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Internet users are two-timers

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A newly released Microsoft MSN poll has revealed that more than half of average Internet using consumers use more than one computing device every day – and are increasingly turning to the cloud to help access and share their important files.

The poll, which drew from more than 10 500 respondents in 15 countries, including South Africa, showed that 56% of respondents use at least two devices everyday (PC, laptop, tablet, smartphone) to access their files, and almost one-third (28 percent) use three or more devices on a daily basis.

In this multi-device world, the number-one reason consumers are turning to the cloud is to ensure they have easy access to important files across devices or on-the-go, with 58 percent citing photo sharing as being at the top of their list. Consumers also use the cloud to share documents, spreadsheets and presentations with friends, family and/or work colleagues from smartphones, PCs and tablets.

‚”These days people are juggling multiple devices and need easy access to their files, and services like Microsoft’s SkyDrive allows them to get what they need, when they need it,‚” said Colin Erasmus, Windows Client Business Group Executive at Microsoft South Africa. ‚”No matter what device you’re using – your phone, iPad, a friend’s computer, a PC or a Mac, services like SkyDrive keep you constantly connected to the files you need.‚”

Overall, about 40% of respondents store files online as they ‚’like being able to easily access things when they are on the go/across devices’, followed by ‚’not have to worry about losing data if PC/laptop were lost/stolen/crashed’ (34%) and ‚’easier to share things with friends, family and /or work colleagues’ (32%).

Interestingly, when asked what they would pay if their digital photos were held for ransom, 44% of South African respondents said ‚”nothing‚” while 12% said they would pay R5 000, or more!

Personal PCs and laptops remain the top devices being used by South African respondents every day (42% and 41% respectively) to access videos, pictures, school projects and work files. However, smartphones are close behind (39%), with work PCs being used by 31% of respondents and tablets by 9%.

Erasmus believes South Africans are still early in consumers’ adoption of cloud storage. ‚”Our past research shows that even amongst people who use the cloud, the files stored in the cloud are small compared to what’s stored on the PC: 22 percent of the photos people have on their PC are stored online, and only one percent of documents. It’s important that we make it simple for anyone to store and access files with the cloud.‚”

The poll also revealed that the number-one concern consumers have about the cloud is privacy, closely followed by security.

‚”Consumers can feel confident about using services like SkyDrive, as they offer security features including encryption of your files when you upload or download them, and makes it easy to control who has access to the files you store,‚” said Erasmus.

The New SkyDrive

Microsoft has announced improvements to SkyDrive which make it easier for consumers to save, share and access their files, anytime, anywhere:

¬∑ 7GB of free storage for your files that’s up to 20 000 docs or 7 000 photos expandable if you need more

¬∑ With SkyDrive.com it’s easy to store any file and access it from virtually any browser across PCs or Macs

· Access your files via the browser of any smartphone or use the free updated SkyDrive app for Windows Phone 7.5 and iPhone

¬∑ Via the SkyDrive app, ‚”Fetch‚” lets you get files from your home PC’s hard drive regardless of where you are

· SkyDrive is the only cloud service that lets you view and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents at no cost, and without converting files or destroying your formatting

The survey was conducted via MSN in 15 EMEA markets: Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Russia and South Africa. There were 10,544 total respondents across all markets.

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Telcos want one face

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The investments that telecommunications service providers are making in reshaping their online properties into customer-centric portals reflects the growing maturity of self-service and Internet uptake in the industry, says KEVIN MELTZER of Consology.

Many telcos around the world are overhauling their websites to offer customers more holistic portals that give them a single point of entry into the organisation.

They are doing so because they recognise that service will be a key point of differentiation for their businesses in a market that is becoming increasingly competitive. They have also realised that they have a major opportunity to shift customers away from expensive contact centres towards low-cost electronic channels.

In the past, most telecommunications operators ran multiple sites across multiple domains and subdomains. These web-based properties were built around the way that telcos structured their own businesses rather than around the needs of the customer. But we are now seeing the leading operators take a more user-centric approach to the way that they design their web and mobile sites.

This coincides with a change in the industry from slicing customers into numerous segments and then serving them across a range of functional and product areas. For example, many operators split customers into prepaid and postpaid segments or voice and data users, distinctions that are becoming less meaningful in a world of technology convergence. They now want to present a single face to the customer rather than servicing the subscriber through silos.

These changes are starting to percolate through to operators’ customer service and sales strategies. Telcos are starting to pull together disparate products and services that once resided across multiple sites into customer service portals.

These sites put a wide range of information at the subscriber’s fingertips, he adds. Increasingly, for example, subscribers can log directly into their accounts from the operator’s homepage and then access a wealth of services and information. This marks an evolution from the fractured and inconsistent customer experience of the past.

Leading operators are even thinking about how their Self-Service platforms should be integrated with social media strategies to allow customers to pay their electronic bills or top up airtime with a single click from within a social network.

Whereas Self-Service portals on telco sites were once purely about account management functions, they increasingly offer far richer functionality. In addition to allowing subscribers to pay their bills and check their account information, they are also increasingly becoming the first stop for service and commerce.

Operators have started to recognise that splintering their e-commerce, service and account management functions simply makes no sense. Customers want to be able to do everything through one interface rather than needing to visit two or three Web sites, or eventually possibly needing to phone a call centre or visit a store for certain transactions.

Integrated and easy to use online customer service channels will be central for telco operators who want to be competitive in the markets of tomorrow. They form an advantage in an industry where it will be customer relationships rather than cost or service that drive loyalty and purchasing decisions.

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Talk for less with MWEB Talk

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Today, MWEB announced its consumer VoIP package called MWEB Talk, which allows users to make free network calls and get discounted rates made to landlines and mobile phones.

MWEB, today launched its new Voice over IP (VoIP) offering to South African consumers. The service, MWEB Talk, will offer users’ free on network calls to fellow MWEB Talk users’ and cheap calls to landline and mobile phone numbers. This follows the success and demand of the ISP’s existing VoIP products in recent months.

‚”We have seen a noticeable transformation in users’ Internet behaviour with consumers wanting services that complement their ADSL connectivity solution. We have seen phenomenal growth and by the end of the year will deliver over 100 million minutes on our VoIP platform,‚” says Carolyn Holgate, General Manager of MWEB Connect, the ISP’s Consumer and Small Office/ Home Office Division.

MWEB has made significant investments in its infrastructure and VoIP has been prioritised on its network to ensure performance and stability of the MWEB Talk service for both businesses and consumers.

‚”In addition to the high quality of the service, MWEB Talk is also simple to set-up and users’ should experience a significant reduction in their telephone bills. By implementing a VoIP service consumers and small businesses can cut their monthly telecommunication bills by up to 55% to landline and mobile numbers,‚” says Holgate.

With no subscription fee, existing MWEB customers can log into their MWEB account, register for the service and download the application for PC and Mac as well as mobile applications that turn an iPhone, Android, and Nokia smartphone into a VoIP phone. Customers will also be able to purchase a Desktop VoIP Handset for R99 which will be HD voice ready and will support multi-extensions.

‚”We believe that VoIP is the future of telephony in South Africa and we are extremely excited to see the consumer market shift into the VoIP space,‚” concludes Holgate.

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