Your Office Move is an Opportunity to Save Time and Money on your Telecom

The decision to relocate your business is never made lightly. While the process can be stressful and distracting, it’s also full of wonderful opportunities to make improvements and save money – particularly when it comes to your telecom services.

To help make your move a success, we’ve put together a list of things to keep in mind concerning your telecom equipment and services while you’re undergoing this process.

 

Establish your tech requirements:

  • Can the wiring at your new location handle your current setup?
  • Do you have the physical space you need for technology resources like power, cooling, conferencing, and wireless connectivity?
  • Do you have an accurate estimate of how much it will cost to purchase new equipment versus moving your old hardware?

It’s inevitable that your big office move is going to have hiccups, but going in with a plan can help you weather the storm of unproductivity. It’s important to consider your technology and its support systems before you commit to a big move in order to minimize your downtime and prevent large gaps in your overall office efficiency. For example, if your new location isn’t properly wired, you will need you will need to be on top of the re-wiring process to make sure your equipment has the proper connections it needs to function.

Assess current services:

  • Is your office keeping up with technology advances and taking advantage of the best, most recent deals for telecom services?
  • Are there services you can renew, eliminate or change? Do you need to downsize or upgrade?
  • If you’re moving your old services and implementing them at the new location, will your incumbent service provider force you to sign a new contract – locking you in with your current setup?

The telecommunications industry is a dynamic marketplace. The technologies, services and players are always changing. Whether you’re implementing your old services in your new office or finding new vendors entirely, you need to be fully aware of all the options available to you in order to make sure you have the technology you need, at the lowest possible price.

Talk to a telecom cost-reduction professional:

A professional cost-reduction consultant can help take the weight off your shoulders when you’re preparing for an office move. They can:

  • Set up a site visit and handle your tech audit beforehand, making sure nothing slides through the cracks.
  • Fully analyze the market and make sure you’re not getting locked into any overpriced contracts.
  • Investigate the most cost efficient way of getting you set up in your new location, including simplifying and modernizing your setup, while reducing costs in the process.

Your big move is a great opportunity to both find savings on your telecom bills and increase your overall satisfaction levels with your telecom environment. Plan for your future needs, assess your current tech, and make sure to contact a professional!

Ensuring Point of Sale Security (Both Online and Off)

When you’re operating a business, customer trust is paramount. Your shoppers trust you to be able to provide what they need, when they need it. They trust you to treat them fairly. Perhaps most importantly, they trust that conducting a transaction with you isn’t going to come back to bite them. If your customers’ credit card information is stolen because your payment solution wasn’t properly secured, their trust, and subsequently their business with you, will go right out the window.

Enter Point of Sale (POS) security. The prevention of unauthorized access by hackers looking for ways to steal customer information. By providing data protection and blocking up any security gaps, you can secure your customer transactions and ensure you’re never on the chopping block for leaking sensitive information – not to mention avoid potential massive fines from the card brands.

Consider the following points when addressing the security of your POS systems, both online and on-location.

1: Point-To-Point Encryption

Ensure that you have software in place to protect your customers’ data from exposure. Point-to-point encryption tools encrypt your customers’ data as soon as it’s received, and encrypt it again when it’s sent to the POS server. In other words, whether an attacker is trying to steal the data from the terminal or intercept it on the way to the server, you’re covered.

 2: Physical Location

You’ve probably heard the term “skimmer” before in reference to hijacking data from a customer’s card. Whether you still swipe cards or use a newer chip machine, a common tactic used by fraudsters is using physical equipment to tap into the POS terminal and intercept the information. Key loggers can record your PIN, and most of the time these devices are hidden within the terminal itself.

It’s much easier for a hacker to install a skimmer on a device that is simply sitting at a front desk or bar then it is to install one locked in a security case. If your terminal is sitting in view of the entrance to your location, consider keeping it under lock and key and under the supervision of a security camera. Hackers search for low risk, high reward terminals and a simple security case and camera are often more than enough to make your terminal an unattractive option.

If your terminals have a wireless connection, such as those used by servers at a restaurant, ensure you have a system in place to keep track of the physical terminals, and make sure you write down their individual serial numbers. Any terminal that goes missing for any length of time should be immediately suspect. In fact, merchants dealing with significant sales through their POS terminals should make checking for tampering part of their daily routine.

3: PCI Compliance

One of the most common issues we see with new merchant services clients here at Schooley Mitchell is with PCI compliance. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of procedures maintained by the PCI Security Standards Council. It has tons of guidelines revolving around authentication, encryption, vulnerability testing, antivirus, and more. These standards are designed to protect credit card information by ensuring that the systems used to transmit the data are sufficiently secure. Failure to adhere to these standards drastically increases your risk of data theft.

Validating your PCI compliance involves filling out an annual questionnaire and, depending on the scope of your own POS terminals, completing quarterly scans to check for vulnerabilities. In addition to keeping data secure, maintaining PCI compliance can also reduce the fees you are charged by your merchant services provider on every transaction. The safer your data, the smaller the risk you represent to the credit card companies.

4: Address Verification

You should always use an address verification system (AVS) if you accept online sales. Address verification is done by comparing the billing address from the purchase “request” with the address data on file at the issuing bank. This is an important step in preventing fraud, because a criminal stealing a card number often has no access to the billing address associated with the card itself. If they attempt to use the card for a purchase and the address doesn’t match, your AVS system will alert you to the discrepancy. Between your AVS and proper requirement of the CVV number on the back of your card, a fraudulent charge can be avoided even if the entire credit card number is stolen.

5: Suspicious Purchasing Patterns

If you accept payments online, you need to be aware of the warning signs and red flags that go hand-in-hand with online fraud. Signs include exceptionally large orders paired with one-day shipping, emails comprised of long strings of numbers and letters instead of real words or names, and several orders from a single IP address using multiple different credit cards. While none of these things are definitive proof of a fraudulent transaction, they can represent early warning signs, especially when used in tandem.

By monitoring for these red flags, along with utilizing your other fraud detection tools, you can help even the playing field and catch fraudulent transactions before they cause significant damage to you, your processor, and your customers.

By paying special attention to the points listed above and consulting with your merchant services provider directly or through a merchant services expert, you can maintain your reputation as a safe and reputable merchant, avoid the fees that go hand-in-hand with a data breach, and protect both yourself and your customers.

The Battle Between Amazon and Google Continues at CES 2019

UPS versus FedEx. MasterCard versus Visa. AT&T versus Verizon. All these famous rivalries pale in comparison to the biggest of the modern day – Amazon versus Google.

“The Battle for Second Place,” as it were, the two internet giants have been duking it out for years. According to Statista, Amazon and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) were the number two and three largest companies in the world by market value in 2018 respectively. By mid-year, Amazon was worth $777.8 billion U.S. dollars, with Alphabet trailing closely behind with a market value of 766.4 billion. Both are still a ways off from Apple’s gold medal showing of $926.9 billion, but the battle is fierce nonetheless.

Recently, the rivalry has been focused on smart home supremacy. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the market leaders in the smart-speaker environment, and they were both front and center at CES 2019, the world’s largest consumer tech show, which took place from January 8-11 in Las Vegas.

There were over 30 brand-new products compatible with voice assistants announced at CES this year, from ceiling fans and tech-driven crock pots to futuristic smart glasses and even Kohler’s smart toilet. While many of these products play nice with both Alexa and Assistant, some of the exclusives include a new front-door camera from the people at Amazon’s Ring and Google Assistant’s new “interpreter” mode that translates conversations in real time.

If we’re handing out awards for ostentation, Google took the crown this year with its massive booth outside the Las Vegas Convention Center – the centrepiece of which was the “It’s a Small World” promo that Google itself called “part ride, part marketing stunt.” Complete with singing animatronics, riders were carted through various scenes that showed off some of Google Assistant’s features, such as GPS navigation and the new interpreter mode.

Whether you’re a fan of Amazon, Google, or neither, it’s clear from the showing at CES that 2019 is going to be another big year for the smart-gear market.

Canada Post and its union aren’t negotiating

shipping cost reduction servicesSometimes, you just have to find someone else to make a decision for you.

It’s been over a week since Canadian postal workers were forced back to their jobs by legislation – but Canada Post and its union aren’t negotiating. Instead, they’re waiting for the government to appoint a mediator to resolve the issues that have plagued the Canadian post environment for nearly a month and a half.

Back-to-work legislation was officially passed last Monday ending legal strike action, but the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) warned officials that their fight is far from over.

CUPW president Mike Palecek called the legislation unconstitutional, stating “you cannot legislate labour peace.”

“In the coming days, we will be calling on our allies and membership for a campaign of mobilizations, demonstrations and non-violent civil disobedience,” Palecek’s statement said.

Both Canada Post and the CUPW were warned last week by Employment Minister Patty Hadju that the government would issue back-to-work legislation should they fail to reach an agreement within a few days.

True to her word, Bill C-89 was fast-tracked by the Liberal government through the House of Commons, and the Senate vote passed by 53 to 25, with four abstentions. C-89 imposes fines anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 per day on anyone found in contravention of the act, and up to $100,000 per day against CUPW or Canada post if either are found guilty of violating the terms.

Many Canadians depend on Canada Post to ship their small packages and mail, especially with the rapid approach of the holiday season. Despite the legislation, Canada Post has warned Canadians that they can expect delays of both mail and package delivery into the new year as a result of the rotating walkouts employed by CUPW.

If you’re nervous about potential delayed or missed deliveries this holiday season, there are several domestic and international small package shipping and courier businesses in Canada that remain unaffected by the strikes.

If you’re a business owner looking to reduce shipping costs, visit https://www.schooleymitchell.com/services/shipping/ for more information.

Are VPNs on the rise in the United States?

Since the repeal of net neutrality came into effect in June, a spotlight has been shown on Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs. These networks allow users to be anonymous while browsing. Some consumers are flocking to them “to maintain some control and security over their digital lives.”

PCMag recently “surveyed 3,000 US consumers about VPN use and buying trends” to see just how popular this option has become in the United States.

The publication says, it found “that while fewer than a third of consumers currently use VPNs, 52 percent of respondents said they’re more likely to use a VPN since net neutrality rules officially went kaput in June. More significantly, one in four respondents (26 percent) said that the net neutrality rollback directly influenced them to purchase a VPN app.”

Of the consumers using a VPN, there were four recurring reasons to do so. Forty-eight percent say “for security purposes,” 30 percent say “to safely access public Wi-Fi,” eighteen percent say “to share data securely,” and seven percent said they use a VPN to “avoid government surveillance.”

It looks like those selling VPNs have a lot to gain from the repeal of net neutrality, even as states such as California are passing laws to bring back the laws within its jurisdiction.

Source: pcmag.com – How Net Neutrality Repeal Is Fueling VPN Adoption
Published: October 22, 2018

Hurricane Michael damaged Verizon Fiber Network

If you live in Florida, Georgia, or Alabama and you have internet with Verizon, there is a good chance you’ve gone without it for days following Hurricane Michael. Four days after the storm landed, 300,000 homes “were still without home Internet, phone, or TV service,” according to Ars Technica, with 200,000 of them being in Florida. 15 percent of cell sites in Florida are suffering outages as well, says the Federal Communications Commission.

Unfortunately, the damage that has left these households without service might be lasting. Although telecoms have worked hard to get their services up and running again, some are facing “extensive fiber damage.”

On Verizon’s webpage for hurricane updates, the company said “The storm caused unprecedented damage to our fiber, which is essential for our network – including many of our temporary portable assets – to work.”

“We continue to work around the clock on network restoration efforts and have seen some positive movement, although fiber connection… still poses a significant challenge. For example, as soon as we have fiber repaired and start to see sites come back on air, we experience new cuts resulting from other restoration efforts happening in the community such as clearing roads, residential property clearing, and replacing electric poles,” Verizon explained.

This isn’t completely devastating for Verizon’s business in the states hit by Hurricane Michael. According to the carrier, 99 percent of its network in Georgia is in service, and 98 percent in Florida. It says, “”[T]he hardest hit area of Panama City, Panama City Beach and the surrounding communities [are] still experiencing the most impact.”

Source: Verizon fiber suffered “unprecedented” damage from Hurricane Michael
Published: October 15, 2018

Telecom employees penalized for giving customers better prices

telecom cost reduction services logoDon’t like the prices you’re getting from Canadian providers? Neither do their employees. A recent CBC report has revealed that employees across numerous Canadian telecom carriers are being punished for trying to help customers get a better deal, or for having a customer cancel services on them.

The news comes mainly from Rogers, Bell, and Fido employees.

Jason Harley, who worked as a Rogers sales representative in a Kitchener, Ontario call centre for two years call the job “brutal.”

According to CBC, Harley, “is one of a handful of past and present telco call centre employees for Rogers, Fido and Bell who are speaking out as the CRTC prepares to hold a public hearing on the sales practices of telecoms, due to begin Oct. 22.” The inquiry was ordered by the federal government after hundreds of past and present telecom workers contacted CBC with claims of unethical practices.

Harley told CBC that sales representatives at Rogers earn points towards commission for every product or service they sell. However, they also lose points for every time they cancel a customer’s service. “I would do everything I could not to cancel a customer’s services, even though that’s what they wanted,” Harley admitted. He believes that the system created “a culture of dishonesty” at Rogers, where workers employed a variety of tactics to trick customers into not cancelling their service.

One tactic is what Harley calls ‘the hot potato game’, where reps would “transfer a customer who wanted to cancel a service to another agent, who in turn might transfer the call to another colleague.” The point being, the agent that gets stuck with the customer, is the one losing the points.

He even admits that sometimes sales reps simply wouldn’t record a customer’s request to cancel a service. Harley also says that he “often heard agents tell customers who wanted to cut services that it would be easier to go to a Rogers store to do that, instead of the rep handling it over the phone and getting financially penalized.”

Worst of all, Harley told CBC, “I think the most dishonest one is when they say they processed the cancellation, but they didn’t.”

Another employee echoed Harley’s story during her time answering calls for Fido, a Rogers subsidiary. “If I try to help them [a customer], my statistics will go down and I’ll be shown the door,” she told CBC. “So what do I want more? Do I want to help the person, or do I want a paycheque?  It stresses you out.”

Rogers is of course denying the allegations made by Harley and the anonymous Fido employee, saying in an email that the stories “do not reflect our values or our customer service practices and we have no tolerance in our organization for unethical behaviour.”

Stories from Bell employees are much of the same. Former Nordia employee – Nordia being a call centre company owned by Bell – Anthony Savage told CBC that “the incentive is to do as little as possible [for the customer].”

It is no surprise that Canadian telecoms are facing complaints from customers, but all these damning stories from former employees give the complaints a lot of credibility. Do you think Rogers, Fido, and Bell will have to change their tactics?

Source: CBC.ca – Rogers, Fido and Bell call centre workers penalized for reducing plans, offering credits
Published: October 14, 2018

Google working on detecting spam from call ads

A new report from Search Engine Land explains that Google is looking to crack down on spam advertisements. According to the publication, “Google has begun informing advertisers that it may record some of the calls that come in through call-only ads and call extensions in ads.”

Google is apparently making a goal of protecting users “from fraud and spam and to ensure a trusted environment for advertisers.”

In an email to Search Engine Land, a Google spokesperson said, “Fraud in the advertising calls ecosystem is a growing issue and we are committed to combating it and improving call quality for consumers. We have introduced a program in the U.S. to record a small fraction of the calls in call ads. Our efforts will help prevent spam and other negative user experiences as well as reduce wasted marketing spend for advertisers.”

You might know that Google already has a similar program with text ads, in which it collects data to better understand and detect signs of fraud. The call program will work “much in the same way.” Google wants to build a model that will automate fraud detection and prevent fraudulent calls and texts.

The program will work in the following way: “only a small fraction of calls will be recorded, and only in the U.S. Callers will hear a message that Google will record the call for quality assurance — a standard type of message used across industries… Google will anonymize recording data and evaluate calls to ensure they comply with Google’s ad policies around misleading, inappropriate and harmful ads.”

Google promises none of the information collected will be used for ad targeting.

Source: searchengineland.com – Google to record some calls from ads for quality assurance
Published: October 9, 2018

Are we under-producing batteries?

They power our smartphones, laptops, tablets, and the growing number of electric cars. Batteries are everywhere. But The Toronto Star has some bad news about them; the world might not be producing enough batteries to keep up with the consumer demand of the “smart” era.

The paper asserts that “All of the new demand from North America, Europe and Asia is constrained at the moment by a market that remains heavily dependent on a few producers.”

A large contributor to the new demand comes from the electric car market.

“Today, there are more than 3 million electric vehicles on the road worldwide; by 2025, Volkswagen AG alone plans to build as many as 3 million electric vehicles per year. Those vehicle batteries — in addition to storage batteries for homes, businesses and utilities — will have to come from somewhere,” says The Toronto Star.

The Star says that a key player in the battery shortage is South Korea: because of some change in government policy, the country’s main battery producers Samsung SDI and LG Chem – two of the leading international manufacturers – are “prioritizing sales in their home country.” Meaning, relying on batteries coming out of South Korea might have disappointing results in the future. The Star explains that U.S buyers in particular “often rely on Korean-made batteries. Almost 60 per cent of the utility-scale batteries deployed in the U.S. last year were made by Samsung SDI and LG Chem.”

Larash Johnson, chief technology officer of Stem Inc, one of America’s largest U.S battery companies, told The Toronto Star that “There is definitely some tightness in the global market. It’s one of the reason we’re looking for new suppliers.”

Another large battery supplier is Tesla, which has a sizeable battery factory in Nevada. Despite its high capacity for production, Tesla “can pick and choose who they want to deliver to” and “they are not delivering to everyone.” As The Star says, “Together, Tesla and the Korean battery-making giants can expect to enjoy intense demand.”

These three companies might have a near monopoly on battery production, but another potential source for production expansion is China. New factories are popping up across the country with huge capacity for production.

Source: thestar.com – For now, at least, the world isn’t making enough batteries
Published: October 5, 2018

Get ready for the Pixel 3

On October 9th, Google will be announcing the upcoming Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL smartphones. According to TechRadar, excited customers can also begin pre-ordering the devices immediately following the announcement.

The news apparently comes from an email received by Android Central. As Tech Radar explains, “The email also apparently shows a number three, which transitions between black, white and mint colors, which seems an obvious hint that the Google Pixel 3 range might come in those shades.”

The mint theory is backed up by leaked images of a white Google Pixel 3 phone with a mint-coloured power button. Mint is not a colour commonly seen in smartphones, so this is a potentially unique design that could stir up some real attention.

TechRadar says that Android Central’s email ended by suggesting “some things to ask Google Assistant, namely ‘What’s this announcement about?’, ‘When are you making this announcement?’, and “How can I found out more about this announcement?’ … The answers don’t give much away, but one response is ‘Looks like there might be something about a new phone – and maybe, just maybe a few other new things.’”

Source: techradar.com – Google Pixel 3 pre-orders apparently start on October 9
Published: October 5, 2018