Posts Tagged 'Customer Experience'

December 12, 2014

Asia Startup Series: Event Planning Goes the Way of the Cloud

Startups are near and dear to our heart at SoftLayer; just take a look at the Catalyst program. That’s why we are so excited to see the startup scene in Asia growing at a tremendous pace. The fact that venture capitalists are now setting aside funds especially for young technology companies in this part of the world brings to focus the absolute potential of this market. Some of the big funds announced in 2014 include: the Singapore government's $48 million fund distributed among six venture capital firms, Japanese mobile gaming giant GREE Ventures’ new $50 million fund, Softbank and Indosat’s partnership to launch a $50 million fund for Indonesia, and Softbank’s $20 million fund for the Philippines

A key driver behind any startup looking to score funding from these big boys is the ability to handle unpredictable growth and achieve scale rapidly. Over the next few months, we’ll take a look at how we are helping our startup customers grow, scale, and succeed in Asia.

Drawing Board Events
It is hard and stressful planning a party for someone else’s big day. Birthday parties, wedding showers, and retirement parties take a lot of planning and attention to detail. The corporate world has its own set of events and challenges. That's why when I met Terence Woo at one of the startup meet-ups recently, his new venture, Drawing Board Events, made me sit up and say, “Now, that's what I need.”

After sifting online through vendor after vendor for his own wedding and calling each individually, Terence had a brilliant idea. Two years later, alongside co-founder, Samuel Stacey, he created a one-stop shop where users can browse user-reviewed vendors by categories: venues, décor, flowers, photography, cakes, and so on. After completing a quick five-minute event detail eform, users can simply click on “request quote” from as many vendors as they like. Vendors receive the request, and then quotes are emailed back—saving users the hours spent calling different vendors and providing the details over and over again.

According to Terence, right from the onset, Drawing Board Events decided to go the way of the cloud. There was no question that to achieve scale they needed a strong, reliable and flexible infrastructure. I asked him to give me three reasons why cloud is working for them, and here is what he shared:

  1. A highly competitive industry needs a quick turnaround time.
    Provisioning of events services is a highly competitive, though traditionally slow to innovate, market. Focusing on a collection of sub-industries (photography, décor, flowers, and so forth) as opposed to a single vertical market, requires housing the latest information in one location. By giving the service provider ownership over its own profile, the company is incentivized to keep its data up-to-date. Additionally, ensuring that the users are able to access updated information in real time requires a highly reliable platform.
  2. A growing database depends on a growing IT infrastructure.
    Data storage is infrastructure-hungry; there are no two ways about that. And as a business grows, so does its data. In order for Drawing Board Events to collect information on all event sub-industries, vast databases need to be housed and maintained. These databases can be stored, computed, and managed easily via the cloud. Sometimes the computing and storage needs fluctuate, and because the cloud is scalable, Drawing Board Events can add or subtract storage when and where it is required. The company needs powerful servers to handle its database workloads, as well as a cloud environment flexible enough to scale with its business.
  3. The Catalyst Startup Program got them what they needed.
    Drawing Board Events joined Catalyst after their business idea formalized and was structured. With SoftLayer, they were able to quickly host the website and access storage solutions best suited for their growing business. As a member of the program, they now have access to SoftLayer’s complete portfolio of services and can hop on SoftLayer's global network backbone.

    Although currently in the pilot stage, the startup has a huge list of subscribers who are finding the website an exciting and helpful way to plan events. Moving forward, Terence is hoping to add a real-time booking system for users ready to make buying decisions, as well as develop a more robust, proprietary communications dashboard for users and vendors. He also hinted at some exciting upcoming innovations that will need a heavy tech foundation and greater dependency on the cloud.

Even though I couldn't pry all the details from him, I am already sold and can see myself as the official party planner for my family—that is, of course, with the help of Drawing Board Events. The best thing is that I’ll have over 14 categories to choose from and more than 250 service providers at my fingertips. Planning a party just got easier. Just imagine if I had to contact all those vendors—now that ain't no party my friend!

Cheers
-Namrata
(Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

October 9, 2014

Meeting Our Customers in Shanghai at Cloud Connect China 2014

At the Cloud Connect China 2014 event in Shanghai last month, SoftLayer met with over 2,000 industry experts, business leaders, and partners from around the world. Through our interactions with event-goers at our booth and following our Regional Sales Director Allen Poon’s keynote, “Growing on The Cloud: Faster, Easier, Economical,” we increased awareness in the APAC market, learned our customers wants and needs, and deepened relationships with our partners.

On top of that, we were honored to host our first exclusive customer luncheon in Shanghai, which included experts from the sales engineer, channel partner, and marketing teams. We were delighted to hear the great job we were doing from our customers:

“There are many things that we enjoy about SoftLayer, including the convenient purchasing process that allows us to easily and quickly try out a variety of cloud computing options. We also appreciate SoftLayer’s prompt support response time, which is very important to us. When we were with different cloud providers and had an outage or issue the support was slow or nonexistent and that hurt our business. SoftLayer’s global cloud footprint of data centers lets us put our game closer to our end users, and the world class CDN helps us improve the speed and reduce latency.”
–Fisher Yu, operations manager for JOYHUBS, a global game developer based in China

“I have been happy with SoftLayer since my first day at iFree Studio. The cloud infrastructure is easy to use and has every configuration I could possibly need. Also, SoftLayer’s service support team responds in a timely manner, and communication is fast and convenient.”
–Jeffery Chen, technical support engineer at iFree Studio, a premier mobile game developer and distributor based in Hong Kong.


It’s always an honor to meet with SoftLayer customers, and I hope to see you at our next event.

For all our readers in Asia below you will find the blog in its Chinese translation!

SoftLayer九月上海客户交流!

在上月的 2014全球云计算大会中国站 , SoftLayer很荣幸能与超过两千全球行业领导, 专家,以及合作伙伴会面。通过我们这次活动的交流以及区域销售主任Allen Poon的主题演讲: “在“云”上成长:更快速、更简单、更经济“, 提高了SoftLayer品牌在亚太区市场的认识,了解到客户及对我司的期望,同时也加深了在中国的合作伙伴关系.

另外, SoftLayer也很荣幸首次在中国与客户午餐聚会。来自销售、 销售工程师、 渠道合作伙伴的专家团队与大家分享最有影响力的游戏案例。 也很高兴听到我们正在从我们的客户做的出色的工作:

“自从用了SoftLayer 以后,有几个好处: 买东西比较方便,也可以先试试(试用)。我们还感谢 SoftLayer 的迅速支持响应时间,这是对我们非常重要。比如说如果一台服务器down机的时候,别的云供应商支持缓慢, 影响我们的业务。用SoftLayer后,一般我在网上发一个ticket就能解决,回复得比较快。 由于SoftLayer的数据中心点比较多,可以选择相应的地点的数据中心, 还可以用CDN去改善玩家的速度,提高玩家的体验速度和减低滞后时间”.”
–Fisher Yu先生, 运维经理, JOYHUBS, 在中国的全球游开发商。

“我从进公司以来就用SoftLayer, 它的云基础设施易于使用,我可能需要配置都有。此外,SoftLayer 的服务支持团队反应及时,沟通快速、 及时。 基本上早上订货,晚上都能找到相对的人, 沟通比较快,很方便。”
–Jeffery Chen先生,技术支持工程师,iFree Studio, 基地设在香港的游戏开发和分销商。

非常感谢大家一直以来对SoftLayer的支持, 希望下次活动再与您见面!

此致.

Winifred Wong (王小姐)
Regional Marketing Manager – GCG

October 6, 2014

G’day, Melbourne! SoftLayer’s LIVE in Australia.

Today, we’re excited to announce the launch of the newest SoftLayer data center in Melbourne, Australia! This facility is our first on the continent (with Sydney planned for later in the year), and it delivers that trademark SoftLayer service to our clients Down Under.

Our Aussie Mates

Over the years, our customer base has grown phenomenally in Australia, and it should come as no surprise that customers in the region have been clamoring for a SoftLayer data center Down Under to bring high performance cloud infrastructure even closer to them. These customers have grown to immense proportions with ahead-of-their-time value propositions and innovative ideas that have turned heads around the world.

A perfect example of that kind of success is HotelsCombined.com, an online travel platform designed to streamline the process of searching for and reserving hotel rooms around the world. Their story is nothing short of brilliant. A startup in 2005, they today serve more than 25 million visitors a month, has more than 20,000 affiliates, and a database of 800,000+ properties worldwide.

HotelsCombined.com partnered with SoftLayer to provision bare metal servers, virtual servers, load balancers, and redundant iSCSI storage around the world to best serve their global customer base. Additionally, they implemented data warehouse and predictive analytics capabilities on SoftLayer for their real-time predictive models and business intelligence tools.

Another great story is that of The Loft Group. I wrote about how they chose our cloud platform to roll out their Digital Learning Platform in a previous blog. They needed performance, analytics, monitoring, and scalability to accommodate their massive growth, and we were able to help.

Benefiting Down Under

Many of you have seen news about IBM’s plans to expand SoftLayer into Australia for a few months now. In fact, at the recent IBM Cloud Pre-Launch event (view the full event on demand here), Lance Crosby shared our vision for the region and the synergy that we are looking to create in the market.

Our expansion into Melbourne means that our customers have even more choice and flexibility when building their cloud infrastructure on our platform. With Australian data residency, many of our customers in Australia with location-sensitive workloads or regulatory/compliance data requirements immediately benefit from the new location. Additionally, with network points of presence in Sydney and Melbourne, users in Australia will see even better network performance when connecting to servers in any SoftLayer data center around the world. Users looking for additional redundancy in APAC have another location for their data, and customers who want to replicate data as though they are in the same rack can do so between Australia and one of our other locations.

Let the Bash Commence

To celebrate this exciting milestone, we have quite a few things lined up for the region. First up, a special promotion for all those who would like to check out the performance of this facility—new customers and our existing loyalists. You can get US$500 off on your first month's order (bare metal, private virtual, public virtual—anything and everything listed in our store!) for the Melbourne data center. More details on the promo, features, and services are available here.

Next up—parties! We have a couple of networking events planned. SoftLayer customers, partners, enthusiasts, and friends are invited to join us in Melbourne on October 9, and Auckland, New Zealand, on October 15 for a fun evening with SLayers and peers. If you’re in the area and want more details, email us at marketingAP@softlayer.com with the following information:

  • Subject: I Would Like to Attend SoftLayer Night: Celebrating Data Centre Go-Live
  • Body: Your Name, contact phone number, city where you would like to attend, and one line about why you would like to attend.

Space is limited, and you don’t have much time to reserve your spot, so let us know as soon as possible.

These are exciting times. I’m extremely eager to see how Australian businesses leverage these new in-country facilities and capabilities. Stay tuned for new stories as we hear from other happy customers.

Cheers.
@namrata_kapur

January 10, 2014

Platform Improvements: VLAN Management

As director of product development, I'm tasked with providing SoftLayer customers greater usability and self-service tools on our platform. Often, that challenge involves finding, testing, and introducing new products, but a significant amount of my attention focuses on internal projects to tweak and improve our existing products and services. To give you an idea of what that kind of "behind the scenes" project looks like, I'll fill you in on a few of the updates we recently rolled out to improve the way customers interact with and manage their Virtual LANs (VLANs).

VLANs play a significant role in SoftLayer's platform. In the most basic sense, VLANs fool servers into thinking they're behind the same network switch. If you have multiple servers in the same data center and behind the same router, you could have them all on the same VLAN, and all traffic between the servers would be handled at the layer-2 network level. For customers with multi-tier applications, zones can be created to isolate specific servers into separate VLANs — database servers, app servers, and Web servers can all be isolated in their own security partitions to meet specific security and/or compliance requirements.

In the past, VLANs were all issued distinct numbers so that we could logically and consistently differentiate them from each other. That utilitarian approach has proven to be functional, but we noticed an opportunity to make the naming and management of VLANs more customer-friendly without losing that functionality. Because many of our customers operate large environments with multiple VLANs, they've had the challenge of remembering which servers live behind which VLAN number, and the process of organizing all of that information was pretty daunting. Imagine an old telephone switchboard with criss-crossing wires connecting several numbered jacks (and not connecting others). This is where our new improvements come in.

Customers now have the ability to name their VLANs, and we've made updates that increase visibility into the resources (servers, firewalls, gateways, and subnets) that reside inside specific VLANs. In practice, that means you can name your VLAN that houses database servers "DB" or label it to pinpoint a specific department inside your organization. When you need to find one of those VLANs, you can easily search for it by name and make changes to it easily.

VLAN List View

VLAN Naming

VLAN Detail Page

VLAN Naming

While these little improvements may seem simple, they make life much easier for IT departments and sysadmins with large, complex environments. If you don't need this kind of functionality, we don't throw it in your face, but if you do need it, we make it clear and easily accessible.

If you ever come across quirks in the portal that you'd like us to address, please let us know. We love making big waves by announcing new products and services, but we get as much (or more) joy from finding subtle ways to streamline and improve the way our customers interact with our platform.

-Bryce

November 1, 2011

SoftLayer on the iPad

Shortly after we began implementing the SoftLayer Mobile application for the iPhone and Android, Apple released the iPad. With our development resources limited, we focused on adding the functionality our customers required to the iPhone application with only a few small features added to support the new device.

As we became more familiar with the iPad, we started seeing a few key areas where SoftLayer Mobile could benefit from the large format iPad user interface. We've been able to incorporate a phenomenal feature set in the SoftLayer Mobile application, and as our desired feature set has become more and more complete, we've gotten a bit of breathing room from our iPhone releases. We used that breathing room to re-visit the iPad and what it could mean for the SoftLayer Mobile customer experience on a tablet. The result of that investigation is the SoftLayer Mobile HD application:

SL HD

As you might expect, SoftLayer Mobile HD shares quite a bit of functionality with its iPhone sibling. The application offers a window into your SoftLayer environment so that you can browse, create and edit support tickets; discover information about computing resources and bandwidth; and keep up-to-date on the latest notifications from our data centers. The iPad application also helps you keep track of financial information by allowing you to browse your account and its invoices. All this functionality benefits from the intuitive interface of the iPad. You have more room to browse, more room to edit, and fewer screens to navigate as you manage and explore your virtual SoftLayer data center.

SL HD

SL HD

Best of all: The application is only in its first release, and already shows great promise! We have plenty of room to grow and tons of ideas about the next features and functions we want to add. If you're iPad-equipped, get the SoftLayer Mobile HD application in the iTunes App Store. When you're navigating through the interface, take note of anything you'd like to see us change or add, and let us know!

-Scott

March 7, 2011

March Madness - Customer Experience Style

If you are a SoftLayer customer you probably noticed a maintenance window early Sunday morning. If you aren't a SoftLayer customer, (you should be, and) you may have even noticed on quite a few social media outlets that we were trying to provide real-time updates about the maintenance progress, and our customers were doing so as well.

SoftLayer customers were given two internal tickets notifying them if they were to be affected, and when those tickets were created, the ticket system would have then sent an email to the admin user on that account. Additionally, our portal notification system was updated to show details about the window, and we created new threads in our customer forums to provide regular, centralized updates. We went as far as taking a few calls and meetings with customers to talk about their concerns with the maintenance timing and length because we know that any downtime is bad downtime in the world of hosting.

Saturday night, we had extra support on staff online, and our social media ninja was awake and letting the world know step by step what we were doing with real time status alerts. We wanted to be extremely transparent during the entire process. This was not a maintenance we could avoid, and we tried to roll as many different things that needed work into this maintenance without making a roll back impossible.

The maintenance itself went well, and as planned, most items that were taken down were back online well before the window ended. We ran into a few snags in bringing all of the CloudLayer CCIs back online, but even with those delays for a few customers, the work was completed by the time we committed to.

Now for the customer experience aspect. From reading various tweets from our customers, it seems like we should/could have done a few things even better: Been more proactive, sent standard email, attempted phone calls, etc.

While some of these options may be considered, not all are feasible. If you are one of the customers that tweeted, has blogged, is planning on tweeting, is planning on blogging or believes we're being anything less than genuine and transparent on our social media platforms, I want to hear from you.

Please comment on this blog, tweet me @skinman454, email me skinman@softlayer.com, call me at 214.442.0592, come by our office and visit.

Whatever it takes, just contact me. I can't put myself in your shoes and feel your pain on things like this unless we have a chance to talk about it. I look forward to our conversation.

-Skinman

January 31, 2011

Welcome to SoftLayer 2011

Wow, I can't believe it's already 2011. I vividly remember what a big deal Y2K was and what I was doing that night. Note to self: It might seem like it was just yesterday, but it wasn't, so you should probably stop telling people you're still 29 years old.

Speaking of time flying, I've been at SoftLayer for three and a half years now. I was hired as Customer Service Manager and immediately started looking at ways to help our customers love us even more. I found some notes that I scribbled after my second week here and I notice some pretty interesting goals. Here are a few that I was able to decipher ... some we knocked out of the park, some that are continuous efforts and some that we can still implement:

Completed:

  • Implement ticket rating and survey to monitor and track support quality
  • Build an on-boarding process to help new customers in their first 48 hours
  • Streamline the cancellation process

Continuous Processes:

  • Make sure current customers know they are more important than potential customers
  • Teach our customers about our processes and procedures

To Be Completed:

  • Include a link on the website and in the portal to get immediate feedback from customers
  • Start using webinars to answer customer questions and share technical tutorials
  • Create a customer advisory board to consult as we make business decisions about things like market expansions and new product releases

What does that mean? We still have ways to make our business even better for SoftLayer customers.

Enter my renewed focus: Customer Experience. In the next few weeks, I'll be talking to internal groups and customers alike to find ways that we can improve our service, products, automation ... and everything else for that matter. These discussions will involve every department in the company, so all is fair game.

Over the course of the next few months, we'll share a few of the things we hear and what we think we can do to continue to improve the SoftLayer customer experience.

The main goal is to find the perfect way to incorporate the 4 areas above and others into our daily lives. I have a few ideas now like; the link on the website, ways to teach our customers, marketing and sales and the webinars, and we are well on our way to having customer advisory boards and user group meetings. If you have ideas, I will appreciate anything you have to offer.

-Skinman

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