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Tag Archives: San Diego
Business provider of wireless voice and data services Airband has raised $20 million with ABRY Partners of Boston as of this morning. The company, which merged with Sparkplug last year to create one of the country’s largest fixed-wireless companies, offers Internet access, VoIP, and other services, and has plans to expand.
Anybody who uses public transit knows scheduled departure times rarely match up to actual departure times. To improve that situation comes Google to the rescue, which is now providing live transit updates on its Google Maps mobile and desktop platforms, initially in six international cities: Boston, Portland, Ore., San Diego, San Francisco, Madrid, and Turin. FastCompany’s Ariel Schwartz checked in with Google to find out why big cities such as London and New York weren’t included.
The iPhone has finally broken free from the shackles of AT&T. After more than three years, Apple has signed on with the widely available Verizon network. Let the dancing and partying commence. Except for this: you might be wondering, once the iPhone is available on Feb. 10, should you make the move? Or, is the iPhone really worth all of the hassle? Ron Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, has a definite opinion on the subject. Shortly after the announcement had people tweeting, texting and talking about the big news, he outlined on his blog the many caveats, subtleties and intricacies that need to be considered before buying an iPhone on the Verizon network right now. First off, he pointed out that while it’s common knowledge Verizon’s iPhone will not be able to use its 4G LTE network, AT&T’s iPhone isn’t technically capable of 4G either, although the carrier claims it is. AT&T’s HSPA+ network is a voice network retrofitted to handle data and more of an enhanced 3G network rather than fully 4G. IDC analyst William Stofega says AT&T’s reputation has been bruised by its inability to deal with the load put on its network by millions of iPhone users. He says it’s not all the carrier’s fault, though. “Everyone wants to point the finger at AT&T but the devices themselves and their use of network resources [has] not been stellar,” he said, adding that Nokia and the Blackberry maker RIM are better at helping phone users make best use of their network assets. Could Verizon have a similar load problem if a deluge of people buy iPhones for its network? “Eventually they could, but Verizon’s network appears to have much more headroom,” says Enderle. “We likely won’t know for a few months yet. AT&T has historically oversold their network even back to the time they were Cingular.” Stofega thinks the Verizon network can handle increased iPhone traffic because any movement over to Verizon from AT&T will be gradual because the penalty for breaking an AT&T contract is expensive. To check how much it will cost to break an AT&T contract, use this nifty calculator from Wolfram Alpha. Small biz weighs inExpert advice aside, plenty of people are lining up to get the iPhone through Verizon. Long-time Verizon customer Tom Hoebbel from Ithaca, New York, who runs Thomas Hoebbel Photo-Video, says he has a new phone upgrade option but is saving it for when the iPhone is available. “As a photographer, I often have images and video on my Web site that I want to share with clients or prospective clients. The iPhone will make that easier,” he said, adding that he hasn’t considered going with an Android-based smartphone because he uses a Mac for his business and thoroughly trusts the Apple brand. Also contemplating ditching AT&T, Zoe Gayle Villaroman operates a public relations and marketing consulting business out of her San Diego home office, which ironically is the one spot where she gets the worst service. “AT&T has recently introduced the 3G MicroCell to help boost their pitiful coverage. When I asked AT&T to provide me this product for free to resolve my long-term substandard coverage issues, they said that I must purchase it. Essentially, I pay for a service which I cannot use and, in order to use the service for which I already pay, I must now pay more,” she complains. To be fair, though, when we queried small business owners about their plans regarding the iPhone, many are happily using their iPhones with AT&T and aren’t going anywhere. Los Angeles-based Sayeh Pezeshki runs the online office supply store SortingwithStyle.com and has no intention of switching to Verizon. “One of the main reasons is because on the Verizon iPhone you will not be able to send an email or do anything else as long as you are in a call. When I have vendors or designers on the phone I am checking into files I keep on my iPhone as well as emailing them and myself reminders as we are on the call,” she says. IDC’s Stofega says it’s true — there will be no multitasking during a call on Verizon’s iPhone, at least at first. Verizon confirmed that you will not be able to send or receive e-mail on the Verizon iPhone while on a call but can text and perform other tasks, including reviewing previously downloaded e-mail. “It is related to Verizon’s use of CDMA technology versus AT&T’s UMTS. We have heard that fix for this problem [is coming] later this year,” he said. Plan pricing between the two carriers is similar. The cheapest voice plan for each buys you 450 minutes for about $40, or $60 for 450 minutes and unlimited texting. For $10 you’ll get 500 text messages out of Verizon and 1,000 from AT&T. As for data, that’s where things have gotten all mixed up. AT&T — which formerly offered those network-hogging unlimited plans — switched last year to tiered pricing: $25 for 2GB or $15 for 200MB (and you’ll pay more for going over either). They’re letting people who previously had unlimited plans keep them. Verizon, for its part in the craziness, is opening its iPhone floodgate by offering unlimited data for $30 a month but will be announcing tiered plans later, so don’t get too jazzed about its all-you-can-eat offering. It may be go away soon after launch. Verizon says if you buy an iPhone on contract. your unlimited data plan will last during the contract even if Verizon moves to tiered usage plans. To further complicate things, some people like the idea of using Verizon’s iPhone as a hotspot for other devices. That’s an extra $20 a month for 2GB. While you can’t hotspot with AT&T’s iPhone, you can pay $20 to tether it to one device and share an internet connection with, say, your laptop. Be careful with that, though. AT&T won’t give you any additional data for that hook-up, so any data you use while tethered comes out of your regular data plan. Still not sure which carrier to stick with or which to dump? When in doubt, listen to the experts: Stofega says don’t buy an iPhone at all and that Blackberry is the best bet for business. Enderle says if you must have an iPhone, wait for the iPhone 5 to show up at Verizon sometime in 2011.
In an increasingly global business environment, there’s no mystery as to why some firms are making use of translation software. English may be the language of business, but not everyone speaks it. Not providing a translated site alienates potential customers and can even be considered rude in some cases. That’s why The Roland Collection of Film and Art, a curator based in Harriman, N.Y., has been offering 13 versions of its site in languages ranging from German to Chinese (and “simplified” Chinese) to Korean for more than a decade. “In my opinion, one has to weigh up between people feeling that you’ve made a gesture as opposed to none at all,” says Anthony Roland, the company’s founder. “People tend to forgive you.” Computer versus human Roland uses software services from Systran, a Paris-based firm, and pays annually to keep his sites translated. But Roland isn’t under the impression that such translations are equal to having a native speaker do the work. It’s common knowledge that such computer-based translation services are far from perfect. “Human language is something that’s in perpetual evolution,” says Reba Sitzer, director of corporate sales for Systran, whose U.S. office is based in San Diego. “No one can wrap their arms around it and stop it from growing.” Even in the best circumstances, translation is more of an art than a science and the exact meaning of words is often left unconveyed (hence the term “lost in translation.”) But because they are based on a finite database, computer-based translation services can be particularly clunky. Systran offers some options to improve the quality of translation services by letting users modify words and offering specialized vocabulary for particular industries. Nevertheless, many would be wise to copy Roland’s approach. The company’s sites include disclaimers about possible language gaffes. “I apologize in advance on our sites [for translation mistakes],” Roland says. Other translation options Roland had other options besides Systran. In addition to competitors like the Israeli-based Babylon, and Sajan in River Falls, Wis., Systran has to contend with free Web-based translation services. Such services have been around at least since the mid-90s. Sitzer said AltaVista, the search engine, was offering a translator called Babel Fish (the name comes from A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) in 1996. Sitzer said back then the purpose was to prove such a thing could be done. These days, Yahoo offers Babel Fish for free and Google also offers a free translator called Google Translate, which is currently in beta. Systran’s services and software start at $49 and run into the thousands (server-based packages start at $1,500), but Sitzer said she’s not worried about the threat from Google and others because Systran’s translators are superior. Even so, any computer-based translator is still basically a blunt instrument. In some cases, that may be fine. Not everyone uses such tools to translate their websites the way Roland does. Sitzer says that many customers use translators for “gisting” — surfing foreign sites to get ideas. “If you want a very quick idea of what’s going on, this is sufficient.”
R.W. Smith & Co., based in San Diego, Calif., designs and builds full-service commercial kitchens for restaurants, hotels, hospitals, etc. The process is complex and involves coordinating with many different contractors and suppliers. After installing project management software, productivity increased and projects were better kept to schedule, General Manager Eric Gildenhuys tells Inc. Technology Editor Elizabeth Wasserman in this Q&A. Elizabeth Wasserman: What were the problems involving communication and coordination that you needed to address? Eric Gildenhuys: Kitchens are usually the last thing that gets installed in a building like a hotel or a hospital. You have to deal with the plumbing, the gas, the electricity first. The last thing to come in is the equipment. We usually have a ‘go live’ date. But what happens is during the installation process, we have to make sure the contractors are on time and putting in the plumbing correctly and the gas lines in the right place. We’re a fairly well established business. We’ve been in business 75 years. If you came here four years ago, they weren’t even using Excel. The field manager was on site using pen and paper. He would go to another site the next day. As business started betting bigger, he had to start dealing with crisis management — you know, who is screaming the most. We decided that we needed to start formalizing job roles, setting expectations, and using more information technology. Wasserman: Why did you opt for project management software? Gildenhuys: We opted for a project management tool called Project Insight from Metafuse. It’s not only for our own staff, but for our clients, and the general contractors we work with. This ensures that the general contractor was held accountable for getting his stuff done when we would show up. It took from January of last year until April or May to get all of our project management people and field managers trained to use it. We’re using this as a Web-based tool, as software-as-a-service. Wasserman: Why did you opt for software-as-a-service? Gildenhuys: Our organization was not technology-oriented. This is not an IT savvy organization. We did not have an IT manager. Secondly, it’s far easier for me from a capital budget standpoint to get this approved. You don’t have to pay for it all at once. It’s the classic question of whether to rent or own. If you do the renting, you can quickly adapt your number of users if you’re growing or reducing staff. You’re also getting all the software updates. Wasserman: What kind of results have you seen? Gildenhuys: We’ve managed to triple the amount of jobs we’re doing with only a 50 percent increase in staff. We’ve seen huge productivity gains. We’ve gotten different kinds of reactions from general contractors. There are basically two types. The ones that are IT savvy and the ones that are not. This helps us visualize all the tasks and subtasks and who is responsible, the start date and end date and the status. Now they know what they had to do and they know what we have to do.
As a small to mid-sized business grows, so does the sheer volume of information generated each day: account information and budgets, along with databases of inventory and employee records. The list is endless. A generation ago, it was euphemistically called the paper blizzard. Now, it’s more like a digital Tsunami that only gets bigger and more difficult to manage for the organization without a storage strategy. “Archiving data is less about where to put it and more about how to get it when you need it,” says Andrew Reichman, an analyst from Forrester Research. Indeed, many small to mid-sized businesses make the mistake of growing out their methods for storing data like the business itself: piecemeal and as needed. The end result can be disjointed, irretrievable data that is mission critical to the company, yet scattered across a variety of discs, servers, and individual employee hard drives. The good news: data storage has never been more plentiful or cheaper. The trick is wading through the myriad of options available and deciding which one works best for your organization. In-house versus out The first big decision to be made is whether to keep all or most of the company data in-house or out-of-house. Traditionally, companies of all sizes have kept their information on site. However, using a third party host to store data online is increasingly popular. Out of house options What do Intel, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Seagate Technologies, and EMC all have in common? They are all heavily investing in online backup storage solutions; whether it’s buying startups like IBM snapping up Arsenal Digital, EMC acquiring Mozy, or Seagate absorbing eVault. And then there’s Google launching its own initiative called GDrive service. There are also countless independent companies (that haven’t been bought up yet) offering data backup and storage online and on the cheap. Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages for the growing company: Advantages: It’s cheap, fast to deploy, and turnkey requiring no staffing to maintain the data. Plus, vendors have the advantage of using economies of scale to provide better security and store data more cheaply than a smaller organization doing it all on its own. However, the most important advantage is really more basic than that. “The biggest reason to go out of house is to get remote backup capability,” says John Longwell, research director for Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics. Simply put, you don’t want to have all your eggs (or data) in one basket (or place). If the building burns down or even just a poorly-timed snow day keeps employees away from the office during a critical time for the business, the results can be devastating. Off-site backup and remote access to information is a core need for most businesses today. Disadvantages: “The server and the application need to be in the same place. Going outside works if you’re talking about using Gmail as the company e-mail client and then archiving it all on Google, or CRM data with Salesforce.com. Businesses need to be careful which parts of the business processes they can give to someone else,” says Reichman. Even Amazon is now offering cheap data storage and retrieval programs like “SimpleDB”, which is in beta as of this writing. However, simple is the optimal word in that brand. It is a very simplistic way of searching and fetching data. It is not the place to store financial information a company may need to aggregate in a variety of sophisticated ways to generate specific reports. In-house options Despite all the hype over third party vendors offering online storage, in-house options make a lot of sense, as well, and may be more practical for many businesses. Advantages: The obvious advantage is retaining control at all times. The other advantage is that the major disadvantages are disappearing fast. In-house solutions are getting cheaper and more effective too. “There’s a big shift among small to mid-sized businesses from on-board discs (data separately stored on each individual computer and server) to what’s called centralized network storage. This can be as simple as throwing a single appliance on the network that houses all the data. By centralizing storage, information can be pulled from multiple sources and aggregated into richer data. It also makes it easier to manage all the company information, control user access and retrieve it when needed. Disadvantages: In-house solutions mean buying gear, getting it installed, and then taking on the expense of maintaining it. “Sometimes it’s a tough pill for small to mid-sized businesses to swallow,” admits Reichman, who encourages executives to look at the long term savings of better data management specific to the business. It’s something an outside vendor can’t provide, as well. Deciding factors Costs: Web-based third party vendors are cheaper, at least up front. It depends on the size of the business, however, whether they make sense. If a company has someone on staff to maintain a centralized storage network, then it might make more sense to invest in the equipment and save on vendor fees typically based on the amount of data stored on a subscription basis. What data and why and when it is needed: How will users interface and retrieve information as they need it? A third party vendor may not be able to offer the sophistication needed to work with certain applications or databases. Then again, it may make sense to house older and less important data off-site and out of the way. Prioritizing storage needs: What’s the primary motive for storing data? Is it backup and security? If so a third party vendor is likely the answer, since it offers off site protection of the data and often smaller businesses don’t have the same level of security as the vendor (like encryption and less network downtime). Sidebar: Data Storage Options Carbonite is designed to backup data on each individual computer or server. It runs constantly in the background backing up data and is handy for the desktop user who loses a file or accidentally deletes something of importance. Lost information can be retrieved immediately. This is not a likely solution however, for growing companies that need to manage data in a centralized way controlling access and aggregating data driven reports. Mozy Similar to Carbonite, it is designed for the individual user who needs his or her information constantly being backed up remotely in case of a virus strike or ill-timed computer crash. Mozy, however, does offer a professional version with a number of features like administrative powers to manage data from multiple sources and encryption. Its new parent company, EMC, may have something to do with the increasingly beefed up services targeting corporate clients. Pricing is based on a combination of price by seat ($3.95 per computer, per month) and 50 cents a GB per month xDrive is primarily targeting the consumer market. But for the small business just starting out, it’s worth consideration. xDrive charges $9.95 for 50 gigabytes of storage. Based in Beverly Hills, Calif., xDrive is actually owned by AOL and markets itself as a preferred solution for backing up pictures, graphics and video for easy web access and collaboration with others. As is, it’s easy to imagine a business quickly outgrowing xDrive. But with AOL as its parent company, it’s also easy to imagine xDrive scaling up it services for growing organizations before that happens. Nirvanix is attracting a lot of attention, as well as high profile investors like Intel. The San Diego, Calif.-based data storage company is especially attractive to the small to midsize business market because it offers scalable storage services for a flat fee of 18 cents a gigabyte. What makes Nirvanix special is its application programming interface (API) that enables companies to easily integrate Nirvanix Web Services into their own company applications. In comparing just these four examples of online data storage vendors, there is at least one common denominator: they are all still growing out their corporate features to accommodate businesses. “The options are still limited today, but it’s getting there,” says Reichman.