Hang-Up on Your Traditional Telephone System: 3 Advantages of VoIP

Along with adopting cloud services, many businesses are taking advantage of progressive technological developments to further save money and allocate resources elsewhere. By implementing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), businesses are enabling vocal communication over the Internet, and reaping the many benefits of the system.

In essence, VoIP—colloquially referred to as Internet telephony—is a series of transmission capabilities that facilitate communication over the Internet. The technology converts voice vibrations to compressed digital signals, and then transfers them into regular telephone signals—thus, playing the part of a conventional telephone.

But enough with the tech talk. Here are three quick tips that illustrate why VoIP services will make you want to hang-up on your traditional telephone system.

Costs Savings

The most obvious—and arguably most attractive—feature of VoIP is the money you will be saving from the get-go. For starters, moving away from public telephone networks makes long-distance calling affordable. VoIP also reduces the cost of equipment, manpower, lines, and maintenance. Despite the initial setup costs, businesses save immensely by managing only one network and not having to bear the financial burdens of a telephony system. Gone are the days of needing a team to manage your data network and your voice network.

Flexibility & Mobility               

Sure, VoIP increases savings by lowering your businesses initial communication costs. However, it does so much more. Internet telephony enables users to access software programs—think common features such as email, fax, and remote conferencing—over the Internet. In short, users can utilize voice services while accessing other applications simultaneously.

And what’s even better? VoIP users can use their adapters anywhere that Internet is offered, including their mobile phones. This is mobility, people—and a feature that is proving to be extremely relevant in a workforce that has become more mobile and remote.

Approachability

VoIP requires very little technical knowledge. In fact, the installation process is simple compared to traditional telephones. With VoIP systems, businesses are no longer required to use separate cabling (which also greatly reduces clutter and fire hazards associated with electrical wires!). Once installed, VoIP systems are easy to maintain—after all, the transfer of voice to digital signals requires no specialized hardware. Finally, VoIP is scalable, meaning that it’s simple to add extra components with very little hassle.

Sound enticing? These are only a few of the benefits of switching to VoIP services. Much like transferring to the cloud, making the switch to Internet telephony is a no-brainer. For more information, contact us today. old phone

5 Ways Business VoIP Makes Cloud Integration Easy & Accessible for SMEs

As telecommunication businesses continue to embrace cloud-services, it becomes increasingly important that these services are integrated and operate smoothly. We have seen a growing trend of businesses that first explore cloud services, and then realize that services must be integrated in order for them to work seamlessly. By integrating communications, business VoIP helps SMEs maximize potential and grow business.

Below are five reasons that Business VoIP makes integration to the cloud easy and accessible for SMEs.

1) Assists with two essential types of integration

There are two primary types of integration that enterprises look for: unified communications and collaboration (UC&C). Businesses need to have features in one place with collaboration options that support numerous company needs, including:

• Phone services
• Chat
• Fax
• Meetings
• Call & contact centers

UC&C services work together with other services, so day-to-day operations are completed.

2) Delivers CRM and call center integration to enterprises

By offering midsized enterprises CRM and call-center integration in one location, business VoIP increases productivity. UC&C services handles everything from phones and meetings to customer service in one area, and employees are able to use any device to access the network: desktop, mobile, tablet, etc. (run-on sentence)

This enables your company’s IT department to focus resources on core business operations rather than phone systems. Furthermore, integrated systems offer employees the power of specialized features that help monitor and manage customer communications. UC&C functions allow companies to leverage information in CRM systems, all while utilizing preexisting business VoIP services that are already in use with other operations.

3) Brings the power of integration to midsized enterprises

Because integrated cloud services are affordable—and more importantly, do not skimp on power and services—SMEs have access to the same great services as their larger counterparts. Because all your resources are in one place, it is easier for SMEs to take advantage of the numerous services, which are often integrated with other cloud-based technology platforms that leverage the power of the Internet to increase available features and speed-of-deployment.

4) Integrates with CRM essential to enterprise success

Like many organizations, we think it is critical for CRM integration to take place. CRM can be used with any system, has multiple uses, and is easily integrated with the cloud. Companies are able to keep track of customer information, the customer contact history appears on your screen when the system recognizes the caller’s number; and if the data is not in the CRM database, the information is captured for later use.

CRM and unified communication can also be used for corporate interfacing, including time tracking. With CRMs, businesses can easily keep track of calls and time, which again, increases company productivity.

5) Enterprises increase customer relations

While CRM systems provide crucial information for previous customer contacts that are immediately accessible, they increase customer service relations. Integrated communications allows sales or customer service agents to immediately see all previous customer contact data, which is beneficial for support, cross-selling, and up-selling purposes.

Integration also has the possibility to simplify enterprise resource planning. By offering options entirely based in the cloud, integrated services offer enterprise resource planning and access to information. For smart business VoIP users, this data can be used to create a competitive advantage that will maximize potential and grow future business.

 

Read our new White Paper on Cloud Implementation!

 

Why Not Just Use Skype for Business Video Teleconference? Let me count the ways!

I came across this post from AGT. I thought it would be beneficial to repost it.

“Why not just Skype?”

Being a video conferencing solutions provider, we get this question a lot. And to be frank, why would you not use Skype? It’s easy to use, well-known and for the most part, free. While all those characteristics are ideal, Skype is ripe with limitations when used as a business tool versus a consumer tool. In this post we will dig into a quick comparison of Skype and business video conferencing services.

Point-to-point vs. Multi-point

A key difference is simply what each solution is designed for. Skype is optimized for point-to-point audio and video calls, which means it is designed to support two computers and two participants. You have probably seen the Skype ads showing a traveling working mom or dad speaking with their child back at home (I have to admit, those ads get me every time.) On the other hand, video conferencing is optimized for multi-point calls, which means multiple parties on multiple devices can participate in a single call. While I do not have a TV spot to reference, imagine your weekly sales meeting where you have a few co-workers in a conference room at the headquarters, a couple of people working from home on their laptops, and an executive calling from his personal Telepresence system – all in a single call.

Interoperability

Fortunately, video interoperability has made tremendous strides over the past two years. Thanks to smaller vendors breaking barriers, there are video conferencing services that can interoperate with standards-based video conferencing systems, in addition to a wide variety of video-enabled devices, such as tablets, smartphones and desktops. Unfortunately for Skype, their users can only connect with other Skype users and cannot connect to your traditional video conferencing equipment.

Bandwidth

Skype requires a significant amount of bandwidth. A five-way Skype video call, which is the maximum number of participants Skype recommends, requires four times the bandwidth of a business video conferencing service. The substantial amount of bandwidth required for Skype calls can reduce or interrupt critical network performance since the Skype video traffic cannot be prioritized through the use of Quality of Service (QoS) settings. This leads to a degraded network and meeting disruptions, such as choppy audio, frozen video and dropped calls. Administrators and end users want to avoid these scenarios at all costs.

Advanced Features and Reporting

Since Skype is designed for consumers, it only offers basic features. Business video conferencing services include advanced features, such as streaming and recording, multiple screen layouts, full conference controls and real-time reporting.

Security and Control

All you have to do is Google “Skype + security” and article after article will show the security vulnerabilities associated with Skype. Business video conferencing services make security and control a top priority. Seamless firewall traversal, video call encryption, conference controls and real-time management of bandwidth are just a few capabilities that businesses should consider when seeking a video solution.

Support

Last but not least, support services are unavailable for Skype users. There is no one to contact when a problem arises. Business video conferencing services offer a wide variety of help desk and onsite services to ensure a high level of customer service.

In conclusion, Skype is an excellent tool for keeping in touch with long distance loved ones. If you are seeking a solution that requires secure video communication, low-bandwidth and interoperability across multiple platforms and participants, I recommend a business video conferencing service.

What about you, what do you use for your business video communications?

Want to know more? 

Increased Security in the Cloud: What it Means for Business

Over the last several years, cloud services have become a viable solution for businesses wanting to innovate and transform operations. The much-discussed benefits of continuous availability, low maintenance, and increased scalability have caused the cloud to grow almost 300% over the past 6 years. However, as the cloud continues to expand, hesitations revolving around the issue of security linger—security is still cited as a leading inhibitor to cloud adoption.

We find that few disagree that cloud computing is a way of the future. However, we do sympathize with those who are still hesitant to making the switch—after all, making the transition to cloud storage can be a big decision for many businesses, especially when safety is a primary concern. In order to clear the name of cloud computing security, we have listed four concepts that prove cloud security is safer than ever.Cloud Computing Security Tips

1) Cloud providers have security expertise. 

Not to sing our own praises, but cloud storage is our passion—and something we take very seriously. In general, cloud providers offer a wide range of managed security services that utilize the latest technology. Our industry’s success is based on our ability to keep customers’ data secure. And keeping your stuff safe is our guarantee.

2) High security standards must be followed. 

Because of strict standards established by the Higher International Organization for Standardization (ISO), cloud security is extremely high. As aforementioned, cloud computing is a multibillion-dollar business, and business is based on keeping customers’ data secure. ISO standards are designed to ensure just that.

3) Human error is reduced.

It’s no secret that people make mistakes. Even the most meticulous workers forget, misplace, and overlook hardware and data. However, computers don’t make mistakes—nor do they have bad days. This overlooked concept translates to superior security in the cloud. In the past, if a worker misplaced or even lost a computer or thumb drive, a company was at risk of losing vital data. With cloud storage, your data can be safely accessed anywhere, even if that same forgetful worker misplaces his or her laptop.

4) More is, indeed, better.

Building off the idea of limited hardware, if you only have one something (be it a laptop, a desktop, or a smartphone), that one piece of equipment is at risk of getting lost or broken. This translates to data: if you only have one way to back up your data, what happens if that method falters? Cloud computing protects your data by utilizing many methods of storage.

While we aren’t here to say that cloud computing is entirely free of security risks, we do guarantee that with the right team and expertise to back your operations, your data is safer than before. If you’re resisting the transition to cloud computing because of security reasons, you should reevaluate the benefits and contact us.

KEEPING YOUR PHONES RINGING DURING A BUSINESS RELOCATION OR EXPANSION

Moving or expanding your company office can be a source of tremendous stress and upheaval — but it also offers an opportunity to upgrade and improve a variety of office features, including your telecommunications system.

Many businesses find that they have outgrown their phone system long before they outgrow their office space. When planning a move to a new or expanded office, it is important to examine all aspects of your telecommunications needs — number and location of phones, voice mail, structured cabling, voice and data integration — to ensure that your new system responds favorably to your present needs, and will be able to expand to accommodate future growth.

There are a number of vital considerations to help you plan effectively for a phone system relocation or expansion with the most important being — selecting the right partner to guide you through the process. By choosing a leading telecommunications provider your company can turn a stressful situation into an easy transition eliminating any interruption to your business. However, selecting an inexperienced partner will cost your organization time, money, and possibly some of your customers.

The following check list will help you through the relocation or expansion process so you can make sure you’ve identified the right company to keep your phones ringing with no interruption in service:

• Select A Telecommunications Provider With Experience, and Rely On Their Expertise. You should elect to work with a provider that has expertise at the installation, expansion and relocation of corporate phone systems. Does the provider design and install communications systems using the latest technology, including the integration of your office computers with your phone system. In addition to installing your phone system, will the provider consult with you on how your business can maximize your communications effectiveness?

• Communicate Your Expectations. Ask your communications provider to assist you in thinking your plans through on paper first, ensuring that the proper phone configuration is agreed upon prior to installation. Make sure that the provider will work with you to effectively implement any needed changes to your existing system, including adding voice mail or upgrading the phone switch. Be sure to obtain an accurate indication of the time requirements needed to make changes to your system.

• Design Now and Save Later. An experienced telecommunications partner will take the time to review your facility and electrical drawings, which will aide in developing a game plan. They should provide you with design input, space planning and a communications layout for your facilities’ entire structured cabling infrastructure. This should include drawings of specific technical components such as the equipment room, telephone system, voice mail, server configurations, overhead paging and music, wireless IP, and Internet access.

The key is making sure your provider builds a compact, easy-to-manage, centralized equipment room, which acts as the hub for your business. Ideally, you should receive a design that is flexible and one that can expand as your business grows. Poor designs will cost you every time you call your provider when you need to make even a minor change to your system.

Properly designed and implemented in the blueprint stage saves having to retrofit and issue change orders later, which can be extremely costly. Leading companies do not charge for consultative services or design input. This is something to think about as you select a partner.

• Set A Realistic Move Date. If you want to eliminate headaches give yourself considerable time to plan ahead prior to your move or expansion date. Unexpected events almost always cause delays, and your business will function more smoothly if your move occurs when everyone is ready, instead of in the midst of a last-minute “scramble.” You should work closely with a telecommunications systems provider to help you set a realistic schedule for your phone system implementation. This will allow you to alert your customers and vendors of any anticipated phone number changes well in advance of your move date.

• Prevent an Interruption in Service.For many businesses, the early installation of phone lines, Internet access and new equipment may be critical to having dual service and to providing your customers with uninterrupted service during the entire move. If your provider waits until the last minute to switchover and does not have a plan to provide redundant service then you know something is wrong. An interruption in service can have a lasting impact on any organization.

• Don’t Let Anything Fall Through the Cracks.You should contact your communications system provider and give them advanced notice prior to your move to schedule a complete analysis of your present and future phone needs. Due to the highly competitive nature of local, long-distance, and Internet service, this additional “shopping” time can result in substantial savings. A reliable partner will walk you through this process identifying areas to save money, especially if you find yourself pressed for time.

Finally, make sure you redirect all of your local, toll-free, and fax numbers. Order this work to be done far in advance of your move, because it is vital that this important service be fully operational on Day One in your new facility.

Selecting the right telecommunications partner can make a world of difference when taking on the challenge of relocation or expanding your current facility. Choose an experienced provider that can set up a game plan for you and give you a sense of security that the transition will be a success. Leading providers will eliminate any unforeseen headaches and make what could be seen as a daunting task an easy one. If you don’t, your business could ultimately be in big trouble.

Understanding the Power of SIP Trunking and How to Harness It to Take Your Business to the Next Level

How can a communications protocol elevate your business? Consider the impact of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications and its ability to lower costs and offer powerful new business applications.  These two benefits alone are accelerating the adoption of IP based technology, also known as the convergence of voice and data, on a global level regardless of the size of company.   Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) raises the bar of IP by adding intelligence to business processes and providing both users and IT departments with greater control over their communications.

SIP is an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), internet-based protocol originally designed for call set-up and control.  According to the SIP RFC, the protocol defines how two or more end-points can negotiate to set up and control a communications connection that suits the capabilities of the devices and the needs of its users.  In simple terms, SIP supports any form of real-time communication regardless of whether the content is voice, video, instant messaging, or a collaboration application.  Additionally, SIP enables users to inform others of their status, their availability, and how they can be contacted before a communication is even initiated.

Many companies have made the transition to VoIP; however, most are only using it for communication on the LAN.  In this scenario VoIP is only being used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional telephony.  These businesses realize a sound return on investment by lowering administrative costs as well as costs associated with calls made within the company.  SIP trunking, on the other hand, provides a greater return because it takes VoIP a step further.  For instance, full potential for IP communications can be realized only when communication is taken outside of an organization’s LAN.  SIP trunks thus eliminate the need for local PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) gateways, costly BRIs (Basic Rate Interfaces) or PRIs (Primary Rate Interfaces).  Furthermore, it directly operates with existing IP PBXs so there is no need for additional hardware.
SIP trunking also offers a number of unique features that have a direct correlation on improving a company’s productivity.  These features include

  • Enhanced 911 Service
  • Disaster Recovery
  • 411 Directory Assistance
  • Interactive User Portal for setup and MAC’s
  • Multiple Location Interoperability
  • Long Distance Bundles available as well as A La Carte as needed
  • 800 Number

 

Essentially, SIP makes employees more productive, business processes more efficient, and customers more satisfied.  In today’s business world there are many communication channels, but with little or no integration between them.  This presents a guessing game for users and a problem for management.  SIP transforms communications into a single integrated tool determining how calls are handled and the manner in which they are routed.  Communication is the lifeline of every company and SIP gives users complete control.  As a result, SIP trunking has the ability to increase profitability and give businesses a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

 

Practical On Moving Your Office

When it comes to managing a small business in the process of expanding, moving is certainly an action that will need to be taken from time to time. The office a firm begins in, when that business is successful, will rarely be large enough throughout the years of increased traffic, demand, client volumes and more, and shifting the entire framework to a new building can be a serious stressor, especially for entrepreneurs who have never gone through the process before.

However, by following certain best practices and making sure that all of the aspects of the move are planned out ahead of the scheduled start date, this can be a relatively straight forward and stress-free activity.

Here is a comprehensive list of standard considerations that every small business owner should remember before making the big move to a new office:

Time Line: Makesure that you have a workable timeline with everyone.  Coordination through communication should be your mantra. You need to make sure that your phones, Internet access and equipment are ready and waiting to be connected well in advance. I can’t tell you how many times we receive a call- “We just moved into a new space and we need to hook up our phones now!” . To what? Did you order services? Do you have connectivity? Don’t wait until the last moment!

Money: Budget is a major factor in any move, and the first step in planning is to evaluate how much money can be spent on the project. Transportation, professional assistance, new setups, office adjustments and many more aspects should be considered. As many entrepreneurs already know, the move has to be done in such a way that minimizes the overall expenditure, as failure to be extremely diligent with budget allocation can spell disaster down the road.

Exit plans: Before making it into the new environment, small business owners should ensure that all of the items they wish to be moved are taken into account. Equipment, desks and other furniture, office supplies, kitchenware, modems, computers, decorations and lighting fixtures are just some of the items that might need to be safely relocated.

Carry or replace: While composing the exit plan, entrepreneurs should compare the costs of moving certain items to the expenditures that would be necessary to replace them in the new facility. For example, a large sofa might cost far more to move across the country than simply buying a new one locally in the next location, and this type of thinking can add to the cost-efficiency of the overall project.

Entry plans: Who will be waiting at the new location for the movers? When will the various persons tasked with moving new items in be arriving? How will any reconstruction or building processes be taking place? These questions should be answered before the move begins, and entrepreneurs should always ensure trusted members of staff are acting as the leaders throughout the exit and entry procedures.

Delegate: Although this is not necessarily a bad problem, the average small business owner – especially when new to entrepreneurship – tends to be less proficient at delegating tasks. This cannot happen when relocating, as it will simply lead to too much stress placed on leadership. Every employee should be involved in the move, and setting up a comprehensive list of tasks and placing certain responsibilities on various staff members can have a positive impact on the overall success of the relocation.

In today’s highly technology-dependent marketplace, business owners must ensure that they are covering all of the IT needs associated with the move as well. Here are several considerations:

Ready to go: Once the physical move is completed, the speed with which employees can get back to their normal jobs is critical. Having all of the communications and technology capabilities set up in the new location before the first full day of work will maximize productivity.

Ask for help: Setting up an office IT and communications frameworks is difficult enough. Moving that entire set-up to another location can be complex and potentially impossible without the right expertise. Entrepreneurs should not hesitate to ask their chosen service provider to take care of the IT and communications side of the relocation.

Insurance: Make sure that you contact the office of the building that you are moving to and get a copy of their insurance requirements. Make sure that all of your vendors  file their certificates of insurance with the landlord per the requirements. Make sure that you have copies of their insurance on file.

Occupancy License: Check with the local city government for your occupancy permit. Make sure that you have paid all of the license taxes and fees.

Cancellation of utilities at your previous location: Make sure that you cancel any services at your previous location! You are still liable for them even if you are not using them! Phone, electric, Internet, gas – just to name a few.

Moving

 

Mindfulness , Adaptive Leadership and The Cloud

Attending the recent Cloud Partners Conference here in Chicago was truly amazing. I had some observations that I think the Channel – specifically, my clients who are managing technology would appreciate.

First thing that I noticed, sitting around the Advisory Board meeting was that a lot of us have shaved heads. This brought me into the realm of thinking about Buddhist monks. This led me to thinking about “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware about what is happening within ourselves and to pay full attention to what is happening around us, non-judgmentally. It is the attention that emerges from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment.

As I listened to the opening remarks, about the transformation that our business model is going through with virtualization and companies that are “born in the cloud”, I began to look at my business and how it has transformed over the past twenty years.  Mindfulness of what is happening within- and in this case, within my company.  How will we make the transition? What skills do we need to acquire? What talent do we need to attract?

Leadership has to be adaptive. It has to grow in response to challenges and opportunities.  Adaptive leadership has to be dynamic- it requires focus and activity to result in a changed environment. As a leader, I have to have a sense of where we are at and adapt to these challenges in our channel environment.

As I met with the vendors, I had a renewed openness to find out what they were offering. Along with my staff, we went through the Expo hall and asked basic questions- “What do you do? Who is your target client? How can we work together?”  Afterwards, we met and reviewed the meetings we had with different providers.  This wasn’t a technical exercise- trying to solve problems with whatever is at hand.  Being adaptive, we need to create an environment that promotes a framework for healthy conversations about our strengths and weaknesses. Which vendors will be part of our offering is a dynamic question. It will change as will our evaluation of ourselves, our developing strengths and the new challenges of the cloud.

Football Basics and Business IT: It’s all in the Fundamentals

I was watching the news last night with “She who Must Be Obeyed” (a.k.a  my wife, Polly). During the sports segment, football came on. I began to think about my high school football coach. He and I didn’t get along. However, he did instill in me the elements of a successful football strategy. It can be applied to business IT very easily

  1. Block and Tackle- your safety depends on it.
  2. Have an Executable Plan and Stick to it.
  3. Don’t get Juked

Like they say, “Everything else is commentary, go learn it!”.

Security: Blocking and Tackling

While there’s no such thing as an IT environment that is 100 percent secure, taking fundamental steps to assess and  harden IT systems is the basic “blocking and tackling” of IT security that removes the root cause of the vast majority of breaches. These steps include:

» Assess and inventory configurations on all servers and devices, and compare the results to some under-stood, recognized security standard (like CIS, NIST, or ISO 27001)

» Gain immediate, real-time insight into any changes to the files, configurations items and states that define this security standard

Blocking and tackling for security professionals means going back to basics and eliminating the “easy ins” preyed on by attackers, like open ports and unused services, the use of default or easily guessed administrator passwords, or improperly configured firewalls.

Blocking and tackling for IT security teams also means keeping continuous watch on these systems, to detect the clues that indicate attacks in progress, like security controls disabled by anti-forensic activities, oddly elevated permissions or unexpected changes to critical files.

Security configuration management solutions are built to make these issues visible to IT security professionals, and to give them the information and tools they need to manage them in the most automated way possible.

Software as a Service (SaaS): Have a Executable Plan that incorporates the 5 Elements of Success

The value of SaaS applications depends on a very short time to results.

Principle #1: Integrate Quickly

Business leaders are adopting SaaS applications because the functionalities provided are immediately available, and the learning curve is usually quite short. However, users need relevant data before they can get full value from the software, and any event captured in the application has to be reflected in other systems.

Principle #2: Ensure Real-Time Data

Synchronizing data irregularly will introduce a latency that could impact your customer relationships or decrease your efficiency. Without real-time data, your people and systems will not have the current business context.

Principle #3: Control Costs

When you integrate SaaS applications, which is necessary for them to deliver value, your teams must propose an integration method that preserves the SaaS cost advantage a minimum upfront investment with costs determined by usage.

Principle #4: Integrate More and Faster

Should you plan to integrate a few applications that you won’t expect to change or constantly integrate new ones? For the answer, look at the trends. SaaS applications will offer broad palettes of functions that can be easily leveraged. Because most SaaS functionalities are standard (not custom), differentiation will come from combining applications.

Principle #5: Build Mature Integration Capabilities

Leveraging integration platform templates will help turn your entire organization into a flexible cloud where even small operations can easily and rapidly access your corporate business functionalities just as they would SaaS applications.

 

BYOD: Don’t get Juked (a.k.a. Don’t Fall for Fake Tactics)

All of the major wireless carriers are coming out with programs that allow users to get an annual upgrade on their smart phones. If you are a smart phone manufacturer, that is good news. If you administer your company’s devices, it’s a nightmare- both costly and in terms of your network security. With all of the churn and burn in the wireless industry, you need to have a relationship with the corporate side of the carriers. Make sure that you have a dedicated business partner at the carrier who you know and can offer you the best solutions for your needs.

Recently, our carrier sold the client base to Sprint. When we went to Sprint for a new deal, they came back with a hefty proposal. We repeated the steps with all of the major carriers. Eventually, T-Mobile and our contact Keith Mercado, came to the rescue with a program that was actually half of what we were spending previously. By the way, we all got new phones.  Had we gone with the new JUMP program from T Mobile, we actually would have increased our monthly spend many times over.

Want to know more? Click Here!

Security Alert: Scammers are holding your phones hostage for ransom

I recently read an article in the Chicago Tribune that was actually reprinted from the  LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-phone-hacking-20130719,0,5710787.story). It described a nightmare similar to what some of our clients have gone through at different times over the past year.

Here is the scenario: all of a sudden (literally) all of their phone lines are taken over by a caller who is posing as a debt collection agency trying to collect on a delinquent account for an “employee”. In none of the cases was the named employee a current employee of my clients. All of the phone lines (in some cases they were SIP trunks, in other cases plain ordinary telephone lines and in two cases they were PRI running over a T1’s for a total of 46 channels) were taken over so that no calls could be received or made. The caller wanted to collect $500 or more dollars immediately. The business could pay- and then they would release the lines. In other cases, IP sets were “spoofed” and the hackers made hundreds of dollars in fraudlent calls that were billed to clients.

Can you imagine how frustrating that is? My clients were enraged. The local police were called – and were not able to do anything about the situation. The FBI Cyber Crimes unit was called – but they could do nothing about it. In each of the cases, other legitimate business numbers were faked (a.k.a “spoofed”) as the calling party.

In each of the cases,  we had to involve the carrier. Out of all of the carriers, SNET reacted the fastest. CBeyond was the most responsive with follow up. With SNET  in about 5 minutes, the nuisance calls were blocked and service was restored. In the other cases, the denial of service took over for a couple of hours. Denial of service attacks ( when hackers install programs on unprotected computers and overwhelm targeted servers) are common in the IP world. It’s a type of attack that is getting more common in the voice world as more companies adopt IP telephony (such as SIP trunks and converged circuits).

There are a few ways to protect yourself.

  1. First and foremost, either install your own Session Border Controller or make sure that your provider has an enterprise level session border controller installed on your circuits.
  2. Make sure that you know how to escalate your case through your carrier.
  3. Ensure that you have their emergency numbers on your cell phone and that you know your account information.
  4. Make sure that you have multiple authorized representatives on the account who can open and escalate trouble tickets.
  5. Know your vendors!  Emergency phone numbers, contact names and emails.
  6. If you are running your own IP equipment, make sure that it is in Stealth DMZ,  behind a firewall, that default passwords were changed and no one (even the most VIP) uses easy passwords.

In addition, the only way that this will be acted on is through involving law enforcement. The FBI Cyber Crimes unit should be notified and the incident should be reported. Helping them will give them necessary information in catching culprits. If you are an IT professional, join INFRAGARD which is a strategic partnership between the Bureau and IT professionals.

asset-the-complexity-of-it-security

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