3 Considerations for IT Teams at Small-Midsized Firms


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3 Considerations for IT Teams at Small-Midsized Firms

  1. 1. 3 R E P O R T How Data, Security & Support Should Influence Platform Decisions for Tech Decision Makers 3 Key Considerations for IT Teams at Small to Midsized Firms Presented by Sponsored by Web Conferencing for SMBs
  2. 2. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Buying Considerations For IT Decision Makers Web conferencing over the past decade has grown from a niche market to a mission-critical business tool: According to a 2012 Frost & Sullivan study, 62% of companies now consider Web conferencing a “very important” business technology. 1 1 http://www.slideshare.net/FrostandSullivan/web-conferencing-stays-strong-in-a-down-market of companies now consider Web conferencing a “very important” business technology. 2 There are a number of reasons for this trend. Travel costs, combined with the growing prevalence of remote work and distributed, virtual workplaces, make Web conferencing essential for collaboration and business productivity. This is especially true for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) with tight budgets and limited resources. Technology vendors have been quick to capitalize on the growing popularity of Web conferencing services within the SMB market: Currently, at least four dozen vendors offer Web conferencing tools. 2 These include a large number of free or low-cost services that vary widely in terms of their functionality, security and customer support options. 2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_conferencing#Software_and_service_providers
  3. 3. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Web Conferencing: The SMB Dilemma These Web conferencing providers, and the vast array of services they provide, represent both an opportunity and a dilemma for SMB information technology organizations. At first glance, many of them deliver significant value by combining low cost (or no cost) services with adequate feature sets. In the long run, however, many SMBs discover that these services create long-term security, reliability, management and support issues that offset any short-term cost savings. As a result, these businesses’ IT decision-makers must decide whether to migrate away from their current Web conferencing provider – and then decide how to select a cost-effective alternative vendor. This white paper will look at three issues of particular concern to SMB information technology professionals weighing the pros and cons of a new or different Web conferencing solution: • Data and application security • Management and administration • Support, service and customer care This paper will discuss how and why each of these issues plays a role in the Web conferencing vendor selection process, and it will also highlight specific features or capabilities in each area that distinguish best-in-class Web conferencing solutions. Other factors than the ones discussed here will play a role in the selection of a Web conferencing vendor, including platform support and the availability of specific features. Yet for SMB IT professionals weighing a solution’s long-term total cost of ownership, these three factors play a decisive role — especially given the inability of many providers to meet basic service standards in one or more of these areas. 3
  4. 4. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Security: A Vital Concern For SMB Technology Decision Makers Most SMB technology professionals agree that security is a critical issue. In fact, according to a 2010 Symantec study, SBMs rank data loss and cyber attacks as their most serious business risks. Today, IT organizations spend an average of two-thirds of their time on information protection, yet problems persist: 42% of the companies surveyed have lost confidential or proprietary information to a security breach, and 74% are concerned they will experience such losses in the future.3 These are sobering statistics, and they emphasize a fundamental truth: Every SMB technology purchasing decision must consider the security impact of the product or service being purchased. Web conferencing tools vary widely in terms of their security capabilities, and it is not always clear how a particular provider deals with security issues. Therefore, transparency is the first trait that defines a best-in-class Web conferencing solution – a willingness to explain to customers precisely what measures are being taken to secure customers’ data. The second trait that defines best-in-class Web conferencing security is a sophisticated, multi- layered approach to data security. This includes the following capabilities: 3 http://www.slideshare.net/symantec/2010-smb-information-protection-survey Physical security. Every cloud-based service, including Web conferencing, depends upon its ability to protect customer data against physical intrusions and possible disruptions due to accidents or natural disasters. Key features to look for include the use of ISO 9001:2000 certified data centers; 24/7/365 staffing and monitoring; multiple layers of physical security; and the use of redundant power-grid connection points and backup systems. Data security. Web conferencing users frequently upload confidential documents, session recordings, presentations and other information that is subsequently stored on a provider’s servers. This data should be protected in transit by the use of appropriate standards, such as SSL/HTTPS network encryption. In addition, data stored on a provider’s servers should be protected using the strongest possible encryption, such as the AES-256 bit standard currently recommended by the U.S. National Security Agency. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms 74% 42% of the companies surveyed have lost confidential or proprietary information to a security breach, and are concerned they will experience such losses in the future. 4
  5. 5. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Application security.The purpose of a Web conferencing solution is to share information; the key is controlling where, when and with whom this information is shared. A best-in-class Web conferencing solution accomplishes this in several ways: • Using appropriate log in and authentication procedures, including unique user access codes, to manage access to individual conference sessions; • Assigning different levels of access based on a user’s role and the meeting organizer’s preferences (by, for example, limiting access to screen- or application-sharing features); • Allowing meeting organizers to assign and revoke access privileges on the fly as required for a particular meeting or event; • Supporting the ability to disconnect individual users, lock or unlock conferencing sessions, and control user listening/audio settings as necessary to protect sensitive business discussions. Security management. As the following section of this paper will discuss, a best-in-class Web conferencing solution will support a rich set of management and administration features. These capabilities extend to security; administrators should be able to disable features on a global or per-account basis in order to: • Prevent users from uploading slides to a Web conferencing session • Require users to delete slides when a conference ends • Disable application sharing, desktop sharing and/ or remote control of a desktop • Disable the ability to assign a co-presenter within a conference On an individual basis, none of these capabilities will ensure adequate security for a company’s data or applications. Taken together, however, they give an SMB technology team the ability to implement a Web conferencing solution without sacrificing security or placing an organization’s proprietary data at risk. 5
  6. 6. 6Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Management And Administration: Lightening the Load on IT Web conferencing management and administration covers a wide variety of capabilities intended to simplify an IT organization’s implementation and support requirements. As with security, these capabilities represent a very real source of trouble and expense: According to Gartner, Inc., about 80% of total IT costs occur after the initial purchase of a product or service. 4 In general terms, Web conferencing management and administration is relevant to an IT organization for two reasons. First, the right set of management capabilities empower users to do things they might otherwise ask the IT department (or their co- workers) to do for them. Given the time and resource constraints SMB IT teams typically face, these capabilities have obvious advantages. Second, a Web conferencing service should provide administration tools that allow an IT organization to perform necessary tasks quickly, efficiently and with minimal duplication of effort. They should also give IT decision-makers an appropriate level of visibility into service usage, billing data and other key metrics. 4 http://www.networkalliance.com/your-advantage/understanding-technology-costs More specifically, a best-in-class Web conferencing solution will offer the following management and administrative features: • Application integration. Users and IT organizations alike benefit from Web conferencing tools that integrate with other collaboration and business productivity tools. This is typically done via “one click” meeting support from within applications such as Microsoft Outlook and salesforce.com. • Event tracking and management. Users should be able to organize, manage and promote multiple meetings or events without having to ask their IT organizations for additional tools or application support. This includes the ability to create and deploy customized event registration forms; send automated reminder email to participants; promote events via social media platforms; and integrate meeting data with marketing campaign tracking tools. • Interactive content deployment and management. Users should be able to follow up meetings with surveys or email; or to edit, distribute and archive call recordings quickly and easily, without requesting assistance from the IT staff.
  7. 7. 7Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms • Account-level control and administration. IT administrators, or a designated Web conferencing service admin, should be able to add, edit and/ or delete users from within a simple, Web-based interface. This control should also extend to the creation and revocation or user access codes. • Comprehensive reporting and account management The Human Factor: Customer Service and Support End-user support is a familiar (and often troublesome) responsibility for IT organizations. Given the time and resources required to support endpoint devices and in-house applications, the last thing an IT department needs is an additional support burden associated with Web conferencing technology. This is especially true for SMB IT teams, where resources may already be stretched to the breaking point. According to a 2009 SpiceWorks study, the average SMB supports 90 employees and nearly 160 endpoint devices – yet 80% of all SMBs employ fewer than five full-time IT employees. 5 5 http://sellingtobigcompanies.blogs.com/files/state-of-smb-it-august-2009.pdf tools. A Web conferencing solution should allow IT staff to view and download detailed user information, invoicing and expense-reporting data, and real-time usage reports. 80% of all SMBs employ fewer than five full-time IT employees. 90 employees
  8. 8. 8Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms • Operator-assisted services. Most users, and most situations, do not require operator-assisted Web conferencing services. For business- critical meetings, however, or for events with large numbers of attendees, professional help should be available to manage calls, monitor call quality, provide on-the-spot technical support, and perform other necessary tasks. A best- in-class Web conferencing service will also provide access to optional services such as call transcriptions, closed captioning and assistance with audience question-and-answer sessions. • Responsive customer support. Real-time or near-time (e.g. email) vendor support can make the difference between success and failure for a Web conferencing investment. Inadequate or unresponsive support will prompt users to turn to alternative support resources – formal support from in-house IT or informal support from colleagues. Either way, a SMB pays the price, in terms of lost productivity or wasted IT resources. • Robust self-service support resources. Self-directed support, including FAQs and knowledge base articles, can provide an effective first line of support for end users with common or easily resolved issues. When vendor self-help resources are inadequate, however, users will again turn to in-house IT or colleagues for support. This makes it especially important for SMBs to work with cloud-based service providers, including Web conferencing providers, with strong customer support offerings. One might expect any cloud-based IT service provider to be up to this challenge, given these firms’ reliance on a recurring-revenue business model that makes it easy for unhappy customers to switch providers. In the Web conferencing market, however, the proliferation of low-cost, no-cost and consumer-focused offerings (a market where service and support expectations are generally low) has turned customer support into a hit- or-miss affair. For SMBs seeking a more stable and supportive IT environment, a Web conferencing solution should offer several key service and support features: • Comprehensive — and free — training. High- quality training resources have a major impact on end-user productivity and on an IT organization’s in-house service and support burden. A provider’s training resources should be readily available, well-organized and comprehensive enough to cover a wide variety of skill levels and usage scenarios. Needless to say, these training resources should also be available free of charge, as part of a normal SMB subscription package.
  9. 9. Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms Conclusion The Search for Long-Term Value SMBs today recognize the value of Web conferencing tools: According to a 2012 SMB Group Study, 58% of midsized firms and 38% of small firms say they rely upon these types of online collaboration tools. Yet the same companies are often searching for better solutions, as indicated by the fact that nearly half of the respondents to this study said they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current providers. 6 6 http://www.slideshare.net/smbgroup/2011-smb-collaboration-study-hlighlight 58% 38% of midsized firms of small firms and rely upon these types of online collaboration tools. 9 These companies face two priorities: Establishing a clear set of criteria for selecting a new Web conferencing provider; and ensuring that their new provider delivers long-term business value. Using the three criteria described in this white paper, SMB IT groups can ensure that they are able to satisfy both priorities – and that they are able to provide end users with a secure, easy to manage and adequately supported Web conferencing solution.
  10. 10. 10Web Conferencing For SMBs: 3 Key Considerations For IT Teams At Small To Midsized Firms About About ReadyTalk Hosting a webinar shouldn’t be rocket science. Audio and Web conferences aren’t brain surgery. And, customer care doesn’t include a system of beeps and prompts. It should be user friendly, reliable and supported by a team of professionals, which is exactly what we deliver. From small virtual meetings to large web events, ReadyTalk provides audio and Web conferencing services that are affordable and easy to use, so you can focus on the substance of the meeting, not the technology behind it. And, when you do call us with a question, afterwards we want you to hang up the phone and say, “Wow, that was good customer service” and tell someone else. About Demand Gen Report Demand Gen Report is a targeted e-media publication spotlighting the strategies and solutions that help companies better align their sales and marketing organizations, and ultimately, drive growth. A key component of the publication’s editorial coverage focuses on the sales and marketing automation tools that enable companies to better measure and manage their multi-channel demand generation efforts. R E P O R T Demand Gen Report 411 State Rt. 17 South Suite 410 Hasbrouck Heights, NJ 07604 P: 201.257.8528 info@demandgenreport.com ReadyTalk 1900 Sixteenth Street Floor 6 Denver, CO 80202 P: 800.843.9166 sales@readytalk.com