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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.

Leaving Your Cloud VoIP Provider Can Be Easy

VoIPParting ways with a vendor is something all businesses have to do at one stage or another, yet the process can be extremely complex. If you don’t make plans for what to do at the end of a contract, you’ll find the workload intensifies and interruptions in service are likely to occur. When it comes to cloud Voice over IP (VoIP), you can’t afford any downtime.

For that reason, it’s important to have a few key things in place before you even begin your contract with a cloud VoIP provider. No matter how great you think the relationship is going to be, things can still go wrong. The sales person may change; the tech support that you like so much might go to another vendor; the provider is acquired by another that doesn’t approach customer care the same way. Any of these things are possible and can turn a star provider into a disappointment very quickly.

To that end, here are a few things to have in place before you sign on the dotted line:

Points of Measurement – What will indicate to you that you’re getting the service you selected? Is it all about uptime, quality, or a combination of the two? Make sure you outline expectations and include them in the SLA.

Regular Reviews – It’s important to examine the points of measurement on a regular basis and compare them with the SLA. Determine how often you will review these outcomes with your cloud VoIP provider to ensure they are held accountable.

Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plan – This type of plan actually lays out what will happen in the event that you do switch providers. It determines who is responsible for what and the timelines by which any actions will take place.

Renegotiation strategy – This is something you’ll want to have regardless of your relationship with the provider. It’s important to protect your rights at all stages, especially the end. Establishing pricing and performance thresholds for what constitutes a justifiable change in vendors will help you lay the groundwork.

The goal of putting these steps in place is to ensure you have options when it comes time to change your cloud VoIP provider. Know the analytics of your current arrangement and your expectations at all times. When reviewing with your provider, hit on those things that matter to you and your bottom line. If they aren’t responsive, you know it’s time to do something different. If you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready to start researching other providers to determine if a switch makes sense.

When you’re ready to start that process, call us at T2. We have relationships across the cloud VoIP provider industry and can help you assess potential partners and whether or not they will be a good fit. Plus, we’ll help you when it’s time to pull the plug. Talk to our experts first to ensure you never go without the service you need.

SD-WAN Is Providing the Connection Necessary for Cloud Migration

SD-WANWide area network (WAN) has been a beneficial tool, but as cloud technology becomes more prevalent, companies need more flexibility and better performance. A software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) provides the fast connection speed and management visibility that enterprises want.

Why You Need More Than WAN

There are several factors influencing the interest in SD-WAN versus the continued use of WAN. Enterprises need more flexibility as they expand cloud resources, driven by a customer-focused view of business goals. The best and most user-friendly customer interfaces are through apps that run in the cloud, so in order to remain competitive, companies are implementing cloud software.

Another factor contributing to demand for SD-WAN is the increased need for bandwidth. Employees are dependent on mobile access to networks. In some cases, workers carry a company device plus a personal one, so from the time they enter the building, businesses are often supporting more bandwidth than initially planned for.

How SD-WAN Answers Your Network Concerns

Software-defined networking (SDN) increases the agility of your overall network system by decoupling the control plane (the control and decision-making surrounding your traffic) from the underlying traffic forwarding, also known as the data plane. SD-WAN applies the principles of SDN to WAN in order to connect medium and large corporations’ branch offices to data centers, headquarters, and to the private and public cloud where software applications are housed.

SD-WAN is gaining serious momentum with enterprises. The ability to have a new branch up and running quickly as companies expand, the increased need for mobile technology, and the migration to the cloud are all making SD-WAN an increasingly appropriate means to gain better agility and flexibility.

IT professionals are frustrated with WAN’s inability to handle cloud-era technology with the speed and performance necessary to support cloud applications. SD-WAN accesses multiple types of connections between locations, data centers, and cloud sources to allow for greater speed, increased productivity, and better management of bandwidth requirements.

One consideration that makes SD-WAN an attractive alternative to growing enterprises is that it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of the network, nor does it demand a major investment in hardware. Instead, SD-WAN can be implemented gradually, utilizing the existing WAN configuration as you transition to an SD-WAN structure.

As more services transition to the cloud, it’s important to have the network you need for optimal performance, speed, and infrastructure management. You also need a partner you can trust. Call us today at T2 to find out which types of solutions are the best fit for your company’s current and future requirements.

True Security Threats in a Cloud Environment

CloudIf you’ve ever implemented a cloud application, you likely navigated a number of discussions surrounding cloud security. No doubt you had to do some fast talking to explain what IT professionals already know: the cloud is safer than many on-premise systems.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t security threats when you implement a cloud solution. The problems that are most likely to claim your data or infiltrate your network, though, don’t tend to be the types of issues that most people associate with cloud systems. Here are the security threats that you’ll want to protect against:

A lack of defined ownership: When you implement a cloud solution for the first time, it’s important to have a plan in place for who will oversee the security protection for each part of the technology. You’re likely to overlap with your provider in some areas, but it’s better to have the discussion and put a plan in writing, rather than discover later that you both thought one another was overseeing a certain aspect of security.

Shadow IT: With large corporations sometimes managing thousands of applications, it’s no surprise that it’s easy for employees to download an application onto the network without authorization. Likewise, they may be using a personal mobile device for business activities or vice versa. It’s almost impossible to eliminate every risk from Shadow IT, but it’s good to be aware and protect against this weak spot.

Compliance: The compliance standards currently in place were established when the cloud was largely conceptual. There’s so little guidance for how data should be stored and which types of data should not be mixed that it makes it challenging for any company to know how to make decisions related to storage.

Lack of physical access: Some companies are troubled by the idea that they don’t know exactly where their data is being physically stored. This is a concern particularly in the public cloud, where companies’ data may be stored in ways that they aren’t protected from potential problems with other enterprises. For instance, if a company’s data is seized by the government for legal reasons, an unrelated company may be unable to access their data, too.

Additions and updates: Any disruption in your cloud environment has the potential to allow for a security breach. Even if the update is simply to improve speed, you should take precautions against any possible security problems.

Planning for a migration to the cloud? Talk with the consultants at T2. We can help you walk through the entire security process, from evaluating your current situation to establishing protocols to protect against shadow IT. Give us a call to set up an initial appointment.

 

It’s a Great Time to be a CIO

CIOThe days when the IT guy was just there to fix your frozen computer screen are over. IT professionals are no longer on staff for the purposes of managing technical maintenance and upgrades. Instead, the corporate landscape invites the CIO to the board room, where they aren’t simply informing or advising. Instead, they’re directing the future path of the company.

 

Take a look at a few of the trends in IT that are influencing the way businesses are growing and developing:

Budgets are up, but so are expectations: Now that the dust has settled from the financial crisis, CIOs are reporting increased budgets and expectations of growth and innovation, as well as process and productivity improvement.

The CIO isn’t just running IT anymore: Sure, CIOs still oversee IT, but also spend as much as 15 percent of their time in other areas of the business. They are often not only managing data and technology, but also the strategic path of the business.

Not only are business leaders concerned about the impact of digital transformation on the corporate landscape in general, but everyone lives in fear of an Uber-type takeover of their industry. CIOs need to be not only planning for process improvement and cost-savings in areas like cold data storage, but they also have the immense responsibility of watching the technical horizon for disruptive innovation.

IT is becoming increasingly hard for non-IT personnel to understand: The cloud is a clear-as-mud type of concept, one that even some IT professionals struggle to explain coherently. Thankfully, transitions to the cloud have largely been successful, but CIOs still spend a lot of time explaining its risks and benefits, as well as dispelling misconceptions.

CIOs are spending a lot of time with robots: The trend is not going away. Robotics are a major piece of the current process improvement puzzle, and CIOs are focused on how they can implement robots to streamline processes and trim budgets.

CIOs are talking security: Companies dread the thought of seeing their names splashed across newspapers or the news ticker on cable television. Hackers present an ever-changing variety of tricks to grab data, and executives are looking to CIOs to keep their customers’ records secure. This is the topic that’s keeping CIOs awake at night.

Even on little sleep, though, it’s not a bad time to be a CIO. You’re in the right position to direct the future of your company, and maybe even your industry.

Looking for ways to save time, money and other resources for your company? Talk with T2 to learn more about options in the cloud that improve your business processes while saving your budget.

 

It’s Becoming Harder to Come up With Reasons Not to Choose Cloud

CloudWhen you first heard about replacing your on-premises software with a cloud solution, you likely had some of the common fears shared by other business decision makers. How could cloud storage safely guard your data? Wouldn’t you put your IT division out of a job? Where exactly was all your information going to be stored?

As cloud offerings have expanded and pioneering companies took the dive into cloud solutions, it has proven to be a cost-effective and flexible software environment, and a more secure storage option for your data in many situations. Here are a few of the reservations that are no longer limiting adoption, making the future of cloud technology even more promising:

Flexibility: Introducing a cloud solution into your software mix gives you a product that is easily adaptable to your business needs. As you hear about features that integrate well with your cloud system, implementation is just a phone call and a quick update away. Adding business units or completing an acquisition is no longer an IT nightmare with the flexibility of the cloud.

Cost: This is an area that requires caution. If you start asking around, you’re sure to hear a story of ballooning cloud costs that were a significant disappointment after promises of reduced software costs. Overall, though, you should experience some cost savings. Cloud solutions require little-to-no hardware investment and because they are subscription based, you’re never paying for extra users. Be prepared for ongoing support and subscription costs.

Staffing: Selling an IT team on a move to the cloud required a lot of fast talking at first. After all, why would an IT professional get excited about a software solution that might eliminate their job? The reality is that IT is still critical for supporting your software, but their roles pivot from managing updates and fixing glitches to optimizing the infrastructure and operations that support storage and manage bandwidth.

Security: You need to evaluate your cloud choice for its security features, but while this was formerly the biggest concern about a shift to the cloud, it’s not a problem for many who have adopted cloud software. In some cases, the security support exceeds anything a company can host with an on-premises storage solution.

Accessibility: One of the best features of cloud software is its accessibility for smaller enterprises. At first, it was assumed that the cloud would be championed by the big guys and then filtered down to smaller businesses, but small- to mid-size companies are experiencing access to the same great software tools at their own subscription size.

If you still have reservations about a transition to the cloud, talk to our consultants at T2. We can help you work through any concerns you have and ensure you have reliable network connectivity with access to the most advanced technology at prices that fit your company’s budget.