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10 Critical Network Security Needs in 2017

How to Keep Up With Best Practices for Protecting Critical Information

As always, 2017 promises to be a year of security challenges among network administrators and security specialists. The ever-expanding presence of workforce mobility, the Internet of Things, and more makes keeping up with the latest security best practices as important as ever.

Here are 10 important network security needs in 2017:

Change your default passwords. Network manufacturers usually ship devices with default passwords. If you still haven’t changed the default password, your network is vulnerable to hackers.

Begin using multi-factor authentication. With multi-factor authentication, even attackers armed with stolen usernames and passwords wouldn’t have enough information to log in. Layered network security practices such as multi-factor authentication mitigate the risk of data breaches.

Implement business continuity plans that include a solid backup strategy. More than $300M in ransomware payments were made last year, and properly tested backups can be your best defense.

Deploy Parallel Networks to protect sensitive data. Instead of complex configurations, organizations can easily ensure excellent security of high-risk information through air-gapped “Parallel Networks.” This physical separation prevents would-be attackers from pivoting from one compromised device to servers and networks that hold sensitive data.

Schedule penetration testing on a regular basis. Use pen testing to determine whether and how a malicious user can gain unauthorized access to assets that affect the fundamental security of your system, files, logs, and/or cardholder data. Pen testing also can confirm that the applicable controls required in PCI DSS — such as scope, vulnerability management, methodology, and segmentation — are in place.

Adopt zero-trust networking principles. Through SDN and network virtualization, Cradlepoint NetCloud Enginemakes zero-trust WAN possible by microsegmenting the network at the site, departmental, or even user and device levels. This practice quarantines attack attempts once they’re inside the network’s perimeter.

Implement intrusion prevention and detection systems (IPS/IDS). Threat management is important for any IT team, and especially for those handling sensitive information and Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. IPS/IDS defends against evasion attacks, protects key data, and improves network availability.

Simplify your Mobile Device Management. Traditional Mobile Device Management (MDM) software relies on complex, clunky VPN architectures. Deploying a virtual overlay network that seamlessly works within your legacy infrastructure streamlines and simplifies MDM. With no need for head-end hardware, IT teams can give employees access to essential files and applications while also quarantining their mobile devices from the rest of the network.

Extend Active Directory servers to the cloud. Active Directory (AD) is the foundation of enterprise security, ensuring fast and reliable authentication, password compliance, DNS, and more. Today you can use the cloud to extend AD domain services to remote users everywhere, fostering a persistent, LAN-like experience that stays on without user interaction.

Utilize port scanning to understand what you are exposing to potential attackers and lock down unused ports. Open ports essentially are open on-ramps to your network.

SDN and SD-WAN Solution Examples for M2M-IoT Applications

How and Why Enterprises Should Use SDN & SD-WAN to Connect the Growing Internet of Things

With the seemingly never-ending influx of M2M and Internet of Things devices in the network environment, determining how to best connect and secure those “things” as they rapidly scale up is one of the most pressing challenges for any network admin. Businesses and organizations across the globe need to collect information as varied as daily sales numbers, customer analytics, water levels, temperatures, vehicle locations, security video and audio feeds, power and fuel consumption, voltages, air quality, and more.

Connecting these kinds of devices with traditional IPSec VPNs — dependent on hardware and complex, laborious configurations — is insufficient for an enterprise’s agility and deployment requirements. Moreover, VPN protocols used over IPSec/IKEv2 are not entirely consistent when handling connection failures, roaming, or reconnect. Devices used in mobile environments where connections can be interrupted suffer because of having to re-establish the tunnel.

By enabling a software-defined overlay network, all of these issues are resolved — the connection is persistent and failures are reconnected by the cloud automatically, no advanced configuration is necessary, and encryption and PKI are deployed as a service.  Let’s take a closer look at one solution: secure, global M2M-IoT connectivity through software-defined Virtual Cloud Networks.

Traditional M2M-IoT Network Architecture

To fully understand the benefits of virtual cloud networks, we need to discuss what legacy architecture often looks like. Consider a typical M2M-IoT network: A company with thousands of distributed kiosks, IP cameras, and Point-of-Sale (POS) stations uses a cloud datacenter to process the big data generated by all of these devices. At the same time, these IoT devices use and send information to applications (such as a management and configuration applications) stored at an in-house data center.

The network may utilize multiple WAN interfaces — perhaps the enterprise headquarters is on an MPLS network, while the IoT devices utilize a combination of LTE connectivity and third-party networks. The company’s IT team largely works from headquarters. The enterprise’s M2M/IoT — or “things” — network likely is managed separately from everything else, with the IoT devices residing behind APN gateways.

This type of legacy architecture presents several challenges, including:

Cumbersome APN Management

APNs are expensive and difficult to manage in multi-carrier environments. As an enterprise network continues to expand, so does this management challenge.

Security Concerns on Third-Party Networks

Each IoT device is a potential network on-ramp for hackers. Security policies must be carefully and meticulously applied via expensive APN gateways at the Network’s Edge. Traffic headed to the cloud datacenter must first be backhauled to headquarters over the VPN for security and management.

In-Band Management

In-band management for remote network monitoring and maintenance is complex and laborious. It’s especially challenging with IoT devices, which usually are limited in their memory, OS, and processor. Alternatively, remote devices may have a very slow in-band link because they’re so remote.

Solution: Virtual Cloud Networks for Software-Defined M2M-IoT Architecture

Software-defined networking can simplify your M2M-IoT network infrastructure, allowing a more efficient traffic flow between the IoT devices, in-house data center, and cloud data center, while still maintaining security. In this use case, the enterprise could easily set up a cloud-based IoT network with Cradlepoint routers and NetCloud Engine, Cradlepoint’s cloud-based Network-as-a-Service that provides a private virtual overlay fabric across the public Internet.

In the diagram above, an enterprise is utilizing the Cradlepoint NetCloud platform in a number of ways. First, a virtual cloud network (VCN) replaces a traditional VPN. The VCN functions over the public Internet but operates in a private address space that can be fully integrated with your existing DNS infrastructure. This setup, combined with end-to-end AES 256-bit encryption and full PKI, makes the VCN extremely secure; essentially, hackers can’t hack what they can’t see.

NetCloud Engine securely connects, monitors, and manages devices deployed anywhere in the world. You can create a virtual overlay network to connect devices using any form of public or private Internet access and segment them by customer, site, or function.

NetCloud Engine is designed to support the unique security requirements of M2M and connected device applications, including:

  • Strong end-to-end encryption
  • Auto-PKI and machine authentication
  • Fully cloaked private address space
  • Outbound-only connections
  • Virtual network isolation and micro-segmentation

Benefits of Virtual Cloud Networks for M2M-IoT

This software-defined IoT network architecture addresses an enterprise’s pain points by providing:

  • The security benefits of APNs without the cost and complexity
  • Reduced need for network hardware
  • A routable network that enables in-band management and reduced truck rolls, due to the separation between the control plane and data plane
  • Support for real-time applications such as remote monitoring, analysis, and CEP
  • Simplification of third-party deployments, because of the ability to produce an overlay network across several WAN sources in agnostic fashion
  • Self-healing cloud service ensures maximum uptime
  • Private IP address space and outbound connections, eliminating the need for expensive public IP addresses and on-premises firewall changes

SDN lets enterprises simplify the work of connecting thousands of “things” in dozens or even hundreds of different places. LTE provides the fast provisioning of connectivity, flexibility, and mobility needed for M2M-IoT applications. SDN pairs with LTE to bring the same benefits to the network infrastructure, by allowing companies to use the cloud to offload and automate the processes of building, securing, and deploying networks.

Essentially, the WAN can been abstracted into the cloud to function as a LAN — greatly reducing an enterprise’s network hardware, expenses, complexity, and man-hours.

The Benefits of SD-WAN for Remote Access and Workforce Mobility

How a Virtual Cloud Network Can Reduce Costs and Complexities for IT Departments

Workforce mobility provides some of the biggest opportunities and challenges for enterprise networks. The bottom-line benefits of employees being able to work anywhere are clear: greater productivity during business travel, more consistent communication, workday flexibility, reduced infrastructure costs, and much more.

However, the challenges are just as clear. Employees need access to a variety of applications and documents that live either in the cloud or at the corporate data center. Meanwhile, the IT department often must use inflexible legacy architecture and hardware to provide network and application access that is highly secure no matter where employees are working from or which devices they are using.

Finding a flexible alternative to traditional VPNs is important for IT departments as workforce mobility becomes more and more prevalent.

Challenges of Remote Access and Workforce Mobility

Many companies enable remote access and workforce mobility via a head-end box at the corporate data center. This supports security compliance for employees’ devices that may or may not be owned by the organization. However, this design is often inflexible when changes need to be made. Moreover, Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) arrangements can present significant concerns with security and the backhauling of casual Internet traffic.

Giving employees remote access to legacy applications that live in the data center presents an array of challenges. For instance, remote users who are off-domain for long periods of time can present compliance issues once they reconnect. Also, traditionally there are high costs associated with supporting mobile and home workers. Their technological needs vary based on location, device, and WAN source — all of which may be resolved one week, only to change when they shift locations the following week.

IT departments often are left scrambling to ensure that these employees are reliably and securely able to connect to the resources they need while keeping expenses, such as IT man-hours and network hardware, to a minimum.

Virtual Cloud Network Solutions for Mobile and Workforce Mobility Challenges

Just as remote access and workforce mobility present unique challenges, they require unique solutions. By setting up a Virtual Cloud Network through Cradlepoint’s NetCloud Engine, any IT professional can ensure users have access to important applications that live in the data center and/or cloud via one tightly controlled network.

NetCloud Engine extends SD-WAN functionality to an organization’s mobile workforce, giving employees a secure, LAN-like connection to private and public cloud apps and files from anywhere and any device. As shown in the diagram above, with NetCloud Engine running on a router at the data center and on each employee device, there is a persistent encrypted connection to a VCN overlay set up specifically for mobile access. It also seamlessly integrates with Active Directory, requiring no changes to existing infrastructure; each remote member remains “on domain” no matter its location.

NCE moves to the cloud the key functionalities that reside in traditional network architecture — such as policy control, app filtering, and NAC — without sacrificing security compliance and without needing a head-end device. Any traffic destined for any application will still flow into the data center using the NetCloud Engine client, and anything coming from the client that goes to the Internet will go directly to the Internet.

A remote worker on the road may stop in a coffee shop and browse his email on his mobile phone while waiting for the train; once he’s on the train, he may connect and work from his laptop. With NetCloud Client loaded on his mobile phone and laptop, and with access to the Active Directory server back at the data center, the Internet essentially becomes his private network. At the same time, IT administrators have policy control for micro-segmentation so they can make sure the remote employee only has access to the applications and data he needs.

Benefits of Virtual Cloud Networks

With VCNs through NetCloud Engine, enterprises can solve the pain points typically associated with legacy VPNs. Benefits of SD-WAN for remote access and mobile workforce mobility include:

  • Less hardware required
  • Overlay fabric provides seamless integration with legacy architecture
  • More flexibility and scalability as an organization expands
  • Secure atmosphere for BYOD
  • Faster configurations and deployments
  • Fewer IT man-hours devoted to deployments and network management
  • Reduced bandwidth needs

What is a Cloud-Based Phone System?

The biggest trend in office communications right now is the use of cloud-based phone systems. Cloud systems, also called IP Phones are typically used in a hosted environment. Outside lines are connected over a secure, encrypted VPN connection.

Features of cloud-based phones include voice messaging, auto attendant, mobility, conferencing, and call reporting. With a traditional phone system, the equipment for all these features resides at your office, where you are responsible for its maintenance and service. Cloud-based systems are located off-site and maintained by the provider.

Cloud-based phone systems can grow and evolve with your business.

  • Add users and phones
  • Add applications
  • Improve call flow
  • Stay up to date on upgrades and office communications technology
  • Integrate mobile phones into your office system
  • Fixed monthly cost

Cloud-based systems provide ease of use and better integration with mobile and desktop devices.

Dual SIMs vs Dual Modems

Explore Cradlepoint’s AER Series for small and branch offices, featuring dual-modem functionality for wireless-to-wireless failover: https://cradlepoint.com/content/aer-routers

Learn about Cradlepoint’s COR IBR100 and Dual-Modem Dock, purpose-built for in-vehicle networking and featuring dual-modem functionality for wireless-to-wireless failover: https://cradlepoint.com/products/cor-ibr1100-series 

Knock, Knock, Who’s there? A DDoS attack! Did your network switch notify you?

If you’re in IT, or you need to be concerned about protecting your company’s ability to do business 24/7, you have got to pay attention to what happened on October 21 when a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack came knocking on Dyn’s door (a domain name service provider).

You need to be vigilant and that is done by using the tools available in your network. You need to understand what happened last month and then put together a plan and course of action so that you don’t fall victim to a future attack that may have an even bigger impact on you and your business. Now is the time to make sure your networks and devices are safe from these types of attacks.

What is a DDoS?

A distributed denial of service attack can happen in several different ways. In this case, there was a deluge of web traffic that overwhelmed servers such that network service was denied to legitimate network users.

According to Dyn, the domain name service provider hit with the massive DDoS attack that day, there was a botnet – which is a computer network created by malware and controlled remotely without the knowledge of the users of those computers. This botnet consisted of an estimated 100k internet-connected devices, instead of the original estimates that there were tens of millions of IP addresses, that were responsible for the huge attack on critical systems.

For comparison, Gartner estimates there are currently 6.4 billion IoT devices, so relatively speaking, there was a very tiny number of devices involved – this time. These 100k devices were hijacked to flood Dyns’ systems with unwanted requests, shutting down the internet for millions.

What virus was involved in the attack?

The compromised devices were infected with the Mirai malware, an infamous virus that has the ability to take over cameras, DVRs, and routers. Mirai malware searches for IoT devices that are using their factory set passwords then uses them as part of a botnet to launch DDoS attacks.

Are there other viruses that could cause a DDoS?

Absolutely!

Although there are some attacks that take advantage of system bugs or vulnerability (such as teardrop attacks), most of these other types of attacks involve generating large volumes of traffic so that network service is denied to legitimate network users, such as this attack. These types of attacks include:

  • ARP Flood Attack— Floods a network switch with a large number of ARP requests, resulting in the switch using a large amount of the CPU time to respond to these requests. If the number of ARP requests exceeds the preset value of 500 per second, an attack is detected.
  • Land attack – Spoofed packets are sent with the SYN flag set to a host on any open port that is listening. The machine can crash or reboot in an attempt to respond
  • ICMP Ping of Death – This is where ping packets that exceed the largest IP datagram size (65535 bytes) are sent to a host and crash the system
  • SYN attack – This attack floods the system with series of TCP SYN packets, resulting in the host issuing SYNACK responses. The half open TCP Connections can exhaust TCIP resources, such that no other TCP connections are accepted.
  • Pepsi Attack— The most common form of UDP flooding directed at harming networks. A pepsi attack is an attack consisting of a large number of spoofed UDP packets aimed at diagnostic ports on network devices. A pepsi attack can cause network devices to use up a large amount of CPU time responding to these packets.

There are more showing up every day including Invalid IP attack and Multicast IP and MAC address mismatch.

What can you do to protect your network?

Your network switches and IoT devices can be protected against DDoS by filtering. Your network switches can be set to detect various types of port scans by monitoring for TCP or UDP packets sent to open or closed ports.

  • Packet penalty values set. TCP and UDP packets destined for open or closed ports are assigned a penalty value. Each time a packet of this type is received, its assigned penalty value is added to a running total. This total is cumulative and includes all TCP and UDP packets destined for open or closed ports.
  • Port scan penalty value threshold. The switch is given a port scan penalty value threshold. This number is the maximum value the running penalty total can achieve before triggering an SNMP trap.
  • Decay value. A decay value is set. The running penalty total is divided by the decay value every minute.
  • Trap generation. If the total penalty value exceeds the set port scan penalty value threshold, a trap is generated to alert the administrator that a port scan can be in progress.

For example, imagine that a switch is set so that TCP and UDP packets destined for closed ports are given a penalty of 10, TCP packets destined for open ports are given a penalty of 5, and UDP packets destined for open ports are given a penalty of 20.

Of course, the smartest switches in the world won’t help you if you don’t monitor the notifications triggered by these events. That’s where a good network management system is crucial. A good resource is your local ALE representative.

What about your smart “things”?

Besides taking care of the network, things that you can do to protect your smart devices, at work and at home are:

  1. Password – This is the easiest one to fix and most overlooked – change the factory default passwords that come with your device. In this DDoS case, the virus searched for default settings.
  2. Update your software – As annoying as those reminders are to update your software, they often contain critical security updates. Take the time and update!
  3. Prevent remote management – Disable the remote management protocol, such as, telnet or http that provides control from another location. The recommended remote management secure protocols are via SSH or https.

The next time DDoS comes knocking at your door, be sure your network is set up to notify you of these activities and know how to manage them. In a perfect world, your switch/router networking devices would have their filtering capabilities enabled by factory default. If you have further questions on how to make your network more secure using Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise solutions, or are interested in a deeper dive into the technology, please contact your nearest ALE representative.

It’s going to be a hybrid world, and here’s why

One key takeaway from an IDC Enterprise survey in late 2015 on the state of UC&C adoption among businesses was that 54% of enterprises, large and small, said they were preparing to adopt hybrid UC&C by 2017.

All the signs are there that this prediction will become reality, particularly for smaller enterprises.

SMBs worry about investment protection – with hybrid they can pick and mix

Hybrid cloud adoption is the ideal solution for an SMB. You retain on-premise platforms to make the most of existing investment while being able to bolt on the cloud-based services you want. With the right solution in place this can be paid for on a per-user basis – whether this is instant messaging presence, flexible multimedia collaboration or data storage.

With hybrid, there’s no need to rush ahead with full cloud adoption which may compromise existing investment – but at the same time there’s no risk of falling behind the growing ‘cloud crowd’.

Employees need to collaborate

Today’s mobile workforce has led to a complete rethink of how employees collaborate in modern business. For SMBs, open office cultures typified by home working, geographically separated teams, mobile workers and ‘hot desking’ adds an unwelcome layer of complexity when trying to provide a single point of collaboration.

This is the business challenge that hybrid cloud solutions address, enabling SMBs to take full advantage of flexible work options without the CAPEX investment. By picking only the functionalities that the business needs and paying for them on a subscription basis, SMBs can keep their IT footprint small at the same time as introducing productivity enhancing capabilities.

Simplified licensing

The latest hybrid communications tailored to SMBs are now simplifying the licensing of new users and devices. They eliminate the previous requirement to pay for separate licenses for different devices which drove up the total cost of ownership.

This new-found flexibility allows SMBs to maintain a cost effective ‘pay per user’ model to minimise the cost of enterprise class IT capabilities. It also provides the ability to rapidly onboard new employees and their mobile devices without any significant administrative effort or major infrastructural costs. The need to keep IT simple is especially important to SMBs.

Remote management is now available

Downtime means lost business. Network and communications redundancy is simply an unwelcome extra expense that few can afford, particularly SMBs – but cutting back means zero room for network downtime. So for SMBs, it is important to make sure any hybrid UC&C solution brings with it remote management and support – on demand. Hybrid cloud removes much of this burden facing SMBs, which may lack some of the IT skills available to larger companies, and instead tasks the solution provider with maximising uptime.

An emerging trend for hybrid solutions is the use of remote management to ensure uptime for SMBs, in which solution providers can remotely access the network to provide support and troubleshooting. Hardware and software is updated remotely to eliminate maintenance delays and ensure security from external threats – and multi-year support contracts mean SMBs routinely benefit from major security and functionality updates.

One foot in the cloud

There’s a reason IDC has identified so many SMBs preparing to adopt hybrid UC&C to support their business needs. You can maintain on-premise systems for when more control is needed over secure local services, and adopt cloud services capable of supporting enterprise collaboration tools. The hybrid approach plants one foot firmly in the cloud-based future, but keeps the other foot firmly on the tried and tested on-premise infrastructure.

Why Is Collaboration So Hard?

Collaborating at work is not an option, it’s just something we all have to do. In fact, “stimulating and facilitating information and knowledge sharing between employees is considered as very important by 71% of organizations” [1] and most would agree that it’s critical for success. So, if we all truly believe that working together is essential, why don’t we just do it? Why do we find it annoying and frustrating, and why is it so hard to actually work together?

Collaboration requires effort

A March 2016 Forrester report by Art Schoeller entitled, “Define Business Value In Collaboration” , confirms “The effect of more people driving and refining a business activity can dramatically improve results. While we see and understand the effect of collective action on the open Internet, we often lack the culture and technology to drive the same results in our work environment.”[2] Why is that, what’s really going on?

Well, according to Fréderic Laloux, when we walk into the office in the morning, when we visit a customer,  or when we pick up the phone, we put on our “working mask”. We aren’t fully ourselves, in fact we’re only a very small part of ourselves.

In his book entitled, “Reinventing Organizations” [3], Mr. Laloux explains that we are only 1/16 of ourselves, and that the rest of “us” is hidden behind the mask. Why do we need this mask you ask? To protect ourselves of course, from judgement, criticism, and possibly even foul play. We become a “professional animal”. As a result team creativity and efficiency is constrained, simply because team members are hiding 15/16 of themselves behind their mask.

Unfortunately, maintaining the mask takes a lot of energy and  working together requires effort. And that effort isn’t always immediately rewarded.

Collaboration is time consuming

Organizations have become more and more complex. According to the Boston Consulting Group, “the index of complicatedness” has multiplied by 6 over the past 60 years, making collaboration ever more time consuming. Chief Executive cites the BCG report: “in the 20% of organizations that are the most complicated, managers spend 40% of their time writing reports, and 30% to 60% of it in coordination meetings. That doesn’t leave much time for them to work with their teams.”

Not only that, but the more complex the organization, the more knowledge workers spend time looking for information. According to Art Schoeller of Forrester, “more than half of highly paid roles like sales (52%), professional services (55%), and IT/technology (53%) spend an hour or more searching each day.”2 Leveraging the collective knowledge is hugely time consuming.

Collaboration tools are disappointing

Information and knowledge sharing can’t be avoided, so how do enterprises facilitate collaboration? They buy tools. However, “in four out of ten companies, quality of collaborative and personal productivity tools is considered as low”. [4]

The main challenges sound very familiar, and include [4]:

  • ”Ease to use tools and ergonomics”
  • “Interoperability between solutions”
  • “Access to applications from mobile devices”

You can make collaboration less painful

Success really comes down to two key ingredients – people and technology.

People come first. Fredéric Laloux suggests a number of ways to unleash the collaborative potential using what he calls self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. In other words, freeing employees from the weight of their hierarchy, from their “professional mask”, and from the dictate of the “corporate vision”.[5]

As for technology, while there are many tools out there to choose from, they often don’t address the key challenges mentioned above including ease of use, interoperability and mobility, and result in a low adoption rate by employees.

If you are looking for a new tool that can empower your employees to be spontaneousengaged and in control, try Rainbow.  Best of all, it’s free! Let us know what you think.

 

[1]NetMediaEurope, January 2016

[2] Define Business Value In Collaboration, Forrester, March 2016

[3] Reinventing Organziations, Fréderic Laloux

[4] NetMediaEurope, January 2016

[5] Reinventing Organziations, Fréderic Laloux, 2014

5 Key Issues SMBs are Grappling With

oxo-connect-blog-750Did you know that Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) are responsible for 2 out of every 3 jobs around the world? Understanding the challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future of SMBs is a matter of the utmost importance.

A recent survey, conducted by Techaisle[1], identified the top 10 SMB priorities that IT and business decision makers are focused on in 2016. That got us thinking and we decided to drill down on 5 key areas we believe SMB business owners are grappling with this year:

  • Mobility
  • Collaboration
  • Cloud
  • Security
  • Budget

#1 Business on the go

In today’s business environment employees need to be able to work from anywhere, anytime–whether from home, from Starbucks, or on the road. To get the most out of mobile solutions, small businesses need to figure out what they want to accomplish. For instance, a flexible workforce can provide real-time customer service; employees can collaborate more easily and get faster results; real-estate costs can be reduced. The solution might be complex, highly secure and expensive, or it might be simple with lower security and higher risk. Selecting the right solution is specific to each company’s goals.

Some of the challenges SMBs face today when setting up mobility solutions include high equipment costs, complex installation, VPN integration, and they may require assistance installing software on mobile devices. And, even when a solution is working fine, it may be operationally complex and require IT expertise to maintain.

Hybrid cloud solutions are changing the game. Employees can easily install applications on their devices and become immediately mobile. Regular updates keep their applications current with no requirement for complex installations. The solution just needs to be hybrid-cloud “connected” to the existing telephony system and they are ready to go. Additionally, since the service is provided on the cloud network, there is no requirement for a VPN, or a remote security solution.

 

#2 Collaboration is key

The world is clamoring for collaboration. Voice and video calling directly embedded in a browser is making that possible. With the open-source API standard, Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC), Web applications can engage in direct voice calls, video chat, and data sharing without the need for desktop or mobile applications, add-ons, or browser plug-ins. This means videoconferencing will continue to get smoother, smarter, and more affordable while operating at even higher Internet speeds.

But it’s not just about video conferencing, IDG’s 2015 Unified Communications & Collaboration Study,[2] predicts a surge of adoption in UC&C over the next three years. According to their findings, 56% of enterprises, and 66% of SMB organizations plan to implement or upgrade their UC&C solutions within the next year. Those numbers are impressive.

Cloud-based integrations also have a role to play in expanding collaboration. They can connect a  videoconferencing solution with, not only core collaboration software, but also the myriad of devices with which employees interact. Off-site team members increasingly collaborate using smartphones and tablets, as much, if not more, than they use desktop or laptop PCs. Whether that means joining a group chat, sending and editing shared documents, or logging into a videoconference from an Android or iOS device on the go, cloud-based collaboration is on the rise.

Fundamentally, the key is to align systems with how people actually work. In a March 2015, Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Technology Alone Won’t Solve Our Collaboration Problems”, Mark Mortensen stated “every week a vendor introduces a new gadget, system, or service that promises to improve communication and collaboration.” [3] The reality is it’s not necessarily what technology you’ve got, but how you use it.

 

#3 It’s time for the hybrid cloud

A recent study from IDG Research Services asserts, “it’s no secret that digital business transformation and hybrid cloud computing are two of the most dominant IT trends today.”

Findings from the study indicate there is, “clear proof that a hybrid environment makes implementing digital business initiatives faster, easier and less expensive.”[4] Costs are lower, and return on investment is quicker and higher than initially projected.

IDC’s white paper, “The Growth Opportunity for SMB Cloud and Hybrid Business Continuity” suggests,  “SMBs are discovering, that in today’s hypercompetitive business climate, an investment in cloud-based business continuity can mean the difference between thriving, surviving, and becoming obsolete.” It confirms that, “SMBs around the world continue to shift investments from on-premise, to public and hybrid cloud environments, to achieve robust, complexity-free, and cost-effective business continuity.” [5]

Business owners are being driven toward consuming everything in their environment as a service. This is a major shift from capital expenses to operating expenses. By migrating services like communications, Unified Communications, and collaboration, from on-premise, to a hybrid cloud platform, companies can  commit to a consistent expense structure that is flexible and can create a business advantage.

 

#4 The security challenge

As SMBs rely more on technology to run their businesses, the requirements for access, as well as secure and protected data, become more critical and more complex. So, it’s not surprising that both small and medium businesses rank security among their most pressing technology challenges.

Data is no longer tied to a specific device or location and that makes IT folks uneasy. In our increasingly “cloud-first, mobile-first” world, data may reside on a company server, in cloud applications, or in cloud-based file-storing services. In addition, data can be accessed from a smartphone or tablet as easily as from a desktop.

The Dimension Data, Network Barometer 2015 Report[6], which was focused on a large installed base of customers, uncovered the following results:

  • 60% of network devices have at least one security vulnerability
  • 74% of wireless access points are older models (802.11g and older) that don’t support a sound mobility and security strategy
  • 53% of network devices are aging or obsolete (and that number is growing year-over-year)

This confirms how critical it is to regularly review network infrastructure.

 

#5 Scaled activity without scaled budgets

Budget constraints are top of mind for most SMBs. They often have different requirements and different IT challenges compared to large enterprises. In the blog entitled, “The SMB Digital Challenge: Scaled Activity Without Scaled Budgets”, Lindsay Rowntree says that, “In the UK, SMBs make up 99.3% of all business, yet account for only 18% of total marketing spend. One of the core challenges faced by small business marketers in the UK and, indeed, globally, is the lack of budget versus their larger peers, forcing them to limit their options significantly.”[7] That huge disconnect, between the number of SMBs, and the marketing spend, means SMBs have to seriously consider what they need to do to compete.

To be successful today SMBs need to be online, connected and accessible via mobile apps. To ensure efficient customer service, they need to be able to manage their business anytime, and from anywhere. The digital world is creating a massive opportunity for SMBs willing to embrace and leverage its advantages. A pay-per-use service offering can deliver the services and the budget flexibility that SMBs require, especially when essential services are basically provided for free.

Business DECT Handsets

EN_PS_PB_BusinessDectHandsets_Jul14Making on-site mobility an affordable option in all business environments

Alcatel-Lucent Business DECT Handsets take on-site mobility to a new level. The 8232 Business DECT Handsets offer easy-to-use, cost-effective and reliable voice communications, addressing mobility needs in evolving business environments.

The 8242 Business DECT Handsets also provide notification and location capabilities in addition to a one-button alarm function for the hospitality and healthcare industries. Designed as a high-end business terminal, the 8242 comes with several enhancements such as a large color screen for readability, HD Audio Ready technology for clear conversation, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Both Business DECT handsets offer a rich communication experience leveraging the capabilities of the powerful Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise platforms.

Benefits: Business DECT Handsets

  • Lightweight, ergonomic design and intuitive operation
  • Compatible with existing Alcatel-Lucent base stations for infrastructure investment protection
  • Excellent voice quality and business telephony features improve user responsiveness and business productivity
  • Green: Economy mode uses automatic low radio emission power (25 mW peak)
  • Low power mode (50 mW) makes it suitable for demanding environments
  • Notification & Location-based services (8242 only)
    • Location alarm signal when alarm triggered to help locate user
    • Up to 4 notification calls types from server
    • Dedicated alarm key
    • Task monitoring signaling (Hospitality, Healthcare, Warehousing…)

Features: Business DECT Handsets

  • IP-DECT connectivity
  • Keypad and display backlight
  • Hands free, microphone mute and vibrate modes
  • Headset jack (3.5 mm)
  • Antenna diversity
  • Direct micro-USB charging
  • Supports all AGAP features on OmniPCX™ call servers with TDM infrastructure, and on the OmniPCX Enterprise Communication Server with IP-DECT infrastructure
  • 8242 only :
    • Large 2.4” screen, 65 thousand colors, TFT display with 320×240 pixel resolution
    • Programmable keys
    • Embedded Alarm Applications: Notification and location based services
    • Bluetooth headset profile