Guest Post: How to Run Your Business Exclusively in the Cloud

Choosing to move your business exclusively to the cloud isn’t just a matter of being in good company, as a majority of organizations start making the shift. Working in the cloud, though, will also become the norm for your clients, who are accustomed to doing everything from holding meetings to managing projects with cloud-based tools. Now, moving to the cloud doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five ways to leverage the cloud to benefit your business.

Back Up Your Data

Data loss due to hardware failure, hacking or human error are pervasive threats for any small business. Don’t leave yourself open to data vulnerabilities and profit loss. Set the standard for safety and organization by creating a data backup policy. Instead of relying on your own team to back up data and perform test restorations, outsource it to a third-party cloud provider.

A service like Mozy offers varied pricing for small businesses and enterprise companies alike to protect valuable workplace data, while helping to grow their business. Mozy also allows users to create an automated backup schedule to keep their data safe and ready to restore when needed.

Dominate Your Marketing Game

Marketers have long used the cloud to create and schedule social media posts with tools like Buffer. But creating podcasts in the cloud can also raise awareness for your business and attract new customers. According to a survey from Edison Research, fans of podcasts listen to an average of five on-demand presentations per week. As podcasts grow in popularity, they represent untapped opportunity to market to new audiences who are looking for business advice, insights and non-traditional entertainment.

Small-business owners can use podcasts with tools like Skype to interview guests and Audacity to edit their audio. These podcasts can be used to promote your products and/or interview delighted customers. Speaking directly to your target market every week can also quickly build credibility and trust to expand your marketing efforts.

Onboard Virtual Employees

Finding employees on sites like UpWork and Guru.com is the easy part. Figuring out how to onboard and train employees so they can immediately jump into their new roles isn’t always an intuitive process. Give new hires a face-to-face welcome with cloud-based tools through video chat or a group meeting with services like Redbooth.

Next, give your new employees access to online project management tools like Google Docs and Asana to help outline their responsibilities. But, unlike employees who physically work in the office, virtual employers tend to miss out on the social aspects that a traditional workplace affords. Looking for ways to make these employees feel like a bigger part of the team? Combat the negative side effects of isolation with weekly checkins to keep your employees engaged with your business and their work.

Collaborate Online

Cut down time spent on project management and collaborate online instead. There’s no need to schedule in-person or video meetings with employees and freelancers. Instead, use a cloud-based collaborative tool like Trello to set up a visual dashboard that will help to better manage your projects. Assign teams to specific tasks, upload images and videos, and stay in touch on project deadlines without leaving the Trello system.

Meantime, Slack offers users the ability to conduct real-time messaging and upload projects as well as stay on task and maintain their productivity. Through Slack, workplace teams get a completely transparent view of a project from start to finish and can make calls right from the platform to ask questions or follow up on a task.

Let Clients Find You

Working exclusively in the cloud makes it easier to find clients and start earning revenue immediately. Creating a company profile on LinkedIn is just the first step. Next, use LinkedIn’s publishing platform as another avenue to post your company’s content marketing pieces in order to directly target your next dream client.

Optimize your website to attract clients with videos explaining your services and products, offer unique content to prospects in exchange for their contact information, and routinely host an industry podcast. But there are other ways to find clients when they need you most. For example, expanding your reach by signing up as a consultant on a site like Guru.com can also help put you in front of clients who need you most.

Deciding whether to run your business in the cloud shouldn’t even be a debate. But finding the right tools and processes to help run your business can overwhelm even the best of decision-makers. Start by focusing on the tools you need most and expand as your company grows.

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The Secret to Success in IoT: Microsoft Partner ICONICS Shares It’s IoT Cloud Experiences

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)? The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic these days. Unlike many overhyped technology visions over the years, IoT has the underpinnings today to start happening throughout the developed world. Sensors everywhere. Ubiquitous mobile wireless communications. Powerful data analytics. Graphic visualization tools.

Although the Internet of Things (IoT) often refers to connected devices in a personal or industrial setting, it also has the potential to unlock vast opportunities in many cities today, from energy management in civic buildings to traffic monitoring to public services. But that wealth of possibilities can be overwhelming to local governments, as public agencies try to find ways to get started with IoT while making the most of limited resources. The CityNext blog has some  advice from guest blogger Melissa Topp of Microsoft partner ICONICS: Don’t try to do it all at once. Instead, pick one thing and spend time getting it right before expanding your Cloud IOT program.

So Pick Your Best Bet And Get Started on IoT! ICONICS works with Microsoft to deliver cutting-edge tools for infrastructure, mobility and analytics, on a Microsoft Azure cloud platform that reduces capital investment and dramatically expands data storage and processing capabilities. In her post, Topp explains how a recent smart energy management project for Peirce Elementary School in Arlington, Mass., illustrates the keys to success for cities’ IoT Cloud deployments. By starting with a single project — in this case, cutting summer operating costs in a school building — then focusing on that problem until they had it right, and finally expanding their program in phases, the school’s administrators were able to discover and resolve equipment problems and lower energy costs. Topp’s experience is a good reminder to businesses in any industry that IoT deployments don’t have to be massive and overwhelming to make an impact.

Want To learn More About How Microsoft IoT Helps Cities and Businesses? Here’s a link to understand how this can happen and while you are taking a look at this consider how, when a city changes how it does things, how does that affect the experience of the customer of that city? It’s huge!

IoT Can Be Daunting for City Governments. After all, with just one of Google’s self-driving cars gathering 750 MB of sensor data every second of driving time, the amount of data that a fully wired city would generate in a second would have to be in the petabytes. What’s more, cities would have to figure out where to put all that data. It’d be a bigger problem than Boston had finding places to put all its snow during last winter’s relentless blizzards! But it doesn’t have to be daunting. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Think of IoT as the same thing. Don’t try to do everything. Just pick one aspect of your business where it will have a real impact to revenue generation, cost savings, and the customer experience.

Wired (IoT) Cities Drive Better Experiences. Nonetheless, cities around the world are “wiring up,” as the many Microsoft CityNext customer stories can attest. Among those cities are also many ICONICS customers. They’re successfully transforming themselves through greater operational visibility and efficiencies using our HMI/SCADA, mobility, and analytics tools for cutting-edge energy and sustainability solutions.

In working with hundreds of cities worldwide, we’ve found that their successful deployments typically have three common hallmarks that we might call “secrets” of their success.

  • First, they chose one place to start, many with a specific need in their municipal utilities, water treatment facilities, transportation systems, or schools.
  • Second, they focused their limited resources and energies on that starting point to ensure it worked, taking as many lessons as they could from it.
  • Third, they didn’t try to solve everything at once, but rolled out their deployments in phases.

What is An Example of a City That Has Gone Down The IoT Path? Arlington, Massachusetts, a town of 43,000 people six miles northwest of Boston, started with the need of its public schools to consolidate summer operations into one building, Peirce Elementary School. To help save air-conditioning costs, the district bought a new chiller, but it also sought energy management software. After evaluating competitors’ offerings, it chose ICONICS Facility AnalytiX hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Using Azure eliminated the need for any upfront capital expenditures in IT infrastructure.

Facility AnalytiX uses advanced Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) technology. FDD works via customizable fault rules that weigh the probability of equipment failure. It then alerts staff to actions they can take when faults occur.

IoT Focus Helps Save Time and Money. When equipment fails, the software analyzes current and historical information (along with symptom/cause relationships), executes predictive algorithms, and provides a list of possible causes sorted by probability. This information is securely available to all key stakeholders from desktops, browsers and smart devices such as Microsoft Surface tablets. FDD helped the district cut the time its HVAC contractors spend searching for malfunctions by as much as 20 percent.

The Facility AnalytiX software also showed that the chiller was unnecessarily turning itself on and off every five minutes. This cost the district energy and would potentially reduce the chiller’s lifespan, as constant cycling would put more wear on the equipment. The software helped the district save 20 percent of its energy consumption the first winter after installation.

When You Implement IoT, Phase it in With Fast, Easy Cloud Scalability. With the success of Arlington’s deployment of smart energy-management software in that single elementary school, the town is already working to adopt it to another school. And government buildings are likely candidates for additional deployments. In other words, it found one place to start; focused its resources on making it work; and is taking a phased approach.

With Microsoft Azure, adding those buildings to Arlington’s Facility AnalytiX operations dashboard is fast, easy, and economical. That’s because, by simply connecting to existing HVAC equipment, sensors, and SCADA network hookups, Azure can spin up another instance of Facility AnalytiX with just a series of mouse clicks.

Arlington is just one of many examples from the ICONICS customer base of a city that is implementing IoT — sometimes without actually realizing it — to improve operational visibility and lower costs. As the town adds more buildings to its smart-energy network, those benefits will continue to grow.

With Microsoft Azure, it won’t need to add any IT infrastructure that requires money, maintenance, repairs, and upgrades. In effect, Microsoft Azure is a standby IT resource for Arlington, just waiting to be tapped whenever new demands arise.

Want to Learn More About Cities, Clouds and IoT? For more ICONICS IoT customer stories or to learn more about ICONICS products and solutions, visit www.iconics.com/IoT. Learn more about ICONICS’ smart city solutions on Twitter. Follow Microsoft CityNext on Twitter for news, trends, and smart city solutions.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Cloud, IOT and Customer Experiences
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