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Balancing Innovation with Interoperability?

Join'em, Even When You CAN Beat'em

All too often in the technology world, innovation is king and everything else takes a back seat. Companies live and die on their innovation and ability to "differentiate" from competitors. Funneling all their resources into developing a unique product or cloud service that can stand on its own. But today's world is complex and technology has created solutions in many many areas of business. While the optimization of individual business services and solutions continues to improve, business are now faced with the challenge of not only making sure ALL their services play well together, but finding services that interoperate in such a way as to maximize productivity, consistency and manageability while minimzing conflicts, inefficencies and redundancies. Service providers need to find ways to innovate as well as integrate and interoperate within a customer's existing environment.

 

The Evolution from Single Cloud Service to Multiple Cloud Services

Billed as the enterprise voice release for Office 365, it is unfortunately missing key features that virtually all enterprises require: Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant capabilities. Real enterprises need a means to route callers from their 800 and main office numbers to the appropriate people within the organization. Without any integrated Contact Center, ACD or Auto Attendant capabilities, Office 365 E5 is not really an enterprise level product and would require additional IT resources and cloud service providers to add this functionality; thereby increasing cost, complexity and management.

PanTerra has the widest level of integration and interoperability in the industry.

Some examples of integration include:

  • Salesforce.com - PanTerra fully supports the OpenCTI standard which allows Salesforce to seamlessly integrate with PanTerra, providing real-time communications to and from Salesforce.
  • Support for seamless phone communications integration with: Office365, Outlook, Gmail, GoogleApps, Zendesk, Box and Dropbox allowing any phone number to be dialed directly from within the app.
  • Support for direct phone number dialing from any web page in Chrome or FireFox browsers.

Getting Multiple Cloud Services to Integrate With Each Other

Billed as the enterprise voice release for Office 365, it is unfortunately missing key features that virtually all enterprises require: Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant capabilities. Real enterprises need a means to route callers from their 800 and main office numbers to the appropriate people within the organization. Without any integrated Contact Center, ACD or Auto Attendant capabilities, Office 365 E5 is not really an enterprise level product and would require additional IT resources and cloud service providers to add this functionality; thereby increasing cost, complexity and management.

PanTerra has the widest level of integration and interoperability in the industry.

Some examples of integration include:

Integration, Interoperability and Unification All Can Work Together in Harmony

Billed as the enterprise voice release for Office 365, it is unfortunately missing key features that virtually all enterprises require: Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant capabilities. Real enterprises need a means to route callers from their 800 and main office numbers to the appropriate people within the organization. Without any integrated Contact Center, ACD or Auto Attendant capabilities, Office 365 E5 is not really an enterprise level product and would require additional IT resources and cloud service providers to add this functionality; thereby increasing cost, complexity and management.

PanTerra has the widest level of integration and interoperability in the industry.

Some examples of integration include:


Move your communications to the cloud

Where's the Beef?

Office 365 E5... Where's the Beef?

The 800 lb elephant has finally gotten into the cloud communications game, but really? After careful review of the product offering, I have to ask one question... "Where's the beef?" I certainly commend Microsoft for realizing that cloud communications is one of the fastest growing multi-billion dollar markets and will power the cloud marketplace to new heights. And to be clear, Microsoft has been in the on-premises communications space for years, first with Office Communications Server, which was re-named to Lync and then re-named to Skype for Business. Their newest offering, Skype for Business Online or otherwise announced as Office 365 E5, seems to be a half-step in the direction of cloud. I say half-step because it lacks significant and profound features, functionality and a total solution approach that most enterprises absolutely require when evaluating a migration to the cloud. You don't have to take my word for it (Review Office 365 fails at collaboration, by InfoWorld)! But if you want my take on Office 365 E5, read on and "Take my word for it!"

 

No Integrated Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant Functionality

Billed as the enterprise voice release for Office 365, it is unfortunately missing key features that virtually all enterprises require: Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant capabilities. Real enterprises need a means to route callers from their 800 and main office numbers to the appropriate people within the organization. Without any integrated Contact Center, ACD or Auto Attendant capabilities, Office 365 E5 is not really an enterprise level product and would require additional IT resources and cloud service providers to add this functionality; thereby increasing cost, complexity and management.

PanTerra's Enterprise Level Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant Functionality Connects Customers to the Right People.

PanTerra’s integrated enterprise Contact Center/ACD/Auto Attendant features include:

  • Unlimited Agents Located Anywhere in the World – Set up contact center agents anywhere in the world instantly with the flexibility to easily move, update, add, and re-assign agents at any time.
  • Unlimited Call Queues and Minutes – never worry about scalability or cost as PanTerra's contact center supports unlimited queues and minutes at no extra charge.
  • Integrated Business Analytics – Perform real-time performance tuning of the most critical part of your business: customer interactions, with built-in business analytics. With over 100 customizable KPI/SLA performance metrics, real-time monitoring and ad hoc/scheduled detailed reports, PanTerra's business analytics can optimize your business in real-time.
  • Supervisory Modes – Supports silent listen, whisper and barge-in functionality per call per agent for training and quality control.
  • Customer Call Back – Provides convenient call back functionality for customers further increasing customer satisfaction and acquisition.
  • Advanced Call Recording – Set call recording functionality on a per user basis with multiple recording options from manual initiation to record all calls. Call recordings are stored in PanTerra's HIPAA compliant SmartBox cloud storage.
  • Unlimited Auto Attendants – Create unlimited numbers of Auto Attendants including auto attendant chaining. Advanced features include music on hold, customizable announcements, time-of-day routing, general voicemail and multiple assistants.
  • Group Contact Management – Create and manage global groups that can be made visible to all users in the account. Creating groups once saves time and makes it easier to manage (modify once too). Groups are instantly available to all PanTerra cloud services.
  • Detailed Adhoc and Scheduled Reports – Fine-tune your enterprise through detailed reports that can be created in real-time or periodically run and delivered to you.
  • Multi-User/Multi-Level Administrative Control – Assign administrative role to any user(s) in the account with multiple privilege levels/roles. Create sub-account administrators that manage only a set of users and account features. Set up “virtual administrators” for users outside the account (such as a trusted IT consultant) to gain access to the administration portal.

Missing Critical Cloud Security Features

Enterprise cost center management and analysis can be a key area of optimization for enterprises. Cloud services need to adapt to various billing infrastructures and configurations. PanTerra’s advanced enterprise billing system provides unlimited billing flexibility for enterprises that want their cloud services cost structure to fully integrate with their existing cost structure. With PanTerra, everything from centralized corporate billing to distributed “franchise” billing can be configured.

Missing Microsoft Office 365 E5 cloud security features:

  • Communications Content Not HIPAA Compliant – Office 365 E5 does not provide HIPAA compliant protection on communications content (voicemails, faxes, call recordings). This leaves critical personal information and communications susceptible to possible intruder access.

    PanTerra provides complete end-to-end HIPAA compliance on both user content and communications content, ensuring privacy of all information stored in the PanTerra cloud. End-to-End HIPAA compliance protects sensitive content and communications not just at the cloud service, but through the connectivity to end devices and the end devices themselves too (thru MFA authentication).

  • No Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) Across All Devices – MFA authentication is an essential enterprise security feature to maintain the privacy and security of corporate content and communications. Office 365 E5 does not provide comprehensive MFA on all devices such as IP phones, conference phones, desktops and mobile devices; - allowing intruders to gain access to corporate data by "impersonating" corporate clients.

    PanTerra provides MFA on all connected devices for both content and communications access ensuring complete privacy and security on all content and communications.

  • No Support for Third-Party Single Sign On (SSO) Providers – Office 365 E5 does not support third party SSO providers.

    PanTerra supports active directory as well as multiple third-party SSO providers such as OneLogin and Okta.

  • No Remote Active Device Manager – Office 365 E5 does not have a means to manage the security of multiple communications devices such as IP phones, desktops and mobile devices.

    PanTerra provides complete multiple device management through its Remote Active Device Manager (RADM), which allows users and administrators to lock out specific devices should they be lost, stolen or compromised.

  • No Telecom Intrusion Monitoring – Hosted VoIP providers, including Microsoft, are susceptible to "relay hacking" where an outside intruder gains access to the hosted VoIP service via an IP phone client (can be softphone or regular desk phone) and relays international calls through that device on the corporate VoIP service. This can cost enterprises thousands of dollars in international calling costs in a matter of minutes. Office 365 E5 has no MFA (which would virtually eliminate the probability of being hacked in the first place) and no active monitoring of international calls within the account to determine if a relay hack is occurring. This leaves the enterprise highly susceptible to this type of costly intrusion.

    PanTerra has both MFA and telecom intrusion detection/limiters such that, even if an intruder gained access to a client, they would be locked out after hitting a low threshold limit of calls.

Limited Enterprise Voice Scalability

While billed as an enterprise-ready service, it is not really scalable to enterprise level. By their own admission on their TechNet website, Office 365 E5 can't handle a high volume of calls. Since they don't define what "high volume of calls" means, I can only interpret that the cloud implementation is more "skype-like" scalable than enterprise scalable.

Missing enterprise scalability features:

  • PSTN Calls Capped at 3,000 Minutes Per User Per Month – Office 365 E5 limits PSTN calls (inbound and outbound to 3,000 minutes in the US and 600 minutes internationally).

    PanTerra provides unlimited calling both in the US and internationally (per minute rates for international calls apply) so that enterprises don't have to worry about being limited in their customer interactions.

  • No Multi-Location, Multi-Payment Billing – Office 365 E5 does not support the ability to set up multiple billing groups within an organization with separate payment methods and invoices. Nor does it support the creation of multiple billing statements, all of which are essential to larger enterprises that want their cloud services to fit into their cost management infrastructure.

    PanTerra provides a completely flexible and customizable billing/invoicing system that allows enterprises to set up multiple billing groups with separate and distinct payment options. In addition, PanTerra supports multiple separate billing statements that can summarize and subtotal specific groups of users or account level services.

  • No Support for Response Groups – Office 365 E5 does not support response groups at all (i.e. ring groups). This means you cannot route an incoming call to a group of users such as a group of support agents or sales people. This is a basic and fundamental voice service feature that most enterprises will need.

    PanTerra provides complete response group support.

  • No Support for Digital Faxing and Other Advanced Voice Features – Office 365 E5 does not support digital faxing at all. In addition, it does not support any analog phones, common area phones, extension dialing from IP phone, message waiting indicator, multiple DID lines per user (private line), Bridge Line Appearance (BLA), Busy Lamp Field (BLF), Salesforce integration, hoteling, call parking, three-way conferencing with PSTN users, click to call from IP phones or remote call control of IP phones. Individually, these features might be insignificant, but taken as a whole, Office 365 E5 is missing major enterprise features.

    PanTerra supports digital faxing as well as all the other voice features listed above. It is a true enterprise capable voice/UC service.

  • No Toll Free Number Support – Office 365 E5 does not support Microsoft provided toll free numbers.

    PanTerra can provide both regular and toll free numbers.

Lack of a Total Solution Approach

.Enterprises today are looking for a "total solution" for their communications requirements, not just a cloud service. Bandwidth, installation, end points (IP Phones) and 24/7 live support are all key components to a total solution. While Office 365 E5 may meet some requirements, it is far from being a total solution.

Missing key total solution components:

  • No Free 24/7 Live 30-Second Support – Office 365 E5 does not offer free 24/7 30 second live support which is critical for larger enterprises that are considering migrating their mission-critical IT services to the cloud.

    PanTerra provides free 24/7 30-second live support, guaranteeing a response from a capable support technician within 30 seconds, 24 by 7 by 365.

  • No End-to-End Configuration, Installation and Provisioning of the Service – Office 365 E5 does not support a complete end-to-end solution installation including site analysis, pre-installation configuration, local number portability (LNP) management, on-site installation of any networking hardware, provisioning of the account and post-installation pro-active monitoring.

    PanTerra provides a completely end-to-end "white glove" deployment solution which includes an average of 10 hours of a certified cloud specialist that will analyze, configure, install and provision all PanTerra services (including LNP porting management of all DID numbers) and pro-actively monitor the initial operation of the service until it is fully deployed and operational to an enterprise's complete satisfaction.

  • No Support for Problem Resolution Management – Office 365 E5 does not support problem resolution management if there is a problem with a piece of the solution outside of the Office 365 E5 cloud service itself. Since the solution encompasses much more than just the cloud service (bandwidth, on-premises networking equipment, LAN environments and end point devices), problems can be extremely hard to resolve, especially if there is no coordination between the multiple vendors.

    PanTerra takes complete responsibility for the management of the total cloud solution, not just the cloud service itself. With certified specialists in all aspects of the solution from end point hardware to LAN environments and networking equipment to WAN connectivity carriers and the cloud service itself, PanTerra is dedicated to making sure that an enterprise receives the highest performance cloud service possible.

Expensive to Implement

Microsoft implies that Office 365 E5 costs just $35 per user per month, but that's simply not true if you actually want to make calls. PSTN calling is extra and so is international calling. Of course faxing 800 numbers, contact center and auto attendant features aren't supported at all so those will have to be added on at extra cost as well. When you look at all the extra costs of implementing Office 365 E5 (both direct and indirect), it can be prohibatively expensive.

Office 365 E5 implementation costs include:

  • Add-on Pricing Adds Up – The base Office 365 E5 $35 pricing doesn't get you any PSTN calling or conferencing at all! You need to add an additional $24/user/month to get PSTN calling and conferencing (which is capped at 3,000 min/user/month). Analytics is an additional $50/user/mo (and that doesn't even include contact center analytics because there is no contact center support). Thus you're looking at between $60 and $100 per user per month for basic voice features without any contact center, ACD or auto attendant features. If you add in ExpressRoute, you're talking HUGE money per user per month.

    PanTerra provides its advanced CloudUC solution for as little as $14.95/user/mo and delivers all the enterprise features and security missing in the Office 365 E5 solution for less than $35/user/mon. In addition, PanTerra's SmartBand MPLS is on average less than half the cost of ExpressRoute. A comparable Office 365 E5 solution with PSTN calling and conferencing, secure ExpressRoute connectivity, contact center and auto attendant service and full analytics would cost over $200 per user per month.

  • Expensive Hybrid Implementation Recommended or Required in Most Cases – With all of the limitations of the true cloud version of Office 365 E5, Microsoft highly recommends or requires the hybrid cloud/on-premise implementation called Cloud PBX with on-premises PSTN in order to actually deliver enterprise feature-sets. Unfortunately, this hybrid approach requires local Skype for Business servers and software in addition to the Skype for Business cloud service, thus incurring the worst of both worlds with respect to cost, obsolescence management, complexity, inflexibility and overall management.

    PanTerra's CloudUC solution is 100% cloud, not requiring any dedicated on-premises hardware (other than the standard networking equipment an enterprise already has) to deliver all its features. This maximizes all of the benefits of a cloud deployed service, eliminating all the disadvantages of an ever obsoleting on-premises hybrid solution.

  • ExpressRoute is Very Costly – Office 365 E5 strongly recommends you implement its cloud service with ExpressRoute, which is Microsoft's version of MPLS. Unfortunately, ExpressRoute is extremely costly and essentially non-competitive from a pricing and feature point of view. It doesn't support mixed Internet/MPLS content sharing, which means you have to get a separate Internet connection as well and for each location. If you want redundancy in your communications connectivity, that means providing dual ExpressRoute connections AND an Internet connection for every location! That's going to be incredibly expensive.

    PanTerra offers a wide range of cost-effective connectivity including SmartBand and SmartBand MPLS. PanTerra's SmartBand product support Internet/MPLS sharing as well as SmartBand/SmartBand MPLS intermixing on a location by location basis. This flexibility maximizes an enterprises ability to implement security and QoS were needed. An average 100 Mb SmartBand MPLS circuit costs $1,000/month while a 100 Mb ExpressRoute circuit can cost upwards of $2,000.

Non-Competitive Enterprise Level Reliability/Availability

Office 365 E5 is hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud which has been running approximately 99.95% available for the past year, although it has had some significant extended outages including an 8 hour outage in September of 2015 and several more multi-hour outages throughout 2014 and 2015. Azure remains the target of many major hack and DOS attacks.

PanTerra has delivered 99.999+% historical reliability/availability

PanTerra has historically delivered over 99.999+% availability over the past couple of years and has never had an outage over 1 hour in the past three years. PanTerra's cloud services has set the gold standard for realt-time cloud service reliability/availability.

Office 365 E5 is Microsoft-Centric and Being Sold Direct to Enterprise Customers

Office 365 E5 is a Microsoft-centric service that promotes the Microsoft eco-system to the exclusion of others. Support for non-Microsoft environments such as Android clients, Mac users and other cloud service provider services are either non-existent or sorely lacking features.

According to industry analysts (William Blair report, "Microsoft, according to our industry contacts, is alienating the enterprise/carrier channel by selling Office 365 Skype for Business services directly to enterprise customers."). This is going to alienate the indirect channel (VARs, Masters, Distributors and Agents) which in most cases is the trusted technology provider for enterprises.

PanTerra provides a pure-play cloud service that integrates and interoperates with most environments, not just Microsoft, allowing customers to have a true choice in creating their IT cloud infrastructure. In addition, PanTerra strongly supports both direct and indirect channels of distribution, leveraging the power and expertise of channel partners and further giving customers choice and flexibility.


Move your communications to the cloud

Built for Large Enterprises

A Cloud Built for Large Enterprises

Large enterprises are now starting to see the silver lining in "moving to the cloud" that mid-market enterprises have been experiencing for several years now. The challenge for large enterprises is finding enterprise-class cloud service providers that have the infrastructure, quality of service, reliability and features necessary to support a true enterprise-class customer. PanTerra's cloud was build from day one for the large enterprise, exploiting all the benefits of the cloud while fortifying the cloud with large enterprise features and infrastructure requirements.

 

Large enterprises have unique challenges when looking to move their IT services to the cloud. Administering a cloud service for hundreds or thousands of users can be time consuming and complex, especially when they are located all over the world. Even billing can be a nightmare if the cloud service can't adapt to an enterprises cost structure, which in many cases requires multiple roll-ups and multiple cost centers. Finally, cloud security is paramount to large enterprises looking for peace of mind when considering the move to the cloud. Let's take a look at how PanTerra's unified cloud service addresses these three key areas for large enterprises.

Enterprise Administration

Administration of a single cloud service can be daunting, but administrating multiple services from multiple vendor portals can be impossible. With PanTerra’s single administration portal and advanced enterprise features, PanTerra simplifies cloud administration, significantly reducing IT resource requirements.

PanTerra’s enterprise administration features include:

  • Single administration portal – PanTerra provides a single browser-based administration portal for managing all its cloud services: unified communications, collaborations, contact center, file sync & share and analytics services.
  • Multi-user select – Perform administrative actions to multiple users and groups by simply doing the action to a single user. The system then automatically applies the action to all users/groups. This saves tons of admin time!
  • Group contact management – Create and manage global groups that can be made visible to all users in the account. Create once saves time and makes it easier to manage (modify once too). Groups are instantly available to all PanTerra cloud services.
  • Detailed adhoc and scheduled reports – Fine-tune your enterprise through detailed reports that can be created in real-time or periodically run and delivered to you.
  • Multi-user/multi-level administrative control – Assign administrative role to any user(s) in the account with multiple privilege levels/roles. Create sub-account administrators that manage only a set of users and account features. Set up “virtual administrators” for users outside the account (such as a trusted IT consultant) to gain access to the administration portal.
  • Manage users, devices and account level features in same portal – manage all services, users, account level features (such as call queues and auto attendants) and devices (IP Phones, conference phones) all within the same portal.
  • Spreadsheet import/export – Create or modify/add to large accounts instantly with a single spreadsheet import. Export current configuration easily as well.

Enterprise Billing

Enterprise cost center management and analysis can be a key area of optimization for enterprises. Cloud services need to adapt to various billing infrastructures and configurations. PanTerra’s advanced enterprise billing system provides unlimited billing flexibility for enterprises that want their cloud services cost structure to fully integrate with their existing cost structure. With PanTerra, everything from centralized corporate billing to distributed “franchise” billing can be configured.

PanTerra's enterprise billing features include:

  • Customizable billing groups – Billing groups can represent locations, regions, corporate functions or any division/group within the enterprise. Thus you can create any billing infrastructure you want from centralized single invoice to distributed "franchise" model to anything in-between.
  • Separate billing statements and invoices – Create billing statements (that are not actual invoices) for reports or analysis separate from actual billing invoices. Billing statements can be used by managers and finance departments to track expenses.
  • Multi-level billing invoices and statements with multi-level subtotaling – Create any number of billing sub-totals within the account and “roll-up” multiple billing statements or invoices. This allows for unlimited flexibility in billing for an enterprise. For example, you can have invoices per location or region and a central billing statement that aggregates all invoices together into a full account billing statement. Or you can have billing statements for each location and a single corporate billing invoice with each location sub-totaled.
  • Phased roll-out of account – Phase the rollout of an account over time. Add new locations or groups or change any location at any time. Changes to billing are made within the same day.
  • Multiple billing types within an account – Multiple billing types can be assigned per billing invoice, including multiple credit cards or manual invoicing per invoice. This is perfect for distributed "franchise" invoicing where each location receives a separate invoice and can select a separate payment type.
  • Line item cost splitting between billing groups – Any line item can be split between multiple billing invoices. So for example, if a user splits his/her time between two locations (in two separate invoice groups), then the admin can split the user’s seat cost between the two invoices.

Enhanced Enterprise Security

Enterprise security for cloud service is critical and cloud service providers can either follow the industry or lead it. PanTerra leads by being both technology and service provider. Utilizing the most advanced cloud security technologies available, PanTerra integrates enhanced security into their unified cloud services to protect and secure content and communications across the enterprise. Interoperability features with existing security systems and environments means that you can be confident PanTerra’s services will fit into your existing security environment.

PanTerra's enterprise security enhancements include:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on ALL devices – Includes desktops, mobile devices and IP Phones. This virtually eliminates VoIP phone hacking, which can cost companies thousands of dollars! Additional MFA administrative tools are also provided including IP range white and black listing and administration MFA request approval.
  • Single Sign On (SSO) authentication – Allows single secure sign on to PanTerra services through industry standard SAML 2.0 providers including active directory, OneLogin and Okta.
  • Full encryption in-transit and at-rest – All content and communications transmitted from PanTerra’s data centers to customer locations is fully encrypted both in-transit and at-rest within the data centers.
  • HIPAA compliance – PanTerra support full HIPAA compliance for all communications and content and provides full BAA agreements.
  • SmartBand MPLS – PanTerra offers its own managed fully secure, meshed MPLS network for maximum security and QoS. PanTerra’s SmartBand MLPS is the most pervasive, cost effective way to ensure secure access to all enterprise locations as well as PanTerra cloud services.
  • International calling limits – PanTerra implements per user, per country, per day dollar limits for international calling. These limits can be adjusted by administrators or PanTerra and can prevent a VoIP hacker that gains access to an enterprise’s account from racking up thousands of dollars in international relay calling.
  • Multiple Active Device Manager (MADM) – Allows any user or Admin to remotely lock out any device that might be stolen or lost.
  • Re-assign owner – Allows admins to instantly re-assign SmartBox content to another user. This is useful when an employee is terminated.
  • Ultra-secure data centers – Employing latest physical and cyber security technology, PanTerra’s data centers are hardened to attacks including DOS, DDOS, unauthorized access, and viruses. Data center operations is constantly scanning and monitoring for cyber-attacks and continuously monitoring for new viruses and patching any at-risk software.

In addition to the areas described above, PanTerra's cloud infrastructure is built for large enterprises, delivering 99.999+% reliability/availability and virtually infinite cloud scalability around the world. Combined with our world-class 24/7 live customer support and personalized "hands-on" on-boarding process, I believe PanTerra has created the new "gold standard" for delivering a complete end-to-end enterprise-class unified cloud service solution.


Move your communications to the cloud

Wizard of Oz

BusinessIoT: Communications, Storage, Analytics... Oh My!

If you haven't heard, the Internet of Things (IoT) is coming and it promises to connect billions of every day devices to the Internet. But what infrastructure support will the Internet provide? Is your company prepared for IoT? How can your company take advantage of IoT? These are interesting questions and not just for the Wizard of Oz.

 

The Internet of Thing (IoT) is about connecting everyday devices to the Internet so that they can communicate with humans as well as other devices and computers. This era promises greater value and services to people and companies by allowing for the exchange and analysis of data in real-time. Consumers are already experiencing the Internet of Things when they purchase activity trackers such as a FitBit or automate their home heating and cooling with a Nest thermostat.

While consumers interact with the IoT device itself, those devices must interact with the Internet and more importantly a "back-end" infrastructure to store and analyze the data being transmitted by the IoT device. This back-end infrastructure today, is being created and managed by each individual IoT manufacturer. Virtually every back-end infrastructure has three key components:

  1. Communications - IoT's must communicate with their back-end since they generally have limited display capability, storage and processing power for analytics. They depend on communicating with the back-end to transmit their real-time data. Transmission is typically through either bluetooth or wi-fi protocol but can be any wired or wireless protocol. Of course the back-end communications architecture must be highly scalable, secure and reliable as it will be interacting with millions of devices potentially at any given time. Also the communications infrastructure must support multiple protocols in order to interact with the most diverse IoT devices. Global notification and notification synchronization as also requirements allowing the back-end to notify other devices and humans of real-time or scheduled events.
  2. Storage - IoT devices by their very nature generate data... lots of data. Whether it's the number of steps you've taken in a day or the operating parameters of the compressor in your "intelligent" refrigerator, IoT devices are collecting and transmitting real-time data. Because it's constant and real-time, IoT devices need access to virtually unlimited storage. Cloud storage is ideal for IoT devices as it can provide that virtually unlimited storage as well as globally consistent, real-time access to the storage.
  3. Analytics - Once all the IoT device data is stored, it needs to be analyzed, interpreted and acted upon. This requires an analytics and notification framework to be in place so that customizable metrics can be measured, notifications can be sent and any actions taken. This framework would ideally allow for both manufacturer as well as end-user to analyze the data and have a common notification system that could interface with various notification and synchronization protocols.

While first generation IoT device manufacturers have had to develop these IoT back-end infrastructures themselves, clearly, as more and more IoT devices become available, it makes sense to aggregate these back-end services into a common highly reliable, scalable unified cloud service. This is exactly what PanTerra offers for IoT device manufacturers. Instead of (or in addition to) maintaining their own back-end services, PanTerra is providing common cloud APIs to take advantage of their unified cloud services which include unified communications, cloud storage and unified analytics. PanTerra's cloud services deliver ultra-high levels of availability, reliability, scalability, security, service level agreement (SLA), Quality of Service (QoS) and support, making it the ideal back-end infrastructure for IoT devices. Let's take a look at the unique benefits of connecting IoT devices to the Panterra back-end infrastructure:

  1. Unified Communications - PanTerra's unified communications infrastructure provides ultra-reliable, multi-protocol, QoS communications for IoT devices allowing a wide variety of devices to connect in real-time anywhere and any time. In addition, PanTerra's global notification service allows IoT devices to notify multiple devices through multiple protocols and includes a synchronization mechanism to synchronize "new" and "read" messages across multiple devices.
  2. Cloud Storage - PanTerra's SmartBox cloud storage provides highly secure, unlimited cloud storage for IoT devices with flexible access control, sharing and multi-device synchronization and unlimited file versioning. Encryption in-transit and at-rest along with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) ensure IoT device data privacy and security.
  3. Unified Analytics - PanTerra's analytics framework provides all the necessary components to analyze, notify and take corrective actions on actionable events. With over 100 customizable performance metrics built-in and a analytics API that allows customized IoT analytic events to be monitored, a global notification and synchronization mechanism and full integration into the unified communications service, PanTerra's analytics framework provides an ideal analytics environment for IoT device manufacturers to develop on.

Taken together, PanTerra's back-end unified cloud services provide the ideal communications, storage and analytics platform for IoT device manufacturers. I'm excited and looking forward to providing the back-end support for this next generation of Internet connected devices! If you're an IoT device manufacturer and want to develop on the PanTerra platform, please contact us at:


Move your communications to the cloud

10 Things You Need To Know About CloudUC

We start 2015 with our top 10 things you need to know about CloudUC and how it can change the way you communicate and collaborate to make you more productive, your company more competitive and your IT team less frustrated and happier! With PanTerra's CloudUC, move your communications to the communications-enabled everything cloud!

 
  1. CloudUC delivers unlimited communications and collaborations services from the cloud, effectively replacing over 6 separate communications services you are probably struggling with today, including PBX, conferencing, contact center, messaging, web collaboration, faxing and mobile device support. With CloudUC, you can customize communications and collaboration services for each employee, maximizing productivity and efficiency while minimizing IT management and administration.
  2. First in the Industry: CloudUC includes communications-enabled Business Analytics. In today's competitive world, being able to monitor and actually optimize your business in real-time is critical! With CloudUC's communications-enabled Business Analytics capability, you're in the driver's seat with complete tools, reports and dashboard displays accessible from desktops and mobile devices. With over 100 measurable communications and content metrics to choose from, you can customize ritually any business metric to monitor and report on in real-time and/or in ad hoc or scheduled reports. And with communications built into the analytics, you can take corrective action instantly!
  3. First in the Industry: Built-in communications-enabled content management. In the business world, communications is only HALF the interaction with customers! Once you connect, you need to SHARE INFORMATION AND COLLABORATE to complete the interaction. Why do all these things in multiple different disparate services or applications? With CloudUC, you don't have to. Unique to CloudUC is its built-in real-time content management feature (SmartBox), including unlimited cloud storage and secure file sharing and syncing. These features are not just "slapped on", they are seamlessly integrated into the very core of the unified communications service. This makes the complete interaction with customers, prospects, co-workers and partners more productive, efficient and responsive. Take the case of a sales person taking a call with a prospect. With CloudUC, the salesperson is connected with the prospect and can instantly share information such as data sheets or product videos with a single click. No delays trying to find content or create emails. Sharing, communicating and collaborating are INSTANTANEOUS with CloudUC!
  4. CloudUC is ultra-secure with enhanced security features meant to keep your communications and content secure and private, yet accessible. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all devices virtually eliminates the possibility of being hacked. Full encryption in-transit and at-rest for all communications and content ensures your information stays private and confidential. 24/7 activity monitoring provides continuous peace of mind.
  5. CloudUC is ultra-reliable with a historically proven 99.999% reliability/availability track record. Going beyond hardware redundancy, PanTerra implements a complete ultra-reliability methodology and operational procedures to ensure all services operate at peak performance 24/7. Advanced detection and recovery algorithms are built into every service and network operations personnel monitor all aspects of the service and connectivity.
  6. CloudUC seamlessly incorporates all your mobile and desktop devices so you can bring your office with you and be accessible at all times or at any time you choose. With CloudUC's unified mobile app for iOS and Android devices, you can always be reached no matter where you are and you always have access to all your communications and corporate content in a secure manner. Take or make office calls on your smartphone, transparently transfer live calls from your office phone to your cell phone and back, instantly access updated documents on the fly. With CloudUC, your whole office comes with you!
  7. CloudUC includes advanced contact center capability. Customers are the life blood of any business, so when a customer contacts you, you need to make the most of the interaction. With CloudUC's advanced contact center capabilities, your agents can focus completely on the customer and not the communications technology. With unlimited call queues and minutes, multiple routing algorithms including skills-based routing, flexible call recording, real-time reporting and analytics and advanced supervisory modes such as silent listen, whisper and barge-in, CloudUC's contact center can drive revenue higher while maximizing agent productivity.
  8. CloudUC's advanced administration portal is built for large enterprises. Managing multiple communications services can be complex, time consuming and frustrating for companies with limited IT resources. With PanTerra's CloudUC service, administration of all services is centralized into a single administration portal with advanced features specifically designed for larger enterprises. Multiple administrators with multiple administrative levels is supported allowing "local" administration of particular locations. In addition, support for multi-user selection operations and global user and group management make multi-user changes a snap. Finally, import/export configuration templates significantly reduce configuration and initial provisioning time.
  9. CloudUC seamlessly interoperates with all your existing services, applications and hardware. From Outlook to Saleforce.com, CloudUC interoperates with existing applications to provide a seamless business workflow environment. With CloudUC's Single Sign On (SSO) capability, you can even interface CloudUC's authentication system with Microsoft Active Directory or a 3rd party identity service provider. CloudUC supports industry standard SIP-compatible hardware and networking equipment as well.
  10. CloudUC can replace or augment your entire communications infrastructure... really! PanTerra's award-winning CloudUC solution allows enterprises to easily replace their existing communications infrastructure. That means saying good riddance to your antiquated on-premises PBX, voicemail system, and separate conferencing, faxing, web meeting and call center services. CloudUC can do all those communications services and more. A fully managed option provides complete "single vendor" installation and management of the cloud service, IP bandwidth connectivity, networking equipment and end points. And when you consider it's one of the only services that has historically delivered 99.999% reliability and the fact that you can save upwards of over 70% on your communications and storage costs, CloudUC is not only the right choice, it's the smart choice!

Move your communications to the cloud

Regular Analytics Doesn't Complete The Circle

For those of you that haven't seen the movie "Jerry Maquire", well, go rent/stream it! It's a great movie. There's a scene in the movie when Jerry figures out that he is not complete without Dorothy and he utters the now famously repeated line "You Complete Me!". Indeed, these three words can be aptly applied to many situations, including it turns out.... Business Analytics!

 

The definition of business analytics is the continuous iterative exploration and investigation of past business performance to gain insight and drive business planning. In today's highly competitive world, business analytics can be a powerful tool to both increase revenue and optimize expenses, ultimately enhancing the corporate bottom line. With business analytics, you can set up triggerable performance metrics which are automatically monitored with alert sent to supervisors/managers to be interpreted and acted upon.

For example, let's say you have an inbound sales contact center with agents that take the sales call. The company has determined that being on the phone with a prospect for longer than 5 minutes is diminishing returns and lowers the agent's overall productivity and revenue. Thus, agents are trained to try to be on the call for a maximum of 5 minutes to make the sale. With business analytics, the company can set up a triggerable Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that triggers if any agent is on an inbound call for longer than 5 minutes. A real-time notification can be sent to the Agents supervisor instantly.


This instant notification of an exceeded KPI is what business analytics is all about. Unfortunately, this is really only half the story! What does the supervisor do once they are notified of an exceeded KPI? And what tools does the supervisor have at their disposal to take action regarding the exceeded KPI? This is where the "You Complete Me" part comes in. With PanTerra's "Communications-Enabled Unified Business Analytics", business analytics monitoring and notification are seamlessly integrated with PanTerra's Unified Communications capabilities providing the most effective tools for the supervisor to instantly take corrective action and drive agent behavior. This ability to instantly adjust agent behavior has a much higher probability of correcting the problem permanently in the future.

Let's see how Communications-Enabled Unified Business Analytics "completes the picture". The supervisor has just been notified that the agent has exceeded the 5 minute KPI with a particular customer. Using PanTerra's contact center supervisory mode capabilities, the supervisor can instantly "silent listen" to the agent's active call and even whisper into the agent's ear (without the prospect knowing) to guide them on how to "close the deal". If necessary, the supervisor can even "barge into" the call to show the agent how to close the deal effectively. All of these actions occur within a single application, simplify the real-time interaction for both supervisor and agent.

As you can see, with communications-enabled unified business analytics, businesses can truly optimize their resources, drive revenue and increase productivity on a real-time basis! As Jerry said, UC completes business analytics.

10 Things You Need To Know About SmartBox

Seems like everyone in tech these days has a "10 things you need to know..." list. Even Microsoft has gotten the "10" bug with the skipping of Windows 9 in favor of "Windows 10". So I thought I'd share my 10 things I think everyone should know about SmartBox our revolutionary enterprise file sync and share solution with built-in real-time communications and collaboration features. Knowing and understanding these features will help your company unlock the full power and potential SmartBox has to offer enterprises as they consider moving one or more critical IT services to the cloud.

 
  1. SmartBox delivers enterprise-level unlimited file store, sync and share. Consider all the hassles and challenges you face today with managing, upgrading and supporting your on-premises file servers and exchange servers. Do you find yourself constantly running our of space? dealing with dead or failing hard drives? Re-arranging or locating additional rack space for more storage? ALL of this frustration, obsolescence and cost virtually disappears by moving your content to the cloud with SmartBox! SmartBox provides unlimited secure cloud storage with enhanced sync and share features along with enterprise-level administration, management and security features. SmartBox allows you to eliminate costly and complex VPN and FTP configurations without losing control or security. With SmartBox, you get truly unlimited storage, enhanced sync and share features and the tools and control features enterprises need in today's business world.
  2. First in the Industry: Built-in real-time unified communications. In the business world, sharing content is only HALF the interaction with customers! Once you share content, you need to COMMUNICATE AND COLLABORATE to complete the interaction. Why do all these things in multiple different disparate services or applications? with SmartBox, you don't have to. Unique to SmartBox is its built-in real-time unified communications and collaboration features. These features are not just "slapped on", they are seamlessly integrated into the very core of the store, sync and share solution. This makes the complete interaction with customers, prospects, co-workers and partners more productive, efficient and responsive. Take the case of a sales person sharing product information with a prospect. With SmartBox, the prospect is instantly connected with the salesperson so that they can reach out to the prospect (or visa versa) with a single click. No delays trying to find contact information or entering invite emails. Sharing, communicating and collaborating are INSTANTANEOUS with SmartBox!
  3. SmartBox stores all your communications content too! Where do you access your voicemails? faxes? call recordings? IM archives? Outlook attachments? For most people it's a mish-mash of separate services with separate interfaces and access methods. Even worse, let's say you need to share a voicemail with a colleague or external person! With SmartBox, all your communications content is stored in the exact same secure cloud as your user content. And it's securely sharable and syncable just like your user content. If you're a call center agent that needs to share a call recording with a client, it's as easy as sharing any document!
  4. SmartBox has built-in enhanced security features. Security is built into SmartBox, not an after thought. Securing your content and communications is critical to ensure business continuity and operations. SmartBox delivers enterprise-grade security features such as multi-factor authentication on all devices and encryption in-transit and at-rest. A multitude of flexible sharing privileges allows administrators and users to select the right security level to share content. The ability to quickly lock out a mobile device or reassign content to another user add to the robust security features of SmartBox.
  5. SmartBox supports mobility the right way. Virtually everything you can do at your desktop can be done on your SmartBox mobile app. That means setting up custom shares of content, making or receiving office phone calls, faxing a document to a customer or making a video call. You have access to all your content and communications in a single mobile app. Even when in the background or asleep, receive incoming calls, IMs or important notifications. Have multiple mobile or desktop devices? Not a problem with SmartBox. SmartBox synchronizes notifications and presence across multiple devices with ease.
  6. SmartBox shares the way you want to share (subfolder sharing). Ever think about how you organize your files and how you want to share them? If you're like me, the natural way is to create main folders with subfolders (a hierarchical approach). Then you want to share each folder, subfolder or even individual file uniquely with whomever you want and with whatever specific share attributes your want... right? Well, believe it or not, that seemly natural way of organizing and sharing files is NOT available with most file sync and share services! Most services only allow you to share at ONE level. So to share something underneath that level, you have to copy/move it to the top level. Arrgh! That is super inconvenient. With SmartBox, your wish is its command! You can share ANY level content with any custom share attributes. Once you try sharing with SmartBox, you'll never go back!
  7. SmartBox manages all your contacts. Are you constantly importing your contacts into your file sharing service and your IM service and your conferencing service and your PBX service? With SmartBox, your import your contacts once and you're done. They are instantly available to all your WorldSmart services (SmartBox and CloudUC). SmartBox supports imports from Outlook, Google, Yahoo and any CSV formatted file. And virtually all fields are imported (not just name and email). So you can look up a fax number, key note or even address with SmartBox.
  8. SmartBox is built for easy yet powerful administration. Today's IT departments are being strongly influenced by millennial end users to deliver services that are "consumer intuitive" while corporate mandates continue to demand strict control, security and manageability requirements. SmartBox delivers on both requirements with a common administration portal that can be accessed from any device anywhere in the world. The SmartBox admin portal supports multiple administrators with multiple privilege levels making it easy to setup a centralized or distributed administration structure. Centralized security and user policy controls make it easy to apply enterprise level control over features and access capabilities. Multi-user and group management features make managing large organizations a snap.
  9. SmartBox is built on a platform with ultra-high service attributes. A cloud service is only as good as the platform its delivered on... period. Unfortunately, many cloud service providers don't understand the direct relationship between the platform's critically important service attributes and the success (or failure) an enterprise will experience with the service. You can have all the features in the world, but if the service is down frequently, or the quality of service delivery is unacceptable too often, or if you can't get a hold of a support resource in a timely fashion, the productivity of your enterprise will suffer. SmartBox is built on a platform with ultra-high service attributes including 99.999% reliability, availability, scalability, security, Quality of Service (QoS), Service Level Agreement (SLA) and support. No other service provider comes anywhere close to SmartBox on these critical service attributes.
  10. SmartBox can replace your entire communications infrastructure... really! PanTerra's award-winning CloudUC solution has been fully integrated into SmartBox allowing enterprises to replace (and upgrade) their existing communications infrastructure with SmartBox. That means saying good riddance to your antiquated on-premise PBX, voicemail system, and separate conferencing, faxing, web meeting and call center services. SmartBox can do all those communications services and more. And when you consider it's one of the only services that has historically delivered 99.999% reliability over multiple years and the fact that you can save upwards of over 70% on your communications and storage costs, SmartBox is not only the right choice, it's the smart choice!
  11. SmartBox is FREE. As Mikie says, "Try it, you'll like it!" OK I'm sneaking in one more "you need to know" bullet! You can try out SmartBox for FREE with no obligation and virtually no restrictions. OK, there are some restrictions but not many. All of the real-time communications features are also available in the free version (except calling off-net), so you can even make an audio call, IM, video call or even web meeting with anyone else that has a SmartBox client. And you can download and install the mobile apps for free as well! So go ahead and try it out. We even provide a handy DropBox/Box replicator service that will automatically (and without sucking up any of your bandwidth) replicator your entire content into your SmartBox account with a simple click of a mouse!

Business-class file sync & share

I just want to try the free 1 guest user client

Is the Box Half Empty or Half Full?

The recent wave of successful hi-tech IPOs has given new sun shine to Silicon Valley. Indeed the proverbial "High tide rises all boats" applies to the IPO market very well. But there are a few shady clouds in the IPO sky as we haven seen with Candy Crush and the "not even IPOed" Box.net. The later is an interesting case in which the filing of the S-1 has resulted in a number of negative articles being written about their financials and bleeding over into concerns about the file sharing space itself. "Is it a feature instead of a product? Is it a product instead of a company?"

 

I'll let Wall Street judge Box's financials, but with respect to delivering a file sharing only service to the market, I do have a comment (or two). File sharing is one piece of a business process, necessary for sure, but in and of itself, not sufficient. What is business all about? It's about sharing information between seller and buyer, communicating between seller and buyer and potentially collaborating between multiple sellers and buyers and other influencers (consultants). Sharing, Communicating, Collaborating - that's what business is about and that's what IT services should support and enhance.

Now, most hi-tech companies are started on an idea that turns into a feature and then a product and you build your company around that product. Of course, I'm simplifying a process that is sequitous and complex to say the least. Once your product comes out, the market will evaluate, validate and embrace it if it solves real business challenges. This too can be tricky as businesses many times embrace narrowly focused solutions to solve today's problem. Businesses make money today, not tomorrow. So if you can grow fast enough with a narrowly focused solution, you don't have to worry about tomorrow's solution, until tomorrow.

Delivering simple file sharing was a solution to address the challenges corporations were having with the proliferation of mobile devices with limited storage as well as the frustrating complexities of Microsoft SharePoint. But as the cloud file sharing market matures and customers embrace the narrow solution, IT departments now must look further down the road to see how file sharing can integrate into their overall IT service solution set. Here are some things to consider when making that evaluation:

  • What key services do you need for your business?
    It is important to align your IT services with your business and the needs of that business. If you're like most businesses, communications is paramount. Communicating with customers, prospects, clients, co-workers, vendors and partners. Sharing information is also important, hence file sharing services from the cloud have exploded onto the market. Sharing from the cloud makes sharing easy, secure and instantly available from any device anywhere in the world. Which brings up mobility services and security/privacy services. You may have more services that are business critical to your business. Your IT services should align with these services.
  • What are the pitfalls of deploying multiple cloud vendors?
    Now that you have those services in mind, which ones can benefit from migrating to the cloud. Chances are many if not most of them. The benefits of cloud are many: global reach and consistency, ideal for mobile devices, low to no capital investment, dynamically configurable and lower costs. But as you migrate multiple services to the cloud, challenges and complexities can mount quickly. Service attribute difference can wreak havoc with your end users: different user interfaces, administration portals, support levels, service level agreements. In addition inter-service conflicts can cause one service to negatively impact the performance or even operation of another service.
  • What is the true cost of managing multiple cloud vendors?
    Can you make a multi-cloud vendor solution work? Sure, but at what cost and complexity and effort? The cost of managing and figuring out interoperability and configurations can be both time consuming and costly. Many vendors will require 3rd party packages to complete interoperability. Make sure you fully evaluate and understand all the nuances of a multi-vendor implementation.
  • What are the advantages of a unified cloud service provider?

    The alternative to a multi-vendor approach is to migrate your individual services to a unified cloud service provider who delivers all of the services in a seamless integrated solution. Find a vendor that can deliver the business critical services your business needs and evaluate how "seamless" the services actually are. In some cases, a unified cloud service provider may just be "reselling" someone else's service and the integration is nonexistent. This can be deceptively worse than managing the separate services yourself as you are now one company removed from the actual service provider.
  • What should you look for in a unified cloud service provider?
    There are several key attributes to look for in a unified cloud service provider:
    • Ultra-high service attributes including 99.999% reliability and availability, 24/7 phone and IM support, strong SLAs and built-in security and privacy features such as in transit and at rest encryption.
    • Seamlessly integrated business critical services such as secure file sharing, unified communications and mobility support.
    • Technology provider, not reseller of other vendor solutions. "Reseller" providers will have lower levels of integration, reliability, availability, support and security because they don't own the technology.

The cloud file sharing "marketplace" is growing up and maturing and as with virtually all maturing markets, it is seeking integration with other services not to be orphaned as a stand alone service but to become a seamless solution for enterprises who want to "do business" faster and better. Unified cloud service providers that can deliver file sharing integrated into other business processes are your best bet at building an IT infrastructure that is "FutureProof" for today and tomorrow.

The Seven Cloud Service Attributes That Matter

When exploring cloud services, I believe there are three major areas that companies should focus on. Now, I hear about two of them all the time: features and price! Pretty obvious, right? Does the service do what I need it to do functionally and how much does it cost? But there is a third area that is equally, if not more, important than features and price: service attributes!

 

Now you might ask, "What the heck are service attributes and why are they so important?" Well, let me use a car metaphor here: Remember when Mercedes Benz was considered the top car to get? But it always seemed to break down. Then along came Lexus, delivering the same level of comfort and features AND they never broke down. People started asking, "Now why would I get a car that breaks down all the time?" Cloud services are very much the same. They can perform the required function, but if the service is frequently "down" or has continual outages, can your company truly depend on it to deliver business-critical functionality?

Besides features and function, cloud services have other attributes that can significantly impact how useful they will be to your company. Reliability is just one of those attributes. In fact, I believe there are seven (7) key cloud provider service attributes that companies must pay attention to when evaluating a cloud service provider:

We've already covered the first attribute: Reliability, which is the probability of a service going down or having an outage. Unfortunately, it is easier "said" than "done" to keep a cloud service running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There are many factors that contribute to reliability; some of which are control of the infrastructure that the service is running on and redundancy architectures implemented. If, for example, the service provider doesn't actually own the underlying infrastructure (as is the case with DropBox), then reliability is not even controlled by the service provider. The service's reliability is now dependent on a longer chain of sub-vendors, which can significantly decrease reliability.

The second key attribute is Availability. Availability is related to reliability in that it measures how long an outage lasts in addition to how often an outage occurs. So a service provider with fewer outages but longer outages could have the same availability as a service provider with more outages but shorter in duration. What impacts availability? Again, one of the highest factors that impacts availability is whether the service provider owns the infrastructure. Since having a long chain of sub-vendors will increase the time it takes to "resolve issues", thus increasing the downtime of each outage event. Ideally you want a service provider that has a high level of Reliability AND Availability.

The third key attribute is Security. Security, much like reliability is NOT measured by the strongest link in the chain, but by the weakest link. In other words, you can have an air tight data center, but if you transfer content "insecurely" over the connections between the data center and the client's location or if the client's security is limited or basic, then the level of security for the whole system is equal to the weakest part of the system. For most cloud service providers, physical data center security is strong. That's typically not where the breach will happen. Cyber security is a whole new ball game, and remains today one of the weakest links in the system. Cloud service providers must be continuously vigilant to keep monitoring for cyber-attacks and continually updating their security "firewalls". A weak area for many cloud service providers is client-side security. Many service providers depend on only single factor authentication for clients: a password. This is extremely weak from a security point of view. A hacker needs only to get a user's login credentials and they, proverbially speaking, "have the keys to the kingdom". Multi-factor authentication is a must for businesses and enterprises that want to be "safe" rather than "sorry". PanTerra Networks implements multi-factor (2) authentication by default.

The fourth attribute is Scalability. This is where most cloud providers shine. The very nature of the cloud is its ability to virtually scale to any level to meet customer demand. However, the key to scalability is "balanced scalability". Again, a car analogy: you can have a powerful engine under the hood, but if you have tiny tires, you can't get the acceleration you want or expect. For a cloud service provider to scale well, it needs to be able to scale in all areas: storage, network, applications, servers, bandwidth and geographies.

The fifth attribute is Quality of Service (QoS). Here's where the rubber meets the road! While outages might be perceived as few and far between, the quality of the service being delivered is measured with every phone call made, every file downloaded and every video conference conducted. As more and more IT services find their way to the cloud, QoS will play a much larger role in impacting business and by that I mean disrupting business. When multiple cloud services are being provided by multiple providers, inter-service disruption will occur (not might). And when it does, one or all services will suffer. Video conferences will shudder, voice calls will chop or upload/download file speeds will be extended. How do you resolve these types of inter-service issues? Good luck if the services are provided by different vendors. With PanTerra, you get a single service provider that can monitor all the services and resolve conflicts quickly and reliably.

The sixth attribute is Service Level Agreement (SLA). What good are all these attributes if the company making them doesn't back it up in writing and with their money! Service Level Agreements, in general, have a lot to do with protecting the service provider.... I get that. But they also should provide basic guarantees of service and if those guarantees are not met, they should provide the customer a remedy. PanTerra backs up its service with the industry's best SLA (well at least that's my opinion!).

The seventh (and final) attribute is Support. Some would say, "Saving the best for last!". Support is one of those things that you don't think enough about before you choose a provider and end up potentially thinking about it too much after being on the service. The amazing thing is how much support varies from market to market and company to company. In the file sharing marketplace today, you're lucky if there is email support. Many just have a web-based knowledge board. Need critical help immediately? Good luck. Of course, try surviving in the telecom world with just a bulletin board and email! That market demands phone support. And yet many providers provide that phone support only during "normal business" hours. What are normal business hours these days! PanTerra Networks delivers 30 second guaranteed IM response and 24/7 phone support for ALL its services, file sharing and unified communications. Why? Because business runs 24/7 and we are providing business-critical services that demand business continuity.

The seven attributes listed above really MATTER, especially if you're a business that wants to be at the top! So next time you're in the market for cloud services, ask your provider about these seven attributes. Better yet, see if they even know what they are to begin with!


Move your communications to the cloud

Viral Money Maker. SmartBox Brings Freemium Marketing to the Telecom Channel!

Last month, we introduced an exciting new service: SmartBox - File Sharing that Communicates! SmartBox is a full blown secure cloud file store, sync and sharing service with.... you guessed it: built-in unified communications features!

 

As with many file sharing services, we provide a free guest version for people to try before purchasing. This is known as the "freemium" model and again, nothing new here... right?

Well, in addition to the incredible built-in communications features of SmartBox, we also decided to shake up the sales model and deliver SmartBox through both the direct and indirect channels: Value Added Resellers, Master Agents, Sales Agents and Wholesale Private Label Partners. The indirect channel has matured into an incredible source mid-market enterprises use to acquire new technology and outsource their IT services. These partners are the "trusted" advisors for these enterprises.

So what's the big deal? Well, if you're an indirect channel partner, there's a HUGE difference:

  • File Sharing that Pays Recurring Revenue! Tired of referring your customers to file sharing services that either pays you NOTHING or only a one time referral bonus? So am I! That's why our partner program pays you lifetime recurring revenue on every SmartBox seat! That's right... lifetime recurring revenue.
  • Freemium Viral Marketing That Pays! SmartBox is all about signing up massive numbers of users as free guest users and then converting them at some time in the future. When's the last time you were able to do that with a telecom PBX? Or conferencing solution? But what good is viral marketing if you can't track your own prospects when they sign up for the free guest user account or more importantly when they upgrade or purchase real SmartBox seats? Well, it's not good! So we fixed that as well. We provide you the ability to create your own "special" guest sign up and Webstore sign up links that encode your company into those links. So when you blast out "your" links through email, on your website or any other marketing campaign, your company will be associated with any resulting sign-ups. And if a guest user converts to a paying customer at ANY TIME in the future, you will receive the lifetime recurring revenue! It's that simple and powerful. Viral marketing for YOU!
  • Incredible Upselling Potential! SaaS selling is all about Average Revenue Per Unit (ARPU). APRU is determined by how "differentiated" the product is and whether it becomes a commodity over time. With SmartBox, you get incredible differentiation with the world's first file sharing service with built-in communications features. But more importantly, you get upselling revenue opportunity. As customers start to see and use the power of unified communications, there is revenue opportunity in selling additional communications services from PSTN minutes to DID numbers, fax lines, call recording, call center services and even complete PBX replacement. Why limit yourself to just storage upselling (which has become commodity priced). With SmartBox, adding revenue per seat is not only the lowest cost of sale opportunity, it's the most efficient sale.

The file sharing market is a $50B marketplace growing at 40% CAGR! It's time for the indirect channel to play a pivotal role in delivering these services. SmartBox represents a feature differentiated solution that delivers lifetime recurring revenue, partner specific massive viral marketing lead generation, and powerful upselling revenue opportunities! What are you waiting for? Sign up today!


Business-class file sync & share

I just want to try the free 1 guest user client

File Sharing that Communicates! SmartBox - The Ultimate Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP)

This week we introduced an exciting new service: SmartBox - File Sharing that Communicates!

SmartBox is essentially a full blown cloud file store, sync and sharing service with.... you guessed it: built-in unified communications features! Now some people might say "gee there are 80+ file sharing companies out there, why does the world need another one? Well, if you're one of those skeptics, please read my blog entry below before continuing. If not, please read on!

 

Business is all about a full circle process. People share information, communicate about that information, possibly collaborate with others, and then "close the deal". With SmartBox, people can accomplish the complete business process in a single cloud solution. This saves time and money, makes life easier for the IT department, and actually gives enterprises a real competitive edge through their IT infrastructure.

SmartBox is built from the ground up for the enterprise:

  • Security, security, security - Hardened data centers, encryption in transit and at rest, and mandatory 2-phase authentication are just some of the security features built into SmartBox. Even if your mobile device is stolen, SmartBox has security features that prevent any of your data OR communications to be compromised.
  • Finally, sub-folder sharing! Does your file sharing provider's sharing limitations force you to change your folder structure or organization? Not with SmartBox, share any folder at any level with anyone, any way!
  • Built-in Unified Communications - Know exactly when someone opens your shared content and be able to call them instantly! Or video call them, or web conference them, or IM them. Know their real-time presence and be able to seamlessly connect without fumbling for their business cards!
  • Communications and user content in the same cloud! Think about it, where do you retrieve your voicemails? faxes? call recordings if you're a call center agent? IM archives? If you're like most businesses, this content is strewn all over the place and require completely different access methods from IVR to FTP! With SmartBox, all you communications content is stored in the same cloud as your user content! And all accessible and shareable with the same ease! Listen to your new voicemails and your office message light on your desk phone will go out!
  • Contacts here, contacts there, contacts everywhere - Ever wonder why you have to "imported" contacts with every cloud service you add? With SmartBox, contacts are synced, not "manually important" and SmartBox stores all your contacts and makes them available to all services. Sync once, access everywhere!
  • Simple secure sharing with total control - With SmartBox, share with a simple URL link or protect the share with a password or require a SmartBox account to access the content. With SmartBox, you're always in control. Multiple share privileges give you even more control.
  • Mobility built-in not an afterthought - SmartBox provides mobile apps for iOS and Android mobile devices providing complete file sharing and unified communications capabilities from anywhere in the world.

The benefits of SmartBox are real and tangible:

  • Significantly Lower Total Cost of Operations - The old saying used to go "If one is good, many is better." Well, that doesn't necessarily hold true for cloud services. The advantages of cloud services are many, from elimination of cap ex and obsolescence to global IT consistency, easier integration of mobile workforces, virtually infinite scalability, and ultimate infrastructure flexibility to name a few. However, as an enterprise looks to move several services into the cloud, the use of several separate cloud service providers can completely turn the TCO equation upside down! After all, each service provider has to "make money" thus charging a minimum "entrance fee" for the use of their service. Multiply that entrance fee three to five times and TCO benefits go out the window.

    With SmartBox, an enterprise pays the entrance fee only once, not three or five times. That brings the TCO benefits back to the table and TCO actually becomes compelling!

  • Consistent Ultra-High Service Attributes - Cost is not the only disadvantage of multiple cloud service providers. In fact, there are about seven other key attributes: reliability, availability, scalability, security, quality of service (QoS), service level agreement (SLA), and support. Each cloud service provider has varying levels of each of these service attributes. And many are, at most, "consumer" level attributes. Take for example the recent multi-day outages at a well-known file sharing company. If service providers are going to ask enterprises to put their business critical service onto their cloud, they'd better work on delivering ultra-high service attributes.

    SmartBox comes from telecom DNA, where ultra-high service attributes are expected and delivered. For example, SmartBox implements full 2-phase authentication for all accesses to SmartBox. And SmartBox historically has delivered 99.999% availability. Need support? SmartBox provides 365/24 support with 30 seconds guaranteed response time with its built-in support IM.

  • IT as a Competitive Weapon thru Productivity Gains - IT departments are now being challenged to not just manage costs, but to figure out how to positively impact top line revenue, transforming IT into a competitive weapon for an enterprise. SmartBox gives IT the tools to create a competitive edge for their employees through enhanced productivity and efficiencies. Employees become more responsive, time wasted playing phone tag and email tag is reduced, more opportunities are converted.

Check out the video below on SmartBox:

No one's gotten much sleep here in the past couple weeks because it's always hectic at a product launch! But the atmosphere is truly amazing! Everyone believes that SmartBox is a game changer for mid-market enterprises; that it will truly help companies drive more revenue while allowing their most precious resource to perform at their highest level. We are committed each and every day to innovating and delivering absolutely the best cloud services in the world!


Business-class file sync & share

I just want to try the free 1 guest user client

What Does the Next Generation of Cloud Services, Personal Productivity Software, SmartPhones and Multi-Function Printers have in Common?

The evolution of markets and technology are self evident all around us. Just look at these three examples:

Personal Productivity Software - When Lotus first came out with the Lotus 123 spreadsheet, they launched the era of "personal productivity software". Maybe they didn't see it that way... maybe they were just trying to make a better "pencil and paper" table matrix. But they did. In fact, soon after, WordPerfect released its word processing software, CorelDraw released its graphics application and DBase offered its personal database application. Each company grew fast to become a multi-million dollar "leader" in their segment of the personal productivity marketplace.

 

Then along came a certain company with no experience in personal productivity software and introduced "Office", which integrated word processing, spreadsheet, graphics and eventually database functionality into a single unified application. The critics were quick to judge: "They will never be as good as Lotus, et al; They will never succeed because the other companies have the lion's share of the market; It will never work together well". Fast forward to today... none of the single function companies even exist today and Office is the clear king of the hill.

SmartPhones - Remember when your belt or pocket purse had a separate cell phone, pager, PDA, camera, video camcorder... OK maybe you didn't "strap on"/stow a camera or video camcorder. Those were the days! Each device touted its superior functionality.

Then along came the smartphone (hello Apple!) and the world changed. Of course not at first again. You always have to have the nay-sayers: A smartphone camera will never be as good as a separate camera! Of course that was before the 40 megapixel smartphone camera came out!

Multi-function Printers - Finally in the, "here we go again category", remember when HP introduced the multi-function printer to much criticism: They will never print as well as a separate printer! Does this sound like a broken record? Multi-function printers are now the largest category of printers in the world!

History is a funny thing.... hard to contradict, hard to buck, especially when there's a fundamental "optimization" occurring.

So what does all this have to do with cloud services? Well, it's not 19 9 d 9 anymore. It's 2014 and cloud services have been around for a while now (thank you salesforce.com). In fact, now there are several functional areas that are delivered from the cloud: file sharing, communications, collaboration, call centers, CRM. Sound familiar? Several single function services all enjoying success in the market.

But wait, along comes PanTerra Networks with SmartBox - File Sharing that Communicates, a unified cloud service that delivers file sharing, unified communications and collaboration all in a single seamlessly integrated cloud solution. Of course there are the ney-sayers: It will never be as good as separate services. Well that remains to be seen, but if history is any judge, I know what side I'm betting on!

Check out the video below on SmartBox:

Check out this video as well which shows how a day in the life of a sales person is improved with SmartBox!

In deed, with SmartBox, communications and file sharing are intelligently and seamlessly integrated together to improve responsiveness, productivity and efficiency. Like smartphones, personal productivity software and multi-function printers, unified cloud service providers are a logical and evolutionary progression to the cloud! Sit back and enjoy the ride, the Unified Cloud Services generation is going to be exciting!


Move your communications to the cloud

Mobile UC Without Security? Like the Emperor Without Clothes... In Front of a Hungry Lion.

These days, everyone is mobile thanks to the proliferation of the cell phone... and more specifically the smartphone. Yes, smartphones account for over 50% of the total mobile phone market in the US and it's the fastest growing segment of the mobile market. Credit Apple and Google and their respective mobile OS platforms for this explosive growth. Of course they just provided the viable platform. The real drivers are the apps and capabilities that these platforms allow real users to get things done (having fun is a "thing" to get done as well!).

 

Indeed, besides making and receiving a call or a text from a friend, smartphones initially played the role of mobile fun machines for most people - until recently. With the decline of Blackberry in the corporate world, businesses and app developers have turned to the "Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)" model for extending the business world to mobility and empowering workers to be mobile. Workers are now able to break the physical walls of their corporate offices and access HR resources, CRM databases and corporate websites. Cloud services have become the de facto standard by which these corporate services are now being delivered; as a cloud deployed service is ideal for a mobile, highly distributed workforce.

Some hosted VoIP providers have recently announced they are delivering a mobile app to support mobile communications integration into their hosted VoIP platforms. Some communications service providers have even announced some form of unified communications mobile app. These are great advancements for cloud communications and the customers that are taking advantage of these services. Unified communications is a very good example of a corporate service that dramatically benefits from being delivered from the cloud instead of capital intensive on-premises equipment that generally is obsolete the day it gets installed.

Unfortunately, there has been a huge casualty that some service providers have created in their race and haste to deliver a mobile unified communications application... SECURITY! It may seem like a pretty common sense feature/requirement, but most (if not all) mobile communications apps (softphone and unified communications) do not implement any level of security beyond the weak user name and password login. These same service providers tout hardened datacenter security and encrypted secure transfers and protocols, but when it comes to end point device security or user level security, all someone has to do is look over your shoulder at an airport and record your login credentials and your identity is theirs; as is all your communications capabilities (making calls internationally) and content (voice-mails, faxes, emails, etc...). And since the mobile apps can be downloaded and installed on any device, the hacker/thief need only go to the app store and download the cloud service provider's very own app and using your credentials they can "become you" and rack up thousands of dollars in communications costs in a matter of minutes! Customers must think twice before allowing their employees to install these applications on their BOYD devices. Do they want to be liable for being hacked??

Fortunately, companies like PanTerra Networks have built enhanced security into their mobile unified communications applications from the start. It is an inherent feature of our Mobile UCC application. Using multi-phase authentication technology, Mobile UCC validates each mobile device to a specific WorldSmart user. Even if a user's login credentials are compromised, the "would-be" hacker can't use them to login to the service on another unauthorized device! They are stopped dead in their tracks. And the service monitors and alerts when unauthorized accesses are being made. Users of Mobile UCC can be confident and have true peace of mind that their communications and content are safe and secure.

In addition to multi-phase authentication, PanTerra also implements Multiple Active Device Manager (MADM), which allows users to actively monitor and remotely control access to all mobile devices (desktops too). This protects the user when their mobile device is lost or stolen. If such an event occurs, the user (or account admin) simply logs into another trusted device and remotely locks out the stolen or lost device, instantly blocking the hacker from gaining access to the service or content. With MADM and multi-phase authentication, PanTerra is the clear leader in delivering SECURE mobile Unified Communications applications for enterprises.

Hurricane Sandy Showed Which Cloud Providers Have Silver Linings and Which Just Soak You

"Storm of the Century... Perfect Storm... Catastrophic Event... All descriptions of Hurricane Sandy right? Not exactly. They are quotes from the media describing Hurricane Irene and Katrina. To be sure, hurricane Sandy will take is place among the most costly hurricanes, but the point is that hurricanes are a fact of life and occur every year and yet companies seem to be "caught off guard" and "are taken by surprise" every year. When that "caught off guard" company is delivering your business's mission critical communications, well, that's something to talk about.

 

One of the benefits of moving your communications infrastructure to the cloud is the fact that you are no longer responsible for managing and maintaining that infrastructure, your cloud service provider is. They are supposed to be the experts and have the resources and experience to deliver your communications much more reliable than you could do on your own! While this might be true in theory, in the real world of "Sandy" events, it is far from the truth and in many cases can severely impact your business to the point of putting you out of business.

The problem comes down to the fact that there are a lot of moving parts to delivering a cloud service and not all cloud service providers have the real knowledge or experience to deliver the service in an ultra-reliable manner. As can be seen in the diagram below, there are 5 major components that impact the reliability and availability of cloud services:

Reliability of a Cloud Service Depends on a Lot of Components

Let's start in the upper left corner with "Management Philosophy". You might ask "What does Management Philosophy have anything to do with reliability and availability?" Well, a company focused solely on short term profits or quantity over quality might not spend the necessary time or money to make sure reliable operations are obtained and maintained. You see this every day in the retail business.... Nordstroms versus Walmart. Both are successful, but which one goes the extra mile for you? Corporate philosophy matters and when it comes to delivering your corporate communications, do you want Nordstroms or Walmart doing it?

Let's move on to "Operational Methodology". Wow, sounds like a grad school class! Well in some respects it is. Having sound processes, procedures and methods can mean the difference between an outage every month or every other year! It also can mean the difference between any particular outage lasting hours versus seconds or minutes. When you combine the worst case of both number of outages and length of outage, you can be down for a long long time. Pro-active monitoring, repetitive "firedrills" to keep prepared in case of an emergency, and clear, defined, written procedures and escalation paths are all key to an operational methodology that minimizes both outage frequency and outage period. When the vendor has a heads up of an impending disaster (like hurricane Sandy, which was reported on for days as being the worst storm to hit the east coast), are there procedures in place to pro-actively ensure the full operation continues through the event? This might include moving users from one data center to another in a safer location. These are the kind of preventative methodology that separates an ultra-reliable cloud provider from the rest of the pack.

Next is "Software". This is actually the WEAKEST LINK in the whole system, no matter which vendor you choose! Systems today are large and complex and contain thousands of lines of code. Invariable, new releases will fix old bugs but introduce new ones. Is it hopeless? No, there are many things a vendor can and must do to reduce production bugs and minimize outages due to software. The most important thing is to "own" the software! A service provider that is also the technology provider and owns the software will be able to directly test and QA the software and respond to bugs faster and with more accuracy than a service provider that licenses the technology from someone else. Owning the software can reduce outage times from hours to minutes. Secondly, multi-level pre-testing at scale must be done to ensure most bugs are found and eliminated before reaching production. And thirdly, the software must be kept up to date. Running on old versions of software guarantees a higher probability of hitting a bug.

The weakest link is not the datacenter!  It's the software and connectivity!

The "Data Center" is next and what is probably most talked about by your vendor. They might say "we're fully redundant" and beat their chest as if that were the most important component to their reliability and availability. Unfortunately, they have missed the boat completely in even understanding reliability and availability. It has NOTHING to do with the most reliable component in the system, it has EVERYTHING to do with the LEAST reliable component in the system, which we have already identified as "Software". In fact, today, most vendors datacenter's are redundant such that any single hardware component failure is completely masked and doesn't impact reliability/availability at all. However, there is one important aspect to the data center even today: location! If their datacenter is located in an area that is prone to natural disasters (like hurricanes and floods) then the vendor is asking for trouble and you are going to be the recipient of that trouble!

Finally, there is "Connectivity" which is actually the second weakest link right behind Software. While IP connectivity has gotten a lot better in the past couple of years, it still remains one of the highest failure rate items in cloud deployment. Again, a well designed cloud deployment can mitigate many of the connectivity issues. Dual connections on different carriers with a load balancing router can reduce connectivity failures. Cloud vendors that proactively monitor carrier networks and can switch upon detection of a carrier problem will provide the most reliable operations.

So how is PanTerra different from other cloud vendors? Well, that's the $64,000 question. I'll give you the $1M answer:

  • Management Philosophy: PanTerra's management comes from a telecom heritage that includes Bell Laboratories, the preeminent creator of the original analog telephone network still in use today and regarded as one of the most reliable networks in the world. Many of the architectural, design and operational philosophies of that network have been updated and applied to the ultra-reliable IP infrastructure that PanTerra has built today. While we pride ourselves for delivering innovative cloud services that make our customers more competitive, we are equally, if not more proud of our relentless pursuit of "the perfect" cloud infrastructure able to deliver unlimited scaleability with virtually 100% reliability and availability.
  • Operational Methodology: Our management philosophy matches our operational methodology.... in other words, we practice what we preach. It starts with rigorous operating procedures and processes for all our services that are designed to prevent human error from impacting operational stability. Error detection and recovery procedures are reviewed and practices on a weekly and monthly basis. Live 24/7 monitoring of all critical components including carrier bandwidth, registrations, concurrent media processes, call metrics and quality, hardware metrics and network health ensure that if an anomaly does occurs, action can be taken swiftly and effectively. As both the technology provider and service provider, operations personnel have direct access to development engineers at any time to address escalated issues immediately.
  • Software: The service is only as reliable as the underlying software. Developing ultra-reliable service software requires special coding skills and years of experience. PanTerra has over 400 person-years of development in the WorldSmart solution and uses a continuous improvement methodology to identify bugs early and often through the life of a feature. PanTerra also implements four separate pre-production networks to test and QA software before releasing to production.
  • Data Center: PanTerra operates completely redundant, hardened and secure data centers that are SAS70 compliant. Redundancy extends beyond server and network hardware and includes power systems (with dual backup generators), carrier networks, and dual HVAC systems. Equally important are the locations for PanTerra's data centers. PanTerra does extensive analysis of a data center location to make sure it has a very low disaster event index (probability of a natural disaster impacting it). Thus PanTerra will not locate any data center in an earthquake, hurricane, tornado or flood zone. All data centers must have multiple tier 1 carrier connections as well. This is one (of many) reason PanTerra's operations were not impacted by Sandy at all.
  • Connectivity: This is one of the most susceptible and least controllable (by PanTerra) component in the system, especially if the customer installs a self-managed WorldSmart service as opposed to a fully managed SentraCloud solution. In the later case, PanTerra is installing their own bandwidth which they have more control over, while in the former solution, the customer is acquiring the connectivity themselves. A single connection solution in either case becomes a single point of failure. PanTerra's solution can offset that failure event with its disaster recovery re-routing capability. Implementing a solution with multiple connections is the preferred method for eliminating the single point of failure case. PanTerra also implements real-time monitoring of the connections including the monitoring of bandwidth utilization, registrations and QOS scores. Any anomalies can be reviewed and addressed expediently.
PanTerra Networks delivered the most reliable cloud service in the industry!

As you can see, PanTerra understands what really contributes to reliability and availability and has developed a complete approach to address each and every component in the system. PanTerra understands that the solution is only as good as the weakest link, thus we are constantly driving to improve the reliability of all components in the system. The results speak for themselves as PanTerra has maintained virtually a 99.999% uptime for its customers over the past 2 years. While we are not perfect, we are committed to our quest for that perfect reliability number in the sky!

The damage and havoc Sandy brought to the east coast was devastating and our hearts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.


Move your communications to the cloud

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