What is a Virtual Desktop?

For many companies navigating remote work at scale for the first time, relying on cloud providers to deal with infrastructure is easier than keeping administrators on site within the IT department to manage servers.

Amazon and Microsoft both have virtual desktop services.    These cloud-based offers have seen an uptick since the start of the global pandemic.   These are applications that are helpful for companies that want to keep their employees productive as they work from home or in our worlds new hybrid working environment where we will work some days from home and other days in the office.

Google has a similar product called “Cloudtop” that employees use to access internal programs.   However, Google’s cloud customers do not have access to Cloudtop.    Google customers wanting a virtual desktop solution will need to go to a third-party solutions instead.

An example of this is when Zoom saw a surge in new customers during the pandemic, the video-calling software company signed up for additional Amazon WorkSpace virtual desktop licenses for its help desk employees, Amazon said in November.

For Microsoft, they made a noted on its recent earnings call that usage of Windows Virtual Desktop tripled during the quarter, as organizations deployed virtual desktops and apps on Azure to enable secure remote work.

Google first made its Cloudtop service available to employees in 2017. It is meant to help them build software, interact with internal systems, and communicate through internet chat functionality. The service offers support for desktops running the Linux and Windows operating systems.

In a Google published a paper on its virtual desktop software it was stated that over 25% of Google employees use virtual desktops, and Google migrated the software to its public cloud from its corporate infrastructure to improve the user/employee experience and decrease the total cost of ownership.

Examples of companies using virtual desktops are Telus, who uses a product from privately held Itopia on Google’s cloud, while Equifax relies on Citrix software on the Google cloud. Other customers use a product from privately held Workspot.

These products have gained momentum since the COVID-19 appeared. In 2020 revenue growth from Citrix’s Workspace segment, which includes its virtual desktop software, grew over 10% year over year, compared with 5% in the prior year.   It’s profitable revenue, too: Citrix reported a gross margin in excess of 80%.

Cloud Desktop Applications:

  • Citrix – A software company that provides server, application and desktop virtualization, networking, software as a service, and cloud computing technologies. 
  • Workspot- A provider of enterprise software to help IT departments deliver apps and data to mobile devices. 
  • Itopia – Cloud Automation stack to make it easy to rapidly deploy thousands of Windows 10, RDS, or Linux virtual desktops & apps to most any device.  Leverages the power of Google Cloud’s IaaS and PaaS products.  Pairs automation with Google Cloud’s high-speed network, so enterprises can manage productivity workloads at global scale.
  • Amazon Workspace – a cloud desktop that can be used for day-to-day business tasks such as editing documents, accessing web applications, and sending/receiving company email. 
  • Microsoft Virtual Desktop – comprises the Windows desktops and apps delivered to users which is hosted as a service on Azure by Microsoft. Desktops and apps can be deployed on virtual machines (VMs) in Azure regions.

Why Is the U.S. Government Turning to the Cloud?

Why Is the U.S. Government Turning to the Cloud

The main attraction for cloud communications is cost. As the federal government strives to lower costs and stretch budgets, they have been looking toward new solutions for IT support. The cloud can:

  • Reduce installation and CAPEX costs of software and hardware.
  • Reduce dedicated support staff costs.
  • Lower the overall long-term cost of ownership – ROI.
  • Decrease telco circuit spending.
  • Enhance productivity.

Since much of the government’s work takes place in the field, having a cloud-based platform is useful, as it enables workers to access data and information from anywhere, so they can easily conduct business, no matter their location. It also drastically reduces the costs of software and IT implementation, as well as monthly fees, by eliminating installation and on-premises maintenance support.

The federal government has over 20 million employees. This serves as a vast market segment for UC services. The federal government look for UC providers that not only provide competitive pricing but also offer advanced security features to keep all cloud-based data safe.

The U.S. federal government is vulnerable to breaches of information from many bad actors, so they have advanced security protocols in place called FedRAMP, and most technology needs to meet the standards of FedRAMP. As the U.S. Government becomes more dependent on cloud communications, advanced forms of cloud security will continue to be innovated, leading to an improving cloud that offers even better security in the future.

Given the U.S. Government is a huge market for small and large IT industry players.  UC and Cloud services will continue to grow and evolve.

A recent study flagged these key aspects of the Cloud Market within the Federal Government:

  • Competitive Market. Traditional contractors remain competitive in the federal marketplace. Agency reliance on contractors for engineering expertise is a major factor.
  • IaaS Still the Primary “Cloud”. Spending on Infrastructure-as-a-Service continues to lead the cloud market.
  • Cloud is Key to Agency Modernization. Cloud adoption is driving the modernization and optimization of federal networks.
  • Complexity Benefits Contractors. Multi-cloud environments are making industry partners critical for integration and management services. This will continue as agencies lack in-house expertise and automated solutions.
  • Trusted Cloud Solutions. FedRAMP certification is now mandatory to be competitive. Agencies also appear to be requesting higher certification levels.

A new report on the federal cloud market expects the government to increase its expenditure on cloud computing by nearly $4 billion in the next five years.

According to one forecast report (Deltek) regarding the federal cloud market, released in 2020, the government will likely spend $9.1 billion in fiscal year 2024 on cloud computing, an increase from $5.3 billion in FY2019.

The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs have both spent over $1 billion from FY2016 to FY2018. Since FY2016, the VA’s cloud spending has increased 250 percent. The Department of Homeland Security’s cloud spending increased 359 percent, Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services — which each spent over $100 million on cloud.

Defense agency cloud spending increased 10 percent from FY2016-2018, totally $907 million in spending. Nearly half of that was spent by the Defense Information Systems Agency, which spent $120 million on cloud in FY2018.

It is clear the Cloud is a driving force to modernization and lower costs within the Federal space.  The private industry has noticed and is moving fast to fill the demand.

Are Perpetual Licenses dead?

Are Perpetual Licenses dead?

It is becoming more and more difficult to purchase software based on a perpetual license. For years, vendors have “sold” a license to a customer for the customer to install and run on their computers.   The customer has the right to use that license, at that release level, for as long as they want.   They pay a one-time (capex) fee and they are done.    No more expenses other than annual maintenance.

There are two main negatives about this model from a customer standpoint:  1) there is a large one-time upfront fee for a perpetual license.     It’s not a big deal if you are buying one single license for $250.   But if you are a corporation and you need 10,000 Salesforce or Cisco licenses for example, it becomes a very big issue from a cash flow standpoint.    2)  You are stranded on that release level that you purchased.   If you bought release 10, then you will still be on release 10 four years from now and may be missing out on new business enhancing features.  You can always buy the next release but then that would require another large capital outlay.

Enter Subscription.

Now, vendors are increasingly licensing their software on a monthly basis.  You no longer purchase the license but “rent” the license which includes access to future releases.  From an end user standpoint this solves the two main issues with perpetual licenses noted above.   The monthly rental fee is a lot less than the one-time capex fee and you get future business enhancements included.

However, as the end user you have to be aware of some of the downfalls with this model.  When you stop paying your monthly fee the license goes way.   If you stop paying for a Netflix subscription for example, your service immediately stops – the same is true with subscription licenses.   The other main consideration is that over the long term you will pay MORE for the subscription license then you would have paid for the one-time capex fee.

From a vendor’s standpoint, subscription licensing is great. Why get paid once for a license, when the license can generate a steady revenue stream year after year instead?

Perpetual licenses are a dying breed and in today’s market environment – they seem to be being phased out quickly.

Customers are finding an OPEX monthly cost far more palatable than investing in a license for long-term use as well as having a product which is updated regularly with enhanced features and benefits.

Furthermore, if your business has a large investment in perpetual licenses vendors will give you a one-time credit when you turn them in and move to a subscription model.

Microsoft really was a leading contender in the market’s move from Perpetual to Subscription.  Moving to services like O365 also removes the headache of having to manage services like Exchange and SharePoint. As of 2019, Microsoft had a base of over 180 million active users.

Not a bad footprint.

 

WHAT IS Wi-Fi 6?

WHAT IS Wi-Fi 6?

When Wi-Fi 6 came out, it was announced as the great upgrade. Since every generation of wireless makes a similar claim, what is a significant upgrade is vs. what is “just a little bit faster”?

WI-FI 6 ISN’T ABOUT TOP SPEEDS

Instead of boosting the speed for individual devices, Wi-Fi 6 is all about improving the network when a bunch of devices are connected.

The latest generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6, brings with it some significant performance improvements that aim to address limitations in older generations.

It’s important to understand that 802.11ax, also known as “high-efficiency wireless,” “Wi-Fi 6”.  So, here is the rundown of the current and prior generations of Wi-Fi:

  • Wi-Fi 6 = (802.11ax);
  • Wi-Fi 5 = (802.11ac); and
  • Wi-Fi 4 = (802.11n).

 

Wi-Fi 6 is just beginning its rollout in the market.

Technically, Wi-Fi 6 has a single-user data rate that is 37% faster than Wi-Fi 5, but what’s more significant is that the updated specification will offer four (4x) times the throughput per user in crowded environments, as well as better power efficiency which will help with battery life.

Home users who upgrade their hardware will see improvements from these technologies, as the number of devices per household increases – some estimates suggest there will be as many as 40 connections thru a router, per home by 2023.

Wi-Fi 6 isn’t designed to boost download speeds significantly – it mainly allows for device count increases. This will lay a foundation for the number of nodes expected on upcoming expansion of home smart devices – i.e. the Internet of Things.

 

Here’s some of Wi-Fi 6’s main benefits:

  • More overall bandwidth per user for HD streaming
  • Support for more simultaneous streams of data with increased throughput
  • More total spectrum (2.4GHz and 5GHz)
  • Packets contain more data and networks can handle different data streams at once
  • Improved performance (as much as 4x) at the maximum range of an access point
  • Ability to offload wireless traffic from cellular networks where reception is poor

 

WHAT IS WI-FI 6?

Wi-Fi 6 is the next generation of Wi-Fi. It’ll still do the same basic thing — connect you to the internet — just with a bunch of additional technologies to make that happen more efficiently, speeding up connections in the process.

How to Contact First American Business

Our new First American Ticketing system has been up and operational for over six months now and is working exceptionally well.

Customers can call us 7×24, email us or open a ticket on our web portal.   The following is a summary of that process:

How to Contact First American Business

Work from Home – Impact to Telecom

Work from Home - Impact to Telecom

The future of work is changing rapidly.

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted many companies away from the physical office leaving people wondering how long they’ll be working remotely and how their work will change once they return to the office.

This is the new digital telecommunication world we are in now.

Teleworking has been around since the late 1990’s.    Back then a few innovative companies including Nortel Networks decided that they could save money on corporate real estate and improve employee satisfaction and productivity.   It didn’t hurt that companies like Nortel and Cisco made network equipment that allowed for remote offices to work in the first place.   High speed bandwidth was just coming into play in the ‘90s – before that it was dial up modems which were not capable of supporting a digital workplace.

Slowly, over the years, more and more companies allowed workers to work remote and meanwhile the technology that allows for unified communication (voice, text and video) kept getting better and better.

Fast forward to 2020.  The digital office isn’t temporary. Instead, the pandemic has accelerated a shift that was already in the works for a while. Much of the abrupt transition that companies made because of the pandemic will be here to stay, and it’s up to companies to consider the unique needs of their workforces as the future continues to evolve.

The pandemic accelerated the work from home movement by at least 5 years. It was already moving in this direction before, but the pandemic actually forced companies to experiment on new ways of working.

Explosion of Zoom, Teams and other collaborating applications hit mainstream.   Zoom was there but most people hadn’t used it before March this year.   The pandemic forced people to try it (and other collaborating tools) and they found them to be easy and they liked it!   The boom for these high bandwidth applications also drive IT sales of PCs, Headsets, Laptops, soft clients, directory services, call centers and virtually every part of a company’s telecom infrastructure.   Do you want to own a data center with servers and perpetual licenses when you could get Zoom or Salesforce or G suite from the cloud and pay on a per user basis?  Many companies are taking this opportunity to move to the cloud.

This movement to home has been both good and bad for employees.   On the positive side they aren’t wasting time in the car commuting.  They’re taking advantage of the time that they have at home, which they would have normally spent on the road.  However, they’re working even more and taking more time out of their personal day, or they’re not focusing on the families. Some companies are asking their people to block their calendars for personal time, which is a new situation for sure.

From a company standpoint E-commerce was already a piece of the business. Now it’s becoming the business itself.  When talking about digital transformation, business must look at the payback. Digital transformation is the business performing and growing better.

Working from home is really about the art of bringing together — the right tools and the processes and people. It is estimated that 40-50% of all jobs in American can be done remotely and long after the pandemic is over there will be more jobs done from home than ever before.

First American Business

100% of our staff works from home.  We remotely access our customer’s networks to trouble shoot and resolve issues and if we need to go to a site we nationwide network of over 800 technicians in the field that we can deploy locally as needed.

In short, we are fully operational, productive and supporting our customers during this time of change in the Telecom world.

End

PRESS RELEASE – May 2020 NEW AWARD

PRESS RELEASE – May 2020 NEW AWARD

CONTACT INFORMATION

FIRST AMERICAN BUSINESS SOLUTIONS, INC.

David A. Colangelo, PMP – Federal Business Manager

401-258-2095

David.Colangelo@firstamericanbusiness.com

 

DEPT OF THE NAVY CONTRACT AWARD

[New Port Richey, Florida, May 3, 2020]  First American Business Solutions was awarded the Telecom support agreement (O&M) for the Dept. of the Navy – West under a one + four year arrangement due to its superior customer service.

The Department of the Navy (Navel Support FLC Puget Sound) awarded a Firm Fixed-Price contract to First American Business Solutions on April 29, 2020.   Under the award, First American Business will provide telecommunications Operations and Maintenance services under a base year plus four optional years.

The intent of the award is to provide telecommunications operations and maintenance (O&M). This includes secure and reliable, classified and unclassified, voice and data services in support of the U.S Navy and other DOD agencies under the Commander Navy Region North West Area of Responsibility.

First American Business shall provide all material, labor, supplies, vehicles, test equipment, and any other items required to maintain the Nortel telecom Private Automated Branch Exchange (PABX) systems, AVAYA Systems, Voice Mail systems, Remote Intelligent Peripheral Equipment (IPE), batteries and rectifier systems, proprietary digital telephone sets, fiber optic and copper cable plant, main frames, and operator consoles.

First American Business shall also be required to provide labor and material to maintain and install additional inside/outside cable plant and fiber optics, as well as equipment and labor to provide switch expansion capability and dot release software updates.

“We are excited to expand our presence within the Department of Defense.  This contract award from Navy West is an amazing opportunity for us leverage our Nortel and Avaya product expertise and to solidify our corporate security clearance as we expand further into the government space” says Mark Morningstar Owner and Managing Partner of First American Business.

Specific sites to be supported by First American Business Solutions under this award include:

  1. Naval Station Everett, Everett, WA
  2. Naval Air Station, Whidbey Island, Oak Harbor, WA
  3. Naval Magazine, Port Hadlock WA
  4. Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Keyport, WA
  5. Pacific Beach Resort and Conference Center, Pacific Beach, WA
  6. Naval Hospital Bremerton
  7. Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, Silverdale, WA
  8. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility, Bremerton, WA
  9. Naval Base Kitsap, Bremerton, WA

End

President’s Piece

President’s Piece

Fall 2020!

It has been 6 (crazy?) months since COVID-19 hit our communities.    The virus is still playing out so it is difficult to predict when things will truly be back to “normal” from a business standpoint.   A few things are coming more into focus however.   Before the pandemic about 8% of all knowledge workers worked from home.   Over the past 6 months that has shot up to over 30%.   Surveys are predicting that it will settle back to around 20% once a vaccine is widely available.   Even at twenty percent, that is over double from what it was a few short months ago so our business – telecommunications – will only become more important supporting this change.  Higher bandwidth, video conferencing and unified communication platforms are now common business tools.

At First American Businesses, our work-at-home policy has been in place for over 10 years.  Our suite of collaboration tools make communicating internally and with clients relatively easy.

Another key change in the business world is air travel.   Airlines are only operating at 40% of pre-pandemic levels and don’t expect to recover for years.   With newly accepted telecom tools like Zoom and Teams there won’t be as much of a need to get on a plane.  We are fortunate to have a nationwide footprint of local engineers.   We are able to continue supporting our customers with a combination of local and remote technical support.

We will see what the next few months brings.  We are proud to have kept our entire staff this year – in fact – our business has continued to grow and we have added new employees!

New Customers

Over the past six months the number of quotes and contract wins has really picked up.  Like most businesses we were impacted by the “pause” in the March and April timeframe but then, customers who had delayed decisions, started to sign new agreements and request new proposals.  A few examples of new big awards this year for our team include:

Navy Contract:  First American Business will provide telecommunications Operations and Maintenance services under a base year plus 4 optional year agreement to The Navel Support FLC Puget Sound (“Navy West”).  This is a multimillion dollar contract supporting many Navy locations in the Northwestern U.S.   Please see our Press Release.

Damovo:   We signed an umbrella agreement and a direct support agreement with Damovo USA in August.   First American will dispatch to their customer locations on a 7×24 basis throughout the U.S.

These are just a few examples.  The First American Business team has been working overtime to on board these new customers!

Staff Expansion

Because of our new contracts we are expanding.   We now have 5 full time certified CM8 engineers and 4 full time certified Nortel engineers.    On the Navy West project we hired four new (very talented) staff dedicated to that account:  Chris Kinsman, Earl Lange, Matt Mason, and Tom Thornwall.  We are very happy to have them on the team!

This is the largest our engineering team has been since business started 11 years ago!

Our Lab

If you recall in previous newsletters we mentioned we were constructing a Lab.  The Lab is 2,200 square feet that includes a server room, a small warehouse, individual desk space, a conference room, a training room and a small kitchenette.  The Lab is up and running and fully functional.

First American Facemasks

We know these are trying times for families and businesses.   More than ever we are grateful to our customers for sticking with us and for helping us to expand.

To ensure we are doing our part to protect our customers and employees, First American Business has created a company sponsored protective facemask that is being distributed to our personnel who report to or visit a customer site.

 

Thanks to you, and our employees – we look forward to finishing out the year strong!

 

Sincerely,

Mark
Owner, Managing Partner

mark.morningstar@firstamericanbusiness.com

Work from Home – Impact to Telecom

Work from Home
The future of work is changing rapidly.

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted many companies away from the physical office leaving people wondering how long they’ll be working remotely and how their work will change once they return to the office.

This is the new digital telecommunication world we are in now.

Teleworking has been around since the late 1990’s.    Back then a few innovative companies including Nortel Networks decided that they could save money on corporate real estate and improve employee satisfaction and productivity.   It didn’t hurt that companies like Nortel and Cisco made network equipment that allowed for remote offices to work in the first place.   High speed bandwidth was just coming into play in the ‘90s – before that it was dial up modems which were not capable of supporting a digital workplace.

Slowly, over the years, more and more companies allowed workers to work remote and meanwhile the technology that allows for unified communication (voice, text and video) kept getting better and better.

Fast forward to 2020.  The digital office isn’t temporary. Instead, the pandemic has accelerated a shift that was already in the works for a while. Much of the abrupt transition that companies made because of the pandemic will be here to stay, and it’s up to companies to consider the unique needs of their workforces as the future continues to evolve.

The pandemic accelerated the work from home movement by at least 5 years. It was already moving in this direction before, but the pandemic actually forced companies to experiment on new ways of working.

Explosion of Zoom, Teams and other collaborating applications hit mainstream.   Zoom was there but most people hadn’t used it before March this year.   The pandemic forced people to try it (and other collaborating tools) and they found them to be easy and they liked it!   The boom for these high bandwidth applications also drive IT sales of PCs, Headsets, Laptops, soft clients, directory services, call centers and virtually every part of a company’s telecom infrastructure.   Do you want to own a data center with servers and perpetual licenses when you could get Zoom or Salesforce or G suite from the cloud and pay on a per user basis?  Many companies are taking this opportunity to move to the cloud.

This movement to home has been both good and bad for employees.   On the positive side they aren’t wasting time in the car commuting.  They’re taking advantage of the time that they have at home, which they would have normally spent on the road.  However, they’re working even more and taking more time out of their personal day, or they’re not focusing on the families. Some companies are asking their people to block their calendars for personal time, which is a new situation for sure.

From a company standpoint E-commerce was already a piece of the business. Now it’s becoming the business itself.  When talking about digital transformation, business must look at the payback. Digital transformation is the business performing and growing better.

Working from home is really about the art of bringing together — the right tools and the processes and people. It is estimated that 50% of all jobs in American can be done remotely and long after the pandemic is over there will be more jobs done from home than ever before.

First American Business

100% of our staff works from home.  We remotely access our customer’s networks to trouble shoot and resolve issues and if we need to go to a site we nationwide network of over 800 technicians in the field that we can deploy locally as needed.

In short, we are fully operational, productive and supporting our customers during this time of change in the Telecom world.

Telecom (AI) – Artificial Intelligence

Telecom (AI) – Artificial Intelligence

Last year Google announced its open ­source platform for machine learning, giving developers access to one of the most powerful machine learning platforms created. Google is moving to become a machine learning company.

The core of Contact Center AI is conversational.  “Human-like” interactions to improve conversation and the customer experience.

The development suite of code from Google is an example for building natural “conversational” experiences across multiple contact center channels (voice, chat, etc.)  More than one million developers are now using this suite of tools in multiple areas of AI including the Contact Center.

There are two areas in particular that are growing in prominence within a business contact center environment:

  • Virtual Agent

When you call in for help you may get a “Virtual Agent”.  This type of agent gives customers 24/7 access to immediate conversational self-service, with easy handoffs to human agents for more complex issues.  Instead of a traditional calling tree (i.e. “press 1 for payroll, press 2 for…”) you can simply say “I need help with payroll” and the Virtual agent will take you to a live agent who specializes in that function.

  • Agent Assist

When you are talking to a live human agent, “Agent Assist” helps the human agent with continuous support during the calls by identifying intent and providing real-time assistance.  You (the customer) may say a word or a phrase that causes the Agent Assist to go look up some information and present it to the agent live while you are talking.

Currently in contact centers, analytics are all done after the call. The call is recorded, it goes to a server where it gets transcribed for analytic purposes and then reported. This process pulls out the trending keywords, checking for tone, and recording metrics requested by the business. Then, it presents the overall readout with sentiment and keyword analysis. Looking at this information after the call is over is not nearly as helpful as doing it in real-time.

On November 14, 2019, it was announced that Google’s Cloud Contact Center AI is now Generally Available (GA). Genesys, Avaya, Cisco, Incontact, Five9s and Mitel have all announced interconnection or partnerships with Google’s Cloud Contact Center AI platform.

The current thinking and the current model is that, for the foreseeable future, AI will help agents in the call center, but it won’t replace them.

When a call comes in, it will be listening to what is being said and it will learn from what it hears. It will also be able to transition easily to an agent when needed, all of which helps the customer experience.

Example:  AI Anticipating Customer Needs

What we mean by AI:

A call comes into a parts supplier company from a long time customer.   AI will automatically pull up recent purchases.   It may recognize that that this caller buys x number of parts every six month so it will pull up the current rates for a potential new order… all before the human agent even answers the phone.

If the customer actually mentions a new type of part during the conversation with the live agent, the AI will immediately search and present to the agent the inventory, shipping dates available and prices without the agent having to type anything.   AI will hear the phrase from the customer and perform the search and present the information.    All of this to “assist” the agent and improving the customer’s experience.

This technology is already available. For example, Vonage’s communications API platform works with IBM Watson to provide just this type of virtual in-call assistant. In the contact center of the next few years, it will be commonplace.

The contact center of the future will anticipate a customer’s inquiry and predict what they’ll want to talk about. It will even provide appropriate support throughout the interaction, all thanks to artificial intelligence (AI).