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Service the key for SME

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2016 was heralded as a particularly tough year, and small to medium businesses have in particular been affected. BRIAN TIMPERLEY, managing director of Turrito Networks, highlights the biggest pain points for SMEs and how these can be overcome in the future.

A key pain point for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in 2016 continued to be an influx of cheap and ill-supported fibre and internet solutions, which fall far short of the SME’s needs.

SMB decision makers have been overwhelmed by cheap consumer connectivity and attempt to use these to drive down the cost of connectivity in their organisations.

And, says Brian Timperley, managing director of Turrito Networks, this trend will continue into 2017, underscored — ironically enough — by a dazzling array of choice, combined with the trend of technologically-knowledgeable users who apply consumer-level thinking to their businesses.

“A consumer’s requirement for fibre is very different from that of a business. While many SME owners think that consumer-grade fibre will deliver the same requirements for their business, the lack of sound advice to the contrary from their service provider often leaves them with slow connectivity and downtime,” adds Timperley.

“Bandwidth has never been cheaper than it is now, and yet we’ve never had more discussions around price. The challenge is that there are no consumer-level or “cheap” broadband products in South Africa that match the performance of business-grade Internet products.”

He is emphatic that — unlike the consumer arena — “the Internet” for SMEs is about far more than just browsing: “Businesses require far more than consumers and a big part of how we approach solutions for businesses of this size, is by understanding what they use their connectivity for.

For SMEs, the internet isn’t about consumer activities like Internet surfing and accessing social media sites. It’s about a whole range of critical services including voice over IP, cloud, video, backups and accessing Office 365, Sage, Pastel, Microsoft Azure, hosting, and cloud-based PABX.”

All of these consume vastly different amounts of data compared with consumer use, and in very different ways.

“The analogy we use is that of a professional deep sea diver who goes into a dive shop and asks for the cheapest oxygen tanks available – that’s not the kind of equipment you want, when your life depends on it… a parallel to buying connectivity based on price alone,” Timperley explained.

“Despite knowing how important connectivity is, SMEs are asking their service providers for the cheapest solution, without clarity on the impact that ill-matched solutions may have on productivity, uptime and efficiency.  SMEs were prepared to accept high prices in the days when that was the norm, and in turn demanded a high level of service from their providers.

“We are urging business owners and decision makers, to start demanding better value from their service providers and reap the benefits of a best fit connectivity solution for their organisations.”

Turrito Networks commercial director, Louis Jardim says that when it comes to selecting your partner and the connectivity solution for your business, it is important to understand the terminology, and challenge your provider to deliver best value.

He recommends being clear on the difference between a service level definition (SLD) and a service level agreement (SLA), contention ratios – how many other businesses and users will be sharing the same bandwidth, what the minimum upload and download speeds are that you can expect, and whether these can be consistently maintained, whether there is a 24/7 support desk, and what the mean time to respond and mean time to repair is.

He argues that before SMEs sign on the dotted line with service providers, that they understand what downtime is worth to them and the impact slow connectivity will have on their businesses.

For Timperley, the relationship between client and provider comes down to trust.

“As a neutral provider, we know precisely what the differences in pricing and services are from over 32 of the largest providers in SA. We have no incentive to sell any one of those network providers over the other. We have relationships with all of them and can deliver the same services they’re offering – but we know what works and what doesn’t.

This neutrality means we’ll ensure that our customers get the best bang for their buck, exactly in line with what their requirements are.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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