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June 24, 2015

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Overcoming the Obstacles of Mobile VoIP and UC over Wi-Fi

Mobile Voice over IP (VoIP) does what the name implies. It brings VoIP services to your mobile device so you can use the company’s wireless network to make and receive calls on your mobile device. Your mobile phone becomes your office extension. And when your mobile VoIP application connects with your unified communications (UC) system, you can access voice, video, instant messaging, text and presence through the same interface on your mobile device.

 

In fact, mobility is finally unlocking all of the benefits of UC. Thanks to mobile and the cloud, organizations are no longer limited by geographic obstacles, and employees are no longer wired to the office. Real-time collaboration occurs anytime, anywhere via cloud-based UC applications accessed on mobile devices, which enable users to take full advantage of the flexibility and productivity that UC has been promising for years.

 

However, significant hurdles remain when extending VoIP and UC applications to mobile devices. VoIP and UC place heavy demands on the wireless network infrastructure, especially bandwidth-hungry applications such as video. Wi-Fi networks often lack the coverage and capacity to support higher user densities and meet VoIP’s heightened demands for connectivity and performance.

 

This is because many wireless networks were originally designed to provide “hotspots” for stationary laptops, not continuous coverage for roaming employees, each accessing multiple mobile devices. As a result, signal strength often drops as a mobile user passes through an access point’s coverage area, causing performance issues and dropped calls that hamper productivity and customer service.

 

Organizations need to meet certain technical requirements for VoIP and UC over Wi-Fi to ensure a successful deployment. The wireless LAN needs to extend coverage from hotspots to any area where a user would need to make a call. In addition to offices, conference rooms and waiting areas, access points would need to be installed in common areas such as hallways, stairwells and even kitchens to ensure pervasive coverage. Pervasive coverage enables seamless roaming that prevents slow handoffs and the ensuing dropped calls and poor wireless service. Handoff delays should be no more than five milliseconds to avoid any noticeable loss in call quality.

 

Users who are checking email, sending a text or visiting a website can tolerate longer delays than users who are on a phone call or videoconference and need guaranteed Wi-Fi connectivity. The wireless infrastructure should be able to distinguish and prioritize traffic and allocate bandwidth accordingly to ensure Quality of Service for voice and video communication. Also, technology that uses older Wi-Fi standards may need to be upgraded to allow for higher user density and meet UC application performance requirements.

 

ICG designs, installs, configures and supports wireless networks that help enable mobile VoIP and fulfill the promise of UC. Let us assess your existing wired and wireless infrastructure and help you determine what upgrades might be necessary to deploy mobile VoIP and UC over Wi-Fi.

June 16, 2015

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Outsourcing Security Doesn’t Mean Your Job Is Done

In a previous post, we discussed the growing danger and complexity of security threats and why outsourcing security has become a business necessity, especially for resource-strapped and budget-conscious small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs). However, outsourcing security doesn’t absolve the organization or its employees of all security-related responsibilities.

 

Just how bad has it gotten? According to Check Point’s 2015 Security Report, the average number of malware attacks increased from 2.2 per hour in 2013 to 106 per hour in 2014. Insider threats are on the rise as the emergence of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies and risky shadow IT applications provide more ways for current and former employees to access the network. Mobility is a major challenge as 42 percent of companies were victims of mobile-related breaches that cost more than $250,000 on average to address.

 

Of course, the weakest link in the security chain continues to be human beings. The use of email phishing scams and social engineering – a method in which hackers interact with employees to break through security and carry out cyberattacks – are expanding. As sophisticated as today’s cybercriminals are, they just want access to data, and the easiest way to gain access is through employees, not advanced security software. According to the BakerHostetler Data Security Incident Response Report 2015, the top cause of IT security incidents was employee negligence.

 

The increased targeting of employees underscores the need for security awareness training. Uneducated, untrained employees make the hacker’s job easy. Too many people take a “share everything,” social media mentality to the workplace, connect with people they don’t know, fail to log out of their accounts, and give their passwords to others without considering the consequences.

 

Formal training and documented policies, and enforcement of these policies, are essential to not only improving network security, but also ensuring regulatory compliance. All too often, security and compliance are assumed to be the responsibility of a select few. However, individual employees who violate compliance regulations due to carelessness or ignorance can bring heavy penalties on their employers while potentially compromising the private information of their customers.

 

A security awareness program should include both general best practices and the specific responsibilities of individual employees. In addition to increasing understanding of phishing and other hacking methods, organizations should establish procedures for reporting a suspected breach to minimize its impact. Security should be covered in training for new employees and in ongoing refresher training for all employees. In fact, security awareness programs are now required by the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other regulatory standards.

 

The biggest problem with most security awareness programs is the absence of clear goals. What behaviors need to change? What is each employee’s role? What is the penalty for violating the company policy, and how will this improve security? Many programs also tend to focus on certain topics even though they haven’t assessed the risk related to those topics. Organizations need to better understand the true problem, and how employees typically encounter these problems, in order to maximize the effectiveness of their security awareness programs.

 

Security is an all-hands-on-deck, round-the-clock process, even when security is outsourced. Every employee needs to be vigilant, and every organization needs to provide its employees with the necessary training to prevent a breach.

 

June 3, 2015

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Why Outsourcing Security Is the Best Choice for SMBs

Small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) are aware of the dangers of cyberattacks, and most are doing everything they can to beef up security. But is that enough?

 

According to a report from Endurance International Group, more than eight in 10 SMBs are concerned about cyberattacks. 63 percent have implemented security measures. However, 83 percent of small business owners handle security themselves.

 

This is a recipe for disaster.

 

The scope and complexity of cybersecurity has made the outsourcing of security a business necessity for every company. Downloading consumer-grade antivirus software and occasionally warning employees not to open suspicious emails won’t protect your data or satisfy a growing number of regulatory requirements. Attacks are constant, attackers are persistent, and their methods are sophisticated. As a result, security and compliance require round-the-clock vigilance.

 

For most SMBs, maintaining in-house security resources just isn’t in the budget. Suppose you invest in the latest firewalls, encryption software and other security tools. Do you have the in-house expertise to choose, configure, deploy and manage them? Tools alone will only take you so far. Even if you can handle a major capital expense for security, the tools you purchase require constant updates and maintenance, and dedicated IT personnel require continuing education and training on the latest threats and security technology. Security is an ongoing investment, not a one-shot deal.

 

Managed security services (MSS), the outsourcing of network security to a managed services provider, is the only viable option for SMBs that are serious about stopping cyberattacks. Because providers are able attain economies of scale, they can provide the necessary focus, expertise and technology at a lower cost than purchasing enterprise-grade tools and managing security in-house. By outsourcing, SMBs can get out of the security business, save money and focus on core business functions. Real-time network monitoring, patch management, reporting, strategic planning and other valuable services will be managed by a dedicated team of IT experts.

 

Evaluate a managed services provider like you would any other vendor. Do your research, contact references, get recommendations and request to trial their services. Make sure they have the tools you need to protect and control access to your company data, and make sure your IT infrastructure is capable of supporting those tools. The provider should understand your business and regulatory requirements and have relevant industry experience.

 

Keep in mind that outsourcing doesn’t make you immune to cybercrime. What is the provider’s process and response time if a security breach occurs? What specific tasks are your responsibility and the responsibility of the service provider? Have your service-level agreement reviewed by an attorney to ensure that all of your concerns are covered in writing.

 

Consider outsourcing now instead of waiting until your sensitive data is compromised. The ICG Managed Services Plan can be customized to meet the unique needs of your organization. Let us show you how our team of engineers and technicians can help optimize your IT environment and reduce the risk of a security breach.