The Year of the Mega-Hacks

2016 was the year of mega-hacks: the one-billion-person Yahoo account breach, the SWIFT attacks that revealed serious weaknesses in the international banking system, and the as-of-yet unresolved hacks of the US election systems by Russian cyber criminals were a handful of the biggest transgressions. The topic that is rarely covered in the press after such tremendous security breaches is “what happens next?”

In the coming year, businesses will be pressed to turn more of their attention to efficient and expedient responses to hacks, malware and even natural disasters. This critical business managment field is referred to as “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR or BC/DR)”.  Just as traditional PBX systems continue to converge with hosted cloud solutions, BC/DR solutions are moving to cloud-based virtualized solutions as well. BC/DR may include restoring servers or mainframes with backups and provisioning local area networks (LANs) to meet immediate business needs. But for operations that have wider geographic distribution, virtualization is a stronger alternative.

Find a “Disaster-Proof” Partner

hybrid-clou-draasCreating a business disaster recovery plan is an essential matter of strategy and execution; it’s a fairly straight-forward process that is frequently poorly managed. Disaster Recovery as a service (DRaaS) can be especially useful for small to mid-size businesses that lack the necessary expertise to provision, configure and test an effective disaster recovery plan. Such a strategy can be maintained via SLA’s with vendors and can relieve a company of the need to maintain their own off-site data facility.

The keys to success are:

  • Businesses need to understand the risks to their call center systems and computer-telephony integration (CTI) technology network infrastructure (both internal and external);
  • They need to partner with vendors and network service providers as much as possible;
  • It’s essential to define step-by-step procedures for response and recovery;
  • They must validate these actions through periodic exercising;
  • And finally they need to keep their plans and their  various components up to date.

Backup files can be compressed and restored to a “hypervisor” environment, which can then be retrieved, allowing the production department to be bypassed altogether.   This offers major advantages to businesses when they’re reacting to different types and sizes of emergencies.  For instance, a small file infection in a database isn’t as serious as an earthquake as they both have a different set of responses required to rectify them. A “hypervisory solution” can be used in either case, which allows for quick, real-time recovery of data without interrupting normal workflow.

Even with the available options to protect a businesses’ data, many companies focus on hardware back-ups and fail to fully utilize a virtualized environment. According to Forsyth research, 60% of virtualized servers are not covered in disaster recovery plans. This discontinuity means that North American businesses can lose an average of over $159,000 per year from lost IT data, or more than $26 billion collectively. The magnitude of loses that occur each year due to data loss underlines the need for buisinesses to have recovery programs as well as competent and experienced partners to handle things when disaster occurs.

Losing Your Head in the Cloud? Outsource Your Communications

The emergence of UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) will significantly change how enterprises deploy IP telephony solutions in 2017. The UCaaS market size is expected to grow from USD 17.35 Billion in 2016 to USD 28.69 Billion by 2021, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.6% during the forecast period.1

UC allows an individual to send a message on one medium and receive the same communication on another medium. UC solutions can enable organizations to improve collaboration and enhance worker productivity and customer service. As is the trend with the most technologies, UC is continuing a migration to the cloud. UCaaS merges cloud-based services with unified communications, which combine real time communications (e.g., voice, video, etc.) with non-real time communications (e.g., voicemail, email, etc.).

6 Key Components of Unified Communications:

  • Collaboration
  • Presence
  • Unified Messaging
  • Mobility
  • Contact Center
  • Integration with Other Business Applications

The graphic suggests that a growing percentage of unified communications is towards cloud-based services, gradually supplanting on-premise hardware configurations.   The key for cloud-based UC is agility and elasticity, shifting the planning costs, procurement, installation and to the provider.   This eliminates much of the capital expenditures traditionally required by a unified communications platform. UCaaS can be either single-tenancy or multi-tenancy, depending on the use of the platform. Enterprises can also adopt a hybrid approach, keeping a portion of their unified communications on-premises and other applications in the cloud.

The integrating of all communications platforms often comes with a 24/7 help desk, as well as online support and training videos on-demand. With mobile apps becoming the new norm, expect to see more service providers offering proprietary apps to manage all UCaaS functions. This includes the ubiquity of workplace chat and for video conferencing.

The risk with so much vital communication is working with a reliable and consistent service provider.

Managing Info from Every Direction

IT support has shifted from reactive to anticipatory, seeking real-time feedback from users to expedite and process feedback. In 2017, IT customer relationship management (CRM) will continue the march towards omnichannel contact centers, combining all channels of support and communication into one seamless experience for the customer.

Key to an effective solution is a platform that is easy for end users and highly automated for support agents. Although many companies preach the importance of contact centers as a touch point with customers, less than half the contact center intelligence is shared with the rest of organizations, according to research by Teletech.   50% of all contact centers have no analytics capabilities whatsoever – that means companies spending t. This greatly influences another surprising statistic: 80% OF CEOS believe their brand delivers a great customer experience, but less than 10% of the brand’s customers agree.2

The contact center typically includes one or more online call centers but may include other types of customer contact as well, including e-mail newsletters, postal mail catalogs, Web site inquiries and chats, and the collection of information from customers during in-store purchasing.

Source: Dimension Data Global Benchmarking Summary, 2015

IT support teams need to find new ways to use technology to streamline operations, reduce costs and better meet the needs of end users. Contact centers often run into confusion between multichannel – which allows customers to interact through different, unconnected channels – and omnichannel, which brings them all under one roof. A major challenge will continue to be keeping up to date on the various mobile technologies and maximizing the efficiency within contact centers. It all boils down to user satisfaction – and the demands of well-informed end users are hard to satisfy.

UC solutions can significantly enhance the service and operational efficiency of contact centers. They enable companies to serve their customers in the medium of their choice (for example, voice, email, Web chat or SMS); monitor and respond to social media; keep customers well-informed, providing estimated wait-time messages and continuous position-in-queue updates; and provide self-service options with interactive voice response.

UC also allows contact center agents to be located anywhere and to leverage presence to find other available resources in the organization that they can collaborate with to resolve customer issues on first contact.

For the service provider, the traditional help desk and service desk roles will be brought under one roof, making the contact center the central point for all CRM functions. Global support will appear seamless to users across boundaries. It is also likely that there may be a partial move to flexible working patterns with more on-call or remote support.

Keep an Eye on the Next Gen Surveillance

The capabilities of IP-based surveillance systems are constantly evolving and the industry is entering an unprecedented period of power, flexibility and reach of connectivity. However, the evolution in camera technology and the demands of

specific venues are driving changes in the cabling systems used to connect these

cameras. The need to bring power and high-bandwidth data resources to every camera in a broad-based deployment often means high construction costs and suboptimal placement of cameras.

Surveillance can now be offered as a service that is managed remotely, freeing up valuable human and capital resources that no longer need to be on site at every location that requires monitoring. As with cloud services, video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) is a rapidly growing market, enabling connectivity between multiple users and delivering devices a more complete situational awareness across multiple locations.

Source: TMR analysis

In a report published by Markets & Markets, VSaaS market is on an aggressive ramp up with over 27% CAGR to a market size of $1.5 billion by 2020.4 The segments analyzed include commercial, industrial, institutional, residential and infrastructural applications. Amongst the commercial applications, the office segment is observed to hold the highest share. In the infrastructure market (encapsulating highways, streets & bridges, transportation, communications and stadiums), highways, streets and bridges is expected to increase with the highest CAGR of 12.9%.4

Unlike traditional DVR/NVR systems, cloud-based Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS ) is offered on a monthly or annual subscription service and besides cameras and installation services, there are no expensive capital outlays needed to purchase a DVRs for every facility. Security systems evolve from passive monitoring to intelligent and adaptive recognition, situational awareness and analysis systems.

TCO analysis conducted for some customers is clearly showing savings of over +50% over a 3-year evaluation period.  Much larger volumes of data can be stored, cost-effectively and securely, at dedicated server facilities, allowing users to archive video and associated data for longer periods of time and improve its accessibility as well.

As more IP-based security devices inevitably replace aging analog systems, there will be an exponential generation of data from the distributed network. These next generation of security products will assimilate data from the Internet of Things, generated data for security purposes and a range of other applications and uses. The market for video surveillance as a service is, however, facing challenges with respect to the high infrastructure cost and regulation compliance. It is important for end users to work with organizations who understand this emerging landscape.

You Won’t Recognize Your PBX

The last decade has seen a marked shift in what are considered traditional telecomm services. Businesses continue to migrate away from a purely Ethernet-based PBX.   As companies continue to streamline services and look for smooth transition to the cloud-based services, the demand for hosted PBX is outpacing traditional PBX. Recent surveys suggest that companies are looking for a gradual transition rather than abandoning their legacy systems outright. Companies will seek to partner with companies who can relieve them of provisioning process.

Data source: Google Trends (www.google.com/trends); legend created by Software Advice

While desk phones will remain a staple within companies, the trend is that they integrate directly with mobile devices. The implementation of wireless mesh will increase in 2017 and will accelerate this hybrid network.

Mesh solutions utilize multiple wireless access points that work together to provide better coverage in a building without having to be physically connected to one another, delivering spectral efficiency and high bandwidth over the coverage area. The mesh clients are often laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices while the mesh routers forward traffic to and from the gateways, which may – but need not – be connected to the Internet. The mesh topology minimizes the number of Ethernet cables, typically cutting cabling costs by 50% while still extending strong wireless signals to hard-to-reach places. The network is usually plug-and-play and can be managed through a mobile app. The network is self-organizing and self-healing, reducing installation times and maintenance.

A major advantage for mesh networks is that they can be managed centrally through the cloud. The configuration of the network and the addition of multiple access points can be done virtually.   Mesh networks are an excellent option for a hybrid solution with Ethernet PBX.

Conclusion:

The rapid changes in the market can easily pull your focus away from your core business activities. In response to major threats and challenges in 2016, IT service providers are offering an increasing portfolio of services. Disaster recover, cloud services, contact centers, video surveillance and hybrid telecommunications solutions are all critical services that can be outsourced with specialized providers, promising to save you time and money in 2017.

  1. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/ucaas.asp
  2. http://www.teletech.com/sites/default/files/teletech-annual-report-2015.pdf
  3. http://focus.forsythe.com/articles/279/Why-Business-Continuity-and-Disaster-Recovery-Is-More-Than-a-Checklist
  4. www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/video-surveillance-as-a-service-market-773.html

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