Jan 17

Embracing the Cloud for Your Business

This is likely not the first article you've read about what "the Cloud" can do for your business, a topic that can be amorphous and often confusing. Different people have differing definitions, expectations, and perspectives on the Cloud. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s define "Cloud" as the removal of intellectual assets and specific equipment from the physical building.

Let's take a look at what the Cloud may offer your business, and some real-world applications of moving to Cloud services.

First, the ability to move things from an actual structure into an abstracted off-site environment provides several advantages. As an example, a business running a customized program on a server in the network room may experience hiccups on this server, such as Windows updates and hard drive issues, which will impact business operations. Unexpected power outages will not only make the server unavailable, but may also corrupt data. Pulling this machine out of the building, and putting it into a real Data Center environment, will mitigate these risks.

Second, having infrastructure in the Cloud rather than in a physical facility can provide ease of access to critical information any time it is needed. By definition, Cloud architecture is not in your building. Therefore, the Cloud is constructed in a way in which your data can be delivered to a remote location. The Cloud doesn't care if the "remote location" is your main office, your house or even your mobile device as you stand in the bank lobby. Even if you want your data to be housed in your building, you can still send backup copies to the Cloud, where it will remain secure and accessible in the event that you need to recover something lost from your primary data repository. A well-designed solution will give you actionable information when you need it, where you need it.

Another aspect of an off-site IT solution is enhanced Disaster Recovery capabilities. Common crippling events, such as prolonged power outages, equipment failure, fire and storm damage, are minimized in a Cloud environment, due to the enhanced architecture of Cloud data centers and the ability to get to your data and services from anywhere.

Yet another advantage of Cloud architecture is scalability. Think about how a typical business approaches the replacement of an aging server. The old method of forecasting the growth of this business for three or five years into the future, and buying equipment today that will hopefully be capable of meeting that requirement in 2020, is inefficient and is not optimal. Running that application in a massive Cloud environment separates the software from the hardware platform, providing the ability to simply rent the resources needed today, and to easily toss more memory and CPU power to the application whenever it's needed.

The issue of Security is top of mind these days, with ransomware and other malicious malware becoming disturbingly commonplace. Research has shown that most cloud-based solutions are superior to on premise designs in this regard. Providers of Cloud services are security experts and can put more financial resources into maintenance of a solid security posture than can the typical small or medium business, yet another advantage.

Finally, as most Cloud services are designed as services that are abstracted from physical equipment, the pricing model is typically subscription-based, meaning that the periodic shocks of capital expenditures are replaced with predictable and cost-effective monthly (or annual) expense.

So how does this look in practice, on the street (or on the gravel road, or in the back 40)?

The first massive adoption of Cloud services was undertaken by telephone companies. Phones were dumb devices, with all of the switching, billing and logic functions handled by machines in the Central Office. None of us ever knew when the machines in the Central Office were replaced with new machines or when the billing software was updated. Everyone just picked up the phone, dialed a number and talked (and maybe even listened). Today, modern IP telephony pulls even more functionality into the Cloud while providing new features such as video and presence (the ability to see if the person you're trying to reach is available).

Applications, too, have been in the cloud long enough to have matured into solid service offerings. News and weather information are commonly accessed online, almost as a commodity. Salesforce and other online CRMs have experienced tremendous growth, as have Internet banking and other information-based industries. Even Microsoft Office applications (Excel, Word, and so on) are now hosted in the Cloud. The ability to present data to any authorized user via a web browser or an app on a smartphone is revolutionizing business and offers significant advantages to users adopting these new business models.

The move of physical hardware from network closets into the data centers of local service providers began a number of years ago, and is now accelerating with the advent of Cloud-based virtualized environments, where vast arrays of high-end machines spin up virtual computers as they're needed, and instantly delete them upon completion of their tasks, all on demand.

In the end, pushing onsite infrastructure away from the physical building and into the Cloud provides increased resilience, more access to your information when you need it, business continuity even in the event of a disaster, increased flexibility to scale up (or down), professional security, and lower total cost of ownership.  What this means is that by partnering with a trusted, experienced Cloud provider, you can stop spending time working on your infrastructure, gain new and enhanced access to your information and applications, and put new energy into your business.

To learn more about the most effective cloud solutions and how they can help grow your business, call us at 877-932-2691 or request a quote

Oct 16

Communications Should Be Moving Toward the Enterprise


Organizations are realizing more and more the advantages of weaving digital solutions and practices into their company structures in order to stay ahead of the game. This not only makes companies competitive, but also more flexible and able to adapt to fast-changing practices and expectations.

According to a recent article by Data Center Knowledge, companies adopting these new enterprise technology methods should keep a few key business tech trends in mind. Here’s a look at three of trends applicable to the world of unified communications/VoIP.

The Hybrid Cloud Gains Momentum

With technology evolving at breakneck speed, some legacy applications and solutions are being left in the dust as they aren’t compliant with public cloud environments. In addition, there is a fair amount of skepticism surrounding the cloud and its ability to safely and securely hold sensitive information. The solution? Hybrid cloud environments. This approach enables business to be more agile, competitive and cost effective, allowing organizations to still utilize the cloud for their newer applications while still maintaining any systems that may contain private data in-house.

In the world of business phone systems, a hybrid cloud approach gives businesses the ability to merge the power of an on-site IP-based phone system with power of SIP connectivity and gain the benefits of the cloud while manage their phone system locally.

The Demand for High-Speed Bandwidth Increases

It’s no secret that bandwidth is a big deal – the demand is off the charts and shows no sign of slowing down. Cloud computing and mobile capabilities are two of the biggest components that eat up enterprise bandwidth. Enter Fiber and Ethernet-based services. These components vastly increase bandwidth, making them imperative for all organizations and industries, particularly larger ones and those with remote locations. With contact centers, for example, high bandwidth is crucial to real-time traffic flows and voice and video quality reliability.

Voice over IP Spreads to the Enterprise

Enterprises are gradually coming around to IP-based unified voice and data communications solutions, a trend reserved for small businesses until recently. With the push toward new technology, organizations are eager to replace their old phone systems with the newest and best features. The benefits include an overall decrease in cost, long-term agility to adapt to the constantly changing technology landscape and the ability to scale.

“In the last two years, many large organizations have started considering hosted Private Branch Exchange (hosted PBX) and Session Initiated Protocol trunking (SIP trunking) solutions,” according Data Center Knowledge. “With improved capabilities, like full-featured automatic call distribution (ACD), video integration and robust reporting, it is becoming more practical for larger organizations to go with IP-based solutions over a traditional on-premise system.”

The Enterprise Landscape

As these business tech trends make their way into enterprise DNA, companies that adapt and embrace these digital trends will outpace competitors hanging on to legacy solutions.


Jul 15

Cloud assets becoming status quo for enterprise


The cloud should be old news by now. But while it's true that public awareness of the cloud may have reached something resembling saturation point, that doesn't mean it has become something to avoid. The conversation may be changing to some degree, but this is only reinforcing the idea that the cloud should be a given part of any organization's daily operations.

According to The Guardian, accounting software company Xero believes that the state of modern business demands cloud functionality. The focus is no longer on the technology itself, but where it can take the companies that implement it.

"At this crucial point in the 21st century, the digital revolution is not about apps and software being hosted in the cloud," Xero stated. "That's the mechanism, but it's not the revolutionary aspect. What creates this new shift in models is the additional benefit that the cloud engine offers. You can be quicker, more powerful, have more capacity and be more efficient – in exactly the same way that steam did. And, here's the revolutionary part: cloud creates benefits and opportunities that simply weren't possible before now. And in doing so, it changes everything."

One such opportunity comes in the form of cloud communications. The cloud is popular because of its ability to be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Leveraging things like business phone systems in cloud-based environments means that employees are connected to critical networks at all times. This is the kind of productivity that businesses are going to need in the very near future.

Increasing number of businesses cite cloud success
The cloud - both literally and figuratively - is everywhere these days, especially in the enterprise. This may have something to do with all of the benefits that cloud is capable of providing. This is particularly true in terms of the competitive advantage that more businesses are experiencing when they have the cloud in place. According to a recent study conducted by Frost & Sullivan,81 percent of companies believe that the cloud plays a significant role in their success over competitors.

"The pace of transformation in U.S. industry is accelerating," said Frost & Sullivan vice president Lynda Stadtmueller in a release. "Widespread cloud adoption has helped U/S/ companies stay ahead of competition and make the most of the new business models that emerged as a result of the digital revolution. Coupled with shifting economic conditions, the need to constantly innovate and to accelerate time to value, organizations simply need to be more efficient and adaptable in order to survive."

One of the best ways to stay out in front with the cloud is to implement cloud communications. Whether VoIP is obtained through SIP trunk-enabled legacy systems or an off-site provider is selected, more companies are realizing that the agility of the cloud is seemingly tailor-made for telecom. Now that so many workers are enabled by their personal mobile devices, the idea of allowing remote access is appealing for a number of different reasons.

For one, younger professionals especially are looking for jobs that will allow them to work from home when they so desire. Another great reason for cloud communications to be utilized is related to expanding businesses and companies with traveling employees. Being able to instantly connect new offices from across the country or allow staffers to remain connected on the road can save time and money while increasing productivity and reducing downtime. This is the kind of thinking that will be important for the modern business to engage in. The cloud is not an endgame - it's a means of establishing and fulfilling new goals.

"With the Web becoming a way of life around the world, commercially the cloud as a mechanism is no longer the primary focus," stated Xero. "Rather, what's important is the benefit that digital can bring. In this respect, it's not about the engine, it's about all the new places that engine can take you."

Cloud proving to be revolutionary
The consumerization of IT has empowered millions of professionals. The average skill level for operating and maintaining tech has never been higher. Enterprises should be focusing on how to embrace changing opinions, attitudes and capabilities for the good of the company. Part of this may mean making significant investments in things like cloud business phone systems.

"What's needed is the ability to step outside your business and think about the new opportunities that are available to you as a cloud-enabled business," Xero stated. "For a start, you can be completely mobile and work from anywhere. That ability in itself raises many new ways of working with your customers, flexing your work/life balance and creating teams of people who aren't tied to one specific location."

Jul 15

Debunking VoIP myths for SMBs

The unknown is a scary idea. As humans, we like patterns and predictability. That's why we stick to our routines, develop habits and take safety precautions. For some small and medium-sized businesses, single source communications might be a foreign idea that strikes up a bit of fear. Just remember: you can't knock it until you try it. To help lift the veil of unfamiliarity off of VoIP phone systems, here are the real truths to some common myths.


Myth 1: VoIP phone systems are costly
The misconception of digital phone solutions being expensive is understandable. The initial switch to single source communications isn't free, but it will save SMBs money in the long run and can certainly fit into a small business budget.

The cost of using VoIP business phone systems is relatively inexpensive. The low, monthly payments are affordable, and buying hardware is usually not necessary for most VoIP systems. Long-distance calling costs are also minimized with single source communication because of the way your voice gets transmitted to the other line. The caller's voice gets broken down into small bits of data that travel through the Internet instead of cables. Since VoIP providers don't have to spend money on maintaining telephone cables, services cost less and save you money. Additionally, your VoIP provider will be able to handle questions about maintenance and installation. This enables you to have a fully-functional phone system without the cost of an IT team.

Myth 2: We don't need VoIP because our regular phone system is good enough
Analog phone were the go-to phone system for small businesses before digital phone technology. Sure, it has the basic functions of redial, hold and mute, but the features typically don't extend much beyond that. Analog phones haven't really changed but customer demand has. It's important to keep up with the changing market in order for your business to reach its full potential. Here are some examples of how a VoIP system can boost the success of your small business:

  • Increase customer satisfaction
    The growing digital age has raised the expectation of instant gratification in society, and it's not changing. Therefore, it's up to businesses, big and small, to cater to the changing customer needs and keep up with e-commerce competition. The find me/follow me features will allow you to do just that. If customers can't reach you at the office on the first few rings, the phone will automatically forward the call to another predetermined line where you might be available. This boost in customer satisfaction can increase sales, bolstering the success of your business.
  • Maximize collaboration
    The features of VoIP phone system will increase productivity and efficiency in SMBs. For example, certain coaching tools allow small businesses to optimize employee phone training. Employers can communicate to trainees while they are making the call without customers hearing or knowing. This real-time communication enables employers to convey direction and make corrections in the moment rather than after the call has ended. Other collaboration features include instant messaging, presence information, video calling and conference calling. All of these are useful for keeping business members connected to strategize and problem solve efficiently.

Myth 3: Transferring to a unified communication system will be too difficult to manage
Without the proper IT experience or personnel on hand, installing phone systems can be intimidating, maybe even enough to cause SMB leaders to avoid the transition altogether. Fortunately, there are many resources to help with the change, your VoIP provider being one of them. Additionally, VoIP phone system installation usually does not require a lot of new hardware, relieving yet another potential anxiety.