Let’s face it: we’re accustomed to instant gratification in the Internet Age. With the expansion of technology, Amazon order confirmations arrive in email inboxes instantaneously, while hungry customers track the location of their much-awaited pizza delivery each step of the way.
Instant gratification is a sign of the times!
Likewise, if you want to run a sustainable, profitable business in 2019, then digitization is not only useful– it’s necessary. And it’s easier than you think.
Did you know that 30 percent of tasks involved in over half of all jobs could be automated using technology that exists right now?
According to McKinsey & Company, a global management consultancy firm, this number will grow even higher as technology develops–which is great news for your business, your employees and your profits.
And no, we’re not talking about robots coming to take over your job (although some pretty cool robots exist). From automatic “Abandoned Cart!” emails to payroll and employee onboarding, automation is already a mainstay of modern organizations.
So, looking for inspiration? Here’s just a few of the amazing ways to automate your business.
Artificial intelligence is taking over the world–and it should be taking over your daily processes. Machine- and deep-learning AI provides a cost-effective solution for both carrying out mundane day-to-day tasks and engaging with customers.
For example, AI-powered bots are revolutionizing customer service abilities by providing 24/7 assistance for regular inquiries and troubleshooting.
Meanwhile, SiriusDecisions, an industry analyst firm, found that sales reps spend only about one-quarter of their entire work week actually selling to customers. The rest of the time–approximately 27 hours each week–is spent on administrative tasks like data entry.
These duties tend to consume a lot of time and energy. Instead, by automating the process, employees could spend their time closing deals and making connections to new leads and investors.
Customer and Employee Relations
At its core, CRM, or customer relationship management, includes all the technologies and strategies involved in these relationships, like email marketing, telephone calls, mail and social media marketing
If it sounds like a lot — well, that’s because it is. Manually logging all customer data (accurately) throughout the sales funnel is time-consuming and subject to human error. It’s also nearly impossible to maintain communications with every single lead. In those cases, both the business and the customer suffer.
Thanks to automated email responses, data collection and communications, these problems are a relic of the past. According to a study by Enterprise Apps Today, over 60 percent of respondents believe that automation boosts customer experience. Digitization not only eases business processes, but it improves B2C ( business-to-consumer) relationships, too.
Hackers and cybersecurity threats are growing more complex and common every day. Automating your data security systems with AI machine learning can provide a base level of protection while freeing up IT professionals to focus on progressing your business’ systems or confronting only the most complex of threats.
According to McKinsey, digitizing data-heavy processes within businesses can cut costs by up to 90 percent. You can automate everything from employee and customer onboarding, legacy-system integration, data migration and far more.
Although the initial implementation of automation can take time, effort and money, the payoff is well worth the investment.
Where Should You Start?
To figure out where to start digitizing your business, there are a few questions you should be asking yourself, like: what would improve my customer’s experience and, how can I better communicate with customers?
Further questions such as: which tasks can I automate to save time and cut costs; and finally, how you can ease the daily tasks of your employees in order to better utilize their skills (productivity) are also important points to consider.
Whether you begin with cybersecurity, automating payroll and onboarding, or equipping your site with AI-powered technology, digitizing your small business will lead to happier employees, satisfied customers and a profitable structure for the future.
Running your business requires choosing the right tools for you and your employees. In order to streamline work-related productivity, many organizations are migrating to cloud-based office suites—specifically, Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite (formally known as Google Apps).
Both products boast a variety of helpful
productivity tools and the latest remote collaboration technologies. While it’s
impossible to say which one is “better,” this head-to-head comparison can help
you decide which office suite is a better fit
for your business.
What are G Suite & Office 365?
Office 365 and G Suite are suites, or packages, of powerful business tools that facilitate you and your employees day-to-day tasks using the cloud. They even provide business email addresses (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org), along with apps for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, video conference calls, shared calendars and notes.
In addition, storing information on Google or Microsoft servers, rather than your own via these suites, can also save your business a lot of money when it comes to IT costs and maintenance.
Plans and Pricing
First, let’s look at plans and prices. It’s important to note that Microsoft requires an annual commitment, while Google offers you the option to make monthly payments if you prefer.
While both Office 365 and G Suite offer web and mobile apps (Outlook and Gmail, respectively) for email, there are some subtle differences.
One plus-side to Office 365 is the desktop version of Outlook, which is incredibly feature-rich and lets you sort and group emails with ease. Gmail, on the other hand, is widely used throughout the world. For this reason, a variety of third-party app options (like WordPress) can be linked to it to enhance its capabilities.
Cloud Data Storage
For the entry level plans, Office 365 Business Essentials wins out with 1 TB (terabyte) of storage per user, while the G Suite Basic plan only offers 30 GB. To make matters worse, G Suite includes emails in this storage limit, whereas Office 365 provides extra storage for email files and has an added archiving feature.
However, G Suite’s upgraded plans beat out most of Microsoft’s storage offerings. So long as your business has more than five employees, G Suite Business and Enterprise provides unlimited cloud storage (although, businesses with less than 5 employees on the “Business” plan are capped at 1 TB). Only Microsoft E3 plans and higher offer the same unlimited cloud storage.
Applications are the cornerstones of a suite’s functionality. G Suite and Office 365 offer you a variety of comparable apps for word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations, all on the cloud!
While both services offer mobile and online apps, one major benefit of Office 365 is its desktop applications.
This means every user gets a free desktop version of the Office suite (i.e. Microsoft Word, Excel) to download.
These feature-rich apps expand far beyond the capabilities of the mobile and online versions, and are available on every plan except the ‘Business Essentials’.
These online applications make both suites ideal for remote collaboration. Microsoft Teams lets facilitates this with tools like real-time co-authoring, mentioning users by name and chat capabilities while working on OneDrive. Microsoft now lets you collaborate using its desktop apps, too, although the updates to shared files are a bit sluggish compared to its online apps.
Similarly, G Suite offers Hangouts for
chats, and Google Drive for real-time collaboration. Google’s online and mobile
apps were created with cloud collaboration in mind, so some might find them a
bit more user-friendly.
For remote meetings, G Suite and Office 365 both offer group video conference calls. If you plan on large-scale video conferences, then Office 365 offers far more for your money: most plans have a 250-participant limit, while the E3 plan increases to an astounding 10,000-person limit.
Meanwhile, G Suite’s Google Meet allows up to 25 participants on the “Basic” plan, 50 on the “Business” plan and 100 on the “Enterprise” plan.
Cloud services are running into a variety
of security issues, and these suites are no exception.
A 2019 Barracuda Networks’ report found that a large percent of ATO (account takeover) attacks were targeted at Microsoft Office 365 accounts after businesses migrated emails to the service. These attacks prompted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to issue a set of best practices to help organizations migrate their email services while avoiding risks and vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, Google recently announced that a cloud storage feature for encrypted passwords on its “Enterprise” plans was faulty. As a result, some user passwords were stored in plaintext on Google’s servers!
While cloud computing has its risks, the two suites do have impressive security features. G Suite is comparable to Google’s own level of security, and offers AI detection of suspicious activity, Two-Factor authentication and data leak protection—in which admins can block outgoing communication determined by set keywords.
On the other hand, Office 365 has the
option of Multiple
Factor Authentication, along with detection of malware, viruses and suspicious
activities. Microsoft also provides data loss protection, and admins can
restrict access to company-issued devices only.
Ease of Use
So, which is easier to use? Well, it depends on who you are, and your ability to grasp software quickly.
If you’re accustomed to working with MS
Word or Excel documents, and edit them for work on a regular basis, then Office
365 and its desktop-to-online formatting compatibility will probably be your
best bet. This is especially true if your company solely computes with Windows
However, new users might find G Suite apps
easier to learn, as the tools are a bit simpler and straightforward.
is best for you? A Summary:
Some key benefits of each suite: Firstly, Office 365 offers feature-rich apps, and most of its plans come with desktop version of MS Office applications—a definite advantage over its competitors.
Its entry level plan is far more generous in terms of data storage than G Suite’s “Basic” plan. In addition, businesses that already exclusively use Windows technology are likely to find Office 365 better-suited for their needs.
With that said, G Suite was originally designed as a cloud collaborative productivity tool. Therefore, its features might be easier for collaboration and can be used among a wider variety of Windows and Mac devices. In addition, G Suite “Business” plans and above outdoes Microsofts’ when it comes to unlimited cloud file storage.
Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which of the two is “best.” But, with this knowledge in mind, you can make an informed decision to choose the best cloud suite for you.
The term “storage wars” has taken on a new meaning. It has shifted literally from the ability to keep one’s belongings in physical containers to having one’s data stored and managed in the digital realm.
A question often asked is whether the (Internet) cloud is infinite. The answer is both a yes and no.
The top four cloud tech companies are endlessly engaged in a silent market share war. It is a tough choice as they all offer millions of gigabytes in storage. It is therefore fair to interrogate to what extent is there an abundance of storage after which storage space will run out.
Other factors to consider is the actual server location, ability to sync any folders and perform selective Synchronization.
There are also key offerings such as offering the ability to edit files on mobile devices. For businesses, the ability to remotely wipe mobile devices, perform file-versioning, and other useful features for data management.
As a business, if the above-mentioned features are not in your cloud solution, you better look into switching away.
While you can technically run your own cloud, it would require a full-on IT team. That or a very good support system to assist in its maintenance and administration.
It is for this very reason that a SaaS(and Hybrid)-approach to storage is preferred by many medium to large enterprises.
Here are 4 of the most popular CSPs
A standard (personal)GoogleDrive starts from 15 GB in size and comes when you open a Google email account. This is a standard with most Android-powered mobile phones which require a Gmail account to register the phone. It is a convenient way to store and access your pics, videos, and files across multiple devices or back them up in case of a hard drive crash.
If you do not mind the inconvenience of having several logins, you could get away with multiple drives giving you 15 GBs each.
There is, however, a drawback as there is no such a thing as a free lunch – the level of security and compliance features naturally are little to almost none. Additional storage can also be purchased with different upgrade plans, which may come with more add=ons such as extra file encryption.
When it comes to their business offering, their Team Drive is available with the G-Suite bundle. One can upload 750 GB of data per day and up to a total 5 TB in size. Team Drive can contain a maximum of 100,000 files and folders, however, this limit can be increased upon request.
The basic package including the more advanced security costs $5 per user per month and gives you 30 GB for storage and collaboration.
The ease of accessing and using the drives via strategic partnerships such as the one with Android provides them with growing market share. As it is cloud-based and not linked to physical devices, you can access your GoogleDrive using a Mac computer as well.
There are growing talks of incorporating Artificial Intelligence <AI> into the data management systems and currently building a full AI Center in Accra, Ghana. This will help bigger companies manage, access and organize their stored information faster and with more purpose.
This comes with revised pricing and storage options: 15 GB: remains Free; 100 GB costs $1.99/month; 200 GB $2.99/month and 2 TB $9.99/month.
Google is a latecomer when it comes to offering business solutions and still battles with the stigma of being a free service and thus associated with inferior quality.
The integration with Office applications is still something they struggle to get right. Not many are fans of their free word processing software included in Googlesheets.
Most non-Microsoft platforms will have this compatibility problem.
They also run into a few data syncing problems ever so often, especially with the free storage. They offer full 24/7 customer and technical support with their products. More aggressive advertising and pricing of their business offerings now serves to hopefully alleviate this issue for them.
How Google bounces back from a hefty EUR 4,34 billion fine for the mentioned collusion with Android will determine if they survive the storage war. This especially if they will be now forced to allow other CSPs to offer services on mobile devices.
They are actually seen as a formal threat and direct (more superior) competitor to Microsoft’s cloud (equivalent) offering – which we touch on next.
Most of this comes from a robust and apparently the world’s largest global cloud infrastructure.
Based on this, its cloud storage, dubbed Amazon S3, works on a “pay as you use” basis while its free tier starts you off on 5GB of storage. Thereafter you pay in increments based on the storage class you fall under.
So the first 50 TB will cost $0.023 per GB per month and then the next 450 TB will cost $0.022 per GB per month and so on.
This is practical for businesses that do not have a limit to storage space but scale up and down very quickly based on their operations.
Amazon’s storage platform gives users and businesses alike the ability to geographically store and move data with the highest levels of encryption. In addition, one can use data analytics on your data without moving the data into a separate analytics system.
Amazon Athena additionally provides anyone who knows SQL on-demand query access to vast amounts of unstructured data. As with Google, AI incorporation along with Alexa would facilitate this even further.
Other notable benefits offered include open workflows, Hybrid-cloud storage capability, powerful APIs and easy and reliable access to many Third-Party vendors & Partners.
Naturally, you get access to its AWS Marketplaces. It also has a strong compliance adherence including HIPAA/HITECH, EU Data Protection Directive, and FISMA.
Storage users need to have a .Net Framework and SQL installed to use the storage. For those looking for quick storing solutions without building heavy infrastructure, they can adopt the cloud completely.
With the launch of its online services (Microsoft 365,), it has had to repackage a portion of its Azure platform to cater for small to mid-sized businesses.
These include functional/specific bundles such as OneDrive (personal), OneDrive for Business and Sharepoint (a powerful storage and content management tool).
The online version of the Sharepoint starts at $5.00 per user per monthfor a rather limited 1 TB per organization. Thereafter, users can purchase more in 1 GB increments of 12 to 16 (US) centsdepending on the total (storage space) size ordered.
Lastly, they offer storage to help perform computations and process events (Functions).
These bundles are all provided free for the first 12 months and then range from $0.002 per GB to about US 0.20c per million executions.
They have a good Partner system to help distinguish and provide support for the best storage package based on one’s immediate needs.
To bolster their growing Marketplace, they recently also purchased the business that deals with OpenSource (GitHub). This enables more freedom for developers to manipulate software on its platform.
For a comparison of the storage types via Azure and pricing for each, click here.
People have found its pricing a little to steep on the storage side and so keeping market share will be tough. Many new smaller CSPs offering cheaper per GB rates.
They can only counter this by offering more products that require their storage (compatibility-wise).
Some other cumbersome restrictions like users being only able to upload 20 000 files at once or the actual file-size limit might not bode too well with heavy cloud data users.
They also don’t have as many APIs as Google or Amazon does, but these are growing by the day.
Probably the first of the CSP batch that provided cloud computing. It therefore has had the experience of honing ways of storing and retrieving data for larger businesses. International Business Machines (or IBM) can be considered as the grandfather of data storage.
As with the other CSPs, there is a free offering called the “Lite plan” consisting of a single IBM Cloud service instance with storage up to 25 GB/month.
Paid storage is staggered, per consumption and based on complex costing tiers based on location, storage class, and resiliency choice.
Storage charges start from $0.09 for up to 50 GB down to $0.014 for 500+ TB on what they call the Cross Region Flex plan.
Their security is their biggest pride and strength and makes them a firm favourite for large companies and potentially governmental institutions.
The fact that they do not actively advertise as much as Google or Microsoft is telling. They clearly need to provide high secrecy and protection for their existing clients.
One such feature unique to the way data is stored on their cloud servers is using Information Dispersal Algorithms (IDAs). This helps to separate data in unrecognizable “slices” that are distributed across datacenters.
So basically the complete copy of the data resides in any single storage node, and only a subset of nodes are available in order to fully retrieve the data on the network. This is similar to how peer-to-peer sharing or data encryption works.
IBM relies too much on its reputation as a forerunner for tech and cloud-based computing. It has earned that title for several decades before the likes of Google and Amazon barged in.
They might lose out on market share once the newer CSPs start to offer more robust products and compliance services like theirs.
Their high security and complex system come at a premium so designed for or rather restricted to wealthy companies essentially. The hosting option (main server locations) looks limited and restricted to geographical areas primarily within the US and EU.
Be wary of clandestine terminology such as ‘unlimited archiving/storage’ even with a paid subscription. This usually refers to storing data at rest and not the ability to constantly and unlimitedly sync files.
Another salient factor to compare would be the number of files that you can upload or sync at the same time.
This will be relevant for larger companies that need to upload large files and by large, we mean 10 GB files (2 and a half HD DVDs’ worth of content) and upwards.
Making a choice
At the end of the day, your decision to take on a faction in the storage war should be based on your priorities. You simply match it to what each of the companies is offering taking your budget into consideration of course.
You may need to consider running a combination of two or more of them.
Some larger companies offer storage as a “must have” with hosted email or along with something as basic as purchasing a new smartphone.
You will, however, have to ask yourself a few more pressing questions around functionality, data security and compliance before taking it up.
Or you can simply not accept the offer or disable it in cases where it is presented as a freebie!