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Interoperability + Collaboration = The Key to Any or All

Today’s work environment – yours, mine, and everyone else’s — is becoming more mobile, social, visual, and virtual. And there is no one magical tool that covers every situation.  We need choice and flexibility for the way we each work.

Any-to-Any collaboration with an easy-to-use consistent experience is the reality of today’s user requirements. However, many solutions available today are brought together with the use of band aids and chewing gum, making it a nightmare to troubleshoot across the various stitched-together call-control systems. Read More »

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Opening the Machine Network

So here we are. Last week was Automation Fair. What did you learn?

Oh, you didn’t go? Well, that is your loss, truly. A free show in Chicago where you could have learned about all sorts of new products and insights from Rockwell Automation and their network of partners, of which Cisco is a proud Alliance Partner. And you would have gotten free breakfast and lunch too!

Ok, in multiple booths we showed how one machine can integrate into another, and form a production line. Funny how that happens. We at Cisco are a part of ODVA, a trade association of many partners that subscribe to open standard networks.

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Which VPN Is Best for Your Small Business?

When choosing between IPSec and SSL, you might find you need both kinds of VPNs.

Mobile workers are a fact of life for most small businesses and that is often a good thingfor both the company and the employee or contractor. Users who have remote access to your small business network from their home offices or while traveling tend to be more productive and can helps save your company money. The trick, of course, is making sure that the mobile connections to your network are secure. For that, you need an encrypted virtual private network (VPN), which lets remote users safely connect to your network from any location with Internet access.

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Preparing Your Business for Growth

These 5 building blocks will help ensure your network supports your business today and in the future.

If you’re just beginning to build your network for a fledgling small business or you’re expanding the network of a more established smaller company, you should plan your network with an eye toward preparing your business for growth. Your network should be a secure, reliable foundation; one that’s flexible and can adapt to the changing needs of your business as well as give you a competitive edge.

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If you Want to Cut Costs, You Want Remote Access

And if you want remote access — You NEED a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If you are thinking of cutting costs, offering remote access may not be the first thing that comes to mind.  It may even seem counter-intuitive to add a service to cut costs.  However adding remote access to your network not only increases productivity by allowing employees to work when they are not in the office, it also allows you to cut costs by reducing real estate requirements and even allowing you to use more contract workers which can mean a reduction in benefit costs.

It’s no secret that people like to work at home.  I work at home.  I love working at home.  I have zero commute, I put less that 5,000 miles on my car last year; I don’t have dry cleaning expenses and, sometimes, yes it’s true; I work in my PJs.  Some jobs necessitate that employees are in the office and but there’s more room for creativity than you may think.  I once stayed in a hotel where the long-time concierge had to move for family reasons.  Rather than let her go, the hotel set up a video conference solution for her.  She could do everything from home even printing reservations and directions for guests who loved the novelty of the situation and also were impressed by her vast knowledge of the city.  Had the hotel not made this arrangement, they would have lost her expertise.

What is a secret about remote access (shh, let’s keep this between us) is that remote workers cost less! My director’s budget is charged for every cube in her department.  Not mine though.  I don’t run up cell phone costs traveling between buildings.  My **** never leaves my seat, so my co-workers can always reach me.  Even if your company budget isn’t as prickly as issuing department charge-backs for office space, you still need to pay for facility space.  My company doesn’t pay for my copy paper, paperclips, printer, office furniture and so on.  I don’t call in sick to work, I don’t miss work due to inclement weather and I’m never late because of traffic. (though things can get pretty intense around the espresso machine if my husband and I are there at the same time).  Right now over 34 million people work remotely for at least part of their jobs according to Forrester Research, by 2016 over 43% of U.S. workers will be telecommuters.

OK, so telecommuters aren’t drinking your coffee, using the washroom, or stealing paperclips, how does all that add up in savings? According to the Telework Research Network a teleworker saves the average company $10,000 per year (they have a customizable savings calculator on their site).  And the employee saves anywhere between $1,800 and $6,000 per year in commuting expenses.  One of our customers, Chorus, eliminated all office space by going completely remote.  This saved them $400,000 per year in office space.  They also saw an improvement in customer service, employees working from home were more efficient.  As Rick Boyd, vice president of infrastructure for Chorus said “When you take the commute out of the day, people work longer but are happier.”

What is a VPN?

As part of a small business security solution, A VPN sets up a private Internet (IP) connection that uses encryption  and authentication to protect the communications traversing it. Acting  like private and exclusive tunnels from one place to another, VPNs  extend your business to wherever it needs to go: home or satellite  offices, shared workspaces, coffeehouses, or anywhere else your workers  use their laptops, PCs, or IP phones. These private tunnels protect your data to ensure that it’s secure.

How much  does a VPN solution cost?

I posed this question to Ryan Halper, CEO of Cynnex Solutions, a Cisco Select Partner in Seattle, WA that specializes in small business solutions.  He told me that there are several factors to consider such as  the number of VPN users [Remote Workers], the  degree of redundancy (the backup technology), the type of connectivity  (data, video, and/or voice services; software or always-on hardware  solutions), and the network security hardware already in place. He says  that many companies start with basic systems and then later upgrade to  solutions that include redundancy and voice service.

I asked Ryan to be more specific and he told me that it’s not as expensive as you might think.

  • For a company that has a few dozen users and has a VPN device such as a Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance in place licensing would roughly run $80 to $120 per user
  • If you need to purchase a device a Cisco ASA 5505 would be about $1000 for 10 users

If you can save $10,000 a year per teleworker that’s a really great investment!  Now, how many of your employees and contractors could perform their  work remotely? How much will this save your business in overhead  expenses? A Cisco partner can help you select the VPN solution that’s right for you.

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