A Secure BYOD Strategy

Wireless devices are making their presence felt in every business. From smartphones and touch screen tablets to handheld video conferencing tools and traditional laptops, these devices enable employees to perform critical business functions at any time and any location.

That’s why more companies are embracing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies, enabling employees to choose the tools and in some cases,  move completely away from devices like desk phones and desktop PCs—both long considered to be indispensable.

But if businesses are not careful, BYOD can quickly turn into ‘bring your own difficulties” inviting a wide range of security issues. The challenge is to balance the need to control access, but not limit employee flexibility or create an onerous management burden for IT.

Organizations know that employees’ personal mobile devices are getting onto their networks, but, based on a recent study by the SANS Institute, only nine percent of organizations surveyed were “fully aware” of the devices accessing their networks, and only 50 percent were “vaguely or fairly” aware.  (Learn more about the SANS study at http://www.sans.org/press/first-annual-survey-webcast.php)

Many mobile devices support 802.1x (an IEEE Standard for port-based Network Access Control), though  often it is not enabled.  Also, many smaller companies without the IT resources find it too onerous to be configuring their network to control access via 802.1x.

One way to solve the BYOD challenge is to centralize management of your access, authentication and security controls. A centralized, standards-based, policy server deployable over any underpinning network infrastructure allows administrators to quickly and easily add devices from a central hub and even assign multiple devices to a single user.

A centralized solution gives you full visibility into who has accessed the network based on a combination of user identity, device type and location. If an employee brings a new device, it can get validated by comparing the user credentials and device attributes against corporate directories. Network access can be limited to all or select resources.

A centralized approach simplifies the process of providing guests wireless Internet access. For large events such as conferences or expos, enterprise staff can administer guest policies in bulk, eliminating the need to manually set guest preferences and rules. To ensure that guests don’t outstay their welcome, these credentials automatically expire at a specified date and time.

Avaya provides a range of centralized security capabilities through its Identity Engines portfolio of security solutions.  Many of these capabilities have traditionally been limited to large enterprise installations, but now much smaller organizations are taking advantage of them implementing them on networks with the Avaya Ethernet Routing Switch (ERS) 3500, a compact Ethernet switch designed exclusively for small and midsize enterprises and remote branches.

What’s the Right Way to Implement Mobile Collaboration?

For small and midsize enterprises, mobile collaboration is a big challenge. One-size-fits-all solutions won’t cut it. You need a system specific to how you do business—your processes, your customers and your brand. Here’s what to look for.

Get started now by taking a close look at how mobile collaboration can deliver overall benefits to your business. Some of the key areas are likely to be:

  • Employee productivity—helping your employees be productive wherever they are working
  • Decision- making—keeping key people in the loop so important matters don’t get delayed
  • Sales and customer service—making it easy for customers and prospects to quickly reach anyone in your organization
  • Work-life balance—providing tools that allow people to be in touch and still have a life

Look for specific bottom line benefits you can realize to generate ROI on your mobility investment. Things like cutting down on real estate costs (by allowing people to work from home either more often or all the time), and reducing unplanned employee absences will directly impact your bottom line.

Consider the different needs of individual employees. While just about everyone in your business can benefit from mobile communications and collaboration, different kinds of workers will find themselves working in different situations more often than others. For example, someone who works from home regularly will have different needs than someone who travels.

Finally, make sure the mobile solution you put in place matches the needs of your business. You want a solution that supports the latest capabilities, including being able to integrate your office communications with smartphones and other devices. But it’s important not to get swept away by the latest twists in technology and end up ignoring critical factors like reliability, scalability and total cost of ownership.

Avaya has posted loads of information about mobile collaboration on its website www.avaya.com/small including whitepapers, buyer’s guides and videos of companies of all sizes who are taking advantage of mobile collaboration today.

How To Not Get Boxed Into a Communications Upgrade

Upgrading to any new technology is rarely a cut and dried decision. You hear about all the new things that are out there, but you also know that change means disruption and may force your business to give up features you now take for granted.

For most IT decision makers, the ideal technology upgrade scenario is to get new capabilities, but hold on to the things they like in their current solution. That’s exactly what Interline Brands did when it upgraded its communications at 130 locations to an Avaya IP Office solution.

A leading distributor and direct marketer of maintenance products, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fl., Interline was able to get a host of new capabilities while racking up huge savings in acquisition, operational and transition costs.

The Interline locations around the world are mostly small distribution centers/storefronts. Many of them used the PARTNER Communications Systems, a solution first introduced in the 1980s that over the years became one of the top selling small business communications systems of all time.

Interline wanted to keep using the PARTNER systems, but accepted the fact they were based on dated technology and no longer being manufactured. Then Interline discovered the best of both worlds: Avaya offers a “version of its best-selling small business IP Office solution that essentially mimics how the PARTNER system worked.  Interline was able to continue using many of the same features as its older PARTNER solution (cutting down dramatically on training and transition costs), hold on to its PARTNER telephones (cutting down on acquisition costs) and still get the benefits of moving up to a new IP-based communications solution.

With 130 locations, Interline also got the ability to administer the systems from a central location. Streamlined administration, together with consolidating existing analog lines at many locations into digital services, cut overall spending and enabled full ROI within three months.

Interline is also benefiting from:

  • One-number access. Calls to an individual’s office number can ring simultaneously on the mobile or home phone so calls are never missed
  • In-building wireless capabilities. A must for warehouse locations
  • Conferencing. It’s possible to quickly set up conference calls with up to 64 people to enable cost-effective collaboration.
  • Automated Attendant. Users can customize caller greetings so key callers receive a personal message and are routed directly to the most appropriate person or team.

To learn more about Interline’s experience and what it can mean for your business, read the case study at http://www.avaya.com/usa/case-for-avaya/customer-stories/interline-brands

For a great resource on upgrading your communications, see the Definitive Guide to Upgrading Your Communications System at http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/premiumcontent/thedefinitiveguidetoupgradingyouravayacomsys.pdf

How Small Businesses Can Make Their Smartphones Even Smarter

Every day, people download millions of apps onto their smartphones—as many as 30 billion a year.

Given that scale, it’s hard to identify one “must have” app. But if you are a small or midsize business looking to take your communications capabilities to a new level, the app Avaya has released for Android and Apple iPhones has a lot to recommend it.

Avaya is best known for its business communications systems—the kind that sit in your office. It has a market share and feature-set that its competitors can only dream about. But Avaya also recognized early on that when people go to work, they often aren’t just sitting in the office. They are working at home, on their commutes, at the airport—you name it. So Avaya began to add mobility features to its business communications systems.

Avaya was one of the leaders in making it easy to “twin” your mobile phone to your office system so you could get all your calls and messages anywhere. Now it has taken that capability to a whole new level with the Avaya one-X® Mobile Preferred app for Android and Apple iPhone devices.

The Avaya app puts a load of connectivity and collaboration tools on your smartphone:

  • Contacts—See all your office contacts color-coded for their availability. Just tap to call or IM.
  • Messaging—See all your voice messages and IM’s. Prioritize and respond.
  • Conference Calls—Setting up a conference call on a mobile has never been easier. Tap a contact and pull them into a call. Mute, drop, and bring new people in as needed.
  • Geopresence—Instantly see where someone is on a map (ideal for tracking sales or service reps) and track their progress in getting to where they need to be.

Avaya created a quick demo of all of these features.  It is available now at http://bit.ly/HkXNSP Give it a try. You may never look at your office phone or your smartphone the same way again.

Your Mobile Strategy: It’s Not the Phone, it’s the Software

For today’s small and midsize businesses, the question is not whether you will take advantage of mobility. It’s a question of when…and how.

Up until now, you may have been focused on what kind of smartphone to choose. But as more and more mobile apps become available, software increasingly leads the way. Here are some recent findings:

Healthcare and Finance Lead the Way: Last year, it’s estimated that some 25-30 billion apps were downloaded to mobile devices.  If you are in healthcare or finance, you probably already know this. Even though they are among the most highly regulated of all industries, with strict privacy and compliance standards, they were also among the heaviest users of mobile apps. This is in part because the apps available for these industries have addressed strict privacy and compliance standards, according to a study undertaken by Good Technology, makers of enterprise mobile security software. (See the report at http://www.good.com/resources/Good_Data_BYOD_2011.pdf ) Creating strong separation between business data and what’s happening on the personal side of the device makes it possible to comply with standards like HIPAA, PCI data security and more. The bottom line: expect to see more apps that are business ready.

Business Benefits: What benefits will you really see in your business if you embrace mobility? A survey of several hundred enterprises by Aberdeen Consulting (http://tinyurl.com/87pc39s) identified three:

  • Improving communication and collaboration
  • Rapidly deliver actionable information to the point of decision
  • Increasing customer intimacy

A recent Yankee Group survey got even more granular (http://www.yankeegroup.com/ResearchDocument.do?id=41225) and identified the following advantages from mobile business apps:

  • Increased field selling time
  • Elimination of redundant activities
  • Increased win rates
  • Reduced sales calls costs
  • Increased forecast accuracy
  • Decreased administrative time
  • Decreased sales cycle

Who Pays: When it comes to mobility, many businesses have chosen BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategies that require employees to pick up all the costs. Companies save money by not having company-issued devices and employees do not object. As the Good Technology report notes “users are willing to pay for having a choice, and an “expense‐back” option is not their most important consideration.”  Of those organizations that offer a mobility stipend, Good Technology found that the average is $61 or more per month. And some are varying stipend levels by role of the employee.

Opportunity:  Mobile apps are not just good for business, they are also a good business. Many enterprises have discovered that they can leverage their specific expertise and turn it into an app. TechNet, a bipartisan group of technology CEOs, released a study showing that there are now roughly 466,000 jobs in the “App Economy” in the United States, up from zero in 2007. http://bit.ly/AlGe4l

The Facts and Figures of Flexible Work Arrangements

The Facts and Figures of Flexible Work Arrangements

In business today, mobility is taken for granted. More and more employees have jobs that can be done anywhere.  But are businesses enjoying real bottom-line benefits from this new world of mobility? Various sources suggest that the answer is “yes.”

Executive survey: In a report on mobile collaboration for Avaya, Frost and Sullivan surveyed 200 CXOs and found that of those that have deployed mobile collaboration technologies, the vast majority (86%) report improved innovation within the organization.

More productive “sick days:” A health insurer analyzed the cost of requiring people to come into work when they are feeling sick or stressed and found that it doesn’t just make bad human relations sense. It makes bad economic sense: on average about $2000 per year, per employee. (Source: Cigna Behavioral Health, April 26, 2004)

Employee loyalty and morale: A flexible work environment is high on the list of things that employees want, according to a top recruitment firm.  In one survey (The Hudson Group, 2/12/2008, In the Game of Hiring, Flexible Employers Win, http://us.hudson.com/node.asp?kwd=survey-021208), nearly a third (29 percent) of workers cite work-life balance and flexibility to be the most important factor in considering job offers, above compensation.

The Telework Research Network regularly compiles data on the bottom-line impact of flexible work arrangements.  Here are some of its findings:

  • A better environment: Remote working can save approximately 300 gallons of gas a year per employee, and over 6,000 pounds of carbons.
  • Salary boost: Working at home can save up to $8400 per year in gas, tolls, wear/tear on car, meals, dry cleaning = $11,340 salary boost.
  • Less commuting: A 52-minute in-the-car average commute to and from work is equivalent to 4-6 weeks a year.  Even if you realized a fraction of that (2 weeks’ worth) – that’s a significant uptick in productivity for that employee.

(Source: Workshifting Benefits: The Bottom Line, TeleworkResearchNetwork.com / Kate Lister / May 2010)

Why You Should be Thinking About Business Disruptions

As the owner or manager of a growing business, your focus is business development, not business disruption.  But don’t let mistaken assumptions about business continuity cloud your judgment.

Most small and midsize businesses make the mistake of assuming that (1) in the event of a disaster, they will still be able to limp along and get their business going again and (2) it will cost them less to limp along and clean up the mess later than to put a backup plan in place now.

In fact, if you experience a breakdown in your communications infrastructure, you may not be able to limp along. Numerous insurance companies and business continuity  specialists cite statistics suggesting that large numbers of SMEs who are hit with a major disruption never fully recover and/or soon go out of business.

In this posting, I will provide a basic explanation of business continuity as it relates to your communications system. I also recommend downloading the Avaya white paper, “Is your small business ready for non-stop operations?”  (https://www.avaya.com/usa/registration/is-your-small-business-ready-for-non-stop-operations/) It’s packed with interesting advice and insight on the whole subject of keeping your business in continuous operation, whether the problem is a storm, utility outage, equipment failure, security breach or even having several of your top employees felled by the flu.

Don’t take your communications for granted

In the old days, if the power failed during a major storm or disaster, there was a good chance you could still use the phone. That’s because your phone system was powered by electrical current coming over analog lines from the phone company’s central office. Because of that, you could always get dial tone.

But today, many businesses use digital, not analog, lines. Also, even if a business is using an analog line, the communications devices and switches at the business may still require their own power. Cordless phones, for example, need their own power source. If you connect ANY device that needs its own power, you introduce a point of failure so that when power is lost to the switch, connected telephones no longer receive a dial tone.

But there is a way around this—it’s part of the business continuity capabilities of Avaya IP Office.  The Avaya White Paper explains it in detail, but here’s the essence: if you connect an easily acquired Phone 8 expansion card, affixed with a Daughter (trunk) card, you get eight ports for use with analog telephones. Using the card, the analog trunk gets connected directly to the phone—the switch is bypassed. Whether you have power or not, you can be up and running.

A power outage is just one possible scenario of business disruption—and it’s also just one way that Avaya IP Office is designed to keep your operations going.  Other features of this system designed to keep you in business include:

Teleworker Solution: Get complete communications from another location by connecting via an IP desk phone over a virtual private network (VPN) or via a laptop using the one-X® Portal. This is a great option for when employees cannot get into the office for any reason.

Multi-site Network: If you have multiple offices and one goes down, you can still keep all your communications up and running by using the Small Community Network capability, which is a standard feature of IP Office. Using IP links, you can connect a network of branch offices and ensure that extensions and features stay up and running at all of them. You can even designate which locations are “back-ups” for others, so the level of resiliency can be quite robust.

Providing this kind of support for small and midsize businesses is a key reason why Avaya IP Office has become a top choice and why Avaya is No. 1 worldwide in telephony solutions in the small and midsize market.

Five ways to tell if your business communications solution is cost-effective

Is your communications system making you money, saving you money—or is it causing you to lose money in the form of lost productivity and higher operating costs? Unfortunately, the chances are high that it’s the latter. This is true even if you have recently upgraded to a new communications solution for your business. In fact, some solutions that say they offer the latest, cutting-edge communications may end up being the most expensive to own and operate.

Here are five things to look for in a solution that’s truly going to save you money:

Hybrid, not IP only: The Internet Protocol (IP) is the basis for most new communications systems.  It offers lots of advantages, but you shouldn’t be forced to use it right away unless it’s the right choice for you now.  A smart way to save money is to get a hybrid system: one that supports IP as well as older communications protocols. If you have older analog lines, the hybrid system works just fine and you are ready when the time comes to put in T1 and/or SIP trunks. You can convert to IP when it works for you—on your schedule and your budget.

Single, Stackable, Scalable: What if your business suddenly experiences a growth spurt that requires you to increase the capacity of your communications? Should you be forced into a forklift upgrade: swapping out hardware, adding new (and potentially expensive software) and re negotiating your maintenance?  No—that’s a money sinkhole. A smart choice is a solution that lets you grow without having to change the basic system box—a single solution that is stackable and scalable.

Works with existing wiring:  Does your office or building have a room with what looks like miles of spaghetti? Are there old wires snaking between floors and behind walls? Instead of pulling out all of this wire and replacing it with new cable (an expensive and potentially very disruptive proposition) you should still be able to upgrade, get the latest communications AND keep using your existing wiring. That can save thousands.

Works with existing phones: It used to be when you got a new office phone system, you automatically replaced all your phones. Some manufacturers still require that—and you may want to anyway—but it shouldn’t be necessary. Phones can account for as much as 60% of the cost of a new system and many of the ones you have now may be just fine. You should be able to keep using them and bank the savings.

Hidden Costs: What options come with your communications system?  What system resources are required for each device you connect?  What are your maintenance options?  What options do you have for upgrading software: if you do not have the most recent version and want to upgrade, will you be forced to pay an extra premium? These are nitty gritty details, but the costs can quickly add up if you don’t look at them.

I have seen so many examples of people paying for costly operating expenses because they don’t want to modernize their systems. For example, we still find clients using costly – outdated circuits and obsolete technology like dedicated direct inward dial trunks instead of SIP trunks or a PRI. One client was using a system 20 years old- under maintenance, working, but unable to accept newer cost saving technologies that would have decreased the total cost of ownership.

Once you compare your total cost of ownership of an existing solution to a new solution- you can make an easy business decision to upgrade, replace or maintain. You need to consider all of the costs- the costs for replacing/enhancing infrastructure, equipment, service and the costs for maintaining the status quo.


The Anytime, Anywhere Business

Mobility is here to stay. As much as 40 percent of U.S. workers now have jobs that could be done from outside the office at least part of the time. By some estimates, more than three-quarters of the workforce will be mobile by 2013. The Internet, mobile networks, web-based services, the Cloud are all redefining the workplace.

Is your company ready to be truly mobile? The bad news: probably not. The good news: you are by no means alone.  Most businesses, from the FORTUNE 500® on down, are not ready for today’s mobile enterprise.

“Today’s mobile employees are different,” notes the consulting firm Frost and Sullivan in a recent report, Prepare Your Enterprise for the Mobile Revolution: Boost the Bottom Line with Mobile UC. “They may not travel routinely for work, but they are working routinely from home, on their commute, evenings and weekends, and so on. Deciding on a mobile policy will be one of the biggest budget and support challenges for companies in the years to come, and it will involve business decisions as much as technology ones.”

When crafting a mobile strategy, Frost & Sullivan recommends focusing on the following:

Your communications infrastructure: You need a flexible, scalable communications architecture that integrates office phones and mobile phones and delivers capabilities including single-number reach. Frost & Sullivan calls this “fixed-mobile convergence.”

Device independence: The mobile revolution is being driven by consumer devices. Make sure you have a communications infrastructure that lets employees choose their own device (from a set of standard options) and provides business applications for communications and collaboration. This gives you control over employee use of handhelds, but at a lower cost; and it lets users easily toggle between “personal” and “business” identities.

Consistent interface: Deploy a solution that provides a complete set of voice, data and video capabilities in a single integrated experience, including basic and advanced telephony features, integration with the corporate directory, and unified messaging.

Presence: Presence is a capability that makes it easy to find the right person at the right time using the most efficient form of communication—office phone, mobile, text, e-mail, video, etc. It’s a must-have in today’s mobile workplace.

For more on the mobile workplace and to read the full Frost & Sullivan report, go to http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/awards/Avaya%20EU%20Award%20_FINAL_%20(2).pdf.

La Nina 2011-2012 is coming- and it’s going to be rough. Are you ready?

According to their website, The AccuWeather.com Long-Range Forecasting Team is predicting another brutally cold and snowy winter for a large part of the country, thanks in large part to La Niña… yet again.

La Niña, a phenomenon that occurs when sea surface temperatures across the equatorial central and eastern Pacific are below normal, is what made last year’s winter so awful for the Midwest and Northeast. Monster blizzards virtually shut down the cities of New York and Chicago. Last winter was one of New York City’s snowiest on record.

La Niñas often produce a volatile weather pattern for the Midwest and Northeast during winter due to the influence they have on the jet stream. The graphic below shows the position the jet stream typically takes over the U.S. during La Niña.

 

Winter 2011 2012

It doesn't look so good!!!

So, besides dealing with a lot of snow and ice, what does this mean for your business and how are you preparing for it?

Here are some valuable thoughts on what you should be doing for communications continuity planning.

1. Employees: Do you have a method to notify employees about snow days – when not to come to the office? It may sound mundane, but if you don’t, then the costs can be significant as soon as hourly employees start clocking in on days that the business is closed.

Suggestion:  A written policy that is communicated to all employees about snow days that includes:

Will they be announced by an email or by a phone tree?

Who will be sending the email or making the calls?

When will this be determined?

How will at home employees be compensated?

What work activities are they expected to do from home?

2. Customers: How will you notify your customers that your business is closed?

Suggestion: A written policy communicated to your key sales staff

Will you announce via an email or phone tree?

Who will be sending the email or making the calls?

How will your automated attendant greeting be changed? By whom? Saying what? When?

 3. Practice Beforehand! Don’t wait until your first snow day to practice implementing your plan. You should have a dry run

If you are using emails to communicate to your clients, make sure that the database is accurate. Make sure that the phone numbers for employees are accurate.

Make sure that you can change greetings.

Recommendations: Did you know that IP based systems and can enhance your ability to function on days when you can’t get to the office? Either our Allworx System, Avaya or S-NET Hosted Solutions can enable your work at home employees to log in remotely and work as if they were in the office. When combined with remote login capabilities on your network, your employees can work – answering calls, dealing with clients as if they were at their desks.

It looks like it is going to be another long, hard winter. We know what to expect – but the key is getting ready in advance. I remember the story about an out of work actor who finally got a one line part in a play. He had to say “Hark, I hear the cannons roar”. This actor practiced his line- on the subway, walking to the theater, in make up. Finally, he gets on stage, hears a loud BOOM- and yells “What the hell was that!?”. Moral of the story: Don’t wait until Mother Nature drops a foot of snow overnight. Make sure you have a plan that has been practiced and works!