Network 2020

Fixed Mobile Convergence and Network 2020 – The Next Steps in Telecommunications?

As technologies adapt, so must their providers and users.

For a number of years communications options have been somewhat fragmented, with options for web-based video calls, mobile calls and traditional wired landline calls co-existing. While this provides choice and is important to avoid the complete absence of the ability to communicate if one system fails, there is a move amongst mobile providers to unite forms of communication on mobile phones and tablets to increase efficiency and reliability.

 

Encouraged by the GSMA, the concept of all IP mobile communications is addressed in their Network 2020 initiative. Started in 2010 with the ambition of encouraging and assisting mobile providers to adapt to a world increasingly reliant upon improving internet provision, Network 2020 marks a major change in telecommunications.

 

Underpinning Network 2020 is the fact that mobile providers need to change in order to remain competitive – consumers require reliability, and many of the legacy systems used by providers are outdated and require improvement. As time progresses, internet-based systems will allow what is referred to as a ‘mesh’ based system. This will provide the best in reliability as connections can be re-routed quickly and efficiently around any problematic network areas, increasing communication speed and quality. As bandwidth provision increases to meet demand, the quality of video conferencing will also improve, making such options more popular with organisations of all sizes.

 

Traditionally, internet communication has centred on Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) methods but, as connectivity improves with the introduction of faster broadband in the form of 4G (and because mobile communications such as SMS and voice calls need to remain a source of revenue for providers) attention is now focused on options including Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE).

 

This will allow calls to occur via any of the given options – and provide the capability to switch between these options depending on availability and cost, enabling seamless, cost-effective services. Called Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), the technology is to some extent in use already, although its definition appears to vary between providers and the infrastructure and handset technology modifications required to allow it to function most effectively will take time and investment. The ability to provide users with the service they need, when they need it, is the holy grail of telecommunications and it appears that – if providers work together (and that’s a large “if”) – this will become a distinct possibility.

 

As with any method of mobile communication, the move to FMC with IP, LTE and WiFi services will have implications for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) – in particular, for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) plans. It can be a challenge to track business voice and video calls in order to ensure employee obligations are being met and the amounts paid for phone services are accurate, especially for organisations operating on an international level. As with any area of business, it’s important the best value for money service is sought in telecommunications expenses – another reason why TEM can prove invaluable.

 

As it stands, integrating the new communications infrastructure as outlined in Network 2020 could fully enable FMC and prove to be a great boon to business, with reliable, high quality communications available on the move. Although it may seem as though telecoms are increasingly costly, it is likely that improvements to services will see a significant increase in value for money, as users get more from their spend.

What say you ??

Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !
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Network Security “Worst Practices “

Network Security 1Here’s a post from Andrew Lerner of Gartner !  Good Read

Network Security “Worst Practices”

by Andrew Lerner  |  January 15, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Network security comes up in a lot of my client interactions, as there is a ton of overlap between networking technology (data center, wan, campus networks) and network security (firewalls, SWG, NAC, IPS etc.).

Sometimes, networking and security teams are very well-aligned, but often times – not so much. This got Jeremy D’Hoinne (Gartner colleague who covers Network Security) and myself thinking, and we decided to publish research on the 12 most common “worst practices” in network security. These dirty dozen include:

  • Shiny new object syndrome
  • Culture of no
  • Insufficient focus on users and business requirements
  • Defense with inadequate depth
  • Organizational misalignment
  • Suboptimal branch architecture
  • Security blind spots
  • Uncoordinated policy management
  • Noncompetitive vendor selections
  • Hazardous network segmentation
  • Inadequate end user education
  • Inadequate security event management

For each “worst practice”, we provide a definition and real-world examples, identify their impact, and provide specific guidance to avoid them. Here’s an example (a snippet from the research), which is one of my personal favorites:

Shiny New Object Syndrome (AKA “best of too many breeds” and “technology of the year”)

As technologists, IT personnel are encouraged to look for technical solutions to problems. This mentality is further encouraged by vendor hype and marketecture, with many vendors claiming “this is the last tool you’ll ever need,” or “this is the year of X.” However, in many instances, new technology products or services are not the ideal solution.

Instead, changes to policy/process, leveraging an existing technology and/or simply waiting will achieve a similar impact. In many instances, avoiding acquiring new products can simplify the technical environment and reduce operating expenditure/capital expenditure (OpEX/CapEX).

Action: Gartner recommends that CISOs foster an organizational culture that addresses the following questions before introducing any new technology:

  • Can the root issue be addressed via a policy or process change?
  • If we wait a year, will this become a commoditized capability from established providers (or my existing providers)?
  • Do we have existing network, security, or management capabilities that can address the bulk (i.e., 85%) of the technological requirements?
  • Do we have the right process and staff expertise to properly leverage the new technology?

You can check out the full research here:

Avoid These “Dirty Dozen” Network Security Worst Practices

http://www.gartner.com/document/2958617

Summary: This research identifies 12 commonly observed network security practices that reduce network availability, increase expenditure or risks, and alienate end users. CISOs should avoid these practices, and they can do so without sacrificing security posture or breaking the bank.

Thanks to Andrew for the post !

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Happy New Year !

Times Square2015 has arrived !

By all accounts it’s looking like a year with much promise ! The economy is doing better, employment is up and in a few weeks we can start to think about baseball and our beloved New York Teams !

This is the year you need to continue to build your strategies for the future

Areas that we see getting a lot of attention are :

Security- are you protected ?

Cloud strategies- will it really reduce my cost ?

Managed Service- Op X vs Cap X

Trade Shows- Is it time to budget for a few

At Web Associates LLC we decided this is the year of Quality not Quantity ! We are putting more focus on less programs..

No matter what your game plan it looks like a good year to move the yardsticks forward !

Have a Happy and Healthy 2015 !

 

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BYOD : Do’s and Don’ts a year later !

iPhoneBYOD: Dos and Don’ts

Executive Summary

Consumerization of enterprise IT promises to lower costs, increase agility and produce other benefits. Increasingly, consumer technology sets the agenda for the workplace. This trend is driving employees to demand Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Choose Your Own Device (CYOD), Corporate Liable Employee Owned, (CLEO), and Corporate Owned Personally-Enabled or COPE programs.

Corporate Liable, BYOD, CYOD, CLEO, COPE Defined

Corporate Liable with this approach, the employer is responsible, or liable, for the expenses on the bills. While this paper focuses on BYOD and other approaches some employers are seeking to maintain the integrity of corporate liable strong programs. Upgrading an existing system would include call tagging so employees can identify their personal and corporate calls and contacts. This information can be used for employee payroll deductions and reimbursement. Call tagging is critical for Value Add Taxes (VAT). It is necessary for firms to show demonstrable auditing that personal use is not permitted and private calls must be accurately demonstrated so that they can be deducted from VAT reclaim. Another option is using a dual SIM device – one for personal and one for corporate, on the same device. A dual persona configuration can distinguish between corporate and personal use.

In the context of telecommunications, BYOD is any device (smartphone, cell phone, tablet, notebook or PC) or application (mobile app or cloud based application) that accesses corporate networks through the use of telecommunications services. The corporate network includes corporate internets, corporate intranets and carrier services purchased by the corporation, local networks, guest networks or core networks with SIP or VoIP services that are controlled by enterprise, ISDN or next generation MPLS services.

Choose Your Own Device or CYOD is similar to BYOD, but it implies that employees can only use devices and applications from a list that their employer has approved.

Corporate Liable Employee Owned or CLEO is an IT business strategy where employees own devices, which are paid for by the employer. Ultimately, the employer is responsible or liable to pay the contract for monthly services.

Corporate Owned Personally-Enabled or COPE is the opposite of BYOD. Instead of making corporate functions work on personal devices, COPE enables personal use of company devices for personal activities including social sites, e-mail, calls, etc. Employers provide employees with devices and applications and the company maintains ownership. It is able to leverage volume discounts for purchase of the devices, services and management. The employer also has more control to secure devices.

Of the four alternatives to corporate liable, BYOD is the most widespread and impossible to ignore. TEMIA members report that 48% of their clients have adopted it and another 20% are evaluating it. BYOD also presents a contradiction. It would appear to release employers from expenses providing and managing devices and applications, but it doesn’t. TEMIA members have found that for clients that implement a BYOD strategy, 69% report that costs are either rising or about the same.

Key Challenges

  • Internal politics create an environment where it is difficult to properly address BYOD challenges.
  • Most organizations will have more mobile devices that access their corporate network than PCs.
  • BYOD programs present new challenges for security, employee privacy, legal considerations and lost productivity as employees deal with technical problems and runaway expenses.

Recommendations

  • Control is still necessary, but an “all or nothing approach” is not possible.
  • Employers must update their mobile policy to specify: who is eligible, what devices and applications are permitted to access the network, when, where and what data employees can access with BYOD.
  • TEM, WEM and MDM programs can help manage BYOD programs by automating efforts to determine eligibility, program enrollment, tracking devices, applications that employees want to use and sign-off to abide by BYOD policies.
  • With constantly changing consumer technology, managing BYOD isn’t a one-time job. Companies need a combination of technology and resources to identify when employees fail to comply with BYOD rules.

This paper provides insights into the challenges of BYOD for telecommunications devices and applications with a prescription of dos and don’ts. Readers will gain knowledge of the specific recommendations for managing expenses, security, privacy, employee productivity, technical issues and more.

Don’t Ignore BYOD

Employee demand for BYOD is identified by 45% of respondents as one of the primary reasons for implementing it. The other key drivers reported in TEMIA’s survey include desire to reduce costs, with 43% of enterprises seeking to reduce hardware and service costs and 13% of enterprises seeking to reduce mobile support and staff hours. With employees demands, ignoring BYOD is not an option.

Employees may simply bypass official corporate policy and use “shadow” technology that has not been approved. Managers cannot ignore threats from security risks, theft of intellectual property and runaway expenses from BYOD. Everyone is an expert at thwarting corporate policy. So managers need to learn the ways which employees at different locations or divisions are circumventing corporate policy to use personal devices and applications at work.

In addition, employers are ultimately responsible for protecting intellectual property. The United States, Australia, Britain, France, Germany, Ireland and Spain either have or are developing stiffer enforcement and penalties for breaches resulting in exposure of personal information. Spain can impose fines up to €600,000. France’s cap on fines is €150,000 for a first offense, plus five years in prison. German data fines can reach €250,000 and in the United Kingdom, fines are unlimited. Japan imposes fines of 300,000 yen and up to six months in prison. Google and Facebook face fines up to $1.1 million and other sanctions for privacy lapses under Australian privacy laws.

BYOD programs raise new concerns for CEOs and CFOs of public companies that need to attest to the adequacy of their U.S. Sarbanes Oxley internal controls. Financial and medical records also have special safety protections. BYOD programs also raise issues for firms with employees that may have health care records on their devices. The Department of Health and Human Services is conducting audits for compliance to HIPAA and HITECH. Massachusetts General Hospital settled a patient-privacy complaint for $1 million after an employee left patient records on a subway car.

Violating data privacy law imposes costs beyond financial penalties. Firms face damage to their reputation and loss of business for data breaches.

Do Consider Legal Matters for BYOD

Legal Matters

Blurring of personal and private information on employee owned devices and applications raise new legal matters.

  • What happens if the IT staff needs to get corporate data from an employee’s personal device and they discover intellectual property employees should not have?
  • What if there is evidence of a crime or inappropriate photographs?
  • Does the IT team have permission to conduct e-discovery on personal data?
  • Are findings admissible in court? Is this a violation of employee’s privacy rights?

Is the company responsible if a terminated employee’s personal data is deleted when their device is remotely wiped?

Getting legal counsel involved in the planning stages of BYOD policy updates and throughout the roll-out address legal issues. The right approach balances risk and convenience with corporate culture and willingness of executives to support it. Mobile policy must define what employers are allowed and not allowed to do, and what happens if employee owned devices have inappropriate material.

BYOD policy should also clearly identify who is eligible, what devices and applications are permitted to access the network, where and when they can access it and what data employees can access. Managing BYOD programs requires technology and people to identify when employees fail to follow the rules and the consequences. This can range from ending employees’ BYOD eligibility to termination.

Don’t Think in Absolutes

BYOD does not have to be an all or nothing proposition in which all or no employees are eligible. TEMIA members report that for clients that implement a BYOD strategy, 88% have adopted a hybrid approach with some employees that continue to have a corporate liable program and some that are eligible to use their own device under an individual liable, CYOD or CLEO program. Only 12% of enterprises are transitioning all employees to a BYOD or CYOD program. There are three primary reasons for these hybrid programs. First, corporate ownership with a common platform and standardized applications provides better control for employers that need to protect critical intellectual property or sensitive customer material on employees’ devices or applications. Second, corporate ownership may also avoid the perceived blurring of personal and private data ownership with these employees. Finally, employers are also adopting hybrid programs because they want to offer flexibility to those employees who have not been eligible for corporate paid devices and are not likely to have sensitive material on their devices that may benefit from BYOD programs. At the same time, these employers are recognizing that BYOD, CYOD and COPE, CLEO programs may lead to higher costs.

Don’t Expect to Save Money

Justification for BYOD programs usually start with cost savings from shifting costs to employees for devices, carrier service charges, applications, management of security and help desk functions. These savings are proving to be elusive. TEMIA members find many enterprise clients are actually spending more after implementing BYOD programs.

First, in most organizations, only a select group of employees is eligible for corporate liable or employer paid services and devices. These are typically executives, field service personnel, sales people and other road warriors that need mobile devices to do their jobs. With BYOD, people who previously were not eligible to have a corporate paid device are receiving reimbursements or stipends for their expenses.

A second development is the shift of charges back to employers on expense reports. Since the monthly charge is small, no one questions when employees slip it into an expense report. Mobile expenses in BYOD programs do not have the oversight of a TEM or WEM program. Corporate managers that sign off on expense reports lack the tools, expertise and time that are needed to effectively scrutinize mobile expenses.

For enterprises that implement a BYOD strategy, TEMIA members report that only 5% of firms do not reimburse employees for their monthly service fee expense. The majority, 95% either provide a fixed stipend (63%) or allow employees to be reimbursed through an expense report (32%).

A third reason for rising costs with BYOD programs is an increase in the charge per employee. Many employees are selecting more expensive plans with unlimited or bigger allotments of voice and data services to avoid overage charges. These plans are more costly compared to corporate pooled plans and plans with smaller allotments, which are more appropriate for employees’ business needs. Employers are also likely to incur higher expenses when employees travel internationally because they may not proactively obtain the best service plans or they don’t have the knowledge to do it ahead of time.

Do Budget for Additional Complexity and Security Costs

Additional complexity from more devices, operating systems and security risks present new challenges that managers at all organizations need to plan for in their budgets. Malware and viruses on smartphones are increasing. Spyware can steal personal information and send it to third parties, malware dials premium 900 numbers and viruses plague devices. Costs to provide security and help desk support are higher than expected as more employees use a wider range of devices and applications. Trying to solve BYOD problems with endpoint protection software, policy enforcement, data leak prevention software and runaway expenses may work for most corporate IT, but it doesn’t work with telecommunications. BYOD programs for telecommunications present thousands of variations of smartphone operating systems and applications.

Do Consider What Capabilities You Need

Common misconceptions for BYOD mistakenly promote the belief that enterprises are free from managing expenses, security and policy enforcement. When employees use devices and applications for work, it is natural for them to charge the costs back to employers on expense reports. In addition, there are security risks when employees connect their own devices and applications to corporate data and access it anywhere.

Employers can try to mitigate security risk by limiting what employees may access and providing dedicated servers for BYOD e-mail. They may also try to limit the BYOD program to employees who are unlikely to access intellectual property or sensitive customer data. Ultimately, the old approach of creating a wall around corporate data is dead. Employers can also expect loss of employee productivity when employees’ BYOD devices or applications are exposed to security threats and they have technical problems.

The BYOD phenomenon creates problems which require consideration of new capabilities, which can be grouped into three main categories:

  • enrollment, program management and expense control
  • security
  • policy enforcement

Enrollment, Program Management and Expense Control

TEM, WEM and MDM programs can help manage the transition to a BYOD program and on-boarding of new employees. Deployment of new devices isn’t a one-time job. A web portal can automate the process for tracking employee eligibility, program enrollment, applications, devices, and sign-off that they will abide by BYOD policies.

Employers gain better visibility for all telecom expenses with stipend reporting when TEM WEM and MDM programs are integrated with BYOD programs. Interfaces with accounting systems can gather information from employees’ expenses to identify what is allowed and what cannot be expensed.

Employers may also wish to consider a system that alerts employees and telecom managers when consumption of a data or voice plan is close to its monthly allotment or other capabilities to manage international roaming charges. Finally, look for reporting that can identify when new devices are provisioned, apps which are out of compliance and devices that have not checked in after an extended period of time.

Smartphones and tablets like PCs, and data that resides on those devices, must be protected. There are a several areas of vulnerability. One is the physical loss of equipment, when an employee leaves it somewhere or it is stolen. The second security risk includes spyware, malware and viruses. This can result in a network of devices programmed for malicious activity such as stealing data (customer credit cards, patient records etc.) or crashing a corporate network.

Every device manufacturer supports encryption, but the levels differ. Some MDM providers have the ability to encrypt specific files, folders or company data. Also, providers can now place corporate data and applications in a secure environment or sandbox. Partitioning allows employees to separate work and personal items.

Some MDM providers are offering browser security. Mobile web browsing can be filtered to lower the risk of attack on a device. Web filtering tools can block access to potentially dangerous or non-work-related websites. Intrusion-prevention software tools can block network access for noncompliant devices. In addition, some security now helps screen devices for malicious apps.

Applications

Some apps every employee should have. Others must be banned. Application filtering with white lists and blacklists can control this process based on the device and operating system. Enterprises may want an application store for in-house custom apps and preferred apps, In addition, Apple’s and Google’s approval processes might take too long or there may be reasons to avoid releasing an app in a public app store that competitors can view. MDM support for installing custom apps and setting up a company app store experience will be important as well.

Policy Enforcement

Before managers update their mobile policies, it is necessary to learn the ways which employees at different locations or divisions are circumventing the program. An enforceable policy can help secure corporate data on personal devices. This may require a policy to lock devices after several failed attempts at a password and a “kill switch” that can remotely wipe the data if a device is lost. Some MDM providers are introducing data monitoring capabilities that provide reporting on what data is moving to and from the device.

Location capabilities with “Geofencing,” can detect when devices leave certain geographic areas and take action to secure them (such as locking or remotely wiping data on the device). In some cases, a camera can be locked when employees are in the office or other locations and released for personal use when they are home. Unfortunately, privacy laws add complexity for firms in some countries that prohibit location tracking and use of these features.

Next Steps

  • Decide how many forms of BYOD that you will support
  • Determine the device scope: Will the BYOD program support tablets, smartphones, PCs, applications or a combination of these items?
  • Will the BYOD program apply to a secondary device, or is it for users’ primary devices as well?
  • Consider the benefits of supporting a mix of enterprise-liable, bring-your-own and hybrid models.
  • Determine when, how, and how much you will subsidize business use of personal devices.
  • Working with HR, your legal department and your corporate risk organization, understand how tax, privacy, legal liability and labor relations impact the program.
  • Determine who qualifies for a usage subsidy and how it will be paid (allowance, stipend, voucher or reimbursement program).

Conclusion

Where does your company stand on BYOD today? If you do not define a BYOD policy, employees will bring their personal devices and applications to work. A SANS Institute IT Survey identified that 91% of respondents were not fully aware of mobile devices on their network. Tools are necessary to ensure that employees do not bypass official corporate policy and use “shadow” technology that has not been approved.

Mobile devices and PCs are often considered together for BYOD considerations, but the challenges and how they are used are quite different. PCs can function as stand-alone devices that are not networked, while mobile devices are part of a dynamic, real-time collaborative ecosystem. Nearly all of their value comes from connectivity.

The lifecycle for smartphones and tablets is a relatively short period of 12 to 18 months. With the flood of new consumer devices coming to market and short lifecycle, implementing BYOD is not a one-time job. Each new product needs to be tested to determine its security risks. Managers must define their security controls, management controls and provisioning and de-provisioning or retirement process.

It is easy to get distracted in reviewing new offerings, or other functionality that might be cool and interesting. Keep these in mind, but begin with your specific users because new features and offerings may solve completely different needs and goals for other users. Determine what problems or needs you need to solve. Invest in a sustainable user-centric approach.

Balance strategic and experience objectives. Also, consider the potential economic impact (both positive and negative) in adopting a BYOD policy. Consider the use case and how employees will use different devices, data and apps. As TEMIA’s survey found, most organizations are using a hybrid model for individual libel and corporate liable rather than an all or nothing approach.

Managers should also be sure to factor all the costs to support multiple platforms. Placing limits the number of devices and applications that employees can use will help limit the security risks and costs of the program. This is where a CYOD program that limits the number of approved devices and platforms may be more realistic compared to a free ranging BYOD program that allows employees to bring any device. The key is to find a balance between employee demands for choice, freedom and privacy with corporate concerns for control. Too much control will lead employees to circumvent the system and limit its effectiveness.

A smart BYOD program will find the right balance while addressing security, concerns for theft of intellectual property and runaway expenses. These risks may be lower for employees who are less likely to have valuable information on their device. The incremental costs of BYOD for these employees may be lower than it would for executives and other employees who require higher levels of security. This sort of calculation is the basis for determining which employees should be eligible to participate in a BYOD program. These considerations can also help determine standards for which personal devices and applications they can use.

Once these decisions are made, create a policy and determine the capabilities that are needed to manage the program. BYOD policies should not be overly restrictive. They must align with corporate culture. To address the challenges, include education, mobile policy, and technology that is backed by subject matter experts. In addition to understanding how it will work, employees need to recognize the consequences if they fail to comply with policies. They should also know that tools are in place to help enforce mobile policy and monitor compliance.

TEM, WEM and MDM programs can help manage BYOD programs by automating efforts to determine eligibility, program enrollment, tracking devices and applications employees want to use, and sign-off to abide by BYOD policies.

Financial executives need to see beyond the hype and recognize the true costs of supporting BYOD, managing compliance, security risks device and monthly service plan reimbursements and rogue expensing of charges. All of this may make a BYOD program more expensive. After BYOD is debunked as a cost saving initiative, managers may find that there are still compelling reasons to move forward with the program for some employees. Some organizations may want to give their employees more freedom and others may see increased worker productivity.

One of the biggest surprises is that organizations need to budget for BYOD programs. As these programs evolve, organizations are beginning to realize that they need to plan for the extra effort that BYOD, CYOD, and CLEO programs require.

Thanks to MDSL for the post !

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Is Cloud migration really best for your business ?

Photostogo-509807Is Cloud migration really best for your business?

Investment in cloud technology is expected to grow by more than 300% over the next three years as the amount of money dedicated to cloud spending in IT budgets increases. Cloud adoption is heavily discussed and researched, and that’s because the options are so varied and the consequences of choices have such a great impact on businesses.

Gartner recently identified from a survey that buyers of cloud applications are focusing on cost, innovation and agility as reasons for adoption, with 40% saying that overall cost reduction is the main driver. These stats were definitely reflected in a recent event hosted by AOTMP (click here to watch the webinar).

They discussed the enterprise drivers for implementing cloud services and the security and privacy concerns it presents.  “Should security be a concern for new installations?” and of course the answer is yes ! If you’re recording conversations in the cloud, the security of that data is sensitive. In our experience when deploying unified communications (UC), integrating real-time communication services in organizations, availability is often seen as an equally important concern. Security in the context of mobility is business critical for the organizations we work with and the loss of any data would be damaging.

Gartner’s research revealed a notable disparity between the thinking of senior IT leaders and non-IT business leaders. Those in IT roles were looking for a ‘modern, innovative IT environment with operational agility with business objectives as key outcomes’ from the cloud. Non-IT personnel on the other hand see cloud migration as a cost saving exercise.

VoIP and UC applications are becoming tied to the cloud and the telecom environment is becoming heavily IP based. This shift infers a responsibility to IT and telecom managers, who are still identified as the group responsible for owning cloud management in organizations. They need to focus on management and skills development to design a strategy capable of deploying a cloud solution effectively. It’s where the non-IT leaders need to gain a better understanding of UC and cloud technology, beyond the obvious cost savings.

Cost savings are usually significant when the correct solution is implemented globally. Most teams often leverage a hybrid solution, a mix of integration and migration, utilizing a private and cloud based approach. This avoids a rushed migration to a full cloud support and the potential complications it entails.

Deployment times are a serious influencer when it comes to deciding on the best solution. For smaller companies they can often jump straight into a UC hosted environment in the cloud as they have an enormous amount of flexibility and they benefit from the wide range of services and devices which such a migration offers. Our work with large multinationals has given us a first hand insight into how best to support organizations during this transition period from private networks to cloud services, understanding the business critical nature of the solutions we deliver.

Benefits beyond cost savings that  clients have experienced include tech advances they hadn’t anticipated such as; improved collaboration, better customer services, audio/ video conferencing made easier and a reduction in the amount of support and maintenance effort required from internal staff.

Another interesting discussion during the AOTMP webinar was around the next evolution of UC.  The Internet of Things and wearable devices are already expanding the world of UC.

Organizations are also looking for further benefits from the cloud, such as increased capability for employees working from locations away from the office or at home. They’re looking to expand existing capabilities and it’s all about enabling flexibility whilst maintaining security.

What are you doing with the Cloud ?

Thanks to Ben Mendossa and AOTMP for the post !

 

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Mobile Productivity !

Mobile Productivity: The Double-Edged Sword

You would be hard-pressed in today’s hyper-connected world to find an employee without a smartphone or tablet of some type, whether that be an Apple device, BlackBerry, Samsung, or another of the brands constantly fighting it out for top spot in the market.

 

Most users of smartphones carry them wherever they go and use them as a “third hand”, “Googling” information whenever needed and using apps almost as second nature throughout the day. This constant stream of data usage has led to the rise of new technologies such as BYOD and EMM, and companies having to tailor their working environments and processes to cater for the related security risks and legalities which have followed, but how does mobile and smartphone usage actually impact on employee productivity?

 

In a recent report conducted by BlackBerry in Canada, nearly 50% of BlackBerry users stated that, by using mobile technology, their availability to others was improved. 56% also identified that one of their biggest productivity priorities was managing daily communications via their device, especially with co-workers. However, security was also referenced as a big concern: 67% classed this as a priority, especially when using their device for work. The conclusion is that mobile users are more aware than ever of the benefit of using mobile devices for work, which leads to enhanced productivity, but it can be a double-edged sword at times!

 

Freedom & Connectivity

 

Since the early 1990s and the spread of the World Wide Web, users have been able to connect via electronic means: email, messenger services, social networks and VoIP calling are all commonplace these days and adding mobile usage just enhances the mix – especially with the rise of apps for popular services such as Skype, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Office Mobile, Mail, Cloud and many more.

 

Enhanced means of connecting with others gives rise to more freedom for staff across different areas. As an example, those whose jobs are on the road now have a wider range of services to connect with staff back at the office, especially via services such as Cloud sharing, where they can fill in paperwork electronically and upload it for others to see on a shared folder without having to email or call in while travelling. Those who would traditionally be “desk-bound” and unable to work from other locations can now expand their hours and work from areas such as home, giving more freedom for flexible working hours and working parents during times when childcare is unavailable, in turn enhancing productivity to employers who otherwise may have had to reschedule deadlines.

 

Recruitment agencies can now use a wider spread of avenues to search for and research potential employees, from a wider range of locations. These are just 3 examples of how the spread of connectivity has impacted how people work, but there are many more.

 

Focus & Creativity

 

Working on a project in the day and thinking about it after the working day is over is common for many people, and with the use of shared folders and Cloud access, many can now continue to add their ideas and thoughts after hours. Clock-off time in many cases now merely means the drive from work to home, but not a total stop in the work process, and many continue to use their mobile devices for work purposes into the evening, adding and enhancing to documents and projects created earlier in the day.

 

This streamlined focus allows users to work from home and feel less frustrated when deadlines become tight, as they know that, if needed, they have more time in which to get the work done, from different locations.

 

Security & Balance – The Double-Edged Sword

 

With the rise in productivity, work performed out of hours and flexible working hours, there are bound to be downfalls – employers and employees both benefit from continued improvements in technology but there is always a cost. Security is a big concern and it is important that employers take appropriate precautions to ensure that those connecting to company drives and documents on smart devices are not able to introduce viruses to the system, or accidentally put data at risk through device loss or theft. Sharing will also always be a concern for IT departments, leading to enhanced password and encryption systems, especially with the rise of public WiFi usage in areas such as hotels and restaurants. Business data and emails are often accessed by users on holiday or on business trips and security issues must be addressed by companies to ensure that sensitive data is not hacked or leaked. Employers may find they have to pay more for security, including increased IT work forces, enhanced safety precautions and larger data storage facilities, to ensure nothing is written over or deleted to make space.

 

From a personal perspective, it is also important that those using smart devices for work purposes retain an appropriate work-life balance – many struggle to “turn off” once they have left work, and this can lead to increased stresses and strains outside of the office. Recent BYOD legislation in the US and Europe has been formed to counter this, with large organisations including BMW and Volkswagen taking steps to limit the amount of out of hours communications unless necessary.

 

Finally, it is important not to overlook the cost element. Rising use of mobile devices to access corporate data on the move inevitably leads to an increase in the amount of data travelling over mobile networks, particularly with the growing use of video in the corporate workspace. It is essential companies monitor their telecom usage through effective use of tools such Telecom Expense Management (TEM), to ensure they and their employees are on the correct rate plans – particularly if roaming overseas – and the benefits of improved productivity are not promptly outweighed by an equivalent (if not greater) increase in telecom spend.

 

To conclude, the rise of BYOD for the workplace has many advantages for both employers and employees, but precautions must be taken to keep in line with not only current legislation but also security risks and staff needs.

Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !

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Fixed Mobile Convergence and Network 2020 !

Fixed Mobile Convergence and Network 2020 – The Next Steps in Telecommunications?

As technologies adapt, so must their providers and users.

For a number of years communications options have been somewhat fragmented, with options for web-based video calls, mobile calls and traditional wired landline calls co-existing. While this provides choice and is important to avoid the complete absence of the ability to communicate if one system fails, there is a move amongst mobile providers to unite forms of communication on mobile phones and tablets to increase efficiency and reliability.

Encouraged by the GSMA, the concept of all IP mobile communications is addressed in their Network 2020 initiative. Started in 2010 with the ambition of encouraging and assisting mobile providers to adapt to a world increasingly reliant upon improving internet provision, Network 2020 marks a major change in telecommunications.

Underpinning Network 2020 is the fact that mobile providers need to change in order to remain competitive – consumers require reliability, and many of the legacy systems used by providers are outdated and require improvement. As time progresses, internet-based systems will allow what is referred to as a ‘mesh’ based system. This will provide the best in reliability as connections can be re-routed quickly and efficiently around any problematic network areas, increasing communication speed and quality. As bandwidth provision increases to meet demand, the quality of video conferencing will also improve, making such options more popular with organisations of all sizes.

Traditionally, internet communication has centred on Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) methods but, as connectivity improves with the introduction of faster broadband in the form of 4G (and because mobile communications such as SMS and voice calls need to remain a source of revenue for providers) attention is now focused on options including Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE).

This will allow calls to occur via any of the given options – and provide the capability to switch between these options depending on availability and cost, enabling seamless, cost-effective services. Called Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC), the technology is to some extent in use already, although its definition appears to vary between providers and the infrastructure and handset technology modifications required to allow it to function most effectively will take time and investment. The ability to provide users with the service they need, when they need it, is the holy grail of telecommunications and it appears that – if providers work together (and that’s a large “if”) – this will become a distinct possibility.

As with any method of mobile communication, the move to FMC with IP, LTE and WiFi services will have implications for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) – in particular, for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE) plans. It can be a challenge to track business voice and video calls in order to ensure employee obligations are being met and the amounts paid for phone services are accurate, especially for organisations operating on an international level. As with any area of business, it’s important the best value for money service is sought in telecommunications expenses – another reason why TEM can prove invaluable.

As it stands, integrating the new communications infrastructure as outlined in Network 2020 could fully enable FMC and prove to be a great boon to business, with reliable, high quality communications available on the move. Although it may seem as though telecoms are increasingly costly, it is likely that improvements to services will see a significant increase in value for money, as users get more from their spend.

Thanks to Anne Britton for the post !

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BYOD and Security !

BYOD and Security

There is no doubt that enterprise mobility is reshaping the way in which we work. The recent announcement of iOS 8 and its enterprise functionality is a clear sign that the market for business mobile devices and accompanying applications is set to increase. But as mobile devices are increasingly linked to corporate networks, many experts have raised concerns about the security of information shared.

This may be in part due to a reluctance to invest in security software or a lack of understanding about the risks involved. The lack of publicity concerning corporate security breaches could be attributed to attempts to hide any information which could prove damaging to reputation or may just be because many companies have been lucky – so far. One thing on which all analysts seem to agree is that security for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) schemes is now absolutely essential, making expert advice vital to those embarking on an enterprise mobility scheme – and for those who already have one. Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) can help to provide peace of mind to organisations of all sizes, especially those which have numerous employees who are mobility enabled using their own devices.

Despite the importance of mobile working, many companies do not offer official guidance for BYOD and many have no mobility strategy at all. Recent research by Ovum and Dimension Data suggests that only 55% of businesses are at some stage of their mobility roadmap, in part due to confusion concerning security issues, although 79% of IT departments view mobility as a top priority. Despite the lack of policies, many companies already rely on employees to access work communications and information safely of their own accord, not taking into account that sensitive information is at greater risk when accessed on devices with little or no security software.

One of the major flaws with BYOD at the moment is the use of Wi-Fi in public areas. Many hotels, restaurants and other locations offer customers Wi-Fi, but not all users check how secure they actually are. Employees on holidays or business trips often use Wi-Fi to access business data and emails, potentially making sensitive information accessible to hackers. The use of cloud technology has also come under scrutiny recently. Considered the future of BYOD by many, providers need to address security issues in order to gain the trust of organizations who wish to use the facility – and in order to reassure those who already do. Industry experts are already suggesting businesses utilize mobile virtualization or secure containers in order to give employers greater control over security (by separating business from personal use on devices).

As BYOD becomes more fundamental, strategies concerning how best to manage security will develop. For the foreseeable future, companies considering any kind of mobile enterprise programmer’s  should make sure that they explore the guidance issued by the UK government and consult with experts in the management of EMM provision.

What’s your companies’ strategy ?

Thanks to Stuart Haining for the post!

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New legislation in Europe and the US could influence BYOD strategy

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BYOD schemes are now widely used by businesses of all sizes but the increase in the use of mobile devices for enterprise is now the subject of scrutiny, for a variety of reasons. The fact that our technological capability is increasing rapidly is positive, but it also means that legislation concerning its use is rapidly rendered obsolete.

One area in which there has been a legal lag has been the business use of mobile devices; however, in recent months it appears this is starting to be addressed. As growing numbers of employees are now expected to use their own mobiles for work as part of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, a number of concerns have come to the fore. One of the matters currently being explored in Europe – particularly in Germany – is that employees are not able to relax outside work hours, due to the fact they are still available to receive work-related emails and calls. With speculation that this could lead to stress, burn-out and an increase in mental illness among the population, it’s little wonder that large organisations including Volkswagen, BMW and Deutsche Telekom have already taken steps to reduce the burden by banning out-of-hours communications unless strictly essential.

Last year, the German employment ministry banned managers from contacting staff outside hours unless absolutely necessary and has stated that managers must keep the number of staff contacted in such a way to an absolute minimum. The German labour minister at the time, Ursula von der Leyen, called upon employers of all sizes to ensure that policies concerning out-of-hours contact are completely clear. Meanwhile, France introduced rules earlier this year allowing employees to ignore work emails and calls after hours in both the digital and consultancy industries. None of which bodes well for the future of BYOD.

With other countries likely to follow suit, the trend in reducing out-of-hours contact is a concern for some small to medium sized businesses, which frequently rely upon the extra-curricular communication for their continued success.

Across the pond, there is yet more news with direct implications for BYOD: the State of California has ruled that, from September 11, employers must pay staff stipends towards their mobile costs if they require devices to be used for business. This will apply regardless of whether an employee has a personal mobile package with free calls and/or reduced data charges. Understandably, this news has upset employers, who had not previously budgeted for such costs and who are now left trying to work out just how much constitutes “reasonable reimbursement” for employees. They also need to take into account that their policies must be transparent, so that they can be understood by all members of staff.

Detailed evaluation of the California ruling, and its potential impact upon BYOD in organisations of various sizes, has been undertaken by industry experts such as Ralph Rodriguez at Blue Hill Research and Hyoun Park at Datahive Consulting. A report published by Blue Hill expressed concerns not only for businesses facing new charges, but also for providers of Mobile Device Management (MDM).

Despite the concerns raised about the ruling, the Telecom Expense Management Industry Association (TEMIA) and other analysts have been keen to point out that the ruling does not mean the end is nigh for BYOD – just that businesses will henceforth have to implement appropriate policies to ensure correct use of the strategy. For this reason, the services of TEM and MDM vendors may become more vital than ever before in providing details of employee device use and in offering advice concerning appropriate compensation. One probability is fairly certain: rules governing BYOD will spread to different US states, and may are more than likely to be introduced in other countries.

BYOD can allow both employees and employers increased freedom and can improve efficiency and speed of urgent communication. However, it’s important for any organisation seeking to benefit from such plans to keep up to date with changing legislation in their country, to ensure that mobile technology is used for mutual benefit and under agreed terms.

Thanks to Stuart Haining for the post !

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Times Are Changing – And So Are Trends in App Development

Since smartphones and other mobile devices have become almost ubiquitous, finding ways to gain screen time and space from those connected on the move has become essential.

In the early days of app creation, creative, useful or fun ideas that caught on could be produced by just about anyone with technical knowledge. Although this is still true in some cases (think Nguyễn Hà Đông and his game ‘Flappy Bird’) it is increasingly the case that large companies with higher budgets are behind the apps which become the most popular on app stores, often due to their large investment in advertising. Of the approximately three million developers worldwide, more than half earn less than $500 (US) per month for each app. The fact that copycat apps are so readily made and placed on stores also does nothing to help download numbers, meaning that the good times are receding for small developers. In fact, increased competition means that all app developers are finding themselves in a less than ideal marketplace.

So, things are looking a tad bleak in the industry – but there may yet be light at the end of the tunnel. While some larger developers have resorted to increasing purchases and downloads by splitting apps into separate components (ostensibly for the enviable goal of achieving greater  customer convenience) and even by paying to download their way to higher chart positions, areas of growth within the app industry still exist. One of these is creating apps for enterprise.

The increase in companies’ use of mobile enterprise and accompanying Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and corporate-owned, personally-enabled (COPE) schemes is fuelling a growing demand for corporate apps. Such apps, designed to enable ease of access to company systems, can only become more widespread, at least for the foreseeable future. Currently, businesses are willing to pay handsomely for bespoke apps and for the best in productivity and time management tools.

The move by IBM and Apple to enter the enterprise mobility market is also likely to spark growth within the corporate app market, with developers vying to create company apps for the IBM MobileFirst Platform. The bad news is that smaller developers, with reduced budgets and limited access to large scale promotional programmes, are likely to struggle to compete in the creation of corporate apps, just as they are starting to in the personal apps market.

In terms of cost, bespoke corporate apps require significant up-front financial investment, especially if they use cloud access for distribution and, for example, to enable data synchronisation. The creation of such apps is a time-consuming task, and changing mobile technology (from operating systems to interface capabilities) means that businesses require apps which are adaptable and which can be rapidly altered to meet new standards. There is also an increasing expectation for business apps to be ‘pretty’, or at least user-friendly – a need once consigned to the bottom of the pile but now rapidly filtering its way back to the top, in these times of consumer-driven choice.

Industry expert Gartner have noted a corresponding shift to agile app development: customers, particularly those paying a premium for bespoke apps, do not want to invest in products with severely limited lifespans – but also do not want to wait length periods for an app launch. The increased use of HTML5 for development is likely to make rapidly adaptable apps a reality across numerous platforms, providing yet another step in the provision of effective tools for mobile enterprise.

The other area in which we can expect to see rapid change is security. With the growth of enterprise-grade applications and user acceptance testing (UAT), perhaps it is not unreasonable to hope for reduced threats from virus and other malware attacks, together with greater capacity for compliance with corporate usage and implementation policies.

The face of app creation appears to be changing: no longer is it possible for a lone developer with one eureka moment to make a mint overnight. App development is now big business and, appropriately, has been commandeered as such by Big Business. This may sound like the end of a golden era but, just as day follows night, a new era is dawning – that of increased business use for mobile devices. It seems app development will still be going strong for some time.

Thanks to Stuart Haining for the Post !

 

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