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  • 08 Aug 2017 5:28 AM | Fred Costa

     

    You probably hear a lot about the cloud and how much your businesses are benefitting from it.  If you believe everything you read, it seems like everything is better in the cloud.  So what is the cloud exactly? 

    The cloud is a network that hosts applications and services either onsite or remotely thanks to the dependable fast Internet services today.  Unlike the traditional network located in a typical datacenter, the cloud it not hardware centric and location is irrelevant.  It can service users whether it is located on premise or a thousand miles away.  The generally accepted definition of cloud computing comes from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

    :

    ”Cloud Computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

     

    The cloud has some distinct advantages for business and their enterprises, but it is important to understand what the cloud can do for your organization.  According to a recent report, 95 percent of IT professionals reported migrating some part of their infrastructure to the cloud in the past 12 months.  However, 35 percent said they had also ultimately moved workloads out of the cloud and back on premise.  Undoubtedly, some of the respondents who reversed their cloud migrations may have been overanxious to move to the cloud and neglected to scrutinize if the cloud is indeed a fit for their organization.  The truth is, the majority of enterprise applications are not ready or the cloud.  There are also many organizations that cannot use the cloud due to compliancy and regulatory reasons such as those who must follow HIPAA or PCI standards.  Other organizations may have strict security policies that prohibit the hosting of company data on third party platforms. 

     

    Cloud Deployment Models

    It is imperative to have an understanding of what the cloud can do and develop a cloud strategy beforehand.  The first step is to understand what type of cloud deployment model fits your organization.  There are three primary cloud deployment types.

    • 1.      Private Cloud – A private cloud exclusively serves a single organization and serves its employees and/or clients within that autonomous organization.  It can be hosted on premise with some type of virtualization platform or provided by a third party such as a managed services provider.
    •  
    • 2.      Public Cloud – A public cloud is provisioned for use by the general public by a cloud provider such as Azure or Amazon Web Services.  These public cloud providers can host resources and provide services for thousands of companies.  This type of deployment is attractive to a startup business that does not have an existing network infrastructure.
    •  
    • 3.      Hybrid Cloud – A hybrid cloud is simply a conglomerate of a private cloud and one or more hybrid clouds.  Although each cloud is often a unique entity, the network infrastructure is bound together by proprietary or standardized technology.  An example could be a company that employs a public cloud to scale peak or unanticipated usage.  An organization utilizing Office 365 while retaining an on premise active directory database is a classic example of a hybrid cloud.

    Cloud Service Models

    The next step is to pick a cloud service model.  A service model dictates what elements the cloud service provider and the customer are responsible for managing.  This is similar to the demarc of a public telecommunications company that provides phone and Internet services to a company.  The demarc is the point of separation between the customer’s equipment and the provider’s.

     

    • 1.      Software as a Service (SaaS:  Customers use an application provided by the SaaS provider that runs on the provider’s infrastructure.  The customer does not have to worry about supporting or maintaining the application in any way.  Users can access the application from anywhere in the world using either a web browser or some other type of thin client application.  Office 365 and Salesforce.com are classic examples of SaaS applications.
    •  
    • 2.      Platform as a Server (PaaS):  This model is especially beneficial for companies who develop their own business applications.  In simple terms, the PaaS provider the hardware infrastructure (servers, switches, etc.) as well as the operating system.  Customers then simply install their applications for which they are responsible for maintaining.  Azure is an example of a PaaS provier.
    •  
    • 3.      Infrastructure as a Service:  Customers can create their own datacenter in the cloud.  The cloud provider supplies the physical datacenter, the racks of servers, storage and network equipment.  The customer then provisions the virtual they need and is in charge of supporting them.  A perfect example of IaaS is vCloud Air and Amazon Web Services.

     

    The Need for a Consultant

    Cloud providers are constantly changing their service offerings and price structures so it is important to consult with a cloud expert who stays abreast with the latest trends, innovations and alternatives that are available.

  • 20 Jul 2017 3:46 AM | Fred Costa

    Two years, ransomware was barely on anyone’s radar.  Today it is at the top-of-mind-awareness (TOPA) for IT teams and business leaders alike.  Its presence has dominated headlines of nearly every media type over the past fourteen months.  Its manifestation has affected nearly every type of industry, bringing operations of its unfortunate victims to a grinding halt.  If it were a traditional business, its growth rate would be the envy of the world as ransom payments grew from $24 million in 2015 to $1 billion in 2016 according to a recent FBI report.  Yes, that is correct; ransomware is a billion dollar industry.  This is no flash in the pan that garnered its fifteen minutes of fame.  Ransomware is a perpetual threat that continues to plague business operations throughout the world over as has been the case thus far in 2017.

    There are a number of things that happens when a billion dollars of revenue is involved.  It attracts substantial levels of investment dollars and innovation as well as a multitude of opportunistic individuals with little scruples.  Last year brought about Ransomware as a Service (RaaS), providing do-it-yourself packages for any cybercriminal wannabe for as little as $40.  This led to multilevel marketing like structured organizations with their own distribution channels, tiered hierarchies and shared revenue plans.  Top-level distributors are estimated to make somewhere around $300K. 

    Innovation is resulting in new releases of ransomware that boasts user-friendly GUI interfaces so that users can more easily navigate themselves through the ransom payment process.  Some ransomware variants even provide help functions such as chat boxes that allow the victim to communicate with client service specialists who are more than happy to educate “customers” through the bitcoin transaction process. 

    According to Symantec, the average ransom demanded in 2016 was $679 and 64% of victims paid it.  Many financial institutions report to carry bitcoin balances on hand in order to pay as quickly as possible in order to return to normal operations if afflicted.  Hospitals are popular targets due to the critical nature of their operations.  From small business to corporate giants, no one seems to be spared.

    Ransomware is a process in which malware infiltrates a device and encrypts some or all of the local data residing on any local, external or mapped drives.  Some ransomware variants only target designated file types while other encrypt everything.  Once encrypted, the data can no longer be accessed without the encryption key.  The final step in the process is an automated screenshot that informs the victim of their circumstance and provides some type of link to click for further information. 

    So the billion-dollar question to this billion-dollar menace is, “How do I protect my business from ransomware.”  The task seems daunting at the least as businesses and organizations much larger than yours probably have found themselves victimized.  The fact is however, that the blueprint used to combat ransomware and negate its nefarious manipulation of your data is quite simple.

    • 1.      Email Security Protection – Email continues to serve as the primary deployment mechanism to deliver ransomware.  Ransomware distributors utilize phishing attacks that coax users to click on embedded URL links or attachments.  Once a user clicks on the enticing bait, a web session is initiated, which downloads the malware.  Mere SPAM protection is no longer enough today.  You need solutions that utilize intelligence as well as integrated antivirus services to strip away malicious code
    •  
    • 2.      Web filtering – It used to be that web users were only suspect to malware if they ventured into the murky regions of the Internet.  Not so today.  Hackers now embed legitimate websites with their malicious codes in order to initiate “Drive-by downloads” to which users unintentionally download the virus.  Proper web filtering can strip away malware from the web sessions as well as prevent users from accessing sites that are known malware-launching locations.
    •  
    • 3.      Patching and Updating – Two recent and highly publicized ransomware attacks that inflicted thousands of organizations across the globe titled WannaCry and Petya, took advantage of a known exploit within the Microsoft operating system.  Microsoft in an unprecedented move, released a patch for all Microsoft operating systems, including XP, (which was no longer supported) to eliminate the given exploit three months before the attacks took place.  Had the IT teams of any inflicted organizations simply patched their devices, none of them would have suffered the devastating interruptions to their operations.

    This three-legged shield provides ample protection supported by an intelligent network firewall provides ample protection for most ransomware attacks.  This defense system of course requires capital investment as well as the support of a dedicated IT staff, all of which can be expensive.  The other way to obtain this protection is through a managed services provider, who can monitor and protect your network on a 24X7 basis for one set monthly fee.  If you are a Houston area business, contact NSC Information Technology Group to ask about our ransomware solution.  713-974-3889 or info@nscitgroup.com

  • 12 Feb 2017 2:00 AM | Mark Madeley (Administrator)

    I always look forward to Charlie Russell's insights and analysis. I see QuickBooks Self-Employed merely as Intuit's return to take the market share it had left behind to FreshBooks, Cheqbook, and similar products in the sub $19.99/month price point. These companies have been offering easier-to-use bookkeeping for many years to get self-employeds out of their shoebox, calculator, and excel solutions. The problem with these systems, including QuickBooks Self-Employed, is inadequate reconciliation tools. A business owner can lose more revenue AND tax deductions than the extra cost of implementing a complete bookkeeping system. That doesn't seem to matter if Intuit can grab revenue from merchant services, payroll, self-service tax returns, and business loans. So, as independent advisors how do we truly serve our clients? Our service vision may not match Intuit's marketing vision.

    Twitter

    LinkedIn 

    FaceBook

    Read Sleeter article here.

  • 11 Nov 2016 5:27 PM | Mark Madeley (Administrator)

    Hamlet hardly had QuickBooks or operating systems in mind, but don't you think Shakespeare was a Mac guy?!

    While there are nice improvements in the Sierra update, you'll have to upgrade to QuickBooks for Mac 2016, and that will cost you about $180 to $190. The Sierra update itself is free.

    A client recently had her new MacBook stolen. In helping her recover her QuickBooks for Mac installation, we discovered her existing QuickBooks for Mac 2015 program would not work with her spanking new, replacement MacBook. Why? The new MacBook had the most recent Mac version, Sierra.

    So, what do you get with QuickBooks for Mac 2016 compared to 2015?

    For more about QB for Mac 2016, macOS Sierra, QuickBooks Online, and how to make a decision about them all, follow this link: http://coveryourassets.com/blog.php?s=quickbooks-for-mac-to-sierra-or-not-to-sierra

  • 05 Oct 2016 9:35 AM | Fred Costa
    If you think back to when you began exploring the Internet, the first thing you probably did was send and receive email. The second thing you did was navigate or surf the web on one of the browsers offered by either Microsoft or Apple. The browsers provided by the two rival companies could only be used with their respective operating system, also called an OS. Neither browser was compatible with any other OS. They came bundled with the computers offered by the companies at the time. Even Houston managed IT services companies had no choice but to use Internet Explorer for computers running MSDOS. Apple products included the Apple II and the very earliest versions of the Macintosh. They came loaded with the only other available browser, which was called Netscape. Netscape is rarely seen any longer. It was replaced by the newer browsers Firefox, Safari and Google Chrome. They provided an alternative to Internet Explorer, which had a tyrannical grip on Internet browsing before they came onto the scene.

    All browsers do the same basic task. They permit computer users to surf the web. However, surfing the web now and back in its infancy are two different things entirely. Computers were slower. They only had megabytes of memory as opposed to the gigabytes most computers are loaded with today. Internet ads were static. They were similar to a magazine ad except that they had a link to the company that placed the ad. Now, ads are interactive and frequently feature video clips that begin running the moment a user lands on the page where they are hosted. As memory increased, ads got bigger and gobbled up that extra memory.

    Today, there are four browsers that are most commonly used. They are all free to download on any comuter. As any Houston backup and disaster recovery service would attest, web browsers have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Internet Explorer

    Microsoft’s IE was the first and the most widely used browser. It was pre-loaded on Windows-based personal computers. Its main strength initially was that most developers created pages that worked well with IE because of its wide usage. However, that popularity made it the target of computer hackers who took advantage of flaws in the code to gather the personal information of the individual users through so-called viruses and malicious software called malware, which can be removed from computers by Houston network security firms.

    Pros
    • Easy to use
    • Fast
    • User-friendly interface
    • Used worldwide

    Cons
    • Frequently the target of hackers
    • Flaws or bugs in the system
    • Has trouble handling software like Adobe Flash and Java

    Firefox

    Mozilla’s Firefox browser became IE’s chief competitor after Netscape lost favor with users. Many people migrated to Firefox simply because they disliked IE.

    Pros
    • Better security
    • Easy to use
    • Customizable
    • Faster

    Cons
    • No thumbnail previews
    • Requires more memory
    • Slower than other browsers when dealing with pages containing many images or videos

    Safari

    Safari is Apple’s current web browser that replaced its previous browser named Panther. It has strengths and limitations too.

    Pros
    • Runs on Apple and Windows-based computers
    • Easy to use
    • Speedy page loading
    • Secure interface
    Cons
    • Not as easy to customize as other browsers
    • Help system not as robust
    • Has issues with Google search engine
    • Does not delete cookies on exit

    Google Chrome

    The popular search engine Google has come out with its own browser named Chrome. Many people like it, and some say it is the most widely used browser currently.

    Pros
    • Available in over 50 languages
    • Fast
    • Better support of Flash and PDF files
    • Works better for Google searches
    • Robust security

    Cons
    • No parental controls
    • Site incompatibilities
    • Incompatible with some graphic cards

  • 15 Aug 2016 9:13 AM | Fred Costa

    Residential moving is a stressful chore that involves a considerable amount of pre-planning. Commercial moving is even more complex. Relocating a single office or the contents of an entire building filled with office furniture, worker cubicles, inventory, point-of-sale terminals and company records demands the most ardent preparation. Now, you can add another task to the endless to-do list. You will need to make certain that your new facilities are ready to accommodate your company’s IT needs. In fact, you should consider having a Houston managed IT services company upgrade your new office with an eye toward possible expansion and your future requirements. Then, as you continue growing, your office will be ready and waiting. Look at it as an opportunity to improve your firm’s ability to adapt to growth and changes in the IT landscape.

    The physical aspects of moving are daunting and time-consuming, but the logistics are even more critical. You do not want your move to impede your business for even one hour. The relocation will probably be performed over a weekend or when your business is closed. The company’s servers must be taken offline, transported and brought back online at the new location. Your Houston network security is most vulnerable while you subsequently set up your telephone lines, broadband Internet service and offsite storage.

    Successful IT relocation relies on an abundance of preparation. It is a good idea to increase your network security management as you move so that it will be able to protect you immediately. Consider the fact that some 60 percent of cyber breaches are committed by a staff member. Our own federal government has witnessed an alarming 680 percent escalation in cyber-security violations over the past six years.

    You know how large your new office is, but do you know if the cabling layout is ready for your workers? Our Houston backup and disaster recovery team can examine the blueprints to make sure your vital services will be up and running by the time your office chair is removed from the moving van, including the following list of modern mission-critical components.

    • Electrical outlets and wiring
    • Telephone systems
    • Broadband Internet cables
    • Local network cables
    • Wireless access points

    You need to protect all of your company’s records, including your customer data. Even if your company has its own IT department, an outside adviser with experience facilitating company relocations is a smart investment. Any move comes with unforeseen challenges. Sometimes, it takes a trained eye to notice and handle them. A technician who specializes in office moves can spot potential problems before they occur. Your various departments can voice their concerns and desires to the technician to guarantee that they will be accommodated.

    Here are some questions that you should consider.

    • Can your IT team support new technologies?
    • Is your data backup system reliable?
    • Do you expect to require cloud-based storage or other services?
    • Is your bandwidth adequate for your needs?
    • Can you purge or bundle any services?

    You will need to follow a prioritized technology plan that details your requirements before you replace or upgrade your company’s hardware and software. Establish a date for making all final decisions. Include some extra time for testing your system before it goes online.

    NSC Information Technology Group has an experienced team of technicians who can advise you if you are moving or expanding your company. Call us at 713-974-3889 for answers to any questions you might have regarding your new location. Let us help you design a new company infrastructure. We can make sure that the process involves as little downtime as possible. The key to a successful move is sufficient planning.

    This entry was posted in Relocation and tagged Houston Backup and Disaster Recovery, Houston Managed IT Services, Houston Network Security. Bookmark the permalink.

  • 18 May 2016 8:40 PM | Fred Costa

    Employee Training On Cyber Security

    project-managementComputers are everywhere. We have them in our cars, in our phones and in our homes. Frequently, we work from home on our laptops, tablets or towers. Perhaps it is this universality that makes people tend to forget that cyber security is critical whether you are working remotely or on-site. In fact, a Houston managed IT services company will tell you that network security is essential, no matter where you are working. Just because you are miles away or in the office does not mean that you can relax cyber security.

    All employees need to be schooled in the safest methods to prevent hackers and others from accessing your company’s computer system. In Houston, network security requires diligence, an established cyber security policy and a constant remembrance that anything you do can leave tracks that can be followed all the way home.

    Any Houston backup and disaster recovery service would advise you to teach your employees about cyber security so they can avoid unintentionally exposing your system to the slings and arrows of miscreants. Here are a few tips that your employees should internalize so that they do not carelessly expose your network to unwanted intruders who are bent on stealing your customers’ data and using it to benefit their own purposes.

    • If you are a team leader or a foreman, your actions speak volumes to your underlings. It is important to set a good example and not leave such things as sticky notes with passwords affixed to your computer monitor. If they see your computer has notes all over it with password reminders, they may think that is an acceptable practice. Unless you set a sterling example, you have little room to criticize.
    • Do not overburden your co-workers with enormous volumes of security documentation. That is a sure way to guarantee that it will not be read. It is much better to send out a daily security tip that will be more likely to be reviewed. Your tips can be about procedure, vocabulary or best practices. Mentioning recent news events that highlight security issues without blaming your employees is also a great technique.
    • Do not let security issues slip between the cracks. If there has been a violation of your protocols, you have to treat it seriously. Any employee who is lax with their security needs to be taught the necessity of good habits. Make sure your employees understand that company-wide security is the goal and that all employees must make it their mission to keep your company’s computers safe.
    • Checking up on your employees will show your leaks. There are plenty of phishing scams that hit email inboxes every day. By teaching your employees to ignore and delete such emails, you are going to alleviate a major source of distraction and possible intrusion.

    Always have a supply of security tools available for your employees. They are more likely to use them if they are easy to find and easy to use. Malware screening, data encryption and virtual private networks (VPNs) are essential for users who might not be likely to use them unless they are sitting on their desktop or readily available on your server. Scanner systems do not work if they are not used. The best way to be sure they are used is to make them easy to find.


  • 30 Apr 2016 8:02 AM | Fred Costa

    Network Security to Protect Your Business from Wi-Fi Hackers

    Posted on April 29, 2016 by admin

    firewallHackers are busy folks these days. It seems like every time you turn around, another corporate entity has had its website infiltrated. In some cases, the hackers are looking for trade secrets. Sometimes, they are mining the site to acquire the customers’ private data. A very handy way to breach your security is via a Wi-Fi link. If you do not have a Houston managed IT services company handling your website and server, experienced hackers can easily slip past firewalls, find the programmer’s back door to the code or help themselves to sensitive data from employees who are logged in at the local coffee shop, motel or restaurant. Here are some steps that will help make your company’s website and server safer with more robust Houston network security.

    Secure your Office

    It is critical to lock down any potential weak links, especially on Wi-Fi routers and access points (APs). When that hardware is initially purchased, it is not secure. The first thing your IT department needs to do is enable encryption while they are being installed. If you do not, a passersby who are looking for free Wi-Fi could use your link to check their email or surf the web, which is disturbing but not disastrous. However, if you are unlucky, Wi-Fi invaders could gain access to your employees’ computer network and the files and passwords stored there. Employees often times send passwords to sites that do not require SSL encryption, including Facebook. Many identity thieves lurk in the shadows of Facebook, so it is important to secure your Wi-Fi routers and APs.

    You should also really tighten your server’s defenses using enterprise-mode WPA/WPA2 security. This may be harder to set up, but without such vigorous anti-hacking measures everything from your intellectual property, client data and bank account information might be exposed. Your website could be overtaken. Recovery would require the services of a Houston backup and disaster recovery team.

    Never use a single password and username for every employee of your company. If you do, you will need to change them every time an employee resigns or is fired. Otherwise, a spiteful employee could snoop on your employees just by logging onto the server.

    Off-Site Security

    Encourage your employees to avoid free public Wi-Fi hotspots. Coffee shops are good at brewing coffee. Network security is not their main concern. Hackers exploit these soft targets in search of data stored on the laptops and tablets of the coffee shop’s customers. If your employees absolutely have to surf the web while enjoying their morning coffee, remind them not to enter any personal information, passwords or credit card information. Tell them not to log onto the company network, Facebook or their bank from an unsecure Wi-Fi hot spot.

    Shared Folders

    Make sure your employees close shared folders when they are on the road. While they are great for office use, you do not want guests staying in the same hotel to have access to your company’s files.

    You can also set up a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt data going from your network to an employee’s remote computer. Even if a hacker intercepts the data, your information is safe because it is encrypted.

    Your server’s security is only as strong as the weakest link, which is frequently a Wi-Fi router or access point. A predatory hacker can attack your system if your security is not state of the art. Call NSC Information Technology Group at 713-974-3889 to discuss your system and how we could make it more secure. Our experienced, expertly trained technicians will make certain that your server is able to withstand whatever a hacker can throw at it.

  • 20 Apr 2016 7:49 AM | Fred Costa


    Software Updates Can Compromise Your Company’s Network Security

    Posted on April 18, 2016 by admin

    networkWho gets the blame when a security breach occurs that exposes your company’s trade secrets or your customers’ secure personal data? A Houston managed IT services company will tell you that usually the answer depends on where the data was stored, how it was placed there and who had the rights to access it.

    Your commercial website is only as secure as your server is. Many businesses assume that their server is secure. However, security patches and updates that software manufacturers frequently distribute contain clues for hackers that they can use to compromise your Houston network security.

    Sometimes, a patch has its own vulnerabilities that are not discovered until a hacker has already commenced an automated assault on servers based on the weakness mentioned in the update’s script. That leads to the question of whether you should install patches as quickly as possible or if it is better for you to wait.

    If the software’s vulnerability is exposed before the manufacturer is able to fix the problem with an update, a hacker can launch an attack within a few hours. In that situation, you probably want to install the update when it becomes available. However, it is a good idea to turn automatic updates off because an installation could occur during your business hours, which might require your server to shut down and restart. You could lose valuable data when the system reboots, which will require immediate attention from a Houston backup and disaster recovery service. Your system might also completely crash during an automatic patch installation, which could prompt the dreaded blue screen of death for Windows users.

    It is better to have the program manager download the update and notify you that it is ready for installation. Then, you can install it at the close of business, over the weekend or whenever it will interfere least with your flow of commerce. The time that your server spends being unprotected is called a zero day. That is when security is at its weakest.

    Lately, many IT departments are wary of performing immediate updates even if they know it will not affect the normal course of business. They are unsure that a newly released, untested patch will not cause more problems than it solves. This cautious attitude was adapted in light of several patch fiascos initiated by major companies. Servers are not the only component being attacked. Mobile devices have suffered through such nuisances as Wi-Fi signal dropout, rapid battery drain, unexpected rebooting and poor or no audio.

    Microsoft’s very own update documentation says that you should only update your system if the risk of updating is less than the risk of not updating. Large companies with dedicated IT teams can set up a test area on their server to try out a new patch. Once they are convinced that it is safe, they can install it on the main server.

    Smaller companies that do not have the resources to test updates can wait a week or two before installing the update. This approach has two advantages.

    • The company can monitor the tech press and social media to verify that the update does not have its own set of problems.
    • If the original update has a bug and a patch is released to fix it before the company updates their server, the initial patch will not have to be uninstalled to install the latest update.

    Your servers and website are the heart of your business. Do not assume that they are secure. 


  • 31 Mar 2016 11:31 AM | Fred Costa

    In the past, companies allocated a large portion of their annual budget to travel expenses for their executives and sales personnel. Nowadays, business meetings are more likely to be conducted through some type of video conferencing. A Houston managed IT services company can empower your business to save money with this new technology. They can also help you increase your earnings by inexpensively accessing a remote customer base that was previously unavailable to you.

    Video conferencing is no longer just a standalone, room-centered technology. Now, it is an integral part of personal communications software on desktop and mobile devices. While these technological conveniences have made keeping in touch with friends and family members easier, the opportunities for businesses are in their infancy but growing rapidly. Advances in cross-platform integration and next-generation multimedia conferencing will soon establish video conferencing as the preferred form of business communication. Additionally, cloud-based connectivity will facilitate Houston backup and disaster recovery, which will make Houston network security even more robust than it already is. Here are some new trends that will open up the video conferencing arena even further.

    • Cloud-based servers are critical for running efficient, universally accessible collaboration software and video conferencing solutions. These integrations connect a company’s video conferencing solution to the numerous devices that employees use to interact with clients and staff members. Off-site team members employ smartphones and tablets more frequently than desktop or laptop PCs. Cloud-based collaboration will continue to erode device, location and platform-based barriers in enterprise and small-to-medium business communication.
    • In-person staff meetings, brainstorming sessions and small-team check-ins are no longer required. Room-based video conferencing is now the go-to method for routine business functions and for solving problems that would have required considerable expense in the past. As technology moves forward, video conferencing will become smoother, smarter, faster and more affordable. Although the technology may appear to be as simple as a flat-screen television, advanced software and high-resolution cameras will enable current capabilities with multi-way video conferencing at 720p or 1080p video resolution. Video conferencing technology has advanced quite a bit from its early days, but the future will bring even more seamless interoperability.
    • Businesses will also be able to tie together all their ongoing third-party services, including help desk software, customer relationship management (CRM) and the tools it uses to manage and gain analytics from its social media platforms. Businesses will optimize their productivity by using business intelligence (BI) services to reach their target markets by making smarter, more informed decisions. Collaboration and video conferencing tools will incorporate more integration and sharing capabilities, such as calendar applications, enterprise device management solutions, online accounting and voice over IP (VoIP) services. If these integrations do not already exist, the collaboration software will include an application programming interface (API) for developers and IT personnel to create and install their own.
    • While email is the business world’s default method of communication, modern collaboration software will soon end email’s reign by offering better live-chat options for direct group and team messaging. This centralized system of social feed and direct mention-based collaboration will gain more traction and eliminate long email chain messages filled with forwards and replies, which will enable increased employee productivity.
    • The next phase in the Internet communication revolution is coming in the form of voice and video calling that will be directly embedded in browsers. Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) is an open-source technology and API standard that will allow direct voice calls, video chat and data sharing without any add-ons, browser plug-ins or other applications.

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