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Zest4 and their partners climb to new heights together at the O2

November 10th, 2017 by Mandy Fazelynia

The team at Zest4 are still ‘on cloud nine’ after their recent win at the Comms National Awards 2017. And to show their partners how they could be ‘flying high’ together, the Cheshire-based wholesale UC providers recently hosted an exclusive conference which involved a climb to the top of the O2.

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The day, which was attended by a select group of partners, involved a number of sessions and workshops. The Zest4 team shared their latest insights into the mobile, M2M and IoT marketplaces as well as launching a brand-new leasing proposition.

Following the initial presentation, partners were able to attend individual workshops hosted by different members of the Zest4 team. Each workshop focused on a specific solution area and gave partners the chance to find out how Zest4 can support them in adding new products to their own portfolios.

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M2M and IoT were very much a focus enabling resellers to find out more about Zest4’s expanding range of end-to-end solutions which offer them an easy-to-understand and easy-to-sell bundled package. In addition, Zest4’s M2M & IoT Partner Programme provides resellers with a complete support package that’s not available anywhere else on the market. Partners benefit from expert M2M and IoT knowledge, technical support, training through the Zest4 Partner Academy, marketing support, optimised tariffs and competitive commercials.

After a productive afternoon of discussions and workshops, the guests were all treated to a climb to the top of O2. Despite the slightly chilly weather, the view was fantastic, and it was a fitting way to illustrate how partnerships can lead to great new heights.

But that wasn’t the end of the day. The Zest4 team and partners were invited to an evening performance by John Bishop inside the O2 and were privileged to meet the comedian in person after the show.

For more information on Zest4, visit www.zest4.com or call 0161 956 3300.

Demystifying the difference between a Public IP and a VPN

November 8th, 2017 by Anton Le Saux

I’ve been deliberating for a while on whether to write something on the subject of Public IP’s and VPN’s but there still seems to be some confusion between the two amongst resellers and their end-users, so I thought it would be useful to share my knowledge.

Here at Zest4, we provide M2M and IoT connectivity to channel partners. In turn, our partners offer end-to-end solutions to their customers. One of the biggest frustrations that I face with M2M and IoT is the frequent request for a Public IP. There’s a real belief amongst resellers and their customers that a Public IP an essential requirement for managing their connected devices remotely.

Whilst I’m obviously more than happy to provide Public IP’s where they’re required, I do find that in 95% of cases, a Public IP isn’t the best solution for the end users’ needs. Couple this with the fact that, on a worldwide scale, we are at the point of exhaustion with IPV4 Public IP’s, it doesn’t make good business sense to honour these requests.

“How can we be at the point of exhaustion with IPV4 Public IP’s?”, you may ask. Well worldwide there are roughly 4 billion IPV4 IP addresses. But this is now a problem because there are more than 4 billion internet-connected devices around the globe which has led to a shortage of IPV4 addresses and by mid-2018 they will probably be a thing of the past.

Aside from the global shortage, there are also massive security issues for end users if they use a public facing IP. Giving out your public IP address simply makes your business a target for hackers. It’s like posting your email address on the internet for everyone to see. Fraudsters and malicious people will be able to use your IP address to target your computer and other internet-connected devices. Whether they are successful or not depends on the way you’ve set up security levels on your device but by simply using a public facing IP puts you at much greater risk.

One of the more famous (but not serious) hacks that I often refer to is the Jeep hack*. If you’ve not heard the story, it was a test situation in which hackers took over the controls of a Jeep Cherokee whilst the driver was at the wheel. If it had been a real-life situation, the consequences could have been incredibly serious, but it was all made possible by the hackers being able to get hold of the IP address of the vehicle.

I’ve also heard stories of insurance companies not paying out when companies have been breached by hackers, and all because the company’s security solutions used public facing IP’s in their technology which put them at risk.

So, having the right solution for your end-user customer is absolutely critical. Just because they ask for something, it doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for their needs, and as the experts in this industry, we should have the confidence to challenge their request, educate them and supply what we know is right.

So, for those of you who are still a little unsure of the different solutions available, here’s a quick overview…

What’s an IP address?

Every connected device is assigned with an IP (Internet Protocol) address. IP’s are used to facilitate communications between devices that are connected to the internet. It’s a bit like your home address – when you want something sent to you at home, you have to provide your postal address, so the postman can find you. The same principal applies when you’re sending or receiving data over the internet to your remote device. If you don’t have the address, you can’t locate your device, so in this case your device’s IP address is used to route data to the right location. There are several different categories of IP address – Fixed Public IP, Fixed Private IP, and Dynamic IP address.

What is a public IP address?

A fixed public IP address is a publicly accessible address that can be reached from any point on the internet by anyone that knows the IP address of your device. Having a public IP address is convenient if you’re away from your internal network and need to remotely access a device or computer. If the device is assigned with a public IP address, you can easily connect to it from any location using web based software. However, there are also significant security risks associated with public IP addresses. As they are publicly accessible, it means that anybody in the world can access your device, if they know it’s a public IP. This could create a significant security risk for a business as it is open to hackers, fraudsters and other cyber security breaches. Companies should be taking all steps possible to protect their data and secure their internal networks, but we find that partners and customers often ask for a public facing IP address so they can remotely access their systems and they aren’t aware of the alternatives.

What’s a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is exactly what it sounds like – a network with no physical location that is configured to protect a user’s privacy online. A VPN is a service that allows you to connect to the internet or a connected device, such as a router or CCTV camera, via a server run by a VPN provider. A VPN establishes a secure connection and ensures that the network and any data sent between users is encrypted, making it a reliable safety measure when using public Wi-Fi and other untrusted networks.

The user’s IP address is also obscured by VPN so anyone wishing to track the user’s activity will see the IP address of the VPN-connected network rather than the address of the user’s local network. All data travelling between your computer, phone or tablet and the “VPN server” is securely encrypted. A correctly set up and managed VPN will allow customers to access a fixed private IP address securely without leaving their data or devices open to attack

What are the benefits of a VPN over a public IP?

There are 3 main benefits of a VPN over a public IP…

  1. A VPN is a secure solution. VPN technology was originally developed to allow remote workers to securely connect to corporate networks to access corporate resources when away from the office. The same technology now allows remote access to M2M devices without opening up these devices or any data to the public internet. Devices with a public IP are open to attack. The primary benefit of a VPN is enhanced security and privacy. VPN tunnels encrypt the traffic sent to and from the user, making it all but impossible for would-be attackers to use any data they intercept. Since VPN tunnels also obscure a user’s IP address, they also make it harder for third parties to track a user’s online activity. Instead of seeing the individual user’s IP address, the third party will only see the IP of the network to which the user is connected via VPN. Lastly, VPN tunnels are useful when you need to access something on a remote network.
  2. It’s a cost-effective solution. The cost of a VPN via Zest4 is between £25.00 and £60.00 per month rather than £25.00+ per month for each public IP.
  3. It’s an accessible solution. The remote devices can be reached across the VPN or an additional SSL VPN service can be provided to allow access to them.

Are there different types of VPN?

Two of the most commonly used VPN protocols are SSL VPN and IPSEC VPN. When working with our partners, Zest4 provide either an IPSEC or SSL as part of our solution.

  1. IPsec VPN is one of two common VPN protocols or set of standards used to establish a VPN connection. It’s set at the IP layer and it is often used to allow secure, remote access to an entire network (rather than just a single device). If you have a customer or partner that requires access to multiple devices or has multiple users that need to access a single device from various locations, IPSEC is probably the best solution to be discussing.
  2. SSL VPN, or Secure Sockets Layer, is the second common VPN protocol. A big plus for SSL VPN is that they can allow segmented access for users. For example, users can be limited to checking email and accessing shared drives rather than having access to the entire network.

Whilst there may be a number of considerations to choosing which type of VPN is most suitable for your customer, a general guide would be…

  • If your customer is looking for a solution on a per-user basis with access to a single device from a single location, then SSL would be the recommended solution.
  • If your customer needs to give trusted user groups homogenous access to entire private servers, multiple devices and subnets, then IPSEC VPN is most suitable.

So there you have it – a quick guide to public IP’s versus VPN. I hope it gives you a good understanding and helps you to identify which solution is best for your customers’ needs, but if you would like any further advice, please give us a call on 0161 956 3355.

At Zest4 we are here for our partners, the journey into IoT is a joint one and we are with you all the way.

 

*Jeep Hack – https://www.wired.com/2015/07/hackers-remotely-kill-jeep-highway

Zest4 – Winners of the Best Wholesale Service Provider (up to £10m t/o) Award at the Comms National Awards 2017

October 19th, 2017 by Mandy Fazelynia

Wow – we still can’t quite believe it but we were thrilled to win an award at the Comms National Awards evening last week! We won the Best Wholesale Service Provider (up to £10m t/o) category and our entry really showcased our M2M and IoT solutions and support services.

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The Zest4 team have worked amazingly hard on our M2M and IoT strategy over the last 2 years and I am constantly reminded of what a fantastic team we have. Everyone shares our ambitions and goals and the whole team goes that extra mile to do things right and help us succeed.

M2M and IoT really has been the focus of Zest4’s strategy for the last 2 years and particularly since the launch of our partnership with Arkessa in October 2015. After months of hard work and planning with our colleagues at Arkessa, the Zest4 M2M Partner Programme was launched in the summer of 2016. We were incredibly proud to offer our partners a truly complete M2M package that wasn’t available anywhere else on the market…a package that includes a wide range of M2M solutions, expert M2M knowledge and technical support, training through the Zest4 partner academy, marketing support, optimised tariffs and competitive commercials. The immediate response to the Zest4 M2M Partner Programme was phenomenal. By the end of 2016, we’d followed up with our existing partner base and had enabled a significant number of partners to quote and win business.

But we didn’t rest of laurels! It was crucial that we kept developing our M2M proposition so we quickly began to develop a range of end-to-end M2M solutions for resellers. We first launched Pre-Ethernet solutions offering connectivity solutions for mobile businesses and pop-up offices, followed by Vehicle Telematics solutions for fleet operating companies looking to track and monitor their vehicles. Our most recent addition – the Smart Witness connected-camera – enhances our vehicle telematics solutions with video.

Our end-to-end solutions were designed to help overcome one of the main challenges that our partners tell us they face in the telecoms marketplace today and that’s how to capitalise on the revenue opportunities that new technologies and new solutions provide. Many reseller business models (particularly fixed-line and IT reseller models) are not set up to sell solutions such as mobile and M2M so their sales teams are not incentivised to sell them. But there’s also a lack of understanding and awareness of the revenue opportunity available to resellers and how to go about achieving it. Our end-to-end M2M solutions provide resellers with ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions for different M2M applications that make selling M2M and IoT easy. Plus, with support from our Channel Sales team, partners can benefit from commercial and technical support in whatever way they need – whether it’s over the phone, at a meeting in the office or out onsite with clients. Our team continue to work hard to educate partners on new technologies, not only providing the technical background and knowledge but also teaching partners how to achieve maximum earnings from them.

As well as developing our M2M and IoT solutions and support services, we’ve also worked hard on our marketing initiatives over the last 2 years to help show partners how they can succeed. Our main campaign was a storytelling campaign that illustrated the huge opportunity that M2M offers to resellers. We wanted to show them that M2M wasn’t as complicated as they may think and that by working in partnership with the M2M experts (such as Zest4!), success is just around the corner. The campaign was centred around a series of real life case studies about resellers who had successfully delivered M2M solutions with Zest4 and Arkessa’s support. The stories focused on a range of different market sectors to illustrate to resellers that they would find potential M2M business in their existing customer base. The stories were told from the mouths of the resellers – highlighting their challenges, obstacles and concerns – and showed that M2M wasn’t a scary prospect and can be a win-win opportunity for all. The stories were shared with resellers via social media, email, the Zest4 website and through the popular trade press.

Last but not least in our busy 2 years focusing on M2M and IoT has been the development our Account Management team. We have established dedicated resources for our M2M and IoT programme appointing Anton Le Saux as Head of M2M in September 2016 followed by Ian Davis who joined Zest4 in in May 2017 as M2M & IoT Business Development Manager. Both have vast knowledge and expertise of M2M and IoT which is helping our existing base of mobile, fixed line and IT resellers to open up additional revenue opportunities for now and the long-term.

It really has been a hard-working but very rewarding 2 years here at Zest4 but we’re certainly not stopping there. Watch this space for future M2M and IoT developments and get in touch to find out how we can help you succeed in the M2M and IoT space. Call us on 0161 956 3355.

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