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In the Zone

Video podcast: Get ‘In the Zone’ with QLC storage for PCs, VPNs for home workers, ‘extreme partnering’ for everyone

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by Peter Krass on 06/25/2021
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Join Ed Hannan, senior digital content manager at The Channel Co., and me, Peter Krass, editor of Tech Provider Zone, in our latest “In the Zone” video podcast.

In this installment, Ed and I discuss QLC 3D NAND storage devices your customers can use in their PCs, the rise of VPNs for work-from-home security, and 7 new trends for tech partnerships.

Catch up on the IT channel with Tech Provider Zone. Watch our new In the Zone video now:

 

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Intel reorgs to strengthen execution, innovation in critical business areas

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by Intel on 06/24/2021
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Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger this week announced the addition of two new technology leaders to its executive leadership team, as well as several changes to Intel business units.

Current Intel executives Sandra Rivera and Raja Koduri will each take on new senior leadership roles, and technology industry veterans Nick McKeown and Greg Lavender will join the company.

“Since re-joining Intel, I have been impressed with the depth of talent and incredible innovation throughout the company, but we must move faster to fulfill our ambitions,” said Gelsinger. “By putting Sandra, Raja, Nick and Greg – with their decades of technology expertise – at the forefront of some of our most essential work, we will sharpen our focus and execution, accelerate innovation, and unleash the deep well of talent across the company.”

As part of these changes, Intel’s Data Platform Group (DPG) will be restructured into two new business units.

Sandra Rivera will take on a new role as executive vice president and general manager of Datacenter and AI. Rivera will lead this organization’s focus on developing leadership data center products for a cloud-based world, including Intel Xeon and field programmable gate array (FPGA) products. She will also drive the company’s overall artificial intelligence (AI) strategy. Rivera has a deep history in data center technology and a track record of integrating Intel’s silicon and software portfolios to drive customer value. Prior to her role serving as Intel’s chief people officer, she led Intel’s Network Platforms Group.

Nick McKeown will join Intel full-time on July 6 as senior vice president and general manager of a new Network and Edge Group. This brings Intel’s Network Platforms Group, Internet of Things Group and Connectivity Group into a single business unit chartered to drive technology and product leadership throughout the network to the intelligent edge. Renown in the networking technology industry and recipient of the 2021 IEEE Alexander Graham Bell Medal, McKeown was previously a part-time Intel Senior Fellow who joined the company with its 2019 acquisition of Barefoot Networks, which he co-founded.

Intel will also create two new business units, one focused on software and one on high performance computing (HPC) and graphics.

Greg Lavender has joined Intel as chief technology officer (CTO) and senior vice president and general manager of the new Software and Advanced Technology Group. This group will drive Intel’s unified vision for software, ensuring it remains a powerful competitive differentiator for the company. As CTO, Lavender will also be responsible for driving Intel’s technical innovation and research programs, including Intel Labs. He brings more than 35 years of experience in software and hardware product engineering and advanced research and development to Intel, most recently serving as senior vice president and CTO of VMware. He has also held key leadership roles at Citigroup, Cisco and Sun Microsystems.

Raja Koduri, a well-known innovator in GPU computing technology, will lead the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, a newly formed business unit that will increase the company’s focus in the key growth areas of high performance computing and graphics. AXG is chartered with delivering HPC and graphics solutions for integrated and discrete segments across client, enterprise and data center. Koduri previously served as Intel’s general manager of Architecture, Graphics and Software.

Rivera, McKeown, Lavender and Koduri will all report directly to Pat Gelsinger.

Navin Shenoy, who has been serving as executive vice president and general manager of the Data Platforms Group, will assist with the transition and leave Intel on July 6. The company is grateful to Shenoy for his 26 years of service, including his contributions as leader of DPG, as well as his previous leadership of the Client Computing Group and Intel Asia Pacific.

 

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In the Zone

Device as a Service offers savings for your customers, new revenue for you

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by Peter Krass on 06/24/2021
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How would you like to offer your customers the power and functionality of a full-fledged PC, but without all the complexity and capital expense — all while earning a pretty penny for your efforts?

If that sounds appealing, then you need to know more about Device as a Service.

DaaS is one hot market. Market Research Future estimates that worldwide DaaS subscription fees will rise over the next 5 years at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 56%. By 2026, the market watcher predicts, those subscription fees will total more than $190 billion.

How many of your current markets are growing that fast?

How DaaS works

Like its older siblings SaaS and PaaS, DaaS uses the cloud to provide centrally managed services that were formerly available on premises only. In DaaS’s case, the services are PC applications.

But users don’t need a PC to use DaaS services. Instead, they can use almost any internet-connected device, including inexpensive thin clients. And new apps can be deployed to hundreds or even thousands of virtual desktops in mere minutes.

Encrypted access works to keep their systems and centrally stored data secure and protected. If a computing device is stolen or lost, the account’s access can be shut down immediately, preventing a breach.

For your customers, DaaS can be easy and affordable. Instead of buying PCs and then having to secure, manage and maintain them, they just subscribe to your DaaS service.

Typically, a DaaS subscription fee is monthly and based on the number of users. It may also reflect usage patterns, storage capacities and more.

How Harlin does DaaS                                                                                                      

One tech provider enjoying the many benefits of DaaS is Harlin IT Services. The Seattle-area company has been in business for over 40 years, and it offers SMB customers a wide range of managed and supplemental tech services, as well as consulting.

Harlin logo

About 80% of the hardware Harlin provides its customers is under a DaaS contract, according to Manson DeGraw, the company’s CIO. What’s more, Harlin has purchased all the hardware without having to borrow money. It prices the DaaS service so that the average customer pays back Harlin’s initial cash outlay in 12 to 14 months.

“We’re making good money on DaaS,” DeGraw says, “and not just from financing, but also from having the latest Intel vPro platform-built PCs out in the field.”

DeGraw says those vPro PCs are so reliable, they keep Harlin’s labor and repair costs low. “We’ve standardized on a proven technology that we know works,” he adds.

How you can learn about DaaS

What do you do if you’d like to get into DaaS, but don’t know much about it? Well, Intel has your back, not only with powerful client-systems technology, but also with partner training.

Intel Partner University offers deep training curriculums known as Competencies, and these include DaaS.

Take this course in this competency and you’ll learn the basics of DaaS, its business model, the business problems this model solves for customers, and the different verticals and deployment types. You’ll also learn about the hardware software components needed for a solution and the corresponding client Intel hardware, software and solutions you can recommend when selling DaaS solutions.

Intel currently offers 20 DaaS-related Competencies trainings. Some can be completed in as little as 10 minutes, making the training easy to squeeze into your day.

Complete the DaaS Competency, and you’ll not only be a lot smarter, you’ll also earn a Solution Pro badge you can display online to promote your new area of expertise.

> Check out Intel Partner University’s DaaS Competencies (login required)

> Are you a member of Intel Partner Alliance? Activate your membership or join now

> Learn more about how DaaS helps Harlin IT Services. Download the full case study by clicking on the PDF link below…

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Infographic: 11 things to know about 11th Gen Intel Core

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by Peter Krass on 06/23/2021
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How much do you know about Intel’s most ambitious system-on-chip?

For that matter, what do you know about the Intel Evo platform brand?

If your answer is “not much,” don’t worry. A new infographic from Intel tells all.

This infographic lists the top 11 things you need to know about both the 11th gen Intel Core processors and Intel Evo.

Know 11 things about 11th gen Intel Core: Click the link below to open the infographic:

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Make digital transformation happen with the persistent memory

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by Peter Krass on 06/22/2021
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Your customers’ digital transformation projects not only generate a great deal of data, they also produce new data types. That’s for workloads such as AI and machine learning, real-time analytics and advanced business intelligence

These workloads require new hardware and software capabilities. These include the ability to deliver data with real business value (not just information), low latency for vital transactions, and highly parallel processing on large datasets.

And that’s where the Intel Optane Persistent Memory (PMem) 200 Series comes in. Thanks to recent releases, these devices now work with two-socket servers powered by the latest 3rd generation Intel Xeon Scalable processors.

Mind the gap

As the following Intel diagram illustrates, Intel Optane PMem aims to fill the gap between memory and storage.

Intel Optane PMem pyramid

Intel Optane PMem offers more capacity and persistence than DRAM. By filling the DRAM gap, this technology can help your customers extract more insights from their large datasets and lower their total cost of ownership (TCO) — all while automatically protecting their data.

Intel Optane PMem can also help your customers get more insights by expanding the memory pool in persistent memory, and by supporting near-real-time data analysis. Even better, these larger datasets can now reside closer to the CPU for faster processing and greater insights.

TCO gains come from the Intel Optane PMem 200 Series’ more affordable approach to keeping large datasets in memory; lower overall costs than comparable DRAM; and the ability to increase VM, user and application density. That last capability will empower your customers to meet important service-level agreements (SLAs) using fewer servers.

Data protection comes with how the Intel Optane PMem 200 Series secures all data at rest with application-transparent AES-256 encryption. This advanced encryption standard should be nearly unbreakable by brute force.

Real world, too

So how does all that work in the real world? Pretty well. According to Intel’s own figures, when the Intel Optane PMem 200 Series is used with VMware software, users enjoy up to 25% lower costs per virtual machine (VM), while still getting the same performance.

Also, the Intel Optane PMem 200 Series is already supported by a long list of ecosystem partners. There are too many to mention, but the list includes OSes from Microsoft and Red Hat, infrastructure from VMware and Hadoop, databases from Oracle and SAP, and AI and analytics from SAS and Spark.

The Intel Optane PMem 200 Series is available in 3 memory modules: 128, 256 and 528 GB. They deliver up to 32% more bandwidth on average than their predecessors, according to Intel. The new line also supports up to 6TB of total memory per socket.

Looking ahead, you can rest assured that Intel is playing the Intel Optane PMem game for the long-term. The company’s roadmap shows at least two new generations of Intel Optane PMem, which will in turn support future generations of Intel Xeon Scalable processors. When it comes to persistent memory, Intel’s got your back — and your customer’s back, too.

Learn more: Achieve greater insight from your data with Intel Optane Persistent Memory (product brief)

 

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Your guide to personal printers in the age of WFH

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by Kevin Jacoby on 06/21/2021
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Do people still print things? Like, on paper?

As it turns out, yes, they do. Sometimes it’s all about a stodgy government bureaucracy that demands printed forms (in triplicate). Other times the kids just want to print out a homemade birthday card for grandma.

Then there’s the over-40 crowd. They grew up writing and correcting on — gasp! — actual paper, and they just can’t get over it.

To be sure, the days of buying new printers, reams of white paper and endless ink cartridges may yet experience an ignominious demise. But as of mid-2021, we’re still pumping money into the printer market like it’s going out of style.

This must come as something of a relief to the folks at HP. Sure, the company’s printer revenue, which represents half its business, has been in steady decline for over a decade. But even at the lowest point in 2020, printers still brought HP annual revenue of $17.6 billion.

More recently, for HP’s financial quarter ending this past April 30, the company’s printer revenue actually rose 28% year on year. What’s more, those sales delivered an operating margin of nearly 18%. So much for the end of printing!

Killing trees the old-fashioned way

The pandemic-inspired work from home (WFH) movement must surely account for some of HP’s billions. When COVID struck, scads of cubicle-dwellers suddenly found themselves with shopping lists that included laptops, scanners, webcams and, of course, printers.

Were they disappointed to find out that the tech behind today’s printers has hardly changed over the last decade? Perhaps. But maybe they were mollified by today’s printers’ lower retail prices, easier hardware setups, and ability to print wirelessly from just about any device.

In most cases, WFHers chose between the venerable inkjet printer and its highfalutin’ cousin, the laser printer. Both types have been around for ages, and both continue to proliferate in a very if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it kind of way.

To each his/her own

Choosing the right printer is mostly a matter of determining the pros and cons of each type, then deciding which features you consider most important.

The pros and cons of an inkjet like the HP Deskjet 3755 All-in-One (around $90) look something like this:

Pros:

> Cheap hardware, ink, and paper

> Easy-to-find ink cartridges

> Produces relatively high-quality color photos

Cons:

> Ink runs out quickly

> Printing is slow

> Relatively low resolution

HP DeskJet 3755 printer

HP inkjet printer: cheaper printing, hi-quality photos

On the other hand, laser printers such as the sub-$200 Canon imageClass LBP6230dw have a different set of ups and downs:

Pros:

> Crisp, high-resolution printing

> Longer-lasting toner cartridges

> Fast printing

Cons:

> More expensive hardware

> More expensive replacement cartridges

> Subpar color printing with cheaper models / expensive high-quality color printing

Canon imageClass printer

Canon laser printer: a splurge to buy, but cheaper to run

Adding another dimension

Oh, the future of printing? Yeah, it’s 3D. But you already knew that.

3D printers have been around for ages; early so-called “additive manufacturing equipment” was developed back in the 1980s. But it wasn’t until recently that startups including MakerBot brought 3D printing to the masses.

Today’s 3D printers are readily available and downright affordable. For instance, you can pick up a Monoprice 121711 Select Mini 3D Printer at Amazon for under $200.

Monoprice 3D printer

Monoprice 3D printer: at $200, that’s one low price

Modern 3D printers use various types of filaments, including ABS plastic, nylon, carbon fiber, polycarbonate and polypropylene. The filament is heated until it turns into liquid. Then it’s squirted out of a nozzle, not unlike the way an inkjet printer squirts ink.

However, unlike an inkjet printer, when the 3D printer’s filament dries, the result is not a picture on a piece of paper, but an actual three-dimensional object. Said object could be the prototype of a new cellphone, a hard-to-get replacement part for an engine, or even a life-saving heart valve.

Printing money for the channel

Printers represent an opportunity for the channel the same way they do for titans HP, Brother and Canon.

In many cases, the printer itself is a loss-leader. But the ink, paper, and maintenance they require is anything but. For example, a single ink cartridge for that $90 HP Deskjet printer will set you back $16.

3D printers are another opportunity. Here, channels partners can help their customers use 3D printers as rapid-prototyping devices.

It’s now feasible because prices for 3D printing hardware and filaments have come down far. The right setup could save SMBs millions in pre-fabrication costs while also providing channel partners with a burgeoning revenue stream.

The key to success is right there in black & white. (And color.)

 

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Intel NUC Mini PCs: Where elegance and efficiency meet

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by Peter Krass on 06/17/2021
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Have you experienced the Intel NUC yet?

NUC rhymes with “buck,” and it’s a full-powered mini-PC that could bring you some serious bucks.

The Intel NUC is part of the larger PC market — which, as I’m sure you know, is absolutely on fire. Market watcher Canalys says U.S. PC shipments in this year’s first quarter rose year-on-year by a record-breaking 73%, for a total of 34 million units.

This fire isn’t going out any time soon. Canalys predicts that U.S. PC shipments will keep growing over the next year, albeit at a more moderate 5.4%.

What’s driving all that demand? Short term, supply constraints. But those should end soon, helped in part by the Biden administration’s planned $50 billion investment in semiconductor manufacturing.

Also boosting demand will be new post-pandemic “hybrid work” setups. That’s where employees work a few days a week from home, a few days in the office. Facebook, Apple and a few other companies have already mandated this for the fall.

One versatile mini-PC

The Intel NUC comes in whatever form your customers need. That could be a ready-to-run PC. A barebones kit for building your own. A NUC Board with soldered-in processor for creating custom applications. Or a NUC Element, a pluggable card that includes a processor, Wi-Fi and memory.

The Intel NUC also enjoys a full-fledged ecosystem of third-party products. These include cases, chassis, graphics cards, cables and cooling systems.

The Intel NUC Mini PC is indeed mini, measuring only about 4 x 4 inches. That makes this device ideal for use in the home, meeting rooms, classrooms, or (in the Rugged version) factory floors.

Yet Intel NUCs are also powerful. They’re equipped with the latest Intel processors, your choice of SSD or HDD storage, and a full range of ports — USB, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, Ethernet and microSD. And all that is backed up by Intel’s 24x7 support and 3-year warranty.

Collaborate with Unite

One business application for the Intel NUC is powering conference-room collaboration systems. That includes the Intel Unite solution.

The Intel Unite solution is an easy-to-use videoconferencing system. It can be used in an office meeting room, classroom, faculty room, or any other space dedicated to collaboration. Intel Unite uses wireless tech to connect to displays, or interactive “smart” whiteboards. Meeting participants, regardless of location, can share and edit content in real time.

You can bring things up a notch by powering Intel Unite with the Intel NUC Pro. This mini PC fully supports conference-room solutions such as Intel Unite solution. The Intel NUC Pro can pair with cameras to create a complete videoconferencing solution, power interactive displays for web conferencing and screen sharing, and supply a conference room with the functionality of a full-powered PC.

Train to gain

Both the Intel NUC Mini PC and Intel Unite solution are easy to use, but you can get even more from these systems with some training. And who better to get that training from than Intel?

Intel Partner University, the company’s training program for partners, offers deeper curriculum-based trainings known as Competencies for both NUC Mini PC and Intel Unite solution. Complete these trainings, and you’ll not only know how to serve your customers better, you can also earn a digital badge to promote your skills online.

The two Competencies are:

> NUC Mini PC Solutions: With these courses, you’ll learn the basics of Intel NUC product offerings and product add-ons. You’ll get a deep dive into the greater NUC ecosystem. And you’ll explore the breadth of solutions enabled by a small form-factor PC, including digital signage, kiosks, rugged environments, collaboration spaces, gaming and creating.

There are a total of 15 trainings, each of which offers at least 5 credits. Some are as short as 10 minutes — easy to squeeze into your day.

> Intel Unite Solutions: These trainings will teach you the basics of collaboration solutions and how to successfully position, demonstrate and deploy the Intel Unite solution. You’ll also delve into the software platform that modernizes and unifies collaboration across verticals and organizations of all sizes.

There are nearly a dozen trainings, and they include getting started with Intel Unite cloud service, delivering immersive learning tech, and a safer return to work.

> Ready to get skilled? Check out client Competencies on Intel Partner University (login required).

> Are you a member of Intel Partner Alliance? Activate your membership or join now

 

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Your customers’ client systems can now use latest Intel QLC 3D NAND SSDs

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by Peter Krass on 06/15/2021
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Do you have customers looking to upgrade PCs and other client systems with bigger, better storage? If so, Intel has an innovative new solid-state drive they’ll find interesting.

Known as the Intel SSD 670p, this client-system storage drive features Intel’s advanced QLC 3D NAND technology. The drive is available in the familiar M2 (22 x 80 mm) form factor. It offers lots of performance. And it’s backed up by Intel’s 5-year warranty.

Intel SSD 670p

How good is this SSD? Don’t take my word (or Intel’s) for it. Here’s what some leading tech reviewers have said about the Intel SSD 670p:

“Rather than chasing higher and higher stats for the sake of marketing brag points, Intel has instead refocused the ultimate purpose of SSDs… in the process, it has nearly dethroned some of the fastest PCIe 4.0 drives we’ve ever tested.”PCMag

“The Intel 670p is perhaps the first QLC SSD that simply doesn’t act like a QLC SSD. Not only did it pull off incredible performance … but also its low 4K random read performance is incredible.”The SSD Review

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine the 670p would run with the big dogs. QLC-based SSDs, even with Gen4 interfaces, have never been capable of delivering performance where it matters like this before. This is truly groundbreaking territory.”TweakTown

QLC for your MVPs

The Intel SSD 670p brings to your customers’ client systems the same technology Intel has been developing for data-center servers. QLC (quad-level cell) technology improves the storage density over previous approaches (TLC, MLC and SLC). And 3D means these cells get stacked vertically — in Intel’s case, up to 144 layers.

The industry is moving toward QLC technology in part to drive down costs. But the technology can deliver a balance of other benefits, too, including power, performance, speed and endurance. The new Intel drives are energy-efficient, too, drawing just 25mW while idle and about 3mW during sleep. That helps keep laptop batteries charged longer.

Another industry movement is toward PCIe interfaces, and away (probably forever) from SATA. Virtually all new SSD drives are now designed for PCIe. And today’s entry-level PCIe SSDs are now good enough for mainstream use.

Yet another industry shift that the Intel SSD 670p reflects is the requirement for more and more client storage. The days when 100GB was sufficient have passed. Intel is offering the new SSD in three SKUs offering 512GB, 1TB and 2TB of storage capacity.

Cache for performance

Caching is another aspect of PC storage tech that has become increasingly important. And sure enough, the Intel SSD 670p offers serious caching improvements.

It’s all about speed. With a feature known as Dynamic SLC, the drive’s cache allows whatever you’re running to go in faster SLC (single-level cell) mode. On Intel’s 1TB drive, for example, you get a maximum SLC capacity of up to 140GB.

Essentially, this means your customers can get SLC-like performance on a QLC drive. Intel does this with a combination of advanced firmware, 4-channel controller and more.

Intel says this allows the Intel SSD 670p to outperform all others for mixed workloads. Meaning storage no longer needs to be a bottleneck.

This SSD is affordable, too. Recommended retail prices are $69 for the 512GB drive, $119 for the 1TB drive, and $254 for the 2TB drive.

Replacing older storage drives can be a smart and affordable way to extend the life of your customers’ older client systems. And for that role, the Intel SSD 670p could be just the right drive.

Get storage-savvy:

> Check out the Intel SSD 670p drives

> Bust these 4 common myths about QLC storage

Are you a member of Intel Partner Alliance? Activate your membership or join now

 

The indispensable source for professionals who create, implement and service technology solutions for entrepreneurs to enterprise.

In the Zone

Tech Explainer: How a VPN can keeps your data private

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by Kevin Jacoby on 06/14/2021
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Remember when getting some privacy was as simple as shutting the blinds and taking the phone off the hook? Yeah, those days are long gone.

Welcome to the Internet Age, where everyone is snooping. From totalitarian regimes to the service provider that sends the internet into your home and office, someone is always looking over your shoulder.

There’s no simple solution. All you can do is employ some modern tech to stack the odds in your favor.

If you’re ready to start stacking, a virtual private network (VPN) is a cheap and easy way to go.

What’s this private network of which you speak?

Essentially, a VPN creates a secure, encrypted connection between your device and a remote private server somewhere on the internet. Because that server obscures the origin of any data request you make, you can remain anonymous.

Reliable, modern VPNs such as Mullvad (recommended by The New York Times) install easily on your computer or mobile device. The automatic setup, with your permission, routes your internet traffic through a secure server that’s located somewhere, anywhere on the net.

Mullvad VPN app

VPN app Mullvad secures not only PCs, but also phones

You can also install a VPN on your router or hotspot. You may get slower speeds than if the VPN were right on your device, but it does bring the benefit of convenience. That way, once the VPN is installed, every connected device will enjoy the same level of security. You won’t have to set up each one individually.

By obscuring your browsing, watching and communicating habits, a VPN essentially hides you from prying eyes. Those could be the eyes of your ISP. Or, for that matter, of anyone that has gained access to your data stream, whether legally or otherwise.

VPN diagram

A VPN sits between you and the public internet (diagram via Privacy End)

For example, if Kim Jong Un demanded to know whether you watched the “Friends” reunion, your VPN could keep the Supreme Leader in the dark. Hey, it could happen.

Do I seriously need a VPN?

No, not really. But should you seriously think about getting one? Well, that depends. Do you…

> Have concerns about government surveillance or censorship?

> Need a remote connection to your company’s intranet?

> Spend a lot of time on public Wi-Fi?

> Want to stream movies from another country’s Netflix library?

If your answer to any of those questions is Yes, then it may be time to shell out $2 to $20 a month for a reliable VPN.

The risk is low. Because a VPN is just another app, there isn’t much in the way of commitment. If the VPN makes you feel safer, keep going. But if it turns out to be just another unnecessary monthly expense, cancellation is only a click away.

What’s the catch?

Yes, there’s always a catch. Always.

VPNs are designed to give you the warm-and-fuzzies while you’re surfing and streaming. But no security solution is foolproof.

Your data has to go somewhere. If it’s not going straight to your ISP, then it’s going to the company that provides your VPN.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But you should know that law-enforcement agencies sometimes subpoena VPN providers to get data. And sometimes these VPN providers comply.

Another issue: A VPN can slow you down. Introducing other apps and servers into your data stream creates latency. With the VPN sitting in front of your internet connection, you could experience slower upload and download speeds.

The slowdown could be a remote issue, too. Your chosen VPN may boast thousands of fiber-optics-connected servers around the world. But the speed and efficiency of each server depends on several variables, including traffic, location, even local weather.

Watch what you don’t pay for

If you do go for a VPN, there’s one more catch: If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Many VPNs offer a free service tier. But ask yourself: If they’re not making money from your monthly subscription fee, then how exactly are they making money?

The answer might have something to do with selling your private data to the highest bidder. Buyer beware!

That said, a VPN you pay for could be your new best cyber friend. No, it’s not as easy as pulling down the blinds. But for our uber-connected age, it’s definitely a whole lot more secure.

 

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In the Zone

7 new trends for ‘extreme partnerships’ — and how to adapt to them now

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by Intel on 06/10/2021
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By Jason Kimrey

One side effect of accelerating the digital economy is significantly impacting the way companies do business: It’s bringing more people and companies together.

At last month’s Intel Partner Connect virtual event, John Kalvin, my colleague and new Intel global channel chief, talked about “extreme partnerships.” That’s a great description for the connections needed to deliver these complex solutions.

As we navigate new routes to market and a world of extreme partnerships, we must change our traditional views of partnerships, forge new ones, and recognize the changing landscape IT decision-makers now face. It also requires a new approach to selling — and new skills to help navigate and build new routes to market.

Here are 7 trends for extreme partnership:

Trend #1: Complexity is here to stay

I’ve said it before: Today’s solutions are much more complex, with many moving parts. No one company can do it all.

How to adapt: As the pace of transformation continues to accelerate, the only way to keep up is by bringing together best-of-breed companies. Together, they can deliver a complete solution and the best outcomes.

For our customers, it’s all about business outcomes, and that’s how we need to align our partnerships and solutions. This means bringing the right parties to the table.

We also need mechanisms for these diverse partners to connect and scale solutions. It's a key reason why we launched Intel Solutions Marketplace. It’s a platform to bring partners together in a more frictionless environment.

Trend #2: New collaborations are coming

Related to the complexity of the new solutions is the fact there are a lot of new companies coming into our ecosystem … both as new businesses that emerge to respond to market demands, as well as legacy partners who are adding new solutions to their portfolio.

How to adapt: Collaborative approaches to selling require strong communications, an ability to acknowledge you don’t know everything, and a willingness to defer to those with the greatest expertise.

For example, we’re seeing companies that are born in the cloud and have never lived in an on-premises world. By bringing our infrastructure knowledge and understanding of the value of optimized compute together with their cloud-first model, we can deliver the deep knowledge that end-user customers need to navigate the many cloud worlds.

At the same time we’re seeing companies with deep vertical knowledge. For example, industrial manufacturing companies that know manufacturing processes and workloads in an analog way, but need help with the technology capabilities. And no one knows compute better than we do!

Trend #3: Think service

XaaS is continuing to expand into new areas. Businesses are looking for help to rapidly deploy systems and manage capital expenses, all while leveraging the advantages of cloud solutions.

How to adapt: More and more vendors are selling their product as a service rather than a stand-alone system. That means rethinking how we work together, compensate and support each other.

We need to ensure that partner programs support the shift to a services-led model versus a more traditional procurement model. It also requires a change in the way we approach the sale. Services can be less tangible, and this requires a shift in how we position and talk to the advantages, ROI and outcomes.

Trend #4: Sales structures need to change

The breadth of technology becoming mainstream continues to grow, now including AI, HPC and IoT/Edge. But these technologies require specialized expertise and skills. In this environment, your existing team structure might not fit anymore.

How to adapt: Don’t get stuck in a rut. Be willing to create specialized focus areas that can dig deep and offer that expansive knowledge and expertise.

Sticking with your internal structures could be detrimental to delivering these new and advanced solutions. Stay nimble and stand up new teams as needed to support emerging market segments. I know I have.

Trend #5: Effective marketing tactics are shifting

When we moved from in-person to virtual, customer interactions abruptly changed. To adapt, we also needed to pivot our sales motions. Even as we return to the workplace, some of those changes will remain.

How to adapt: Just because we can return to pre-pandemic sales motions doesn’t mean we should. Consultants McKinsey & Co. find that 70% to 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer remote human interactions or digital self-service, and they find remote and online sales just as effective as in-person interactions. I suggest we take a best-of-both=worlds approach as we continue to navigate the post-pandemic world.

So what’s working? Well, virtually all (96%) buyers are looking for content that speaks to their industry. Nearly as many (91%) buyers want easy access to content without long forms, and 92% of buyers say their choice of vendor is influenced by an extensive menu of thought-leadership content.

But remember, customers are doing more research than ever before. The average B2B tech buyer today consults about 7 information sources before making a purchase. That’s up 35% over last year. So we need to provide the information they want in a self-service world.

What are the top sources of information? Top sources remain demos, vendor/product websites, user reviews and vendor reps.

Also, don’t overlook the importance of the customer experience. Over 40% of businesses cite poor customer service as the reason they look to change vendors, which is up from only 10% in 2019. Just because we’re virtual, you can’t drop the ball on service.

Trend #6: Buying decisions get bigger, take more time

Decision-making committees are getting bigger, and they will continue to include both IT professionals and line-of-business reps. Nearly a third (30%) of IT decision-makers expect the average number of IT people involved in decisions to increase; the line-of-business influence is expected to remain steady. Another survey finds that more than half (56%) of B2B tech buyers work outside IT.

How to adapt: Remember, when presenting a solution, you’re selling to both highly technical and non-technical audiences. Recognize that each of these audiences will have different questions and priorities. Ensure that you’re addressing both groups. And be prepared to include education from a trusted advisor, so your customers can make informed decisions.

Trend #7: Sales cycles get longer, too

More than two-thirds (68%) of buyers say the length of their B2B purchase cycle, compared with that of just a year ago, has increased significantly. Clearly, buyers are spending more time researching their purchases.

How to adapt: Your sales models need to respond to this extended review period. Don’t lose sight of leads just because they’re taking longer to close. Continue to be creative to stay top-of-mind during the sales journey — no matter how long it takes.

Navigating the route ahead

Lots of companies, including Intel, are talking about new routes to market and the need to understand who is driving decision-making around technology consumption and purchasing.

The pace of digital transformation means that technology companies and their partners must change the way we produce, sell and support solutions.

While change is a certainty in technology, so is the critical importance of forging partnerships. As we travel these new and winding routes to market, the best and most innovative solutions will be driven by those who embrace extreme partnerships.

Jason Kimrey is general manager of U.S. channel and partner programs at Intel.

 

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