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 Outdated phone systems that use legacy technologies are officially obsolete, and continuing to use them can actually inhibit a business’s ability to grow and respond to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.

UCaaS: Making Small Businesses Big

UCaaSSmall and medium businesses (SMBs) are the backbone of a successful economy. Big starts from small: Apple that took off in a garage; eBay was founded in a living room; FaceBook was conceived in a dorm room.

In the present business environment, small can also be big. SMB owners are wearing more hats more than ever in order to keep pace with bigger enterprises. They are realizing that concerns related to sales, marketing, finance, human resources, and more can be addressed by streamlining processes through effective communications. Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) can help meet these challenges at less cost than an in-house solution.

The Benefits

With the emerging mobility trends, SMBs are increasingly shifting to UCaaS to meet the changing demands of remote working through enhanced communication and collaboration tools. Reduced costs and business continuity are the main drivers to a move to a UCaaS model, along with a host of other benefits.

Reduced Costs UCaaS enables SMBs to minimize the cost of ownership and offload significant capital expenditures to the provider with no major infrastructure to build. Work hours are saved by not having to maintain, troubleshoot, and replace old equipment. Hosted UC provides a predictable monthly operating expense with monthly billing that can include collaboration tools like audio and video conferencing and long distance services.

Business ContinuityBusiness disruptions happen not only during earthquakes, tornadoes, blizzards, or wild fires, but also when isolated electrical fires occur, when major pipelines leak, or when IT glitches crop up. Most hosted UC services include a disaster recovery and business continuity plan that enables employees with Internet access to use the network’s UC tools to continue working and keep the business up and running.

Simplicity and Speed of Deployment Premise-based UC is often complex, with several servers and UC applications needed to be set up by specialized IT professionals. A hosted UC solution can be set up quickly, with adds, changes, and moves accomplished in minutes. Typical IT management and maintenance tasks, including automatic updates of the latest versions, are handled by the UC provider.

Increased Efficiency and Productivity Presence is an effective tool for SMBs that lends visibility into how employees are working and if processes are aligned with established business objectives. This translates to improved efficiency, increased productivity, and more robust ROI.

The Challenges

UCaaS is not without challenges, but businesses can have a successful UC experience if these challenges are addressed.

LAN RequirementsThe local area network (LAN) is host to routers, switches, and firewalls. These critical components need to be upgraded, adjusted, and configured to ensure quality of service and streamline deployment and management.

Network Bandwidth and Redundancy Concerns While voice calls, messaging, and emails are the more frequently used components of a UC network, video conferencing eats up significantly more bandwidth. UC planners need to assess their bandwidth requirements as well as plan for a backup bandwidth provider in case the primary system goes down or becomes congested.

Wiring and Cabling – Wiring and cabling may seem like minor needs, but they help ensure the desired quality of service. Cat5+ cabling works best in a VoIP environment, while Wi-Fi has limited uses. UC planners may also consider a dual drop switching system where the data network has its own port, with the phones having their own port.

Integration of Special Features – Many companies want to retain special digital and analog phone services that have been part of their corporate culture. These include paging systems, music on a call on hold, automated door systems activated via phone, advertising, messaging, and many others. Integrating and testing the services are important tasks during the planning phase.

The benefits of UCaaS are clear, but SMBs moving toward a hosted solution need to address the challenges for a successful deployment. If you’re an SMB looking to UCaaS to make your business big, contact us at ROI Networks for a no obligation UC planning session.

The Black and White of SDN

September Blog # 4 (1)Over just a year, Software Defined Networking (SDN) went from barely known to celebrity status in the technical realm. Even though it has been around for quite some time, the concept of SDN is still somewhat nebulous to many. With so much misinformation and sketchy vendor marketing surrounding this tool, it may be difficult to know its true value. Here’s the truth about this powerful technology.

The Basics

SDN is a centralized manner of controlling all of the switches, devices, and components of a network. The purpose is to make deployment and configuration much more efficient, while also allowing the path of network traffic to be optimized.

For a solution to be qualified as SDN, a few criteria must be met.

  • It is designed to replace an MPLS arrangement, so must be able to do that.
  • Some type of UI or management portal must be included for network administrators to efficiently manage all of the connected components via one mechanism.
  • The system should be able to automatically reroute traffic and connections to a secondary path. Having this failover keeps traffic running optimally and avoids outages.

Any vendor solution that cannot meet these three requirements should be omitted from consideration.

Critical Features

A software defined network is all about optimizing performance, including connectivity. Often, multiple types of Internet connections are used by companies so that they can switch over to a secondary in the event of an outage. Not only is the SDN capable of doing this, but it can also switch between connections when lag or inadequate performance are detected. This facilitates stability and ensures that communications remain high quality.

Alerts are another great part of an SDN arrangement. Should an outage be detected, an alert is sent so that it’s addressed immediately and network stability is preserved. Using the SDN portal, trouble is accurately pinpointed and can be resolved efficiently.

The Benefits

SDN is applicable to a wide variety of industries. Implementing SDN improves a number of factors on a company network:

  • Reduce trouble tickets – Since this technology automates outage-handling and traffic optimization, users no longer experience lag or downtime.
  • Cost effective – This is a less expensive solution than MPLS, for example. In addition, systems are more stable so Internet connections may often be altered to save money.
  • Flexible – An SDN-qualified solution can be network agnostic, permit user customizations, and easily accommodate new hardware devices.
  • On the rise – More providers coming on to the scene means competitive pricing and feature-rich packages.
  • Improved productivity – Network administrators are able to focus on more important tasks since the network now automatically handles performance improvements.

Software defined networking is becoming increasingly popular. For more information about implementing SDN, contact ROI Networks today.

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.

How WebRTC Can Transform Business

ROI May blog 4New technology trends come and go daily, often without making any real mark on business or industry. A new feature catching the attention of both consumers and corporations today is Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC). This innovative service could potentially revolutionize company communications while concurrently helping reduce IT spending.

Integration

Real Time Communication (RTC) is now part of every device from smartphones to televisions to tablets, allowing companies who use WebRTC to appeal to a wide variety of users. Before this service came along, users had to utilize independent apps (Skype for example) or expensive unified communications (UC) systems. Not only could these be costly, but they also came with a significant learning curve.

WebRTC helps bring in audio and video to an application or website quickly and easily. It is open source and adapts to accommodate specific business requirements. Customers aren’t burdened with the need to learn new software to access business applications, and IT implementers find it much simpler to install and manage than UC systems.

Improved Customer Interaction

A major advantage of using WebRTC for customer service is that it requires no downloads or training for customers to rapidly access the support or sales teams. The tool can be used to deliver presentations or training information and provide assistance to customers. As a result, the customer experience is enhanced from the first contact and satisfaction increases, leading to better customer retention and revenue growth over time.

Cost

Cutting expenses is a critical mission, and IT is one of the biggest spending categories in an organization. WebRTC allows businesses to save thousands of dollars over UC systems that may have limited functionality and usefulness. The fact that the technology is open source means that companies can enjoy robust features for a fraction of the cost of many basic Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or UC packages. Even if the organization purchases add-on libraries or additional services from a WebRTC company, the price tag is quite low. In addition, after the initial deployment there are fewer ongoing fees than for VoIP or UC solutions.

Better Team Collaboration

More effective communication tools help employees, too. Consider how brainstorming and problem solving could be improved by using live video rather than just a text chat. WebRTC can help bridge continents and facilitate discussion as if global colleagues were in the same room. Plan and execute projects with far less friction and miscommunication, and catch important non-verbal cues from teammates.

Cross-departmental work becomes simple since employees have immediate access to one another. Providing easier access to the right resources and information also results in a far less frustrating work day and happier, more productive employees.

Security

Data breaches are common and can cost into the billions to remediate. Companies must do all they can to lock down sensitive data and plug any possible security holes. Historically, IT managers have been suspicious of audio/video communications. A benefit of WebRTC is that it has utilized Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP) to relay communication from its early stages. This protocol is far more secure than the alternative versions used by many VoIP systems on the market today and lessens the risk of an incident.

Businesses can enjoy a long list of benefits from implementing WebRTC for their audio and video needs. From sales to support to employee management, the possibilities are many. For more information on how this new feature can optimize company communications, contact us today.

Why Fabric Networking Is Important to Business

ROI May blog 3A frequent topic of current IT conversation is fabric networking (FN). This innovative architecture has the potential to overhaul business networks for the better and should be considered whenever infrastructure is in question. Following are some facts about FN to help start an educated conversation.

What Is Fabric Networking?

A term that is unfamiliar to even some highly technical professionals, FN is best understood by visualizing a piece of fabric or cloth. Just as the many individual threads of cloth form a tightly woven mesh architecture, so too does a fabric network. It’s scalable, flexible, metamorphic, and uses a comprehensive layer to accomplish its tasks. By nature of its meshy construction, FN supports an immense number of device connections and networking switches.

Today’s intelligent networks operate through software-defined networking (SDN) to allow all devices to be centrally managed. Fabric networks are extremely supportive of the SDN model which means that management of any device, role, permission, or app can be rapidly performed. Policies for any or all items on the network may be easily created and applied, and new objects are able to be added without complication. Over time, the fabric will actually learn and evolve as policies are configured.

Benefits of Fabric Networks

Given the power and flexibility of fabric networks, businesses that implement this type of infrastructure quickly realize a number of benefits.

  • Save time. When the time it takes to make a change on one or all devices on a network is minimized, skilled IT professionals are free to focus on more meaningful work.
  • Increase agility. Switch traffic, add new devices, and integrate new apps and services rapidly. As long as new devices are equipped with Shortest Path Bridging (SPB) and are SDN-enabled, they can be migrated to a fabric network with little effort.
  • Benefit from scalability. Need to expand the network to accommodate the growth of the company? Not a problem when using a fabric network.
  • Improve network function. Sometimes larger networks with many connections get bogged down. Using a fabric network leads to more effective load balancing and distribution, allows for faster recovery in the event of a device or connection outage, and decreases the time required for troubleshooting or management tasks.

Available FN Solutions

There are many vendors who wish to capitalize on this powerful technology. That said, one of the more noteworthy and reputable providers of FN is Avaya. An industry leader of many technical solutions, Avaya’s goal is to make networks simple and elegant while increasing their function to offer greater benefit to organizations.

Jeff Hiebert, CEO of ROI Networks, states, “Avaya remains the only networking player who can deploy a fabric solution from the core to the edge, deploy a single protocol, and offer best-in-class edge-only provisioning for dramatic simplification of the network. This offers customers a lower overall TCO, network agility, and faster time to deploy new services and applications, creating a superior performing network.”

Fabric networking has the potential to improve the most complex of networks while saving time and money. For more information on how a fabric network can optimize a company’s infrastructure, contact us today.

Achieve Greater ROI with VoIP

ROI April blog 2One of the most innovative technologies to surface in the past decade is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). VoIP uses the Internet to make and receive phone and video calls. An impressive number of companies have made the shift to this technology, and more are following due to the substantial ROI that implementations have shown. Read on to learn how VoIP can increase ROI.

Reduction in Monthly Charges

Whether the company makes international or only local calls, the flexible packages available for VoIP create a significant savings over traditional telephone company billing. In addition, telephone company bills include heavy regulatory fees that are typically not found on VoIP bills. Recurring billing will be more stable, predictable, and easy to understand.

Affordable Long Distance

Many businesses conduct sales pitches and customer service efforts across state lines or even globally. The per-minute costs charged by old-fashioned telephone companies eat into the bottom line very rapidly. On the other hand, VoIP packages can be tailored to include unlimited long distance and global calling for one flat fee. Predictable, economical, and budget-friendly terms like these will keep profitability high and free up funds for more meaningful expenses.

Features

Adding enhancements to a regular phone service can be expensive or even impossible. In contrast, VoIP vendors cost-effectively bundle advanced features into the system. Call handling, auto attendants, IM, and video calling are just a few of the powerful services that can be combined with VoIP to make a robust communications system at a low cost. Further, organizations can select only what they need and avoid paying for unnecessary services.

Mobile Integration

With so many employees now telecommuting or traveling for work, it’s important that the company’s communication plan support mobile devices. With VoIP, calls can be instantly transferred to a cell or remote phone or even ring both a desk and a mobile phone at once. Additional savings may even be found in real estate or office space if this solution is used to allow team members to work off-site on a permanent basis.

Message Distribution

VoIP systems can be configured with multiple distribution lists, which can then be used to dispatch meaningful announcements via email, phone, text, or voicemail. Selecting the appropriate distribution list for a specific message is a convenient and rapid means of getting information to the right audience. This saves significant time, which is invaluable in the event of weather emergencies or other urgent news.

VoIP packages are scalable, flexible, and boast features that help businesses grow and perform more efficiently while saving money. Considering the ease and small expense of implementation, ROI is very quickly realized after deployment. To learn how ROI Networks helps businesses achieve greater return on investment with VoIP, contact us today.

Why the Partnership Between Healthcare and UCaaS Is Revolutionizing the Industry

shutterstock_207428872smUnified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is transforming networks into highly functioning, collaborative, cost-saving machines. One of the many industries in which a UCaaS arrangement is extraordinarily effective is healthcare. The need for wellness and medical service is a permanent and growing condition around the world, presenting a nearly unlimited market for potential users of UCaaS. Here’s how this impressive tool is reshaping healthcare.

Improving Collaboration

In nearly all organizations, communication is a sore point among teams. In healthcare, failing to communicate effectively can be a life or death matter. Using UC allows medical professionals to provide a complete patient picture and necessary information in one place. The entire team will better connect with each other and brainstorm on complex cases as if everyone was in the same room. Conveying messages is easy, and the information will get to the intended audience much more promptly.

Feature-Rich System Structure

Healthcare teams need to be able to contact one another in a variety of ways. Text, video conferencing, call forwarding, and business continuity are all critically important in ensuring prompt accessibility to doctors and nurses. With UCaaS, important team members will never miss a crucial call again, and patients will be protected against weather or local catastrophes that may cause power outages and lead to communications failure.

Better Patient Care

Consider how long it takes to transfer vital patient records the old way (by courier or mail). Today’s healthcare teams want immediate access to all of a patient’s history so that proper, patient-specific care can be administered. UCaaS allows easy electronic engagement with a patient’s records, even across different hospital systems or physician practices. In addition, specialists can be accessed via video to obtain recommendations for treatment or other valuable expertise. The information is able to reach the care team’s mobile devices quickly so they can analyze the details on the move.

Saving Money

A fast-rising trend in today’s business world is to use services like security, software, data management, and analytics in the cloud for accessibility and reduced expense. UC is no exception to this trend as it can easily replace costly and bulky on-premise solutions. The burden of hardware acquisition and maintenance is handled by the vendor. Valuable features can be enjoyed for very little added cost while providing time-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits. Ultimately overhead is decreased and patient care becomes less expensive. This is a gain for both healthcare providers and the patients they serve.

UCaaS has found a strong market in the corporate sector due to its usefulness and high return on investment. The healthcare industry is a natural extension of this technology’s applicability as it saves money, boosts team cohesion and collaboration, and, consequently, improves patient care. This cutting edge tool provides considerable financial benefits and helps save lives.

Boosting the Remote Workforce Using Video Conferencing

shutterstock_183272411Cube farms and huge worker facilities are declining in number, thanks to the myriad of tools available for remote workers. Video conferencing is a highly effective communication tool that offers an endless array of benefits to both employees and their companies. Businesses are saving time and money and improving the quality of their workers’ lives across the globe. Here are a few of the ways that this communication method is making its mark on organizations.

Improved Employee Engagement

At times it may be challenging for a remote worker to truly feel that he or she is part of the bigger picture. In addition to geographical separation, the lack of face-to-face connection can make team cohesion quite difficult. Video conferencing is an effective way to visually communicate, helping workers feel more connected and integral to their team and organization.

Getting the Entire Message

Nonverbal communication is easier to interpret in a traditional workplace. Remote workers can miss out on nonverbal cues and have a tough time understanding the meaning of what is being conveyed. Video conferencing fills the gap for teleworkers, allowing them to see their colleagues and pick up on the nuances of facial expressions, body language, and vocal tone. Team bonds are stronger and employees have better rapport and relationships with one another as a result.

Global Thinking

Video conferencing makes people around the globe completely available to one another, and offers work opportunities to individuals who may not otherwise have them. Work can be done from anywhere in the world. A coworker on a different continent is just a screen away using a simple piece of software and a compatible camera. Video has also provided businesses with a more robust candidate pool since staffers have more flexibility than in past employment models.

Staying Current

In the past, companies relied upon town hall meetings and paper memos to deliver vital information. If an employee was not on-site, he or she missed out on the communication. Using video conferencing tools, both in-house and remote workers can be included in the message at the same time. Feedback and open dialogue are efficient and constructive since attendance is comprehensive. Everyone is informed and kept current and no one is left feeling excluded.

Team and Interdepartmental Collaboration

Possibly the most impressive benefit of video conferencing is its ability to improve collaboration. Geographically dispersed teams now have the ability to talk in real-time, brainstorming and problem solving just as effectively as a group located in the same room. This method is significantly faster than chat or email correspondence for reviewing materials simultaneously or making group decisions. Deadlines are more attainable when dialogue is open and bi-directional.

In addition, holding team members accountable for their contributions (or lack thereof) is easier when using video. If a team member is absent, it’s more promptly noticed over video than it would be over IM, text or email.

Video conferencing is an incredible asset to a company whose workers are remote or geographically distributed. Companies choosing to implement this tool will experience boosts in productivity and cost savings, as well as better team cohesion and improved collaboration.