So you’ve decided to launch the first machine-to-machine (M2M) solution for your company. You put together a plan, do all the appropriate testing, carefully choose a provider and then deploy. Your solution is up and running and already you’re seeing operational efficiencies that inspire you to look at ways of expanding.
Then your bill for your wireless M2M services bill arrives and it’s more than you thought you had agreed on, and certainly more than you anticipated. Hopefully, the charges are minor problems that you can pay for and prevent in the future. But what if you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected charges that could alter the course of your company’s future?
Here are five hidden costs that could drive up your M2M services bill, along with ways to avoid such unexpected (and unpleasant) billing surprises.
1) Exceeding a threshold: Your M2M management portal should include the capability to create predefined alerts with thresholds for usage, but if a device exceeds its plan, you’ll likely receive overage charges on your bill.
There are many reasons for overages fees, some of which can lead to excessive charges. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of underestimating the amount of data required in the first place. In this case, if you have flexible rate plans, with options for “pooling” you can adjust accordingly and avoid problems going forward.
But unfortunate instances of human error can have devastating financial repercussions, like something as simple as entering the wrong reporting frequency. When thousands of devices that were programmed to report every 10 minutes start reporting every second after a firmware change your organization could experience significant overage costs. But even a mistake of this scale can be quelled with real-time thresholds programmed to trigger alerts in a portal that also includes the ability to block traffic. The mistake can be discovered in minutes and traffic blocked until the problem is resolved.
2) Mid-cycle billing: As part of your preparations for the big trade show next week, you log into your management portal and select a higher plan in anticipation of a spike caused by live demonstrations you’re going to give. Nothing seems amiss until the bill comes three weeks later; that’s when you realize the request for a change in service only goes into effect at the start of the next bill cycle. What was the problem? Your services provider does not allow mid-cycle rate plan changes, so last month when you needed the higher usage plan it wasn’t there, and this month you’re paying extra for service you don’t require. An easy fix is to get a flexible rate plan that allows you to scale up or down when you anticipate more or less usage.
3) Suspended service: Some markets such as agriculture are seasonal and don’t require year-round service. For example, a fleet of farming combines likely won’t be operating in the winter months, and patient monitoring devices are only used when prescribed. And it isn’t cost-effective to pay for a service when it’s not being used.
Plans are available that allow you to periodically suspend service when it’s not needed. However, with these plans, be sure to inquire about fees for suspending and unsuspending service. You’ll also want to do the math to figure out the break-even point with these plans; if the device will only be suspended for one month, it could be more cost-effective to have it remain active.
4) Unauthorized use: Spam, unintentional international roaming and misdirected texts are all charges that can appear on bills when there’s a breach due to an unsecured network. Avoid these types of unexpected charges by choosing an M2M provider with a network dedicated exclusively to carry M2M traffic.
5) Special services: Some M2M providers charge for special services such as setup fees, device certifications, VPN client and hardware setup, API & Voice setup, and more. Avoid these hidden costs by discussing them prior to signing with a provider.
One of the best ways to avoid hidden charges is to use an M2M provider that offers a portal or other interactive management tool that allows you to track your usage in real time. M2M offers promising opportunities for many different industries, and with the right tools and preventive measures, you’ll be able to avoid hidden costs altogether.