What Are the Benefits of Implementing SIP Trunking?

SIP TrunkingBusinesses are making the switch to unified communications from Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs) because the Internet has made communications more cost-effective, flexible, and efficient. But as the demand for access continues to grow, network operators are making the move to better support all communications through unified solutions. In fact, in the next year Verizon will have discontinued all ISDN services, a platform used for data exchange, voice, and video.

Verizon’s move mirrors that of many telecommunications companies updating their technology to match the needs of enterprises across the globe. SIP trunking is replacing ISDN to support unified communications.  

What is SIP trunking?

A SIP trunk is a virtual connection between an organization and an Internet Telephone Service Provider (ITSP). The connection is either through lines that link the trunk to other IP traffic or through the Internet with a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

The major benefit of SIP trunking in day-to-day business processes is that it eases the flow of communication between your representatives and your clients. There are additional benefits to SIP trunking:

  • You can significantly reduce the cost of contacting clients across the globe. While phone service providers typically charge roughly six cents per minute, SIP trunking allows calls to Europe and Canada at only 1.9 cents per minute with no hidden charges and includes features like voicemail and caller ID.
  • SIP trunks allow for an easier recovery of files in the event of a disaster. Developers are becoming more aware of the need for disaster recovery programs, which has informed the development process of SIP trunking. SIP trunks have a plug-and-play feature that allow them to run uninterrupted in the event of a power outage or other disruption.
  • SIP trunking also provides higher quality voice solutions over its predecessors. The flow of voice communications takes precedence over data sets that are being transferred through trunking channels.

How can you ensure a seamless transition to SIP trunking?

There are three basic steps that will help you fully enjoy the benefits of SIP trunking:

  • Choose a provider that is geographically close to your location, so that in the event of any need for troubleshooting they’ll be able to help you on-site.
  • Talk to the provider about alternative options for inbound traffic routing. This will be a valuable conversation, particularly if traffic to your DID numbers is not easily routed through your trunks.
  • Take time to complete full “proof of concept” testing. It’s important that you see how the product works, not just in a list of features or in a demo mode, but in response to the call flows that are typical for your organization.

Infinium Communications is the one source for all your telecom needs. Talk with us about changing unified communications technologies and how they can benefit your organization.

Developing a Disaster Recovery Strategy

Disaster RecoveryAre you looking for disaster recovery guidelines to keep your organization’s data safe, secure, and always available? Many organizations take key steps to make sure their business operations aren’t interrupted by data loss, and it is critical you follow their lead.

Disaster Recovery: The Last Line of Defense
Netflix tests the integrity of their systems through a “Simian Army,” which is used to randomly check the resilience of systems against all types of failures. This is key because after all business continuity plans fail, disaster recovery becomes the last line of defense.

Disasters are expensive, costing companies close to $60 million a year according to IHS Markit. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) has drawn guidelines regarding how long IT systems can be down. Not only will a disaster lead to many challenges for your company internally, but the FFIEC will level penalties should your organization go beyond the downtime you’re allotted.

Compliance Considerations
A disaster recovery plan needs to begin with establishing your goal.  Most solid strategies focus on taking data and moving it to a safe, cost-effective location. The next step is to make sure backups are constantly updated to reflect what is happening in real time.

Before you can do this, you need to be aware of the compliance issues that can impact how you choose where you’ll store your backup data. HIPAA and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act provide regulations which need to be considered. Any personal data that goes to the cloud, for example, can’t leave the country of residence under these regulations.

On-premise vs. in the Cloud
It’s really up to the structure of your individual organization whether you go with an on-premise data center, one in the cloud, or with a hybrid solution. It’s a fine balance between risk and cost against what is legally required. Some organizations enjoy the hybrid IT infrastructure, either private or public, because they have control of their data performance and security throughout the enterprise.

The Evolution of “Disaster”
In the past, the main focus of disaster recovery planning was around natural disasters. Today it is critical to protect against or develop a plan for how to react after a cyberattack, such as ransomware, which is malware that holds data hostage until a ransom is paid. The consequences of this can be avoided by having backup disaster recovery solutions that are as simple as “snapshot” management software.

Because it’s no longer an issue of if a disaster will strike, but when, organizations are becoming more creative in how they approach disaster recovery efforts to prevent data loss as well as the loss of money and credibility. It’s more important than ever to get to know which threats are most likely to prey on your data.

At Infinium Communications, we strive to exceed our customers’ expectations in designing, delivering, and supporting custom-fit telecom solutions. With a single, unified team, we provide voice, data, and professional services. Give us a call to discuss how we can help your business.

Successful Virtual Network Deployment Starts With a Plan

NetworkDeployment of anything new in the corporate environment is set to fail if you don’t have the right steps in place to ensure success. This is true whether the plan is to change your Internet Service Provider, select a new font for all communications, or implement a virtual network. After all, the simplest change can have far-reaching implications.

For instance, did you know that selecting a new font could drastically hurt your brand if you don’t have a clear plan in place for identifying all communication channels, points of interaction, and even an inventory of all print materials? Without careful planning, the resulting change can turn into a significant mess.

The same is true for the deployment of a virtual network. You’re making the change for all the right reasons, yet those benefits will soon be overshadowed by confusion, frustration, or outright refusal to use the new system if you fail to keep four key things in mind.

The Plan

While it seems like a given that you need to map out a change like this, a number of companies start the process without thinking about key factors:

  • Do you understand user behavior and how it will be impacted by the change?
  • Has your team been communicated with so they understand the value of this change?
  • Have you determined all processes and functions that will be affected and developed a strategy for how they will be handled during the transition?

The Team

When implementing a virtual network, there’s too much to do for one person. You need to have a team in place who can map out the plan and ensure everything that needs to be considered is included in that plan. The team will determine desired outcomes and outline how those outcomes will be achieved, as well as drive compliance with the set timeline. Be sure to include security specialists, network administrators, server and storage admins, application development engineers, and even end users on this team.

Use What Works

In an implementation or change, it’s important to determine what works and stick with it. It is possible to deploy a virtual network while still relying on existing systems. You don’t always have to start from scratch and can save a lot of heartache, time, and other resources by investigating opportunities to keep some of your current technology when building out the plan. Just be sure in the process that you’re also planning for the future. If what you have won’t sustain you a few years from now, it doesn’t make sense to keep it.

Monitor

While it’s critical to monitor the virtual network deployment process, it’s also important to track the health of the network in order to identify problems. Additionally, there is significant opportunity in mining network traffic for valuable business insights. Consistent monitoring should be part of the virtual network implementation process as well as the ongoing management of the network.

Making the move to a virtual network has the potential to be very beneficial. To ensure success, have these four elements in place and talk to our experts at Infinium Communications.

Avoid Provider Lock-in When Moving to the Cloud

CloudIncreased agility, cost savings, and performance benefits are all great reasons to move applications, servers, and networks to the cloud. Enterprises are pushed forward to digital transformation by a business-driven focus in which a superior customer experience often gives companies the competitive edge.

As investments in the cloud grow, many companies are leery of locking in with only one provider. They want the flexibility to access the best tools from multiple vendors as their business processes demand different technological services.

For companies concerned about lock-in, here are four tips to protect against it:

  1. Evaluate vendors for the ability to access data with interoperability. First, you — as well as an attorney that specializes in cloud vendor contracts — should read your vendor contract carefully to determine how data is accessed. Make sure you know the true cost of extracting data, because even a tiny percentage of a cent becomes costly if enough data is moved. Determine what the process is for migrating data to see if it’s realistic for your business.
  2. Watch out for proprietary data formats. When you store your data, is the cloud vendor using a proprietary format? If so, it may be a cumbersome and costly process to transform it back into something usable. In some cases the data is compressed in a storage format that makes it nearly impossible to use.
  3. Avoid data gravity’s pull. Companies tend to use what they know, so once you’ve got data stored with a cloud provider, you’ll likely keep storing data there without any real technology strategy behind the decision. This is not always a bad thing, because keeping data in one place reduces latency and may improve performance, but you’re sacrificing leverage when you choose only one provider.
  4. Don’t be limited by distinctive characteristics. When you sign with a vendor, be sure that it won’t be necessary to adapt and customize your software applications and execution in order to fit with your provider’s platform. Once you’ve recreated all of your systems for one particular provider, it can be very hard to migrate to a different vendor.

 

None of these tips are meant to imply that you shouldn’t access cloud services to optimize your technology infrastructure. These tips simply help you cautiously navigate a lock-in situation.

At Infinium Communications, we provide one solution for all your technology needs. Contact us about your concerns with lock-in, and we’ll walk you through them.

Cloud Migration Offers Elasticity to Companies with Variable Workloads

Cloud migrationCloud migration is a growing trend, and it offers clear benefits to the companies that make the transition. Little or no investment in hardware, the ability to scale services, and the providers’ handling of all updates and implementation mean that moving to the cloud is often a great choice for companies.

In a cloud migration, however, there are often requests to simply “lift and shift” an application to the cloud. For obvious reasons, line-of-business managers are often attached to the systems their employees already know, and it seems easiest to move those systems to a cloud environment.

In many situations, though, this switch eliminates the benefits associated with cloud technology. The cost of duplicating the system in the cloud and the loss of elasticity that should be a cloud benefit are not realized and, in most cases, the IT team will determine that a lift and shift is not beneficial.

Elasticity Provides Significant Cost Savings

Elasticity is likely the most impactful benefit with a move to a cloud solution, because it allows you to only pay for the resources that you need. Consider a company with a variable processing load, like an accounting firm that specializes in public accounting.

From January to April, this firm may require 500 servers, but from August to December they only require 20. From May to July, they require 100 to handle extensions and corporate returns. This type of variability would normally require an on-premise system to invest in 500 servers, because that’s what’s needed at the busiest time.

With a cloud system, the accounting firm enjoys a variable server accessibility, and no longer pays to use 500 servers all year. A company with variable business processing time should keep an eye on their cloud system usage to be sure costs are being optimized.

 

Applications That Do Well in a Cloud Environment

If you’re new to cloud migration, you may be examining which types of processes can best be completed in the cloud. There are three main components that should be evaluated to determine whether they align well with cloud usage:

Horizontally scalable: The service must be horizontally scalable, which means that a single instance can handle a small number of requests at the same time that thousands of instances are handling many requests.

Fast startup times: If the application isn’t able to quickly start, it won’t do well in the cloud. In order to alleviate the load, it must be able to seamlessly fill the gap without any delay to handle variable demand.

Resilient to server activity: In order for an application to be appropriate for cloud migration, it must be able to handle servers coming and going at will.

Infinium Communications is your source for all of your customized solutions. Talk with one of our consultants to learn more about the variety of services we offer, including cloud communications.

Bringing Executives and IT Together to Manage Cybersecurity

CybersecurityIn today’s work environment, it is common for one part of an organization to be reading from a page quite different from another. When it comes to cybersecurity, it is critical that corporate America be more unified in its planning efforts. According to a recent survey from a cyber defense monitoring company, Bae Systems, C-suite and IT departments have disparate views on cybersecurity.
The survey found that 80 percent of executives think the issue of cybersecurity is a significant challenge they have to face. Conversely, only 50 percent of ITDMs would make that same statement.

Another difference is in relation to cost; ITDMs have estimated that the cost of a breach hovers around $27 million, while executives put the cost closer to $6 million. Finally, around 50 percent of executives believe human error is to blame when an attack occurs, while only 31 percent on the IT side believe human error is the cause.

Obviously, the C-suite and the IT department need to come together on the topic of cybersecurity because an attack can cause far reaching implications that include a lack of customer confidence, fines and more.

We have to recognize that these two factions have different priorities. Most executives will be more focused on various business decisions and the risks involved. IT professionals are focused on technology, maintaining it, upgrading it, watching out for new solutions and all the technical support that provides for a smooth day-to-day operation.

While both sides see news about data breaches and can agree that there are risks out there, and they both believe they could be victim to one at any given moment, they need to agree upon and implement best practices that will reduce their risk to such attacks. Both groups need to be educated on how these attacks occur, where weak points might be within the organization, and how to find a solution to quickly detect when an attack has occurred.

Your departments need to come together for a strategic approach to cyber defense measures to take. Plan for the unknowns, because if you’ve already audited your system for weaknesses, the attack that gets you is going to be a surprise. What business continuity practices do you have in place to ensure that if the worst happens, you’re going to be able to minimize the damage?

Threats continue to evolve and it seems that with each new day, hackers are finding a new way into what are thought to be secure areas where data is locked away. Unfortunately, the threats are real and the consequences are dire.

When you partner with Infinium Communications, you’re partnering with a company that helps you lower your bills and save many hours on negotiating with carriers. Unlike other telecom carriers that put themselves before their clients, we’re 100 percent committed to serving you, so contact us today and let’s talk about all communication issues that are causing you concern.

Measuring the Effectiveness of a Unified Communications Implementation

Unified CommunicationsInvesting in unified communications comes with high expectations of reduced costs and improved efficiency. While it’s exciting to see immediate payoff with your transition, it’s easy to be blinded by metrics that are not capturing the full picture.

For instance, a company may measure the reduced travel costs resulting from the introduction of web conferencing for their sales team. What’s easy to overlook, however, is that after six months, there are two resignations from the sales team as a result of team members feeling less connected than they did when monthly on-site sales team meetings were the norm. What the company saved in travel costs, they more than spent on hiring costs.

In another example, a company might introduce video conferencing for their financial planning meeting with clients in an effort to augment phone conversations and reduce travel costs. However, the company may overlook the impact when video conferencing appointments are not user-friendly for clients, who might grow frustrated with technical difficulties. The company may reduce other costs, but when they lose clients, the cost is too high.

The problem is that companies often measure activity-based metrics rather than outcome-based metrics. What a company thinks indicates a successful implementation of a unified communications system isn’t always the right way to measure success.

There are some questions that are universally valuable for evaluating the effectiveness of your transition:

  1. How does the unified communications implementation add value for the customer? There are a variety of industry-specific ways to measure this, but you want to ensure your investment has a direct, positive impact on your customer.
  2. Are you experiencing results that demonstrate measurable growth each quarter? Whether it’s sales dollars or volume, you need to see that your transition is positively affecting the bottom line.
  3. What’s the ROI of your unified communications implementation?Remember to measure both activity-based and outcome-based metrics.

An effective implementation includes some basic components, making it easy to assess whether the transition was successful:

  • First, determine your needs. Don’t get dazzled by the features of a unified communications system before you complete this step. If you have a clear idea of your needs and the ways you use the communications tools you currently have, you’ll more objectively identify the system you need.
  • Second, create benchmarks. What would it look like if you were using your unified communications at its full capability and capacity?
  • Finally, set up performance indexes. Identify where you have performance gaps and opportunities for improvement, and make any necessary adjustments.

When it’s time to invest in unified communications, partner with Infinium Communications. We can help you identify the metrics to gain a clear picture of the effectiveness of your implementation and get the best possible return on your telecom solutions.

Lower Costs and Simplify with IT Convergence

ConvergenceThe landscape of IT infrastructure is becoming increasingly more complex. At the same time, the costs associated with IT infrastructure, particularly where point security and networking appliances are concerned, continue to increase. Gaining better connectivity in this age of the mobile workforce has only hastened the need for the changes that many businesses are undertaking today. IT convergence helps you drive down those costs while ensuring connectivity.

Network Convergence
One of the more critical areas to begin with in making this change is network convergence. Internet VPNs and MPLS services are among the most popular forms of networking infrastructure organizations use. For the mobile users, VPNs over Wi-Fi and 4G/LTE networks are preferred. What can make this challenging are various cloud-based resources that require infrastructure providers to extend the networks.

By putting all the networks into one resource for users and endpoints, such as with an SD-WAN network, you can take a valuable initial leap into network convergence. This step alone might not be extensive enough, which is why convergence of all enterprise platforms into a single efficient and cost-effective network is in order.

Appliance Convergence
Convergence where appliances are concerned is another area that needs close attention. Perhaps the most obvious appliances are those related to secure web gateways and next generation firewalls, which can be converged. If you want to decouple software functions from hardware devices, consider network functions virtualization, which has become a standard for decoupling.

Appliance convergence can help you get rid of a lot of devices, but there may still remain an abundance of hardware that is associated with your security functions and networking demands. In this situation, comprehensive appliance convergence is the only proven method for reducing cost and addressing fragmented management.

Service Convergence 

Don’t mistake service convergence with migrating your physical appliances to the cloud. Even when an offsite vendor hosts your appliances, you can still have issues that won’t alleviate your service challenges. For a more all-inclusive and ever present solution, true services convergence relies on cloud-based secure web gateways for a software-based cloud architecture solution. However, this will only cover your security stack, which is why collapsing all virtual appliances and physical appliances into a single cloud-based service is the preferred method.

Managed Convergence

Gaining more streamlined workflows through managed convergence is a critical final piece of the puzzle. When all multi-product management is taken down into a single policy and all network and security functions are managed in a single cloud service, you’re addressing the final tier of convergence that drops the cost and complexity of your entire IT infrastructure.

When all things are converged onto a single platform, policies, security events, visibility, and more become more easily accessible for those responsible for the network. At the same time, deployment is optimized for new services and solutions and overall operations drive better efficiency at a lower cost.

At Infinium Communications, we’ve lowered clients’ telecom bills, saved hundreds of hours per year on negotiations with carriers, and have always put the interests of our clients ahead of our own. Let’s talk about how we can help you converge and save money today.

The Best Ways to Maximize Cloud Service Security

Cloud ServiceThe rapid move that many companies are making to cloud services is leading to more concerns over the security of these systems, along with issues of compliance. There are several ways in which cloud security differs from the security of on-premises data centers.

Companies need to consider various factors that go into securing their cloud service, including data encryption, data security, privacy controls, and maintenance and management controls. Without sufficient security measures to cover these aspects, companies can be at a much higher risk of data breaches and loss on a massive scale.

Here are some best practices for securing cloud systems.

Complete SSL Encryption

As companies transition to cloud services, it’s important to make sure that all server connections occur over SSL transmission to maximize security. The only network that should ever be without SSL encryption at any point is the provider’s.

Encryption for All Stored Data

In addition to securing all server interactions, data at rest should also benefit from proper encryption. This is necessary for compliance with all privacy policies, contractual obligations, and regulations for data handling. These steps will include AES-256 encryption for all data stored on disks over the cloud, encryption keys with a set of master keys that frequently rotate, and custom field-level encryption for specific data entry fields such as social security and credit card numbers.

Always Test for Weaknesses in Cloud Service

A single instance of system vulnerability could result in severe data compromises. To avoid this, companies should consistently test their cloud service for vulnerabilities using the latest incident response tools. The great thing about these tools is their ability to increase the number of security checks through automation, potentially performing them on a daily basis or upon request.

Implement a Strict Data Deletion Policy

Once a client’s contract has expired and they’re no longer using the cloud service, providers should ensure that all of their data on the system is systematically deleted for safeguarding.

Use Role-Based Access Control

To give customers further control over who can see and make changes to system data, they should be able to set up role-based access control (RBAC) systems, with features that allow them to set viewing and editing privileges for specific authorized individuals.

Get a VPC and VPN

Providers may also be able to isolate cloud services that only enable access for the client, with complete control through a virtual private cloud (VPC). Using a VPC, customers can access data on a corporate data center through traffic that’s sufficiently encrypted using a virtual private network (VPN) connection.

Meet All Compliance Certification Requirements

There are two main certifications that companies need to keep in mind for cloud service. The first is PCI DSS, which requires providers to undergo frequent audits to make sure that all sensitive data is properly secured, with strict requirements for policies, procedures, security management, and more. The second certification is SOC 2 Type II, which covers compliance for risk management, regulation oversight, and vendor management programs to help further ensure that a cloud service has the highest level of security.

Using these practices, businesses can benefit from top-quality cloud service that leaves minimal to no risk of security issues at all times on any system.

How to Take Full Advantage of Multi-Cloud Technology

Multi-cloudAccording to IDC, the end of 2018 will likely bring on a tech world dominated by multi-cloud technology, with over half of enterprise-class companies using five or more public cloud services. As a result, businesses will use multiple computing clouds and data centers to manage their data and services.

Making the Switch to Off-Premises Data Storage

Many companies may find it difficult to move data over to the cloud for multiple reasons, including the size of data sets or conflicts with regulations, security, or privacy. Even businesses that don’t face these challenges won’t find a complete cloud transition to be a worthwhile investment because of insufficient ROI.

There is one way to make this process easier in these cases: combine traditional IT with multiple private and public cloud solutions in a hybrid cloud solution. This allows businesses to fully utilize all valuable data and systems in a multi-cloud environment.

Using Hybrid Cloud to Manage Data

A recent IBM study concluded that two-thirds of enterprises that utilize a hybrid cloud strategy have reported an advantage over competitors, with a greater likelihood of using these solutions to monetize and assemble data assets.

While multi-cloud systems have improved cognitive services with more insight, the implementation and monitoring of data analytics can be more complicated. This is where hybrid cloud solutions can help, with more effective data management.

One example of the complexity of data access includes bank systems. Banks hold sensitive financial data in private clouds for maximum control, but something like a mobile app that the bank provides will require access to data that could be on a public cloud. This combination of data based on customer activity can help optimize customer service. For instance, a customer may use a mobile banking app to make repeat monthly payments to the same individual. The app can then learn this habit and make that transaction the first available option for added convenience.

Automating Tasks in Multi-Cloud Environments

Ultimately, the next goal is to successfully automate tasks to make managing multi-cloud environments more efficient. With multiple systems, cognitive capabilities, and data sets on the same platform, cloud clients will have more control in the long run. Companies will also be able to see data in real time, which can help them make good business decisions as they’re needed.

As cloud technology continues to develop and more companies use these platforms, more and more clients are likely to see their operations improve in many ways, with consistent security and ease of use.