Boost Employee Productivity, Collaboration with UCaaS

October 5, 2017

Boost Employee Productivity, Collaboration with UCaaS

UCaaS (unified communications as a service) puts communication and collaboration tools within reach of any size business. 

UC is a popular technology solution that allows teams to more easily share information and collaborate, regardless of whether they’re working on PCs in the office, their smartphones while traveling, or their laptops or tablets while working at home or in remote locations. UC makes it possible for your employees to connect to each other and to business applications via phone, videoconferencing, screen sharing, email, messaging and other applications.

Until recently, this technology was affordable primarily for enterprises that could budget for the capital expense required for on-site infrastructure and support labor. UCaaS, however, is changing that paradigm and making UC affordable for nearly any business.

How UCaaS Differs From UC

UCaaS offers a number of advantages to your business over on-premises systems, including:

  • Lower upfront costs. UCaaS providers deliver communication and collaboration solutions through the cloud. Companies pay a monthly, per-user fee, which eliminates the upfront capital expense (i.e., CapEx) of infrastructure required to support UC on premises. The subscription includes the standard tools you need, without having to purchase solutions individually.
  • No infrastructure maintenance costs. Eliminating the need for on-site communications infrastructure also eliminates the maintenance and service costs related to it. This can be an especially significant cost savings for organizations without in-house IT resources.
  • Always updated. Because these services are delivered through the cloud, you always have the latest version of the software, updated with security patches and the ability to support new application features, without having to pay for software upgrades.
  • Reliability. Your provider will guarantee a level of uptime and will monitor and maintain your system to ensure it, minimizing disruption to business due to, for example, email outages or subpar videoconferencing performance.
  • Integration options. Some UCaaS platforms, such as Cisco Spark, feature open APIs that also allow integration with your current business applications.

UCaaS Also Has Customer Benefits

For your employees who are part of collaborative teams, UCaaS offers the ability to work from any location, provided they have a desktop or mobile device that can connect to your network. This cloud-based solution connects field workers with your office and keeps employees connected when traveling. Also, with more employees opting to work from home, UCaaS enables them to continue to collaborate with coworkers and access the data and applications they need to do their jobs efficiently.

UCaaS may also remove impediments that exist with your current communications system. Using collaboration tools becomes easier with all team members working on one platform—they won’t struggle to connect for a conference or to share calendars, saving time and frustration. With the right UCaaS platform, videoconferencing and screen sharing don’t require advanced setup. Moreover, browser-based UCaaS platforms don’t require downloading software onto employee devices—they can simply access the tools they need by logging on to the business network.

The gains in efficiency and productivity with UCaaS can be substantial. Research shows unified communications solutions save users an average of 30 to 55 minutes per day.

UCaaS also benefits communications outside your organization, enabling seamless interaction with customers and partners, and providing a reliable way to share information. The advantages of UC are within reach to businesses of almost any size through UCaaS. If better collaboration is a goal for your company, why not evaluate your current communications system to see if moving to UCaaS can improve your organization’s efficiency, productivity and customer service capabilities, and help your business grow?

Adam Davis, CEO, Next Dimension Inc


3 BDR Myths That Can End in Disaster

September 8, 2017

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]3 BDR Myths That Can End in Disaster

Today’s technology environment requires advanced backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions that enable end users to ensure that their most valuable data will be protected.

Even the most basic user of technology can attest to that fact that things don’t always work as expected. When important business-related information and content is on the line, however, it’s not a good time to find out your backup system isn’t doing its job.

Surprisingly, this mission-critical technology is often ranked low on users’ to-do lists, and it’s virtually forgotten about once installed. General consensus seems to be that as long as some form of BDR solution is in use, that’s “good enough.”

Eventually, computers and servers will fail, and when this happens you don’t want to learn the hard way that you should have taken your backup strategy more seriously. To avoid becoming another data disaster statistic, avoid the following three common BDR myths.

Myth #1: All Backup Systems Are the Same

It can be overwhelming and difficult to decide which backup system would best fit your specific needs with the plethora of options on the market, and although similar, BDR solutions do have some important distinctions.

One distinction is the type of backup the BDR supports. For example, some solutions perform file-based backups, some perform physical image backups, and others perform virtual machine (VM) backups. Each has its advantages and drawbacks and oftentimes companies need more than just one option for complete protection.

Rather than trying to cobble multiple disparate backup programs together, it’s better to look for a solution that offers multiple types of backups and enables you to easily manage the different backups from a single pane of glass.

Myth #2: BDR Works Independently From Other Technologies

Backup technologies have come a long way from the early days of copying data from servers onto tape media and making a second copy that’s stored in an off-site vault. While these earlier data backups had little to no connection with a company’s business and compliance planning and strategies, things have changed.

Today’s BDR solutions enable companies to take advantage of disk and solid-state storage technologies along with cloud-based technologies and services, drastically shortening backup and recovery windows and requiring fewer manual steps along the way.

Additionally, modern BDR technologies enable companies to align their IT and business strategies. For example, today’s BDR solutions can be integrated with remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools and service-level agreements (SLAs) to provide users with greater visibility and automation of their backup and recovery processes.

Myth #3: Cloud Computing Eliminates the Need for BDR

We’ve witnessed the vast movement of data, applications and even computer infrastructures and platforms to the cloud over the past few years. Take the Microsoft Office suite, for example, where programs like Outlook, Word and Excel used to be installed on computers are now being replaced with Office 365 subscriptions, which feature these same apps operating in Microsoft’s cloud. Microsoft also includes cloud backup with Office 365 subscriptions.

While there’s some basic short-term data retention included with these and other cloud services, it most likely will not meet the needs of businesses that have compliance requirements or other data access or long-term protection requirements. Using a third-party BDR solution is still necessary to ensure data archiving policies are met as well as other key considerations such as RPO (recovery point objective) and RTO (recovery time objective) initiatives.

The reality is that having your data safely backed up and stored somewhere is only half the equation. The other half, which is equally important, is being able to get access to it in a timely fashion when you really need it most.

 

Adam Davis, CEO, Next Dimension Inc[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


Stay Ransomware Free

June 26, 2017

3 Ways to Stay Ransomware Free

Protect your computer network—and your business—by educating employees about safe computing practices and investing in enterprise-grade backup and security solutions.

Ransomware, which infects computer systems and denies access to files until the owner pays a hefty fee, has become a popular method of cyberattack. Americans paid approximately $325 million following ransomware attacks in 2015, and projections for 2017 are even higher. In fact, the FBI estimates ransomware is on pace to become a $1 billion industry by the end of this year.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued an alert this year, providing guidance on how to defend computer systems against ransomware, which boils down to three things: education, backup and endpoint security.

 

  1. Educate employees to follow safe computing practices.

Ransomware is often delivered through a weak link in a business’ security strategy: its employees. Train your employees to recognize phishing emails and not open attachments from unsolicited emails. Also, make sure employees know how to identify a suspicious link—a simple way is to hover over it until the URL appears, which should match the website the email claims to come from.

It’s also important to implement safe computing practices, including the “principle of least privilege,” which limits network access to only what employees need to do their jobs. Additionally, stress procedures that employees should follow if they think their computers have been infected, such as disconnecting from the network or disabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on mobile devices.

 

  1. Use enterprise-grade backup.

In the case of ransomware, the best defense is to block the malware before it infects your computer system, but if it does, Plan B is a backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solution. If your files are backed up with an enterprise-grade solution, you don’t need to pay a ransom to restore them. You can recover versions of the files that existed before the ransomware infection and upload them onto your computer network once it has been cleared of malware.

Some cyberattacks attempt to encrypt your backup also, so if you don’t back up in the cloud and use a local server or storage device, it shouldn’t be connected to the network or directly to employees’ computers.

A ransomware attack will still result in downtime as you repair your network and restore your files with a backup solution, but without BDR, the only recourse is to pay the ransom if you want your files back.

 

  1. Avoid signature-based endpoint security.

For years, antivirus has worked through signature-based detection. It would look for the signature or identifying data of known blacklisted malware programs, and block them. The problem with this approach is that the attack had to have occurred before and someone had to identify it. It does nothing to protect your computer system from new malware or malware whose signature has been modified. The 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report states 99% of malware is only used once before cybercriminals modify it so it won’t be detected the next time.

A better strategy is to use solutions that employ application whitelisting that allows only approved programs to run on your network and blocks others, such as ransomware.

Ransomware is a prevalent threat, but raising awareness about safe computing practices and putting the right solutions in place—both to protect your business from malware and to recover data if it should be maliciously encrypted—ensures you will always be able to gain access to your data without having to pay a ransom.

Adam Davis, CEO, Next Dimension Inc


Private Cloud for Sensitive Data

May 19, 2017

Manage Sensitive Data with Private Cloud. Manage Private Cloud with a Qualified Provider.

Choose an industry-compliant cloud provider that offers the right service level agreement for your organization. 

Private cloud is a common choice for government agencies and regulated industries such as finance and healthcare that work with highly sensitive data, as well as organizations that prefer not to use a public cloud. Private cloud offers the benefits of cloud computing while allowing users to maintain control over data residency by determining where the cloud’s infrastructure is physically located. It also provides the ability to run high performance applications and scale more easily as users’ needs grow.

Despite potential benefits, many users struggle to achieve a successful implementation. Gartner surveyed attendees at its data center conference and found 95% of respondents face problems with private cloud. Problems can range from encryption policies for sensitive data and maintaining best practices for security to dealing with the consequences of making the wrong choice of virtualization solution.

Partnering with a cloud provider can give organizations the much needed guidance they need through the critical planning, data and application migration and operational phases of transitioning to a private cloud. Finding the right partner, however, is crucial. Here are three areas to investigate as you search for a cloud provider that will meet your organization’s needs.

  1. Compliance with Industry Requirements. Ask for assurance that the provider is qualified to deliver cloud services according to regulations that govern your industry. In some cases, cloud use and security is bound by law, and providers must be well versed in requirements for compliance both for your organization and theirs. For example, healthcare providers must comply with HIPAA and work with cloud providers that appropriately manage protected health information (PHI). If your industry isn’t governed by specific laws for cloud computing, ask about certifications the cloud provider has attained and standards it complies with, such as ISO 27001, an international standard for information security management systems.
  2. Level of Uptime. Select a cloud provider that offers the right level of uptime for your organization to operate efficiently or to enable you to comply with regulations. Cloud providers’ data centers are designated by tier.
  • Tier 1 data centers provide basic capacity with dedicated space for IT systems, an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), dedicated cooling equipment, and a generator for extended power outages. Tier 1 data centers guarantee 99% availability or uptime, which can mean, however, more than 7 hours of downtime per month.
  • Tier 2 data centers add redundant critical power and cooling capacity, and uptime guarantee of 99.741%.
  • Tier 3 data centers feature dual-powered equipment that requires no shutdown for equipment maintenance or replacement, and are 99.98% available, which would mean less than 8 minutes of downtime per month.
  • Tier 4 data centers offer fault tolerance, which means failures or interruptions are stopped short of IT operations, and they guarantee less than 3 minutes of downtime per month.
  1. Service Level. Make sure your cloud provider offers a service level agreement (SLA) that clearly defines the terms of your agreement and ensures the level of service you need. Your SLA should define the minimum levels the cloud provider will deliver for each area of service, clearly state security standards that the provider will comply with, and outline rights, costs, and procedures to end the agreement. The SLA must state your organization will get the support and service it needs.

Partnering with a cloud provider can be just as critical to an effective private cloud implementation as the technology you choose. Do your due diligence when selecting a provider to ensure the provider understands your industry and compliance needs, can deliver the availability you require, and will provide the level of support and service needed for a successful implementation.

Adam Davis, CEO, Next Dimension Inc


Advantages of IP Video Surveillance

April 3, 2017

Discover the Advantages of IP Video Surveillance

IP video surveillance solution is the smart way to protect your employees and equipment.

Video surveillance has been around for decades, providing an invaluable tool for protecting facilities, equipment, stock and people. The latest generation of the technology—IP video surveillance—however, has significant advantages over previous iterations, both in performance and efficiency.

Image Quality

IP video doesn’t just involve connecting a last-gen analog camera to an IP network. IP video cameras have superior resolution. For example, a 1.3-megapixel camera, the lowest IP camera resolution, is about four times greater than the analog standard. Higher resolution means greater definition of images, including facial features, clothing details, and numbers on license plates.

IP video cameras can also include technology that helps optimize images in less-than-ideal conditions, such as daylight/nighttime capabilities and wide dynamic range (WDR), a technology that some IP video cameras (e.g., Axis) employ to enhance images taken in areas with both very dark and very light areas, such as inside a parking garage entrance. Better images enable your security staff to make quicker decisions as they monitor video, and, when needed, video provides more conclusive evidence to authorities.

Installation and Scaling

An IP video surveillance network is generally easier to install than an analog system. Analog cameras must be wired to a DVR. This can limit where cameras can be located and how many cameras can be installed before your business needs to add DVRs or upgrade equipment.

With IP video surveillance, however, there’s no limit to the number of devices on the network. The cameras use Power over Ethernet (PoE), which delivers power to the camera through the same cable on which data travels. They don’t have to be wired directly to a network video recorder (NVR)—just to the nearest network switch.

Options for a Variety of Applications

IP video surveillance cameras are available in a variety of styles, such as box cameras that point in one direction and dome and bullet style cameras that can be aimed in different directions. Many IP video cameras offer a pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) feature that enables security staff to remotely control the camera to see exactly what they need in detail.

Additionally, IP video surveillance cameras are available in rugged, tamper-proof, outdoor designs that are resistant to damage from water, dust or dirt.

Image Storage and Archiving

IP video surveillance solutions save images to NVRs that often use RAID technology to store data on multiple hard drives for redundancy and better performance. The images aren’t converted in the storage process to lower resolution and they’re more easily retrieved than images from analog cameras stored on a DVR.

In addition, if a business has several locations, cameras from all facilities can use the same NVR via the internet, which is more cost effective than maintaining a server at each location. The ability to connect with the NVR through the internet also provides managers with real-time access to video, with proper authorization, wherever they are.

Integration with other Systems and Analytics

The IP video surveillance system you install today can include access control, connection with building systems and alarms, integration with a point-of-sale system—or it can scale to include those integrations in the future. Additionally, IP video surveillance systems can include “distributed intelligence” or analytics that identify motion, sound, tampering and other triggers and can automatically record or send alarms to your staff. This greatly reduces the time required for an employee to monitor or review video.

Many businesses deploy IP video surveillance for security, but find its value extends beyond that application. With the system configured to record specific events based on triggers, it can also provide insights—for example, into where operations on a loading dock could be more efficient or how retail traffic moves through a department store.

Whether you’re upgrading or deploying your business’ first video surveillance solution, IP video surveillance delivers the image quality, cost efficiency and data storage that offer the most value to your organization. It also gives you options older systems can’t provide for scaling and using data to make fact-based business decisions, helping you to future-proof your investment in a surveillance system. An IP video surveillance solution simply is the intelligent choice.

Adam Davis, CEO, Next Dimension Inc


Is it time to check your IT Alignment?