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Posted on: September 12, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Mobility technologies have made great advances over the last few years, but the sum of those advances often looks like an impenetrable jungle of TLAs. That’s “three-letter acronyms,” and it illustrates the problem a lot of people have when looking at the field of mobility technologies. How do you tell MMS from MDM from EMM and from any other TLA that steps into your POV (point of view)? Sometimes it would be helpful just to have a simple field guide to the various acronyms out there, and, with that, a better understanding of just what does what.

Understanding Mobility Technologies by the Acronym

Getting a handle on mobility technologies starts by making the acronyms meaningful and cutting through the jargon to see the value each offers.

MMS

MMS, or managed mobility services, is the collective term for a slate of mobility services offered by a central service provider.

Start-to-Finish Support. MMS offers a range of options that’s intended to cover just about every phase of the mobile device’s life cycle. It starts with the basic setup but then proceeds to provide regular monitoring to generate actionable insights about how well the devices are working. This also includes some capacity to determine what changes, if any, should be made in mobile service operations.

Help Desk Support is Vital. One of the key draws in MMS operations is help desk support. This function not only takes the weight of mobile support off the likely already-overloaded IT department but also helps keep the devices up, running, and using mobility services.

Patches Kept Up. MMS functions also ensure that patches are routinely applied. It’s one of the biggest potential failure points as far as any device goes, mobile or otherwise, and MMS helps to address it. Keeping up with security patches helps ensure that widely known security vulnerabilities can’t be exploited, which secures one potential path to trouble.

End-of-Life Support. MMS functions even go so far, in some cases, as to address end-of-life issues. Complete factory resets to purge devices of usable data and even recycling programs are on-hand as part of MMS in some fields.

MDM

Mobile device management (MDM) is similar to MMS, but is a bit more narrowly focused.

Focuses Mainly on Devices. MDM is generally a breed of software that’s focused on the device. While the servers that supply MDM are controlled by administrators, the software not only stays on, but it addresses key functions of the device itself.

Offers Some Unique Functions. MDM will actually offer some features and benefits that MMS doesn’t. For instance, MDM can offer identity and access management tools — points that MMS commonly doesn’t. It can allow for establishing partitions on devices — great for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) environments that need a way to switch from business to personal rapidly — and other functions like secure file sharing.

Extremely Specific Control. Since MDM focuses on the individual device, it allows network administrators granular control over those devices and, by extension, their users. It allows for easy stratification of access, allowing certain users access to certain systems and certain information from there. It’s an excellent way to control access to key data and provides a note of added security as well by reducing the pool of sources from which an insider attack can even take place.

EMM

Enterprise mobility management (EMM) tends to get even more focused than MDM.

Focused on Security. EMM is commonly device-focused as well, but it focuses even further, generally limiting itself to securing devices and the data contained therein. This focus can take on several forms, including specific processes that target data security, processes that need to integrate with wider IT options, and services that seek to protect specifically intellectual property.

Starting to Expand. While security is vital in any business application, EMM is starting to learn it can’t live by protection alone. Now, EMM is adding a broader definition of mobile to its operations, covering not just mobile devices but also some operating systems including MacOS and even Windows 10.

Offerings are Often Limited. EMM can cover a broad range of operations, but EMM providers will tend to focus on a comparative handful of applications. That’s the word from a Gartner study, which noted that EMM is starting to move to cover “unified endpoint management,” but that move is only in its early stages.

MAM

Mobile application management (MAM) is perhaps the most specialized field of all in the mobility technologies subsector.

Exclusively for Apps. The name makes it clear: MAM handles applications and mostly just applications. While there are several points within applications that are worth addressing, don’t expect MAM to address functions of the device itself.

Useful for Security. Since MAM has an application focus, look for it to work well with other technologies to control potential attack vectors from hackers. With MAM, it’s a lot easier to defend against malware in apps as MAM specifically controls application functions.

Useful for App-related Housekeeping. For those who have a lot of apps with licenses, and with payments accordingly, MAM can be a great way to protect against potential pitfalls. For those who dread true-up times, for example, MAM can be a help here as it can work with app licensing, helping to keep the right number of licenses in play at all times. It’s also useful in BYOD settings, since it can be used to selectively isolate and remove apps where needed, along with any data that might be connected to that app.

What to Do When You Need More Help With Mobility Technologies

Understanding all of the various mobility technologies is difficult even for specialists. Turning to a managed mobility services provider can be a great way to get a better handle on what’s available and what will work best for your business. Start by getting in touch with us at Acuity. We not only have a slate of managed mobility services, but we can also offer telecom managed services as well as voice and data services to keep your devices working to their fullest whether mobile or otherwise. Just reach out to us when you need a guide through the mobility technologies jungle.

Posted on: September 11, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

A recent survey showed that 47% of Americans didn’t take all of their vacation time last year, and 21% left more than five vacation days on the table1. This doesn’t have be you.

As you plan your vacations this summer, here are some tips and tools that will let you book your trips knowing you won’t lose touch or traction with your work (unless of course, you want to). In today’s always-on world, being out of reach for several days can make your return overwhelming, not to mention, you may miss key decisions that could shape your role or company.

Luckily, technology has also evolved to help you stay connected no matter where you are. Your options are no longer limited to working in a stuffy hotel room while friends and family are enjoying the beach, going on a hike, or relaxing by the pool.

Modern collaboration meets convenience

Years ago, sophisticated software and video equipment was needed to achieve immersive connectivity. Today, advanced communication tools are available to keep you connected on your terms with options that range from email, chat, text, voice calls to full blown video and web collaboration. Best of all, they can maintain your business identity, keeping your personal life separate. They can also work seamlessly on the device of your choice, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops or desktops.

The ease of use and flexibility today is truly remarkable; many online video conferencing tools require nothing more than your mobile phone to make you a full participant in a face-to-face meeting or client interaction when you’re lounging by the pool. What’s more, you can even ensure the background behind you remains professional by using a custom virtual background to show off your brand or mask the real scene behind you.

Enabling the mobile workforce

So how do you get all these great tools before you pack your bags? Many companies have already adopted cloud-based communications or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) but are not fully leveraging all the capabilities to maximize their investment. Simply asking your IT department what is available and how to set it up is a great first step. If, on the other hand, it’s not in place today and you have stake in making your employees and the company more productive, then a unified communications solution is definitely worth considering.

Technology has also made vast improvements to enable virtual workers. Unified communications services have evolved into cloud-based solutions that can be accessed from anywhere, on any connected device. High-definition audio, video and content sharing services are no longer reserved for the larger enterprise companies with hardened conference room systems. Advanced collaboration solutions can now be leveraged from any desktop, mobile and tablet device over any broadband connection capable of supporting the minimum bandwidth and latency requirements.

Additionally, remote access and security have also advanced with easier to use virtual private networking (VPN) and remote desktop services, coupled with two-factor authentication and single sign-on capabilities. Phone systems are no longer tethered to a black box with blinking lights in the back room of the office or data center. In fact, office phones themselves are no longer a necessity with the advent of the softphone and mobile twinning of devices. The day is finally here where this author can claim that remote workers no longer have a technology handicap compared to their office bound, hard-wired colleagues. In fact, some might say they actually have an advantage.

The upper hand of connectivity

Companies who have not yet made the cultural and technology changes necessary to enable digital nomads and remote work lifestyles are going to quickly find themselves out-paced by their leaner, more agile competitors. My advice is to partner with communication providers who can not only enable remote workers but empower them in a way that allows immersive engagement and connectivity across all their communication channels. If you already have tools in place that aren’t making the grade because of the lack of key features, quality issues or seamless integration with your other platforms and applications, know that there are better options from companies who offer superior software solutions and the adjacent data connectivity solutions required to make it all work together.

Regardless of who your services are with, be sure to take advantage of the advanced technology available to make the most of your time, whether you are on vacation or not.

1 https://www.kimbleapps.com/2018/05/no-vacation-nation-infographic/

Posted on: By: Lauren Epperly

Companies are actively seeking out technological advances to meet the needs of their employees.  Trends in the workforce come and go; but the growing remote workforce is no fad.  Over the last decade, telecommuting has grown 115% according to the 2017 State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce Study.

Being able to support and supervise remote workers as well as manage remotely has become a hot topic for most management teams; including ours.  We have found having a strong and customizable communications platform that allows for everyone to connect easily and quickly in the method they are most comfortable in to be a game changer; enter Broadvoice b-hive.

And our partners have found being able to talk knowledgably to their customers about specific needs and challenges is a sales advantage.  Knowing how to support a remote workforce speaks directly to the future of many companies.

Understanding the remote workforce needs.

Although there is a portion of the population that works from home 100% of the time, most of the remote workforce is part time.  Meaning, they fluctuate between a home office and an office at the workplace.  For communications, specifically phones, this can be especially challenging to the IT department.

According to the same Telecommuting Study, most people who fluctuate between a home and workplace office are better educated, make more money and are senior staff.  Understanding the dynamics of an IT department that is trying to make a seamless communications experience for a senior manager can make the difference.

For example, a common question we hear is:  How do you make a phone ring at two places, but not at once?  Our answer:  Have you heard of hot desking?  Our channel managers and solutions architects, many of whom are remote workers themselves, are intimately aware of the challenge a remote workforce places on an IT department; partnering with them is the advantage you have been looking for.

In the same scenario, that senior manager is also looking to promote cultural continuity.  They spend time thinking about how to make their remote workers part of the everyday team.  Partners can address this concern by talking about how an internal IM, like Communicator, could take the place of the traditional break room banter.  Not only can this platform be used to discuss vital work information, but also the scores of yesterday’s game – in one on one or group conversations.  Chat brings a sense of belonging and can continue relationship building for teams that are states and even countries apart.

Understanding the who, how and why of the remote workforce can make the difference during an introduction call.  Knowing how a cloud PBX meets those needs can move a discovery call into a solution call.

The benefits of a remote workforce.

Moving communications to the cloud is not always a quick process.  We have all had the discussions about how moving to the cloud can future proof your business, has a lower upfront cost to purchase and allows a company to right size their communications platform.

Do you know how the cloud addresses and supports the remote workforce as well?  Here are 3 quick examples that will help you out in any meeting:

  1. Cost savings. That’s the easy one, we already talk about how cloud saves money for the company at the time of purchase.  And according to that same study, having someone work from home part time, saves a company $11,000 per year.  But it doesn’t just save the company money.  People who work partially from home get on average 11 days back in their year from not having to commute.
  2. Customizable to the company’s (and individual employee) needs. How each person communicates is unique.  Having a system that helps support our individualized business communication needs is vital; especially for a remote worker.  Cloud PBX offers soft phones and internal IM for people who prefer to communicate via computer as well as the ability to hot desk for people who have hardware sitting on two desks in two locations that they can log into.  And, faxing to the cloud is virtual, being able to be sent to and from an email account.  Each account can be set to meet the needs of the person behind the keyboard putting the power on how they communicate in their own hands.
  3. The tech changes are seamless. Since cloud PBX systems update regularly, there is never a need to uninstall, reinstall or update.  The system updates with the latest feature or fix behind the scenes; alleviating work for the IT department and frustration on the remote worker.

Your customers are changing. 

Business’ needs are evolving as fast as technology is and this evolution is being driven by employees.  Cloud PBX supports the needs of the evolving remote workforce.

Having a working knowledge on how cloud PBX supports and fosters this rapidly growing segment of the marketplace will take your sales into the future.  The platform you suggest for you customers needs to be able to facilitate someone working from a home office several times a week if not daily.  The way people communicate matters and drives business forward.

b-hive cloud communications business phone system supports our remote staff with Communicator which includes a softphone, our mobile app and features such as hot desking, ring configuration, call forwarding, virtual fax and more.

Knowing the ins and outs of the struggles this growing remote workforce pose for both IT departments and managers can turn a discovery call into a closed deal.

Posted on: September 9, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Business communication case study: MyEyeDr.

Founded in 2001 by a group of optometrists executing a high-growth-through-acquisition strategy, MyEyeDr. is a network of more than 400 local, well respected practices in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The 10,000-plus employee company offers eye-care services and a wide variety of prescription eyewear and contact lenses. By using innovative technology and empowering its doctors to do what they love, the company is championing a new path for vision care.

“As a longstanding customer, we have a deep level of trust in Vonage®, not only as our business communications provider, but as a partner that is equally focused on creating a better and more personalized experience for our patients.”

Alex Healey, Director of IT, MyEyeDr.

Background

When joining the MyEyeDr. family, the majority of the company’s optometry-practice acquisitions typically lack the business communications infrastructure that supports both the organization’s signature level of customer service and its post-acquisition integration model’s under-90-day cutover time. The eye-care provider needed to avoid the traditionally excessive construction costs and setbacks associated with a new addition (e.g., the frequent 6- to 12-month delays created when pairing a new location’s pre-existing T1 line with a new fiber-optic network connection), reuse their pre-existing broadband connections without exacerbating packet loss or downtime, empower their acquisitions to engage with in-person and call-in patients in a HIPAA and PCI-compliant manner, and more.

Challenge

To provide a scalable, standardized, healthcare-tailored unified communications solution, MyEyeDr. needed a communications partner who could lay a foundation that would foster the company’s ongoing growth, seamlessly deploy a better, cloud-based communications solution as the company acquires optometry practices, maintain a positive brand transition for loyal patients, and supply the process-driven expertise that would help the vision-care network’s assimilation cycles go smoothly.

Solution

MyEyeDr. chose Vonage for its enterprise-grade unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platform, advanced call center technology, award-winning SD-WAN product, and proven success in deploying thousands of cloud seats for rapidly expanding organizations. The future-proofed solution enabled the company to bolster owner trust and confidence before, during, and after acquisition talks, support efficient call flow and voice prioritization, enhance the quality of patient interactions, avoid delays of revenue, support regulatory compliance, maximize uptime reliability, and realize a 28-percent reduction in support tickets between 2016 and 2018.

Results

Creating an Unsurpassed Patient Experience
The Vonage Enterprise UCaaS platform facilitates MyEyeDr.’s nimble, rapid-growth business model by freeing the company from having to accommodate the legacy technology of each new location (e.g., adding new fiber-optic network connections, etc.), providing each addition an encrypted, private MPLS network solution for enhanced productivity, regulatory compliance, and real-time collaboration (which has directly contributed to a 98-percent post-acquisition talent-retention rate), creating a consistent, seamless experience for all patients, no matter which location they visit or call center they reach, ensuring business continuity by automatically rerouting calls to a predetermined backup number in the event of a loss of power or internet connection, and more.

Freeing In-Store Associates to Focus on In-Store Traffic
Vonage Call Center gives MyEyeDr. the ability to successfully optimize pre-existing broadband connections, minimize on-hold times, optimize the call center experience for its patients, maximize the in-person customer service experience for its visitors, and prepare itself to deploy a communications platform as a service (CPaaS) solution with APIs. During peak periods of in-store traffic, the solution’s automatic call distribution (ACD) functionality promotes a positive patient experience by intelligently rerouting calls to a MyEyeDr. call center, offering call-back options, and encouraging online-booking alternatives, while its interactive voice response (IVR) system provides a voice-driven menu that offers callers streamlined pathways to the live agents who can serve them best.

Getting All Calls Answered and All Appointments Set
By managing critical quality of service across all locations and pinpointing bandwidth utilization problems, Vonage’s SD-WAN solution, SmartWAN, ensures MyEyeDr. can prioritize voice traffic, rely on real-time stateful failover capability (i.e., in the event of a carrier’s disconnection, all calls are diverted to a secondary carrier—in real time—so the appointment-driven organization can maintain an exceptional level of uptime and 24/7 availability to its patients), elastically increase its network capacity, and more.

Posted on: By: Lauren Epperly

Today you’re expected to conduct business everywhere, at any time. Ensuring you have a phone service that lets you meet your customers’ expectations is a top priority for businesses of every size. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) wasn’t always the most reliable option for professional calls. However, today’s VoIP leverages lightning-fast Internet speeds to offer crystal-clear voice connections, and countless configuration options, making it a must-have solution. It gives you flexibility, mobility, and the ability to customize your voice experience. Here’s how.

VoIP Lets You Keep Your Options Open

WOW! Business now offers Over-the-Top (OTT) VoIP service allowing you to install on – or off – its network so you don’t have to use the same company for both Internet and Phone. While you can select a single carrier for an end-to-end managed solution with standardized phones, one bill, and one point of contact, OTT VoIP gives you additional freedom.

VoIP Allows You to Conduct Calls and Business Whenever, Wherever

VoIP frees you to take calls anytime, anywhere – even using your own mobile device.  Companies like WOW! Business allow you to connect their Hosted VoIP Phones to any Internet port. WOW! even has soft phone clients that allow you to connect your computers or mobile devices anywhere in U.S. for maximum portability.

VoIP Gives You Control

VoIP lets you and your employees manage your calls, direct them the way you want, and give your customers a professional, seamless experience. Many VoIP services offer online sites – WOW! Business has a full Web portal – that allow you to configure your settings with features like voicemail to email, auto attendant, click to dial, on-hold music, and more. You get to choose how to route calls and implement your communication processes, whether you’re away from your office, working in a large team, or collaborating with several remote employees.

VoIP Is Affordable and Scalable

WOW! Business offer different plans that can scale with your business. If you’re a small business that doesn’t need the robust features an enterprise requires, you can find a package that fits your needs as you grow.

Today’s VoIP is a powerful business tool that helps you connect – and stay connected – to your customers. If you’re not already using it, now is the perfect time to explore your options.

Posted on: September 4, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

Technology requirements of mid-market organizations (ranging from 1K to 5K users) are becoming increasingly complex. The potential of digital transformation to redefine business models and customer experiences is gaining the attention of smaller enterprises. More specifically, companies are looking to enhance collaboration among remote workers and dispersed teams, quickly add locations and users and streamline infrastructure.

UCaaS solutions that bundle basic collaboration with additional functionality such as perimeter security and the SD-WAN flexibility can help businesses address these challenges and boost competitive advantage. Historically, however, the needs of mid-sized businesses have been overlooked. Providers have focused instead on plug-and-play solutions for small businesses at the low end, and on resource-intensive sophisticated solutions for the high end. In the process, mid-sized companies have been limited to generic, cookie-cutter solutions.

A recent white paper by Frost & Sullivan concludes that this landscape is changing.

In response to market demand and increased competition, providers are bringing a wide range of robust solutions to market, giving mid-sized enterprises unprecedented options. According to the Frost & Sullivan report, emerging capabilities include:

  • Advanced collaboration functionality that includes multimedia conferencing, content sharing, instant messaging and presence and mobility
  • Integrated UCaaS and contact center as a service (CCaaS)
  • Greater service reliability and stronger SLAs
  • Improved security posture and compliance to regulatory requirements
  • Enhanced service provider implementation and support, specifically in the areas of assessment, professional and managed services
  • Flexible APIs and greater third-party software interoperability, enabling true customization and tighter multi-vendor integration
  • Broader selection of communications endpoints, including desktop and DECT phones, conferencing devices, headsets, PC and mobile soft clients

So the good news is that mid-market enterprises now have more choices than ever when it comes to UCaaS functionality. The challenge now, of course, becomes making the right choice.

One potential pitfall is to select an overly complex solution that requires extensive internal resources to manage. Focusing solely on price, meanwhile, can have the same result, since bare-bones functionality typically requires greater oversight. These poor choices, meanwhile, can result from a lack of understanding of available options, or of the potential of available functionality.

In other words, customers often don’t know what they don’t know about UCaaS

Mid-sized businesses that have tested the waters of UCaaS can be particularly susceptible to this trap. Buyers whose experience has been limited to sub-optimal technology are likely to have a low bar of expectations. If the tools work at a basic level, the thinking goes, that’s about all you can hope for. The idea that the tools might work much, much better doesn’t seem realistic.

In today’s environment of rapid technology innovation, that mindset can result in significant missed opportunities to leverage UCaaS to reduce costs, streamline operations and enhance collaboration across the enterprise. To avoid the trap, businesses exploring UCaaS options should take a rigorous due diligence approach with potential providers. Specifically, they should demand that technology partners invest the time and resources to assess and truly understand business issues and priorities.

Based on that understanding, providers can better explain – and customers can better understand – the art of the possible with today’s UCaaS solutions.

 

Posted on: August 13, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

The High Cost of Business Mobility: IT

July 24, 2019

 

The benefits for business of a connected, mobile workforce are enormous. Those benefits are primarily centered around increased capabilities and efficiencies for workers in the field, be they field service or salespeople, and along with the increases in capabilities and efficiencies comes the implied promise of increased profitability.

What Happened to Mobility’s Bottom Line?

That implied promise of increased profitability leaves many businesses scratching their collective head, however, when the bottom line is analyzed: The anticipated ROI on their mobility initiatives often just isn’t there, despite the increased productivity of the mobile workforce.

There are a few different reasons why a company might discover that their mobility ROI is not what they expected — they don’t know how to properly manage their mobile accounts to get the lowest rates possible, for example, which is a case that’s up front and easy to understand. But there’s another factor impacting mobility ROI that’s somewhat less obvious: The high support costs that can often come with a business mobility implementation.

Actually managing a mobility implementation is a many-faceted task: The devices must be ordered and properly provisioned, for example, and then distributed to the appropriate users, who will need to be trained on company-specific applications for the device. And once in the hands of users, support issues will inevitably arise — the user dropped the phone in the pool, or they forgot a password, or any of a long list of other things that can (and do) go wrong with mobile devices.

The Problem of IT and Mobile Device Support

The trouble is that all of these tasks, including mobile help desk support, are typically pushed onto the IT department to deal with. The IT department will do its best to keep up with this new workload that’s been added to all of the other things they need to do, of course, and when the help desk line rings because someone needs a password reset on their mobile device, IT will answer the call.

But therein lie some of the hidden support costs that are helping to drain ROI from business mobility initiatives. IT professionals are typically trained and skilled at their work — and compensated accordingly. The median salary for a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) network engineer in the U.S. is north of $70,000 annually, for example — and yet, it’s not uncommon in many companies to find these highly-trained, highly-paid IT personnel providing help desk-style support to mobile phone users.

IT is Great — at IT

Very obviously, there are better uses of time for these professionals — maintaining critical IT infrastructure, for example. To exacerbate the problem, although an IT professional is likely to be highly trained at network maintenance, for example, they are equally likely to be untrained in any substantive way on the very mobile devices for which they’re now tasked with providing end user support. Because they’re untrained, the support outcomes might not be as successful as they should be, or else they take longer to resolve than they would in the hands of a support specialist who was actually trained on the mobile devices being fielded.

That combination of highly-paid staff spending inordinate amounts of time to do something for which they’re not properly trained is a leading contributor to lower-than-expected ROI on mobile implementations — and it’s especially pernicious, because it can be very hard to detect at an executive level that this is where mobility is bleeding dollars away from the company.

The Right Tool for the Mobile Support Job

Fortunately, there’s a solution that both eases the headaches of IT and cuts costs while doing it. Wireless Watchdogs’ managed mobility solution (MMS)  manages the entire mobile lifecycle, from planning and provisioning to help desk support to device retirement, and takes the burdens and the costs away from busy IT departments — and helps our clients truly capitalize on the promise of ROI that’s inherent to mobility. If you’d like to learn more, request a demo today and start earning the ROI you truly deserve:

REQUEST A DEMO

Posted on: August 12, 2019 By: Lauren Epperly

New commissionable products and services, more account managers and new sales tools to enhance our partners’ success.
By Lisa Heritage McLin – August 6, 2019

 

Delivering Fanatical Experience for our partners is the foundation of Rackspace’s Channel strategy, and that means we’re always working on improvements and upgrades to better serve you.

As we head deeper into the second half of 2019, I’m excited to share the innovative new resources we’ve been developing and invite you to join us. Leverage our brand to build yours!

First, a little kudos. The Rackspace Partner Network is currently experiencing approximately 10 percent quarter-over-quarter growth. This is thanks to the dedication of our entire team, but also the strategic work of Michael Stephens, who joined Rackspace in 2016. He has driven hyper growth through the agent community ever since then and will now serve as our Agent Channel Chief.

At the same time, we’ve also boosted the number of partner account managers across the U.S. and added an enterprise account team. These additions allow Rackspace to be more proactive and closer to our partners’ prospects and customers. We’ve also added new commissionable products and created new enablement resources to help you serve customers. Read on to learn more:

New commissions

Managed VMware Cloud on AWS is now a commissionable product. This unique cloud solution is a hybrid platform that offers access to public and private cloud, with the ability to shift workloads seamlessly between them. Companies can quickly add capacity to a new project or move workloads hosted on dedicated hardware to the cloud.

We also now offer commission for Rackspace Professional Services engagements. As customers seek more bespoke cloud expertise, Professional Services has become one of the fastest growing areas of our business.

[Read more: How to Get the IT Services You Need (Without Paying for the Ones You Don’t)]

Technical workshops

In response to partner demand, we’ve created Technical Partner Workshops, which will serve partners who support technology and product integration solutions for their customers’ digital transformation strategies. The workshops will be led by Rackspace Solution Architect Paul Croteau, who brings 25 years of experience in engineering, sales, technical training and account management to the task. Paul will help our partner solution engineering organizations find the best fit cloud transformation opportunities for their customers.

All Clouds Guide 

What if you could ask your customers a series of questions, then immediately get a customized cloud solution based on their answers?

We’ve got an app for that.

Our new All Cloud Guide is a sales tool that helps our partners quickly and accurately identify a customer’s needs, then get recommended cloud infrastructures choices based on those needs. Available as both a web and mobile app, the All Clouds Guide will recommend one or a combination of five infrastructure types: public cloud, private cloud, bare metal, server virtualization and colocation.

A sophisticated algorithm drives the All Cloud Guide, analyzing each answer by leveraging Rackspace’s two decades of experience. Quick, targeted videos offer support every step of the way, including:

  • Learn: “Why This Question?” videos will help our partners understand the importance of each particular question and the best way to explain how knowing this information will help navigate them to a “best fit” infrastructure.
  • Sell: Partners are walked through two main sets of questions, Business Background and Technical Deep Dive, to create an All Clouds Guide Workload report for their end client.
  • Share: The guide delivers its recommendation in real time, allowing you to immediately share with your customer on screen, via email, with a printout or PDF. Our partners can submit their workload report to Rackspace for fast follow up from our industry-leading experts.
  • Track: Keep up with all sales activity for your organization in easy-to-view lists and dashboards.

Want to learn more? Please visit the Rackspace Partner Network homepage. Already a partner? Reach out to your partner account manager or email raxpartnerhelp@rackspace.com.

Posted on: May 22, 2019 By: Carolyn Kuczynski

By: Rebecca Rosen, VP of Marketing

When a small to medium business (SMB) turns to you for a new, cost-effective business phone system, point them to the cloud.  Giving your customer the power to communicate internally and externally on any device, at any time is powerful.  A cloud PBX, quite literally, puts their business success at their fingertips.

All verticals – from retail, and technology, to advertising – benefit from moving to a cloud business phone system.  Cost saving, 24/7 access, reliability, and continual seamless technological advances will keep your customer relevant in their field and you relevant as their communications partner.

Let’s start by defining for your customer what a cloud PBX is and then take them through the top 4 reasons it can change the way they do business.

Cloud PBX by any other name, sounds just as sweet.

Many customers in the SMB market have a vague idea of what “the cloud” is and look to you to navigate the path through the fog.  Sometimes the simplest definition is the best, cloud-based business phone systems are VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) phones that are accessed over the internet and hosted in an off-site data center. Other terms we often hear are hosted PBX, hosted VoIP, and cloud PBX.

Cloud phone systems are not magical nor a silver bullet.  With the right VoIP ready network configurations and planning though, it can give your customer the technology edge they need to take their business to the next level.

4 reasons SMBs thrive in the cloud

  Your clients are changing and growing. With growth comes the need to quickly adapt the way they communicate to meet the needs of their customers.

Here are four reasons the clients you’re talking to already want cloud phone systems; even if they don’t know it yet.

1. SMBs want to save money.

Cloud communications are much more affordable than traditional analog offerings. Your clients will no longer have to pay expensive fees for unlimited local, long distance, and international calls.

Companies that move to the cloud also save money on infrastructure and maintenance costs. As technology evolves and equipment depreciates, on-site business phone systems are not only expensive but also need to be upgraded on a regular basis. An onsite PBX phone system, for example, requires upfront costs for installation, equipment, service arrangements, as well as IT costs for ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting.

However, a cloud communication system is free of these costs because they are hosted by a service provider. Companies can say goodbye to upfront equipment costs as well as hiring in-house IT personnel. What’s more, your clients will also save on monthly phone line charges.

2. Customers want remote control.   

One of the main benefits of having a cloud-based business phone system is that your clients receive remote access. Having remote access is ideal for companies with more than one office location and for those that have remote employees.

Working from home is more common than ever before and a remote workforce requires remote control. With cloud communications, customers can communicate with teams and clients no matter where they are with their IP phone or softphone app. This means that they also have access to critical business software while on the go. With a communications system in the cloud, companies can run operations smoothly while providing a consistent presence regardless of the environment.

3. Businesses want reliable phone systems.

Internet downtime costs SMBs a lot of money and chances are your clients have already experienced an outage or two. With the cloud, businesses don’t have to worry about power outages affecting operations and sales ever again. Cloud-based communications platforms are reliable due to geographic redundancy, having several servers in multiple locations so that even if there’s an issue at a single data center, it won’t impact service. This is important because even if there’s a fire, storm or another disaster, a power outage in your client’s location won’t affect their ability to stay connected to teams and customers.

4. Customers want fully integrated communications systems. 

The cloud makes it simple for clients to pick and choose communications features beyond business phones. Today’s small businesses want all of their tools and communications in one web-based application, which has been shown to help increase business efficiency and productivity.

For example, a fully integrated communications system can combine telephony, UC, collaboration and virtual call center features all in one platform. And the best part is that as new technology emerges, clients don’t have to purchase new software or hardware to keep up with the times. Instead, cloud communication systems can automatically adapt and update.

Demystifying the cloud

Ultimately, relating your customers every day needs to the powerful concepts the cloud can offer will strengthen your relationship.  For some SMBs, moving their phone systems to the cloud will be their first step in moving technologically forward – putting the power for growth in their hands and yours.

Want to learn more about Broadvoice? Click here to see your local Broadvoice channel contacts and learn a bit more about us.

Posted on: April 19, 2019 By: CNSG Marketing

By: GAETANO DINARDI of Nextiva

Work remote often? We’ve got you covered with 25 of our favorite working from home tips for you to implement into your daily routine. Working from the comfort of your couch, home office, or bed, offers flexibility and work-life balance that most professionals desire.

After all, who wouldn’t want to work whenever they wanted, on the couch in front of the TV in their PJs with a laptop?

Spend more time with their children?

Or have more home time in general?

Although working from home seems like the ultimate luxury, most professionals forget about one crucial element: productivity. Working from home is great, but it can be a real drag if you struggle with staying productive.

 

So, Here Are Our Top 25 Working from Home Tips

  1. Build a Permanent Work Space
  2. Invest in Technology
  3. Get Comfortable — and Functional — Office Furniture
  4. Set “Work Hours”
  5. Avoid “Work Creep”
  6. Discover Your Peak Productivity Periods
  7. Make To-Do Lists
  8. Use a Planner
  9. Use Task Management Apps
  10. Don’t Work in Your PJs
  11. Don’t Work in Front of the TV
  12. Set a Morning Routine and Stick to It
  13. Set an Alarm
  14. Exercise
  15. Eat a Healthy Lunch or Snack
  16. Take Short Breaks
  17. Create a Rewards System
  18. Use Productivity Apps
  19. Stay Off Social Media
  20. Listen to Music
  21. Leave the House
  22. Use Video Chat
  23. Use Your “Lunch Break” for Errands and Appointments
  24. Avoid Family, Friends, and Pets
  25. Create a Vision Board

 

1) Build a Permanent Work Space

The first step in your “work from home” journey is to designate an area of your home specifically for work.

This could be an empty or spare bedroom that you convert to a home office. If you are pressed for space, you can set up a desk for your computer and office supplies.

Regardless of space or location, establish an area of your home where you will work, and commit to working in this space every day. Be sure your work space is comfortable (especially in any season) and enjoyable, and where you can work quietly when needed.

Related: 33 Ways to Improve Work Performance (+Bonus Tips for Managers)

 

2) Invest in Technology

Yes, setting up a home office or work space may require a small investment. Much like starting a new business, you may have to purchase technology, such as a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone system to do your job every day.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may also need to purchase applications, hardware, and/ or software. Our recommendation?

Invest in whatever you need to comfortably and easily do your job.

 

3) Invest in Comfortable — and Functional — Office Furniture

You may also need to invest in office furniture, if you haven’t already. Depending on the amount of space available, consider purchasing a large desk, bookshelves, and a comfortable office chair.

Remember, the point is that you will be working in this space every day.

So, be sure to purchase comfortable and functional furniture, including ergonomic furniture or equipment, if needed.

 

4) Set “Work Hours”

Now that you have your office or work area set up, it’s time to get down to business — literally. If you are going to make working from home an everyday affair, then set specific business or work hours.

The beauty of working from home is that you can be flexible in setting your own working hours. For example, if you are most productive in the morning, or if you need to get the kids off the bus at 3:00 pm, then you may want to set your work hours from 7 am until 3 pm.

Regardless of your schedule, be sure to establish set work hours to follow each day. Be sure to also communicate your work schedule to colleagues, staff, and your boss, if you have one.

 

5) Avoid “Work Creep”

Some people believe that a work from home career can be invasive in your personal life. This is because if you are constantly home and near your work, then your work will begin to creep into your home life. Yes, the risk is real, but only if you let it…

This goes back to setting work hours. By setting specific work hours and sticking to them each day, then you can manage a healthy work schedule. When your work day is over, whether that is at 3, 4, 5 or 6 pm, shut your laptop and shut your office door and leave it behind until the next day.

 

6) Discover Your Peak Productivity Periods

Working from home tips: Find your productivity peaks
Image courtesy: Evernote

Every individual and professional is most productive at different times of the day. For example, some individuals are “morning people” and they are most productive, alert, and focused during the morning hours. Others are more productive in the afternoon and evenings.

The point here is to discover when you are most productive and build your work schedule around your peak productivity periods. (More tips on this point to come later in this article.)

 

7) Make To-Do Lists

Working from home tips: Make to-do lists
Image courtesy: Todoist

When you work from home each day and you don’t have a boss breathing down your neck, it can be challenging — and sometimes overwhelming — to keep track of what you have to do each day. It’s easy to lose sight of priorities, tasks, deadlines and even the little things.

In order to stay on task, quickly write down all the things that need to get done at the start of each day. If your list is quite lengthy, then set goals and time limits for accomplishing each task. After you complete each task, cross it off the list. This simple technique is both effective and fulfilling.

 

8) Use a Planner

In addition to making to-do lists, get into the habit of using a calendar or planner. For example, if you work from home some days but you are on the road others, get in the habit of using a planner to write down and keep track of deadlines, appointments, and meetings.

 

9) Use Task Management Apps

If you aren’t a “write-it-down” to-do list or planner person, don’t worry—there are plenty of digital calendar and task management apps available that can still help you.

Some top task management and calendar apps include:

Most of these apps offer both web-based and mobile versions, so you can download them to your phone. Some can even be integrated with other apps, such as Slack for team collaboration. And the best part? Most of these apps offer a free version.

 

10) Don’t Work in Your PJs

We know — this is one reason why people love working from home. If you love working in your PJs, then you are probably killing your productivity.

Even if you don’t have to leave the house, make it a point to set a morning routine and stick to it. Therefore, when you are ready to sit down to work, you will be mentally and physically prepared for the day.

 

11) Don’t Work in Front of the TV

This is another productivity killer. Although you might treat “working from home” as really a “day off” that involves your couch and Netflix, glancing at your laptop from time to time, making this a habit will not get you very far.

Again, as mentioned above, treat your work day as just that: a work day. Avoid the TV and other distractions so you can focus on your work and getting things done. If you need the TV on as background noise, then do so, but avoid looking at it every few minutes. If you find that the TV is distracting you, shut it off and try listening to music or using a sound machine instead.

 

12) Stick to a Morning Routine

Another enjoyable perk of working from home is not having to get up, rush out of the house, and commute to an office. However, working from home doesn’t mean you get to skip your morning routine altogether. You should still set an alarm, get up early, take a shower, grab coffee and breakfast, and prepare your lunch, just like you have to leave the house.

13) Set an Alarm

Even if you don’t have to be up as early to leave for the office, you should still set an alarm and commit to getting up at a certain time each day. This will prevent you from sleeping in too late, and will keep you on a healthy sleep schedule.

Human beings are creatures of habit. We are incredibly dependent on routines, schedules, and structure. Therefore, by setting an alarm, following a strict morning routine, and setting specific work hours you will be healthier, more focused, more alert and more productive. Remember, a healthy body is a healthy mind.

 

14) Exercise

If your day allows, take a lunch break and go for a walk, go to the gym or stretch. Exercise naturally boosts endorphins, which increase happiness, enjoyment, and interest levels, all of which are important for productivity.

If you are an early-morning jogger or gym-goer, then work that into your routine each day. And, if you want to make exercise a habit, or become an early-morning exerciser, but struggle with getting out of bed, set an alarm across the room so you are forced to get up out of bed to shut it off. You can also leave yourself motivational sticky notes by your bed, so they are the first thing you see and read in the morning.

 

15) Eat a Healthy Lunch or Snack

Working from home tips: Try healthy snacks
Image courtesy: SnackNation

Another work from home reality is that we have full access to the kitchen. So, when it’s time for lunch or a snack break, we are immediately drawn to the usual snacks, such as chips, chips, cookies or leftover pizza. When we work in an office, we are at the mercy of whatever is available in the cafeteria or whatever lunch we brought from home.

However, research has shown that eating fruits and vegetables has a direct link on overall productivity levels. If you are an avid snacker, then make it a point to make yourself a healthy lunch, just as you would if you had to go into an office. You can also avoid buying unhealthy snacks altogether.

You can also reward yourself with a sweet snack on Friday after a long, successful, and productive week.

 

16) Take Short Breaks

Although we have focused most of this article on how to stay productive while working from home, sometimes the opposite can happen. We think that by working from home we will be able to get more done because there are less distractions. Therefore, sometimes we end up over-committing and working too much, which also kills productivity.

You can easily avoid this by working short, five-minute breaks into your daily schedule, or even make them a part of your “rewards system”. Although taking breaks might seem counterproductive, research has shown that taking short breaks can actually increase productivity and creativity levels.

 

17) Use a Rewards System

We mentioned using a rewards system in the point above. This is an easy way to help you get things done — even the things you have been procrastinating or putting off.

For example, take a five-minute break to go for a stroll through your neighborhood, grab a healthy snack, take your dog to the park down the street, or switch over the laundry once you finish a phone call or complete a difficult task or deadline.

Although it seems simple, using a basic rewards system will help you get things done and also feel fulfilled.

 

18) Do Use Productivity Apps

If you struggle with staying on task while working from home, even if you have already tried some of the tips above, then you may need to kick things up a notch and use a productivity app.

For example, some productivity apps will track the amount of time you spend on each task, and even minimize distractions. Some examples of these types of apps include the following:

Even if you work for yourself, and you do not need to report time to a manager, using a time tracker app will help you see your productivity levels each day and week. This will not only provide you with insight as to when you are most productive during the day, it will also show you how much time you spend on each task.

If you are spending too much time on a particular task, or more than what is necessary on repetitive tasks, then it may be time to look into some automation solutions for even more productivity!

 

19) Stay Off Social Media

I think we can agree that we are ALL guilty of this one from time to time — or every day. Social media can be a giant time suck if you aren’t careful. In fact, studies have shown that the average adult spends nearly nine hours per day on social media.

That is more time than most people spend sleeping or working! Furthermore, according to an article recently published by CNN, Facebook and Instagram now reveal to users how much time they spend in each app.

If you are a social media addict, then make it a habit to shut off social media notifications during the day, if possible. This will help avoid distractions, so you can focus on getting more done.

 

20) Listen to Music

Okay, so you shut off social media and the TV, and you are sitting at your desk and focused on your work. But, now it’s too quiet.

Listening to music while you work can help boost productivity levels and even enhance creativity.Even if you aren’t a huge music fan, studies have shown that listening to soft, classical music while you work can help improve focus.

Check out this afternoon energy boost playlist on Spotify >>>https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0Vjhah37el0Aq5yoRaujBz

 

21) Leave the House

You just invested time and money in setting up a designated work space or home office, and now we are telling you to leave the house? Yes and no.

Leaving the house on occasion can give you a change of scenery, which can help boost creativity and productivity. If you need a slight change of pace, try working in your backyard or at a nearby coffee shop.

 

22) Use Video Chat

Interact with others! Working from home every day can get pretty lonely, especially if you are single or live alone. Make it a point to chat with colleagues, team members, or clients each day.

Video chat is a great way to stay connected with other human beings. There are also a number of video chat applications available today, such as:

  • Skype
  • Zoom
  • UberConference
  • Google Hangouts

Depending on the nature of your work and your position, you could end up spending almost all of your day on calls. If you spend a lot of time on the phone or in video conferences each day or week, then set aside time in your schedule each day for calls or video chats.

 

23) Use Your “Lunch Break” for Errands and Appointments

If you work from home each day, then you have a ton of free time to do what you want and go where you want, right?

Maybe, but we don’t recommend that. Structuring your day is important. If you need to run errands, or schedule the occasional doctor or dentist appointment, try to schedule them for your “lunch break”, just as you would if you worked in an office.

 

24) Avoid Family, Friends, and Pets

This can be difficult, especially if you have young children at home, or have multiple pets, all of whom want your attention. If you are home all day, every day, then family and friends might think that they can show up whenever they please.

Of course, you probably welcome and enjoy the company, it’s important to remember that this is your work time. Be sure to set and stick to specific work hours and clearly communicate those hours with your family and friends.

 

25) Create a Vision Board

If you have been working from home for several years, and have mastered most if not all the points above, then you working from home might be becoming boring, dull or stale. You might struggle with sticking to your schedule, or enjoying your work.

If this sounds all too familiar, then it might be time to take a step back, re-evaluate your business or work, and then approach it from a different angle.

vision board can help. A vision board is just that: a board that you can use to write notes and post pictures of your dreams and aspirations. The visualization aspect of a vision board is a great and powerful mind exercise. It can help you feel the way you want to feel. This could help you get out of your work from home slump, and pave a new, clear path to productivity and success.

Start putting these working from home tips into effect today to streamline your routine and increase your productivity.

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