Debunking Common Virtual Security Myths

virtual securityWhen it comes to deploying security in a virtual environment, some industry professionals draw a blank–or, worse, they think that it’s necessary to replace existing physical security protocols with virtual substitutes. This is not true.

In fact, the best approach to use when viewing virtual security is a logical one. Consider this: A jewelry store owner who expands the physical location or who opens a new facility would not try to use his/her current security force to protect the new location, nor would the owner secure the new location by trying to stretch the current security force between two facilities and simply hope that the depleted resources will cover the need. Both sites need to be secure.

Considering the current, overwhelming surge in virtual as-a-service solutions, knowing how and when to apply virtual security measures like firewalls has become a crucial consideration for businesses. This is especially due to the fact that according to industry specialists, over one-fifth of all VPN (virtual private network) security will be deployed in a virtual format by the end of the year.

Layered Security

Companies already understand the flexibility and cost-saving advantages of moving information and even key infrastructure to the cloud (hence, the rapid growth). That said, virtual security protocols should not be an either/or dilemma; they should be employed in a layered defense. The physical systems already in place should be supported with virtual firewalls—not replaced with them—depending on the level of the workload requirements.

The reasons for this layered defense are abundant. Not only does it secure the virtual aspects of the data system, but the same ease of alteration and on-demand access that is available in a virtual environment is accessible with virtual firewalls. Companies can adjust deployment according to specific needs, which allows them to better control financial commitments.

Deployment Confusion

The issue of deployment confusion has been discussed at length by industry experts. Keeping pace with the rapidly expanding network services available in a virtual environment means finding ways to secure that activity from threats.

Therefore, deployment should depend on the same workload and accessibility requirements that have determined the current physical security measures.

Notably, there are two basic types of virtual firewalls:

  • Introspective: This type resides within the hypervisor side of each virtual NIC (network interface card). Although it offers a well-managed way to keep virtual machines protected, it is limited in availability at this time.
  • Edge: This is the most common form of virtual firewalls. These reside between two or more virtual portgroups or switches. The beneficial aspect of this type of virtual security is that companies can deploy them at the “edge” of their data center or between trust zones in a cloud environment, depending on their workload and throughput activity.

Rules of the Game

In general, there are three fundamental rules when it comes to adding virtual security services to a network:

  1. Deploy virtual firewalls to enhance the depth of network safety in conjunction with the physical securities already in place.
  2. Know the specifications of a virtual firewall. (The specs for physical firewalls are outlined; virtual ones should be outlined, too.)
  3. Don’t limit virtual security to one type (or breed) of firewall. (Requirements play an essential role in the types and amount of firewall protection needed for a network.)

 
With the changing environment of virtual services, companies can discover the best means of keeping their networks secure by incorporating virtual security protocols. The investment is well worth it when the risks are considered, and the faster, more adaptive role that these protocols play can make a huge difference in security compliance.

3 Broadband Speed Tips For Business-Friendy Internet Provider Services

With recent increases in access locations and speed tiers, selecting a business-friendly Internet provider may be more difficult than ever. According to the 2013 “Measuring Broadband Across America” report, the FCC cites a current average U.S. broadband speed tier that tops 15 Mbps (1). In the last six months of 2013, more than half of the U.S. consumers still running at less than 1 Mbps upgraded to a quicker speed tier.

The following three points focus on the critical areas of business-friendly broadband Internet services.

1) Speed — How Much Is Sufficient?

Every new generation of devices increase the demand on broadband speed. But without predictability and dependability, your Internet services quickly become worthless. According to Measuring Broadband Across America, speeds above 10 Mbps do not greatly affect page downloads. However, HD streaming video as well as multiple resource sharing can force quick reductions in delivery speeds.

2) Data Limitations

Uploading may be even more critical than downloading. Modern business management has turned to “cloud services.” From video conferencing to interactive learning and from file sharing to email, the software, the data and all the associated files flow in both directions. To further hinder the process, some business broadband business Internet service providers limit your single-instance data transfer options. Make certain your services do not dead-end due to file size restrictions.

3) Latency

Latency defines the time lag between real-time data transmission and data packet delivery. When uploading a file into “cloud” storage, latency may not present any major complications. However, latency can greatly affect the efficiency of real-time video conferencing and online phone calls. For efficient real-time communications, make certain that your Internet provider and cloud management services use equipment designed to eliminate data latency.

Conclusion

Although not the only criteria for business Internet service, speed plays the major role in home and business connectivity. Before choosing any Internet provider resources, consider the importance of:

  • Reliability
  • Flexibility
  • Portability
  • Plan Restrictions
  • Contract Requirements
  • Managed Services
  • AND Speed.

How Robust Data Services Can Help Facilitate Remote Employees

Working remotely is becoming increasingly popular amongst both businesses and their employees. Employees save on commute times, gain autonomy and get to work in their pajamas while employers save on operating costs and improve employee morale. This new way of working is only possible through leveraging new technologies and data services, something many businesses are discovering is impossible without increasing data speeds.

A Need For Bandwidth

Having employees work remotely requires robust communication abilities. There are many affordable options out there including Skype and Google Talk for video conferencing and Dropbox and Google Drive for file transfers. Employees can even access their work computers remotely if necessary. The only caveat to all of this is that you need a respectable level of data service bandwidth to make these applications usable.

High speed business data plans have changed a lot in the past decade and not all businesses realize how inadequate their service is until they begin to experience issues. When you do begin to adopt cloud applications and video conferencing to stay connected with remote employees you may see some problems if your data plan is not robust enough. This can be especially true when it comes to upload speeds.

You are no longer just focusing on downloading large files anymore. Services like Dropbox require you to upload large files to the cloud for access anywhere, essentially a requirement for remote employees. The more data you have moving back and forth the greater chance you have of experiencing lag. You want to be able to move information quickly between your business, the cloud and your remote employees, but you will only be able to do so if you have true high speed business data.

Keeping Up with Technology

Even if your business does not have any plans for employees to work remotely, the realities of business technology demand high data service bandwidth. If you hope to stay current, you need both the download and upload capacity to use emerging technologies. At Integrated Communications we can help you find affordable Internet speeds that will meet your needs, both now and in the future.

The Importance of Adequate Bandwidth for Business Performance

A prudent businessperson knows the importance of saving money. You want to avoid spending unnecessarily if you can help it because it lends stability to your operation. As important as it is to be frugal, though, there are some areas where it pays to spend a little more — your Internet being one of them. The demand on your business’ bandwidth is rapidly increasing, and is only expected to grow. Failing to account for this can slow down your operations and cost you money.

Increasing Demands on Bandwidth

Depending on how long you have been in business, you may remember the days when you did not even need an Internet connection. Even once you did begin using emerging technologies, your bandwidth needs were probably not very intensive. Now, though, it is practically a necessity to be constantly connected and have the fastest speeds you can afford — and not just for watching cat videos.

The usage of online applications is skyrocketing, and for good reason. They provide a new level of reliability and accessibility never seen before. Services such as cloud backups, hosted storage like Google Drive or Dropbox and video conferencing are all becoming standard for businesses that want to leverage the best technologies out there.

The problem is, your old data package is probably not up to the challenge of this level of Internet usage. This becomes especially true when you consider that download speeds used to be the priority, with a very minor focus on upload speeds. Using cloud backups and Dropbox-type services quickly and effectively requires serious upload capabilities — something older data packages just do not have.

Money Now or Money Later

You want your employees and your business moving as quickly as it can while maintaining quality standards. If your Internet speed is not up to par, it makes efficiency impossible. This causes your entire system to bog down unnecessarily and will inevitably impact productivity. The increased cost of a more robust data package is worth it for any business that wants to stay competitive.

What to Look for in an Internet Provider

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The Internet has been around for so long, the question of “Should I get the Internet or not?” has changed to “Which Internet service provider (ISP) should I choose”? With so many of them around, and with each one seeming to offer the same product in the same package, it can be difficult- but not impossible- to know what to look for in an Internet provider.

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Type of Use

Businesses and individuals look for different things with an Internet provider because of demand, use and capability. Whereas an individual usually just surfs the Net, watches movies and does word processing, a business relies on much more than that, with many more users needing to do their work at the same time. Businesses likelier need Internet with higher bandwidth and bandwidth speeds so that more data can travel more efficiently.

Type of Contract

Going on a contract typically saves money, as your ISP knocks off a few dollars each month in agreement to you sticking with them for a certain length of time. The downside to this, of course, is that you’re locked in with one ISP for one to three years and might pay a penalty to get out. The alternative is to go with an ISP on a monthly basis: you might pay a bit more each month, but you retain your freedom to go with another ISP whenever you want.

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Type of Coverage

In the United States, there are dozens of ISPs to choose from and they range in size from local to national. The benefit of going with a nationally-known ISP is that you know exactly what you’re getting, the ISPs have years of reputations behind them, and it’s fairly easy to get parts and service because of how big the company is. Conversely, going with a local company has its pluses, too. Local Internet providers tend to be more competitive because they want to grow and attract a wider customer base, so they’re likelier to offer better deals on a more regular basis. They also haven’t been swallowed up by size, and can usually offer better customer service, treating you like a person instead of a number.

Type of Equipment

To get service started, you need a certain piece of equipment from your Internet provider- a modem. Some ISPs will happily sell or loan you a modem, which comes with pros and cons. While it’s easy and convenient, it also puts more money in their coffers. If you can find an ISP that lets you use your own modem, not only can you control the type and quality of it, but you’ll also pay a lot less.

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No matter what you look for in an Internet provider and who you choose to go with, remember that Integrated Communications is here for all your business and personal telecommunications needs. Visit our home page to see the wide range of services we provide.

Homegrown Telecom: Business Internet MN

Near and far our toys and our cars are shipped and sold to us from out-of-State and out-of-Country. While this has been great for the consumer wishing to lower their overall spend, it isn’t great for the consumer who incurs problems and needs to get a hold of the manufacturer or have their issues solved in a timely fashion. Telecom, IT, and other technology facets, these days, seem to be no different; businesses big and small are working with carriers and vendors who are “housed” in another area.

Is this a problem?

Well, as these carriers grow and expand into uncharted territories, their appreciation and attentiveness for their clients depletes significantly. Calls being made by a client to their provider are being handled outside of the local sector and businesses are starting to experience extreme down-times as they wait for their connectivity issues and/or business needs to be handled – oftentimes incurring endless “on-hold” hours.

How can this be avoided?

Stay homegrown! Many businesses are beginning to turn back to their local providers and/or agents (such as business internet MN master-agent Integrated Communications) to handle their business’ services and voice and data needs. IT companies such as Velocity Tech Solutions are seeing the change and it’s becoming a huge factor for many local and multi-site businesses. Anne Tarantino of Velocity Tech Solutions (2013) notes, “Big businesses are competitive and are taking many local vendors out of the market; but, things are starting to shift back towards the use of local vendors as people realize the satisfaction, customer service, and timeliness with big businesses just isn’t there”.

If you are a business looking to ensure your needs are met and issues are being handled instantly, then you need to go homegrown. Integrated Communications has partnered with many local voice and data carriers, as well as phone and IT vendors to ensure your business has the proper resources just around the block. Call us at 763-443-7009 for questions regarding our homegrown style of business and the partners we love.

*Velocity Tech Solutions is a partner IT vendor of Integrated Communications – located out of Spring Lake Park, MN

Hacking – Your PBX Phone System at Risk

Hacking is a term we relate as a potential danger for our personal banking information, social media accounts, etc… Unfortunately, hacking goes beyond our individual assets and can affect the businesses we operate and utilize on a daily basis – no business is safe being hacked, including Billion dollar companies and banks (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and even the Government is at a constant risk). If you are a business owner and/or IT administrator of any sorts, it is extremely imperative that you defend and secure your companies’ PBX phone system. We have all heard of the hackers that break-in through your voice mail due to poor password protection and give themselves international privileges on your company’s dime, but, what about the new age of VoIP phone systems hackers? Are you prepared to combat the new wave of one-click internet hackers out to get you for every penny you’ve got? Be prepared for both!

Here are a few tips from the experts we work with on securing your PBX phone system.

– Understand your provider.

According to Carl Wallin of Acticor Technologies (a phone vendor in the Twin Cities – check them out @ www.acticor.com), hacking has become a huge issue over the past few years – especially with the expansion of VOIP. One of their current customers’ phone system was hacked and as a result they were billed for over $8,000.00; unfortunately, the provider they were with at the time gave no lea-way or “grace”, so-to-speak, in that type of situation and the company was left to pay for the entire bill. Wallin suggests knowing what your provider’s protocols are in those particular situations: “speak with your voice provider ASAP regarding their preventative and quantitative measures for detecting and combating hackers. There are definitely providers I would not suggest for these exact reasons, and others that have developed and maintained software for these circumstances and are better equip to handle a disaster before it occurs, as well as prepared to tackle the aftermath of the hacking calamity if something were to transpire”. The Allworx system, provided by Acticor, addresses the issue of hacking and has impeccable software to protect against the lurking dangers of outside influences on your phone system.

– Understand the target.

Hackers do not generally target any of your “regular” phones – they target your 3rd party, generic extensions…your break room PBX, conference PBX, Android/I-phone applications, etc… Be sure to password protect ALL equipment used for your business, and speak with your providers about what they do for hacking detection and prevention. Default passwords just do NOT cut-it anymore. It’s time to move beyond the default password (you know – the 1234 or 0000) and create a sound password that is not easily detected or hacked by a computer.

– Understand Security Audits. 

Regularly check and maintain security authorizations on your network and your PBX phone system. Be sure to remind your employees on a scheduled basis to implement a new password for both their phone (voice-mail) and their internet security check-points. Hospitals, as well as banks and other businesses requiring immense protection due to protocol and patient/customer privacy should be sure to place prompts on their employees’ system to activate a password change every few months.

 

Speak further with your telecom agent, phone provider, and vendor to make sure you and your company are protected from hackers and unwanted billing.

 

From Disaster to Recovery (Business Tips for Disaster Recovery)

 

Fires, floods, tornadoes, oh my! Let’s face it, as business owners and representatives there are many outside factors in which we have little-to-no control over that can create a dip in profit for a few days, or eradicate an entire business structure in a matter of minutes. It’s important to prepare for disasters and protect the assets of your company and your customers. Equipping your company with a pragmatic recovery plan requires knowledge of probable complications that can occur, as well as the necessary steps to implement and test before a disaster strikes. Here are a few questions and points to mull over while preparing your company for disaster:

Budget

How much money are you willing to spend to protect your business?

Although no specific number can ever represent the dream of your business, the people, or the work put in, it’s time to get realistic and determine how much of a budget you can carve out to plan and implement a concrete disaster recovery plan.

How much money will your company lose on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis if and when a disaster occurs?

Be sure to weigh the difference of your companies’ profit with how much money to put into a recovery plan. A small business who can survive a while on their existing customer base may only need to endure a small cost for a few recovery operations; however, a larger corporation, hospital, bank, and so on, will need a more complex blueprint, therefore, requiring more of a disaster recovery budget.

Total Recovery Considerations

What are the most important business assets that need to be accounted for and replaced in order to restore your business and maintain the least possible downtime?

Think about your daily operations and what is utilized in order to minimally and maximally function.

– Office Space: If you already have or will need back-up files hosted in the cloud for all of your business data, how will you access that data? How will your employees?

Consider a budget for a small office space in the case of an emergency that your key employees can work from if need be.

– Equipment: What if all of your phones and computers are damaged? Do you have recovery for your equipment ready in the event no repairs can be made or all equipment is lost?

Perhaps educating yourself on VoIP phone systems will allow you easy and quick access to a phone system for as many employees as necessary. A product such as Velocity Telephone’s Virtual Office can be effortlessly procured in the case of an emergency and will allow for quick voice uptime with an easy plug-and-play functionality. Check out a review on the Velocity Telephone Product: http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/

Tested

So you have a disaster recovery plan in place. Your employees have all been notified where to go in the event of an emergency, your carrier has provided you with redundancy in case the power shuts-down, and you’ve got Dave Johnson on standby incase mother nature strikes and you need new phones a.s.a.p. Now what?

Quite simply, test. Practice really does make perfect. Be sure to keep your employees safe first and foremost by providing drills for different disasters. Next, make sure to coordinate with your telecom agent and test your voice and data redundancy. Lastly, touch-base with all of your equipment vendors, customers, etc… to provide them with who to contact in case of an emergency, and how you will contact, inform, and connect with them when a disaster occurs.

 

Contact us for more information on the types of voice and data back-ups we can offer your company to help you protect your best assets in the face of disaster.

What is VoIP?

What is VoIP?

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) literally translates to a call being made over the same set of rules as the Internet uses; a phone call over your Internet connectivity. However, VoIP is no longer strictly operable through means of the internet alone, like it once was; rather it operates with the same protocol (a set of rules) as the Internet does.

VoIP capable products are considered “plug-and-play” and allow for a phone system to be plugged directly into your data network, allowing your employees to make phone calls from the data connection; keep in mind if you have high call volumes you may want more bandwidth depending on the call quality. While more bandwidth may not be necessary for call quality, ensuring that your voice comes before all other data will ensure business operable call quality.

Many telecom service providers are seasoned and well equipped for the VoIP future that ensues. These providers offer a phone system in order to use VoIP technology, referred to as IP phones. There are many types of IP phones, servicing businesses from a one-man shop to a multi-billion dollar organization with many complex needs and services. (Refer to http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/ for a review on a VoIP phone system).

 Your VoIP capable phone system also allows for your employees to take their IP phone-set ANYWHERE to work and/or make calls and bypass the long-distance toll by using their new plug-and-play phone and utilizing data connectivity to make their calls – an inter-operable product that works over multiple networks. How is this possible? Your IP phone system comes equip with its own IP address and can be accessed for use at any time and any place by means of the cloud – your service provider will allow for the phone to search the cloud to find the appropriate IP address, allowing for voice service through VoIP.

Be sure to gather information on the different VoIP products to find the one that best fits your company’s current and growing needs. VoIP is a service in which is becoming more relevant and readily accessible, and one we highly recommend here at Integrated Communications.

 

Ethernet Over Copper – Business Internet with Speed

Ethernet Over Copper – Business Internet (with speed)

The advancements of business internet connections are insurmountable. Just when we get used to a network connection that will bring us reliable speed, another product is released that claims MORE reliability and bandwidth, and all for a cheaper cost. No matter what situation your company is in – needing more bandwidth, having to cut costs, or wanting dedicated-lines without extreme build-costs, Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is a product worth investing in.

EoC is at a comparable price-point to your current T1s; furthermore, offering many of the same benefits of fiber optic internet. EoC is a symmetrical, dedicated, and secure product – definitely a viable market option.

 

Compare and contrast EoC to other business internet services available:

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*Based off of major metropolitan areas (click on image to enlarge)