Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mining Email Clutter in Salesforce.com

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, has an aversion to email.  At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2013, his keynote speech was entitled “How are you connected with your customer, your partners, your employees.  Email?  Those days are over.”   Marc should pick up a copy of this month’s Foreign Affairs and carefully read the article written by Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger entitled “The Rise of Big Data”.  Their key insight is that “Large amounts of messy data trumped small amounts of clean data”.

Marc needs to think beyond the current fad of social networking and realize that the next $1 billion of revenue is in making use of big data.   With big data in his pocket, Salesforce.com’s current overblown valuation might actually be sustainable.

Currently, the big data component of customer relationship management is email and voice; two old technologies that make up 99% of customer interaction.  Think about it, what else is there?    Currently, cloud integration technologies exist that can consolidate all voice and email interactions inside a CRM system and make them available for data mining.

Using that mountain of raw and messy data, sales executives can apply data analysis techniques that can unlock patterns in customer behavior and use those trends to monitor and optimize the sales process.  On a simple level, daily sales rep activity can be measured.  How many emails and calls did a sales rep receive; how many emails and calls did he or she send/make?   More specifically, identify those Leads and Opportunities that are hot and those that are cold.  Look for linguistic clues in the email bodies and voice-over-IP transcripts as to why certain deals closed and other deals were lost.    Look at correlations between won deals and email subject lines to determine which phrases led to commercial success.

But to gain the benefits of big data in a CRM system, Salesforce.com needs to adjust its thinking.  Up until now, Salesforce.com has been about a small set of clean data.  Salesforce.com account reps are trained to create FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about email and voice-over-IP clutter.    More importantly, Salesforce.com pricing nudges customers away from big data concepts because storage is limited to absurdly low levels:  Enterprise Edition users get 20 MB of Data Storage, only enough for a few months of email and voice-over-IP data; Unlimited Editions users, which in fairness are used by the majority of major corporations, get enough storage for about 18 months.   Salesforce.com needs to unlock these constraints and give customers the space to import big data and analyze it.

There are two cloud services on the AppExchange that can be used as the foundation for email and voice-over-IP big data in Salesforce.com.  Match My Email offers automated Salesforce Outlook integration.  It is different from the other tools and services on the market because it creates a 100% complete and accurate email log in Salesforce.com with no user intervention.  This comprehensive data is then available for analysis.   Shoretel offers a voice-over-IP integration cloud for Salesforce.com.  The Shoretel service logs every voice interaction to Salesforce.com together with a transcript of the telephone call.  Because it works completely in the cloud like Match My Email and Salesforce.com, it captures every phone call regardless of where it is made – mobile phone or office phone.

Making use of apps such as these, Salesforce users can begin to harness the power of big data on their own, and maybe Salesforce will then move in that direction.

Friday, May 10, 2013

How Easily Hackable Are My Cloud-Stored Files?

Cloud computing, the practice of storing information on networks (usually the Internet) instead of yourdevices, has garnered a significant degree of criticism for being unsafe and easily crackable. However, is data fundamentally less safe when stored outside ofyour computer system?

The Pros and Cons

Storing data in the cloud is an easy and convenient solution to the constant need for more space and instant access to one’s accumulated data. It also keeps things safe in case of hardware failure. A computer is vulnerable to water damage or a cracked hard drive, but when a user’s pictures, videos, emails and other information are stored in the cloud, they are kept safe by the protection of many powerful servers.

Local storage has some advantages too, however. When the files are stored within the device itself, the device is able to access them instantaneously. In contrast, if there is network interference — even if it has nothing to do with the user — retrieving data may be slow or impossible. A UK private investigator, for example, could be cost precious hours in retrieving a criminal’s data simply because of a storm in New York.

Which to Choose?

To examine whether cloud storage is safer than hardware storage, the very term “safer” must be examined. Is password protection enough to be considered “safe,” or must the data actually be encrypted within the storage device? Should the files be accessible from the root user, or must they be completely hidden within the system? Determining what, if anything, can keep malicious users out of a personal machine is more complex than it sounds.

To complicate matters, the tactics used to hack passwords are the same whether the password applies to a cloud system or to a local machine. Dictionary or brute-force attacks can ping thousands of potential passwords at the system per second. If the hacker gets a lucky guess, it’s game over for your private data.

While it may sound like the two are equally matched as far as security, there is an added complication to cloud computing: the fact that data can be intercepted en route. Viruses and malware can hang in an operating system without the owner’s knowledge, silently transmitting data back to its source. Therefore if a personal machine isn’t safe, then neither is anything in the else in the cloud that that machine might connect to.

What to Do to Keep Safe

Whether you choose to entrust the cloud with your personal data or keep it on your own computer, there are a few basic safety tips to practice. Always choose passwords that are hard to crack, such as long strings of random numbers and letters. Removing the vowels of a phrase or substituting in numbers for letters can make this easy.

Additionally, when using the Internet, make sure that any personal data goes to a site with the https:// prefix, instead of http://. This indicates that it is a secure connection.

With the options available to today’s computer users, unlimited data access has never been easier. Just make sure your storage method is safe and takes advantage of these advancements to itsfullest potential.

My dear friend Michelle who wrote this for me is a blogger and freelancer. She’s written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while she’s writing. Whenever she’s able to step away from her computer she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs.

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