Ways Small Business Can Benefit from VoIP

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Matt Larson – a Canadian tech blogger. Matt writes primarily for the VoIP industry and is currently working from the road with VoIP Spear – a global VoIP monitoring service provider. For more about Matt, including links to his blogs, check out his Google+ profile.  

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Small business owners are always in a precarious situation. For one thing, you should give your business – especially if it’s a startup – all that you’ve got. This is the wallet-hurting “you get what you give” kind of relationship, where tenacity, dedication and hard work are required when you want to recoup your investments. On the other hand, you should always get your money’s worth. You can’t just bleed money – you’re in business to make money.

In this scenario, VoIP is your telecommunication salve. You get benefits that lodge your business up there, among forward-thinking movers and shakers. It’s kind to your wallet too.

Save Money

Of course, the foremost benefit of using VoIP is that you can save money. Calls you make from/to anywhere in the world will be cheaper. Account setup is easy and doesn’t cost much too. You can start off using softphones to save money. Or, use analog telephone adapters (ATA) with your old phones. ATAs cost less than SIP phones.

Do More Than Talk

VoIP comes with several functionalities that help your business work more efficiently and reach out to partners and clients more effectively. These functions ultimately fall under “telecommunications convergence.” Cross access and share information through your phone system. Login to your voicemail remotely. Work anywhere and still be reachable through VoIP. Come across as more professional and trustworthy through videoconferencing. These added functions enhance your user experience, and can ultimately create better employee and client relationships.

Enjoy Portability

Your mobility can make a big difference in your business’s profitability. Through technology, the world has opened up into one big diverse market. Your business can be located in a First World small town, and still, you can deal with partners in Asia and Europe. It pays to be accessible wherever you are. People can call you at your First World small town number even when you’re in India, England or France doing business – at the same low cost VoIP rate.

Improve Employee Cooperation

Better cooperation among employees is often a byproduct of the easier flow of information. VoIP, through telecommunications convergence, can do this for your business. Access and sharing of information become more efficient.

Protect Your Investment

For a small business to enjoy the full benefits of VoIP, you have to protect it, as you would your important investments. You can do so through two simple steps:

  1. Ensure that your VoIP is always accessible, at your end, through the set up of emergency power sources and call forwarding.
  2. Monitor your VoIP’s performance through services like VoIP Spear to ensure consistent uptime and quality of service.

Is VoIP Safe From Surveillance Systems?

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Tanya Williams, a freelance writer and blogger. She has been working with telecom companies for over 20 years, writing about new technologies and how businesses and business owners can take advantage of them. Her topics included IP based communications technologies, cloud computing, website development, and many more.

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Recently, there has been serious objections about government agents’ and other agencies’ spying on private calls, leaving many users are worried about their privacy. There are some doubts on whether VoIP is strong enough to guard against such eavesdropping and phone tapping. However, as technology VoIP tends to provide better security than its pervious systems. Landline communications were easily traceable, while VoIP runs protocols to safeguard information.

Safety with VoIP

Hackers know how to attack Internet-based devices and services, such as VoIP, allowing them to easily get hold of customer account data, records of conversations and voicemails. Additionally, if a user’s account details are compromised, that information can be used to charge third party services. However, it requires a high level of skill and technical knowledge in order to that.

VoIP has its own safety measures, which pose a challenge to such hackers or surveillance agents. All the traffic is routed through a firewall and network address translators (NAT). Utilizing a firewall is one of the most commonly used safety systems for protecting a device from Internet-based attacks. Translators help in interconnecting networks and creating a safe communication system. Services like Skype use proprietary protocols for protection by routing calls through other skype peers on the network. This enables it to traverse symmetric NATs and firewalls.

Encryption is one of the most powerful tools in protecting digital information, but VoIP is not using it currently. Due to this, it gets easier for spies to eavesdrop on voice calls that are made on a data network. There are solutions like Wireshirk, which help in doing that. Protocols like secure real-time transport protocols (SRTP) and ZRTP are used for securing VoIP. IPsec also help in securing point to point VoIP by encrypting all traffic.

Why is VoIP more secure than previous systems?

As we know, traditional phone systems were based on analog signals, which cannot be encrypted. VoIP uses data signals, which are digital, and can be easily encrypted for protection. When the signal is sent, the receiving device can then decrypt the packets easily as they get the respective decryption key. This decryption process is necessary if real information is required. In process transmission if this signal is traced, the hacker would have to decrypt it based the decryption key, which is possible only with the device for which signal was intended.

Privacy

It is hard to tell whether our conversations will remain private or not because powerful authorities, such as the government, might implement laws that could give them the power to do surveillance. In the USA, the FBI recently announced its plan to expand Communication Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in order to bring Internet calling, such as VoIP, under this law. This law gives them power to intercept calls. If the plan is passed, then providers will have to make the tracing easier for them, which would compromise the privacy of the user.

However, despite the possibility that VoIP may fall under CALEA, several hospitals, military organizations, and large corporations have adopted VoIP. If we see figures, almost one third of businesses in world today use VoIP. When compared with other communication systems, VoIP is still the best possible option because of it’s low cost and higher level of security when compared to traditional systems.

Hybrid Clouds offer Traditional IT Departments Reassurance

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Victor Brown – a technical writer and inbound marketer for Cirrus Hosting – a leading Canadian hosting company. Follow Victor and Cirrus on Twitter @CirrusTechLtd, like them on Facebook, and check out their blog on hosting http://www.cirrushosting.com/web-hosting-blog/

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While much of the focus is on the public cloud, hybrid clouds combine the best parts of the public cloud and in-house or collocated infrastructure deployments.

When we think about the cloud, it’s mostly the public cloud that grabs our attention. That’s understandable: the public cloud has instigated a revolution in the way companies of all sizes think about IT infrastructure deployment. But there are plenty of cloud naysayers, who tend to fall into three broad categories: traditional IT folks accustomed to complete control over the infrastructure layer; pro-cloud analysts with a genuine interest in exposing the potential weaknesses of the public cloud in order to encourage iteration and improvement; and those within companies who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Not much will change the minds of the latter group other than a gradual turnover of entrenched influencers, but many in the other two group, who have legitimate — although frequently misguided — concerns about the public cloud can find comfort in the private cloud, especially when coupled with public cloud platforms in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment.

It would be irresponsible for IT decision-makers to ignore the potential business and technical benefits of public cloud platforms. Never before have companies had access to such flexible, scalable, and inexpensive compute and storage power. As I said, it changes the way that businesses think about IT deployments, and, in an age where IT is so central to business success, it changes the way that they are able to do business. That said, no tool offers a universal solution — including the public cloud.

The solution is not to think “Public cloud or traditional in-house infrastructure,” but rather, “public cloud plus private cloud”. Private cloud environments are those that have the same flexible virtual hardware layer as public cloud platforms but in which the underlying physical hardware is dedicated to the use of one organization, rather than being shared between many different organizations in ways that are not transparent to clients.

Private clouds offer answers to many of the security and privacy concerns of IT people, as well as allowing them the measure of ownership over deployment, availability, and technical management they feel they need to be properly accountable for the infrastructure’s performance.

At the same time, private clouds have some of the negative qualities of traditional in-house deployments: CAPEX is high compared to public cloud platforms, and while the virtualized layer is just as flexible as the public cloud, dedicated hardware doesn’t offer the same flexibility of pricing or ease of scaling, both up and down.

Hybrid clouds offer a “best of both worlds” scenario, in which the benefits of the private cloud I’ve mentioned can be augmented by the benefits of public clouds. Workloads can be apportioned between the two modalities as suits the specific needs of a business. Cloud technology should not be dismissed out of hand because of perceived risks of public cloud use, rather hybrid clouds that offer the combined advantage of both public and private should be at the forefront of IT strategy.

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

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Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

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Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

Data Loss and Business Downtime

Over the past year, computer users worldwide created 1.8 billion gigabytes of data. Much of that data was pertinent for business dealings and operations. Unfortunately, some of that data was also lost, causing expensive downtime for businesses – many of which will never recover from the loss.

There are several factors that commonly contribute to the loss of data. However, the two top causes of data loss are the failure of an uninterrupted power supply and human error. Some of the other top causes include exceeding UPS capacity, cyber-attacks, equipment failure, water incursion, weather-related issues and circuit breaker failure. There are several business continuity tactics and procedures that companies can put in place to prevent or diminish the impact. However, businesses need to implement a disaster recovery plan as well in case their prevention methods were not enough.

Of companies that lose a data center for 10 days, 93 percent file for bankruptcy within a year. Additionally, 43 percent of companies that experience such disasters never reopen. Only six percent of companies without a recovery plan will survive long term. Companies that design and implement a disaster recovery plan have a better chance of surviving catastrophic data loss.

First, businesses need to perform an impact analysis, which involves organizing the data by order of recovery importance. It is important to identify your company’s most valuable assets and critical business functions. These are the tools that must be preserved in an emergency in order to keep your business operational.

Next, companies should perform risk assessment in which they identify potential points of system failure and then take action to eliminate as many as possible. By proactively testing your operational functions for a weak spot, you may be able to prevent a larger problem from occurring. Finally, each company needs to manage their risks by instituting solutions that address points of vulnerability.

This infographic was supplied to us by SingleHop. SingleHop is dedicated to bringing cloud hosting solutions to businesses. They build and maintain hosted infrastructures for companies worldwide.

Technology Trends Expected to Change the Game

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ramya Raju, a freelance writer from India. With over 8 years of writing experience, Raju discusses a variety of topics, such as data centre technologies, SEO, web design, and mobile. You can learn more about him by visiting his website. 

Whirlwind changes are happening in the world of business and organizations, and that has had an impact on IT as well. The IT sector will have to go through a major transformation in 2014 and that can be seen in cloud, mobile and social technologies. There is an increasing amount of focus and demand on access to information, and these technologies are quickly “coming of age” in order to keep up. As a result, it’s now necessary for companies, especially their IT, to reinvent themselves. And there are some major trends that will make their presence felt in 2014.

The Internet of Things will make things more interesting and challenging for IT

There are a large number of Smartphones and devices that are out there today. Bring your own device (BYOD) culture is also gaining ground to a large extent and that in itself can be a tricky proposition for IT. But things won’t stop at that because Internet Of Things will pose further challengers to IT masters. It involves different types of constituents including wearable personal technology and smart consumer and medical devices. There are sensors in different parts of the world and connected machines to deal with as well, and that doesn’t make the task of IT any easier.

IPv6 has been lapped up in all kinds of places and the addresses it comes with are endless. Thus there is going to be an explosion of data that will have to be handled very carefully. Thus there will be a growing emphasis on scalability and complexity. IT will have a task on its hands when it comes to these factors.

Analytics gains prominence

The industry has often focussed on connection and data movement. Immediate application functionality was another aspect that was given a lot of importance. But now Analytics will takes its place of pride. It will definitely move from being an add-on that often seemed like an afterthought for people till date.  There are several factors that have contributed to this sea change in approach. The major onslaught of large amounts of data is one factor and the impact of Internet Of Things is another. The importance of data is also observed and acknowledged a lot more today, which has made it necessary for people to incorporate analytics right from the beginning. Context sensitive and location aware abilities for IT will also become common place.

More attention on apps

People are paying a lot of attention to the performance and functionality of major projects, especially in the healthcare sector. But expectations from application delivery will be a lot higher in 2014 and things like model drives, user based development will be stressed upon. Thus IT has its task cut out as far as apps are concerned.

It means that the new age, fast development tools will be in the spotlight. People will also have to think about processes that will lead to speedy delivery, which will remain important. Other crucial aspects to think about will be predictability and reliability. To make things more challenging, people will have to think hard about meeting service level requirements and keeping the costs under control as well.

PaaS will be widely accepted

Platform-as-a-Service will get its due and wide recognition in 2014 and it will be one of the important trends of the year. This is a cloud layer that certainly has its advantages and they will be noticed by people, who are only going to lap it up. Some of its benefits include agility, analytics and faster development. Moreover it is more suited for scalability, which is something people will want. And of course, it has the cost benefits of cloud, which will be a huge bonus.

There are few other reasons why people will take to PaaS in 2014. It is known to offer structure and control for strategic needs of organizations. And that’s an appealing proposition for companies irrespective of their size. Once these advantages are noticed, the industry will be forced through a major change. It will lead to business specialists being in charge of data integration tools. Overall data integration will become omnipresent.

Budget Shift in IT

Now that cloud is becoming widely accepted and democratized, development trends seem to be the norm, individual lines of business will start getting more power. They will be in a position to start funding their own projects and wrest the initiative from IT.

As a result, companies and CIOs will have to come up with strategies to ensure that they cope with the evolving climate without losing information. They will also have to ensure that there are no security risks involved and they don’t get into technically dead-end situations. Things will change rapidly and they will have to learn to adapt quickly.

In 2014, one size fits all philosophy will become more redundant than ever before. It could mean different things and strategies for different people based on their requirements but they will certainly have to be worked on. In short, it’s all about making it possible to access information anywhere, anytime and wherever it’s needed.

How to Train Employees on Company Cyber Security

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Theo Schmidt, an independent blogger. Schmidt has an interest in computer science and engineering, which he uses to fuel his blogging. You can learn more about him on Google+.

No matter your line of work, company cyber security is something that should weigh heavily on your mind. Whether it be phishing scams or malware attacks, it is important to ensure that employees know what they are expected to do to prevent and avoid security breaches.

Suspicious Links

It is important that employees realize that the sites they visit can negatively affect the entire company. Typically these sites are not sought after but are brought on via email or links from other sites.

A company can help to prevent visitation to harmful websites by installing a powerful firewall protection. However, employees are at the front lines of defense. They must be trained and reminded that bad links can be just as dangerous as anything else on the web.

Unknown Emails

Scammers and phishers know what they’re doing when they try to trick people into giving up information. Sometimes an email is an obvious scam—a prince in Nairobi is asking for monetary donations or something equally ridiculous. Other emails can be a bit trickier though.

Email scammers are getting smarter and better at making the email address look legitimate. Often they will attach a file that they want downloaded disguised as a form or important information. However, once the file is downloaded the company’s security, data, contacts, and even financial information can be at risk.

Employees should exercise extreme caution when downloading any file, whether they think they recognize it or not. In general, it is smarter to keep computers as clean as possible and storing only work-related materials.

Logging In

When employees are asked to log in to sites they are not familiar with using their company login information, plenty of information is automatically given up to the intruding site. From there it is possible that they will be asked to download files, give up more information, or the site will simply have the password and username on hand for whatever they wish to do.

Logging in to an untrustworthy site is an easy albeit foolish mistake to make. It is important to make employees aware of the risks at hand. Companies can still protect themselves with encryption software and training to help employees spot these scamming sites.

Sharing Information

Additionally, it is key that employees recognize the importance of keeping the company’s data safe and secure. This means that not only should they do what they can to keep it safe inside, they won’t let it be leaked outside as well.

Information can be leaked via blogs, emails, or anything else. Employees should keep passwords secret and frequently change them. Passwords should never be repeated on multiple sites.

Enforce Change

Keeping employees up on security procedures is a process. Employees won’t change their behavior overnight nor will they decide to care about the company’s security on a whim. It must be made a part of their everyday job expectations to work against cyber threats. Just like any other positive behavior in employees, it should be recognized and reinforced.

In the war against scammers, human error is the bigger problem. According to Comptia, 55% of breaches are due to mistakes made by employees. It can be difficult to spot potential problems because so often fake websites, emails, and links look real. However, the flaws are in the details.

Companies that store important data like electronic medical records, financial records, and other personal information are at a high risk of intrusion. Employees must be trained to diligently watch for signs of a breach in cyber security. So long as they know what to be aware of and what threat they themselves could pose, they can help the company by becoming part of the defense and less of a liability.

For more information on data protection, check out the Practice Studio website.

To learn about storing company information in a secure location, click here.

In-Car Internet: 25% of Cars Online by 2015

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Bradley Taylor, an independent writer. Taylor writes across a variety of subjects, but specialises in automotive and technology pieces. You can learn more about him on Google+ and follow his updates on Twitter.

All new cars could be connected to the Internet by 2015, as billions of dollars are being invested in the cars of the future. These futuristic cars will allow you to use the Internet via voice commands by using a technology similar to smart phones. Experts predict that Internet screens could even eventually be shown on dashboards; but wouldn’t that be a little distracting? Industry members say no; and it’s even been foretold that the online car will have a vast array of benefits that the driver will love. Picture this; finding free parking spaces with ease, having access to nearby restaurant reviews, and even get a countdown that let’s you know when the traffic lights will change without having to pick up your mobile device. Through the use of voice command – drivers can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Image Credit: Flickr

Image Credit: Flickr

The app culture found that smartphones and tablets could soon become a big part of driving, which would totally change the way we use our cars. Major automotive brands are already spending around a third of their budget on in-car entertainment and Internet technology. Audi even recently announced that its self-driving technology would be just about everywhere within the decade. It’s thought that this technology will help to improve safety while driving. After all, it would be much safer to update your Facebook status via voice command rather than trying to do it illegally on your smartphone.

Understandably, many are concerned about encouraging the distraction of drivers, but these safety concerns are being addressed by automotive developers through the use a different technology – sensors. You may have even seen examples of these safety measures in place today, such as the vehicles that are able to administer the breaks automatically if your car gets too close to another object or vehicle.

Additionally, even though it’s illegal in most countries for drivers to use handheld devices while operating a vehicle, that hasn’t deterred drivers from using them. Integrating a voice operated Internet system into the vehicle would help eliminate the need, or want, for drivers to pick up their smartphones while driving.

This all sounds amazing, but the one other thing that’s concerning people is hackers being able to access the car. If there’s a data system in there, this means there’s the possibility of somebody hacking into it. Although this was demonstrated by security consultants who managed to break into the car without touching it, the risk is said to be very small due to the amount of time and effort put into security by the major companies. Ford even claims that their system is impossible to hack into, as the apps will be separated from the vehicle’s essential devices.

Although it might take a while before we’re travelling back in time in Deloreans, it won’t be long before we’re all enjoying an online, in-car experience!

To learn more about in-car Internet, click here. 

Deciding What to Put in the Cloud

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Tanya Williams, a freelance writer and blogger. She has been working with telecom companies for over 20 years, writing about new technologies and how businesses and business owners can take advantage of them. Her topics included IP based communications technologies, cloud computing, website developement, and many more.

Situation: “I have clients across North America, and some of my critical parts come from around the globe. I have a robust ERO system that helps me keep on top of production, deliveries, and collection. I have decided to move into Unified Communications to speed up everything. – Now, what part of my application should go to the cloud for my vendors and clients to see? What about safety and security?”

This situation may be specific, but is common among many business organizations. Clients and partners can come from different places all over the globe. However, the answer generally lies in the amount of information or applications that will be put in the cloud for general use across the organization, as well as issues relating to security and safety.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding what your company should put in the cloud.

  • Provider Responsibilities: As an organization, it is very important to be comfortable with giving up a certain level of control to cloud providers. Organizations who choose to take advantage of deploying on-premise platforms typically own the unified communications application. Upgrades, enhancements, extensions and other integrations are done as needed. Cloud providers do allow a certain level of management to the users, such as managing their servers, but organizations may not have full control.
  • Potential savings: When talking about savings which can be potentially achieved, it is vital to acknowledge that these savings are indeed, real. Research was conducted by Search Unified Communications in 2013 discussing the cost analysis of cloud technology vs. on-premises IP telephony. It concluded that a significant amount of savings is realized when incorporating this type of technology in businesses.
  • Availability: Cloud-based unified communication services are practically available all over the world. However, only a few companies have the capability of supporting and delivering a single global cloud service through diverse geographies. Therefore, if you have partners, clients and sites distributed throughout Europe, North America and Asia, it is possible to acquire such technology with the help of a limited number of possible partners who can provide support to all sites.
  • Services offered: For quite a while, cloud-based unified communications services lacked some features and applications needed to compare to on-premise solutions. Among such features are mobile extensibility, video and a wide range of end-points solutions. However, the evolution of the technology has increased the popularity of the cloud. Leading providers have developed various platforms that are derived from the original infrastructures, incorporating them to the existing platform.
  • Cloud management: It is a common belief that by using the services offered by cloud technology, a user organization offloads itself from responsibilities, casting the burden to the providers. However, such relationships require a good partnership between the cloud provider and the organization. The overall success of the delivery of services requires access to the company’s internal network coming from the operations center to the provider.

Therefore, the abovementioned tips will certainly assist an organization in evaluating the services offered by cloud technology. It is vital to keep in mind that these applications continue to evolve rapidly. Taking note of any possible future enhancements can also help in making decisions as to the amount of information, and the number of applications that should be put in the cloud. Bottom line is that taking advantage of the benefits now can make an organization well prepared for further enhancements in the future.

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