Cloud Backup Is Your Best Protection from Ransomware

Ransomware has become the biggest malware threat on the Internet. It gives you a choice between losing critical files and paying the crook who wrecked them. Victims have handed over as much as $17,000 to get their files back, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get them restored even if you pay. The surest defense is an up-to-date cloud backup with a safe copy of all your files.

What is ransomware?

 

Ransomware usually starts with a phishing email message. If you open the attachment, it runs a script that downloads and launches the actual ransomware. It runs quietly in the background, replacing files with encrypted versions. When it’s done, it puts up a message on your screen telling you what’s happened. The files are now all in a form which is useless to you, because you don’t have the key and the crook does. If you want to see your files again, you have to send a payment, usually an anonymous Bitcoin transfer. After that, you might get the information that will decrypt your files.

To force you into a hasty decision, the message may threaten to encrypt more files if you don’t send a prompt payment. That’s not an empty threat.

Your situation as a ransomware victim isn’t as hopeless as the extortionist would like you to think. There are ways to recover files from many kinds of ransomware. But you’re best off if you have a safe copy of all your files. Then you just have to remove the malicious code and restore the files.

Unfortunately, a local backup drive doesn’t help much. The malware will look for any attached drives and corrupt the files on them as well. You need a backup which isn’t part of the computer’s file system and is safe from unauthorized access. Cloud backup is an easy way to accomplish that.

How cloud backup protects you

 

Only the backup software can reach files copied to a cloud service. Malware on your computer can’t touch them. MaxQ backup software encrypts files in transit, so no one can intercept or alter them. It encrypts them on its servers, so they’re always safe.

The more frequent your backups are, the safer your files are. If they’re updated every hour, then you stand to lose only an hour’s work. That’s a lot better than losing everything.

Versioning increases your safety. If your backup keeps running after ransomware has damaged files, it will back up the damaged versions. A versioned backup system keeps older editions of the files as well, so you can restore the last good version.

 

Cloud backup is different from a cloud drive. If your files on a cloud service are mapped to your computer as a virtual disk drive, they’re subject to attacks. (Any good cloud service will back up its own files, though.) Files in a cloud backup system aren’t vulnerable that way.

 

If you’re hit by ransomware

When you get a ransomware notice, the first thing to do is shut down the computer. That will keep it safe from further damage. Have an expert in malware removal work on it to make sure there won’t be a recurrence. Upgrade the security software so that the computer won’t be re-infected.

After you’ve done that, it’s safe to restore your files. Be careful not to restore any infected system software. The process will take a while if a lot of files were damaged.

The encrypted files are harmless in themselves, so it isn’t necessary to aggressively remove all of them. You don’t want to accidentally delete good files created since the last backup. Erring toward leaving some encrypted files around is safer.

Having your files regularly backed up provides double satisfaction. You know that they’re safe from ransomware, accidental corruption or deletion, and physical failure. You also know that crooks aren’t going to collect your money as a reward for wrecking your data.

MaxQ Cloud Backup is just one of the ways we help keep your data safe and manageable. Contact us to learn more.

 


4 Ways the Cloud Improves Supply Chain Planning

Supply chain planning used to be more of a guessing game, relying on intuitive managers that, basically, had the inventory and sales data in their heads or on spreadsheets. Advancing technologies have been changing how business processes are: managed, planned, and accomplished – shifting thinking patterns from managing inventory and sales to managing functions and tools within ERP systems. 2017 seems to be the year when a balance will emerge more distinctly; let’s discuss this more by examining 4 ways the cloud improves supply chain planning.

#1. Automation:

Manufacturers and distributors have many working parts to manage within their enterprise systems, including supply chain planning. The real-time functionality of cloud based software brings continuous adjustments, and specified filters determine automated functions to streamline purchasing and order management.

Automatic updates to SaaS, IaaS, PaaS systems also help managers and IT departments focus on strategy, rather than managing systems and tools. Effective supply chain planning depends on real-time numbers from a continuously updated system, including: historical business intelligence, special projects, discounts, engineered to order products, vendor costs, and more.

#2. Enhanced Integration:

Cloud based subscription software is easier to integrate into enterprise systems and gives more functionality with add-ons. This enhanced integration brings more flexibility to businesses with supply chain planning. For instance, if there’s a need for an order management add-on or a custom software solution for a project.

There’s no one size fits all solution for manufacturers and distributors; each business has unique supply chain planning needs according to their: clients, products, systems, and compliance/regulation requirements. Enhanced integration capabilities with cloud based software helps businesses adopt necessary tools and functions with more agility.

#3. Predictive Business Intelligence:

Again, the cloud provides real-time automation, enhancing a business’s ability to predict supply chain patterns and needs. Human intelligence augmented with predictive business intelligence, brings the best of both worlds for supply chain planning.

Planning and strategy have always needed business intelligence from data analysis. User defined formulas combining: past history, present demand, material specifics, and customized options – give managers actionable insights into: inventory, sales, times, costs, and needs, with real-time availability and updates. This streamlines supply chain planning with more precise predictions.

#4. Enhanced Collaboration:

Supply chain planning is a team effort for nearly all manufacturers and distributors, involving: sales teams, warehouse teams, executives, vendors, clients, accounting departments, etc. Cloud based software enhances collaboration between team members anytime, anywhere, and with any digital device. This expands remote capabilities, creates continuous planning development, and gives more tools for collaboration methods.

Modern businesses are using mobile devices to their advantage, at home and at the work place. Remote accessibility is a distinct advantage businesses have when using cloud based software solutions, creating efficiency and flexibility in the supply chain planning process, which is often time sensitive.

Using the expanded capabilities of the Microsoft Dynamics platform, including CRM software, businesses will have multiple methods of collaborating during the supply chain planning process. Cloud capabilities will enhance these tools with remote and real-time functionality, enhancing collaboration methods and planning effectiveness.

Summary

Cloud based subscription software is simplifying business processes and adding functionality with centralized integration. For businesses and organizations with many moving parts and large fluctuating inventories to manage, this is streamlining day-to-day tasks, including supply chain planning.

 

Through automation, integration, BI, and mobile computing, managers now have optimal organizational tools with cloud based software solutions.

Max Q Technologies has certified expertise with Microsoft Dynamics and Acumatics products and can help manufacturers and distributors to: choose, implement, and manage the right software solutions for their unique business’s needs.

We also develop custom software solutions with top developers and industry expertise across all fields. We’re offering to be a comprehensive technology partner with nearly 30 years experience, for businesses that want to take advantage of cloud software for supply chain planning and more. If interested in learning more please contact us today.

 

 


Backup Button In Blue For Archiving And Storage

Why Companies Are Shifting to Cloud Backup

Cloud Computing

As the need for data storage and backup increases exponentially from year to year it creates a significant challenge for businesses. Since data is the most valuable asset for most organizations, it’s not only important to have adequate backup for digital information, but it’s also important that data be accessible whenever needed and it must be kept secure from threats. Also, because company budgets are tight, organizations are seeking to consolidate technology rather than expand it. Given these facts, the strategy of continually buying more storage devices is not feasible.

For most businesses, especially smaller ones with less than 500 employees, the preferred solution is to move data backup to the cloud. By adopting this strategy, companies eliminate the hassles of data backup without relinquishing control, and usually with reduced costs. Read on to learn about the primary reasons that most companies are switching to cloud backup.

Reduced IT expenditures

According to Gartner, a leading research organization in IT research, the number one reason cited by CIOs for shifting to cloud backup was cost. By moving the backup to a cloud vendor, a company saves on a variety of costs, including space, energy, computer hardware, software, and maintenance. Plus, backup operations are automated and streamlined, which provides additional savings on personnel costs.

Enhanced Security

According to research by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost for a data breach is $3.79 million. Many small and medium-sized businesses do not adequately invest in protecting data. Cloud backup vendors offer a variety of security features to protect data such as encryption, password management, digital signatures, adaptive protection and agentless backup technology. A good cloud backup service provides proactive and adaptive protection against security and privacy breaches on a continuous basis.

Ease of Scalability

As data storage needs continue to grow rapidly, scalability has become crucial for many businesses. By using a cloud backup service, companies need not worry about hardware upgrades, increased maintenance costs, or additional space requirements. There are also no concerns about server sprawl, data sprawl, or business interruptions that result from adding new hardware, network infrastructure or software upgrades. Most cloud vendors are willing to scale with a company’s data growth while ensuring that data remains readily accessible.

Data Recovery

 

It is essential to have access to backed up data whenever needed. Cloud backup vendors provide a variety of options for data recovery and have a state-of-the-art infrastructure that ensures backups and restorations are done quickly and efficiently. These procedures can be done through an intuitive, one-step, point-and-click interface. Some vendors also offer bare-metal recovery, which restores drives that have been destroyed by natural disasters or corrupted software.

Regulation Compliance

One of the major concerns companies have about their data relates to regulatory compliance issues. In the event that a company must provide documents or records to demonstrate compliance, data often needs to be accessed quickly. Some on-site solutions like tape backup can delay data access for days, which could be potentially disastrous in a critical situation. Cloud backup services prevent these disasters by providing fast access to data whenever it’s needed and by providing templates that suggest the recommended backup plans for each industry recommended backup type and frequency such as HIPPA, PCI, etc.

Manage Duplication of Files

A major reason for inefficiency in many organizations is overly-duplicated data. For example, a video or PowerPoint presentation, when worked on by over a dozen employees, could end up being backed up many times, which unnecessarily burdens your company’s system. A cloud backup service can offer solutions that compress and eliminate unneeded duplicates, only backing up changed or new data, thereby resulting in greater efficiency and organization.

Given all the advantages listed here, it is apparent why the majority of organizations are making the switch from traditional on-premises technology to cloud backup services.

To learn more about cloud backup technology, or to find out how to leverage a variety of other IT solutions for your business, contact us today.


Power BI embedded to offer greater compatibility, accessibility

Power BI

Microsoft’s youngest member of the company’s collection of programs for businesses, Power Business Intelligence (BI) will allow for integration into mobile applications.

Microsoft made this announcement during its build conference in San Francisco earlier this month. With the introduction of its embedded capable version of the software, the company hopes that more people, particularly application developers, will be able to use the software. This version will utilize the company’s Azure Stream Cloud service and it is targeted toward independent software vendors.

“You can now take the Power BI data visualization and reporting functionality, and directly integrate it within your own applications,” Scott Guthrie, executive VP of Microsoft’s cloud and enterprise business, said during the conference.

Power BI Embedded through the Azure Cloud would be priced in line with other applications that are currently available on the platform.

Power BI was introduced to the Office 365 platform in 2014. It supplies data analytics capabilities and users can create visualizations and data reports across their organization. Guthrie also noted during the conference that application developers can utilize the embedded version without having to require end users to be aware of the software as a part of their application experience.

According to Microsoft, there are approximately five million Power BI subscribers as of March of this year. With this announcement, the company anticipates that user base will grow as access increases.

MaxQ Technologies, Inc. specializes in reselling technological solutions for multiple industries including manufacturing, distribution, consumer goods and professional services. I Feel free to contact us for your business technology needs.

 


Power BI: Fixing Problems

Power BI

If you’re new to Power BI from Microsoft, then chances are good that you’re going to encounter some issues with using the program exactly the way you want. Here are some problems you may encounter as you make your way through the program, including some solutions as to how you can potentially solve them.

Lack of Access to Reports While on the Go

Power BI has been often thought of as primarily a desktop application. In general, the reports that Power BI generated was being read in a thoroughly immobile situation like at your office or in a conference room. But if you need to view reports on the go for whatever reason, the service has recently updated to allow for mobile reading.

It’s available in the Windows 10 mobile app as well as the app for iPhone and reports are that it will shortly appear in the Android app as well. In the app, this is accessible from the menu icon with three lines in the top left corner next to where it says “My workspace,” for example. This involves opening the tile when you’re in focus mode and then hitting the option to open the report you want.

Trouble Forecasting Sales

Using modern computing technology such as Microsoft BI to predict and manage sales is one of the more popular ways to use it. You can do this in Power BI using something called Cortana Analytics. According to the site, this gives you 95% accuracy when it comes to reporting. Once you activate the prediction you gain access to a number of different visualizations such as predictions per person in terms of money earnings so you can see a comparison.

Trouble Comparing Groups in Graphic Detail

There are plenty of tools for doing a very basic comparison between two groups, but if you want a visualization that has a significant amount of specificity. One option is to use the gap analysis visualization that was recently announced from Microsoft. The tool specifically helps show how two groups are different when it comes to multiple different traits and categorizations. That way, you can see instantly whether one group performed better in one particular category over another group, how much better the first group did in terms of the gap in performance, and so on.

This also includes the ability to organizing the gaps however you want, such as showing which category gap between the two groups was the largest.

PowerBI gap analysisDifficulty with Showing Shopping Behavior

Obviously, the crux of just about any business is going to be the shoppers or clients. In the case where shopping is done online or in another information-rich environment, it’s important to focus on the possibility of accurately depicting the behavior of the consumers of your products in visual form. After all, this is often useful for both intra-company external use. One option for doing this inside of Power BI is called the Sankey Bar Chart. The chart makes it easy to show important aspects of the process such as drop-off.

So, when you’re trying to figure out exactly where a major drop-off for your product is, this chart is useful. It works through a bar chart that quickly shows the difference between various stages of any process like your shopper’s user experience. Each of the bars will be connected since each of them represents a different part in the process. The connections between the bars will show what exactly is dropping off. That way, viewers can figure out what the problem is in their process and immediately put effort into correcting the issue. Creating value for viewers is the important thing in the process, after all.

PowerBI Sankey Bar Chart

Data integration Issues

If you’re having trouble figuring out how to easily get all of your data or the data of viewers into the program, one thing that you can now do as of approximately a year ago is combine Excel BI and Power BI Designer. Essentially, Excel is a program you can integrate with Power BI. If you have the 2013 version of the program, you can use Excel Workbooks to publish whatever you want right into Power BI. This also lets you share any analysis, data, or other types of visualizations with other people also using Power BI.

If it so happens that you don’t’ have a version of Excel such as Excel 2013, this doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck, however. You can instead use a similar reporter-creating tool inside of the software. It’s possible to import data from other sources this way directly and then model it and publish it straight to the service that Power BI provides.

Lack of Universal Data Access

Power BI now has the ability to allow you to access cloud services directly from it. So, if you previously had difficulty with importing and streaming data due to using a different program or a version of Power BI that didn’t work well with this, you will be able to use these new capabilities

Falling Behind Competitors Due to Time Lapse

Many options for metrics often have a lapse between when you first activate them and when they portray the metric. This is one of the advantages of Power BI, specifically that you can portray everything in real-time on your dashboard. It means that you can fix any issues that come up in your business exactly as they occur without a delay.

For more information on Power BI and related topics, please contact us today.

 


An Introduction to PowerBI

An Introduction to PowerBI

 

In his TechRepublic article, “Microsoft Power BI Brings Big Data to the Little Guys,” Tony Bradley neatly describes Power BI :

 

“Power BI enables users to search data within their own network, or access data from public sources. Users can query in plain English and easily convert the results into interactive charts or maps to put it into context that can help guide business decisions.”

 

Microsoft originally launched Power BI as part of Office 365 in July 2013.  In late July this year, it became generally available and by that time had gained 45,000 users in 185 countries.   The July updates included“new chart types, a refreshed desktop application, and support for collaboration in groups on shared sets of data.”  Microsoft Corporate Vice President James Phillips said that once the service reached general availability, the pace of launching new features would increase.  In fact, Microsoft is adding new features weekly.  Phillips also said that soon Microsoft Power BI will “offer the ability to make custom visualizations.” 

 

The major advantage of Power BI over competition in analytics products is the ease of use.  “A major point of pride at Microsoft is that you can get started and get productive within 5 minutes of creating your Power BI account, creating charts and “slicing and dicing” your business data in cool and interesting ways …”

 

Trek Bicycle availed itself to the benefits of using Power BI.  David Peterson, Enterprise Collaboration Manager at Trek began using “a Microsoft Power BI workbook daily as a way to efficiently manage and track Helpdesk activity and customer service requests, including how many customer “tickets” – customer requests – are open and for how long.”  With the visual help of charts and graphs, he was able to view his data in a way that increased his reaction time.  This greatly accelerated his ability to make his team more efficient and productive.

 

MaxQ Technologies, Inc. would like to hear any questions you may have about Power BI or any other services, so please, contact us. Thanks.


7 Great Benefits of Vendor Managed Inventory

 

Vendor Managed Inventory

Vendor Managed Inventory, or VMI, is a business relationship where a manufacturer or distribution business takes over management of inventory for a retail or wholesaler. Using Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) or other electronic methods for communication, the vendor of the product will manage orders and fulfillment for those further down the distribution chain.

VMI: Managed vs Consignment

There is significant difference between managed and consignment sales types of VMI, and some similarities/differences which merit further discussion before we look at the benefits of VMI management. Consignment is where the vendor retains ownership of the product until the time when it is sold to the end user. When the inventory is sold, the retailer takes a commission of the price and sends the rest of the money back to the vendor, as payment.

VMI can be used with consignment products, but does not have to be. VMI can as be used as “Managed”. In this case, the goods are sold to the retailer at the time of shipment, but the vendor manages the inventory levels at the customer’s sales location. The Vendor does not wait to receive a purchase order to restock; the vendor handles replenishing the inventory to maintain optimal sales. In some VMI relationships, it means the vendor creates and maintains the displays at the sales location and stocks them to make certain they are full.

VMI is dependent upon having the right software and the right relationships with customers. Since communication between customers and vendors is essential to a successful VMI system, the right software will need to facilitate communication via the cloud to increase access and communication.

 

Increased Customer Service

Perhaps the most important aspect of VMI is the improved channel communication. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers/wholesalers have to build communication systems utilizing advanced software.This provides both you as the vendor and your customers with information necessary to operate a VMI system. Additional results from increased communication and cooperation are better customer service, improved quality, reduction of costs and increased sales.You improve your customer service by accurately and swiftly responding to your customers’ needs.

Better Planning

To establish a proper VMI relationship, you must have access to a significant amount of data from your customers, including POS and inventory adjustments. This data provides you the information necessary to create an optimal inventory management plan. Additional uses for this information include order management, income planning, parts and supplies planning, HR and more.

Rather than guessing how much product a customer will need based on intuition or limited information, VMI gives both parties the right information needed to optimize the supply chain.

Strategic Business Alliances 

VMI benefits business relationships between more than just you and your customers. Distributors often take part in a VMI relationship, increasing the accuracy and efficiency of your inventory management while decreasing the costs. Often a distributor will receive the same sales data the vendor does and then optimize the inventory at the customer site to reduce costs to the vendor and to decrease turn-around time when the customer needs new inventory.

Additionally, the same system of communication built with your customers can be used to build relationships with your suppliers to increase your use of JIT inventory in your manufacturing processes. While any business relationship needs to be entered into with caution, the systems that businesses need for VMI facilitate much stronger business alliances across the entire supply and distribution chain.

JIT Inventory

JIT stands for Just-In-Time. JIT, focuses on only ever having enough inventory on hand to meet current needs. The amount of inventory needed depends on your product type, how fast it will move off the shelves to consumers and how long it will take to produce more. Because of the complicated management systems required, JIT inventory management has only recently become affordable options for businesses because of the advances in the cloud, IT speed and storage and business systems.

Your customers want to utilize JIT inventory to get the most out of their physical space and reduce costs to their business. With VMI, you establish JIT inventory levels for your customers and produce according to that need. You see their sales and inventory levels and now have a better insight into their need.  This has tremendous advantages for manufacturers and warehouses as well as for their customers. Leading to much better forecasting for the vendor, inventory levels can be really optimized for both parties.

Variation from Franchising

For many businesses, the advantage of franchising is maintaining control of parts and inventory down the distribution chain. Napa Auto Parts has consistent pricing, inventory and displays for all their manufactured goods, no matter the location. This is just one of the major advantages of franchising. With the increased communication with your customers through VMI, you have the opportunity to build quality control into your relationships with your customers. This means that you can have a hand in marketing your inventory to the end users of your product, not just the other businesses in your distribution chain.

Advanced Forecasting

Accurate forecasting requires data. The more data you have about sales results, the more information you can infer about customers, about seasonal trends, about the demand curve and your product life cycle. With historical data and an understanding of the causes of trends through common sense and experimentation. A spike in car parts from May-September could be caused by summer travels, for example. With the large amounts of data gained by using a vendor managed inventory system, you can improve accurate forecasts of the most likely scenario for increases and drops in demands. This aids long-term strategic planning and short-term order fulfillment.

Reduction of Sales Costs

Storage adds significantly to the costs of your product.  You incur costs to store inventory waiting for an order, your customer also incurs costs storing inventory waiting for a sale, you have collectively added significant costs to each item sold. Whether this cost is visible or not, it is there.

These 7 benefits show that with the right IT and communication, Vendor Managed Inventory is an excellent way to increase your customer service offerings, whether you are a manufacturer or a distribution company. Integrate VMI to build relationships, improve quality of product delivery, increase income and decrease costs.

We offer complete warehouse management solutions that integrate well with any VMI system you may put in place. Contact us today to see if our WMS will work for your business’s needs or for more information about business systems to improve your bottom line.

 


Debunked: The 6 Most Common Myths About Cloud Computing

To the surprise of almost no one, cloud computing has arrived. In the past few years, storing data and running software in the cloud it went from a relatively new and unusual trend to a reality for some of the biggest software providers in the world. Companies from Microsoft (Office 365) to Adobe (Creative Cloud) now base their core products on data that’s stored on remote servers.

But despite its rapid spread, the concept of data stored remotely, on servers not under your control, is still a scary proposition for many business owners. We’ve sung the praises on cloud computing repeatedly on this blog, but that matters little if you’re worried that your data unsafe or difficult to reach. So we’re here to alleviate your worries: if any of the below 6 most ideas about common cloud computing have crossed your mind, we’ll tell you why they’re myths.

Myth #1: In the Cloud, Your Data is Unsafe

Let’s start with the most common factoid of them all: the idea that when stored remotely, your data is less safe than on your servers. This may have been the case early on in the trend, when providers were still figuring out just how to use the service and keep data secure. In 2015, however, the idea of data insecurity is just that: an idea that’s not based on reality.

Of course, it’s easy to feel worried. Storing your data remotely means giving up control, which almost automatically increases the perception of a lack of safety. The reality, however, does not support that perception.

Statistics show that only 2 percent of businesses experience breaches in their cloud data, a number that’s almost identical to on-site data or software hosting. The difference is that your cloud provider and your own company share responsibilities for data storage and safety, meaning that breaches are more easily accounted for. Looking at it from this perspective, that means your cloud data is actually more secure than it would be on your own server.

Myth #2: Your Data Will Become Public Knowledge

Closely related to the first myth is the idea of many that storing your data or running your software remotely means it will be more easily accessible by the public or government. This idea gained momentum in recent years, as a number of government-related scandals showed the extent to which agencies like the NSA store private information.

Without getting into too much of the legalities involved, it’s important to note that this is not true. In the cloud, your data will be subject to the same privacy laws as it would be on your own server, the only potential difference being the jurisdiction of the data center on which it is stored. So while you may want to check into just where your data will end up, rest assured that it’s no less private than it would be on your own server.

Myth 2: Cloud Computing Harms the Environment

Another common belief among business owners is that cloud computing harms the environment. It originates from organizations like Greenpeace, who are worried about the carbon emissions emanating from data centers, which are significantly more harmful than the ability to store your data and run your software on your own computer. Even large publications like Time Magazine picked up this narrative last year.

Again, though, the idea of environmental harm is not quite in line with reality. As it turns out, studies have consistently found that these same data centers cut energy costs by almost 90 percent. A single data center may burn significantly more energy than your company’s server, thus making it seem like you’re harming the environment. But in reality, that same facility also hosts data for countless other businesses and software solutions, making it ultimately almost twice as energy-efficient as the non-cloud alternative.

Myth 3: Cloud Computing Costs Jobs

Here’s another popular idea that keeps businesses from taking advantage of the ability to store data and run software remotely: analogous to the manufacturing industry, the increasing automatization of data processes means fewer jobs for IT professionals.

If you’re been reading this far, you won’t be shocked by the following statement: the reality is far different from this myth. In fact, IT jobs are set to rise significantly thanks in large part to the increase in cloud-related jobs. Almost 4 million professionals work in these types of jobs today, and that number is expected to grow 22 percent by 2020.

Myth 4: Migrating to the Cloud is a Hassle

Next, let’s address a more practical concern of many business owners. You may not be concerned that cloud decreases the safety of your data, harms the environment or costs U.S. jobs. Instead, you simply think that it would be too much of an effort to move your data to the cloud, or to begin using cloud-based software instead of your own servers.

We won’t deny that the initial transition is an effort. But it’s well worth it: we’re willing to bet that the increased accessibility and decreased server responsibility means that within a short amount of time, your gains will begin to outweigh your efforts.

This is true both for moving data to the cloud or beginning to use cloud-based software. After a short transitional phase, you’ll begin to appreciate the fact that you can access your data or use your software no matter where you are, while at the same time not having to spend valuable resources on server management. Instead of turning into a hassle, the initial effort will pay off sooner than you think.

Myth 5: Cloud Computing is Just Getting Started 

Another reason you may shy away from the cloud is that you want to wait until the technology has reached maturity and its infancy-related bugs are ironed out. Newsflash: we’re already there. As we alluded to in debunking the first myth, cloud computing is far from a new concept.

Depending on which event you want to call the definite starting point, the technology began as many as 30 years ago, and the term “cloud computing” was first termed in 1997. A 2012 study determined that cloud computing is at least close to maturity. If you’re waiting for the technology to become more mature and iron out its kinks even further, you may be waiting forever.

Myth 6: “The Cloud” Is a Definitive Entity

We’ll end with the most convoluted myth, and one that we admittedly perpetrated in this blog post. It’s tempting to talk about cloud computing as a single entity, which is the same no matter for which purposes it’s used. In reality though, “cloud computing” simply stands for the concept of storing data (or running software) remotely. Everything else entirely fluid, with different rules and regulations applying to your specific use of the cloud.

So whether we’re talking about cloud-based subscription software or remote data centers makes a significant difference when determining just what “cloud computing” actually stands for. Only one thing remains true unequivocally: cloud computing is no longer a trend; it’s a reality, and your business will be better served by ditching the myths above and considering it to increase your success.

For more information about cloud computing and how your business can benefit from the technology, don’t hesitate to contact us! We’d love to help you debunk myths, while at the same time taking your business to the next (remote) level.

 


SaaS Tips: Five Ways to Reduce Churn

SAASChurn is a dreaded word for SaaS managers. Simple put, churn is the rate at which your customers cancel their recurring SaaS subscriptions. However, effectively measuring and coming up with a strategy to reduce churn is not so simple. It involves a strategy that permeates the entire digital life cycle. From the moment a prospect becomes a customer, a strategy must be in place to keep them on board, and hopefully upgrade or upsell them down the road. SaaS success hinges not only on customer retention, but generating new revenue as well. Churn, however, is at the center of both success metrics. Consider five ways to reduce churn in your SaaS company.

 

Identify Who is High Risk

A key to decreasing churn is to identify high risk customers. The best place to start is with your customers that are leaving. Create an exit survey to collect data. Ask why they are not renewing. How often did they use the software? How many employees used the service? Combine this data with demographic information you should already have, such as the type of business, number of employees, geographic location or age of company. This demographic data will help you create a profile of a high risk customer. Going forward, when new customers subscribe with a similar profile, you’ll know you need to act fast and give them a little more attention to keep them around. Or, you may be able to develop a specific feature tailored to that demographic. If small businesses in a certain niche industry tend to drop, consider their exit surveys and focus on the development of a new feature that might earn their loyalty. You may even discover that a certain age demographic is most likely to drop. Trending these factors will help you develop communication methods aimed at that specific group.

Focus on Education

To instill loyalty, customers must feel like they are getting more than they paid for. Exceed their expectations. Instead of focusing on upselling existing customers, focus on educating those clients to ensure they are getting the most from the bucks they are already spending. Specifically focus on education tools for your high risk customers. Create weekly blogs or e-newsletters that feature how-to guides or FAQs. Offer online videos or live video training classes that feature your product or tips and tricks for their industry niche. For example, if your SaaS product features an engagement or social media module, walk your small business owners through this tool. Show them how easy it is to engage their customers. Go beyond the simple functionality of the product. Feature general marketing or engagement tips they will find beneficial too. Use your educational tools to become your client’s trusted advisor. If you sell a product that features a social media tool, you should be an expert on all things related to social media marketing. Get your customers excited about the future by organizing webinars that discuss new features that are in development. It’s a great way to build anticipation and get valuable feedback.

Make Upgrading a Natural Process

Upgrades are an integral part of growing and expanding your SaaS business. It’s much cheaper to upgrade an existing customer than to recruit a completely new one. However, to upgrade you have to keep your existing customers first. A customer that has upgraded is more invested in a product than a customer with the most basic subscription. An upgraded customer has seen the value and has moved out of the “high-risk” zone. Thus, upgrading your customers is critical to reducing churn.

An effective upgrade strategy involves helping customers get all they can out of their current plan. You are helping them grow into needing the next. One huge pitfall among SaaS providers is not including enough value in the basic subscription. They mistakenly feel like they should withhold the truly valuable features as an incentive for the customer to upgrade. This faulty reasoning leads to increased churn rates because customers don’t see any value. Conversely, when a customer sees incredible value in the product they’ve purchased, they naturally will see the value in upgrading to the next level.

Encourage Interaction

Be proactive about engaging your customers. Reach out to them. Offer incentives for them to communicate their thoughts. Here are a few ways to do it.

  • Surveys:Surveys aren’t just for your customers that are leaving. Keep them short, 10 questions or less. Carefully draft questions that will give you insight into how your customers are using the product and what improvements they would like to see. If the user chooses to not remain anonymous, contact them with a thank-you e-mail and follow-up with their specific concerns or requests. Make sure they know their feedback is valued and used. Be sure good and bad feedback is acknowledged. Remaining silent leaves a very bad impression.
  • Social media:Include social media in your branding campaign and in your education strategy. Draw attention to blog posts, how-to guides and industry trends through your social media feed. Utilize social media polls to gather feedback from past and present customers. Set up contests with free product giveaways for participation.
  • Feedback bar:Include a feedback bar or forum directly within your product so users can quickly be heard. It’s a great way for users to interact with each other and get tips from their peers. However, be sure an employee monitors the dialogue to ensure all questions are answered accurately. This will also give you insight into what features may need improvement. If customers constantly have issues with the same feature, maybe it needs to be more intuitive or customers need to be better educated.

Offer Rewards

We already talked about giving your high-risk customers a little added attention. However, don’t overlook your most-valued, loyal customers. They need to feel your love too. The most basic loyalty reward is to offer customers buying an annual subscription a reduced rate compared to those that are billed monthly. Go a little further by giving your annual renewals a free add-on to try. Show personal interest by making it something specific to their industry. Ask your loyal customers to try a new beta product and provide feedback. Give them some free usage for their time and insights. Other rewards to consider are those related to a referral program. Integrate with your social media campaign by offering clients a free add-on for sharing their positive feedback with their social media followers. Ask a long-time user to be a guest blog writer. They will get added visibility and so will you. Get creative. Think beyond simple discounts or giveaways.

In a nutshell, SaaS businesses grow by increasing revenue and decreasing churn. Understand your customers. What services are most valuable? How do they prefer to be billed? What is their level of technical expertise? Analyze who they are. Build a strategy for education. Help them see the value in upgrading. Communicate effectively and offer rewards. Max Q Technologies understands that to do this successfully, you need the infrastructure to manage billing, recognize revenue and and track customer engagement. Our highly experienced team works closely with clients to customize their subscription management strategies. Track billing, renewals and effectively forecast future revenues throughout the digital life cycle with our solutions.  Contact us to learn more.

 


Signs Your Business Should Switch to Cloud Computing

Cloud computing isn’t just for people on the cutting edge of technology anymore.  These days, many businesses are opting to switch to cloud computing.  In general, they’re finding that it’s a more efficient way of doing business.  Still on the fence about whether or not cloud computing is right for you?  Check out these signs that it’s time to make the switch for your business.

 

Your Employees Work from Multiple Locations

Do you have more than one location for your business?  How is information shared across those locations?  If files are regularly emailed back and forth or your employees often have to contact the other location for vital information, you’re losing time and money.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can make all the information at either location available to everyone who needs it, which means that you’ll be able to cut down on the time spent actively seeking out information.  This will save time and effort on both ends, leading to a smoother, more streamlined ability to share information.

What about mobile employees–that is, those who are on the road, but who still need to access files from the office in order to conduct business effectively?  Not only does cloud computing provide employees with access to all of those files, even the ones that they might have forgotten to add to their laptops or mobile devices before heading away from the office, it permits them to access updates as soon as they’ve been saved to the cloud.  This means that changes in documents can be shared quickly and easily no matter where your employees might be.  Have multiple employees working on or with the same document?  Cloud computing makes it easy for all of them to access the latest version.

You’re Experienced an Increased Need for Security

Is maintaining security within your data infrastructure one of the most difficult challenges for your IT team?  If so, cloud computing might be the ideal solution.  The cloud computing system is set up from the beginning with all of your security considerations in place.  Once you’re ready to implement the cloud solution, all you have to do is move the data over.  It’s already protected with all the security you need that was designed by security experts to ensure compliance in your industry.

Your Business is Experiencing Rapid Growth

Your technology has to be able to keep up with the growth of your business–including your storage space.  When your business experiences rapid growth, it can be difficult to adequately manage the growth of your technology, as well.  Cloud computing, on the other hand, can be easily adjusted to meet the needs of your growing business.  It’s easy to add in virtual machines or virtual storage space as needed.  Experiencing a downturn in business or downsizing your technological needs?  Cloud computing will allow you to easily adjust your technology without having unused equipment sitting around.

It’s Been a Long Time Since You Last Updated Your Technology

Often, your IT department is one of the most-ignored parts of your business.  As long as everything is going smoothly, you don’t want to put more money or effort into your technology needs than is absolutely necessary.  Unfortunately, problems tend to crop up when you least expect them–and in many cases, those problems can cause huge expenses when the time comes.  Consider the time lost if your system goes down or can no longer support the demands of your business.  Think about what could happen in the event of data loss.  Now, ask yourself when the last time you updated your technology was.

If you don’t have a good answer to that question, cloud computing might be the best possible option for your business.  You’ll be able to easily update and modify your technology needs without overspending in an effort to make up for past mistakes.  Even better, cloud technology is often very cost-effective, making it the perfect choice for your business.

Your Software is Often Out-of-Date

Updating software in your company sounds like more trouble than it’s worth.  After all, your existing software is working just fine; and training end users to use new technology can be extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, while you’re clinging to outdated technology, your competitors are moving forward with the latest advances, giving them advantages that you didn’t even know they could gain.

Through cloud technology, you’ll be able to quickly roll out software updates and keep on the latest edge of available software.  Not only that, the shared resources utilized through cloud technology will cut down on your software costs.  That means that updating will be easier than ever.

Your Business is Unprepared for the Possibility of Data Loss

Virtual data is often the driving force behind many of today’s companies.  Customer information, sales data, and other information specific to your company need to be available to all of your employees at the flip of a switch or the touch of a button.  What happens, however, if that data is lost?  What if your servers stop working, the computers on which specific information is stored crash, or a power blackout causes your information to be inaccessible?

Through cloud computing, your information is always available.  It’s backed up automatically, so you never have to worry about important data loss.  Not only that, it’s always accessible.  Even if your power is out, employees at another facility or on the road can continue to access relevant information.  Mobile devices will still be able to connect to the cloud, enabling your business to keep functioning.  Lost data means lost time, but cloud computing works to streamline the process and make it easier for your business to keep functioning.

Cloud computing is the answer to a variety of potential technology problems for your business.  While it won’t magically solve all of your problems, it will enable you to streamline operations, reduce cost, and increase the time that your employees are able to spend conducting business instead of searching for data.  If you’re looking for a firm that will provide a quality cloud computing experience, contact us for more information.