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.

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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The CMIO: A Profile of Security Leadership in the Healthcare Industry

december-blog-1For organizations working in the healthcare industry, security is — or should be — at or near the top of the priority list. Cyber criminals frequently target healthcare organizations because they have access to a great deal of highly valuable personal information. Public and private sector organizations that fail to implement safeguards are at risk of security breaches, and that, in turn, can lead to potentially irreversible losses in client confidence.

Thus, the role of the Chief Medical Information Officer (CMIO) has taken on added urgency in recent years, as the healthcare industry has made rapid moves towards connected technologies. The role of the CMIO is not well-understood by many lay people. For telecom agents, it’s worth taking the time to understand this role and the responsibility that comes with it in order to build packaged solutions that speak directly to the needs of healthcare organization leaders.

Healthcare Information Security: What a CMIO Does
In most organizations, the CMIO is a licensed physician with specialized training or practical experience in information management and/or technology. His or her core duties typically include:

  • Designing and choosing software technologies used by the organization
  • Ensuring organizational IT systems meet established standards
  • Analyzing and managing health data collected from patients or clients
  • Maintaining quality control standards
  • Improving operations through the judicious management and deployment of data
  • Conducting research using available data and analytics tools
  • Reporting to executives and taking a leadership role in strategic development
  • Training senior staff members in the proper use of IT resources, especially with regard to electronic health and medical records (EHRs/EMRs)

It is important to note that security is not typically part of the CMIO’s list of responsibilities. In some organizations, this can create gaps, as cyber security initiatives are left until the end of the business development cycle rather than being addressed at the outset.

Healthcare Information Security: How the CMIO Role Is Evolving
For a long time, it was standard practice for CMIOs to report to either the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or directly to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). However, a growing number of healthcare organizations are electing to have their CMIOs liaise with their Chief Information Officer (CIO). This reflects the changing nature of the CMIO’s responsibilities, as digital technology is playing an increasing role in healthcare data collection and applications.

As mentioned, security normally does not fall under the CMIO’s portfolio of responsibilities. However, the CMIO is increasingly being expected to partner with the healthcare Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to build the most effective and robust safeguards possible.

The telecom professionals at ROI Networks offer advanced security solutions for the healthcare industry. To learn more about how ROI Networks can help both public and private sector organizations in the healthcare field improve their cyber security, contact a client services representative today.

The Ongoing Security Crisis in Healthcare

SecurityThe list of healthcare companies that have experienced a breach is growing at an alarming rate, with more continuing to be discovered. Despite the spotlight finally beginning to shine on healthcare security, news stories every week seem to report yet another incident. Here’s a look into why these breaches continue to occur, and what might be done to stop them.

Common Problems

A frequent cause of a breach or data theft is simple error. A patient file is accidentally left out in a public area, a worker steps away from an unsecured computer with patient data left on the screen, or a company laptop in plain sight is stolen from a worker’s vehicle. Applications may not be password protected, or the passwords used by doctors or admin assistants may fail complexity rules and be easily guessed for unbridled access to sensitive data.

Other points of vulnerability are vendor connections to the systems that house healthcare data. In both big box retail and healthcare, breaches have occurred when vendors are linked in but fail to properly protect their own systems or that connectivity.

Other causes are more complex or political. For example, healthcare workers are charged with filling out extensive amounts of paperwork for each patient interaction and test. While the intention is to provide better patient care through communication of all possible details, the result is overburdened nurses who are outnumbered by patients and forms.

Lastly, archaic software systems or components are not up to today’s security standards. Many hospitals do not use modern software due to the expense and effort of implementing changes to systems. This can leave doors open to cybercriminals seeking payment and identity data easily found in patient records.

Solutions

Unfortunately, many workers in the healthcare industry place the entire burden of security on their IT departments. While IT is responsible for ensuring that best practices for application and data protection are implemented, overall security is not a task that can be performed without support from all levels of the company. There must be a partnership between IT and the rest of the organization.

Here are a few easy ways to improve security in healthcare:

  • Security training – Basic principles for physical and technological protection should be covered in annual and new-hire training sessions. Topics should include password strength, ways to easily secure a system or device, and avoiding common hacking or phishing methods.
  • Streamlining processes – So much paperwork is required in patient care. Providing easy, intuitive methods of completing these responsibilities can cut down the time required. Analytics can then be produced from the data collected to further identify how processes for both administration and care may be improved.
  • Control risk – Fully assess vendors who will be connecting to systems, prohibit or limit non-company devices from storing or accessing patient data, and educate the workers who access the systems.

Medical data is incredibly valuable. From the records held by providers, a thief can potentially gain access to credit card information and extensive personal records that facilitate identity theft. Healthcare organizations must do more to protect patients from this growing area of crime. To continue the discussion on healthcare security, contact ROI Networks.

Create an Optimized Working Environment with Virtualization: Top Tips

ROI May blog 1Virtualization has permeated just about every data center in operation. Current incarnations of the technology offer advanced capabilities, including the ability to unify and seamlessly scale up existing infrastructure. Today’s ready-for-enterprise virtualization suites are also compatible for use with a broad range of workloads, with enhanced security and load-balancing features.

Virtualization has come a long way, and it continues to improve as time goes on. Hardware strongly influences overall performance, though; better hardware yields benefits like improved efficiency, superior application density, the ability to manage more hosted virtual machines (VMs), and superior network management. Superior hardware also saves businesses money; it enables more users to be handled with fewer physical resources, saving space and reducing operating costs.

Virtualization Trends

There are two key trends defining the current virtualization landscape. First, virtual images have grown enormously in popularity. They allow system administrators to:

  • Balance workloads by instantly moving them between distributed sites
  • Protect data for longer periods of time
  • Access powerful built-in features that make tasks like replicating hot sites faster and easier

Second, virtualized networks are now highly integrated with data storage systems. This automates data backup processes, though it’s necessary to optimize storage architecture in the virtualized environment’s hypervisor.

Keys to Optimizing the Virtualized Environment

Paying close attention to the following details will enable users to get the most out of their virtualized systems:

  • Choose hardware and other physical resources with great care, and be sure to factor size and scale needs into the equation at the outset.
  • Manage the virtual workload with care. Remember: even virtualized systems have finite resources.
  • Make continual tests of logs, system accessibility, and the overall health of connected VMs. Regular maintenance is key.

It’s also important to note that while virtualization is being widely used to manage servers, it also has important endpoint applications. Virtualizing endpoints enables system administrators to greatly reduce residual hardware footprints, centralize management, efficiently distribute workloads, minimize tampering, and reap the benefits of a thin-client approach to the virtual environment.

Endpoint virtualization typically uses one of two preferred methods of delivery:

  • Application virtualizationThis delivery method uses a centralized approach to deliver actual applications to end users.
  • Desktop virtualizationThe desktop itself can be virtualized, then delivered to an end user in lieu of the actual applications.

A hybrid method that blends elements of the two is also gaining traction as IT administrators continue to seek new ways to improve virtualized environment performance. Improved agility and adaptability remain the key objectives of virtualization, and businesses with pronounced needs in these areas stand to benefit a great deal from an optimization investment.

To learn more about how virtualization creates more optimized working environments, 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.