5 Unified Communications Features Every Business Should Have

Unified CommunicationsUnified communications (UC) has revolutionized telephony systems for enterprises. Outdated phone systems that use legacy technologies are officially obsolete, and continuing to use them can actually inhibit a business’s ability to grow and respond to the dynamic needs of its customers and clients.

Companies that are ready to make the switch to UC solutions should be sure to look for these five key features:

On-the-Go Accessibility

Today’s world is a dynamic and mobile place, and the most efficient and effective UC systems offer access to users wherever and whenever there’s an Internet connection available. Mobility features allow employees and customer service representatives to be productive and available beyond their desks, and that’s an increasingly valuable feature as traditional ways of doing business continue to change.
Enhanced Efficiency and Productivity

UC solutions allow employees to customize their outbound and inbound call protocols in ways that are far more flexible than the possibilities offered by legacy systems and operator-assisted networks. Some of these possibilities include:

  • Applications that offer real-time inbound and outbound call control
  • Teleconferencing capabilities
  • Customized hold and priority sequencing features

These tools can all be configured to prioritize customer service objectives while giving employees creative solutions with pinpoint control.

Easy Compatibility

Compatibility was a major issue in the early days of UC, with devices from different manufacturers sometimes posing problems when connected to a single network. However, compatibility has come a long way in the past few years, and systems that support devices from various manufacturers can often save businesses a significant amount of money.

Even better, enhanced compatibility enables organizations to pick and choose the devices that best meet their specific needs without needing to worry about which manufacturer produces it. This gives the system superior flexibility and a wider range of performance capabilities.
Remote Support

The nature of the office is changing. People are telecommuting in growing numbers, and it’s common for even smaller enterprises to maintain staff at multiple locations. UC systems ensure that all employees, no matter where they’re working, have access to the same suite of performance and productivity features.
Value for Investment

A lot of businesses are tempted by UC systems with low up-front costs, but it’s important to carefully calculate how much value the system will deliver in the long term relative to its price. Businesses should be particularly aware of add-on features and hidden costs. In most cases, it’s better to invest a little more up front in exchange for cost certainty and predictability going forward.

ROI Networks offers a complete range of advanced UC solutions, loaded with the essential features businesses need to stay competitive in a dynamic and constantly changing environment. Please contact us today to learn more about our wide range of available UC products and service packages.

4 Key Elements to Consider When Searching for an Enterprise Data Security Solution

SecuritySecurity rightfully remains a top concern for tech-side executives and IT personnel, especially given recent trends towards cloud computing and big data. While these applications have created new types of external threats, organizations also need to be aware of the risks posed by insiders. Well-designed data security plans anticipate both scenarios and deliver purpose-built solutions.

It’s normal to be wary when dealing with sales agents who are pushing specific security solutions, as they often have their own agendas. Knowing the right features to look for is the key to breaking past the sales jargon and securing a data protection solution that’s right for the unique needs of an organization.

With that in mind, here are some indispensable tips for finding an effective enterprise data security solution that delivers good value:

Beware of Rock-Bottom Up-Front Costs

Some vendors push security solutions with price tags that seem too good to be true, which they justify by claiming that the solution is relatively light on software needs, allegedly accounting for its low cost. Such offers should be received with skepticism.

When it comes to costs, it’s essential to look beyond the up-front expenditures and into cumulative fees. How much will it cost, in total, to run this security package for a year, or for its expected lifetime? Will it require additional human or IT resources? Does it offer savings potential? If so, how much?

Account for the Risks Posed by Privileged Insiders

No business wants to consider the possibility that many serious security risks originate with its own employees, but this is, unfortunately, the case. Privileged insiders can compromise data knowingly or unknowingly, so it’s essential to find a solution that introduces critical checks and balances.

The best way to keep an eye on the activities of privileged insiders is to implement a security system that tracks local access to critical data. Here are some specific features to look for:

  • The ability to identify attempts of unauthorized users to access local networks
  • Controls that facilitate the blocking of users or activities that may compromise data
  • Dynamic masking features that prevent sensitive information from being distributed outside the network
  • Quarantine capabilities that identify and isolate privileged insiders who knowingly compromise company information

Read the Fine Print

When it comes to license agreements, some vendors will insist that a particular package is unlimited when, in reality, the package carries restrictions. One common example is a security solution with an “unlimited” license that allows IT teams to monitor any number of sources but has strict caps on the number of authorized collectors.

To be sure an unlimited solution is truly what it claims to be, read the fine print and follow up by questioning the vendor about anything that doesn’t seem clear.
Remember: It Only Takes One Attack

Businesses with incomplete security solutions in place shouldn’t delay in taking action. It only takes one attack to create serious complications, and the possibility of suffering costly losses is elevated the longer a business goes without a comprehensive data protection plan.

The professionals at ROI Networks specialize in helping enterprises of all sizes safeguard their data. To learn more about ROI’s advanced suite of enterprise security solutions, please contact us today.

Hackers in Healthcare: Strong in 2017

HackersEvery year brings a fresh new set of security threats and tactics by hackers, and 2017 promises to be no different. Experts in the industry predict that healthcare organizations will continue to be a preferred target for breaches, identity theft, and cyberspying attempts.

Evolution

As cybervillains and hackers develop new strategies and shift between infiltration methods, organizations must also evolve in their security planning. Analytical data can be used to show anomalies and trends that will predict an impending incident. Constantly adding new hack profiles and defenses as well as adopting the most current protection methods reduces the likelihood of a hack’s success.

Desirable Assets

The reason that the healthcare industry is so attractive to cybercriminals is the immense amount of private data that is housed by providers and insurance companies. Consider the information that must be filled out for a simple doctor visit due to a cold. From employment information to social security and credit card numbers, addresses, and insurance policy numbers, data can be easily used for identity theft or medical fraud and spell financial disaster to victims. This data is incredibly valuable on the black market and has proven itself to be easily attainable.

Size Doesn’t Matter

Healthcare organizations large or small may be the target of hackers. Smaller, less tech-savvy providers may fall prey more easily to phishing and malware. Larger businesses could be slow to update their protection software and miss an infiltration attempt. Vendors with lackadaisical practices could cause gaps where systems connect.

Different Aim

While insurers were a common target over the past couple of years, it’s likely that hospital network breaches will increasingly be the objective for thieves in 2017. Given the myriad of old systems and rapid pace of a busy hospital, chances are good that a criminal can stumble upon one vulnerable entry point.

Other Predictions to Note

Some successful hack methods will persist, such as the use of ransomware where company assets are held hostage until a fee is paid to release the records. Effective training programs and internet filters may help reduce exposure to these programs, but the level of expertise displayed by hackers makes it extremely difficult to avoid all attempts.

Healthcare organizations will begin to feel the aftereffects of previous breaches in the form of old passwords and login credentials being used to attempt access across the industry. Government regulations will evolve to penalize hospitals for noncompliant security practices.

The coming year will be a test of defenses across the healthcare industry. Technical resources must be observant, tactical, and prepared for whatever inventive methods hackers will employ. Multi-factor authentication, thorough vendor vetting, and constant evolution of security standards are imperative in this new world of dark web crime. For more information on protecting your company network, contact ROI Networks today.

BYOD Options: The More, the Messier

BYODOrganizations are finding increasing value in allowing a wider array of devices to be used for company business. From improved worker satisfaction and productivity to reduced communications equipment costs, this simple perk makes a surprising difference. Before implementing a flexible bring your own device (BYOD) program, a number of key factors must be considered to protect company interests.

Security Provisions

One of the most concerning issues for organizations considering a BYOD program is the perceived lack of control over the device, especially as it relates to security. Any equipment capable of accessing company networks or data represents a point of risk of exposure. An important part of a successful device strategy is to dictate certain requirements for all devices involved.

For example, the policy may call for active anti-virus applications on any devices that will be used. Access to sensitive data may be configured so that a VPN tunnel must be used rather than straight access from a suspicious hotspot or public Wi-Fi. A PIN or password on the device could be another requirement. These types of tactics allow any device to be used with less risk of data loss or compromise.

Employee Training

In some cases, data breaches result from a lack of employee training. Without being educated on why public hotspots could be dangerous, a worker may not think twice about connecting to their work email from the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi. Teaching staff about phishing, rogue applications designed to collect payment and authorization information, and ways to physically protect devices from being lost or stolen increases their awareness. Giving them the tools to help protect the company and themselves minimizes the chance of a security incident from a BYOD connection.

Manageability

Another troublesome “control” issue within BYOD programs is how to terminate access if an employee leaves. Removing company data, applications, and connectivity may seem impossible. However, with today’s mobile device management tools this task becomes painless and efficient. Devices that are lost or stolen can be deactivated or wiped, access can be deleted, and sensitive information tightly secured.

Application Selection

Last but not least, choosing the right applications for use across the company is a necessary part of the BYOD conversation. For example, applications that are strictly on-premise or legacy are going to be out of reach for most, if not all, mobile devices. Ensure that cloud applications are secure and compatible with other company systems before choosing to implement them.

BYOD programs take significant burden off of IT personnel who would ordinarily be inundated with acquiring, provisioning, supporting, configuring, and deactivating devices. Workers get more done with hardware they’re most familiar with and enjoy the freedom to use their preferred devices. Flexible BYOD strategies can be quite effective with an appropriate measure of preparedness. For more information on creating effective mobile policies, contact ROI Networkstoday.

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Harnessing the Power of Business Intelligence in the Call Center

Call CenterHaving the power to make timely and knowledgeable decisions is a crucial part of succeeding in the call center environment. Business intelligence (BI) allows organizations to harness this power, giving leaders greater insight into performance and talent attributes where greater efficiency and productivity can be achieved among individuals and throughout the entire organization.

In spite of the well-known advantages of BI, it still remains new territory for many organizations. The following places a spotlight on BI and its ability to promote positive change in many aspects of the call center.

Defining Business Intelligence

The goal of BI is to sift through big data and use the information gained to aid in the decision-making process, ensuring that organizations remain competitive and responsive to upcoming trends and sudden changes in marketing strategy. BI also seeks to foster consistent improvement, promote beneficial business activity, and allow leaders to identify and tackle potential problems before they have an opportunity to sideline operations.

BI has always been around in one form or another, but the rise of cloud-based call center technology has made it much easier to use. In the days before modern tools, much of the data needed to facilitate BI would have to have been pulled, analyzed, and reported manually. As a result, organizations that needed BI most often lacked the agility to benefit from it.

The Role of BI in the Call Center

Integrating BI into the call center allows leaders to harness the power of big data for their daily operations. By using analysis of agent performance and how it could potentially affect business outcomes in real time, it becomes much easier to quickly and easily address performance concerns. The end result is months of improvements that now only take weeks to achieve.

BI also introduces a historical perspective to call centers. For instance, improvements in scheduling, resource allocation, and cost forecasting often come from examining historic data. Trends gleaned from this data can be put to good use when adjusting hiring needs, agent schedules, and additional training.

Employing historical and real-time BI allows organizations to become more responsive to changes in customer demands, allowing call center agents to pivot quickly in order to meet those changes.

Quantifying Success

Organizations should remember that BI isn’t a smoking gun when it comes to producing success. It’s important to define, monitor, and measure the metrics that are essential to the call center’s overall effectiveness. These metrics can be used to identify areas in need of improvement and generate new data sets for further analysis.

For more information on how business intelligence can benefit your call center operations, contact us at ROI Networks for a no-obligation consultation.

Cloud Convergence: Harnessing and Simplifying the Power of the Cloud

CloudWhether technology-focused or not, in today’s environment, all businesses have technical challenges to meet. Data is fundamental to evaluating markets, planning for growth, improving internal process efficiency, and dozens of other tasks across all areas of business. And with the great complexity of business data comes great complexity in data management. One way of meeting these challenges is to leverage converged data infrastructure in the cloud.

What is converged data infrastructure?

Converged infrastructure is a way of providing tested configurations of applications and services. With a converged system, technologies such as data storage, database queries, networking architecture, and other useful features are bundled together to address as many business needs as possible. This allows companies to outsource much of the costly setup and integration work, as well as allowing – in some cases – converged infrastructures to be replicated across providers.

Not all converged infrastructures, however, are provider-agnostic. Solutions from companies such as Amazon and Google may tie businesses in to their specific business model, and make it more difficult to replicate environments elsewhere. Whether or not this is desirable depends a great deal on what ancillary services a business needs to integrate, and how their disaster recovery plans are shaped.

What considerations go into selecting cloud infrastructure and converged data infrastructure?

Three major considerations should guide the cloud converged infrastructure decision: cost, management, and security.

  • Cost. Cloud services perform well against services managed in-house because they tend to cut down on up-front expenses, and they can also reduce the need for a company to have a dedicated team of IT professionals and managers. However, care needs to be taken with savings in the cloud: some cost-saving measures, such as shared hosting environments, come with tradeoffs in the form of security. And the cost advantage of outsourcing data expertise and management is only a wise investment if the service provider chosen has the expertise and availability to meet all of a company’s needs.
  • Management. Regardless of how experienced a service provider is, they can’t take on all facets of data management for a company. Companies need to research and make informed decisions about a number of aspects, such as what services are to be considered core, what converged stacks are under consideration, how important server location is, what namespace access (as well as replication and failover) is going to be, and how performance is going to be evaluated to determine whether the move to the cloud is a success. This may be a different skillset than a traditional IT manager may have, and businesses may need to invest in training to bring business sense and awareness to technical employees.
  • Security. Some converged data infrastructure providers have excellent physical security and data encryption, and those companies with strong security practices should be sought out and preferred. But businesses also need to consider what security policies they’ll put in place, such as requiring access to cloud data to use VPN connections, or requiring strong passwords and up-to-date anti-virus software on personal devices in a BYOD workplace. Data security also needs to be taken in to account in the form of disaster recovery: for example, can a converged infrastructure solution be replicated across providers, in the case of a provider-wide outage?

The Final Word

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to data management. Converged data solutions, however, do offer a degree of standardization and ease of access which can be extremely powerful for businesses.

ROI Networks simplifies the complex world of business collaboration and communication technologies. Contact us today to learn more.

Big Data and the Future of Healthcare

Big DataBig data has gradually become part of everyday life. From wearable devices and smart phones to vehicles and more, data is collected from just about everywhere and everything. The healthcare industry is slowly coming on board, beginning to use big data in a myriad of ways.

Fraud Prevention

One of the biggest problems in healthcare is fraud. Identity theft, misuse of benefits, and provider payment scams are rapidly increasing, which results in billions of dollars in losses each year. Programs such as Medicare are often the target of such crimes and have taken action by investing in computer systems designed to reduce this hemorrhage of funds. Analytics derived from big data are instrumental in these efforts, able to detect savvy criminals and collusion between patients and providers.

Predicting the Future

Predictive analytics uses big data to foresee the health issues of patients. Information acquired from social media, business networking sites, medical provider visits, family health history, and more are gathered and analyzed. Intricate algorithms assess this data and signal the physician that a medical issue could be oncoming. This advanced notice allows earlier treatment and a much more positive outcome for the patient. In addition, this could help reduce the cost of healthcare by treating patients before they develop a chronic, expensive condition or emergency.

Privacy Concerns

The internet holds a wealth of information that is both public and private. When using predictive analytics to forecast healthcare needs, it is easy to see how privacy is compromised. Private information must be shared with insurers and healthcare providers to truly reap the benefits of the technology. Eventually it may be necessary to create specific privacy laws to help protect patients in this new world.

Other Notes

These programs are still in their infancy, so it’s difficult to know if big data and predictive analytics will ever affect the price of life and health insurance coverage. Current social programs spread expensive claims over a large group of insured patients to attempt to cap premiums. As the political arena changes these programs may as well, making future insurance and healthcare costs difficult to predict.

Big data in healthcare is just beginning to show its power. As technology advances, it’s very likely that this information will be used to save patients and money across the industry. For more information about the future of healthcare IT, contact ROI Networks.

The Impact of Big Data on Education

Big DataAn entire industry has been created around managing, analyzing, and transforming raw data into actionable information. One area where big data has begun to make a perhaps unexpected impact is the education sector. At almost every grade level from kindergarten to graduate programs, educational institutions are discovering the importance of this increasingly valuable asset.

Creating Jobs

The proliferation of big data necessitated an increase in workers with the background to assess and translate files into something understandable and meaningful to organizational leadership. Data analysts, statisticians, architects, stewards, and change agents are all in higher demand as a result of this evolution. Providers of education must develop programs that teach these skills and will accordingly look for trainers, professors, and specialized school administrators who understand data-related careers. They must ensure that growing market needs can be filled by graduates with the appropriate background.

Strategic Planning

When big data is processed and used in purposeful ways, it can have a major impact on the future growth of an organization. Educational institutions are no exception to this. Student results, performance measurements, and retention statistics may be used to assess the effectiveness of a school’s current programs and campaigns. Program gaps and unfulfilled student needs can be identified and corrected. Other subjects could be introduced to attract new students.

Student and Parent Engagement

Keeping the interest of students, especially in earlier grades, can be difficult. These years are critical to the trajectory of a child’s life and the encouragement and involvement of parents is vital. Where big data is instrumental here is in helping to diagnose a child’s stumbling blocks. The school can then convey those details to the parents for assistance and support. The more quickly these obstacles are addressed, the more successful the child may be in overcoming them.

Approaches to Teaching

The performance results that can be obtained via big data are a useful way to tailor teaching methods precisely to each student. Such a high level of personalization improves the outcome of the learning experience. Additional delivery methods such as educational video games and software make learning interactive and fun for youth who might otherwise be disinterested.

Taking the use of big data a step further, some educational software applications use predictive analytics to change lessons to better suit the user. These can identify knowledge gaps as the user works through the content. Such programs are built to accommodate learners of varying skill levels and learning styles so that they absorb knowledge as successfully as possible.

Simplify Student Moves

Historically, if a student transferred to another educational institution, the process of giving the new school their files was cumbersome and time consuming. Big data has made that nearly instantaneous, ensuring that the student and his or her teachers have what they need at the new facility.

Big data is gaining importance across all industries, and education has begun to share in that experience. Through obtaining and assessing student data, the educational experience is enriched. For more information on the role of data in education, contact ROI Networks today.

What Are Your Technology Resolutions?

The telecom, IT, and cloud industries evolve quickly, and it can be difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of change. Evaluate your business’s technology needs now to start 2017 off on the right foot.
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