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Boosting productivity with Workplace Analytics

Workplace Analytics allows managers to assess their employees’ performance using the data gathered from Office 365. Unlike past Microsoft productivity tools that showed only the user’s own information, Workplace Analytics allows both employees and managers to view each others’ performance data.

How does Workplace Analytics work?

A paid add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from Office 365 email, calendar, documents, and Skype. This means any data an employee types into their email and calendar — whether the information is in the subject line or in the body itself — can be used to determine their productivity.

The program has an overview dashboard that provides specific information:

  • Week in the Life provides an overall view of how the entire organization spends time and how members collaborate with one another
  • Meetings Overview shows the amount of time people spent in meetings
  • Management and Coaching gauges one-on-one meetings between your staff and their manager
  • Internal Networks shows how people within the company connect with one another
  • External Collaboration provides insights into how people from your company connect with those from third-party organizations
  • Teams Collaboration takes a look at how employees and managers communicate with their colleagues

What does Workplace Analytics aim to do?

According to Microsoft, Workplace Analytics addresses businesses’ most common challenges: complexity, productivity, and engagement.

Using Workplace Analytics data, managers and human resources departments can form productivity strategies for the entire company. If most of your employees spend 60% of their time attending meetings and not enough time doing creative work, managers can come up with a strategy to reduce meeting times and focus more on productive tasks.

Workplace Analytics also identifies how employees collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose one of your sales staff frequently communicates with certain contacts. By using Workplace Analytics data, the manager would be able to determine whether this particular collaboration pattern is helping the employee hit sales targets or he or she is missing out on other more critical contacts. Based on this info, managers would also be able to determine which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Workplace Analytics also allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement (i.e., whether the organization’s collaboration patterns are good for the company), and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

Is Workplace Analytics useful for small businesses?

Large corporations have been using Workplace Analytics, but small businesses can also benefit from it. The data used to provide insights are what employees generate themselves — how much time they spend on meetings, whom they frequently communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

Aside from letting managers examine their staff’s work behavior, Workplace Analytics also provides an overall look at an organizational level. If you want your organization to further harness the capabilities of Workplace Analytics and other Office 365 tools, give us a call today.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2020/02/19/boosting-productivity-with-workplace-analytics/

Publish Date: February 19, 2020


VoIP call quality issues and how to fix them

With the growing advancements in cloud technology and faster internet speeds, more and more companies are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) for their business communications. But just like with any service, you might run into some issues, particularly with call quality. Here are some of the common problems and how to address them.

Choppy voice

The main factor in disjointed, start-stop sounding messages in a VoIP environment is packet loss, which occurs if individual data “packets” are lost in transmission. When this occurs, the gateway at the receiving end of the call tries to predict what’s been lost; but when it can’t, the gap in data remains empty, resulting in choppy audio.

Insufficient bandwidth is often to blame for this issue, so make sure to check your bandwidth usage. Limit the use of bandwidth-heavy applications (e.g., video streaming apps) and tweak your router settings to prioritize VoIP traffic. Also run a test for malware or spyware, which may be hogging the bandwidth.

Static

Many VoIP systems use an analog telephone adapter (ATA) to convert analog voice signals to digital signals. This sometimes produces static during calls, with the culprits usually being incompatible power supplies or feedback from the phones plugged into the ATA.

Easy fixes include unplugging/replugging the ATA and/or the devices connected to it, or switching to IP Phones, which require no analog/digital conversions.

Voice echo

It’s fun to hear your voice repeating throughout the high-walled canyon you’re hiking, but not so great when you’re talking on the phone.

There are a few things you can do to reduce it, such as adjusting volume and microphone/amplifier gain settings, upgrading your USB headsets, or implementing VoIP echo cancellation software.

Jitter

Jitter happens when data packets arrive at the receiver in the wrong order, creating a garbled voice.

You can minimize this issue by using a jitter buffer — an area where data packets are temporarily collected, stored, and sent out in a regular, orderly fashion. This way, packets are delivered perfectly every time.

Want to ensure a smooth experience with VoIP? Let us handle all of your VoIP concerns. We can help you manage everything, from planning to installation to optimization. Contact us today for more information.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2020/02/03/voip-call-quality-issues-and-how-to-fix-them/

Publish Date: February 3, 2020


How virtual reality helps small- and mid-sized business

Virtual reality (VR) has many benefits. Its immersive sensory experience is being applied in healthcare, gaming and entertainment, fashion, the military, and the media, just to name a few. Small- and mid-sized businesses are no exception, as this technology is changing how they normally do business in wonderful ways.

Create your own VR prototypes

With the help of VR, you’ll no longer have to rely on manufacturing when you want to see what your product physically looks like and how it might work. These virtual products allow you to make any changes before production. Model creation in VR, for example, can save company resources, as these virtual prototypes allow manufacturers to examine a product and make changes without the time and money of building a physical model.

VR for engineers

As with manufacturing, VR is also time- and cost-efficient for engineers, architects, and other professionals who work with building large structures. It replaces traditional approaches, such as rendering small 2D models, and offers a more immersive experience that helps in designing structures.

Virtual tours

Let’s say that you’re a real estate agent showing houses to potential buyers. Your buyers may be in a different state or simply don’t want to spend time going from house to house. VR allows customers to see what the property looks like in a three-dimensional setting without them having to actually be there.

Showing all the angles of a product

In order to entice buyers into making a purchase, you must first give them an idea as to what your product actually looks like, and they need to see as many angles as possible. With VR, customers see your product from all angles without touching it. Furthermore, it allows customers to see a product in action. Shoppers can thoroughly examine a product before purchasing it.

Take customers on an adventure

If you are in a tourism or adventure-based business, you can use VR to give customers a taste of what to expect from the attractions. Imagine that you have an amusement park, and you want to attract customer attention. You can offer a short VR simulation of one of your rides so people can see whether or not they’d like it. Or if you own a resort or campground, you’ll also be able to create VR versions of whatever activities you offer.

If done properly, VR has the potential to take your small- and mid-sized business to the next level. If you have any questions about how you can mesh VR with your company, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist you.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2020/01/27/how-virtual-reality-helps-small-and-mid-sized-business/

Publish Date: January 27, 2020


Unified communications defined

Communications is an integral business component that no enterprise can survive without. At the forefront of modern business communications is the all-in-one, internet-powered communications solution: unified communications.

What is unified communications?

Unified communications (UC) allows you to manage all your communications as one piece of architecture rather than as several different components patched together. It integrates computer-related communication technologies like instant messaging and video conferencing with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allows you to make and receive calls using the internet.

What can be integrated?

Just about every medium of communication can be integrated. This includes voice communication in all its forms — voicemail, email, or fax — as well as multimedia services like video chat and web conferencing. Real-time communication like call screening and call conferencing can also be integrated. On top of these, even data services and transactions like eCommerce and online banking can be added to a UC system.

What are the benefits of UC to small businesses?

One of the most evident benefits is having a single and flexible communication infrastructure that allows you to streamline and enhance business communication and easily manage all the components.
Features can be scaled up or down to support your business needs without hassle. Other benefits include:

Hypermobility
UC enables you to access your files via a wide array of smart devices, like laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more. This means you can create your office environment and satisfy customers from anywhere you please. This opens up a world of opportunity for real-time collaboration and remote work.

Improved productivity
Your employees will be equipped with productivity-enhancing communication features, like call info, call routing, and more, which will enable them to work more efficiently and better tend to customers’ needs. Web and video conferencing calls, for instance, not only allow for real-time interactivity, but also for better collaboration. Delayed response times and gaps between dispersed teams are also minimized.

Real-time updates
You and your employees will be able to see important presence updates in real time, including the locations of your colleagues and ways to contact them. This way, you can get the right information from the right person when you need it.

Single point of contact
Clearly defined points of contact ensure that stakeholders can reach you by email, phone, SMS, etc., whether they are reaching out to you from a softphone, an IP phone, email, or IM.

Reduced costs
UC eliminates travel costs and lowers phone bills since it uses the internet to make calls. It also limits the need for expensive on-site hardware, as one UC server keeps everyone connected using the aforementioned communication features.
Even better, you can potentially save thousands of dollars on office overheads by allowing employees to work from home since they’ll remain connected with their softphones even when they’re not in the office.

It’s only a matter of time before unified communications becomes the norm for day-to-day office interactions. If you’re interested in learning more about how UC or VoIP can transform your business, just give us a call. We’ll answer your questions and help you devise an integration strategy for your business.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2020/01/13/unified-communications-defined/

Publish Date: January 13, 2020


Your future is with VoIP telephony systems

When it comes to IT, easy set-up, flexibility, and savings are music to the ears of any owner of a small- or mid-sized business (SMB). These are all features that contribute to the success of Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP. The technology was built on a strong foundation that has allowed it to move with the times. Is your business prepared to move with the times and install a money-saving VoIP system?

First, we’d like to give you a quick rundown of what SMBs get from a robust VoIP calling plan today:

  • Convenience – It’s easy to manage.
  • Scalability – It’s even easier to expand.
  • Economy – Calls over the internet are cheap.
  • Portability – Access from anywhere with high-speed internet.
  • Efficiency – Attach emails, send e-faxes, conduct virtual meetings, etc.

These are the core qualities that make VoIP systems so beneficial to SMBs. But how will value propositions like these be affected by future telephony trends? Could advances in internet technology possibly have adverse effects on VoIP, or will the two continue moving in harmony?

Here’s how VoIP and the internet are changing the future of businesses today.

The cloud + VoIP

Many companies’ first step away from their traditional phone system is to a premise-based VoIP system. It’s a great option, but one that may not fully capture all the benefits of VoIP such as lower costs and easy expandability.

A better solution is “hosted VoIP.” Because your whole VoIP system is cloud-based, you have low upfront costs, lower maintenance costs, and the lowest hardware costs.

Social media + VoIP

Present-day online applications like Skype, Line, and WhatsApp deliver an internet-calling function as part of the package. They are the present-day syntheses of social media with VoIP functionality.

Today, you can program a chatbot to engage interested customers through Facebook, converse with them via an automated Q&A session to find out their needs, and end by inviting them to connect with your CSR via video chat. A VoIP/CRM integration could easily handle it, bringing you that much closer to potential clients and closed deals.

IoT + VoIP

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a term given to the variety of devices, gadgets, vehicles, and household products transmitting information over the internet. Examples would be data from earthquake early-warning systems delivered to first responders, or your heart rate sent from a wearable heart monitor to your cardiologist’s office.

The IoT has the potential to coalesce with VoIP in many productivity-enhancing ways such as:

  • Notifications can be sent from your calendar app to your VoIP interface
  • Mobile-phone text messages can be programmed to drop into your VoIP mailbox
  • GPS information can be used to automatically update employee statuses on their VoIP extensions

The future of VoIP is already here. So if you think your business would benefit from a cutting-edge VoIP solution, give us a call today, over the internet or otherwise.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/12/25/your-future-is-with-voip-telephony-systems/

Publish Date: December 25, 2019


TDoS: An attack on VoIP systems

Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are nothing new. But most businesses have no idea how to prevent this type of attack on their Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system. If you’re one of those businesses, we have everything you need to know right here.

Denial-of-service attacks

The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that the system is eventually forced to shut down. Telephony DoS (TDoS) attack is a subcategory leveled at VoIP systems. Alarmingly, this attack is commonly used against hospitals and 911 phone lines. Much like ransomware, some TDoS attackers even demand a ransom to halt the attack. They take advantage of cryptocurrencies and caller-ID spoofing to make it incredibly difficult to identify attackers.

TDoS attacks generally employ fewer resources than the DoS attacks that are designed to cripple IT systems such as networks, servers, and software. At its most basic, all that a TDoS attack requires is an automated phone dialer that calls a target phone number and hangs up — over and over. That very simple strategy can stop anyone else from getting through the line.

What organizations need to do

Counterintuitive as it might sound, locking down your VoIP system with complicated and unnecessary security measures will ultimately do more harm than good. Most businesses can’t operate if they can’t communicate with their customers.

Although VoIP may be a digital resource similar to your other IT systems, the very nature of phone lines makes it impossible to hide them behind firewalls and other protections. However, there are new solutions that offer protection to VoIP systems. There are now new security protocols that can protect your communication infrastructure against those who try to use force to gain access to your directory information. These protocols can also identify, reroute, and filter calls coming from known attackers.

If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with your VoIP system, or if you want to deploy the most up-to-date solution that the market has to offer, our expert staff is ready to help you at the drop of a hat — just call today.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/12/04/tdos-an-attack-on-voip-systems/

Publish Date: December 4, 2019


What is VoIP theft of service?

Despite often going undetected, theft of service is the most common type of fraud for phone systems that use the internet to make calls. How does it affect an organization’s VoIP network and how can businesses prevent or minimize the risk of this type of fraud? Let’s take a closer look.

What is theft of service?

Internet-based phone systems are far more vulnerable to fraud compared to traditional telephony services. VoIP calls face threats ranging from identity theft, eavesdropping, intentional disruption of service, and even financial loss. Theft of service, the most common type of VoIP fraud, includes stealing usernames, passwords, and account information. Hackers usually introduce malware into your system to crash it or steal user passwords.

From a legal standpoint, theft of service means obtaining service from an individual or a company without payment. It may involve deleting or changing invoicing records, unauthorized invoicing, or taking the property of a service provider.

Also, hackers may simply want to crash your system and will flood the network with packets of data so that callers lose access. They may also try to intercept the packets to eavesdrop on calls.

A third type of VoIP hack accesses your VoIP system and allows spammers to flood your office with promotional calls similar to junk email. This type of attack is called spam over internet telephony (SPIT). Once they infiltrate your communications system, they might broadcast unsolicited messages, advertisements, or other commercial messages over your VoIP.

The solution

Defending against theft of service requires nothing new or unusual, aside from a little common sense and technical preventative measures.

Common sense measures involve making your passwords as secure as possible and preventing unauthorized physical access and use of your VoIP phone instruments. The technical stuff? Keeping your antivirus software up to date and combining it with fraudulent call routing detection and encryption software.

VoIP has become an essential business communication tool, so it makes perfect sense to understand exactly what theft of service is to avoid its negative impact. We’d be more than happy to give you advice on implementing any of these protections or managing your VoIP services. Give us a call to get started.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/11/18/what-is-voip-theft-of-service/

Publish Date: November 18, 2019


How CRM boosts business revenue

There are several factors that contribute to a business’s success, such as a good location, quality products and services, and a well-planned marketing strategy. But one important component that every company should have is a reliable customer relationship management (CRM) system. As a business owner, you know that a solid base of loyal customers is the source of your revenue, and the relationship you build with that base will determine how far your business can go.

Imagine buying a product, and it breaks the first time you use it. You contact customer support and describe the issue, only to be told to wait for another representative to call you back. You wait for hours, and still nobody calls back. After sending an email to customer support, there’s a chance that somebody will return your call, but it’s from someone unfamiliar with your problem and you awkwardly have to explain yourself for the third or fourth time. An effective customer relationship management system can eliminate this problem and many more. Here’s what you need to know.

What is a CRM system?

CRM is a system that allows businesses to manage, record, and evaluate their customer interactions to provide better services and boost sales. You can use CRM to store customers’ contact details, accounts, leads, and sales opportunities all in one place.

What are the features of a CRM system?

  • Data management – When customer data is recorded, the CRM system centralizes the data into one file, called a master file. Everyone within the company then has access to this data source, preventing confusion from inaccurate or duplicated data.
  • Collaboration – Nowadays, clients demand quick and efficient customer service, so all involved departments must work together to quickly resolve client concerns. CRM systems enable collaboration by enabling the sharing of customer information among departments. This way, everyone is on the same page on clients’ circumstances and requirements.
  • Customer segmentation – A CRM system arranges your customers into groups based on criteria such as age, gender, location, and even their likes and dislikes. This allows you to target marketing messages to your customers more accurately, potentially increasing your sales numbers.
  • Task tracking – CRM systems have task tracking features that enable your employees to stay on top of important tasks, such as contacting customers via email or phone and following up on leads. CRM systems also send reminders to employees about their assigned tasks so that nothing falls through the cracks.
  • In-depth reporting – CRM systems provide a thorough analysis of your customer base. Its reports give details including an overview of product sales numbers, marketing strategy performance, most successful products or services to date, and even a prediction of whether your sales target will be met at the end of the month.

If you’re looking to improve customer service and increase sales conversion using a CRM system, contact us today!

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/11/12/how-crm-boosts-business-revenue/

Publish Date: November 12, 2019


What you need to know about your VoIP’s QoS

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)  has become a popular communications solution for small- and medium-sized businesses. There are so many providers and services to choose from, but how do you pick the right one? One crucial factor you should look into is a vendor’s Quality of Service, or QoS.

What is QoS?

VoIP providers and IT experts define “Quality of Service” as the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by looking at objective statistics like bandwidth use, transmission (call) delay, error rates, etc. Subjective data, like what the end users think of the system’s performance, are also factored in.

Why does QoS vary from provider to provider?

QoS does not just apply to VoIP, but also to traditional phone systems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the quality of landline calls are near perfect. This is because all traditional phone network providers invested in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS. That means switching from one provider to another doesn't affect the quality of the calls.

But investments in physical networks were expensive, and customers ended up shouldering the costs. The high cost of maintaining the transmission network (phone lines, switches, etc.) is also why there are only a couple of phone providers in your area. In other words, it's just too costly for small companies to launch a traditional phone network system.

In comparison, VoIP systems are a lot cheaper to set up and maintain. This has led to a high number of VoIP providers. And because anyone with capital can set up their VoIP systems without having to adhere to a standard, the QoS amongst providers can vary drastically. To find the provider with the best QoS, ask them these three questions:

    How much of the network infrastructure do you own?

Almost every VoIP provider will rely on public infrastructure in order to transmit data. The rule of thumb is, the bigger the company’s share in the infrastructure, the higher its QoS is. This is because the provider will have more control over the technology.
One of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own almost all of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

    How much traffic will run over public internet?

The answer to this will vary among providers. Some of the most popular solutions like Vonage will use almost 100% public internet for their traffic. Other companies will use a mixture of public and private networks, often using public internet for more affordable packages and private internet for high-end users. If you often use VoIP for functions that require heavy bandwidth like conference calling, then you may need to sign up for more expensive packages so the QoS doesn’t drop.

    What level of quality can you guarantee?

Good providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable, or even better, than traditional phone networks. This is especially important for businesses that are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. Ask your prospective provider to run a few tests on your network and to give you a quality assurance. If the numbers are too low for your business needs, look for another provider.
Do you want to know more about how to pick the best VoIP provider and how VoIP can benefit your business? Get in touch with our experts today.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/10/30/what-you-need-to-know-about-your-voips-qos/

Publish Date: October 30, 2019


VoIP tips to get ready for the holidays

As a business owner, you know how important it is to attend to your holiday customers. To ensure customer satisfaction, optimize the use of your VoIP system. Here's how to do just that.

Check your VoIP equipment

Sometimes, problems with VoIP don't have anything to do with your service provider or even the underlying servers that host the solution. Instead, issues may stem from the physical VoIP lines and phones themselves. One common issue with VoIP is that if your equipment is stacked too closely, users may experience a degradation in call quality.

You can ask your employees to check call quality, especially if two VoIP devices are close to one another. If there are issues, moving them further apart should clear this up.

Beyond this, take the time to inspect all cables and connections to ensure they are in good condition and are able to deal with increased wear and tear during the holidays. If your equipment is old and outdated, you may need to look for replacements.

Establish VoIP system monitoring

With people rushing to get their last-minute shopping done, your staff will likely experience a sharp spike in inquiries and assistance. A monitoring solution can help predict when issues may arise. Whether you are open or closed for the holidays, make sure to implement the following:

Busy periods
Set up call queuing with hold music or estimated wait time.
Leave recorded messages with complete information and an alternative way to contact support such as a hotline, an email address, or your website.
Change your configuration to help you manage shorter business hours.
Set diverts for reduced hours.

Closed periods
Set automated messages or announcements to say that your business will be closed during the holiday season and what day you will reopen.
Update receptionist greetings before Christmas to remind callers of your holiday hours.
Set up call diverts for employees who will be working remotely.

Enable dedicated support

The great thing about VoIP is the support that comes with it. You can keep call costs low as employees working from home can still communicate with the office. A good VoIP system can be configured to work for you and your customers no matter what hours you are open during the holidays.

Whether it’s diverting calls to mobile devices or remote machines, a good VoIP service provider understands that your business needs to be operational even over the holidays, and their support service underpins that.

Work with an experienced IT provider

Christmas is busy enough without having to worry about something like a phone outage. If you need help with your phone systems, or want to discuss how VoIP could help your business, call us today and we’ll make sure to recommend the best VoIP solution to ensure that your customers are happy and satisfied.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/10/15/voip-tips-to-get-ready-for-the-holidays/

Publish Date: October 15, 2019


Tips and tricks for collecting customer data

Businesses have more access to customer data than ever before, and that trend will likely continue in the future. The insights you get from all that data are valuable. However, a lot of data is unnecessary or possibly even problematic. To ensure your insights are relevant and useful, you must have a well-defined data collection system in place.

Before we jump into our tips for data collection, we have to address the elephant in the room: customer privacy. Despite all the recent regulatory frameworks for protecting people’s private information, there are still a number of opportunities for you to collect data without running afoul of the law. However, honesty is the best business policy. Never ask for a customer’s personal information unless you are absolutely sure that they are aware of the exchange.

With that out of the way, let’s get to it!

1. Collect identifiers

Whether you’re creating an online survey or a signup form, collecting identifying information (i.e. names, date of birth, age, gender, address, etc.) is crucial. This information will form the foundation for future analysis and segmentation.

2. Track customer interactions

Next is to define important customer interactions. For example, if you own an online store, you need to know how your customers arrived at your site, the items they clicked on, items they added to their cart, and what they eventually purchased. Tracking each step of their journey — from learning about your business to becoming a customer — will give you insights into what your customers need and want.

3. Gather behavior-related data

Don't focus solely on customers who made a purchase. Think about what other indicators produce meaningful data. In our online store example, you might want to track how many receive your email newsletter, how many pages they visited on your site, or how much time they spent on each page. Analyzing this information will help you determine which aspects of your efforts are most effective.

4. Automate data collection

When gathering customer data, you must minimize the risk of human error. The most effective strategy is to automate as much of the collection process as possible. Apps and tools such as online forms and optical character recognition systems feed information directly into your database and eliminate paper-centric processes that often lead to mistakes.

5. Integrate your systems

Redundancies and errors are also common when there are multiple databases managing the same information. You can prevent these issues by working with an IT provider to integrate all your apps, databases, and software solutions. This way, data collected in one database will be synced and consistent across other platforms, reducing manual data entry.

6. Consider who will view the reports

Inevitably, you’ll need to turn data into business intelligence reports. It’s a good idea to identify who will read your reports and highlight the most relevant insights. For instance, sales managers want to see quarterly sales figures, and human resources teams want to see labor costs compared to revenue. Using the right tools to generate these reports will save your team several hours of work.

7. Update data in real-time

It’s difficult to imagine any company in operation today that doesn’t need up-to-the-minute data accuracy. Business intelligence dashboards collect, organize, and filter data at the click of a button. This way, you’ll never have to wait a day or more to receive information that’s critical for a company decision.

Looking for technologies that can help you optimize data collection? Call our IT consultants today. We’ll recommend best-of-breed technologies that track the information you need to grow your business.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/10/09/tips-and-tricks-for-collecting-customer-data/

Publish Date: October 9, 2019


3 Things to consider with virtualization

Virtualization can help boost operational efficiencies like never before, but you have to understand that the benefits aren’t always immediate. As with anything IT, the price to pay for perks is proper setup and fastidious implementation. Here are a few concerns you need to address before virtualizing your infrastructure.

Backup

Incorporating a robust backup system in a virtualized setting can become a huge challenge. You’d have to determine which data you want to store and how often it should be backed up. You would then have to decide whether you should back up all your virtual machines or just some vital ones that have important apps and data.

In any case, you’ll be caught in a grueling battle because of the overwhelming amount of data that needs to be backed up. The only way to overcome this is to integrate a powerful backup-to-disk solution offered by a reputable managed IT services provider (MSP).

Security

Security concerns are more complicated in a virtualized setting since you have to monitor security on two tiers, namely virtual machine security and physical host security.

Compromised physical host security will affect every virtual machine running on that particular host server. Meanwhile, a compromised virtual machine will disrupt the physical server and affect every virtual machine residing on the same host. To address this problem, you need to set up strong network defenses — including firewalls, intrusion prevention systems, antivirus software, and virtual machine security tools — and a hardened physical security system in the form of surveillance cameras, locks, biometric scans, and security guards. Of course, if you don’t have the funds to set these up, it may make more sense to leave it to a security-conscious MSP.

Monitoring

Since your team has to oversee both virtual machines and physical servers to ensure that you have a fully operational environment, it does have a few pain points.

First, running a monitoring software on the physical host server will likely impact the virtual machines’ performance since it takes up valuable processing power and memory. That means you’ll need to compute the resources used by your monitoring software and make sure they’re not consuming too much from your physical host server.

Second, keeping tabs on your virtual machines and making sure they’re secure and running at all times comprise a full-time job. So unless you have a team of professionals in-house, you’ll definitely need some help from the outside.

Without a doubt, virtualization brings a lot of benefits to the table, but you have to know how it affects every aspect of your business — particularly issues involved in management. Let us show you how you can use it to its full potential. Just give us a call today!

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/10/02/3-things-to-consider-with-virtualization/

Publish Date: October 2, 2019


3 Cloud service models for your business

Cloud computing has become a staple in business strategy and IT architecture over the past couple of years. The functions and benefits of using the cloud let businesses seek to adopt new business models, obtain valuable insights from massive amounts of data, manage workloads, and gain competitive advantage. But cloud adoption can be tedious, and knowing the right kind of cloud to adopt for your business is critical to your success. This article will help you understand the three types of cloud service models.

1. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Easily the largest and most well known cloud-based service, SaaS uses the cloud to deliver apps to users, and these apps are then usually accessed via a web browser. This means users who have access to the internet can access the software from any device, at any time. Unlike physical software that you install on your computer, SaaS solutions are hosted on a provider’s servers. In a nutshell, SaaS is:

  • Available over the internet
  • Hosted on a remote server by a third-party provider
  • Scalable, with different tiers for small, medium, and enterprise-level businesses
  • Inclusive, offering security, compliance, and maintenance as part of the cost

With SaaS, your provider is responsible for software maintenance and updates, which means users will all be using the same version of software and get updates at the same time. As a business owner, this means that managing the software on all of your computers is not only easier, but more affordable.

SaaS software solutions include office document creation suites, accounting software, email, HR solutions, content management, customer relationship management (CRM), and more.

2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

PaaS is primarily used by developers who need a virtual environment for developing and testing their own custom software or applications. This means developers don’t need to build and maintain their own infrastructure (which is comprised of networking devices, storage, servers, an operating system, and other necessary hardware and software) from scratch when developing applications, saving the firm time and money. Most companies who utilize PaaS do so to either host or develop their own software solutions, or to provide support for software used by employees. PaaS platforms are:

  • Accessible by multiple users
  • Scalable — you can choose from various tiers of resources to suit the size of your business
  • Built on virtualization technology
  • Easy to run without extensive system administration knowledge

While PaaS is gaining in popularity with many small businesses, most won’t have firsthand interaction with this type of cloud because they won't need to build their own software or app.

3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

IaaS offers services such as pay-as-you-go storage, networking, and virtualization. The most popular and well-known type of IaaS is the virtual machine — a digital version of a computer or server that is accessed over an internet connection. IaaS gives users cloud-based alternatives to expensive on-premises infrastructure so businesses can use their funds to invest in other things.

In other words, if you are looking to virtualize your systems via the cloud, IaaS is a good place to start, as it allows you to move existing support systems into the cloud. Other solutions can then be migrated or introduced as needed. IaaS is essentially:

  • Highly flexible and scalable
  • Accessible by multiple users
  • Cost-effective

While the cloud offers a wide variety of benefits and solutions, choosing the service which is best for your company’s needs can be tedious. To ease this burden, get in touch with us today. We’ll help you find the best solution your business needs and ensure proper migration and implementation so you can focus on running your business.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/09/24/3-cloud-service-models-for-your-business/

Publish Date: September 24, 2019


What does the lifespan of a business phone system look like?

Although digital communication tools let businesses connect with customers and other stakeholders in an efficient manner, telephones are still used to communicate with important business stakeholders. And for many organizations, determining whether to use internet phones or legacy systems remains a concern. To help you decide, here's a short guide on business phones and their life span.

Different phone systems

Telephones have come a long way from when they first came about in 1876; modern phone systems have virtually unlimited reach, are automated, and are cheaper than ever to acquire. Today’s businesses still use telephones to connect with various stakeholders such as customers, investors, and suppliers, to service their numerous needs, and in most cases, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phones are the answer.

VoIP is a system of hardware and software that uses the internet instead of wired circuits to transmit data. VoIP does more than just transmit audio; it can also send a variety of data (video, multimedia, SMS, etc.) and perform other tasks as well.

A VoIP system’s hardware (phone units, cables, CPUs, etc.) and software (one or more applications that run the system) can be either on-premises or hosted:

On-premises – Hardware and software are physically housed within the premises of the company.
Hosted – Some of the hardware, like phone units and other equipment, can be found within the premises. But most, if not all, of the software are hosted online. Service providers look after hosted systems for their clients.

Life cycles: On-premises vs. hosted

With hardware, it doesn’t matter whether it’s on-premises or hosted. Hardware is affected by the wear and tear stemming from daily use. Barring any accidents or physical damage, VoIP hardware should last several years.

On the other hand, software requires regular updates. It's worth noting that it's faster and cheaper to update software that’s hosted in the cloud versus one that’s on-premises. That said, the differences in longevity between the two are negligible; both can last upwards of 10 years, depending on how dependable your IT support is.

Technology today vs. before

In the past, hardware and software were built to last. Today, they’re built to adapt and change, thanks to cloud technology.

The effect of this shift on hardware and software is dramatic:

Most hardware components are very similar, with replacements and upgrades coming every 5–8 years on average.
Cloud software is faster, easier, and cheaper to upgrade. Critical updates can be released almost constantly, with complete overhauls taking no longer than 2–3 years.

As your business moves forward, your phone system should be agile and fast, and should integrate smoothly with the other systems in your business, such as email or management software.

Be a step ahead

Downtime results in loss of potential sales and, essentially, wasted money. If your phone service is spotty and is constantly unreliable, perhaps it’s time to switch to VoIP phones.

Nowadays, it’s not longevity that’s important; it’s staying ahead of the curve. Call our experts today so you can always be a step ahead.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/08/26/what-does-the-lifespan-of-a-business-phone-system-look-like/

Publish Date: August 26, 2019


Smartphone browsers now support biometrics

Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox Lite support web-based biometric authentication. The leading mobile browsers now allow users to sign in to online profiles through fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, and the like. What’s more, online biometric authentication through these browsers requires no additional software.

Authenticate your profile on your mobile device

Chrome OS, Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Android are all adding features to help users safely log in using biometric identification via USB, Bluetooth, and NFC devices connected to smartphones and tablets. With such convenience, users can verify their accounts on the go.

Preventing cyberattacks with browser-based biometrics

Passwords are notoriously bad at protecting users’ accounts and the information they store. Facial scans, fingerprints, and voice recognition would make it exponentially harder for hackers to commit identity theft. That means you’re also less likely to be duped by an email from a hacker pretending to be your boss asking for the company credit card's details.

Enjoy more secure online transactions

Biometric verification will also retire the need for logging in your information when shopping online, streaming video, using cloud applications, and other internet-based transactions. Windows 10 has already adopted features that offer limited account management with fingerprints and facial scans. Samsung phones now have Samsung Pay, which turns them into digital wallets that are protected by fingerprint or iris scans.

Browser-based biometrics is starting to revolutionize and streamline the steps in verifying online accounts. It promises to add more security and ease in logging in and transacting on the internet. To keep up with the latest and greatest in browser-related innovations at your company, give us a call now.

Source: https://www.itstelecom.com/2019/08/21/smartphone-browsers-now-support-biometrics/

Publish Date: August 21, 2019

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