Intermedia’s annual 2013 Small + Medium Business Mobile Trends Report was released earlier this month. Michael Gold is Intermedia's president, leading the organization with over 15 years of senior management experience in cloud services and channel development. Droid Report recently interviewed Michael Gold about his current role at Intermedia, discussed recent 2013 report findings on mobile, cloud and SMBs, and the company’s plans for FY 2014.

Michael Gold, President of Intermedia

Droid Report: Hello Michael, You had joined Intermedia in May 2011. Can you tell us more about your role and some insight on Intermedia’s upcoming leadership initiatives for 2014?

Michael Gold: As Intermedia’s president, my role has been to help guide Intermedia from its hosted Exchange roots to becoming a provider of a broad suite of cloud IT services to small and medium businesses.

This is certainly our focus in 2014. We’ll be helping our customers control their ENTIRE cloud—not just their Intermedia services. We recently acquired SaaSID, a UK-based vendor of single sign-on and web application security, and we’re integrating their technology into our HostPilot control panel. This will offer admins centralized control over employee access and give employees the convenience of single sign-on for all their cloud services.

In addition, we’ll be investing heavily in enhancing and expanding our hosted Exchange, hosted PBX, SecuriSync file syncing and sharing, security and mobility services, as well as our robust channel platform.

Droid Report: With an impressive 90,000 customers, 750,000 users, Intermedia is the world’s largest provider of hosted Exchange, outside of Microsoft and has over 13,500 channel partners to sell cloud services under their own brand, with full control of their customer relationships. SMBs today are dealing with numerous changes and complex business models. How do you continue to improve with all of your customers, users and channel partners?

Michael Gold: We improve by listening. We hear our customers tell us that they want to extend IT functionality and reduce IT complexity. We hear our partners tell us that they want to become trusted advisors for their customers. We succeed by delivering what our customers and partners tell us they need.

Droid Report: Intermedia offers Office in the Cloud™ which delivers the essential services that SMBs need to do business – including hosted Exchange, Hosted PBX, SecuriSync file sync and share, security, mobility and more.  What is the reason why SMBs should choose your services over other competitors?

Michael Gold: Think about the IT landscape IT decision-makers face: they need email, phones, file sharing, chat, security, mobility and many other IT needs. Every category has a dozen providers you have to evaluate. And once you pick one, you still have to worry about deployment and training and integration. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.

SMBs need a better—and simpler—IT experience. Intermedia delivers a tightly integrated suite of cloud services for our customers and channel partners. We’re a one-stop shop. Our Office in the Cloud suite takes care of integration, mobility, security and support. And there’s just one control panel for all our services—including for partners to manage all their customers. For both customers and partners, we deliver a worry-free experience that keeps them focused on doing business.

Droid Report: Intermedia’s 2013 Small + Medium Business Mobile Trends Report is the company’s annual review of smartphone and tablet activations. One of your recent findings on BYOD trends suggested that this past holiday gift giving had less of an impact on activations than industry release cycles. Taking a further look at BYOD for business, addressing the right balance of productivity and security requires technology adoption and policies. Its no doubt we have risks and challenges, however the technologies today can improve such areas. What are your thoughts on BYOD solutions?

Michael Gold: You nailed it: you have to balance productivity with security. This is a key BYOD challenge. For example: what happens when an employee leaves your company but keeps a device full of company data? We offer mobile device management to all customers. You can force a device that accesses company email or shared files to be password protected, and you can wipe it remotely if it’s lost or stolen. If security measures like these are not in place, the risks of BYOD to security and data protection outweigh the efficiency gains.

Droid Report: The report also shows that iPhones still rule for small and medium-sized businesses—but Apple needs to keep an eye on Samsung. It stated that Samsung is now the dominant #2. In January 2012, Samsung activations by Intermedia customers first eclipsed all other Android, Windows and BlackBerry devices in the battle for runner-up. Since then, Samsung has surged far ahead of all other vendors. In the first ten months of 2013, Samsung saw just over 29,000 activations. Intermedia is the largest independent source of SMB mobile device activations. What can businesses do to prepare for future success with their mobile strategies?

Michael Gold: We just published a report called the Top 10 Requirements for Making Your Business Mobile, which touches upon this exact topic. You can download it from our Mobile Trends Report. Our tips include ensuring that phones sync email activity to desktop computers, ensuring employees can make calls over their office phone line using their mobile device, and much more.

Droid Report: There was also mention in the report of Samsung’s initiatives such as KNOX mobile security solution. Samsung KNOX Android platform is ideal for business deployment. The technology offers a better way for the business to manage BYOD. How do you feel about Samsung’s SMB security practices?

Michael Gold: Security is a smart way for Samsung to try to catch up to Apple. From talking with SMBs, the perception is that you are better off with Apple because it provides greater security than the other mobile platforms. But if Samsung is able to quell some of that fear through KNOX and other security initiatives, then it is reasonable to assume they will add to their current share of the SMB market.

Droid Report: Michael, you gave recent comments about Apple and Samsung, “Small and medium-sized businesses are choosing Apple for mobile delivery of their cloud IT services at an incredible rate.” “Many customers already leverage Intermedia services on smartphones and tablets as the primary front-end for running their business. Samsung and Apple will compete intensely for these business users by driving down prices, extending functionality, and addressing SMB needs like security. This means the ultimate winner will be businesses themselves.”  That being said, what are some of the reasons why Intermedia’s services are a good choice for SMBs?

Michael Gold: The key reason is that we’re a one-stop shop. Our Office in the Cloud enables you to communicate, collaborate, and manage content on par with—and often better than—many big businesses. There’s just one bill, one password, and one source of support.

Each of our services is protected by enterprise-grade security and designed for mobility. And they're all fully integrated to make both users and administrators more efficient.

Droid Report: The report also detailed other trends such as businesses ignoring iPhone 5c with the device having only 1,521 iPhone 5c activations. Because of these findings it was also suggested that business buyers are motivated more by functionality than by price. It may also suggest that buyers are confused by the many competing plans and prices offered by mobile providers and device retailers. What are your thoughts on this insight?

Michael Gold: The mobile marketplace is confusing. With the subsidies and the contracts, it’s hard to determine the true price of a device. This could be one of the reasons why the 5c isn’t getting the sales we would have expected.

More importantly, though, the 5s vs. 5c numbers may also suggest that SMB buyers aren’t as cost-conscious as conventional wisdom would suggest.

Droid Report: What trends do you see in Mobile-device management (MDM) solutions in relation to device activation and optimizing functionalities?

Michael Gold: As I mentioned before, if you’re going to allow BYOD devices on your network, you need to have control over them. Otherwise you’re trading security for functionality—and that’s not an acceptable tradeoff.

Droid Report: With over 190,000 activations, Apple accounted for six out of every eight mobile devices activated by Intermedia’s SMB customers, despite other studies showing Android’s overall lead in market share. According to an article in Forbes, “[Samsung] should be trying to raise their presence in the Valley because they’re largest device manufacturer in the world and most developers still have this iPhone-first mentality.” What do you think Samsung should be doing in terms of competition and efforts to gain more credibility from the developer community?

Michael Gold: As the Android heavyweight in SMBs, Samsung can put a priority on a unified experience across all their devices, which will help both developers as well as users. I know that they understand this, and that they have many initiatives and investments to address it.

Droid Report: It's critical that SMBs still must continue and learn to adapt, thrive and grow in economic, corporate governance and regulations circumstances. Technology's role today is critical as an enabler. As the market becomes more mobile and interconnected, do you believe SMBs may face more confusion and volatility in the market?

Michael Gold: Quite the opposite. I think the next year or two are going to make it increasingly simple for SMBs to adopt a mobile strategy. That’s one of the reasons we’re so optimistic about our future. Our Office in the Cloud suite provides the integration workers need to be equally productive at their desktop, laptop or on their mobile devices.

Droid Report: Is there anything else you feel Android users and the Android market should know?

Michael Gold: It’s not about the device. Business mobility isn’t actually about devices at all—it’s about IT. Your device isn’t the limiting factor for mobility—your IT is. Your best bet is to choose cloud IT providers that provide business-grade services that support your mobile work-life.

We would like to thank Michael Gold for taking the time for this discussion and Intermedia.

Michael Gold, President

Michael Gold is Intermedia's president, leading the organization with a focus on profitably growing the company through an increasingly broader set of cloud services - and a superior experience for customers and partners. Gold joined Intermedia in May 2011 as part of the company's acquisition by leading private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners. Gold brings over 15 years of senior management experience in cloud services and channel development. Before joining Intermedia, he was CEO of Zlago, a cloud services company he founded and grew via a nationwide network of managed service providers, VARs, and other channel partners. Previously, Gold was a senior vice president at cloud automation provider Parallels. Gold came to Parallels through its acquisition of Sphera, a cloud services company where he served as CEO. Gold has held a variety of other executive roles in the industry, including CEO of software company Vicorp and senior vice president of Qwest Communications, where he had P&L responsibility for the Internet Products business and launched Qwest's CyberCenter datacenter and hosting business. Long dedicated to the channel community that supports small and mid-size businesses, he was named one of the 25 most innovative executives by CRN and Everything Channel in 2009 and 2010. Gold earned a bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Stanford.

Intermedia

Intermedia

Founded in 1995, Intermedia was the first to offer hosted Microsoft Exchange. With 90,000 customers and 750,000 users, it is the world’s largest provider of hosted Exchange, outside of Microsoft itself. Intermedia also enables over 13,500 channel partners – including VARs, MSPs, telcos and cable companies – to sell cloud services under their own brand, with full control over billing, pricing and every other element of their customer relationships. Intermedia’s 600 employees in 3 countries manage 10 datacenters to power its Office in the Cloud – and to assure its famous worry-free experience. Learn more at Intermedia.net.