Available whenever you need them, these 4 tools can help minimize the impact of network downtime
Networking trouble can happen at any time—day or night—not just during business hours. Let’s face it, business happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whether or not the proverbial lights are on. If a router or other critical piece of your network goes down, that could mean lost revenue and productivity for your company. But help is just a mouse click away.
If your network is built with Cisco Small Business products, you have unlimited access to innovative tools and resources to help troubleshoot and resolve the issue you’re experiencing. Because these resources are available all day, every day, they’re available whenever you need them. Next time you need support—and fast—try one of these tools to get your network up and running.
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Tags: productivity, small business, support resources
You need to provide safe network access before allowing employees to bring their own devices to work
Almost every small company is experiencing the phenomenon referred to as “the consumerization of IT.” If you were the first in your office to log into your company’s network with your smartphone, you may even have been leading the charge. As more and more employees follow the “bring your own devices” trend (BYOD, for short) to work, you need to figure out how to give them remote access to the company network while keeping corporate data and personal information separate and secure.
In general, the BYOD movement is good for employers, even though people are using devices that aren’t necessarily provided by the company. Employers want to find ways to accommodate their employees’ desire to access their work email and other applications whenever and from whatever device they’re using, such as tablets and smartphones. That usually means that employers need to make some changes to the access policies. As an employer, you need to have network access policies with visibility and control over every device and application; and the user has to follow some rules to protect critical company data when accessing the network remotely.
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Tags: bring_your_own_devices, byod, remote_access, small business
Probably not. It’s not that you don’t want to be. You’re just busy with a million other details, like running a business.
That’s why the Cisco mConcierge program developed a set of concise Tactical Marketing Guides. These guides are designed entirely to help you better execute on more than a dozen common marketing initiatives, including social media networking, newsletters, and radio ads — just to name a few.
Think of them as marketing “Cliff Notes,” or “cheat sheets:” just the basics, boiled down to two pages, complete with objectives, best practices, and a sample timeline.
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Tags: mcon, mconcierge, small business
Reap the benefits of social sites by protecting your network from security threats and data loss
In a relatively short amount of time, social media has gone from an annoying productivity killer to an important business productivity and marketing tool. Of course, employees can still while away time on sites like Facebook and YouTube, but they’re also using these sites, along with LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, to promote their companies’ products and brands, track the success of marketing campaigns, respond to customers’ complaints and compliments, and recruit new talent. Social media sites have even become a way to collaborate with coworkers and business partners. Companies that limit access to social media may actually find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
Finding the balance between business needs and risk is key to allowing employees access to social media sites. You can do this by loosening some of your security controls, adjusting your acceptable use policy (AUP), and tolerating a little personal use of social media by employees.
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Tags: security, small business, social media
It’s almost Summer—the season of road trips. And recently I had the privilege of driving across the country. While some might fear loss of productivity with a trip like that, I was actually able to work quite productively, mile after mile—thanks to a WiFi hotspot, Cisco’s VPN, and a laptop charger that plugged into the cigarette lighter. Of course, it helped having someone else do the driving. From Oakland, California to New York City, I participated in Webex meetings, wrote and edited documents, and generally got stuff done. But enough about me.
In Salt Lake City, I met up with kindred spirit Mike Sumsion, chief information officer for iTransact, which helps businesses accept customer payments via credit, debit, and gift cards, as well as electronic checks. “I’ve spent the last 10 years making sure our company could be productive from anywhere,” said Mike. Clearly, he’s one who likes to stay ahead of the curve: A blog post from last month cited a Cisco report that said 46 percent of people surveyed expect to be able to access their corporate network from their personal mobile devices.
Mike’s company employs 50 people. While it keeps customer service employees onsite, sales people can work from home with their same IP office phones and computers that they use in their cubicles. The company is also looking to extend this flexibility to other employees.
In a nutshell, iTransact offers services that let merchants accept transactions without a lot of heavy lifting. Its service is offered directly to customers and their trusted advisors, like accounting firms, banks, and others. A dashboard interface lets them log in to check on the status of accounts billable, as well as manage real-time interactions remotely.
Given the sensitivity of the information that’s exchanged with each transaction, iTransact’s top concerns are compliance and security. So when it comes to working in the Cloud, things are still evolving. As an interim measure, the company uses Dropbox to make sure employees have updated documentation to share with everyone in real time. Each new employee is set up with a Dropbox account, providing instant access to all necessary documents for his/her role. Since Dropbox is Cloud based, employees who are traveling or working remotely can access the documents from wherever. Plus, it simplifies the information management. Even though the document repositories are managed by a single individual, all employees receive instantaneous updates.
Looking ahead, iTransact does see more Clouds on the horizon. “We’re building a gateway 2.0. that will absolutely use the Cloud. We’ll be able to drop a node anywhere in the world, fire up a virtual machine and have it accept transactions,” notes Mike. “We’ll be able to scale geographically, and offload geographically as needed, to the server that makes most sense,” he adds. And the icing on the cake: All the databases and self-contained software will allow for 100% uptime. This becomes especially important as they cater to smaller businesses, with transactions and updates happening constantly.
So what does a fast-moving small business see for its future? “It’ll be more mobile,” says Mike, without hesitating. “Look around you—increasingly, anyone can buy anything from anyone at any time. We need to manage the data, accordingly. The dashboard we built—that will become a mobile app; our internal employees will update records via their phones and customers’ transaction processes will become more mobile than they are now,” he adds.
Amen to that. As one who thrives on traveling—and getting stuff done regardless of where I am and regardless of whether I’m a customer or an employee—I think the future looks absolutely sunny. With a few clouds, of course.
To learn more about how Cisco can help your small business, click here.
Tags: cloud, iTransact, mobility, productivity, small business