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.

Why Managed Mobility Services Are the Answer

July 2Everything is connected these days, leading to complications where control of mobile devices on a company network is concerned. As the company’s mobile landscape continues to grow, so does the time and effort needed to manage it. An increasingly viable option today is managed mobility services (MMS), a method of outsourcing this complicated and tedious task.

Managing Complexity

A number of factors lend to the labyrinth that is business mobility. There are numerous reasons a company may consider using an MMS as a quality solution to the problem.

  • The use of mobile has increased dramatically and rapidly, so much so that many IT departments are finding that they do not have the expertise to handle the growing number of connections required.
  • Bring your own device (BYOD) programs can translate into a seemingly infinite number of devices that require connectivity—and bandwidth.
  • Securing BYOD devices is especially challenging without an effective Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, and even then may take significant resources.
  • Policy and corporate strategy must adapt to the expansion of technology. Integration of mobile devices into an existing network is not an easy feat.

Mobility Spending

First and foremost, a solid MDM application is required to help manage the intricacy of a mobile program. Second, skilled personnel are needed to operate the application effectively. These two factors alone can be quite an expense, with no guarantee of ROI. Provisioning new devices, tracking and suspending missing items, removing unnecessary equipment from the system, and securing both sides of every connection will take considerable labor hours.

A managed mobility solution removes these financial burdens from the company and provides faster, more efficient service for a reasonable rate. Industry experts help strategize and integrate a comprehensive mobile solution into the company network, then deploy and maintain it. This results in reduced labor costs, better asset protection, and even discounts on the acquisition of new devices.

Customization

Some organizations may require specific levels of control over their mobile solution, or a user interface that is designed to be tightly coupled with current company applications and services. This is outside the realm of typical developers, so the expertise afforded by managed service providers is invaluable. Not only will the software be highly customized, but it is also likely to be produced more cost-effectively and rapidly than doing it in-house.

The decision to use managed mobility solutions rather than service a mobile program internally is one that encompasses the entire company. Partnering with a reputable mobile solution provider can save money, allow the business to use its own resources more effectively, enhance security, and build a sound mobile strategy. To further discuss outsourcing for this complex technical area, contact us today.

Locking Down WLAN

blog 1Security is the key word when it comes to company networks. Wireless networks are often at higher risk of breach than their wired counterparts, so added measures are typically required to defend them properly. Following are some best practices for defending the organization’s Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) that go above and beyond data encryption and multi-factor authentication.

Separate Networking

Creating a guest network that doesn’t intermingle with business applications is a smart, easy way to protect assets. There are few reasons that a visitor would require access to the core network, and those can be addressed on an as-needed basis. For all others, simple access to the Internet is completely adequate.

Router Security

When choosing configuration settings for the WLAN, the IT team should use WiFi Protected Access (WPA2) Personal or Enterprise versions for optimal protection. WPA2 Enterprise is preferred over the Personal option because of its advanced authentication settings. Be sure that the physical hardware is secured in some way. Many devices are designed in such a way that they can actually be locked down after they are mounted to prevent theft.

Signal Boundaries

A potential danger on a WLAN is an intruder hopping onto the WiFi from outside of the building or attempting to interrupt services. The WiFi should be strong enough for employees to efficiently perform work functions, but ideally should not extend past the boundaries of the building or the risk of unauthorized use or disruption increases significantly. Special termination equipment can be used to contain the signal within the four walls of the facility.

Management Tools

In today’s world of bring your own device (BYOD) programs, managing the myriad of connections and users accessing the company network is a challenge. The company enjoys the cost savings of not having to provide mobile equipment, but must also handle the complication of securing employees’ personal devices.

Mobile Device and WLAN management tools are essential to the organization’s security program. These applications can detect intrusion, unauthorized access points, or rogue users attempting to break into the network. Devices can be decommissioned quickly and easily in case of theft or compromise. Intrusion prevention will help protect against floods and spoofing efforts.

Proper Planning for Legacy Devices

Higher cost equipment like printers and scanners aren’t always feasible to replace when more modern functionality is introduced to the market. In cases of older durable devices such as these, there may be an element of backward compatibility with the WLAN that must be accommodated. Segregating these connections onto a separate network that does not interact with company data will help manage this situation effectively.

Effective WLAN management is crucial to the security of company applications and data. Creating a comprehensive wireless strategy that encompasses all of the above points is a sound start to defending the organization’s network. To discuss other ways to protect company technical assets, contact us today.

BYOD Policies in Educational Institutions: Impact on Data Security

shutterstock_278120690smWith a growing number of schools embracing the bring your own device (BYOD) trend among student populations, security concerns have emerged as a hot-button issue. Given the amount of sensitive information and personal data schools possess, IT systems in educational institutions need to institute effective safeguards to keep hackers and cyber criminals on the outside. Following are some emerging strategies that educational institutions are using to safeguard the personal information of both staff and students.

Create and Implement Strict Policies

When instituting a BYOD policy at an educational institution, it is necessary to set up clear and strict guidelines regarding acceptable usage. Such policies must apply to everyone using their own devices in the school setting, including both staff and students. These policies should specifically define what is and what is not allowed, framed within the context of protecting all users from possible security breaches.

Keep Critical Data Accessible Only to Those Who Need It

Schools are hotbeds of sensitive personal information, including everything from examination results and scholastic performance to details of possible physical and/or mental health issues. Cyber criminals often target this type of personal information, and it must be kept behind added layers of security to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Allowing only authorized individuals access to the networks and systems where this information is stored is a key component of BYOD security at schools. Additional protections, including encryption and/or biometric identifiers, can be considered as ways to stop sensitive information from being accessed by unauthorized individuals.

Protect Devices that Access Social Media

Many users, including both staff and students, will be connecting to social media websites with their own devices. Unfortunately, these sites tend to be a prolific source of viruses and other forms of malware, making it essential for individual devices to be properly protected.

Experts recommend requiring all BYOD users to have and run antivirus software on devices used on the school’s network. Password policies, automatic time-outs, and device locking can all be considered as supplemental strategies to prevent the spread of viruses and other threats.

When properly applied, BYOD policies at schools help foster 24/7 learning while reducing technology budgets and improving resource accessibility. These advantages are best leveraged in tandem with effective security policies that protect IT resources and users alike.

Connections Everywhere: Support Them Adequately

shutterstock_78547861Mobility and the ability to access information rapidly are basic expectations of today’s workforce. Considering the interconnectivity of humans, hardware, and data, it’s no surprise that organizations have difficulty satisfying this high-tech generation of workers. Following are a few tips that can help.

 

 

Make Logical Decisions About Brand New Tech

Adopting every new software package or trendy device that reaches the market is not necessarily the right move. Switching gears to new tools constantly may frustrate workers who were slow to adapt to the last change. Collaboration is much easier if users have a voice in how it is done. Use software and device solutions that make sense and perhaps have been recommended by staff members.

Let Go of Antique Tech

Just as new tech may not always be a good fit, it is sometimes necessary to part with old tools and technology if they no longer support mobility and interaction. Regularly assess the tools and equipment that are being used to conduct business to ensure that they are still relevant and powerful.

Consolidate Communications

Do different operational systems seem to overlap too much or not interact at all? Do customer support reps have to switch systems or screens often to properly help a customer? In those instances, efficiency and productivity are being sacrificed on a minute-by-minute basis. Software suites should solve more than one problem or allow many systems to interact and share data.

Embrace Texting for Business

Today’s workforce finds great value in texting customers and coworkers and even for supervisory interaction. Texting can be an easy method to get a message across without wasting valuable time. Construct a thoughtful texting policy that allows employees to communicate effectively but appropriately.

Provide the Right Tools and Information

If a company fails to provide useful tools, employees will often resort to using their own phones or tablets to get the information they need. They may use untrusted or unsafe applications, thereby creating security issues. By providing a clear bring your own device (BYOD) policy and asking employees to contribute ideas for potential team tools, security risks can be reduced or avoided.

Ensuring that employees have easy access to any information they may need means more productive, less stressed workers. Utilizing a secure company intranet resource makes information accessible and invites collaboration.

Supporting the mobility needs of today’s workforce does not have to be expensive or complicated. Select the right tools for the job and engage the employee pool to create the most efficient and productive operation possible.

Six Ways Unified Communications and the Cloud Are Benefiting Businesses

shutterstock_190201718Unified communications (UC) has been making serious headway in the business world for several years now, and current trends continue to show increasing adoption rates across many different industries. UC platforms offer the powerful ability to synchronize real-time modes of communication such as voice calling and video conferencing with static ones like email and traditional voicemail. More recently, UC technologies have been paired with cloud computing capabilities to further enhance their power, scope, and reach.

Cloud-based UC models are known as unified communications as a service, or UCaaS. These models offer advanced integration of system tools and functions, creating a single platform for the operation and management of all available services. UCaaS models offer businesses six key benefits.

1. Enhanced Usability

UCaaS models deliver their capabilities across a single system, which eliminates the need for businesses to invest in and train employees on the use of multiple platforms. Moreover, the vast majority of UCaaS systems support ease of use with readily available training resources, tech support, and help desk staff.

2. Easier Management

In addition to ease of use, UCaaS systems offer outstanding ease of management. Day-to-day management and upkeep tasks are not the responsibility of the business itself, but rather of the service provider. UCaaS technologies are delivered using subscription models, meaning that the end provider handles all the technical details on behalf of its customers.

3. Scalable Service Models

Cloud technologies are renowned for their outstanding scalability. It’s easy to ramp up the number of users on the system, even if business growth requires the addition of many new users within a short time frame. Infrastructure needs are also dramatically reduced, making it far easier to scale up or down.

4. Reduction of Downtime

System connectivity and power issues comprise the two biggest causes of system downtime. UCaaS models eliminate these problems because they rely on Tier 3 and Tier 4 data centers with advanced system management capabilities.

5. Enhanced Flexibility

Before UCaaS technologies came along, businesses were usually forced to resort to expensive outside help if they wanted to integrate custom features. Now, such features can be added quickly and easily to service packages, which offer unsurpassed flexibility in and of themselves. UCaaS service models also support the bring your own device (BYOD) trend that’s become so popular in the past few years.

6. Reduced Costs

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, UCaaS service models are designed to sharply reduce upfront costs and deliver reliable, predictable service at affordable, fixed monthly rates. These service models support budget planning initiatives and provide powerful capabilities that enhance efficiency and productivity. Further, UCaaS reduces or eliminates the need for expensive hardware as well as the unpredictable costs of non-cloud-based service plans.

Given these many benefits, UCaaS certainly merits careful consideration by any business seeking superior integration of its communication platforms.

How Unified Communications Increase Company Visibility, Desirability for New Hires

Unified CommunicationsAs companies prepare for their next hiring wave, they should be focused on how to make themselves the most attractive potential employer to a tech-savvy job candidate. Unified communications (UC) is an effective way to lure in talent and is easy to implement.

A company that has made an investment in UC easily stands out to the highest quality job seekers.

BYOD and Remote Work

Today’s employees are increasingly virtual, accessing systems from a home office or bring-your-own-device (BYOD) arrangement. Not only is this beneficial to employee morale and output, but the company saves overhead and office space by facilitating such a culture.

It is imperative that both remote and in-house employees are able to fully collaborate with other team members. The BYOD and remote realms are truly where the strength of cloud computing and a solid UC program pays off. Devices can be enabled with all of the company’s necessary software for voice and data – a fantastic way to keep employees tied in to the organization from afar.

Productivity Perks

One of the best things about cloud is that it is always accessible, making it a reliable conduit for VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol). Think of the productivity saved if incidents such as major weather events did not force employee absenteeism and team members could remain fully functional through a private and secure channel.

With cloud solutions, business continuity becomes simple and effective since employees can operate from remote locations that were removed from the incident. Response time to a disaster can be reduced since teams have immediate access to systems and to one another.

Upgrade Communication

UC allows team members to stay in constant contact in the most protected manner possible, no matter where they are physically located. A strong UC program provides global instant message, phone, web conferencing, and email.

New employees will stay engaged and interact with other team members in a powerfully collaborative environment. For sales organizations, this could reduce the time to recognizing revenue. Customer service reaches new heights of excellence, and creativity is enabled through brainstorming and idea generation.

In an age when employees still indicate that communication can be a challenge for organizations, any effort to build a cohesive communication plan is well spent.

Overall UC Benefits

The world is becoming a smaller place through UC. Implementing a robust UC plan will help a company’s HR team attract and keep the best candidates. In doing so, the business can conquer immense strategic goals and grow toward greatness.

[Infographic] Enterprise Mobility Strategy: BYOD or CYOD?

Companies large and small understand that having a mobile workforce can provide a competitive advantage. So why hasn’t every business ‘mobilized’ then? Enabling a company’s workforce to go mobile isn’t as easy as walking into a cell phone store and buying a phone. For businesses, it’s much more strategic, with aspects like cost and data security to be considered. This infographic highlights two popular strategies for businesses interested in going mobile. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and CYOD (Choose Your Own Device). Is one right for your business?

ROI-Infographic-BYOD-CYOD

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Cloud-based UC: The Emerging Solution to Enterprise Communication Challenges?

Cloud based unifiedAs the Unified Communications (UC) market continues to grow, enterprise adoption of cloud-hosted UC services has also gradually increased. While more and more enterprises are becoming interested in cloud-hosted UC services, many large organizations are still not fully committed to this concept.

UC providers can accelerate the adoption of cloud-based conferencing, video, voice, instant messaging, and other collaboration services by continuing to address the current challenges of enterprise communications. Even more importantly, they must clearly inform the IT decision-makers in organizations how their solutions solve relevant problems.

Consider these four challenges organizations face which can be solved through UC solutions:

Satisfying the evolving needs of the mobile workforce

  • The workforce is increasingly younger, more technologically-savvy, and more demanding in terms of their technology requests.
  • Almost 50% of the workforce will consist of the “millennial” generation by 2020 (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Workers from this generation not only want the latest devices, they also want to be able to work on them from anywhere in the world.
  • IT needs to equip this tech-savvy generation of workers with the latest collaboration tools. Cloud-based UC is best-suited for this task of fulfilling the needs of the emerging workforce.

Enabling cost-efficient productivity

  • Organizations want to enable their employees to collaborate in a way that eliminates unnecessary inter-office travel. Cloud-based UC must thus deliver the full range of communications that allows such collaboration.
  • Employees must be able to quickly shift between services such as video and web conferencing to preserve the “real life” experience of these technologies.
  • Users need to be able to use any device from anywhere, and to shift among devices as needed.
  • The UC service must be high-quality and available 24/7; users won’t adopt it without a seamless user experience.

Supporting fixed-mobile convergence

  • The convergence of multiple communication types is desirable and convenient for the enterprise as well as the employee. Cloud-based UC can provide these important conveniences.
  • Employees want the convenience of a “single number reach” to eliminate communication disruptions between desk and mobile phones.
  • Businesses are burdened with multiple service contracts for various types of telecommunications; convergence among these services using cloud-based UC simplifies the billing process and reduces expenses.

Providing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) tools for communications

  • The popularity of BYOD enables cloud-based UC to both streamline and separate communications services through dual persona solutions.
  • “Dual persona for UC” is a way users can securely access all of their cloud-based unified communications services from a single device, including voice, text messaging, video calling, and instant messaging.
  • Users are attracted to dual persona because it provides simplified but separate access to both corporate and personal communications services from a single device.
  • Cloud-based “dual persona for UC” gives employees the freedom they need and enables the enterprise to maintain security and control over corporate communications.

The adoption rate of cloud-based UC still leaves a lot of room for growth, but the evidence suggests that there is a clear market need and demand for these services. Cloud-based UC developers must keep these enterprise needs in mind as they refine and market their solutions.