Knott’s Berry Farm – How Does a World-Famous Theme Park Make a Great First Impression?

Upon entering the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park in Buena Park, California, you’re immediately immersed in another time. My first impression was of the charm of the place, its friendly “olden days” feel with a sense of Old West adventure. Even with the drama of live-action shows, the addition of its famous wooden roller coaster, exciting rides, shops, and dining choices, Knott’s Berry Farm has managed to retain its historical feel. But is all this history and charm really typical of a customer’s very first impression?

Actually, my first experience with Knott’s Berry Farm began online, followed by a phone call for more information. Just as most people these days would go online to purchase tickets, or book a full vacation package.

The Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is just one part of a larger brand experience. The company also offers the convenient on-property Knott’s Hotel lodging for guests, and the nearby “Soak City” Water Park. As a potential customer, my first impressions could well have been formed by speaking with a contact center representative who assists with guests’ vacation arrangements.

I dare say we’ve all experienced long hold times, and struggled to navigate prompts on an older phone system, trying to reach a live agent just so that we can solve a problem or simply make arrangements to pay for goods or services. Knott’s Berry Farm sought to solve this exact challenge for its customers.

With three distinct Knott’s entities to consider, all struggling with older systems that had long since passed end-of-life and support, Knott’s Berry Farm was faced with some big decisions. Decisions about how to make essential and long overdue changes in their communications system without incurring critical downtime, or disrupting their daily operations, or causing staff re-training headaches—and, since it would impact thousands of end-points, what is the most dependable yet flexible solution with the most efficient network?

Basically, how do you select the right new technology and then transition over from the old, while still maintaining ongoing operations of a giant multi-faceted entertainment enterprise?

Our Knott’s Berry Farm story will share with you the challenges, solutions, and successes of their recent strategic migration to two (2) UNIVERGE SV9500 communications platforms, complete with NEC’s UC for Enterprise (UCE) suite of unified communications (UC) and contact center applications. They chose this flexible, comprehensive UC solution that is fully networked, highly intuitive for staff, provides critical operations information, simplifies administration, has built-in disaster recovery–and was actually cost effective. In their own words, “It was a seamless transition”.

By providing routing assistance and delivering effective toolsets for the newly networked call centers–as well as basic features such as Caller ID, Collaboration, and Mobility for other Knott’s personnel, the upgrading from their existing NEC systems that have served them well, not only helped to enhance customer service between the hotel and park operations, it effectively improved the operation’s internal communications as well, simply by enabling much-increased functionality.

First impressions are important for this kind of Entertainment/ Retail/ Hospitality industry, and are really all about a happy workplace, providing a worry-free environment that can create great memories, for guests and staff alike. Knott’s Berry Farm can now deliver an improved guest experience, from the very first “Thank you for calling Knott’s Berry Farm”, to the last fond farewell.

If you’d like to learn more about this historical venue’s modern day move to state of-the-art communication solutions just let us know, and we can provide you with a free consultation with one of our hospitality experts.

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A New Vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise

As the enterprise environment changes, it’s up to technology partners to provide tools and stay adaptable to help support those businesses. NEC has a wide breadth of core UC and IT products and each stands on its own to help solve common technology dilemmas. Our NEC Smart Enterprise encapsulates those multiple solutions into one powerful enterprise approach to meet the demands and complex needs of today’s end users and IT executives.

With Paul Kievit expanding his role to SVP of Enterprise and a new Frost & Sullivan report, we’re building out a new vision for NEC’s Smart Enterprise.
Paul Kievit’s New Vision for the Smart Enterprise

In an effort to respond to market forces and transform Enterprise operations across both the Americas and EMEA, I am pleased to announce that Mr. Paul Kievit, Head of EMEA Enterprise Solutions, will assume the additional role of Senior Vice President of Enterprise for NEC Corporation of America.

Under Paul’s leadership and passion, his team helped develop the NEC Smart Enterprise go-to-market message and approach, which has been adopted by NEC businesses globally. Paul’s vision for NEC Smart Enterprise is to continue to develop and sell solutions around the customer experience:

• Addressing unmet customer needs
• Implementing best practices
• Creating excellence in the customer purchase experience
• Building brand equity and adopting NEC solutions to customer demands

NEC Smart Enterprise Explained

Built on four key objectives, NEC Smart Enterprise helps executives face the complex needs of enterprise users head on:
• Architecture flexibility
Software-defined anything
• Business continuity
• Internet of things

These elements allow businesses to improve how their employees communicate and collaborate, as well as improve the security of the information that is shared throughout the organization.

Moving to the Cloud
As IT executives adopt cloud-based IT and communications services, they hope to solve the challenges of data storage and scalability, maintenance requirements and multi-vendor platform integration. Decision makers, concerned with quality control, security risks, reliability and installation challenges, need to work with a provider and cloud model that addresses their unique needs. A hybrid cloud architecture can combine the best of a public and private cloud, allowing the organization control where they need it and outsourcing other components. Customizing the cloud environment strategically adds architecture flexibility and prepares for future business needs while improving business continuity and compliance.

Meeting the Workforce Where They Are
Business agility helps a mobile workforce respond to customer and business challenges on the go. The legacy focus on hardware has given way to a more flexible architecture of software services. Users and applications expect to work together in an ecosystem that should be available everywhere at any time. Virtualizing networks, through software-defined-anything, relieves the burden of time, real estate, and manned resources and therefore decreases the cost to the enterprise. The benefits of software-defined environments are simplified management, security, ability to scale, and less staff requirements with business continuity built-in.

Preparing for the Worst
While IT departments can “pray for the best” during their primary activities of rolling out new technology or resolving end-user quandaries, business continuity is not just an option anymore. Traditional business continuity solutions involved red tape and budgetary challenges to pay for the expensive hardware requirements. We have finally reached an era of business continuity/ high availability (BCHA) affordability through nearly always-up service level agreements, and users are demanding nothing less. Today’s enterprise technology partners must provide reliable data access through a variety of elements such as virtualization, load-balancing server software, fault-tolerant servers, Software-Defined Networking (SDN), scalability, security and threat management.

Improving Security
The internet of things (IoT), while adding a layer of security through connected devices and biometrics, can also build business value through analysis of the captured data. Law enforcement, higher education, and enterprise organizations leverage video monitoring and multi-factor authentication to prevent theft, monitor crowds, and create more secure areas and access control. Retail, hospitality, and healthcare also rely on video and biometric recognition to increase customer loyalty, improve record accuracy and reduce operational costs. Executives want to invest in IoT technology and need a partner who can maximize the benefits while easily accessing the data through reliable servers with nearly unlimited storage capacity.

The NEC Approach
The Frost & Sullivan vision of a technology partnership that solves enterprise challenges is reflected in NEC’s capabilities and product solutions. Our fault-tolerant servers, the full line of general purpose storage products–including our high-end HYDRAStor product which scales to almost unlimited data, work together with NEC’s SDN and UC solutions to build a quality Smart Enterprise solution for the enterprise marketplace. By condensing the amount of data center space required to run critical applications, and including biometrics into the mix, the new vision for NEC Smart Enterprise reduces costs for organizations and continues to add value, even to existing infrastructure.

• NEC offers hybrid cloud solutions customized to best fit the need of the enterprise, even those with regulatory and compliance challenges.
• An industry leader in the SDN space, NEC’s open architecture enables a flexible and simpler approach to the network design and provides business agility to the workforce.
• Disruptions to business, planned or unplanned, can be damaging to any size business in today’s climate. NEC’s secure fault-tolerant servers–as well as Active-Active communications with multiple software instances balancing the load in real time for high availability, provide true business continuity, even in hybrid environments.
• NEC’s facial recognition, biometrics and behavioral analytics solutions create the ability to gain business intelligence and maximize IoT solutions, creating a forward-thinking smart enterprise.

With new focused guidance and leadership, our NEC solutions for Smart Enterprise and passion for improving the customer experience helps to meet and exceed the needs of technology leaders, preparing them for the future.

To learn more about NEC’s Smart Enterprise, download the Frost & Sullivan Report. (Companion Piece) or the full report here.

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Announcing NEC’s New LPGA Microsite

NEC Corporation of America, Official Technology Sponsor of the LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association), proudly announces the launch of our new LPGA-focused microsite. NEC is committed to supporting the LPGA organization in its mission to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for its players, guests and tournament staff. With the creation of this dedicated site, NEC brings together specific tournament participation and support information, and provides you with direct access to ongoing NEC-relevant LPGA tour and player updates, all located in one website, hosted at http://lpga.nec.com.

Especially designed for golf enthusiasts, this NEC/ LPGA microsite is a one-stop location for you to:

  • Reference the LPGA Event Calendar and its tournament information
  • Follow our NEC/ LPGA blog content, tournament by tournament, as we share results, observations and player information from the NEC-sponsored LPGA events
  • Check out NEC’s (facial recognition) technology in action at select events, and the various ways NEC’s smart enterprise solutions are helping to power the LPGA this year
  • View the expanding gallery of NEC/ LPGA photo images, tournament and technology videos, as well as NEC’s event marketing media throughout the season
  • See what’s happening, and connect with us on our Social Media outlets
  • Explore NEC’s powerful Advanced Recognition Solutions, as well as Unified Communications and Infrastructure solutions, and their applications to real-life smart enterprise situations

The new NEC/ LPGA web site is a great place to check out the expanding use of facial recognition for heightened security at professional Sporting Events.

For example: For the upcoming Founders Cup event in Phoenix Arizona, and also for the ANA Inspiration tournament, NEC technology will be at the Front Entrance, strengthening entry security with NEC EVA (Enhanced Video Analytics) facial recognition– screening analytics that compare faces to an LPGA Watch List, to safeguard the LPGA fan experience. This technology also provides important fan metrics, such as age, gender and number of attendees at the event, invaluable information to assist the LPGA in their goal of elevating the fan experience and creating enjoyable, memorable events.

Additionally, in response to player’s requests for increased locker room access control, NEC’s NeoFace Express will be boosting security in the Player’s area by providing real-time screening for LPGA-approved personnel.

Exciting things are happening at NEC, so come join us now in the new NEC LPGA microsite, for the latest in event information and cutting edge NEC technology!

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Join NEC at Enterprise Connect 2018: Enabling the Smart Enterprise to Thrive

The annual Enterprise Connect event attracts communications and IT professionals from around the world to delve into the newest technologies, share best practices, sample new ideas, and learn firsthand from expert insight. This year, Enterprise Connect 2018 in Orlando presents a chance to discover something new that could improve your organization’s operations, and potentially increase business opportunities as well.

For the past 20+ years, NEC has brought its biggest and brightest ideas to the conference and expo. We’ve always found this event to be an excellent opportunity to meet with our customers, prospects and partners and participate in conversations and idea exchanges in a more personal way.

Driving Digital Transformation

In 2018, NEC will be featuring an impressive display of its solutions for the Smart Enterprise. Current strategic business disruptors are driving digital transformation for today’s organizations—regardless of size or region. To help organizations thrive in this environment of change, NEC offers Smart Enterprise, a comprehensive approach to safety, security, efficiency and reliability—by integrating NEC’s own unique mix of technologies and solutions. We offer something that no other competitor can bring to the table.

Visitors to NEC’s expo booth #913 will see firsthand how digital transformation and advanced approaches for delivering and managing communications and IT services can help Smart Enterprises thrive.

A sampling of this year’s featured solutions includes:
• NEC’s industry-leading integrated IT and unified communications solutions
• Software Defined Networking (SDN) for secure, automated QoS
• Unique use of facial recognition for safety and security as well as demographics capture and analytics
• Workflow optimization through a common database and services shared amongst multiple software systems
• Self-service kiosks for better efficiency and improved customer service
• A human “in-the-loop” path to efficient and reliable Internet of Things (IoT) solutions
• Vertical-focused solutions designed for the specific needs of industries, including healthcare, government, hospitality and more. Workflow optimization, facial recognition and attendant solutions for healthcare will be highlighted in the booth, but similar methodologies can be used in other verticals as well

Solving Customers’ Biggest Headaches

Attendees will also learn how our customers are discovering ways to solve their most pressing pain points through NEC’s Smart Enterprise approach, such as:
• Tackling inefficient workflows and processes—both of which can have a negative effect on the overall customer experience
Reducing business disruptions related to technology and network issues
• Managing disparate databases across the enterprise and through partners
• Coping with insecure networks in the face of expanded cyber attacks
• Ensuring the physical safety of employees and customers alike

To learn more about how NEC customers are embracing Smart Enterprise solutions in their organizations, check out these case studies:


 

NEC Speakers at Enterprise Connect 2018

In addition to the Smart Enterprise experience in our booth, NEC speakers will be featured in several conference sessions. We invite you join us during the following time slots.

GENERAL SESSION
Thursday, March 15 | 10:15 am – 11:15 am
Resiliency, Disaster Recovery & Emergency Communications: New Threats, New Ways to Prepare
Sam Safa, Sr. Solutions Development Manager, of NEC Corporation of America, will join a roundtable of industry experts.

BREAKOUT SESSIONS

Wednesday, March 14 | 3:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Cloud Tradeoffs: Customization vs. Off-the-Shelf, Cost vs. Agility
JP Najar, Sr. Solutions Architect – Cloud, NEC Corporation of America, will participate in a roundtable discussion with vendor representatives.

CUSTOMER CASE STUDY SESSION:
Wednesday, March 14 | 4:00 pm – 4:45 pm
Real-World Enterprise Speech Tech Use Cases
This session features several use cases, including one from NEC customer Brad Hazelbaker, Network & Telecommunications Manager, of St. Elizabeth’s Healthcare who will also participate in the roundtable discussion.

We’re counting down the days until the Enterprise Connect conference kicks off on March 12. To save $500 off a full conference pass or get a FREE Expo Plus Pass, simply register through NEC’s Enterprise Connect web page and enter discount code: NEC.
We look forward to seeing you there!

For More Information
If you are interested in learning more about NEC Smart Enterprise solutions or would like to set up a meeting with an NEC expert during Enterprise Connect, please fill out and submit the following form. More information about attending Enterprise Connect is available here.

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Keeping Your Cool When Severe Weather Hits

Extreme weather events have caused massive destruction across North America in recent months. In early 2018, the eastern part of the U.S. experienced a “bomb cyclone” consisting of severe cold temperatures, massive amounts of snow and lots of misery. Last summer and early fall, the Gulf Coast and Caribbean were hard hit by hurricanes during one of the most severe tropical storm seasons in years. Parts of Puerto Rico still are struggling to even get the power back on and other services.

Weather wreaks havoc not only on daily life, but disrupts businesses as well. Lack of power, paralyzed transportation and infrastructure damage have a definite impact on “business as usual.” Over the past several years, the Ponemon Institute (https://www.ponemon.org/), which conducts independent research on privacy, data protection and information security policy, has launched three studies since 2010 on the cost of data center downtime. In its latest study (2016), the research shows that the average cost of a data center outage was $740,000, an increase of 38% since the first study in 2010.

5 Reasons You Can’t Ignore the Private Cloud Anymore - Read the Free EbookThe cost of one outage can be measured in many ways—loss of revenue and productivity, damage to an organization’s reputation in the market, customer churn and loss of future opportunities. Depending on the timing and duration of an outage, some industries may be more adversely affected than others. Think about a resort hotel that is unable to book rooms online during the height of the tourist season. Potential customers quickly lose patience and head to the competition or give up entirely. Or consider a transportation organization—outages cause inconvenience for passengers and loss of revenue for carriers, but might be a safety concern as well.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery

Two elements of business planning, business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR), are especially critical during a disaster or outage. Continued business operations depend on an organization’s ability to replicate its systems and data quickly. The ability to plan ahead and adapt during a crisis to restore business operations — without long-term or permanent negative effects — are crucial to an organization’s success. Business continuity goes beyond staying up and running during a disaster. It also means keeping all parts of the business running effectively and efficiently, not just the technology systems.

It’s important to keep a BCDR plan updated as IT changes occur, such as when new applications are added, new technologies become available, or when moving applications to the cloud, for example. By keeping the BCDR plan aligned with the business plans, the IT team won’t be caught off guard when an outage occurs.

Fortunately, technology provides solutions that help mitigate the effects of a disaster, natural or otherwise, and keep businesses online.

Keeping Data Center Operations Humming

For years it’s been a common practice for companies to maintain backup copies of data at an off-site location, usually within a short driving distance of the primary data center. While this practice works for many outage situations, a natural disaster such as a snowstorm, earthquake or mud slide could have a widespread geographic impact that affects not only the location of the main data center, but the backup location as well.

Deploying a cloud solution mitigates that disaster scenario. Cloud-based services support an organization’s ability to plan for disaster recovery and benefit ongoing business continuity. Cloud solutions come in three major deployments—public, private and hybrid. All have pros and cons, depending on the organization’s needs. For instance, private cloud solutions such as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provide the elasticity, flexibility and scalability of a public cloud, but can be dedicated to one account, thus providing a more personalized and secure solution.

IaaS solutions offer advantages over a public cloud, including seamless technology upgrades and more control. Advanced compute, storage and network technology can combine in a private cloud offering such as IaaS, but no solution is “one-size-fits-all.” It’s important to work with a service provider who can create a solution that fits the organization. IaaS lends itself to customization that caters to the unique needs of an organization.

The advantages of a private cloud are numerous:

  • Lower costs than maintaining a private data center
  • Maintain standards of regulatory compliance
  • Access to the latest technologies making it easier to stay current
  • More control than a public cloud, including a more secure solution
  • Standard billing so there are no “surprises”
  • Less burden on internal IT teams and staff

During a natural disaster, IaaS can be the ideal solution for BCDR. By providing an off-premises, hosted environment, the data center continues to operate from a location far removed from the disaster.  Data is secured and transactions with customers and partners continue without interruption. Fault-tolerant servers  offer five 9s of uptime and scalability.  A grid storage system  helps ensure redundancies to protect a company’s mission-critical data. Using grid storage, a company can replicate its data at an off-site location. During an outage or natural disaster, the master site can be recovered by using the data at the remote site, by means of an Optimized Copy, without having to import backup images.

NEC partner Iron Mountain maintains its National Data Center, located 220 feet below ground in Western Pennsylvania and considered one of the most secure, compliant and energy-efficient data center complexes in the world. As a technology infrastructure provider and part of Iron Mountain’s Data Center Marketplace, NEC is able to provide additional value-added services such as Disaster Recovery as a Service from this secure location.

Learn how NEC teams up with its partner Iron Mountain to provide an IaaS solution housed in one of the most secure locations in the world, the Iron Mountain National Data Center.

Location of the ‘Office’ No Longer Matters

When a weather event or other natural disaster strikes, the ability to enable employees to work from anywhere becomes critical. Working remotely means staff can perform their jobs as seamlessly as if they were in the office, supporting business operations, serving customers, suppliers and partners, and getting their work done.

Cloud-based applications enable employees to keep things running from remote locations. With unified communications and collaboration tools such as softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing, dispersed teams collaborate and work on projects even when the weather outside slows transportation to a crawl. Enabling employees to do their jobs even when they can’t get to the office keeps them safe during dangerous travel conditions as well.

Virtual desktops can be linked through a private network connection to a secure, remote data center far from the bad weather or natural disaster. Best of all, desktops in the cloud look and behave as if they are part of a corporate IT environment. Customers and employees won’t notice a difference in the quality of service.

Software-defined networking (SDN) simplifies network management, proactively addresses network performance and quickly re-routes network traffic as needed—all critical functions during a severe weather occurrence or natural disaster.  An SDN solution centralizes control of the network and automatically monitors and prioritizes network traffic, distributing it according to pre-defined policies and constantly updates network resources and traffic conditions.

When the blizzard, mud slide, earthquake, wildfire or hurricane strikes your location, the right solutions and technology enable business as usual. Consider private cloud solutions when developing your business continuity and disaster recovery plans to help create a safe and secure environment that protects data and applications, and keeps your business running.

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