Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cloud Servers: What It Means for You

You’ve heard it whispered about at business conferences over the last few years – that thing the techies are excitedly discussing in corners and dropping into conversation when they hope their bosses are paying attention.

Every time the guys who make sure your office runs along at twenty-first century speed get themselves together to discuss anything, money seems fly from you pockets, doesn’t it?

Well this time, it’s a little different. The buzzword right now is one you might not be familiar with but you’ll learn to love it. And best of all? It doesn’t mean you have to get a whole new room of computer equipment that you don’t know how to personally use.

Cloud servers and cloud computing are not all that new of an idea. People have actually been using these infrastructures with increasing regularity over the last few years – they just didn’t always have the label that they deserved.

At its heart, the cloud being referred to is a third party system that you access through the internet to get at files, information, servers and other users. That’s the easiest way to think about it, and the example I’m about to give you will make it even more clear.

Every time you upload a document to GoogleDocs so your coworker can grab it quickly from a computer across the country, you’re using cloud technology.

It’s all about real time. It’s all about access. It’s all about being able to get what you want when you want without having to worry that the stacks of metal and wires in your IT closet or IT room aren’t overheating, misfiring or anything of the like. It’s all online, and it lets you do business in real time.

Cloud technology is about taking the room full of gear out of your hands. It might take you a while to get there. You may need to do some moving around of equipment and personnel but I can help you figure out what systems will work best for you.

The thing to keep in mind is that soon, those cords and many, many weighty servers that have kept you in the office, at your desk, tied to your desktop computer in the past could be replaced by an internet connection if you work your transition to this new system correctly.

So next time you hear about this new technology and start to sweat thinking of money you’ll have to lay out in another long line of improvements, try to relax and remember that technology innovations really are improvements for everyone involved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Choose a Good Telecom Consulting Company?

Every business maximizes its profits by minimizing its expenses and so cost-cutting is a hotly sought after concept in every business. Expenditures are analysed and ways and means of cutting costs are determined. The telecommunication services contribute immensely to cost-savings when a micro-analysis of cost incurred is done and effective corrective and preventive actions are taken. The expertise required to do analysis may not be available within the business, and thus paves the way for the entry of a telecommunication consulting company.

There has been a mushroom growth of telecom consulting companies which offer all types of services at different payment bases such as hourly, monthly, project-based, etc. So, it is a challenge to make the most appropriate choice. The past history of the company should be analysed: Answers to questions like when it was started, what type of services it has been offering all these years, how it has withstood periods of recession, hardship, etc. should be obtained and analysed. It is essential that the company has been in this business for a long period of time as expertise comes only with experience.

Next, the check will be on the clientele of the company. Whom does the company have as its customers will silently vouch what the company is, as the customers are the mirrors that reflect the quality of the services provided by the company. The contact details of the customers should be obtained and information relating to customer satisfaction should be collected and analyzed. The consistency in quality and the period of service with the customer are important points to be considered.

Every company has its expertise in certain areas of telecom services. The expertise of the company when compared with the requirements of the business should be a perfect match. This is a very important criterion as skill and expertise are two main reasons to seek the services of a consulting company.

The operational structure of the company should also be taken into consideration. Who is the contact person, will one person be responsible for all the services, does the company supply the services or does it subcontract to other companies, the expertise and skill of the company’s employees, if there is a subcontract, the history and efficiency levels of the subcontractor, the reliability of the analysis, what methods are used for analysis, are they appropriate methods, etc. are significant questions to be answered before a decision can be made on the choice of a company.

The competitive costs offered also have a major role to play in the selection of the company as this entire process is to save costs. Competitive costs do not always mean the lowest price. It means the best services that can be obtained for the price paid. Lowest prices could include some hidden costs in future or biased decisions and recommendations. These could prove futile to cost-cutting.

The period for which the service is required should be compared with the period offered by the consulting company and an advantageous decision should be taken. The legal formalities involved in drawing up contracts, the back-up systems which the company has, the contingency plans in hand should all be considered before a decision is made.

Our decisions today determine our future tomorrow. A detailed initial analysis of a consulting company results in correct business decisions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

7 Tips to Negotiate Telecommunication Contracts

Negotiating telecommunication contracts can open the doors to significant savings, and so a telecom audit is inevitable in today’s business to ensure economic business functioning and profitability. Technical knowledge and skills, which are of great advantage when it comes to determining the price to pay, are a must to negotiate a good contract. It is essential to negotiate skilfully, without compromising on the level of service, to reduce carrier margins and save money. Cost-effectiveness alone is not the keyword to negotiating telecommunication contracts; reliability of services is of prime importance while drawing contracts. Moreover, emphasis should also be given to future flexibility to adapt to change in technology as businesses are willing to pay a bit more if it meant access to more advanced features that would accentuate and improve the way they do their business.

Before entering into the process of negotiation of contract, the requirements in terms of services and equipments should be ascertained. There are a lot of details to decide like the number of devices to be supported, the applications to support, the procurement and maintenance of equipment and accessories, the types of voice and data services required, etc. Determining the indispensable services is an essential step to be completed with due diligence before starting the negotiations. Inventory and traffic patterns, as well as other pertinent information that will help a carrier price out the network effectively, should be determined. Depending upon the number of carriers used, a contract that can save a very significant percentage of the money previously set aside for telecom services can be negotiated. Once the requirements are well defined, one should analyse the different service providers and draw the contract with a suitable service provider.

The points to be borne in mind while drawing a contract are:

First, the period of contract should not be very long. Prices keep changing very often and it is never good to have a fixed price over a long period as competitive prices would be available in future. It is best to make use of the opportunity.

Second, carrier usage requirements will change. So it is best to make a contract which is flexible and not committed to a particular service. There should always be possibilities to incorporate changes.

Third, analyse the situation well before an existing contract ends and determine what would be best in the interests of the business, accordingly choose you future contract.

Fourth, several extension offers can be made for the expiring contract, So it is essential not to make a hasty decision, but analyse the impact of the contract over the extended period.

Fifth, hidden costs in the contracts should be uncovered and if possible previous overcharges should be recouped.

Sixth, appropriate language should be used to draw up a legal contract. It will be beneficial to review the contract with and attorney or the legal advisory department if you have one.

Seventh, sufficient time should be taken to do the analysis and decide on the contract.

Some companies specialize in negotiating and maintaining contracts. The services of such companies can also be utilized. When skilfully negotiated, telecommunication contracts greatly help in the effective functioning of a business.

Monday, October 26, 2009

What You Should Know About Hosted Phone Systems

The phone system we use has a big impact on the profitability of our company as the role it plays in communications, customer relationships, vendor contacts, and employee productivity is highly significant to our company. We should ensure that it delivers all the services that are required for the successful functioning of our company and the costs incurred for the maintenance of the phone system are within our budget. Hosted phone system has become the choice of every company as it provides the functionality of an on-site PBX with the cost savings of VoIP and the simplicity of a normal phone system.

In a hosted phone system, the equipment that your company uses is housed at the provider’s data centre and hence the name hosted phone system. So there is no need for the company to own equipment, such as a phone cabinet and routing software, which results in cost savings. High-speed Internet connection or a T-1 phone line is used to route calls to your business. Bandwidth for phone calls and data transfers can be designated as per your business requirements to ensure call quality. Hosted systems range from basic, VoIP-type systems where software can be downloaded in a few minutes to “enterprise grade” systems that require VoIP adaptors or phones.

Calls can be routed through a “dedicated connection,” or a T-1 line, or the “open internet” and a dedicated connection definitely produces better call quality, but is much more expensive than routing calls using an open Internet connection.

Usually service contracts or month-to-month agreements are made with providers. Month-to-month services are typically used by smaller businesses. The provider provides the software for a small phone system which can be downloaded from the provider’s Web site and installed within a few minutes. Phones are the only equipment that will be needed. Contract services operate more like traditional phone system services: the contract specifies acceptable downtime, service offerings, maintenance, and other costs in advance.

The advantages of using a hosted phone system are that there is no requirement for on-site hardware. Thereby the capital outlay for phone equipments is minimized. This is best suited for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which can enjoy the benefits of a state-of -the-art phone system without investing on expensive equipments, routing software, equipment maintenance, skilled manpower, office space, etc. All you need to do is pay a low fee on a monthly or contract basis to reap such great benefits where a virtual office environment for dispersed users, with highly scalable and flexible hosted phone systems, is created.

The disadvantages of hosted phone system are that dedicated lines are expensive and open Internet lines are not secure. Routing calls over the Internet can be more cost-effective, but it can lead to security problems for some companies if calls are not protected with a firewall or encryption protocol. Moreover, the quality of the call is also to be considered in the case of open Internet lines. But the cost-effectiveness and simplicity of usage definitely outweigh the problems of insecurity and poor call quality of lines, and therefore hosted phone systems are becoming more and more popular among small- and medium-sized businesses.