Something for Everyone: How Video Conferencing Breaks the One-Size-Fits All Mold

The explosion of Internet technologies and lightning-fast global networks has fundamentally changed the way we communicate. Companies of all sizes around the world have embraced video collaboration as an efficient, more cost-effective alternative to in-person meetings–and for good reason.

Businesses using video conferencing as an alternative to face-to-face collaboration can expect to reduce travel expenses by as much as 30%, leading more than half of enterprise executives to consider investing in the technology in the coming years. When you factor in the lift in productivity and an increasingly mobile workforce, it’s easy to see why video collaboration is expected to grow nearly 20% in the coming years.

However, with so many video collaboration options available, it can be difficult for prospective buyers to determine the right fit for their business. Video conferencing platforms have evolved to be more agile and scalable, providing an unprecedented flexibility that shatters the notion of one-size-fits-all technologies.

Here are some key considerations to keep in mind when evaluating video conferencing for your business.

Real-time collaboration for distributed teams
As businesses expand into new markets and bring your own device (BYOD) environments create more remote workers, video conferencing will play an increasingly important role in connecting geographically dispersed teams.

Email, chat, and teleconferences might be convenient for the occasional interaction, but only video conferencing can replicate the experience of in-person meetings for participants around the world. Video-based collaboration can reliably host hundreds–even thousands–of participants simultaneously, enabling them to engage with one another from anywhere, on any device via desktop sharing, whiteboarding, collaborative document management, and remote control of other computers on the call.

More importantly, up to 90% of our communications are non-verbal, picked up from gestures and tone inflections. Video conferencing provides an immersive connection that brings a sense of inclusion to meetings and allows participants to actually see one another to pick up on subtle body language cues and facial expressions, dramatically improving engagement and reducing the likelihood of miscommunications or misunderstandings.

For big. For small. For all.
While large and small companies may have vastly different business needs or objectives, both can benefit greatly from video conferencing. Larger organizations–with multiple offices, hundreds or thousands of employees, and globally dispersed customers–can use video conferencing to bridge time zones and geographical boundaries. In fact, 87% of companies using video collaboration say it helps expedite decision making, regardless of where their colleagues and counterparts are located.

Small firms also benefit from video conferencing, albeit in slightly different ways. While smaller companies don’t have nearly the manpower to cover large swaths of territory as their larger counterparts, video conferencing helps to dramatically extend the reach of their businesses and interact live with customers and partners across the country or around the globe who might otherwise be unreachable by conventional meeting methods.

Better yet, video conferencing platforms are scalable to make the solution affordable to businesses of all sizes. Those with limited resources can take advantage of free versions for a handful of users and add features and user licenses as the need arises. At the top end, enterprises can leverage deep integrations with legacy hardware and enterprise applications for a complete, end-to-end collaboration solution without blowing their budget.

You host, I host.
Where your conferencing solution “lives” is a key factor for many business leaders. On-premise deployments give IT specialists more control over the communications environment, allowing them to “hug the boxes” and physically manage infrastructure, which is particularly helpful when incorporating video into a larger unified communications environment. However, on-prem deployments also mean you’ll be responsible for hardware maintenance, software upgrades, and end user troubleshooting–all of which may be too much work (and cost) for some businesses to bear.

Alternatively, hosted conferencing solutions alleviate the burden of having to manage physical infrastructure, but at the expense of ceding control over some of your environment. Web-based conferencing as a service eliminates hardware purchases and maintenance, reducing a business’s obligation to simply purchasing enough licenses to cover their workforce, a much more palatable option for companies watching their spending.

Conclusion
When you can’t meet face-to-face, video conferencing is the next best thing. Regardless of your company’s size, resources, or objectives, video conferencing platforms offer a range of features and functionality to help every business connect, interact, and engage more affordably and efficiently.

Why the Firewall May Soon Be Obsolete

IT personnel say that with cloud services, IoT, and BYOD programs, the firewall is ineffective at protecting networks.For decades, the firewall has provided a solid way to protect the network from outside threats while allowing communication to flow freely out from the enterprise. Now, some say the firewall is about to be obsolete because keeping it up to date in the current network environment is becoming nearly impossible.

There are several factors that are driving the firewall from relevance, many of them related to the sweeping digital transformation that’s happening both at a global level and at each enterprise that’s embracing digital change. Here are the issues with maintaining the firewall as a feasible way to protect the enterprise:

A more complex technology landscape: Several emerging trends are making it more challenging to control the data moving in and out of a network. From Internet of Things (IoT) devices to bring your own device (BYOD) programs and the expanding use of cloud services, IT personnel are faced with the increasingly complex ways that data travels. Devices are also interacting more with online sites, particularly in cases where cloud applications are being accessed.

Encrypted data: While encryption is widely used as a way to protect data and prevent a security breach, it also presents a challenge for fans of the firewall. When a file is encrypted, it makes it impossible for the firewall to identify the source of the data being sent and it is unable to determine whether that transmission is safe for entry through the firewall.

Updating firewall rules: For each new application that is included in a network infrastructure, IT personnel may be forced to change hundreds, or even thousands, of lines in the firewall rules in order to allow the application to perform properly.

Lack of visibility: Overall, there’s a drastic drop in the level of visibility that the firewall has into the data that’s coming into the network, making it challenging to protect the environment.

Some experts contend it’s time to give up the firewall, and to give up on approaching security from a network perspective. Instead, security should be approached from a more granular level.

At Infinium Communications, we begin with an in-depth analysis of your needs at both a high level and a detailed level, and then hand-select the right carriers for you for a perfect fit solution. Contact us today for an appointment.

Cybersecurity Issues Are Ramping Up: Protect Your System

Firewalls, frequent training, and developing a culture of cybersecurity keep businesses safe.From financial decisions to placing new employees in the right roles, there are a number of key things that require attention when a new business is started. One of the most overlooked topics for many new business owners is cybersecurity – which leaves a company vulnerable, to say the least.

Only a few small businesses report having fears regarding cyberattacks, yet they need to know that experiencing one can sink their business. Instead of the threat of some unseen and unknown cybercriminal weighing on their minds, they’re thinking about rent, taxes, payroll – all the nuts and bolts of owning a business that take a lot of energy to deal with.

However, talk to an online security expert about the subject and they’ll weigh in with information that shows just how important a security strategy is to a business. Millions of small businesses, according to the SMB Cybersecurity Report, have been targeted. This results in billions of dollars a year in losses.

What Can Small Businesses Do?
The first thing you can do is make cybersecurity a priority for your company. Research the various operating systems and software that can keep criminals from obtaining your valuable data. This software requires frequent updates, so don’t take a “set it and forget it” approach.

Next, protect your systems with a firewall. A firewall is something akin to a security gate that only lets the right people (data) through, and it’s often thought of as ground zero for network security strategies.

Don’t forget about training your employees, because they are often the vulnerable spots in the company – particularly where weak passwords are concerned. Make sure they’re all on the same page with your cybersecurity strategy and are frequently briefed on what is expected of them.

BYOD
One of the ways cybercriminals gain access is through employees who bring their own devices to work and get on the company network. Your company culture must include provisions that protect you from the bring your own device (BYOD) issues that have plagued many companies, large and small.

Yes, the ubiquity of smartphones and tablet computers has improved productivity and lowered hardware costs, but it comes at a risk. Be smart and take action before it becomes a major issue.

The reality in our connected world is that malicious attacks exist and any vulnerable network is at risk. At Infinium Communications, we’ve established a cybersecurity protocol that protects our clients, small and large. Contact us today to talk about our solutions.

Disaster Recovery Planning Tips for Any Situation

How prepared are you for a disaster? Disaster recovery efforts must include a robust strategy for bouncing back.Cybersecurity is often associated with malicious attacks from the outside that gain access to your system because of inside vulnerabilities. And while this is an ongoing issue that is becoming more common, you also have to take into account the destructive weather patterns that have wreaked havoc around the country during natural disasters.

Take the recent hurricanes that swept through Texas and Florida – over $200 billion in damages. If companies hadn’t begun their planning for disaster recovery, they are now – but only if they survived. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of businesses that experience a large-scale disaster do not recover from it over a five-year period. And because we’ve digitized most of our business information, having a disaster recovery plan in motion isn’t optional.
The best strategies are those that put a focus on a fast recovery – getting back online quickly after the disaster strikes. The goal is to make sure a disaster has as little impact as possible on the bottom line.

The Multisite Environment
One way of approaching your disaster recovery strategy when your primary site has been compromised and will take months to bring back is to use a secondary site in the interim. This site must be functional in a very short amount of time, often referred to as the recovery time objective. In the best-case scenario, this is a window of between six and 12 hours.

Online retailers and healthcare providers don’t have that much time, which means there is no real gap short enough to feasibly have no impact on the bottom line, or in the case of healthcare, the well being of the patient. The disaster recovery plan needs to be far more robust.

Smart Approach to Disaster Recovery Plans
Follow these steps to get a good start on your plan:

·       Know where your risks lie, and what risks are acceptable and unacceptable.

·       Assess your infrastructure and determine what is critical for keeping daily processes up and running.

·       Determine how much money you can lose before the situation becomes critical.

·       Develop a budget that is focused on saving the organization.

·       Utilize a third party to ensure your plan works, and do this every six months while making changes where necessary.
At Infinium Communications, we’re dedicated to preparing our clients for anything. Regardless of the type of situation that threatens your operations, we’re ready to handle your communication needs. Contact us today and let’s talk about how to be prepared.

Determining the Total Cost of Ownership for SIP Trunking

SIP trunking offers savings, but determining the total cost of ownership for your enterprise includes many factors.Switching to SIP trunking from a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) is an attractive move for many enterprises, largely because of the anticipated potential cost savings, though the technology offers a host of other benefits. These include:

  • Better security
  • Bandwidth allocation flexibility
  • Improved voice quality
  • Better service management

Organizations contemplating a move to SIP trunking need to complete a total cost of ownership analysis before making the switch. While estimates vary widely on potential savings, each enterprise also has unique requirements that affect the pricing.

If you’re looking at a pricing list for a SIP trunking vendor, you need to be sure that you’re planning your budget based on business-class rates. Then keep the following factors in mind:

SIP trunking set-up fees: Most business-class providers will charge you a fee that includes consultation, set-up, and testing. The fee generally ranges between $50 and $250, but enterprises with special needs may expect to pay more.

New phone lines: Some enterprises consider switching to SIP trunking when they are anticipating growth through an acquisition or other major event, so think through whether you need additional phone lines. These are generally installed for a nominal fee between $10 and $25 per line.

Number porting fees: According to Federal Communication Commission guidelines, you have the right to port over your existing phone numbers to the new system. This is generally the most time-consuming step of the transition to SIP trunking, and you can expect to pay around $15-30 for each number that is ported.

Handsets: This is where much of the variance in SIP trunking costs come in, because there is a wide variety of features and quality levels in handsets. You may want three-way calling or speed dial on your handsets, so expect to spend some time determining the right choice for your employees.

PBX configuration: Companies needing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) gateway to their existing PBX system will pay between $500-$2,000 for the equipment and set-up.

Monthly service fees: After installation is complete, you will generally pay a monthly service fee between $20 and $50.

Internet connectivity: The implementation of SIP trunking may result in an increased need for bandwidth for your enterprise, and you’ll need to include these fees in your total cost of ownership analysis.

SIP trunking vendors can vary widely in their pricing, and it’s important to use caution when choosing a low-cost provider. You may end up sacrificing quality for these lower costs.

Infinium Communications excels at innovative solutions for call centers, and we focus on finding creative technology to meet your business’s specific needs. Contact us today to start the process.

A Tiered Strategy for Hybrid Cloud Data Storage

Hybrid cloud environments present the capability to gain redundancy and lower costs with a tiered data storage approach.Enterprises appreciate a hybrid cloud environment for many reasons, but the main attraction is generally the ability to leverage public and private cloud solutions for optimized performance and cost savings. Hybrid cloud solutions offer flexibility and are ideal for companies running legacy systems.

A hybrid cloud environment offers other key benefits to enterprises that take advantage of ideal data storage possibilities through a tiered approach:

Hybrid data storage: In most hybrid environments, cloud storage is housed in the private cloud, where apps can access files and data. This is the highest-performing storage system within a data storage strategy.

Double up: In a tiered strategy for hybrid cloud data storage, public cloud can be used as a secondary data storage option. Storage has become so inexpensive that it makes sense to use this as an active backup for the primary storage system in the private cloud.

Accommodate with apps: When using a tiered system that duplicates data to a secondary tier, be sure to design apps with this structure in mind. Apps should be able to access both tiers to gather necessary data.

Add a triple layer: Storage is inexpensive, so you might think it’s worthwhile to add a third tier to your data storage strategy. Archived storage systems are low-cost and low-performance, designed to hold the data you no longer need for regular access. It can also be used to back up other systems. These types of data storage solutions are ideal for healthcare or financial industries where data has to be kept for a certain number of years, but is rarely accessed for use.

The benefits of a tiered storage structure in hybrid cloud environments:

  • Using three different storage receptacles allows you to optimize your storage with different price points and performance levels for each cloud option.
  • It allows developers and IT personnel to design application-specific storage strategies.
  • Tiered storage provides backup in both private and public cloud platforms, which offer distinct geographical locations, protecting data in the event of a natural disaster or other physical threat.
  • It reduces the risk of data loss, either by human error or system failure.

There is a wide variety of approaches to tiered storage solutions, but no matter how you organize your data, be sure to do a lot of testing to determine the safest and best approach for your enterprise.

Infinium Communications helps you access the best business telecom services available by conducting an in-depth analysis of your needs, both at a high level and down in the details. Contact us today and let us help you find the perfect fit for your data storage.

How Getting Into the Cloud Market Will Change Your Company

Getting into the cloud market will change your organization. Here are the areas it will impact.Cloud adoption is disrupting the IT market, and you may be wondering if it’s too late to get in the game and capture some of the opportunity for growth in the reselling market. While it’s certainly not too late to get into cloud reselling, you may want to consider the variety of ways that your company will need to change in order to become a cloud vendor:

The change needs to be initiated at the top. If your CEO, general manager, or president isn’t driving the adoption of a cloud reselling strategy, then it may be doomed. This is not a shift in focus that can be delegated to a manager, because it needs the push of the head of the organization.

Expect to market differently. Your marketing team needs to be aware that their target audience may shift significantly. Instead of targeting IT personnel and CIOs, their efforts may be more directed toward line-of-business managers. The drive for cloud adoption is largely driven by the customer and end-user experience, with companies working to be the first to offer mobile-friendly, performance-driven sites with frequent updates that only the cloud can deliver.

Additionally, you need to have a well-constructed value proposition. While your provider will have the responsibility of brand awareness and communicating the benefits of the solution, you still need a clear way to set yourself apart from other cloud resellers. Determine what expertise or values you have that set you apart from your competitors.

Anticipate that your workforce may change, too. There will be members of your team that won’t want to adapt and adjust to a cloud-focused selling model. There may also be a need to hire new talent that has more experience with cloud reselling. While this is expected in a shift to cloud reselling, it can seem as if the company is on shaky ground while the transition is happening, so be sure to communicate with your team about the changes taking place.

Determine which benefits you’ll deliver. There are many promises attached to cloud adoption, but you’ll need to decide which you’ll prioritize and deliver. Whether it’s increasing revenue or improving operational efficiency, decide what you’ll shape your strategy around. You may help organizations achieve cost savings and other benefits, too, but you’ll achieve only minor success if you promise to deliver every potential benefit.

Becoming a cloud vendor will bring significant change to your organization, but it also holds boundless opportunities for revenue growth. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential of becoming a cloud vendor, contact us at Infinium Communications. We have been providing telecom solutions for nearly two decades, and can help you move your business into the era of cloud technology.

Digital Transformation Has the Potential to Lionize CIOs — or Render Them Obsolete

CIOs need to capture the opportunities around digital transformation to take a position of leadership.Digital transformation is, for many enterprises, a weighty and expansive undertaking. It’s often driven by the need to remain competitive in a landscape that requires increasingly faster and better-performing technology. The end user’s satisfaction is closely aligned with a company’s ability to deliver mobile-friendly, personalized, high-performance technology, and CIOs’ job performance ratings go hand-in-hand with these metrics.

When digital transformation doesn’t deliver the cost savings, performance, and other benefits that were promised, CIOs often find themselves under fire. In many instances, digital transformation is such a long-term process that there are waves of alternating satisfaction levels among executives and end users. Much of digital transformation is trial-and-error, and CIOs must be ready to navigate the ups and downs that come with planned failures.

The Opportunity to Lead

The factors that place CIOs in the hot seat also give them the opportunity to shape the corporate narrative surrounding digital transformation. The problem is not necessarily whether each implementation of a cloud solution or network infrastructure change was seamless or whether the anticipated cost savings was realized. It is also whether the enterprise has embraced digital transformation and chooses to play the role of disruptor in their given industry.

A few years ago, companies were just beginning to embrace the idea of a digital transformation. Today, the concept of digitalization has overtaken the goals of most major enterprises. Corporations recognize that in order to remain competitive, their customers’ and other end users’ experiences must be a top priority.

The availability of subscription-based cloud software has put technology into the hands of startups that was previously only accessible to large enterprises with big IT budgets. If CIOs can take the helm of directing their enterprises’ digital transformation, they can outpace these smaller companies and remain competitive.

Many CIOs are discovering what happens when they don’t take the lead in the digital conversations in their companies. Enterprises are increasingly hiring a chief digital officer (CDO), which often places the CIO role back in the position of keeping the maintenance end of IT going and putting out fires instead of innovating.

CIOs are caught in a delicate balancing act of innovating while still maintaining high levels of performance and speed, without any interruption to business processes. While this presents a significant challenge, CIOs should embrace it as an opportunity to lead their corporations into a disruptive role where they are dictating the path of not just their company, but also their broader industry.

Guide CIOs into their most effective and transformational role by partnering with Infinium Communications. Located in Northern California, Infinium Communications services businesses of all sizes across the globe. Contact our consultants about helping CIOs navigate digital transformation with the right technology and the right partners.

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.