6 Insane Myths about Cloud Computing that Naysayers Try to Pitch

I love debunking myths. When I came across this blog, I was so happy.

Cloud Computing MythsAs more and more companies choose cloud computing, more and more naysayers will scramble to create cloud horror stories, reasons to stay with on-premise solutions, and cloud myths to scare business owners into “solutions” that will end up costing more than they’re worth.

There are always questions when it comes to new software or programs that promise to save you money, keep your data secure, and so on. Well, just as there are questions, there are answers as well. It’s time to prove these misconceptions about the cloud incorrect. Some of these misconceptions include:

Myth 1: The Cloud is Riskier

Security concerns are the main barrier to cloud adoption, as reflected in the North Bridge survey. When people talk about security threats, they’re usually thinking about hacking, identity theft, malware and phishing schemes. And it isn’t comforting to hear reports like the one on New Year’s Day that hackers had compromised 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers associated with Snapchat accounts.

This could not be farther from the truth. Not only does the cloud protect you from viruses and theft, it can also ensure recovery of your data. Some may assume that the word “cloud” signifies that your data and files are floating around for the world to see – again, not true. The “cloud” basically represents the Internet, which is where you have access to your data and programs when you switch to cloud computing. Contrary to popular belief, this is actually an amazing backup plan. When your information is stored virtually, it is no longer connected to your office devices or network. Therefore, it cannot be harmed by physical disasters or emergencies that may affect your work place. The best thing businesses can do is to have a backup strategy, just in case an outage occurs. In the past, another reason for loss of data was because an organization lost their control over it. For example: How data was stored, shared, secured, etc. The cloud gives you back that control of your data, which means a significantly lower chance for it to be lost in an abyss. Just like anything in life, the cloud is not foolproof. But it is a very safe place for your data. While it may be easier to look at the cloud as unreliable and use that as an excuse to hold off, that just isn’t true. The cloud is the future, and it will keep your information safe.

The key is to assess relative risk. Are local computers, networks and servers better protected than cloud-based assets? In most cases, the answer is no.

Cloud data centers and networks are attractive targets because of the huge numbers of records they hold. But the major cloud service providers can invest far more heavily in security than the average business can, and the average business remains vulnerable. In a 2011 survey, 90 percent of companies said they had been hacked in the previous 12 months. Security experts will tell you that the remaining 10 percent just didn’t realize they’d been hacked.

Myth 2: Cloud Computing is More Expensive

This is also false. Although switching to the cloud may come with slight upfront costs such as installation or migration, in the long run, it will save you a lot of money. Cloud computing is known to reduce IT management costs dramatically.

Look at the costs associated with On-Premise solutions. When you add up the

  • cost of management
  • energy
  • hardware
  • software licensing
  • refreshes
  • storage space
  • and everything else that comes with managing your own software…

…You’re looking at a pricey per-year investment.

Moving to the cloud makes it significantly more affordable because not only do you only have to buy a “piece of the pie” instead of the whole pie, but you also move your business model from CapEx to OpEx. More specifically, you simply use infrastructure that a provider purchases and manages, meaning you share resources while avoiding the costs of making these purchases yourself. Most providers also offer a pay-as-you-go plan that bills you based on your usage. Think of it like paying your electricity bill – you use what you need, and that’s all you pay for. This is a great way to control your spending. Avoiding cloud computing is the same concept as hiring someone to make your office’s pens for you when you could just get them at an office supply store; the latter saves time and money, just like the cloud does for your business.

We invite you to read more on how Intacct and Zuora teamed up to bring you a transparent cloud offering.

Myth 3: You Can’t Increase Security

Cloud solutions already offer a high level of security, but just like you can add extra security to a home, the same can easily be done with cloud services. You can use behavior-based key management servers and encryption management keys to give your files an extra layer of protection. Like most things, the quality depends on the provider, which means you have to do your research. Find the provider that can guarantee the security of your corporate data, and ask them what policies and measures they already have implemented. The majority of companies trust the cloud enough to be switching over, as providers have been zeroing in on security over the past couple of years. Typical security measures should include exterior security systems, security guards, digital surveillance and recording and security scanners. Additionally, many cloud solutions can be further customized to fit your specific wants and needs as a business, including security. If you have compliance needs, make sure your provider can meet these standards. If you want additional monitoring and support for your system, just ask. There are numerous ways to boost security, so don’t be fooled by the misconception that it’s limited.

We believe that security is valuable to your organization; especially when the security surrounds your financial management.  We invite you to read more about things you should look for in a cloud accounting provider.

Myth 4: Cloud is Unreliable

There have been more than a few news stories about outages affecting the big cloud providers. Pretty much everyone went down at least briefly in 2013, with notable outages at companies including Yahoo, which had problems delivering mail for five days last month; Verizon’s Terremark cloud service, which took down HealthCare.gov for several hours in October; and Amazon.com, which lost millions in sales during a half-hour crash in August.

Businesses that have a backup strategy in place, such as the cloud, prove to be more reliable than other types of infrastructure platforms. With cloud solutions, data can be backed up to multiple locations and services, providing an added level of protection. Again, make sure to do your research. Find a provider that makes it a priority to keep your business up and running (like RapidScale). You need a reliable provider that will go above and beyond to ensure minimal downtime, great security and high efficiency. So maybe you’re wondering, what happens if your business loses connectivity with the cloud? We will automatically send you email updates of critical events that can be picked up from a mobile device, or you can access your information from the nearest location with Internet access. With the cloud, it’s easier than ever to have constant access to the information you need, no matter what happens to your business. With your data stored in the cloud, you can access it from any computing device and any location. So if you can’t get to your office desktop, it’s simple to grab your tablet or laptop and continue working away. This flexible quality of the cloud makes it the most reliable solution.

But what about all the outages that don’t make news? The ones in smaller corporate data centers? Or when your laptop freezes or your PC crashes? Those can be devastating because there isn’t the same level of backup, redundancy and resiliency that cloud providers can offer to contain the damage. Studies by Microsoft and others have confirmed that when businesses shift to the cloud, they see improved service availability.

Myth 5: The Cloud is Just a Fad

Although “the cloud” became a buzzword in popular culture in the past few years, neither the concept nor the technologies underpinning it are all that new. The idea that computing should be organized like a public utility goes as far back as 1961, when computer scientist John McCarthy talked about it at MIT’s centennial celebration. It wasn’t until the Internet matured, however, that the vision became practical. Salesforce.com began to deliver applications through a Web site in 1999, and Amazon (whose owner also owns The Washington Post) launched its cloud-based services in 2002.

What’s changed more recently is the level of investment in the cloud — and that ensures it isn’t going away anytime soon. The research firm Gartner predicts that companies will spend $788 billion on public cloud services in the next four years. And the McKinsey consulting firm forecasts that cloud technology could have an economic impact of $1.7 trillion to $6.2 trillion a year by 2025.

Any organization that relies on web applications like Dropbox, Amazon, Gmail, etc. already uses and relies on cloud computing. Just as the idea of the telephone started with a wire and a dial wheel, the cloud is only beginning its evolution. Migrating to a new technology doesn’t  have to be scary and uncertain. More than half of businesses have already implemented the cloud in some way, and many of these are taking it slow. That’s okay! You don’t need to hastily decide, “We’re moving everything to the cloud, today!” Test the waters. See which parts of this new technology fit the needs of your business. It’s a flexible solution that can be customized for your organization, and that’s part of why it’s so amazing. Whether you need improved security, lowered costs, higher efficiency, a backup plan, or a mixture of these benefits, the cloud is the answer. One thing is clear: the cloud is not just a fad. It’s here to stay, and businesses need to decide if they want to keep up with these changes or be left behind.  Cloud computing for businesses has turned into a way of life, as well as a secure, cost effective way to manage all of their IT systems in one place. The cloud is now the most advanced and simple way to run a business’ IT environment.

Myth 6: The Cloud Is Bad For The Environment

This myth has been perpetuated by Greenpeace campaigns and stories such as the New York Times’ “cloud factories” series, which stated that the “foundation of the information industry is sharply at odds with its image of sleek efficiency and environmental friendliness.”

There’s no question that data centers consume huge amounts of energy. But when businesses move from on-site facilities to consolidated cloud data centers, it saves energy and cuts pollution — just as relying on power companies is better for the environment than if everyone had to run their own generator. In one simulation last year, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Northwestern University estimated that if all U.S. companies shifted e-mail, spreadsheets and customer management to the cloud, they would shrink their computing energy footprints by 87 percent. And a 2010 report from Pike Research predicted that cloud computing could cut global data-center energy use by more than a third by 2020.

The major cloud service providers are also trying to be greener. For instance, Apple announced last spring that it had achieved 100 percent renewable energy at all its data centers. Google is coming up with ways to cut energy demand and cool its data centers more efficiently. And Facebook has a Swedish data center that is cooled by Arctic air and powered by hydroelectric sources. Going forward, we can expect cloud providers to reduce their environmental impact even further.

Video and Telemedicine

For businesses, bringing people together face-to-face leads to advantages like improved communication, better, faster decision making and more effective team work.

In the case of telemedicine, high-quality video conferencing can save lives. Telemedicine can mean many different things, but often it involves connecting patients in small, remote clinics to specialists in large urban health care centers.

Telemedicine makes it possible for patients who need acute, chronic or emergency care to meet face-to-face with highly-trained specialists without the expense, inconvenience and delay associated with travel. Local providers perform assessments and provide care under the guidance of the specialists.

For patients, this means improved access to high-quality care. For local clinics, it means the ability to serve more patients locally and for specialists, it means being able to efficiently deliver more care to more patients from a single, centralized location.

When Renown Health (Northern Nevada’s largest integrated healthcare network) decided to implement a comprehensive telemedicine program to serve rural residents, they evaluated solutions from a number of video conferencing vendors including Cisco (Tandberg) and Polycom. In the end, Renown selected Scopia video solutions from Avaya. The result is the highly successful R-TeleMed program, currently covering 25 specialties with more on the way.

Scopia video solutions offer a number of advantages over competing solutions. Scopia video is the only option that provides HD-quality in both the data and the personal-interaction channel. For a specialist, the ability to view a diagnostic image, for example, in HD is critically important. Scopia solutions also offer important advantages in terms of security, ease-of-use and interoperability with existing systems.

You can learn more about Avaya and Renown Health’s R-TeleMed program here.

Awareness: Avaya Style

Mobile devices, the “Bring Your Own Device” phenomenon, remote and mobile workers, and the globalization of business are all trends that have made an impact on the work environment – but can lead to information overload.

With tens of thousands of emails and instant messages sent and received every year, the average worker must deal with assigning importance amid an increasingly complicated meeting schedule (both virtual and physical). In turn, meeting efficiency demands that the most up-to-date documents and other structured and unstructured content be available.

In the Avaya Labs, researchers have developed Avaya Awareness, an intelligent engine that tracks each worker’s collaboration activities and learns  who and what are relevant to each user over time.

While presence technology simply lets co-workers know whether you’ve moved your mouse or typed on your keyboard in the last five minutes, Avaya Awareness is a cornerstone of effective and efficient collaboration –  learning collaboration preferences and the contextual relationships between people, devices, applications and locations.

It’s as if every worker has a personal assistant; it’s highly aware of what’s needed, knows the relevant people needed for the meeting, the documents that need to be shared, the physical or virtual location of the meeting, and other activities, and relevant events and conversations that preceded the meeting.

Read more about how Avaya Awareness improves conferencing and collaboration in our white paper Awareness: Driving the Next Generation of Productivity by senior vice president and general manager of Avaya Applications and Emerging Technologies, Brett Shockley.

What is SIP and Why It’s a Big Part of Your Future

You may have already heard of SIP. And if you haven’t, the chances are good you will very soon.

SIP is a communications protocol that is becoming extremely popular. How popular? Consider this: Infonetics (www.infonetics.com) reports that in 2011, telco companies saw their revenues from SIP-based services jump 128%. So, even if you are not yet thinking about how to use SIP in your business, the chances are good that one of your competitors is ahead of you.

Very simply, SIP—the initials stand for Session Initiation Protocol—radically simplifies communication between people, places, devices, applications and services. Just about anything that can be tagged with an IP address can be connected via SIP. It simplifies how quickly people can connect and collaborate. And it eliminates the need for a lot of phone lines and extra hardware. In fact, many Avaya customers have reported a return on investment (ROI) of 6–12 months by investing in SIP-based solutions. To get a quick sense of the savings you can gain by moving existing voice circuits to SIP, try the Avaya Flip to SIP calculator at http://avaya-news.com/sip/ipoffice

But what makes SIP so revolutionary is not simply its ability to save money. SIP changes how you think about using communications in your business. Here are six SIP scenarios. See if any apply to you:

You have multiple business locations. Each one must have a local phone number. But you want calls to those locations to get routed to a central service center where they can be more efficiently handled by people with the time and training. In the past, to get this kind of capability you might have had to rent 800 numbers and/or extra lines that sat unused most of the time. SIP gives you the best of both worlds: local presence and the cost efficiencies of centralization.
You have a mobile phone, several e-mail addresses, a bunch of landlines and a slew of IM contact names. You are tired of giving out all your contact information. With SIP you won’t have to: SIP establishes an “address of record”—an AOR—that provides a single, unifying identifier as your “public address.” People can reach you without having to know each of your unique device addresses or phone numbers.
You find it annoying to keep letting people know about your availability, i.e., “for the rest of the day, call me on my mobile.” Let SIP do this for you. SIP can make call-routing decisions for you by checking your calendar or seeing when you last checked your e-mail or used your mobile phone.
You are handling a conference call from your hotel room, but have to check out and want to keep the call going on your mobile. Or, you are on your mobile, but need to view a document and would like to transfer the conference call to your tablet. SIP makes all of that possible.
You operate a customer service operation using agents working from home. You want them to be able to serve customers using e-mail, instant messaging, Web chat, video, or a phone call. Rely on SIP to make it happen.
You use various programs in your business to keep track of sales, inventory, production scheduling, etc. When a problem arises, i.e., a shortage in a particular part, you would like to have a click-to-conference button on the program itself so you can quickly see who is available, initiate the call and share the application. SIP makes that possible. In fact, many applications using dynamic linked libraries (DLLs in Windows and shared libraries in Linux) are ready to be connected using SIP.
Right now, a lot of businesses are looking to SIP to save money by using a single IP pipe to their provider for voice calls and reducing or eliminating recurring network charges. But that’s really just the start. The current uptake in SIP services is an indicator of what the future holds: SIP is big.

Want to learn more. Avaya has prepared a great introduction that’s an easy read. Get the free download of SIP for Dummies at http://www1.avaya.com/pc/SIP_for_Dummies.pdf

Key Trends Redefining Unified Communications

Defining Unified Communications (UC) has always been a bit of a moving target. And that’s made many people wonder if they really need it.

In the beginning, UC often meant things like being able to see your voicemail and e-mail together on a PC.  Or having software you could put on your PC to control your phone and directory. The operative initials were as much PC as UC.

Now Unified Communications is being redefined. Mobile devices are a big part of what’s bringing about the change. Collaboration technologies are part of it. And so are improvements in the underlying communications infrastructure—IP, SIP, 4G and more.

Here is a quick guide to where UC is now and why these changes are making UC a smart choice for almost any business. Also, to see a good example of UC in action, take two minutes to watch this solutions video located on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gw_mwruTPVk&list=PL61568CCB0826DEE2&index=32&feature=plpp_video

IP and SIP: The “unified” part of UC has always been primarily about getting your phone and computer to work together using the Internet-based IP and SIP protocols. This made it possible to have your PC and your phone on one network. But the bigger benefit was that a phone call itself was now able to be handled as a digital file (i.e., like an e-mail.) Just as you can easily have one e-mail go to multiple addresses, you can have calls go to multiple devices and numbers: business phone, mobile and home phone. Just as you can have dozens of people on an e-mail chain, you can have dozens of people on a conference call—without having to use a conferencing service. Just as you can easily manage different e-mail accounts, you can have multiple incoming lines for different segments of your business—a key way to create a better customer experience.  The benefits are substantial. That’s why sales of IP-based business systems grow in the double digits every year and are a driving force behind the UC revolution.

UC Apps: Everyone loves their mobile phone, in part thanks to all of the mobile apps that are now available. You can use your mobile to check the weather, do your banking, find a movie, etc. Now you can also get a UC app. Avaya has one (see it in action at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq3duSQFU5o) It lets you tightly integrate you mobile phone and your office system: Manage your office directory. Set up conference calls. Make a call directly from a text. Getting the right app to marry your mobile phone to your office communications system is a major step forward for UC.

Collaboration: This is one of the hottest buzz words in business today. In fact, the terms “unified communications” and “mobile collaboration” are often used interchangeably. They are both all about bringing the right people together with the right information in the right context. “Presence” is a big part of this.  Having presence capabilities let you see at a glance who in your organization is available and how to reach them quickly.

Video: Today, anyone with an Internet-enabled device, a webcam and free software can make a video call to almost anyone else in the world. It’s estimated that more than a third of Skype-to-Skype calls now include video, with peaks as high as 50 percent during the holidays. This rapid spread of video calls in the personal, consumer market is driving the growth of video in business. Also, the SIP standard provides capabilities that simplify how video integrates and connects, opening the way to regular use of video with the same ease as voice and messaging communications. Businesses are also discovering that the smart use of video conferencing can give you new levels of flexibility in partnering, assembling teams and competing for top, full-time talent. For all of these reasons, video is becoming a larger part of the UC equation. We also have a service called iMeet on our website- that makes business class video conferences easy and extremely affordable.

We  have  a wide range of resources on our website www.primetelecommunications.com  that look at all aspects of UC—where it is today, and where’s it’s going.

Mobile Collaboration—Who Needs It in Your Company?

Mobile workers are no longer the “road warriors” of yesterday—salespeople and executives who spend more time on the road than not. These days, all kinds of iWorkers (as the consulting firm Forrester calls many of us) are constantly blurring the lines between being on duty and off.

Because mobile, unified communications is going to be a significant focus for investment, you want to make sure you are allocating your spend in the right places.

Yes, everyone in your business can benefit from mobile communications and collaboration. But different kinds of workers will find themselves working in different situations more often than others.

Forrester recommends spending time to make a full assessment of the types of tasks that mobile and remote workers are performing. This will define the required capabilities.

Typically, you will focus on solutions that enable mobile workers can use to resolve issues and answer questions more rapidly.

Don’t expect immediate results.  To drive effective adoption of mobility use early adopters—executives, sales team, and field forces—to be evangelists for the rest of the firm. And remember to back up your efforts with training and communications support.

To help you in your efforts, Avaya has developed a guide to Getting Mobile Collaboration Right. http://bit.ly/MLJ3CZ

It recommends that you factor in the needs of employees that fit one or more of the profiles below.  Each has its own unique requirements, but they can all benefit from the improvements delivered by mobile communications and collaboration.

Power Users: These employees often work on a laptop computer and are as comfortable working in the office as they are out of it — from their home or car, at the airport, or in a coffee shop. They need to be accessible no matter where they are.  In their eyes, mobility is mission critical.

Highly Mobile Employees: These workers may not have a laptop, but they are frequently out of the office — either meeting with clients or roaming around your facility. Typical examples of this user include sales reps, accountants, attorneys, real estate brokers, manufacturing workers and healthcare workers.

Full time Teleworkers: These employees don’t have an office in the traditional sense; they work from home exclusively. They need communications tools that make them just as accessible and responsive as employees who work in the office.

Office Workers:   People who primarily work in the office were the prototypical deskphone user. In today’s high energy work environments they can also benefit from communications and collaboration tools to ensure they work faster and smarter, and are as productive as possible wherever they happen to be—whether in their office, in a conference room or waiting for a train or bus on the commute home.

Are You Ready for a Pop-up Branch Office?

The need to have a physical office space where employees do their work has been under revision for years as more companies opt for telecommuting and home office working arrangements.

Now, this same thinking is being applied to traditional branch office expansion strategies.  Companies are now looking at what are called “pop-up” or “ultra-light” branch offices with an expected lifespan measured in months or a few years, at most.

To minimize IT costs, the pop-up branches rely on cloud services, IP-based communications solutions, mobile communications (both company- owned or BYOD), tight user authentication and security processes and remote management.

Interestingly, these branches often get Internet access via consumer and/or wireless as prices continue to decline and reliability increases.

They are also taking advantage of 802.11n-based WiFi solutions to get practical and high-performing multimedia communications. According to a recent Nemertes report, 802.11n “makes WiFi acceptable as the sole means of connectivity for laptops and desktops.”

Heightened security is critical to any pop-up branch strategy. IT will have to implement authenticated network access at a minimum, but also more robust health checks (i.e., is the device properly configured with antivirus software, firewall, etc.) and flexible virtual LAN management.

An alternative to the pop-up branch is the completely virtual branch.  Back in 2008, UMTB, Israel’s third largest bank, gave customers the virtual branch option. Those who enroll cannot get service at any of the bank’s physical branches, with the exception of using teller and ATM services for deposits and withdrawals. In return they have access to one-on-one phone support, e-mail, live online chat, extended service hours and a range of online tools to manage their interactions.  About 6,000 customers have opted for the virtual branch—not big numbers, but the bank says it is satisfied and some other Israeli financial institutions have followed suit.

For more on pop-up or ultralight branches see the full Nemertes report at nemertes.com/reports/ultralight-branch.

Avaya has also posted a wide range of source materials on BYOD and mobile strategies.  Go to http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration

2 Winning Options for Small and Midsize Businesses

Whether your business that has a handful of servers or hundreds of server racks, until fairly recently they were all managed the same way: server by server, one application to one server.

Virtualization has changed all of that. With virtualization, you can allocate applications across servers. You can more easily balance workloads across hardware and better adapt to peak usage and maintenance schedules. In the event of a hardware failure, applications can be quickly migrated to another server in the environment and resume operation. You don’t need redundant hardware—overall savings on hardware and management can be significant, which is why virtualization has been a dominant trend in IT for the last several years.

But there has been one major holdout in the virtualization game: communications. You might have virtualized your other applications, but you kept your communications separate and apart.

That’s because, initially at least, virtualization software—solutions like VMWare’s vSphere and Citrix’s XenServer—could not adequately support real-time communications. They could handle non-real time applications (e.g., voicemail ) but for real time services like call control, conferencing and call center applications the quality was simply not there.

Now that’s changed. Enhancements to virtualization hypervisors have opened the door to fully virtualized unified communications platforms. This is a big deal, particularly for midsize companies.  In the past, midsize companies were forced to choose between single-server communications solutions designed for small companies or much larger, multi-server solutions designed for enterprises—in effect, having to under-buy or over-buy.

Now, through virtualization, the midsize company has a way to move into advanced communications and collaboration, without being forced to over-buy. Midsize companies can buy virtualized modules of unified communications services deployed in turnkey appliances with separate partitions for each service. They can select only the services that they need, and if their needs change, new modules can be activated on the appliance without additional hardware costs.

The Avaya Aura Solution for Midsize Enterprise (ME) is typical of the new unified communications solutions that take advantage of virtualization. It provides a centralized, enterprise-wide architecture for up  to 2400 users (up to 250 remote locations) with common management for all kinds of collaboration—mobile, voice, video, instant messaging and presence—and support for extended applications such as  Avaya Aura® Contact Center, Avaya Aura® Conferencing and AvayaLive™ Engage.

The complete base system is one server. Even with additional application servers for advanced applications, virtualization is a key reason why Avaya Aura ME is up to 16% less expensive per user compared to competitors (based on Avaya internal testing–measured at 400 users).

Faster and less costly than installing everything separately, the solution uses the Avaya System Platform application to simplify the installation and maintenance procedures. System Platform runs multiple Avaya Aura applications on a modified Citrix Xen hypervisor on a Linux platform.

Set-up is streamlined through the use of pre-defined templates (e.g., enter IP addresses once for all solutions) simplifying desktop management and speeding deployment. Overall, streamlined administration can result in 75% less time required for system maintenance.  Virtualization also means significantly less power and cooling required compared to traditional deployments.

Virtualization is not for everyone. That’s why Avaya also offers a non-virtualized solution: Avaya IP Office. On a single server platform, IP Office can grow from serving a handful of users to up to 1000 users at up to 32 locations. It’s designed to be easy-to-administer and deliver desktop communications capabilities right to a smartphone or tablet, including integrated e-mail and voice mail, instant messaging, presence and conferencing. You can meet the needs of individual users in your company by adding targeted software applications designed for office workers, mobile workers, home/teleworkers, customer service agents and more.

So, if you are ready to take the plunge with virtualization, there has never been a better time with a solution like Avaya Aura ME. If you are still more comfortable with a single-server solution that is simple to manage and offers easy growth to up to 1,000 users, Avaya IP Office can fit the bill.  Read “Getting Mobile Collaboration Right: A Guide for Midsize Enterprise” at http://www.avaya.com/usa/solution/mobile-collaboration for more information on these 2 winning options. Be sure to check out our website: at www.primetelecommunications.com !

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.

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.