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Capturing Untapped Business Opportunities with WaaS

The Workplace as a Service (WaaS) model is growing rapidly. According to MarketsandMarkets in its new market research report, the WaaS market is anticipated to grow from $4.76 billion to $9.41 billion from 2014 to 2019. This demonstrates how effective WaaS can be for providing business solutions to businesses, irrespective of size or industry.

Its range of advantages, from lower costs to increased flexibility, is making more and more firms demand its solutions.

What is WaaS?

WaaS is a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) that relies on cloud technology to deliver office-based applications to employees of an organization. In a WaaS setup, the desktop operating systems are outsourced to WaaS service providers via the cloud. This allows employees the benefit of being able to access company data and applications remotely.

Among the top WaaS service providers are Microsoft, Amazon, Citrix, Tech Mahindra, and Unisys. The model is fast gaining prominence owing to the rising need of organizations to provide their employees the flexibility to utilize company data and applications wherever they may be and not necessarily have to access it from their physical office space.

Following are some of the service features of a WaaS model:

  • Video and audio conferencing
  • BYOD support for all mobile devices including tablets and across multiple carriers
  • Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity
  • Online collaboration
  • Instant messaging
  • Enterprise level Wi-Fi

Benefits of WaaS

Offers exceptional business opportunities for entrepreneurs

One of the most important advantages that WaaS can offer is the host of business opportunities for entrepreneurs. Its cloud-based business model means that entrepreneurs no longer need to invest in building their physical office space and paying monthly subscription fees for the many business applications required for making essential business decision making and activities.

Through WaaS, business owners do not need to worry about maintaining their on-premises desktop applications. By outsourcing the desktop operating system to third-party cloud service providers, the responsibility of all application upgrades, bug fixes, and improvements lies with them and not you. This means that at a fraction of the cost, you have access to highly efficient office applications.

Compliments BYOD policy

Another major benefit of adopting WaaS is that employees can easily access corporate data and software applications remotely, greatly complementing the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy of a company. The BYOD policy is regarded as a key trend that companies are eyeing for influencing higher worker autonomy and productivity and greater business growth.

The roles of many employees require constantly working from home or outdoors and the ability to access corporate data and other applications from their own devices is usually viewed as a threat to the integrity of an organization. Employees who have to constantly visit their client’s offices or those in the construction or operations department, for instance, are constantly required to stay touch with corporate data.

However, with WaaS, companies can enhance their BYOD policy by benefiting from lower cost and higher flexibility.

Provides better security

The WaaS model is also known for providing better security options for companies. Due to the escalating threat of cyber crime and data theft, companies are sceptical with regards to how they can best protect their data both internally and externally. Organizations, especially in the healthcare or banking sector, have to pay closer attention to keeping their confidential customer or employee data records from getting corrupted or destroyed.

With WaaS, companies can keep themselves secure and enjoy higher flexibility and lower costs of using software applications, to name a few benefits, to manage their day to day business activities better.

BYOD – An Essential Guide For SMB’s Executive Team

In today’s shifting world of technology and devices, SMB companies are supporting more mobile devices as a key initiative and according to Gartner, BYOD adoption will reach 90% this year. BYOD keeps many CEO’s up at night, but this is easier than you would think. CEO’s are faced with concerns of improper use of BYOD at the office and the impact these issues can cause their businesses. Developing an all-inclusive BYOD policy and technical guidelines for your employees will allow you to be secure. BYOD has many benefits and is worth considering if done properly. It’s a situation in which thinking about the sources from where data threats come from.

Create a BYOD Policy

There are various resources and information accessible such a guidance or templates on how to set up BYOD policies. Every company is different, so use resources as a starting point when creating your company BYOD policy.

Example BYOD Policy for SMB

  • Anti-virus and security application requirements.
  • Approved list of applications
  • Set up devices with locked screens
  • Approved access to data (files, intranet, calendar, email and apps)
  • Permissible access (VPN, LAN, Public Networks)
  • Approved devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets)
  • Password policies (8 character minimum, mix of numeric and alpha)
  • Stolen devices (Wiped remotely)
  • Secure data (Backup data created and saved locally on users personal machines)

When your employees are able to use personal devices for work related activity and systems, traditional network firewalls are no longer effective. You should consider Cloud technology services to protect your network in a BYOD environment by using measures like data loss prevention (DLP) or secure web gateways (SWG). DLP allows data to be transferred out of your network securely and SWG can stop threats like malware before it reaches an employee’s device or your network.

Cloud backup systems are very user-friendly and many SMB’s embrace them as a complete solution. One employee’s failure to follow best practices and procedures could create cracks or system weaknesses. Rest easy by having employees back up instead of saving data to an in-house system.  Once your system is in place, have a schedule to regularly test it to be sure that you’re capturing the data you’ve targeted. With research and planning a BYOD policy, you will gain the self-assurance you need to avoid losing sleep over the decision whether or not to embrace BYOD.

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BYOD: An Essential Guide For SMBs

BYOD

Last year we held a company-wide luncheon to discuss our new policies on BYOD (bring your own device). It’s interesting how technology trends have changed in the last five years.

What was once considered taboo using your personal iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4 at work is now encouraged by SMBs. Even our own IT managers were on the fence about adopting our new policy. Would our staffers spend too much wasted time staying in touch with friends and family using social media? Or worse: how would our security protection hold up against hackers?

Our BYOD Results

Many businesses fear what we did here at our own company. However, after more than a year, here are some of the benefits we experienced with our team members:

  • Client contact improved by 23%
  • Employees conducted more work at night and on weekends
  • Off-site communication improved by nearly 47%
  • Our staff felt more empowered using their devices freely
  • 71% of our employees used both their personal smartphones and tablets

BYOD & Security

Recently a client of ours contacted us about our secret sauce implementing our own BYOD policies. They were curious how we managed our security compliance on personal devices. Here’s what we did:

  1. For the first three months, we approved business email communication between our staff and clients.
  2. Our next step was to integrate Skype accounts on personal devices.
  3. Lastly, our senior IT technicians gave our team members VPN access to internal files and documentation.

We developed three tiers of server access for personal devices. Clearly, there’s too much risk opening up your entire network to off-site access. So it was mission-critical for us to limit access to certain files to our staff.

Cyber Attack & BYOD

Do you have 250 or fewer employees? If so, we recommend you first invest in an external security review.

In a 2013 research study conducted by Symantec, companies with less than 250 employees had a higher risk of cyber attack. Between 2011 and 2013, Symantec reports cyber criminals targeting small companies increased from 18% to 31%.

Why? Companies with 250 or fewer employees are far easier to infiltrate due to outdated security protection.

It’s no surprise malicious hackers target small businesses for customer data and intellectual property theft. Our research suggests exposure begins with your entry-level staff and off-site contractors.

Many SMBs managers worry their technology will be at risk of hacking and identity theft. For obvious reasons, we recommend working with a proven outsourcing company to evaluate your current structure and then develop a safe plan to roll out your BYOD policy.

Every company manages their data differently so it’s smart to analyze your current access gateways. Then develop a 90 day plan giving select employees limited access to your internal networks on their personal devices.

Go slow. You will discover in the first few weeks you’ll need to update some of your encryption handling. It makes sense to provide your senior managers access as test candidates. Then evaluate the results.

BYOD Putting Organizations at Risk, Study Finds

As BYOD increases in prevalence, organizations are repeatedly hearing that policies are essential. Yet the majority of businesses are failing to heed the warnings about BYOD security risks. A recent study found that 73 percent of IT leaders felt their data was at risk due to workers accessing work information on personal devices. Of those organizations that have put BYOD in place, only 48 percent of IT leaders and 35 percent of IT professionals feel the policy is crystal clear.

The Risks

In addition to concerns about data risk, the study also revealed that BYOD could put organizations at risk of non-compliance. More than one-third of respondents reported they weren’t confident their BYOD policies meet government compliance standards. Non-compliance puts organizations at risk of hefty fines.

In addition to government fines, businesses face exorbitant financial consequences when data is compromised. One security breach often results in notifying thousands of customers, which takes time and financial resources from a company. The damage to a company’s reputation also results in a financial loss once customers feel their data is unsafe with that company.

BYOD Policies

Crafting a BYOD policy is only one phase of the process. Businesses should emphasize the importance of safe technology use through at least one training session. During this session, employees should be warned of the risks of BYOD, including the possibility of the device being confiscated during legal discovery and remotely wiped if it is reported lost. Workers should also be required to sign off on the policy before access to servers is granted.

In addition to putting a policy in place, security policies should be set at the server level that will protect the organization against those who are aware of the policies, yet choose to violate them anyway. Businesses can create policies and inform workers of them but unfortunately, there will still be workers who choose to disregard them. Safeguarding data at the server level is the safest way to protect that data from employee behavior.

Latest Trends in IT Managed Services

Your company’s arrangement with its janitorial service or break-room supplier may not have changed much in the past 20 years, but chances are you’re looking for something much different from your IT managed services provider than you did even a year or two ago. And if you’re not, maybe you should be.

Here, then, are four important trends in IT managed services that you may want to consider.

1. BYOD. You’re probably heard the acronym for “bring your own device” before, but if you haven’t talked with your IT company about it, it’s about time. If your workers are using company email or accessing your network on their iPads and smartphones, you need to know how to keep confidential data safe, and how to make the most effective use of the amazing technology that we all carry in our pockets these days.

2. The Cloud. This is another term that’s been on most of our radar screens for a few years now. Yet when it comes to one of the most obvious uses of the cloud, offsite data backup, only 33 percent of small businesses have signed on, according to a 2012 survey. Managed Services providers should be able to explain which cloud functions you might want and help you manage them efficiently and securely.

3. Managed Print Services. The paperless office is a nice idea, but most businesses still have a significant need to print materials, whether for internal or external uses. Managed print services can unify and streamline printing, help reduce costs, and give telecommuters access to secure printers. That might explain why the number of total printers managed by MSPs jumped from 86,000 to 107,000 over the past year alone.

4. Thought Leadership. IT companies once functioned something like plumbers—they were someone you called to fix problems and then go away. Now, businesses’ IT strategies are becoming a big part of their overall strategies. A good MSP can become an insider that understands your company and finds new ways to make it work better from top to bottom through technological innovation.

It’s possible all these trends may not be relevant to your business, but there’s a very good chance that at least some of them are. If you’re not sure how, you might try setting up a meeting with your managed services provider to ask some questions.

BYOD: Reining in the Cost

We over here in tech land have often extolled the virtues of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). Allowing your employees a certain modicum of freedom can go a long way in increasing their comfort and productivity.  However, this relatively new business practice can come with unforeseen costs.

Originally, the phenomenon was coined the consumeration of enterprise.  It was intended for high level executives only.  But as the practice spread, a few companies, like Network Sourcing Advisors, began to feel the pinch.

How can a practice that requires employees to buy their own equipment with their own money eat at the bottom line?  Well, taking smartphones as an example the costs are usually hidden, but rest assured, they will rear their ugly heads.

With Network Sourcing Advisors, it began with transition costs.  They had company-issued smartphones, but those all had to get shelved.  Those employees that didn’t have their own smartphones were upset.  Those that did, had to learn how to use them in accordance to companies policies.  Network Sourcing Advisors ended up $300,000 over-budget to bring 600 personnel up to speed.

Also, take the publisher Slate for example.  The company began subsidizing their employees devices.  To make sure that all their employees are up-to-date using the most efficient data plans, they estimate that they shoulder about $1,020 a year per employee.  They do this because the cost is tax deductible.  And of course, the benefit to the employee.

We’ve covered some of these bases before.  However, until now we’ve lacked concrete numbers.  And as always, whenever considering such an ambitious IT project, one should consider augmenting their staff in order to make things run more smoothly.

 

The Drawbacks of BYOD

BYOD – Bring Your Own Device practices have been on the rise. This is the policy where employees are required to bring their own devices to work. It ranges from buying your own mobile phone to replacing a traditional workstation with a personal laptop. At first, the policy may be attractive to employers. There is cost cutting because it places the burden on employees to purchase their own devices as well as lowering IT support costs because employees can maintain their own equipment. It also allows employees to personalize their work style, using devices that they enjoy. However, there are disadvantages to adopting a BYOD policy. Security is a greater concern. A BYOD policy might actually lower productivity. Finally, IT costs may actually increase to support such a myriad of devices.

With smart phones and laptops replacing traditional desktop workstations, data can easily move in and out of the company. It’s simple to see how this is a security concern. Some devices are more secure than others. Companies need to think ahead and create procedures for how, when and where employees can access proprietary data and applications. This may cause a greater demand for thin client machines, devices that have all their application run off the cloud rather than kept on their hard drives. It may be cheaper to have a standard secure cloud that everyone accesses rather than have a dozen security protocols for as many devices, however appealing having a personal device is.

Employees usually like BYOD because they feel more comfortable with their own devices. These personal devices afford them more freedom because they can work at home and at the office. That blending might not be the most healthy. We’ve all heard of the Blackberry addiction, where employees are constantly connected to work. The bleeding between work and personal lives can work in the reverse direction too. Personal devices have not just work but leisure applications as well. It’d be easy to switch between different the aspects of our lives. A lack of focus is a problem that many people deal with, and it may get worse as our mobile devices distract us from the task at hand be it work or at home.

BYOD, at first named the consumeration of enterprise, started at the higher level. Executives wanted to use their own devices when with clients. These executives are demanding that their IT departments manage the maintenance of their devices and as BYOD spreads to a company’s rank and file, everyone else will as well. It’s one of the few instances where trickle down has been observed. Today, there are literally dozens of brands of smart phones and laptops. They have thousands of combinations of features. IT departments are often tasked with servicing them all while in the workplace. That’s a daunting task. A different set of tools and skills are needed to fix an iPad as opposed to an tablet that runs on Android. IT staffs may need to be augmented in order accommodate, increasing costs.

The American office job used to invoke images of hundreds of a gray cubicles with workers tapping away on identical computers. Now, there is a little more variety. Every company is handling it differently. To some it’s a headache and to others it’s a boon. It all comes down to company philosophy. Is it conformity or solidarity? Is it personalization or lack of focus?

Is the Desktop Dead?

Sounding the desktop death knell as mobile devices edge them out of the market

In the past, a cost chasm separated the laptops from the desktop. Mobility, it seemed, came at a price. Businesses opted to buy the more pricy laptops for those who needed it most, furnishing the rest with the more reasonably priced desktops. The dropping prices of laptops reduced the gap in price to a mere $50. A mere $50 it seems, that most companies are finding it easier to justify.

It’s not just the competitive pricing that’s contributing to the untimely demise of the desktop; a growing trend to bring your own device to work (BYOD) has seen companies save on hardware costs as employees prefer to utilize their own devices instead of the trusty old desktop. Cloud technology provides centralized functionality that helps to promote the use of personal devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops.

This year’s sales figures reflect the changing landscape with laptops taking 68% of the market, up from previous years which saw a more even 50/50 split. There are several inherent advantages to owning a laptop:

  • Mobility: the smaller, thinner and lighter the laptop gets, the more portable they become
  • They take up less desk space
  • Increased productivity as employees are able to take them home to work
  • Negates the need to work late at the office which increases employee satisfaction
  • Telecommuting is possible as the employee does not need a computer at home and at the office

The laptop is not the only device that is giving the desktop a run for its money. Tablet sales increased by 150% over the last quarter, making it one of the fastest growing hardware markets in the business. Microsoft will be developing Office applications for the iPad which will bolster support for this emerging technology. Cloud technology negates the need for large software purchases or large volumes of information to be stored in giant desktop hard drives.

It’s not only the emerging technologies that threaten the denizens of the desk; it’s also their old nemesis, the Apple Mac. Apple Mac sales have increased by 20.7% while desktop sales dropped by 5.9% overall. This means that Apple managed to take a large bite out of the PC pie. Those who love their desktops need not fear. The good old desktop isn’t dead just yet. It still has its advantages over the new devices which include:

  • Large screens which are important for those who spend lots of time on the computer and like to see all the little details
  • Ergonomics; good office chairs and desktops are far more comfortable than hunching over a laptop
  • Storage on a desktop can’t be beat
  • Typing on a real keyboard is much easier than a laptop’s often cramped keyboard can afford

It seems the days of the desktop dominance are numbered, so enjoy them while you can.

Cloud Computing for Small Business

Should you move your small business to a cloud computing platform?

Cloud computing centralizes your software and data on an Internet platform rather than on your desktop, laptop or on a server. Since the users will be sharing storage space, bandwidth, memory, software and processing power, you can amalgamate these functionalities and have one good system rather than furnishing all your staff members with powerful PCs or laptops replete with software and security packages. This holds many advantages for the small business owner:

  • Software tools are accessed online and don’t have to be installed on each computer. This means a reduction in software costs and IT department calls to install or maintain software on each and every device. You can even rent software rather than buying expensive packages upfront.
  • Massive savings on IT costs. Cloud hosting companies automatically load updates and patches and maintain your software and data. Your IT costs are reduced and the hosting company provides all your support, negating the need for an on-site IT department or specialist.
  • You save on hardware costs as expensive servers and data storage devices become a thing of the past.
  • Increased security: Anti-virus software, firewalls and spam protection is available on cloud at a fraction of the cost that a small business would have to pay independently for the same level of protection.
  • No unforeseen expenses: A service contract with your cloud provider covers all the IT maintenance and troubleshooting you need in a month. This makes for predictable monthly expenses as you pay a fixed monthly fee.
  • Broader telecommuting possibilities: Being able to access your information and software enables employees to work from home or on their own personal devices. This means no late nights at the office which improves employee satisfaction and increases off-site work options.
  • Great opportunity for new businesses: New businesses have a lower initial outlay and faster deployment. Since cloud is location and device independent, you don’t even have to have your office up and running to start making money.

Not everything about the cloud is silver lining. Unscheduled downtime will prevent you from accessing your data or using software that may be integral to the functioning of your business. Instead of having other computers which can be utilized to keep business ticking over, you are completely dependent on the availability of your cloud provider.

You must have sufficient security protocols in place to ensure the safety of your data. Establish policies on security for employees who work off site or use their own devices to access data and software. If security policies are in place, your data should be safe.

 

IT Security and Training reduce Cyber Attacks

Increase in cyber attacks cost firms nearly $50K per year 

Cyber attacks for reasons political, financial or fun have spread exponentially over the last year. Increased spending on security and training is doing much to stem the flow of information into the wrong hands. A Symantec survey of 1, 425 IT managers across 32 countries revealed that the $35 billion currently spent on it support services and security support is expected to rise to over $49 billion in the next three years, with many companies opting for security through cloud computing packages. With data breaches effecting even the biggest corporations (the recent hacking of Zappo comes to mind), everyone is taking security more seriously. The survey found that cyber attacks in 2011 cost companies an average of $470,000 in lost revenue, downtime and loss of brand confidence.

Cyber attacks include spam, viruses, fraud, data theft, vandalism and denial of service. A poll by Juniper Network had 77% of respondents saying cyber attacks are more frequent and severe than they have been in the past, while 90% of respondents claimed to have suffered a data breach in the last year.

The rapid increase of attacks comes as employees bring their own devices into the workplace. 29% of breaches in security occurred on tablets and Smartphones and 34% on employee laptop computers. As employees increasingly introduce personal devices into the workplace, security has to be installed and protocols established to secure sensitive data.

Companies who turn to IT consulting specialists and invest in security and training for employees suffer a far lower rate of security breaches. The survey revealed that top-tier companies who used IT consulting firms to bolster security and staff training benefitted from two and half times fewer attacks than companies who did not invest in security.

Downtime is by far the most frustrating consequence of compromised security. Here the advantage of investing in an IT consulting firm to provide security is self-evident. The companies which had not made adequate investments in security suffered 2 765 hours of downtime a year in comparison to the relatively few 588 hours that secure companies endured.

Not utilizing IT consulting specialists or investing in security and training means damage and downtime that is sure to cost more than the initial security investment would have. It makes financial sense to invest in protecting customers and data from cyber attacks. As more employees bring their own devices to the workplace, it is imperative to establish security across the board and protocols aimed at securing data on all devices.