Author Archives: cbcsolutions

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What’s in your toolbox?

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I pondered this question while doing some DIY projects around the house. Being an ex-carpenter, I have a lot of tools from the trade.

As a Carpenter, I had two assets that defined the excellence of my work. My skills at the craft, and the tools in my possession were equally important to ensure the job was done right.

Business works the same way. The right tools are essential to an effective business. When we talk about tools in business, we usually refer to technology (at least for the purpose of this discussion).

Your Business Toolbox might hold a good CRM system for managing customers, or an ERP system if you’re in Manufacturing. Your Marketing department probably owns a Website and a couple of good Graphic Arts applications. You probably have a collaboration platform.

But buying technical tools is quite different than running down to Home Depot to buy pick up a new hammer.

Purchases need to be planned as a strategic business decision, adequately budgeted and the right subject matter experts need to be involved. A carpenter doesn’t need an expert to know what type of hammer to buy, but a business might.

There are several options to finding a subject matter expert:

1. Use in-house staff to research products online: Not a bad plan if you trust your IT staff. However, sometimes working within a specific toolset for a long time can cause a narrow viewpoint. Why? Because the technology changes too rapidly for the average IT person to keep up with and still do their day to day job effectively.

2. Talk to Vendors: Who knows more about the product than the Vendor that sells it, right? Wrong. Unless the vendor is truly unbiased and sees each implementation though to know the pros and cons of their solution, and is willing to tell you that.

3. Hire a Consultant to find the right tool: This idea works well, but is by far the most expensive option. Usually you’ll pay a billable rate or retainer for the Consultant to learn your business model, research the right tools and create a project plan to implement it. Though they will be in a position to gauge the effectiveness of the solution.

4. Contact a Procurement Advisor:  The least expensive path to getting the right tools is generally through Procurement Advisors. A good Procurement Advisor will look at your business, then find the best tools based continual research in the market. As Advisors, we need to constantly have our fingers on the pulse of the industry and know what tools are effective for the job at hand.

When a deal is brokered through a Procurement Advisor, it generally doesn’t cost you anything upfront for their services. If you have trust your advisor, that’s even better. Your IT staff doesn’t have to spend the time with vendors and service providers to make sure they get the best rate, the broker has already done that.

But how do you know you can trust your advisor? That is a good question and you better be asking it. Here are some ways you can gain trust in your advisor.

1. Review their track record: Has your advisor always been an advisor? Or do they also have experience in Consulting and IT? An advisor who’s sat you your side of the table will have a better understanding of what it takes to earn your trust.

2. Make sure their recommendations are truly unbiased: Ask for quotes from multiple vendors. The advisor should be able to give you comparable quotes. You may even want to pick a couple vendors you know of to see how their prices compare. Look for honesty and openness from the advisor.

3. Find out what the end-goal is of the advisor: If you feel your advisor just wants to close the deal and move on, they probably do. This does not instill trust. A trusted advisor will want to be with you throughout the process and earn your long-term business.

This is a key distinguisher. Your Trusted Advisor will be close to your business and involved in the whole process from beginning to end. The best Trusted Advisors and Consultants understand one thing above all. Your success is their success!

Nothing else stands out more. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been in business, how big their company is, or what their stocks are doing on Wall Street. It matters how they rate their success. It must align with yours.

Getting back to the toolbox metaphor, your business is more than the knowledge and skill set of the people in your organization. The right tools are essential for keeping up with the competition and energizing your business.

A Trusted Advisor can help you find the best tools with the least amount of effort on your part.

One last parting thought. The technical tools in your organization have to do one thing above all else. They must save you money! Either directly or indirectly.

And so I ask you, what’s in your toolbox?


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Cloud Computing

To Cloud or not To Cloud

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Don’t worry, this isn’t just another (OPx vs CAPx) discussion on Cloud Computing. The financial benefits of a scalable architecture as a service have been discussed before. If you want more on that, see my Keys to a healthy technology budget.

No, this discussion is about the other types of fears that hold people back from taking advantage of this technology and/or running into it blindly and making big mistakes.

I’m talking about the real and valid fears illustrated in this article published by Infoweek: http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/9-spectacular-cloud-computing-fails/d/d-id/1321305

Questions like “How secure it the cloud?” and “what if the cloud goes down?” or “what if I can’t get to the Internet?”. All of these are real and valid fears, but you shouldn’t let analysis lead to paralysis.

The Cloud is just like any other technology, it’s a platform that needs to be architected and designed just like any other infrastructure. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to cloud computing.

To adequately take advantage of this technology, lower costs, reduce risk and free up time for you IT department, careful planning needs to take place first.

To start with, real business needs must be defined from the process level. Security is as much a concern in the cloud as it is on your local network. If you’re connected to the Internet, you’re vulnerable, period. The question is how vulnerable and how are you mitigating those risks. More on that in the paragraphs to come, or see “5 Questions to ask your Cloud provider about security“.

Another great consideration is “what if the cloud goes down?” The answers to this comes down to the provider. Are you covered for emergencies? Do you and the cloud provider have a Disaster Recovery plan? Is it clear what the cloud providers responsibility is and what yours is? Do you have a direct support rep or do you call an 800 number and roll the dice?

Guess what, the same concern goes for your Internet carrier, local computer systems, even car insurance. Knowing the details of the contract is key.

In some cases, your cloud solution makes you more dependent on your Internet connection, but not in all cases. Think about what your business would do if all your local computers worked, but you were without Internet access for a day.

Most businesses would either grind to a screeching halt or at least, be severely impacted. Email can’t go out, credit card transactions won’t go through and a majority of your communication to the outside world is cut off. Put the servers in the cloud and the question is simply, how can I get connected while my office is down. A short walk to the nearest Starbucks be a viable solution.

Furthermore, network redundancy isn’t that hard to come by these days and a good network architect or consultant can design one for a lot less than you think. See Worry free connectivity on a small business budget.

Finally we come to security. What if you cloud provider was hacked and your data was stolen or your service was taken offline?

My question is, what if that happened to the servers in your office? Same answer, but the cloud provider is generally going to have more resources to throw at the problem.

Not always, but it’s a good question to ask them…

Getting the risk management plan from your Cloud Provider is not the easiest task. For best results, see a cloud consultant about the options out there the risk management plans for the various providers. There are many Cloud Brokers that can quote the “best deals” in cloud, but make sure they’re also consultants that understand the technology.

We’re here to help. CBC Solutions is a Consulting company with members that have over 25 years of experience performing risk management plans and a deep understanding about cloud and telecommunications. The best deals are waiting for you and at phenomenal rates. Give us a call, our initial consultations are free!

CBC Solutions
619-784-5211
info@cbcsolutions.biz


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5 Common Tech Mistakes Made when Moving Offices

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Moving an office is no simple task. Keeping track of where everything is, where it’s going, where everyone is going to sit and how to get them their while still maintaining some level of business continuity can be enough to drive a company crazy. By far, the most overlooked component when moving an office involves technology infrastructure and services. If you’re in the planning stage of a move, even if you’re just looking for property, this is for you.

1. Telecommunications – Connectivity is like the glue that holds our businesses together in the 21st century. Without it, it’s very difficult for a business to function. Internet & Voice lines can be especially difficult to move.

For example, your new location may not be one that is “on-net” with your current carrier. This means that the carrier will have to lease bandwidth from another carrier to continue service and that their lead time to swing service could be heavily delayed by as much as 90 days and your monthly rate will increase! If you’re still on contract, you will have to stay with that carrier and wait out the time it takes for them to get the install done, then pay the additional fees.

Furthermore, it takes a lot of coordination to get them to cut over service on a specific date and time. If you have a contract that’s coming up for renewal and you know you might be moving, see about keeping the contract on a month-to-month basis. This will allow you some options if you find out that there’s a long lead time or the new location is much more expensive.

2. Voice – Moving a business phone system is much more difficult than it seems. The equipment is the easy part. The difficulty comes when you need carrier services and someone to re-install the system at the new location. Generally speaking you can keep your same phone numbers, but if your moving to a different area code or even prefix, it could cost you extra to keep your old numbers.

Question if your phone system is even worth moving. If you’ve been in your current location for a long time and haven’t modernized it, it could be cheaper to change to a new service with the move.

3. Servers, Network Gear & Workstations – Anytime you’re moving computer and high-end electronic equipment, you should have a mover who is certified in that area. Movers that specialize in electronic equipment take special care to make sure that every device is cataloged, and stored in anti-static & shock resistant packaging. Getting equipment reconfigured the proper way requires a very systematic process.

If your employees have laptops and mobile devices, make sure you know who’s taking theirs with them and what’s left to the movers. Not knowing could mean that something gets lost or valuable time is spent looking for something that isn’t in the office.

Also, what about old equipment? If it’s legacy and not in production, why move it? E-waste recycling companies should be engaged to remove old equipment and dispose of it properly. In some cases old equipment can be resold, but often the depreciation value is so low it’s not worth the effort.

4. Cabling – Even if your new location is pre-cabled, it is a good idea to make sure you have it certified by a low-voltage cabling company. If not, you could be facing possible networking issues later on that will be very difficult to track down. Network cabling is very specific and can be quite sensitive.

Also, be sure your cabling vendor is on track to add any drops where they might be needed. Cabling vendors work off billable hours so they might not be available if you call them last minute.

Make sure you have proper cabling to get the connectivity lines from where the vendor drops them to where the equipment is located. If you’re in a high-rise, a third party company will have to extend the vendor terminations to your suite. Your building manager should have that contact info on file.

Don’t forget about wireless. Wireless access uses RF signals that don’t pass through concrete, glass and many heavy metals. Have a wireless site survey done to make sure you have coverage in the right areas and know your access point placement.

5. Conference Rooms – If you have meeting rooms, think about audio/visual devices. Are you installing a flat panel or projector? How are users going to connect to them? There are some really good wireless products on the market. Also, what about conference tables? Can you build cabling & power into the table? The best conference rooms have no visible cable when someone’s presenting. A tangled conference room can be a real distraction.

Bottom line, if your business has a dependence on Technology, don’t discard the concern. It takes a lot of coordination to move an office and still maintain business as usual. Start thinking about it now and have a trusted advisor coordinate your technology move. You’ll be glad you did and there’s a lot of room for improving it at the same time.

CBC Solutions is a holistic consulting company and trusted advisor. We can help demystify the office move from the technical side so you can focus on everything else. If you’re planing or even thinking of moving give us a call. We’ll look at your potential new location to make sure you can get service and coordinate the move so you stay in business as much as possible.

 


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How to cut telecommunications costs by 20-30%

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“If you haven’t completed a detailed analysis of your telephone bills in the past two years, there’s a 90% chance you are being overcharged—possibly as much as 20%.” — FCC

“Rather than getting better as a result of computerization, utility bills seem to be getting worse. They are indecipherable, lack itemization, contain inflated or phony charges, and cost customers billions of dollars a year.” — Ralph Nader

With the rise in Telecommunications costs, it becomes increasingly important to analyse your costs for errors, overages and omissions. Additionally, as the market gets more competitive, carriers are offering better and better deals. This, combined with changing business needs causes companies to have to re-analyze their current contracts on an ongoing basis.

CBC Solutions offers a 5 step process to help businesses find the best cost savings they can get while meeting the business needs of the organization.

  1. Assess business processes & determine voice and data needs
  2. Audit contracts and latest invoices
  3. Identify alternate vendors for service needs
  4. Provide a formal recommendation & assist with implementation
  5. Track invoicing and manage contract renewals

On average, CBC Solutions can find 20-30% or more savings on a telecommunication budget and drive down operating costs. With CBC Solutions at your side, you can be sure your getting the best possible rates. We cut through the loopholes and get the vendors competing for your business.

Our Commitment:

  • Absolute Neutrality – Our network of over 100 carriers contains no underlying commitments or quotas. We negotiate the best rates with your best interests at heart.
  • No Risk – CBC Solutions employ a risk-free auditing technique. We find the best rates for your organization so you can focus on your core business.
  • Lifetime Support – We want to earn your trust. As a result, we treat your account as if it is our own. Our vendor relationships allow us to get better support than the average person and we will support you as long as your contract lasts.

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How (and why) to Trust your Trusted Advisor

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I was in a networking group once where we had to go around the room and describe what makes us different than our [sometimes larger] competitors. Although all of us were from different industries, virtually everyone’s value proposition could be summed up into one word. Trust!

When I was a kid, I learned that trust had to be earned. I still believe that today. The question is, how do you trust someone to advise you on something you don’t understand?

I have advisors for Marketing, Insurance and Taxes. Not subjects I went to school for, nor do I profess to be an expert in any of them. However, I do consider myself good judge of character and being an advisor myself, I know what it takes to earn trust.

Results Matter
No one can talk about trust without considering results. Obviously that’s number one. A good trusted advisor will help you develop goals on which to measure success. My marketing advisor develops goals to measure hit count on my website, conversion rates, new sales leads, etc. With my Tax guy, it’s how he manages my deductibles and how susceptible am I to an audit. My Insurance agent makes sure I have the coverage I need. She’s not the cheapest in the world (and she tells me that), but she’s upfront and makes a real effort to understand my needs.

The point is, to measure results, the proper goals need to be set and you should be able to gauge how well you do in achieving them. It goes beyond ‘under promise – over deliver’. Anyone can under promise. Goals should be realistic. It’s also not as important to hit them on the first throw as much as how you can change up the game if you miss your target or don’t get the results you want.

Communication
One of the best value principals of a good advisor is communication. The advisors I trust are the ones who give it to me straight. In sales, we’re taught to tell the customer what they want to hear. Advisors are here to tell us what we need to hear. It may not always be good news, but if you need to hear it, it’s valuable.

Time is Money
Once you find an advisor you trust, how much time do you spend validating their work? If your advisor gives you a quote, do you look for a better one? Maybe, if the time it takes to shop doesn’t exceed the amount of money you might save on the their offer. However, I’ve seen people spend 10 hours to save $100. Not my favorite approach.

Disclosure
Ultimately, the best people I trust are the ones that are forthcoming about their commission rates, competitor pricing, markups and wholesale costs. That doesn’t mean they have to volunteer all that information, just that they’re honest about what they’re making on the deal and how much risk they’re assuming. Not everyone can do this, but the ones who can, usually earn my trust pretty quick.

Dedication
When you have an advisor you really trust, nurture that relationship. They will usually be there in a pinch when you need them most.

I’m not personally a strong believer in the 80/20 rule. At least not in the ways it’s used in sales. The most common translation I see is to focus 80% of your time on the top 20% of your customers. Personally, I strive to give 110% to every customer and I expect the people I do business with to do the same. Because Trust is the name of the game. If you’re advisor gives you the impression they’re putting 110% into you, ask yourself, are you in their top 20%, or do they bring that dedication to every table.

 


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What Can a Hosted PBX Offer You?

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In today’s fast paced environment, many businesses are turning to Telephony (the integration of voice, data and computing) to keep in contact with customers, suppliers and business partners.

Legacy business phone systems are being replaced with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Hosted PBX systems at a very fast pace.

Major phone system vendors are pushing their Telephony products over the traditional onsite, digital phone system model.

With all the new features and vendors on the market, how do you decide what to buy and keep from getting locked into the wrong contracts or systems?

Fortunately, there are some great options now. Hosted services like Hosted PBX, Hosted VoIP and SIP Trunking are allowing companies to tap into the market with lower risk and at a fraction of the cost.

What is VoIP?
The term “Voice over Internet Protocol” defines a system where normal voice communications are converted to digital data that can be sent across your existing PC network, then converted back into voice on the other end. It allows for low-level integration with the computer. This in turn allows applications such as Outlook, CRM systems and other software to gain insight to calling patterns.

VoIP can benefit your business by offering many features you wouldn’t ordinarily have:

  • Detailed Call Tracking
  • Customer Relations Management
  • User-level call routing
  • Voicemail to email
  • Status based call routing
  • Call center management
  • Mobility

What is Hosted PBX?
There are many ways to convert to VoIP. The fastest and most scalable method is through a Hosted PBX service. Hosted PBX is a from of Cloud Computing service where a carrier provides alll the features of an enterprise phone system from their location. With a hosted system, there is no equipment to buy and the system is managed and upgraded by another party. This architecture is also sometimes referred to as Hosted VoIP.

The architecture is very simple for the business. Pre-configured phones are plugged into the data network just like a computer, then configured with the users extension and contact info. from a dedicated web-based console.

Hosted PBX can offer many benefits to the business:

  • Easy to implement
  • Only pay for what you use
  • Bundled or free long distance rates
  • Fast setup
  • Enterprise level features at an affordable price

Enhanced Call Routing
A VoIP system allows you to be sure you’ll never miss a call (unless you want to). Every user on the system gets their own extension and voicemail box. As an additional option, everyone can have a direct inward dialing (DID) number as well.

Users manage their own extension through a call manager application installed on their computer and/or mobile device. The call manager allows them to:

  • Record voicemail messages
  • Handle voicemail routing
  • Instant message co-workers
  • Define call routing

Call routing features allow the user to configure how incoming calls are routed. This is done through profiles.

For example:

  • Standard – At your desk, ready to receive calls
  • In a Meeting – Don’t ring, send incoming calls to voicemail
  • Out of Office – Forward calls to mobile or an assistant
  • Extended Leave – Route calls to voicemail with a special announcement

These call profiles can be configured in any way you like. Once the profiles are configured, incoming calls will be handed in accordance with the Active Profile. A profile (otherwise known as “Presence”)  can be made active in a variety of way:

  • Manually set by the user
  • Manually set by a designated assistant
  • Automatically based on appointments in a calendar
  • Automatically by time of day, day of week, etc

Mobility solutions allow a user to place and receive calls from an app installed on a mobile device. This allows users to make calls from their designated extension without having to give out a mobile number. Also, callers only need to know one phone number to reach you no matter where you are.

Computer Integration
Integrating the Call Manager application with the computer allows additional features not found in legacy phone systems:

  • Enhanced call logging with notes
  • Dial from Outlook
  • Log calls in CRM
  • Easy forward and conference calling
  • Quickly find presence status of another employee

Hosted PBX Additional Features
Nationwide Hosted PBX providers add more features not found in an on premise system:

  • Multi-location disaster failover
  • Unlimited long distance
  • System upgrades
  • Pay only for what you use
  • New features automatically implemented
  • Bundled services with Internet access, calling plan, etc for even more savings

Conclusion
Business phone systems have come a long way since the days of calling a main number, then a 4 digit extension. Voice Over IP can greatly extend the features of the phone system to enhance the way you do business, improve productivity, and even low costs. Although there is some risk if you don’t get connected with the right provider, it still outweighs the risk of having the whole system onsite.

Have a question about Voice over IP? Want to know if it’s for you? Give us a call to discuss. We can help you decide if your business can benefit from a system like this and give you an idea of how much it will cost.


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Worry free connectivity on a small business budget

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How much does your business depend on connectivity? 80%, 90%, higher? It is virtually impossible to do business these days without connectivity to the outside world. Even businesses with only the slightest amount of technology need to be connected to the Internet to conduct business. Information Week estimated that IT outages cost roughly $26.5 Billion in lost revenue in 2011. It’s only getting worse. Add Cloud services, Voice over IP, & web services to your list and the dependency approaches 100%

The good news is that a resilient network is not the work of genius tech gurus who sit on mountain tops and come at a price that would make a Fortune 500 cringe. Creating a resilient, worry-free network is much easier than it used to be.

Vendor Fail-over
Internet connectivity is now so cheap, that it’s affordable to have a redundant Internet connection from a secondary provider. With even a low-cost, commercial security appliance, a secondary Internet connection can sit in a passive, stand-by state waiting for an outage on the primary line. Once this outage occurs, the secondary connection is made active and traffic flows seamlessly.

Cost of a solutions like this can run from $500 – $1,200 for a commercial appliance and an extra $60-$200 per month for a secondary Internet service (depending a lot on the size and scope of your company). Since this is a fail-over service, it doesn’t need to be as fast or reliable as your main connection, just enough to get you by until the primary service comes back on line.

Eliminating Single Points of Failure
While it it not 100% possible to eliminate all points of failure, the more redundancy that is put in place, the more resilient your network will be. A majority of the major players in small business network equipment offer “HA pricing” (high-availability) at a fraction of the cost of the primary device so you can double up on firewalls, routers or switches without doubling your cost.

Cloud Advantage
Making educated decisions about utilizing Cloud solutions can add to your resiliency. Many cloud providers replicate services to various locations so your services are up as much as possible. Did you know that Microsoft’s Office 365 services are replicated to data centers across the nation?

Good cloud providers offer guaranteed up-time measured in 9’s. For example, they might offer “three 9’s” or 99.9% up time. This means they can only be down for around 4 hours a year. Common guarantees are in the three – four 9 range, but some of the big players are even higher. Amazon Web Services guarantees eleven 9’s of up time, or 99.999999999%!

Monitoring – The forgotten necessity
One of the biggest mistakes commonly made when designing a fault-tolerant network is the lack of good monitoring. A good monitoring solution involves a 3rd party service, off your network that monitors up-time remotely. This way, if a redundant service kicks in, someone can be alerted so they troubleshoot the issue or call the appropriate vendor.

Without proper monitoring, you may not know you’re running in a crippled state.

Designing for Fault Tolerance
No matter what solutions you put in place, a fault-tolerant network is more than just a redundant service or device. Specific practices need to be put in place to ensure that devices are configured, proper services are ordered, systems are tested and proper monitoring & alerting is in place.

This takes a designer who can help you decide two metrics which will help budget for such a design. Return to Operation -time required to fail over to the redundant solution and Recovery Point Objective -specific services that need to fail over for business to run smoothly.

Summary
Designing a fault-tolerant network can take the worry out of service outages and equipment failure, but it needs to be designed properly. A good network architect will setup a recovery testing plan and simulate failures to make sure the system is redundant. These systems should be reviewed often to ensure they’re still functioning properly.

CBC Solutions offers Fault-Tolerant Network Design as a service. We perform a business analysis to help you decide the right budget. Then we provide best in industry solutions to take away the worry of your connectivity to the outside world so you can stay focused on your business.


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5 Ways You Can Benefit From A Technology Broker

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Technology Brokers are a unique type of technical consultant. They don’t generally sell any product. Instead they build strategic partnerships with vendors and service providers, then integrate their services into your business. Technology Brokers work on your behave to negotiate rates & contract terms. If the Broker is also a Consultant, they will help you find the right technologies and fit them into your business model. Below are 5 ways they can help:

 1. We have a large partner base to work with – It takes a lot of time to find the right vendor or reseller to work with. As a business leader, you may go out on your own to find a vendor through Internet search or word of mouth, and then take your chances that the vendor will be easy to work with, will keep your interest in mind, and will always strive to keep your business. A Broker has a much bigger landscape of trusted and true providers and they know who will work in your best interest.

2. Staying with the same old vendors can lead to stagnation – While vendors don’t like to lose clients, they can also get a bit complacent if they don’t feel there’s any danger of their customer switching to a competitor. A Broker will recognize this and know when to put pressure on the vendor to stay competitive.

3. Switching costs are minimized – The cost of switching providers include loss of customer incentives, learning curves, configuration / integration cost and time in re-establishing a business relationship. When you use a Broker, they can manage a good amount of this for you. Customer incentives are usually well known to the Broker and you may be able to take advantage of competitive upgrade deals, learning curves can be reduced when the Broker provides you with proper training, and the costs of deploying the solution may also be absorbed by the Broker by having them bundle configuration in with the product.

4. They can offer good contract negotiation – Since Technology Brokers work with contracts so often, they can spot issues in contracts and help you mitigate them with the vendor. Contract issues such as auto-renew clauses, termination fees, service levels and contract length can be negotiated by the Broker better since the Broker generally knows what vendors are willing to red-line and what adjustments should be proposed.

5. Anxiety is reduced – Brokers can remove the anxiety of switching to a different product or service. They have been in the business long enough to know what risks exist with certain product switching. They can generally help you be prepared for a hard learning curve, adjustments you need to make on related systems and any other dependencies that the vendor won’t tell you.

 CBC Solutions is a Technology Broker and Business Consultant. We analyze your business to find out not only where adjustments need to be made to your current services and products, but also what the total costs are of switching. We help businesses make a smooth transition and follow up frequently to make sure the services are working to improve business functions, reduce costs and manage risk.

 


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Analyzing risk in a tech-enabled business

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Businesses today have to manage a lot of risk. When it comes to technology, the risks are vast and can be difficult to calculate. The effectiveness of a security or disaster recovery solution can be especially hard to calculate. How do you know if you have enough redundancy and tight enough security controls to keep your business safe? Until something happens, you really don’t know. And then when it does, of course, it’s too late.

There are several ways to manage risk when it comes to technology. A security professional can perform a risk analysis to help you to determine your risk threshold, or the balance between mitigation and acceptance. This is also referred to as risk ‘appetite’ or ‘tolerance’.

Risk Avoidance – Often the risk to too great and it’s best to hold off on the solution until the risk can be mitigated. The risk analysis will tell you if you should avoid the solution or mitigate the risk.

Risk Acceptance – Sometimes, a risk is accepted and the organization decides to roll the dice and hope nothing happens. Again, this is not always a bad decision, the risk analysis will help you determine that. You’ll need to review your risk threshold and the mitigation costs so you don’t create more vulnerability than you’re comfortable with.

Risk Mitigation – Anytime a risk assessment is performed, mitigation costs should accompany it. The cost of mitigation should be considered anytime a vulnerability is discovered.

Risk Transference – One of the better benefits of Cloud Computing and Managed Services is that it often allows you to transfer the risk to another party. The feasibility of this boils down to the contract. There should be a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place that indicates where the provider’s responsibility begins and ends and where their liability ends. This will help you to uncover how much risk has been transferred to the other party and how much you should still be worried about.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Risk Assessment

Information security professionals will generally perform risk assessments as either one of these. A Qualitative Risk Assessment is a more general version where risks and vulnerabilities are qualified as high, medium and low risk. There isn’t a lot of numbers involved in a Qualitative Risk Assessment. It’s more of a lower cost solution to help you define your current posture.

For a detailed risk assessment where dollar amounts are assigned to each component, consider a Quantitative Risk Assessment. In this type of assessment, risks are calculated down to a specific number. There is a lot of math that goes into this so it can be a rather expensive task. Security professionals will calculate the following factors:

Single Loss Expectancy (SLE) – is the cost a single incident will cost if it occurs

Annual Rate of Occurance (ARO) – how many times an asset was lost due to the risk

Annualized Loss Expectancy (ALE) – annual anticipated loss due to the risk; this is calculated by multiplying the SLE by the ARO

Exposure Factor – a number calculated by how much loss could incur. For example if it’s determined that a building would burn halfway through on average if it catches on fire, the exposure factor would be 0.5 or 50%

Safeguard Value – this equates to how much you’re willing to spend to mitigate a specific risk

There are several formulas used to calculate the values above and define a risk tolerance. I won’t go into all of them since that’s a book all on its own. If you’re dying of curiosity, you can read all 495 pages of The Security Risk Assessment Handbook. For now, just know that there are two different kinds of risk assessments, and best of all, there are trusted companies to help you perform one. Ideally, every company should at least have a Qualitative Risk Assessment performed.


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How a telecom agent can help you save money

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When reviewing a technology budget, look at the cost of Telecommunications. High-speed Internet, private lines, phone services, PBX, long distance and even cloud servers. These are all monthly costs that quickly add up. Many business leaders miss these costs when calculating budgets or working to reduce operating costs. They add up quickly.

To add to this problem, there are new technologies and better pricing popping up every day. This leads to added confusion and budgets can get outdated very quickly. Fortunately there is hope. A growing field in the industry today is that of a Telecom Agent. This person has good ties to multiple vendors and can readily get the best pricing and help you navigate through the noise.

A Telecom Agent that is connected to multiple vendors and is familiar with the industry can save you thousands of dollars a month, often without billing you for their services. They do this through integrated provider networks where they can submit your needs and get the best pricing from multiple vendors. The agent then collects a commission through either the provider or the partner network and never has to bill you for that service.

Here’s how it works. 

The Telecom Agent should ask a few questions to get an idea of what you need from a technology standpoint. They may even review your current billing to get an idea of what you’re actually using as far as Internet bandwidth, voice services, long distance minutes, and even Cloud Servers. Then, the agent contacts a list of providers in your area to get the best deals. In some cases they may package services to save you even more money and simplify deployment.

Once the proper quotes are received, the agent will send them to you and hopefully explain the various options to help you make the right decision. If you don’t like any of the options, that’s OK. If you do, you sign the agreement with the carrier, not the agent. The carrier and/or partner network works out commission with the agent.

Another benefit to agents is that they usually have better contacts within the carriers so they can assist with deployment, contract negotiation and support. Consider this. Say you have a long distance service that is $5 / minute. A typical monthly bill shows usage of 80 minutes of long distance. That equates to $400 / month or $4,800.00 per year. Now say the agent can get your long distance down to $1.9 / minute either by finding another provider or through 100 minute blocks bundled in with another service. Now your monthly costs go down to $152 / month and you save an average of $2,976.00 ever year. This same practice can be placed on voice lines and Internet access which, when bundled, can save even more.


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