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.

The Challenge of Keeping the Cloud Safe

Cloud SecurityIT managers are having an increasingly difficult time maintaining the safety of applications and data in the cloud. As a result, according to a recent Intel cloud security report, many individuals are more hesitant to adopt cloud technology.

Shadow IT as the Source for Concern

While the problem doesn’t have to do with the cloud in particular, Intel’s report found that the core issues are coming from shadow IT, coupled with a shortage of cybersecurity skills. In fact, 65% of individuals surveyed pointed to shadow IT as the main source of security compromises. 49% of IT professionals in the report stated that the lack of necessary skills in their department has made them reluctant to transition to cloud technology. 

What Defines Shadow IT?

Shadow IT involves the navigation of employees around their company’s IT department to set up their own personal applications. Instead of going through IT, employees are purchasing and installing apps from outside sources, which can result in decreased data security and safety.

Employees get away with shadow IT when companies fail to implement an effective policy that prevents it. Understandably, many IT professionals are skeptical regarding IT security because not all cloud solutions operate the same way. However, they can take steps to prevent the occurrence of shadow IT while preparing to adopt cloud technology.

Taking Charge of Cloud Technology

Companies need to establish consequences for individuals involved in shadow IT operations. Of the companies surveyed in the Intel report, 62% said they store sensitive data in the public cloud. This shows a vast misunderstanding of the implications of shadow IT. Ultimately, companies need to make sure that they can effectively keep track of which programs are on the premises and which are stored in the cloud. IT professionals should also make it clear which applications are permitted for the public cloud and which should remain private.

With the proper criteria set in place along with appropriate consequences for employees who take part in shadow IT operations, businesses can more effectively keep their data secure.

When used properly, cloud technology has proven to be an invaluable asset for businesses. Once businesses have developed a better understanding of the potential vulnerabilities and take the steps to prevent cloud security issues, they can get the most out of their cloud storage solutions.

Planning Internet of Things (IoT) Strategies

Internet of ThingsThe Internet of Things (IoT) has become a focus among many businesses and is now associated with billions of devices. The IoT phenomenon is all about digitizing as many processes in the physical world as possible so that the data can be documented, analyzed, and shared online. Internet researcher Gartner projects IoT will be at least a $300 billion industry by 2020. 

What IoT Can Do

There are many revenue-generating opportunities for IoT content creators and firms that sell proprietary data. Connectivity and sensors are the foundation of this emerging technology that potentially involves all industries.

Cloud storage is another component for businesses that collect vast amounts of data and don’t want to invest in their own servers and all the maintenance and security costs that go with it. Aside from information processing, other stages of IoT data processing include analytics and machine learning. 

Steps for IoT Development

The following three steps for creating an IoT roadmap can be taken all at once or in a sequence:

  1. Envision and document an IoT plan.
  2. Test ideas with partners, prototypes, and minimally viable products. 
  3. Make a list of technical requirements that will enable success.

Strategy Development 

IoT strategy begins with owners and managers analyzing their industry and competitors, with the ability to spot megatrends. The key to this analysis is to focus on SWOT: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Here are the types of research to conduct to help get a broad view of how a business fits into its industry:

  • Value-chain analysis
  • Profit-pool analysis
  • Partner, competitor, and vendor analysis
  • Customer analysis

By tracking customer needs that aren’t yet met in the market, it’s possible to learn how to fill market holes and create new customers by introducing solutions that no competitor can deliver. Developing customer personas is helpful in planning strategies for analyzing market segments. 

Decision makers must be conscious of as much relevant data as possible to help achieve success. Some businesses don’t worry about ROI in the beginning and simply experiment with IoT. Then they share results with other team members, using a flywheel model of a business system or writing a business plan. Eventually ROI needs to be a factor in how deeply a company pursues management of big data. 

Paving a Path to IoT Success

  • Send out press releases about new product developments.
  • Create a document for FAQs with answers.
  • Write a manual that directs others on how to use the product.
  • Construct a project charter (outline/overview).

Selecting the Right Technology

The final step toward developing a productive IoT strategy is to decide on technical capabilities that will lead to success. The requirements can take on many forms, from user stories to architecture specifications. The most appropriate technology will provide efficiency in documenting data and events. The more analytics it can generate, the more powerful the program. Here are examples of valuable data that can be collected:

  • Customer insights
  • Recommendations
  • Transmitted data amount and performance 
  • Various costs affecting business

People entering the IoT space need to consider how complex the logic, math, and algorithms will be. A question to answer is: will the platform be fixed or will it need to be updated?

Conclusion

The IoT involves almost every business, so owners and managers need to begin developing data collection strategies. An effective way to advance and profit with IoT plans is to run market tests and ultimately base the data collection on available or desired technology. 

3 Ways Unified Communications Helps Businesses Succeed

Infinium March blog 2There are many ways employees can connect with clients and each other, including email, instant messaging, calendar reminders, voicemail, and video conferencing, among others. If these are combined into one central system, businesses can benefit from a single solution that meets all of their needs. In many cases, the fact that an increasing number of employees is working from home makes unified communications even more necessary.

Here are some of the ways both local and remote workforces can benefit from a unified solution for communications.
Boosted Productivity and Collaboration

With unified communications, businesses don’t have to stay on hold and wait for calls to reach long-distance clients or employees. Through instant messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing using cloud technology, businesses can see a drastic improvement in productivity and employee collaboration, making operations more efficient and profitable overall.
Decreased Travel Expenses

People will look for any way to avoid traffic when traveling to and from the workplace, and with higher gas prices and a growing number of vehicles, cutting travel costs is becoming a top priority for many employees. While keeping employees in the office might be ideal in many situations, it can also incur more costs while raising the travel expenses of employees. Business owners can boost employee morale and help reduce their own expenses if employees have the ability to work remotely.
Save More Money and Resources by Keeping Data in the Cloud

Another way to save both money and resources is to take advantage of cloud-based data sharing. Many businesses used to rely on manual tasks that required ample resources and time, potentially putting strain on employees while remaining inefficient. With physical materials, any alterations made would also be permanent.

However, cloud technology has made it easier to streamline data sharing and collaboration, enabling businesses to instantly share files of all types anywhere in the world, with the ability to allow any user to make edits at any time.
Incorporate Unified Communications for Maximum Efficiency

With these benefits in mind, integrating a unified communications solution for a business can be a pivotal decision that saves money, time, and resources. Companies don’t need to rely on older methods of communications when today’s cloud-based solutions make connecting clients and employees simpler and more affordable.

Targeting the IT Security Budget for Maximum Effect

Security budgetSecurity is a major concern among businesses – and rightly so, with the 2017 Thales Data Threat Report revealing that a whopping 68 percent of businesses had experienced a security breach, with 88 percent feeling vulnerable to them. But while almost three-quarters of businesses surveyed were increasing their security budget in order to combat threats, the size of the security budget is only part of the equation. Businesses cannot effectively manage security if they don’t know where to focus.

Misplaced Security Focus

New technologies and business practices introduce new security concerns, but security standards and compliance organizations can be slow to reflect this. Meanwhile, companies often prefer to continue spending on solutions which have been proven to work in the past – without realizing that security threats evolve over time, and past results are no guarantee of future performance.

A classic example of focusing security efforts in the wrong place is in password management. A business may, for example, require that all employees use different passwords for each application they access, that those passwords must match formatting guidelines excluding dictionary words and including special characters, and that those passwords must be changed every 90 days. While this may work to ensure security at the password stage, a frustrated employee may forget passwords, and consequently keep them on a post-it note by a computer monitor – rendering the complex password system incredibly insecure in practice.

Another example of misplaced security is when businesses no longer realize the boundaries of their perimeter. A business that has had prior luck in securing their networks, managing employee access via VPN, and limiting access to known devices may continue these strategies but ignore the impact of moving their data or business processes to the cloud. By choosing an insecure cloud provider, or not understanding how to work with the cloud provider to secure business resources, these companies may open themselves up to vulnerabilities even as they levy stricter protocols for network management.

Closing the Security Gap

The Thales study found that over half of businesses were turning toward newer applications, such as cloud technologies and smart devices, without having security tools in place to address them specifically. This gap may be explained by inexperience in IT teams, a focus on standards compliance when standards have not been revised to take new technologies into account, confusion about whose responsibility security is, or a lack of space in the security budget to address the concerns new technologies raise.

In order to remain secure, businesses must design their security budgets around real-world cases, rather than compliance, standardization, or best-practice lists. By examining the whole landscape of a company’s data and processes, a real security strategy can be formed.