technology

Category: technology

How Google Fiber Reshaped Where Startups Do Business

The Triangle has become one of the strongest entrepreneurial tech hubs in the United States offering quality of life and a lower cost of living that Silicon Valley cannot compete with. Along with that has come a bevy of innovation and small companies able to compete on a global scale. It has also brought about a growth rate that some say will add an additional 1 million people to the Triangle by the end of 2018, which has both the locals and the infrastructure struggling to keep up with the demands.

Akin to our overburdened, jammed highways during rush hours, local company Dmorph Inc. found the infrastructure of the existing information superhighway couldn’t keep up with their growth. In July 2017, Dmorph Inc. moved their physical office location from the American Undergound in Durham to office space in neighboring Morrisville based exclusively on the availability of faster, more robust internet of Google Fiber. A new twist on the old adage: location, location, location.

This is a prime example of technology reshaping the way companies do business and in this case the way a tech company physically does business. Dmorph’s golden child and primary product is eSecureSend. eSecureSend is a large data transfer service that is bucking the 40 year norm of companies relying on unreliable FTP and curtailing the expensive, time consuming and environmentally harmful practice of shipping hard drives.

For the lay person, the large portion of large data transfer service referenced here is data that is 1000x past the max capacity of a free Dropbox account. This is a service for entities that are sending terabytes of data as a routine operating practice. It takes a lot to make those beautiful 4k movies and shows you’re enjoying. Primary customers include media entities, government entities and even medical entities. All of which means the data needs securely transferred at the speed of business.

While the invent and physical logistics of Google Fiber has come with some challenges, many of which have been reported in the Triangle, the product itself is solid. Like most startups, Dmorph started out by utilizing AWS and Google Cloud. Then came the point of business where the best financial and strategic move was to get off the cloud and come down to business owned servers. This point of a tech company’s growth is almost a modern day milestone for tech business success.

At this juncture the reduced costs paired with increased transfer speeds offered by Fiber restructured Dmorph’s balance sheet to where they could invest in the hardware needed to create their own servers. It trickles down to their customer base by allowing them to be more flexible in their pricing model without sacrificing service or security.

Dmorph had been presented the options to partner with a data center, however they would have continually faced data and/or bandwidth caps that would limit the performance of their accelerated file transfer service.

As company spokesperson Yasmeen Kashef put it, “We have big dreams to make file transfer secure, reliable and effective. Having access to high-speed internet, like Google Fiber is just the first step. And because Google Fiber exists, all the other telecoms are building their high-speed internet services too. We look forward to ever increasing high-speed internet.

“The other plus is that it’s helped us get together as a team more often. With our Durham office, half of our team members would have to drive about 40 minutes. Now that we’re in Morrisville, it’s a 15min drive for everyone. Even in the age of technology and at a tech firm, more face-to-face collaboration is a bonus.”

At the end of the day human interaction and location, location, location still reign supreme in business.

Experience Attending Broadcast India Show 2017 in Mumbai

Broadcast India Show 2017 was held on 12-14 Oct 2017 at Mumbai, India. Companies and corporates, veterans and professionals, suppliers and customers, visionaries and stalwarts from the broadcast and entertainment industry, had optimizing opportunities, facilitating trade links and enabling info-exchange on a global level. I had an opportunity to be a part of the event this year.

I am writing this blog shortly after the event in Mumbai and will admit that I’ve found the whole conference experience amazing – such a privilege for me to be able to attend. We had preregistered ourselves for the event and hence it was a smooth entry for us, as we collected our badges and lanyards. It was a pretty huge expo with 415 companies with their enormous stalls from across the world.

As we started meeting different companies, we came across an Indian company named Digital Navigation who were into casting live events to studios via mobile app. We exchanged ideas about our product benefits and were overwhelmed with the response we got from them. During discussion we found out that their basic pain points were bandwidth, signal breakage during file transfer as they were still using old technology FTP.

There were conferences scheduled for all 3 days of the event. The 2 conferences which caught my attention were on “File based QC on Cloud:Demystified”, by Vikas Singhal from Venera Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and “You can Sell any Content Anytime- Film or TV” by Ramesh Meer, MD of Global Content Bazar 2017. All of these events really contributed to the buzz surrounding the conference and certainly made me feel like I was part of an engaged, valued audience.

We came across an interesting drone company which explained to us about covering all the concerts & sports events which happen in India. In order to transfer the data they are using a system called lime stream. We spoke about eSS benefits to them, they told us that they are looking for collaborations for transferring data.

After speaking to couple of key people in the media industry, we learned that OTT and MAM (Media asset management) companies would require a service for transferring large files. We also found out that couple of our competitors are collaborating with such companies for streamlining their file transfer process.

As far as for promoting and marketing eSS in this media vertical, there are couple of industry focused magazines and online marketing avenues. Some of the examples of such companies which we came across in BroadcastIndia Show 2017 were Broadcast Video Producer, Broadcast & Cable Satellite.

The most interesting part of attending the event was when we got an opportunity to attend a demo of company named AVID based out of Denmark. The demo was about their system integration with GLOOKAST and how their dashboard provides the clients freedom to use convenient service. Their senior manager Mr. Henning Braendeholm was impressed with our product eSS and opened the doors for partnership.

Overall it was a very good learning experience in understanding the media industry and the key requirements. There were diverse views from customers, industry pundits, media experts and many more – With this Broadcast India Show 2017, I’ve certainly got rich insights to the industry facts. Looking forward to attend many such events in near future.

Bucking the Trend: One Woman’s Story of Flourishing in the Tech Industry

If you work in the tech industry or keep up on the latest news, you’ve heard the grumbles pertaining to women in the tech industry, or rather the lack of women in the tech industry.  Despite making up 56% of the total U.S. workforce when it comes to the tech industry women make up less than 30%. Yowza. It gets worse when you take a look at the percentage of women in high ranking positions in tech (such as CEO or upper management) or starting up tech companies.

Women bucking the norm and excelling in the tech industry often site dealing with dramatic income gaps, disproportionate advancement opportunities, sexual harassment and disrespect.  Basically all the stats and firsthand accounts make it sound like women working in the tech field are working a field of misogyny running wild. And that’s what makes the story of Dmorph Inc.’s Product Manager Yasmeen Kashef stand out like the hope diamond in a field of rocks.

Yasmeen works for Dmorph Inc., a tech company in Durham, North Carolina. Durham has become the tech hub of the South. This often overlooked city rightfully has Silicon Valley worried because it has all the tech offerings, opportunities and talent paired with quality of life and lower cost of living. Dmorph Inc. is a product of all that.  Their latest product, eSecureSend.com, has made them the premier large data transfer service available and all 3 male teammates thank Yasmeen Kashef for that success.

Needless to say when Yasmeen found herself at a conference specifically for women in tech earlier this year, which Dmorph’s CEO Jami Choudhury lined up and paid for her to, she was taken off guard by the horror stories of other women in her field. She had read all the stats, but to hear it in person, from women living and working in the same area was jarring.

We sat down for an interview in last month and she shared her unique experience as a woman in the tech industry, at a startup to boot. You don’t have to read too far to see that the best thing Dmorph ever did for business is put a woman in a key job role.

Sheila: Working at a start-up company is a choice.

Yasmeen: It is a choice. These are good people. I would not be here otherwise. When I first met Jami (Dmorph Inc. CEO) I was surprised. We were having an honest conversation about some of the work he wanted done. I gave him a price. And he said, “No, I’m willing to pay more because that’s the way it should be. This is what we’ll set it at.” It was from the moment I realized that he really cares about his people. Without that I wouldn’t be here.

Sheila: You’ve been with a company how long?

Yasmeen: I’ve been there since December 2015. Come this December it’ll be two years.

Sheila: You could probably go and work just about anywhere in the Durham area, and you choose the startup life. You’re making that active choice.

Yasmeen: Yeah, because I really believe in the team that’s building it. They value my input as an employee.  They’ve always said, “we trust where you’re coming from and we know that you’ve been interacting with the customers every day. We want you to take the lead on this and take it to the next level.

They trust in the feedback that I give them so that we can take this product to where it needs to go. That’s one of the best things about working with a group of people whether you’re at a start-up or anywhere else.

Sheila: You work in the American Underground.  You’ve seen how other startups are going. We have the big names in here like Google Fiber. As tech companies go what stands out the most about Dmorph in contrast to all of those other companies?

Yasmeen: I never realized how good I had it until I went to an event about women in Technology. Some of the things that these women were telling me about working with tech teams were things that I had never experienced. It ranged from sexual harassment to being devalued to not being taken seriously to not making an impact on the product itself.  We talked about all of those things. None of those exist with me on this team. And mind you, we’re talking about me being the first female among a group of six people and the youngest member on the staff as well.

Sheila: That’s really impressive. That says a lot about the company. You know a lot about the product. eSecureSend’s biggest challenge is getting customers to switch from something called FTP, which is archaic by any industry standard, let alone the tech industry’s. If there was a customer on the fence about switching from FTP, “We spent all this money, time and effort. We even have staff dedicated to that job.” What would you tell them is the first and foremost reason to give eSecureSend (eSS) a try?

Yasmeen: We’ll take care of you. I was impressed when Jami put it into the contract. He said we only want you paying us if you’re happy with our service. For anyone out there, when you come on board with us we want to make sure that the service is meeting the needs and the promise that we gave you. We want to make sure we meet that and if we don’t, we will do what you can to make it happen.

Just because you’ve already invested FTP, it doesn’t mean it goes to waste when you adopt a new tool. We can bring eSS and adapt it to your environment and help get you the most out of it.

Sheila: What do you mean ‘adapt to your environment?’

Yasmeen: When we talk about file transfer in general, everybody has a different set up – computers servers, different laptops. Some people have admin access and some people are meeting strict government regulations. Some people are at home on their laptops with lousy Wi-Fi. In this wide range of conditions we can take the core of eSS and say, ‘This is what you have and here’s how we can make it work better. We will get eSS up and running as effectively and even better than FTP. We will go that extra mile and make sure that our service is doing what we told you it can do.

Sheila: Have you had any customers that they are not satisfied?

Yasmeen: We’ve had many people tell us, ‘you know what, we don’t trust you.’ So we bring our other customers into the conversation. And it usually goes something like this, ‘these guys have gone way out of their way to help me. You should give them a chance.’ And once they give us a chance we always blow them out of the water.

Sheila: Maybe it’s too good to be true. Do you think that’s part of it?

Yasmeen: People just don’t like change. So it helps to tell them that change is okay.  We’ll prepare you. We’re not going to abandon you. We’re not going to leave you hanging.

Sheila: I think it’s also like when you adopt a new technology… “I was told it would be easy. I was told it was…” Most business owners, especially small business owners, thoughts regarding new technology are that if it goes wrong we know that we’re going to lose money trying to fix it. You’re paying for something that’s supposed to make your life easier and if it doesn’t and you’re going to lose money go back the to the way you were doing things.

Yasmeen: And who exactly is responsible for providing this product or service to people to buy? If I’m telling you, “hey I have this great thing you should come here and buy it.” And you decide to buy it. Why am I am leaving you out in the water to figure it out and fix it yourself? That’s not your job nor your responsibility, nor your expertise. That’s for us to do. We are the experts of our own product.

Sheila: Right. If it’s your vehicle, it’s not your job to fix a cracked engine head if that happens. It’s your job to get it to the garage. It’s not your job to do the work they do in there. Again that is something that is lost in technology and I think that’s where the company shines. It’s a customer driven company.

Yasmeen: Yeah. Absolutely.  The other part of what we do is the technical side of it. We’ve redesigned the engine and it becomes more awesome from the feedback that we get. We’re not video editors. We’re not drone mappers, nor lawyers who have to send drives to each other. We don’t have the experience of their expertise.

So for us to be in the middle of their workflow, we don’t know what that looks like until they come and tell us, ‘my life would be a lot easier if I was able to take this video I’m working on, press a couple of buttons, and say okay store it over here. Send it over there. Then send this version over to that person.’  Without that kind of feedback we wouldn’t be able to take the product to the next level. It’s not just about customer support. They’re the ones driving what the product is becoming. I don’t even know what it will look like in a year, two years based on their feedback.

Sheila: That’s exciting and that’s outside of the norm. When you’re integrating the variable of meeting the customer needs and you guys aren’t fearful of that. You know you’re going to be changing. You know you’re going to be evolving and that’s what you’re coming to work to do that. That is probably the new way of handling things.

Yasmeen: Yea, I think it was Seth Godin who said if you’re not pivoting, you’re slowly dying…

Sheila: Yeah and he also talked about ‘just ship it’ and you guys have continually shipped and then work with the feedback that you would haven’t gotten if you didn’t ship.

Yasmeen: Exactly.

Yasmeen came onto the Dmorph team as a contract employee and because of her skillset was brought on as a full time staff member.  Her age and gender were never factored into the equation, let alone her wages.  Dmorph Inc. hired her and pays her based on the value she brings to the company day in and day out. As you can see she knows this product and believes in the company’s success. Time for the big boys in tech to act like adult humans and listen up.

The Real Questions to Assess Cost Versus Benefit When Adopting New Technology

A 2013 study conducted by MIT Sloan Management conclude that now, more than ever, companies have 2 choices, “adopt new technologies effectively or face competitive obsolescence.” Ouch. Of the 1559 executives and managers they interviewed, 78% said, “achieving digital transformation will become critical to their organizations within the next two years.” Are you one of the 78%?

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Understanding Internet Privacy In The Digital Age

With Congress’ repeal of the FCC’s new internet privacy regulations — so new, in fact, they hadn’t even been put into use — the conversation about the data market has returned to the national spotlight. Unfortunately, despite how it directly affects every person who uses the internet, nearly no one understands any of it. What is ‘privacy’ in the digital age? How should we talk about it?

The digital world and the traces we leave therein have little in common with our ideas about privacy in the physical world. Hiding your screen from prying eyes doesn’t do much to prevent data collection. Counter intuitively, using your home network for sensitive online activity instead of public networks might even be less private. It turns out what happens behind closed doors — and happens routinely behind the same closed door — is actually easier to collect.

What’s the better way of conceptualizing all of it, then? And how might consumers be more conscious of the consequences of their choices?

First, consider the actors at stake. Companies like Facebook and Google, called “edge providers,” have been able to collect data, use it for advertising, or sell it for ad purposes for some time now — but the data they collect is restricted to your activity on their sites and through their ad network. Simply put (perhaps too simply), Google only knows what you do on Google.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs), like AT&T or Comcast, have a much more intimate view of your activity as anything you do on the internet necessarily goes through them — medical information, financial information, and all sorts of other sensitive stuff one might do in the private light of their laptop. But the restrictions ISPs face in using that data have been more stringent. In arguing for the repeal of the FCC’s regulations, ISPs say it’s unfair they can’t engage with the big data market like edge providers can.

The usual metaphor characterizes ISPs as the ‘roads’ one uses to visit the ‘stores’ of edge providers. But if we are to understand digital privacy in terms of the physical world, perhaps a more useful way of thinking about it might be this: ISPs are our personal assistants, our messengers. Our stand-ins. The ones we send out to pick up our prescriptions. The ones we trust with our PINs. The ones that know where we live. It may sound alarmist, but it is important to remember that these ‘roads’ know an awful lot about us.

There are still regulations in place preventing the connection of collected data with any particular person. Also, being voracious consumers of the internet, we often connect through many different ISPs on a given day: wifi at home, 4G on our commutes, public networks at coffee shops, restaurants, airports, et cetera. As such, our activity is often segmented and collected piecemeal — unless we always keep our sensitive information behind the same closed door.

Male freelancer works on laptop computer sitting at a coffee shop looking worried

Should we despair? How does the least tech-savvy among us retain their privacy? The details will always require technical knowledge and time to sort through, but there are options for the rest of us. Consider how you navigate the internet and where you do it. If you can stand a bit slower of a connection, resources like Tor are invaluable in helping disguise your online activity. Use HTTPS instead of HTTP when you can — it’s a newer and safer protocol that encrypts the data you share with any given edge provider. So, while the fact that you spent 5 hours on Facebook is clearly available to your ISP, using HTTPS at least masks the particulars of your stalking.

While we often have no choice in ISPs, we can opt to use more conscientious edge providers. Take note of the privacy and data collection policies of the companies you patronize. If you have sensitive data to transfer, don’t just throw it up on Google Drive — research more secure ways of sharing your files. If you need to search the internet privately, consider different search engines. While sifting through EULAs can be exhausting and confusing, a little thought goes a long way. Just know you can’t expect closing the blinds to do much good.