5 Reasons for Businesses to Move to a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Information technology is evolving with each passing year, and only the forward-looking companies will catch up on promising innovations and integrate them into their operations early. One of these breakthrough technologies is the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), also known as hyperconvergence. In a nutshell, hyperconvergence is a virtualized IT architecture that combines crucial data components into a single, unified software platform, including backup, networking, storage, computing, protection, and more.

Although the concept is still to gain the traction and recognition it deserves, the technology is expected to rise in popularity in the years to come due to the numerous benefits it brings to enterprises. Let’s take a look at what hyperconvergence brings to the table, and how it can help you run your company from a highly-sophisticated and centralized piece of software.

Consolidating cross-department workflow

The first major benefit of a hyper-converged infrastructure is the ability to bring various functionality features such as compute, storage, and networking under a single virtual architecture. This means that you can consolidate wide area networks, eliminate duplicates, and manage backup storage from a centralized location, and with a great deal of automation and efficiency to boot.

With a streamlined workflow architecture such as this, you can easily transfer virtual machines between entire data centers in your company, and of course, different HCI appliances. What this means for your company as a whole is that back-office applications such as inventory, HR, accounting, reporting, quality control, and CRM systems can all be managed in the virtual realm.

Increased data protection

Data protection is one of the most important elements of a high-functioning and effective IT infrastructure. Hyperconvergence is a grand step forward for data protection and infrastructure resilience, as it offers a complete data recovery toolkit to keep your business safe. The software additionally allows you to back up your data on a public cloud storage platform if need be.

Another vital advantage of a hyper-converged infrastructure lies in higher infrastructure resilience. Given the fact that the data is not stored in a single location, but rather scattered across multiple nodes and even entire data centers in different locations, there is no way for the entire system to give out at any given point. If an entire HCI appliance goes offline, other data centers and nodes will ensure that you maintain performance and retain control of the data at all times.

Flexible and scalable growth

Traditional IT infrastructures based on manual computing and decentralized architectures are notoriously difficult to scale, especially in a rapidly growing environment. The innate lack of flexibility of these systems requires you to provision, configure, and finally implement computing power and storage capacity. On the other hand, innovative cloud computing platforms that are both hardware and software-based are built on hyper-converged infrastructure and offer easy and intuitive scalability through automatic capacity expansion.

You can simply attach a new HCI appliance into the hyper-converged infrastructure to achieve this, all without having to go through money-wasting downtime as you would with a legacy system. Instead of spreading compute and storage capacity across multiple separate functions, every HCI appliance is a self-sustained environment you can easily upgrade in small increments – effectively maximizing efficiency and accurately scaling your infrastructure.

A cost-effective solution

Increased revenue is not the only measure of success in the modern business world, as cutting operational costs and minimizing financial leaks are also vital elements of long-term solvency. Unlike traditional infrastructures, hyper-converged architectures have a low entry cost because of their streamlined requirements for equipment. Complemented with high virtualization on all fronts, the cost-effective nature of this solution becomes clear.

While legacy infrastructures required the components to be physically replaced in order to give way to new, more powerful hardware, hyperconvergence allows the business to add new features seamlessly and limit on-site IT for better cost reduction and higher long-term sustainability. Nevertheless, some form of on-premises oversight will remain for the foreseeable future.

Automation at its finest

Automation within traditional infrastructures has always been wishful thinking rather than a possibility, especially in complex enterprise systems entailing the use of multiple systems and various hardware. However, hyperconvergence is a software-defined data center, which means that all of the essential services and features such as storage, compute, and servers are managed within a virtualized infrastructure. This high level of centralization makes the automation of certain tasks a distinct possibility for the first time.

Before the creation of the hyper-converged infrastructure, IT needed to procure and integrate hardware from different sources – a problem that hyperconvergence eliminates by creating a cohesive computing environment. This directly influences the efficiency of the infrastructure, allowing you to automate tasks and cut upkeep costs significantly over the long run.

In conclusion

The hyper-converged infrastructure is the way of the future, and it’s rapidly weaving itself into the modern business world. By integrating hyperconvergence into your business structure and eliminating legacy systems, you can achieve higher efficiency and performance while elevating data protection and ensuring responsive scalability that will aid the further expansion of your business.

Guest author, David Webb, is a Sydney-based business consultant,online marketing analyst and a writer. With six years of experience and a degree in business management, he continuously informs the public about the latest trends in the industry. He is a regular author at BizzmarkBlog. You can reach him on Twitter or Facebook.

Modern Problems Require Modern Solutions

Ensuring your business can ever be one step ahead of the curve first requires it to be absolutely located within the present. Businesses might not be present in their aesthetic or theming, but in their practical running and development, they need to be. Even businesses that pride themselves on the age of their product ingredients such as decades-old whisky will never used decades-old solutions to business problems that are considered today. It’s put simply in the phrase: modern problems require modern solutions. This means that if you ever hope to push forward, you need a solid base from which to push.

As a business leader, it can be hard to keep your finger on the pulse. The trends of business life often seem to flow around us, and it can be hard to decide if we want to jump into this tide or to try to follow this while also dictating our own unique spin on things. With the following advice we should help any new business keep on top of the pressing trends current in 2019:

Changing Consumer/Business Relationships

The business relationship has started to shift between the customer and the business they hope to interact with. While the same time-honored laws of interpersonal trade still apply, that is consumers will likely offer you money to purchase your good or service, you have to provide a sense of immediate aftercare for this transaction. Complaints should be recorded efficiently and capably, and acted on if they have any merit. Bringing your support context to them through the use of social media IM features is one of the norms that more and more companies have started adopting, because it reduces the load on your call centres and can help the client feel as though they’ve been given a wise and fair speed of treatment.

Some businesses offer a money back guarantee if the customer isn’t happy with the good or service, and social media has given people of all kinds the power to denounce or appreciate that which your business does. If you look at any online review website, you’ll see the business trying to carefully respond to negative reviews, perhaps apologising for their experience and offering them a better time if they come in next. The power has absolutely shifted in favor of the consumer, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It simply means that more departments need to operate with PR in mind, and any business decision must be made in the light of the consumer, as they have more power to affect your bottom line than ever before. It just takes one highly-followed person to positively or negatively tweet about you to affect your share price slightly. For this reason, pay attention to this changing relationship, and do what you can to preserve it.

Data Management

Data management is essential to consider in the modern day. Not only are vast amounts of data created in the daily functioning of your firm, but not all data is created equal. Some is simple and basic, some is highly sensitive. Some is generated by the activities your firm embarks upon, some data is freely given to you in order for a customer to interface with your firm accurately. Some data is relatively useless and simply a by-product of the IT functioning of your office, some can be analyzed in order to predict spending patterns and just who you should be advertising to.

Data is perhaps too vast a term to gain any immediate definition of. But handling all of this data well, adhering to the most present data collection policy and ensuring a privacy disclaimer on your website and sales contracts will ensure that you are both trusted and  held to the standard necessary to function with this at your side. Using a service such as the Gartner master data management report can help you learn sustainable methods of handling data, taking a quite intimidating proposition and turning it something you will thrive in.

Corporate Espionage

Corporate espionage seems like a silly thing, as if it was only localized in noir movies in the late 50’s.  We think of a long shadow against the wall in a smoky office, as a spy ruffles through the papers to find out just what his neighbouring business is up to. Unfortunately, this quite attractive image isn’t the reality in the modern day, but corporate espionage does still exist, and is much more refined than you might know. It all takes place in cyberspace.

While staff vetting is of course important, most system trespassing is now done online, and can be prevented by using VPNs, ensuring staff exercise a high level of personal security over their workflow modules, and that high-profile messages within the top levels of your firm are on a need-to-know and encrypted basis. Keeping tight control of the narrative at the top can ensure that your business is always in control of that it hopes to keep secretive.

Accelerated Innovation

Innovation seems to happen at rocket-speed in the modern day. This is great for consumers, but sometimes worrying for businesses. Businesses often worry that their competition will somehow develop a new method of crafting their product that will cut costs significantly, undercutting the price of the competition to a strong degree. Sometimes a company releases a product so successful that its actual presence becomes the moniker of what that product category is – such as how ‘iPhone’ became more than just its brand name in common parlance.

The only counter to this you have is to invest in your research and development, to constantly experiment and generate your take on the winning formula. But also, to become known for the brilliance surrounding your effort, such as your excellent customer support, or your willingness to be a positive player in your industry, or to care about ethical standards.While modern solutions are always important, sometimes it’s the timeless ones that have the most impact.

With these tips, you’re sure to keep on top of the shifting tides of business modernity.

A Question Of Trust: Putting Our Faith In Remote Workers

When we’re trying to conserve our business’ productivity, its integrity, not to mention its finances, the modern approach that so many companies look to is the remote working setup. Naturally, it’s a big draw, not just because it’s a way to cut those financial corners, but it’s a way we can hire so many people, and actually, make the most of the limited finances we have. But, with remote working comes a lot of questions, not just in terms of the technicalities, but also, when you’re hiring remote workers or freelancers, this question of trust can arise. Are remote workers to be trusted? And how can we get around this issue?

The Handling Of Sensitive Data

The one basic way we can get around this is to have contracts. Even a freelancer contract carries a legal cache, and it’s the best way for us to cover our bases. Unfortunately, the difficulty of ensuring remote workers and freelancers handle data effectively is all about consistent communication. While there are some technological ways for you to keep on top of this, hiring a virtual server hosting company to do the monitoring, or hiring a dedicated team to monitor the computer components will ensure that you are keeping some sort of watchful eye on your remote employees.

Improving Your Communication With Them

As we can struggle with the idea of control when we have remote workers or freelancers, it’s important to differentiate between the two terms. Remote workers can be hired on a permanent contract, but freelancers are not. So, if you are concerned that the two aren’t mutually exclusive, you have to think about what you want from your employees. In addition to this, if you want freelancers to feel part of the team, you have to make them feel just that. The big anxiety that we can have when it comes to trusting remote workers is that they can leave us in the lurch when there is a deadline looming, and while we don’t want to be let down, if we don’t give them any sort of incentive to keep working for us, such as by minimal communication, then part of us shouldn’t be surprised when they do inevitably jump ship. Improving your communication isn’t about messaging them every 20 minutes or so, it’s giving them that room to breathe but showing them that you have faith in their abilities to complete the task. This is a hard thing for us to come to terms with, especially when we’re trying to keep numerous plates spinning, as well as get to know the new members of the team.

Don’t forget, it’s important that remote workers feel part of the team, even though they are working from home. Remote workers, from a stereotypical perspective, can take liberties, and not do what is asked of them, but if we are to trust remote workers, then we have to have some semblance of honesty in how we communicate. We can trust remote workers, and we should, but maybe it’s more about the fact that we have to come to terms with changing our own managerial styles.

Should Your Business Consider Chatbots?

The business community has benefited greatly from advancements in digital communication technologies. Today, there’s practically no end to the ways companies and brand representatives can engage with, troubleshoot for, market to or otherwise stay in touch with their fans and customers.

Chatbots are a relatively new addition to a bundle of tools that already included email, video chat, SMS, social networking and more. Chatbots are the next logical step in many ways when it comes to keeping businesses and customers in constant and easy contact. But they’re not for everybody. Below are some of the advantages of — plus one or two warnings about — chatbots to help you decide if it’s the right time and the right tool for your company.

What’s a Chatbot?

This word is one of those terms that pretty much gives it all away up front: A chatbot is an audio-based or text-based assistant that can autonomously help customers find answers to questions, troubleshoot problems or carry out other business-related tasks, such as ordering or re-ordering products, changing payment information, inquiring about or renewing subscriptions and memberships and much more.

Command-based chatbots are relatively rudimentary but still deceptively “intelligent.” They can respond to customer inquiries using heuristics that match replies with the most relevant topics or sub-menus for the customer.

On the other hand, AI-based chatbots are more sophisticated but also have a further way to go before they’re available to a wider array of businesses and more consistently able to reply accurately to any inquiry. But chatbots powered by AI are undoubtedly already showing their potential: Thanks to their use of natural language processing, they can reply “from scratch” instead of using canned responses. They can even become better over time at picking up meaning and intent from conversations with human callers.

With the different types of chatbots a little better understood, let’s move on to the main question, which is whether or not chatbots are worth the investment for your business. For a start, some industries are simply a likelier fit than others.

If Chatbots Make Sense for Your Industry

Chatbots are a relatively new concept, but they do already exist out in the wild. And there are several frontrunners when it comes to the types of industries that are well-suited to adopting chatbots. Some of them are:

  • Hospitality
  • Banking and financial services
  • Retail
  • Service-based companies

Based on polling, some 80 percent of business representatives would be interested in bringing chatbots into the fold at their company. But early popularity in the industries mentioned above already indicates which use-cases might yield the best results and return on investment. In hospitality, guests and travelers often require nearly instant solutions for checking into hotels and lodging, boarding airplanes and other conveyances, choosing venues, organizing transportation for meetings and conventions and a multitude of other tasks that have to happen at the speed of business.

In financial services, chatbots can help even regional banks and nonprofit credit unions provide members with account information or help them tailor their retirement or college savings. In retail and services environments, chatbots can pick up some of the slack during high-traffic times of the day or season by taking orders, pointing customers to what they’re looking for and more.

The point is, there might be use cases in your industry, and there might not be. Industries that depend on timely, accurate, always-available customer interactions appear to be early favorites, but as the technology improves, applications will undoubtedly continue to appear almost everywhere.

If You (and Your Customers) Value Time

On the customer and the company side of things, the first major advantage of chatbots is that they’re on standby 24 hours a day and don’t take a single day off during the year, provided there aren’t any technical snafus behind the scenes.

Allowing customers to have their questions answered on their own time is great already, but chatbots also save time for the company by providing an automated solution to the “problem” of answering common inquiries all day long. Both parties can breathe easier. Customers know they won’t have to try their luck calling back during business hours or trawling through a website for answers, and businesses know their employees are a little freer to respond to other, more urgent demands on their time.

There are one or two caveats when it comes to using chatbots in extremely customer-facing industries. Human beings know — or can be trained by locals — to respect cultural taboos and avoid words or phrases that might cause offense in another country or region.

The problem of maintaining cultural propriety during international affairs is not a new problem. But while it seems to make sense to turn chatbots into public liaisons in regions where you don’t have a strong employee presence to process customer calls, those chatbots had better have been developed with linguistic and cultural input from the region they’re intended to serve.

Being mindful of potential cultural frictions and even the subtleties of respectful political correctness is key to successfully using a chatbot to fill in your service gaps here and abroad.

If You Want Additional Insight Into Your User Base

The average interaction between a human customer and a chatbot can yield a surprising amount of information about your user base — too much, potentially, for a human operator to take in all at once, much less record and pass on to interested parties.

A phone conversation is practically analog compared with a chatbot chat when it comes to the potential to take in information from your user base. When your customers interact with your chatbot, with just a couple of simple questions and basic analytics, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how they use your products, where common sources of frustration are coming from and nitty-gritty details. These details include their location, the device type they’re using to contact you or interact with your services and other factors that might be of interest to your marketing team, your R&D team or both.

Chatbots are here already — and companies are figuring out how best to put them to work. By 2021, say industry experts, the chatbot “market” — including third-party cloud-based chatbot solutions — should reach a total value of $15.8 billion. That’s a ringing endorsement. Just remember that chatbots are a product like any other, and computing their probable ROI isn’t that much different, no matter what else you’re promised by a software vendor. In some cases, the human touch might just be the better choice for your business anyway — you’ll need to decide based on your unique circumstances.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

How #BigData Can Transform Your #Sales

Big data, cloud computing, AI and machine learning are all popular buzzwords these days. Nearly everyone is talking about these technologies and how they can be leveraged to provide benefits to a variety of companies.

In a general sense, big data can absolutely transform your business operations for the better. It feeds into a concept you should know well, called business intelligence. Through the technology, an endless supply of information is generated about your business, employees, customers, products and impact on the world at large.

This data, when used appropriately, is the end-all be-all for achieving ultimate success and improving sales. Before that can happen, however, raw data coming in must be analyzed, processed and converted into a more usable format.

How Big Data Becomes Actionable

There are two types of data that a business has at its disposal, one of which is less useful. The first type is raw data, which comes unstructured and in its original form. The second type is processed or organized data that is actionable and ready for use.

A major difference between raw data and usable data is that the latter provides a great deal of insight into whatever process, party or component you are studying. A huge swath of customer performance data, before being processed, might show something more generalized and simple — people like a certain product best, for example. However, diving in closer and analyzing the trends or patterns within datasets can reveal so much more.

Suddenly, you understand who it is that likes said product, why and what they’re using it for. Also, you can break your audience down into niche segments to better understand what they’re after. It’s even possible to see how they react after receiving your products or services, and how that affects their future relations with your company.

Closer to the real world. Companies or teams that use quotas and sales targets to measure performance can benefit greatly from data analytics. Target-setting is not the same as forecasting, so it’s vital you get the numbers right. By looking at existing data, you can more accurately choose these goals, honing the process over time to find the best marketers or salespeople.

Of course, these are just a few examples. There’s a lot more you can learn from the right data. The point is just that customer data and insights can help you understand your audience better, allowing for more accurate and informed decision-making. It also leads to a greater opportunity for success.

Some of the enhancements data analytics offers include:

  • Segmented and accurate audience targeting
  • Location-based analytics that relate to a particular place or region
  • Dynamic pricing opportunities that take local events into account
  • A reduction in customer churn, boosting retention and loyalty
  • Enhanced customer relations through better understanding
  • New business and upsell opportunities
  • Guaranteed or successful marketing trends

Using Data to Unlock Opportunities

Spending on big data technologies had surpassed $57 billion by the end of 2017. By 2020, it is estimated that every person on Earth will generate 1.7 megabytes of data per second. That’s an insane amount of digital information being generated on a consistent basis.

It’s becoming more and more common for companies — across all industries — to leverage the kind of big data, cloud computing and AI platforms that offer huge returns in business intelligence. Digital information is constantly flowing, with or without your express attention. As people tap into local networks, apps, online experiences and digital platforms, these systems continue to collect a multitude of user data. It’s a byproduct of the digital age, and you can put all of it to use, provided you know how to understand it.

Since that information is already flowing, it’s equal parts easy and convenient to access and extract more insights from it — this is the ultimate goal of business intelligence.

How You Leverage the Data Is Crucial

It’s not about how much customer information and data you’re collecting, because today it will essentially be coming from everywhere. It’s especially helpful that people carry a smartphone on their person at all times, resulting in even more intel-gathering opportunities.

Instead, it’s all about how you process and leverage the data you have. You could be collecting huge swarms, but it’s not lucrative in the least if you don’t know how to put it to use. You’re just going to be wasting a lot of time and resources.

It’s not a question of whether or not data can transform industries, specifically modern business. It’s more the question of how. Learn to process and understand it efficiently and you’ll be well on your way to improved revenue and better customer experiences. Big data can — and will — transform sales in many ways, providing better opportunities for your employees and improved experiences for your customers.

Bio: Nathan Sykes is the editor of Finding an Outlet, a source for the latest in IT and business news and trends.

Rating Data and Local SEO: Turning Reviews Sites Helping You Further

Buying online products or services is always intimidating for me. And not just me, consumers mind get flipped with the following sort of questions:

  • Is the seller legitimate?
  • Is the product reputable?
  • Could I get this item at a lower price elsewhere?
  • Am I likely to be scammed or dissatisfied with my experience?

You faced it somewhere while contemplating a deal. Didn’t you?

To most of us, the next logical step is to look around what others are saying about the seller and the product. Of course, we Google that.

Statistics:

  1. 72% of buyers don’t commit purchases until they have gone through reviews –Insights from Testimonial Engine.
  2. 93%of local buyers consider online reviews to make their opinion about a company –BrightLocal 2017 report.

If you Google “flooring companies Vancouver bc”; Yelp will be the first search result.

It’s just one query; there are a lot. Every industry keyword with every location – Google loves to rank Yelp at the first page.

Embracing Yelp

Yelp comes as the first name that’s so much synchronized with local ratings and reviews. With an average of 138M site visitors every month, its 206th most popular website globally according to Alexa.

While the site has nearly 4.7M visitors daily, it results in 200K calls daily to businesses. Statistics say that 98 percent of Yelp users made a purchase from a business they found on Yelp.

Well, Sites like Yelp, YP, Hotfrog or CanPages do have an impact on businesses. And these rating websites seem a good thing for your business, right? Leaders like Stigan Media suggest retailers go for Digital Ads this holiday season. They should bring more foot traffic and page views on your website.

Do a check.

Here’s the deal with rating and review sites.

Yelp, YP, or Angielist are more of competitive battlefields,and they use to stack businesses right there among each other making it easyfor buyers to comparison suppliers. A couple of bad Yelp reviews can easilymake Yelp users move to another store. If your listing does maintain a highrating, competition is still fierce.

Data Proof: Studies have concluded that only one five star difference on Yelpcan influence the user’s decision to choose one service provider over another.

Let’s consider an example to understand the behavior of Yelp’s Sphere.Let’s say the agency, DC web design Ottawa paid for a potential buyer to click on a search ad, and the paid click can get user’s attention on another competitor on Yelp. You can feel the risk. It’s just areal barrier local service providers handle.

They pour efforts, time and their money into beating out the competitors to get their advertisements in the top-ranked pages with the sole intention of getting valuable clicks, and ideally converting them into customers.

But that’s not enough.

Savvy online buyers land on a service provider’s website. Then they’ll move to Google Places, or Yelp or Angie’s List where they can verify that whether business and services are credible. They’ll compare reviews, prices and customer services with other competitors before finally making the decision to purchase.

Wait. Is this thing a solution?

What’ll be the outcome if visitors referred from paid clicks don’t have to leave your website to see what others are saying about your services? Can a strategic stream of ratings or reviews embedded on your website make the difference? Yes, it will work. Many businesses enforce this thing in their UI design. It would surely enhance users’ experience, put your credibility easily visible and further help visitors making their decision to purchase.

Possibly, this can help you build credibility and trust with the many visitors came from social platforms or paid clicks. This would remove any chances of getting land your paid visitors to your competitor’s listings.

Encourage more and more of your existing customers to leave you feedback on Google maps, Facebook Page, Yelp, Angie List, YP and elsewhere.

Some tips to get it done in a well manner:

  • Don’t do it manually. When data is less, you can put it manually. But in the case when you’ve bulk data to upload, it becomes time taking. Embrace marketing automation applications that enable webmasters to smoothly integrate ratings into the website and update them as soon as you get new reviews.

  • Don’t try to do all reviews five out of five. Feed some average ratings between the perfect fives, so you appear more authentic and trustworthy; rather than looking like a manipulative guy with customers’ reviews.

  • Some clients do reviews their own even before you ask them. Either they are extremely happy with your work or they have complaints to show to others. Try to get the ratio of pleasant reviews/angry notes as high as possible.

An average user goes through seven reviews to buildhis mindset about a company. Google seems to give a decent weight to reviews inlocal rankings. It’s one of the major ranking factors when an agency like SVPruns a local campaign. What are your thoughts on it?

Aggregately, users go through seven online reviews before building an opinion about a provider. Google also seems to allocate an immense weight toreviews when it comes to ranking local web pages. They consider it as one oft he intrinsic factors when an agency like SVP runs a localized search campaign.


Written by Shyam Bhardwaj, blogger and SEO analyst.

Why You Need to Use Behavioral Segmentation

How do you current and potential customers find you? That is the conundrum for every company in today’s day and age. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to have a location, or to have a location that’s close to others who might add synergy to your business’s stability.

And while technology might seem like it would be an easy way to garner a wider, more solid core of customers, in fact websites and email aren’t enough either. Add to the mix social media (and the realization that one site isn’t enough either) and you’ve got a very confusing mix of how to reach people.

 But luckily, data has given us some insights into what we do need to know about our customers—not just where they live but what their lives look like and how their internal lives work, too. So how do you segment what you know and what you need to know? This graphic explains it.

Why You Need to Use Behavioral Segmentation