Network Monitoring — How SMS can Reduce Risk and Improve Response Time

As a network administrator, your role is a complex one but your primary task is to keep the network active and ensure that all users have smooth access to all network assets. You may have to conduct performance tests, hardware and software inventory audits (including virtual machines) and monitor areas from UPS battery status to current website connections. Configuration and maintenance take up more of your time. A variety of monitoring tasks are necessary and you perform all of them using a combination of enterprise solutions, third-party software and open source tools.

Where does SMS fit into this high-tech environment? In technology terms, SMS has been around a long time (since 1992) and many falsely believe that it is no longer of value today. This is not the case as the technology is still used in many practical applications, in emergency alert systems, in marketing and, of course, it also has valuable applications in network monitoring.

Network Downtime

Sometimes technology fails, an unfortunate fact of life, but true nonetheless. When your network goes down, your business will grind to a halt in most cases. A power outage, for example, will typically mean that all network communication will cease from that moment on. Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS’) may delay the inevitable for a few hours and generators will ensure local access continues. However, if the power loss is not confined to your building but instead a blackout affecting your neighbourhood, city or county, then you can assume your broadband connection has been lost.

If this occurs during office hours, when IT staff are onsite, then normal service will resume as soon as the power returns. However, what happens if the outage occurs outside office hours and you have an e-commerce store that relies on your servers and a high-speed broadband connection? You may have scheduled backups or support sites that have been interrupted. In such a setting, it is important that service is resumed quickly.

In most cases, you will be unaware of the outage until the start of the next working day. Can your company afford such a delay? Consider the financial and reputational impact of this downtime.

Citing a 2015 IHS report, Network Computing’s Joe Strangelli estimated “ a cost to North American companies of $700 billion a year for ICT outages. This includes lost employee productivity (78%), lost revenue (17%), and actual costs to fix the downtime issues (5%).”

Of the 400 mid to large U.S. companies surveyed, an average of five downtime incidents take place each year, with costs for each incident ranging from $1 million to $60 million.

Luckily, it is possible to eliminate some of the risk.

SMS Benefits

If your network goes down, response time is the most important factor as solving the problem quickly reduces downtime costs.  Sending an alert to your IT admin may seem an obvious solution but how is this achieved?

An SMS gateway is a way to build in some form of redundancy to your network alerts. If your network is down, a standard email or network alert will not work as… the network is not operational due to loss of power or loss of connection. An SMS gateway has its own power source, a SIM card to allow cellular network access and preconfigured alert messages. Once the gateway detects connectivity loss, it sends an SMS to the network administrator. It can also send emails if a 2G+ data connection is available. 2G is slow but functional. SMS is effective for several reasons – it works on all mobile networks (from GSM to 4G) and on all mobile phones.

In addition, the recipient is more likely to respond quickly to an SMS alert than any other form of electronic communication. Given the number of tweets, beeps, pings and other audio notifications on smartphones, it is surprising that SMS still retains top status in terms of response rates, but marketers confirm that SMS creates a genuine sense of urgency for each received message.

Therefore, your network administrator is sure to act quickly after receiving an SMS alert, and with any luck, can get your network operational as soon as possible.

Other considerations

Companies with SMS gateways in place can relax, secure in the knowledge that essential connections are monitored and that once inactive, an alert is sent out to the responsible parties.

However, alerts alone are not enough to ensure network uptime. As mentioned previously, technology will fail and a comprehensive inventory of spare parts is necessary to mimimise network downtime. Human error and cybersecurity threats are other issues that alerts will not solve–but IT and security awareness training for all employees will not only mitigate these threats but also reduce the risk of network downtime.

In conclusion, when network downtime occurs, you need a rapid response team. Given the cost of downtime to your company, it is worth ensuring your network administrator receives immediate alerts when the network fails. This not only makes financial sense but is a no-brainer for maximising business continuity and preventing reputational damage.

 

Michael O’Dwyer is a Hong Kong-based business and technology journalist, independent consultant and writer whose stories have appeared on Forbes.com, The Street, IBM’s Midsize Insider, HP’S Pulse of IT, Dell’s Tech Page One and other IT portals, typically covering areas where business and technology intersect. He writes for both US and UK audiences and acts as a technology and open source advocate in his personal and professional activities. Twitter: @MJODWYERHK

Business Cost Savings – Using SMS Keeps Employees From Getting Distracted

Complicated methods to improve workflow and efficiency may work in a tactical sense. However, if you are looking to make large strides in your office workflow, then you need to fix the big and obvious problems. One problem that is often overlooked is the issue of employees becoming distracted by one or more of the many tools that we place in front of them to improve their efficiency. All too often, these tools contain built-in noise that take away from the practical use of the tool.

Our proclivity to upgrade to the latest technology on the front edge of the curve is a natural intuition. Many companies incorporated IM functionality into their communications infrastructure over SMS simply because it was the latest gadget to have. However, IM apps tend to introduce a great deal more noise than simple SMS apps while the efficiency of the more complex technology has yet to really be proven. With this in mind, we must ask the question: Does using SMS keep employees from getting distracted?

The follow-up question: Does the business lose any efficiency by “downgrading” to SMS versus IM?

Let’s answer the second question first. SMS is far from a downgrade with respect to IM. SMS is a more streamlined technology that has proven itself to be more business oriented. The modern generation of SMS tools loses no business functionality when compared to instant messaging.

Your employees will be able to send simple messages; however, they will also be able to attach complex documents and audiovisual presentations. They can stay in touch remotely and collaborate on projects. SMS has also future proofed itself as a general technology. As long as your infrastructure is properly maintained, you can always upgrade to the next level of communications.

The real issue is whether instant messaging creates many distractions for workplace. Instant messaging was created from a consumer standpoint, and still serves that function today. Many IM apps come with background videos, advertisements and pop-up links that do not stay in the background for long. This is especially true if you do not upgrade your service from behind the paywall.

Your communications infrastructure must take into account the human element of your business as well. It is irresponsible to treat employees like children – giving them a full-featured IM technology, telling them to use it for communications, and then punishing them for interacting with the built-in noise is a fast way to reduce office morale. Trying to cut off the problem by creating harsh rules creates an even worse effect. Your employees will likely find ways to defy you behind your back, increasing the hidden inefficiencies in your office that are much more difficult to weed out.

No, it is much better to incorporate a technology that is already streamlined for business. SMS is just as capable as its cousin IM with less noise to distract your employees. Because there are less temptations to begin with, there are less rules for your management and executive class to impose upon your front-line employees. Everyone stays happier, and everyone works more efficiently. The moral of the story: You do not always have to upgrade with the crowd, especially if the crowd is not performing to the level of your business.

4 Smart Ways to Combine Texting With Other Marketing Efforts

It’s not hard to talk glowingly about texting since it has become one of the most acceptable ways of interaction these days.

Whether it’s sending a text to someone else or a group of people, texting takes little time and few words to create and send, and it’s likely to be viewed quickly, almost instantly by most recipients.

Texting has definite advantages over email, especially how people are more likely to check their texts as soon as they arrive, since everyone keeps their phones handy. And it has even more advantages over voice mail: who uses their smartphones for talking anymore anyway?

It’s also becoming a favorite tool for marketers, since it can be downright simple to compose one text and send it to all or certain of your customers nearly instantly, compared to several batches for mass emailing. People are also likely to act on an offer contained in a text quickly, such as a special deal or link.

Texting services also can help companies keep track of replies and collate all responses, instead of you and your team having to answer all of them all one by one.

But as effective as texting can be, it shouldn’t be your sole outreach tool for marketing campaigns. Not everyone wants or likes  texting, and some wireless packages even allow users to block all texts.

A more effective marketing effort should include texting plus other services. This can help connect with a larger audience and potentially more customers.

The proper balance of text to non-text outreach will have to be determined by you based on feedback on your promotions, but you can enjoy experimenting.

Try these strategies to blend texting with other traditional methods:

·  Email. Though it may take hours, even days, for people to read an email, email can still be an effective way to share information. You can have unlimited space, rather than the limited number of characters allowed per text. You also can include a variety of graphics especially with automated mail templates for ad campaigns. People are also more willing to join an email list rather than sign up for texting. It’s much less invasive and intrusive than texting and most users are more familiar with emails, simply because email has been around longer. With the extra space, you have more opportunity to “sell” people on the merits of your product or service, rather than pushing them to make a quick decision with a “click here for a super deal” message.

·  Social media. Though some mass text programs allow you to automatically put your name or the recipient’s name in a text, this personalization isn’t the same as a full conversation. With social media sites you have more opportunity to get dialogue going and showing off what you’re doing, such as fun photos. You also can offer regular links to your blog or site in your posts. It’s all absolutely free, unless you’re paying to boost or sponsor posts.

·  Other methods. Direct mail and traditional mass media advertising can be useful for reaching larger general groups of potential customers. You also don’t need specific consent or opt-ins from your recipients either, which are legally required for texting.

·  A global approach. Integrating all of these methods can be a smart way to reach a much larger audience than text alone, especially if you plan your message over several weeks or even months. You can use the concept of a ‘drip campaign’ to make sure your recipients receive your message in at least one form, preferably more. The idea is to plan a sequence of communications to reach people, with different messages but the same call to action.

For instance, a general campaign can start with mass advertisements, and the response from this can help narrow the size of your audiences for future contacts and also get them familiar with what you’re offering. By the time people start to receive your texts they hopefully have seen your message in other forms, so the texts can seem like a personal invitation to make a purchase or visit your site.

Overall, while texting is a valuable outreach tool, other platforms used in conjunction can help provide a larger reach and improve the effectiveness of a marketing campaign.

 

Joe Butler writes about personal finances and the modern retail experience. He loves the idea of mobile coupons, since he frequently forgets the paper ones at home.
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2016 Daily SMS Mobile Usage Statistics

It’s official—mobile use is now prevalent throughout internet users and businesses. Most people would respond to this statement with, “I could’ve told you that,” but what we’re still learning is how people interact with these mobile devices, and how they can best used to service businesses effectively and securely.

Analysts and companies of all shapes and sizes have released statistics about developments in mobile use this past year, and particularly, how companies have grown to use SMS. Here are some of the most impressive findings.

Mobile use is so big, the world starts to use these devices the moment we wake up.

According to ExpressPigeon, over half of users grab their smartphones immediately after waking up. This is just one of the ways we’ve grown to interact with our mobile devices more as time has gone by.

These mobile usage statistics indicate that mobile use is growing in new ways—especially when using SMS.

  • According to Nielsen, SMS is the most used data service in the world.
  • According to MBA online, more than 4.2 billion people are texting worldwide.
  • According to the Pew Research Center, 81% of Americans text regularly and 97% of adults text weekly.
  • According to CTIA, 6 billion SMS messages are sent each day in the US, over 180 billion are sent each month, and 2.27 trillion are sent each year.
  • According to Portio Research, the world will send 8.3 trillion SMS messages this year alone – 23 billion per day or almost 16 million per minute.
  • According to Statistic Brain, the number of SMS messages sent monthly increased by more than 7,700% over the last decade.

The reason that SMS messages are being sent at a faster speed across the globe—when it comes to communication effectiveness, they work.

  • According to Mobile Marketing Watch, SMS messages have a 98% open rate, while email only has a 20% open rate.
  • According to Velocify, SMS messages have a 45% response rate, as opposed to email which has a 6% response rate.

It’s clear that SMS is very influential for the general population’s overall use, but it’s not just personal use. Statistics show that businesses are starting to pay more attention to SMS as a reliable and secure communication source.

Most businesses think that their customers want support via SMS.

The most important communication for businesses isn’t always internal. Sometimes it’s communication with customers, and data shows that businesses are starting to make the move to customer communication via SMS message.

  • According to ICMI, 79% of companies believe customers want SMS support, and 1 in 5 customers is just as likely to prefer a text message from a business to a phone call.
  • According to Dimension Data, 38% of contact centers currently use SMS, and23% have plans to implement in the next 12 months.
  • According to Forrester & ContactBabel, SMS text decreases the price of a customer service call from $6-$20 call to pennies per session.

Customer service isn’t the only use—businesses are starting to see the benefits to SMS message for internal use, as the response rate is so much higher.

  • According to eWeek, 80% of people are currently using texting for business.
  • According to eWeek, over one-third of business professional say they can’t go 10 minutes without responding to an SMS message.
  • According to Loyalty 360, 20% of financial services companies use SMS to ensure business continuity and add to their multichannel capabilities.
  • According to Vitiello Communications Group, nearly 70% of employees think their companies should us SMS to communicate with employees, and 86% say it should not just be reserved for customer communication.

These statistics show that mobile use isn’t just here to say, but that it’s growth is changing the way businesses are communicating securely and reliably both internally and with customers.

SMSEagle is Hardware SMS gateway to send and receive SMS text messages. To find out how we can help you reach your customers, check out our online store.

 

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Megan has been writing about enterprise technology, data, infosecurity and environmental technology for several years. Tweet her @MeganRoseM, or check out her blog: www.meganmorreale.com.

5 easy ways retailers can use texting services to bring in customers

Retail history is full of people focusing on small details while having big dreams. For instance, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton used to fly his own tiny plane to stake out possible future store locations, or drive boxes of clothing over back roads himself to avoid highway tolls.

J.C. Penney founder James Cash Penney was said to go out of his way to pick up any dropped spare change, especially pennies, saying that it all adds up fast.

But as thrifty as both men were, they also felt that customer satisfaction was equally important, and that most shoppers want a good deal as much as the store does.

Today many retail owners, managers and marketing teams continue this philosophy. There is more competition, including online marketplaces, but there also more opportunities, especially where mobile devices are considered.

They make it easy for shoppers to enjoy browsing a store’s site from anywhere they please, and also to place an order if your shop offers secure online purchasing. But to really communicate to customers and drive them to keep on shopping you need to incorporate texting into your marketing plan.

Since a growing number of people are texting more frequently, a text from a favorite store isn’t a novelty anymore, but may even be expected.

Try these examples of how a retailer of any size can get the word out directly and effectively to their audience.

·         Coupons. Since everyone still loves a deal, they also likely won’t mind when they get a text with a link to a nice discount. Even better, it will always be easy to get to and redeem, unlike a hard copy coupon that’s easy to lose or leave at home.

·         Special sales. While a coupon could be used for one product, a text notifying subscribers about an upcoming sale can include deals in several departments or on several products. Photos also can help get people excited. People can also shop the sale online or at an actual location.

·         VIP area. A texting service can allow retailers to create different databases based on customer preferences. There could be a general one that anyone can subscribe to, and even a more elite one for ‘better’ customers – you decide the eligibility. A certain level of spending? A certain number of years of being an active customer? Or the fact that they subscribed for extra texts and promotions makes them VIPs. This area can include deeper or more frequent discounts, different sales, or more familiar-sounding texts.

·         Personal contact. If your customer base in the hundreds or thousands, it’s no longer easy to communicate with them unless they come into the store and say hello. But with texting, you can contact people directly on occasion as a special treat. Or use your database and texting program to automatically put the person’s first name in the text.  This automated personal touch will come across like a direct invitation. How can you say no?

·         Try geofencing. Your online team may already know how to deliver specific ads to your phone when you’re in a certain geographic area. (It has to do with the WiFi signal and specific geographic coordinates.) But the same principle can be used for texting:  how about an automated  text when a shopper is physically near your retail location? This will get a shopper’s attention even faster than seeing it on their email browser and could nudge them to visit.

For more suggestions on useful ways to use text and texting services to benefit your retail business, visit smseagle.eu/blog.

 

Joe Butler writes about personal finances and the modern retail experience. He loves the idea of mobile coupons, since he frequently forgets the paper ones at home.
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Why texting can benefit patients & health care providers.

Texting is becoming a prime method of communicating, so it’s natural the practice is moving into health care.

Patients like how texting a nurse or doctor can bypass the receptionist, answering service or voice mail and not require scheduling or waiting for an appointment. It’s also discrete to text a provider to discuss problem, and not have anyone overhear.

Medical office staff may find that texting can help their organization as well, including assisting with scheduling and even reduce call volume if more patients text questions.

In fact, about the only people who haven’t been sure about the appropriateness of texts in health cares are providers themselves. Their reasons seem generally less about the potential for improving quality of care, and more about the complex legal challenges that could arise when doctors start texting.

First, the modern physician is busy seeing patients and with paperwork, so taking time to text may cut into a crowded schedule or take time away from patient visits. Being able to directly contact a doctor anytime also changes the dynamic of the modern medical system where most doctors have plenty of gatekeepers/staff between him/her and the patient.

There are also questions if a text from a doctor constitutes actual medical advice or just a conversation. Then there are the potential violations of HIPPAA, the medical privacy law designed to prevent unauthorized disclosure of patient information.

Physician groups have been wrestling with texting for years, but in 2016, The Joint Commission voted to permit them, provided physicians take steps to keep their phones secure and encrypted.  The organization felt there could be greater benefits for patient care, such as physicians being able to quickly send texts to consult with colleagues, nurses or pharmacists.

Other areas where texting has been in use or has shown potential in health care include:

  • Office assistance. Patients can send in texts requesting appointments, or offices can use automated texting software to confirm and remind them about upcoming visits.
  • Unscheduled appointments. Some emergency rooms and urgent care centers are now accepting texts. This can alert the staff that a patient is coming in so they can begin the paperwork process, rather than waiting for the patient to arrive to start registration. Some facilities also can return a text from a potential patient to advise how long the wait time is, and confirm that the patient has a place on the list. This has the potential to reduce wait times at both of these types of providers.
  • Regular health information. A medical office can ‘push’ information out to its patients and other text subscribers such as invitations to come in on a regular basis for procedures like flu shots in the fall or sun screening in the spring. Texts can drive people to health info on the practice’s site, an e-newsletter other useful health and wellness resources, such as links from local public health officials. Some texting programs also can be synced to a database so someone’s name can appear.
  • General questions. While providers may be wary of sending patient information by text, such as test results, they may consider asking one member of their staff to take on this duty. This option can be announced to patients to assure them that it’s OK to text as long as they follow certain rules.  Along with directly answering and assisting, they can text useful links to help answer someone’s question. This can provide legitimate medical information, rather than encouraging the patient to do their information online, which can be risky at times with so many inaccuracies.
  • Health alerts. As a service to the local patient community, texts can be sent out with information about epidemics and general medical emergencies like epidemics or disasters.

Because physicians are just beginning to explore the potential of texting, there are plenty of possible ways to improve efficiency and delivery of care in the future.

 

Joe Butler writes about personal finances and the modern retail experience. He loves the idea of mobile coupons, since he frequently forgets the paper ones at home.
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5 reasons why schools should add texting to safety plans

Today’s college officials face challenges that that previous generations of education professionals never had to deal with, starting with the Internet.

Though advances in digital technology have generally been a good thing as far as program delivery and creating more interactive multimedia classroom experiences, they have also created more potential for harm, or at least new distractions for instructors and students.

At the same time, interest in school security has also risen, partly due to increases in violence at secondary schools and colleges. Though shootings get headlines and cause high levels of fear, other crimes can take place too, including assaults with other weapons.

Because of a push to keep students safer, educators and security staff continue to search for new methods to alert students during a crisis – it doesn’t have to be violence, but any occasion when information needs to be delivered in a hurry. Perhaps it could be a natural disaster or even a serious traffic accident or weather situation that could impact traffic in and out of campus.

One solution that has gained popularity is texting, when school officials can send instructions to students and faculty in the event of a safety situation.

Here’s why it should be added to a college’s security plan.

  • Students are more likely to see a text first.

Emergency warnings in the past have included mass emails or automated phone calls. But these may not be able to be seen as quickly as a text – sometimes emails or voice messages aren’t checked for hours or days while a text can be seen in minutes. Since more students are using mobile devices, especially for texting, it’s likely that they will hear and see an immediate message, or at least someone near them will.

  • It’s a faster delivery method.

Depending on your particular texting service, thousands of one-to-many texts can be sent a matter of minutes. In comparison, thousands of mass emails must be sent in small bursts over hours to avoid spam detectors. Texts are also universal – the same message can be seen on everyone’s phone.

  • Brief is better.

In emergency situations, school officials may just send out short details and quick instructions, with the expectation that more info will be shared later. “Active shooter on campus, seek shelter.” “Tornado coming, stay indoors, will text all-clear later.”

  • No reply needed.

Sending one-to-one texts can create opportunities for a conversation, but one-to-many texts aren’t intended for interaction, only instructions. Officials sending texts may not have time or interest to answer the same question multiple times, so it’s easier just to send an identical message out to everyone.

  • Different databases can be managed easily.

A college may have multiple ‘text’ lists, such as students on different campuses, or even local media. Plus it may have an ‘everyone’ list.  Most texting programs make it easy to specify which database when creating a message. This can make sure the correct students and staff receive the message.

Secondary schools like middle schools and elementary schools will likely require different texting policies than colleges. Younger students may not even own mobile phones, or if they do have them, they may not be permitted in the classroom.

In this case, school alerts should be sent to faculty/staff and perhaps a separate database for parents. These also can give quick, direct information with the promise of more details to come. “School in lockdown. Keep students calm and in classrooms.” “Fire in gym, please evacuate to field.”

Leaders also should keep in mind that every school’s texting plan should be customized based on local resources and the local community.

Overall, it’s critical that a school gets the word out as much as possible prior to launching a texting service to make sure many as many people sign up. Schools also should consider sending out several types of warnings, not just texts, in case a student may not have their phone on or even with them on any given day.

 

Joe Butler writes about personal finances and the modern retail experience. He loves the idea of mobile coupons, since he frequently forgets the paper ones at home.
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