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10 Things to Look for in an IaaS Tool

10 Things to Look for in an IaaS Tool

Nearly 30 years after the emergence of its widespread use, the internet has evolved from a novel in-office communication tool to a sprawling information network that businesses can’t live without. We are practically swimming in data. Luckily, cloud computing – a technology service that offloads files to external servers located around the country – has stepped in to help ease the burden of terabytes of sensitive company data.

A new form of data management tech has also recently emerged onto the scene: Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, or IaaS. Compared to traditional cloud computing services, IaaS takes care of the nitty-gritty details normally located in your own office infrastructure, such as servers, software, data centers and security. To put things into perspective, traditional cloud computing is like having a big storage drive somewhere else in the country, while IaaS is the storage drive and your workplace’s nervous system safely stored miles away – but directly networked with your office nonetheless. This frees up your business to devote its resources to the tasks that matter while another company takes care of the heavy lifting.

Several major players have quickly taken up the IaaS mantle – namely, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform. Choosing the right cloud IaaS for your business isn’t a clear-cut task. Once you’ve wrapped your head around how IaaS works, your brain will likely be swirling with a maelstrom of other questions: How can I guarantee that I’m getting the most storage out of what I’m paying? Should I invest in an IaaS provider that controls most of my data’s storage? How much do I want to customize my network?

These 10 tips will cover the key points to consider when choosing the cloud IaaS for you:

Public and Private Platforms

IaaS companies typically offer two different platforms for your business: public and private. Each offers its own distinct advantages for different types of businesses.

Public platforms give you and your team the opportunity to quickly access IT resources. This ease-of-use allows you to make changes to your work environment on the fly. Public platforms also come pre-configured, meaning that businesses with less IT experience or with teams that are already stretched thin might do better with this option.

Private platforms grant your business maximum security within your data center. These servers are also typically faster since they operate on a closed circuit. Moreover, private platforms allow you to customize your network and security features to a greater degree than public platforms. IT-savvy businesses can use a private IaaS platform for greater control over their data management.

Customization

Depending on how comfortable you are with IT, you’ll want your IaaS platform to have at least some degree of customizability. Your business might require multiple channels through which to exchange data, for example, or it might require the IaaS to act as a test server for a new website.

Other examples of customization features include website layout templates, user interface storage and the ability to upload your own HTML and CSS files, like those included with Microsoft Azure. The apps and operating systems that different IaaS platforms offer should play a role in determining how well they will serve your business.

User Friendliness

Above all, the IaaS you choose should be easy to understand for you, the end user, especially since third-party apps will take care of the hardest IT work for you. Responsive customer support is another factor to consider, as are transparent documentation and neatly organized client-side interfaces.

Relativity

Cloud computing may be a marvel of information management, but, for the time being, our networks are still bound to the physical limits of cable. Ensure that the IaaS you choose operates with an extensive infrastructure or at least manages servers located close to your business. This will ensure that you can easily and quickly transfer data to and from your IaaS servers.

Usage Charges

Ensuring that an IaaS will lower costs for your business is key. Though the prospect of placing your workplace’s vitals in the care of a trusted IaaS is attractive, keep in mind that each company offers different pricing models. An IaaS platform might require you to pay by the hour, week or month based on the number of gigabytes you use. Some charge only by data upload (hot storage), while others charge for data you aren’t currently using (cold storage). Still, others will charge you for each service you use. Be prepared to see many different entries for different services on your first IaaS bill.

Also consider scalability, or the IaaS’ ability to adapt to your changing data requirements, when deliberating on a company’s pricing model. Microsoft Azure, for example, forgoes an upfront charge for a pay-as-you-go model. Businesses that project rapid growth may wish to consider this pricing model.

Support

Even the best IaaS will pose problems at one point or another. Glitches, misaligned services or any number of issues may prevent you from fully managing your data. When researching IaaS providers, be sure that the services you choose offer friendly and responsive chat or call centers so that you can resolve issues quickly. Ask about what support is available as you get started with an IaaS and how you can resolve issues once you’ve started upscaling your use of the service.

Server Infrastructure

Similar to the relativity issue, an IaaS provider with many servers will also increase its computing power for quick data access. Make sure that the IaaS you choose can handle your data requirements. Also, keep in mind that you aren’t the only company using your IaaS’ servers – an even larger company than yours could require massive amounts of data use at any time, causing bottlenecks and slowdown for the entire service.

Data Security

At the end of the day, your IaaS of choice should be able to securely store your data. Remember that an IaaS server is your data center and your workplace’s nervous system; you wouldn’t hang either out in the open. Not only should it ensure that prying eyes can’t peek into your cloud-stored documents, but your IaaS should also have the capability to reliably back up your data in case of an outage. Microsoft Azure, for example, will migrate your virtual machine’s data to another physical machine if it detects a Microsoft software update or a malfunction in its original hardware through a service called Live Migration.

Service Levels 

Get to know your IaaS provider. Consider arranging to meet with a representative in person and aim to establish a strong rapport between your business and theirs. Doing so will allow you to familiarize yourself with the provider, determine their trustworthiness and receive more thorough support due to your established relationship.

Manageability

Every organization operates in its own unique way, but some require more niche infrastructures than others. Make sure that the IaaS you choose will be able to easily integrate with your workplace and that it addresses all of your unique needs. If you would like to tailor the IaaS to your specifications, ensure that the provider offers a great degree of flexibility. If not, ensure that the provider is willing to help you with every step of the integration process.

Choosing the Right IaaS For You

Once you’ve decided on an IaaS that you’d like to explore, the next step is finalizing your choice and integrating it with your workplace. With nearly 40 years of expertise in the computing industry, Ingram Micro is prepared to answer your questions and help you transition your business to cloud IaaS. For inquiries, please contact a representative at 800-705-7057 or uscloud@ingrammicro.com. To place an order or learn more, please visit our cloud marketplace here.

About the author

Jason has held sales, pre-sales engineering, business development, and sales leadership positions for resellers, professional services organizations, and distributors over the last 20+ years. Jason earned an undergraduate degree in International Finance and a MBA in pursuit of his educational goals. He has also earned many technical certifications including a Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Network Design Professional (CCDP), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP), and Citrix Certified Administrator (CCA) in additional to numerous sales and licensing focused certifications. In his current role, Jason is focused on developing sales enablement strategies designed to help channel sales professionals promote the adoption of Azure by focusing on the positive business outcomes unlocked by cloud computing.

The Logistics of Data Quality for Your Marketing and Sales Initiatives

Global Trade recently highlighted an annual 3PL trend study that indicates one of the biggest goals for logistics companies in 2019 is to prioritize customer relationships.

Developing strong customer relationships relies on effective customer engagement and communications. Most logistics companies are familiar with the technology and tools that help them manage fleets, track inventory, and improve operations. But, a growing number are leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) technology to improve customer engagement and support sales and marketing initiatives. The timing couldn’t be better, because if prioritizing customer relationships is a key focus in 2019, prioritizing the data quality in CRMs is an essential part of the mix.

The Impact of Data Quality

To prioritize CRM data quality, the ultimate goal is a CRM database free of duplicate records, missing or wrong details, and non-standardized entries (e.g., entering Corporation when Corp is preferred). But bad data is added to the system through list imports, manual entry, and typos on web forms when data quality tools aren’t in place to catch duplicate information or invalid data. In the absence of data cleansing routines, even good data begins to decay as contact information changes and companies merge or close.

Without a data management protocol in place, it is impossible to realize the full potential of CRM data to guide business activities. In the case of the logistics industry, muddying reports with user data errors leads to misdirected marketing and sales growth efforts. This can create frustrating interactions with the company, poor customer experiences, acquisition and retention challenges, and ultimately, lost revenue.

The High Cost of Bad Data

The logistics industry is no stranger to the importance of maintenance. Left unchecked, a small problem with a fleet can become a big problem with domino effects that bottleneck the entire supply chain. There’s a similar impact with a lack of data maintenance.

According to the 1-10-100 quality principle, the relative cost of fixing a problem increases exponentially over time. So if the cost of preventing bad data from entering the CRM is $1, then the cost of correcting existing problems is $10, and the cost of fixing a problem after it causes a failure is $100. The issues and costs are compounded as that bad data begins to pollute marketing and sales initiatives, decreasing campaign ROI and reducing customer engagement.

The Two-Step Data Cleansing Process

To stop the cycle, a cyclical approach to data quality and maintenance is needed. The following two-step data cleansing process is a great place to start.

Prevention is the first step. The company must ensure those who use the CRM system leverage best practices for entering and updating data without introducing errors. Examples of clean data best practices include completing all data entry fields required for a record, following a standard naming convention, checking for duplicate records before entering new information, and ensuring the validity and deliverability of email addresses. It’s also wise to consider creating a data governance policy that formalizes these practices and embeds data quality in the company culture.

Remediation is the second step. This involves keeping data accurate with regular data cleansing routines that include steps to remove or merge duplicates, standardize content, and verify email addresses. It should also include checking data against credible outside sources occasionally to determine if it’s up-to-date or stale.

With either step, some areas of data quality and entry are challenging even for the most detail-oriented data users or administrators. This makes the availability of third-party data quality tools that go beyond the native functionality of CRMs an important option. Companies can choose solutions that are compatible with their CRM and should look for those that are particularly effective at supporting data integrity during mass imports, streamlining and automating data quality processes, and customizing how duplicate records are managed. Email verification tools can also be leveraged to verify the email addresses in lists before importing them, directly in Salesforce to support lead follow-up, and at the point of capture (for example, adding an API to web lead forms to verify email addresses as they are entered).

Data Quality Is Logical

There’s a growing trend in viewing quality data as a high-value business asset. Studies show senior leadership is increasingly acknowledging the need to support data quality and 85 percent of corporations indicate they are trying to incorporate data into their business strategies. Likewise, the value of using CRM data to get to know customers better and improve customer experiences is widely recognized.

To achieve significant growth in their customer base and revenue, it’s time for logistics companies to give importance to marketing and sales data the way they’ve given importance to distribution, warehousing, and fleet data. People and human-error, not technology, hold data back. As noted in an article from Salesforce.com, “The value of CRM isn’t in the product; it’s how you use it.”

Implementing a data management protocol is the only way to navigate human error and get the most value from the CRM. The resulting higher quality data will bolster marketing and sales activities, and help logistics companies better understand, reach, engage, and retain their customers. Once the previously mentioned two-step process is in place, companies can revise and refine data quality processes as they learn more about what clean data means and how to deliver great customer experiences using quality CRM data.

Ashley Sierant is a data quality management expert, overseeing successful implementation of Validity tools for clients. Validity is a leading global provider of data integrity and compliance offerings that tens of thousands of organizations worldwide rely on to trust their data.

How to Survive the Coming Data Privacy Tsunami

Just as we have gotten used to the idea that the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a fact of life and have made modifications in our data collection procedures, the Brazil General Data Protection Law (LGDP), the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and waves of proposed new data privacy laws are swirling in the calm forewarning of a privacy tsunami heading our way. In the middle of such deep acronym swirls, it could be easy to be overwhelmed. However, all the privacy regulations share a number of commonalities and by addressing these now, you will be on high ground as the waves begin to pound.

The compliance life raft

While you will need to pay attention to the details of individual data regulations as they arise, whether already adopted, pending adoption, or only proposed, all the regulations share certain commonalities that you should consider addressing as part of ongoing operations.

1. Accountability and governance

At the heart of data privacy requirements is the aim to have organizations develop a plan to self-manage data in a way that respects end users. To address accountability and governance requirements in your organization, consider, have you:

-Reviewed the applicability and risk to the organization from data privacy issues, and considered alternatives, including insurance, in case you are fined?

-Mandated that data privacy become part of the policy program, including staff training, measurement, and compliance reporting?

-Clearly documented roles, responsibilities, and reporting lines to embed privacy compliance?

2. Consent and processing

A fundamental privacy regulation concept is that end users are aware when and why their data is collected, and what happens to it once it’s given. To address these requirements, ask yourself whether you have:

-Reviewed that the data being collected and used is necessary and for the benefit of completing a desired action by the user?

-Identified sensitive data and ensured it is treated as such through the use of special encryption or by validating vendor storage practices for sensitive data, etc.?

-Confirmed that user consent for data collection is clearly captured and documented, and that user data can be modified or erased?

3. Notifications and data rights

Gone are the days of legalese or simply taking data from users because we can. Data privacy regulations require transparency, user awareness, and forthright behavior by businesses. To ensure you get this right, ask yourself whether the organization has:

-Written user notices clearly so they can be easily understood—properly targeted to children where relevant—and are reflective of specific data collection and usage purposes?

-Updated the internal organization’s data privacy policy to clearly state the rights of prospects and customers regarding the collection and processing of their personal data?

-Created and tested processes to correct and delete all user data if needed?

Developed a solution to give users their data in a portable electronic format?

4. Privacy design

Organizations that treat privacy as a core design principle will always be in alignment with data privacy regulations. In my consulting experience, I see many self-disciplined organizations that have historically had good privacy practices and have little to address with each new law. To get to that state, ask whether you have:

-Created or updated the policy and associated process to embed privacy into all technology and digital projects, including those outsourced to vendors and partners?

5. Data breach notification

For many organizations, the question nowadays isn’t whether the organization will have a breach, but rather when will it happen and how will they respond. To address regulatory breach aspects, ask whether the organization has:

-Created (or reviewed and updated an existing) data breach policy and response plan to reflect detection, notification, and the actions to mitigate loss?

-Considered and obtained insurance for a possible data breach and regulatory penalties that the organization may face but not be able to handle on its own?

-Incorporated data breach terms and requirements into all vendor and third-party contracts?

6. Data localization

New data privacy regulations state where data physically must be stored, and if transferred to another country, what are the requirements for doing so. Your organization will be well positioned to meet this requirement if it can answer:

-Have we identified and updated all cross-border data flows from the country where the data is collected, and reviewed data export for on-premise and cloud solutions?

7. Children’s online privacy considerations

Data privacy regulations are concerned with end users, but  are even more strict about children and their online data protection and rights. It is best to get ahead of these issues by asking whether the organization has:

-Defined what data it collects from children, whether as a business practice or through efforts like “take your child to work day”?

-Are user notifications and online privacy statements written in a way that a child could understand them, and do they state that parental consent is required?

8. Contracting and procurement

Most businesses may struggle to understand exactly what personal user data is collected via websites, mobile applications, and other digital platforms, especially through third-party software solutions and vendors. To make sure that your organization isn’t caught out, ask whether you have:

-Reviewed and ensured that all vendors, customers, and third-party agreements reflect data regulatory requirements?

-Defined procurement processes such that privacy is integrated into all products and services the organization buys, including regarding data minimization, the visibility of onward data flows, and data ownership?

The bottom line

After years of collecting as much data as we could, we are starting to realize that all of that data has an evil twin: risk. In addition, consumers have become more aware that their data is a valuable resource, and they’re asking more questions about how it’s used and who has access to it. Governments, too, are starting to pay attention. Make sure that you get ahead of the coming data privacy regulatory waves before it becomes an unimaginable problem.

KRISTINA PODNAR is a digital policy innovator. For over two decades, she has worked with some of the most high-profile companies in the world and has helped them see policies as opportunities to free the organization from uncertainty, risk, and internal chaos. Podnar’s approach brings in marketing, human resources, IT, legal, compliance, security, and procurement to create digital policies and practices that comply with regulations, unlock opportunity, strengthen the brand and liberate employees.

Podnar speaks regularly at industry conferences, contributes articles to publications, and delivers masterclasses on digital policy. Podnar is the Principal of NativeTrust Consulting, LLC. She has a BA in international studies and an MBA in international business from the Dominican University of California and is certified as both a Change Management Practitioner (APMG International) and a Project Management Professional (Project Management Institute).

The Power of Digital Policy: A practical guide to minimizing risk and maximizing opportunity for your organization is available on Amazon and through other fine booksellers. For more information, visit Kristina @ www.kpodnar.com and on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The World’s First Digital Trade Database to Increase Trade Data Visibility

The world’s first digital trade database will soon be the product of a recently announced partnership between Coriolis Technologies and
Global Trade Professionals Alliance (GTPA). The goal of this new platform will help solve issues related to global trade visibility, risk assessment, and critical information on the growth and pace of international trade.

“We are delighted to be working with the GTPA to improve the availability of good quality trade data, through the development of a digital trade database,” added Dr. Rebecca Harding, CEO of Coriolis Technologies. “Collecting and collating data has historically proved difficult, and this problem has been further compounded by the growth in digital trade, which is far harder to track than the movement of physical goods. The Coriolis-GTPA database will allow trade originators to understand precisely where the risks and the opportunities are around the world in politics, in economics and in reputation.”

The innovative database will provide visibility into the flow of global goods, services and strategic trade for banks, governments and investment communities, ultimately enabling them for strategic decision making. The companies confirmed the database will provide insight for the
Asia-Pacific region during the first stage of development.

“The benefits of international trade are currently the subject of debate in various contexts, however, it has long been demonstrated that, even with its systemic imperfections which must be acknowledged, trade has been a powerful driver for economic value creation, inclusion and poverty reduction, as well as peace and security,” commented Lisa McAuley, CEO of Global Trade Professionals Alliance. “The GTPA is pleased to partner with Coriolis Technologies as trade and investment data collection is imperative to drive robust trade policy decisions, analysis on the implementation and success of Free Trade Agreements and more importantly data that can be used to communicate the role of trade in a countries best economic interests to the general public.”