COVID-19 and the Ukraine War are having a huge impact on global trade. As a result, shipping costs have soared, and delays have become the norm. According to supply chain expert project44:
“Delays are likely to continue well into 2022 as COVID breakouts continue throughout supply chains and consumers continue to buy at a healthy rate.”
The import-export sector is keenly aware of the primary modes of transport of goods available and their attendant challenges these days. However, other business sectors that depend on chain supply have many questions. This article aims to clarify the differences between two of the key modes of cargo transportation: sea and air.
The Difference Between “Cargo” and “Freight”
First, we need to ensure we are on the same page when talking about the transportation of goods. Today, the terms “cargo” and “freight” are often used interchangeably, leading to misunderstanding.
We will use traditional meanings for this article. For example, an aircraft that transports goods is not called a freight plane; it is a cargo plane. Likewise, ocean-going vessels are cargo ships, not freight ships. Also, mail is never referred to as freight, no matter how it is transported.
Conversely, trains carrying goods are called freight trains, while long-haul trucks loaded with products are called freight trucks.
So, in summary, cargo is commercial goods shipped by ship or plane, and mail is always cargo. Freight is goods transported overland via trucks or trains.
And here is where it gets confusing. Industrial sourcing platform and marketing powerhouse, Thomas defines “freight” like this:
“Freight can denote many things. It may mean the product, merchandise, the amount payable, or the money charged. Cargo being transported may be referred to as freight if referring to both the goods and the money charged for their transport.”
Ocean Freight vs. Air Freight During COVID-19
The pandemic has challenged our world in uncountable ways. One of the most apparent issues is how business owners and managers obtain the goods people need for everyday living. Importers and exporters face rate fluctuations, limited capacity, and long delays. So, how do you choose which mode of transportation for your next freight shipment?
Typically, the choice between ocean and air depends on your shipment’s size, weight, and contents—and on how fast you need it. Here are some general things to note:
- Shipping by air usually is the best mode of transportation for small shipments—even though it will probably be more expensive. However, your goods will arrive in a matter of days instead of weeks when traveling by sea. Air is usually the best option for retail and electronics products, where fast turnover is vital.
- Currently, both ocean and air freight prices are higher than usual. However, to help mitigate some of the cost, many airlines place cargo onto passenger planes.
- Ocean freight is commonly less expensive than air freight, and this holds even in times of a pandemic. Most large shipments travel by sea. Indeed, if you can afford the time, shipping by sea is a great option for any type of goods as it is the cheapest option.
There are some websites that will help you determine the cost difference between shipping your goods by air or by sea. One such site is Freightos.com.
Ocean vs. air freight transit times are becoming more competitive.
Small ocean shipments that do not completely fill a container are called LCLs (“Less than Container Load”). Until recently, LCLs took much longer to ship than full containers (called “Full Container Loads” or “FCLs”). However, ocean LCL services now compete with air freight transit time, and they are substantially cheaper. This is because:
- Ships are getting faster
- Canal upgrades are causing fewer delays
- Ocean tracking has improved
- The freight market has become more competitive
Freight booking platform, Freighto, states:
“Some forwarders are now providing express ocean services, sometimes called Expedited LCL, with guaranteed delivery days, actually faster than FCL, and close to matching air transit times. Most air cargo is typically consolidated, but it takes time to put together, and dedicated services are typically once or twice a week. So, transit times are usually 5-7 days. Compare this with some express LCL shipments. For instance, Europe to the East Coast can take as little as 8 days – but it’s important to note that with current conditions, this can be much longer.”
Air Freight Restrictions
When considering air transit, it is essential to know there are many airline regulations and restrictions, and they can vary from country to country. Banned items include:
- Biological products and waste (e.g., medical waste or dangerous pathogens)
- Explosives of any kind (e.g., fireworks, detonating fuses)
- Flammables (both solids and liquids)
- Gases (e.g., compressed gas, dry ice, fire extinguishers, gas lighters, aerosol cans)
- Items that could be dangerous to the public
- Toxic and infectious items (e.g., pesticides)
Good businesses take responsibility for their impact on our environment. And in this day and age, not having green credentials equates to a loss of business.
So, which mode of transit leaves the smallest carbon footprint?
The answer is ocean freight. Its CO2 emissions are a fraction of those of air freight. So, factor this into your decision if possible.
Ocean vs. Air Freight: A Summary
- Has a larger capacity and value
- Much slower transit times
- Custom issues and port holdups can be a problem
- Express LCL is increasingly more available, which offers a delivery date and faster travel times
- Has a much better carbon footprint
- Is best used when the shipping cost is less than 15 to 20 percent of the value of the goods
- Faster, safer, and more reliable
- More expensive (e.g., a $195 ocean shipment will cost approximately $1,000 by air)
- Stricter hazardous material regulations.
Versa Technology, Inc. delivers last-mile networking solutions to a global community of IT professionals in North America, South America, China, Europe, Australia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and more. Chain supply and proper product transit are concerns of ours. Our goal is to provide our products in the timeliest manner possible in these difficult times. Check out our website. We want to help you.
With chain supply stretched to its limits, a new storm looming may add to the current troubles: a potential confrontation between union dockworkers and their employers.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), representing 22,400 dockworkers located on the West Coast, and The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) will soon begin negotiations to replace the current contract, which expires on June 30. Per the American Shipper:
“The trade association warned that a delay in contract negotiations would harm companies and consumers that rely on the West Coast ports and force shippers to consider other gateways, especially with the contract deadline falling before the peak shipping season begins for holiday merchandise.”
West Coast Dockworkers’ Labor Talks About to Begin
Approximately every six years, the companies that operate ports from the state of Washington to Southern California enter into labor negotiations with their dockworkers. The last labor talks (held in 2014 and 2015) brought about acute labor disruptions and shipping delays. In addition, the discussions will be held amid a pandemic that has caused record container ship congestion off the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports this year.
American Shippers reports:
“Automation and compensation are considered the main sticking points. The ILWU has a reputation for hard bargaining and enters the talks in a strong position. The union is expected to leverage the congestion to pressure container lines and their terminal partners while insisting its highly compensated members are due a cut of carriers’ record profits, which Drewry now estimates at $190 billion in 2021.”
Needless to say, retailers, already plagued with harmful shipping delays, are concerned about the upcoming contract negotiations. For example, Matthew Shay, president of the National Retail Federation (NRF), wrote in a letter addressed to both the ILWA and the PMA:
“Both parties should attempt to reach a contract well before expiration for the benefit of the national economy and to provide the needed certainty to all the stakeholders in the supply chain that rely on the U.S. West Coast ports. We would further ask that you issue a statement committing to the commencement of meaningful negotiations now and to commit to continue negotiating and working without interruption, even if negotiations extend beyond the June 30 contract expiration.”
West Coast Ports
The U.S. West Coast ports are the key link to goods from Asia and are essential to our country’s economic stability and growth. They are critical to the industrial, retail, and agricultural sectors across the country. In addition, they are the lifeblood of the economies of the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
Following is a list of West Coast ports (from north to south):
Pacific Northwest (Washington)
- Port Angeles
- Aberdeen/Grays Harbor
These ports process 13.5 percent of the total West Coast tonnage.
Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Columbia River)
- St. Helens
- North Bend/Coos Bay
These ports process eight percent of the total West Coast tonnage.
- West Sacramento
- Port Chicago
- Redwood City
- San Francisco
These ports process 12.9 percent of the total West Coast tonnage.
- Port Hueneme
- Los Angeles
- Long Beach
- San Diego
These ports process 65.5 percent of the total West Coast tonnage.
Port Congestion May Be the New Norm
The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the two busiest ports in the nation. While their port congestion has eased a bit in the first quarter of 2022, there are really no signs that things will return to what we used to consider as normal. According to the New York Times:
“For those who keep tabs on the global supply chain, the very concept of a return to normalcy has given way to a begrudging acceptance that a new normal may be unfolding.
Cheap and reliable shipping may no longer be taken as a given, forcing manufacturers to move production closer to customers. After decades of reliance on lean warehouses and online systems that monitor inventory and summon goods as needed — a boon to shareholders — manufacturers may revert to a more prudent focus on extra capacity.”
Dockworker’s Contract Negotiations Adds Further Chaos
Citing the current shipping challenges, the PMA requested that the ILWU agree to postpone contract negotiations for another year. However, the union workers have made it quite clear they are in no mood to do this—so labor talks will take place as scheduled.
These negotiations transpire under conditions where workers are looking at mandatory 24/7 work schedules and where wages are being gutted by inflation. In addition, dockworkers are exasperated by the skyrocketing profits major shipping companies have garnered because of the pandemic. Because of these tensions, a dockworkers’ strike is not out of the question.
The bottom line is that the PMA and the ILWU have a long history of tension. This past year of gut-wrenching late shipments, stockouts, and soaring transportation costs have not helped the situation. To add to the pressure, West Coast ports are among the least efficient in the world. The World Bank’s port productivity index ranks Seattle at 206, Los Angeles at 328, Oakland at 312, and Long Beach at 333 out of 351 ports.¹
The two main points of contention are compensation and automation. Automated stacking machines, yard tractors, truck gates, and ship cranes speed up container handling; however, the ILWU is increasingly opposed to this kind of technology because of a policy to preserve jobs for its members.
Some businesses are already developing strategies to avoid getting their cargo stuck in a West Coast port this summer. These tactics include:
- Ordering goods earlier than normal
- Using alternative ports such as ports on the west coast of Canada, the Gulf of Mexico, or on the Eastern Seaboard
- Using air cargo
Another strategy is just to hunker down and wait for the contract negotiations to conclude. This plan of inaction takes into account that rerouting cargo to alternate ports is expensive, finding warehouse space is difficult, and the dockworker’s contract may be resolved sooner than expected. In fact, Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, expects an on-time agreement because “the carriers have learned over the last 18 months it doesn’t matter if you charge a customer $50 or $100 more because they’re paying $5,000 to $10,000 more [on shipping]. So they can certainly live with a deal that becomes a lot more expensive.” In addition, some industry experts predict the new dockworker’s contract will include significantly higher wages and more openness toward automation—as long as it does not eliminate jobs.
“Between now and then, there will be dramatic statements by both parties about a stalemate and the potential for gridlock, but that will be purely tactical posturing and not the reality of their actual positions.”
Versa Technology, Inc. is a distributor of last-mile networking solutions to IT professionals around the world. For the past 25 years, our goal has been to provide the best products and the best customer service available. We want to help your business succeed. Contact us today.
Businesses of all sizes and stripes generate tons of video content every day. And recently, it has become clear that this data can be a valuable asset. The use of video analytics can help a company extract the most useful data from the vast pool of video content gathered. This beneficial information can be used to track the parameters of a building or campus or notify of violations. In addition, video analytics can reduce human error when dealing with a plethora of actions and objects.
Industries like transportation, retail, and healthcare are experiencing a significant increase in video analytics technology applications such as intrusion detection, license plate recognition, crowd management, etc. In fact, a recent study valued the global video analytics market at USD 1528.1 million (1.53 billion) in 2020 and has forecasted the value to reach USD 4142.7 million (4.14 billion) by 2026, which is a CAGR of 25.5 percent.
This article discusses video analytics, its standard functions, and its applications.
What is video analytics?
Video analytics technology processes digital video signals to perform security-related functions. Generally, there are three types of video analytics:
1) Fixed Algorithm Analytics
This first type of video analytics aims to determine if a suspicious behavior happens within the field of view of a video surveillance camera and to notify the operator of its finding. Fixed algorithm look for behaviors such as:
- Crossing a line
- Moving down a corridor in the wrong direction
- Leaving an article behind
- Leaving with an article
2) Artificial Intelligence Learning Algorithms
While fixed algorithm analytics look for specific behaviors, artificial intelligence learning algorithms work quite differently. When first installed, they are a blank slate. After being connected to a security camera, they begin a learning period of several weeks. During this learning process, the system discovers what types of activity are typical during the day, the night, and weekends—after which the system begins to set off alerts on behavior it has not seen before or is not consistent with what it has learned is normal. This type of video analytics takes longer to become fully operational; however, it does have its advantages. In his book entitled Effective Physical Security, Thomas L. Norman tells us:
In one early installation at a major international airport that was intended to spot children climbing on a baggage carousel, the system alerted on a man who picked up a small bag from the carousel and placed it inside an empty larger bag. The man was intercepted and interrogated only to discover that the luggage inside his did not belong to him and that he was part of a ring who came to the airport regularly to steal baggage in this way. The airport had no idea this was even occurring, so there was no way they could have purchased a fixed behavior algorithm for this, even if such existed (which it did not). This approach to video analytics is most useful.
3) Facial Recognition Systems
Facial recognition systems look for facial features. They match various points on a face with samples stored in a database. Should the system not have a match on record for the face it sees, it tries to create a new record with the best image available.
Video Analytics Use Cases
Healthcare facilities must ensure a high level of safety for patients, staff, and visitors. However, video analytics can help achieve business goals in addition to surveillance. For example, video analytics can alert staff if a patient has been left unchecked for too long—or analysis of patient and visitor traffic can help shorten waiting times and ensure clear access to emergency exits. Other uses of video analytics in a healthcare setting are:
- At-home monitoring of the elderly: A system can be set up to alert in real-time if a person falls—or can even monitor them taking their medication.
- Mental healthcare: Video analytic systems can analyze facial expressions, body posture, and even a patient’s gaze, thus aiding staff in patient evaluation.
Transportation (Smart Cities)
Video analytics has significantly assisted in the development of smart cities. It plays a key role in:
- Monitoring traffic: Traffic jams can be eased by adjusting and controlling traffic flow.
- Detecting dangerous situations: Video analytics provides real-time information regarding incidents such as a car stopped on the highway, someone driving in the wrong direction, erratic driving, or traffic accidents themselves.
- Providing evidence: In case of an accident, video analytics is a great help in collecting evidence for litigation.
- Vehicle counting: Video analytics generates statistics that can provide valuable insights about traffic. In addition, license plate recognition identifies vehicles that commit infractions, have been stolen, or have been involved in a crime.
Retailers use artificial intelligence learning algorithms, in particular, to help them understand who their customers are and how they behave in their stores. These state-of-the-art algorithms recognize faces and key characteristics such as gender and age. They also track a customer’s journey through the store and can detect the direction of their gaze and how long they look at a product.
Retailers gain all sorts of data that can help them enhance a customer’s shopping experience. Analytics of this type include:
- The number of customers in the store at any given time
- Customer’s characteristics
- Duration of visit
- Walking patterns
In addition, video analytics is an excellent solution for developing anti-theft strategies (E.g., facial recognition can identify known shoplifters, etc.).
Video surveillance has long been an established practice for businesses in general. However, it has come a long way since the days when surveillance was monitored exclusively by people. State-of-the-art video analytics provides:
- Facial recognition: Used to identify bad actors
- License plate recognition: Used to identify vehicles involved with crime
- Suspect search capabilities: Can be deployed in real-time or stored for use later
- Grant access: Recognition of and access grant to only authorized persons
- Crowd Management: Crowd count and alerts for people moving in the wrong direction or unpermitted areas (for shopping malls, hospitals, stadiums, airports, etc.).
- Fire detection
Video analytics is an invaluable technology for businesses and public organizations alike. It offers processes that are effective, less tedious for humans, and more cost-effective for companies. In addition, the functionality provided by intelligent video analytics grows every day and will be a significant factor in the future.
Versa Technology, Inc. delivers last-mile networking solutions to a global community of IT professionals. We invite you to visit our website.
The WELL Building Standard® (WELL) is the world’s first standard centered solely on human health and safety. This standard is performance-based and measures, certifies, and monitors all aspects of building environments that impact the human occupants’ health and well-being. This article explains just what WELL entails and why it is so important.
First, A Bit of History About the WELL Building
WELL was developed and launched by global design company Delos in 2013 and is now the benchmark used to attain health and well-being in all types of buildings around the world. This standard is managed and delivered by Delos subsidiary and public-benefit company, International WELL Building Institute (IWBI). The Delos website states:
With over 1.5 billion square feet and over 71 Fortune 500 companies, commercial real estate managers, developers, homebuilders, and hotel operators around the world, the WELL Building Standard® and other WELL programs are making a difference in more than 97 countries.
In addition, the WELL standard is third-party certified by Green Business Certification Incorporated (GBCI), which also administers the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and professional credentialing programs.
The WELL Building Standard® Concentrates on People
Today’s population is becoming known as the “indoor generation.” According to a recent survey conducted by the Velux Group, people generally perceive that they spend 18 percent of their time inside (just over four hours) when in actuality, they spend 90 percent (more than 21 hours) inside. Peter Foldbjerg, an executive with Velux, states:
We know instinctively that spending so many hours in stuffy places isn’t good for us. With the pressures of modern life, we are all now firmly a part of the Indoor Generation, and we need to understand the implications on our health and wellbeing of life indoors, as well as outdoors.
We are a 24/7 society, and this has disconnected us from the natural rhythms of nature—our circadian rhythm, a neurophysiological term for the 24-hour body clock that anticipates and adapts our physiology to the different phases of the day, sleep, and wake cycle. All of this impacts our sleep quality and general health. (1)
Because of the large amount of time people spend indoors these days, standards that lead to built environments that improve occupants’ nutrition, fitness, mood, sleep, comfort, and performance are a no-brainer. According to the WELL Building Standard® Executive Summary:
We believe that the time has come to elevate health and comfort to the forefront of building practices and reinvent buildings that are not only better for the planet but also people.
- This is the first standard of its kind that focuses solely on the health and wellness of building occupants.
- WELL identifies 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies that can be implemented by the owners, designers, engineers, contractors, users, and operators of a building.
- WELL is based on a thorough review of the existing research on the effects of spaces on individuals and has been advanced through a thorough scientific and technical review.
- In order to achieve the requirements of the WELL Building Standard, the space must undergo a process that includes an on-site assessment and performance testing by a third party. (2)
The Seven Concepts of the WELL Building Standard®
WELL standards are based on the premise that there is tremendous value in encouraging building environments where people can thrive and offers a certification program based on a set of standards building owners must meet. WELL certification is contingent on a building’s performance around seven core concepts.
The air concept deals with the overall air quality in a building. It has an established baseline air quality standard, and it examines and monitors a wide variety of factors, including:
- Air filtration
- Mode and microbe prevention
- Humidity/moisture management
The water concept examines access to and quality of a building’s water supply. It measures factors including:
- Water filtration techniques
- Water testing scheduling
- Removal of contaminants
- Water treatment
- Quality and availability of drinking water
This concept revolves around the availability of proper nutrition and its promotion. Items examined include:
- Availability of fresh, nutritious foods
- Promotion of healthy eating habits
- Contamination safeguards
- Safe food preparation practices
- Overall food environment
This concept examines a building’s recognition of the importance of the human body’s circadian rhythm. Light aspects examined include:
- Window design and performance
- Natural light availability
- Light output
- Light color quality
- Night lighting
- Lighting controls
In addition, WELL light certification looks at things like energy consumption, the overall “mood,” and productivity enhancements available.
The question here is: Does the facility provide fitness opportunities that maximize physical movement? Areas of focus include:
- Fitness facilities in the building
- Availability of fitness programs
- Injury prevention
A WELL certification includes a soothing building design that s as free of distractions as possible. Focus is placed on:
- Sound and noise management
- Easy accessibility
- Thermal control
- Low-impact flooring
And finally, a WELL certification deals with cognitive and emotional health. Design principles examined include:
- Health and wellness awareness
- Workplace support
- Stress treatment opportunities
- Addiction treatment opportunities
- General aesthetics
- Relaxation spaces
- Stat-of-the-art technology
The WELL Certification Process
Buildings become WELL certified by achieving a defined score on each of the core concepts described above. The certification process includes submitting required building documentation and an onsite audit, which can award a Silver, Gold, or Platinum rating. In addition, there are three types of certifications available:
- New and existing buildings
- New and existing interiors
- Core and shell
This process also requires a recertification every three years.
WELL certification involves the following five steps:
- Document submission
- Performance verification
Versa Technology is proud to be a supporter of this cutting-edge building methodology. Our PoE switches pair seamlessly with the sophisticated LED lighting solutions many state-of-the-art building developers use to furnish modern, people-oriented inside environments.
There are a number of challenges when installing and maintaining powered devices (PDs) in outdoor environments. Dust, water, ultraviolet light, varying temperature swings, and sometimes even lightning conditions can become extreme and call for an extra layer of protection for an organization’s vital outdoor PDs. Before we dive into how outdoor PoE can help, let’s understand the available options.
When powering outdoor installations, there are two main options available:
- Ethernet devices can be powered by AC, which requires electrical outlets and the services of a licensed electrician.
- PDs can be powered using Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology that supplies both power and data over a single Ethernet cable. There is no need for electrical outlets or expensive electricians to install PoE.
This article addresses the revolutionary PoE solution to powering outdoor installations.
First, a Few Words About PoE
PoE enables a single RJ45 cable to provide both electric power and data connection to PDs, thus cutting the cable requirements by half. In addition, PoE technology uses low wattage power to do the job. This means safe power without the need for an expensive electrician.
PoE comes in four standards that have been ratified by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). These standards are as follows:
- IEEE 802.3af (PoE) with a maximum of 15.4 watts (W) and 12.95W available to the PD
- IEEE 802.3at (PoE+) with a maximum of 30W and 25.50W available to the PD
- IEEE 802.3bt Type 3 (PoE++) with a maximum of 60W and 51W available to the PD
- IEEE 802.3bt Type 4 (Hi-PoE) with a maximum of 100W and 71W available to the PD
Why We Recommend POE
There are many benefits of PoE technology, no matter the environment (inside or outside). Power over Ethernet technology:
- Saves money: PoE uses half the cabling than traditional AC installations. Plus, there is no need for professional electrician installers.
- Is flexible: PDs can be placed in nearly any location as there is no need for electrical wall outlets. In addition, add-ons and changes are quick and easy.
- Is safe: Low wattage means low risk. Also, PoE has built-in safety protocols to protect against PD damage.
- Is reliable: PoE relies on Ethernet, a well-known and wholly vetted technology, and it can be easily incorporated into an existing network.
- Scalable: PoE devices are “plug-and-play,” making adding new equipment to the network easy.
Outdoor PoE is a Great Solution for Your Business
One of the most common pieces of outdoor equipment for all types of business is the IP security camera powered with PoE technology. In addition, there are many other important applications for outdoor-quality PoE devices. That list includes:
- Outdoor advertising (digital signage)
- Outdoor lighting (string lights, outdoor fixtures, pathway and security lighting, etc.)
- Outdoor kiosks
- Wireless access points (WAPs)
- And more!
What to Consider for Outdoor PoE Solutions
Before installing a PD in an outside environment, it is vital to consider the level of protection needed from:
- Ultraviolet (UV) light
- Temperature extremes (from hot to cold)
In addition, you will need to ascertain:
- The NEMA rating of the device enclosure
- The device’s flame classification
- The data rate the application needs
- The level of PoE required by the device
- Any physical installation requirements (e.g., wall, pole, etc.)
Let’s look at some of these considerations a bit more closely.
Dust and Water Protection
The requirements for outdoor deployment of electrical equipment are defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IE) standard 60529. IEC 60529 establishes an Ingress Protection Rating (called an IP code) that measures a device’s resistance to solids (like dust) and water.
For example, let’s use an IP code of IP69K. If a device has this rating, it will have the highest resistance to solid and water possible. This is how it works:
- The first digit in the code (in this case, the number 6) is the rating for resistance to solids. The ratings for solids go from 0 to 6.
- The second digit in the code (in this case, the number 9K) is the rating for water resistance. The rating for water ranges from 0 to 9.
NEMA Enclosure Type
The United States National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) rates the degree a device’s enclosure protects against corrosion. NEMA ratings range from 1 to 4X. A 4X means the device in question is safe fully submerged in a marine environment or even in a nuclear facility.
A device with an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) rating of 60950-22 is sufficiently resistant to UV exposure. In addition, you can be assured that any device with this rating has been tested and approved for outdoor use.
UL 94 is a plastics flame-retardant classification. Six flame categories within this standard describe a material’s burning characteristics. PoE outdoor devices require a 5VB rating, so make sure any equipment you purchase is approved at this level.
The leading causes of power surges are:
- Electrical overload
- Faulty wiring
- Lightning strikes
- Power restoration after a power outage or blackout
No matter the source of a surge, it is essential to note that they can damage the internal circuitry of an end-point device and can even reach and damage expensive indoor units. Therefore, the best practice for outdoor surge protection is to install two surge protectors per PoE device—one just before the end-point PoE PD and the other just before the nearest PoE switch.
Note: Remember that any surge protector chosen for outdoor use must be able to withstand conditions such as extreme heat, humidity, dust, rain, snow, and ice.
It is crucial that any outdoor device installed can function within the temperature ranges typical of its location. In locations with low temperatures, look for devices that support
-40°C/-40°F. In hot climates, look for devices that support 55°C/131°F.
Choose Your Outdoor PoE Devices
Versa Technology’s outdoor-grade PoE devices are built to more than meet the many challenges of an outside environment. We have an extensive inventory of hardened PoE switches, PoE injectors, PoE extenders, PoE splitters, and surge protectors from which to choose. It is our sincere belief that PoE’s inherent reliability, affordability, and safety make it the best technology to power a business’s outdoor installation needs.
Have you got any questions? We want to help you. Contact us today!
The world has undergone massive changes since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared on March 11, 2020. And no sector (except healthcare) has been more impacted than the retail industry. Besides navigating mask-wearing, physical distancing, and competing with online retail competition, there has been significant concern over the uptick of organized retail crime (ORC).
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), organized retail crime costs retailers an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales. And more than two-thirds of respondents to their 2021 National Retail Security Survey indicated that the pandemic had increased risks to their business, with 57 percent specifying a rise in organized retail crime (ORC).
ORC Targets, Trends, and Threats
Ben Dugan, director of ORC and corporate investigations at CVS Health and president of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), said,
Organized retail crime is the number one contributor to ongoing security threats in the retail industry today. Retailers are considering ORC their number one challenge—this is what keeps them up at night. There is an increase due to COVID and an increase in the associated violence that goes along with ORC
This article will discuss three of the most prevalent forms of ORC in 2021.
1. E-Commerce-Based ORC
Although e-commerce was growing considerably before 2020, it took a giant leap due to the shutdowns brought about by the pandemic. According to the Department of Commerce, online sales reached $791.70 billion in 2020, a 32.4 percent increase from 2019’s figure of $598.02 billion.
Predictably, COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions induced criminals to target online retailers. However, they are not changing their MOs so much as just taking advantage of the pandemic atmosphere by using a combination of omnichannel shopping (e.g., online, physical store, and phone) to pull off their heists.
Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) has become a favorite way for villains to steal, as they can engage in a Card-Not-Present (CNP) transaction. Perpetrators do this by stealing a victim’s compromised credit card information (like the CVV and billing address). In this scam, the card and cardholder are not present, and the criminal picks up the stolen merchandise at the store.
Another example of BOPIS works like this: A fraudster purchases an iPhone online and picks it up at the store. First, the phone is removed from its packaging—then something else that has a similar weight as the phone (like a rock) is put into the package, which is re-shrink-wrapped and taken back to the store for a refund.
Gail Morris, Director of Investigations at Williams-Sonoma, Inc., stated:
They [the criminals] try to socially engineer care center people on the phone. They may say they have something that doesn’t work and return a box of rocks because we just look at the tracking number. It’s a scheme that has been around for years, but it’s easier to get away with because businesses are heavily focused on their e-commerce channels.
A real-life example of a slightly different BOPIS scheme is the May 2021 arrest of a Massachusetts video store owner for running an ORC operation where thousands of stolen items from local stores were resold online. The police identified more than two dozen “boosters” who shoplifted goods from community retail stores, including CVS, Home Depot, and Target.
Between the video store itself and the owner’s residence, over 6300 pilfered items were recovered—along with $15,000 in cash, four cars, and 27 firearms.
During the recent holiday season, coordinated mobs of thieves pulled off several “smash-and-grab” crimes against upscale retail stores in major U.S. cities. Some examples:
- An estimated 18 offenders invaded a Nordstrom in Los Angeles and stole thousands of dollars of merchandise.
- In a mall in Hayward, CA, a jewelry store was swarmed by thieves with hammers and smashed cases, grabbed items, and fled.
- A mob of 80 ransacked a Nordstrom in Walnut Creek, CA.
- A gang of 14 smashed the windows and doors of a Louis Vuitton store in Chicago and made off with more than $100,000 in merchandise.
Why is this happening?
These troubling incidents are not just related to the pandemic. Instead, there seems to be a “perfect storm.” Several factors coalesced and enabled the rise of these types of ORC. These factors are:
- An absence of Federal laws preventing this type of crime
- Many states have decriminalized low level offenses—in most cases, stealing goods with a value of $950 or less is just a misdemeanor, with charges often dropped altogether.
- Police forces in all states are stretched thin.
- Mask mandates provide a large degree of anonymity.
- These crimes are low-risk and high-reward.
- The busyness of the holidays always provides ample opportunity for ORC.
- Most items grabbed have no serial numbers, making tracing them impossible.
- There are many ways to sell stolen merchandise: online, Craigslist, eBay, flea markets, pawnshops, street vending, etc.
3. Train Theft
Forbes magazine reports:
A surge in Wild West-style train robberies outside the busy ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has delayed retail shipments of everything from at-home Covid-19 tests, fishing lures, and parcels from Amazon, REI, and UPS.
According to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation website, Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handle approximately 40 percent of all inbound containers for the U.S.
As a result, numerous trains use the Alameda Corridor, a “ 20-mile-long rail cargo expressway” connecting the two ports to the transcontinental railway system.
On January 14, 2022, looters raided cargo trains in L.A., leaving thousands of rummaged-through packages littering the tracks—and, of course, many packages were stolen.
Authorities reported that the boxes contained various items, including multiple types of medication, COVID-19 home tests, swabs, PPE, and even family portraits and boots.
Union Pacific reports that train thefts in L.A. have increased 160 percent over the past year. In addition, there has been an average of 90 containers broken into within the past three months (October 2021 to January 2022). And this January 2022 raid is considered the latest instance of the global supply chain breakdown during the pandemic.
The railroad called on local authorities to intervene in what it described as a “spiraling crisis of organized and opportunistic criminal rail theft” in a December letter to the Los Angeles district attorney. It blames lenient sentencing laws, saying that even when offenders are arrested, charges are often reduced to misdemeanors or petty offenses, meaning the person pays a fine and is back on the street in less than 24 hours.
How are retailers combating ORC?
A considerable part of combating ORC lies with our lawmakers, law enforcers, and the courts. However, retailers are not helpless, and many have turned to technology to aid with the problem.
According to the NRF’s 2021 National Retail Survey referenced previously, 53 percent of the responding retailers reported that their companies are deploying additional technology to combat ORC. And 50 percent said they are allocating additional funds to purchase loss prevention equipment.
To help fight these organized criminals, many retailers are engaged in installing the following technologies:
- Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)
- Interactive remote video surveillance
- Monitored alarms
- Heightened access control
In addition to technology, retailers are changing their daily operation policies to include:
- Making thorough background checks on all employees
- Providing interactive customer service that engages all customers
- Training employees on how to spot retail theft
- Having a restrictive return policy
- Employing top-notch security guards
To sum up, while ORC is a real present-day challenge, retailers are in the process of changing their operations by tightening up control and deploying state-of-the-art technology. And many of these new strategies induced by the pandemic are here to stay.
Versa Technology USA delivers last-mile networking solutions to IT professionals worldwide. Our equipment provides high-speed connectivity ideal for developed and developing countries alike. We invite you to check us out by visiting our website.
An Ethernet switch is the backbone of a company’s network. It connects vital networking devices (laptops, computers, servers, etc.) to a local area network (LAN). Switches function similarly to a hub; however, they are more efficient. They accept incoming data, determine the IP address of its source, then assign a specific port, therefore eliminating any potential for network traffic “clogs.” This is a huge benefit for super dynamic business networks. The Ethernet switch is an essential piece of networking equipment for organizations of all sizes. While Ethernet switches are a vital part of an enterprise’s LAN, they are expensive, so it is important to invest in the correct type of switch to meet your business’s current and future needs. Organizations of all types most commonly opt for the 24-port Ethernet switch. This article will help you select the most suitable 24-port switch for your company.
Why do you need a 24-port switch?
Ethernet switches designed with 24 ports can connect multiple network devices. They provide a network infrastructure that is:
- Optimized bandwidth
What types of 24-port switches are available?
When considering the purchase of a 24-port switch, there are several types to ponder. This article will discuss the following:
- Unmanaged vs. managed switches
- Regular vs. PoE switches
- Standalone vs. stackable switches
Unmanaged vs. Managed 24-Port Switches
An unmanaged switch has a fixed configuration that cannot be changed or controlled. This type of switch is often used in small networks or to add temporary systems groups to more extensive networks.
One advantage of an unmanaged switch is that it is a simple “plug-and-play” device that requires no setup. In addition, it has built-in QoS (Quality of Services) and fundamental security that includes lockable ports so no one can tamper with the device directly.
The price of an unmanaged switch depends on how many ports it has. However, a 24-port unmanaged switch is considerably less expensive than a managed one.
In contrast, a managed switch can be managed, configured, and monitored. For example, LAN traffic can be controlled, specific channels can be prioritized, and VLANs (virtual local networks) can be created to segregate small groups of devices. Managed switches also offer redundancy features that duplicate and recover data in the event of a device or network failure.
Furthermore, managed switches have features like:
- Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP) that enables troubleshooting and allows the implementation of issue fixes.
- Security protocols that keep unauthorized users out provide limited access to specific users, along with the ability to monitor and control security remotely.
When it comes to cost, managed switch prices are most influenced by the number and type of features they have. These more costly but feature-packed switches are most suitable for larger networks with data centers and need robust control over their network traffic.
Regular vs. PoE 24-Port Switches
The main difference between a regular switch and a PoE switch relates to Power over Ethernet (PoE) availability. A regular switch is a non-PoE device used to connect network devices that do not require a PoE function. A 24-port regular (or non-PoE) switch is the most cost-effective choice for a non-PoE network.
PoE technology enables a 24-port switch to deliver both power and data over a single twisted-pair Ethernet cable. PoE switches connect PoE-compatible devices such as IP phones, wireless access points (WAPs), surveillance cameras, and much more. In addition, PoE allows endpoints to be easily placed in remote areas with no access to electrical wall outlets.
PoE technology has many benefits that include:
- Reduced costs: PoE saves money on power cables, power outlets, installation, and eliminates electrician costs.
- Flexible: PoE devices can be placed in remote locations and are easily moved or changed.
- Reliable: PoE relies on Ethernet, which is a wholly vetted technology. In addition, it is wired and, therefore, has limited interference and significant security features.
- Safe: PoE is intelligent and can be programmed to avoid overload and underload situations. In addition, PoE technology uses low wattage, which is inherently safe.
Standalone vs. Stackable 24-Port Switches
Standalone switches are managed and configured as a single unit; they cannot be connected to work as a single switch. These devices are commonly deployed in small business networks.
In contrast, stackable switches can be combined to act as a single switch. So, instead of managing eight standalone 24-port switches individually, eight 24-port stackable switches (with a combined 192 ports) can be managed as one switch.
Stackable switches simplify management while increasing a network’s capacity. As a result, these devices are suitable for large networks or data centers with limited space.
Why Versa Technology Recommends a 24-Port Managed PoE Switch For Your Business
In our opinion, a 24-port managed PoE switch is the optimal choice for most business applications.
First of all, switches come in models with four to 54 ports. The decision of which type to use boils down to the number of IoT devices your network supports. A switch with 24 ports supplies an adequate number of ports to support the immediate needs of a small or medium-sized company, with some ports left over to meet future needs. For larger enterprises that require more than 24 ports, they are simply cheaper, as two 24-port switches are cheaper than one 48-port switch.
Second, a managed switch is always your best bet if you can afford it. Unmanaged switches are “dumb,” and the advantages of a managed switch are numerous. With a managed switch, you can:
- Create VLANs and limit access to specific devices
- Use Layer 3 routing capabilities to link small networks to larger business-wide networks
- Take advantage of PoE technology
- Monitor network performance remotely
- Enhance security by managing each port individually
And last, the benefits of PoE technology in business applications are huge and include the ability to:
- Merge lighting, air, physical security, etc. into a single IP network
- Establish an agile network by transmitting both power and data over the same Ethernet cable
- Collect and analyze data
- And much more!
Versa Technology, Inc.’s unwavering mission since 1994 has been to market industry-leading networking products that are versatile, user-friendly, and cost-effective.
Our C51-244-30-370 Managed 24-Port PoE Switch, pictured above, has the following features:
- Ports: 24 10/100/1000TX shared 24 PoE + 2 GbE + 2 SFP
- Type of Switch: Managed
- PoE Ports: 24
- Standards: 802.3at/af
- PoE Power Budget: 370W
- Input Voltage: 100~240VAC
- Operating Temp: 0 to 50°C
- TAA Compliant, made in Taiwan
After two years, the Coronavirus is still with us. Before we dive into vaccine mandates, here are some facts:
- On December 31, 2019, the Chinese government alerted the World Health Organization (WHO) of a mysterious pneumonia-like disease eventually named COVID-19.
- As of January 6, 2022, there have been 297,848,954 reported cases of COVID-19, with 5,465,472 deaths worldwide.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first COVID-19 vaccine on August 23, 2021. Said vaccine was named the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine.
- As of January 6, 2022, 9,306,715,938 vaccine doses have been administered.
It is evident this pandemic will be with us for a while more. As a result, many employers are struggling with the difficult decision of whether (or how) to enforce vaccine requirements in their workplace. And vaccines are a hot topic; people are passionate no matter which side of the fence they are on.
We believe that policies around this topic are among the most significant decisions business owners have to make right now. Therefore, we hope that this article will help clarify the issues surrounding vaccine requirements in the workplace.
What are vaccine mandates?
Some city, state, and federal government agencies are turning toward COVID-19 vaccine mandates. This is also true of schools, universities, and various businesses.
But is it legal?
According to WebMD, a vaccine mandate is a “requirement that says you must be vaccinated to do certain things like working, traveling, or even attending a concert.”
Vaccine mandates are common in the U.S. All 50 states require children to have had certain immunizations to start attending school, the most common of which are:
- Diphtheria, Tetanus, and Pertussis
- Hepatitis B
- Measles, Mumps, and Rubella
- Varicella (Chickenpox)
In addition, depending on where you travel throughout the world, certain vaccines are required before you leave the U.S. These include:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Typhoid and paratyphoid fever
- Meningococcal disease
- Japanese Encephalitis
So, yes, vaccine mandates are legal and a well-established custom. But, here’s the thing: The government (or any other authority) cannot force an individual to get vaccinated. The mandate simply means that if a person does not get vaccinated, they can be legally be prohibited from entering a building or using a service.
Are there federal vaccine mandates for COVID-19?
Yes. President Biden recently signed several executive orders (or emergency regulations) that require specific organizations and businesses to mandate vaccines for their employees. It is important to note these mandates require employees to have the vaccination or submit to a weekly COVID test, should they decline. These federal orders specify a vaccine mandate for employees that work in:
- The federal government—including those employed by the armed services
- Federal contractors and subcontractors
- Health providers and any suppliers of Medicare and Medicaid programs
- Any business that has 100 or more employees
What happens if an employee refuses a vaccine?
Employers who encourage or require COVID-19 vaccinations must consider reasonable accommodations for employees who refuse to get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons—unless the accommodation brings undue hardship to the business. In addition, should the business’s employees be covered by a union contract, it may need to negotiate before a mandate is instituted. And, most notably any vaccination mandate should be job-related and consistent with a business necessity.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to accommodate an employee’s genuinely held religious belief, practice, or observance—unless they would cause undue hardship to the company. It is important to keep in mind that the definition of “religion” is quite broad.
Labor and employment attorney John Lomax, a partner in the law firm of Snell & Wilner in Phoenix, states:
If an employee refuses to obtain a vaccine, an employer needs to evaluate the risk that objection poses, particularly if an employer is mandating that employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Due to the huge flood of questions regarding religious accommodations for a vaccine mandate, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) developed a Religious Accommodation Request Form for employers to use should they choose to. The EEOC has stated:
Although the EEOC’s internal forms typically are not made public, it is included here given the extraordinary circumstances facing employers and employees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Disability Accommodations for Vaccine Mandates
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that it is legal for a business to have a policy that expresses that an employee cannot pose a direct threat to the health and safety of other employees in the workplace. However, should a disabled employee opt-out of a vaccine mandate, the employer must be able to show that the unvaccinated worker would constitute such a threat to others.
The EEOC defines a “direct threat” as a “significant risk of substantial harm that can not be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.”
How can you determine if a “direct threat” exists?
When determining if a direct threat situation exists, ask the following questions:
- Is the threat imminent?
- How likely will there be harm to others?
- What is the nature and severity of the risk?
- What will be the duration of the risk?
Then, ask the following questions:
- What is the employee’s job function?
- How important to the company’s operation is that this employee is vaccinated?
- Is there another job this employee can do to make a vaccine less critical?
The EEOC holds that it is the manager/supervisor’s responsibility to communicate a company’s vaccination policy to all employees. They should know how to recognize and react to a request for accommodation. To help employers follow the law, the EEOC has published the Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the ADA.
Some Guidance From SHRM
According to Johnny C. Taylor, the president of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP):
If an employee cannot get vaccinated because of a disability or sincerely held religious belief, and there is no reasonable accommodation possible, an employer could exclude the employee from physically entering the workplace. But this doesn’t mean an individual can be automatically terminated. Employers will need to determine if any other rights apply under the EEO laws or other federal, state, and authorities.
Vaccine Directives Are in Chaos
There has been a flurry of appeals to the federal vaccine mandates—all of which are in varying conditions in various Courts of Appeal—with a fight headed to the Supreme Court. In addition, some states are trying to ban vaccine mandates which complicate matters even more, leaving employers scratching their heads and wondering which laws to comply with. In addition, there is the potential situation of employees having general objections to a vaccine mandate that does not legally require an accommodation. In this instance, employers may be put in the untenable position of either sticking to a vaccine mandate policy and terminating non-compliant employees or deviating from the mandate for certain employees, which has a risk of discrimination claims.
Until the courts have settled this issue, companies need to communicate clearly and often with all employees regarding this topic. To do this, try adopting some of the following:
- Lead by example: If you want vaccinated people in your business, make sure all management personnel take the vaccine first.
- Develop and provide a simple, factual vaccination education program for employees.
- Make getting vaccinated as easy as possible: Provide paid time off to get vaccinated as well as any recovery time for potential side effects. Cover all costs associated with getting the vaccine.
- Develop incentive programs to encourage employees to get vaccinated.
Versa Technology, Inc. has been in business since 1994. We deliver last-mile networking solutions that are versatile, user-friendly, and cost-effective to IT professionals worldwide.
We invite you to visit our website.
One of the more creative adaptations to the pandemic has been the concept of the hybrid workplace. Back in 2020, during the height of COVID-19, employers found themselves at a breaking point. They needed to be resourceful to maintain their business and productivity goals and still keep their workers safe. This set the scene for the hybrid workplace.
When COVID-19 waned and our economy began to recover, there was much optimism that workers would be able to return en masse to their place of work. But, then, the Delta variant hit—and after that, Omicron. And now it appears that work may never be the same again.
A September 2021 survey conducted by Dimensional Research backs up this claim. Here are some key findings:
- 62 percent of those surveyed were already engaged in the hybrid work model
- 57 percent stated that when offices are fully open, they would prefer to be in the office only one to ten days a month.
The survey’s conclusion states:
This research finds that the hybrid work model is happening now and is widespread. A majority of those surveyed already split time working from home and in the office. Employees want the benefits of working remotely and are so committed to the hybrid work model they will consider finding new employment to protect it.
What is a hybrid work model?
A hybrid office (also called “office + anywhere”) is a working model in which a company’s managers and employees work together in a physical office and remotely from home or both. There are a variety of ways to do this. For instance, some businesses may require employees to work from the office only one to three days a week, with the remaining days worked remotely from home. Or the company may decide what works best is some workers who work strictly from the office, while the rest work strictly from home. While still others may use a combination of the two. Whatever the arrangement, a hybrid work model generally permits employees to fit work into their lives, rather than dictating work into fixed hours in the office. For many employers and employees, this is an opportunity to balance productive work with less stress and less commuting time.
What are the benefits of a hybrid work model?
As you make decisions regarding your return-to-office policies, consider these four hybrid work model advantages:
1) Increased Productivity
A hybrid work model offers flexibility and empowers employees to choose a working schedule that plays to their individual strengths. It allows teams to work out a satisfactory work balance between deep-focus tasks and collaborative ones.
Gartner states that an organization needs four different work modes to have a successful hybrid environment:
- Working together, together: when teams are co-located, contributing to meetings in a shared space.
- Working together, apart: when teams are distributed, but participating in virtual meetings
- Working alone, together: when teams are in shared spaces, but not working at the same time.
- Working alone, apart: when teams are distributed, and individuals are conducting deep-focus work.
2) Improved Employee Satisfaction and Company Culture
Here’s a guarantee: If workers are given the independence to determine how, when, and where they work, employee satisfaction will skyrocket. An important component here is trust. A company culture that embraces trust and assumes people can get their work done without a manager standing over them fosters loyalty, mutual appreciation, and respect. If you do not understand what an employee is working on, simply ask them something like, “Can you help me understand what you are doing and why?”
One of the best outcomes of a hybrid work model is that employees can choose to work outside of traditional work hours and in environments that are less stressful and more conducive to creative thinking.
3) Improved Collaboration and Relationships
To make a hybrid work model successful, employers must change their role to that of a facilitator. Company leaders must focus on how human relationships work. A company that values collaboration and openness will create a culture that has strong relationships and robust, honest communication.
4) Improved Mental Health
According to a global survey by Microsoft, one in five respondents feels their employer has little or no concern for their work-life balance. A proper hybrid work model shows sensitivity to this type of employee stress. When a worker is able to coordinate work and life flexibly, stress is reduced, which in turn helps to prevent burnout. When people can meet both work and life responsibilities, they are less stressed and have a larger sense of wellbeing.
Why should I consider a hybrid work model for my business?
The writing is on the wall, hybrid workplaces are here to stay. Microsoft states:
With over 40 percent of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year, a thoughtful approach to hybrid work will be critical for attracting and retaining diverse talent.
Microsoft has identified seven tenets that will shape the future of a hybrid work world:
- Flexible work is here to stay.
- Leaders are out of touch with employees and need a wake-up call.
- High productivity is masking an exhausted workforce.
- Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized.
- Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.
- Authenticity will spur productivity and wellbeing.
- Talent is everywhere in a hybrid world.
We will end this article with a quote from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft:
Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly—inclusive of collaboration, learning, and wellbeing to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work.
Versa Technology delivers last-mile networking solutions to a global community of IT professionals in North America, South America, China, Europe, Australia, South East Asia, Africa, and many more regions worldwide. Our equipment is ideal for developed and developing countries alike. It has been Versa Technology’s unwavering mission to sell market industry-leading products that are versatile, user-friendly, and cost-effective since our inception in 1994. We invite you to visit our product page.
It is vital that all businesses, large or small, take on the challenge of digital transformation in today’s world. The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new urgency to speed up digital transformation activities. However, many business leaders are not clear on just what digital transformation entails.
Does it simply mean that everything needs to be moved to the cloud?
Are the services of a consulting company required?
Do new jobs need to be created to help deploy the transformation?
What parts of a business strategy need to be changed?
This article aims to familiarize readers with some of the key challenges involved with digitally transforming an enterprise. But first, let’s start with some basics.
What is digital transformation?
The term “digital transformation” is often used so broadly that it is hard to pinpoint its exact meaning. However, this idea does have certain mandates, such as:
- Rethinking outdated operating models
- Experimentation and creativity
- More agility when responding to customers and competitors
- Richer, more actionable data
- Improved flexibility, agility, and innovation
Digital transformation is the process of implementing digital technologies to modify or create new business operation procedures, company culture, and responses to customers to meet changing market expectations. It is changing how a company engages with its customers. Digital transformation is the reimaging of business.
Common Digital Challenges
While digital transformation will look different from company to company, there are some common networking challenges that will be encountered by most organizations engaging in this momentous undertaking. In this article, we will look at six of the key challenges of a digital transformation.
1) Lack IT Skills
To make digital transformation work, a company needs employees with the IT skills to carry it out successfully. According to Gartner, 53 percent of companies that responded to a recent survey said that “the inability to identify needed skills was the No. 1 impediment to workforce transformation.” Gartner further states: “Most companies are flying ‘data blind’ with regard to the skills they need for transformation and the supply, demand, availability, and location of those skills.”
In particular, skill shortages are most felt in the following areas:
- Advanced data analytics
- Enterprise architecture
- Technical architecture
There are several ways to meet this challenge. Consider the following:
- Engage IT experts and software consultants to assist your current IT team
- Develop strong service provider partnerships
- Pursue the use of no-code/low-code platforms
2) Outdated Organizational Structures
Due to COVID-19, things like inefficient workflows and rigid leadership styles came into view as companies struggled to survive this cataclysmic event. Making sweeping and rapid technology changes is hard enough; however, when ignorance of or resistance to change is in the mix, it can bring disaster to a business. Company leaders and employees alike need to be prepared for the future. They need to see and embrace the big picture and understand their role in the changes to come.
An organization will not survive if they just focus on the technical side of things. They also need to consider the people involved. A strong effort must be made to inform all employees at every level of the goals for change and how it will affect them. A company’s biggest asset is always its people, and they should be a significant focus when undertaking a comprehensive management change plan. This is called building a company culture.
3) Evolving Customer Expectations
For enterprises to survive post-COVID, they must adapt to new customer expectations. It is important to realize how much of a person’s everyday life is now conducted on smartphones and laptops.
User experience is everything. Recent statistics show that 88 percent of users are less likely to return to a website if they have had a bad experience. Only one out of 26 customers complain to the company, while 91 percent of those unsatisfied customers who do not complain, simply leave.
So, what do customers expect these days? Here’s a list:
- Good website design
- Easy to use website
- Secure website
- Personalized marketing with useful content
- Seamless integration between online and offline services
- Excellent customer service
Food for thought: It may make sense to do some market research to see what your particular customer base wants and what your competitors are doing to win business.
4) A Well-Defined Strategy
There can be a tendency to forge ahead without taking the time to set well-defined goals and priorities. Planning is essential. Not only does the workforce need to be prepped and onboard, but it is also essential to explore things like:
- Bandwidth availability
- Latency requirements
- Availability of communications service providers
- Adequate network reach
Without a well-thought-out strategy in place, a digital transformation is sure to fail. This is a huge undertaking, so make sure all bases are covered—from workforce preparation to technical issues.
5) Creating and Sticking to a Budget
Money is always a concern. What is important here is that a budget for a digital transformation project be realistic and adhered to. There needs to be long-term budget planning that can be divided into attainable mini-steps along the way. Here’s where prioritizing should shine. Start with the changes that will give you the most bang for your buck. A pragmatic budget that is strictly followed is paramount to a successful transformation.
6) Data Management
One of the primary reasons to consider a digital transformation strategy is to gather customer data. This type of data, properly managed, can give an invaluable understanding of customer preferences, behaviors, and even predictions for the future. Determine what type of data will be most helpful to your business and how it will be captured and organized. Then, think about what you need to know about your customers to help serve them more effectively.
When you take into account all the digital transformation challenges we have listed above, it may seem a bit daunting. And it will be overwhelming if you try to tackle a project like this without taking the time to research your business needs and options and prepare your employees. However, by making steady, planned steps, you can begin this exciting and profitable journey—one footstep at a time.
Versa Technology has taken up the challenge to push the limits of protocol boundaries by creating last-mile IT networking equipment that reflects the changing network demands of businesses, large or small. With two decades of experience, Versa has developed an expansive product portfolio to support various networking applications in a diverse range of networking environments. To see more, visit our website.