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Create Superior Collaboration Without Overlap and Overspending

Collaboration tools are necessary for optimizing communications, but enterprises are using overlapping technologies.Collaboration tools are a necessity in today’s market, where instant responses are expected and a growing remote workforce demands virtual meetings and file-sharing capabilities. Across many enterprises, collaboration is occurring, but often without a cohesive strategy for managing or optimizing these tools. There’s a lot of overlap and overspending happening with communications, where multiple apps are chosen for various collaborative features.

It’s important to streamline every area of IT in order to remain competitive and offer a superior end-user experience, and collaboration tools may be a good place to start. Take a look at four steps you can take to begin the process:

Start with a collaboration technology assessment: An audit will allow you to get a full picture of the tools that are being used and what they are being used to do. Look at data, but also allow for open conversation where employees can easily divulge the tools they’ve been using. This will help you identify shadow IT and determine how to prevent its use in the future. Identify areas where there is overlap in the features provided by the various applications.

Consolidate the solutions: The average enterprise shuffles between four collaboration tools to piece together a good solution for their teams’ needs. Each of the tools may not be used to its full potential, but the enterprise is still paying the subscription fee. Keep in mind, too, that the total cost of ownership goes beyond subscriptions, with deployment costs, minute-based fees, and support contracts also contributing to the total.

Build a cohesive collaboration solution: Applications exist that will solve your challenges through a single tool. There are three basic areas you should evaluate when determining which collaboration solution to invest in:

  • Interoperability: The solution you choose should work well with the other systems you regularly access, and should make it easy for your vendors and other business partners to engage with it.
  • Reliability: Don’t underestimate your need for quality video or how much disruption in your business processes can cost your company. Invest in a provider that offers reliability.
  • Security: Make sure all data in motion is encrypted and be sure all your solutions are safe within your enterprise’s firewall.

Get key stakeholders involved: Consolidating your collaboration tools requires the buy-in of key managers and others that can help “sell” your new solution. Involve others in evaluating application options and in other phases of the process. Once you’ve decided, enlist these leaders to help build positive energy about the change throughout the company.

With today’s global communications systems, your employees no longer have to be in the same room to work together effectively. Modern networks allow individuals around the world to collaborate in real-time through voice, video, and web-conferencing. T2 has the tools to allow you to meet, chat, share, and collaborate from anywhere, on any device. Contact us for more information.

Evaluating Private Cloud Versus Public Cloud Options

There are times when private cloud is the right option, such as in instances where customization is necessary.Legacy systems can no longer keep pace with the performance and agility requirements of today’s enterprise. As a result, CIOs are feeling the pressure to move workloads to a cloud solution — but the public cloud’s standard offering isn’t a great fit for every enterprise. In some cases, where customization or scaling are part of the equation, private cloud makes more sense.

While many enterprises do choose the public cloud, there are still plenty of workloads housed in legacy systems and some in the private cloud. Choosing private cloud requires careful consideration, because it’s not as simple as buying a standard, off-the-shelf public cloud offering. Here are a few reasons to consider a private cloud solution:

Customization needs: Public cloud solutions often require companies to alter existing business processes in order to accommodate system operations. If there are particular tasks that cannot be altered to adjust for public cloud requirements, you may need to consider a private cloud solution.

Regulations and compliance: If you are in the healthcare or financial industries, there may be regulations that prevent you from implementing a public cloud environment for your IT needs. This may be due to security or privacy concerns, or because the data center may be in the wrong geographical location to meet industry standards.

Security: It can be argued that security in the public cloud is superior to anything that an on-premises legacy solution or a private cloud server can provide. What private cloud offers is a higher level of control over security. This equates to better visibility and the ability to make changes as necessary, without going through a public cloud services provider.

Option to switch to a hybrid environment: If you choose private cloud, you always have the option to utilize public cloud solutions through a hybrid approach. Once you’ve established your private cloud, you can access a public cloud solution that easily integrates with your private cloud, whereas choosing public cloud first can introduce some limitations to your ability to choose a hybrid solution later.

Public cloud doesn’t need to be a default setting for enterprises wanting to access the speed, scalability, performance, agility, and cost savings of a cloud environment.

T2 is here to help you achieve your business goals, whether you’re in the Bay Area or anywhere else in the world. Contact us today to learn more.

Prioritizing Cloud Security in a Cloud-First Approach

Enterprises embracing a move to the cloud must prioritize cloud security to protect data and the enterprise network. As enterprises experience the benefits of housing certain business processes in the cloud, many are taking a cloud-first approach, employing the mindset that Everything as a Service (XaaS) is the ultimate goal for digital transformation. While prioritizing cloud services comes with cost savings, better agility and performance, and a host of other benefits, it also requires a prioritization of cloud security.

Enterprises should keep security at the center of their process in choosing a cloud services provider. Ultimately, data belongs to your company and is your responsibility, but it’s important to identify a provider whose terms and conditions align well with your enterprise. There should also be a discussion of data sovereignty, as well as who will be responsible for damages in the event of a breach.

The decision to place data in the cloud is enough of a risk to warrant a careful plan to protect assets. An initial cloud security plan needs to address the exposure that occurs as soon as the data leaves your company’s system. Encryption is a critical step, and should be done before the data hits the cloud provider’s server.

A Hybrid Approach to Cloud Security

Your company must also decide which types of data you want to store in the cloud. You may determine that it’s prudent to store more critical data on-premises and within your own security.

As a result, prioritizing cloud security often lends itself as an argument for a hybrid cloud environment. The IT team is able to retain a high level of visibility into the security of mission-critical data, while your company enjoys cost savings on cloud storage of cold and non-critical data.

A Solution for Cloud Security

Identifying ways for your enterprise to capitalize on the benefits of cloud storage while emphasizing the importance of cloud security presents a challenge, but there are options that can make cloud storage more secure.

An important step is to increase the authentication that devices require before granting access to publicly-stored cloud data. This allows your organization to retain control over who can access the data and from which devices. Enterprises can add a variety of conditions, including who the user is, their location, what types of data they are attempting to access and the device they are using.

Enterprises can set up a virtual private cloud (VPC) to increase visibility with a virtual layer, but it would be better to take your company’s own firewall, virtualize it, and put it in the cloud as an added layer of protection. This allows the IT team to see the entire system from a single cloud security management platform.

T2 has contacts across the industry, bringing enterprises the best the 21st century has to offer in cloud, connectivity, and collaboration partners. Our expert staff connects companies with the right providers for the services they need and manages day-to-day operations so that all they see is the end result. Contact us to see if a partnership with T2 is a good fit for your company.

 

What an IT Manager Can Do to Bridge the Gap Between IT and the C-Suite

The C-suite often misunderstands the priorities of the IT manager, but there are steps IT can take to bridge the gap.How an IT manager views the enterprise is often different from the view of the executives in the boardroom. It makes perfect sense, because executives are viewing the scope of the business with a wide lens, and the IT manager’s perspective is colored by the specific needs and role of technology in business operations.

The impact of this disconnect is that IT may not receive the support it needs to keep the enterprise moving forward at the pace necessary to gain a competitive edge. Executives may have a limited understanding of how decisions made in the IT division may help or hinder them in a variety of ways.

A recent survey highlighted this challenge with results including the responses of C-suite employees and IT managers from large enterprises. It found that conversations between IT and executives need to go beyond simply discussing budgets for hardware and infrastructure to support network needs.

The key findings of the survey included:

  • Most companies continue to use on-premises security solutions and plan to spend more on them in the future, despite the ready availability of cloud options.
  • Most of the respondents plan to continue to rely on Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) for handling increasing bandwidth requirements.
  • The majority of both C-suite executives and IT managers agree that changes need to be made to handle network requirements, but may disagree on how this should happen.
  • Among IT executives, 80 percent were not confident that data exchanged over mobile connections is secure, but only 56 percent of C-suite executives share that view.

Securing mobile data transfer is a critical topic as the remote workforce continues to grow. The difference in perspective means that executives may not have a clear picture of what’s necessary for managing network security when it comes to mobile use. Boardroom executives are woefully misinformed about the level of security needed to protect mobile data and the increased pressure on bandwidth needs because of mobile devices.

The scope of the survey included topics broader than just mobile security plans, but this area highlights the challenges an IT manager faces in communicating the needs of their department to get adequate support.

For instance, despite the major increase in bandwidth demand due to mobile device use and the advance of the Internet of Things, most of the companies surveyed said that they would increase their investment in VPN, rather than choosing a cloud gateway option. Some enterprises are relying on a mix of cloud and on-premises gateway solutions.

IT managers struggling to get the support needed for bandwidth requirements and security must change the way they communicate with board members. Avoid words like “latency” or acronyms like VPN or MPLS. Instead, speak in terms that highlight the perspective of the executive, such as performance issues and how they impact the customer or other end user.

In addition, simply talking in terms of cost savings when it comes to cloud solutions often makes a big difference in the conversation between executives and IT. Both groups are motivated by reducing costs, so this can be a good starting place.

T2 is the bandwidth-boosting partner who can ensure that enterprises have access to the connectivity provider that best meets location, pricing, and service level requirements. Contact us today for an initial appointment.

IoT & Remote Workers Can Threaten Businesses

Technological advances of recent years like the Internet of Things (IoT) and the remote workforce have given us opportunities for new business and growthTechnological advances of recent years like the Internet of Things and the remote workforce have given us opportunities for new business and growth. Yet with these advancements comes risk, and as such, we need to consider how our networks are set up in order to get the most out of these new developments. Simultaneously, we must protect what they currently have.

What Risks do IoT Operations Have For Business?

IoT systems can offer us remote monitoring and the ability to gather new information. With that, however, comes substantial risk to the network.

IoT means a lot of new data. A network needs to be ready to accommodate new data when an IoT system is put in place, and that means stepping up bandwidth accordingly.

IoT systems are inherently insecure. IoT systems are largely simple, built with little more than necessary sensors and a connectivity mechanism. This doesn’t leave much room for security tools.

IoT systems demand a stronger network. IoT systems both contribute to a network’s value and compromise its security. This requires a stronger overall network to survive the new attacks.

What Risks do Remote Workforces Have For Business?

The remote workforce allows us enormous flexibility, improved morale, and the ability to address issues regardless of time zone matters. Yet here, a new set of problems emerges.

Remote workforces mean local device problems. The information that remote workers require to operate ends up on their devices. Should the device be lost or stolen, the data could be gone with it.

Remote workforces are a fake key to the network. A lost or stolen device still has its network credentials in place. With those, the potential hacker can walk right into the network and gain access as though he or she worked there.

Remote workforces don’t always use best practices. A remote workforce, particularly one operating on its own devices, can be a huge threat when it opens emails it shouldn’t or installs apps hiding malware.

How Can You Protect Your Network?

T2 can offer protective measures for networks to address both IoT and remote workforce threats. From data encryption to improved network security and beyond, we can help you improve your security. Drop us a line today.

How to Choose the Best Unified Communications Provider and Features for Your Company

Unified communications is growing at a fast pace, so make sure you know how to prioritize the features you need.Unified communications has celebrated impressive growth and advances in recent years. However, the race to offer new and better features, as well as an increasingly crowded market of unified communications providers, can leave potential clients feeling a bit overwhelmed when making decisions regarding the best features for their company.

So many choices can stunt the decision-making process in choosing a unified communications provider, or worse, a client may choose the wrong provider because they’re unable to identify the best solution for their needs.

As the communications field becomes more varied, it can also be challenging to foster seamless integration among all the different tools that are available. Employees in any given organization are going to have preferences about how they interact with colleagues, vendors, and customers, and each of these platforms needs to be able to work seamlessly with the others.

What you need for unified communications: The evaluation of various systems can complicate the goal of your system transition as you work through all the available features. What companies typically need is a scalable and cost-effective system that puts its focus on the user experience by combining video and voice calling, collaboration and screen sharing, and instant messaging with presence management. The system should also be able to integrate with other platforms and devices with secure service and open standards to allow for flexibility.

There is potential for unified communications to provide for streamlined interactions that group conversations across all platforms and devices and significantly improve business processes. Geographically dispersed teams will be able to collaborate and communicate no matter where they are and in real time.

The features you should look for in your unified communications solution:

  • Choose a unified communications tool that allows you too access any document at any time, from anywhere.
  • Determine whether the unified communications solution will integrate well with other platforms you’re currently using and those you plan to access in the future.
  • Check out the security features that are offered, and look for standards-based security protocols.
  • Choose a solution that puts the user experience at the forefront of the offering.
  • Insist that your vendor commits to an open approach that promotes compatibility with your other platforms and tools.

When you choose T2, you’ll appreciate our commitment to partner with you, month after month, to help you achieve your business goals through the right unified communications system. Contact us today to learn more.

With Targeted Strategies, Ransomware Doesn’t Have to be a Constant Worry

Don’t let ransomware hurt your business. Monitor suspicious activity and set alerts.Hackers are increasingly becoming a threat to networks across industries. Ransomware attacks, which can render data absolutely useless unless the victim pays a ransom, are of particular concern. Businesses that don’t back up their data can be forced into a situation where they must pay the ransom — or they’ll never see key data again. If they can’t afford the ransom, they may have to shut their doors. It’s a critical situation that companies of all sizes need to address.

Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are rampant because they are highly lucrative for hackers. In fact, SonicWall, an IT security company, reported that there were 638 million ransomware attacks in 2016, which equates to companies shelling out millions of dollars to get their data back.

Protecting your network is of utmost importance if you’re going to stop attackers from gaining access to your system. Here are some tips for developing a strategy:

·       Train Your Employees
Let all of your employees know what ransomware is and the methods attackers use to gain access to sensitive information. These methods change over time, which means you’re going to have to schedule regular education sessions.

·       Get Antivirus Solutions and Apply Them to End Points
You need to track suspicious behavior, which is what some antivirus tools place as a priority. You’ll also need a web filter for less serious yet still troubling virus issues.

·       Test, Test, Test
Back up your data so when an attack occurs, you can jettison all the encrypted data the hackers corrupted and rely on your backups. However, you have to regularly run tests to make sure your backups are solid.

·       Patch Servers
Build a plan for patching your servers and network devices. You should also focus on your applications. This takes regular updating because hackers rely on lazy patches to snake their way in.

·       Keep a Watchful Eye on Activity
The second you see something suspicious, you might be able to react and stop something bad from happening. However, if you’re not monitoring and setting alerts, you’re putting yourself in a reactionary situation.

At T2, we’ve established network security practices that assure clients their networks are safe. We’re also committed to educating our clients on what they can do on their end to stay secure in a time when ransomware is so prevalent. Contact us today to learn more.

Minimize Cloud Sprawl With a Hybrid Approach

Cloud sprawl is a common problem for multi-cloud environments, but a true hybrid solution minimizes sprawl.Many enterprises call their cloud environment a hybrid solution, but in many cases, what’s really in place is a multi-cloud approach that uses both public and private cloud solutions without a unified infrastructure. The difference may seem semantic, but multi-cloud environments are at risk for cloud sprawl.

Enterprises are largely drawn to cloud solutions because of anticipated benefits surrounding scalability, visibility, and performance, but in many cases, the main drivers are cost savings and revenue growth. The ability to categorize software subscriptions as operating expenses and the elimination of hefty investments in hardware and management costs can free up resources for innovation. There is also the opportunity for revenue growth with the ability to roll out new user-friendly, mobile-first technology to a market that demands a highly personalized customer experience.

But in one corporation after another, cost savings and revenue growth are not coming to fruition. The lack of a broad strategy for digital transformation leaves enterprises with a cobbled-together solution, where public and private cloud solutions combined with legacy, on-site systems make for a messy infrastructure.

Cloud sprawl occurs when companies lack a vision and execution plan for managing cloud environments. Service level agreements with vendors and the costs of processes like cold data retrieval or bursting can eat up the potential savings anticipated from cloud solutions.

Enterprises also lack a digital transformation plan, with line-of-business managers driving the push for cloud adoption in isolated segments of the organization. If there’s no set of guiding principles for which workloads will be housed in the public versus private cloud and no strategy for how to prioritize those changes, IT will continue to be in reactionary mode, watching cloud sprawl spin out of control and facing pressure from line-of-business managers.

Keeping Cloud Sprawl Under Control

There is a solution, but it requires a change in infrastructure. A true hybrid solution combines public and private cloud solutions with legacy systems in a single infrastructure, with networks, storage, hardware, and related components all united to achieve greater control, visibility, and optimization of workloads.

A hybrid approach significantly reduces maintenance cost and time, and allows for better application mobility. It also provides options for automation in areas like configuration, provisioning, and management of upgrades and updates.

When you partner with T2, you have direct access to 30 of the most trusted names in telecommunications providers and a partner that will be by your side month after month. Whether you’re suffering from cloud sprawl, connectivity problems, or another telecommunications challenge, T2 has the cure. Contact us today to learn more.

How Enterprise Security Differs From SMB Security Measures

Many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are experiencing an increase in challenges where cybersecurity is coSecurityncerned. This is due in part to the growing use of mobile devices as well as cloud applications and infrastructure that are putting strain on those organizations. Therefore, the topic of enterprise security is becoming more mainstream than ever before.

Should SMBs follow the lead of larger organizations, which tend to focus on protecting data rather than just endpoints? Netwrix recently completed a study that suggests the need for a more pointed focus on what’s going on with on-premise systems as well as cloud-based systems and the various mobile devices associated with an enterprise.

Specific Challenges

It’s hard to argue against the challenges that most SMBs cite as reasons why they don’t implement more cybersecurity strategies – it’s all about staffing and budgets. The Netwrix study found that for SMBs, the IT department is responsible for cybersecurity because most of those businesses don’t have a separate security department working to protect their data.

However, these challenges aren’t exclusive to SMBs – most organizations face staffing and budgeting challenges. Of note is that enterprises often cite difficulty in supporting their complex infrastructures as a concern, which is not as common with SMBs.

The Pain Is Shared

When security is lacking, every part of the business is affected. IDG estimates that nearly 30 percent of SMBs have security positions that go unfilled. For enterprises the numbers are even higher, with around 43 percent of organizations having at least three open positions.

Despite the differences in approaches to cybersecurity and the appearance that enterprises might be better equipped to handle threats, Netwrix found that enterprises are at no less risk of an attack than SMBs.

It appears that SMBs are beginning to adopt more data-centric approaches to their security. They’re also trying to get more visibility into the activity of users in an effort to be more proactive and less reactive to cybersecurity issues.

At T2, we’ve studied the various threats out there today and are fully committed to assisting our clients in security, connectivity, and reliable services. Our robust solutions will ensure your enterprise security is covered. Contact us today to discuss your needs and ways you can improve strategies for better, safer business growth.

How 5G Broadband Will Improve Unified Communications

Wireless, Unified CommunicationsThe unified communications experience could significantly improve with the advent of 5G wireless broadband infrastructure, expected to hit the market in 2020. There’s excitement across the industry, with many anticipating that faster speeds and expanded coverage could be just the beginning. 5G may also create a launching point for new technologies.

Among unified communications subscribers, the expected launch of 5G will add significant improvements for mobile users:

Better voice and video: Unified communications gives office dwellers a significant improvement in voice quality over traditional private branch exchange (PBX) systems, but mobile employees have not enjoyed that same advantage. With the implementation of 5G wireless broadband, however, mobile users will appreciate better voice and video quality for improved communications.

Robust mobile experience: While much of the workforce is on the move and doing business anytime and from anywhere, the experience can be a bit inconsistent. Most companies push through and don’t let this affect whether they are encouraging employees to work in a mobile setting.

Once 5G is in place, mobile broadband will be on more equal footing with unified communications in the office. Connections will be consistent and reliable, eliminating drops in coverage. The connection will also be richer, integrating unified communications with key business applications available through the cloud. While some businesses already make mobile productivity a focus of their workforce environment, the launch of 5G will expand this focus and introduce it in companies that have needed a more reliable and rich mobile experience.

Connection with artificial intelligence (AI): The use of 5G broadband wireless will support unified communications as it integrates AI technology. Mobile employees will be able to set up AI support for routine customer questions. The introduction of 5G will also integrate with digital assistants that will be able to schedule appointments and set up reminders with relevant information.

The connection with 5G is anticipated to feature data-transfer rates from 10 to 20 gigabytes per second, which should result in 10 to 100 times faster connections than those experienced with 4G. This will provide the infrastructure to create game-changing innovations like an AI assistant that can assess a problem, perform a full analysis, then report back to a mobile employee through a video connection or quick chat.

Want to know more about the benefits expected with the launch of 5G wireless broadband connection? Talk with our consultants at T2, where we can not only discuss 5G, but also help you make the most of your current unified communications system.