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Personal Security Incidents Can Put Everyone at Risk

When employees use their own devices for work, there’s no such thing as a personal security breach

It’s no exaggeration to say that mobile smart devices have changed the way people work. With smartphone in hand, employees now expect to be able to check email from their kid’s baseball game, finalize financial transactions on the fly, and log into cloud-based services at the gym—not to mention play Angry Birds whenever they want. The downside to this round-the-clock connectivity is the security risk it can introduce to your network and, because devices are personally owned, the difficulty of locking them down. These days, there’s no such thing as a personal security breach. A security incident on a personal device can put your entire network at risk.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Unlimited Potential

You might not know it, but you (and I) have been working in the cloud for quite some time.  For instance, raise your hand if you were one of the masses hanging in chat rooms in AOL in the 90s.  (You can put your hand down now). You’ve probably been sending and receiving email longer than you can remember, too. We’ve all been working in the cloud to one extent or another, even before it was referred to as a cloud—as was discussed on a recent Science Friday program on NPR. And by the way, you’re still working (or playing) in the cloud—if you are on Facebook, or Yelp, or Spotify, or if you use Dropbox. What differentiates current cloud from early cloud is that what we can do today is much more sophisticated, and giving us more power to be productive.

Essentially, cloud is the central power station that extends productivity and enables greater interconnectivity. In fact, in today’s environment, we’re seeing SMB customers serving as the early adopters of public cloud applications and services and mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. In fact, there was a great blog recently on how to move to working in the cloud.

One of the more compelling aspects of cloud is how it actually helps even the playing field for businesses, rendering labels such as SMB or Enterprise irrelevant at times. Need evidence? The New York Times recently reported on Cycle Computing, a 20-person company that makes supercomputer software. By grouping a massive supercomputing cluster, with 50,000 processors, on Amazon Web Services (read: Cloud) to do drug compound simulations, it used its software as an operating system, and utilized resources from several Amazon data centers. Joining forces with two other small companies, they used up the equivalent of 12.5 processor years, but completed their mission in fewer than three hours. According to the article, the computing cost was less than $4,900 a hour. “This enables small companies and any researcher that has a grant to do science that they could never do before,” Jason Stowe, chief executive of Cycle Computing, said in an interview.

As our reliance on the cloud grows, our expectations for speed and ease of access accelerate. And when you add mobility to the equation, you find new ways to work and drive business results: to make it easier for employees to be productive, partners to collaborate, and for customers to become more engaged—the potential opportunity is unlimited.

If you’ve got a good story that shows how you’ve been able to advance your business through cloud, let us know—we’d love to hear it.

Switches with Integrated Voice Features Speed New VoIP Installations

Small business switches with auto-deployment features remove the complexity of rolling out IP-based voice systems

If you’ve decided to upgrade your legacy phone system to a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) solution, you want to make sure that installation is as smooth and trouble-free as possible. A good place to start is with your network switch. As the traffic controller of your network, the switch connects different devices and allows them to communicate with each other. To make rolling out IP-based voice easier, you can choose a managed or smart switch with integrated automatic deployment features and built-in configuration tools.

Several of Cisco’s small business switches are designed to simplify VoIP deployments as well as make day-to-day network operations easier. The Cisco 200 Series Smart Switches, the Cisco Small Business 300 Series Managed Switches, and the new Cisco 500 Series Stackable Managed Switches include auto-deployment features that remove most of the complexity of installing voice equipment. Each of these small business switches include four integrated, easy-to-use configuration and management tools and integrated features: Cisco Discovery Protocol (CDP) and Link-Layer Discovery Protocol (LLDP), Auto SmartPorts, Voice Services Discovery Protocol (VSDP), and Cisco Configuration Assistant (CCA) Used together, these tools can result in zero-touch deployments of voice equipment.

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Smartphones are business tools, too

Learn how you can make employees more productive with their mobile devices

Smartphone usage—and the expectations around smartphones—are changing rapidly. Average smartphone usage nearly tripled in 2011, and by the end of 2012, the number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the number of people on earth. By 2016 there will be an estimated 1.4 mobile devices per person. Given the rise of smartphones, it’s not surprising that people rely on their mobile devices for more and more of their daily interactions, including business communications, whether at work, at home, and on the road. In a Cisco report, 46 percent of people surveyed expect to be able to access their corporate network from their personal mobile device.

However, there’s more than just flexibility accompanying the BYOD trend. These shifting expectations about connectivity also come with a host of decisions for small business. For example, do you have the network infrastructure in place to enable your employees to use their mobile devices for business communications? Do you have a wireless device usage policy? Are your VPN connections secure? And when your employees do connect to the workplace via a mobile device, do they have access to products and tools to help them do their jobs?

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Network Got You Down? A Support Contract Can Help

The right service plan can maximize network uptime and minimize lost revenues

New products and technologies, increasing mobility among employees, the need for round-the-clock access to company data and resources—these are just some of the factors driving small businesses’s growing dependence on their networks. This makes network downtime costly for any small business. According to Infonetics Research, unplanned network downtime costs companies an average of 3.6 percent revenue per year. And that doesn’t include the incalculable cost of damage to your business’s reputation caused by the downtime.

To minimize network downtime and ensure your network is available for employees to connect, collaborate, and communicate with customers and partners as well as each other, you may want to consider a support contract. A service plan will not only help protect your company’s technology investment, but it can also help save lost revenue and customers. Read More »

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