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Tag Archives: Canada
I remember when the term “plastic money” referred to a credit card. But in Canada, plastic money is just that. The Bank of Canada is printing new high-tech polypropylene substrate bills that last two and a half times longer than the paper variety. They will be nearly impossible to duplicate, using security measures such as holograms and designs only visible using a single point light source.
It’s not just for coffee shops anymore. Whatever your business, if you have visitors of any kind, chances are they both want and expect wireless Internet access. That can be a challenge, especially to a business without IT staff. How do you provide wireless access, and make sure it’s up and running whenever guests need it, while keeping your business’s own network safe? You may think your only choice is either to create a virtual wireless network or a password-protected system that lets guests use your company’s network. But there’s a third alternative that can save a lot of hassle: Have an outside vendor provide a Wi-Fi hotspot. In the past few years, companies have emerged that can create a hotspot at your location for you, providing equipment, maintenance, and even technical support if trouble arises. You’re responsible for unpacking and plugging in the wireless routers they send, and for providing an Internet connection—and that’s all. Better security For many companies, an outsourced Wi-Fi solution provides better security than trying to go it alone. “Often we notice small businesses might have gone to Staples and purchased a router themselves,” notes Eric Warnke, CEO of Mesh Canada, which provides advertising supported or low-cost W-iFi hotspots to businesses. “We’ll walk through the door and point out that all the default passwords are still in place, and we’ll show them that we could have interrupted their business. That’s a big risk of a security breach. We can provide a secure network.” And offering a Wi-Fi hotspot actually gives you more network security than not offering one, notes Ron Pike, IT Administrator for the Seattle office of ZGF Architects LLP. “It’s better for us not to have them connect to our wired network,” he explains. With a WiFi network available, “that’s less likely to happen.” What to ask a vendor Here are some questions to consider when selecting a vendor for an outsourced Wi-Fi hotspot: How will you ensure security for our internal network? The vendor should provide a virtual local area network (VLAN) that is completely separate from your internal network and uses only your Internet connection. “For companies that are really super concerned about security, we can physically segregate everything, so that there’s absolutely no question of security risk,” Warnke says. What kind of controls can you impose? Since the Wi-Fi hotspot is completely separated from your network, there are no security risks to worry about, but you may want to impose some limits so that visitors don’t overuse your bandwidth. This can include “traffic shaping” that allots only a certain amount of bandwidth to the visitor network, or disallows certain types of traffic, such as YouTube or peer-to-peer sites. Can you password-protect the hotspot? Most vendors can, so the bigger question will be, do you want to password-protect it? For ZGF Architects, the answer is yes. “There are hotels nearby, and many other private offices,” Pike says. “We prefer our bandwidth isn’t taken up by people who aren’t here for business purposes.” On the other hand, Roger Newton, owner of The Canadian Brew House in Alberta says, “There can’t be passwords. If you’re going to offer Wi-Fi, offer it to everybody. If there was a password, we’d have a lot fewer customers using the service.” What will visitors see when they connect? There should be an opening splash page, reinforcing your brand and reminding visitors that they have you to thank for their connection. Many companies also include a terms of service that users must agree to before they sign on. If there are multiple access points, can they be configured as a single network? Unless you only want to offer Wi-Fi in your reception area or conference room, you will need more than one access point for your visitor network. If your company is monitoring the network, that job will be easier if staff can do it from a single administrative “dashboard.” Will you provide technical support and maintenance? In an ideal world, there will be few support issues, especially if visitors don’t need to type in a password to use the network. But unless you have staff on hand with the time and skills to deal with whatever problems do arise, you should make sure the vendor provides these services. “It needs to be consistently available and easily accessed,” Newton says. “And that’s a little outside of our realm.”
PlumChoice, a nationwide remote technical services firm headquartered in Billerica, Mass., helps troubleshoot IT problems for the home, home office, and small business customer. Rich Surace, senior vice president of operations, tells IncTechnology.com that by upgrading to an appliance-based virtual IT support technology the company is helping resolve a growing variety of problems with computers, PDAs, and other devices on a variety of platforms. Elizabeth Wasserman: What does PlumChoice do? Rich Surace: PlumChoice is the nationwide leader in providing trusted remote technical services for the home, home office, and small business on a 7/24/365 basis throughout the U.S. and Canada. We have comprehensive plans and service options, from simple one time service fixes to a complete protection plan that is charged monthly. We help our clients with computers, networks, cameras and CE devices, hardware and software needs. We also have multiple channels of distribution and we support a variety of channel partners, including telcos, ISPs, and others. Wasserman: What was wrong with your IT support that you needed to upgrade? Surace: It wasn’t what was wrong but what was missing. What was missing was being able to extend our platform to provide a broader range of tech services. We had some technical challenges that did not allow us to provide certain types of support beyond the basic Windows and Intel — or Wintel — systems. We wanted to be able to extend our support to Macs and PDAs but until about 12 months ago we only had the ability to provide services to more traditional types of machines. This is a great competitive differentiator for us. Wasserman: So what did you do? Surace: We upgraded to something called the Bomgar Box. It’s an appliance-based software for virtual support that allows companies to connect to remote clients and co-workers via the Internet anywhere in the world in seconds. It’s a remote tool that has features such as collaboration and extension of services to devices where traditional remote tools haven’t gone yet — such as PDAs, digital cameras, and cell phones. We have two server-based units that reside in our co-location facilities through the U.S. We’ve now incorporated it into our support enterprise. It’s one of many tools we use. The nice thing about it is the appliance resides in your building. We have control of how we deploy it and where we use it. It’s now part of our overall service delivery platform, which we call SAFELink. Wasserman: What benefits have you realized? Surace: We can now get access to other devices that we didn’t have access to before, such as Macs, PDAs, consumer electronic devices, such as your camera or cell phone or other mobile device. And our Partners can begin to create really unique services for the market. People use their cameras on their mobile phones all the time and they don’t necessarily know how to transfer pictures, or sync their schedule between PC and PDA. Many of them also have MP3 players in their phones. Consumers use these devices for data, pictures, e-mail, voice mail, etc. The PDA is the handheld computer of the future. When customers have a problem with their device, we now can extend remote service to those devices and platforms.
You’re browsing the Internet and you see a link to an article or video that interests you. So you click on it, but instead of getting the content you wanted, the site begins loading a video ad. What do you do? Chances are you immediately start looking for the link that reads “Click here to skip this ad.” More than half the respondents in a BurstMedia survey say they stop watching an online video if they encounter an ad, and 15 percent say they immediately navigate away from the site altogether. The message is clear: users don’t like “pre-roll” video ads. Why do so many big companies continue using them? Fifteen and 30-second pre-rolls are a holdover from television advertising, according to Glenn Pingul, vice president of marketing at the online video advertising company Mixpo. “That was taken from broadcast, where ads originally were 60 seconds, but then were cut down to 30 and 15 seconds to make them more affordable.” But whether or not these ads are effective on television, they rarely are on the Internet, Pingul says. “Just taking a 15-second commercial and repurposing it for the Internet doesn’t take advantage of the benefits online video can offer.” Smarter than the big guys The fact that so many big companies are stuck on 15 or 30 second pre-rolls means there’s an opportunity for smaller and smarter companies to use online video more effectively than their larger competitors, even if their budgets are tiny by comparison. What’s the best way to take advantage of this opportunity? Begin by creating ads that are low on glitz and high on content, offering real information about your product or your company rather than high production values. That’s what Li Read did when she needed to use the Internet to reach potential customers who were mostly very far away. Read is managing broker of RE/MAX Salt Spring on Salt Spring Island near Vancouver, but 80 percent of the home buyers there come from outside Canada. “My buyers for the last seven or eight years have been 100 percent non-local,” she says. Advertising in local papers and radio stations is obviously useless, so instead she uses online video ads both to create a slide show “walk-through” of homes for sale, and to help customers get to know her. Read also uses a video ad in which she talks about herself and her home-buying philosophy. “It’s my signature to the world,” she explains. “Ninety percent of people start their property search on the Internet, but does that mean the old values of loyalty and connecting with customers have no value? If you’re displaying who you are, that you know the inventory and you love what you do, I do think that can make them see you’re trustworthy.” The video ads are fairly new, and Read can’t say for sure whether they’ve led to any specific sales. However, 0.58 percent of people who see an ad for her properties click on it to play the video, and 1.69 percent of those who see the ad about herself do so. This compares with a traditional online advertising conversion rate of 0.1 percent, according to Pingul. Give the user control Another way to beat out the big guys is to give the user control over the video ad experience, and thus avoid the resentment that pre-rolls often inspire. With this in mind, Pingul favors “in-banner” video ads that run in one section of the page, rather than taking the user away to another page. “In our platform, advertisers can set video ads to auto-play when a page is loaded,” Pingul says. “They can play video and audio, video only, or they can be click-to-play,” Pingul says. “We test all three options, and we don’t recommend autoplay with audio on. Users shouldn’t be forced to consume something unless they’ve asked for it.” Giving the user options also allows you to test many aspects of your ad’s performance — something every successful online video advertiser must do, according to Pingul. Ideally, you should be able to measure everything, including how many people click to play the ad (if click-to-play) or deliberately turn on the audio, how much of the ad they watch, how many of them share the ad by sending a link to someone else, and how many take an action suggested in the ad, such as clicking a link to send an email requesting more information. Ask them to do something That call to action should be an element of every online video ad, according to Pingul. “That’s the most important point about online video advertising,” he says. “The key is to determine what you want the video to accomplish — to drive leads or create actual sales. Whatever it is should be front and center in the video.” What if you just want to build visibility for your company or your brand? “You can do that too,” he says. But he still thinks it’s important to have a specific idea of what you want your ad to accomplish, and specific actions you want your viewers to take. “There should always be some direct response you’re asking for,” he says. “Don’t create an ad that doesn’t have a goal.”