Wireless Communication Management Rhyme – “Scrooge is in the house”

So another year has passed and a new one just begun filled with new opportunities, but survival is the one we focus on. We must justify our roles and the easy target is our communications – for with no communications – there is no business. Present day communications management has become far more complex, the costs have escalated, and day to day management is potentially the most painful part of all. As we sit around the data room, we wonder if there will be a day again where we can be the heroes we once were – in charge of all that RAM, Routers, and terminals. Enjoying our superiority of technology; however, before we get too lost in all our memory bliss, tonight is a special night– a new decade and a new fiscal year is upon us. Budgets, efficiencies, new technology, and growth all in front of us but unlike other decades past we wonder exactly what the future holds. Fear not for tonight is a special night; tonight your IT Departments will be visited by three ghosts. The first, the ghost of technology past, followed by the ghost of financial reality preparing us for the ghost of leadership tomorrow.

GhostThe First Ghost

At the stroke of midnight Johnny Menclub our old IT Manager clatters through the walls with chains dangling.

[Johnny] “Hello gentleman – and gentle ladies, it’s been a long time. I miss those old days of camaraderie and cheer. You know the ones where all the technology was so complex it took engineers to keep us on track.”

[IT Department] “Yeah Johnny, you were the best. We had awesome jobs. We baffle everyone with gigabytes, and microwave transmissions. We were gods. We could do no wrong. “

[Johnny] “Yeah boys, those were the good days – ‘they’ needed us. We were indispensible. But I’m here to warn you, be careful gentleman – the times have changed and its rough out there – I don’t want you to end up like me – you need to re-invent your place…..”

Johnny is sucked back from the matrix he came from.

[IT Department] That was creepy – poor Johnny he was a good lad. But he’s right. Technology has changed. User friendly applications are standard and that damn mouse can help solve anything.

The Second Ghost

With little time to recover Stacy Query appears our current CFO as if in a bad dream. She is the one who changed everything – now all we hear is how we must drive costs down, yet management keeps adding feature rich functionality and data costs are climbing. Somehow Stacy thinks it our fault!

[Stacy] “I can hear you, she bellows. Of course it’s your fault, you’re responsible for technology and wireless cost management is technology. You should be keeping costs in check”

[IT Department] “Our fault?!?!? How can it be our fault? We’re not accountants. We keep the technology of this company advancing giving us cutting edge solutions and keeping us ahead of the competition. How were we suppose to know your sales and marketing team would start utilizing data and cellular devices to drive growth in the company”

[Stacy] “Well if you were giving me the data I needed to know where costs were increasing, what was valid and what was abuseareas, we could curb costs while keeping your gadgets running – then I could use that information to empower our organization for growth”

[IT Department] “Wait a second since when is it our job to fill out spreadsheets – and who has the time – we’re busy supporting all the users who can’t seem to read manuals. If we had implemented some Cellular Procurement Policies in the first place, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”

[Stacy] “Well all I know is I’m not taking the blame for these rising costs. The carrier’s will just have to help us.”

Stacy melts in a pool of red ink.

[IT Department] “Anyone know why the carrier would help us reduce costs and in turn their revenue, huh! So now we’re suppose to implement new hardware, manage costs, negotiate contracts, complete spreadsheets, discover abandoned assets…..who’s getting dinner”

The Third Ghost

With a ray of light and warmth filling the room – Dave Ceokata appears…

[Dave] “Fear not my team there is a better way, a way accounting can get their wish of tighter costs, Operations getting improved efficiencies, and IT smoother day to day operations allowing for the time needed to ensure our company stays on the technology cutting edge.”

[IT Department] “But how is this possible Dave? We have tried to manage but things are changing so fast, carrier plans seem to change every month, user device application and adoption is growing weekly, hardware is getting more costly and gosh dangit – Communications is the lifeline.”

[Dave] “Your right team, communications is the lifeline, and it’s why we have to ensure our team is over seeing it. But not buried by it. We need to find the professionals who can produce monthly wireless cost audits keeping the cost under control and are independent from our carriers – thus who will work for our benefit – I know there is savings to be had! We need a support team, who can handle the day to day user queries, and get you guys off hold with the carriers. Finally we need communication management software that can provide us the Intel, to ensure corporate compliance to policies, eliminate defunct units, and produce quality feedback helping us grow maximizing our communications as the tools they were meant to be.

[IT Department] Does this dream exist?

[Dave] Ah yes the dream exists team. In fact in less than 30 days we could be saving money, have superior visibility, and user bliss with single point of contact support and procurement. Go now team, implement the solution, over see it and create bliss through our organization. Be the heroes I know you can be!

Why Offer a Communication Management Free Trial?

Why has a communications management firm that has offered telecom solutions for a decade decided to offer its proprietary management software on a free trial? It’s hard for me to write the answer without sounding like an advertisement, especially since as I write the reasons, it sounds like an ad to me – but that’s not the case. It all has to do with the evolving business climate in the US and Canada. We’ve adapted to it and want to help other firms do the same.

North American business has changed over the last year. At GILL Technologies, we’ve been very fortunate to have a loyal client base. Over the years, we’ve changed to respond to its requests for additional features and services and to keep GILL Technologies focused on best practices. In fact, what began as a cost audit company some 10 years ago has developed into much more. For example,  ClientCare (a component of our service) has become one of our most sought after services. Today, it’s one of the pillars of our business even though it really has little to do with the concept of cost auditing. By listening to our clients we discovered the value in being able to be their single point of contact for a technical support and services.

Tele-Watch evolved in much the same way. Companies need better control over their communications, period; most businesses will openly admit this. One crucial step to improve control is by acquiring timely, superior access to usage and spending information. This visibility gets crucial data to the right people in a timely fashion (not six months later). It drives accountability through the organization, because they know the nature of on what may be the largest business expense they face, as communications is quickly becoming one of the largest expenses possible for any company.

GILL Technologies responded with Tele-Watch: a proprietary software application hosted on the cloud and available from any web enabled device on a secure platform. Tele-Watch is absolutely amazing in how it presents important communications information. We developed it to let clients view their communications usage, expenses and services just the way they need to. Again, we improved a component of the service that really had little to do with the cost audit concept,  but again through our clients’ guidance we developed reporting tools that change the way a company manages communications.

So now, our challenge is to utilize what we created to grow our business. Bear in mind that our primary focus is to save companies money, however. We never want to lose sight of that mission. Tele-Watch is a software solution, but rather than take the typical approach of, “Let’s sell our software,” we made what I consider the bold statement of saying: “Lets give Tele-Watch to our prospective clients, let them feel the difference in single point of contact with ClientCare, and while this is occurring, show them how we can save them money. It’s a Win-Win-Win!”

OK, now I really sound like an advertisement! But when you think about our philosophy, it really makes sense beyond its raw promotional value. We save companies money. It’s our core mission. That’s why clients establish a relationship with us. Tele-Watch and ClientCare build relationships that last for years, if not indefinitely. So why not introduce people to the whole concept while we evaluate the benefit of the relationship in hard numbers?

That’s why we offer a Communication Management Free Trial, giving you the chance to sample our range of services as a prelude to securing long term savings and excellent service. I hope you can see beyond the sales pitch and appreciate the concept. I don’t know – did I fluff it up too much?

Like I said, North American business has changed, and you need the chance to make informed decisions, and today’s technology should allow it. Shouldn’t you able to test drive a service even at the enterprise level? What do you think?

Did You Get an Important Message From Rogers With Your Phone Bill?

It looks like recent activism about telecom fraud is having some effect. If you’re a Rogers telecom customer you probably got a letter entitled “An Important Message from Rogers” with your bill this month. Subtitled “Helping to protect your business from telecommunications fraud,” the letter certainly starts out on a positive note. We’re in the business of telecom expense management and cost reduction services, so the fraud issue – and resolving it so that our clients avoid paying fraudulent charges – is very important to us. Let’s see how Rogers is helping us. (Get the letter and read along if you have it!)

The first three paragraphs summarize the issue. Most cases of telecom fraud involve a third party breaching your phone system to use expensive, unauthorized services, such as offshore pay-per-call operations. They say the most effective defense is “knowledge.” The end user is responsible for monitoring authorization codes and “equipment.” (Why the quotes? Read on.) Rogers will “attempt” to monitor its network traffic.

What does Rogers recommend? The advice is superficially useful. Change your passwords. Educate your staff. Restrict long distance calling. That’s all good. If Rogers believes so strongly in this, why don’t they provide more secure default settings, or a setup checklist with a stronger security focus? Simply put: They have no economic motive to help. Thanks to a lack of regulation Rogers passes most fraud costs on to the consumer, so either way, the carrier gets paid. That’s what we wrote the CRTC about recently. See our CEO talk about the issue on video here (Youtube).

The letter really starts to get odd when it recommends that you “Monitor continuously” – something most end users cannot actually do in any meaningful sense. The average consumer learns about usage patterns through monthly billing. They have no form of real time or daily access to traffic or billing, so unless the fraud stretches across multiple months there is no way to detect activity at “the earliest stages,” as the letter puts it. Fraudsters who want to take you to the cleaners know they’ll get caught, so they often hit your lines for a brief, intense burst of billable activity before moving on.

Who can monitor usage patterns quickly enough to matter? If you answered “Rogers,” you’re correct – except that the letter takes pains to let you know that Rogers won’t commit to that – it will only “attempt” to monitor its network. Rogers also believes that your responsibility for “equipment” – hardware – includes all of the intangible information that passes through it. This is kind of like saying that when the phone rings, you pick it up and someone hits you with a harassing phone call, it’s your fault for picking up the phone.

In short, the letter has some good advice, some advice you probably can’t, and clarifies the ways in which Rogers won’t help you, making this a decidedly mixed communication from the Canadian telecom giant.

The truth is that once you’ve taken reasonable security precautions, there’s a point at which the provider should use best practices to maintain network security. The government should provide carriers with an incentive to do so and protect consumers, because end users are not “responsible” for fraud. Criminals are.

All about Internet Sticks

Mobile carriers across the US and Canada are pushing “internet sticks” – USB modems that provide access over their data networks – as a major new product. In Canada, all three major carriers (Bell, Rogers and Telus) provide internet access via the stick. Rogers’ “Rocket Mobile” is probably the best known promotion in Canada – but does it and other internet sticks stand up to a rigorous wireless cost audit?

Using an internet stick provides the same quality access as using the internet on a 3G+ cell phone for a laptop or netbook. Many of the hardware limitations of an iPhone or Blackberry that cause slow web browsing won’t be present. This means you can enjoy fair to good speeds on major carrier networks. Installation is simple on Windows PCs and Macs – just plug the stick into your USB port.

Internet Stick Pricing

Most providers give you the stick for free on plans with commitments of at least two years. Canadian carriers offer two types of plans based on fixed or flexible tiered data usage. On a fixed plan you’ll use a set data transfer limit – go above the limit, and you’ll pay per-volume charges on the excess. This can increase your bill dramatically, so take care to track your usage and unplug your stick when you’re not using it. A tiered plan kicks you to different fixed rates – higher than fixed data charges for the same rates – depending on the amount of data transfer.

Remember that as the modem uses your carrier’s network, its regional service quality is the same as for your smartphone (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.). If you have a plan with roaming data service and this connects you to a third party network you may be in for additional charges, so be careful when you travel.

Generally speaking, the fixed plan is a better bargain if your internet usage doesn’t change much from month to month, but if it goes up and down quite a bit tiered plans are a better idea. Both types of plans usually range from $30 to $60 dollars per month plus system access fee (budget carrier brands that claim “no system access fee” push prices  up by the amount the fee would cost anyway).

Controlling Your Costs

If you go with an internet stick its cost effectiveness primarily depends on knowing your usage. If your usage patterns outside of Wi-Fi hot spots (where it’s unnecessary) are close to a particular data plan’s limit without going over too often it may make sense, but if you’re just at the lower limit of a package the cost per bit transferred can be rather expensive. Contact us with information about your usage and we’ll see about finding the right plan for you.

CRTC Urged to Deal with Telecom Fraudsters

Are carriers allowing fraudsters to attack third party providers?

Ottawa based long distance provider Telepath has asked the CRTC to step in and limit 1-900 service calls to $1000 without prior approval. This comes after Telepath, a line wholesaler, suffered $100,000 in fraudulent bills when hackers attacked two lines and used them to dial bogus pay per call numbers.

We’ve reported on carrier laxness regarding fraud before. Now someone has stepped up and plainly said that Bell, Rogers and other carriers can’t be trusted to protect clients from massive fraudulent billing. Of course that only makes sense – this kind of fraud doesn’t affect their bottom line. In fact, they’re adamant about getting paid. In Telepath’s case, Rogers is only willing to cut the massive bill by 20%. The provider may have to sue its clients for more.

In fact, Telepath’s claims read like a classic checklist of atrocious carrier service. Telepath CEO Dali Bertolila claims he noticed the fraud a couple of days after it occurred and called Rogers to stop payment. According to Bertolila, Rogers refused. So in this case, even client vigilance was useless. Worst of all, the Canadian Press article notes that Rogers claims that its can do nothing to monitor suspicious traffic patterns among third party providers.

Carrier interests appear to clash with the public good on several fronts in this case. When fraud hits, carriers like Rogers get paid. Furthermore, the big carriers know that third party providers exist in large part because of their problems, from erroneous billing to unsatisfactory service, so it’s kind of convenient that they can’t or won’t help in cases where hackers attack those providers. Telecom expense management and third party cellular customer service both exist because carriers won’t step up and provide the service and pricing people need. In this case, it seems to be obvious that Rogers, Bell and the rest are the last people to expect help from.

Five Reasons to Get Third Party Cellular Customer Service

How many times have you waited on hold with customer support? How many times have you recited an account number, re-explained your plan and information and generally wasted your time? How many times have you asked yourself if there’s a better way?

Well, there is a better way. That’s us, specifically the cellular customer service that comes with our cellular expense management services. We don’t just do the math to save you money. We want you to feel better about your cell phone plans, regardless of carrier. That’s why we feature dedicated customer support. Let’s look at five reasons why using us as a third party beats using standard carrier support.

We Fix Billing Errors: That’s part of our cellular expense management service, but it’s also a customer support issue. Have you ever tried to contest a suspicious bill with your provider? If so, you know how annoying it can be. We not only fix errors, but we find them for you in the first place.

We Know You: Tired of answering the same questions over and over again? Once you hire use to manage your cellular service you won’t have to. Our representatives get a chance to know you and don’t have to run you through a one-size-fits-all set of technical questions.

Multi-Carrier Support: You never have to call more than one number. We’ll deal with every carrier and service you use on your behalf. And since you’ll have a telecom expert dealing with carriers on your behalf, you don’t have to worry about calls being diverted or stalled.  We don’t allow it. If there’s a solution, we find it.

We Work for You – Not Them: Carrier-based support focuses on minimizing their cost. Our service focuses on getting you the best support. The difference is a simple and powerful one. We’ll pursue options like replacement handsets and service credits that carriers are reluctant to provide.

You Save Staff Time and Hassle: When your staff spends time on hold with a carrier that’s time they aren’t spending moving your business forward. Sign up with us and replace 20 minutes on hold (and then answering useless questions) with a five minute chat with someone who knows you, wants to help you and fights to get you the best deal. Which do you think is better for your business?

Did you know that you can get this at NO extra cost compared to what you’re paying now? As part of our telecom expense management services all of these benefits are part of a self-funded service. That means you only pay a portion of what you save – if you don’t save, you don’t pay. Get a free cost audit to start, and see how much better your savings and service can get.

Three Pieces of Good News for Cell Phone Users

Telecommunications is a fast-paced field, where major developments can pass under the radar because they’re hard to find past all the noise of new cell phone models, smartphone apps and corporate telecom acquisitions. Here are three pieces of news that translate directly into more savings and convenience for customers – things that factor into both regular consumer budgets and formal telecom expense management.

FCC Tightens Landline Cellular and VoIP Porting Rules

On May 15, 2009 the FCC ruled that service providers have to port US customers on mobile, VoIP and some landline services within one day instead of the four currently mandated. This new requirement will come into effect by next May. The new rules exempt a few small carriers but if you have a large carrier, in 2010 you should be able to switch carriers in a single business day. In related news, the FCC has also decided to crack down VoIP providers who unexpectedly drop or modify services be requiring notification.

Solar Powered Phones Coming

Manufacturers Sharp and Japan’s KDDI have started a joint venture with the goal of releasing a phone that provides one minute of talk for every ten minutes of charge time or two hours of standby time. It’s a modest goal but an excellent start that matches similar announcements by Samsung and LG. Although currently marketed as “sport” or “green” phones, they’re sure to increase in demand for two reasons. First, green-energy advocates have made us aware that chargers consume power even when they aren’t hooked up to phones. Second, people lose chargers so often that in many organizations this becomes an unnoticed but persistent expense. Lose the need for a charger, and lose the cost.

The iPhone Ups the Ante on Smartphone Development

The Palm Pre (in the link above) is one example of an upcoming smartphone that wouldn’t exist without the iPhone. So even if you never own one, iPhones are making your phones better through bigger screens, better screen resolution and revolutions in interfaces, applications and use of 3G networks. It’s been a bumpy ride, of course, with one notable example being AT&T’s ban of the Slingplayer streaming application from its 3G network. In spite of these setbacks, we should look forward to iPhone-driven competition spawning better, more cost-effective phones than ever before.

Ontario Drivers Now Require Headsets for Car Phone Use – Mobile Fleets Need Headset Procurement

On April 22nd, 2009 Ontario’s Bill 118 passed into law. The bill requires drivers to use cell phones using hands free methods such as Bluetooth headsets. If you try to use your phone in one hand while driving you can face a $500 fine. If you cause an accident in the process, using your phone will be considered to be evidence against you in careless driving prosecutions.

The law doesn’t just apply to cell phones, but using any handheld device with a display screen in any context but hands free use. This includes iPods and many GPS devices. You can still use these if they’re in hands free mode, but even holding them without actively using them can get you in trouble.

Bill 118 follows a trend in several jurisdictions to crack down on distracting mobile device use. This may improve road safety but for many businesses, the whole point of a cellular phone fleet is to enable use on the road. As a result, companies that need this capability must upgrade to hands free tools like headsets, and cell phone plans that permit easy hands free use.

This is a definite cellular expense management issue. Your price per headset and modified plans could add a substantial amount to your costs unless you use a telecom expense management provider with expertise in both cell phone plans and cellular hardware procurement. Fortunately for us at GILL Technologies, we have always maintained a strong emphasis on both plans and hardware, so we’re able to outfit our clients’ employees with a complete hands free solution at reduced costs. Telecom cost audits aren’t just about plans – they’re about the total cost to use your handsets.

Even if you don’t live in Ontario you should consider upgrading your mobile fleet to hands free use. More and more jurisdictions in the US, Canada and beyond are passing similar laws, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that in the near future, laws like this will be the rule almost everywhere. Besides, these laws get passed for a reason: Hands free use on the road really is safer, and we encourage everyone to consider the option.

GILL Technologies Ready to Help Businesses Conform to New Ontario Cellular Laws

Telecom Consultants Ready after Bill 118 Makes Hands-Free Cell Phone Use Mandatory in Automobiles

Peterborough, ON, Canada: GILL Technologies (http://www.gill-technologies.com) announced that it has prepared the hardware and telecom expense management expertise to help businesses with mobile phone fleets conform to the Ontario Government’s Bill 118. The law makes it punishable by fine to hand operate cell phones and other electronic devices with screens while operating a motor vehicle. Hands free use is permitted however, which puts many businesses in the position of having to acquire headsets and voice activated functionality for employees who routinely communicate by cell phone while driving.

The Peterborough, Ontario and Tampa, Florida based telecommunications consulting company was prepared for the bill’s passage on April 22, 2009 before then, had already performed a preliminary analysis of how companies that needed to conform to the law would be affected. GILL Technologies predicts an upsurge in demand for Bluetooth headsets and rich voice activated features delivered through a combination of hardware and cellular services. Canada’s transition to 3G smartphones requires that voice activated features not only encompass traditional telephony, but the ability to browse email. The company has also made arrangements with select suppliers to provide Bluetooth headsets at a considerable cost savings.

“Corporate cellular customers outside of Ontario should understand that the growing trend to ban handheld use while driving is likely to affect them as well,” said GILL Technologies president George Gill. “We not only urge people with mobile fleets in Ontario to upgrade to hands free use, but advise that companies everywhere that expect communications on the road do the same. It’s not only forward looking, but safer – that’s why the law came into effect in the first place.”

Interested parties can request a free initial cost analysis from GILL Technologies by visiting http://www.gill-technologies.com, emailing info@gill-technologies.com or calling 877-507-6988 toll-free. GILL Technologies accepts clients from across Canada and the United States.

About GILL Technologies

Established in 2000, GILL Technologies provides a “Total Communication Solution” for businesses of all sizes. Clients range from small businesses simply looking to save on their communications costs to large enterprises that want comprehensive solutions. Over 3000 clients across North America bear witness to the effectiveness of GILL Technologies’ products and services.Find out more about GILL Technologies’ communications services through its no-risk, money saving Cost Auditing service at http://www.gill-technologies.com/CostAudit.php

Five Problems to Control with Telecom Expense Management

How does telecom expense management save you money? Any fleet of phones can accumulate cost inefficiencies. Some of these happen because of the way carriers bill customers. Others stem from making less than optimal choices about cell phone plans, long distance billing and other telecom services. Here are five common issues that a professional telecom cost audit and expense management program can remedy. Â

Billing Errors: Analysts estimate that billing errors alone can add 6%, 8% or more to your communications costs. These errors are hard to detect; it takes an expert to tell whether many fees have been legitimately added or properly calculated. GILL Technologies performs a thorough examination of your company’s billing as part of your initial audit, and stays on top of your bills to head of future errors.

Excess Minutes and Data: Our Tele-Watch communications management software is an important tool to show you exactly what your needs are. In many cases, people opt for attractive looking plans that offer a large amount of voice minutes or data, but when they fail to use them, these plans end up making their bills larger than they would have been if they’d picked a plan that represented their true usage. We can help you discover what your real communications needs are and adapt your choice of plan and carrier to match.

Hardware Costs: Is the plan that subsidizes your hardware costs really saving you money? What’s the right smartphone for you? What are the advantages of buying a cell phone outright? Where can you get inexpensive headsets? We can answer all these questions so that you only purchase the most cost-effective hardware. Our telecom customer service and procurement team will not only help you pick a solution, but can order the hardware on your behalf, often with a significant savings thanks to preferred relationships with select suppliers in North America.

Inappropriate Usage: Tele-Watch doesn’t just help you understand your company’s needs, but lets you see exactly how much every department and individual in your business uses company resources. When your employees know that you have this information it deters inappropriate usage, and when you need to act, you have all the data to define the issue in dollars and cents. Doing it this way is the path to responsible management that minimizes confrontation.

Roaming Fees: When you leave your carrier’s coverage area do you have reasonable roaming fees? Do you have a choice? If you’re a heavy roaming user we can help you find a carrier that offers the best prices for the areas you expect to visit. Furthermore, our telecom customer service team can help guide you when you visit Europe or another part of the world with different telecom standards. You’ll be able to go virtually anywhere without losing contact.