was reinforced when the man looked at me like I had antennas growing out of my head. He then reeled-off three questions in rapid succession: Who are they? Why should he care? And would I mind carrying on the rest of the conversation in English?

Sure, I can do that.

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Web Conferencing Keeps You Connected While Cutting Costs

Meetings become more productive when employees can participate anywhere, any time

It’s no secret that most people dislike meetings. Employees often equate meetings with sitting around stuffy conference rooms, wasting valuable time in unproductive ways, and even hustling through airports to catch a red-eye flight. It’s easy to forget that meetings are important for building consensus, making decisions, and getting your product or service to market. So what’s the best way to ensure meetings are productive and cost effective? Simply, web conferencing.

A web conferencing solution elevates meetings into streamlined, collaborative sessions. The technology requirements are minimal, especially if you choose a hosted or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, and most employees already have the necessary phone, computer, and Internet connection (a webcam is optional). This means that employees can easily meet with anyone from any location, share data quickly, and collaborate in real time. For many smaller businesses, eliminating the need to travel for meetings is the greatest cost- and time-saving benefits.

WebEx, Cisco’s SaaS web conferencing solution, has been leading the market for 15 years. That means there’s very little risk to a small business adopting this technology for the first time.

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Unified Communications 300 Improves Communication, Collaboration

Easy, affordable solution helps companies achieve faster results and stay connected to people and resources

I recently wrote about how an IP-based voice system can help small businesses save money. This type of unified communications (UC) solution provides other benefits, too, such as boosting employee productivity, achieving better results faster, and creating a more collaborative company.

In a survey about the value of unified communications, Forrester Research found that small businesses benefit from UC with more effective team collaboration, rapid problem resolution, and increased employee productivity. Specifically, 69 percent of the small and medium-sized companies polled indicated they would improve efficiency. And 65 percent said they would improve competitiveness with the ability to reduce business delays.

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Collaboration Helps Small Business Work Smarter and Faster

A unified communications solution can reduce costs, boost productivity, and improve customer service

In this always on, connected world, your customers expect to reach you at any time—when it’s convenient for them. Tools like unified communications, cloud services, and Web conferencing help your business collaborate more effectively, allowing your employees to work from anywhere and improving customer service through personal interaction. The ability to connect and respond in real time helps differentiate your business from the competition and can make your company more profitable.

Communication is a key component to successful collaboration. By combining voice, video, and data on the same network, you can streamline communication and boost productivity.

If you’re a small company considering a unified communications solution, Cisco’s Unified Communications 300 Series (UC 300) provides business-class networking and voice communications for your business at an affordable price. A complete unified communications solution, the UC 300 lets you replace your PBX (public branch exchange) system with IP telephony and delivers built-in voice and wireless support as well as other advanced features such as voicemail and auto attendant. And because the solution uses SIP trunks, your company can save on monthly phone charges.

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Resolving Conflicts with Channel Partners

Guest Post by Contributing Author Ken Presti

The potential for conflict is an ever-present factor for any kind of partnership – whether that be in our business lives or in our social lives. And with that as a given, much of our success in life is based not on our ability to avoid conflict, but to deal with it effectively when it arises.

This is also true of the dealings between small business leaders and the channel partners who play an integral role in keeping their IT infrastructure running smoothly. In fact, you can make the argument that in many cases the IT infrastructure is so important to the company’s success that the potential for conflict is even greater.

Sometimes, the solution is clear-cut. There are instances when reach their conclusion and both partners are just better off moving down the line. But every now and then, the business relationship is to tightly interwoven that both parties need to travel the extra mile in order to preserve the relationship, if only on a temporary basis. This is particularly true where long-term projects are involved and changing the proverbial horses in mid-stream is something best avoided.

The good news is that most people are more focused on the bottom line, and are usually willing to do what’s best for business. The bad news is that egos can – and do – get in the way sometimes. When this happens, the most expedient solution may be for one, or both sides, to change out the people who are managing the relationship. This can be as easy as putting a new rep on the account. It’s amazing how often a couple of fresh perspectives can ease communications and resolve seemingly unresolveable problems. On the other hand, replacing the people involved in the relationship is not always feasible.

But regardless of whether you are working with new people or the same people, there comes a time when it is especially important to take a fresh look at the big picture, and to look at the points of conflict as dispassionately as you possibly can. Try to break the equation into a series of components, and look across the full breadth of those components as a means of finding compromise or resolution. If your discussion gets isolate down into one single point of conflict, then it becomes nearly impossible to negotiate a win/win. And if one of the parties comes out of the discussion as the obvious loser, then the discussion is almost always a failure. Finding a successful resolution is almost always much easier when you can identify multiple areas of give-and-take.

Sometimes it may be necessary to bring a third party into the discussions. A mediator can be helpful in assisting in the negotiation at a non-binding level. In this context, the mediator has no actual authority to dictate terms. It’s up to the two parties to leverage whet they can from those discussions and decide an outcome for themselves. Another option would be binding arbitration, in which both parties make their case to a third party with the agreement that they will abide by the decision rendered. Beyond that, there is always the court system.

A win/win is always better, as I think everyone knows. But with a little creativity, some additional openness, and a willingness to see things from the other side does a lot more than extend our sense of humanity. It’s also good for business.