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Evolve IP - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog

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The Virtual Private Network (VPN) – Is it Dead?

At the start of 2020, many ‘industry insiders’ would have told you that the VPN is dead, but like, seemingly, everything this year, expectations could not have been further from reality.  COVID-19 and the expedited need for work-from-home solutions across practically all industries and verticals has clearly proven that notion wrong, and it would be a fair assumption that there are more client VPNs in use for enabling work-from-home and remote work solutions than at any other time in IT history - many of these hastily put-in-place or quickly expanded in their usage by urgent necessity.  As more time passes, however, and we transition from solutions of ‘immediate need’ to ones of ‘long-term outlook,’ the new question may not be ‘Is VPN dead?’ but rather, ‘Should it be?’  In this post, we’ll review a few of the key concerns around a VPN-centric ‘work-from-home’ solution, and how Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution can help to address and alleviate these concerns.

Secure VPN

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room.  VPNs, by their very nature, present an inherent security risk for your network.  There are a number of mitigating technologies and practices which can help to manage the level of risk involved, but the risk of allowing external machines to become an extension of your internal network still carries with it a number of concerns.

One of the most obvious ways that organizations look to secure their VPN is to ensure that when client devices connect, they are placed into a ‘quarantine’ network which exists adjacent to (rather than as part of) the internal network.  The challenge, here, is that the whole purpose of the VPN is to enable access to those internal resources which reside on that internal network, so you still need to provide some form of crossover between those networks.  Why is this risky?  Simply, the biggest concern here is that any of those external devices that connect via VPN could be compromised; they could have viruses, malware, ransomware, or a range of other potential infections or issues that will attempt to propagate across whatever networks and devices they are connected to.  This begs the question, ‘Can’t I just make sure that the devices have antivirus?’  Sure… you could, but now you have just expanded your role to managing and securing all of these devices as well.  This comes with a cost, both financial and administrative.  You now have to supply the licensing for the security software you choose to leverage, you need to ensure that users have installed it, you need to maintain definitions for it to keep it updated as well as ensure patching of the device Operating Systems in order to ensure no vulnerabilities there may be exploited.  Many folks now turn to the idea of SDP, or a Software-Defined Perimeter solution, which provides Network Access Control and automates the process of ensuring the client devices meet certain minimum requirements like: running a supported OS, running approved antivirus/anti-malware, etc.  Unfortunately, this then further increases the cost and complexity of a traditional VPN solution, and frankly, many organizations don’t take these additional needs into consideration as a result.

Many organizations tend to focus their time, attention, and finances on ensuring that their network is most secure at its assumed weakest point, the firewall.  This makes a ton of logical sense because we can think of the firewall like the front door of your home.  Naturally, you feel safer if that door has more and better locks or maybe a thicker or more secure door and door frame, but many organizations make these significant investments in providing the best door and best locks possible, but then, in the interest of providing simple and fast remote access simply leave the door unlocked so that everyone can come and go as they need.

Why not embrace a solution in which there is no need to actually establish a connection between the end-users’ devices and the internal network, though?  This solves many of the aforementioned concerns because it effectively makes the user’s device simply a terminal to connect to published desktop sessions or applications, and internal company or organizational data never has to leave the datacenter and be processed locally on the client device.  This is the type of solution afforded by Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution which even goes a step further by securing access to those applications and desktop sessions behind an included Identity and Access Management platform that can utilize both Multifactor Authentication and Single Sign-On capabilities.

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

VPN Reliability and Performance

As we established in the Security section, employing a VPN is, basically, extending your internal network to an external client device.  Historically, this has worked well for things like access to file shares, network printers, and other internal resources, but what about actually running an application across the VPN?  Some applications will perform fine and seem no different than when a user is in the office; however, many applications (especially some older apps) can be sensitive to latency.  Let’s first establish what latency is.

Imagine driving on a highway from New York to Los Angeles.  If you are the only car on that highway, then you can get back and forth as fast as your car will allow you.  That is latency: the amount of time that it takes to travel the distance back and forth.  Many people tend to confuse latency with bandwidth.  In the same scenario, think of bandwidth as the number of lanes that the highway has.  Once you introduce other traffic, beyond just your car, now, the more lanes there are, the faster you can make the trip, but you still can’t go any faster than your car can drive that road back and forth.

I bring this up because if you have a latency-sensitive application, the app performance will suffer simply because ‘the road’ between where your user is running the app and where the backend of that app is too long.  In some cases, those two things not being directly adjacent (or within the same network) may be enough to cause significant performance issues, unresponsiveness, unreliability, or application ‘slowness.’  When this occurs, we often see IT teams mistakenly think that adding more bandwidth can correct this issue, but the problem isn’t that there’s ‘too much traffic’ it is just that ‘the road is too long’ for that application to function as intended.

One of the best ways to solve these types of reliability and performance issues is to continue to actually run the application in the same location where its servers, data, and backend reside.  With Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution, the users’ applications are running within the same datacenter where their servers, databases, files, etc are located even though, from a look and feel perspective, it appears that the applications are running directly on the end-users’ devices.

Virtual Private Network Cost

A common misconception is that a client VPN solution is cheap and easy to integrate.  This might be true if you are only considering the costs associated with whatever VPN concentrator device or VPN-enabled firewall and the per-user licensing for the VPN solution.  Once you begin to add all of the additional costs around ensuring the security and integrity of your organization’s network, data, and devices, however, these costs quickly begin to mount.

Here are some of the ancillary cost considerations required when attempting to properly secure and manage a client VPN solution:

  • VPN Concentrator / Firewall
  • VPN client licenses
  • Network devices capable of and licensed to allow network segmentation (quarantine networks)
  • Reactive client antivirus
  • Proactive client threat protection
  • Client Firewall solution
  • Software Defined Perimeter solution / Network Access Control solution
  • Client OS Patching Solution
  • Remote Monitoring and Management Solution
  • Enhanced Intrusion Detection and Prevention on your company network

There are more solutions that can be added to this list and constant new technologies coming to market to counter new, emerging threats which can threaten your end-user devices but consider the above to be a good starting point for at least some of the things that you would need in order to ensure a client VPN solution that is as secure as possible.  With the threat of new zero-day attacks and additional threat vectors always being discovered, even with all of these solutions in place, there is still some risk in expanding your organization’s network to allow access to these external devices.

While I will never say ‘Client security doesn’t matter,’ I can say that with a solution like Evolve IP’s Workspaces, client security CAN significantly become less of a concern for your organization.  While you certainly want your users to protect themselves, their devices, and their personal information, most organizations don’t want to take on the burden and cost of ensuring these things.  By separating your organization’s data, applications, client information, etc, and ensuring that these things never actually leave the data center and do not end up being processed or stored on your users’ devices, you can let your users manage their own security needs while you ensure your data center and internal network are meeting your security needs and compliance standards.  Even in the event that a user’s device may be compromised, by putting access to BOTH your internal data and applications AS WELL AS your external applications behind the Evolve IP Workspace Identity Management platform, you are ensuring that a user’s compromised credentials without the Multifactor Authentication are, effectively, useless and ensure the security of your data and that of your clients.

 

[Desktop as a Service] - Workspaces by Evolve IP - a Better DaaS solution

Finally! A different virtual desktop solution that users love and is significantly more cost-effective than traditional cloud desktops. Workspaces, from Evolve IP, allows businesses to deliver the right tools for each user. HIPAA / HITRUST and PCI compliant, and ultra-secure with SSO and MFA.

Virtual Private Network Support

Obviously, the long list of additional considerations above suggests a complex interwoven mix of technologies.  Each of these disparate platforms and solutions will require configuration and administration from a knowledgeable IT team.  Couple this with the need to be prepared to support multiple different user devices, multiple Operating Systems, users of varying skill levels, and a myriad of potential issues on end-user devices, and it is easy to see the difficult nature of supporting a client VPN solution.

If an application isn’t performing well, is it because of latency?  Is it because of the end user’s hardware?  Does that user not have fast or reliable enough internet connectivity?  These are the types of challenges that IT teams come across on a daily basis when managing this type of Work-From-Home solution.   Couple this with the need for password resets for not only general access and internal applications but all of the different external applications that your users regularly use, and it isn’t difficult to imagine an IT team or helpdesk becoming quickly overburdened.  This has been the reality for many organizations that have adopted this type of solution due to the current pandemic.

Imagine, instead, a single user experience – that no matter what type of device a user is connecting from or where they are, everything looks, feels, and most importantly, behaves the same way.  Imagine enabling user self-service account administration for things like password resets and being able to only log in once in order to launch your desktop, your softphone, an internal application that lives on your servers/network, an external application like SalesForce.   Evolve IP’s Workspaces makes this a reality.  By providing a unified cross-platform user experience and leveraging the tools of our Identity Management solution, supporting Work-From-Home users has never been easier.  As an added bonus, even when your users return to the office, they will still access all of their resources the same way which makes user onboarding, training, and support and optimized and simplified experience.

So, no… the VPN is definitely not dead, but there are a lot of reasons that, for many organizations, it can and should be.  We would love to speak with you further about how Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution can better enable your organization to provide a highly-secure, reliable, predictable-cost-conscious, and easily-supportable Work-From-Home solution that will both solve your immediate needs and provide a strategic long-term solution that will take your productivity and mobility to the next level.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-virtual-private-network-vpn-is-it-dead

Publish Date: October 9, 2020 5:00 AM


The Contact Center Solution for Covid-19 Challenges

The recent health crisis has forced contact centers to quickly spin up patchwork, work-from-home solutions, or dramatically alter their physical contact center footprint. Now, with businesses evaluating a long-term strategic change toward work anywhere users, IT and contact center leaders are looking at better ways to connect agents not only to the contact center solution, but to the critical applications they need to do their jobs.

The Most Common Work From Home Challenges:

  • Agents could no longer request immediate help from their Supervisor and SMEs by raising hand or walking to desk
  • Supervisors lost ability to observe, coach, and evaluate Agents by sitting with them
  • WFH technology varied by user and IT drowned figuring out how to fix infinitely different configurations, home networks, and ISP issues

 Leading Contact Center Software Solution:

A Unified solution that seamlessly unites the Contact Center and the rest of the organization

Evolve Contact Suite

Evolve contact suite is a fully unified, omnichannel contact center that integrates with PBX, workspaces, and Microsoft Teams and is priced significantly lower (30-40%) than competing solutions.

Contact Center in the cloud is an essential part of a Work Anywhere solution. According to recent research, 71% of respondents consider a unified Contact Center and PBX important.

Benefits of this Approach:

  • Flexible WFH Deployment Options – Agents can operate via the best endpoint for their needs including a softphone (ECS or Teams or UC1), their mobile phone, a physical handset (SIP or Teams), etc.
  • Seamless Customer Experience – Agents can collaborate with anybody in the organization to get the answers they need plus they can instantly conference or transfer a Supervisor or SME.
  • Leadership Empowered – Supervisors can remotely listen to live interactions and “whisper” in their Agent’s ear to provide instant coaching.
  • Expanded Labor Pool – Leadership has the flexibility to hire staff that can Work Anywhere.

Contact Evolve IP to learn about Evolve Contact Suite, a fully unified omnichannel contact center solution that integrates with PBX & Microsoft Teams to deliver superior customer experience and enterprise-grade business continuity.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/the-contact-center-solution-for-covid-19-challenges

Publish Date: September 18, 2020 5:00 AM


Compare VDI to Hosted Virtual Desktops / DaaS

D.I.Why? In-House VDI vs Cloud-Desktop-as-a-Service

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure providers / VDI providers are in high demand as businesses seek out Work Anywhere solutions. Here’s a list of the top providers and technologies as seen in Gartner’s DaaS Market guide:

  • Evolve IP
  • VMWare
  • Citrix
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Microsoft
  • IBM
  • dinCloud
  • Cisco
  • Red Hat
  • RapidScale
  • Nutanix
  • Parallels
  • Vagrant
  • Nerdio

In addition, there’s been much confusion in the market as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) providers have become interchangeable in terminology with DaaS and hosted virtual desktop (HDV).

We’ve written this blog post to help businesses evaluate virtual desktop infrastructure solutions and the plusses and minuses associated with a DIY vs. provider approach.

In the world of virtual desktop solutions, there are a lot of variables and decisions to be made, but none of these are as paramount or as journey-defining as whether to build your own in-house VDI as a self-managed solution or to partner with a Cloud Services Provider for a partially or fully-managed DaaS / hosted virtual desktop solution.

It should come as no surprise that, in the IT world, we don’t do ourselves any favors when it comes to terminology and acronyms, and things like virtual desktop (VD), hosted virtual desktop (HDV), remote desktop, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) are often used interchangeably. I won’t even get started on Desktops-as-a-Service … that little ‘S’ drives me nuts!

As a result, it can get a bit fuzzy when trying to understand exactly what solution you’re looking at. Given that, let’s take a quick moment to clarify terms so we can break things down into two categories.

First, we have VDI – short for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. VDI, at its core, means that you are using some form of a central server/servers to house the virtual desktops you are making available to your users. For this post we will consider the term VDI to refer to a virtual desktop solution that you are building and managing within infrastructure that you manage – running either in an in-house datacenter or collocated with a provider.

Alternatively, we have DaaS - short for Desktop-as-a-Service. For all intents and purposes, DaaS is VDI; it uses the same components to deliver the same solution to achieve the same goals. The difference is that with DaaS, a provider is building, maintaining, and/or managing the platform that delivers the desktops to your users as a cloud-based service rather than doing it in-house… hence, the ‘as-a-Service.’

Now that we have defined them and understand the key difference between VDI and DaaS, how do you know which solution is right for you? Should you be looking to implement a VDI solution or contract for a DaaS solution? There are a few key things to take into consideration to aid in making the decision.

Considerations For Comparing In-house VDI vs. Hosted Virtual Desktops / DaaS:

  • IT Staffing
    • Expertise
    • Areas of Focus
    • Training
  • Infrastructure
    • Servers
    • Licensing
    • Storage
    • Networking
  • Management & Support
    • Budgeting
    • CAPEX vs OPEX
    • ‘The Bucket Problem’

Many traditional approaches to differentiating virtual desktop solutions begins with budget and infrastructure, but to me, the most important factor regarding the right fit begins with your IT team.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Staffing

This isn’t really a question of headcount as much as it is a combination of ability and current workload. Organizations often tend to have difficulty striking a balance between having a large enough team with enough specialized technical ability and having the capacity to take on new and complex projects.

For example, a large IT team may have more capacity to take on work but will likely have varying skill levels throughout the team; whereas, you may have a small and technically-capable IT team which will already be at-or-near their capacity, working on other operational and administrative efforts.

This becomes extremely important because the process of designing, implementing, and managing an in-house VDI solution can be very complex and time-consuming work that will last as long as the solution is in-place.

Alternatively, engaging in a Desktop-as-a-Service solution model moves the complexity up-front as part of the discovery process, but you can then free your IT team for other priorities by shifting the responsibility of platform management of your virtual desktop solution to the provider.

It becomes a matter of whether your organization wants to make a long-term commitment to increasing IT personnel and /or providing additional training or, leveraging the resources, knowledge, and personnel of a provider.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Infrastructure

Similar to personnel resources, we need to account for infrastructure resources. Running an in-house virtual desktop infrastructure platform will require significant server hardware resources, licensing, shared storage, and additional network capacity, along with devices for both the internal LAN and the WAN to ensure sufficient external connectivity to accommodate your users.

While it is not uncommon for organizations running their own datacenter to have some overhead capacity available, it typically isn’t enough to build and operate an in-house VDI solution. This, then, requires making a significant investment in increasing your datacenter footprint, not only in terms of adding the required infrastructure, but also in accounting for any increased space, HVAC, and power requirements.

For organizations currently performing their own Disaster Recovery and/or Business Continuity solutions, they must also account for how they will protect any in-house VDI. Where many IT teams tend to go wrong here is in the practice of repurposing ‘old’ equipment or recently retired infrastructure that they may have just upgraded. While done with the best intentions, this can lead to significant future issues as the reliability and supportability of those devices will always be in question; otherwise, why upgrade it to begin with?

The takeaway is that an in-house VDI solution may be a great fit for your organization as long as you are willing to make the commitment for the required infrastructure and accompanying facilities concerns and can fit this solution into your strategic approach to business continuity.

On the other hand, the Desktop-as-a-Service solutions model can help alleviate the concerns around purchasing, configuring, maintaining, and supporting the additional infrastructure required, as well as blend more seamlessly into a continuity strategy given the more flexible nature of cloud-based solutions.

 

[Desktop as a Service] - Workspaces by Evolve IP - a Better DaaS solution

Finally! A different virtual desktop solution that users love and is significantly more cost-effective than traditional cloud desktops. Workspaces, from Evolve IP, allows businesses to deliver the right tools for each user. HIPAA / HITRUST and PCI compliant, and ultra-secure with SSO and MFA.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Management

For virtual desktop management and support, we’ve already covered the platform-side from a personnel and infrastructure perspective; however, when it comes to desktop management, in my opinion, the industry has historically made a mistake in that it tends to see both VDI and DaaS as solutions that will eliminate the administrative burden of managing desktops.

Frankly, that’s incorrect. Either solution can greatly reduce the administrative burden, but neither truly does away with it.

With both solutions, much of the administrative burden is shifted from managing desktops to managing images/templates, and many IT teams inadvertently make their jobs more complex by limiting their ability to utilize automation tools to assist with things like patching and antivirus management when deploying dynamic desktop environments (Note: we’ll address this more in a future blog post comparing and contrasting Static vs Dynamic DaaS solutions).

Having said all of this, there is a lot to be gained through streamlining either a VDI or DaaS solution to use as few images as possible; I like to refer to this as ‘simplification-through-standardization’ – the more you can provide a consistent user experience with fewer variables, the easier that solution is to support and manage.

In this case, VDI and DaaS are neck-and-neck with neither having much of a practical advantage over the other, but one of the ancillary benefits of a DaaS solution is in working with a provider who has a myriad of experience having worked with clients, designing these solutions. The right partner will share the lessons-learned and guide your business based on what they have seen clients do both successfully and unsuccessfully.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Costs

In terms of virtual desktop budgets, I have to caveat my thoughts by saying that, historically, I’m not a ‘financials’ guy any more than I have ever needed to be, so we’re probably not going to get into much nuance when it comes to tax deductions, organizational budgeting impacts, and expense amortization. You will have a far better idea of your organization’s preference for capital expenditure (CAPEX) vs operational expenditure (OPEX) and reasons therein.

The important thing to note for the purposes of our discussion is that CAPEX-leaning organizations, who are more open to making the significant investment in the required infrastructure, would seem to be a better fit for VDI, whereas OPEX-leaning organizations would be a much more natural fit for the subscription-based approach of DaaS.

What about when we look at the technology-side of CAPEX vs OPEX, though? Are there any differences there?

This is where I would like to introduce what I refer to as ‘The Bucket Problem.’ I have three buckets, each of which can hold twenty gallons. Any amount up to sixty gallons, total, I can easily accommodate within those buckets; whether that’s three buckets with ten gallons each, or two with fifteen each, and one with seven. I am completely fine as long as I stay within the sixty gallons that I have allotted to myself.

What happens when I get to gallon number 61, though? Now, I have a decision to make. Do I run out and buy another twenty-gallon bucket knowing that I’m not going to get close to that eighty-gallon-mark for a long time, so I’m buying a lot of extra capacity that I don’t immediately need, or do I just get a five-gallon bucket to kick the problem down the road a while but which leaves me with an asymmetrical and internally inconsistent solution?

This is the exact problem businesses face with an internal VDI, CAPEX-driven model. Once you start to get near the capacity of available desktops and begin to start planning for growth, you need to determine how you will grow the environment. This also makes locking-in an exact price per user difficult, because, to our earlier example, that 61st gallon of water is now costing you as much as gallons forty-one through sixty are as a whole.

One of the primary benefits of a DaaS platform with a subscription model is that every user has the same cost which remains consistent as the platform grows. This Predictable Cost Model makes growth, especially for Merger & Acquisition-driven companies, much easier than with an in-house VDI solution.

Another virtual desktop budget consideration is whether or not everyone in your company needs DaaS or VDI. New solutions, like Evolve IP’s Workspaces, can help furthrer reduce costs by providing a single virtual desktop platform that allows IT to deliver DaaS to only those users who need a cloud desktop, while the rest of the business’ employees can access SaaS and legacy line-of-business applications via SSO and MFA. One platform, completely secure, and everything runs the same way on laptops, desktops, tablets and mobile devices.

So, when it comes to VDI vs. DaaS, which is the right fit for your organization? Well… that’s not an answer that anyone else can give you. My personal suggestion would be to make sure that you give both equal consideration and be sure to run a Total Cost of Ownership comparison as part of your evaluation process. That will give a firm grasp of all of the financial considerations of both solutions.

When comparing TCO for a do-it-yourself VDI solution to a subscription-based cloud DaaS solution be sure to include easily neglected elements like personnel headcount, capacity, training, licensing, datacenter costs, additional external bandwidth, etc. If you don’t include these pieces upfront, those costs will end up surprising you later.

In-house VDI vs. DaaS: Providers

Also, try to find a way to quantify the intangibles such as the benefit of working with a provider who has experience (shameless plug – Evolve IP is VMware’s largest DaaS provider in the world and we’ve been in every DaaS Gartner Market Guide since inception) and whether your organization may be able to benefit from ancillary services like additional management or support from a provider which may have the added benefit of additional discounts or economy of scale savings.

Good health and best wishes, and best of luck navigating the waters of selecting and providing the most robust, secure, and scalable Work Anywhere solutions called for in our current times! We, at Evolve IP, are here to help however we can!

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/compare-vdi-to-hosted-virtual-desktops-daas

Publish Date: July 14, 2020 5:00 AM


Work From Home – An Application and Identity Management Guide | Part 1

This is part one of our three-part series on work from home - an application and identity management guide. In this section, we’ll cover the ins and outs of identity and access management. Before we get into the meat of this write-up, we’ll start with a little baseline background.

Background

SaaS is exploding.  Unless you live on Mars, this is a pretty obvious statement!  But what isn’t perhaps as obvious is the gaping hole this explosion is causing in your IT security posture. In many organizations, Active Directory (AD), which used to control all access to company resources, now only governs 20% of applications while 80% of a user’s application load comes from a 3rd party like Salesforce.com or Concur.

That also means IT is no longer the linchpin to get applications up and running. If a user or group of users want to share files, they can have an app up and running in 5 minutes with a credit card. Similarly, when internal applications are not easy to use, the workforce is finding, they now have the power to go out and sign up for tools on their own.

IT is struggling to provide users with the flexibility to get tools the way they want them, while also trying to get their arms around provisioning, usage, and de-provisioning.

Identity and Access Management Defined (loosely)

It’s essential to define these terms before we dive into these two distinct functions within an IT security framework.

Identity Management – This refers to the process of assigning and then managing the attributes of a user.  Who are they, what groups they are a part of etc. For example, “This person is remote, part of the Marketing functional area,” and so on.

Access Management – This refers to the process of taking the above identities, or groups of identities and deciding what IT resources they have access to.

These terms are very closely related and often used interchangeably. This is likely because traditional IT environments where corporate assets have been housed internally have utilized Active Directory (AD) to address both of these dynamics.  Who you are and what you can access.

However, with the explosion of SaaS, AD isn’t able to perform these functions by itself any longer.

Identity Management

Solutions for identity management can be segmented into two buckets:

Here are a few of the options:

Traditional AD – Companies not yet “cloud-enabled” are using this tried and true structure, whether hosted on-premises or in some sort of private cloud environment.  It works great; it’s robust and very familiar and easy to manage.  But, it’s lacking when companies start venturing out to SaaS applications, and identities must be created and maintained at these providers individually; it’s extremely time-consuming for IT to create, manage, and audit.

Directory as a Service – Seriously … another DaaS??  In all seriousness, these are purpose-built solutions hosted by 3rd parties specifically for managing user identities.  They are often built to integrate with other cloud solutions like SaaS applications.  A great example of this would be Azure AD, which is very popular. Mostly due to the fact it’s given away for free in some instances.  These are great for companies that are entirely “cloud-enabled,” but they aren’t built upon full-blown AD.  So, companies that have any legacy infrastructure that requires full AD must maintain both.  And while these two can integrate with each other, it can only be managed using the full AD instance as opposed to the cloud directory instance since that’s the scaled-down version.

In part two of this series on work from home - an application and identity management guide, we’ll dig into what SSO is, how it works, and the three big considerations for why to use SSO. For a much more thorough dive into the work-from-home guide, follow the link above.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/work-from-home-an-application-and-identity-management-guide-part-1

Publish Date: July 13, 2020 5:00 AM


Top 15 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Work Anywhere Unified Communications and Collaboration Solution

Users expect to communicate as they do with consumer applications – anywhere, anytime, on any device, with a single click. According to Gartner, by 2022, 70% of businesses will rely primarily on business collaboration tools to get work done. This number is likely to increase given the current health crisis and the increasing number of remote workers.

While there are many video-conferencing / collaboration solutions out there, there are very few providers that are able to deliver true collaboration solutions. A true collaboration solution not only delivers world-class collaboration features such as video conferencing, persistent chat, desktop sharing, file sharing, group editing, multi-party audio-video calling, remote/mobile/guest conferencing, etc. but also seamlessly integrates with a voice solution to deliver enterprise-grade PBX features, business continuity, and high-availability (99.999% uptime) all while maintaining the team’s end-user experience.

Like most businesses, if your enterprise is looking for an all-in-one, secure, scalable, voice-enabled collaboration solution, then here are the top 15 questions that you need to consider before choosing a true business collaboration platform:

Strategic Questions to Consider

1. What is your Collaboration Strategy (meeting, video, mobile)? Do you have single/multiple communications & collaboration solutions in place? Have you considered transitioning to a single collaboration solution such as voice-enabled Microsoft Teams or Cisco UC?

2. What is your Hiring / Recruiting Strategy? Are you hiring a more mobile/younger workforce?

3. Do you have a Work From Home (WFH) Strategy in place for your employees? What kind of applications do your employees access while they are mobile? How will they access applications, hosted on-premises, or collaborate when remote?

4. What is your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy? If your employees don’t have a work laptop to bring home, this is a great time to investigate an ‘any device’ strategy.

5. Do you have a Business Continuity Plan in place to carry out business as usual during a health crisis, natural disaster, or geopolitical issue?

6. Does your enterprise need to meet any Compliance requirements? Can you host your solutions in HIPAA/HITRUST, PCI, SOC compliant datacenters? Have you considered an Identity & Access Management / Single Sign-On solution to easily secure, access, and manage your applications?

Technical Questions to Consider

7. What groups, other than IT, may have deployed a solution? How will you integrate their solutions and projects with other teams?

8. What are the ‘must-have’ requirements for your collaboration solution?

9. What are the core needs and features that you absolutely must have from your phone system?

10.  Do you want your phone system integrated with your collaboration software?

11. What kind of phones do you have? Does the current collaboration solution support your existing handsets?

12. Will you want your call center integrated with your collaboration solution?

13. Are you a Microsoft business? Are you already using Office365? How do your associates leverage O365 today? Have you deployed Microsoft Teams or plan to adopt Microsoft Teams in the next 12 months?

14. Are you using Cisco Webex? How important are video meetings for your organization? Do you need your meetings recorded? Do you have Cisco-specific hardware?

15. Does your existing collaboration, phone system, and contact center solution support a long-term collaboration strategy? How secure and scalable is your current collaboration solution?

Once you’ve had the above-mentioned discussion internally with your team, Evolve IP can help you with the next steps. With remote working becoming the new normal and business continuity becoming a necessity, Evolve IP has been consulting, supporting, and transitioning an increased number of organizations to a ‘work anywhere’ platform.

Evolve IP combines the world’s most stable voice platform, Cisco, with the world’s leading collaboration solution, Microsoft Teams, to deliver advanced PBX features, contact center functionalities, and 24x7x365 U.S.-based support that enables businesses to work securely, from anywhere, on any device. This powerful combination enables us to deploy flexible, purpose-built business collaboration experiences that are designed to meet the unique needs of your business’ environment and dramatically improve your associates’ productivity.

About Evolve IP

Evolve IP enables people to Work Anywhere™, more productively and more securely. We design Purpose-Built® solutions, tailored just for your business, that unify workspaces, collaboration and communications, and contact centers. Integrating blue-chip technology partners like Microsoft, Cisco, Citrix and VMware, with our intellectual property, Evolve IP’s analyst-acclaimed solutions have been deployed globally to 500,000+ users and into the world’s most well-known brands. All Evolve IP associates are focused on driving successful client outcomes and that has resulted in our scoring at the top of verified analyst and client satisfaction rankings.

Categories: Business Collaboration Work Anywhere

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/top-15-questions-to-ask-yourself-before-choosing-a-work-anywhere-unified-communications-and-collaboration-solution

Publish Date: May 19, 2020 5:00 AM


Remote Work Considerations – Illicit Applications and Shadow IT

Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT is providing applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software.  Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving?  It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory, the second showed how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West, and last we looked at BYOD and Remote Work. 

Today, is the granddaddy of IT subterfuge … Illicit applications and Shadow IT 

Just a few years ago, when it came to application implementationIT held all the power.  If Marketing wanted a new CRM, IT would need to technically bless the app, deploy it and then finally provide credentials to each user.  Obviously, this is a very inefficient process and one of several reasons for the explosion of SaaS-based applications.   

Application provisioning has dramatically changed with the explosion of SaaS. Today, that same Marketing team can deploy an entire tech stack in an afternoon with a credit card. Because there is little if any dependence on IT, organizations are finding more and more instances of “shadow IT”.  In essence, functional areas are going out and utilizing applications without oversight from IT which leaves the organization extremely vulnerable.   

Organizations have begun writing policies to try and curb this adoption but increased pressure from the business is causing employees to resort to what they think is best to achieve their specific needs losing sight of the overall impact to the business. Training and education workshops help, but IT leaders are left scratching their heads on the best way to deter this behavior. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the security defenses needed for businesses dealing with SaaS and Legacy line-of-business applications.  

Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture by requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations - Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-illicit-applications-and-shadow-it

Publish Date: April 20, 2020 5:00 AM


Remote Work Considerations – Remote Work is Hell for IT

Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT is providing applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software.  Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving?  It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purpose of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory, the second showed how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West. Today’s topic is BYOD and Remote Work. 

For years, the business ruled the device decision.  IT would provide a spec to purchasing who would go out to Dell, HP and Lenovo in search of 2 things.  The best price and the most standardization.  This was done to make IT’s life easier.  The fewer drivers the better.  Everyone gets the same device … office worker or road warrior, accountant or marketer, you were getting the same exact device.  Which made sense back then. 

But the explosion of SaaS, and therefore much lower dependence on IT provided resources, has shifted the power of choosing which device a user will utilize to accomplish their job function.  What was forecasted for years in the making is now finally here and mainstream – the BYOD revolution.  Users are demanding to be able to do their jobs from their favorite devices whether iPad, desktop or personal laptops.  And what’s shocking is that, according to Gartner, this choice is increasingly affecting whether top candidates take or stay in a position within a given organization.  Thus, forcing the business to push even more for a BYOD stance.  

For the last few years, virtual desktops (VDI) or desktops as a service (DaaS) have been somewhat of a band-aid in this department.  IT figured out a way to give users access to a desktop OS from pretty much any device that has an internet connection while still being able to enforce some of those corporate controls mentioned above. This was a great step in the right direction but it still didn’t provide the native experience users desired for Mac devices, tablets etc. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the security defenses needed for businesses dealing with SaaS and Legacy line-of-business applications.  

Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture by requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations - Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-remote-work-is-hell-for-it

Publish Date: April 13, 2020 5:00 AM


Remote Work Considerations – SaaS Defense in the Wild West

Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT provides applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software. Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving? It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of this post, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered now.  Our first post looked at the changing role of Active Directory and today we’re going to see how SaaS has caused IT to play Defense in the Wild West. 

Up until the explosion of SaaS, the industry best practice was what IT referred to as “defense in depth”.  At its most basic level, this meant a firewall at the edge of the network, then some sort of monitoring at the network level for traffic that may not appear legitimate, and then finally all sorts of different security tools at the server or desktop level. Basically, build big castle walls and keep the bad guys out. 

 Today, the new corporate network doesn’t stop at HQ’s walls.  It also doesn’t stop at the VPN connections.  It’s everywhere.  Users need to access resources from different SaaS providers around the globe and those connections are all public.   

 For corporate assets, IT still maintains anti-virus (AV) and other protections on those devices which certainly helps.  Some companies have turned to Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) in an effort put a man in the middle act as a relay to protect the enterprise while enabling a more flexible environment for their employees. Unfortunately, to date, these solutions have proved very costly and complicated to implement. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-saas-defense-in-the-wild-west

Publish Date: April 6, 2020 5:00 AM


Is your temporary Work From Home solution letting you down?

On Friday, April 3rd, Zoom reported an outage due to strains reported on the cloud video conferencing platform. Because of this outage, clients were reporting error messages after attempting to log into Zoom’s web client. According to Zoom’s status page on Friday, their web client is currently under maintenance and they are trying to get the Zoom web client and web SDK back online.

Additionally, on Wednesday, April 1st, Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan, enacted a freeze on all feature development for 90 days due to security and privacy issues such as information leaks reported by users (a.k.a “Zoombombing”).

While Zoom gained popularity during the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the limitation of offering video conferencing capabilities alone coupled with the recent incidents have got businesses wondering if Zoom is a reliable and long-term solution.

Is this the rise or fall of Zoom? Is it indicative of a larger issue with a piecemeal approach to your work from home strategy (or lack thereof)?

What businesses need today – an integrated strategy

Most businesses, employees and customers that we’re interacting with today are looking for an integrated solution that strategically meets these three requirements:

  1. Enables everyone to work from anywhere on any device
  2. All-in-one voice-enabled platform-level collaboration solution
  3. Secure, scalable and long-term

Introducing Microsoft Teams

In a span of two years, Microsoft Teams has become the leading collaboration platform world-wide. It is used by 93 of the Fortune 100 companies and 44 million users daily. Microsoft Teams delivers world-class collaboration features such as collaborative, persistent chats, desktop sharing, file sharing, group editing, multi-party audio/video calling, remote/mobile/guest conferencing and more – all in one place, on one platform, with one click. But what about voice?

Introducing Voice-Enabled Microsoft Teams

That’s where Evolve IP comes in. Evolve IP combines the world’s most stable Cisco hosted PBX platform, with Microsoft Teams to deliver advanced PBX features and contact center functionalities that enable businesses to work securely from anywhere on any device. Evolve IP’s Microsoft Teams solution has helped our associates and customers successfully carry out business and work remote during this pandemic. And whether it’s the Zoom outage that was reported on Friday, April 3rd or a collaboration provider’s outage, Evolve IP has you covered.

Mobile Workspaces –  a better solution than ‘just’ Desktop as a Service

Ditch the VPN with Evolve IP’s Workspaces and give your associates easy identity management and access to all of their SaaS applications, as well delivers data center applications to any device, wherever your users are and whatever devices they are on. IT also features full cloud desktops for power users with heavy OS needs.

Integrated with Evolve IP’s collaboration and voice solutions we deliver a seamless, strategic Work Anywhere approach that keeps businesses productive, secure and mobile.

Business Continuity

With Evolve IP’s award-winning OSSmosis portal, clients can quickly and efficiently reroute incoming voice traffic to an alternate phone number. So during a crisis, an event of a natural disaster or a Microsoft Teams outage, your associates can enable the business continuity feature on OSSmosis and stay connected.

In addition to the call forwarding and remote office option available for voice via Evolve IP’s OSSmosis portal, our Microsoft Teams Direct Routing solution differentiates itself by delivering advanced PBX features, contact center functionalities, call recording, receptionist applications, 24x7x365 US based support and dedicated project management all via a platform level integration (and not a 3rd party software like most vendors out there). And because our solution is built on the world’s leading and most stable VoIP platform, Cisco, we can ensure reliability, security and uptime that no other voice-enabled Teams provider can.

We can help

Do you have a complete Work From Home strategy yet? Are you planning to adopt Zoom and add multiple vendors/solutions for PBX and contact center capabilities? Do you plan on providing virtual desktop options for your associates or deliver one-off access or are you planning to migrate to Evolve Teams Enterprise Voice, the only platform-level solution that integrates with the best technologies world-wide, Microsoft & Cisco?

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/is-your-temporary-work-from-home-solution-letting-you-down

Publish Date: April 6, 2020 5:00 AM


Remote Work Considerations – Access Control and the Changing Role of Active Directory

Having provided virtual desktop and infrastructure solutions for over 11 years Evolve IP has seen a massive shift take place in the way IT provides applications to end users.  11 years ago, customers were utilizing 90% client-server based software. Meaning companies would acquire a server, whether physical or virtual, install the application and then install the client on each user’s desktop.   

Now, fast forward to today and I would argue that the number is down to around 25%. So, where are all those applications moving? It should be no surprise when I write Software as a Service (SaaS).  Companies like Salesforce.com, ADP, Concur, Outreach are all delivered via a browser with no software to install. 

For the purposes of these posts, I’ll be using the term “before” to describe how applications were delivered to end users in the “old days” and “after” to describe how applications are delivered today.  We will cover the four main differences and what IT has to be cognizant of regarding these dynamics. This first post looks at Access Control.  

As networks matured over time, IT realized they needed some “rules of the road”.  Active Directory (AD) was put in place to control which network resources users could access.  So, by creating user groups with permissions, IT could enable a user with one set of credentials and off they went.   

Unfortunately, SaaS providers are all independent of each other.  Therefore, there is no common framework IT can enable in order to control access to SaaS providers.  In theory, you could control access from the corporate network to decide which SaaS providers your users could get to, but as with many ideas on how to lock down security, that would prove to be completely inflexible in practice. 

The result? IT is forced to not only provide AD credentials for corporate legacy access, but then enable, manage and finally disable access to all SaaS providers individually.   

For enabling and managing access, this equates to a massive commitment of time from IT.  However, the larger consideration here is when employees are offboarded.  IT must first figure out which applications users were given access to when they started, then what access they may have gained throughout their tenure and finally what other applications do they have access to that IT may not even know of – also known as Shadow IT. When this is an amicable parting of ways, it’s more of an annoyance, but when it’s a sensitive or negative offboarding, this can present huge business risk if not done quickly and accurately. 

Remote Work Considerations – Securing the New Corporate Network

Evolve IP has developed a comprehensive solution that addresses the needs of the IT and the business. Workspaces enable mobility and security and give employees the tools they need to do their jobs in ways that make them more productive than ever.

Enter Workspaces

Evolve IP has been working diligently to address the access management needs of businesses while enabling mobility, security. Evolve IP Workspaces include: 

  • Active Directory Integration – Control access to legacy and SaaS applications through AD 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Increase security posture requiring a second form of authentication 
  • BYOD Friendly – Allow employees to use any device while maintaining security controls 
  • Custom Toolbelt – Users get just the tools they need, the way they want them, increasing efficiency 
  • SSO and Self-Service Password Resets – Users adopt, and adhere to technologies that make their lives easier 
  • Full DaaS capabilities for power users 

Enjoyed this post? Download all four sections of the Remote Work Considerations - Securing the New Corporate Network brief here. For more information about Workspaces please visit www.evolveip.net/workspaces or give us a call at 855-481-3798 for a demo. 

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-work-considerations-access-control-and-the-changing-role-of-active-directory

Publish Date: March 27, 2020 5:00 AM


Work from Home DaaS Comparison – Cost Considerations

If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at the number one question / consideration we hear … What is the Total Cost of Ownership of Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS 

If you’ve read any of our previous posts you’ll understand why this question / consideration is the equivalent of an online mic drop! Why? It might have been some twisted joke from our Product team, but in this case better is significantly cheaper.  

Looking at DaaS, for almost every provider the pricing model is the same.  You buy a seat, then you outfit the seat with the ancillary parts and pieces needed to actually make the desktop work.  The typical seat itemization would include: 

  1. RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management) – this is a tool used to manage desktops.  In our case, we use N-Able.  However, we also allow customers to bring their own solutions to the table and re-use them in our cloud. 
  2. Anti-Virus – In today’s environment you had better protect those devices.  We utilize Trend AV or allow our customers to bring their own solutions. 
  3. Operating System – Pretty straight forward.  Again, if customers have their own Office 365 OS they can bring that along. 
  4. Patching – This is not a requirement, but more and more clients are asking us to apply Windows, 3rd party and AV patches/updates.  We think this is great move because there is ZERO value to the business handling this exercise and you are paying an IT professional WAY too much for such a mundane chore.  Not to mention we’ve never found anyone in IT that wakes up thinking, “I can’t wait to patch my desktops today.” (If this is you, put down the whitepaper and call someone for help!) 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

So, how does a typical DaaS solution compare to Workspaces? Here’s a list price comparison. 

  DaaS    SaaS Only  SaaS & Apps  SaaS & DaaS 
Desktop – 8G RAM  $62  $6  $60  $75 
RMM Tool  $6  Included 
Anti-Virus  $2  Included 
Operating System  $7  Included 
Patching  $12  Included 
Total  $89  $6  $60  $75 

Remember when we talked about the 3 user types?  This is when it really hits home.  In the DaaS world, every user is $89.  However, with Workspaces, users are matched with just the tools they need; drastically reducing your overall TCO!   

Here is an example of what Evolve IP Workspaces looks like with 450 users compared to a 100% DaaS solution. 

  DaaS    Workspaces 
Seat Type  DaaS    SaaS Only  SaaS & Apps  SaaS & DaaS 
User Count  450    50  200  200 
Per Seat Cost  $89    $6  $60  $75 
  $40,050    $27,300 

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-cost-considerations

Publish Date: March 26, 2020 5:00 AM


Desktop as a Service Comparison – Key Questions and Considerations

If your business is considering enabling remote work, Bring Your Own Device or looking to easily provision, update and secure your users with DaaS or a virtual workspace you’re not alone. In fact, according to Gartner, DaaS momentum continues to build – especially in the midmarket. 

To help businesses think through some of the major considerations we developed a comparison guide that outlines: 

  • How projects get funded 
  • Major solution types 
  • Key questions to consider
  • A cost evaluation process
  • Thoughts on overcoming objections 

So, why would should listen to us? Well, Evolve IP… 

  • Has been providing DaaS solutions for over 11 years 
  • Is the largest multi-tenant VMware DaaS provider in the United States.  
  • Our solution has been named in every Gartner DaaS Market Guide since inception.  
  • We also work with Citrix and have deployed virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) for clients. 
  • We have tens of thousands of users 

Bottom line, we have a lot of experience to pull from for this comparison. 

Today we will look at the major questions we are asked and considerations we suggestion to businesses around Desktop-as-a-Service  

Questions to Consider When Looking at Desktop-as-a-Service / DaaS and Workspaces

1.What end-user devices would you recommend? 

This is perhaps the most common question we get as customers are looking to either justify a project with a lower device price point, or possibly as a way of reducing the management overhead of local devices. Essentially there are 2 options in this space.  But before getting to that, we like to point out that the cheapest client is the one you already have.  All desktops and laptops are compatible with DaaS and Workspaces so using the existing infrastructure until it dies is always an option and then replace them with one of the options below. 

  • Option 1 - A thin client which has a stripped-down OS and a browser of your choosing.  These devices are great for using either VMware’s DaaS, Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or Evolve IP’s Workspaces product. 
  • Option 2 – A zero client. Zero clients are slightly different in that there is no OS and the devices boot directly to the login prompt of the virtual desktop provider. For a one size fits all approach, where you’re looking to lock devices down to only a virtual desktop, this is a great solution.  It’s important to note that zero clients sometimes do not support peripherals like check scanners, printers and other USB devices. 

Note: Zero clients are not a solution for Evolve IP’s Workspaces product as it is built on the notion that users should start with a browser (due to having a majority of SaaS applications) instead of forcing them into a virtual desktop OS.  

Finally, there are different flavors of these clients and it can be VERY confusing.  Some are VMware and Citrix certified, some aren’t. If you are going the DaaS route make sure you know if the service supports PCoIP, ICA or RDP and buy the appropriate thin or zero client.  Or, give us a ring and we’ll assist you with the selection.  

2. How do you want to handle legacy applications on internal servers? 

11 years ago, most, if not all, applications were hosted on internal servers. This architecture meant a desktop was needed as the client to get to legacy applications housed in the business’s data center.   

For a customer wanting to offload their infrastructure to the cloud, the obvious choice was to move their servers to a cloud service provider’s (CSP) data center. The CSP would host desktops back to the customer to solve for the latency that had just been created.  Technically, SaaS-like experience was created in that the customer was able to get to their virtual desktop from any device.  But they still had to jump into that virtual desktop to get to their legacy applications.   

Due to the explosion of SaaS, most workforces are now only using  one or two legacy applications.  Unfortunately, the DaaS provider industry is still trying to solve these applications by giving everyone a virtual desktop. Simply put, that’s a waste of money and resources, but most importantly what an annoying way to do your job!   

Evolve IP is breaking the DaaS industry mold. With Workspaces, we are able to publish legacy applications to the user and provide them in a tile-based SSO fashion.  This makes legacy applications look, act and feel like a SaaS application to the user on whichever device they are using.   

 3. How does your business handle security? 

Security is a huge concern these days.  Every week it seems a new malware or ransomware attack floods the chat rooms and airwaves.  DaaS greatly reduces your threat cross-section and allows IT to focus on protecting the DaaS instances in the cloud while client devices cannot transmit infections into the environment. With the explosion of SaaS, one particular area of concern however is an increase in users that are not accessing legacy applications and simply logging directly into SaaS applications. This does present security risks along with creating the arduous process for IT of trying to figure out what applications a user needs or has gained access to over their tenure and then disabling all those application one by one during offboarding.   

With Workspaces, you can still provide a virtual desktop to those users that need them.  But you can also provide a secure, centrally managed way for users that only need SaaS applications to just go directly to those applications.  But, in an offboarding event, all access to SaaS applications that have been integrated into the Clearlogin portal is immediately zapped.   This provides a much more encompassing way of managing user access to legacy as well as SaaS applications and securing the Enterprise. 

 

Comparing DaaS Solutions

This virtual desktop or DaaS comparison guide is designed for those who are looking into hosted virtual desktops or desktops as a service (DaaS). It also compares the technology to Evolve IP’s Workspaces solution.

4. How dependent do you want to be on your provider for provisioning? 

DaaS provisioning is very … let’s just say, manual.  And that goes for Evolve IP and every other competitor in the market.  Whether it’s actual provisioning or billing adjustments it’s a manual process.  This is due to the fact that VMware and Citrix simply have not focused on orchestration in the multi-tenant space.   

Luckily, in 2017 Evolve IP acquired a company that had perfected a backend provisioning system and that engine now drives the provisioning portal for Workspaces.  

Here’s an illustration of adding 10 new desktops to DaaS (the industry-wide practice) vs. 10 new Evolve IP Workspaces users  

DaaS: The customer tells their Account Manager (AM) they need 10 more desktops.  The AM sends a quote for 10 more users.  The customer signs the quote and the AM passes this on to provisioning and a couple days later, without escalations, the DaaS seats are there.  Can it be done in a couple hours in a pinch? Sure, and we have many times.  But the default process noted here is typical.  

Workspaces: IT logs into their portal and creates 10 users, along with their security permissions and applications access, instantly. Resources for pushing out legacy applications or entire desktops are provisioned in minutes.  The portal then reaches out to Office 365 and provisions their licenses … on the fly.  Charges are automatically added to their monthly billing.  Oh, and should you need to eliminate users, the same is true in reverse to deprovision.  Net-net IT can add users, on their own, in a matter of minutes not days.  Larger changes may require account management but for the most part, capacity planning can be done at your leisure instead of while under the gun to make a small change. 

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/desktop-as-a-service-comparison-key-questions-and-considerations

Publish Date: March 23, 2020 5:00 AM


Remote Working Preparedness for COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

The way people work has evolved. Employees expect businesses to provide access to the right tools to be able to work remotely, at any time, on just about every device that you can imagine. According to IDC, 72% of employees will be working remotely by 2020.

And with the outbreak of Coronavirus, it’s become more critical than ever for businesses to be able to support remote working for their employees along with the ability to seamlessly and instantly collaborate with their teams and customers.

Like most businesses, if you have remote employees or plan to implement a Work from Home (WFH) program, Evolve IP has put a Work From Home Checklist together to enable business continuity.

In the meantime, in this blog post series, we’ll discuss the top things that you need to start thinking about to implement a remote working plan:

Implement A Robust Work From Home Platform

The key items to address from a technology perspective are the ability for employees to collaborate with their teams and customers using a single platform along with the ability to access all the tools and business applications that they would need to get their work done. Here are some specific suggestions to consider when determining the right technology platform for your employees:

Virtual Workspaces - Identity and Access Management, Desktop as a Service and More

Control SaaS Applications - Enable an IAM solution with a SSO portal so users will need only one set of credentials. Ide- ally, multi-factor authentication can be added into this offering to enhance security even further. Check if your solution will be hosted in HIPAA / HITRUST, PCI and SOC compliant data centers as necessary.

Help your helpdesk – Some estimates have a single password reset costing upwards of $70 per incident. Lots of remote workers in new environments may tax your help desk more than ever. An IAM / SSO solution will be a big help here.

Legacy Applications and Virtual Desktops – Depending on your users you may have individuals that need access to ap- plications that are hosted on premises. Others may need a full desktop experience to do their jobs. Get a list of user types together and determine needs for hardware such as thin / zero clients.

Team Collaboration -

  • Do your employees use multiple/different collaboration systems today? If yes, have you considered adopting a single collaboration solution such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco UC etc.?
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your collaboration solution? Here are the top few that we’ve seen customers typically choose to support their remote workforce:
    • Collaborative, persistent chat with your team members
    • File sharing and group editing simultaneously from anywhere in the world
    • Multi party audio and video calling for a more personalized meeting experience
    • Remote, mobile and guest conferencing with internal and external workforce
    • Presence to learn if your remote associates are available for a quick conversation
    • Workstreams comprising of direct messaging channels to collaborate with Teams
  • Does your phone / communications system integrate with your collaboration software for a seamless experience? If not, then that’s where the market is headed.
  • What are the ‘must-have’ features for your phone system? Here are the top few that we’ve seen customers typically choose to support their remote workforce:
    • Call recording
    • Receptionist Applications
    • Contact Center Features such as wallboard/dashboard, IVR, Callbacks, Surveys, Speech Analytics, etc.
    • CRM Integrations
    • Calling, number porting, global presence
    • Supporting Handsets
    • Miscellaneous UCaaS features
    • Administration portal to configure and manage telephony, voicemail, call center & conferencing functions O Are your employees phone calls / agents customer calls being recorded?
  • Do you have a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy? If not, and employees don’t have a work laptop to bring home, it’s a great time to investigate one.
  • How will your employees access applications hosted on-premises?
  • Will you remotely support the at-home equipment? Will your existing Support hours suffice?
  • Where are the support boundaries drawn for personal equipment? Is this solely the employee’s responsibility?

Click here to download our entire Work From Home Checklist to ensure business continuity during the Coronavirus outbreak.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/remote-working-preparedness-for-covid-19-coronavirus

Publish Date: March 9, 2020 5:00 AM


Prepare Your Business and Employees for Coronavirus Now – CDC Guidelines Issued

Every year Milan finds itself at the epicenter of couture. Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and the world’s fashion stars dazzle attendees under the dancing flashes of a hundred Nikon strobe lights. Packed shoulder-to-shoulder for hours on end, guests at Fashion Week share smiles, laughter … and germs.

This year, those germs may have included Coronavirus aka. Covid-19

Shortly after Armani’s vacant runway event, stressed-out attendees boarded their planes at the Milan Malpensa airport, put on their sleeping masks, and departed for home. And in the high stakes, high-pressure world of fashion, they are already back in the office.

In the United States, the heart and soul of fashion is the Garment District in New York City. To get there, fashion house employees walk down 42nd street. They have lunch in Bryant Park. They take subways home. And with about 1 in 38 people in the United States living in NYC they come in contact with more people in one day than many of us will in a month.

Hopefully, no one picked up the Coronavirus in Milan but it’s already here in the United States and it will spread from behaviors like this.

Because of that, CDC guidelines for businesses have been issued and include a range of recommendations including asking at-risk employees to stay home, disinfecting workspaces, and to “ensure that you have the information technology and infrastructure needed to support multiple employees who may be able to work from home.”

I can tell you from personal experience that these three recommendations work. Several weeks ago the flu tore through our client technology area. In the space of 48 hours, 3/4 of the team went from sitting at their desks to lying in their beds with fevers, chills and aching limbs. Meanwhile, other associates in surrounding work areas started falling ill as well.

24 hours later during a global collaboration meeting Sue McCurley, Evolve IP’s SVP of Organizational Development, informed senior management that if associates appeared sick they were to go home. Sick associates were not to come back until they were 100% Influenza free. We also disinfected the office.

It worked. The illness stopped spreading essentially overnight. And, because everyone at Evolve IP can collaborate with teammates anywhere on the globe, and also access all of their files and applications on whatever device they wantthere was virtually no loss in productivity. When associates felt better but were still potentially contagious, they were 100% active and engaged with the business.

What’s more, considering how much productivity would have been lost had the virus spread throughout the rest of the company, we were likely saved from an extremely difficult February on many levels!

If you’re a business executive you have a responsibility to ensure the growth of your business and the well-being of your associates. Remote work / telework not only helps protect your business from the next outbreak, it has been proven to make employees more productive and happier. Check out some interesting stats on remote work from Frost and Sullivan (and others) along with how one of our associates uses the tech every day in this quick video.

The attendees of Fashion Week didn’t have a real choice about attending the event. You have a choice about how you handle the pending Coronavirus outbreak in the US. If you have more than 100 employees and are interested in learning how Evolve IP can support your business with the IT recommendations from the CDC please visit our Website at www.evolveip.net and contact us for a demo.

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/prepare-your-business-and-employees-for-coronavirus-now-cdc-guidelines-issued

Publish Date: March 2, 2020 5:00 AM


Collaboration Killed the Handset

I have worked my entire adult life - more than a quarter-century - in tech. Specifically, 26 years in what used to be dubbed “telecommunications.” I started with what was originally a competitive long-distance provider who later got into local telephony, then data networking (remember Frame Relay?) and then what was the beginning of the Internet as we know it today, and more. It was there that, in 2003-ish we got into Voice over IP (VoIP).

Then in 2007 I took a leap of faith along with some coworkers and launched a start-up cloud service provider, a couple of years before it was even called “the cloud”. In the 13 years since we began, we’ve grown from a few of us huddled in a tiny make-shift office to a multinational company with about 400 associates. Not only have we experienced tremendous growth, we have also seen our business, products, and industry morph to the market demands.

I consider myself a networking guy with experience in numerous different technologies, but my career has mostly focused on real-time communications — telephony, VoIP,  video, Unified Communications (UC), Contact Center, and nowadays Collaboration. And that’s why I never thought I would do what I did this week.

I permanently removed the phone from my desk.

What? A phone-guy removed his handset? Yes, I did. And guess what, it’s pretty liberating!

Now, I realize this is not exactly groundbreaking. People have been using softphones and apps for quite some time. But until recently I needed that desk phone, and the quality of soft-phones were, frankly, iffy. But no more. Now I regularly hold video conference calls with people around the globe using a Collab client.

You see, we’ve jumped in on Collaboration. All in. And while we believe Collab is the future of communications, we also know that not every user needs the full monty, some just need dial tone. But the major players in Collaboration — Microsoft and Cisco — only fill part of the communications need so we’ve tightly integrated Collab with our cloud PBX and are working on doing the same with Contact Center.

There are physical (“hard”) phones that work with the Collab offers, and I did trial it that way, but I found myself using the soft-client 95% of the time, and the mobility of that, coupled with my virtual desktop, made it just too easy to be able to work that way anywhere.

Yep, I’m a GenX, old-school phone guy without a phone. Welcome to the brave new world.

Check out the full blog here:

Source: https://www.evolveip.net/blog/collaboration-killed-the-handset

Publish Date: February 5, 2020 5:00 AM

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