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Cloud Offers Prime Location for Small Business

  • Business Talk
  • Cloud

Small Business Cloud

Everyone wants to open up their small business in the right place. Sophie Devonshire of Babes With Babies has found her ideal location in the cloud.

  • Welcome to the 21st Century
  • Working from Afar
  • Is it Real?
  • Centralization Attempts
  • Times are Changing
  • Business Without Borders
  • What About You?

Welcome to the 21st Century

Sophie Devonshire owns a truly 21st-century business – one that would have been impossible only a few years ago. She has no headquarters. All her employees collaborate from independent locations in France, Dubai, and the United Kingdom.

Babes With Babies, Devonshire’s e-commerce business for new and expectant mothers, has cashed in by using third-platform technologies for a competitive advantage: profits have risen 600% since 2007.

BWB, like many small businesses in 2015, uses cloud tech to tighten budgets and allow staff to work variable shifts, with access to worldwide customers.

Working from Afar

The company works together on projects via the project management environment Trello.

“It’s as if we’re in a meeting room,” Devonshire commented. “Zoe our chief buyer will enter her recommendations, then others will go in and add their thoughts.”

The team also relies heavily on Skype instant-messaging. Devonshire believes that instant-messaging programs are helpful in allowing opportunities to chat about personal topics in between tasks.

Marketing is conducted through social media, especially via the organization’s 7000 Twitter followers. Sage Pay and PayPal are used for integrated payments.

Babes With Babies also uses cloud conferencing software and Dropbox for file storage and company-wide accessibility.

Small businesses that operate through the cloud do not have the overhead associated with leasing commercial space.

One very physical task must be performed in the case of retail, though: shipping.

To keep things streamlined, BWB has a partner that handles all its fulfillment: Intermail.

When someone puts in an order online, Devonshire said, the website notifies the fulfillment company, which processes the order and shoots back a tracking code to the website.

Even though the vast majority of activities are performed virtually, it’s still sometimes necessary to have in-person meetings. For that reason, Babes With Babies is partnering with Quintessentially for continuing conference room access.

Is it Real?

Lacking a physical location, it is not always easy to instill comfort in customers.

Devonshire says that the essential component is impeccable customer service. Reps are spread out across several time zones so that they can easily cover the entire 24-hour cycle.

By making hours flexible for all her 11 employees, cloud keeps morale high and allows the focus of all interactions to be centrally squared on the customer.

“The whole idea of Babes With Babies is to make new [mothers] feel good,” explained Devonshire. “So throughout the shopping process it’s important that the customers feel looked after. We use technology to make things more human and helpful.”

Centralization Attempts

One of the biggest beefs that people have with the cloud is that it is made up of a bunch of disparate systems. Bringing things together has become a central concern of IT. Integration is seen as the Achilles heel of the developing Internet of Things. Compatibility is always challenging for companies with complex IT infrastructures: in fact, incompetent consultants often label themselves as cloud systems integrators. Interoperability is a scorching-hot topic in healthcare as well.

Integration isn’t just about technology, though. It can even be used in the buying process, as suggested by the tool of Finnish startup Pilvi.com, which pulls in various options.

“In general, using cloud-based systems and services is cost efficient,” said Pilvi COO Lassi Virtanen. “You only pay for what you use, and you won’t be bound by long contracts.”

Because the cloud has such obvious strengths, the analysts at IDC have predicted that the industry will grow to $107 billion (up from $47 billion in 2013).

Times are Changing

Cloud isn’t just about affordable computing. It’s also about creating a new style of workplace.

“Generation Y has no intention whatsoever of sitting at the same desk for 40 hours of every single week,” said workplace author Chris Ward. “Those staying in their office all week will become as outdated as the landline and fax machine.”

Smarta.com CEO Shaa Wasmund says that there are more entrepreneurs these days who are just as concerned with the quality of their lives as they are with paying their bills.

Agreeing with Wasmund, Devonshire said that insisting workers be at certain places at certain times, often having to drive through heavy traffic to get there, is not the way to inspire people. She believes that Yahoo chief Marissa Mayer, who decided to withdraw work-from-own privileges from her employees, has got it all wrong.

Business without Borders

Devonshire partially credits the cloud approach with the company’s success, particularly since she has been on the move.

In 2006, she relocated from the United Kingdom to Estonia. At the time, she was a new mother and wanted to be at home as much as possible.

Many people didn’t think that the business would be able to make it, but mobility and general adaptability are core strengths of cloud.

By going with the technologies she had to have to run the company at a distance, Devonshire has ridden the crest of cloud technology to ongoing success.

What About You?

What can cloud do for your business? Simply put, it positions you on the right side of the longest ongoing technological disruption in history.

Today, get 40x faster cloud hosting for only $1/month.

By Kent Roberts

Cloud Hosting Company’s  Pathetic, Sexist Bro Ad

  • Events

FORTA

Please review the following promotional effort by a cloud hosting company for your pop marketing quiz:

Pop Marketing Quiz

  1. FORTAcloud’s recent Marketing Message was:
    1. We like to do it with hot babes as much as the next guy.
    2. We obviously don’t have any women on our marketing team.
    3. Here’s something you can look at while we have our way with you.
    4. All of the Above.

Correct Answer: 4.

What Can You Possibly be Thinking?

You just can’t make this stuff up. Here’s the play-by-play:

  • At 7:14AM PST on May 18, a cloud hosting company posts its marketing campaign, blasting its followers with a picture of a woman in lingerie.
  • The company gets immediately attacked, by women and men alike.
  • The company stands its ground, saying basically, Hey, our customers enjoy porn, and they deserve to see it when they’re being sold our awful hosting packages (see image of their incredible performance figures below – hey, 2 stars for Uptime, not bad!).

FORTA 02

This is one of those things that could easily have died on Twitter, but with more people frustrated these days by being insulted and objectified by marketers, it got considerable traction.

“It’s pretty interesting that I can still embed FORTAcloud’s actual tweet about the deal instead of relying on a screenshot,” offered Jenny Kutner sarcastically, “because — in a surprising turn of events — the ad was rather quickly criticized as sexist, in a manner that might typically result in a brand removing the questionable content and issuing an apology.”

What’s really funny and also kind of disgusting about this situation is how much disrespect it shows that FORTAcloud has for its customers. It’s one thing to post the thing, and that’s bad enough.

What’s amazing, though, is that the cloud service provider is arrogant enough to seemingly not care that hundreds of people are bashing it through its own social media channel. I would assume that some of these people are its customers. Gauging the general sentiments online toward the organization’s cloud servers, surely many of these individuals were looking forward to the opportunity to use them as a punching bag.

“The company fired back at critics who dared to suggest it might be problematic to objectify a scantily clad woman without any context,” explained Kutner, “or to blatantly use her body to attract customers for an unrelated service because ‘everybody else is doing it.’”

See below:

FORTA 03

As you can imagine, these boneheaded responses by the cloud hosting company only made the matter worse.

Here are some of the perspective of those upset with the image and the poor efforts at self-defense, the attitude of pretty much everyone who was engaging with the post:

  • Technical strategist Thayer Prime said that the advertisement suggested their service was so terrible that they were purposely trying to attract ignorant customers.
  • IT consultant Sally Jenkinson noted that the initial post by FORTAcloud was pathetic, and the company’s responses only made the situation worse.
  • Web developer Shane Hudson said he thought the marketing was preposterous and that he would never want to do business with the company, pointing out that he falls within their target demo as a 21-year-old male.

The core concern of most people who engaged with the tweet was that the cloud service provider was using women’s sexuality as a tool. They were symbolically undressing the women in their audience by stripping a woman for no other reason than to strip her, no matter how irrelevant that action was to their discount offer.

“I am absolutely fascinated by who would ever think this is a good strategic decision,” said ResourceiT managing director Julie Simpson. “What is even more disturbing is the way they’ve reacted to the reaction from people on Twitter.”

Simpson said that the company would have done itself a huge favor if they had responded to the criticism by accepting the fact that they had made a mistake. People are willing to forgive when companies will admit that they made a misstep.

Instead, they kind of got into a semantic conversation about the definition of sexism and seemed to suggest that whatever might be wrong with the material didn’t matter because their audience loves sexy ladies.

Perhaps it was all a clever plot, and FORTAcloud is not the misogynistic bro weenies they appear to be.

“We know what’s really going on here,” posed Kutner. “FORTAcloud might have been attempting to highlight the pervasive objectification of women in advertising by noting that many industries with predominantly male clientele rely on [that advertising tactic].”

A Hosting Company that Likes Women

What this Twitter disaster really comes down to is respect. The fact is, if you have a good product, you are much less likely to have a click-bait attitude toward the lowest common denominator in your audience. Do these guys really think that professional women want to have to look at that nonsense? Or professional men, for that matter? It’s insulting.

At Superb Internet, we like women, and our marketing is based on confidence in the strength of our cloud hosting systems – which have met numerous certifications for regulatory compliance and objective technological standards.

By Kent Roberts

Cloud Disrupts Content Management and Manufacturing

  • Business Talk
  • Cloud
  • General

Cloud

  • The Most Disruptive Technology Ever
  • Content Marketing, Disrupted
  • Manufacturing, Disrupted
  • Realizing the Full Value of Cloud

The Most Disruptive Technology Ever

Mike Saliter, director of international market development for QlikTech, said that cloud is fast becoming the go-to tech model. Anyone can get their own cloud server running almost immediately. The broad menu of services available at any time and from any location has only continued to expand.

The cloud is not just diverse in its service offerings but in its disruption. Long-established leaders have to develop new ways of doing business – including what they charge, how they market, and the IT equipment they use. The top contenders will not be those that necessarily offer the best value but that are built through collaborative development and allow users to conveniently access the functionality.

“Cloud just might be the most disruptive technology ever,” argued Greg Satell of Forbes. “The world’s most advanced technologies are not only available to large enterprises who can afford to maintain an expensive IT staff, but can be accessed by anybody with an internet connection.”

Content Marketing, Disrupted

The enterprise content marketing (ECM) industry is being disrupted by cloud and the rise of the third platform, per a 2015 poll conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM).

John Mancini, the association’s president, said that ECM is now an outdated concept. “The ECM industry is in need of a new label,” he suggested, “and organisations are desperate for best practices to deal with the technology disruption that is occurring.”

ECM is either not achieving its purpose or is being outdone by cloud services. The survey spoke with executives at 400 companies. Core findings included:

  • Three in five companies (62%) that had a substantial ECM investment noted that their employees used file-sharing apps for collaboration.
  • Most decision-makers (50%) said their companies were actively using more than two different ECM environments. One in five (22%) said they had more than four ECM systems deployed.
  • Three in five (60%) said that they were having significant difficulty getting their users to buy into ECM initiatives.
  • The three highest-rated functions of ECM systems were to gauge the user’s circumstances, figure out what needs they might have, and delivering expertly targeted offerings through big data analytics.
  • Just over 50% said that by 2020, ECM would no longer be its own environment but would instead be built into the general infrastructure.

Mancini said that companies were especially concerned about standards so there would be less confusion in comparing different options. He also noted two other major disruptions beyond cloud: the Internet of Things and the general trend of consumerization.

Manufacturers, Disrupted

Another major sector in which cloud has been disruptive is manufacturing. Manufacturing businesses often feel that their customers are moving so quickly that it’s difficult to keep up with them. Cloud providers allow them to meet increasingly mobile and flexible demands.

Here are four ways that cloud gives manufacturers a competitive advantage. Together these elements fuel disruption within the industry.

#1 – Delivering broad expertise to the shop floor.

The chief executive of one company that produces hand tools said that his organization’s cloud plan was for the floor to become as efficient as possible. By using tools designed specifically to optimize manufacturing, the company was able to access a more comprehensive picture of its supply chain and better gauge its progress.

#2 – Seamless system integration to allow cloud ERP, CRM, and supply chain management (SCM) tools to meet emergent and continuing needs in tandem.

One manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) machines wanted to start creating made-to-order equipment. Their cloud provider helped them figure out how to configure the creation of customized items, while managing everything through an ERP system for automated quote-to-cash. Now, more than a quarter of the company’s profits are garnered through custom orders.

#3 – Networks of suppliers with integrated information are now more accessible to manufacturers through the cloud.

Most manufacturers have developed game plans to bring all their supply systems under one umbrella, facilitated through knowledge-sharing.

A case study on building a high-performance supplier networks was created by Dr. Jeffrey Dyer and Dr. Kentaro Nobeoka via an extensive project they conducted for Toyota.

“Manufacturers are relying on cloud platforms and CSPs to enable shifts in network structures and nurture change management to create self-sustaining systems,” explained Louis Columbus.

#4 – Two-tier ERP systems are becoming commonplace as cloud apps become more advanced.

Enterprise resource planning programs have become more sophisticated. One computing manufacturer hired a cloud provider to help them organize procurement and deployment of two-tiered ERP, with an SAP instance located in their main office. They now have manufacturing plants on three continents, with all production monitored and managed through their primary location in the United States.

Realizing the Full Value of Cloud

Companies are only getting 35% of the value cloud systems could deliver to their companies, per analysis from Bain & Company.

“Companies that moved development to IaaS and PaaS clouds from Amazon Web Services (AWS) reduced downtime by 72% and improved application availability by 3.9 hours per user per year,” said Columbus.

Do you need infrastructure-as-a-service? Start free with Flex Cloud today.

By Kent Roberts

How to Leverage Salesforce and Vertical Response to Manage Email Subscribers

  • Marketing and PR
  • Web Development

email world

  • Highlevel Overview
  • Understanding the Difficult Part
  • Conclusion

Highlevel Overview

It has been proven that of all the marketing activities a company can engage in, email campaigns bring the highest return on investment in the shortest amount of time. Salesforce allows a company to track leads with the goal of converting those leads to customers. Vertical Response Classic has the ability to integrate with a Salesforce Sales Campaign so that the success of an email campaign can easily be tracked and verified with real metrics.

In order to run a Salesforce Vertical Response Classic email campaign effectively the following setup tasks are recommended:

  • Create a custom field in the Lead object to hold your email campaign name
  • Route the leads generated from your sales campaign to their own Salesforce queue
  • Make the leads read only so they cannot be altered between the time they are created and the proposed email campaign

Understanding the Difficult Part

There are many ways to get a lead into Salesforce. An easy way to achieve that goal is to use the web to leads form generator in Salesforce and embed that on your website. A more difficult but powerful approach is to use python beatbox. Remember that if you are going to use the salesforce api to do the following:

  • Setup a salesforce sandbox and test there first!
  • Obtain a security token both in the sandbox and the production Salesforce areas

When creating the lead be sure to populate the custom field you created for your Email Campaign Field. It is then possible to create an assignment rule to automatically change the owner of the generated lead to a queue of your choice. One of the problems that can arise when using Salesforce, is the lack of a full time Salesforce administrator or fully trained sales people. It is imperative that the lead not be moved from your original queue or altered prior to your email campaign execution. There is a very simple way to prevent your valuable email campaign lead from being altered. All that is necessary is to add a validation rule that prevents an Email Campaign Lead from being altered. The actual validation rules is:

  PRIORVALUE( Email_Campaign_Name__c) == "your_campaign_name"

Here is a screenshot of how I did it:

Read only Salesforce lead validation rule

Read only Salesforce lead validation rule

Conclusion

Using Vertical Response Classic in Salesforce to create effective email campaigns that prove return on investment through solid metrics does not have to be hard. Simply adding a custom field to the Salesforce lead object to hold your email campaign name, creation of an email campaign queue, an automatic assignment rule to move the lead to the email campaign queue, and a simple validation rule are all that is necessary! Once you have set this up, just go into Vertical Response and build your email campaign list by searching for leads with the email campaign name in the custom field you created to hold it.

Great Cloud Stories of Con Games and Snooping

  • Business Talk
  • Cloud
  • Security

Scam, Fraud

  • Ponzi Scheme
  • Phony Experts
  • Law Firms Warned about Intelligence Snooping
  • CloudGOO Brings Together Multiple Storage Accounts
  • Cloud Offers New Small Business Opportunities
  • Cloud Reconnaissance Mission

As in any industry, especially ones that are growing fast, cloud has its share of ne’er-do-wells. Here are some of the best stories about con games and snooping, along with a couple of feel-good tales – because cloud should never make you cry.

Ponzi Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission pulled the plug on a Ponzi scheme that fraudulently offered massive profits for investing in cloud technology. The scam, which was announced on March 28, 2014, targeted Asian-Americans, Latinos, and populations outside the United States.

“Xu and his entities claimed they were using investor funds to build a strong cloud services company that would then ignite other high-tech companies and ultimately make their investors very wealthy,” said Michele Wein Layne, LA-based regional director of the SEC. People who gave the scam organization money and/or referred others were issued “points” that could be used as shares of cloud providers that were supposedly approaching IPOs.

The fraudulent company, which operated both as WCM777 and WCM, received almost $70 million in investments between 2013 and 2014. The fraudsters told their investors that they would see a 100% return in just over three months for paying between $400 and $2000. Part of the way they convinced people to invest their money was by highlighting bogus relationships with over 700 big-name brands, including Goldman Sachs and Denny’s.

The SEC said that some of the cash was distributed to earlier investors (as is standard procedure to keep a Ponzi scheme active). Additionally, the con artists purchased two golf courses, a few houses, and stock in energy companies; they also funneled money to a Hong Kong-based diamond company.

Phony Experts

When TechnologyOne signed a contract to become the provider of public education management applications for Victoria, Australia, chairman Adrian Di Marco took the opportunity to lash out at incompetent cloud advisors.

“I think there will be a lot of disasters alongside the success stories, because there are two worlds emerging: the false cloud and the true cloud,” Di Marco argued. “Hopefully people will start being able to differentiate between the two of them soon.”

The real problem with these self-professed cloud gurus, he said, was that they were making awful suggestions to companies but were able to sidestep any negative consequences since they were providing outside expertise. He added that these organizations sometimes framed themselves as consultants and other times labeled themselves as systems integrators.

Law Firms Warned About Intelligence Snooping

Attorneys interested in cloud should consider that the intelligence community could gain access to that data, according to the Law Society, a professional association based in the UK.

The organization suggested through a paper that its membership could benefit from using a cloud provider: their system would become more multiply redundant, agile, and affordable. However, cloud could also pose risks, said the Law Society. The paper suggested that attorneys choose cloud companies that have developed strong service level agreements and that adhere to international standards.

“If you kept everything in-house then probably the government could access it, but you would have more control and you would notice,” said attorney Sam de Silva of Penningtons Manches. “There is no empirical evidence but my gut feeling is that cloud systems are more open to interception.’

Despite this “gut feeling” wariness about the technology from some quarters, a study released by LexisNexis showed that attorneys generally have increased confidence in cloud: almost three out of every four respondents (72%) said their firm was likelier to adopt cloud within 12 months than they had been in the past.

CloudGOO Brings Together Multiple Storage Accounts

You may have storage in a bunch of different locations within the cloud. You can bring it all together with CloudGOO for easier management (as recommended by Cloud Tech).

Cloud Offers New Small Business Opportunities

Sophie Devonshire owns a cloud-based small business. There is no physical headquarters. Everyone works from their own homes in France, Dubai, and the United Kingdom.

Devonshire has an e-commerce business selling to new and expectant mothers. Business is growing at an incredible clip, with a 600% rise in sales between 2007 and 2014.

This small business is fully based on Internet connection – collaboration between employees as well as the sales process. The cloud is used to cut costs and allow everyone to work whatever hours they want, with international access to customers.

Since the company doesn’t exist in any one location, the organization has found that it must offer stability through powerful customer service.

“The whole idea of Babes With Babies is to make new [mothers] feel good,” said Devonshire. “We use technology to make things more human and helpful.”

Cloud Reconnaissance Mission

Looking to interact with a cloud system and get your feet wet? Start with Flex Cloud now for free, offering on-demand resources, hourly pricing, and full control.

By Kent Roberts

5 IT Concepts for Small Business

  • Business Talk
  • Cloud
  • General

IT Concepts

  • Cloud Hosting
  • Hybrid Clouds
  • E-Invoicing
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

In our previous article “When Should You Replace Small-Business Technology?”, we talked about how interconnected technology now is with business. Since that’s the case, you will give your business a boost by staying abreast of emergent technologies that can deliver a competitive advantage. Here are five IT concepts with which you want to be familiar in 2015:

Cloud Hosting

Companies typically spend large portions of their budget on technology, but they aren’t buying as many physical machines. Instead, they are purchasing tech resources “as a service” through cloud providers. While you may think of cloud computing as a consumer or business running a program on a provider’s cloud (as is the case with many software-as-a-service providers), you can actually get your own virtual machine through infrastructure-as-a-service, aka cloud hosting.

“Cloud hosting accomplishes the same goals as an on-premises server,” explained Digity CEO Seth Bailey, “but instead of storing all your files locally (e.g., on a server at your place of business), all your data and documents reside in a secure sever located on the Internet.”

Just like Apple users can access their music and photos from anywhere or Dropbox users can access large files anywhere, a cloud server allows you and your workforce to access your network wherever and whenever. It is also typically budget-friendly.

Hybrid Clouds

If you think that getting your own cloud server (controlled and managed by yourself, the hosting company, or a third party) makes sense, you then need to look at the three basic categories of cloud environments: public, private, and hybrid infrastructures.

Security in public cloud get stronger all the time, but some organizations prefer the enhanced security of a private cloud. Although the private version allows you more control and contains your data within dedicated machines, it is pricier than public cloud. Many businesses combine public and private components into a hybrid cloud.

Hybrid clouds combine the best qualities of private and public,” said Bailey. “They can be just as cheap as public clouds, but they still offer your business better privacy.”

IT analysis firm Technology Business Research forecast the following cloud industry growth rates for 2015:

  • Public cloud – 25%
  • Private cloud – 35%
  • Hybrid cloud – 50%

E-Invoicing

A simple term that describes electronic invoicing, e-invoicing aggregates invoices and makes them available to both you and your customers. These systems, often run through the cloud, automate part of the invoicing process. The workload is decreased for accounting, and you no longer have to pay for the paper.

Making a major change to the way you get paid isn’t easy, but Bailey noted it will cut your costs long-term.

“Your Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) will vanish very quickly,” he argued. “And, as with any paperless solution, your company becomes greener by adopting e-invoicing.”

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

If you want to have better control over sales and customer service, monitoring and organizing everything in one place, you will want to invest in a customer relationship management system. A CRM, frequently a cloud tool as well, aggregates and clarifies all data related to particular accounts. You can also automate some tasks so that your salespeople and service reps aren’t slowed down by tedious repetition.

You will be less likely to make errors because aspects such as names and addresses are automatically populated into the appropriate forms and documents from one source; when that one location is updated, everything adapts seamlessly. No more misspelling names in emails or forgetting to contact a lead at an agreed time.

You can use a CRM for other purposes as well, such as for hiring. You can monitor job candidates quickly and easily, taking advantage of the same user-friendly, intuitive platform design that helps salespeople organize their efforts.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

Small businesses often see the name of ERP and think it is more relevant to large businesses. However, these systems – again, cloud-based in many cases – can be helpful to anyone. You can use ERP software to manage data throughout all the pieces of your company, with cloud tools typically updating in real-time.

Trying to decide the right path forward for your business is enhanced by ERP, through which you can gauge impact of potential actions on various departments.

“ERP software makes it easier to keep your company agile,” said Bailey, “as it shows every department what the others are doing, and it encourages fluidity rather than rigid structure.”

An ERP system can give you a competitive edge by giving your business cohesion and allowing you to adapt to fluctuations immediately.

Fluid Adaptation with Technology

Flexibility is a critical component of all the above technologies. If you can react quickly, then you can ouptace competitors. Plus, if you are successful, you need to scale.

Note that all the above systems either are cloud tech or are frequently delivered through cloud virtual machines, which are fundamentally designed to scale seamlessly to meet your growing demand. Want to explore cloud? Set up and create your own cloud VM today for free.

By Kent Roberts