You might not know it, but you (and I) have been working in the cloud for quite some time. For instance, raise your hand if you were one of the masses hanging in chat rooms in AOL in the 90s. (You can put your hand down now). You’ve probably been sending and receiving email longer than you can remember, too. We’ve all been working in the cloud to one extent or another, even before it was referred to as a cloud—as was discussed on a recent Science Friday program on NPR. And by the way, you’re still working (or playing) in the cloud—if you are on Facebook, or Yelp, or Spotify, or if you use Dropbox. What differentiates current cloud from early cloud is that what we can do today is much more sophisticated, and giving us more power to be productive.
Essentially, cloud is the central power station that extends productivity and enables greater interconnectivity. In fact, in today’s environment, we’re seeing SMB customers serving as the early adopters of public cloud applications and services and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, there was a great blog recently on how to move to working in the cloud.
One of the more compelling aspects of cloud is how it actually helps even the playing field for businesses, rendering labels such as SMB or Enterprise irrelevant at times. Need evidence? The New York Times recently reported on Cycle Computing, a 20-person company that makes supercomputer software. By grouping a massive supercomputing cluster, with 50,000 processors, on Amazon Web Services (read: Cloud) to do drug compound simulations, it used its software as an operating system, and utilized resources from several Amazon data centers. Joining forces with two other small companies, they used up the equivalent of 12.5 processor years, but completed their mission in fewer than three hours. According to the article, the computing cost was less than $4,900 a hour. “This enables small companies and any researcher that has a grant to do science that they could never do before,” Jason Stowe, chief executive of Cycle Computing, said in an interview.
As our reliance on the cloud grows, our expectations for speed and ease of access accelerate. And when you add mobility to the equation, you find new ways to work and drive business results: to make it easier for employees to be productive, partners to collaborate, and for customers to become more engaged—the potential opportunity is unlimited.
If you’ve got a good story that shows how you’ve been able to advance your business through cloud, let us know—we’d love to hear it.
Small business switches with auto-deployment features remove the complexity of rolling out IP-based voice systems
If you’ve decided to upgrade your legacy phone system to a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution, you want to make sure that installation is as smooth and trouble-free as possible. A good place to start is with your network switch. As the traffic controller of your network, the switch connects different devices and allows them to communicate with each other. To make rolling out IP-based voice easier, you can choose a managed or smart switch with integrated automatic deployment features and built-in configuration tools.
Several of Cisco’s small business switches are designed to simplify VoIP deployments as well as make day-to-day network operations easier. The Cisco 200 Series Smart Switches, the Cisco Small Business 300 Series Managed Switches, and the new Cisco 500 Series Stackable Managed Switches include auto-deployment features that remove most of the complexity of installing voice equipment. Each of these small business switches include four integrated, easy-to-use configuration and management tools and integrated features: Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) and Link-Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), Auto SmartPorts, Voice Services Discovery Protocol (VSDP), and Cisco Configuration Assistant (CCA) Used together, these tools can result in zero-touch deployments of voice equipment.
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Tags: networking, small_business, switches, Voice_over_IP
Learn how you can make employees more productive with their mobile devices
Smartphone usage—and the expectations around smartphones—are changing rapidly. Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011, and by the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. By 2016 there will be an estimated 1.4 mobile devices per person. Given the rise of smartphones, it’s not surprising that people rely on their mobile devices for more and more of their daily interactions, including business communications, whether at work, at home, and on the road. In a Cisco report, 46 percent of people surveyed expect to be able to access their corporate network from their personal mobile device.
However, there’s more than just flexibility accompanying the BYOD trend. These shifting expectations about connectivity also come with a host of decisions for small business. For example, do you have the network infrastructure in place to enable your employees to use their mobile devices for business communications? Do you have a wireless device usage policy? Are your VPN connections secure? And when your employees do connect to the workplace via a mobile device, do they have access to products and tools to help them do their jobs?
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Tags: business tools, byod, mobile device, productivity, small business, smartphone
The right service plan can maximize network uptime and minimize lost revenues
New products and technologies, increasing mobility among employees, the need for round-the-clock access to company data and resources—these are just some of the factors driving small businesses’s growing dependence on their networks. This makes network downtime costly for any small business. According to Infonetics Research, unplanned network downtime costs companies an average of 3.6 percent revenue per year. And that doesn’t include the incalculable cost of damage to your business’s reputation caused by the downtime.
To minimize network downtime and ensure your network is available for employees to connect, collaborate, and communicate with customers and partners as well as each other, you may want to consider a support contract. A service plan will not only help protect your company’s technology investment, but it can also help save lost revenue and customers. Read More »
Tags: minimizing network downtime, service plan, Small Business Support Service, small_business, SMARTnet, support contract
Look around at most tech news lately and you’ll find four consistent trends: Cloud, Mobility, Social Media, and Big Data. Talk to analysts and you find that those four actually break into pairs: Cloud and Mobility; Social Media and Big Data. And what becomes apparent is that each second half of the pairs is responsible for accelerating the combination of the two.
Essentially, mobility has sparked the cloud imperative and the cloud has given mobility greater value. One of the more compelling aspects of this is how cloud actually helps level the playing field for businesses, rendering labels such as SMB or Enterprise irrelevant at times.
Enter social media. Social media has evolved to become a necessary tool for SMBs. Yelp is now the de facto standard of rating businesses; Twitter has become an effective marketing tool to spread news quickly and Facebook lets businesses develop communities. So, while Cloud/mobility is interesting on its own, social media makes cloud/mobility imperative.
At the same time, cloud/mobility has an accelerant effect on social media. It’s what enables happy customers to recommend your place of business while on the go. Similarly, to take advantage of point-of-sale customer enthusiasm—and build on the momentum—the best way to do that is to offer wireless access so your customers can Tweet, Facebook, Yelp and employ any other number of social media to give props to your business.
But it doesn’t end there. If all you do with all that great data is conclude that your business is popular, you’re missing a big learning opportunity. “Big Data,” which refers to the wealth of information that’s flowing out there, is yet another important way for you to identify the key differentiators that can help your business grow. It’s no longer enough to simply say that your business has 3.5 stars on Yelp. You need to understand that customers that give your business 4 stars, speak glowingly of your dinner ambiance and wait staff while your 2-star customers complain about long lines and grumpy staff at lunch. It’s this color inside the lines that really helps you see the big picture—with its details.
According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, last year’s mobile data traffic was eight times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. Mobility, Cloud, and Social Media are all fueling the data explosion. Remember: Each can push your business to new levels—by helping you operate faster and more cost efficiently with greater reach, while gaining a greater understanding of market segment. Plus, these key elements put greater power in the hands of employees to get their jobs done and in the hands of customers to deepen their relationship with your business. It’s up to you to harness that power.
Time to level that playing field.