Vietnam businesses finding key to IT success in Volo-based Atom

NOTE: This posting first appeared in the April 29 edition of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

From its beginnings near the bogs of Volo, Atom AMPD is now finding its way into the rice paddies of Vietnam.
The Lake County-based developer of the AtomOS Kwick Key operating system has recently expanded into the Southeast Asian country, extending its global reach in that portion of the world, which already includes China and Singapore.
Atom AMPD CEO Daniel Field said Vietnam’s economic growth over the past 10 years — the country’s annual GDP growth rate has been 7.2 percent in that time — makes it a good market for AtomOS, as fast growing companies there are looking for a business-focused operating system that can be quickly set up and maintained. The Linux-based AtomOS system, which is contained on a 2 gigabyte USB ‘Kwick Key” flash drive, has drawn a lot of interest since their initial visits to the country.
“We started (meeting) with about 12 to 15 people and that grew to 35. Now it’s up to 75 to 80 people,” Field said. “It sounds like we found the pulse and the right buttons to hit with it. They appear to be really liking the product.”
And that interest is turning into potential dollars, as Field said he anticipates about $9.5 billion in combined revenues from businesses that have already signed agreements.
“Vietnam’s market is strong and its really growing well right now,” Field said. “But they’re making decisions pretty quick over there, so we’ve been pretty content with what we’ve been able to do.”
Field attributes the company’s success in Asia to having partners that know the region and its varied cultures. Through them, company representatives have been able to make initial contact with C-level executives at a number of Vietnamese businesses and government agencies.
“Part of it is knowing the culture and that’s why it’s good to have partners that help with that,” he said.
And while AtomOS was originally targeted for small to medium-sized businesses, Field notes even large companies in the region have become interested in the system for its capabilities and lower overall IT costs. Unlike systems from companies that Field refers to as “big boxes,” the AtomOS can be used without upgrading existing servers and hardware, and elements can be turned on or off to meet a specific business need.
“They’ve picked up on it right away,” he said. “They like the fact that — in a sense — they has a Swiss Army Knife where they can pull out a blade that they need. Here, they can pull out what networking piece they need without having a high price tag that goes along with it.”
Although they are still establishing themselves in Vietnam, Field noted the company already has its next step planned — Malaysia. He said the company has already been contacted by a Malaysian firm that has heard of what they’re doing in Vietnam.
“He’d be the first one in Malaysia, so we’re working on getting that deal finalized while (the team) is out there,” he said.


Your business isn’t too small or too local for hackers

NOTE: This first appeared in the March 18 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger

As a small or medium-sized company doing business regionally, you probably think you’re too small to have your conference system hacked by international criminals.
Or, while you’re running your weekly sales strategy conference call with your sales team, you’re probably not thinking someone outside the company could be listening to your group discuss sensitive or confidential material.
But Robert Bellmar says it’s that approach that makes small and medium-sized businesses vulnerable to hackers and corporate spies. Bellmar, senior vice president of Chicago-based conferencing services provider InterCall, notes telecom fraud is a global problem that is feeding international organized crime.
“It’s an everyday occurrence,” Bellmar said. “The conference call is the perfect place for (criminals) to continue to fraud and make money.”
Telecom fraud has become a huge problem. Losses to global businesses are around $40 billion, according to the Roseland, N.J.-based Communications Fraud Control Association, while Houston, TX, tax consultancy UNY Advisors estimates annual fraud costs in the neighborhood of $1 trillion.
As a result, telecom security has grown into a is big business, according to industry analyst Gartner Inc. Corporate spending worldwide on security in 2012 was up 8.4 percent to $60 billion, and Gartner estimates spending could reach $86 billion by 2016.
Bellmar notes there are typically two types of fraud that result from hacking conference lines. The first is called a calling card scheme, where the hacker will call a business’ conference bridge and continually enter passcodes until he finds one that works. The hacker will then sell the passcode, which is used as a calling card, only the hacked business is charged for calls.
“They make money on the transaction of the passcode,” he said.
The second type is what Bellmar calls a “classic call pumping scheme.” The criminal uses international premium rate number — similar to a 900-number in the U.S. — but that number would not be recognizable to an average business. Hackers use the business’ conference bridge to access that premium number, so charges are occurred by the business.
“It looks like a normal number, just that it gets charged at a premium rate,” he said. “So what happens is they’re making money on the number they own, but they’re generating revenue through the hacking of someone’s system.
“You can be liable for those calls, and that can rack up very fast,” Bellmar added. “It’s not that uncommon for an hour or two of usage to bring you up to $10,000 on your phone service. It can happen quite quickly.”
Bellmar said companies across the U.S. are constantly being hit by hackers, primarily from countries like Belarus and San Marino, using call centers and “war dealers” — phone systems with hundreds of dealers constantly entering sequential phone numbers.
“The scale of organized crime in this is huge. On a weekend we’ll see hundreds of simultaneous connections from fraudulent organizations trying to compromise us,” Bellmar said. “That’s call centers and war dealers shooting at our environments trying to compromise them in order to build up their base of codes they can sell.“That’s not a small organization.”
Another area of concern is corporate espionage, when a hacker breaches a conference call. Bellmar notes this issue gained notoriety in 2012 when an international conference call on corporate espionage hosted by Scotland Yard in London was hacked by the group Anonymous, who recorded the meeting and posted it on YouTube. An investigation found an officer attending the event had forwarded information to his private email, which was hacked.
“It’s a case in point that even the most security conscientious people, if they’re not making the right tool choices, are at risk,” Bellmar said.
Bellmar said business owners can take some simple steps to make their conferencing safer:
1. Use a 10-digit code that is randomly generated.
2. Don’t use a PIN number that has the last four digits of your phone number.
3. Never post conferencing details on the Internet.
4. Lock your conference once you start so no one else can join, and use your roll call function so unknown people can’t join.
5. Use visual tools to manage a call. “There are a number of apps out there that can take control of call,” Bellmar said. “You can take the call and see (on your smartphone) who is on bridge. They’re out there and they are the best way to manage your call.
Bellmar stresses that small or regional businesses are just as vulnerable as global corporations, and even more so if business owners take an approach that they could never be targets.
“For the average organization, it’s a very small problem until you’re compromised,” he said.
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Batavia firm’s site makes your Facebook strategy pay off

NOTE: This first appeared in the Nov. 26 issue of the Daily Herald Business Ledger.

You know your business must be on Facebook. It’s what everyone is telling you.
But is your Facebook page adding anything to your bottom line?
Having a reason for being on social media has been the dilemma for businesses since social networking began. But one Batavia company says it has developed a tool that not only helps small businesses build a presence on Facebook, but also generate revenue from it.
Recipreo is an online business tool from MetaLOGIC Design, a five-year-old company that focuses on developing websites and Internet marketing for small-to medium sized businesses primarily in the Tri-Cities area. The company has built local sites for firms such as Avondale Custom Homes, Kramer Tree Specialists and Onpath Financial, as well as doing nonprofit sites such as Anderson Animal Shelter and Pride of the Fox.
Mike Czerwinski, MetaLOGIC’s director of sales and marketing, said their work with the small business owners helped them realize challenges businesses face in integrate social networking into their overall strategy.
“A lot of small businesses know they need to be on Facebook and on social media, so they create their Facebook page and then they just really don’t know how to market it,” Czerwinski said. “They don’t know how to monetize it, to generate sales or revenue through their Facebook page.
“Recipreo helps small businesses turn their social network into a revenue generating tool,” he added.
Recipreo basically provides a simple way for consumers to search out a business’ Facebook page, and a platform for businesses to entice consumers to like their Facebook page by providing special offers. The site has a search engine and database of more than 450,000 business Facebook pages throughout the United States, according to Matt Vittal, MetaLOGIC’s director of web development.
When a consumer comes to the Recipreo site, he types in a location and will get an alphabetic listing of business Facebook pages in that location. All locations are also pinpointed on a Google map.
Businesses that have signed up with Recipreo are highlighted, Czerwinski said, and can provide incentives for customers to use if they like that business’s Facebook page.
Those businesses have a page on Recipreo that highlight the offer. If the customer clicks on “like,” he receives a coupon that is not only printable, but also has the option to be shared among that person’s Facebook friends.
“The average Facebook user has 235 friends,” he said. “If you can share it with ten people, it gets exposure to up to 2,500 people that didn’t know about this company or this offer previously.”
The customer brings the coupon to the store to redeem, and that gives the business quantifiable results of its Facebook marketing strategy.
“They can say ‘Facebook brought me 10 clients and these coupons generated $700 worth of revenue,’” he said. “Now you can measure your return on investment by being able to track these offers that come back to your store.”
For the business owner, Recipreo provides a number of marketing tools they can use online and offline, Czerwinski and Vittal note. A coupon can be generated by filling out four basic fields, Czerwinski said. Once created, the coupon is not just posted to Recipreo, but also to the business’s Facebook timeline, making it available to customers who have already liked the page.
“You want to leverage (the Recipreo) group to get more likes, but you also want (Facebook customers) to come back in,” Vittal said. “Facebook likes are great but you want to drive revenue, so you don’t want to forget about the people who already like you because the best way to get them to engage with you is to offer these coupons.”
In addition to the coupon, Vittal said the marketing side also provide a number of tools that all the business to promote the offers in-store and through other channels, including a QR code creator that provides a way to tie walk-in customers to your Facebook page and offers.
“You can print and put a QR code in the store,” Czerwinski said. “People can scan the code in the store with their smartphone, click like on your Facebook page and redeem the coupon while they’re in the store.”
The focus for Recipreo was to create a marketing tool for small businesses that is easy to use, fast and provides results.
“We learned over time that business owners don’t have a lot of time to devote to this, so we really needed to leverage technology in order to achieve results quickly, keep the costs down and make it really easy,” Vittal said.
Recipreo launched in October with about 20 businesses primarily in the Tri-Cities area, and the focus now is to build its client base throughout the suburbs. Czerwinski said the goal is to add 50 new clients a month with the hopes of achieving 1,000 clients in a year.   
While a business can list their Facebook page on Recipreo at no cost (and the site has a tool to do just that), the cost for the premium page and marketing tools is $39.95 a month. Czerwinski notes they are currently offering a 60-day free trial for new clients.
Vittal said new features they’ll be adding coming in the next few months include custom tabs, as well as the ability to integrate Facebook followers into a business’ email address database. Another feature will allow a customer to send a request to a listed business without a Recipreo offer to join Recipreo. Vittal notes it helps the business see if there would be demand for joining Recipreo.
Czerwinski adds: “We’re also trying to turn the consumers into our sales force.”