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Securing the Right Levels of Encryption

EncryptionIn a business environment where workplace collaboration is now considered the norm, how are consumer-focused companies implementing end-to-end security? According to industry experts, many commercial entities are simply emulating the security infrastructures of companies like Apple and WhatsApp.

To combat unsolicited messaging and foreign intrusion, Apple revamped its security infrastructure to protect all its iPhone users and data. Similarly, WhatsApp amended its messaging technologies so that no one could access messages except for end-user clients. These changes have served as models for businesses wishing to incorporate stronger levels of encryption for their communications technologies.

Issues with Encryption

While encryption is now commonplace for collaborative efforts, it is still not easy for companies with cloud-based messaging and communications. This is due to the following obstacles:

  • Cloud technologies are consistently changing and evolving, resulting in newer encryption modules that must be adopted and implemented by subscribers.
  • Cloud-based services are now adding more features, including bots, artificial intelligence, and even third-party integration.
  • The above-mentioned features are simply known as “valued additions”. However, this means that third party vendors will still have full access to user data and content.

To tackle this form of “accepted intrusion”, companies in the cloud are looking for stronger and more durable forms of encryption. In fact, they are seeking codes and programs that will protect user data and transmissions from even recognized vendors and services providers. In an industry that is blanketed with so many forms of encryption, is it possible to secure the right balance between content access and privacy?

Encryption Solutions in a Nutshell

There is no concrete answer to the current encryption dilemma. However, IT experts still play a pivotal role in encrypting codes and establishing access, eligibility, and defense for messaging programs. In other words, companies cannot go either way with encryption; not too insecure, but also not too clamped down. They must collaborate to find common ground and acceptable levels of encryption for all parties involved.

To that end, businesses should use fully locked down end-to-end consumer messaging tools. This means companies can take advantage of existing encryption and security codes without investing in other paid messaging apps.

Enterprise Messaging Providers

While WhatsApp seems to be a plausible solution, it is not the only program in town. Enterprise messaging providers also feature end-to-end encryption databases for all messaging platforms. However, services like Slack and HipChat are designed to be less strict when it comes to recognized intrusion. The latter includes IT involvements, especially during periods of downtime and maintenance. Certain clients may also have access to these internal chat databases, which can seriously impact privacy. With this in mind, user content and data can still be breached, and hackers may easily be able to intrude as well.

Recent Trends Bringing Video to the Forefront in Web Conferencing

shutterstock_190621244A recent survey from Wainhouse Research is shedding some welcome light on Web conferencing trends. The decade-long survey tracked the growing acceptance of video in Web conferencing, and its transformative effect on how mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets are used in the work environment.

Over a third of the 800+ companies surveyed in the study reported using video in Web conferencing at least 50 percent of the time. A reported 44 percent of Web conferencing users relied on video to see their colleagues during their Web meetings.

The adoption of video in Web conferencing hasn’t been without its hiccups. Video Web conferencing adoption rates reached lows in 2007 and 2008 due to poor picture quality and questionable service reliability. Since then, improvements in video technology have helped drive a renewed interest and, as a result, an increased user base.

Changing Attitudes are Driving Trends

Not surprisingly, millennials are setting the trend for increased video usage in Web conferencing. As the survey shows, millennials are one of the major drivers of video Web conferencing due to their demand for face-to-face collaboration. Millennials are also more comfortable with the idea of using video than their predecessors.

Others outside of the millennial bracket are also demanding some kind of video capability in their Web conferencing platforms. This is especially true for those who are a part of the mobile workforce environment. Mobile workers prefer seeing those they’re working with, as opposed to more traditional methods of Web conferencing.

Many mobile workers also appreciate how video allows them to put an actual face to the voices they hear on conference calls. This presents a greater opportunity for building team cohesion in spite of their remote locations.

Taking Web Conferencing on the Road

Another changing trend is the growing support for mobile Web conferencing. According to the Wainhouse study, employee access to mobile devices has leaped from 42 percent in 2013, to a whopping 70 percent as of 2014. As a result, companies that heavily rely on remote workforces are now taking an outsized interest in mobile support for Web conferencing.

Fortunately, Web conferencing vendors have already taken the initiative in building greater support for mobile clients into their infrastructure. As a result, the groundwork for video has already been set in place, allowing for smoother adoption and increased effectiveness for mobile users.

When asked about the effectiveness of tablets for mobile Web conferencing, 51 percent of respondents said they were very effective while 39 percent said they were somewhat effective. On the other hand, only 20 percent said that mobile phones were very effective for video Web conferencing. Analysis believe that the larger screens offered by tablets make video Web conferencing more attractive on those devices than mobile phones.

Given the changing attitudes towards video, the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplace and improving technologies, it’s no surprise that video Web conferencing has become a popular staple for many businesses.

How the Cloud Can Benefit Small Businesses

MSP & the cloudThere has been much buzz about the cloud in recent years and how it benefits big businesses, especially those with large storage and computing needs. Yet, small and medium-sized businesses can also realize great benefits from utilizing cloud resources.

Here are three ways small to medium-size businesses can benefit from leveraging an off-site, cloud resource.

Minimize Deployment Times and Increase Scalability

In the past, it was necessary for businesses to procure hardware and software systems to use as servers. It took time for the vendor and the IT department to install and deploy the necessary computers and software.

Now with cloud offerings available from service providers, businesses can be up and running within a very short time. The other benefit to using the cloud from a managed service provider (MSP) is increased scalability. The computing power can grow as the company grows or shrink accordingly. The customer only pays for what is used. Because it can grow as the company grows, there’s no need to purchase new equipment or software that can quickly become outdated.

Predictable Budget and Reduced Cost

Computer servers tend to be expensive. They require maintenance, upgrades, personnel, and other costs. No matter how knowledgeable and efficient the IT staff is, servers can and will have downtime issues. Because of their unpredictable nature, it’s hard to budget for data servers.

On the other hand, cloud services have various pricing levels and models. This can be attractive to small and medium-sized businesses with strict budgets. In addition, the business only pays for what the business uses, and payment plans make it easy to meet specific company needs and budgets.

Easier Online Collaboration and Coordination

One of the greatest benefits to working in a cloud environment is the ability to coordinate efforts on data and documents. No longer do employees have to email files to other team members, customers, or vendors. Files can be modified immediately and in real time. This allows for efficient collaboration and enables the company to be more flexible and agile in response to customer needs.

By utilizing the cloud, small and medium-sized businesses are able to take advantage of increased savings due to reduced cost, resources, and waste. Companies no longer have to worry about purchasing equipment that will quickly become outdated and overburdened. By leveraging the cloud, companies can focus on getting the job done rather than worrying about technology.

Unified Communications Systems Enrich Corporate Teamwork

CollaborationAdvances in communication technology are creating new ways for corporate teams to work together effectively, even when they are in different locations. One of the most effective methods of enhancing business collaboration is through utilizing Unified Communications (UC) systems.

Businesses adopting a UC strategy can further enhance UC effectiveness with these tips to improve collaboration:

Centralize Communications

An advantage of cloud-hosted unified communications is that data can be centralized into one database. This eases collaboration and ensures client histories are always available in one place. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking can further enhance collaboration by providing high bandwidth capacity that facilitates multiple, data intensive activities such as video conferencing.

Use the Cloud

Unified communication systems can be hosted on either private or public clouds, which can be easily accessed from diverse locations. Cloud-based services also enable employees access using personal smart phones and tablets, a helpful feature for businesses adopting Bring-Your-Own-Device initiatives.

Private cloud solutions remain within the organization’s firewall, but may not offer the same level of unfettered access as a public cloud UC solution. Both solutions offer users greater security, especially with regard to disaster recovery and data backups.

Identify Core UC Needs

Unified communications gives companies many options, including videoconferencing, desktop sharing, instant-messaging, and VoIP telephony. Before launching into UC, it’s a good idea to consult with reputable UC consultants to identify those services that will enhance specific business processes. These processes should be chosen for initial introduction.

Measured and Systematic Implementation

Start with a few features then gradually implement other features over time. For example, many companies start with audio and videoconferencing, instant messaging and VoIP then introduce unified messaging. This sequential approach is beneficial because it allows employees time to adapt to the new technology and reduces incidences of passive resistance and avoidance.

Benefits of Employee Training

As with any new technology, the implementation of appropriate training greatly enhances the success of unified communication systems. It’s wise to initiate training at an early stage before the new technology goes live and to follow this up with refresher training once employees start using the new features.

An article that appeared in the magazine, Campus Technology, reported that the transition to UC was easiest for those organizations that started training before implementation. In part this was because many employees felt the introduction of UC represented a significant change to their working environment.

UC Enhances the Work Environment

Unified communication technology greatly enhances collaboration among teams, especially those that are geographically separated. Although many employees may be broadly familiar with the features of UC, it is important that the introduction UC is well organized. A coherent introduction will allow employees to become proficient in the new technology.