Monthly Archives: March 2013

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Support a Remote Workforce

<img class="alignleft wp-image-5681" style="margin: 4px;" title="Working from Home" src="/tsfimages/Work-from-Home see post.png” alt=”working remotely, home office, working from home, remote office” width=”292″ height=”194″ />The ability to support a remote workforce is becoming increasingly important to small- and medium-sized businesses across industries. Why? Because the practice of having some employees work “virtually” can be cost-effective, provide employers and employees with enhanced flexibility, and, in some cases, enable businesses to employ workers in different geographical areas without having to commit to multiple expensive office spaces.

However, in order to maximize the benefits of a remote workforce, companies must first set up a telecommuter-friendly technology infrastructure that allows virtual employees to effectively access your network and interact with coworkers while still keeping company data secure.

To help you get started, here are a few valuable technologies that can enable a virtual workforce to operate successfully.

1. Virtual Private Network – A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is critical if your business plans to support a remote workforce. It provides company-issued devices with a truly secure connection that fully encrypts traffic from end-to-end over the Internet. Your offsite employees can log into the VPN, access company drives, and work with files without worry of risk.

2. IP Telephony – Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enables phone calls to be carried over the Internet instead of through ordinary telephone system lines, and it makes working remotely very easy. An IP phone can simply be programmed to a worker’s settings and brought home to be plugged into an existing Internet connection. By using a device that’s part of the office phone system, workers can maintain both their work phone number and all the functionality of an in-office phone, including the ability to transfer a call, mute a call, use the internal directory listing, access company voicemail and more. And because the phone calls go in and out over the Internet, there’s no interference with an employee’s home or mobile phone, and no complicated “who pays for what” cost structure for you.
(Even if your company isn’t planning on supporting a remote workforce, VoIP is something every business should look into using if they aren’t utilizing it already. Both Cloud-based and on-premise VoIP are cost-effective voice options that are easy to use, enormously flexible, and customizable.)

3. Collaborative Communication Tools – Even though they aren’t technically in the office, remote employees need to be able to communicate with everyone as if they’re in the cubicle next to you. This means collaborative communication tools, such as unified communications.

Unified communications technologies, like Microsoft’s Office Communications Server, provide employees with more than just coworkers’ contact information. They enable employees to:

  • See the “status” of their fellow workers in terms of whether one is working from home, in the office, on vacation, in a meeting, at a customer site, and so on.
  • Sync a calendar to the communications tool so incoming calls are automatically sent to the correct destination depending on your status.
  • Participate in instant messaging, video chatting, document sharing, conferencing and more.

To top it all off, your history within instant messages, call logs, and more on your user account remains the same as you move from laptop to desktop, from work phone to mobile. This way, you’re not confused about what you and “Joe from accounting” discussed via chat yesterday while you worked from home. You can log into your unified communications tool and revisit the chat from yesterday, even if you’re on a different device in the office.

These are just a few of the basics that can help your business support a remote workforce. For more, or information on anything we’ve discussed, please give Teleco South Florida a call or drop us an email today.

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Slow Internet?

SleepingUserIs your experience surfing the Internet more like watching paint dry or grass grow? If you’re like a lot of business owners or managers this is just a common everyday occurrence.

You try to do a little research and you wait for what seems like centuries for your information to display. Most of us are all too quick to point the proverbial finger at our Internet providers. We’re here to try and shed a little different light on this often sore subject.

Before spending hours on-hold with technical support waiting to receive some kind of reasoning behind the pain-staking delays or spending huge amounts of money on your connection, we suggest you take a look internally at what may really be going on within your office.

Here are a few things to take a closer look at before you start screaming at your Internet provider and ripping out your network cabling:

Email – Almost everyone you know has an Internet email account of their own and is constantly checking-up on it to see if they’ve received new messages or to drop a note to a friend or family member. While this is not unusual behavior, it can slow down your Internet connection depending on what your employees may be doing. Let’s just say you have one person in the office who has received a funny link from a friend that they would like to have a quick look at. It just so happens, this is a link to either a movie, music-clip or other bandwidth hogging site… you’re going to see an impact, perhaps minimal, on your Internet speed. Now, imagine several individuals in your office are doing the same thing at the same time… no you’re probably going to see a substantial impact on your Internet speed at that point. We’re going to guess you experience the majority of your Internet connection issues first thing in the morning, somewhere around lunch time and shortly before close of business? Are we close? If so, employees utilizing personal email may be your culprit.

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to Internet (personal) email, these sites are typically the main sources for virus infections and the introduction of system damaging trojans or worms. You really should take some steps to either limit or completely remove this type of access on your company Internet connection.

Streaming – I’m sure there may be quite a few people in your office that like to listen to music while they work right? Hey, who doesn’t, it often helps to ease the stress of a tedious work-day. The thing is, with everyone in the office streaming music to their workstation, you very well could be chewing-up unnecessary bandwidth and hindering Internet performance for those that are simply trying to do their job! While this seems relatively harmless, this too can definitely lead to poor performance.

Social Media – Here is a big one these days. Everybody is on Facebook aren’t they? We are. Social Media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, just to name a couple, can be addicting. Employees searching through and downloading media streams and photographs can also have a negative impact on Internet performance.

Content –What are your employees looking at? Are they simply surfing the Internet to conduct research to benefit your business? Maybe, maybe not. What if you have staff members viewing online content which could be considered inappropriate or even pornographic in nature. Not only is this type of behavior simply wrong, it potentially opens up the possibility of another employee, who may find this type of activity offensive, filing a lawsuit against your business. This inappropriate behavior can lead to sexual harassment or hostile environment suits. We strongly suggest you take measures to curb this type of activity right away.

As much as this all may sound a little complicated, it is really very easy to control. There are many various hardware and software manufacturers out there today that can provide you with the tools you need to easily regulate and monitor your employee’s Internet activity. Some of them are actually quite flexible and simple to use. Let’s say you don’t want to be a complete scrooge and totally cut-off your employee’s personal use of the Internet. Well, that’s pretty easy, why not just give them access during non-peak hours of the work-day… let’s say lunch time or before and after business hours. That seems fair don’t you think? With all the various options available to you, it is really very easy to limit access. It can be done by the hours of the day, specific groups within your company and even down to the individual level.

At Teleco South Florida, we partner with several technology companies that can help you with your Internet woes. We offer effective and affordable solutions to our customers to help in this area. Why not give us a call or drop us an email today and see where we may be able to assist you with gaining better control over your company’s Internet activities?


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Technology Trends

FacebookLikeEach year your company may struggle with decisions surrounding the technology solutions available and which direction the rest of the world is taking. Choosing the wrong options can often have a serious impact on your business efficiencies.

Allow us to provide you with just a small sampling of information from our studies based around your business’ communications technologies.

1. Mobile Devices Loom Large – Gartner predicts that 2013 is the year mobile devices will overtake PCs as the most common Web access tool. So with more and more employees utilizing mobile phones to check email (at the very least), it’s critical that your business finds a way to unify the communication experience across devices.

Companies seeking to do this often invest in unified communications technoologies, which enable employees to have a uniform experience when it comes to call logs, instant messages, notes, activities and more as they move from laptop to desktop, from work phone to mobile. Some even allow employees to transition calls from their desk phone to their mobile, and vise versa, mid-call without skipping a beat.

Unified communications technology makes the increasingly common presence of mobile phones in the workplace a positive aspect for businesses, as employees can maintain a high level of productivity regardless of where they’re operating or when.

2. Everything “as a Service” – The Cloud and virtualization are changing the way businesses utilize and manage IT infrastructure.

The Cloud provides businesses with convenient, on-demand network access to a variety of configurable resources, such as servers, storage and more. Also, while Cloud-based services have been around (in rudimentary form) for quite some time, they’re now more secure and encompass more solution options than ever before, causing software, infrastructure and platform “as a service” offerings to emerge and flourish.

For businesses, these services can mean scalability, easy system management, a smaller on-premise data center and reduced costs. When coupled with server and voice virtualization, which consolidate hardware by running multiple virtual machines on the same server, Cloud-based services provide even greater cost savings, maximized of IT resources and more. As a result, many are turning to the Cloud and virtualization, either for just a portion of their data or their whole infrastructure.

3. Budget and Planning Strategies – In 2013, businesses will (we hope) set aside more time towards planning future technology strategies. Why do we hope this? Because while the Cloud and mobile devices will likely impact your business in some way, shape or form over the coming months, there are some issues that will definitely effect your technology. These require long-term preparation and strategies (not that the Cloud and mobile device plans don’t). Here’s one such issue:

  • IPv6 – The last of the Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) addresses has been allocated. And though it’s scary to realize that these IP addresses will soon be exhausted, it’s reassuring to know that IPv4’s successor — IPv6 — is ready to go and offers far more numerical addresses that version 4.However, transitioning to IPv6 isn’t as simple as a blink of the eye. All the equipment from your cable modem, router and computer must support IPv6. If your cable modem and router are less then 2 years old, it should be fine. And any computer from Windows XP on is also ready for IPv6. (If you’re interested in checking your IPv6 readiness, visit this site: http://test-ipv6.com.)For more information on IPv6, check out Deploy360 Programme, which was created by The Internet Society to create and promote resources that are easy to understand and use for IT professionals.

While these topics don’t include every trend out there, they encompass the big ones that can really make a difference when it comes to your business’ communications technology. For more information, or details on what you can do to plan your 2013 technology calendar, contact us today at info@telecosouthflorida.com. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.