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IT Central Station Raises $30M Series A

by Russell Rothstein Comments: 0

IT Central Station raises $30 million investment

Since we launched in 2012, our mission has been to revolutionize enterprise tech buying through the power of peer reviews and opinions. So I’m thrilled to announce that we will be significantly accelerating our growth with a $30 million Series A investment.

 

IT Central Station is not the only review site in the market. 

 

But we have a very special story.

 

IT Central Station has been the only review site to grow by bootstrapping without relying on venture capital. 

 

Without VC funding, we didn’t have as much marketing budget to create noise and hype like other review sites.

 

Instead we focussed on three things:

– The most in-depth and valuable reviews in the market

– Highest quality intent data and leads that generate strong ROI

– Serving our customers with world-class customer success

 

I’m proud to say we achieved these goals.

 

We offer the most in-depth reviews in the industry, with an average of 620 words per review. People tell us our reviews are “on steroids” – they read like a detailed customer story. We are the only review site with a Zero Fake Reviews™ commitment, and use our triple authentication process to validate every review. Being in this market for so long, we’ve learned that enterprise tech professionals prefer quality over quantity. They’ll take one high-quality review over ten thin, questionable reviews.

 

We have built an impressive list of customers that generate significant ROI from their investment in IT Central Station. Many of our customers generate millions of dollars in pipeline and closed business from IT Central Station leads and intent data. They’ve given us high marks with an average 70 Net Promoter Score (NPS) over the past 4 quarters. That’s world-class NPS, putting us at the level of Apple and Starbucks.

 

Our user base is also expanding in size and quality. Over the past year, 97 of the Fortune 100 have used IT Central Station to research technology buying decisions. A few months ago, we celebrated reaching 500,000 registered members. That’s on top of the millions of visitors each year who read IT Central Station reviews.

 

Our annual revenue growth is now at 124%, and net revenue retention at 142%. That makes IT Central Station the fastest growing review site in the market.

 

And we’re just getting started.

 

Why we are taking an investment now

We didn’t need to take on outside capital. Our business is cash flow positive and we’re profitable. This funding will enable us to do more of what we do best – more high quality reviews, in more categories, for more buyers. IT Central Station offers the highest quality reviews in B2B technology segments such as cybersecurity, DevOps, and IT management. And now we are expanding more rapidly into additional technology categories. 

 

We will also be significantly investing in growth and marketing. We’ll be unveiling a new look and a new brand in 2022 (stay tuned!) and we’ll start to invest more in getting the IT Central Station story out to the market. 

 

We’re thrilled that our new partner in this journey is the growth-equity fund Invictus Growth Partners. Invictus is based in San Francisco with a deep network of top executives across Silicon Valley tech companies. Invictus also brings to the table strong operational experience, expertise in machine learning, and a shared vision to build an epic company. 

 

What we are doing next 

As we continue on our journey to grow the most trusted marketplace for enterprise technology, we are going to expand our team, with significant growth in R&D, sales, marketing, customer success, and other areas. With a 4.6 star rating on Glassdoor (and we know how important it is to hear from real people), and a warm, positive culture with plenty of room for growth, we’re looking forward to welcoming new people to our team.

 

We have an ambitious roadmap that we are working towards. We plan to roll out new features to support enterprise tech buyers, and more tools and integrations for marketers to use our reviews, leads, and intent data.

 

We’re excited for what the future holds, and our team is rolling up its sleeves for the journey ahead. 

 

IT Central Station team photo

 

I’m grateful to everyone who has joined us along the way – thank you to our incredible team, and our growing community of enterprise tech buyers, reviewers, and partners for believing in our vision and making IT Central Station what it is today. And thank you to our customers for putting your trust in us to deliver a world class product.

 

Read more about the investment in the Wall Street Journal.

Vendor Dashboard Features

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

We’ve been working hard on introducing new features to the site’s Vendor Dashboard – where you can view all the stats about your product on IT Central Station, as well as easily access information about your active campaigns. In this post we’ll take you through some of the dashboard’s features, including:

 

  1. Visitor and review stats
  2. Intent data
  3. Ranking badges
  4. Campaigns 
  5. Editing your product profile

 

If you don’t yet have access to your Vendor Dashboard, contact us to claim your product listing

 

Main Dashboard

The main dashboard has two tabs: Product Visitor Stats and Product Review Stats. 

 

Product Visitor Stats

The Product Visitor stats dashboard provides a summary of the overall and monthly traffic to your product page, review pages, and comparison pages. You can also access more detailed information about your audience, such as a breakdown of the viewers by industry and company size, and the most recent companies reading your reviews.

 

Product Review Stats

The Product Review Stats provide an overview of product reviews and rankings. This includes key metrics such as the product’s total reviews (overall and over time), ranking in the category, average review word count, and star rating. There is also a breakdown of the reviewer demographics by company size and industry. In addition, there is a graph which compares your review count with competitors.

 

 

Intent Data

Take a closer look at the activities of companies viewing the pages in your product’s category on the Intent Data. Select a company, and see what pages that company’s employees have viewed and which products they were researching (both for your product, or competitors), and the buyers’ guides they downloaded. 

 

Access Your Badges

If your product has earned any ranking badges, such as a #1 ranking or a category Leader Badge, they can be downloaded directly from your dashboard. Use these in your marketing campaigns and for sales enablement as objective third-party product validation.

 

 

Campaigns

If you are running a Retargeting, Reviews as a Service (RaaS) or Leads campaign through IT Central Station, track the progress of each campaign straight from your dashboard. There is an overview of the start and end date for each campaign, as well as how much of the campaign has been delivered so far. There is also more detailed information for each campaign type: 

 

  1. Leads campaign: A breakdown of the leads by product category and country. Download a csv of the leads directly from the dashboard.
  2. Reviews as a Service (RaaS) Campaign: A full list of the reviews collected for a RaaS campaign, ordered by user name, company, job title, star rating, and whether the review has been published yet. In addition to seeing the reviews live on the product page, you can download the reviewer references or the full reviews in csv format.
  3. Retargeting program: A detailed report of the campaign performance in terms of impressions, click delivery, and conversions.

 

Edit your Profile

Every product listed on IT Central Station has a dedicated product page where users can read a brief overview of the product. Edit your profile periodically to ensure it has the most up to date information.

 

Don’t yet have access to your product’s Vendor Dashboard? Contact us to claim your product listing and access your Vendor Dashboard. 

 

Review Platform Intent Data: A Tool for Marketing & Sales Success

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

Many organizations are adding intent data to their marketing and sales toolkit to help identify prospects and improve conversion rates. Knowing who your potential customers are can help to fine tune campaigns for better results.  Intent data helps identify companies that have higher potential to be in a buying journey. In a 2020 Demand Gen Benchmark Study, 51% of B2B marketers reported that they were using intent data to improve the quality of their demand generation efforts. Gartner predicts that by 2022, this number will increase to 70%.

There are many types of B2B intent data providers to choose from. In our latest guide, we explore why review platform intent data is one of the best kept secrets for tech marketing. Review platform data offers visibility into the companies researching you and your competitors. Not only does this offer invaluable insight into who’s in the market right now, it’s also highly actionable across marketing and sales teams. In this post, we’ll explore how review platform intent data differs from other types of intent data, and why it’s a powerful tool for tech marketers.

 

What are the different types of intent data?

There are many ways to categorize the different types of intent data. Some just split it between 1st and 3rd party data, while others refer to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd party data. We like to differentiate between the types of data based on how it is collected, as this contextualizes the level of intent, the quality and where in the funnel the data sits. According to this approach, there are 5 major categories: 

  • 1st Party Data
  • Bidstream Data
  • Co-Op Data
  • B2B Media Site Data
  • Review Platform Data

 

Each of these types of intent data has benefits. Understanding the basic differences will help with understanding what makes review platform intent data unique. It will also help with picking the providers that will help meet marketing and sales goals. You don’t need to choose just one provider – sometimes, the most effective strategy will incorporate multiple data sources. 

types of b2b intent data

First Party Data

First party data is the data produced from your own digital sources. This includes the actions that prospects and clients take on your website, emails and social media channels. First party data will often reveal prospects who are in advanced stages of the buying journey (and bottom of the funnel) and poised to make a purchase. This is very strong data which can feed into lead scoring and ABM marketing campaigns. 

 

First Party Data is very powerful, but it comes with some limitations. Firstly, it’s limited to the people who are already looking at you, so you’re missing out on catching prospects who are still in the awareness and consideration phases. 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a prospect contacts sales. Additionally, you only get a partial view of a prospect’s research process. If you know what other sites they’re visiting, this can help to fill in the blanks (for example, are they researching your competitors? This demonstrates high intent). This is why companies typically combine 1st party data with other intent data sources, often through an ABM platform, like 6sense, DemandBase and Terminus. 

Bidstream Data

Bidstream data is used to infer the intent of companies based on ads that their employees click on. This type of data is collected using an ad pixel that’s shared through ad exchanges with biddable ad space. ABM platforms often use this as part of their offering.

While bidstream data offers high volumes and broad coverage, this is also where its weakness lies – it casts the net a little too wide. Typically, the data is considered low quality and high funnel. Bidstream data has also come under fire for non-compliance with privacy regulations and fraudulent data, and is under scrutiny by the US Senate amid privacy concerns. 

 

Co-Op Data 

Co-Op data is sourced from a group of publishers and websites which pool data together so that they can all have access to a larger data set. Co-Op data providers collect data points from their network across the web. They then provide aggregated data showing the level of interest that companies are showing in a particular topic. 

Co-Op data boasts high accuracy in determining interest in a particular topic, which purportedly indicates high buyer intent. 

A limitation of Co-Op data is that most of the sites they collect data from are based on articles about a wide range of topics. Whilst the data may indicate a high level of interest from a company in a particular topic, it’s not a guarantee that they’re ready to buy. Consequently, the data often reflects topical interest rather than buyer intent, and is considered top to middle of the funnel. This can result in a high degree of false positives.

 

B2B Media Website Data

Media companies like TechTarget and IDG have large audiences in the B2B space. Their content mostly revolves around thought leadership that is attractive to a broad audience. Some sites also host forums for users who are conducting product research, which provides stronger intent signals than sites that have only article content.

These companies sell their 1st party data as intent data, with the premise that interest in a particular topic will indicate intent to buy. Although this may be true to some extent, tech buyers aren’t necessarily on their platforms to research a purchase –  they are more likely there to read interesting articles, learn and stay up to date on industry trends. This means that the data is more top- to mid-funnel.

 

Review Platform Data: High Intent and High Accuracy

As mentioned before, each type of intent data has its benefits. Bidstream, Co-Op, and B2B Media Website data demonstrate differing levels of accuracy in predicting buyer intent. Overall, the level of intent of each of these types of intent data is top- to middle-of-funnel. There may also be cases where the companies identified are actually further along in their buyer’s journey – but how can you identify those companies?

Review platform intent data providers like IT Central Station offer a particularly compelling solution. Intent data from a review site consists largely of high intent buyers who are at a critical stage of the buyer’s journey – they’re in the decision phase, and almost ready to make a purchase. 

 

How do we know this? According to a recent report, almost 70% of the B2B buyer’s journey is done before a prospect ever contacts sales. In addition, in DemandGen’s 2021 B2B Buyers Survey Report, the majority of respondents indicated that they sought input from peers or existing users as the final step before accepting outreach from a vendor and engaging with a sales representative from the vendor they had selected. 

We have also seen evidence of IT Central Station site visitors being in advanced stages of the buying journey. In a recent survey that we conducted among App Security visitors to our site, 86% of the respondents said that they were planning a project in the next year. 

 

Think about it: 

A user arrived on the review site through a Google search for information about a product. People don’t read complex product reviews just for kicks – they are looking for help in choosing what product to buy. B2B buyers who are about to spend a lot of money on an enterprise solution want to know what their peers’ experiences have been with the solutions they’re considering before making a purchase.

 

Because review sites have this highly targeted, homogenous audience whose main logical use case for a review site is researching a purchase, all the site visitors exhibit a degree of intent. Unlike other types of data, this intent data is low funnel and has a high degree of accuracy because there is no guesswork involved. The intent data generated by a review platform shows you exactly which companies are researching you and your competitors. 

 

Driving Marketing & Sales with Review Platform Data 

Intent data is only as powerful as what you do with it. The problem is that, often, companies don’t know what to do with intent data. In a 2020 TOPO report, 67% of companies reported that their biggest challenge with intent data is making the data actionable

 

Because review platform data is bottom-funnel, marketers and sales teams can use the data in a variety of ways. In our Essential Guide to Review Platform Intent Data, we give tips for different ways that review platform intent data can be used. For example, the marketing department can use the data to update lead scoring, plan targeted campaigns, and build and refine ABM lists. The sales team can use the data to prioritize accounts, reduce churn and identify opportunities to expand accounts.

 

Conclusion

Review platform intent data offers a unique opportunity to see what your prospects are researching right now – and to tailor your marketing and sales activities accordingly. Integrating these practices into your existing processes can take time, and requires planning and buy-in from your team. Done right, it will make an impact across your organization.

 

For more tips on activating review platform intent data across your marketing and sales teams, download our guide.

 

Authentic Reviews: Our Commitment to the Truth

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

Enterprise buyers aren’t interested in being fed information that is biased towards a particular product – they want to hear from real users to help inform decisions. With this in mind, IT Central Station has always been committed to providing authentic review content that is current, objective, and relevant. 

IT Central Station is a community that is built on trust, honesty, integrity, and respect of its members. These core elements guide the promise we make to users about all content on our site. Here are some of the measures that we have in place to maintain the highest quality of reviews:

Our commitmenet to real reviews

Not just a star rating

At IT Central Station we pride ourselves on the length and quality of our reviews. You won’t see a review that is just a couple of words or a simple star rating without an explanation. Compared to our competitors, who publish reviews that are generally several hundred words long, our reviews are thousands of words long and contain the crucial content buyers are looking for to help them make an informed decision. 

 

The full picture

Buyers are often skeptical of 5-star reviews, or of reviews that only contain positive feedback. Even if a reviewer gives a 5-star rating to a product, there is always room for improvement. We encourage our reviewers to go into detail about the cons as well as the pros of each solution reviewed so that buyers have the full picture before moving ahead with a purchasing process. 

 

Zero fake reviews

From the start, we knew that we needed to find a way to fight against fake reviews. We wanted buyers to know that everything they found on our site would be 100% trustworthy. So, we set ourselves an ambitious goal – to have zero fake reviews. To achieve this goal, we put in place a rigorous authentication system that every reviewer undergoes before being published on IT Central Station. 

 

Our QA team reviews every single review submission to check that reviews are genuine. We verify every user through their LinkedIn profile or company email address. All review authors have to disclose their relationship to the product, the service or the solution they are reviewing. In addition, reviewers must have used the product/service, or have evaluated it for the purpose of using it for their company, in the past 12 months. 

 

If we suspect that a review is fake in any way, we won’t publish it. We’d rather have one fewer review in our system and sleep well at night knowing that all of the reviews published on IT Central Station are authentic and relevant for our user community.

 

Authentic reviews benefit everyone

Authentic reviews are not only good for buyers – they’re great for sellers too. With real, in-depth reviews, vendors get to know their customers better, improve their products and enhance marketing and sales efforts. To find out more about how to collect authentic reviews for your enterprise tech company, get in touch.

IT Central Station has over 500,000 registered users!

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

 

We’re excited to announce that we’ve passed 500,000 registered users! We’re feeling pretty festive, so we’re giving out some free intent data for a limited time – grab your intent data here

From humble beginnings in 2012, IT Central Station has grown to an active community of users who visit our site to read enterprise tech product reviews, and ask and answer questions as part of their buying process.

We have always prided ourselves on the high quality of our reviews – with an average of 600 words per review, and a rigorous QA process, our users enjoy in-depth, authentic reviews from their peers. More and more people in the B2B space rely on reviews rather than speaking directly to sellers, consultants and analysts. We’ve seen this first-hand: decision makers from 95% of the Fortune 500 visiting IT Central Station to consult reviews during their buying process.

The success of IT Central Station is because of each and every one of our users. The willingness of our users to share their own experiences in their reviews is what brings value to B2B tech buyers. 

Here’s a message from our CEO and Co-Founder, Russell Rothstein, to our user community:

 

 

Why User Review Content is King for Enterprise Technology Marketing

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

Prior to making a purchase, potential buyers look to sources other than the company website or sales rep to get their product information. This is why user reviews are a major source of information for most software buyers today. User reviews enable buyers to get an objective, firsthand view of how a product works, its level of quality, and the various features or components being offered  — before committing to buying the product.

 

Why B2B User Reviews Resonate with Enterprise Tech Professionals

Buyers are increasingly relying on digital resources and review websites for research about technology, with enterprise buyers now regularly using peer reviews as a major purchasing influencer. According to a recent report, almost 70% of the B2B buyer’s journey is done before a prospect ever contacts sales. In another survey, conducted in 2019 by DemandBase, close to two thirds (61%) of B2B buyers said they rely more on peer recommendations and review sites than they did just a year earlier.

When it comes to mission-critical software, enterprise buyers are acutely aware of the huge risks to their company, its customers and even to their own jobs, of choosing a solution that does not live up to the vendor’s promises. Since peers have no vested interest, their experiences and opinions are considered more valuable and trustworthy than information from analysts and salespeople.

Consumers see user reviews as their filter between what the companies want you to believe and what’s accurate about the products or services being sold. This is particularly true for the technology sector, where services or products can easily be hyped up by a skilled marketer, neglecting the buyer’s need for an accountable assessment of features such as speed, integration, and functionality, each of which can only be accurately evaluated through actual experience.

Vendor-generated materials often neglect the buyer’s need for an accountable assessment of features such as speed, integration, and functionality, which can only be accurately evaluated through long-term use, and not only based on a trial or POC.

Peer reviews help bridge this gap, providing the detailed information that potential users are looking for in the buying process.

 

 

b2b buyer's journey

User Reviews Matter Now More Than Ever

As the worldwide upheavals of 2020 stretch into 2021 and likely beyond, there are fewer opportunities than ever for enterprise buyers to talk with their peers about their technology experiences. COVID-19 has significantly impacted tech conferences. Out of 63 tech-related conferences that were scheduled for 2020, 44 either took place online or were postponed. Likewise, many big name events will not take place in 2021. The lack of in-person events and networking opportunities and the increase in remote work means that buyers must go online to find users of solutions that they are researching.

Another factor in the rise of peer reviews is the changing demographics of B2B buyers. By 2025, over 44% of the US workforce will be Millennials. Already, Millennials are making more and more of the tech purchasing decisions. Their proficiency in technology and reliance on social media, together with their increasing position as influencers, underscores the importance of digital channels for research purposes. 85% of millennials use social media to research products and services for their companies, with 17% saying peers or colleagues are the most important source in their research.

Peer reviews are not flawless, though. With the rise of fake reviews, customers scrutinize online reviews before accepting the material provided as fact. For this reason, there is a growing demand for peer reviews that come from trusted sources, and represent factual and helpful input. 

download guide to user reviews

What IT Central Station Provides to Software Buyers

In our current data-driven and content-consuming generation, the tech industry is steadily adapting to expectations for information that’s not only available on-demand, but is also filtered and validated before readers start devouring it. Peer reviews written by like-minded, authentic users are well-aligned with the standards of today’s software buyers.

IT Central Station is the leading enterprise technology review site, with a community of 500,000+ technology professionals. Our user reviews are collected from enterprise tech events, conferences, and one-on-one interviews with tech professionals. With an average of 600 words per review, all reviews and user-generated content are validated by our triple-authentication process, and manually assessed for relevance and usability to the enterprise tech professional.

Enabling Well-Rounded Decision Making

With relevant information, accurate reviews, and concise reports, buyers are more equipped with the tools they need to make a well-rounded purchasing decision.

Additionally, IT Central Station distributes your content across relevant social media channels, forums, and industry blogs where your potential buyers are actively browsing. This way, your products are seen in several places, expanding your reach, increasing brand awareness, and giving each of your reviews/products more credibility in the enterprise tech industry.

Six Company Departments That Can Use Review Content to Increase Revenue

by Julia Frohwein Comments: 0

In another post, we explored why user review content is essential for enterprise tech marketers. Once you have invested in user reviews from customers, the opportunities are endless for how you can use this quality, authentic content as part of your marketing strategy. But there are so many other ways that you can take advantage of your user reviews throughout your company to increase ROI. Whether you need user feedback to help improve your product, or are building a playbook for your SDRs and Sales Team, getting authentic user review content can make all the difference.

Here are six departments in your company that stand to benefit from user reviews:

1. Your Product Team

A great product meets real needs. But how do you know what users need? Who can you ask? User feedback helps to pinpoint what you’re doing well, and what you need to improve in your product. This sort of feedback can guide ongoing product improvements. User reviews can do a lot of that legwork for you. They provide current, actionable feedback and insight into usage, ideas for new features, and more.

 

2. Your Marketing Team

User reviews provide a wealth of content that you can repurpose for marketing materials. Adding quotes from reviews to print or digital materials can provide valuable information without being “salesy”. Using the voice of your customers is the number one way to add credibility to your key messages. After all, it’s not your copywriter saying it, but a real, authenticated user.

 

3. Your SDR team

In-depth user reviews can be a great tool for your SDR team. Traditionally SDR teams use top-of-the-funnel marketing materials to demonstrate why it’s worth getting on the phone. User reviews are more compelling than nearly all other forms of top-of-the-funnel content, including white papers and analyst reports. Customer Success Managers at IT Central Station frequently help SDR teams to identify peer review content to include in their emails, matching genuine users’ quotes to the specific sales messages. This type of content is optimal for making the most impact with that first initial pitch.

increase ROI with user reviews

4. Your Sales team

Your sales team loves marketing materials that demonstrate the value of your solution for users, especially when it differentiates you from your competition. Yet when marketing materials don’t reflect the values potential users care about, your lead generation efforts are in danger of producing a low number of B.A.N.T qualified leads.

User reviews provide evidence of where your solutions stand out vis-à-vis your competitors, helping your sales team to make a compelling case and bring in more revenue.

 

5. Your Lead Generation team

Your lead generation team wants to create gated content that resonates with your potential users. User reviews discussing both the pros and cons of your solution can be the key to bringing in more leads. While a white paper may generate interest, and a case study will be even more powerful, user-generated content brings the highest returns. Anyone reading a review of your product, or your competitor’s, is a potential hot lead. Retargeting to user content consistently has a higher click-through rate than vendor-generated content, leading to more leads, and more engaged prospects.

 

6. Your Customer Advocacy team

Customer Advocacy teams gather user feedback for marketing and sales, but each case study can generate hundreds of work hours. Finding users willing to display their identities and be an evangelist for your company is certainly no easy task, and compliance, both internally and from your user’s company, adds its own set of issues.

Positive user reviews, gathered by an external source allows users to be more honest than in a case study, and questions aren’t limited by internal protocols and regulations.

Looking for more tips on how to get the most out of user reviews? Download our free ebook, The Ultimate Tech Marketer’s Guide to User Reviews

 

*Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

IT Central Station Announces Winners of its Inaugural Peer Awards Across 60 Categories

by Rony Sklar Comments: 0

IT Central Station, the leading technology review site in Cybersecurity, DevOps and IT, has announced winners of the 2021 Peer Awards, spanning across 60 categories. Peer Awards rank the world’s best tech products based on authentic, timely reviews from verified reviewers. Enterprise tech decision makers rely on IT Central Station’s in-depth peer product reviews and unparalleled peer-driven content to make well-informed, smart business decisions.

The 60 categories with Peer Awards winners announced today are:

This year’s Peer Award winners were selected based on verified reviews that were published between January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020, and an annual average of IT Central Station’s weighted ranking score. The product ranking score is calculated using a weighted algorithm, as explained in detail here.

This is the first year IT Central Station is giving Peer Awards to eligible companies. “This past year of COVID has led to a surge in the relevance of online reviews,” said IT Central Station’s CEO, Russell Rothstein. “We’re announcing our Peer Awards now because access to so much rich peer feedback has been transformative. We have achieved our ongoing ambitious goal of zero fake reviews. IT Central Station’s crowdsourced content is known for its depth and quality, with an average of over 600 words per review.”

Covid, Reviewed

by Daniella Alpher Comments: 0

Covid-19 in reviews: how tech products fared amidst a pandemic

lf there’s one thing we can say about 2020, it’s that it won’t be quickly forgotten. And while experts often debate which events shaped a given year, Covid 19 was, without a doubt, the most dramatic factor of 2020, impacting everything from health to the economy in every country and across nearly every industry.

An analysis of the term Covid 19 in most media and social platforms would likely result in a resoundingly negative perspective, focusing on the untold costs of the pandemic. Interestingly, however, an analysis of the term in the user reviews on IT Central Station reveals a bit of a different take. Of the 200+ reviews that mention the pandemic, the majority cite it in a relatively positive context, highlighting the role technology has played in enabling the new world order brought about by Covid. The reviews focus on products that enable remote meetings, group collaborations, increased broadband, and improved firewalls. For some products, the pandemic was a chance to shine, highlighting a product’s scalability or ease of use.

Of course, there were negatives as well.  Covid stressors revealed the weak spots of some  products, and some users reflected on their own companies’ business slowdown due to the pandemic.  Customer service, always up for analysis, had an opportunity to shine or bomb during the pandemic.

Following are some of the perspectives shared in our user reviews. See if they match your take on 2020…

Product reviews that mention COVID on IT Central Station

 

Team Communications 

The most obvious “winners” of the pandemic, with remote work at an all-time high and business travel all but cancelled, were products that enable virtual connections, from Zoom and Teams to Slack and GoToMeeting.

The Virtual Meeting category on IT Central Station saw an increase of 72% in 2020 over 2019’s traffic, with corresponding increases in time on page, and pages viewed per visit. With new products necessary to cope with COVID’s “new normal,” traffic to our user reviews suggests people were eager to get not just facts but also color and context for how other companies faired using these products.

In one example, a reviewer of Teams talked about the value to his organization in terms of business continuity:

“In regards to COVID and the Pandemic, we would not be able to do our regular job without this mechanism in place. We do our regular scrum meetings using Microsoft Teams. We have meetings with the entire company every week. There are hundreds of people connected and it works perfectly in terms of linking people together, showing some content, and showing some slides.”

One reviewer, in talking about her company’s use of Zoom, compared it (positively) to Skype, writing:

“Since we have the COVID-19 situation, we cannot have a meeting or training face to face, so we select this platform [Zoom] instead of Skype for Business which lacks features we expected and has a slow network.”

However, this reviewer also highlighted one of Zoom’s main weaknesses:

“Showing our faces helps this COVID-19 circumstance to feel that we are not alone and we can easily access and communicate with each other… However, we have a security issue and cannot use some of the features from our company network. One example is that we cannot share the internal use only files because the file sharing feature through our network cannot use it…”

Improved Efficiency 

Some products got attention for enabling companies to increase their productivity or do things more efficiently despite Covid challenges:

A review of Microsoft Azure Devops, an agile planning tool, noted the role the product played in allowing for work continuity throughout Covid:

“Frankly, throughout this whole COVID situation, being able to respond the way we have to some of the changes that were going on has been amazing. I don’t think that would have happened if we weren’t an Agile team.”

An Automation Anywhere review:

“We implemented a lot of new environments recently. v10 expiry and COVID situation accelerated the implementations. Compared to older days now all implementation of infra bot happened pretty quickly.”

A reviewer of Ruckus Wireless, a Wireless WAN, noted the ease of deployment during Covid:

“The second most important feature is that it is super easy to deploy. As an example, we deployed this without having any of our physical techs on site. We basically used a contractor to put stuff where we asked for it to be put, but there were no real technical people on site, due to COVID.”

System Protection 

With increased online demand – and pressure – firewalls and other solutions were understandably in the spotlight.

A reviewer for Fortinet FortiGate wrote:

“We utilize services to ensure the stability of our network and clients’ protection from external threats. With the recent pandemic, mobile working has increased in demand and Fortinet has easily bridged that gap to continue to support employee needs.”

A reviewer for Check Point SandBlast, an EPP solution, wrote:

“Given that there was COVID-19 and a lockdown, there was an increase in the digital demand for learning courses. So, we wanted to secure our courses from cyber attacks. Thus, we wanted an end-to-end security system in place that would prevent/save us from cyber attacks and protect our sensitive data.”

reviewer for Kerio Control commented:

“Kerio has enabled us to double the number of VPN clients extended to those outside of our environment. It started a little bit before the pandemic but just because some of the companies started to work more from home to cut down on costs. But since COVID that’s where it shows it’s doubled.”

A SentinelOne review said: 

“Due to COVID-19, we have had to take most of our workforce, and that’s over 40,000 people around the world, and give them access to work remotely through a series of different mechanisms. In doing so, we felt much more comfortable because we have SentinelOne deployed. It provides us not only the visibility into what the tool is doing and how it’s protecting us, but it allows us to look at what applications are installed, what IP range is coming on, and what network it’s sourced from.”

Covid-19 Related Work

Some reviewers talked about the use of a product in the context of the pandemic. For example, a reviewer of Tableau, a data visualization tool, talked about his analysis of Covid 19 numbers:

“..I was studying the numbers surrounding COVID-19. We were cross-referencing zip codes and data of infection in Brazil, and we are creating an assessment of regions in Sao Paulo state as COVID-19 was growing, so that we could suggest political actions to mitigate the risk of contamination.”

Highlighting Scalability

The Covid reality brought to the fore the level of scalability of certain products.

A reviewer of ZSCALER SASE wrote:

“The scalability of the solution is top of the line. It’s one of its great selling features. Users can scale easily if and when they need to. In terms of how many people use it typically, it depends on the company size. If you’re like the last one I worked with, which was an enterprise customer, you can have five, 10, even all 5,000 users that, especially here in COVID times, are working remotely.”

A review of Kerio Control noted the product’s scalability:

“The main example of how Kerio has improved my organization would be through the COVID shutdown in terms of just being able to scale. It scales very easily to users that weren’t normally remote workers. The fact that it scales well at very little trouble to scale with the amount of users on there, and then to have no issues over that period with increased usage, it did the job. The less I know about it, the better it’s doing.”

Increased Bandwidth

Not surprisingly, many organizations felt the need for additional bandwidth during the pandemic. In a review of Extinda, a WAN optimization product, the reviewer wrote:

“Particularly with COVID, we were concerned about what the bandwidth use was going to be like and whether we were going to be able to handle the change and what it would mean to have people working remotely… We used the Exinda to watch that and monitor it, and ultimately show that we were fine. We changed some of the priorities in the Exinda on traffic for certain things, like Zoom, and it made the difference for us.”

Industry Slowdown

While many of the reviews suggest increased demand, some reflected the difficulties and slowdown some companies are facing. A reviewer of Fortinet FortiOS said that scalability wasn’t a consideration since “We’re not looking to increase our usage right now. COVID-19 really slowed us down in a lot of ways.”

A reviewer of Microsoft PowerApps similarly noted the lack of need for scalability at this point: “With everything going on, we don’t really have the right scenario to really test for scalability. That may happen in the future. COVID-19 has put a lot of plans on hold.”

Customer Service

Customer service is an evergreen topic of discussion, and source for complaints, across industries. And this was no different in user reviews during Covid. Customer support at Microsoft OneDrive got low marks in a review: “They were terrible for support after COVID hit. I want to write an article on the companies that achieved during COVID and then the companies that used it as an excuse to provide poor customer service. Microsoft would be under that jurisdiction.” A reviewer for kCura Relativity complained that “Technical support is very helpful when they engage. A lot has changed with Covid, so staff are working from home. I’d be happier if they were responding more quickly, particularly on major issues.”

APM Apica Synthetic, on the other hand, got high marks for customer support during the pandemic:  “Especially during this COVID-19 time, they have been extra supportive and have really looked after us as a company. Many providers aren’t doing that and just want your money every month.”

2020 in the Rearview Mirror 

While 2020 treated tech better than many other industries, it’s still a relief to see it recede into the background as we drive into the new year.  We look forward to seeing how 2021 shapes up and are curious to see how it will be reflected in our users’ reviews. Here’s to a good year, in reviews and everywhere else.

Next week we will be highlighting the companies that have stood out in the reviews for their great products and service throughout the pandemic. Keep an eye on our LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages to see who got the thumbs up from their customers!