How Do Mobile Users Drive VoIP Decisions in the Corporate World?

Mobile users are driving VoIP decisions in the corporate world.How hard is it to find a group of adults, ready to sit down to a meal, with no mobile devices in sight? The addictive element of a mobile device usually involves an app and can lead to less-than-collaborative human interactions. Voice over IP (VoIP) may or may not be involved, but connectivity is certainly a must.

This can happen when business professionals are in the same room, on the go, or simply trying to make a connection. The demand for instant access when on the move stems not just from a change in consumer behavior, but from a desire to be in the field where it’s easier to connect with the customer. It’s a must in today’s market and it’s driving the demand for mobile. When VoIP is involved, the capabilities reach a whole new level.

In fact, the demand for and use of mobile devices has significantly influenced VoIP and unified communications (UC) in the last few years. Mobile apps for both continue to mature, driving tighter and more seamless integration, ease of use, security, and significant convenience as users easily align their device of choice with the technology needed to accomplish their goals. To that end, the demand for cloud-based solutions continues to grow as such assimilation allows for deep integration and support with VoIP and UC.

Likewise, mobile apps and the desire for better accessibility continue to drive the choice of phone systems within the corporate environment. If a company needs nothing more than the ability to communicate via VoIP, then any VoIP system can easily handle the need. If employees are also using their mobile devices to connect to the VoIP system, the demand changes according to what these employees need. Given that they are generally field-based, including support or sales professionals, the demand may include video conferencing, web conferencing, text messaging, presence, instant messaging, email transcription, admin tasks, screen sharing, and calendar integration.

So how des this affect the way in which VoIP solutions are selected? The employees that use mobile devices for business typically aren’t in the office. They rely on their communications in the field. They also need seamless integration of mobile devices to ensure full phone extensions and access to remote applications at any time. Finally, mobile device policy dictates the use of such devices for business and personal cases.

If you’re ready to embrace these opportunities but you’re not sure where to start, look to Focal Solutions. It’s our job to help our clients evaluate their options, available solutions, and the type of VoIP that fits their needs. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you.

Security in the Age of the Mobile Workforce

The mobile workforce presents unique security concerns for IT. How can enterprises protect their data?The mobile workforce is a boon for enterprises. No longer constrained by geographical concerns when hiring, corporations are able to attract the best talent and offer them a high level of flexibility and the ability to collaborate with their peers across the globe.

Remote access allows employees to work from wherever they are, and field employees can access all the data and resources they need on their mobile devices. In addition, companies save on travel expenses as their employees enjoy the ability to hold virtual meetings in which collaborative software makes it easy to brainstorm and discuss a project.

Increasing Cloud Migration 

The rise of the mobile workforce wouldn’t be possible without the increasing adoption of cloud technology. These two growth areas are intertwined and present a complex security landscape for IT. Here are a few of the concerns on the minds of CIOs trying to protect their systems and data:

  • Providing a secure and reliable data connection for the mobile workforce
  • The complexity of bring your own device (BYOD) culture
  • Supporting technology for a global team, including syncing time differences and facing infrastructure challenges and language barriers

Security in the Cloud

With so much data flying around the mobile workforce, data centers, and the cloud, there’s a lot of opportunity for security breaches, which can be costly in terms of disaster recovery and from a public relations perspective. Every CIO faces concerns when they consider allowing all of their data to move outside the relative safety of carefully-constructed corporate firewalls.

The good news is that the cloud can be as safe as any corporate environment with the right security tools in place. In addition, disaster recovery tends to be much less costly than it is in an on-premise system. The flooding of a data center in a river valley, for instance, won’t cause an interruption in business processes because the data is stored in the cloud.

Putting out Fires

Many CIOs, confronted by the complexity of security in the age of the mobile workforce, are turning to managed services for a variety of areas, including mobile security. In a changing landscape in which cloud and mobile technology are significantly disrupting the IT industry, CIOs are realizing the value of outsourcing some aspects of security management. It frees them to focus on strategy and innovation, rather than putting out security fires.

The mobile workforce adds a new layer of security concern to an already complicated cloud environment. Talk to your clients about outsourcing their security, with Focal Solutions as your partner. Contact us today to discuss the new challenges in mobile security.

 

Enterprise Mobility and Cloud Technology Work Together to Bring Value to Your Business

Enterprise mobilityTwo trends currently shaping IT environments are the demand for enterprise mobility and the shift to cloud technology. They are complementary in nature, driving cost savings, employee flexibility and increased productivity.

Here are three factors influencing the side-by-side increase of enterprise mobility and cloud technology:

It’s the mobile age: Mobile devices are claiming more and more Internet traffic, with users far preferring to browse the Internet using a tablet or their phone over a laptop or desktop computer. The trend allows for greater connectivity for the workforce, significantly increasing the number of productive work hours each week.

In addition to connectivity, companies also have the ability to mine important information related to consumer behaviors and employee processes via mobile technology.

Remote and field workers aren’t going back to the office: Mobile and cloud technology have made it convenient for a significant segment of the workforce to increase productivity without ever entering an office building. These workers are able to access the same information through mobile enterprise technology that’s stored in the cloud and never have to come to the office to finalize a form or enter data.

A convergence of data unity: Another factor influencing the increase in mobile-first priorities and cloud technology is the ability to manage security and data across a variety of devices and users in the cloud. Managing these elements with on-premise software is complex and time-consuming, but it’s streamlined with a cloud solution that unites every user and device under one umbrella.

Implementing a mobile-first cloud solution gives you added value in these areas:

Cost effectiveness: With little-to-no investment in hardware, a scalable subscription monthly fee and none of the hassle of updates, cloud solutions are an affordable alternative to on-premise software.

Increased productivity: With connected workflows, seamless integration and other removals of barriers and bottlenecks, companies that embrace cloud software experience increased productivity.

Remove the burdens: Your cloud provider handles implementation and updates, removing significant interruptions in business processes.

Accessibility: A mobile enterprise cloud solution enables your staff to work from anywhere, any time. Not only is there a centralized system for managing data, but your staff can access and manipulate data while out in the field or working remotely.

Refined sales targets: The use of mobile technology and customer-focused apps allows you to mine information that can transform your sales approach. You’ll know more about the activities and behaviors of those that visit your app or website and be able to pinpoint more clearly the conversion from lead to customer.

Focal Solutions works as your partner through your mobile enterprise cloud solution implementation. From helping you to find the service that will be most beneficial to your company, to coming alongside you through the process, Focal Solutions works with you to ensure a seamless transition and operation.

Adopting Policies That Work for BYOD

BYODThe year was 2009 when the mobile phone revolution inspired office workers to begin to break away from their cubes, ushering in freedom from desktops. An emerging trend, bring your own device (BYOD), surfaced across a wide spectrum of industries. While BYOD has since proven to have many benefits, it also has its drawbacks. Here’s a deeper look at the advantages and disadvantages of how portable devices have reshaped IT and the business world.

Costs of Convenience

A significant reason BYOD has become popular is the convenience of workers using their own devices with which they’ve grown comfortable. It’s convenient for management as well, since it frees up the budget for expenses on other needs beyond equipment. At the same time, however, it’s been a nightmare for some IT teams to oversee a wide range of technology that they cannot completely control.

The savings companies enjoy from avoiding desktop purchases are sometimes offset by the processing fees of plan subsidies, greater security risks, and less productivity from workers using their devices for personal use. The fact that employees can take home data that can be compromised by nefarious entities should be cause to look into device management strategies carefully before implementing BYOD.

First, Conduct Sufficient Research

The quickest path to quagmire in the BYOD era is to not bother planning a structured mobile device policy. Thorough research is needed on costs, ease-of-use, platforms, operating systems, models, and security risks. Partial plan policies may look more appealing on the surface than buying devices outright. But management should not overlook processing costs related to employee expense reports, which average around $18 per report, according to a 2013 Aberdeen Group analysis. Each business needs to study its own finances to determine if this model will provide savings.

A BYOD feasibility study also needs to include the potential security breaches that can occur from the vulnerabilities that BYOD introduces. This research (which can include Google, expert blogs, suppliers, software specialists, and business publications) may lead to a narrowed list of mobile device selections for employees to choose from. Comprehensive research will also help managers make the following determinations:

  • Rules and policies for professional vs. personal use
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) strategies
  • The level of extra work and pressure BYOD will put on IT support
  • Price targets, options, and negotiation strategies

Developing a Company Mobility Plan

After compiling the above information, management should write a detailed company policy that spells out specific rules and regulations. The policy should identify which employees are permitted to use their own personal devices, which types of devices are allowed, and how they may be used in the workplace.

Additionally, the policy should specify who pays for phone and data plans and who is responsible for device maintenance and security. Finally, the policy needs to culminate in a summary of the company’s enforcement policy of rules and regulations.

The Power of MDM 

MDM software, such as IBM’s MaaS360, strengthens mobility policies through passwords. This cross-platform software is affordable, with options ranging from $3 to $10 per month. The software keeps devices locked down when not in use and sets limits on functions so that management can keep employee usage under control. As a security feature, MaaS360 can wipe data from lost or stolen devices.

As long as management does its homework by conducting a cost analysis then setting clear and appropriate policies, BYDO can help enable workers to be more productive at their jobs.

 

Addressing BYOD Challenges Using the Cloud

Cloud, BYODBring your own device (BYOD) policies are on the rise, and not just at startups: recent surveys have shown that over 70% of organizations either have a BYOD policy in place or are planning to introduce one. The benefits, from lower hardware costs to increased employee satisfaction, are clear. Unfortunately, so are the drawbacks – increased IT support costs and heightened security concerns among them. One surprising answer to these concerns may be cloud computing.

 

The Challenges of BYOD

BYOD policies buy flexibility on the employees’ end with a decrease in centralization and standardization on the company’s. Employees may choose to do their work from different devices (such as computers, smartphones, and tablets), on different operating systems, and from different locations. This may include accessing company data from unsecured networks and using devices or browsers with security issues or ones that aren’t compatible with file types used. This increases the burden on a company’s IT department, as they may need to become fluent in supporting a number of different platforms.

 

Cloud Computing’s Answer

While cloud computing may seem like a step away from controlling company data and employee access, it actually allows a company to add a layer of abstraction between employee devices and company resources. This layer can then be optimized for security and access.

Moving documents to the cloud, for example, allows the cloud-based service to enforce its own access protocols, and may also allow for more sophisticated locking, check-in/check-out procedures, and version tracking/control. Cloud services may offer two-factor authentication and other protocols for access management. And if an employee’s device should be stolen, having documents in the cloud – rather than allowing local copies to be kept on the user’s device – mitigates the risk.

Cloud computing can also be made more secure by mandating the use of certain policies and tools:

  • DNS firewalls. Part of the appeal of BYOD policies is the ability to work from outside a company office, whether at an out-of-state conference or a local coffee shop. But these unsecured hotspots may be attractive targets for opportunistic hackers. DNS firewalls, so long as they’re kept up-to-date with accurate threat data, can safeguard activity on unsecured networks.
  • Standardized software. Even if the devices show startling diversity, the software run on them doesn’t need to. Employees can be required to access company resources using certain applications on their devices, or even to use Software as a Service cloud applications. This narrows the scope of what IT needs to keep an eye on.
  • Requiring appropriate devices. A BYOD policy doesn’t have to mean that anything goes. A company can meet employees halfway by allowing them to use one of a variety of devices – so long as those devices meet minimum hardware and OS requirements, or come from a pre-approved list. Options available could be validated by IT departments to ensure that they are free of major security vulnerabilities.

 

Implementing BYOD

There’s no one-size-fits-all BYOD implementation, and cloud computing isn’t the only tool available. To learn more about the perils and payoffs of BYOD, contact us today.

How the Right Cloud Model Can Energize Network Performance and Lower OPEX

As the typical business paradigm shifts further and further from the traditional 9-to-5 atmosphere, more and more companies are recognizing the power of cloud model options to deliver performance results. Since many critical business operations rely on specific applications, cloud computing offers an affordable networking tool that is designed for instant scalability. Yet there is still a lot of confusion concerning the best could solution for a particular business.

Understanding how private, public, and hybrid cloud systems are utilized helps clear up the confusion that surrounds implementation. Real-world scenarios bring to light the advantages and drawbacks of cloud computing and demonstrate how businesses can energize their network performance using specific cloud models.

Public Cloud Uses and Benefits

One of the most attractive elements of cloud integration is the ability to lower operating costs. Since infrastructure management essentially shifts to the provider, companies can alter their focus toward marketing projects, better customer service metrics, and increased efficiency. In fact, many SMBs initialize their network in a virtual environment because the capital expenditure is too large for the internal hardware required. Additional cases for public implementation include:

  • When speed is required for mobility — The global coverage and heightened speed make a public cloud model perfect for mobile sales, delivery personnel, or customer interactions.
  • When low cost storage is required — Businesses can use public storage to archive social media content and other non-sensitive data
  • Disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) structures — This option provides convenient, affordable backup for all types of processes, using virtual machines in order to meet time and recovery point objectives.

With public cloud options, companies “share” infrastructure space on the provider’s physical hardware, which allows them to scale capacities and computing power according to specific need. This type of flexibility is perfect for seasonal and service-based businesses.

Private Cloud—Enhanced Security

With a private infrastructure model, the cloud offers greater agility, confidentiality, and integrity. The security risks associated with public cloud breaches are mitigated using a private cloud model. Cases that require private options include:

  • Small, predictable applications that could be operated in the cloud to save space or costs
  • Managing large amounts of video content
  • Where security concerns and compliance regulations concerning sensitive information are required

Private cloud model options allow business to engage a trusted third-party provider to house and manage their computing and maintenance needs for a lower cost of use.

 

Hybrid Models

With a hybrid solution, businesses can maintain a private physical infrastructure along with virtual machines to enhance internal performance. It essentially delivers the best of both options, providing a way to maintain confidential data and processes while transferring certain applications to the cloud. Hybrid cloud model solutions are excellent for:

  • Decreasing fixed operating costs
  • Handling rapid growth without incurring heavy hardware costs
  • Building networking solutions that maximize resources and performance

Choosing the right cloud model for a particular business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By speaking with a professional provider, moving to the cloud can be painless and profitable.

Orchestrating Business Growth: 5 Reasons to Embrace Hosted Telephony

To support business growth, companies must reduce operating costs and implement strategies that improve productivity. Fortunately, hosted telephony service offers an actionable method for facilitating these goals. Introducing cloud based communications provide businesses with enterprise-level resources that reduce costs and usher in measurable improvements throughout the operation.

Although the concept of hosted telephony has been around for years, it’s only been within the last decade that the service has become practical for small and mid-size businesses (SMBs). With cloud technology, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provides advanced audio quality and performance without requiring a huge upfront investment. Companies can access the latest communication tools without having to purchase, maintain, and manage expensive hardware systems. Following are five ways in which hosted telephony helps orchestrate business growth.

 

Minimal Capital Outlay

Hosted communications require very little capital expenditure to implement. The required equipment is IP phones, broadband access, and PoE (Power over Ethernet) switches to provide connectivity and electricity. Because transmissions are conducted through the cloud, PCs (soft phones) may also be utilized to make calls, but there are a variety of IP phone options available. Companies may choose the most basic designs or more advanced models that feature touch screens and monitor-like displays.

 

Enhanced Mobility

Another benefit of hosted service is enhanced mobility. Employees and remote workers may use their own devices to connect to the system via software applications. Moreover, satellite locations, regardless of the number of phones or workers present, can be seamlessly integrated. Since communications are conducted through the cloud, businesses are able to apportion numbers in various locations, and many service agreements offer free calling within the system.

 

Scalable Features

With hosted telephony, companies are able scale services (usually) on a month-to-month basis, easily add or remove users, and only pay for the amount of service they need at a given time. This feature dramatically reduces operating costs for seasonally-based businesses, and allows companies to expand service as required. Companies pay only for the number of subscriptions and features needed.

 

Improved Maintenance, Support, and Control

Rather than housing large quantities of hardware that must be upgraded every 5-10 years, cloud based communications are located at a colocation site and managed by the service provider. SMBs are able to benefit from having a full-time maintenance and support team available, without incurring the costs associated with traditional employment. Systems are managed through a basic software platform that can be accessed anywhere from any browser, making it easy to alter service or add features. Moreover, upgrades are conducted automatically, without having to purchase and install new software.

 

Lower Energy Use and Cost

With hosted telephony, the servers employed are typically advanced enterprise-level units that consume less energy, so usage makes less of a carbon footprint. By removing an on-premise phone control unit, the amount of energy consumed at the business is reduced, delivering lower monthly electricity costs. In addition, hosted telephony service contracts reduce long-distance and toll free calling expenditures significantly.

Companies can facilitate growth by moving to hosted telephony service. The improved performance and quality combined with lower costs and greater mobility creates a professional atmosphere that supports expansion and improved profitability.

Ensuring Effective Network Performance: Capacity Planning 101

Nothing is as frustrating for employees or customers as ridiculously slow access or latency during important calls. These problems result from inadequate bandwidth, and most organizations approach network capability planning by either apportioning more bandwidth than is needed or suffering from problems during high-traffic times.

Essentially, network performance is dictated by throughput and capacity. To ensure sufficient capability, businesses must first understand where the problems originate, and then develop a workable solution to mitigate them.

 Bottlenecking Issues

The enterprise technologies used to perform daily tasks siphon bandwidth depending on usage. When higher numbers of users increase traffic across the network, either through wired or wireless access, users experience lags in throughput. Some of the biggest culprits include:

  • Software Tools and Applications—Warehouse management, customer relationship management (CRM), and enterprise resource management (ERP) systems record, process, and analyze large amounts of data from a variety of sources, often in real-time.
  • Cloud Computing—Cloud storage, backup, and sharing, whether through the public or private cloud, consume high levels of bandwidth because of the large volumes of data being transferred.
  • Mobility—Mobile access is enabling improved communication and productivity for organizations, but supporting all those remote devices places a drain on network performance.
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—Enhanced mobility, better, more reliable communications, videos, and live streaming provide superior tools for work tasks, but they also require large bandwidth.

 Pinpointing Traffic and Bandwidth Requirements

Before upgrading infrastructure, companies need a visible outline of where and when traffic volumes across the network are creating problems. Simply increasing total bandwidth is cost prohibitive because organizations end up paying for more than is actually required.

To understand bandwidth needs, companies should examine these areas:

  • Core Network Traffic—Determine exactly how much bandwidth is required to perform core tasks.
  • Other Traffic—This includes internal connections, data transfers to and from cloud applications, and communication packets.
  • Source and Destination—The distance from the origin site to the destination impacts bandwidth consumption.

 Measuring for Success

Once traffic requirements are identified, organizations are in a position to apportion and assign bandwidth accordingly. The most cost-effective solution involves leveraging on-demand bandwidth, which offers the ability to curtail and increase bandwidth in relation to usage requirements and predictions.

First, determine the average rate of transfer relative to current bandwidth. Immediate upgrades will be necessary if the current megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps) are inadequate for the amount of throughput required. Then ascertain additional needs during peak times.

By developing effective capacity planning that is designed to ensure reliable performance, companies can maintain business productivity and user satisfaction.

Growing Small Business with VoIP

shutterstock_152025617Finding the right Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service provider for small business can be tricky. This business tool delivers cost-effective solutions that help streamline tasks and improve productivity, but there’s a big difference between understanding the benefits that are available and actually integrating a solution that will engender business expansion and outreach.

Knowing the aspects of VoIP infrastructure that actually drive business growth can help companies create actionable guidelines for choosing a service provider. These specific performance features have the ability to expand small business capabilities and maximize growth potential.

Scalability

A scalable solution is essential for most small business models. For example, many service-based companies experience seasonal fluctuations, and rather than invest in an extensive infrastructure that isn’t needed, it’s more cost-efficient to scale usage through a provider. With the cloud, businesses have the power to escalate or diminish communication and IT capabilities. Moreover, as business expands, flexible scalability ensures that increased usage won’t create an increase in IT headaches.

Intuitive Administration

Many small businesses operate with slim margins, making it difficult to staff a full-time IT department. With cloud-based VoIP, companies experience a user-friendly interface that allows effortless routing, calling options, and similar administrative functions. Further, a team of experts ensures that maintenance and support tasks are performed at the service level, so businesses can concentrate on performing mission critical tasks without dealing with frequent or unexpected downtime.

Automated Routing

With VoIP, small businesses can take advantage of routing solutions that limit hold times and other enhancements designed to improve customer service by improving business responsiveness. For example, the system is able to route off-hours emergency calls directly to on-call personnel, so that customers are able to reach a professional rather than an answering service. It’s also able to ring several numbers at once, giving a particular staff member the ability to connect from a variety of locations.

Enhanced Mobility

More and more business models depend upon a growing mobile workforce. Employees, especially the sales staff, are more productive when they are able to conduct activities from a remote location. Many service providers offer mobile optimization through software applications that empower small businesses by delivering instant connections to real-time business and client information.

Business growth doesn’t just happen; it’s the result of dedication and development. With VoIP solutions and the right service provider, companies can optimize their current resources and make improvements that deliver positive results. Contact Focal Solutions to learn more about how to orchestrate company growth and lasting success with VoIP.

BYOD and Enterprise Mobility Strategies

BYODEnterprise mobility is designed to secure optimal efficiency and productivity. No truer is this than when it comes to bring your own device (BYOD), which allows employees to tap into current technological trends.

Uniformity and consistency in communications is crucial for any business, and clients expect responsive service at every turn. This means all employees need ready access to business resources and protocols. Whether in-house, remote, or on the go, employees must be able to use preferred mobile devices to meet business directives and goals.

Before deciding on BYOD environments, managed platforms, or hybrid approaches, companies should take a close look at their existing application architecture and business requirements. This allows businesses to take a proactive approach when it comes to enterprise mobility strategies and solutions.

​Successful BYOD Implementation

The following steps are critical when formulating BYOD plans:

  • Determine concise priorities for timely and effective client engagement.
  • Create a unified, streamlined, and centralized mobile platform that helps both employees and clients.
  • Administer and implement the most cost-effective solutions for business networks, apps, devices, and data.
  • Look for ways to save money while increasing access and availability for employee and client communications.

Before implementing new mobile strategies, however, enterprises have to analyze their existing situations. They must also taken into account which BYOD plans will best serve the needs of workers and clients.

Platform Decision Making

Standardized platforms are easier to implement and manage in terms of BYOD restrictions and access, especially when organizations rely heavily on line-of-business apps or have strict security guidelines. However, employees tend to be very attached to their favorite digital, remote, and wireless devices. As a result, they may not be too willing to adopt new devices. Companies must determine which units can be subsidized and integrated to secure comprehensive and cohesive platforms.

Another option is to establish a platform that discovers and identifies devices automatically. This is known as mobile device management (MDM), and is designed to help companies manage their BYOD, standard, or hybrid environments. Working with a good mobility partner can eliminate the obstacles that hinder overall performance and productivity. MDM can also secure the best solutions for businesses that want to offer BYOD but are unsure of restrictions and accessibility.

Managing Applications and Data

It is vital to determine which applications employees are using — and what they’re using them for. If applications are not being used for business purposes, a business has the option to implement strong security measures. This prevents employees from conducting personal errands during business hours, and keeps them on track with company goals and requirements.

New devices, apps, and programs and developed every day, and employees must be able to adopt these burgeoning technologies in an efficient and controlled manner. To foster greater growth and mobility, business must first consider whether or not to enable BYOD, then determine how to manage and enforce the policy once implemented.