4 Must-Have Types of Video Conferencing Equipment

Being able to hold a video conference breaks down a lot of barriers in the business world. You can communicate with colleagues who are offsite, broadcast your meetings at important events, and collaborate with people around the world. If you’re going to take full advantage of the joys of video conferencing, you need the right equipment. Here are some essentials you shouldn’t miss out on.

The right video conferencing platform

You know that you’re going to invest in video conferencing this year, but can you confidently say you’ve found the right platform? Around 59% of employees feel disengaged when it comes to meetings. With that in mind, you need to find a platform that’s smooth and easy to work with

When choosing your video conferencing platform, look for one that integrates well with your other apps. For example, if you’re going to collaborate on statistics software or presentations, your video conferencing platform should support your go-to applications. Similarly, find one that’s easy for you to use. You don’t want to incur delays because you’re still getting to grips with your software.

Before finalizing your choice, make sure the platform’s limits support the number of conferences you need to host. Finding out that you’ve reached your subscription limits can cause major disruption when you depend on video conferences.

High-quality voice and video equipment

Hosting a video conference is near pointless if the audience at the other end can’t hear or see you properly. When choosing your camera, make sure you find one that supports the size and shape of your conferencing room. You need to know what you want your audience to see, then find equipment that suits it.

When it comes to audio, decide between personal microphones and those that sit on a stand. Or, you could choose both. If you’re going to spend a lot of time moving around the room or you want several people to be able to speak without shifting positions, consider prioritizing headsets.

Speakers with excellent audio

In addition to focusing on how well your audience can see and hear you, you need equipment that makes it easy for you to hear them. Your audio needs to be clear and direct. You also need to find a speaker system that’s appropriate for your room size and easy to adjust.

If anybody at your workplace suffers from hearing loss, consider whether you need to offer a hearing loop. In addition to providing a hearing loop, you’ll need to focus on equipment that works well with it.

Screens everyone can view

Are you going to use a dedicated TV screen? Or is this a room where you’ll need to project your stream onto a whiteboard?

In many cases, it’s necessary to purchase an interactive display. Regardless of the type of display you choose, make sure it’s easy to use and set up. According to some statistics, poor video conferencing quality results in around $34 billion of losses each year. If you want to avoid contributing to that statistic, you’ll need to invest in high-quality equipment that you find easy to operate. Overall, getting more from your video conferencing experience depends on having the right type of technology. When making your investments, make sure you choose products that are appropriate for your room size. With a little research, finding the right gear will take you far.

Just the Highlights: Business Resilience

Although over 95% of businesses have some form of business continuity plan, many of these plans fail because they’re not thorough enough. When you’re looking to improve your company’s resilience against downtime, financial loss, and damage, there are certain factors you must consider properly. 

Below, we outline what you need to know about business resilience, and how you can improve your company’s contingency planning.

What We Mean By “Business Resilience” 

Business resilience, also known as business continuity planning, is essentially how a company defends itself against potential and real threats to its operations. This can include preparing for cyber threats, employee negligence, and natural disasters. 

Put simply, business resilience is how quickly a company can adapt to changes affecting its day-to-day processes. 

The Purpose of Business Resilience Planning

The reality is that around 40% of small businesses struggle to reopen or continue operating after disaster strikes. Why? Because they fail to implement an effective resilience strategy. They learn from their mistakes when it’s too late to fix them. 

The purpose of business resilience planning, then, is to give your company the best possible chance of staying on its feet after disaster strikes. After all, you don’t want to become another statistic.  

The 5 Critical Elements of Effective Business Resilience 

If you’re wondering where to begin with contingency planning, don’t worry–here are the top 5 areas you should be covering. 

1: Knowing what business resilience means to your organization 

Understand, firstly, what business continuity means to you. This means understanding your customers, your long and short-term commercial goals, your infrastructure, and where your unique priorities are. 

Perhaps it’s customer service, or data protection, or your supply chain. Make sure that your plan includes details on how to get your most critical processes up and running again after a disaster.

2: You need something more than a skeletal emergency response plan

Sure, you need a response plan if a natural disaster strikes or hackers bring down your IT infrastructure, but addressing the immediate aftermath of a disaster is only the first step to business continuity. What’s just as important, if not more so, is how you plan on handling the following hours, days, and even weeks after the incident. A basic emergency response plan outlining evacuation procedures and emergency contacts is insufficient.  

3: Devising cost-effective solutions

Business continuity planning doesn’t have to be costly. That’s why it’s so important to devise a plan that works for your particular business needs. If you’re unsure where to start with cost-effective business continuity planning, it makes sense to work with an IT services provider for help and guidance. 

4: Cybersecurity planning

Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats that businesses of all sizes face nowadays. From hacking attempts to data breaches, the risks are serious and no business can afford to overlook their cybersecurity. Perform a risk assessment of your network security, your hardware and software, and the threats most commonly affecting businesses operating in your particular sector.  

5: Training and testing is key

There’s no point in developing your business continuity plan if you don’t test how effective it is. Furthermore, you must ensure that your personnel knows what’s expected of them, who to report to, and where to go for further advice. 

Don’t wait for disaster to strike. Test your continuity plan now. 

Conclusion

While it’s true that every business is unique, it’s also true that, with the right business resilience strategy, you’ll minimize the effects of downtime on your organization. By bearing the above 5 considerations in mind, you’ll help your company thrive in challenging times. For more information on IT strategy, disaster recovery planning, and the latest cybersecurity threats affecting your business, contact us today. 

6 Proven Strategies to Improve Business Productivity

How productive is your organization? Your answer to this question directly impacts your ability to scale and grow your business.

If business growth is one of your priorities, focusing on increasing the productivity of your workforce is essential.

In today’s post, we’ll be discussing six proven strategies that can help you do this:

1. Hold smarter meetings

How your employees interact with each other — and your clients — has a huge impact on productivity.

This is especially true if you operate across multiple locations. How much time do your employees spend in meetings? How much time do they spend traveling to meetings?

Technology makes it easy to reduce the amount of time spent on meetings. There are now several online meeting platforms that reduce the need to leave the office. 

Of course, your staff may still wish to attend some meetings in person, especially if it’s for a new client. But holding subsequent, smaller meetings via video conferencing can free up a significant amount of time.

You should also ensure employees are properly educated on how to hold effective meetings. 

We’ve all attended hour-long meets that could have been over in 10 minutes. Encourage your staff to use their time appropriately.

2. Outsource tasks to free up resources

There are so many benefits to outsourcing the background tasks required to run your business. Increased productivity is one of them.

How much time does your IT staff spend reacting to issues and fixing problems? This takes them away from focusing on IT tasks that can help your business grow.

Consider outsourcing any ongoing, necessary IT tasks to free up your own staff to work on activities that will help your business grow.

3. Prioritize the health and wellbeing of your staff

Corporate wellbeing is a huge trend when it comes to increasing productivity. And, when you look at the statistics, it’s not hard to see why.

According to a 2018 report by Wricke, 94% of Americans experience stress at their place of work.

As stress is known to directly influence productivity, employers should make this a priority. 

4. Consider remote and/or flexible working

Data suggests remote and flexible working can both improve productivity.

And it turns out your employees probably think so too. A report by HubSpot suggests 65% of people working full-time believe remote working can increase their productivity.

Technology makes it easier for your employees to work from home or another remote location. For example, VoIP telephone systems and cloud computing both make it possible for staff to work efficiently and effectively when not in the office.

5. Keep employees engaged

Employee engagement is another factor that influences productivity.

Research demonstrates this, with disengaged employees reported to cost companies up to $550 billion each year.

Encouraging collaboration in your business is one way to improve engagement. This ensures employees remain involved in the activities that interest them, strengthening relationships across teams to provide an engaged workforce.

Again, technology can help with this — prioritize finding the right tools to enhance collaboration across your business.

6. Minimize business disruptions

Finally, it goes without saying that business disruptions can have a huge impact on productivity.

Thankfully, many of them are easy to avoid — with the right level of care and planning.

Ensure you have an effective disaster management plan and update it regularly. 

Conclusion

There are hundreds of ways to improve productivity within your organization. From educating staff to ensuring you have the right technology in place, it’s a continual process of development. These six strategies are an excellent starting point to help you scale your business. If you’d like to have a conversation about this or other IT related issues, feel free to contact us today.

7 Signs That Say It’s Time to Consider Cloud Disaster Recovery

What happens to your business in the event of a disaster? How do you bounce back? To secure proper business continuity, whatever the weather, you need a disaster recovery plan.

Read on for seven signs that tell you it’s time to implement a cloud disaster recovery solution within your disaster recovery (DR) plan.

Your business is not prepared for disasters from within

When you think of disasters occurring in relation to your business, it’s tempting just to focus on external factors. However, this could leave you exposed to a multitude of problems from within your organization. Research published by Veritis found that only 23% of disaster incidences are actually caused by external security breaches, with almost three-quarters of incidents originating from within. Make sure that you are prepared for any issues within your own IT architecture or elsewhere within the company.

You can’t remember the last time you tested your disaster recovery plan

Putting a disaster recovery plan in place should not be cause for “resting on your laurels”. Instead, this should be just the beginning. Your field is ever-changing and evolving, which means the risks you face are changing and evolving too. Make sure to test your DR plan regularly, to make sure it is up to scratch and able to support you as you move towards growth.

You can identify too many “fair weather” elements

You can’t expect the hands of fate to be lenient in the event of a disaster, and so your plan needs to be watertight. Try this as an experiment: describe your disaster recovery plan and protocols verbally, at length. Any instance in which you need to say “unless,” “as long as,” “provided that,” or any other conditional allowance for your plan is a weak spot. Make sure that these weak spots are eliminated.

You meet the minimum regulatory requirement, nothing more

The regulations are great. They make sure that all businesses maintain a base level of responsibility and care in how they operate, and they provide protection to the consumer. However, they are a minimum standard — and we really mean a minimum standard. Make these regulatory requirements your baseline and work from there.

You rely too much on untested protocols

If the disaster recovery plan you have in place has not been means tested, it is not battle-ready. And if it is not battle-ready, you have no idea what is going to happen when it’s time for action. As many as 93% of businesses without an effective DR plan will be put out of business if they are hit by a catastrophe, so the seriousness of the situation cannot be understated. Unless you have a whole lot of resources at your disposal for developing your solutions, make sure everything you are using is tried and tested.

Your disaster recovery plans are not people-focused

It’s a cliche, but it’s a cliche because it’s true: your business needs to be people-focused. And this includes your disaster recovery plan. You might have software solutions and other disaster recovery measures set up and in place, but what about your personnel; do they know what to do? Making sure your teams understand exactly what is required of them during the recovery process, and aid them with cloud-based support.

You have no remote Plan B

It is possible that your team members will not be able to approach work in the same way, for example, if a crisis makes office-based work impossible. This is where you must embrace the potential of remote work. Without a cloud solution in place, this is simply impossible and could cost you dearly.

A disaster doesn’t have to shutter your business’s doors. Heed the warnings above, implement a cloud disaster recovery plan, and if the worst-case scenario actually happens, you’ll be capable of dealing with it. 

Free Webinar: Cybersecurity War Stories And The Ammo You Need To Protect Yourself

In today’s business environment, always being connected is a must to compete. But doing so creates real risk to your business. Malicious attacks, including ransomware, malware and phishing, demonstrate how businesses can be brought to a halt by locking access or compromising business-critical data. In this webinar, our friends from Arctic Wolf, the leaders in threat detection and response, share the war stories and incidents they have seen – and arm you with the knowledge you need to combat them.

Free Webinar: Protecting Against Cyber Threats With The Human Firewall

No matter how up to date you are with the latest technology and best practices, you will always have a security vulnerability to manage -your employees. All it takes is one click to infect a workstation that allows hackers to cause a ransomware attack, an expensive data breach or worse a cyber-heist. In this webinar, we’ll help you understand how to turn your weakest link into one of your best security assets – the human firewall.

Free Webinar: Navigating The Impossibly Complex World of Cybersecurity

According to Forrester Research, complexity is the #1 security challenge IT Professionals face in today’s world. Consider the fact that there were more than 600 vendors at the 2018 RSA Conference. How do you manage it all? How do you plan to combat the cybercrime industry that has grown to an estimated at $6T? In this webinar, we’ll help you understand a new approach to security that helps you go from overwhelmed to empowered with the three questions you need to be asking to reduce complexity.

Showdown: On-Premise Phone Systems vs Cloud Phone Systems

Communication is at the heart of every business.

[Pull quote] “And even in the digital world, phones still matter. Forty percent of customers prefer speaking with a real human on the phone to resolve complicated issues.”

The question, then, is this: which phone system is the best? It’s time for the highly-anticipated showdown.

In the red corner, we’ve got the good old-fashioned on-premise solution. And in the blue corner, we’ve got the younger up-and-comer, the cloud phone system.

Who will come out on top? Let’s put them head to head in four rounds of close combat.

What is an on-premise phone system?

Without getting too technical, an on-premise phone system (sometimes referred to as a PBX) is a physical phone system that is either owned or leased by the business and stored at the business’s main premises or in its data center.

On-premise phone systems can include on-premise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and digital setups.

Typically, you will be responsible for the upgrades, maintenance processes, and expansion of the system. Many businesses do, however, choose to partner with a services provider when using an on-premise phone system.

What is a cloud phone system?

[Pull quote] “Seventy-seven percent of enterprises have at least one aspect of their computing infrastructure – and this number is expected to grow.”

Like other cloud-based services, a cloud phone system is delivered via the internet. In contrast to on-premise phone systems, the only hardware stored in the workplace are the actual phones and a network PoE switch.

Typically, a cloud phone system service provider hosts a large phone system in a data center, and this is segmented into smaller systems for their various clients. The service provider is responsible for all upgrades and maintenance.

Cloud phone systems are also referred to as the following:

On-premise phone systems vs cloud phone systems

Both on-premise and cloud phone systems offer advantages to small- and medium-sized businesses. Both have their drawbacks, too.

To help you decide which is the best option for you and your organization, let’s examine how each service option performs in several key areas. Let’s get started.

Round 1: Available features

Phone systems are significantly more advanced than they used to be. Businesses can now access a whole host of game-changing call features and data analysis if they invest in either on-premise or hosted VoIP systems.

Both on-premise and cloud-based VoIP systems offer the following features:

  • Collaboration tools, including file sharing
  • Call control
  • Voicemail greeting
  • Messaging
  • Mobility
  • App integrations
  • Web management tools
  • Call training
  • Contact storage
  • Analytics
  • And more

The winner: If you go the VoIP route, it’s a tie.

Round 2: Scalability

Your phone system must be agile enough to change and expand with your business. When you grow, you should be able to scale your phone service to meet increased demands.

On-premise systems give you complete control over these changes. You can switch to a new solution, or even mix and match to create a truly customized system. The drawback? Expanding a phone system can be complex, and without a provider, it’s your responsibility to execute changes without causing downtime.

If you opt for a cloud phone system, on the other hand, your provider shoulders the risk. They can scale your service quickly and effectively – and you don’t have to do a thing. What’s more, software updates tend to happen automatically, so your phone system is always equipped with the latest features and security patches.

The winner: Cloud-based phone systems.

Round 3: Cost

As a business owner, you know that every dollar counts. Cost is always a leading concern, so how do on-premise and cloud phone systems measure up?

On the one hand, an on-premise system may be more economical in the long run. There’s no risk of a fee increase, and once you own the equipment, you own it for good. On the other hand, you will need to fork out a fair amount of cash upfront to secure the hardware you need. What’s more, you are responsible for upgrades, maintenance, and repairs, which can add up over time.

Cloud-based phone systems are far cheaper to set up. And you won’t be subject to unexpected repair costs. That being said, your service provider could increase their fee at any time.

[Pull quote] “For the startup business, it’s never been easier or so cheap to set up a business phone system or even a call center.” – TechRadar

The winner: Upfront, cloud-based phone systems are more economical. However, you do risk paying more long term. 

Round 4: Control

Phone systems are not one-size-fits-all, and control over the scale and functionality of your service is critical.

On-premise systems, without a doubt, offer greater control. You and your IT team have total authority over every detail. You can combine distinct solutions to formulate a custom-created system that meets your business’s needs better than anything else on the market.

Do keep in mind, however, that with great power comes great responsibility. Implementations, software updates, and maintenance must be performed by your IT staff or outsourced.

While cloud phone systems don’t offer the same level of control, they do give you access to features that you may not have been able to implement yourself.

The winner: If control is a top-priority, on-premise solutions cannot be beaten.

Which comes out on top?

So, there’s no clear winner. Which phone system works best for your business truly depends on your needs and limitations. What we can conclude is this:

  • If you are an SMB with significant IT resources that requires total control or a fully customized solution, opt for an on-premise system.
  • If you are a business of any size looking to stretch your IT budget or you don’t have in-house IT resources, go for a cloud phone system.

Happy phone shopping!

How to Put Together a Powerful Video Conferencing System For Business

Workplaces are becoming more disparate, and travel is getting more expensive. Companies are looking for alternatives to align objectives, create a sense of community, and generally drive business in the right direction. Video conferencing can replace the traditional meeting by allowing workers from all over the world to connect, share information, and make sure that everyone is pointed in the right direction.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing is the next evolution of the conference call. It allows employees and offices to connect without needing to be in the same physical location. Video conferencing adds the benefit of face to face interactions without the need for expensive travel. It also means that remote offices can share information and connect directly.

Why is it important for business?

Video conferencing does more than replace traditional meetings or conference calls. Video conferencing has several significant benefits for modern businesses.

Enables a digital workforce

More companies are using digital workers who are located around the world. This is a great choice for finding the right talent, understanding local cultures during expansion, and creating a global understanding of business. More than 80% of companies allow some level of telework. But connecting workers and creating culture can be difficult when everything is conducted via email. A face-to-face meeting can help workers connect with the people they work with.

Saves money

Companies save money with video conferencing because they don’t need to pay for expensive travel. Traveling around the world is exciting, but it also weighs on the company budget. Some travel may still be necessary, but by connecting remote offices digitally, businesses can minimize what’s needed.

Boosts productivity with remote team members

Culture and companionship at work is a huge productivity booster for team members. When someone is working remotely and feels disconnected from their workforce, they’ll be less focused and get less work done. By creating a sense of team, workers are more likely to keep on top of their work and stay organized, maximizing productivity.

So how do you find an exceptional video conferencing system?

There are several different options you should look for in order to make your conferencing system work well for your business.

  • Have space for enough people. If you expect everyone in your company to attend a video conference, make sure the software you choose has the capability of connecting that many individuals. It’s a good idea to future proof your system; make sure you have the ability to add more channels in the future if you need to.
  • Video quality. Although the user’s device will have a big influence on video quality, the system itself determines how much data it can transmit, and how quickly. Making sure your system is HD video capable will help keep pictures clear and detailed.
  • Group messaging. Sometimes a team member has a question that doesn’t need to be asked of the entire meeting. Being able to have small side conversations while the meeting is occurring can be helpful and reduce interruptions.
  • File sharing. Don’t remember to send a file after the meeting; send it to all screens during the meeting so that details can be discussed as necessary. The ability to share screens can also be beneficial.
  • Multiple connection methods. Expect that employees will be connecting through desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones, and conference rooms. Ensure that the software can handle all types of devices connecting. Allow for regular calling in options, in case someone can’t use their video connection for some reason.
  • Recording. Minutes are a good way to record some aspects of the meeting, but not all of them. Recording the meeting can be a great way to share it with those who aren’t able to be present, or to use it as the foundations for a later webinar.

If you’re not sure how to construct a solid video conferencing system for your business, reach out to experts who can help you get started.

How Cybersecurity Fits Into Disaster Recovery

Having a disaster recovery plan is essential when you’re trying to keep your business and its reputation safe. In addition to focusing on details such as how you’ll function during adverse weather, you need to focus on cybersecurity. By learning more about the way cybersecurity and disaster recovery intersect, you can reduce the impact on your business if the worst happens.

Decide what requires your protection

The essence of a disaster recovery plan is to protect your organization’s data. To ensure your plan is extra-efficient, you need to choose exactly what it is you’re going to protect.

For example, if your business represents many clients, and you need to hold information about them to continue operating, what information is the most important? After you’ve identified the type of information that’s most important, you can move onto protecting it against one of the biggest cybersecurity threats: ransomware.

According to Business Insider, ransomware generates around $25 million for hackers each year. As it’s such a financially juicy target, it’s safe to assume that your most important information is at risk too. By gathering that data and backing it up in a safe space such as the cloud, you can lessen the impact if ransomware takes hold.

Treating all devices as a gateway for disaster

Most people in the United States own a smartphone. Many also have their own laptops and tablets. As a result, more employers are allowing employees to access company information remotely. The benefits of remote access include being able to work at home, working during a commute, and being able to contact the office while on business trips.

Unfortunately, every device that can access your business’s information is a gateway for a disaster. At the same time, those same devices can act as vital tools when disasters strike elsewhere. To prevent devices from becoming disaster gateways, ensure employees receive ample training on cybersecurity threats and identifying phishing emails. To make the most of your employees’ devices, ensure they’re equipped with everything they need for remote access when adverse weather hits.

Consider where you’ll need to mitigate impacts

It’s an unfortunate fact that disaster will hit all businesses at some point. While that may be certain, it isn’t clear just how badly the effects will be. Although you can’t predict the future, you can try to offset impacts in advance.

To offset impacts in advance, consider what the most disastrous element of a cybersecurity threat would be. For example, if a successful DDOS attack were to bring your website down and prevent customers from making transactions, how could you minimize downtime? Or, if a data breach results in highly sensitive information leaking elsewhere, what steps can you take to reduce the impact on your clients?

For most businesses, the biggest impact of a cybersecurity disaster is financial. On average, breached client records cost an organization $150 for each one. In the healthcare industry, the cost rises to $429. You may benefit from identifying potential costs to your business during a disaster and then consider ways to prevent or reduce them.

When examining how cybersecurity and disaster recovery intersect, always create a solid plan. If your business encounters any changes, ensure you update your plan accordingly. It’s always worth reviewing your plan as time goes on too, so you can make sure you’re abreast of the latest threats.