SMBs Like SaaS, AT&T and Verizon Prices, Sprint and the NFL, Haitian D.C. Command Center

David Sims : First Coffee
David Sims
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SMBs Like SaaS, AT&T and Verizon Prices, Sprint and the NFL, Haitian D.C. Command Center

The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is The Kinks' scorching live set One For The Road:

Small and mid-sized businesses are becoming "more sophisticated" in their technology purchases, trying out software-as-a-service (SaaS) and managed services, new research from CompTIA finds.

The survey of more than 400 SMBs across the United States finds that "nearly 30 percent of them plan to implement SaaS in 2010," with the primary reason given being "to lower costs and maintain their competitive edge."
That's up from 22 percent and 14 percent respectively in the two prior years.
"Between 70 percent and 80 percent of the SMBs we surveyed consider the usage of ERP, CRM and online e-commerce capabilities as strategic to their business," says Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA. "IT solutions that are tied to instant return on investment in business communication and customer outreach efforts have the highest likelihood of adoption."

Thirty percent of SMBs say they intend to implement managed services in 2010. Perhaps not surprisingly, 42 percent of SMBs do not have a formal IT department, the study finds, "relying instead on workers handling IT needs on a part-time basis." Obviously with such jerry-built IT things fall through the cracks, things having to do with customer service, clients, customers and profits. Hence the need for managed services.

SMBs, the study finds, want technology to "drive revenues, produce immediate results to the bottom line and have a direct, positive impact on the customer's experience." As a result there's growing adoption of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) and related products.

Though the study found SMBs "somewhat upbeat" about business prospects in 2010 -- seven in ten expect positive revenue growth -- they said they want to keep current IT systems operational as long as they can -- hey IT budgets are lean, too. Nobody's looking for excuses to rip everything out and start over.

"Technology providers may be well advised to approach SMBs with either new IT tools that represent low perceived risk or replacements that positively impact productivity and efficiency," Herbert advises.

The survey was conducted among 409 SMBs during the fourth quarter of 2009 to determine their adoption, purchase plans, perception, mindset, spending, purchase decision making and related issues vis-à-vis IT products and services. Respondents were representative of businesses with 10-499 employees in manufacturing, finance and insurance, healthcare, government and other industries.

"Unlimited" plans are the best deal, right? Maybe. Maybe not.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless recently lowered pricing on unlimited voice plans, generating headlines of increased competition and consumer benefits. Great. But, ask officials of Validas, an online wireless billing analysis and service vendor, "do consumers really know whether the new unlimited plans will actually benefit them?"
Tom Pepe, founder and CEO of Validas, says "the reality is that the more options there are and the more plans change, the less consumers actually know what's best for them."

In some cases, Pepe says, "subscribers will actually be forced to pay more for the wireless plans, especially in the case of family plans. Because carriers are now offering fewer options for big family plans, more people are being forced to move up-plan into unlimited plans, even though unlimited plans are actually oversized for them."
For example: Validas officials say some popular 4,000-minute family plans were discontinued with the introduction of the new unlimited plans. "Now a family of five will actually pay $480 more per year on the new unlimited plan, which is the closest option to their previous plan." 

Pepe notes that in an industry "where the FCC is asking carriers to simplify wireless billing practices, new services, applications and calling plans are continuously coming to market, which inevitably creates more confusion."

Validas sells online wireless billing analysis, providing an online service letting customers optimize rate plans.

Sprint is the official wireless telecommunications service provider of the National Football League.
So if you want to call a friend, clergyman or mental health professional to agonize about Brett Favre deciding to throw a complete brain-lock interception on the last play of regulation instead of running for a few yards to give reliable kicker Ryan Longwell a decent shot at the field goal to send them to the Super Bowl, the NFL would appreciate it if you used Sprint to do so.
Sprint officials say they have enhanced and rolled out the company's network playbook in preparation for the 2010 Pro Bowl on January 31 and Super Bowl XLIV on February 7 in South Florida.
This is the first time in this reporter's life he's heard of anybody planning anything for the NFL Pro Bowl, the most meaningless event in the American sporting year. The Bud Bowl generated more passion and the Lingerie Football League plays more compelling football.

Sprint has invested more than $2.3 million on telecommunication enhancements for game-day communications, in addition to more than $53 million in network improvements Sprint made during 2008 and 2009 in Florida's Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties to augment its wireless networks, company officials say.

"Hundreds of thousands of fans are expected to visit South Florida," says Bob Azzi, senior vice president of Network for Sprint, adding that at Gate G of Sun Life Stadium in Miami, the Sprint 4G Mobile Marketing Vehicle will be available for three hours before the start of the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl to give attendees hands-on demonstrations of Sprint 4G products and services.

Sprint is the first national wireless carrier to test, launch and market 4G technology. It's already available in 27 markets and "will continue to expand to new cities," according to company officials, who tout speeds of up to ten times normal service.

To handle the increased traffic for the Super Bowl -- the Pro Bowl will generate about the same increase in traffic as a busload of lost Japanese tourists -- Sprint will deploy five Cell Sites on Wheels -- cute acronym -- near Sun Life Stadium and the Miami Beach area for additional network coverage and capacity.

Sprint will also add fifty new cell sites between 2008 and 2009 in South Florida to enhance wireless coverage.

In response to the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, officials with the District of Columbia and the Haitian Ambassador to the U.S. have opened a Command Center at the Haitian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The Command Center includes WebEOC as the emergency information management system. WebEOC officials say it "will enable the Haitian Embassy to more effectively manage its relief efforts."
Jerome DuVal, ESi VP for Federal Services and head of the D.C. office, said "we were able to get the Embassy Command Center fully operational within 48 hours."

The District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, with the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, set up the command center in the embassy on January 17. The resources donated include 20 laptop computers, 20 telephones and phone lines, and training for embassy staff.
Verizon contributed the phone line installation, and ESi is hosting the WebEOC emergency information management software. "Communications resources is crucial to ensuring that the maximum support possible reaches Haiti," says HSEMA Acting Director Millicent Williams.

A team of WebEOC experts from ESi worked in the embassy and from remote locations around the world to stand up an instance of WebEOC on ESi's remote servers, WebEOC officials say: "The team created situation boards tailored to the needs of the mission, including boards for tracking missing persons, managing volunteers, and accepting donations."

"This is a significant opportunity for us to contribute to Haiti's recovery from this terrible disaster," says Nadia Butler, CEO and President of ESi.

Augusta, Georgia-based ESi is a crisis information management technology vendor. WebEOC and the company's other products are designed to connect crisis response teams and decision makers at national, state and local agencies, healthcare providers, airlines and corporations worldwide.

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