B2B 5 star customer service -- tips

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The importance of high-quality customer service and support is critically important in web hosting and other business-to-business sales and relationships. How important is customer experience, particularly for B2B contexts? What steps can you take to improve your service and build a more satisfied base?

The commoditization of business-to-business services has created an environment in which it is more critical than ever to consider the needs of individual business customers. In order to break free of the commodity trap and get stronger loyalty and retention, it is helpful to understand the scope of both rational and emotional reasons that go into buying decisions. For example, someone might make a purchasing decision based on aspects that are often more associated with consumer purchasing, such as the desire to curb anxiety or bolster credibility.

A 2018 study featured in Harvard Business Review looked at dozens of different “elements of value” that are used by B2B buyers to compare options. The elements are organized as a pyramid. Example elements are divided into 10 categories within 5 value types: purpose elements within inspirational value; career and personal elements within individual value; productivity, access, relationship, operational, and strategic elements within ease of doing business value; and economic and performance elements within functional value; all based upon core table stakes (e.g. regulatory compliance).

The focus of this article is the quality of customer service and support, so that falls under the relationship category of business ease. Factors of relationship in the model include cultural fit, stability, commitment, expertise, and responsiveness; the last three of those are all demonstrated by and carried out by high-quality customer service.

Since the customer service quality is so key to determining whether purchases are made and relationships are maintained, it would make sense that B2C firms would invest heavily in this concern – and they do. However, a McKinsey analysis reveals this aspect of the B2B approach is lagging in comparison to B2C: while the latter get typical customer-experience ratings of 65 to 85%, the former get an average rating below 50%. In essence, the B2B experience gets a negative approval rating!

Why service issues can be more problematic in B2B

Part of the reason that the quality of customer service may not be as central as it should be within B2B generally is that this aspect of the purchasing process is typically conveyed in mainstream discussion via B2C examples from hospitality and retail. Those examples are easier to make and use because they are immediately relatable, noted customer service author Micah Solomon. Solomon pointed out how significant a mistake that is by explaining how customer service issues are amplified within B2B specifically, in these three ways:

  • The value of a relationship is usually higher than with consumers;
  • Each individual sale is typically larger than B2C; and
  • A “multiplier effect” is at play in B2B relationships due to their complexity. Each piece of the puzzle influences the overall experience. For instance, the level of service quality provided by a subcontractor can either improve or pollute wholesale supplier relationships.

6 ways to bolster customer service & experience

Key ways that you can optimize your customer service and deliver an improved experience for B2B customers are as follows:

1.) Deliver seamless simplicity.

You want the relationship to be easy of course, so thinking in terms of simplicity of the customer experience is pivotal. When customers are polled for their satisfaction, a typical aspect that is evaluated is the simplicity, as is sometimes indicated by a “customer effort score” or similar metric – which will reveal when there are issues with the simplicity of the system. One key concern for customers is time – a concern that providers do not needlessly waste their time but rapidly help them resolve their issue and move on with their day. “[R]educing customer effort is pivotal to delivering a more seamless and therefore more superior customer experience,” noted Julia Cupman.

2.) Understand what your customers want.

You of course want to give businesses what they want in order to feel comfortable buying. For example, nearly 3 in 5 people (59%) said in one industry poll that they would rather make purchases themselves through online information-gathering rather than talking with a salesperson.

People who are buying for a business from another business are highly focused on optimizing revenue and efficiency. Anxiety is common with these purchases since ultimately opinion will influence what is chosen. A strong customer experience helps alleviate these emotional responses.

3.) Be proactive in solving customer problems.

You do not want the B2B customer to feel any pain, and the best way to target possible painful incidents is preventively. If you focus on finding pain points and forecasting possible customer needs, you will win long-term clients.

Being proactive is not just about letting the customer know about other services and products you offer. It is also about changing the way you communicate, as found in a study released by Osram Sylvania, a lighting firm. The company’s research determined that negative words such as don’t, won’t, and can’t typically led customers to feel dissatisfied. Simply by changing language, the B2B company helped bolster customer mood and experience.

4.) Personalize the buying process.

We all like to make choices about what we get when we shop for ourselves, whether we’re buying technology, food, or anything else – and the same is true of people buying for businesses. You can improve the value of what you offer through a personalized experience, with customized solutions. Otherwise, as indicated above, the commodity trap may keep your organization from differentiating itself. 

5.) Adaptation 

A customer that wants to deliver an extraordinary customer experience will adapt as the environment changes. An organization that is trying to offer customer service that continues to impress must make improvements over time – especially as newer technologies become available that can better meet business needs. Cupman noted that design thinking can be used to better optimize the customer experience in B2B, allowing you to tweak what you offer through reconsidered engineering. Taking this step can have a hugely positive impact on your bottom line. ING is a good example of success in this area, said Cupman, increasing its share price by 15% and its profits by 23% when it applied omnichannel automatic integration to its customer data during a broad system upgrade. Through these improvements, the bank was able to form an environment in which both corporate and retail customers can generate tailored reports and access real-time account overview data. 

6.) Be a consultant. 

Business-to-business buyers often cite an overly aggressive sales perspective as a troubling aspect of current or potential vendors. It is important to understand that B2B firms are considered too pushy. To free yourself from that stereotype, try going out of your way to inform and advise your clients. Doing so pays dividends, with business buyers five times – that’s 400% – likelier than consumers to treat providers preferentially when they give them new knowledge and insights.

The simple path to figuring out what your customers need is to listen. Ask your customers what they want and need. Then focus your educational, consultative approach on those areas.

Excellent people for excellent customer service

Are you looking for excellent customer service in your B2B relationships? The expert team at Total Server Solutions is made up of individuals with the highest levels of integrity and professionalism. Our people make all the difference.

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Due to the broader use of 4K (aka ultra high-definition) video on social platforms and business websites, along with the higher amount of data being consumed across industries, the content delivery network (CDN) market is growing at a remarkable clip. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for the global CDN market was forecast at 32.8% by MarketandMarkets for 2018 through 2023.

Content delivery networks are used both to deliver content to consumers as well as between businesses. These systems are used to improve the performance of games, video, voice, ecommerce orders, mobile content, dynamic content, and static content.

Since CDNs are typically discussed in terms of boosting performance, it is worth considering the value of performance – as indicated by a couple case studies. The BBC determined that 10% of site visitors would abandon their site for any additional second of loading time. Similarly, COOK found that improving their average load time by 850 milliseconds resulted in a 10% rise in pages per session, 7% reduction in bounce rate, and 7% boost in conversion.

You can see why this technology is compelling. Its benefits are even broader than those described above.

Content delivery network benefits

Why exactly are these systems used? Here are the basic reasons the CDN is adopted:

#1 – User experience

You are able to give end users a better experience by accomplishing improved robustness (with the capacity to draw on more than one delivery server) and lower latency (stronger throughput between the delivery server and user, as well as lower round-trip time).

#2 – Cost savings

It can reduce the amount of money you spend each month on web hosting by saving bandwidth and broadly distributing the work. You can save on power, space, data center capacity, and other IT infrastructure costs as files are increasingly handled by the CDN. Additionally, you are able to minimize your bandwidth usage and, in turn, minimize the expense of delivering cacheable files.

#3 – Performance

The distribution and intelligence of a CDN tends to improve performance. Strong performance for users regardless of their location on the globe is achieved because you have your origin server along with replicated server clusters. Within the server clusters are JavaScript files, CSS stylesheets, videos, images, and other static content. The replicated web servers within the CDN will answer the user requests typically, rather than them having to go all the way to the origin machine. Launching a CDN can give you a major boost, depending on where your typical users are located and the amount of content you need to load.

The raw speed improvement of a CDN is by itself incredibly compelling. In an experiment that tested the implementation of a caching plugin (W3 Total Cache) and CDN found that the initial average load time was improved by 1.5 seconds with the addition of each technology. In other words, the case study, published in WinningWP, found that site load times could be improved by 3 seconds with the addition of these two standard best-practice caching measures.

#4 – Better conversion rate

The people who visit your site will be happier if your site is fast, yielding happier customers and more sales.

#5 – SEO-friendly

A key ranking factor that is core to search engine optimization is the speed of your site. You will get better rankings as you deliver your site faster.

This is not new information: Matt Cutts of Google announced back in 2010 that speed was a site ranking factor. Most recently, speed was announced as a ranking factor for the same search engine’s mobile searches in July 2018.

#6 – Web caching

A CDN excels as a way to manage a cache of small, static files, such as JavaScript, CSS files, static images, or animated GIFs. They can also be good for caching audio recordings, video files, and other items that are particularly large and costly to deliver. A key aspect of management is determining when files expire to make room for new ones.

#7 – Request routing

One key benefit of using a CDN is that it involves file storage hardware and servers at numerous places worldwide. When users interact with the system, the request routing capacity allows the request to go to the content repository that is in closest physical proximity to the end-user by leveraging GeoDNS.

#8 – Geoblocking

You are able to set restrictions in terms of where your content is visible based on the location from which a user is accessing. You can make any content unavailable as desired.

#9 – Distribution

A content delivery network is essentially user-friendly because it considers where the user is on the planet. If you are not using a CDN and have all users requesting from you handled by a server in Dallas, people in Asia and Europe will have to make transcontinental hops to get to what your site has to offer. A CDN allows you to get downloads to people much more quickly because the technology leverages local data centers.

#10 – More than one domain

A browser puts a limit on how many simultaneous downloads can occur through one domain. Typically you can only have four connections going at once. Additional files have to wait until one of the four is complete. Since a CDN is located at a separate domain, the browser is able to double the connections (typically resulting in eight). 

#11 – Security

A content delivery network will also improve your ability to defend yourself against cyberattack. It is a layer between you and the Internet, essentially. The traffic will be filtered and greatly improved when it hits your site – with the CDN pulling out the spammers, bots, hackers, and false calls of distributed denial of service (DDoS) botnets. In this way, no one will be able to touch the origin server, the core of your system. Proxy machines might go offline; but users could still get to your site, because it would only damage service related to that single machine. 

Content delivery networks have some built-in defenses against the bogus traffic spikes of DDoS. It helps to remember that these systems were built in order to analyze and properly handle strong fluctuations in traffic. A CDN sends any fraudulent requests to a scrubbing node called a blackhole so that the site does not experience any harm. CDNs have sometimes been able to mitigate small DDoS attacks by simply sending out the requests to the larger network; however, that tactic does not work for mitigation of large DDoS events. When a CDN is bolstered with DDoS protection, it is optimized to prevent your site from ever being driven offline.

A CDN that has a strong DDoS toolset and knowledge will be able to protect web applications and sites from various malicious efforts, keep the load times rapid for users at peak times, and handle out-of-nowhere surges in demand. If you choose a managed service provider for your CDN that also has specialty in DDoS mitigation, you can know that the proxy servers of the CDN are giving you substantially improved security along with its clear performance benefits.

The right CDN to boost your efforts

Do you think a content delivery network could help your online efforts? At Total Server Solutions, our CDN utilizes equipment in over 150 data centers worldwide so that wherever your audience happens to be, they’re always close to your content. Plus, we are specialists in DDoS prevention. Load your content faster!

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Atlanta, GA, December 13, 2018 – Total Server Solutions, a global provider of managed services, high performance infrastructure, and custom solutions to individuals and businesses in a wide range of industries has formally announced the hiring of Jim Harris as Channel Director. Harris, an industry veteran, is an experienced channel professional with over 16 years of channel experience. At his 3 previous companies, Harris was tasked with developing and overseeing the start-up of their channel programs. He will look to continue and build off that success at TSS by providing the keys to TSS’ extensive platform of custom engineered services to the re-seller community.

“TSS is truly excited to have Jim Harris join us as we continue our mission of providing our IT platform to customers who need global IT enablement. Jim brings many years of channel leadership and industry knowledge to our team. He will help TSS accelerate our go to market strategy as we head into 2019, which will be a break out year for TSS” said Mike Belote, Vice President of Sales at Total Server Solutions. “The channel is important to TSS because it increases our visibility in the marketplace, and gives us the opportunity to build on our solid reputation as a trusted IT leader and partner, servicing over 4000 customers in 31 PoPs around the world, offering Infrastructure as a Service, Network, and Managed Services to companies who need that orchestrated global platform to access and manage IT workloads anywhere in the world.“

Harris will directly engage with the sales team to develop and implement a complete corporate channel strategy for Total Server Solutions translating TSS’ sales goals into channel strategies creating revenue for both TSS and their partners. In addition, he will oversee and administer the selection of channel marketing partners, budgets, and the positioning of all channel related sales activities.

Previously Harris served as National Channel Manager for Stratus Technologies, Peak 10, and Office Depot’s CompuCom division. From New York, he studied at Fredonia State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida where he obtained his pilots license. Jim is married with four children and resides in central Florida.

CONTACT:
Gary Simat
Total Server Solutions
+1(855)227-1939 Ext 649
Gary.Simat@TotalServerSolutions.com
http://www.TotalServerSolutions.com

Tucker Kroll
Total Server Solutions
Tucker.Kroll@TotalServerSolutions.com
http://www.TotalServerSolutions.com

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The term high performance computing is used both broadly and specifically. It can simply refer to methods that have been used to draw on computing power more innovatively in order to meet the sophisticated needs of business, engineering, science, healthcare, and other areas. In that form, HPC involves gathering large volumes of computing resources and providing them in a manner that is a significant improvement over the speed and reliability of a desktop computer. High-performance computing has historically been a specialty within computer science that is dedicated to the field of supercomputers – a major subfield of which is parallel processing algorithms (to allow various processors to handle segments of the work) – although supercomputers have stricter parameters, as indicated below.

Within any context, HPC is understood to involve the use of parallel processing algorithms to allow for better speed, reliability, and efficiency. While HPC has sometimes been used as an interchangeable term to supercomputing, a true supercomputer is operating at close to the top possible rate for the current standards, while high performance computing is not so rigidly delineated. HPC is generally used in the context of systems that achieve 1012 floating-point operations per second – i.e. greater than a teraflop. Supercomputers are moving at another tier, Autobahn pace – sometimes exceeding 1015 floating-point operations per second – i.e. more than a petaflop.

Virtualizing HPC

Through a virtual high performance computing (vHPC) system, whether in-house or through public cloud, you get the advantage of one software stack and operating system for the system – which comes with distribution benefits (performance, redundancy, security, etc.). You can share resources through vHPC environments. It enables a setting in which researchers and others can bring their own software to a project since computer resources are sharable. You can give individual professionals their own segments of an HPC ecosystem for their specific data correlation, development, and test purposes. Workload settings, specialized research software, and individually optimized operating systems are all possible. You are able to store images to an archive and test against them.

Virtualization of HPC makes it much more user-friendly on a case-by-case basis: anyone who wants high performance computing for a project specifies the core programs they need, number of virtual machines, and all other parameters, through an architecture that you have already vetted. By choosing flexibility in what you offer, you can enforce your internal data policies. Data security is improved. Also, by using this avenue, you are are able to keep your data out of silos.

2018 reports: HPC growing in cloud

Hyperion Research and Intersect360, both industry research firms, revealed in 2018 that an inflection point was reached within the market, per cloud thought-leader David Linthicum. In other words, we are at a moment when the graph is going to look much more impressive for the field. It already is impressive, though: organizations are rushing to this technology. There was 44% market growth in high performance cloud between 2016 and 2017 as it expanded to $1.1 billion. Meanwhile, the rest of the HPC industry, generally onsite physical servers, did not grow at even close to that pace over the same period.

Why is HPC being used increasingly? There are certain projects that especially need a network with ultra-low latency and ultra-high bandwidth, allowing you to integrate various clusters and nodes and optimize efficiency for the speed of HPC. The simple reason that the market for high performance computing has been increasing is speed. In order to target complex scenarios, HPC unifies and coordinates electronic, operating systems, applications, algorithms, computer architecture, and similar components.

These setups are necessary in order to conduct work as effectively and fast as possible within various specialties; with applications such as climate models, automated electronic design, geographical data systems, gas and oil industry models, biosciences datasets, and media and entertainment analyses. Finance is another environment in which HPC is highly demanded.

Why HPC is headed to cloud

A couple key reasons that cloud is being used for HPC are the following:

  • cloud platform features – The capabilities of cloud platforms are becoming increasingly important since people looking for HPC are now as interested in the features as they are in the performance. The features that are available in the cloud make the infrastructure of the cloud more compelling, essentially, since that’s where they are available.
  • aging onsite hardware – Cloud is becoming standard for HPC in part because more money and effort is being invested in keeping cloud systems cutting-edge. The majority of onsite HPC hardware is simply not as strong as what you can get in a public cloud setting. That is the case in part because IT budget limitations have made it impossible for companies to keep HPC equipment up-to-date. Cloud is much more affordable than maintaining your own system. Since cloud is budget-friendly, that means it is getting more business and is, in turn, able to keep refitting and upgrading its systems.

HPC powering AI, and vice versa

The fact is that enterprises are incorporating HPC now much more fervently than in the past (when it was primarily used in research), as noted by Lenovo worldwide AI chief Bhushan Desam. Broader growth is due to AI applications. Actually these two technologies are working synergistically: AI is fueling the growth of HPC, but HPC is also boosting access to AI capabilities. It is possible to figure out what data means and act in just a few hours rather than a week because of HPC components such as graphic processing units (GPUs) and InifiniBand high-speed networks. Since HPC divides massive tasks into tiny pieces and analyzes in that piecemeal manner, it is a perfect fit for the complexities of AI required by finance, healthcare, and other sectors.

An example benefit of HPC is boosting operational efficiency and optimizing uptime through engineering simulations and forecasting within manufacturing. In order for doctors to achieve diagnoses faster and more effectively, doctors benefit from running millions of images through AI algorithms, powered by HPC.

Autonomous driving fueled by HPC AI

To dig further within AI across industry, high performance computing is being used to research and develop self-driving vehicles, allowing them to move around on their own and create maps of their surroundings. Vehicles could be used within industry to perform dirty and dangerous tasks, freeing people to perform safer and more valuable jobs.

OTTO Motors is an Ontario-based autonomous vehicle manufacturer that has clients within ecommerce, automotive, healthcare, and aerospace. In order to get these vehicles up to speed prior to being launched in the wild, the firm runs simulations that require petabyes of data. High performance computing is used in that preliminary testing phase, as all the kinks are fixed. It is then used within the AI of the vehicles as they continue to operate post-deployment. “Having reliable compute infrastructure [in the form of HPC] is critical for this,” said OTTO CTO Ryan Gariepy.

Robust infrastructure to back HPC

High performance computing allows for the faster completion of projects via parallel processing through clusters – increasingly virtualized and run within public cloud. A core piece of moving a workload to cloud is choosing the right cloud platform provider. At Total Server Solutions, our infrastructure is so comprehensive and robust that many other top tier providers rely on our network to keep them up and running. See our high-performance cloud.

cloud feeding data over skyline

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Cloud computing is used by many organizations to bolster their systems during the holidays. The same benefits that cloud offers throughout the year become particularly compelling during the holidays, when traffic can surge and require resources that either are or are not delivered by your IT infrastructure. How can cloud give your company an advantage during the holidays and meet needs more effectively than can be achieved through traditional systems? What exactly are horizontal and vertical scaling? How specifically does cloud help improve performance? How can cloud testing help in preparation for peak periods?

Why cloud is so powerful for the holidays

Within a traditional model, there are two ways to go, essentially, as indicated by cloud management firm RightScale:

  • Underprovision – If you underprovision, you would be assuming the normal usage of the application at all times. You would be very efficient throughout all typical usage periods. The downside, though, would be that you would end up losing traffic when it would get busy because your capacity would be insufficient. You would be underprepared for peak periods such as the holidays. You could not keep up with the number of requests. Your credibility would suffer, as would your sales.
  • Overprovision – The other option is to launch resources to an extreme degree. You would be able to handle traffic all all times. You would be inefficient with resources, though, because during normal times you would have too many. You would be able to handle traffic throughout peak times such as the holidays, but your infrastructure would be needlessly costly year-round.

Cloud is a great option, and a better option, because of the way the technology is designed – to optimize scalability. It allows you to allocate and deallocate resources dynamically, avoiding the need to buy equipment in order to answer the higher number of holiday requests.

It also allows you to deliver high-availability. In a technological setting, availability is the extent to which a user is able to get access to resources in the correct format and from a certain location. Along with confidentiality, authentication, nonrepudiation, and integrity, availability is one of the five pillars of Information Assurance. If your data is not readily available, your information security will be negatively impacted.

In terms of scalability, since cloud allows you to scale your resources up and down as traffic fluctuates, you are only paying for the capacity you need at the time. You also have immediate access to sufficient resources at all times.

Cloud scalability – why this aspect is pivotal

Scalability is the ability of software or hardware to operate when user needs require its volume or size to change. Generally, scaling is to a higher volume or size. The rescaling may occur when a scalable object is migrated to a different setting; however, it typically is related to a change in the memory, size, or other parameters of the product.

Scalability means you can handle the load as it rises, whether you need a rise in your CPU, memory, network I/O, or disk I/O. An example would be the holidays, any time you run a promotion, or a situation in which you get unexpected publicity. Your servers may not be able to handle the sudden onrush of traffic. Your site or app will not go down, even if thousands of people are using your system at once, when you have enhanced your scalability with cloud. You keep selling and satisfying your customers.

Performance is a primary reason for optimizing your scalability. Scaling occurs in two directions, horizontal and vertical:

  • Horizontal – When you scale horizontally, that means you are adding more hardware to your ecosystem so that you have more machines to handle the load. As you add hardware, your system becomes more complicated all the time. Every server you add results in additional needs for backup, syncing, monitoring, updating, and all other server management tasks.
  • Vertical – With vertical scaling, you are simply giving a certain instance additional resources. This path is simpler because you do not need to do special setup with software, and the hardware is outside your walls. You can simply attach cloud servers that are already virtualized and ready to use.

Cloud’s impact on performance

Two key aspects of site performance are addressed by cloud, site speed and site uptime:

  • Site speed – Page load time, also known as the speed of your site, is one of the ways that your rank on search engines is determined. The speed of the site will impact how well you show up in search; but more importantly, it will improve your ability to meet the needs of those who come to your site. You will perform better based on small fractions of a second in the improvement of speed. There are many ways to speed up your site in conjunction with better infrastructure. Those tactics include getting rid of any files you do not need, using a strong caching strategy, removing extraneous meta data, and shrinking your images.
  • Site uptime — Your uptime is critical in getting you strong sales because you must have your site available to users in order for them to be able to look through products, figure out what they want to purchase, and place orders. When the site is not available, customers will get a 404 page in their browsers instead of what they want. That will mean you are not able to make the sale. It also means you suffer in search engine rankings, which are based in part on availability. You may not be able to sell as much in the future either, since it will frustrate a user to arrive at a 404 page and not be able to complete their shopping. You certainly do not want your site to ever go offline.

Cloud testing in advance 

The basic reason that ecommerce sites fail is that they are not tested appropriately. Companies do not always know how well their sites will perform when they have huge surges of traffic over the holidays in the absence of this testing. Sites would realize whatever performance issues they might have in their servers well ahead of time if they conducted the relevant testing.

To avoid these issues, you want to test. The traditional way that you would go about testing would be with hardware that you hardly ever need. The other option is to use cloud testing.

With cloud testing, you have independent infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) providers (aka cloud hosts) provide you simply manageable, scalable resources for this testing. You are able to save money on testing by using cloud hosting to simulate the traffic that an app or site would experience in the real world within a test setting. You can see how your site stands up when it is hit with certain loads of traffic, with various types of devices, according to the rules you establish.

There is another benefit of cloud testing too: it is closer to what your actual traffic model will be since it is outside your in-house network.

Adding cloud for better sales this holiday

Do you think bolstering your system with cloud servers might be right for you this holiday season? At Total Server Solutions, where we specialize in high-performance e-commerce, our cloud uses the fastest hardware, coupled with a far-reaching network. We do it right.

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Your company may have already invested substantially in General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliant systems and training for experience in the key global data protection law from the European Union (which went into effect in May)… or it may still be on your organization’s to-do list. While the GDPR is certainly being discussed with great fervor within IT security circles in 2018, compliance is far from ubiquitous. A report released in June found that 38% of companies operating worldwide believed they were not compliant with the law (with that number surely higher once those who are unknowingly noncompliant are included).

Who has to follow the GDPR?

Just about every company must be concerned with the GDPR if they want to limit their liability. If you are an ecommerce company, to be clear, you have to follow the GDPR whether you accept orders from European residents or not, as indicated by Internet attorney John Di Giacomo. The GDPR is applicable for all organizations that watch the user behavior of or gather data from EU citizens. An example of something that would need to adhere with the GDPR is when European users can sign up for a mailing list. It also applies if you are using beacons or tokens on your site to monitor activity of European users – whether your company has a location in an EU state or not.

The below are core steps in guiding your organization toward compliance. 

#1 – Rework your internal policies.

You want to move toward compliance even if you are not quite there yet. Pay attention to your policies for information gathering, storage, and usage. You want to make sure they are all aligned with the GDPR – paying special attention to use.

Write up records related to all your provider relationships. For instance, if you transmit your email information to a marketing platform, you want to be certain data is safeguarded in that setting.

It is also worth noting that smaller organizations will likely not have to worry as much about this law as the big corporations will, per Di Giacomo. While the European Union regulators have already set their sights on the megaenterprises such as Amazon and Facebook, “a $500,000 business is probably not the chief target,” said Di Giacomo.

#2 – Update your privacy policy.

Since the issue of data privacy is so fundamental to the GDPR, one element of your legal stance that must be revised in response to it is your privacy policy. The GDPR specifically mandates that its language must be updated. You privacy policy post-GDPR should include:

  • How long you will retain their data, along with how it will be used;
  • The process through which a person can get a complete report of all the information you have on them, choosing to have it deleted if they want (which is known as the “right to be forgotten” within GDPR compliance);
  • The process through which you will let users know if a breach occurs, in alignment with the GDPR’s requirement to notify anyone whose records are compromised within 72 hours; and
  • A description of your organization list of any other parties that will be able to access it – any affiliates, for instance.

#3 – Assign a data protection officer.

The GDPR is a challenging set of rules to incorporate, particularly if you handle large volumes of sensitive personal data. You may need to appoint a data protection officer to manage the rules and requirements. The officer would both ensure the organization’s compliance and coordinate with any supervising bodies as applicable.

In order for companies to stay on the right side of the GDPR, 75,000 new data protection officer positions will have to be created, per the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

#4 – Assess traffic sources to ensure compliance.

In European Union member states, there has been a steep drop in spending on programmatic ads. The amount of ads being purchased has dropped in large part because are not very many GDPR-compliant ad platforms (as of June 2018), per Jia Wertz. Citing Susan Akbarpour, Wertz noted that the dearth of GDPR-compliant advertising management systems would continue to be an issue into the future because of a slow transition among ad networks, affiliate networks, and programmatic ad platform vendors away from the use of cost per thousand (CPM), click-through rate (CTR), and similar metrics that use cookies.

Leading up to the GDPR, ecommerce companies have been able to store cookies within consumers’ browsers. The GDPR wants all details related to the use of cookies to be fully available to online shoppers. With those warnings now necessary, the CPM and CPC rates are negatively impacted. Basically, the GDPR has made these numbers an unreliable way to measure success.

#5 – Shift toward creative ads.

Since programmatic ads have been challenged by the GDPR, it is important to redesign your strategy and shift more of your focus to creative. You can use influencer marketing to build your recognition, bolstering those efforts with public relations.

Any programmatic spending should be carefully considered, per Digital Trends senior manager of programmatic and yield operations Andrew Beehler.

#6 – Rethink opt-in.

No matter what your purposes are for the information you’re collecting, you have to follow compliance guidelines from the moment of the opt-in forward. Concern yourself both with transparency and with consent. In terms of transparency, you must let users know why you are gathering all the pieces of data and how they will be used. You want to minimize what you collect so your explanation is shorter. Do not collect key information such as addresses and phone numbers unless you really need it.

Related to consent, you now must have that agreement very directly – the notion of explicit consent. If a person buys from your site, you cannot email them discounts or an ebook unless you have that explicit consent if they are EU citizens. That means you cannot default-check checkboxes and consider that a valid opt-in.

Additionally, you want your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to be linked, with checkboxes for people to mark that they’ve read them.

#7 – Use double opt-in in some scenarios.

You do not need double opt-in by default to meet the GDPR. However, you do need to make sure that your consent is easily legible and readable so that the people using your services can understand the data use.

An example would be if the person is signing up for a newsletter. The agreement should state that the user agrees to sign up for the list and that their email will be retained for that reason.

The consent should also link to the GDPR data rights. One right that is important to mention is that they can get a notice describing data usage, along with a copy of their specific data that is being stored.

#8 – Consider adding a blockchain layer.

Blockchain is being introduced within advertising so that there is a decentralized layer, making it possible for ecommerce companies to more seamlessly incentivize anyone who promotes them and incentivize users for verification, all part of a single ecosystem.

Blockchain is still being evaluated in terms of how it can improve retail operations, security, and accountability. Blockchain will improve on what is available through programmatic advertising by providing more transparent information. “Blockchain is here to disrupt antiquated attribution models, remove bad actors and middlemen as well as excess fees,” noted Akbarpour.

#9 – Use ecommerce providers that care about security and compliance.

Do you want to build your ecommerce solutions in line with the General Data Protection Regulation? The first step is to work with a provider with the expertise to design and manage a compliant system. At Total Server Solutions, we’re your best choice for comprehensive ecommerce solutions, software, hosting, and service. See our options.

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Cloud is dominating. That much is clear. The vast majority of companies are using cloud of some type, according to a study from 451 Research. The same analysis found that by 2019, nearly three-quarters of organizations (69%) will have launched hybrid cloud or multicloud environments. In fact, IDC has noted that multicloud plans are needed “urgently” as the number of organizations using various clouds for their applications has grown.

What is multicloud, and why is this tactic becoming prominent?

Multicloud computing, as its name suggests, involves the use of more than one cloud provider for that part of your infrastructure. Multicloud typically is a strategy that involves public cloud providers, but private clouds may also be included, whether they are run remotely or on-premises. There also may be hybrid clouds integrated into multicloud ecosystems.

Multicloud is chosen from a technical perspective because it represents built-in redundancies: more than one provider means you are diversifying the data centers in which your data is stored and processed. Each individual cloud vendor will have multiple redundancies in its own right, so you are adding another layer of protection with multicloud. If everything is within one cloud provider and its systems fail (especially a concern if the organization is not certified to meet a key control standard such as SSAE 18/16), your environment will go completely down.

When you build a multicloud system, you may be able to access different capabilities. A chief reason that multicloud is a key technology right now is simply that it delivers better freedom to organizations to access the specific services and features that they want. You can potentially reduce your costs with multicloud, since you will assumedly be able to compare pricing of different plans. However, you lose potential volume savings of exclusively using one vendor.

Chris Evans recently discussed some benefits of multicloud related to cost: you can often get better prices because you are simple making these cost comparisons, setting all else aside. While public cloud hosting industry-wide has remained relatively level over the last few years, you can sometimes cut your expenses on a virtual machine by virtual machine basis. You can bring up a lot of data very rapidly with public cloud, allowing you to have your applications immediately available.

Related to features, you may be able to access different functions within some cloud systems that simply aren’t possible to get elsewhere. You should be able to find systems that are increasingly adept with machine learning and AI protections, for instance – key as the threat landscape itself is beginning to integrate AI into its algorithms.

Challenge of cost tracking

Now, there are certainly pros of multicloud, but there are also cons – or at the very least challenges to adoption. One is cost tracking. You want to be prepared for the complexities of managing the much more diverse set of costs. If you go with multicloud, you will not be as easily able to manage your expenses simply due to the complexities. You are also exposed to greater risk. You can end up pouring a lot of money into cloud usage monitoring, ROI analysis, and general oversight of your environment.

Figuring out the money of your multicloud may be one of your greatest obstacles to success, so approach the project with sufficient focus. After all, you will run into different frameworks with different CSPs. They each have their own ways they price, bill, the payment options they have available, and other aspects; because of this variance, you will not have a straightforward time integrating and managing your costs. A good way to start is by creating a team to assess cost related to the entire environment, as well as in terms of specific key applications.

Challenge of infrastructure management

You certainly can benefit from multicloud; but since management inevitably becomes more complex given the additional pieces, it is essential to be ready upfront for the management difficulties. Prior to your multicloud launch, it can be a good idea to connect the things that you want in cloud services to plans that provide those elements. Multicloud is such an increasingly popular choice that providers are always improving their management environments so that multicloud customers are properly treated. Additionally, it is wise from a development standpoint and a scalability standpoint to build your applications with portability in mind so you can move them at will.

To handle cloud, virtualized or hardware-centered networking solutions are often being set aside in favor of software-defined cloud. When you have multicloud deployed at your company, you will additionally benefit from a cloud networking approach that brings together all the routing and networking challenges of your cloud data centers to resolve them centrally. That way you have the DevOps and cloud in place to troubleshoot, oversee, and manage multicloud as intelligently as possible. By optimizing your multicloud via the cloud, you move away from virtualized to software-defined networking.

Challenge of connectivity

When you are developing systems that are secure and that allow you to move data rapidly, you will often simply not be able to use one-to-one connections. You will likely run into challenges with connectivity when you are building hybrid or multicloud environments. Integrating the private and public pieces of a hybrid cloud is tricky, but blending different public clouds within your multicloud has its own hurdles.

Challenge of workability

A core issue with multicloud is that organizations typically do not want it to be easy to use their systems with those created by market rivals. You do not want to have to connect everything manually if you are trying to scale your cloud and assume rapid growth. You want the networking to be abstracted so that you get the same performance throughout your entire system.

Challenge of security

You see how much data privacy of consumers is central with the EU’s implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation earlier in the year. Privacy and security are often discussed together: people want privacy of their information, and security makes that possible. You will have more risks in a multicloud setting – so, in turn, you will need to pay greater attention to tools and strategies that mitigate risk.

You cloud provider will generally use strong protective measures. Nonetheless, you will need to take the lead in confirming the protections for your customer data. You should be discussing security regularly, continually, within your organization, what you can do to continue to safeguard information and how you would respond if a breach occurred today.

Question of hiring a chief integration officer

The complexity of multicloud environments and IT in general is highlighted by the prevalence of hiring chief integration officers to help firms pull together all their digital systems. The chief integration officer is often much broader than simply handling cloud. They are advocated by Clinton Lee, who noted that “this is a vital role in any acquisitive company” – notable since Lee is a mergers and acquisitions consultant.

Challenge of finding high-quality providers

The benefits created by a muticloud approach make it compelling to a growing number of firms, but the strategy certainly has its challenges. Much of the process of building a multicloud system is assessing what different providers have to offer. At Total Server Solutions, you can trust the cloud with guaranteed performance. Spin it up.

DDoS attacks

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Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is one of the biggest security threats facing the Internet. We can develop a false sense of security when we see the major takedowns of individuals such as Austin Thompson – aka DerpTrolling – and Mirai botnet operator Paras Jha. (Jha was recently sentenced, and Thompson just pleaded guilty.)

Despite these high-profile busts, DDoS goes on. An industry report that looked at Q2 2018 showed an increase in average attack size year-over-year of 543% and increase in the quantity of attacks by 29% – consistent with our internal data as a DDoS mitigation provider. Attacks are becoming more sophisticated but have traditionally fallen into three primary categories:

  • Application layer attacks – These DDoS events, measured in requests per second (rps), involve an attacker trying to take the web server offline.
  • Protocol attacks – In these DDoS incidents, which are gauged by the number of packets per second (PPS), the hacker attempts to eat up all the resources of the server.
  • Volume-based attacks – When DDoS is targeting volume, measured in bits per second (BPS), the hacker attempts to overload a website’s bandwidth.

Two of the biggest names in Mirai have been DerpTrolling and Mirai. DerpTrolling was an individual who used DDoS tools to bring down major companies including Microsoft, Sony, and EA. Mirai is an IoT botnet that was created primarily from CCTV cameras and was used against the major DNS provider Dyn and various other targets. These two prominent DDoS “brands,” if you will, were first seen in the news as the attacks were occurring, as well as in their aftermath as alleged parties behind the attacks were arrested and ordered into court. This article looks Mirai and DerpTrolling, then explores what the landscape looks like moving forward.

The story of Mirai

A great business model from a profit perspective (though incredibly nefarious, of course) is to continually create a problem that you can continually resolve with your solution. That model was leveraged by Mirai botnet creator Paras Jha, who was a student at Rutgers University when the attacks occurred. Jha started experimenting by hitting Rutgers with DDoS at key times of year, such as midterm exams and class registration – simultaneously attempting to sell DDoS mitigation services to the school. Jha also was active in Minecraft and attacked rival servers.

On September 19, 2016, the first major assault from Mirai hit French web host OVH. Several days afterward, the code to Mirai was posted on a hacking forum by the user Anna-Senpai. Open-sourcing code in this manner is used to broaden attacks and conceal the original creator.

On October 12, another attack leveraging Mirai was launched – this one by another party. That attack, which assaulted DNS provider Dyn, is thought to have been an attack on Microsoft servers used for gaming. When Jha and his partners, Josiah White and Dalton Norman, pleaded guilty to Mirai incidents in December 2017, the code had already been delivered to the hands of other nefarious parties for use by anyone wanting a botnet to pummel their competition or other targets.

The story of DerpTrolling

DerpTrolling was a series of attacks on gaming servers. Thompson, the primary figure, hit various targets in 2013 and 2014. The scale of victims was broader than with Mirai: Thompson hit major companies such as Microsoft, Sony, and EA, along with small Twitch streamers.

DerpTrolling operated as @DerpTrolling on Twitter and would announce that he was going to hit a certain victim with his “Gaben Laser Beam.” Once the DDoS was underway, DerpTrolling would either post taunts or screenshots of the attack.

DDoS in court

On October 26, 2018, 22-year-old Jha received a sentence for the 2016 attacks he made using DDoS via Mirai. The punishment is $8.6 million and six months of home incarceration. The sentence was massively reduced by cooperation with the federal authorities and help bringing down other botnet operators.

Thompson pleaded guilty in federal court in San Diego to conducting the DerpTrolling attacks. Now 23 years old, Thompson is facing up to 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and $250,000 in fines. Sentencing will start on March 1, 2019.

The continuing threat

Mirai is problematic because the source code was released. Because of that release of Mirai into the wild, anyone can potentially come along, adapt it, and use it to attack the many IoT devices that remain unsecured and vulnerable.

Research published in August 2017 noted that 15,194 attacks had already been logged based on the open sourcing of the Mirai code. Three Dutch banks and a government agency were targeted with a Mirai variant in January, for instance. Rabobank, ING Bank, and ABN Amro were all hit with the wave – over a span of four days, these targets were each attacked twice. This incident underscores the different motives of cybercriminals: coming just a few days following news that the Dutch intelligence community had first alerted the US that Russian operatives had infiltrated the Democratic National Committee and taken emails, these attacks were likely political hacktivism (although potentially state-sponsored).

While Mirai was a massive problem that truly threatened core Internet infrastructure, DerpTrolling is more microcosmic but nonetheless critical in terms of perception. DerpTrolling, at least to some folks, made DDoS fun, silly, and off-handed. His run through the legal system sends a message to the individual gamer and anyone wanting to perform what they may see as mischief online could end up with an ankle-bracelet or even behind bars. Currently, one of the top searched questions related to DDos is, “Is it illegal to DDoS?” To anyone unsure on the issue, it is becoming abundantly clear that it is a criminal activity taken very seriously by the federal government in the United States and elsewhere.

Setting aside the specific cases of the Mirai and DerpTrolling attacks, DDoS is generally continuing to become a more significant threat to the Internet all the time. Another industry study, released in January, found that 1 in 10 companies said they had experienced a DDoS in 2017 that resulted in more than $100,000 in damages – representing a fivefold increase over prior years. Meanwhile, there was a 60% rise in events that led to downtime per-second losses of $501 to $1000. The research also showed a rise of 20% in multi-vector attacks – which is also consistent with our data.

These figures are compelling when you consider DDoS mitigation services from a strict cost perspective; plus, it is possible many organizations are underestimating the long-term impact in trust (leading to loss of customers) and brand value that stems from DDoS downtime. Furthermore, the issue of increasing complexity is interesting related to the expertise in quickly stopping events that are not as simple as these attacks have typically been in the past.

The multi-vector approach is just the tip of the iceberg, though, with the rise of artificially intelligent DDoS. Artificial intelligence is massively on the rise now. This technology’s strengths for business are often heralded, but it will also be used by the dark side. The issue with AI-strengthened DDoS is that it is adaptive. AI is always improving its approach, noted Matt Conran, “changing parameters and signatures automatically in response to the defense without any human interaction.”

Future-proofing yourself against DDoS

While the Mirai and DerpTrolling takedowns are major events in the fight against DDoS, industry analyses reveal the problem is still only growing. Preparing for the DDoS future is particularly challenging given the rise of multi-vector attacks and incorporation of AI. At Total Server Solutions, our mitigation & protection solutions help you stay ahead of attackers. We want to protect you.

Green indicator in address bar -- EV

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While a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate may seem to be a piece of paper, it is actually a file connecting its holder with a public key that allows for cryptographic data exchange. Recognized industry-wide as a standard security component, SSL use is also a ranking factor that assists with search engine optimization (SEO). The core function of an SSL cert, though, is to provide encryption to site pages for which they are configured, populate the https protocol, and introduce lock icons in browsers to indicate secure connections. Certificates can be validated to various degrees – and this validation provides a completely different, administrative layer of security to complement the technical security.

Certification authorities & SSL validation categories

A certification authority (CA), also called a certificate authority, grants applications for these certificates. A CA is an organization that has been authorized to issue SSL certificates. In their issuance of SSL certificates to allow for authentication of information delivered from web browsers to servers and vice versa, CAs are core to the public key infrastructure (PKI) of the Internet.

The three basic types of SSL certificates from a validation perspective are domain validation (DV), organization validation (OV), and extended validation (EV). This article outlines the basic, core differences between the three validation levels in brief and then further addresses the parameters of each level.

Nutshell differences between DV, OV & EV

While the types of validation that you can get for a certificate vary, the technology is fundamentally equivalent, following the same encryption standards. While the various SSL validation types represent the same technology, the validation that ensures legitimacy of the certificate varies hugely between the three:

  • Domain Validation SSL – You can get these DV certificates very rapidly, partly because you do not have to send the CA any documentation. The CA from which you order the certificate simply needs to verify that the domain is legitimate and that you are its legitimate owner. While the only function of a DV cert is to secure the transmission of data between the web server and browser, and while anyone can get one, they do help prove to your visitors that you are the site you claim to be while also building trust.
  • Organization Validation SSL certificates – A step up from domain validation is the OV certificate, which goes beyond the basic encryption to give you stronger trust about the organization that controls the site. The OV cert makes it necessary to confirm the owner of the domain, as well as to validate certain information about the organization. In this way, the OV cert provides stronger security that you can get with a DV cert.
  • Extended Validation SSL certificates – The highest level of validation and most expensive of SSL is the EV certificate. The browsers acknowledge the credibility of an EV cert and use it to create a green indicator in the address bar. You cannot be granted or install an EV certificate until you have been extensively assessed by the CA. The EV cert has a similar focus to the OV cert, but the checking of the company and domain is much more rigorous. To successfully apply for an EV certificate, you must submit to a robust validation procedure that verifies the genuineness of your organization and site thoroughly prior to issue.

In the case of a compromise, your insurance payout will also generally be higher for an EV certificate than for OV and DV, since there is better security baked into the EV process (rendering a compromise less likely).

Domain Validation – affordable yet less trusted

The DV certificate is the most popular certificate, so it deserves our attention first as we consider strengths and weaknesses of this low-end certificate.

Pros:

  • You can get one very quickly. You do not need to give the CA any additional paperwork in order to confirm your legitimacy. It typically only takes a few minutes to get one.
  • The DV certificate is very inexpensive. They are typically issued through an automated system, so you do not have to pay as much for one.

Cons:

  • The DV certificate is less secure than certs with higher validation levels since you are not submitting to any real identity validation. The ease exposes you to potential fraud: an attacker could conceal who they are and still get issued a DV cert – regardless if they poison your DNS servers.
  • When a DV certificate is installed, since there is no effort to vet the company, you are less likely to establish trust with those who visit your site.
  • Since DV certificates do not yield as much trust, people who use your site might not feel inclined to give you their payment data.

Organization Validation – beyond the domain check 

While a DV certificate simply connects a domain and owner, that quick-and-dirty issuance process does nothing to check that the owner is a valid organization. OV is a step up by ensuring that the domain is operated by an organization that is officially established in a certain jurisdiction. While these certificates also issue relatively quickly, you do need to go a bit beyond the simple signup process to get a DV cert since you must do more to prove the correct identity of your firm.

The certificate will present your company details in the certificate, listing your company’s name; fully qualified domain name (FQDN); nation; state or province; and city.  

Extended Validation – premium assurance

The Extended Validation certificate, as its name suggests, involves much more rigorous checking to confirm the legitimacy of the organization, in turn providing a significantly better browser indication that the domain can be trusted. You will need to wait to get an EV in place (in which case you could use a rapid-issue DV certificate initially and then replace with an EV certificate once validated).

EV is bound by parameters determined by the Certification Authority Browser Forum (CA/Browser Forum), a voluntary association of root certificate issuers (consortium members that provide certificates issued to lower-authority CAs); certificate issuers (organizations that directly validate applicants and issue certificates); and certificate consumers (CA/B Forum member organizations that develops browsers and other software that use certificates for public assurance).

In order to provide the greatest possible confidence that a site is operated by a legitimate company, an EV SSL verifies and displays the organization that owns the site via inclusion of the name; physical address; registration or incorporation number; and jurisdiction of registration or incorporation.

By making validation of the company more robust, users of EV SSL are able to combat identity thieves in various ways:

  • Bolster the ability to prevent acts of online fraud such as phishing that can occur via bogus SSL certificates;
  • Offer a method to help organizations that could be targeted by identity thieves strengthen their ability to prove their identity to site visitors; and
  • Help police and other agencies as they attempt to determine who is behind fraud and, as necessary, enforce applicable laws.

The clearest way that EV is indicated is through a green address bar. This visual cue of the security and trust level of a site signals to consumers who may know nothing about SSL certificates that the browser they are using approves of the site.

Maintain the trust you need

Do you need to keep your transactions and communications secure, whether for ecommerce, to protect a login page, or to improve your search engine presence? At Total Server Solutions, our SSL certificates are a great way to show your customers that you put security first. See our SSL certificate options.

value of big data

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Why does big data matter, in a general sense? It gives you a more comprehensive view. It enables you to operate more intelligently and drive better results with your resources by improving your decision-making and getting a stronger grasp of customers and employees alike.

Big data may simply seem to be a way to build revenue (since it allows you to better zero in on customer needs), but its use is much broader – with one key application now being cybersecurity. Big data analytics allow you to determine your core risks, pointing to the compromises that are likeliest to occur.

Big data is not some kind of optional add-on but a vital component of the modern enterprise. Through details on where attackers are located and incorporation of cognitive computing, this technology helps you properly safeguard your systems.

Ways data is valuable

There are various ways in which data has value to business:

Automation. Consider the very real and calculable value of task automation. AI, robotic process automation (RPA), chatbots, and similar technologies allow for automation of repetitive chores. When you consider the value of automation, you are thinking in terms of how much it is worth to have that person working on other, more complex tasks as they are freed by the automation.

Direct value. You want to get value out of your data directly. Deloitte managing director David Schatsky noted that you want to consider key questions such as the amount of data you have, the extent to which you can access it, and whether you will be able to use it for your intended purposes. You can simply look at how data is being priced by your competitors to get a ballpark sense of direct value. However, you may need to conduct a fair amount of testing yourself to figure out what the true market value really is. Don’t worry if this process does not come naturally. An organization that is digitally native will be likelier to prioritize its data and know how much value it has for them; after all, they are fundamentally focused on using data to grow their businesses.

Risk-of-loss value. Think about information the same way you think about losing a good friend or important business contact. In many cases, we only appreciate what we have when it’s gone, but you have much better foresight if you consider your data’s risk-of-loss value – the economic toll it would bring if you could not access or use it. Similarly put a dollar amount on the value to your organization of data not being corrupted or stolen; i.e., how much should it really be worth to you to keep data integrity high and not undergo a breach? Think about a breach: you could have to deal with lawsuits, fines from government agencies, and lost opportunity cost alongside actual cost. Also keep in mind that you could have a nightmare situation in which your costs exceed the amount of your cybersecurity insurance policy – so you think you are prepared but get blindsided by expenses nonetheless.

Algorithmic value. Data allows you to continually improve your algorithms. That creates value in the sense of identifying the most powerful user recommendations because we have all experienced system recommendations that were meaningful and ones that were not, so increasing relevance is critical. It is now considered a standard best practice that you can better upsell and cross-sell when you have integrated product recommendations for customers to add. A central concern with algorithms is your algorithmic value model. The data that you feed into it should be as extensive and accurate as possible; for example, you might have data on destruction from a natural disaster such as the flash flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia. You get a sense of economic damage via as thorough a data set as possible on damaged buildings and infrastructure – so the quality and scope of your data set will determine how good the algorithm is.

Why know data values?

You want to prioritize data. You want to understand the diverse ways it has value. It also helps to understand exactly how valuable certain data is to you. Data valuation – sound, accurate valuation – is critical for three primary reasons: 

Easier mergers & acquisitions – When mergers and acquisitions occur, the stockholders may lose out if the valuation of data assets is incorrect. Data valuations can help to bolster shareholder communication and transparency while allowing for stronger terms negotiation during bankruptcies, M&As, and initial public offerings. For instance, an organization that does not understand how much its data is worth will not understand how much a potential buyer could benefit from it. Part of what creates confusion related to data valuation is that you cannot capitalize data per generally accepted accounting practices (GAAP). Since that is the case, there is great disparity between the market value and book value of organizations.

Better direct monetization efforts – As indicated above, direct value is an obvious point of focus. You can make data more valuable to your organization by either marketing data products or selling data to outside organizations. If you do not understand how much your information is worth, you will not know what to charge for it. Part of what is compelling to companies considering this direction is that you can garner substantial earnings from indirect monetization. Firms remain skeptical about sharing data with outside parties regardless the potential benefits, since there are privacy, security and compliance issues involved.

Deeper internal investment knowledge – Understanding the value of your various forms of data will allow you to better figure out where to put your money and to focus your strategy. It is often challenging for firms to figure out how to frame their IT costs in terms of business value (which is really necessary to justify cost), and that is particularly true with data systems. In fact, polls show that among data warehousing projects, only 30% to 50% create value. You will get a stronger sense of areas that could use greater expenditure and places of potential savings when you have a firm grasp of the relationship between your data and business value.

You can greatly enhance the relationship between business and IT leadership by learning how to properly communicate the value of data. The insight into data value that you glean from assessing it will lead to CFOs being willing to invest additional money, which in turn can produce more positive results.

Steps to better big data management

Strategies to improve your approach to big data management and analysis can include the following:

Step 1 – Focus on improving your retail operations.

The ways that shoppers will behave, which in turn tells you roughly how they will act on a site, is being bolstered through innovations in machine learning, AI, and data science. Retailers benefit from this data because it helps them determine what products they must have in stock to keep their sales high and their returns low. It also helps to guide advertising campaigns and promotions. In these ways, sharpening your data management practices can lead to greater business value.

Step 2 – Find and select unified platforms.

You want to be able to interpret and integrate your data as meaningfully as possible. You want environments that can draw on many diverse sources, gathering information from many types of systems, of different formats, and from different periods of time, brining it all together into a coherent whole. Only by understanding all of the data at your disposal holistically and as part of this fabric can you leverage true real-time insight. You should also have sophisticated enough capabilities to partition data as you go into what you need and don’t for certain applications, with baked-in agility.

Step 3 – Move away from reliance on the physical environment.

Better data management is also about moving away from scenarios in which data is printed and evaluated as hard copies. IT leadership can instead use an automation platform to send out reports to all authorized people, and then allows you to view the reports there.

Step 4 – Empower yourself with business analytics.

You will only realize the promise of big data and see competitive gains from it if you are getting the best possible numbers from business analytics engines. For scenarios in which you are analyzing batch data and real-time data concurrently, you want to be blending together big data with complementary technologies such as AI, machine learning, real-time analytics, and predictive analytics. You can truly leverage the value of your incoming data through real-time analysis, allowing you to make key decisions on business processes (including transactions).

Step 5 – Find ways to get rid of bottlenecks.

You really want simplicity, because if a data management process has too many parts, you will likelier experience delays. One company that realized the value of its big data, highlighted in a story in Big Data Made Simple, is the top Iraq telecomm firm, AsiaCell. When AsiaCell started paying more attention to big data management, they realized that they sometimes unnecessarily copied data and frequently lost it because they did not have processes that were established and defined.

Step 6 – Integrate cloud into your approach.

Cloud is relatively easy to deploy (without having to worry about setting up hardware, for instance), but you want to avoid common mistakes, and you need a plan. After all, you want to move rapidly for the greatest possible impact (rather than losing a lot of energy in the analysis as you consider transition and review providers). To achieve this end, many organizations are shifting huge amounts of their infrastructure to cloud, often doing so in conjunction with containerization tools such as Docker (for easier portability, etc.). Companies will often containerize in a cloud infrastructure, and then reference the apps with other ones inside the same ecosystem.

Deriving full value from your data

Incredibly, the report Big & Fast Data: The Rise of Insight-Driven Business said nearly two-thirds of IT and business executives (65%) believed they could not compete if they did not adopt big data solutions. Well, there you have it: more and more of us agree that big data is critical to success. That being true, we must then assume that taking the most refined and sophisticated approach possible to analysis is worthwhile. TSS Big Data consulting / analytics services allow you to efficiently harness, access, and analyze your vast amounts of data so you can take action quickly and intelligently. See our approach.