Cost is always an important factor to consider when it comes to technological investments. Especially with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, you have to be careful that investing in one doesn’t put you way over budget. Even if that phone system comes with a host of features, it’s important that you evaluate not only its upfront cost but also its total cost of ownership (TCO).
TCO is the overall sum of procuring, deploying, and operating a VoIP system over its life cycle, which is typically five years. A VoIP expert should be able to give you an informed approximation, but here’s what to expect:
Upfront costs are largely determined by whether you buy a VoIP system outright or rent it from a third party. Although the former carries a steep upfront cost, payment does not continue indefinitely. This makes sense for large, fully staffed corporations with massive budgets. Meanwhile, the latter option is better for small- and medium-sized businesses that prefer to pay a small monthly subscription rather than make a huge initial investment.
Beyond the price of the VoIP package, upfront costs also include additional costs like headsets, webcams, and a stronger network connection to ensure crystal-clear calls.
A majority of implementation costs go to the fees of the consultant or managed IT services provider that designs, deploys, and configures your VoIP system.
But since you’re installing a completely new phone system, you also need to factor in costs associated with training employees on how to use the VoIP system effectively and securely.
This covers monthly recurring costs of voice and data plans. For example, some service providers charge local and long-distance calls per minute, while others offer unlimited local calls for a fixed monthly fee.
If you’re managing your VoIP infrastructure yourself, you also have to take into account monthly power, cooling, and maintenance fees. If you opt for hosted VoIP services, however, you are only billed for maintenance.
You should also set aside some room in your budget for VoIP upgrades. For instance, to improve customer service, you may need to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) software with VoIP, but that requires the help of a certified CRM expert.
Evaluating all the costs that apply to your business will give you a clear idea of how much you can expect to pay for your VoIP system. If you’re having difficulty calculating the actual costs of VoIP, call our experts today. We’ll help you figure out which VoIP solution is most ideal for your business and budget.
Publish Date: September 7, 2020 5:00 AM
When a technology that promises to halve your current expenses sounds too good to be true, it usually is. So when it comes to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and its claims of radically reducing phone costs, what’s the catch? Here are some issues you need to watch out for.
Any of these VoIP issues can tarnish your company’s reputation and result in a profit loss, so it’s important to implement the following solutions.
Jitter or crackly sounding calls result from electromagnetic interference, damaged equipment, or insufficient enough bandwidth. Here are some ways to fix this:
Echoes and audio delays are common issues usually caused by network latency, headset lag, or the device itself. Here are tips to solve this problem:
Some users experience calls being dropped after 11 minutes. This usually happens when phones are not using the latest firmware, or because of a user datagram protocol (UDP) timeout. Here's how to fix these issues:
If you're unable to make outbound calls, or if you see a big X on the VoIP phone's screen, it could mean that you're using two routers dropping critical packets of data. This issue is caused by your network layout. Disable your router's Session Initiation Protocol Application-Level Gateway (SIP ALG). You also have to make sure that you're not using two routers, as this can inhibit the flow of data packets. Another way to fix this issue is to connect your VoIP phones to a virtual local area network (VLAN).
Are your calls connecting but you can't hear the person on the other line? Chances are, your firewall is blocking the Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) packets from coming through. To address this issue, you need to open some ports in your firewall.
If you notice your VoIP phones are not ringing, it's possible that the calls are being redirected to voicemail. To fix this, make sure that your phone is not set to Do Not Disturb (DND) mode. Also, check if your VoIP phones are still registered with your VoIP provider.
If you need advice on installing a new VoIP system or fixing your current one, don’t hesitate to call us. Our experts can provide you with the consultation, support, and service that will enable your business to enjoy the cost savings and power of VoIP. Call us today.
Publish Date: August 16, 2020 5:00 AM
With advancements in cloud computing, disaster recovery (DR) has become more efficient and affordable than ever. But many business owners still cling to some DR myths that can safely be disregarded. Here are three of those myths, and the sooner you stop believing them, the better.
Tape backups are physical objects that deteriorate over time. Try listening to a cassette tape from the ’90s. Its sound may be distorted already, or it probably doesn’t work at all. Similarly, your tape backups will start to fail as years pass. At first, only a few files will be affected, but you may gradually lose all your data.
It is also a common practice to store another set of tape backups outside your premises so that they will be safe in case a natural disaster befalls your office. However, if your storage spaces themselves are unsafe from natural disasters, this could pose a problem.
Unlike tape backups, cloud-based backups are safe from deterioration. They are also stored in multiple secured locations that are protected from natural disasters. This means your data backups are as safe as they can be.
What’s more, cloud-based backups save you time in several ways. Data is automatically backed up online, so you don’t need to manually copy information onto your tapes. You also won’t need to manage boxes of tapes, freeing you to focus on your assigned tasks.
Essential to any DR plan are recovery time objectives (RTOs), or the ideal length of time needed to get everything up and running again to avoid serious losses. Before the cloud, a “swift” recovery time would take days and cost up to six figures.
Cloud and virtualization solutions have made this much more affordable and faster than ever before. Most DR providers can back up your critical data in an hour or two. And if you ever need to recover data, most services can do so in less than a day.
Because of the astronomical costs previously associated with DR, only big businesses could afford backup and recovery solutions. But now, the cloud has made these valuable services affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). From dental offices to small retail operations, SMBs can now take advantage of the best DR solutions in the market. Advances in IT and the cloud have also eliminated the obstacles of complexity, costs, and insufficient IT resources.
We hope that by dispelling these myths, you’d be convinced to implement a disaster recovery plan (DRP) for your business. Not only is a DRP necessary to your business continuity, having one is also more affordable and efficient than ever. If you’d like to learn how our disaster recovery solutions can safeguard your business, send us a message and we’ll fill you in.
Publish Date: August 12, 2020 5:00 AM
Much more of VoIP’s potential would be tapped by businesses, thanks to the enhancements that 5G will bring about.
VoIP calls rely heavily on sufficient download and upload speeds. For example, when mobile VoIP users on 4G networks are limited to 12 Mbps upload and 2 Mbps download speeds, they experience unstable and poor call connectivity and clarity. These limitations could also lead to something called packet loss, which happens when one or more “packets” of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination, typically caused by network congestion. Packet loss reduces audio/video quality and could even cause calls to be dropped.
5G’s greater speed prevents packet loss, but the tech has another feature that makes it better than 4G. 4G network providers set a fixed amount of bandwidth for every direction it transmits a signal to, but with 5G, the bandwidth can be adjusted on the fly.
This means that 5G network providers can allocate bandwidth to mitigate congestion as soon as it manifests itself. In practical terms, businesses could reach their customers even if the latter are in packed places that normally max out 4G mobile network capacity constraints, like in football stadiums or airports.
The major factor holding web and video conferencing back is how fast current networks can transmit data. Fortunately, innovations like Web Real-Time-Communications (WebRTC) and 5G networks will enhance VoIP for businesses. Providing open and stable streaming as well as sufficient transfer speeds will soon allow businesses to accommodate higher-quality, even 4K and 8K resolution, videos.
Beyond improved streaming quality, 5G networks will also be able to support video calls with an increased number of participants. This means that businesses can serve more customers and conduct larger video meetings, which is timely, considering the current shift toward remote working.
With 5G network speeds, virtual and augmented reality will become more common for SMBs. 5G will blow past 4G’s Gbps (gigabits per second) limit, which is currently holding back the adoption of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications.
VR and AR need to process significantly more data because of the visuals they must process as users move, and this puts an enormous strain on mobile networks. 5G is also set to ensure a better user experience by facilitating smoother connections and preventing network delays from affecting your bottom line.
When your business decides to adopt the up-and-coming 5G network, you can expect to see significant VoIP improvements. Ensure the success of your SMB with increased network speeds, better call quality, and conversations with consistent connectivity. If you’re looking to set up a VoIP system for your business, call or email us today!
Publish Date: July 31, 2020 5:00 AM
Technology continues to create more solutions that enable businesses to cut costs and improve efficiency. One of those solutions is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Learn more about what SaaS is, and how it benefits your business.
SaaS is a software delivery model that allows you, the user, to access software from any device through the internet. This gives you more flexibility since you don’t have to go to the office to use the software. You can work from anywhere as long as you can go online.
As opposed to a traditional on-premises setup where software is stored locally, SaaS is hosted in the cloud. By transferring software hosting to a third party, you’re outsourcing all the responsibilities that come with maintenance, such as upgrades and troubleshooting. In a way, getting SaaS is like renting a car: somebody else owns and spends for upkeep of the vehicle, but you get to drive it.
Shifting software ownership away from your business also changes how much you spend on it. With on-premises software, you purchase a license and pay yearly support fees, which can amount to 22% of the price of license fees (ouch!). With SaaS, you pay a monthly or annual subscription fee that covers licenses, support, and other fees. This is better since it allows you to spread out costs on a monthly basis, instead of purchasing expensive licenses outright and ending up with a huge maintenance bill every year.
Some companies hesitate to switch to SaaS because of data security concerns. Who will own my data? Will my data be safe? What if the vendor goes out of business?
Here’s something for your peace of mind and safety: when you’re outsourcing your software to a SaaS vendor, you have to sign a service level agreement (SLA). This should specify that you own the data and that the vendor is obliged to provide access to your data even if the vendor suffers from extreme circumstances like economic difficulty or disasters.
Data hosted by a SaaS vendor will be more secure than that stored on the average SMB's network. That’s because SaaS vendors regularly undergo strict security audits, forcing them to invest more in security, backup technology, and maintenance than a typical SMB.
SaaS is an ideal solution for small- and mid-sized businesses that want to reduce upfront costs. Large businesses or those with complex processes will benefit more from a traditional on-premises solution since it offers more functionality and allows for full customization.
Still unsure about whether SaaS is the right answer for your organization? Want to know more about SaaS before making the transition? Call us today! Our experts are ready to answer any questions you may have about SaaS.
Publish Date: July 27, 2020 5:00 AM
Your managed services provider may have your business communications covered, but knowing a thing or two about Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will help you understand what VoIP solution best fits your business. What are your choices? Which one is better? Read on to learn more about VoIP.
When most companies release VoIP software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, they make it almost impossible for users to view or alter the programming code. This is to retain control over which hardware and software systems it is compatible with, and prevent hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities.
Pros and cons
One of the biggest benefits of proprietary VoIP systems is a consistent user experience across supported hardware and software. Brand-name handsets and third-party software must be programmed by the VoIP platform’s developer for compatibility, so you know everything will be optimized for a reliable user experience.
In many cases, however, the added security and polished integrations of these systems cost more than open-source alternatives.
The programming code making open-source VoIP protocols such as Session Initiation Protocol work is free and accessible to anyone. Open-source systems are made to be more of a starting point than a finished solution, meaning they’re usually pretty rough around the edges until they are customized.
Pros and cons
The biggest benefits of an open-source system are the cost and flexibility. The core system will be free, but tailoring it to your desktops, handsets, and servers will require a significant amount of time and technical expertise. This usually requires a larger upfront investment when compared to proprietary systems, but will pay off with lower operational costs over time.
The tradeoffs between open-source and proprietary systems are even. The former is often better for business owners who prioritize cost savings, while the latter is ideal for those who prefer refined solutions. Choosing between the two comes down to your customer service model, IT resources, and business priorities.
Small businesses like yours can enjoy personalized, high-end IT solutions, but you need expert support. With years of experience in VoIP, we’re the answer to all your problems. To learn about what we think is best for your business, call today!
Publish Date: July 10, 2020 5:00 AM
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provides small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) with the convenience of making and receiving calls from anywhere with an active internet connection. VoIP enables your staff to meet the demands of your clients, which boosts customer satisfaction. VoIP also has another feature that can take your customer service to the next level: call recording.
One of the most important reasons why businesses should always record their calls, no matter its significance, is to ensure high-quality customer service. By reviewing calls, managers can understand how their agents have been dealing with customers, find out whether or not they’ve followed company protocol, and pinpoint any aspects that can be improved on.
Without call recording, managers would have to listen to each call in real time, which is a time-consuming process. By recording each call, not only will your managers save time, but your employees will also be motivated to perform at their best every time they’re on the phone because they know their calls can always be reviewed.
According to Edgar Dale’s Cone of Learning, people only remember 10% of what they’ve read, 50% of what they’ve seen and heard, and 90% of what they’ve done. By providing your agents with actual recordings of good and bad calling examples during training sessions, and have them simulate calls afterwards, they’ll be able to learn better and provide high-quality customer service faster.
With hundreds of phone calls daily, it’s understandable if your employees don’t catch every single detail. And for companies that require their agents to manually input information during calls, there’s always a possibility that they’ll forget or miss certain information. Needless to say, this could lead to disgruntled customers. If not properly handled, this can harm your reputation, reduce work opportunities, and if things escalate, proceed to litigation.
VoIP’s call recording feature lets you replay saved audio files to make sure you haven’t missed any details, ensuring that all customer demands are met. And if you ever get into a dispute with your clients regarding who said what, you can always retrieve the exact audio file and have both sides listen to it, saving you thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Have you ever received an inquiry about a product or service that’s not included in your offerings? While your agents usually jot these requests down and pass them on to the relevant personnel, they may end up forgetting some if numerous calls are being made that day. Tiny issues like this can lead to potentially huge losses.
With call recording, you can review all your calls at the end of the day. You’ll have a better picture of what certain customers are looking for so you can address them better.
VoIP allows businesses to make on-demand calls affordably, and its call recording feature helps companies improve their customer service and prevent litigation. If you think business VoIP is right for you, or if you have any questions, give us a call today.
Publish Date: June 22, 2020 5:00 AM
The COVID-19 pandemic and the sweeping shutdowns to contain the spread of the virus brought about significant impacts on businesses. Many small companies realized they lacked the resources to rapidly adopt a remote work setup and tapped their IT partners to help address their technology demands. Here’s how managed IT services providers (MSPs) are rising to the challenge.
In today’s digital work landscape, MSPs are keeping their noses to the grindstone to fulfill customer demands and help keep businesses running. While many small companies have taken the first step of transitioning to remote work, they still need help managing the logistics.
Right now, MSPs are providing customers with IT infrastructures and taking on a host of network tasks, including configuring hardware, establishing remote connections, and managing backup and storage options, among other activities. These all help to ensure that company networks are reliable enough to facilitate a remote workforce.
MSPs are also offering service desk capabilities, providing companies with a centralized resource for employees, customers, and business partners to answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and facilitate solutions. Appropriate and timely support is crucial, especially in times of great uncertainty.
Cloud solutions are ideal if IT environments must be quickly modified to meet changing demands or difficulties, which is why MSPs are now helping businesses leverage a variety of cloud technologies and even move their data and applications online.
And because cloud migration can get complex, many MSPs are also offering managed migration plans that help companies transition key workflows and processes to the cloud safely and efficiently.
The current travel restrictions and social distancing measures make work-related travel difficult and risky. And with highly distributed workforces, many companies would rather source local service technicians for break/fix assistance, cabling, and other IT solutions.
Partnering with MSPs ensures that systems and networks are protected all the time and critical support is provided within 24 hours. What’s even better is that some providers have technicians in different locations, making it easy to provide tools, resources, and support even in hard-to-reach areas.
As business needs continue to shift, MSPs must move in lockstep and provide support wherever they can. Here are some other ways MSPs are helping their clients navigate these trying times:
Assisting with IT projects
Because of how broad and challenging IT projects can be, it’s not uncommon for companies to lack the right skills and resources to handle them. MSPs are helping them by providing the expertise and technologies needed to pursue these projects, allowing companies to keep moving forward.
Foregoing long-term contracts
Some companies need IT support and services but can’t afford to commit to long-term contracts. Similarly, some want to augment their IT only for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. What's great is many MSPs are providing flexible IT solutions, giving customers all the services and support they need, when they need them.
Offering faster response times
Especially now that downtime could likely spell the end of a business, companies seek quick turnaround times. Since MSPs typically offer 24/7 support and tout specialists with a wide range of experience and knowledge, they can proactively address issues and ensure that IT infrastructures are working as efficiently as possible.
As many businesses are still adjusting to the new normal, providing positive customer experiences will go a long way to earning trust and ensuring customer loyalty post-crisis. By being compassionate and empathetic to the situations of their customers, MSPs are showing companies that they're navigating these trying times together.
Call our IT experts today to help configure the perfect remote work setup for your business.
Publish Date: June 15, 2020 5:00 AM
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a must for today’s businesses. Compared to the old analog phone system, VoIP is a more effective communication tool. Aside from making voice calls, you can also do conference calls, send instant messaging, queue calls, have music on hold, and record calls with VoIP. But now there’s a new technology called Voice over Long-Term Evolution (VoLTE). How different are the two from each other, and is VoLTE poised to take over VoIP?
To know the difference between VoIP and VoLTE, let’s first examine the older of the two technologies.
Unlike analog telephones that use phone cables, VoIP uses the internet to transmit voice calls. VoIP calls can be made using laptops, desktop computers, smartphones, tablets, and even old handsets fitted with appropriate converters.
VoIP also supports a range of call features such as voice messaging, call forwarding, SMS text messaging, fax transmission, voicemail, and a host of other services. For businesses, VoIP is a convenient one-stop solution for all their communication needs that will not cost them an arm and a leg.
However, VoIP was introduced at a time when the world was still using 2G and 3G networks for mobile devices. The years since then saw major improvements in network connectivity. The arrival of 4G or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) meant faster and better connectivity.
Unlike VoIP, VoLTE uses 4G LTE network to transmit voice calls. And there’s a difference to how VoLTE transmits voice calls. To illustrate, here’s a very simplified analogy:
VoIP is a steam train data carrier chugging along on a steel-and-wood railway that’s your 2G/3G internet connection. The train is loaded with various data: voice, email and text, photo, video, music, and many more.
VoLTE is a Japanese Maglev bullet train data carrier that uses magnetic forces to levitate (thus “maglev”) the train a few inches off the electromagnetic track that’s your 4G internet connection. With zero friction, the train moves at astonishing speeds. What’s more, VoLTE does not pack all data into one train. Instead, each kind of data has a dedicated train all to itself — voice calls on one train, email on another, video packets on another, and so forth. This means faster transmission and better quality voice calls and video chats.
However, don’t think that VoLTE is merely a pumped-up version of VoIP. Instead, think of VoLTE as building on the gains of VoIP technology.
VoLTE is a recent standard for wireless, high-speed communication; in fact, as of this writing, VoLTE is available for mobile devices only. The following enumerates how VoLTE is different from VoIP, and why it’s an improvement over the latter.
VoIP uses a web-based network such as 3G or Wi-Fi to transmit voice data. On the other hand, VoLTE uses 4G LTE network to transmit voice data. 4G LTE has a broader bandwidth and faster speeds, which means...
VoLTE first gained prominence because of its superior voice calls. Its high-definition (HD) audio quality is excellent, with lags, drops, jitters and disturbances mostly eliminated. However, there is a catch: caller and receiver must both be using VoLTE phones and transmitting in an area with 4G LTE to experience HD calls.
In the case of some smartphones, it’s not possible to make a call while browsing the web. You need to drop one in order to perform the other. With VoLTE, you can talk and run data apps concurrently.
Both VoIP and VoLTE send voice data packets over the internet along with other data usage transmissions. But while VoIP sends packets on a first come, first served basis, VoLTE prioritizes voice data.
Voice calls used to be charged per minute, but with VoLTE, voice calls are the same as any data transmission. Plus, because it’s difficult to figure out how much data you use for a voice call than it is to count the number of minutes in a call, then the days of voice-minutes billings are numbered.
With VoLTE, phones need not switch between 2G, 3G, and 4G networks during calls. This extends the battery life, so users need not recharge often.
For now, not all smartphone brands and models support VoLTE technology. And there are still places in the United States where LTE is unavailable. But experts believe that this will rapidly change soon.
Want to learn more about VoLTE and how it can boost your business’s productivity? Call our IT experts today.
Publish Date: June 1, 2020 5:00 AM
With the COVID-19 lockdowns forcing most economic sectors to slow down, cloud technology can help your business survive and remain competitive. More specifically, you can cut costs and increase operational efficiency using the cloud.
The need to stay at home and practice social distancing have changed the way many businesses operate. With their employees unable to come to the office, organizations are forced to function with a remote team whose members are often miles away from each other.
This is where cloud technology helps. When you migrate your data to the cloud, your files are stored in a centralized server that can be accessed via the internet. So as long as a user has an internet-connected device (like a smartphone or laptop) and has the right login credentials, they can access these files from any location.
The cloud also allows multiple users to work on a single file at the same time. Any change to the file is seen in real-time, which makes it feel like team members are collaborating in the same room.
Moreover, with cloud-based communication tools like Slack, your team can communicate with each other through chat, voice calls, and video conferencing. By incorporating these technologies into your processes, your organization can function efficiently while following social distancing protocols.
Suddenly adopting a remote work setup after years of strictly on-site operations can take a lot of getting used to. One of the most difficult parts of transitioning is making sure you and your staff have the right hardware and software to perform work-related tasks.
Instead of buying hardware with company funds and issuing these machines to your staff, you can have them use their personal laptop computers and mobile devices instead. With this tactic, however, you’re not sure if your employees’ devices have the appropriate specifications to handle their workload.
If you use special software, you may also have to buy and install them on your staff’s personal devices. In short, whether you issue computers or adopt a bring your own device approach, you’re bound to spend a lot of money to facilitate remote work.
But with cloud computing, you won’t need to buy new hardware. You can host your applications on the cloud, enabling a user to run them through a web browser even if they are not installed in his or her device. And because hosted applications use the cloud provider’s resources, they don’t strain user’s devices and can be used even with older or lower-end computers.
Furthermore, hosting applications on the cloud eliminates the need to install programs in each of your staff’s devices. This is particularly helpful if the software you use has a limit on the number of devices it can be installed on. This way, you save money by not having to invest in newer devices for your staff and wasting time locally downloading the software.
The short answer is yes. Thanks to the COVID-19 lockdowns, the ability to work remotely has now become essential to a business’s survival. And the cloud easily facilitates a remote work environment.
See for yourself how the cloud lets you continue doing business even in the middle of a pandemic. Contact us today to get started!
Publish Date: May 27, 2020 5:00 AM
Most businesses today have made the switch from the traditional landline telephone system to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system. This is because VoIP offers more benefits including cost reduction, mobility, and scalability. But just like any device that’s connected to the internet, VoIP phones can be targeted by hackers who want to steal valuable information. Here are some of the ways to tell if your VoIP system is being hacked.
Being redirected to other — often potentially malicious — sites while performing an internet search is a telltale sign that your VoIP system is being hacked. Hackers may also install browser extensions and toolbars without your knowledge.
To keep your VoIP system safe from cybercriminals, always log out and when not in use.
If you notice a consistent pattern of calls being made or coming from an unknown location or unfamiliar numbers, it's usually an indication that your VoIP system may be under attack. Ask for a detailed copy of your call logs from your service provider so you can identify calling patterns that will allow you to pinpoint any irregularities.
When you or your employees see pop-up messages that say your system is infected and needs to be scanned while your VoIP system is on, do not click on those messages. They may be a sign that a hacker has already infiltrated your system. It's best to have your system administrator or managed IT services provider (MSP) shut down the network so they can identify the source of the pop-up and scan your system for any malware.
Webcams and microphones make VoIP phones better than traditional landlines, but cybercriminals can use these features to illegally enter your network. Hackers can use your VoIP's webcams and microphones to spy on your business, record conversations, and collect private information. If you notice your VoIP phone’s webcam and microphone behaving strangely, report it immediately to an IT specialist or your MSP to see if your VoIP system is being breached by a cybercriminal.
One benefit of having a VoIP system is a more affordable monthly bill compared to a landline service. So if you see a sudden spike in your monthly bill, it’s probably an indication that your VoIP system has been hacked. When cybercriminals infiltrate your VoIP network, they can make unauthorized calls to premium numbers without your knowledge.
To keep your VoIP network safe from cybercriminals, invest in good VoIP security solutions and educate your employees on cybersecurity best practices. For more ways on how you can protect your VoIP system, contact us today.
Publish Date: April 22, 2020 5:00 AM
Microsoft’s software offerings are filled with features that allow and even augment enterprise work from home (WFH) setups without sacrificing security. Here are some updates about the company’s applications, as well as other common third-party applications in the Windows and Office ecosystems, which will ensure data security when you’re working remotely.
Before the pandemic broke out, companies across the United States had already been on the lookout for remote work possibilities, because of the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the cloud. Back then, the technology was used to take advantage of market and location opportunities, but with entire cities going on lockdown to stem the transmission velocity of the coronavirus, enterprises across the continent have turned to digital solutions for their respective workforces to remain productive at home.
Microsoft’s Windows and Office 365 engineers have geared both sets of software to be user-friendly across different platforms — and by extension, many Windows-ready third-party applications enjoy the same benefit. For many organizations, especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this means no need to switch to a more remote-friendly system. But because of the suddenness of the transition, there are questions whether Windows, Office, and other supported software have ample security features in place.
Microsoft announced in mid-March that Windows 10 version 1709 (Fall Creators Update) will remain supported for six more months, in anticipation of the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tech giant also stated that vital updates will continue for version 1709 through its regular channels, namely Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and the Microsoft Update Catalog.
Through the service coverage extension, Windows 10 version 1709 can still be managed through all supported versions of Microsoft Configuration Manager. This will allow users to retain existing management workflows until October 30, 2020.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) and Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections are necessities for work from home setups, but this has left many IT managers worried about security risks. Experts have suggested deploying a trial version of Windows Server 2016 or 2019 as a workaround. This server software has remote desktop services that are bundled with remote desktop gateway (RDG) and RDWeb technologies, ensuring encrypted remote access.
Microsoft has also published optimization instructions for Office 365 users to properly implement VPN split tunneling for their remote work setups. Routing Office 365 applications — such as Teams, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online — through a split VPN tunnel ensures that the most critical, high-volume Office 365 traffic is quickly patched through to the company server, and not left at risk of loss that stems from the common customer-performance and network capacity issues many enterprise-level clients report.
Remote performance depends largely on home internet performance, so that matter boils down to the reliability and speed of your employees' internet providers' services. Your staff can take steps to limit their bandwidth loads, such as by not using video streaming services while working, cutting down the recording quality of home security cameras from HD to standard definition, and allowing office IT to remotely optimize the personal devices your employees intend to use for remote work.
Lastly, consulting with your IT partner will surely put you in a better position to cope with the demands of remote work. Managed IT services providers (MSPs) like us are regular remote access practitioners. We handle remote services on a daily basis and provide you with valuable insights on how to keep your business running smoothly through these trying times. Contact us today to learn more.
Publish Date: April 20, 2020 5:00 AM
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed businesses to adopt remote work setups. But with the sudden move, employees are finding out that they don’t have adequate resources to work from home, specifically due to poor or limited internet access. So that you don’t encounter the same issue, find out how much internet bandwidth you need to work from home.
Bandwidth refers to the maximum data transfer rate possible in a network or internet connection. It indicates the amount of data that can be sent over a connection in a given amount of time, and is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second (Bps).
Imagine two computers with the same internet speed at 100 megabit per second (Mbps): the first computer only has a 50 Mbps bandwidth, while the second one has 100 Mbps. If they were to download the same 500 Megabit (Mb) file, the first computer would be able to do it in 10 seconds, while the second one could do it in just five.
This is because the first computer’s bandwidth is capped at 50 Mbps — even if the internet was fast, the limit of transfer would still be low. Therefore, the higher the bandwidth, the more data can be sent over a connection, contributing to faster uploads and downloads, and overall better internet experience.
The answer to this question isn’t clear cut. The biggest considerations are the type of work that you do and the apps that you use. If your job mostly consists of sending emails, editing and writing on Google Docs, and communicating on Slack, then you can do your job with ease even with a low bandwidth. On the other hand, if you frequently attend meetings through video calls, then you’d definitely need a plan with higher bandwidth.
Once you have a clear picture of how much data you send and receive on an average work day, you can start looking for plans that can support your needs. And while you definitely don’t need to conduct virtual meetings in 4K quality, you also won’t want your clients and colleagues to appear pixelated during a meeting. Neither would you want a session that gets choppy or cut off mid-conversation.
Here are the minimum requirements for the most common video chat apps used by remote workers today:
For 1:1 video calling:
For group video calling:
HD video quality
Standard definition (SD) video quality
Teams requires the same upload and download internet bandwidth for the following scenarios:
If you’re worried about your internet bandwidth, you can opt for audio calls instead of video calls. This considerably helps lower the information you need to upload and download. For more tips and solutions on how you can work from home without a hitch, call us. We’d be happy to help.
Publish Date: April 17, 2020 5:00 AM
Flexible work setups have often been the subject of debate — employees want the option to work away from the office at least some of the time, but many businesses value well-founded methods and processes. Will the world’s largest work from home experiment change that?
A pandemic is one of the most socially, economically, and politically disruptive events that could ever happen. Infections and fatalities constantly increase, business operations are shut down, and scientists race against time to find a cure.
Companies lucky enough to remain operational still face a significant challenge: maintaining business continuity. For most, the simplest way to achieve this is by moving their business resources online and adopting an effective remote work strategy.
With resilience and careful decision-making — as well as the right tools and processes — you might just find your employees more productive, less stressed out by work, and expressive as ever.
Remote work offers several benefits for both employees and employers. In addition to saving time and eradicating commute-related stress, remote work can improve employee productivity. A number of studies reveal that the freedom to create a comfortable environment and schedule encourages employees to perform at their best.
At the same time, employers benefit from reduced overhead expenses while also having access to a wider pool of applicants. Because workplace flexibility is among the top considerations of many young job seekers, remote work arrangements would be right up their alley.
Employers can also hire outside of reasonable commuting distance, as employees won’t have to report to the office as frequently, if not at all. What’s more, mandatory daily attendance is going out of fashion — more businesses are now prioritizing performance over hours clocked in. Many prefer focusing on the quality of outputs rather than just keeping people in the office from 9 to 5.
Businesses reap great rewards for recognizing performance instead of just presence. This approach makes for more engaged, efficient, and satisfied employees, consequently creating a healthy and progressive company culture.
Many businesses believe that a traditional office setup helps bring about better relationships and collaborations. However, data actually points out that interpersonal behavior and communication — not solely proximity — are the key drivers of trust and teamwork.
Traditional work arrangements also make it easier for managers to look after their employees — it’s easy to see who is and isn’t at their workstation during office hours. However, mandating work hours and location makes sense only for time-sensitive and location-dependent jobs like retail, manual labor, and healthcare, where employees need to be physically present.
Meanwhile, for knowledge workers whose jobs involve non-routine problem solving, an office cube isn’t always the most conducive environment for devising solutions and innovations. Sometimes, the best and most unique ideas come from exposure to the surroundings, people, and events outside the confines of an office.
Being forced to adopt a work from home policy in the face of a global crisis isn’t an ideal circumstance to test the waters. Full-time remote work doesn’t and won’t work for all businesses. But this shouldn’t stop you from accomplishing projects and sustaining productivity and efficiency. Leverage your resources to help you weather the storm and emerge stronger than before.
Though we have yet to see if remote work is here to stay, it’s currently a nonnegotiable aspect of the corporate setup, and we should learn how to make the most out of it.
Having a strong strategy in place and the right tools and equipment are crucial to ensure effective communication, collaboration, and management. Our experts can help you configure the perfect remote working setup for your business. Call us today.
Publish Date: April 15, 2020 5:00 AM
Encouraging staff to work from home is extremely vital in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak. By minimizing social interactions and contact risks, you can reduce the spread of the virus. But be warned. Transitioning from a fully managed business environment to a home office can leave you vulnerable to cyberattacks and online scams. Here’s what you and your staff must do to mitigate the cybersecurity risks.
When everyone is working remotely, user accounts must be properly secured. One way to achieve this is by setting at least 12-character long passwords with numbers and special characters mixed in to make them more difficult to guess. More importantly, these passwords must be unique to each account, to minimize the damage if hackers do manage to compromise one set of credentials. If you find it difficult to generate and remember login details for all your accounts, consider password managers like LastPass, Dashlane, and Keeper.
To further strengthen your accounts, however, you’ll also need to enable multifactor authentication (MFA). This adds another layer of identity verification — like fingerprint scans or one-time activation codes generated by SMS — to make it more difficult for cybercriminals to hijack your accounts.
VPNs are primarily known for circumventing geographic restrictions on location-specific websites and streaming services, but they’re also a crucial tool for remote workers. A reliable VPN creates secure connections between devices and networks by encrypting internet traffic. This hides web activity from prying eyes, protecting your employees’ online privacy, and mitigating the risk of hackers stealing company information.
Although installing software updates can be a major nuisance, they cover critical weaknesses and protect your systems from the latest threats. Most apps now offer an automatic update feature so you don’t have to manually patch your software.
Another option for your business is patch management software. These track patches on employee devices and distribute the most recent updates on a company-wide scale.
Make sure to enable firewalls in your operating systems and hardware. These provide a strong layer of protection between your device and the internet, preventing malicious programs and other network threats from reaching your device. Your managed IT services provider (MSP) may also provide third-party firewalls in case your computers don’t have any built in by default.
In addition to firewalls, you’ll also want to implement antivirus software to detect and remove any malicious programs that do manage to find their way onto your device. Just remember to constantly update the software so it can effectively detect the newest malware.
Home Wi-Fi routers are not as thoroughly secured as their business counterparts so take extra precautions to safeguard them. For starters, change your router password as soon as possible because hackers can easily break into them once they know the router model. You should also install the latest firmware updates to eliminate any security vulnerabilities.
Finally, check whether your router has Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) encryption settings to secure inbound and outbound traffic. If your router doesn’t have this setting, you’re overdue for an upgrade.
Important files must be backed up regularly in the cloud and your external hard drive. This way, you’ll always have a copy of your files in case of a major data loss incident like ransomware or a power outage.
The biggest threat remote workers face is online scams. Phishing emails may entice you with free coronavirus test kits in exchange for personal information. Some cybercriminals may even masquerade as legitimate companies, CEOs, or friends to trick you into clicking on dangerous links and attachments.
To avoid these threats, you must be critical of everything you see online. Look for any suspicious links and attachments, grammatical errors in the email body, and misspelled email addresses. Plus, never give out sensitive information to an unsolicited email, text message, or phone call.
Working from home poses many cybersecurity challenges for businesses, but you don’t have to address them alone. If you need guidance with setting up firewalls, avoiding scams, and even enabling MFA, we can provide the IT support you need in this difficult time. Call us now.
Publish Date: April 10, 2020 5:00 AM