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April 30, 2015

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ICG-mobile-payments

Why Retailers Should Get on Board with Mobile Payments

2015 is being touted as the “year of mobile payments,” although the technology hasn’t caught on as quickly as expected. The introduction of Apple Pay last year was supposed to drive a revolution in mobile payments — 1 million credit cards were used for Apple Pay less than 72 hours after its launch. However, recent studies show that just 15 percent of iPhone 6 users have even tried Apple Pay, and the number of stores and apps that accept it is fairly limited.

 

Still, major players are betting heavily on the mobile payments trend. In March, PayPal announced that it would acquire mobile payments startup Paydiant, and Google introduced a service called Android Pay to compete with Apple Pay. Even Facebook is getting on board with the addition of peer-to-peer payments using its Messenger app.

 

It’s clear that mobile payments are the wave of the future. Mobile payment apps store payment card information in smartphones, which interact with point-of-sale (POS) devices using near-field communications (NFC). This eliminates the need to pull out your wallet and find your credit card, and provides a single point of reference for all your purchases.

 

Consumers increasingly view mobile payment as a standard offering that makes transactions fast, simple and seamless. Experts predict highest usage of mobile payment solutions in high-volume, fast-paced establishments where speed is critical to delivering a positive customer experience. Merchants like mobile payment solutions because they make the sales process as frictionless as possible. This not only reduces the risk of losing the sale but enables retailers to collect data about customer preferences, promote loyalty programs, and share coupons and special offers.

 

Research firm eMarketer expects the number of mobile payment users in the U.S. to more than double next year to 36.2 million, accounting for $27.5 billion in transactions. More and more people, especially Millennials, would rather use their smartphone to make a payment than fumble with a wallet, and they don’t want to share or re-enter credit card information over and over. Retailers are expected to remember how customers prefer to pay and provide a more secure alternative to traditional credit card payments.

 

Mobile payment adoption has been slowed by the fact that few merchants have POS systems with NFC technology. However, retailers are under pressure to replace older magnetic strip card readers with terminals that accept “chip” cards by October 2015. This has accelerated the adoption of NFC readers that extract payment information stored in smartphones without forcing the customer to hand over a card or device.

 

But NFC readers are only part of the infrastructure required to accept mobile payments. A fast, reliable and highly secure network is a must. The ICG Network Infrastructure team can optimize your environment through the design, implementation and support of cost-effective network and security solutions. ICG’s managed services are designed to ensure network availability, performance and security over the long haul. Let us help you take advantage of a mobile payment solution that satisfies customer demand and creates additional opportunities for revenue growth.

April 22, 2015

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ICG-Patch-Management

How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Poor Patch Management

Both Verizon and Symantec released their Internet security reports last week, and the news is sobering to say the least. More than 317 million new pieces of malware were created last year, meaning that nearly one million new threats were released each day.

 

Twenty-four of them were so-called “zero-day” exploits — attacks that take advantage of system or network vulnerabilities the same day those vulnerabilities are revealed. Perhaps the most famous was the Heartbleed bug, which involved a vulnerability in the OpenSSL encryption used by many websites. Cybercriminals were able to exploit Heartbleed within four hours after it was discovered by a member of Google’s security team.

 

But despite the increasing sophistication of many cyberattacks, most cybercriminals rely upon decades-old techniques exploiting vulnerabilities that have been open for years. Verizon’s report noted that 70 percent of cyberattacks use some combination of phishing and hacking, and many of the vulnerabilities exploited by hackers can be traced to 2007. These vulnerabilities remain open even though security patches are available to fix them.

 

Patch management is the process of repairing vulnerabilities in an organization’s IT infrastructure in order to maintain network security. Software fixes, or patches, are strategically deployed to applications, servers and other components of the IT infrastructure to help protect against cyberattacks.

 

Because patch management requires time, personnel and resources that most small to midsize businesses (SMBs) lack, security holes often go unplugged. Today’s increasingly complex networks have brought an increasing number of patches, which can be applied in different ways and should be prioritized based upon the potential impact on the organization. Patches also require comprehensive testing to ensure that they’ll actually work in your IT environment without causing system problems or hampering network performance.

 

For example, Microsoft is known for “Patch Tuesday,” its release of security patches on the second Tuesday of each month. Last week Microsoft issued 11 security bulletins addressing 26 vulnerabilities, four of which were marked as critical and one that covered a zero-day exploit. The pace of patch releases continues to increase — Microsoft issued a second round of 34 patches this week.

 

While consumers are accustomed to having these patches automatically installed on their PCs, IT managers have to approach patches with caution. Patches are often buggy or have installation problems. Needless to say, patch testing and management can be complicated in the data center.

 

Attempting to patch vulnerabilities on the fly is a recipe for disaster because it’s virtually impossible to keep up with the volume of patches. Patch management tools enable you to automate the process, but only after taking inventory of your software and configuring policies for patch deployment.

 

A better approach, especially for SMBs with limited in-house IT resources, is to outsource patch management to a managed services provider. A managed services provider will ensure that patches are prioritized, tested, scheduled and kept up to date. Your organization will be protected against threats that can result in costly downtime and data loss.

 

Don’t put patch management on the back burner. Let ICG help you develop a patch management strategy that keeps your organization protected.

April 16, 2015

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ICG-mobile-videoconferencing

How Mobile Is Taking Videoconferencing Mainstream

In our last post we discussed how mobile devices have become essential tools for real-time collaboration. This is especially true when it comes to videoconferencing, which has emerged from the boardroom to become an everyday application at everyone’s fingertips.

 

No longer a hardware-centric solution, videoconferencing is now software-based, browser-based and cloud-based. This has enabled more use cases for video and makes the technology easier and less expensive to implement and manage across the organization.

 

In many cases, videoconferencing investments can be recovered by the ability to conduct meetings with geographically dispersed workforces. While videoconferencing significantly reduces travel costs, the benefits go far beyond airfare and hotels. Video improves the quality of collaboration and decision making and reduces the lead time required for meetings. Organizations can create competitive advantages by accelerating the pace of business and introducing new products and services more quickly. Video also tends to keep meeting participants more focused and accountable, which improves productivity and shortens meetings.

 

Companies that use videoconferencing for hiring can speed the interview process and include more people in the process if necessary. Retention rates are often improved because video allows for greater flexibility and work-life balance without sacrificing face-to-face interactions. Videoconferencing enables salespeople to meet with more customers, and customer relationships and loyalty are strengthened when phone calls and emails are replaced with videoconferencing.

 

The emergence of mobility in the workplace is driving more widespread acceptance and usage of videoconferencing, which is leading to even higher ROI. People use mobile video outside of the office and are now embracing mobile videoconferencing at work. As the name suggests, mobile videoconferencing involves the use of smartphones and tablets to access and participate in videoconferences. You don’t need a desktop computer or elaborate video system. Because mobile videoconferencing is so simple to use from anywhere on any device, it takes flexibility, collaboration, speed and productivity to whole new levels.

 

Consumer-grade products may be familiar to employees, but enterprise-grade products offer the functionality, interoperability and security required in the workplace. For example, your mobile videoconferencing solution should be able to support a company-wide meeting with hundreds of people using a wide variety of devices, as well as a small department meeting with five people using the same type of device. Even if everyone in your organization uses the same devices and applications, you need to be able to support customers and business partners who use different technology. This will enable all users to customize and optimize the experience.

 

ICG has been helping customers take advantage of mobile for many years. Our specialists can help ensure your Wi-Fi network has adequate bandwidth and performance, and design and implement a mobile videoconferencing solution that maximizes ROI and improves the quality and flexibility of collaboration. Let us evaluate the readiness of your network and show you how to use mobile videoconferencing as part of your day-to-day business operations.

April 10, 2015

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ICG-mobile-collaboration

Why You Can’t Fully Leverage Collaboration without Mobile

Employees are bringing more and more mobile devices into the workplace — the so-called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) phenomenon. Organizations that encourage the use of smartphones and tablets for real-time, mobile collaboration are seeing measurable lifts in productivity, teamwork and innovation. No longer “nice to haves,” the right mobile devices and strategy are now essential to effective collaboration.

 

Today’s smartphones and tablets offer many of the same capabilities as desktop computers without tying users to a physical office. Larger mobile touchscreens, simpler user interfaces, more reliable Internet connections, and better video and voice over IP (VoIP) features are enabling more effective communication, faster decision-making, greater flexibility and easy content sharing.

 

While a fragmentation of options and a lack of standardization have held back mobile collaboration to a degree, Gartner analysts say most collaboration applications will be equally available on desktops and mobile devices by 2016. The emergence of BYOD, cloud file-sharing capabilities, and readily available mobile applications are expected to drive more widespread adoption of mobile collaboration, according to Gartner.

 

The Shift from Web-Centric to App-Centric Mobility

 

The previously web-centric mobile environment has moved to an app-centric model as mobile applications have become the primary portal for accessing information and performing specialized tasks. This model has extended to the business world, where enterprises are developing apps designed to enhance specific job functions as well as support their customers.

 

Research from Forrester shows that 60 percent of organizations are updating their infrastructure to support mobile applications. Employees are demanding anytime, anywhere access to video and web conferencing, content and screen sharing, instant messaging and presence.

 

In the past these features were underutilized on smartphones and tablets due to a less-than-optimal user experience. However, design and functionality improvements are now enabling organizations to fully leverage mobile collaboration.

 

Choosing the Right Mobile Collaboration Apps

 

Before any discussion about applications begins, you need to assess how your organization collaborates and what tools are being used. Identify strengths and weaknesses, and understand the advantages and risks of utilizing your existing investments. Analyze your most basic business requirements and what capabilities are lacking. Determine how specific mobile collaboration apps will support and enhance specific areas of your business operations. While mobile collaboration can dramatically improve how you do business, a poorly planned implementation will create more problems than it solves.

 

The Future of Mobile Collaboration

 

The next generation of mobile collaboration is being driven by user experience and flexible workflows. Users expect to be able to seamlessly multitask on different devices. They want to create a document on their tablet, and edit and email it from their smartphone. Hardware- and software-based security features such as encryption and fingerprint scanning will become more sophisticated, but not at the expense of user experience and flexibility.

 

ICG can transform your employees’ smartphones and tablets into powerful business communications platforms, and create custom mobile apps that enhance customer service and streamline workflows. Let us help you take full advantage of mobile collaboration.

April 3, 2015

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ICG-protect-wireless-network

How to Protect Your Wireless Network against Attack

Wi-Fi is quickly becoming an essential business tool in many industries. Gartner expects the majority of users will reach for tablets and smartphones for all online activities by 2018. This ongoing shift from desktop to mobile is enabling improved employee productivity, better customer service and greater operational efficiency.

 

Wi-Fi access in the workplace isn’t just for employees. Customers, vendors and business partners expect to have the same level of on-demand connectivity that they enjoy at home or in their own workplace. A guest wireless network enables organizations to meet demands for free, reliable Wi-Fi access while isolating sensitive company data and business applications on the corporate network.

 

The expanded use and business value of Wi-Fi mean that organizations need to go the extra mile to ensure that security concerns are addressed. News headlines continue to show that even the largest enterprises aren’t immune to major security breaches, many of which have been the result of vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi network. Traditional network security solutions such as firewalls and network segmentation don’t go far enough.

 

A wireless intrusion prevention system (WIPS) can help stop attacks and unauthorized access to the wireless network, and provide a cost-effective way to meet regulatory compliance requirements. A WIPS is a device that looks for the types of attacks that are commonly launched against wireless networks, preventing hackers from gaining access to credentials that can be used to dig deeper into your network.

 

A WIPS also monitors the Wi-Fi network for rogue and misconfigured access points (APs) that can be unknowingly installed by an employee or vendor, or deliberately installed by a criminal. Rogue APs can connect to an otherwise isolated segment of your network, providing criminals with unlimited access to sensitive data. In addition to data and identity theft, an attacker can carry out a digital denial of service (DDoS) attack that can shut down operations. A criminal can also pretend to be an authorized device in order to connect to an authorized AP, resulting in the same consequences.

 

The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) is one of several regulations that requires scanning for rogue APs. PCI DSS specifies that scans be conducted on a quarterly basis at minimum, but such infrequent scanning can lead to weeks or months of undetected vulnerability. The misconfiguration of APs has also become a major compliance issue — Garter has found that the majority of wireless-related security incidents occur because of misconfigured APs. A WIPS is more cost-effective than manual scanning, making it an important tool in maintaining regulatory compliance.

 

A WIPS helps ensure that the guest network is truly segmented from the production network, and determines which devices are truly authorized to access the production network. And because the WIPS is constantly monitoring the network, it provides logging, event notifications and geographic information that can be used to identify potential attacks, investigate successful attacks, meet compliance requirements and improve the overall performance of the wireless network.

 

Because the wireless network is a key component of the IT infrastructure, you need the right tools to ensure robust security. Let ICG show you how a WIPS can help maintain regulatory compliance and protect your Wi-Fi network from attack in a way that traditional security solutions can’t.