Break up with PBX for the Cloud – Your Office will Thank you

PBX for the Cloud-If you own a small to medium-sized business, you might feel anxious about the prospect of changing up any of your major office technologies – and for that reason, you might still be using PBX phone systems. One of the important things to recognize about owning a business in 2015, though, is that it’s important to stay “with the times.” There’s a reason people abandon their old systems for newer ones: they’re better and more efficient. Nearly every small business can benefit from a change that takes some of the weight off the shoulders of their IT teams and make menial tasks easier for all employees, and cloud phone systems allow you to do exactly that.

The cloud cuts down on equipment.
One way that cloud phone systems can simplify your office is by clearing up some wires and reducing the amount of necessary equipment. Buying new phones can get expensive – not to mention annoying – especially if your company grows at a rapid rate. With cloud phone systems, you get the consolidation and outsourced management that would typically only be within reach for a larger-scale company. Providers will typically provide all the necessary equipment, and give you the access to add or remove phone lines at will online. They’ll also offer you a consultant that can help you troubleshoot any problems and walk you through different features. It feels luxurious compared to PBX systems, and your IT team will love that you saved them the headache.

The cloud offers endless features.
When it comes to what cloud phone systems can do, no alternative can even compare. Here are a few examples of what you get when you transfer to the cloud:

  • Mobile twinning – have your desk phone and mobile phone ring simultaneously so you’re always available, even when not at your desk. You can easily change where your number is directed to from your personal settings.
  • Retrieve voicemail from anywhere – whether it’s your desk phone, your mobile phone, an app on your computer, or even transcribed e-mails.
  • Integrated notifications – get a popup on any device you choose when you’ve got an appointment approaching, a new e-mail, a new voicemail, a conference invite, and more.
  • Call re-routing – have someone take over your phone while you’re on break.
  • Digital receptionist – quick and accurate call directing so customers never have to wait.

These are just a few of the available features; the list goes on and on. These are just a few examples that demonstrate the leaps and bounds of improvement that are in store for your company when you make the switch.

When you use the cloud, it’s no sweat.
Worried about power outages during hurricane season or not being able to get to work due to a blizzard? The cloud relieves you of all those worries because your phone lines are accessible from anywhere. Simply log on through the mobile app on a work from home day, or make a few calls on the café’s WiFi when the power goes out. Even if you’re in another country, you can make calls through computer apps and WiFi with no added costs. No more long distance bills, no more stress about vacations, and no more missed revenue due to big storms.

Emily Swartz – As the Social Community Manager at Broadview Networks, I enjoy sharing valuable content across all our social platforms. I particularly love writing for our blog because it gives me the opportunity to share tangible advice on how businesses can leverage technology to gain competitive advantages, control costs, provide superior service, and ultimately improve their bottom line. Find me on Google+.

What is the Internet of Things?

As ubiquitous as it has become, it is easy to forget just how far the Internet has come in the last twenty years. From humble modem dial-up-on-demand came broadband, then “Web 2.0” and 4G mobile Internet. The next big thing? Many believe that the networking of everyday objects and devices to allow them to receive and send data will not only be the next big thing but could prove to be the biggest development of the Internet since its inception. The term for this phenomenon of connecting devices, objects, services and systems has become known as the Internet of Things (IoT).

What Things?

At its heart, the Internet of Things refers simply to this ability to connect almost anything to the Internet. Examples of this are:

  • Cars

As driverless cars become a reality, creating a connected network of autonomous vehicles could provide huge savings from economy of scale while also reducing harm to the environment. Cars could use the Internet of Things to communicate location, speed, remaining fuel, and travel itineraries to fundamentally change our transport network.

  • Household appliances

Nearly every item in your home could communicate with the Internet. Security systems, lighting, cleaning, home management systems and heating could all work together to ensure that homes are almost totally self-managing. And yes, your fridge will order your shopping for you.

  • City infrastructure

With all homes broadcasting information about utility usage, traffic management systems and cars sending data about congestion, and industry sending data about power usage and waste output a city will become more like a living organism than ever before. Huge cost savings are already being made with early water management prototypes.

  • Personal electronic devices

You’re used to your phone being on the Internet, but when your running shoes know how far and where you run a whole new level of “life management” is possible. Nutrition and fitness management, personal finance management, the safety of your family, and our social lives are all things that could benefit from the Internet of Things.

  • Industrial machinery

Huge and complex networks of machines that send and receive data from other systems in the process are examples of how industry might use the Internet of Things. Manufacturing systems that automatically communicate with transport and point of sale equipment could produce huge efficiency savings.

The Problem with IPv4

As early as the late 1980’s, it was clear that one of the limiting factors of the Internet was going to be the finite number of unique IP addresses available from the global organisation that managed the distribution process, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. The adopted protocol came to be known as IPv4 (or version 4 of the Internet Protocol). To be connected to the Internet, a device needed one of these IPv4 addresses to be able to send and receive data. Due to a massive increase in the number of devices connecting to the Internet however, by 2011 the remaining IPv4 addresses were being registered. Without a larger pool of addresses, it was not possible to keep putting devices onto the Internet.

A new system of unique addresses was needed and as early as 1994 work was being done to create a new system that would pick up where IPv4 left off and allow a near limitless number of devices to access the Internet all at one time. This new system is called IPv6 and is now being used by more and more devices to connect to the Internet.

Because of the staggering number of unique IPv6 addresses there is now no restriction on how many everyday devices and objects can have a direct connection to the Internet. By combing these direct Internet connections with tiny on-board smart sensors, this vast network of devices and objects can not only communicate with each other locally but collect and send vast amounts of data from the environment around them, which can then be analysed in near real-time. While the possibilities and opportunities this creates are almost enough to make your head swim, the risks this new global network will bring are unpredictable and almost incalculable.

A Rudderless Ship?

One of the primary issues with the Internet of Things is that it is currently seen by many industry insiders as a “rudderless ship”. No one system has been agreed on with regards to security, interoperability, sensor management, power management, or data control. These are all key areas for concern. There were 1.5 million monitored cyber-attacks in the United States in 2013. If the number of devices on the Internet was to increase exponentially, and security was not at the forefront of development, then the results could be catastrophic.

When asked how he thought security might play out with the Internet of Things by Tech Republic, digital forensic scientist Jacob Williams of CSR Group said “Security has to be engineered early in the development of Internet-connected devices. We’ve seen too many times that “bolt-on” security after the fact doesn’t work.”

The potential benefits for all of us when it comes to the Internet of Things are huge, as are the risks. When it comes to the nightmare scenarios of security breaches of vital city infrastructure, we can only hope that proper security is built into the system from the ground up.

Gemma Maroney is Marketing Manager at VoIP and Unified Communications Company Solution IP. She has written about many new and exciting developments in the business communications world. You can connect with Solution IP on Twitter or Facebook.

The SME’s Guide to Moving to the Cloud – An Infographic

The SME’s Guide to Moving to the Cloud – An Infographic
The SME’s Guide to Moving to the Cloud - An Infographic

Security Issues With Cloud Computing

One of the latest improvements in information technology is cloud computing. It has become an excellent way of delivering computing services. It is a very convenient service especially with its pay per use concept. Up to this far the benefits of online data backup services are far more than the disadvantages. However, the greatest threat to cloud computing is security. The service provider needs to practice a very high level of security and maintain assurance.

security issues with cloud computingThe sensitivity of data is the one that determines the variety of risks that needs to be addressed before settling for cloud computing as the solution for computing needs. The various security risks involved include;

  • Data protection- allowing somebody else to handle your data is a very delicate issue. Data protection is one of the worst threats as far as this service is concerned. The person entrusted to handle the data should handle it lawfully, with data security certification and proper compliance.
  • Loosing of governance rights- a gap emerges when one looses their rights over their data. This leads someone losing their important information, and also may lead to their data being exposed to other parties.
  • Migration- after signing up with a certain vendor, it becomes very difficult to migrate to another vendor. This is because the vendors introduce a lot of complexity and huge switching costs- which is intentional so that the client can choose to remain.
  • Data availability- sometimes, the 99.9% uptime guarantee is not met due to issues like outages. This can lead to huge data loss and disruption of business processes especially if the company in question is not competent enough.
  • Failure of isolation mechanism- one of the characteristics of cloud computing is sharing of resources. When the mechanism that separates the different contents fails, one person information may get into another person’s hands thereby posing a privacy risks
  • Encryption-poor encryption during data transfer may prove fatal especially when hackers on the other end are sitting set to get their way into the firewall. This is one of the worst things for any computer user.
  • Lack of customer audits- some cloud computing service providers do not allow audits. This means there is no evidence that the vendor has complied with the relevant requirements.
  • Data loss and backup- this is a reason that make cloud migration a very difficult task. When trying to migrate some data may get lost. Remember that data was kept on the cloud because of its importance, so losing it can be very damaging.
  • Human threat- this occurs rarely but it can also be an avenue for privacy risk and data leak.

Cloud computing is being embraced more and more each day. For this reason, security has become a very major concern for computer users intending to rely in this service for their strategies and processes. Above are examples of security problems that come along with this type of data backup services. In conclusion, cloud security implies a set of rules, technologies and policies introduced to protect data, associated infrastructure for cloud computing and applications.

What is OpenMEAP

Let’s understand the term MEAP before going into further explanations on OpenMEAP. A mobile enterprise application platform (MEAP) is a wide ranging suite of products and services that enable the development of mobile applications across various platforms.

How to install OpenMEAP
OpenMEAP and Cloud Computing

The term MEAP was coined in a 2008 Gartner Magic Quadrant report, which is a series of market research reports published by Gartner Inc frequently. MEAPs address the difficulties of developing mobile software by managing the user groups, as well as the range of devices and networks at the time of deployment and throughout the mobile solution’s lifecycle. Unlike individual apps, a MEAP provides a widespread, long-term approach to deploying mobility. Cross-platform considerations are one of the main reasons for using MEAPs. Let us consider an example in which an organisation uses a MEAP to develop the mobile application and deploy it to a variety of mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebooks with no changes to the underlying business logic.

The MEAP approach is encouraged because organisations need the following mobile solutions:

  • Support for multiple mobile applications
  • Support for multiple mobile operating systems (OS)
  • Integration with multiple back-end data sources

OpenMEAP is an open source HTML5 mobile application platform, which enables clients to easily create, manage and install mobile applications that are automatically optimised for almost every device. Organisations gain considerable savings and advantages by using this flexible platform.

OpenMEAP is compatible with the Android, iOS and BlackBerry platforms. Currently, it is available only in English. It delivers productivity benefits like mobile data access while maintaining a good amount of security and Public Key Infrastructure compliance. It enables organisations of all sizes to proficiently develop, deliver and manage mobile applications while using their existing Web development platform and resources. It provides flexibility to write the application in a preferred Web development environment using HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript, and deploy it through the OpenMEAP interface.

Features

  • OpenMEAP is available with an open source licence, which allows all organisations to take an active role in ensuring the security and quality of the product by providing inputs in the development of various features.
  • It can be used to enable existing teams to create applications by using HTML 5, CSS3, and JavaScript for a device-agnostic solution or service offering. OpenMEAP mobile clients remove the need for developing mobile apps across various platforms such as iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry.
  • It does not require any new ports to be opened in the firewall. This allows the product to be implemented without creating unnecessary vulnerabilities.
  • OpenMEAP offers end-to-end security, as it supports 256 bits Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) and Secure Socket Layer (SSL). It offers full Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) agreement and also provides an option to share it with the user’s existing Certificate Authority.
  • Its architecture is designed for high availability; applications developed and designed using proper best practices can continue to function in a number of adverse situations, including network loss or power outages.
  • The OpenMEAP admin interface manages application versions, device management, deployments and security policies. Administrators can also design a security profile that is appropriate for the implementation. It allows users to build, manage, test and install mobile applications.
  • OpenMEAP supports simple object access protocol and Web services that allow access to other systems or services from the mobile application.

Originally Published in OSFY