July 2016

CLOUD VS. ONSITE DATA CENTERS

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Ever since Amazon launched Amazon Web Services, kicking off perhaps the most transformative shift in the massive data center industry, the debate has raged about which data storage solution companies should adopt: the public cloud or onsite data centers.

Before we get into the merits of each approach, we need to understand what they are. Is a cloud a data center? Is a data center a cloud? Or are the two completely different?

While the two terms may seem interchangeable, the two computing systems have little in common.

The main difference between them is that a cloud is an off-premise form of computing that stores data on the internet while data centers refer to on-premise hardware that stores data within an organization’s local network. Also, cloud services are outsourced to third party cloud providers who perform all the updates and ongoing maintenance while data centers are usually run by in-house professionals.

Cloud vendors often own multiple data centers in several geographic locations to maintain data availability during outages and other data center failures.

Using the cloud offers many advantages over on-site data centers. These include:

1. Flexibility
Cloud-based services are ideal for businesses with growing or fluctuating bandwidth demands. If your needs increase it’s easy to scale up your cloud capacity, drawing on the service’s remote servers. Likewise, if you need to scale down again, the flexibility is baked into the service. This level of agility can give businesses using cloud computing a real advantage over competitors – it’s not surprising that CIOs and IT Directors rank ‘operational agility’ as a top driver for cloud adoption.

2. Disaster recovery
Businesses of all sizes should be investing in robust disaster recovery, but for smaller businesses that lack the required cash and expertise, this is often more an ideal than the reality. Cloud is now helping more organisations buck that trend. According to Aberdeen Group, small businesses are twice as likely as larger companies to have implemented cloud-based backup and recovery solutions that save time, avoid large up-front investment and roll up third-party expertise as part of the deal.

3. Automatic software updates
The beauty of cloud computing is that the servers are off-premise, out of sight and out of your hair. Suppliers take care of them for you and roll out regular software updates – including security updates – so you don’t have to worry about wasting time maintaining the system yourself. Leaving you free to focus on the things that matter, like growing your business.

4. Capital-expenditure Free
Cloud computing cuts out the high cost of hardware. You simply pay as you go and enjoy a subscription-based model that’s kind to your cash flow. Add to that the ease of setup and management and suddenly your scary, hairy IT project looks at lot friendlier. It’s never been easier to take the first step to cloud adoption.

5. Increased collaboration
When your teams can access, edit and share documents anytime, from anywhere, they’re able to do more together, and do it better. Cloud-based workflow and file sharing apps help them make updates in real time and gives them full visibility of their collaborations.

6. Work from anywhere
With cloud computing, if you’ve got an internet connection you can be at work. And with most serious cloud services offering mobile apps, you’re not restricted by which device you’ve got to hand.

7. Document control
The more employees and partners collaborate on documents, the greater the need for watertight document control. Before the cloud, workers had to send files back and forth as email attachments to be worked on by one user at a time. Sooner or later – usually sooner – you end up with a mess of conflicting file content, formats and titles.

When you make the move to cloud computing, all files are stored centrally and everyone sees one version of the truth. Greater visibility means improved collaboration, which ultimately means better work and a healthier bottom line. If you’re still relying on the old way, it could be time to try something a little more streamlined.

While cloud systems offer many advantages, they are not without fault. Some of the challenges one may encounter when using cloud computing systems may include: downtime, security, vendor lock-in, and limited control. Still, it is easy to see how the advantages of cloud computing easily outweigh the drawbacks. Decreased costs, reduced downtime, and less management effort are benefits that speak for themselves. Quadrant Softwares is a leader in implementing cloud-based solutions for business. You can talk to us at info@quadrantsoftwares.com .

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LIPA NA MPESA API

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It’s not an overstatement to say that Vodafone’s M-Pesa has revolutionized countless lives since it’s inception in 2007. It’s allowed people who did not have access to bank accounts to access digital wallets. But it’s not just individuals who’ve benefited from this; myriad businesses have benefited too. Businesses can receive and make payments without the physical of cash. This has been immensely to communities that did have access to cashless payment systems previously.

M-Pesa has come a long way from the days when all you could do with it was transfer cash from one mobile user to another. M-Pesa now includes services such M-Shwari (a mobile banking platform), Lipa na M-Pesa (a service that allows one to pay for goods and services from different merchants). In fact, M-Pesa’s services are so pervasive that they can now be incorporated into online systems and mobile applications-this is what we’ll focus on today.

There are several reasons to adopt a mobile payment solution such as M-Pesa. These include:

1. Increase your sales.
Mobile payments system inspires your prospects to convert and turns them into real time customers. It eliminates the purchase diffidence that your customers feel while following the traditional method of buying.Mobile Payment System opens a new gate for you to grab more audiences and ensure your company’s growth.

2. Build a world-class brand on a small budget.
Mobile payment allows you to understand your customers’ perspective and be a part of it.n this modern era, mobile payment system has become one of the easiest methods of payment. Mobile payment allows swift transactions and delivers receipts via text message or emails. The mobile payment system has simplified the purchase experience.

Safaricom’s M-Pesa platform offers versatile intergration capabilities that allow businesses and developers can utilize to create excellent M-Pesa journeys across their different industries. These features are now available via secure Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that allow for third party applications to easily plug into M-PESA.

M-PESA has been very successful mainly because of its simplicity of use and device agnostic nature – works the same way for the latest iPhone as the good old Nokia phone that has been passed over several user generations. The API rides on the same concept, providing open interfaces over standard protocols through web services. Unlike the old system (G1) where a lot of workarounds had been done to automate payment experiences, developers can now hook directly to the core M-PESA and get creative with the systems they run.

Below are some use cases:

1. Automated Payment Receipt Processing:
Imagine the different scenarios that require customers to pay and have this processed instantly!

With the new system, the notifications are taken a notch higher by incorporating an optional payment validation step for Paybill. This allows the payment recipient (merchants) to confirm whether to accept the incoming payment or not. While this may not sound very beneficial at the face of it, think of how many customers send payments to the right Paybill number but enter the wrong account. Money moves from the customer’s M-PESA account but their service payment will not be processed and they have to follow up. This has been creating a big problem with the merchants, leading to massive reversal requests. This can now be handled through the validation API which allows the recipient to validate any of the payment parameters, including, account, amount and even sender and only accept the payment if processing can be guaranteed.

2. Automated Payment Disbursements:
Many systems that process receipts will also require outward payments processing. This could range from employees’ salary disbursements to paying other merchants that accept M-PESA payments. This feature was only available via web portal for business to customers (B2C) with limitations on capacity that made it unsuitable for large disbursements. With the new platform, developers can have this done via API, which empowers them and cuts off the manual process of generating payments file, putting it in the right format then uploading it via the web portal, after which it has to be approved by a different user. With the B2C API, this is now seamless.

3. Automated Payments Reversal:
Even with an elaborate system, there is always a unique case that calls for a reversal. Imagine a situation where a customer has made a payment for services that the merchant is no longer able to render. The best way to handle this would be to have a reversal process that the merchant can adapt based on their internal processes. G2 supports secure payment reversal automation for such cases. The implementation will fully depend on the service journey and controls required at the recipient’s business.

It is clear that intergrating M-Pesa to any business’ systems is very beneficial to the business allowing the business to recieve payments seamlessly via M-Pesa while allowing the customers to make payments in a very convenient way.

We at Quadrant have the capacity and expertise of intergrating M-Pesa and other mobile payment solutions to both new and existing systems. Should you need to intergrate M-Pesa or any other mobile payment platform into your system, you can reach out to us through info@quadrantsoftwares.com .

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WHY YOU NEED BUSINESS PROCESS AUTOMATION

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Do you get a lot of emails requesting approval? Do you use a lot of paper forms to track processes and tasks? Do you know there are bottlenecks, but don’t have the data to prove where they are? Do you wish you could change a process quickly, but are buried in hierarchy? You are experiencing the effects of an un-automated work-flow.

Most tasks in any given business require a sequence of events to achieve them.These could range from getting approval from finance, then to marketing, escalate to legal, and so on and so on. When these processes are not automated, you run into the challenges described in the previous paragraph.

Business process automation has been defined as the automation of complex business processes and functions beyond conventional data manipulation and record-keeping activities, usually through the use of advanced technologies. It consists of integrating applications, restructuring labor resources and using software applications throughout the organization. These are some of the processes that can be automated:

1. Employee training (requests, approval, completion records, reimbursement)
2. Job applicant tracking
3. Onboarding – employees, vendors, customers
4. Purchase orders and invoice processing
5. Due diligence processes
6. Product changes
7. Anything requiring a routine intake, notification, approval process or manual handoff

So, why should any business seek to automate its process?

1. Visibility
With business process automation, you get visibility into process status. You can see where an item is in the workflow. That can be particularly useful for capacity planning and deadline management. Need to know if your team is on track to deliver on-time? Check your workflow software.

2. Accountability
With visibility comes greater accountability. There’s less opportunity for mix-ups, lost files, and finger pointing. By automating your business processes, managers can see who’s responsible for what and where processes are getting stuck. Managers can even get alerts when a certain step in the process hasn’t occurred according to schedule.

3. Document Management
Skip the paper chase. When combined with a document management system, BPA reduces the time employees spend filing and retrieving documents. Cut down on lost documents and search time. Plus, customers enjoy better service when employees have immediate access to information and process status from any location.

4. Efficiency
Business process automation helps your employees do more with less. Processes can move ahead faster because no one is waiting for files to be transported from desk to desk and no one has to remember to notify the next person in line. Alerts and task reminders can be generated automatically. On a management level, team leaders can get a macro-view of the process, allowing them to be more proactive about addressing and correcting potential bottlenecks. That high-level visibility means teams can reduce the time they spent in update and review meetings.

5. Business Insight
A good business process automation tool will include analytics capabilities. That allows managers to analyze business trends, identify repeat bottlenecks, and track response times. Which processes trigged the most missed deadline alerts? When are new process requests most likely to initiate? When processes terminate without completion, what’s the most common failure point? Check your workflow software

6. Time Savings
Manual tasks take time. They have to be performed linearly by humans who are prone to errors and who are unable to consistently perform to the highest standards.

Automation reduces the number of tasks you and your employees would otherwise need to do manually. This frees up your time to work on items that add genuine value to the business, allowing you to be more innovative and increasing your employees’ levels of motivation.

Automation also allows you to get more done in the same amount of time, greatly increasing productivity.

7. Quality and Consistency
Delivering consistently high quality products and customer service results in happier, long-term customers.

Quality: Automation ensures that every action is performed identically – resulting in high quality, reliable results

Consistency: If, for example, you have automated your customer service follow-up process, your customers will consistently experience the same level of service from your business

This guarantee of quality and consistency coupled with time and efficiency savings means that you can start developing higher quality and more feature-filled products with little or no increase in production time and costs.

It is evident that business process automation offers immense benefits and there’s really no excuse for not automating your business. Look to Quadrant Softwares to provide a solution that does’nt change the way you do business, but improves efficiency and productivity to your business processes.

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USING TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE BUSINESS PRODUCTIVITY

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increase-productivity-work-waysOne of the most important factors that determines a business’ success is the productivity of its employees. But what is productivity? Simply put, productivity is how much each employee makes over a specified period of time. The productivity of any business can be traced to it’s ability to successfully execute an overall strategy, and highly productive and engaged employees are crucial in achieving this. Information technology is now widely used in business to improve business productivity through prcess improvement, product innovation, and new worker skill.

Information technology can improve employee productivity by giving them secure and consistent access to information allowing the business to react quickly to business changes thus allowing you to keep ahead of your competitors.

Technology also allows a firms employees to reach the people they need anywhere and any time. VPNs(Virtual Private Networks), for instance, allow employees to work away from the office while accessing the corporate network securely.

Collaborations are also much easier when technologies such as interactive calendaring, videoconferencing and unified communications are deployed. Employees, partners, suppliers, and customers can work together efficiently while minimizing costs.

Streamlined customer communications are achievable with the deployment of appropriate technology. The use of CRM(Customer Relationship Management) systems are a sure-fire way of keeping customers satisfied.

Project completion rates can be vastly improved by using technology effectively. Project management software/systems allow for the tracking of projects thus ensuring that projects are on track and everyone is pulling their weight.

The use of IT can be a valuable tool for increasing a business’ productivity, but without careful selection of the appropriate technologies for the specific industry and comprehensive employee training, it can serve to reduce productivity, profitability and employee morale and satisfaction. Firms therefore have to ensure that the technologies they use are right for them and that they in a cost-effective manner.

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