Author Archives: Robert

Companies That Pass On UCaaS Don’t Know What They’re Missing

Companies That Pass On UCaaS Don’t Know What They’re Missing

Companies That Pass On UCaaS

As the helicopter hovers above the water, a young lieutenant checks his HUD. It shows an altitude at 8 meters with wind gusting at 17 knots. His eyes flick to the right and he checks his position. Right on target. 

“Team Alpha, this is Bravo. Are you ready?” The diver receives an affirmative response. But then a warning sounds, followed by a computerized voice: Priority message alert – Rescue target identified as known drug smuggler. Proceed with caution.

Did you hear that, Alpha? Let’s abort. Get your guys ready for this and we’ll come back around in five.

Though the above scenario might seem like something out of an action movie, cloud computing is already making it a reality. Gimmicks aside, most of us don’t have a vested interest in military technology, but the ability to communicate and transmit complex information instantly over any distance is as important to business as it is rescue work and drug busts.

At the heart of both successful rescue operations and efficient workplace collaboration lies the unified communications (UC) field. For anyone who who’s still stuck back in the aughts, UC brings together voice, video, IM, email, calendar, project management, file sharing, and more into a single integrated platform.

A recent Information Week survey found that 36% of businesses have already deployed a UC solution and 31% plan on deploying one within the next 6 to 24 months. But that still leaves one third of all companies who have no plans for adopting UC (though that’s down from 39% in 2011). A large percentage of the businesses uninterested in adopting UC reported seeing little business value in the technology, but chances are they just don’t know what they’re missing.

Consider the following  survey results recently published on IPsmarx.com:

  • Employees spent an average of 33 minutes a day unsuccessfully trying to schedule meetings.
  • Employees reported that 36% of their work days were spent trying to contact co-workers or find information that they thought should be easily accessible.
  • The average employee wasted 39 minutes a day duplicating communications and information sent to multiple people or departments.

The latest flavors of UC, especially UC as a Service (or UCaaS), address all of these inefficiencies (and more) by offering companies a low-cost, infrastructure-free solution that requires a minimal amount of training.

Consider Avaya’s recently launched UCaaS and cloud collaboration platform. By Providing UC as a service, Avaya allows companies to deploy a vendor-neutral platform that lets employees instantly find every available means of contacting any other employee or business partner. Once they’re in touch, workers can turn an instant message into a conference call, answer the office phone from an iPhone on the beach, or respond to an email by talking into a handset.

For medium to large corporations, a move to UCaaS can also mean significant cost savings. Many companies cobble together several services to provide UC-like capability, all of which either have their own subscription costs—or, even worse, require IT infrastructure on-premises and the associated personnel to maintain it. It’s hard to believe any company would knowingly choose that over a UCaaS solution that brings together conferencing, messaging, meetings, and more all under the same umbrella, typically for a much lower price than an on-premises on piecemeal approach.

In a world where professionals are mobile and information wants to be free, workers need tools that empower them to be as efficient and productive as possible. By giving employees fast and easy access to all of their communication tools on any device at any time no matter where they are, corporations can improve workflow, speed the decision making process, and deliver results faster.

What business doesn’t want that?

This post is sponsored by Avaya.

By Robert Shaw

Cloud Computing Won’t Kill IT, But It’ll Definitely Transform It

Cloud Computing Won’t Kill IT, But It’ll Definitely Transform It

Around the country, many corporate and small business IT professionals are downright scared about the future of their careers. Due to slow adoption in the corporate world and general unfamiliarity with administrating cloud services in the small business sector, the IT field has yet to undergo any massive shifts. But IT workers shouldn’t count on that pattern holding forever.

According to Gartner’s research director, Bryan Britz, “Public cloud adoption is accelerating and public cloud services do, and will, cannibalize IT services spending in the coming years.

In other words, more and more companies are likely to ditch their Exchange servers, Active Directory deployments, on-premises line-of-business applications, onsite data storage, and all of the administrative and personnel overhead associated with such infrastructure.

A recent survey by Gartner reported that 19 percent of U.S. companies are already using cloud services for all or most of their production applications, and 20 percent of companies rely on cloud storage for all or most of their data storage needs. Those numbers are likely to steadily increase for the next several years—and possibly indefinitely.

In the small business IT sector, several authorities are projecting significant service provider attrition. Forrester Research has estimated a 15% decline in the SMB IT sector over the next several years, while Gartner has pegged the number as high as 40%.

But for all of the doom-and-gloom prophecies, IT is far from dead. System administrators and server technicians may be relegated to data center positions at a relatively small number of large corporations, but companies both large and small will still require analysts, managers, integrators, and system architects who understand technology and how to leverage a wide variety of services in the most efficient and effective means.

Companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Accenture understand the value of technological expertise and have already positioned themselves to cash in on the move to cloud computing. Large corporations are often willing to pay hourly contractor rates of $200 to $300 or more for expert system integration and migration planning and implementation services.

Among small businesses, a recent Microsoft survey found that 60 percent of small businesses feel that they do not have the expertise to deploy new cloud services, and 52 percent of businesses do not have the internal resources needed to train employees on new cloud services.

With businesses both large and small eager for cloud computing migration, deployment, and training expertise, the future may not be as dim for IT professionals as many of them fear—as long as they’re willing to learn and adapt to the new realities of cloud computing.

By Robert Shaw

How Cloud Computing Companies Make Their Data Centers Hacker-Proof

Cloud computing naysayers have long cited security and privacy as their number one concerns. While more and more companies are adopting cloud services, many corporations and small businesses are still hesitant to embrace the cloud because of concerns about lax security and hacker attacks.

Companies like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon claim to have extremely strong security and have never reported a major security breach. But smaller companies like Dropbox and Zappos have, but the breaches were typically due to internal programming bugs. The question is, should consumers believe that their data is safe with major cloud players? Can cloud computing giants really deliver on their security promises? The answer, in most cases, is a resounding yes.

The largest U.S. data centers are almost always certified by the federal government under programs like FISMA and SAS 70 Type II certification. Cloud companies that hold these designations have implemented physical and cyber security measures.

Data center security starts with physical security. Large data centers typically employ a sizable number of armed guards, as well as technological measures such as high-resolution video monitoring, motion tracking, and analytics software, biometric and/or electronic keycard locks, and extremely strict policies on who has access to servers and other sensitive equipment. Employees are also subject to background checks and screenings as thorough as possible for non-defense organizations.

Companies employ multiple methods to ensure data security. These typically include both data/disk encryption and “data obfuscation,” a process in which even unencrypted data is made illegible to humans and standard computer programs. Obfuscated data is only rendered in clear text or images once it is relayed from the server backend to proprietary frontend interfaces, such as Gmail, Hotmail, and QuickBooks Online. Companies also go to great lengths to ensure physical data security. Deleted data is destroyed using complex wiping algorithms and then overwritten by other real data. Discarded hard drives are physically destroyed, rendering data recovery impossible.

At the network level, cloud companies deploy both human analysts and highly complex algorithms to analyze network packet traffic and look for any anomalies. Suspicious packets are automatically dropped and IP addresses blocked if necessary. Most companies also employ complex security protocols that require any service contacting data center servers to possess a uniquely assigned internal identity. If a network query cannot identify itself as a legitimate request from an internal service, then the connection is terminated. Other network security measures include complex, multi-level routing to detect and block malicious activity, and advanced firewalls.

At the operating system and physical server level, companies typically develop their own flavours of Linux or UNIX which are unknown outside the company, almost impossible to target with malware and viruses due to both software security measures and their obscurity, and constantly updated. Servers are also only accessible by authorized employees with unique identification numbers, and all activity is logged and monitored by both automated software and human supervisors.

Overall, data center security is extremely sophisticated and constantly evolving, leaving virtually all hackers in the dust and making it all but impossible for internal employees to inappropriately access customer information. No contemporary computer system can be completely secure, but most businesses’ data is far less secure on their own servers and computers than it is in a federally certified data center.

By Robert Shaw

CloudTweaks Comics
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