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Design Career: How to Get a Design Job You Dream About

Finding a job can be tough, especially for someone who doesn’t have relevant experience. However, everybody has to start somewhere and on the way to your dream job you should be prepared for the hiring process both professionally and mentally.
The whole process of getting a job can be divided into three stages: research, application, and interview. Today we are going to give you some helpful tips for going through each stage successfully, whether you have a design background or not.
Each important life decision is accompanied by research. When making changes in personal and professional life we tend to analyze, investigate, and review facts. Applying for a job is not an exception since it sets the direction of your future career.
When starting your research, think of a company that would perfectly fit you as a person and as a designer. Don’t associate this company with ones you already know or have worked at. Let it be hypothetical. Think of the size of this company, its values, its corporate culture, and its growth dynamics. Imagine what type of clients the company works with: private entrepreneurs, mid-sized businesses, or large corporations. Frame your place in this company and imagine yourself among teammates and team leaders. Think over the work process and tracking, retention, and reward systems this company has. Try to picture yourself as a part of this company. This technique will help you to set your priorities and define the environment which can unleash your potential. Even if you don’t have experience and are looking for your first job, don’t think that you should take whatever you can get. Being selective is very important for your career success, even if the number of options is limited.
Now that you know what you want to get from your future job, it’s time to look at the options that the market offers. Don’t go to the job boards first, start with a list of companies where you can imagine yourself as an employee. Make sure you check the career sections on their websites. If there are no openings you can apply for at the moment, make sure you send your CV to the HR department so when a new vacancy appears, recruiters can find your resume in their database.
Looking through the websites of design agencies, pay attention to their blogs. There you can find a bunch of useful information to increase your chances of getting a job. Read case studies to see how their work is organized. Try on the role of the designer in charge of the project and think of the changes you could make to improve the final result. Practicing this can help you to look at your own projects from the outside and unveil gaps in your knowledge.
Don’t underestimate the power of social media networks when looking for a job. Follow social accounts of the companies you’re interested in to stay updated with the announcements they post. A lot of companies show their behind-the-scenes on social media. This will give you a better understanding of the corporate culture. One more undeniable benefit of social media is connections. Use your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Behance, Dribbble to connect with people who share valuable information. Make friends and don’t be shy to ask for advice.
The offline community deserves your attention no less than the online. Take part in meetups, conferences, and panel discussions. These kinds of activities are meant to be a great way of making professional connections. Be active in a local design community because you never know where an opportunity can come from.
Pay attention to internship offers when browsing websites and social media accounts. Internships are a win-win situation for someone without a professional background. Even if you don’t get a job, you will get a hands-on experience. You will learn a career field from the inside, work with real projects, gain industry knowledge from proficient designers, and establish a network of professional contacts.
At the research stage, apart from looking for openings, you should really prepare yourself for a future job. Don’t be passive; dive into the process like you’ve already got a job in a design agency. This approach will bring you significantly closer to the goal.
Now that you’ve done your research and have some open vacancies in mind, it’s time to talk about applying. At this stage, you need to think of three things: your resume, portfolio, and cover letter. Let’s look closer at each of them.
Recruiters in large companies spend less than 30 seconds scanning a CV. So don’t be wordy; keep your CV precise and clear.
Start with the basics. No matter how creative you are at presenting information, you really need to cover common sections: personal and contact information, work history, education and qualifications, professional skills, and achievements. Make sure you get rid of all unnecessary details. If you have a lot of training courses under your belt, highlight only the most important. If you had numerous responsibilities at your last job, don’t try to list all of them. This will not help you to impress recruiters. Instead, focus on your experience that fits the requirements of the opening you are applying for.
The section where you talk about your work experience is decisive. Share your accomplishments, not responsibilities. Pick the projects that have greatly influenced your career and highlight your role in those projects. Think of your strengths that are necessary for the job you want to get and mention them.
For non-designers, we recommend using online services that provide CV templates, to make the text structured and easy-to-read. But if you are applying for a job as a designer, you really want your CV to stand out. Make your CV noticeable yet informative. Be creative but don’t overdo it.
Think of your online CV too. LinkedIn is the most popular platform for applying and hiring. Make sure you have an account there and keep the information updated. Be where hiring managers are looking.
Double check your CV to be sure there are no misspellings or unnecessary details. Working on a document for a few hours, you can miss some obvious lapses, so ask someone to review your CV with a fresh perspective before you send it.
Even if are trying to get your first job, you need to have some freelance projects or design concepts to show.
Talking about your online portfolio, first you should pick a platform to present your works on. It’s better to set up your own website. Register a personalized domain name, find a reliable hosting service and use, for instance, WordPress to create a website.
As for the content, make sure you include personal and contact information, add links to your social media accounts and online portfolios on other platforms and start filling the portfolio with your creativeness.
It doesn’t matter how many design projects you have accomplished, you need to pick only the best. Sometimes clients ask for solutions that may not be attractive or technically right from the design perspective. Don’t showcase projects where you were not completely satisfied with the result. Your portfolio creates an impression of you as a designer, so include works you are truly proud of.
Don’t stick to one form of design such as web design, illustration, or lettering. Mix your leading projects with self-initiated experiments to demonstrate your versatility. Even with the variety of projects, you still want your portfolio to look harmonious. Use a well-thought-out structure and background to ensure that all your works flow together nicely.
Working on a portfolio design, think of it as a display case for your talents and hard work. Keep the design clean and simple so it doesn’t take away attention from your projects. Make the interface intuitive and easy-to-navigate; nothing should break the creative atmosphere.
Don’t be limited to images of the final result. Work on case studies that include all the stages of your creative workflow. Describe the initial requirements and challenges you faced developing a design. Add text explanations and your thoughts that led you to the optimal solution. Your future clients and employers will want to know more about your approach to work, so go beyond the beautiful visuals and show the behind-the-scenes of your project.
Think of your personal brand. Create a logo and identity to put on your business cards and resume. This is a nice way to show your skills at evolving and enhancing a person’s or company’s integrity visually.
And last but not least, print your portfolio. Even though nowadays most designers use online platforms for showcasing their works, you may need to demonstrate your printed portfolio when meeting someone face-to-face.
Cover Letter
Unlike the resume where you mostly talk about facts, a cover letter is more of a personal appeal to the company you want to work at. A well-written cover letter can improve your chances significantly. So let’s look at some tips that can help you to strengthen your position among other candidates.
First things first, don’t try to duplicate your CV. Consider the cover letter as a conversation with a hiring manager. Keep in mind that you are going to work for a business, so focus on the value you can bring to the company and benefits they can gain from hiring you. Emphasize the skills you have to embrace the challenges this position requires. Carefully look through the vacancy and the company’s website to figure out what kind of a professional and person they want to see in this position. Make sure the tone of your cover letter reflects the tone of the company.
You may check some examples of good cover letters for inspiration, but don’t copy them. Your letter should be sincere and personalized. Try to avoid cliches and overused phrases that hiring managers are used to seeing in every single application. Use clear and straightforward language and don’t try to make your story long; instead, make it worth reading.
The cover letter shouldn’t be exhaustive. Your task is to arouse interest and start the conversation with the hiring manager. Seems like it’s an allowance for writers, doesn’t it? Well, as a good professional you should work on your speaking and writing to succeed at every job you get. You should work on your so-called soft skills, and that’s what we are going to talk about next.
Praise yourself. An interview invitation is a huge step toward landing your dream job. It already means that an employer is interested in your skills based on your CV and portfolio. Let’s dive into practical tips that will help you to do your absolute best at the interview.
Depending on the company, the whole interview process may include several rounds. For instance, you might interview with a hiring manager, lead designer, and CEO. You should prepare yourself for each round. That’s why you should find out who you are interviewing with and research them. You’ll feel more confident when you know what kinds of questions to expect: personal, technical, or business-oriented.
Everyone is sick and tired of questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” However, hiring managers keep asking them. Think of your answers to the most expected questions and work on your reaction towards the most unexpected and uncomfortable ones. Some questions can be tricky, so take your time and think twice before you answer.
What should you do when you don’t know an answer? This is primarily related to technical interviews. First, don’t panic. Remember that interviewers can ask questions that are out of your area of expertise or go beyond your experience. In this case, they don’t expect you to give the right answer; they want to see your actions in an unordinary situation. So if you don’t have an answer, tell how you could find it and describe a similar experience that could help you to come up with a solution.
When a hiring manager asks you if you have any questions, please, don’t say no. Don’t be shy even if you’re looking for your first job. Demonstrate that you’ve done your research and understand the company’s culture. Ask the hiring manager about things that you really care about, like the workflow, compensation package, insurance, overtime, workspace, and so on. HRs are ready for these kinds of questions and they will appreciate your genuine attitude and serious approach. Remember that you’re making a choice too.
Apart from the hard skills, the employer is going to assess your soft skills. They include communication skills, work ethic, critical thinking, leadership, ability to work in a team, and positive attitude. Don’t underestimate the importance of soft skills; they can be decisive in favor of one or another candidate. Never stop improving your soft skills as well as hard skills; this combination will give career prospects that you couldn’t even dream of.
And of course, don’t forget the basic rules. Take care of navigation in advance, be there on time, pick an appropriate outfit, have your resume printed, and remember the importance of the first impression, so be open and friendly.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of job opportunities out there waiting for you. All you have to do is be active and consistent on the way to your dream job. Keep in mind that applying for a job is a part of your success story, so be determined and inspired. Good luck!

How to hire a Web designer or design company

Paul Jarvis is a best-selling author and designer. He writes weekly for his popular newsletter and runs an online course on becoming a better freelancer.
Hiring a Web designer or design company can seem like a daunting task. Too many speak in nerd and the good ones never seem available to take on new work.
I realize that maybe your cousin is a Web designer who builds websites on the side. Or your friend’s brother in college once updated your Tumblr in exchange for a case of beer. Or that you can, quite easily, figure out Web design, programming and WordPress yourself, but you just haven’t found the time.
Web designers hear these types of comments a lot (possibly second only to “make the logo bigger” on mockups). While there’s nothing wrong with learning new things or having hobbies, for the love of whatever god you believe in, hire a professional to design and program your website.
Professional, as in someone who does Web design full-time, as a job that they get paid money to do, and has done so for a while.
How do you find the right professional Web designer?
Do you walk into a hip coffee shop and look for plaid shirts, tattooed fingers and Apple laptops?
hipster millennial phone
While that would probably work, it makes more sense to start by looking at websites you enjoy visiting, and that appear to have a good community and engaged following. Does it say at the bottom of the website who designed and programmed it?
If not, send a brief email to the website’s owner, asking who they used and if they were happy with their designer.
Make a shortlist of designers (two or three) you want to work with (from looking at those sites you like and asking who built them). What are their portfolios like? Can you get behind the tone, aesthetics and presentation of their own websites and other websites they’ve done? Are their project sizes (features, functions, what the site does, etc.) similar in scope to yours?
Make the first move
Contact these Web designers and actually talk to them on the phone (old school, I know). You want to make sure you understand how they communicate, since they’ll be responsible for visually communicating your online business. Do they talk in technical jargon or Star Trek references (although the latter could be a bonus)? Are they clear about what they can provide for you? What is their process?
Ask for references and actually contact them. Ask each reference what it was like to work with the Web designer. Find out if they delivered on time, on budget, and if the client could honestly recommend them.
There’s no industry standard for pricing a website
price tags
They can cost next to nothing to well into six figures. Since you already have a good idea of your budget, see what the designer’s average project typically costs to determine if your budget fits into that range. If the two numbers are way off, it’s best to find out early to avoid wasting anyone’s time.
Chances are if you’ve found a Web designer who’s responsible for a popular website, they’re fully booked for a little while. Most good Web designers are slammed, sometimes months in advance.
Find out when they could start a project with you and how long projects typically take. There’s so much you can do before a project starts, and waiting a while gives you a chance to do your own homework on what you need to provide the designer in terms of colors, aesthetics and product purpose.
Be prepared to adjust time and money if none of the professionals you want to hire can work with your budget or timeline – maybe that means waiting a little longer or saving up a little more. That just gives you more time to focus on your business idea, products/services and value.
Here’s a list of important questions to ask before you hire anyone:
  • Can you provide a list of five references I can contact?
  • Do you do this full-time and how long have you been doing web design?
  • What is your process?
  • What is the typical budget range for your projects? how are payments broken down for projects?
  • What is the typical turn-around time for your projects?
  • When can the project be started?
  • What do you need from me before we start?
  • Do your clients see a return on investment? Do you have proof of increased conversion rates or goals being achieved after you’ve done a redesign?
  • Does the price include making the site mobile friendly?
  • Will the site be supported by retina screens?
  • Do you custom design or use templates?
  • Who will own the website design when it’s paid for?
  • Do you offer maintenance or training or post-launch support?
  • Who is the contact person and who is doing the work? is anything outsourced or subcontracted out?
  • As important as any of these questions is understanding and communication. Do you understand what they are talking about when they are describing what they do or what they can do for you?
    • Ease of communication is key in any project, especially a Web design project, where things can get confusing or misaligned due to jargon or tech speak.

    How to Hire a Professional Web Company in Miami for Website Development

    When it comes to hiring a professional web company in Miami, most of us usually squander money without even doing a background check of the firm. There are several web development agencies that can offer exceptional services that can bump up business revenues. 
    One needs to understand the fact that a professional agency possessing expertise in the trending technology is perhaps the optimum choice. Thus, one should do some work on improving their knowledge about the latest frameworks and programming language. 
    Here is a complete guide for beginners who are seeking a reliable web development firm for their business. 
    1. Ask them if they could provide a few sample projects.
    A customer looking to hire a professional web design company in Miami should ask them about their previous projects that they have either delivered or are working on. It would certainly give the customer an idea about their expertise and their work ethic, which is enough for customers to decide whether they are a fit or not. It is also wise to look at their previous clients and check their company reviews available online. Rating and reviews are the best way to judge the reliability and expertise of a company.
    2. Do they provide payment gateway deployment services?
    If they are seeking a professional agency that can offer the desired e-commerce web-designing services for their business, customers should focus on the firms possessing expertise in deploying payment gateways - a payment gateway of a bank to the client that ensures adequate security while a payment is processing online. 
    There are some companies that do not possess adequate knowledge of payment gateways, which can result in security risks and liability if not installed correctly. 
    3. Are they certified?
    The best companies have trained professionals whose expertise intersects many skills, such as graphic design, programming, content creation, and marketing. Customers that want the best web design services in Miami should look for companies that have quality, in-house teams that can give 100 percent attention and not hire companies that outsource the majority of their work.

    The Office Building Evolution For A New Breed Of Office Worker

    Today’s consumers want more than transactional relationships with companies. They’re now evaluating brands according to how it feels to do business with them. The superstars of the experience economy — companies like Ritz Carlton, Apple, Zappos and Disney — are not just selling hotel rooms, phones, shoes and vacations. They engineer memorable experiences and emotional connections that build customer loyalty.
    So, how does this relate to the commercial real estate industry?
    Historically, it hasn’t. The nature of long, contractual lease terms has prevented the real estate industry from being as customer-centric as other industries like retail and technology, where loyalty is earned day in and day out. So long as the C-suite had the corner offices and heads of real estate were wined and dined, leases got signed. Those days are coming to an end as lease terms are getting shorter and CEOs are increasingly at war for talent who are demanding an improved quality of life at work. This inversion of power and influence in the workforce is reshaping real estate decision making, and smart landlords understand that helping companies attract and retain talent is the best way to attract and retain tenants.
    Employees Are Also Customers
    A new breed of workers, connected to the office 24/7/365 via new mobility policies and technology, has a different kind of relationship with employers — one predicated on the notion of an “always on” work culture. If employees are expected to be available all the time, then both employers and landlords must rethink what work-life integration actually means. As the co-founder of a workplace hospitality platform, I see the elements of workplace design that must be considered by landlords who want to achieve this integration.
    Approaching workplace design with a focus on how it feels to be at work is the quickest path to becoming a great employer. Failing to do so will put employers at a severe competitive disadvantage, because the best talent gravitates toward employers that understand the vital importance of workplace amenities — ones that go beyond Ping-Pong tables and beer taps. The right workplace design not only attracts and retains employees, but also improves collaboration and productivity. It only makes sense to give people the freedom to work from wherever they do their best work. Think about it: When we were university students, our professors never graded us based on where the work got done. Group work might have happened in a cafĂ©. Teaching and learning happened in our classrooms. Heads-down studying could happen in the library, under a tree or lying in bed.
    A great office needs all of this and more. You need common areas for mingling, having coffee and enjoying meals together — spaces for group work, decision making and learning. And of course, quiet areas for concentration.
    But not every employer has the resources to create an Apple or Google-like workplace. For most companies, the only way to compete for talent is if their landlord is able to leverage the scale of a building to recreate a better building experience through on-demand spaces and a shared consumption of amenities. According to Colliers International, in the past, 3% of commercial real estate was dedicated to amenities such as gyms and dining. Now, owners should plan on allocating a minimum of 10%, and will need to go to 12% or higher to compete for the most sought-after “anchor” tenants.
    'Lifestyle' In An Office Building
    Much like the headquarters of the world’s largest brands, office buildings of the future look and operate like full-service lifestyle hotels. Landlords will act as curators of experiences within buildings. Thus landlords will become brands, and tenants become members. And real estate starts to become de-commoditized, selling experience rather than square feet.
    This makes the amenities, like those enjoyed by big tech companies, more financially feasible. Landlords must keep pace with the trailblazers in flexible workspaces and offer office buildings with shared services, amenities and a variety of workplaces where companies can rent a desk, office, floor or meeting room by the day, month or year.
    In most office buildings, the front desk feels like a TSA interaction, and the ground floor retail faces the street, drawing energy and attention away from the building. But what if the lobby, where the experience begins, felt more like the front desk of a hotel, and the ground floor retail was curated based on the greater contribution to building tenants?
    In a hotel, the conference and amenity floors are available to all and help the property connect to the local business ecosystem. Likewise, an amenitized common space in an office building might offer a gym, a cafe with healthy food, a lounge, green space and a game room, as well as flexible work areas that allow tenants to expand and compress their real estate footprints according to their changing business needs. Add coveted service amenities — laundry service, massage, hair cutting and nail salons — and your workplace is looking less like a cubicle farm and more like a community with a vertical campus that offers anything tenants need to live, work and play within one building.
    A Community Of Tribes
    Employees may be spending more time at work, but they still crave a “third space” to connect with others or work independently in a social environment. These are the places where people get away from the office without having to go away from the building. Coffee shops and soft seating in the lobby can act as a living room to the building and serve as a temporary escape from the office and a permeable layer of the building that welcomes the larger business community with a gesture of hospitality.
    We believe that the trend toward better experiences does not just apply to consumer brands, but also the ones maintaining or reimagining the built world. Employees are also consumers and demand more from the companies they work at as well as the buildings they work in. Landlords and developers who understand this trend will be the next generation of marketplace winners.

    Limit your water usage before Hurricane Florence hits to allow GSWSA to build storage

    Capacity planning was once critical to the IT profession. And although it remains an important factor, cloud computing’s maturity has affected the high cost of data centers that businesses traditionally grappled with. In the past, capital investments in storage and computing systems—all of which were once on premises—ate up much of the available budget and time.
    We now live in the world of infinite capacity (read: hybrid cloud) in which scalability allows ramping up or cutting down, competition is reducing overall costs and budget-conscious IT professionals are becoming a more important part of the decision-making process.
    While innovation has accelerated our advancements, data is the real driver behind the need for infinite capacity. It has become an important commodity in business, helping reach to customers you have, earn customers you don’t and deliver solutions more efficiently to the masses.
    When the industry talks about capacity planning, it refers to “resource-based planning”—or, to put it more simply, how much is needed. It’s important that organizations are tracking what data you’ve consumed and are making sure consumption is executed in the most efficient manner. Additionally, you have to consider forecasting and ask questions such as
  • Do you have the capacity to spin another application on your current systems?
  • Will you need more physical space to build racks?
  • How does it affect the budget? Have you considered power and cooling costs?
  • Honestly, you can go down a rabbit hole chasing other cost drivers associated with your data center, both large and small. The onset of cloud and hybrid solutions have simplified this equation, but not without changing nearly all of the variables. Today when we talk about capacity planning, we’re speaking a different language.
    Some professionals in the IT world think capacity planning is no longer viable when it comes to the cloud: if you can go up and down, you needn’t worry about the capacity you have. To them, I’d say you’re wasting time and money. If you fail to plan, plan to fail. Here are a few items to consider when managing cloud environments for capacity planning:
  • Identify your core goals and capabilities. Every organization is different. Your business, customers, data, and IT department’s hopes and dreams are all specific to your company. Your cloud utilization should reflect these factors. According to the McAfee State of Cloud Adoption survey, 73 percent of companies plan to move to a fully software-defined data center within two years. Conversely, 49 percent are delaying their cloud deployment owing to a cybersecurity-skills gap. These organizations will have different cloud needs, so identifying the necessary capacity, what departments will move to the cloud and who will manage these assets is the first step to planning.
  • Assess your needs against your resources. Now that you have a clear picture of your goals, you must assess the viability of your needs versus your budget. In the data center days, capital expenditure was a great investment, but cloud solutions are operational expenses—meaning they’re recurring rather than fixed. IT, along with finance and the executive team, must agree on how much they’re willing to invest.
  • Plan to gain greater control. I’m going out on a limb, but this is the most important part of capacity planning. From here, your planning must consider each reserved instance, virtual machine and spun application. It comes down to control. With the ability to easily scale up and down, you should have parameters regarding who can throttle usage to prevent costly overconsumption.
  • Implement to realize the power of the cloud. It’s time to get the cloud working for you! At this point you’ll see how you did on the first three steps. Do you have enough capacity? Is everyone in the organization reaping the benefits of the cloud? As you work through the implementation phase, you’ll have continuous opportunities to improve and course correct.
  • Monitor and adapt for continued success. Over the days, weeks and months of using your cloud solution, you must closely monitor usage. Doing so is pivotal to making the most of your investment and can help uncover instances in which you’re improperly utilizing your cloud infrastructure, and it can help you avoid paying for unused items. Although your IT department may be full of supermen and superwomen, it’s smart to have a cloud-optimization monitoring tool that can decipher usage peaks and valleys to reduce cost.
  • Now that those five steps are complete, go back to the first and do it all again! Capacity planning is a continuous effort, since cloud usage and optimization is a moving target. Some months will have heavy usage and cost overruns, while others will shrink.
    Capacity planning is all about resources—in most situations, you only have a finite amount. While you can increase your cloud usage to “infinite” capacity, budgets aren’t necessarily the same. To remain successful, always consider changing needs and monitor usage to reduce cost and to make the most of your investment by optimizing your cloud environment.

    Economic impact of large capacity archival flash

    Quad level cell flash technology is leading to high capacity flash devices that have applicability in archival storage or content repositories that are primarily read access. Currently at 96 layers, QLC devices are different than the flash devices used in primary storage systems.  The opportunity for this technology in archival storage and content repositories has led to the term “archival flash.”
    Toshiba, Samsung, and Intel will most likely be the first vendors delivering the archival flash devices, and other flash device vendors may follow with their own devices.  Archival flash devices are projected to have capacities in the 100 TB range – far higher than almost any SSDs on the market now. While Nimbus Data already ships 100 TB SSDs, it is not using QLC and may not have the much lower cost of the newer technology.
    The large capacity is warranted given the primary use for storing archival data.  Some in the industry remember the issues in primary storage when disks increased in capacity, raising concerns about rebuild times. Those familiar with the protection from device failures used in object storage systems — the most likely systems to use archival flash — will understand how the circumstances are different.  Object storage systems protect device failures through information dispersal algorithms and erasure codes within a node.  Node failures are protected with N+1 node protection using data distributed across those nodes.  A site is protected with either replication or geographic dispersion, adding another level of protection to the immutable data stored in object storage systems.
    Archival flash economics
    Unfortunately, some still look at the economics of storing data with a one-dimensional view of data-at-rest economics with the focus on acquisition costs.  Using data-at-rest economics effectively says that all data is equal and low cost is the only value a user would achieve from acquiring a system.  It ignores different types of devices that have many different attributes.  With achieving value from performance that has been demonstrated with current SSDs (not using QLC technology), data-at-rest economics should have been discounted.  For archival flash devices, the main value for customers will be in the longevity of the QLC devices.  Having 12 to 15 years of expected lifespan, the longevity changes the value for customers.
    Data has gravity, meaning that data stored for a period of time tends to persist and incurs costs to move to new systems.  Archival flash longevity will invalidate the one-dimensional acquisition cost economics and require evaluation of TCO that include technology lifespan.
    Longevity requires the storage system to have the capability to disaggregate the storage devices in an enclosure independent of the controller function.  Disaggregation allows the data to remain in place on the longer lifespan devices while the controller is updated based on the technology change rate for processor, adapters, etc. in the controller.  Many vendors have already accomplished this and feature the capability with “Evergreen” programs.  This allows the economics of the different technology change rates to be optimized.
    Economic modeling
    To show the effect of the longevity of archival flash used in an archival storage system, let’s look at an economic model to show the total cost of ownership over a 15-year time span.  The model includes a wide variety of parameters and what-if scenarios:
  • Initial capacity
  • Annual capacity growth rate
  • Lifespan of archival flash device and lifespan of standard storage device
  • Capacity of archival flash device and capacity of standard storage device
  • Costs and requirements used in TCO calculations for administration, deployment, space, power, rack, and cables.
  • Average yearly price declines for archival flash device and standard storage device
  • Average yearly price decline for controller/node
  • Number of devices attached to controller/node
  • Hardware and software average discounts
  • Controller/node costs
  • Software costs – capex and software capacity-based license charges
  • Initial per GB price of archival flash and standard storage devices
  • Device level – protection – number of devices data is distributed across and number of segments of data protection (for example – Archival flash default of 12 devices with toleration of three devices failures in addition to protection of data distributed across N nodes. For standard devices the example would be 8 devices with two used protection.
  • The first diagram shows the comparison with capacity and longevity values, which are shown on the right side.  This diagram has the acquisition costs of the archival flash to be 50% higher than that of the standard devices, which in this case are large capacity disks.  For simplicity, price declines are set to zero for this example.  Object storage systems capable of retiring a node and automatically redistributing data is assumed, which will avoid migration costs that would be evident in other storage systems.  In this model diagram, data reduction was enabled for both types of devices with equivalent effectivity.  Discounts were at 30% of list price.  Premium support services were not added to the costs.  Technology transitions occur in the final year of the lifespan, accounting for overlap in the technologies.
    Archival Flash Economic Analysis TCO
    It should be clear that the longevity of archival flash has a dramatic effect compared to the shorter lifespan of standard devices.  This also illustrates the inadequacy of using a one-dimensional, data-at-rest cost of storage measure.  Savings come from having to purchase fewer   replacement devices with archival flash over the 15-year span because of the longer lifespan and from the higher capacity with archival flash requiring fewer nodes as the system scales. Increasing capacity of devices over time was not included in the projection because of the limited history with archival flash devices.
    The following diagram shows where the economic savings are realized:
    Overall Archival Flash Economic Analysis
    The chart shows significant cost differences, with the largest contribution coming from the avoidance of acquiring replacement devices.
    Looking at the “what-ifs,” the following chart includes changes in some parameters.  Specifically, the device prices were set to be equal and the lifespan of archival flash was set to 15 years.
    Archival Flash Economic Analysis
    Another “what-if” adds the price decline experienced over the last 5 years.  Those results show another 8% improvement in costs for archival flash over standard devices.
    Given that a large amount of data is retained “forever” in archive and content repository systems, the economics of the large capacity requirements will impact archival flash.
    It will be difficult to overcome initial thoughts such as the one-dimensional data-at-rest economics and limited understanding of data protection for large capacity devices used in object storage systems.  But that will only delay the rise of archival flash for storing and managing data

    How MTN Smuggles Billions To Shell Companies Abroad, To Evade Tax In Nigeria

    MTN has consistently prided itself as the foremost telephone company that is getting Nigerians talking the most. Now the South African company is about to set tongues wagging across networks with revelations that it has routinely been shipping billions of dollars overseas to avoid paying its fair share of tax in Nigeria.
    An 11-month-long joint investigation by PREMIUM TIMES, Finance Uncovered and amaBhugane reveals that MTN has been running circles around Nigerian revenue authorities using a complex but noxious tax avoidance scheme called Transfer Pricing.
    For any economy, it is a slow death.
    The red flag was raised the moment our investigations showed that MTN Nigeria has been making payments to two overseas companies – MTN Dubai and MTN International in Mauritius – both located in tax havens.
    It was discovered that in 2013 for example, MTN set aside N11.398 Billion from MTN Nigeria to pay to MTN Dubai. A similar transfer of N11.789 Billion was made by MTN Ghana to the same MTN Dubai, making it a total of N23.187 Billion that was shipped to the Dubai offshore account.
    In a rare disclosure in 2013, MTN admitted it made unauthorized payments of N37.6 Billion to MTN Dubai between 2010 and 2013. The transfers were then “on-paid” to Mauritius, a shell company with zero number of staff and which physical presence in the capital Port Louis is nothing more than a post office letter box. The disclosure amounted to a confession given that MTN made the dodgy transfers without seeking approval from the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP), the body mandated to oversight such transfers.
    On the basis of an earlier management fees agreement that was technically quashed by NOTAP and on the basis of MTN’s reported revenues, it is estimated that N90.2 Billion could have been transferred out of Nigeria in management fees alone since the company was founded in 2002.
    Transfer Pricing
    For corporate organizations determined to escape the taxman but still cleverly staying on the right side of the law, Transfer Pricing is the new cellar door constructed by the most ingenious of accountants. It is a new global disease to which Third World economies are the most vulnerable.
    Multinationals employ Transfer Pricing to move their profits offshore, leaving behind a shrinking tax base in their host countries and inexorable cuts to public services.
    In Africa, tax avoidance has been named as one of the factors holding the continent back by starving governments of the revenues it needs for development.
    A report jointly commissioned by the United Nations and the African Union and drafted by a high level panel led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki considered tax avoidance by multinationals to be an “illicit financial flow” and a significant drain on government resources across the continent.
    In total illicit financial flows, which included corruption and the proceeds of crime, were determined to be costing the continent $50 Billion a year $50bn.
    Just last year, South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa had harsh words for tax dodgers. He said: “Tax evasion is not only a crime against the state; it’s also a crime against the people of our country, ordinary people.”
    Curiously, the same Cyril Rhamaposa was non-executive chairman of the board of MTN between 2001 and 2013 before he became South Africa’s No.2 man. In effect, the same tax practices which the deputy president strongly condemned in his country as financial crime is vigorously being promoted in Nigeria.
    MTN is the largest cell phone company in Africa with 227.5 million subscribers. The company, which operates in more than 20 countries across Africa and the Middle East, has Nigeria as its biggest operation.
    Until now, tax justice investigations had focused on computer giants, corporations in the extractive industry, food and beverages; in fact everywhere but the mobile phone sector despite the cell phone industry in Africa being one of the largest and most important industries for the continent.
    Mobile phone has been a cheap and quick way of rolling out the vital communications infrastructure that has underpinned Africa’s growth story over the last decade. As a result the industry has seen explosive growth. With 685million mobile phone users in Africa, the success story means that cell phone companies are now the largest contributor to government revenues in many African countries. That is when they pay their fair share of taxes.
    Artificial operating costs
    To pay little or no tax, companies determined to cheat begin by seeking ways to create artificial operating costs in the country where they operate. For example, a company is in Nigeria but has a parent or subsidiary company in another country. It makes huge profit but decides to declare a much lower profit-before-tax. To achieve this, it pays the parent and/ or subsidiary company for services not rendered and ships cash to them. Where services are rendered, the costs are inflated. Such services may include royalty for the use of brand name, procurement services, technical services and management services.
    Typically, the recipient company is located in an offshore territory under a different financial jurisdiction. MTN has a substantial network of subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, including the British Virgin Islands, Dubai and Mauritius.
    Because of the growing concerns that multinationals are using intra-company trading to shift profits around the world by overcharging for services delivered or in more extreme cases by creating artificial transactions where no services was rendered at all, respective countries have a maximum percentage of profits it can allow companies to pay out as management fees.
    For example, in Senegal, accounts from the company Sonatel show that the company has a ‘cooperation agreement’ with parent company France Telecom that is capped at 1.43% of revenue.
    Until 2010 MTN Nigeria had an agreement with MTN Dubai to pay 1.75% of revenues to the company for management, and royalties for the use of the MTN trademark. Nigeria requires that management fees paid by multinationals are approved by the National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion (NOTAP). The fee payments had been reversed following a failure to come to a new agreement on management fees with Nigerian regulators.
    MTN’s previous agreement with NOTAP expired in 2010.
    Notwithstanding, MTN has continued to make payments overseas. When we sent questions to MTN over these unauthorized payments, the company told us that this was because they expected NOTAP to approve a new deal and backdate it to the date of the expiry of the previous deal.
    MTN’s financial activities are now being questioned by more than one tax authorizes in Africa.
    In Ghana the MTN subsidiary, Scancom, has been paying vast management fees to companies located offshore. Our investigations reveal that Scancom paid 758m GHS in management and technical fees to MTN Dubai between 2008 and 2013. This was 9.64% of the company’s revenue. Normally the maximum fee level allowed in Ghana is 6%.
    We can reveal that the high levels of fees attracted the attention of Ghana’s intelligence services, which launched an investigation into “economic fraud” between 2012 and 2013.
    MTN’s management fees need approval from the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC). The Ghanaian “National Security Taskforce” has called for a “review of all technology transfer and management service agreements currently held by GIPC to remove sections which are inapplicable and wrongly provided for” and upgrading and training of state systems and staff.
    In response to this, MTN in Ghana told us: “The technical and management services agreements between Scancom and Investcom were duly approved by the GIPC.”
    The current head of the GIPC is Mrs. Mawuena Trebarh, who between 2007 and 2012 was responsible for government relations at MTN Ghana. This reporting team asked Mrs Trebarh to comment on whether her previous role could be perceived a conflict of interest. She did not respond to our requests.
    In response to our enquiries MTN confirmed that the company paid 12 billion West African Francs in 2012 and 14 billion West African Francs in 2013 in management fees to MTN International. The figure for 2013 is equivalent to 5% of the revenue made by MTN in Cote d’Ivoire.
    Dubai paradox
    Dubai is one of the places MTN ships huge profits to. Meanwhile, MTN does not operate any mobile phones in Dubai, yet it has significant operations in the small city state.
    MTN told us that it employs around 115 people in Dubai who provides services to the MTN group such as group procurement, group finance, legal services, human resources and other corporate functions.
    One tool that campaigners have said will be helpful is to look at company reporting on a country by country basis. If a company is making huge revenues in a country where it has few employees but there is a low tax rate, which would suggest that there may be some profit shifting taking place.
    In Uganda, a dispute between the Uganda Revenue Authority and MTN has revealed that the company is paying 3% of its turnover in management fees to MTN International.
    The fees have been challenged by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) who issued MTN with a “notice of assessment” in 2011. This was for a number of tax issues between 2003 and 2009, but a large portion was to do with a dispute over management fees, most of which had been paid to Mauritius.
    Correspondence between the URA and MTN seen by us show that the URA questioned the legitimacy of these fees, and pointed out that MTNI, the company providing “management services” to MTN Uganda had not spent any money in the years they had looked into. The URA said this could only mean two things: that management services provided to MTN Uganda had either already been paid for by MTN Uganda (and so MTN was in effect charging twice for the same thing) or they were never provided at all.
    The Ugandan authority told the company: “We have repeatedly asked for evidence of specific work performed by MTN Group for MTN Uganda for each of the tax years 2003 to 2009. We have only been provided with very little information relating to 2009 and the latter years. This information is very far from justifying a payment of 3 per cent of MTN Uganda’s turnover as management fees.”
    NOTAP keeps mum
    Asked to confirm the amount of fees paid out to MTN Dubai and Mauritius based on the company’s reported revenue between 2002 and today, MTN told PREMIUM TIMES: “There is no disclosure obligation for this information in South Africa or Nigeria.”
    Asked to explain the possible justification for MTN Nigeria to pay fees for management and technical services to a company with no employees, MTN said: “It is the contracting party’s prerogative as to how it elects to discharge its contractual obligations.”
    Meaning is that MTN Mauritius can perform its task without a single staff member.
    PREMIUM TIMES made sustained efforts to get NOTAP and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) to comment on the MTN practices in Nigeria.
    The Director in charge of Technology Transfer and Agreement, Ephraim Okejiri, initially pleaded that he was in a meeting, and that the reporter should wait.
    But after over four hours of waiting, he sent a secretary to say he would not be able to give any information on MTN.
    Similarly at Nigeria’s tax agency, the Federal Inland Revenue Service, the Director of Public Communications, Emmanuel Obeta, who had earlier promised on three occasion to make information available on the matter suddenly had a change of mind.
    He said relevant officials who should provide him with the information sought were all not available.
    Additional report ‎by Bassey Udo.
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