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What is hosted PBX?

Hosted PBX systems are becoming popular solutions for many small to medium-sized businesses who want to stay competitive with advanced technology and the opportunities it provides.  Built, delivered and managed by a third-party service provider, hosted PBX is an IP-based telephony solution provisioned and accessed entirely through the Internet.

Basically, a hosted PBX takes your business communications system out of the office and into the cloud. So long as they can connect to the cloud, your employees – no matter where they are – can stay engaged and productive without physical limitations.

Unlike a traditional private branch exchange (PBX) phone system, which requires installation, ongoing maintenance, training, and costly hardware, a hosted PBX takes many of these issues off your shoulders and provides you with an easy to manage, user-friendly service with a wide range of features offering greater flexibility.

Let’s review some of the most valuable benefits for SMBs.

User-controlled settings

Hosted PBX systems provide online web portals where users configure their settings without relying on IT staff support or enduring complicated technical setup. Training time and costs are minimal with more user-friendly portals accessible from desktop computers and laptops as well as tablets and smartphones.

Scalability for multiple locations

If you are still supporting multiple locations with a legacy phone system, that means having to manage each location’s computer box individually, deal with limits on numbers of lines, and handle hardware maintenance for each location. It also means remote employees cannot use the same features available in-office.

Because the management of hosted PBX happens in the cloud, your business is free from the demands of a traditional phone system. You are also free to add or remove lines as needed for any location. As your business needs change and grow, your host PBX system grows with you, but at a lower overall cost.

Seamless collaboration

So long as there is a reliable connection to the cloud, remote or traveling employees can securely access services and features to maintain productivity without ever having to step into the office. Whether you need voice, video or web interaction, the same IP service quality and features keep you in touch and in step with your team and your customers.

Flexible features

Once upon a time, most businesses found it sufficient to have a phone situated in one location with a few standard features such as hold, transfer, conference, and speaker.

Today, remaining competitive often demands the capability to communicate from a variety of locations and channels. A hosted PBX system allows employees to seamlessly make, receive and transfer calls across locations or devices, depending on the situation. Video conferencing can include any number of individuals with ease. Voicemail can be converted to email (or vice versa), allowing all communication information to flow to the channels that make the most sense for your team.

Automatic updates

It can be difficult to keep up with the frequent changes in business technology, not to mention knowing which most benefit your business. Rather than lose that edge, a hosted PBX will keep your communication system current and notify you of improvements to your VoIP phones and related devices.

Upgrades and updates are simple and often automatic. This means not having to engage busy or expensive IT and phone resources to maintain the best service available.

Business continuity

Accidents happen, as do natural disasters, equipment failures, and cyberattacks. Any of these scenarios could result in downtime when on-site hardware is damaged or compromised. Because a hosted PBX operates from secure and redundant data centers, you are far less likely to experience an interruption in business operation or communication due to loss of voice service.

When a physical phone, computer, or other portal device goes down, calls can be quickly rerouted to another device to ensure continuous service.

What to look for…

Look closely at your current capabilities and determine whether those meet your needs either currently or for your future plans.

Some options you will want to consider include:

  • Ability to convert voicemail to email
  • Videoconferencing
  • Ability to make and receive calls on any device in any location
  • Automatic upgrades
  • Ease of configuration
  • Low maintenance

Your first priority should be running and growing your business, not untangling your phone system. With a hosted PBX, you can enjoy high-quality, reliable service with a wide range of useful features while keeping your attention where it belongs.

4 solid file sharing options for SMBs

Today’s businesses rely on digital files for storing and organizing almost all of their important information. In order to be truly useful, though, these files must be easily transferable. This is where file sharing solutions come into play.
Here’s what you should know about file sharing and some of the top solutions that can help your SMB effectively manage and share its files.

What is file sharing?

While it can refer more generally to any method used to transfer digital files from one location to another, the term file sharing is usually applied to specific applications that run in the cloud. Cloud file sharing systems can be used to give authorized users remote access to files stored on cloud servers.
While cloud file sharing solutions are excellent for giving your employees easy access to important files and facilitating collaboration, they also have the potential to come with cybersecurity risks.
With less direct control over your company’s data and the risk of unsecured devices being used to access files, the use of these applications requires careful supervision to maintain cybersecurity. With strong encryption standards and adherence to a robust security policy, though, cloud file sharing can be perfectly safe.
For the next several years, it is expected that at least 95 percent of cloud security breaches will be directly caused by failures on the part of customers.

Four file sharing services to consider

There are many cloud file sharing services currently available, but a few stand out as the major service providers in the market. Following are four of the go-to services that SMB owners new to file sharing may want to consider.

Dropbox Business

With 300,000 business teams and 500 million total users, Dropbox is one of the most popular web services in existence today. Owing to its ease of use and user-friendly integration with device operating systems, Dropbox is a service preferred by many consumers and enterprise-level users alike.

Google Drive

Google’s answer to independent services like Dropbox, Google Drive is a file sharing service with nearly 1 billion users. Google drive offers large amounts of storage space for files at relatively low costs and integrates smoothly with a range of third-party applications, making it a good solution for businesses in need of a cloud file sharing service.
Drive also integrates with other Google products, allowing users to save files from services such as Gmail and Google Photos to their Drive accounts.

Microsoft OneDrive

Like Google, Microsoft has jumped into the cloud file sharing market with its OneDrive service. OneDrive interfaces seamlessly with the Windows operating system and comes standard as part of the latest versions.
Microsoft Office 365, a favorite suite of tools among enterprise-level businesses, is also integrated with OneDrive, allowing users to easily move files out of tools in the Office 365 suite and into storage in OneDrive.

ShareFile

Rounding out the list of the top file sharing options is ShareFile. With ShareFile, business users can protect their files with a range of security precautions that include 256-bit AES encryption, virus scanning and even a remote file deletion feature in the event a company device is lost or stolen.
Thanks to its 100GB maximum size, ShareFile is also a good solution for storing, sharing and accessing large files.

A final word

These are just some of the many file sharing options in the marketplace today. When using these services, it’s important to remain aware of possible cybersecurity vulnerabilities on your end.
Used correctly, though, these file sharing services can help your company remain secure, efficient and flexible in an increasingly data-driven business landscape.

7 critical questions you should ask when choosing a cloud computing provider

There’s no question that cloud computing is on the rise. More and more businesses are turning to cloud computing as their default setting. But with so many options to choose from, how do you select the right provider for your business?

Here are seven critical questions you should ask when choosing a cloud computing provider.

1. What cloud computing services do you provide?

There are many different types of cloud services such as a public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. If you already know what type of service you want, your first step is to make sure your potential provider offers that service.

More than likely, though, you know you want to move to the cloud, but aren’t sure which type of service would work best for you. A good cloud computing provider should not only be able to explain the services they offer, but help you to determine which cloud computing services would best meet the needs of your business.

2. How secure is your cloud computing?

Security should be at the top of any list when data and networking is concerned.

Cloud security, just like network security, ensures your data stays safe. Ask potential providers what network and server-level security measures they have in place to protect your data. Security measures to look for include encryption, firewalls, antivirus detection and multifactor user authentication.

3. Where will my data be stored?

Since cloud computing involves the storage of data at off-site locations, the physical location and security of those data centers is just as important as online security.

SSAE 16 and SOC 2 Type II certifications are the best indicator that your provider’s products, systems and data are compliant with industry security standards.

4. How will my business be able to access the cloud?

One of the benefits of cloud computing is its flexibility and ease of access. You’ll want you understand how you will be able to access your data on the cloud and how it will integrate into your current work environment.

If your company is poised to grow in the near future, you may also want to ask about scalability and your provider’s ability to meet your growing needs.

5. What is your pricing structure?

Pricing for cloud computing can vary greatly, so make sure you understand how and for what you will be charged.

Ask about upfront costs and the ability to add services as needed. Will services be charged hourly, monthly, semi-annually, or annually?

6. How do you handle regulatory compliance?

Understanding the many laws and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCCI, that pertain to the collection and storage of data can be intimidating. That’s why one of the benefits of hiring a cloud computing provider is having security experts take care of regulatory compliance for you.

You’ll want to make sure your provider is constantly working to stay up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations that may affect your data.

7. What customer support services do you offer?

Cloud computing never sleeps and neither should your provider’s technical support. Getting help when you need it is important, so you’ll want to ask your provider if they provide 24-hour technical support, including on holidays.

Ease and availability of reporting problems is also important so ask about phone, email, and live chat support options. You may also want to ask about your provider’s average response and resolution times.

Asking these questions can help you find the right cloud computing provider for your business. And getting the right answers is only a phone call away—call your managed IT services provider to start the process today.

Which is more secure: Onsite or offsite servers?

As your company grows, you will eventually reach a point when you must decide whether you want to use onsite or offsite servers. From a cybersecurity perspective, both options have their advantages and disadvantages.

Before you make your decision, get more informed about the pros and cons of onsite servers and offsite servers.

The security benefits of onsite servers

Some companies prefer onsite servers because they want full control of their data. They may worry that storing information on offsite servers gives criminals easier access to sensitive data.

As long as you’re willing to spend money on the right equipment and personnel, your business could benefit from onsite servers capable of giving your employees access to cloud solutions.

Security problems with onsite servers

There are a few security issues to consider before you choose onsite servers. Few SMBs can afford to hire IT professionals who focus on server security. Without the right personnel monitoring your system, the network could get infected by malware.

Choosing a reliable network monitoring tool lowers the threat of infection. Monitoring your network, however, isn’t the same thing as adding security that prevents hackers from attacking you. What will you do if you discover a new piece of malware on your network?

There aren’t many IT professionals working for SMBs that can eradicate every trace of malware, especially when the malware has been released recently and an antidote isn’t obvious.

Security benefits of choosing offsite servers

Over the last few years, more companies have started using hosted virtual servers. According to one study, 67 percent of organizations in 2014 relied, at least partially, on hosted systems.

There are several security reasons for companies to choose offsite servers. By choosing an offsite server, you get monitoring and protection from trained professionals. Placing your data in an offsite server also helps protect your business from disasters. If your office suffered a fire, flood, or other disaster, you could lose all of the information on your server. With offsite servers, though, you get added protection for disaster recovery and business continuity.

Keeping data on an offsite server only protects your business when you choose a reliable partner. Make sure you choose a company that takes security and uptime seriously. Otherwise, you won’t get the benefits that you expect.offsite servers

Problems with using offsite servers

While there are numerous benefits to choosing offsite servers, there are also some disadvantages.

Depending on how your partner structures its servers, your network could get infected by malware because of another company that uses the same servers. Without strict walls between accounts, another business’s poor security could hurt you.

You can improve the chance of choosing a reliable partner by asking companies about their rack space, cabinet space, and cage space. You should also ask about the company’s uptime, service level agreement, and data backup redundancy.

A hybrid approach to server security

Since there are pros and cons to both options, it makes sense to consider using a hybrid solution that combines the best qualities of onsite servers with the security advantages of offsite servers.

A hybrid cloud solution can give your business stronger security, automatic data backup, uncompromising performance, and the ability to scale quickly as your organization evolves.

You don’t have to choose between onsite and offsite servers. A hybrid approach might match your company’s needs better than those options.

The SMB Quick Guide for Upgrading Office Technology

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

— James Belasco & Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo

If you run a small business, you already know two things about change. One, it’s inevitable. And two, it’s hard.

One would think that the inevitable nature of change would eventually make it easier to stomach, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, a couple of years ago McKinsey & Company reported that (at that time) an overwhelming “70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.” (We suspect the number isn’t much lower today.)

But when you consider why change is so hard, that makes sense.

The Science of Change

As a recent article in Forbes pointed out, the default human response to change is fear. In a more primitive time, change often meant danger. Our ancestors survived because they feared change.

While that’s fascinating in its own right, it’s also frustrating. If you’re a business owner and you’re ready to upgrade your office technology, you have to also be ready to deal with how your staff will handle change. It’s not as simple as just saying, “We’re using these applications now.” Frankly, that never works.

No, if you want to lead your company through a change in office technology, you need to be prepared.

The Office Technology Revolution

But why change anything? If the tools you’re using now are working, why not just keep using them? Because the way we do business is changing.

It’s hardly a secret that cloud adoption is steadily growing. Gartner predicts that we’re just a few years away from the day when the vast majority of businesses will rely on cloud services of some kind.

If your office technology is still primarily onsite, it’s time to consider a shift. Cloud solutions offer multiple advantages over local hardware and software, including improved flexibility, scalable growth, remote access and (in many cases) cost savings.

Changing Office Technology

Of course, that leads us back to the problem we started with. If it’s in your best interest to consider upgrading your current office technology to cloud-based solutions—and it is—then how do you go about doing that successfully?

At ISG, we’ve gone to great pains to make it as easy as possible to shift your office technology to the cloud. Not only do we take care of all the technological legwork, but we’ll even help your employees acclimate, too.

All of this is possible with our Modern Office Foundation bundle. Here’s how it works.

Top-tier Tools

Our Modern Office bundle comes with the very best office technology tools available. At the top of that list is Microsoft Office 365.

Office 365 is the premier productivity suite because it’s a powerful, robust tool that includes everything your business needs to stay on top of your projects. There’s cloud-based email, standard applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as top communication and collaboration solutions like Teams, Sharepoint and OneNote.

And you’ll get it all with the Modern Office Foundation bundle.

Seamless Transition

No matter how good the tools, if transitioning from your current solutions to new office technology is rough, your employees aren’t likely to see the value. That’s why working with a skilled partner like ISG Technology is so important.

We’ll take care of your implementation, allowing for a hassle-free adoption period. Trust us—you’ll be glad you didn’t tackle this on your own.

Employee Training & Support

A lot of our competitors offer some kind of migration service. That’s not terribly unique. But what really sets us apart is our employee education and support.

We offer monthly Innovation Training sessions to ensure your staff gets the most possible value out of your office technology tools. In addition to that, our help desk support is second to none. It doesn’t matter if one of your employees is dealing with something as simple as a lost password or something more complex, we’ll be there.

And because our approach is both proactive (through training) and reactive (through support), you’ll always be covered.

The Right Kind of Change

Office technology is changing. While it can be tough to keep up, ISG’s Modern Office Foundation bundle makes it a lot easier.

If you’d like more information about our Modern Office Foundation bundle, feel free to contact us today. We’ll be happy to show you how we can help upgrade your office technology without any hangups.

Office 365 and the value of cloud-based solutions

Microsoft’s Office 365 has made a huge splash within business IT. In fact, a study from security firm Bitglass found the service to hold 25.2 percent of the enterprise market in 2015, which was a 300 percent increase over the previous year. This even beat out Google Apps, hoisting Office 365 above the competition and showing just how valuable this solution is.

That said, many organizations are hesitant to make the switch to cloud-based platforms for a number of reasons. To that end, we’d like to dispel some rumors about Office 365 and get to the heart of what makes this service great.

Cloud-based solutions make sense for multiple verticals

“The cloud’s many advantages simply cannot be ignored.”

The cloud’s many advantages simply cannot be ignored at this point. The technology’s ability to increase innovation and flexibility while also keeping costs low is an incredibly central part of its selling point. In fact, Matthew McClelland of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has stated that these exact reasons were the drivers behind his organization’s switch to Office 365.

“We were often stuck in the old way of doing IT,” said McClelland, who is the manager of the information governance office at BCBSNC. “Slow waterfall-style projects that took a lot of time to roll stuff out. When you add up the cost of everyone’s time, impact to our operations, the impact on the day-to-day work of users, it’s expensive.”

Of course, health care isn’t the only sector seeing the benefits of cloud-based solutions like Office 365. Fortune quoted Curt Kolcun of Microsoft as saying that the number of Microsoft Cloud for Government users is around 5.2 million, which includes Office 365 as well as other cloud services.

Regulatory compliance is a must

Of course, many sectors have more to worry about than cost and flexibility. Regulatory standards, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, come down hard on institutions that can’t follow the rules. In fact, a violation of HIPAA carries a maximum annual penalty of $1.5 million.

HIPAA has strict rules. Violating HIPAA could result in massive fines.

Again, this is where Office 365 shines. McClelland also reported that HIPAA used to be a “hurdle” for medical cloud migrations. However, Office 365 is now HIPAA-compliant, ensuring McClelland’s organization stays on the right side of the law.

ISG Technology can help with your transition

While Office 365 clearly has many benefits for all kinds of institutions, making the transition can sometimes be difficult. To that end, it makes sense to partner with an experienced company that knows all about what a move to the cloud means for an organization. ISG Technology is more than happy to be that partner for you.

Our trained professionals have the experience necessary to help you navigate the tricky waters of transition, both in terms of overall cost and regulatory standards. We know how important this move is to you, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. Contact an ISG Technology representative today and find out what your organization can get out of Office 365.

ISG Offers Veeam Cloud Connect Replication

ISG Technology Expanding Partnership With Veeam
ISG Technology’s Cloud Services business unit, which provides cloud and hosted solutions for small-to-midsized companies throughout the Midwest and beyond, is pleased to announce yet another expansion of its Cloud & Service Provider Gold partnership with Veeam®, innovative provider of solutions that deliver Availability for the Always-On Enterprise™. In addition to its status as a provider of cloud backup repositories using Veeam Cloud Connect, ISG Technology now also supports Cloud Connect Replication. What this means for Veeam clients is that VMs can be replicated to the ISG Cloud via standard Internet connection, providing an offsite cloud environment to assist in executing Disaster Recovery Plans.

 

vcsp_gold_logoISG Technology continues to provide enterprise-class solutions that help clients meet long-term business objectives through technology. According to Matt Brickey, Vice President of ISG’s Cloud & Hosting Solutions, “Our relationship with Veeam provides a winning scenario – both for ISG and for our clients. Developing Veeam-powered solutions enables us to provide large-scale, multi-tenant Backup-as-a-Service and DR-as-a-Service products while ensuring the best combination of simplicity and value for our clients.”

If you are interested in hearing more about cloud backup and replication opportunities – whether you own your own Veeam licensing or you would like to explore a fully hosted solution – contact your Account Executive or a Cloud Specialist at cloud@isgtech.com.

How does culture affect hybrid IT integration?

The culture you have created at your business should be something you are constantly evaluating. Not only does it affect employee retention and recruiting, it also has major repercussions when attempting to implement a hybrid IT solution. Blending your own IT team’s services with that of an outside provider is never a completely smooth process, but having a poor internal culture can make it even bumpier than it has to be.

That said, culture does not exactly have a quantifiable metric, so deciding whether or not your employees are ready for this kind of service can be difficult. What does an office that is prepared for hybrid IT integration look like, and what can you do to get your workers to that position? Let’s find out:

“IT departments have become overwhelmed.”

Your IT team hasn’t failed

A good place to start with a hybrid IT integration is to make sure everyone understands that your internal IT department is not at fault here. Many employees jump to the conclusion that contracting a managed service provider to handle certain functions is the first step toward fully outsourcing IT. As an administrator, it is your job to quell these notions.

With the massive increase in technological reliance in recent years, IT departments have become overwhelmed. In fact, Robert Half Technology found in a study that CIOs believed their tech teams to be understaffed by about 42 percent. Explaining that this integration of hybrid IT is to allow your internal department to focus on future goals rather than putting out daily fires can help quell any panic from employees.

Emphasize innovation from the top

Another reason employees are hesitant about hybrid IT is the fact that they probably have gotten used to the old way of doing things. In fact, getting employees out of a rut is actually one of the best benefits of this service. Shaking things up from time to time helps fight complacency, but it has to come from the top of your organization. This means getting all executives on board and actively engaged in this transition.

If not, you could become part of the roughly 90 percent of respondents in a recent Hitachi Consulting report that stated legacy systems were getting in the way of innovation and growth. Innovation should be a major part of any company’s business model, and hybrid IT can help you work toward it.

Innovation is a key part of business. Hybrid IT can help with innovation.

Be specific with what will need to happen

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, administrators need to keep employees as informed as possible about this transition. This starts by being specific about what operations will have to be moved when discussing the integration with your current IT team. Just saying “we need to move to the cloud” is not good enough.

On top of that, you’re going to need to be extremely transparent with the rest of your employees. Backlash from workers is very common in these situations, and the only way to minimize this is to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and why these operations are changing.

Hybrid IT is certainly a deviation from the norm, but that’s the whole point. Change is a good thing if handled correctly, so make sure you choose a solid managed service provider to get the job done right. ISG Technology’s years of experience integrating hybrid IT can help make sure your transition is as pain free as possible.





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Implementing an Effective Hybrid Cloud

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