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Why Cloud Contact Centers?

The demands placed on customer service teams and contact centers today are higher than ever before. Organizations want contact centers that can scale quickly to meet customer demand, and they want agents that deliver highly personalized customer support. Doing that means giving reps the ability to access multiple applications like customer service and CRM applications simultaneously. Customers also expect access to customer service channels in multiple languages and through always-on options like phone, chat, email, social media, and text.

The risk of failing to deliver superior customer support is also higher than ever. Consider this: a report by leading marketing and analytics firm Kissmetrics tells us that, on average, 9.5 minutes are spent trying to reach a human when trapped in an automated phone system. That single, poor experience doesn’t make customers feel valued. Even more, 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service (Source: Kissmetrics). In all, that means the stakes are extremely high when it comes to the contact center.

Faced with this reality, smart organizations are considering a new way to approach contact center management. Cloud contact centers are making it easier to detangle the complexity, cost and high risk of traditional contact centers. When done right, cloud-based contact center services help to deliver greater business continuity and better insight by unifying multiple call center locations and remote agents. This unified approach also delivers sharper customer insight and tighter control over operations. When considering alternatives to stale customer service and contact center solutions, keep these features in mind:

  • Improved scalability to manage high call volume- whether your busy time of year is spring, summer, fall, the holidays, or anytime special promotions are offered, increase call volume can be tricky to manage.  With a cloud-based contact center, a business can be ready for a high volume of calls and customer interactions immediately, in near real time.
  • Cost savings with a pay-for-what-you-use service model- further, working with a cloud contact center provider makes ‘instant-on” capabilities a reality. This makes it extremely simple and cost-effective to add new agents and line capacity quickly, while also allowing agents the flexibility to work remotely. Using cloud contact software, organizations can scale up staff to meet demand with the push of a button. Resources are also optimized because businesses only pay for the agents and lines they use, making bloated staffing costs a thing of the past.
  • Greater efficiency- With an integrated contact center platform, managers can better utilize customer service resources and ensure more high-quality customer engagements. Supervisors can gain greater visibility by drilling down into very specific metrics, like calls and email volumes. With corresponding reports, users can make smarter decisions about switching agents to inbound/outbound calls based on need, forecasts, and business rules. A clearer picture of the contact center increases productivity, agent engagement, and margins.
  • Improved customer service and greater understanding of the customer- for organizations to remain competitive, they must commit to elevating their relationship with customers. This includes responding quickly to questions, treating them as individuals, understanding their purchasing patterns and managing individual interactions for quality and consistency. A cloud contact center approach empowers agents to deliver on these commitments and provide excellent service. It does this by improving their efficiency with access to multiple customer service applications through one platform. For example, by integrating CRM applications with cloud contact center software, agents can have more meaningful conversations with customers and avoid common frustrations of having callers repeat call histories or personal information.

In today’s competitive business landscape, premier customer service is a critical differentiator. By partnering with an experienced provider and ensuring personalized and engaging customer experiences, organizations can build a fiercely loyal customer base as well as secure new customers in engaging and innovative ways.

What is IAM and Who are the Major Players?

As the number of connected devices in the workplace skyrockets and Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) continues to be the norm, maintaining data security in the enterprise continues to be a significant challenge. Protecting corporate information and applications on mobile devices, or those that run in the cloud is only possible with a reliable access and identity management strategy. Today’s leading enterprises are turning to Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions to provide a secure business security framework. These frameworks go a long way in effectively managing digital identities both inside and outside the enterprise and corporate firewall. IAM systems identify and prevent would-be hackers from stealing credentials and gaining access to sensitive applications and data. Robust IAM solutions also help keep sensitive data private and ensure the right people have access to the right information at the right time.  

Gartner estimates the Identity-as-a Service models (IaaS) market is on its way to a $45 billion market by 2018. But in a relatively new industry, who are the major IAM players to watch? Who can businesses trust with such an important data security responsibility? And, what about IaaS? Do cloud-based IAM offerings provide the same level of identity governance? Let’s take a look at a few of the leading IAM leaders to see how various offerings stack up.

  • Okta- Okta offers a diverse portfolio of identity and access management solutions for digital business as well as all industries that rely heavily on a connected and a mobile workforce. The company’s Identity Cloud Platform is unique in that it offers customers−and their entire workforce−secure access to thousands of pre-integrated SaaS and internal apps from anywhere and from any device. For instance, enterprises can rapidly deploy Salesforce.com, Office 365, AWS and more, with Single-Sign-On (SSO) and provisioning. This gives employees instant and secure access to the tools they use most. It’s important to note that in 2016, top analyst firm Gartner named Okta as a Magic Quadrant leader for IaaS. (Source: Okta)
  • Ping Identity- The company offers federated identity access management capabilities to simplify and centralize bridging to and managing identities on-premises and in the cloud. They also offer federated access management which ensures that only authorized users can reach the applications they need. Ping Identity also has an IaaS solution through a cloud-based model that delivers secure cloud SSO.  This platform helps eliminate common multiple password security problems, and as a result, frees up IT for more critical data security issues. Giving users one-click access to SaaS apps is a Ping Identity mantra. Not only that, the company’s platform delivers faster integration with existing identity stores and self-service configuration and provisioning. With these options, it’s no wonder why customers trust Ping Identity to keep corporate assets and applications safe outside the enterprise firewall.
  • OneLogin- OneLogin is a provider that delivers identity management software via the cloud. The company was named by Forrester as a leader in the IAM space, being selected among the “nine most significant SaaS providers in the cloud IAM category” in 2015. (Source: Forrester) OneLogin’s cloud-based identity management platform also offers SSO and centralized control of users, applications, and devices. The company’s unified directory allows customers to synchronize users from multiple directories such as Workday, Active Directory, LDAP, G Suite and others. OneLogin delivers a web-based interface where IT administrators can manage users, authentication policies and access control, all from a secure cloud directory.
  • Google- In March of 2016, Google announced the availability of its beta enterprise-focused IAM toolset for Google’s public cloud platform (GCP). This announcement was big news because AWS and Microsoft Azure already had strong IAM offerings, which put Google slightly behind in the IAM race. Since that initial announcement, the company’s IaaS modules have continued to grow, improve and capture market share. Google continues to improve its built-in security capabilities by adding more roles and allowing administrators to define custom roles. Administrators are able to assign permissions and run the primary identity and access management through the Google Apps Admin console, which most find straightforward and intuitive.
  • Microsoft- Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) is Microsoft’s IAM platform which is part of its Azure cloud services portfolio. It lets IT managers set up how users can access selected applications hosted on the internal corporate network or external cloud services. Azure AD is a comprehensive identity and access management cloud solution because it gives administrators the ability to manage all users and groups. It helps secure access to on-premises and cloud applications, including Office 365 and non-Microsoft SaaS apps. Azure AD comes in three editions: Free, Basic, and Premium. For those who need highly-secure remote access and SSO, the Azure AD Application Proxy module allows users to publish on-premise web applications. This feature allows users to launch applications from a personalized web-based panel or mobile app using company credentials.

At a time when users require simplified and seamless access to SaaS applications and productivity tools in a mixed-technology environment, identity management has become a mission-critical task. With the right IAM partner and security framework in place, enterprises will become more secure, agile and competitive, while at the same time reducing identity management costs.

 

Defining 4G/LTE

We see the number/letter combination in the corner of our smartphones so often, it has almost become invisible: 4G/LTE. Not only that, ‘4G’ is also touted so repeatedly (and loudly) in Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T commercials, most of us hit the mute button without even realizing it anymore. We know 4G/LTE has something to do with cellular networks and speeds, but what is 4G/LTE really? And, what does it mean for our daily lives in which smartphones and connectivity have become such a necessity for work, life, and play? Let’s start by defining 4G/LTE:

4G/L·T·E  DEFINED:

4G/LTE is really two terms in one. 4G is a collection of fourth-generation mobile data technology. Not surprisingly, it succeeds 3G and is also called IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced). All 4G standards must conform to a set of specifications created by the International Telecommunications Union. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, which is not really a technology, but a standard for wireless communication. (Source: TechTerms).

How fast is 4G? 4G technologies are required to provide peak data transfer rates of at least 100 Mbps (megabytes per/second). This includes the connection rate for mobile phones, smart phone tablets, etc. However, keep in mind that actual download speeds vary based on location, signal strength, and interference. As an example, just because a device has the capacity to reach 4G, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically hit those connection speeds (for instance, you’ll have the best chance if you’re in a city, as opposed to a remote location, assuming wireless interference isn’t too severe).

Are you really getting 4G speeds? The short answer is: no, not really. When the governing body set the minimum speeds for 4G mobile devices, around 2008, they decided that because 4G was not actually attainable in the practical sense for network providers, they would introduce the term LTE. LTE basically means the authentic pursuit of the 4G standard, and it offers a considerable improvement over 3G technology.

As a result, most network providers today offer 4G LTE network speeds which they brand as next-generation connectivity performance, even though they are actually hitting pure 4G speeds.

Does 4G matter anyway? The answer to this really lies in how these connection speeds impact the user experience. How fast can your devices load pages, download music or video conference in real life situations? As a rule, while 4G/LTE seems to be a considerable improvement over 3G speeds when comparing 4G/LTE and “true 4G” networks of today, most upload and download speeds are almost identical.

4G and the enterprise  If your company is considering 4G/LTE wireless internet to provide remote access to enterprise applications like CRM and collaboration tools, consider how connection speeds impact performance. For instance, simplified and fast access to applications like Salesforce.com, Cisco WebEx Social, and other business apps, will ensure the applications are used. Many believe the improved speed of access to applications, and the ability to work from anywhere and at any time, are real business benefits. When comparing 4G/LTE mobile data plans for the business, also consider factors like bandwidth requirements and data overage charges.

What’s next? You won’t be surprised to hear that several carriers are already looking ahead to 5G mobile broadband. Experts predict that 2017 will see more trials of 5G technology as the wireless industry continues to define what the 5G technology looks like. AT&T has already announced they are conducting 5G trials with Intel this year. The new 5G wireless modem will work at both super-high radio frequencies and lower-band airwaves. Many believe that early 5G network adoption will come from the enterprise side, in the form of from drones, self-driving cars, industrial applications, and some broadband service to homes and businesses. (Source: Investor’s Business Daily).

Advantages to SD-WAN

When companies are looking for advanced connectivity, reliability and fast network speeds, Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) options should not be overlooked. SD-WAN is an ideal alternative to traditional WAN deployments because traffic is intelligently routed across the network based on policies and load levels. Traffic shaping is done at the controller level through a software interface which automatically identifies the best possible route based on various factors such as defined use-case, requirements for cloud-based business apps. In an SD-WAN architecture, this routing is done over multiple WAN connections in parallel to ensure greater connection reliability. For those considering a move to SD-WAN, let’s dive deeper into three primary advantages of this model, including: advanced provisioning and configuration capabilities, improved network performance and responsiveness, and tighter security options.

  1. Advanced provisioning- SDN delivers better insight into network bandwidth and overall computing resources as well as greater configuration and provisioning options. Streamlined provisioning capabilities means that it’s simple to add new services or devices to the network because it can be done from a centralized software-based administration interface, instead of manually provisioning new hardware, including routers and servers, which can take weeks. Network management and configuration is also streamlined because with SD-WAN, bandwidth can easily be added as the business grows. Administrators can quickly deploy new security or WAN optimization services to remote sites, without physically traveling to that location.
  2. Greater network responsiveness- Today’s enterprises often include a distributed workforce with multiple branch offices and remote workers. Organizations are also relying more on Software as a Service (SaaS) and other cloud-based services, data analytics tools and storage and data backup solutions that run over the internet. This has made dependable, high-speed internet a necessity not a luxury. Those organizations leveraging SD-WAN can meet these challenges and guarantee access to cloud-based applications because SD-WAN responds proactively to real-time network conditions. Software-defined WAN treats the wide-area network as a unified fabric, relying on multiple WAN connections to pass data packets through the network. This includes support for multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and cellular or fixed-line connections. This might include IP Virtual Private Networks (IP VPNs) and support for cable broadband, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity. Route redundancy over the internet, ensures a high-quality user experience for those users accessing cloud-based applications and other  mission critical business applications.
  3. Granular security- SD-WAN offers greater network security by encrypting WAN traffic as it moves from one location to another. Through the controller, IT administrators can define a policy that describes the underlying network as it would appear to the application. That may include breaking the WAN down into groups, for example, guest Wi-Fi, real-time applications, mission-critical applications, internet browsing, etc. Those policies are then distributed across the nodes in the SD-WAN, which links the offices defined in that policy. This pointed level of security helps to segment traffic so administrators have a better overall view of the network and the ability to see individual use cases. If something unusual is identified, they can shut down traffic in a specific area.

When network performance and reliability are a top priority, software-defined WAN models can help keep WAN costs down while helping IT administrators build a better, faster and more productive network.