AT&T Puts a Price on Privacy

Users who want to sign on to GigaPower by AT&T, the carrier’s 1-gigabit-per-second Internet service that just become available in Kansas City, Missouri, have an interesting choice. They can pay US$70 with the understanding that their online movements will be tracked for commercial purposes — or they can pay an additional $29 a month to avoid the monitoring.

The service so far is available only to a select few customers. It went live in Austin, Texas, about a year ago.

Since then, “the vast majority have elected to opt in to the ad-supported model,” AT&T spokesperson Gretchen Schultz told the E-Commerce Times.

A New Option

The service offers a choice to consumers who are concerned about privacy, said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecom analyst.

There are some consumers who in fact are willing to pay and will go to AT&T for that reason, he told the E-Commerce Times.

It is the same dynamic that has played out between Apple and Samsung, Kagan added. Apple is the smartphone known to be completely closed, with its data fiercely protected by Apple, while Samsung has an open environment, and people understand privacy is less than optimal from the consumer’s perspective.

“AT&T is setting up the same choice between it and everyone else,” Kagan said.

AT&T: Tracking Isn’t Evil

AT&T is not favoring its higher-priced service, however. With the discount plan, consumers won’t see more ads, the company pointed out. It’s just that the ads they do see will be better suited to their interests.

The typical information it would collect might include the Web pages visited, the time spent on a certain page, the links or ads followed, and the search terms entered, the company said.

Here is what it doesn’t collect: information from secure sites (https or otherwise encrypted) — such as credit card information entered in order to buy something online or data from online banking transactions.

Beware of Breaches

AT&T’s promises notwithstanding, customers must understand they are at risk, no matter which service they choose, cautioned Ross Buntrock, a partner in the privacy and consumer regulatory practice at Arnall Golden Gregory.

If AT&T were to suffer a data breach, customer identities and other personally identifiable information in all likelihood would be exposed, he told the E-Commerce Times, regardless of the company’s pledges to protect the information using encryption or other means.

An Industry Shift

It is likely that other providers may follow AT&T’s lead, if only to remain competitive. It is just as likely that most consumers will opt for ad-tracking service plans in order to lower their costs. The tracking that service providers already have been doing thus will become institutionalized.

“It must be said that at least AT&T is giving consumers some level of choice whether to share granular information or not,” Buntrock said. “Companies like Facebook and others do not offer consumers the ability to pay for privacy.”

Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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Zoho Consolidates Marketing Functions

The CRM vendor community seems to be trying to welcome us back to normalcy by priming the selling pump with new marketing tools. It makes sense. Marketing is the beginning of the pipeline that brings in revenue, so why not?

One vendor with plenty to say is Zoho.  The company just announced Zoho Marketing Plus — a suite of tools and integrations for the whole marketing team in companies with 25-to-1,000-member marketing organizations.

That’s like saying everybody — and at only $25 per seat/month, it won’t break the bank. The strategy is to integrate a lot of third-party apps and replace one-off tools which will enable some to reduce their single use marketing subscriptions and save money.

Independent research I’ve been conducting shows that the users themselves are drowning in too many single-use apps, so the Zoho approach might have legs for that alone.

Marketing is a tough task with no end and taking it on with advanced capabilities is a heavy lift. It’s a tough job because it requires constant data management, and it is endless because the more you do the more data there is to manage. There’s customer data and there’s marketing generated data — or more precisely content. There’s also management to contemplate.

Shared View of Data

Zoho Marketing Plus goes after both classes of data. However, it is more focused on what’s internal to the business because that’s what needs management most.

Conceptually, it’s a platform for the entire marketing organization that supports collaboration across marketing activities from first idea, through creation, execution, and management — ending with measurement.

It gives all of marketing’s stakeholders a shared view of marketing information to form a basis for collaboration, and it integrates with other CRM tools like Microsoft, HubSpot and Salesforce, as well as Zoho CRM.

The platform cuts down on redundancies and exposes marketers to deeper understanding of customers and marketing processes. At the same time it reduces the management overhead of collaborating through multiple tools.

Integrations help Zoho Marketing Plus to shine by giving it a central role in many businesses’ marketing deployments.

For instance, CRM integration gives users feedback on revenue generation from marketing spend. Data integration with Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics, Google Search Console, YouTube, and Survey Monkey helps marketers to target their prospects. To support finance it integrates with QuickBooks, Xero, and Stripe; WooCommerce and Shopify take care of commerce and Eventbrite brings in marketing events.

The result is a single view of the business so that teams can collaborate across campaigns regardless of the chosen channels while automated AI-powered data analysis helps marketers to understand the results of their efforts.

Zoho Marketing Plus Dashboard, Analytics

Zoho Marketing Plus Dashboard (Credit: Zoho)

A long time ago we believed that subscription apps had leveled the playing field between large and small companies and to a degree it did. Subscriptions enabled any company that could pony up the monthly per-seat price to use the same tools as the big guys. That was true as far as it went but overlooked the effort implied.

We’ve now reached a point where there is so much good, cheap product that larger companies again have a relative advantage simply because they can afford to hire the souls needed to man all the battle stations.

Democratizing Information

Zoho Marketing Plus is an attempt to bring things back into focus so that smaller companies can do the same things in marketing that larger companies do with more labor. You might call this the second democratization of information.

My research shows that the pandemic exposed many shortcomings in marketing and sales that had accumulated over the years. Too many single use apps that don’t communicate well is one big issue.

A bigger problem with those single use apps is that they are largely systems of record, which means it’s up to the user to make sense of the data. But the proliferation of so many systems of record makes this nearly impossible for the average user. That’s why Zoho’s announcement resonates.

With good integration between the parts of marketing and feedback from the real world that can be further analyzed, users have a good chance of refilling their pipelines and getting back to revenue generation in a world reconfigured for working from anywhere.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. Email Denis.

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Cloud Providers Push Products, Tactics, To Win Customers in Competitive Market

In the current cross-industry scamper among enterprises migrating to clouds, no clear winners have yet to emerge in the race for market share among the hyperscale public cloud providers.

Automated cloud migration company Next Pathway on April 20 unveiled a new report with key data on the overall state of cloud migration, including the current status of the cloud wars.

The study draws insights from over 1,200 IT decision-makers that highlights which cloud providers have the edge and why enterprises might want to avoid multi-cloud and hybrid approaches. Businesses are under great pressure to enable digital transformation from the cloud to generate new revenue streams.

While businesses believe a multi-cloud strategy has advantages, they are selecting only single cloud platforms for their enterprise legacy workloads. This puts cloud providers in a battle to bring enterprise workloads to their cloud platform, creating a highly competitive marketplace.

First-Mover Advantages

Providers are luring potential customers to their platforms with industry solutions, faster migration paths, and enhanced capabilities, according to the State of Enterprise Cloud Migrations report.

Further, cloud providers are leveraging the benefits of first-mover advantage with a range of tactics to gain market share, including employing their hefty balance sheets to buy businesses’ favor.

Until the dust settles in the cloud wars, service providers face both opportunities and challenges for victory. Once migrated, customers will be reluctant to switch to other providers. So, moving new customers to a particular cloud platform and turning on consumption is paramount for winning the cloud wars.

“Our research reveals that companies that want to move to the cloud, need help. They want more services, industry solutions, and enhanced products,” said Chetan Mathur, Next Pathway CEO. “In this highly competitive market, the cloud wars are on and likely to continue for some time.”

Results at a Glance

Looking at market share, Microsoft Azure (37 percent) has a slight advantage. But Amazon AWS (32. percent) and Google Cloud Platform (30 percent) also hold a prominent stake of the public cloud market.

A hefty majority of IT leaders (87 percent) report an increase in demand for moving workloads to the cloud. Just one-third of respondents have completed a workload migration, which is only slightly more than the finding from Next Pathway’s July 2021 survey showed completed the process.

“We are still in the early stages of the emerging cloud market, and as this market matures and we realize that the race to the cloud rewards those that move quickly, more is being demanded from the vendors to accelerate cloud migrations,” said Clara Angotti, Next Pathway president.

With companies eager to move to the cloud fast, cloud providers that move workloads to their platform will reap big financial benefits and long-term competitive advantage. However, companies need help, she observed.

“Moving to the cloud is not easy. Companies are asking for more services that will automate their migration and mitigate their risk to enable transformation,” she said.

Cloud migration services topped the list of requests from businesses looking to select providers, according to the report. Nearly half (49 percent) of respondents named migrating existing applications.

Additional services requested include multi-cloud strategies (45 percent), a robust partner ecosystem (42 percent), increased storage capacity (40 percent), and industry-specific solutions (39 percent).

Cloud Migration Stumbling Blocks

The lack of automation is proving to be a major concern of firms moving to the cloud. Speed to market is critical to ensuring they can sustain a competitive advantage. Forty-seven percent of companies acknowledge that they lack the automated tooling to expedite the translation and migration of code from on-premises to the cloud.

Also lacking within enterprises planning a move to the cloud is an efficient and effective migration process. Most respondents agreed they would have spent more time planning their migration and used more automation to migrate workloads faster. The planning process took longer than expected. So did the actual implementation phase, noted 40 percent of the respondents.

The research showed many potential cloud migrators over the past year looked before they leaped. They ran proofs-of-concept with multiple public cloud warehouse platforms before finalizing plans. This suggests they exercised caution instead of rushing their cloud entry platform selection.

Still, IT leaders uncovered unexpected limitations in the selected cloud platform. Slightly more than one-quarter (27 percent) felt that data migration presented the highest risk element of cloud migration.

Cloud providers able to enhance their migration services will differentiate themselves from their competitors and turn on consumption revenue faster, according to the report.

Hybrid Cloud Remains Untapped

Nearly all companies (97 percent) acknowledged benefits come with a hybrid cloud strategy. More than half (55 percent) said it allows organizations to benefit from the automation of public clouds and the security and privacy of private clouds.

The hybrid strategy delivers more flexibility to select the right applications for the two cloud structures, noted 41 percent of the IT respondents. However, only 30 percent have a hybrid cloud in production, despite the hybrid cloud’s attraction and considerable market opportunity.

“While the urgency to move to the cloud becomes greater each passing day, challenges and fears surrounding the migration process continue to hold companies back from beginning the journey,” said Mathur. “It is a complex process.”

Key Considerations

A few viable solutions exist for the inherent problems the survey reveals, according to Mathur. The major stumbling blocks to cloud migration, whether public or private, are quite similar.

“Spend sufficient time planning the migration. Clients tend to rush into execution without proper planning,” he told The E-Commerce Times.

This includes a detailed analysis of your legacy applications to understand data lineage, dependencies, and data flow. This information is critical to determining what to migrate and in what order, he explained.

Once this is completed, prepare a wave plan that outlines the schedule by which workloads are to be migrated.

Mathur offered these additional suggestions to overcome migration stumbling blocks:

  • Automate as many steps as possible. Many tools automate the crawling of your legacy applications, automate the translation of legacy code and ETL pipelines, and automate test script creation and execution. Automation will save valuable time.
  • Create a proof of concept that will test your data migration strategy. Clients will be moving massive amounts of data to the cloud. It is important to run tests to ensure you are picking the right data migration strategy.
  • Leave a buffer in your schedule and budget for exceptions. Every cloud target will have some gaps and exceptions. Make sure you plan for these types of unknowns. We call this “the last mile” as these gaps tend to appear during the implementation phase of cloud migration.

“The major difference between private and public cloud is the security considerations and cloud management. However, all of the above solutions apply to both public and private cloud migrations,” he said.

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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