VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol – What? How? Why?

VoIP NetshieldVoice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) also known as Internet Telephony, IP Telephony, Voice over broadband and Voice over Network; it is a technology that allows calls to be made over the internet or a computer network.

VoIP is not a brand new technology but it is gaining more popularity due to the general movement towards cloud technology, improvements in the speed and reliability of internet connectivity and the trend of workforce mobility.

How VoIP works

Traditional landline phones operate through a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) and you can gain access to it through the telephone sockets. These networks use circuit switching – when a call is made, these circuits change within the exchange in order to connect the caller and the receiver.

Whereas, VoIP calls are made over the internet and use the method of packet switching – when making a call the data is broken up into data packets, transported across the network and reassembled when it reaches the receiver.

Why VoIP? The Benefits

With the vast improvements of internet connectivity and the decrease in prices since 10 years ago, VoIP is becoming a feasible option for businesses today.

To deploy a traditional telephone system a high capital outlay is needed because of the number of components required i.e. buying a phone system, business line rental, maintenance contracts, hardware costs and pay for software upgrades.

Whereas, VoIP systems compared to traditional telephone systems has minimal capital expense i.e. the purchase of IP enabled phones and internet connection. But, it is also simple to administer and user friendly because it uses the power of the cloud technology.

A VoIP system can provide businesses with an integration of both office and mobile devices, allowing employees to have an office phone that can ‘go anywhere’, making it ideal for those who work remotely and for companies that have hot desking. This flexibility can help increase efficiencies and productivity as users can easily manage and receive calls. It can also be scaled up and down when required, offering future proofing capabilities.

For more information on VoIP or advice whether to switch contact us today.

Windows Server 2012: The breakdown

Many may consider Microsoft Windows Server 2012 as the enemy because SBS was axed in the process of releasing it. But, the different editions of Server 2012 (Foundation, Essentials, Standard and Datacentre) will cater for the small, medium and large organisations, it just might be a little more costly in some scenarios.

Simplified Licensing Model

The Foundation version (which is OEM only) is limited to 1 processor and 15 users and once purchase additional processors cannot be added. It will provide a basic infrastructure with active directory, remote access and file and print sharing, ideal for a small businesses.

Essentials would suit SMEs up to 25 users and unlike SBS, it does not include on-premise versions of Exchange, Sharepoint, SQL Server and WSUS – but, they can be purchase separately (which can be costly). A more cost-effective option would be to integrate it with Microsoft online hosted services like Office365, hosted Exchange etc.

When buying the Essentials or Foundation edition CALs (Client Access Licenses) are not required to go with the processor licenses. If the business is looking to grow or virtualise in the future it may be better to go for the other editions because, they both have no virtualisation rights.

The Standard and Datacentre editions both have the same product features and need to be purchased with CALs, for each user or device that connects to the server – the only difference between them is usage rights.

For Standard, each processor license will only allow 2 virtual instances whereas, the Datacentre edition allows unlimited virtual instances. Extra CALs will be needed if you wish to use certain features such as Remote Desktop Services and Active Directory Rights Management.

So before deciding on which to buy, it is the case of working out how many virtual machines you are looking to run in the current environment (if any), whether this will increase in the near future and whether you require the use of the additional features.

Some of the Features of Windows Server 2012

  • Server Manager – the ability to create and manage server groups within the network
  • Hyper-V Replication – the features allow administrators to replicate a virtual machine from one location to another with Hyper-V and a network connection
  • Increased PowerShell Capabilities – remote sessions are resilient, helps to simplify management of workloads and you can also program the secure multi-machine workflow engine.
  • Dynamic Access Control improvements – the ability now to restrict access to sensitive files by enforcing file security policy at domain level i.e. allow users to view but not edit, print or copy protected files.

For more advice on moving away from end of support products and Microsoft licensing contact us today.

Could being sociable online be dangerous to businesses?

‘Social Engineering is the technique of manipulating people into performing actions to divulge sensitive or confidential information’ – Cyber Security Guide 2013

 

Social media has grown considerably in recent years, not only it is a tool individuals use to interact, create, share or exchange information, it is also increasingly important fsocial mediaor businesses to have a social presence.

However, being sociable online can come at a cost, it can be a security risk otherwise known as ‘Social Engineering’ – ‘a non-technical intrusion that is reliant on human interaction and tends to involve trickery, causing individuals to break usual security protocols’.

Social Engineering is heavily reliant on personal information and social media is a goldmine for Social Engineers looking to do harm. It relies on individuals being careless with their information and the results can be harmful to individuals as well as businesses.

Many Viruses, Phishing and Malware email attacks are now are prime Social Engineering examples. This is because they are getting more personalised and often you have to look at it twice before you realise it is not legitimate. Like CryptoLocker that disguised itself as a delivery note from popular courier companies or phishing emails disguising themselves as well-known banks.

social engineeringSocial Engineers also take advantage of individuals natural inclination to choose passwords that are meaningful to them and using them for a number of logins. By using meaningful passwords, paired with personal information gained from peoples online presence – it can make them easy to guess. By uploading photos of your pet, comments about a restaurant or your daily activities, it can be used by a hacker to build a picture of you.

‘12% of social media users say someone has hacked into their social network account and pretended to be them according to the 2013 Norton Report’

It is not about censuring online activity but, individuals and businesses need to understand how valuable information is, how it can be used against us and how we should take precautions to minimise the risk of social engineering.

For more information on how to defend against Social Engineering contact one of our Netshield consultants today on 0845 603 5552.

Right to Request Flexible Working

‘Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs like working flexitime, homeworking, job sharing, shift work etc.’

From June 30th 2014, employees are entitled to request flexible working if they have completed 26 weeks of service within a company. Prior to this change it only applied to parents of under 16s and carers.

The Steady Rise of Homeworking

According to Trade Union and the Office for National Statistics there has been a steady increase from 1.3 million homeworkers in 1998 to 4.2 million in 2014, with many spending at least half of their work time working from home.

With most job roles requiring technology or access to the corporate IT network it is becoming necessary for organisations to allow users to remote into the network anytime, anywhere. Within the marketplace there are a number of products that can help like Microsoft Remote Desktop App, Citrix XenApp, VMware Horizon etc.

Homeworking has a number of benefits for both the employer and employees:-

Employer

Employees

  • Increase productivity
  • Help lower overheads
  • Reputation of flexibility = help attract and retain staff
  • Lower carbon footprint (less commuting)
  • Flexibility
  • Savings on travel costs
  • Improved work-life balance
  • Personalised work space
  • Improved job satisfaction

Although there are benefits of homeworking, it is not suited to all job roles and organisations i.e. workers who require particular industrial machinery to carry out their job or a sales consultant at a retail premises – so, job role suitability is factor when considering employees application for homeworking.

Another thing to keep in mind is security – always ensure the technology and methods used by homeworkers to access business data is secure, to help lower the risk of data breaches. This may mean initial investment into the IT infrastructure to make it suitable for homeworking. So, assess whether the advantages outweighs the disadvantages and the costs against the benefits.

For more information is planning, deploying and managing remote IT technology please contact us today.

Cyber Security – How aware are you of the growing risk?

Majority of business now have their data stored within a network and its availability will determine productivity, so one cannot afford to take the view ‘it would never happen to me’ as in a recent PWC study 87% of SME’s and 97% of large corporations experienced a form of security breach last year! So, why in a recent BT study it showed that only 17% of UK businesses class it as a main IT priority compared to 41% in the US?

Data breaches can have huge implications such as financial losses to damages to brand reputation. For example in the PWC report states the average cost of a breach to a SME is £35k – £65k and to a large corporation it is £450k – £850k!

Financial losses such as these will undoubtedly disrupt cash flow and create a dent in the company finances, causing a knock-on-effects on operations. So with consequences such as this, why are only a small amount of UK businesses worried about Cyber Security and have it as a priority, could it be the lack of knowledge on the topic?

It is a common belief that data breaches are from external threats but, it has been suggested employees often play a key role in breaches – like the PWC report states ‘serious security breaches are often due to multiple failures in technology, processes and people’.

This is further reinforced by Avecto recent article suggesting ‘that removing admin rights would mitigate 96% of critical vulnerabilities affecting Windows operating systems, 91% of critical vulnerabilities affecting Microsoft Office and 100% of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer.’

This highlights the value of educating employees on security procedures that need to be followed and what the implications are if they are not. It also shows by having the correct privileges or admin rights in place for each user depending on their job role can make a significant difference in safeguarding the IT network.

When facing Cyber Security an attitude of safeguarding and it might happen to me is required. By being proactive to maintain a secure IT network environment, a need for continuous monitoring and amendments and most importantly educate employees on cyber security.

For more information or advice on IT security please contact us