Open Source Voip
Collaboration has always allowed teams to be greater than the sum of their parts. With more and more people working from home, instead of just grabbing people and pulling them into a room to discuss problems, options, and strategies, you must hunt people down and herd them like cats to get what you need. Distractions around the home, screaming babies (and spouses sometimes), and difficulty getting into the “working mindset” without the work environment you are used to have caused us to lose that extra value from collaborating.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you get that value back, though. Video Meetings as a Service (VMaaS) applications are a lifesaver. Our offering, Sangoma Meet, allows anyone to set up multi-party video conferences with screen share instantly and enable you to record it to come back to it later.
Microsoft Teams has also become a great tool to help in today’s work environment. MS Teams offers an online, shared document version of Office programs (Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc.) that allows you to work out of the same document, bringing some of that extra value back into your workplace. On top of the text communication and available applications, MS Teams has also recently opened up “Direct Routing” for voice calls to and from the platform, which has drastically improved the program’s value.
MS Teams, in addition to everything else it does, has simple phone system features inside of it if you have the proper licensing (Phone System license is included in A5/E5 and is a hefty fee for other license types). “Direct Routing” allows you to bring a voice service provider and connect it to Microsoft Teams, allowing you to buy phone numbers and inbound/outbound service inexpensively through the service provider instead of expensively through Microsoft itself.
While Microsoft Teams has the possibility of replacing an existing PBX, it lacks most of the robust features and reporting that traditional UC systems have offered for years. Chances are, if phone calls are a large part of your business that you’ll want to stick with your existing PBX and possibly look into options to integrate that PBX with Microsoft teams to get the best of both worlds.
Microsoft also has “Calling Plans” that offer an industry-standard ‘unlimited’ number of minutes (fine print: 3,000 minutes per calling plan). Based on their pricing, though, you would need to be on the phone a lot to get your money out of them with these calling plans. Most office workers are looking at an average of 200-400 minutes per month of external-calling phone time (around 3 to 6.5 hours), coming in well below the 50 hours/month that Microsoft requires you to paying for. Bringing in your provider instead of purchasing a Microsoft Calling Plan is an opportunity to save people a lot of money by paying for what they are using instead of buying 3,000 minutes for an employee that makes a 30-minute call twice a week. In addition to that, with Mircorosoft’sMicrosoft’s Calling Plans, making any calls outside of your country requires an even more expensive plan, even if you need to make a call once.
At Sangoma, we saw a need for a service plan that makes more sense to all companies using MS Teams. VI Communication Service’s Voice for MS Teams is all about customizability and paying for what you use. We are not trying to sell you ten times as many minutes as you’re going to use while trying to pass it as a “deal.”
In addition to saving money, you also gain a lot of value. VI Carrier Services gives you access to other services not offered by Microsoft’s Calling Plans (like SMS, Fax to Email/Email to Fax, Robocall mitigation, and more), services that are required for any business.
Protection is an essential aspect of our Voice for MS Teams also. In addition to the Robocall Mitigation product, which helps tag inbound “spam” or fraudulent calls for your users, we also offer a fraud protection system for International Termination. You can set up daily spend limits and per minute limits for calls outside of US/Canada. This helps to protect you from bad actors using your service to make those calls and protect you from “Larry” in shipping and receiving spending hours on the phone with somebody in Elbonia, racking up a huge phone bill.
There is also a lot of value in working with a company that focuses on the service that you are buying through them and has been focused on that service for many years. We also value YOU as a customer, a partner – offering a Customer Success department whose purpose is to make sure that we help you with everything you need.
Overall, Sangoma specializes in Communication Services and offers an experience tailored for what you need with a specialized team available to help at any time. VI Communications Services’ Voice for MS Teams is the way to go if MS Teams is integral to your business. Our team is ready to help you with any questions you might have and will give you a demo of our account management portal and help you determine how little you’ll be spending with us!
To learn more, visit us at carrierservices.sangoma.com/voice-for-ms-teams/
Alright, I’m back to traveling pretty regularly, at least within the United States. And with that comes airport delays. Yep, I almost forgot about them. I was in a massive delay a few weeks ago, and I ended up working from the airport. The Wi-Fi wasn’t great there, and I ended up using my hotspot the whole time. And if there weren’t video involved so people could see a different background, no one would even have known.
It wasn’t quite as good as working from home, but everything worked OK, even the video calls that I did. But I started thinking about what would happen if I didn’t have great Internet at home and it went out a lot, and I needed to rely on mobile for my Internet, like a permanent hotspot. That’s 5G Fixed Wireless.
My 5G hotspot when I was doing that work gave me 30Mbps download and 16Mbps upload. As I write this at home, I’m getting 123Mbps download and 120Mbps upload. And that works great.
At $60/month for 5G fixed wireless, it could be problematic if I can only get 10Mbps. I might have to turn off the video. 25Mbps would much better. So, at 25Mbps it could probably work but at 10Mbps, it would only be a good backup if I had spotty landline service. Or if that was the only option to get Internet service.
Anyway, since I hot-spotted fine, I feel like a fixed-wireless option will work (but check the speeds).
The post Will 5G Fixed Wireless be viable to handle real-time UC? appeared first on Sangoma.
Businesses are turning to Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) in order to adapt to today’s modern, flexible, and remote workforce. It is the most secure method for staff to access their tools and applications from any location to do their work, when compared to traditional PC deployments. DaaS delivers simplified IT that administrators are always looking for and cuts down on the CAPex of deploying PCs, since DaaS allows users to access their cloud-hosted desktops from any device.
While the benefits of DaaS are enticing, some businesses shy away as soon as they realize the price tag, which ranges from $20-$140 a seat depending on the provider. To see the full picture, however, it’s important to understand the return on investment (ROI) of DaaS, which can be more cost effective than existing deployed solutions. See how DaaS allows businesses to scale up on their remote capability demands and future-proof their digital operations without inflating IT budgets.
What Are You Spending On IT Today?
When evaluating a solution to support a distributed workforce, businesses should focus not on specific costs, such as hardware or licensing, but the total cost of ownership (TCO). It’s important to factor in the cost of designing, building, and most importantly maintaining the infrastructure.
Start by establishing a baseline for existing infrastructure costs and the state of end-user devices. This can help in understanding potential implementation and management costs, compared with an existing set up.
Businesses should be asking themselves questions like:
- What are the costs around human capital?
- What are the average lifespans of endpoints?
- Will ongoing needs be met with my current licensing purchases?
With a basic understanding of existing IT costs, businesses can then investigate how DaaS can alleviate or eliminate overhead expenses, with careful consideration to ongoing hardware management and support costs.
To fully appreciate the TCO of DaaS we also need to understand where the demand for it came from.
Don’t Get Left Behind With Old Technology!
Physical desktop computer infrastructures no longer make sense in today’s corporate world. It’s difficult to secure, maintenance heavy, and inflexible in supporting today’s constantly changing IT landscape.
Desktop computing has become a major cost issue for IT departments. Workstations are eventually replaced once they reach their lifespan, or even sooner when new software requires newer hardware. While it is essential for delivering “must-have” applications and services to end-users, IT managers are increasingly concerned about the tremendous amount of time, complexity, and cost inherent in managing and securing physical PCs.
What You Need to Know About Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
With VDI, businesses install virtual machine software onto in-house servers to deploy virtual desktops to all their users. Each user’s PC effectively lives on these servers and is accessed from any workstation, on-demand, even from outside the corporate network. This not only eliminates the need for dedicated workstations, it also makes it easier to patch, configure, and monitor the system as a whole since it has become centralized.
Businesses can also deploy “thin clients”, which are low-powered end-points since all the computing is delivered from the virtual desktop over an internet connection. Thin clients are an attractive alternative to physical PCs as they have a significantly smaller power footprint, a longer life cycle, and are easier to manage as a near stateless device. Depending on the scenario, this can cut the workstation cost in half, per user.
We can already start to see the benefits of a VDI environment over traditional PC infrastructures when comparing their capabilities:
An example of the financial benefits of VDI come from a Forrester study of a school district saving $3.3 Million over a span of 3 years by investing in thin clients for their labs vs traditional PC workstations. The end result was 40% IT efficiency gains and $52,000 in savings on software licensing costs by deploying VDI over traditional desktops.
Cut Down On IT Costs
IT labor is a large portion of the expense for standard desktops, and an area where virtual desktops deliver significant savings as the desktops are now a centralized and controlled resource. Areas of cost savings include:
- Helpdesks where support personnel can resolve issues remotely instead of being tied to the physical device
- Desktop maintenance for support and maintenance of end user devices, since they are either BYOD or thin clients
- General labor involving OS patching, desktop infrastructure maintenance, finance, and application delivery
Should You Invest In Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)?
Deploying VDI does come with its challenges, requiring in-house IT to manage desktop infrastructure, servers, storage and hypervisors, as well as the virtual desktop images and applications. This is also true for MSPs who offer, or want to offer, VDI services to clients from within their data centers.
A key factor impeding the adoption of VDI is the upfront data center hardware costs needed to run the infrastructure for VDI, specifically servers and storage. A calculation of virtual CPUs and RAM are required, from a server perspective, and input/output performance and gigabytes for disk space, from a storage perspective, per user. From a footprint perspective, a business would assign 25-50 GB solely to run the Windows OS. Given the performance requirements of a virtual desktop, the internal storage of these servers is not recommended, requiring SAN or NAS storage, which adds to the TCO.
Overall, the datacenter costs are centered around:
- Floor, cooling, and rack space, on a recurring cost schedule
- Server hardware, along with support, and power consumption
- Cost for NAS solution, including power and racking, along with cost per GB per year
- Cost per GB per desktop image, per year
If you are an MSP hosting VDI services, then these costs balloon considering the size of your datacenter infrastructure in order to support your customers.
Aside from hardware specifics, VDI also includes management and software overhead:
- Management overhead: Management servers and storage running Windows Servers and associated data. Typically a pair of them is needed to create a high availability setup in case one fails for any reason.
- Software overhead: Windows licensing for desktops, including licenses for virtual desktop access and other related licensing costs.
The visual representation below shows more clearly how data center costs can pose a significant challenge and may not be suitable for some businesses.Hardware Software
Don’t Throw Your Money Away On Bloated Data Center Hardware Costs
It’s a well known fact that businesses are over provisioning and underutilizing their VDI hardware infrastructure. A report by ControlUp indicates almost half of VDI servers in datacenters were deployed with too much RAM and 80% of general purpose machines over-provisioned. This appears to be the case because IT admins simply avoid right-sizing their hardware as it’s a complicated process and it’s simply easier to accept the architecture design of the vendor and pay the cost.
A VDI solution already saves money for businesses when compared to traditional PC infrastructure, whether it be an SMB, enterprise, or an MSP delivering VDI services to them from their data center, but there is still a lot of room to save even more cost, especially when it comes to RAM. To throw some numbers around, in the ControlUp study, about 26 GB of RAM was allocated for over 70,000 servers running an OS at a price tag of $69.3 million. Of that, ControlUp estimates over 75% of the servers were over-provisioned, leading to nearly $31 million overspent on RAM.
Aside from analysing total cost of ownership from a pure hardware perspective, the operating system has an impact as well. Up to date operating systems run more efficiently, which can help save on hardware costs. However, as you run out of capacity, hardware vendors are more likely to sell more hardware resources than make software efficiency updates, so it’s up to the SMB, enterprise, or the MSP to make sure their systems are up to date, further adding to the total cost of ownership.
How Connected Workspace Can Transform Your Business
It’s important for businesses to find a solution that meets their total cost of ownership needs in an agile and dynamic, scalable way. And this is where our Connected Workspace can help. It’s a Desktop-as-a-Service solution that meets your compliance needs, mitigates risk, and reduces your total cost of ownership. Connected Workspace’s total cost of ownership is delivered at a fraction of the cost of VDI as there are no servers for you to set up in a datacenter running virtualized software and virtual desktop management infrastructure. Tying in with the aforementioned datacenter hardware and software costs of VDI, Connected Workspace cuts those down considerably:
A recent case study shows how Connected Workspace saved a business up to 75% on costs from using their previous infrastructure.
As a cloud-hosted VDI solution with enhancements, Connected Workspace is delivered on-demand and within minutes from a web portal. The enhanced provisioning process right-sizes the solution for you so that you pay for exactly what resources and tools you need, and can be scaled at any time, saving you money. We can see in the table below how Connected Workspace continued to deliver greater benefits than VDI or PC solutions:
Connected Workspace does not require any expertise in VDI or IT technology. Simply configure employees, or client user workspaces, from a dedicated online portal, along with the tailored tools and virtual desktops needed, and the Connected Workspace infrastructure is ready for users to access and stream their cloud-based office space within minutes, from any device.
Connected Workspace is very easy to manage, and allows a single administrator to manage all their distributed offices and staff workspaces or thousands of clients. There are no sunk costs, no separate licensing, no physical hardware or software updates to keep in mind, and it creates a significant reduction of IT management workload to manage user tools and applications. Plus it’s enhanced security measures, such as built-in ransomware protection and multi factor authentication, make sure your business and customers are safe at all times.
Want to see Connected Workspace in action? Schedule a free demo to learn more!
The post Save Money, Cut Your IT Costs & Reduce Complexity with Desktop-as-a-Service appeared first on Sangoma.
As cloud-based communications become more of the natural fabric of business communications infrastructure, SD-WAN is becoming more important for the enterprise. And this is precisely the reason we chose an SD-WAN company (BigLeaf) to present the keynote at Virtual AstriCon, November 3-4, 2021. It is an essential subject to customers who may want to use it or partners who likely will need to offer this as one of their solutions to help their customers.
What is SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network)? First, let’s review how connectivity occurred before SD-WAN. A WAN for a company would be how a company connects different locations and sends data back and forth in a private manner (i.e., not using the open internet). Obviously, this has been happening for a long time via routers using MPLS. One could encrypt traffic over the MPLS network. All traffic back and forth between locations would use MPLS on this private network.
However, public clouds such as AWS and Azure are being used now with enterprises. Interaction with these public clouds is occurring within the enterprise. With SD-WAN, one can intelligently route traffic – send the traffic either over private WAN links or the internet depending on policies set up. Since some traffic doesn’t need to be on the private WAN, or some traffic will be on public clouds anyway, SD-WAN can manage this. You can scale easier and faster, can drive traffic flows, etc.
Firewalls also have to be set up when interaction with the internet occurs, and these are known as (believe it or not) NGFWs (Next-Generation Firewalls!). Some NGFWs have SD-WAN capability. And some do not, by design. And some SD-WANs have some NGFW capability, and some do not, also by design.
To learn more about SD-WANs, go here. And as a reminder, the AstriCon keynoter is Jeff Burchett, co-founder and chief revenue officer at Bigleaf Networks, who will discuss demystifying SD-WAN.
The CCaaS (Contact Center as a Service) movement continues to grow as contact center capabilities become increasingly outsourced. This popular model of app deployment allows organizations to buy tech capacity as needed to keep operations running smoothly.
What Is CCaaS?
Contact Center as a Service products offer cloud-based capacity on demand; the enterprise pays for access to contact center capabilities as part of a subscription. This model has implications on helping cut costs related to IT spending, maintenance, and support, while expanding integration. CCaaS also supports new features rollout, as updates are pushed automatically by the provider.
With CCaaS, companies incur no investment, other than subscription costs, in infrastructure, maintenance, or physical overhead. Similarly, logistical headaches are also passed off to the service provider.
Differences Between CCaaS & UCaaS
Despite some functional overlap, CCaaS differs from the more common UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) due to varying applications. Contact Center as a Service supports customer communications, while the UC variant promotes inter-organizational collaboration.
On-demand contact center software includes call center features to assist sales and support staff, as well as the customer, whereas UCaaS options include functions such as video conferencing, messaging, email, and voice calling to streamline employee workflow and collaboration.
What are CCaaS Capabilities?
Outsourced contact center solutions are defined by several features.Automated Contact Distributor (ACD)
The ACD routing engine intelligently queues self-service, AI chatbot CCaaS exchanges. The capability supports the omni-channel desktop, with features for handling context and designing contact flows. Managers can also pre-assign coverage areas to specific agents for intelligent customer call routing. For the service provider, this element provides critical coverage for handling customer inquiries and addressing concerns, streamlining customer relationship management (CRM) and experience management (XM).Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
The Contact Center as a Service function includes a customizable, interactive menu that allows callers to either speak a command or dial a number to enter a selection. IVR also integrates with ACD to support data sharing. From customers’ perspective, automated lines can be frustrating and repetitive. IVR technology streamlines the query process, helping to properly convey thoughts and questions to appropriate channels, extending customer satisfaction.Outbound Software / Predictive Dialer
CCaaS outbound software – or “predictive dialer” – includes features to support outbound calling. This function supports proactive outreach, as well as features to help sales and customer service agents improve connection rates and function as if situated in a physical call center. For the remote contact center, the implications are numerous, as its features serve to drive sales, support connection rates, and eliminate lag time.
Benefits of Using CCaaS
Competitive CCaaS installation advantages generally focus on its ability to streamline and simplify operations management. Top benefits include:
- Scalability – CCaaS environments can be scaled up or down, according to organizational need. Infrastructure-related investments are tossed aside, as capacity and capabilities can be added / removed.
- Reduced Cost – Expenses associated with installing, testing, maintaining and using physical contact center solutions are eliminated using Contact Center as a Service. Organizations can restrict spending strictly to items deemed necessary for operational growth, and offset costs related to administering such infrastructure to the provider.
- Less Overhead – CCaaS deployments support reduced overhead spending, including personnel and technology investments. Physical infrastructure – and its often-costly maintenance – are reduced to practically nothing.
- Reinforced Customer Experience – CCaaS reinforces CX, with elements to streamline access to dedicated personnel, automate selections and obtain information without disruption.
- Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness – Data, as its maintenance no longer falls on the organization itself, becomes accessible on a 24×7 basis, and is backed up and secured against natural and man-made disaster. Additionally, data replication technology – whereby data is stored in multiple, geographically dispersed data centers – promotes accessibility even in the event of provider failure.
Check out the contact center features available with Switchvox from Sangoma.
With all the remote working going on, we’ve all started using different kind of endpoints. Maybe it’s a headset now connected to your computer, using your UC system’s desktop client. Or a speakerphone connected as well. Or just your mobile phone connected to your UC system’s mobile client. Either way, if you have been working remote or from home, you’ve probably been using your deskphone less than you have been.
But does that mean that deskphones are going the way of the horse and buggy? Not necessarily.
The deskphone industry is still a multi-billion dollar USD industry and depending on what reports you read it’s either stagnant, growing a little, or declining a little. The message here is that the market is big and will stay big for a long while. Why?
Well, first of all, if you are a SMB, it’s hard to work from home. Your business needs to be open. And your employees will have phones at their desk.
Additionally, even for someone like me, who has a home office but also has a deskphone in my home office (connected to a Sangoma Cloud UC solution of course!) and while I have utilized different endpoints as per the first paragraph, I still use the phone for various reasons (4 digit dialing to others in Sangoma is easy, calls to/from customers, partners, etc.).
For those that might work from home some of the time, they will still have an office. So, phones will be required for them.
And even though phone usage per se may be less, as business grows and expands, companies grow and expand, and employees will still need phones. Because you still need to make and receive phone calls.
Sangoma has decided to cancel the in person AstriCon 2021 event in Orlando, Florida the last week in September and move it to be a virtual event in it’s more traditional time slot during mid-October (exact dates to be determined).
While we had a great virtual event last year (what we called AstriCon Plan 9), we were very much looking forward to hosting the community at a face-to-face event this year.
However, due to the rise of Covid cases recently throughout parts of the US, including Florida, we decided it was in the best interests of the community, our partners and our employees to cancel it again.
For those of you who have already registered and paid, we will refund your ticket.
Please bookmark this space as we will update it soon regarding Virtual AstriCon 2021.
Connected Workspace is a virtual desktop, Software as a Service (SaaS), and communications solution, securely streaming your Windows PC, along with all your apps, data and communication tools from the cloud, and to any device. Whether you’re working remotely, at the airport, on the road, or anywhere with an internet connection, you have your office workspace with you.
Why Should SMBs Adopt Connected Workspace?
Let’s explore the ways Connected Workspace benefits SMB organizations.Benefit #1 – Keeping IT Staff Forward Thinking
Small-to-Medium businesses will have 1 to 2 IT administrators, based on their staff size, and are typically focused on fixing problems with infrastructure and employee requests. Connected Workspace can increase the return on investment (ROI) for the business by offloading these tasks, enabling IT to focus on strategic investment and simplified management. Star2Star’s Connected Workspace platform engineers handle all the costs, from managing Active Directory and file servers to optimizing app licensing, on behalf of the business. And in the case of businesses relying on a managed service provider (MSP) for IT, then the MSP can benefit in a similar way as well.Benefit #2 – Remote Employee
Businesses with remote employees want to standardize how employees are interacting with the corporate infrastructure, how they access resources, what software they use, and have complete control over all of it. Connected Workspace allows businesses to easily configure the employee’s virtual desktop experience by selecting the features and type of access they can have, via a simple online portal. They can then have access almost immediately by simply signing into their account from the device they have with them, over a simple internet connection. Hiring staff also becomes much easier as businesses can hire based on talent rather than location.Benefit #3 – Acquisitions
Connected Workspace helps businesses standardize IT infrastructure, making it easier for a company to be acquired as well as for the company who is acquiring the other. A business using Connected Workspace has a predictable cost per user, from an IT perspective, making it easy for companies to evaluate the cost of acquiring the company. Also, if both companies have very separate systems in place, it takes more time to integrate them, whereas Connected Workspace makes the integration more seamless and much quicker. This provides a single source that can be adopted across departments allowing strategic system decisions to smoothly transition in and out of the overall application systems, minimizing user impact and keeping productivity as high as possible.Benefit #4 – BYOD
Aside from the benefits of hiring remote employees, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) enables today’s workforce to use their own existing devices that they use on a daily basis, that work for them in terms of comfort and productivity, and bring them to work in a seamless manner. Connected Workspace allows users to access the corporate infrastructure, while keeping the corporate data and security intact. It also allows users to be more productive, because they can access what they need from any device, at any time, so they don’t need to be chained down to a particular workstation. Their desktop exists in the cloud and is accessible through any device, removing the IT spend and simplifying the management of the local computer in depth.Benefit #5 – Seasonable Business
Seasonal businesses will scale up and down based on customer demand. At their busiest time, they’ll have the highest staffing levels and at their least busy, the lowest. The advantages of Connected Workspace for this type of fluctuation are:
- The ability to scale users very quickly, whenever needed, all from a web-based portal
- Predictability of costs during the peaks and valleys of user count
Being able to standardize IT across every location of a business is ideal. Whether an employee is part of headquarters or a remote office, they all work in the same way, accessing the same applications and tools, under the same secured environment. And if there are any IT policy changes or software updates required, the changes are done quickly, from a central location, for all the locations at one time.
Connected Workspace offers SMBs with the ‘any device, anywhere access’ type of workflow that increases the productivity of the business; the integration of Star2Star’s voice, messaging, and video applications further improves worker collaboration. For businesses that are compliance driven, such as financial, legal, healthcare, and hospitality, Connected Workspace is definitely a benefit. And with no seat minimums, businesses can adopt the technology right away when they hit the ground running.
Want to see Connected Workspace in action? Schedule a free demo to learn more!
The post Top 6 Reasons Your Business Needs Collaborative Workspaces appeared first on Sangoma.
What is Unified Communications? It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is not so simple. On the surface it just means unifying different types of communications together. Sending a voicemail to your email inbox for example is a form of Unified Communications. And 20 years ago, that was pretty much the only unifying of communications you could do. But that’s a long time ago and as the years have gone by, integrating other communication mediums, as seen in this graphic, has expanded the meaning of Unified Communications.
But why am I writing this blog in the first place? Someone can search for “Unified Communications” and get a definition. But this seemingly simple question has been coming up a bit more to me. Why? Because given the explosion of video over the past year and a half, some people these days are saying Unified Communications is just video, screen sharing (collaboration), mobility and presence/instant messaging. And they are saying that because it suits them to say that.
Take a look at the graphic again. It’s no accident Sangoma puts voice at the top. Because no matter how many video calls you do, or how many chats you do, voice is still the predominant business communication medium. Your customers call you!! And you need to be able to route the calls to the right place, and answer the calls on your deskphone, your mobile phone or your desktop. Your business cannot ignore this. And so implicit in the “phone call” is not just the phone call, but contact center functionality such as call routing, call analytics, etc. The definition of Unified Communications will always continue to expand.
You’ve heard the term DaaS or Desktop-as-a-Service before but didn’t really buy into it. But since the release of Microsoft’s Virtualized Desktop service, it seems to have grown into an actual discussion for many businesses now. You may be starting to understand the benefits businesses can achieve by virtualizing their desktop machines and moving them to the cloud, creating a central management point, with a significant reduction in IT hardware costs on workstations, and delivering high performing desktops to users from any device. Also how it eases IT management burdens and a total cost of ownership (TCO) from servers, storage, and network connectivity to desktop applications.
However, one of the major topics of concern regarding DaaS is security. Since customers’ corporate infrastructure is moved from on-premise into the cloud, there is a tendency to worry about losing control of private data. Let’s demystify these security concerns so that you can rest assured your customers are safe and protected.
In-House IT vs. DaaS Service Provider IT
While a business may have trusted and reliable in-house IT staff for their local infrastructure, it doesn’t compare to the far greater security resources of a cloud service provider. With a DaaS service provider, businesses can leverage their expertise to improve their security policies and compliance. Security is not a one time ‘set it and forget it’ process and requires constant attention with frequent software updates at all entry points to the network. All it takes is one exposed area, such as a security patch not installed on a device, to allow hackers in. Businesses tend to forget all this when things are going well, so making sure there are resources always dedicated to these types of things is a must. And, allowing the DaaS provider to take over enables in-house IT to focus on company strategy and forward thinking.
With the onset of the pandemic, remote working has risen and become of significant importance for IT departments to secure and manage. Users need to be able to access corporate and confidential information while outside the corporate network, from any remote location, which can be complex. Local routers, firewalls, or environmental factors can restrict a remote user’s PC from connecting with services at headquarters. It becomes a balance of flexibility vs. security; the easier you allow users to connect to the corporate network, the more businesses put themselves at risk of threats.
A virtual private network (VPN) connection has been a typical way to address this need, however, it is not the best answer! While connected to VPN, any threats that are exposed to the user’s PC can travel through the connection and infect the entire corporate network, spreading viruses, malware, ransomware, and so on. If a user checks their personal email, for example, and downloads a file, which is unknowingly ransomware, it will now travel to headquarters. Malware and anti-virus protection on each user’s PC can help, but is not perfect and ends up being a burden for IT to manage. Furthermore, the requirement to maintain VPN servers, software updates, and the huge cost associated with intrusion detection and protection (IDS/IPS) services becomes problematic because the cost may go overlooked and creates another hole in the security protocols of the business.
DaaS platforms take care of all this without requiring VPNs or worrying about user PC malware protection and allow users the flexibility to connect to the corporate network over any internet connection, from anywhere.
User Credential Protection
While it is true that businesses are more exposed to hackers being out in the cloud, they are at less risk of credential-based attacks when using a decent DaaS platform, than with in-house infrastructure. DaaS services will typically have one secured entry point for access to all of a business’ tools and applications, with single single on (SSO) from a web portal, whereas on-premise infrastructures have many. So hackers can attempt to steal user credentials for possibly many unsecured areas in a network. A DaaS platform should have at least two-factor authentication, but one with multi-factor authentication (MFA) is best as it makes it impossible for hackers to steal credentials.
DaaS enables users to access all their tools and apps from any device, anywhere, using any internet connection, which is one of its major benefits. The security aspect is handled between the users’ connection to their DaaS account, not the hardware they are using. This isolation also prevents users from copy and pasting, downloading, or drag and dropping from, and to, their virtual desktop to the local machine. In other words, what happens in the cloud stays in the cloud. And if a user loses their device, there is no risk since no data is stored on the device and the user’s account can be remotely disabled, immediately.
Malware, Ransomware & Viruses
We hear about these threats happening every day, and growing in scale too. In fact, check out this report of the world’s largest ransomware attack, which includes businesses in the USA. Hackers are taking advantage of infrastructure not properly protected and with out-of-date security policies and procedures. They are skilled in getting into networks via exposed servers with weak credentials and via end user activity.
All it takes is a user to open an email and download an unsuspecting malicious file for a hacker to begin developing a ransomware attack. This can also happen in a DaaS environment that isn’t properly secured. In fact, in a recent event, one particular title company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which will remain nameless for confidential reasons, was one of many in the area hit with ransomware, being locked out of all their DaaS user accounts, crippling them for days. On a positive note, Star2Star ended up saving this business by migrating them over to our Connected Workspace DaaS platform. This is why checking the built-in protocols for mitigating risk is critical when choosing a DaaS platform; you need to know the work-arounds and restoration procedures in the unfortunate event of a successful attack.
Connected Workspace by Star2Star, A Sangoma Company
Connected Workspace is a DaaS service by Star2Star, A Sangoma Company. The service is bundled with voice and video collaboration tools, enabling businesses with the complete ‘office’ experience, wherever they are, from any device.
Security protection is a key aspect of Connected Workspace, from multi-factor authentication (MFA) for our SSO web portal, to our fully dedicated platform engineers taking care of migration, monitoring, and maintaining of your customer’s service.
To help mitigate the risk of malware, such as ransomware and viruses, all files opened on each users’ virtual desktops are scanned and virus definitions are updated and automatically applied if necessary every two hours. Email threat protection is also applied to all Star2Star Managed Office 365 accounts. We have proprietary policies, procedures, and processes in place that alert us upon user access attempts to unauthorized files. Additionally, we do not allow access to the platform outside of the Citrix Workspace connection (part of the Connected Workspace infrastructure) for any third party, as well as no tunnelling, direct connection, etc. allowed to our multi-tenant environment. All of these solutions are in place to ensure that all connections route through a single fabric ensuring that the platform is monitored for any potential anomalies that represent a threat allowing us to respond in kind to mitigate said threat.
In the unfortunate event of a data breach or a ransomware attack, all files in your customer’s Connected Workspace storage, should they become compromised, are isolated in order to remove the threat of further corruption. A restoration to known safe media is performed in an isolated environment. All virtual delivery agents (VDAs) are shut down and forced to restart from Gold Image. The isolation environment is then migrated back, only after file remediation is completed in the isolation environment. We work diligently at all this and can get customers back online quickly, thanks to our dedicated platform engineers. For instance, based on standard data size of 1 terabyte, the mean time to recover is estimated at 4 hours. This is something to consider when customers choose a DaaS provider: is there support available when it’s needed the most? This is one such reason why the previously mentioned title company moved away from their previous DaaS provider to Star2Star’s Connected Workspace.Can I bundle my security services with Connected Workspace?
You sure can! As a channel partner, you can implement a third party email security solution and for our private cloud offering (single-tenant service for customers looking for a more isolated set up) you can offer your existing ransomware, malware, and/or endpoint monitoring additions.
Now that we’ve secured your understanding, connect with us to learn more about Connected Workspace and how it can help you communicate securely in the cloud!
Digital transformation is creating significant changes in how businesses operate, as well as how partners sell into new markets. Desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) plays a significant part in this. Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of why businesses deploy DaaS and why it’s important for you to sell into this market.
What Is DaaS All About?
Simply put, DaaS takes the end-user desktop environment and turns it into a cloud-hosted service. Users log into their DaaS workstation via an online portal, and using their internet connection, run the same productivity and collaboration tools as they would use on their traditional PC.
Why Are Businesses Using DaaS In Their Organization?
Businesses in all sectors are making the switch to DaaS. In fact, Gartner forecasts that the number of users for DaaS will grow by over 150% between 2020 and 2023, as more companies move their infrastructure to the cloud. Here are the top four reasons why:Secure Remote Working
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic rushed businesses to enable remote working capabilities within their infrastructure, significantly increasing the chances of threats and malware being introduced within their organization. Without the necessary preparation, a remote worker using a virtual private network (VPN) or remote desktop protocol (RDP) connection to the head office was also a target for malware that could infiltrate their local PC and exploit their connection to corporate infrastructure. Remote workers logging into corporate applications via their credentials from completely unprotected networks also posed serious risks.
DaaS solves these security concerns by enabling secure remote access with a fully encrypted connection, decoupled from the device. This allows users to log in from any device, over any network connection, from anywhere in the world, without worry. In the case of a security concern, the IT administrator can disable privileges or lock out the entire account instantly without further jeopardizing the company’s infrastructure.Disaster Recovery
Since user desktops are hosted virtually in the cloud, in the event of device failure, fire, flood or other catastrophic scenarios, users continue to work, logging into any device of their choice, from anywhere, anytime.Simplified Management
DaaS cuts down the time and hassle involved in having to manage and maintain individual users’ desktops, which is a big job the more employees there are. Users access their desktops via the cloud by simply logging into a web page to access all their tools. Software updates or security patches are performed from one centralized location, updating the entire infrastructure almost instantly. Users can conveniently log in with their personal devices, which is not a security problem because it’s the connection to the service that is secured. This can save the business on hardware costs too, by allowing users to log in to the service using their personal devices or by deploying Zero Client devices (cost-effective PCs with minimal hardware and software on them) where users simply log in to their accounts and work through the cloud connection.
Onboarding new employees is pain-free; with a few clicks, their accounts are set up and users can log into their environments and start working immediately, without waiting for a PC to get provisioned and possibly needing to be shipped to a remote worker.Enabling Remote Work
Remote work is on the rise more than ever now that businesses are more comfortable hiring talent away from the office. DaaS makes it easy to collaborate, improve productivity, and allows workers to transition to and from the office, since their desktop follows them wherever they go on whatever device they have.
Connected Workspace by Star2Star, A Sangoma Company
In addition to all of the DaaS benefits discussed so far, there are other considerations as well when it comes to choosing the right solution for your business. For instance, our DaaS solution, backed by industry leading Citrix workspace technology, combines our award-winning UCaaS with the secure, device-agnostic DaaS platform. With their communications backbone built-in to virtual desktops and SaaS software, users can leverage high-quality voice, messaging, and collaboration tools right from their DaaS web portal, transforming DaaS into a unique “Connected Workspace”. Everything from our softphone apps, voice, fax and video conferencing services, contact center, Microsoft Teams integration, and more are available to DaaS users from any device and location.
This level of connectivity is unmatched in the industry. We even went a step further and integrated UCaaS within the SaaS and legacy applications customers use most frequently. For example, Salesforce users can make a phone call to their customer within Salesforce without needing to switch to another device or window, keeping them focused and productive.
Connected Workspace is designed for ease of use. Users log into a Single Sign-On (SSO) web portal and simply click on the tile of the application they want to use, whether it be SaaS tools such as Salesforce, Office 365, their virtual desktop, or migrated legacy applications. Best of all, there’s no need to remember passwords to all these tools since the SSO takes care of logging users in, along with self-serve password resets. IT admins love the simplicity in that, as well as the ability to disable access on-the-fly, if needed.
For the first time, users have everything they need, from productivity applications to voice, video, and messaging, accessible from any device and delivered via the cloud, without security, network problems, or IT assistance. Connected Workspace essentially eliminates the “office” and transforms the business into a flexible, adaptable hub for productivity no matter where employees are logging in.
Why You Should Sell DaaS
Now that you know all the benefits and why your customers want DaaS, here’s what that means for you.Are You a Managed Service Provider (MSP) selling IT Services? Great!
You can add Star2Star’s DaaS platform or Connected Workspace solution to your IT offerings, and significantly increase your value to your customers. And the best part is you have nothing to manage, no on-site servers, or support to deal with. Star2Star handles all the hardware, software, support, you name it! You just handle the commission.Are You Hosting Your Own Cloud Services?
Eliminate the time and cost of self-hosting data centers and customer support. Keep your existing infrastructure while you migrate to Connected Workspace. There are no large upfront hardware purchases or capital expenditures to deal with as your business grows.Want to Diversify Your Product Portfolio?
Differentiate your business amongst your competitors and create additional revenue opportunities within your existing customer base when you add Star2Star DaaS and Connected Workspace to your portfolio.Simple Pricing Model & Flexibility
Star2Star DaaS offers a simple and predictable pay-as-you-go subscription model, making it easy to scale up or down on-demand. The Connected Workspace is also highly configurable, tailored to the users’ needs based on the tools they use, effectively eliminating the ‘one-size-fits-all’ model. This saves your customers a lot of money since they don’t need to choose between existing Office365, Virtual Desktop, Microsoft Teams, or Contact Center investments.Self-Serve Customer Management Portal
The Star2Star DaaS portal lets you completely manage your customers. Add new customers, add new users, and adjust the features for each, whenever you want and have the changes take effect almost immediately.
Poll: How Would DaaS Help Your Business?
Want to know more about Star2Star DaaS? Contact one of our DaaS solution specialists
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A business communication system connects to a phone. But how tightly integrated does the phone need to be? Does it just need to make and receive phone calls, or should it do more?
Let’s examine a few business communication system functions that enjoy tight integration with physical phones. Desktop phones now come with visual displays, and these visual displays enhance the user experience immensely. For example, when on the phone, a presence indicator to the rest of the UC system would show potential instant messengers that you are busy and on the phone. Provisioning of the phones from the admin is also tied to the system. For example, the admin can remotely set up your phone and even push updates to the phone. There are also many shortcuts the phone can utilize if it’s tightly integrated with the phone system.
So to answer the question at the end of the first paragraph, yes, it should do more. The phone needs to be tightly integrated. You want your phone to get the most out of your system and be a true productivity tool.
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Besides a proper multi-modal communication system that handles all that voice entails, what else will be needed in tomorrow’s Unified Communication system? The system of tomorrow will need to be able to handle new business communication needs deftly.
For instance, applications we all became familiar with in 2020 were the “curbside pickup” application or the “ready to come up for your appointment” application. Many businesses scrambled to deploy them.
And these applications needed to be tied into the communication system because they involved texting and maybe phone calls if there were questions. The ability of your system to create these applications linked to the UC system is critical for business success. Successful businesses discovered this. And successful companies are also thinking of ways to deploy other integrated applications to help them succeed even more.
Tomorrow’s reality for business communication includes multi-modal communication, where voice and video are essential, connecting to all types of networks is a reality, and tight integration with all your business communication functions saves you time and money. And it will also involve business efficiency and nimbleness. Make sure your UC system can do all of that and all of that well.
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In May, Omdia released their UC as a Service (UCaaS) Scorecard, ranking the top 10 UCaaS providers in North America. We are proud to say Sangoma not only made the list but earned the 5th spot. Omdia identified the leading service providers in terms of the number of seats for UCaaS in North America and then evaluated them based on the following four criteria:
- Financial stability
- Market share momentum
- Service development
- Customer reviews
Sangoma/Star2Star earned the 5th spot because we are in the top 10 in terms of the number of UCaaS seats in North America and because as a financially strong public company we received an excellent score on financial stability.
We will continue to do our very best to continue to place well in this report.
To read excerpts of the report, please go here.
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The concept of the “digital workplace” has become increasingly popular in recent years, especially as necessity dictates that organizations must increasingly rely on cloud-based services. This form of “as-a-Service” software supports virtual rooms for collaborating, communicating, and sharing work with others during times when person-to-person contact is not practical or possible.
Generally speaking, a digital workplace includes solutions like connected workspaces that support the tasks companies need to conduct business from various devices and locations. Connected workspaces offer many of the common tools, apps, and shared elements for working together while apart, and feeling continuously connected while doing so.
Digital Workplace Security & Flexibility
These cutting-edge productivity tools also feature embedded security elements to protect mission-critical workflows, including sensitive files and communications. This aspect–defending against network penetration–is almost universally crucial across any corporate environment.
In spite of the importance of security, however, it is hardly the only necessary consideration for the remote workforce enterprise. Organizations require a collaborative environment that is device agnostic. Users need to be able to collaborate, regardless of their hardware – and, in some cases, software – of choice. A virtual workplace must also support specific, common connected worker apps and collaboration tools, while simultaneously backing up one’s vertical integration plans as the application is moved up the supply chain.
Finally, there is always the need for automated provisioning to reduce and eliminate complexity within the day-to-day work environment. No longer are workers’ bound by extensive binders of notes when collaborating with their peers. Today’s workforce can have access to all of the tools and resources needed to accomplish complex tasks, potentially from a device no larger than one’s cellphone.
Connected Workspaces Are The Future Of Work
Of course, the benefits to deploying such a package are far more extensive than simply easing the burden of one’s remote workforce. One of the most practical reasons to use the software is to save money. Enterprises continually point to cost-savings benefits by eliminating physical facilities, overhead, and travel expenses. Plus, employees tend to be more productive and happy when they save money on gas, tolls, vehicle wear-and-tear, and other incidentals of travel.
This comfort has the added benefit of bolstering employee productivity. With all of the necessary tools and resources made virtually available (in addition to the added benefit of a full night’s rest), staffers can simultaneously work faster and accomplish more, regardless of their physical location.
As a result, whether the organization faces restrictions from a global pandemic, or simply needing a more personal touch from across the miles, digital workplace options are an effective answer to extending versatility.
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We’re starting to see companies calling their remote workers back to work. Some have been doing it quietly, and some have been doing it more publicly. Take a drive at rush hour in your city, and you’ll see this is already happening. In Dallas, where I live, it seems like it’s back to 2019 already during rush hour.
Yes, if vaccinated, you likely feel better about going back to work and interacting with people outside ‘your bubble’ again. But for a while, I think, it won’t really feel like normal. Many companies will likely still limit the number of people in a conference room, and many companies will probably not ask you to be in 100% of the time.
We all know the benefits of Unified Communications when working remotely. Unified Communication systems that enable your office phone number to ring your smartphone and your laptop so you can interact with customers while remote along with chat and video will still play critical roles for remote workers.
But for employees at the office, UC still plays a significant role. You can “leave” your office to work at a nicer or quieter part of the building and not worry about missing phone calls. You can still have video meetings and collaborate with co-workers via sharing files, no matter where they are. Make the UC system you got to know so much better over the past 15 months work for you.
While Internet-based communication such as social media, chat, video, chatbots and push-to-talk are gaining ground, and will continue to gain ground each year, at this time still the primary real-time business communication mechanism is still voice. As referenced in an earlier blog, video is garnering all the headlines and video calls with partners and even some customers occur regularly now, and will certainly stay around to become a way to continue to communicate, but video-centricity as a way to communicate with customers is short-sighted. Because the primary real-time communication mechanism is voice.
Making a phone call! And the making of a phone call, while sounding simple, has much that goes into it. For instance, there is a difference in making a domestic and international phone call. The dialing plans are different and the carrier interconnects are different. And call routing and setting up those rules within the business is also difficult.
As such, when considering what type of UC platform to buy, choosing one with roots in voice, but that can also handle video, is critical right now. As discussed above, while video-based communication was all the rage in 2020, and as it continues to play a role going forward, your entire business needs to take into account its needs before your business marries a video-centric provider. Did you make that choice for your business for the long term, or are you doing it because it helped you this year? What about next year, when you need less video and more of voice and SMS?
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Sangoma Technologies Corporation, a trusted leader in delivering cloud-native Communications-as-a-Service solutions for businesses of all sizes, today announced that they were recognized as a 2021 Visionary Spotlight Award (VSA) winner by ChannelVision Magazine, presented by Beka Business Media.
The 2021 Visionary Spotlight Award winners were recognized for their unique ability to navigate change, adapt to shifting buying patterns, and remain operational despite the challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Sangoma’s highlighting achievement in digital transformation includes the expansion of their complete cloud portfolio to become the industry’s most complete UCaaS solutions provider. Sangoma’s product suite includes leading remote work technologies, custom development and integration options, and VDI for seamless connectivity to mission-critical processes from anywhere.
“On behalf of ChannelVision, I would like to congratulate all of this year’s VSA winners,” said Beka Business Media President and CEO Berge Kaprelian. “The companies on this year’s list are highly resilient and resourceful, having made it through the pandemic while remaining on the cutting edge of innovation.”
“We are honored to be recognized as leaders in digital transformation, especially in the midst of such difficult circumstances,” said Jim Machi, VP of Product Management and Marketing, Sangoma. “We owe it to our incredible Partners, Customers, and dedicated Employees for keeping us going. Our mission is always to move forward and create new and better technologies that help businesses thrive. We are pleased to have accomplished that and are looking forward to more exciting things on the horizon!”
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Tomorrow I’ll be heading off to ITEXPO, an event I’ve been to countless times before. I may have even been to every single ITEXPO that TMC has ever held. Except this time, it will be different. There will be no shaking hands (for me anyway, still not quite there yet), and I’ll probably have a mask on much of the time. And many of the people I know well from being in this industry a long time and typically see a couple of times a year wouldn’t have seen since the last ITEXPO.
Because the last ITEXPO was the last event before we all shut down. And this ITEXPO is the first event since some semblance of normalcy is returning.
And in that respect, this ITEXPO will be the same as all the other ITEXPOs I’ve been to. I’ll be in a lot of business meetings. And I already have many business meetings set up. And I’ll try and go to a few talks when I have time. Just like all the other ITEXPOs.
I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to many more!
School’s out for summer, so this is the perfect time to reflect on the learning technologies that help students and teachers succeed. With the chaos of an abrupt switch to virtual learning behind us, there are many opportunities to learn how we can overcome past challenges in adopting new technology.
With the switch to remote learning in various stages of adoption across the country, cloud-native solutions were an obvious choice for many schools. Although the COVID-19 Pandemic sped up the process for many counties and school districts, there are still many unknowns for fully adopting new technologies.
Cloud Education Technology Integration
Students in a K-12 setting are still learning about their own individual learning styles, and cloud-native solutions allow them to explore different learning styles in a setting which can give them the best chance at success. While there are plenty of challenges in an entirely virtual environment, students are learning new ways to adapt. The ability to learn from home and not be tied to a physical classroom offers increased flexibility, fewer logistical distractions and challenges, and may even help motivated students to learn at more advanced levels.
A dual system, virtual and physical, can also be applied and with the help of CaaS. These systems of integration are important, not only for access to information, but also as a learning tool for the types of technologies that students will continue to encounter once they leave school. Familiarity with common technologies is a basic skill requirement for most workers.
More frequently than ever, people are entering higher education. As the number of students seeking higher education increases, the cost to both students and educational institutions follows suit. These costs are shouldered primarily by the students themselves, shown in increased tuition costs and debt. Cloud computing is a solution to this phenomenon, as it allows institutions to exponentially increase their offered technological solutions to their students and faculty with decreased costs rather than increased costs.
Technological solutions in higher education are now necessary; one of the major roadblocks for many higher education institutions is the necessary migration of their older systems to a newer, more streamlined and robust system. Fortunately, cloud-native platforms and knowledgeable solution providers can make the transition as painless as possible with little to no downtime.
The Ongoing Challenge
As more of the world turns to technology for its solutions to problems, the world of education is falling behind, struggling to keep up with emerging technologies. Both higher and lower educational institutions have not yet reached their full potential for technological advantages, let alone cloud computing.
As virtual learning has taken a front seat with the current events of the world at play, robust technological solutions are more important than ever. Students have access to technology that can help them learn even in stressful situations and the skills they learn in navigating those technologies will help them as they continue to grow and learn.
Remote learning technology is here to stay, and cloud computing is a growing industry that has already had an impact on educational facilities across the globe. Slowly but surely, the rest of the educational world will begin to adopt these new technologies and learn how to use them to benefit students and faculty alike.
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