Each month, many small businesses receive cell phone bills with charges far in excess of the budget allocated for mobile devices, according to Dan Rudich, chief executive officer of Anomalous Networks.
"We recognize that there's a big problem out there with this thing called 'bill shock,'" Rudich said, referring to costly, unexpected mobile phone bills. "The average business goes over its expected telecom expenses by 20 percent every month."
Montreal-based Anomalous Networks is a real-time telecom expense management (R-TEM) solutions provider that helps individual consumers and businesses of all sizes eliminate bill shock.
Rudich said that when Anomalous Networks was founded, its goal was to solve a problem for big enterprise. But the company quickly came to realize that it could also serve small business, whose need for it might actually be greater.
"In a lot of ways, the enterprise is more equipped to deal with this problem," he said. "The small business community has a harder time with this problem, the impact can be larger, and as such we've found them to be fantastic customers."
Two Mobile Phone Bill-Tracking Options
Anomalous Networks' solution comes in two flavors: Telicost-Lite and Telicost.
Telicost-Lite is a free application that individuals can download to their mobile devices -- whether smartphones, notebooks or tablets. Once you install the software, you can immediately track your data, voice and SMS use in real-time. Telicost-Lite sends alerts when you approach or exceed your designated limits. The application can also monitor your Wi-Fi and cellular use and proactively warn you when you enter a costly roaming network.
While Telicost-Lite is aimed at individual customers, the Telicost version seeks to provide businesses with a centralized dashboard of their aggregated telecom expenses in real time. By logging into the Telicost portal, the employee responsible for tracking mobile phone bills receives streamlined reporting on data use, international roaming, usage anomalies and asset location tracking for a fleet of mobile devices.
Both the administrator and mobile employees receive immediate warnings when approaching the limits of their carrier plans, and employees also receive international roaming alerts to modify behavior or to adapt plans to meet end-user needs and company budgets.
The Telicost system includes a number of reports:
- Telecom Cost Projection. This report predicts carrier bills for the current month and estimates the effect on the budget of costly in-month events such as roaming and plan overages.
- Mobile Device Usage. This chart lets the administrator graphically see the data, voice and SMS consumption among different mobile devices, users, plans, interfaces or groups.
- Usage to Plan. This report allows the business to see how mobile devices are performing versus carrier plans purchased and will detect devices that are projected to exceed plan limits.
- Device Location. This graph lets administrators track their fleet of mobile devices while highlighting roaming users for immediate attention.
Polices and Rules to Limit Mobile Phone Bill Overages
Telicost lets the administrator set policies and rules for the use of their mobile phones at both a user level and a group level. "The administrators have all the rights," Rudich said. "They have escalating tools at their disposal."
If they choose, administrators can simply monitor the use of their fleet of mobile devices. They can go a step further and set up a pop-up alert for times when an employee approaches or exceeds a predetermined limit.
"You can take it up another notch by making the user acknowledge the warning message by pressing 'OK,'" Rudich said. "You can then make these warnings increasingly annoying."
If the situation warrants it, the administrator can even set a cut-off level that will prevent a particular feature -- like SMS or data -- from working once it reaches a predetermined limit.
Because Telicost can track devices, you can use it to set up a Geo-fence, or virtual perimeter for a real-world geographic area. For instance, a retail store might have several iPads available for customers to browse its online catalog. With Telicost, an administrator can set a location-based alert that provides a warning if one of the iPads leaves the store. If an iPad does leave the store, the administrator can use the Telicost portal to track its location.
"One feature we've had for a long time lets you log into our portal and look at a map to see where all of your mobile devices are in that instant," Rudich said.
Gauging Telicost ROI
Anomalous Networks charges $5 per mobile device per month for Telicost and does not require a contract. Rudich said the service pays for itself.
"The average North American business goes over its telecom budget by 20 percent a month," he said. "Let's say the average smartphone bill comes to about $60 a month. That means you think you're going to spend $60 but you actually end up spending $72. Would you spend $5 to save $12?"
He noted that the $5 price tag makes telecom expense management, formerly a realistic solution only for enterprises, a viable option for even very small businesses -- like a three-person plumbing operation or a landscaping business.
"It brings these capabilities down to a small business level," he said. "You don't have to buy a big up-front anything. You can put it on your 10 mobile devices, and it will cost you $50 per month."
Thor Olavsrud is a contributor to SmallBusinessComputing.com and a former senior editor at InternetNews.com. He covers operating systems, standards and security, among other technologies.
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