Tuesday, February 9, 2016

VoIP: A New Dimension in Communication for SMBs

VoIP: A New Dimension in Communication for SMBs
Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP is about a decade old technology that is gaining popularity among individual subscribers and businesses. In conventional systems, phone calls are made using telephones or handsets that are connected by phone cables. These calls are routed using the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN,) carrying a signal from one telephone to the other. But instead of connecting telephones to the phone cables through phone jacks in the walls, VoIP uses the internet where phones can be connected to broadband devices, adapters or PCs using broadband. With this system, voice is converted into a digital signal and carried over the Internet. Let's take a look at all the options that are available to make calls using VoIP.
Make Calls from a PC: Using this platform a call can be placed from your PC. Your computer is connected to the Internet via broadband. A specially designed software app allows you to place and receive phone calls right from your PC. When deployed, this software displays a dial pad. You can dial a number using a mouse or keyboard. You will need a headphone or speaker to hear and a microphone to speak. When your PC is connected to a phone or another PC on the other end, you can talk like you would on a regular phone. The software with video capabilities will let you see each other (you and the recipient of your call) if it is a PC to PC call and both computers are equipped with cameras. In this case you don't even need a telephone handset.
Make Calls using a regular phone: You can make phone calls with a regular phone using VoIP technology, but for this you will have to have a service, such as Vonage, that provides VoIP access. You can subscribe to their service for a monthly flat fee or a per-minute rate. Your regular phone can be plugged into an adapter which is then connected to a broadband device. Some services will allow you to make calls within their service network only. But there are other services that will let you make calls anywhere. That means you can call local, long distance, international and through mobile devices.
VoIP telephones: There are VoIP service providers that provide special phones. To use these phones you don't need an adapter. Their telephones are designed to work with your broadband device. You can connect this phone directly into your broadband modem using an Ethernet cable and use the phone like any regular phone.
Companies providing VoIP services are focusing on providing unified communication platforms that will include phone, emails, faxes, videos and voice mail capabilities. Their goal is to deliver these capabilities that can be used by all means of communication including handheld devices.
The Role of MSPs: Managed Service Providers or MSPs can help businesses with the installation of hardware and software, enabling VoIP technology. This will also organize their communication networks by integrating those networks into their IT infrastructure. Now SMBs can eliminate another worry (management of their communication systems) by outsourcing their IT services.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SMBs: It is Hackers v. You - Don't Let Them Score

SMBs: It is Hackers v. You - Don't Let Them Score
Selling stolen IDs and other personal data is a lucrative trade for hackers. They are always looking for sources where vital information is stored. As a small to midsize business you store your client's personal information, collected from different sources, on your computers and servers. Your Point-of-sale (PoS) terminal and some website transactions can be completed by use of electronic banking, credit cards or debit cards only. Your customers have to key-in their pins or passwords to make payments. That information has to be saved. Also, depending on the kind of services or products you provide, you may be collecting Social Security numbers, addresses, driver's license numbers and DOBs of your clients. Information that personal is as important as it can get. Any source of that information is like a gold mine for a hacker. All this means only one thing for you: A data security nightmare.
Here are the channels hackers can use to break into your IT infrastructure
  • Your website: Hackers have become very sophisticated in cyber attacks on websites. They can access specific information by targeting websites that have the information they are looking for. For example, if they want only financial information about their victims, they can use tools that will fish for the websites that carry that kind of information. Implementation of web-based applications has made it easier for cyber criminals to connect to your website data base. They are able to find the loopholes and hack into systems. They can then access your customer's personal information, allowing them to steal from your clients by committing credit card and bank fraud. Or they can just sell your client's info on the Internet.
  • Your computers and servers: Your computers and servers are treasure-troves of information. By sending malware into your systems they can steal your admin passwords, and then login to your servers and other network devices. These hardware devices are the ultimate prize for cyber thieves because these devices not only hold important information about your clients, they also have all the information about your business and possibly about your vendors and associates. There is nothing about your business that these hackers don't know. Imagine how devastating this attack can be.
  • Mobile devices used by your employees: If you are one of those entities that allow their employees to use their mobile devices to conduct business, you have another security dimension to worry about. You don't know how secure their mobile phones, iPads, laptops or tablets are. You don't know how hard or easy their passwords are to crack. Breach of security into those devices will lead hackers right into your networks where they can steal data at will.
  • Unsecure Wi-Fi network: Most businesses keep their Wi-Fi networks well protected, but unsecured Wi-Fi is an open invitation to cyber criminals. If your Wi-Fi network is not secure, hackers are one step closer to breaking into your systems without even trying.
  • Your PoS systems: PoS systems are the prime targets for hackers who want to commit financial fraud. Cyber thieves know that PoS systems that come with pre-loaded software can be hacked using an unsecured Wi-Fi network. This fraud has a direct impact on an individual's finances because a hacker can make unauthorized credit card charges quickly and move on before anyone realizes what happened. Ruined credit can take years to mend.
  • Your emails: Email is another venue that hackers use to infect computers with malicious software. They send viruses that replicate themselves in the host computers, performing various tasks such as denial of service to the users of your systems, spamming your contacts and accessing data without authorization.
Summary: After reading this article you probably feel like you are in cyber warfare with hackers and your IT infrastructure is the battlefield. You are absolutely right. Hackers are relentless and they are devising new methods all the time to steal from businesses. But this is one fight you can't let them win. Protecting client data is not just a moral obligation. You are legally bound by the privacy laws to protect this information by all means. Breach in data security can ruin your reputation, and the financial liability to meet legal obligations may become too much to sustain.
So how do you fight this war in which you have to make certain that there is only one winner?Outsource your IT managed services to professionals who will monitor your networks 24/7 from a remote location. Your in-house IT management team may be able to fix problems, but it is important that proactive solutions are in place in case there is data loss as a result of a breach. Managed services can create solid data backup & recovery plans that will have your systems up and running quickly, so you can reduce downtime and protect your revenue.