Mobile Business Email – In the Cloud |

A major roadblock to off-hour and out-of-office productivity is that employees who are out of the office have limited access to their corporate email, calendars, and contact lists. Having up to the minute access to these apps is an essential tool for day-to-day business. In order to set up an advanced mobile workforce your employees will need the following: a smartphone, a mobile internet connection and a mobile business email service that can synchronize calendars, contacts, and email over-the-air in real-time. But how do these components play together?

Smartphones – The Mobile Ecosystem:

Smartphones are the leading edge of today’s computing technology. While technological progress has largely stagnated with desktop and laptop computers, the rate that smartphones are gaining capabilities parallels the exponential growth of desktop computing technology in 90s and 00s. A typical smartphone has more raw processing power than your computer had in the 2000-2002 timeframe. Advanced power-saving CPUs, capacitive touchscreen displays, and intuitive graphical user interfaces have also lowered the learning curve of operating smartphones. What would have been a cumbersome operation five years ago are literally two gestures and a flick of your finger away on a smartphone today. With a variety of choices to suit your business needs, mobility to its fullest is here and it makes sense.

The smartphone marketplace today is a thriving ecosystem of several major platforms, each with their own pros and cons. These platforms if taken advantage of can really make your business productivity change forever. A super responsive customer service fueled by remote support and on-the-go capability, a higher output and automation of processes in a more efficient way, that’s mobile.

Perhaps the most well known, is the iPhone running the iOS operating system. Apple has designed the iPhone from the ground-up for ease of use, and has resulted in a device that eliminates the learning curve. The iPhone is largely responsible for helping shape the essential functions of modern smartphones too. Apple has smartly integrated the latest ActiveSync technologies in iOS to allow it to synchronize with Microsoft Exchange server, the leading corporate email platform. Apple’s careful and methodical integration of Microsoft’s “ActiveSync” standard offers wireless, over-the-air synchronization of email, contact, calendar and tasks. The iPhone is a fully secured mobile email workstation, compliant with corporate IT Email policies.

On the other hand is Google’s Android smart phone operating system, now the most important competition that iOS has in the smart phone market. The Android ecosystem is larger, offering a large number of different phones, each with differing capabilities. The Android operating system is also open source, which allows for virtually every smartphone manufacturer to customize various aspects of the system, and place their own front-end customizations. The differing capabilities also apply to the various functions supported by ActiveSync. While almost every Android smartphone will offer some sort of ActiveSync functionality, not all devices are fully supported. Not every function will work on all Android devices. As such, if your businesses were to adopt Android phones, it would be your responsibility to make sure that the devices they are planning to equip their employees with are capable of the functions that are required.

Windows Phone 7 is the new player on the scene, with an innovative operating system. As it is also a tightly controlled operating system, and designed by Microsoft, it is fully compliant with each function that ActiveSync offers. It supports out-of-the-box online corporate document management capability along with email, calendar, contact, notes and tasks synchronization.

BlackBerry has up to this point been the leading platform for the corporate mobile user. BlackBerry tends to be the operating system of choice for companies and governments that need high security. The BlackBerry is designed from the ground up with a focus on security, and as such can be more difficult to learn how to use. BlackBerry is the only major smartphone platform that does not use ActiveSync but it integrates with Microsoft Exchange Server and other email systems as well.

Mobile Internet Connection

Without it you don’t get the full experience. Relying on Wi-Fi hotspots is not the best way to deploy mobile email functionality for your business. 3G and 4G Internet connectivity is getting better, allowing for more bandwidth, more than enough to facilitate Push email, calendar, contacts synchronization over-the-air. Hence, in addition to Wi-Fi availability, a 3G or 4G service allows anywhere Internet access. 3G and 4G is supported both by CDMA and GSM. Depending on the country or countries your business operates in, you will find a variety of mobile Internet or mobile data plans available for business. A business Internet data plan allows smartphones to be connected to the Internet at all times even without a Wi-Fi connection. An important thing to consider when purchasing mobile data plans is to completely remove the Internet capability outside the country, due to the high cost of utilizing Internet from foreign providers. Always consult with your Internet provider and prepare a plan for those employees who travel outside the country. Internet data connection on mobile devices can also be turned off manually at which point employees can use free Wi-Fi Internet available at hotels and other Wi-Fi hotspots.

Mobile Business Email Service

What about advanced email solution that offers push email, calendar and contact to your mobile devices. Most businesses already use such a system with the majority relying on Microsoft Exchange Server technology with built-in mobile capabilities and across the board compatibility with almost all popular smartphones. Cloud-based versions of mobile email have made it even easier for businesses to implement an advanced email solution such as exchange server, without the up-front cost associated with such an implementation.

Microsoft Exchange Server is the premier business-oriented enterprise email system; the most fully featured and widely supported corporate mail system in the world today. Exchange was originally designed for in-house closed networks, but has expanded to being one of the most mature Cloud Computing services for businesses today. The entire in-house email system can be outsourced with tremendous cost savings, and yet still improving on the accessibility and feature set.

Microsoft Exchange Server uses ActiveSync, the technology that enables wireless business email. ActiveSync is a ‘push’ based delivery system built into Microsoft Exchange Server, capable of synchronizing a mobile phone contact list, calendar, and email in real-time. As new email arrives at the mailbox, ActiveSync actively ‘pushes’ the email to the device that is connected to the server. It supported by iPhone, iPod Touch, iPod, Android, Windows Phone 7 with the exception of BlackBerry that uses its own synchronization and push system, the BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Blackberry Enterprise Server by Research in Motion is the email service especially tailored for businesses where security is the top concern, above all other considerations. RIM’s software and security solution is the choice of the US Department of Defense for remote employees who need email, contact, and calendar synchronization on-the-go. It is almost the same functionality as ActiveSync – users can synchronize their emails, calendars, and contact lists in real-time, and offers more robust security than ActiveSync can offer. The drawbacks of RIM’s solution are cost, and loss of ease of functionality. RIM’s operating system lacks the same panache that iOS or Android platforms are able to offer. The phones offer far fewer applications, can be more difficult to use, with a steeper learning curve – but offer superior security and reliability as compared to ActiveSync-based solutions. RIM’s platform is also adopted to be used on multiple corporate email solutions – it is not limited to Microsoft Exchange.

By switching your business email systems to a Microsoft Exchange Server powered cloud you may need to consider a provider than can offer the mobile service that you need. It is also a good idea to ask your cloud service provider about which devices are supported.

The Bottom Line

Employees who have access to their email tend to be more productive. They can stay productive on call, and can respond to emails, schedule meetings, and reach out to clients even while away from the office and on the go. As an organization, gaining this capability helps maintain your competitive advantage; helping you to build more connected company even when global. Fortunately, adapting these technologies is cheaper than ever before, with more options than at any point in the past to equip your mobile workforce.

Smartphones are now are easier to use – even easier than desktop operating system in many respects, ending the steep learning curve normally associated with computers and providing an uninterrupted experience. Leveraging these technologies it is a natural progression of a long-term corporate information technology strategy. Modern smart phone technology can create a 24/7/365 workforce, increasing the company’s flexibility and productivity. A ‘connected company’ strategy emphasizing smartphone use for employees can be financed by leveraging the Cloud – by moving your company’s in-house email systems to the Cloud, enjoying cost savings on the way – which can pay for a significant amount of capital expenses required to adopt a smartphone strategy.

Business Strategy Planning For the Future |

The Importance of a Business Strategy.
Many business operators become so caught up in the day to day running of their business that they devote little time to considering their business strategy for the future. Yet putting a little time aside now can benefit your business significantly. While you’re pre-occupied with the daily demands or minor crises of your business, things are happening in your blind spot! Advances are occurring in technology and your clients’ demands for faster and more efficient service are increasing.

Meanwhile, your nearby competitor may be busy developing a business strategy for the future, determined to climb over you to the top! A little business analysis and strategic planning now might help you take the lead.

Do you want to remain competitive in your field? If you do, spend time on your business by analysing your current situation. Develop a business strategy and a technology strategy that will help your business grow and develop profitably as trends, technology and client expectations change.

Analyse Your Business.
As you analyse your business and plan your new business strategy, you’ll need to consider several aspects of your business. These should include human resources, technological assets and processes, advertising methods and the needs and desires of your clientele. Are you meeting your clients’ expectations? Are you taking full advantage of the Internet and all it offers? Are there new trends emerging that may require you to change your product range or upgrade the services that you offer? If there are, making those changes before your competitors do can give you a major advantage and increase your profits!

Consider your current methods of operation. Can you apply new technology to increase the efficiency of your business? Will the technology you have now be adequate in the future? Are you employees utilising your technology to the advantage of your business or do they need additional training? Technology and the changes it brings are inescapable. It advances at an ever increasing pace and for many over-worked business operators, it’s only too easy to slip behind and lose touch with change. It pays for modern businesses to have a technology strategy in place to ensure they remain competitive.

Developing a Technology Strategy.
The content of your technology strategy will depend on the nature of your business – whether you sell technology or simply use it in the running of your operation. If you sell it, part of your technology strategy will be designed to ensure you keep up to date on available products. There are other things to consider too – are changes in technology likely to bring about new trends or products? Depending on the nature of your business, your strategy may include new ways of marketing your products or services, product development, plans to attend relevant conferences and expos, or simply ensuring that you’re subscribed to industry publications for up to date information.

If your business is service orientated, the major role of technology in your business is likely to be in the day to day operation of your business. That is no less important. The quality and speed of your service can be determined by the quality of the technology you are using. Quality and speed of service are vitally important to your clients. If you want to be competitive or take the lead in your field, keeping your systems up to date is a necessity.

Think about some of the businesses that have left you unimpressed in recent years and why that occurred – it’s quite likely that as you walked out the door you considered them to be behind the times! Having a business strategy for the future and a technology strategy to keep you in front will give you a significant advantage over your possibly out of touch competitors.