Comcast aims to tame the cloud for small businesses with a new service called Upware. The offering is designed for organizations that are overwhelmed by the sheer number of cloud services available in the market today.
Upware builds on Comcast's Business Services product slate. Since first delving into business services in 2006, the company has experienced tremendous demand for Internet, voice and video services that help level the playing field for small businesses, explained Kevin O'Toole, a senior vice president and general manager for Comcast.
During that time, O'Toole told Small Business Computing, his group grew from $200 million in revenue to $2.4 billion, an indication that not only is there a strong market for small and midsized business (SMB) solutions, but that enterprises don't have a lock on online innovation.
Unlocking Cloud Services for Small Business
O'Toole described Upware as an "opportunity to service small businesses in new ways." Since 2006, Comcast Business Services broadband speeds have gone from 16 Mbps to 100 Mbps. With faster connections, "it's not about downloading email faster," he said. Instead, his company saw the increased speeds as an opportunity for "unlocking the cloud for small businesses."
Providing cloud services has been done before, but comparatively few companies tackle the manageability aspect of using multiple cloud services. That's where Upware comes in.
Upware, a Business Services exclusive, was built to "help sort through the clutter of the hosted services providers," said O'Toole. After a vetting process that included assurances from a cloud app provider's customer service organization (more on that later), Comcast selected best-of-breed solutions that made sense for small businesses from both a technology and customer support perspective.
On the data-backup front, Upware offers Carbonite, DigitalSafe and Mozy. Security boils down to Norton and Websense. Lastly, collaboration choices include Box, Microsoft, Soonr and YouSendIt.
What sets these companies apart in the cloud services market is that their customer service organizations pass muster, says O'Toole. Comcast was able to establish "carrier relationships with each provider," enabling the cable provider's support services to seamlessly hand off an issue without playing phone tag.
For instance, if online backup isn't working, O'Toole says that a call to Comcast can help resolve the issue quicker by first ruling out problems with a customer's network. "I can see your modem, see your network," he says.
A little expert troubleshooting in the early stages is a huge time-saver, and it helps to narrow down issues before handing the matter off to technicians at the respective cloud services, explains O'Toole. Plus it keeps support calls to a minimum – both in number and length -- so that small business owners can run their companies.
According to Comcast, gone are the days of juggling multiple cloud services, each with their own logins and user management dashboards. With Upware, the process of assigning users accounts is a straightforward one.
"Come to the Comcast portal and create your users. Once that's done, buy the services through Upware and assign them the services that they need," said O'Toole. Users are then sent an email alerting them to their newly-available services, which they can access in their app tray within their Upware page.
Administrators get a unified view of all the services and the users assigned to them via Upware's dashboard. From there, they can view all IT activity and manage their cloud apps, or revoke access if necessary.
While hinting that there is more to come, O'Toole said that Upware exists to help small business owners harness the incredible strides in small business IT that cloud computing makes possible. However, choices abound and Comcast provides an "experience that makes that innovation accessible and productive," he said.
Upware is available now for Comcast Business Services customers.
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