Hard Drives Can Pose Risks to Sustainability

By Sarah Sorensen

Extending the use of computing devices is critical if we are to create more sustainable consumption. We can divert waste from landfill and reduce the energy it takes to extract materials and build new devices, if we can lengthen the life of the devices we already have or find new ways to use its components.

I think most of us try to recycle our devices and are happy to pass along those that have outgrown our needs. But what if its reuse poses a risk to you?  Hard drives can pose such a risk and, as such, often have their lives and usefulness cut short.

What do you do with your hard drive, which often houses all of your intellectual property and sensitive information, when you are done with it? How do you make sure your information isn’t found and used by someone else? Just deleting the information off of it doesn’t mean it’s gone, it is not too difficult to get the data back. (Something I am often thankful for when I delete a file by accident, but which opens up a huge risk when you really want to get rid of the information.) Even when your hard disk is corrupted or physically damaged, all is not lost.  just do a quick search on hard disk recovery and you will find a whole host of sites and solutions that can help  recover information.

It’s no wonder that organizations that can afford them have “disk drive chippers” that completely destroy a hard drive once it is no longer needed, so that no data can be recovered from it. Others go a more conventional route and use what a colleague of mine calls “Fred Flinstone” or “Young Dr. Frankenstein” techniques – you get the picture.

But wouldn’t it be more sustainable if we could extend the life of that device? What if there was a reliable way to permanently erase the data on it without having to shred the device?  Just because the model is no longer of use to you, it is very likely it would suit the needs of someone else. We could divert that device from landfill for a little while longer. Then, because we have a way to erase the data, we could explore recycling and reusing the components to further reduce waste.

This is something that has been done with cell phones and copiers; they often receive an extended life in the hands of those who find an older model perfectly suitable. (I know I have donated my cell phone in the past; you can check out to find organizations in your area who have needs.) But is this safe to do now?

In the past, phones were only used for voice calls – the data potentially exposed consisted of your phone book. Remove your SIM card and you could be fairly sure that future users would not find anything personal left on your phone.  Today’s smart phones have the computing power of many desktops; they are being used to conduct our business and personal lives. Ever search the Web? Take a photo? Check your bank account? Pay a bill? Read your email? Download a file? Think of all the data that is potentially on your smart phone stored on the hard drive that now sits on that phone… how do you make sure that it is gone when you are done with the phone? Does this mean we are back to destroying the device? Again, it would be great to know that we can reliably erase the data, so the device can be used by someone else.

Same thing with photocopiers; over the past five to seven years, most copiers are networked to a variety of computing devices and each have a hard drive that records all the information that is copied, printed, faxed or scanned. Since most organizations don’t want to spend the capital to buy a copier they lease it from a provider (which also enables them to offloading the repairs and maintenance). When the lease is up, the copier provider will come, delete the data, and send it off to another customer. But we have already mentioned that simply deleting data doesn’t mean it is gone. So these copiers can provide a wealth of information to those who know to look for it. (Check out this site to get some tips on how to protect yourself when using a copier). Again, this doesn’t make it a sustainable solution.

So what can you do? As an organization, you

  • Need to first put in place a proactive data leak prevention program; because only after you are sure you can identify all the potential risks, can you put the processes or technologies in place to mitigate them.
  • Consider using a disk management program that adheres to any of the eradication standards used by many international governments and military (such as DoD 5220.22, Gutmann method, Schneier Standard, AFSSI 50220, NAVSO P5239-26, VSItR, AR 380-19, GOST P50739-95, Crypto-secure Random Data.
  • Ensure you can securely delete data from hard drives, including “locked” or “in-use files.”
  • This requires overcoming some operating system limitations that exist to ensure continual operation – which is what you want when you are using the system, but not so great when you want to get rid of the data.
  • So, make sure you are able to delete all the different file systems from all the different operating systems you have on the device.
  • You also want to make sure that you can eliminate “zombie-data” stored in the recycle bin or in the blank space of the hard drive.

For individuals:

  • You can download software that enables you to erase hard drives, such as Active@KillDisk or LSoft Technologies. They write over the data, because deleting and reformatting the drive doesn’t actually delete it.
  • Note, data that has been written over only one or two times can be recovered; however, it takes expensive equipment to do. So unless you are expecting a super sleuth or crime lab to want to read your data, you are probably safe.
  • If in fact you are worried about professionals taking the time to get at your data (you probably have bigger problems than I can imagine!), experts recommend rewriting the data seven times to make sure it is unrecoverable.
  • Make sure you pay attention to those files that are “locked” or “in-use” and “zombie data”- you don’t want to leave them on the drive.
  • Something to think about is the ability to remotely initiate and manage an erasure, so that if your phone or computer is lost, you can delete the data as soon as it connects to the network.
  • Some operating systems have a “kill pill” feature that allows you to remotely erase and lock it, make sure it’s enabled.

Once the hard drive no longer poses a risk, it can be reused. The goal is to promote a more sustainable way to use technology, so we can reduce our impact and drive change on a global scale.


Installed Base Marketing –Focus on Your Company’s Most Important Asset!

When I work with clients to build their outbound programs I always start with first things first…their installed base. The reasons to do this are two-fold. First, it demonstrates where they’ve been most successful and, if your know where to look, provides a blueprint to their ideal market. The second reason is it’s one of a company’s MOST important assets. Let me expand on this with some statistics from a CMO Council study*.  Beware — these statements are a little scary.

  • The average American company loses 1/2 its customers within 5 years
  • Acquiring new customers can cost 5X more than retaining current customers.
  • A business is 2X as likely to successfully sell to a lost customer than a brand new prospect
  • A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect on bottom line profits as cutting costs by 10%.

Given statistics like that, it only makes sense to interact and market to the people who buy your product.  Here are the rules to live by:

  1. Segment your database by product and solution or vertical market and size of customers
  2. Know and understand your market and market to their interests (not what you think they are interested in)
  3. Build a quarterly plan and target goals by segments
  4. Build your communications plan to “Touch” your customers every 6-8 weeks (make sure they’ve opt’ed in to hear your message)

What kinds of materials and messaging are good to “push” to your customers?

  • Newsletters that consolidate information such as PR and white papers, and news into one place either monthly or quarterly so you’re not spamming your customers all the time.  Make sure you have a place for them to sign-up for your newsletter whenever you communicate with them.
  • Promos and specials that are offered to your customers first
  • Free product training to your top customers.
  • Software or product updates or trial offers of new products

Social Media Keeps You Close to Customers

Use the Internet to interact with your customers and to monitor the health of your relationship.  By using social media, you’ll know right away if there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

  1. Twitter is useful for tech support and company news- make sure you FOLLOW your customers…so they in turn follow you
  2. FaceBook allows your customers to join your Fan page and enables communication whenever you want.
  3. Live chat on your website creates a two-way conversation and makes it easy for customers develop a conversation with your company.
  4. YouTube enables you to show a “demo” of your products or present your opinion to millions of your customers 24X7.

Getting Started

Start by acknowledging that your customers are your most important asset.  Identify the segments within your installed base.  Implement marketing programs that foster on-going, interactive customer relationships.   Follow these simple rules to KEEP from losing your companies’ most important asset.

*Business Gain From How You Retain Executive Summary & Full Report, Addressing the Challenge of Customer Churn & Marketing Burn, CMO Council,


Waxing Poetic on the Virtues of Data Standards

After days and days of working with our team on getting data cleaned for analysis or lead generation, it’s time to constructively vent. Tech firms need to practice what they preach and have their IT departments create data standards.  Our marketing colleagues really should to encourage IT to adopt them and encourage sales to adhere to them because today’s spreadsheet grows into tomorrow’s biggest corporate asset – your company’s customer data.

Why are data standards important? They provide an objective set of structures to ensure consistency of data element usage throughout an organization.   They also provide important guidelines regarding data element definitions and entry to everyone in the organization,  so the business can effectively access and use data. Let’s look at an example.  Take my pet peeve.

  • International Business Machines
  • IBM
  • I. B. M
  • Itty Bitty Machines

Or in other words, all the same company but depending on who inputs the information, you wouldn’t know it’s all the same company unless you look at each line of data and clean it into a standard format.  A standard format is one where you agree how punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations are consistently handled. Even basic standards on just contact information can enhance data quality and assist in creating data that is more easily:

  • Understood
  • Comparable
  • Usable
  • Accurate
  • Complete
  • Consistent types of information included (important dates, synonyms, etc.)
  • Consistent with business processes

Due to the nature of our industry, where companies start in spare bedrooms and grow very quickly, it’s easy to see why data standards are an afterthought.  Most technology companies’ databases start life on a spreadsheet.  Customer databases begin with the hasty set-up of a few seats in

Even using a spreadsheet, technology companies would be well-served by a few tips:

1.  Set up a form in Excel by adding the Form button to your quick access bar.

2.  Think about what that form should include.  Instead of contact name, split out the contact name into first name and last name.  Address should be two fields to accommodate a suite number.

3.  Establish common naming conventions and be consistent in how text fields are completed.  For example, if it’s a State… stick to using the two-letter abbreviation, like “CA” instead of writing “Calif” or “California.”

4.  Establish common and consistent date formats and stick to using them.

5.  Establish customer or partner ID numbers, so you’re less dependent on getting company names 100% consistent and correct.

6.  Develop a product numbering scheme that goes along with your product names, instead of having to rely on text fields alone.

7.  Complete every item or field in your form when you add an entry, so the record is complete.

8.  From time to time, review for your spreadsheets for consistency in text fields.  Fix what isn’t consistent.

9.  Spot check your data base every so often to be sure folks are entering data correctly.  It’s easier to clean as you go then to tackle it once it’s gotten away from you.  And, it’s easier to correct mistakes folks are making quickly than to let bad habits get entrenched.

10.  Encourage and reward sales people for good data practices.  After all, a prospect information quickly entered into today’s spreadsheet grows into tomorrow’s biggest corporate asset – your company’s customer data.


Reflections on RSA – Security is Really a Control and Data Management Problem

By Sarah Sorensen March 4, 2010

This week, I spent some time at RSA, an event where security vendors and professionals connect. As I have mentioned in past blogs, security is paramount to the sustainability of the network. If we are to leverage the network as a powerful tool for change, we need to be able to trust that the information and resources on it are secure.
As recent headlines have demonstrated, attacks on the network are ever-present; 2009 saw malware and social networking attacks surge (spam carrying malware was averaging 3 billion each day by the end of the year) and increasingly sophisticated mobile attacks emerge. Just as in the physical world, there are individuals motivated by greed, power and personal gain (the riseand co-opting of the Zeus attacks, which originally targeted financial institutions, is just one example – to date it has infected about 74,000 PCs, and that’s just one attack), and there are those who are looking to achieve political or ideological ends.
But, as the show floor and conference discusssions demonstrated, there are a lot of technologies out there designed to help organizations combat and mitigate against all these attacks. There are literally thousands of companies, focused on everything from user and data authentication to spyware and cloud security. So why is it that even though there is an answer or feature out there for almost every threat or need, organizations are still struggling to protect the network? I think it’s because security is more of a control and data management problem than a feature-set issue.
I heard Palo Alto Networks talk about controlling exactly what should and should not be allowed on the network, based on the user and their role, the application and exactly what they are trying to do. This approach makes sense because with a focus on control, you can eliminate a lot of the risks right off the bat. You can restrict peer to peer traffic and file sharing applications that can be used by attackers to gain access to the network (through malware/trojans) and all its resources. The key is to have this level of control over every aspect of your network, from the edge to the core and within the hosts themselves, and then, for what is allowed, look for threats and mitigate attacks within that “allowed” traffic.
This gets us to the data management problem; a typical network’s security infrastructure contains multiple different devices, each with different management consoles, each producing a lot of logs that can contain thousands of pieces of information. Linking all this data and making sense of it all requires a lot of manpower and expertise. Oh, and don’t forget that physical security measures, which can also provide clues and contain indicators of risks, are kept almost entirely separate from the network security activities (typically they are run by two different groups with very little connection, though I did see a company that was trying bridge that gap).
I think it is telling that it took Google and a host of other companies targeted by attackers originitating in China MONTHS to figure out exactly what happened (in fact, I believe the investigation is still going on now). So, under the cover of the data deluge that network administrators are under from all these different security devices, attackers can infiltrate a network and operate undetected.
All of the calls to better manage business information and increase the value derived from insights and analysis of that information (take a look at last week’s Economist’s special report) need to be applied to network security. Organizations need a singular, meaningful view into the network that helps them identify in real-time what is going on and any threats to that network. To date, I haven’t seen big advances on this front, sure there are the large, generic platforms offered by the likes of HP and IBM and security-specific management platforms from folks such as ArcSight. I would love to hear from you if you have seen promise in this area. Right now, I think we need more innovation; we need truly comprehensive visibility and the ability to easily and actively control and manage of the network. The security and ultimate sustainability of the network as a platform for change is reliant on it.


Marketing on “ROIDs” Takes a Different Look

Take a look at Dick Patton’s blog

“Putting Marketing on “ROIDs” 

It’s a great new way to look at marketing.  Customer-centric view to supplement the traditional marketing mix of “4P’s” (product, place, placement and promotion).


  • Customer-centric view will driven by new analytic techniques for “Insight about customers”.
  • You can’t be “Responsible” or take “Organizational leadership” if you don’t know and thoroughly understand your customer’s care-abouts
  • Mastering “Digital marketing” is great, once you know what you want to say.

Analytic services such as Know Your Installed Base help companies understand who their customers are, what and how they buy (by vertical, geo, time, purchases in relation to other products, channels of acquisition, etc).  Done correctly, analytics should move beyond basic demographic to detect underlying relationships not easily identified by simple analysis.  Analytics should enable you to identify underlying groups of established technology product users, how they’ve changed, whether they are solutions-oriented or ad-hoc buyers, size and breadth of your products’ deployment or anything else you need to know.

Analytics is more than data in an Excel pivot table.  Using the ability to transform data into the most suitable forms for analysis, combined with analytics,statistical and quantitative analysis allows you to explain, explore and predict markets in completely new ways.  Reliance on data and quantitative analysis simply means no more guesswork or assumptions.  It gives you the power to know.


Increasing the Effectiveness of Primary Research for Technology Marketing

Information used for market analysis and planning has changed a lot in recent years.  In technology and telecom markets, it’s increasingly common to analyze CRM data, web traffic data, and point of sales data for predictive trends.  Past performance and current performance both help predict how sales and markets will perform in future months.

With significantly new products—the rule of our industry – we have no choice but to rely on primary research to for market development.  However, primary research for new products can fall short for several key reasons:

  • Not a good sample set.  Instead, of being representative of prospects for the new technology, such as enterprises with greater than $10 million in revenues, they are usually representative of a company’s existing customer base – people who are already familiar with the company, their products and their technology and are predisposed to buy from them.  Alternatively, they are often representative of traditional industry analyst report subscribers and not necessarily a defined market that exists in the general economy.
  • Emerging technology is beyond what most people can comprehend in an unaided survey. Surveys ask questions about technologies that are still “too visionary” to get trustworthy answers that can pass the “so what?” test. People might not understand the technology the same way you do.  When trying to survey on visionary technology topics, focus on identifying the steps toward that vision and ask survey respondents about those items.  For example, instead of asking about cloud computing, ask about virtualization, managed services, infrastructure as a service, platform as a service, and software as a service.   These are things that enterprises of various levels of sophistication can easily answer.
  • Gathers information just to know the answer to the question.  Ask youself, what are you going to do with the information once you know the answer?  If you can’t answer this question, you don’t need to collect the information.  Rather, it’s usually focused on verifying and validating what we already know (Marketing can be the culprit).  Research that neither seeks to break new ground nor enlighten marketing departments for better decisions is worthless.  Instead, it’s a better idea to create a series of hypotheses that research can prove or disprove and to have a clear idea of how results will be used, e.g., tie to demand generation, inform channel partners to changing buying habits, or improve products or solutions.  Here, research professionals can demonstrate their value to their marketing counterparts by showing how research can be used for more than the traditional verify and validate scenarios.
  • Surveys done in Techno-speak (or Techno-babble as it’s sometimes known). Finally, terminology often lacks a common understanding.  For example, cloud computing might mean something different to each respondent.  This is especially true when dealing with visionary technology where definitions are emerge and evolve as people are exposed to the technology.

Sometimes, primary research is the only option to understand those next market moves.  To summarize, truly focus on practical understanding by using:

1.  Tightly Defined Target:  A defined research target that represents a defined market or universe that can be measured helps make small sample sizes meaningful

2.  Clearly Identified Next Moves:  Those near-term “next market moves,” so it’s in context of today, as well as that long-term vision

3.  Actionable Objectives:  Research objectives that are tightly coupled with go-to-market or product development goals.

4.  Tests Before You Launch:  Thorough testing of your survey instrument, to include checking frequency distributions, to make sure you are communicating to your technical audiences in a way that makes sense to them.

Follow these tips to make your primary research investment bear fruitful, business planning information.


Fine-tune Messages to your Partners Based on Their Purchasing Habits

We’re marketers, we target everything.  Right?  We do except, except when and how we communicate to our partners.  We seem to think one size fits all.

Sometimes, if we’re thinking about how to communicate to our partners, we do very simple segmentation.  We carve up our partner base by type of certification or “metal” we’ve assigned them as a badge (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, etc.) or by training level they’ve taken for their technology specialization (Wireless, Security, IP Telephony, etc.). Sometimes we even try to categorize our Partners by what “type” of partner they are (Reseller, ISV, Alliance, Distributor, etc).

Maybe, if we take time and move to the next step, we target our message to each type of channel partner.  Our partners employ a wide array of different skill sets.  Each person at each partner has a different interest in your products, company, and technology and each person requires different types of information to do their job, be it selling or servicing your solutions.

The most overlooked area of analysis is behavior.  You can learn a lot from a simple analysis of purchase history.  Answer questions about your partners’ purchase habits, such as:

  • Consistently purchase every month?  Same products, same end users, same quantity?
  • Opportunistic purchases at random times?  Could your Partners be selling your competitor’s products more often than your Products?
  • Seasonal purchases? Government or education buying season?  End of quarter and always need special pricing?

Armed with knowing how your partners sell your solutions, you can fine-tune your message in new ways.  Take a look at how this might work when launching a new Internet security appliance, shown in the above graph.  Knowledge of buying habits enables us to target large, security-trained partners, those Security Super VARs. You further target your message to ONLY THOSE who have demonstrated loyalty, e.g., purchase frequently.  The last step is then to tailor messaging to each audience important to the buying decision– sales, marketing and technical.

Finally, characterizing partners by purchase history enables you to keep sensitive new product launch information out of the hands of “opportunistic” partners– those who only sell your solutions as a last resort and are more loyal to your competitor.

Target your partners using purchasing behavior builds greater satisfaction among your most loyal partners and ultimately more revenue in your pocket.


Give your BEST Channel Partners a Boost

Let’s be honest, not all channel partners are created equally.  We wish they were, but they’re just not.  It’s usually the 80/20 rule … 20% of your channel brings 80% of your revenue.  So how can your technology company drive demand for your high producing partners and make your revenue skyrocket?  The answer seems easy… focus 80% of your efforts on the special 20%.

Most channel co-marketing programs require partner to do all or most of the heavy-lifting.   Is it any wonder that partners do not have time to focus on executing your co-marketing campaigns?  Unless you’re their #1 vendor in a category, you’re just along for the ride at that trade show or seminar.

Let’s review some interesting facts:

  • The majority of partners in the IT industry do not employ marketing people.
  • Over 65% of partners in a recent Everything Channel survey are dissatisfied to somewhat satisfied with leads supplied by vendors.*
  • IT vendors spend, on average, 3% of revenue on coop/Market Development Funds (MDF).*
  • About 21% of the coop/MDF spending went unclaimed.*
  • 67% of a partner’s new business revenue is generated from their existing customer base* – partners just are not good at finding new business!
  • Partners carry between 2 and 4 vendors in every product category.**
  • Partners drop or deemphasize on average 2.5 vendors and 4.7 products per year (and 8 out of 10 partners won’t tell you if you’ve been dropped).**

Grow together instead of apart by investing your MDF dollars in a different way.  Target your best partners with smarter demand generation – sales targets identified using analytics and lead generation programs together — to help them grow.  Instead of relying on anonymous tools to produce their campaigns, engage with your channel partners in an entirely different way.  Use channel marketing to work directly with your partners to execute campaigns.  What is the net result?  Better partner relationships, increased satisfaction, higher loyalty, a measurable return on your MDF and higher sales for both your technology company and your best partners.

**”2010 State of the Market Survey”, Everything Channel

*The 2008 Survey: Vendor and Partner Attitudes to Key Channel Issues,” Baptie & Company


The Combination of Analytics and Marketing Programs

When you say marketing programs, do you just mean lead generation? We get this question a lot, so we’ll give the quick answer. Analytics are commonly used to set the strategic direction of firms and products. However, analytics need to guide programs, which are the heart of any marketing plan; they are the detailed tactics performed in order to reach the goals and objectives of the marketing plan. We’re just believers in using metrics to measure performance at the beginning, during, and after completion to make mid-course corrections and do post-program evaluations. The programs can be broadly defined, and in most cases, often are. We’re not just about quantifying something, we’re about improving marketing, which boils down to efficiently making sales.


Sometimes Smaller is Better… Really Now?

Ok, now that I have your attention…  In the world of B2B lead generation for technology, a small number of qualified leads with a higher likelihood of a sale is better than just renting a long list of names.  For example, if I give a channel partner 500 leads using traditional lead gen methods, he’ll spend lots of time weeding through them without enough time to follow-up on most.  The reseller or account rep will then just tell me that ALL leads were worthless…and only because they actually called a few of the leads without any success.

That’s why I’ve had enough of the traditional approach of just renting contact names and sending out huge lead lists to my account reps and resellers.   I prefer a drastically different approach that focuses on delivering a small number of high quality leads that are actually worth the time for follow-up.

Using a call center for my list building and lead generation activities is a far superior approach.   With a call center, I jump straight to qualified leads where I already know the companies I’m targeting (this part is a must).  Starting with my ideal target list of organizations with a higher likelihood of needing my technology solution, we rely on the call center to do a lot of the heavy lifting by qualifying the contact, grading the lead, and get great intelligence on my ideal target organizations.   Finally, another benefit of using a call center is to build out my ideal target list with the exact individual who will ultimately make the buying decision.  This is especially important in a downturn, when senior executives are often the decision makers, as opposed to technology managers that marketers traditionally targeted in good times.

As we all know, it takes an awful lot of leads to make a single sale.  On average, the conversion rule is 1000 leads convert to 2.5 sales.  In the era of scarce marketing and sales resources, it makes better sense to focus on the following activities to use your limited marketing dollars more wisely:

  1. Build a list of Ideal prospect companies/organization
  2. Populate that list with a call center
  3. Stay focused and do a strong outbound campaign to opt-in your prospects
  4. Continue to nurture your prospects and build out the contact names

By going directly to the correct target list, the right target contact and building your smaller and focused list will shorten your sales cycle and lower your cost per lead (CPL).