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A New Bundle to Help Enable Secure Data Center Innovation

As the demand for next-generation data center services increases, organizations have embraced virtualization and cloud-computing technologies that require security architectures to be more dynamic, automated, and services-oriented. Most network security technologies have not kept pace, they are static and fail to protect against modern threats. Additionally, siloed security technologies are a networking and data center team’s worst nightmare—they often require that the network be “dumbed” or retrofitted to accommodate security approaches.

This is why Cisco has embraced security as part of an end-to-end architecture. Cisco builds in security functions as part of the network fabric to help ensure an automated and resilient infrastructure. Our latest Secure DC bundle pairs the industry-leading router (Nexus 7000) and firewall (ASA 5585) to provide the backbone for a dynamic network with which to accelerate the adoption of newer and more capable applications and services. Various mix-and-match configuration options make this bundle ideal for data centers or any size industry.  Read More »

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So Many Smartphones and Tablets! It’s Time You Get On Board the Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) Train

February 7, 2013 at 3:24 pm PST

Here are tips to help you adopt and support mobility for your small and midsized business.BYOD blog image

Did you know, 42 percent of employees who own smartphones use them for work? In addition, 8 percent of Internet web based transactions and activities are conducted from a mobile device.

The new BYOD trend has changed both employee and customer expectations. The future is in your hands now! Are you reading this on your smartphone?

When you consider this new way we all live—the mobile world, as a small or medium sized business why would you want to ignore this BYOD trend? As Linda Beaton, marketing manager for Cisco points out in her recent blog, this BYOD trend encourages business growth and has security challenges. The upside is that companies that choose to embrace mobility reap a lot of benefits, including attracting more customers and serving them better. According to the Cisco ISBG Horizons Research, mobility improves employee productivity and ultimately can provide you with a competitive advantage.

In addition, when employees get to choose how, where, and with which tools they work, there is a 16 percent increase in job satisfaction. Cost savings are a benefit, too! Companies save approximately 15 percent when employees pay for all or part of their own devices and mobile data plans. And what company wouldn’t want to save money?You many ask: so how can I prepare my business for this new growing trend? It’s easy. By taking into account the following tips, you can get your business ready to adopt mobility and start reaping the benefits today.

Network infrastructure: According to the Cisco Connected World Technology Report, 40 percent surveyed expect to be able to access their company network from their personal mobile device. The inability to access the network impedes productivity—up to six hours per week. To support employees with mobile devices, you need a robust network, fast access and a lot of bandwidth, all wireless! You may also need to invest in network improvements to support advanced technologies to improve communication and collaboration among employees, partners and customers all seamlessly—and Cisco’s unified communications is the key.

Security: You may think that your anti-virus is the only protection you need. But guess what? In a recent Dark Reading article it points out, even when 40 antivirus products were tested with the most common viruses today they detected less than 5 percent of those threats. A breach in your company business data can result not only in financial loss, but also lost customer and business downtime. In fact, the new Cisco ISA500 is a comprehensive all-in one solution that performs like a router, firewall, and unified threat management device.

Protecting the privacy of your data from outside threats requires a three-pronged approach:

  • First, put infrastructure precautions in place to protect your network from malicious activity, such as: firewalls, anti-virus and anti-spam software, and intrusion prevention systems (IPS).
  • Second, you need a VPN to ensure secure access and transmission of your data from mobile employees.
  • Third, you need an acceptable use policy that includes guidelines for mobile device usage. The AUP should outline your expectations for these devices, such as who has rights to the data on them, users’ responsibilities, and security procedures.

Support: So, when employees use their mobile devices for work, how do you provide them with support? For example, if your employees use their smartphones or tablets for work and encounter a technical issue, who do they call? Time spent dealing with technical issues is time that your employees aren’t spending on company business.

To address this, consider purchasing a service contract. A service support plan gives you access to expert technical support engineers who can quickly resolve issues, keeping employees productive. Perhaps the biggest hurdle for small and medium-sized businesses is where to start when it comes to mobility and BYOD. A Cisco Partner can help plan, implement, and support a secure, scalable mobile experience for you and your employees. So what are you waiting for? Find a partner today!

This is a great topic, right? Want more? Check out these posts:

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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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A Secure Network is a Productive Network

Because it’s Cyber Security Month, security has been top of mind for me, I’ve realized that network security plays a silent role in almost everything we do.

Last week our power went out.  This is pretty rare where I live, because I’m on the same power grid as Disney World; which means that there are two major power sources sending electricity our way (imagine the cost of a power outage to Disney World!).  I really never thought it would happen.  Even the year that Central Florida was hit by three hurricanes the power never faltered here.  But, a little transformer blew in town and knocked the lights out.  No power, no network.  So, I picked up my laptop and scooted out to the local Starbucks without giving it a second thought.

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