Hybrid Work Maturity

How Mature Is Your Company’s Hybrid Work Environment? 

As we continue to experience new COVID variants, companies are delaying their move back to the office. Cisco found that more than a quarter of companies surveyed believed they would never get 90% of their workforce to return to the office. 

Instead of asking employees to return fully, companies are transitioning from remote work to hybrid work. Hybrid work creates a blend of in-office and remote workplaces. 

 Even though hybrid work is a relatively new phenomenon, technology thought leaders are working to develop a hybrid work maturity model to gauge how completely companies have made a transition to a hybrid work environment. Your company can assess its level of hybrid work maturity by looking for certain indicators. Mature hybrid work environments provide seamless and frictionless work experiences for employees working in the office, at home, and in other remote locations. 

 To determine your level of hybrid work maturity, ask yourself the following questions. 

 

Do you have a resilient distributed infrastructure? 

Cisco reported that companies are creating distributed infrastructures to support hybrid work. For example: 

  • During the pandemic, cloud services have grown 30% to 50% 
  • Adoption of videoconferencing platforms has increased 30x 

As companies embrace distributed infrastructures that include the cloud, endpoints, and collaboration tools, they must ensure the resiliency of these architectures to promote business continuity and user satisfaction. 

Organizations with higher levels of hybrid work maturity have created secure cloud-first infrastructures. These infrastructures take advantage of distributed applications and cloud services, such as public cloud, hybrid cloud, software as a service (SaaS), and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI).  

With the cloud and connectivity, employees should be able to work safely from anywhere and collaborate from any device. 

 

Do you follow best practices for business policies and a resilient IT operating model? 

Companies with a high level of hybrid work maturity have developed and follow business policies. These business policies should include rules and best practices for: 

  • Work from home  
  • Data and application security 
  • Workplace resources 

Best practices for a resilient IT operating model should consider: 

  • Network operations 
  • Data Center/Cloud operations 
  • Security operations 
  • Device management 

 

Are you empowering distributed work in a cloud-accelerated world? 

Hybrid work maturity using a cloud environment requires Zero Trust security and end-to-end visibility that empowers distributed work. To reach a high level of maturity, your company’s strategy must support secure remote work, return to the workplace, and flexible multi-cloud strategies. 

For secure remote work, you need: 

  • Secure communication and collaboration 
  • Secure remote access 
  • Automation and zero-touch provisioning 

For the return to the workplace, you must have: 

  • Optimized connectivity 
  • Scalable capacity 
  • Common policy and segmentation 

For flexible multi-cloud, you should have: 

  • Hybrid and multi-cloud delivery 
  • Applications and cloud services experience 
  • Visibility and assurance 

 

Increasing Your Level of Hybrid Work Maturity 

Developing a hybrid work maturity model is an emerging and ongoing process. The global market intelligence firm IDC and Cisco have teamed up to conduct research to better understand how companies are transitioning to hybrid work and progressing on their journey to maturity. 

 As a Premier Cisco Partner, iConvergence can help your company assess its hybrid work maturity level and develop a strategy for using Cisco tools to support hybrid work. We focus on solution areas that are critical for hybrid work success, including Networking, Network Security, and Collaboration. Our team of Cisco-certified experts can help you design your hybrid work strategy and implement the Cisco solutions you need to realize it through a hybrid work environment. 

Find out how to increase your hybrid work maturity. Reach out to the Cisco experts at iConvergence. 

 


Steps to Increase Security for Hybrid Workers

Hybrid work environments are promoting flexibility for the workforce as companies adjust to this extended period of remote working. While some organizations are testing the waters of returning to the office, most employees are continuing to split time between the office and working from home. 

While hybrid work can increase productivity and employee satisfaction, it can also create security risks as employees use email as a primary source of communication and rely on endpoints, such as mobile devices and laptops, to perform their work.  

 Here are 5 steps you can take to ensure you create a safe and secure hybrid work environment for your employees: 

 1) Educate your hybrid workforce. 

Employees can be your greatest security liability or your greatest security asset. Workers may become frustrated with security as they jump through many hoops to access information. They may also unwittingly expose your company to risk by falling for phishing attempts.  

 Educating employees about security awareness will help empower them to recognize suspicious emails and prevent them from clicking on links and attachments that are infected with malware. 

 2) Promote a Zero Trust approach to security. 

In a hybrid work environment, the Zero Trust approach to security makes the most sense. Zero Trust security, with its principles of never trust; always verify, protects your hybrid workplace from internal and external threats. Every attempt to access information, whether from your on-site systems or from remote endpoints, is evaluated to prevent unauthorized access.  

 Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is an essential part of a Zero Trust approach because it restricts access using several forms of verification. Security information and event management (SIEM) also promotes Zero Trust by analyzing access attempts and alerting you to threats as a preventative measure. 

3) Build security into the way employees access information. 

Access control can be made flexible enough to protect both remote and in-office employees. A virtual private network (VPN) brings on-premises security to the user, while the cloud moves security out to the remote user. Secure access service edge (SASE) can protect users no matter where they are working, using cloud-native capabilities. 

 4) Protect your email platform. 

Email is a key point of vulnerability for both remote and in-office workers. Hackers often target employees with phishing attacks by using social engineering to impersonate co-workers and authority figures to gain trust. These phishing emails trick employees into clicking on attachments infected with malware. Moving email to the cloud can help protect your hybrid workforce from ransomware and other advanced threats. 

 5) Defend your endpoints. 

Hackers are increasingly attacking the endpoints remote workers depend upon. Your company’s last line of defense is at the endpoint, so you should have full visibility into them, no matter where they are located. Endpoints should be monitored in real time, and you should have the ability to send alerts so any breach can be remediated immediately. 

 Start Securing Your Hybrid Work Environment  

As your workplace environment changes, your company must revise its security strategy. Working with the right security technology partner will ensure you choose the ideal security solutions to protect your hybrid workers. 

 

iConvergence is a Premier Cisco Partner staffed with certified experts. We can work with your company to define steps for implementing a hybrid work security plan. iConvergence can help you with all the Cisco tools you need for hybrid work security, including Cisco Secure, Endpoint, Cisco Umbrella, Cloud Mailbox Defense, AnyConnect and more. 

 

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Take a deep dive into hybrid work security. Get a copy of the Cisco eBook Take the next step to secure your new hybrid work environment. 


Tips For Hybrid Work

Despite predictions that companies would be returning to the office, the emergence of new COVID variants has extended the reliance on remote workplaces. Now many organizations are creating hybrid work environments that give employees the flexibility to work from home, the office, or other locations. 

Cisco’s The Rise of the Hybrid Workforce study found that post-COVID, 24% of employees report working from home 15 days or more a month. With employees splitting their time between the office and other work environments, companies must find ways of supporting hybrid work through technology. 

Here are 5 tips on how to create a winning hybrid work environment: 

1) Adopt Intelligent Workplace Technology 

Collaboration tools can be enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) for a remote work experience that rivals working in the office. AI can be used for reducing noise, eliminating administrative friction, prioritizing tasks, and accessing information when it is needed. An intelligent web conferencing platform can use automation to increase employee satisfaction, whether at home or in the office. 

 2) Create Secure Access Controls 

Business information must be protected whether an employee is working on-site or off-site. Identity authentication and access controls prevent unauthorized users from accessing sensitive information using the company network. Access controls can be set according to the employee’s job level, so only the appropriate information is at a worker’s disposal. These access controls should be consistent no matter where employees are working from. 

 3) Support Collaboration 

To create a productive hybrid work environment, companies must provide a range of collaboration tools. Collaboration encourages employees to innovate by working on projects together. Collaboration tools, such as web conferencing, chat, and file sharing, allow employees to work together as if they are in the same room, even if they are working remotely. A unified communications (UC) solution will have all the collaboration tools your employees need to communicate in the ways they prefer. 

 4) Enhance Visibility 

Technology should provide real-time visibility into distributed applications, as well as security, network, user, and service performance, for the best user experience. Visibility tools include performance management and insights correlation from infrastructure to code. Real-time analytics and alert thresholds will allow you to monitor network performance and troubleshoot any problems. These tools should grant visibility into a distributed workforce. 

 5) Provide Support for a Variety of Workspaces 

Technology should support a blend of home, individual, collaborative, and common workspaces. Web conferencing platforms with video should provide every individual workspace with secure login, contactless join, and access to your calendar and virtual workspaces.  

 Common spaces need technology that enables safe, intelligent, and engaging use of space across buildings and shared spaces. Video and collaboration tools support meeting room and jump spaces for scheduled and ad hoc meetings through intelligent booking, contactless join and control, voice commands, in-room controls, and notifications and alerts. 

 Put Hybrid Work Tips Into Action 

Technology can enhance the experience of working from home and in the office. Working with the right technology partner will help you get on the path to designing the best hybrid work environment for your employees. 

 As a Cisco Premier Partner with Advanced Certifications in Security, Collaboration, and Data Center, iConvergence is equipped to help your company design a successful and custom hybrid work environment. We believe in delivering results-driven technology solutions. Our team can work with you to decide which leading solutions will empower you to make the most of your hybrid workplace.  


iConvergence is ready to support you as Hurricane Ida approaches

Greetings,

iConvergence is ready to support you as Hurricane Ida approaches.We are available to help your organization with IT-related issues before landfall and in the storm’s aftermath. We will have Engineering and Help Desk support personnel stationed in areas outside of the storm zone ready to provide any needed support to customers. We will also have our team in our Memphis office ready and able to assist as needed.

For any needs you may have during the storm, please contact us at:

Phone: 337-735-1300
Email: service@iconvergence.com

How to Prepare:

  • Check the integrity of your data backups and/or data replication: make sure you have accessible copies of your company’s data that can be quickly restored if production information is destroyed or corrupted. Please check that your equipment is connected correctly to UPS/Generator power to ensure availability and protection.
  • Utilize the auto attendant application on your phone system: to keep your customers and employees aware of your company’s status, create a temporary storm message to provide pertinent information regarding how, where, and when your company will conduct business through the duration of the storm.
  • Take photos of equipment that can be damaged in the storm; servers, computers, call center equipment, etc…
  • Identify the essential personnel required to keep your business operational and determine who needs to stay on site.
  • Communicate with all employees: ensure they understand the expectations and roles around availability and communications for the duration of the storm and aftermath.
  • Activate remote working plans: Activate remote work plans before landfall, so employees are aware of offsite operations and remote working expectations.
  • For more comprehensive information to protect your businesses and your families, download the Louisiana State Emergency Preparedness Guide at this link.

iConvergence is here to help your business stay up and running. We are only a phone call away.

Please do not hesitate to reach out:

Phone: 337-735-1300
Email: service@iconvergence.com
Kirk Guilbeau iConvergence CTO


World map of email traffic overview

Cisco Talos: Today's Most Sophisticated and Comprehensive Security Group

World map of email traffic overview

Cisco Talos is one of today’s most comprehensive and sophisticated security groups. Its combination of AI and human intelligence provides constant network, application, and user visibility and collective threat response to network attacks.

Talos’ mission is to provide verifiable and customizable defensive technologies that help protect your critical assets.

There are over 350 engineers in the Talos research center. Talos engineers often publish blogs to give you current data about trends, attacks, and defense strategies.

In a recent post, you’ll find detailed information about the threats observed between Feb. 19 and Feb. 26.

https://blog.talosintelligence.com/2021/02/threat-roundup-0219-0226.html#more

Talos is continuously learning and adapting to help you protect your assets. Here’s the best part: Talos comes free with any Cisco security product purchase!


Typewriter and paper with

The iCONVERGENCE DNA

Typewriter and paper with

Why do we go to work each day?

We all have our reasons, many of which are shared. Our families, building for retirement, the ability to lead a decent life, and share with the less fortunate. Beyond that, most of us long for a chance to do something amazing, something that provides genuine value. To be involved in a company, a product or cause, that adds to the human experience and has a positive impact on people’s lives.

We’ve all been living under this COVID shadow, but the pandemic, like every disaster, gives us a rare opportunity. A chance for humans to demonstrate just how ingenious we really are, and how we can take something truly awful and rise above it. It’s an opportunity to show how the human spirit flourishes in even the darkest of times.

In our own field, I think about how we can use technology to help people. What are the tools that will enable people to do their jobs and protect their livelihoods? The question isn’t “how do we capitalize.” The question is, how do we use these tools or develop new ones that enable people to sustain themselves? June 1st is the start of hurricane season, and iConvergence has always taken a customer-centric approach during times of disaster. We want to provide genuine value, as people first.

Our executive management team discussed how to best protect our employees as the pandemic grew. We work in a mission-critical industry and understand how important it is to keep networks secure and operational during the crisis. But we also understand the importance of following guidelines and not placing our employees at risk.

We also thought about our clients. We recently had a Webex meeting that involved a broad cross-section of our employees. As we discussed a client of ours facing financial challenges, our CEO, Barry Meche, made a succinct statement but powerfully described who we are.

“As you’re speaking to our customers and come across clients that are in trouble and need help, please let us know. We need to be there for these people and help as much as we can.”

This is our DNA. iConvergence is a company that’s here to help, even if it’s not in our short-term financial interest. We understand that in the long term, it means everything, and what our customers think of us does mean everything.

We want to be generous, helpful, and sincere while also being mindful of fiscal responsibility.

How are things going? So far, not too bad. We’ve been quite busy in some areas of our business, namely with collaboration and helping clients secure remote workers. We’ve been able to work on creative projects and realign our go-to-market strategy. We’ve been able to spend more time with our pets. Talking to our neighbors over the fence. But most of all, we’ve been able to reflect on what’s really important in life, how to make a difference, and ways to be better humans and a better vendor.

We’ve embraced a mission. We’ve learned, adapted, and are doing everything possible to be a responsive, helpful company you can count on. And please know how grateful we are for you and for your continued support. We are honored to serve.

Beau Peyton

Director, Sales & Marketing


Dictionary definition of the word relentless

Work in the Time of COVID-19

Dictionary definition of the word relentless

iConvergence is not unlike other businesses during these challenging times. We’ve approached the crisis with caution, absorbing available, credible information to make informed decisions that put people first.

Certainly there is a lot of fear and uncertainty, but these emotions are secondary to our desire to respond. To protect our families, assist our clients and to being a responsible human being. If you’ve much time around our employees, this probably comes as no surprise. We’ve always been a company that cared. We care about treating our employees well. We care about doing things the right way and to doing work we’re proud of. We care about our clients, and do everything in our power to treat them as we would want to be treated.

What you think of us means everything.

Lately, we’ve been focused on the word “relentless,” and for good reason. It’s the one word that has described our behavior over the years, particularly in how we respond to client needs. And in the time of COVID-19, we’ll need to be relentless in ways we’d perhaps never considered. In how we approach personal safety and in how we respond to our clients in new and challenging ways.

Many of you are scrambling attempting to set up at home workers and keep the engine running. It’s hard, especially when so many things seem so uncertain. But the one thing we want you to know is that we are here for you. As a vendor, a friend or even just a shoulder to cry on.

Let us know how we can help, whether it’s technology related or not.

Beau Peyton,

Director of Sales and Marketing


Wilson, Arkansas town center

Wilson, Arkansas: Preserving the History, People and Passion Through Agritech

Wilson, Arkansas town center

In the mid-eighteenth century, an enterprising man named Josiah Wilson began purchasing land covered with flooded timber in the Arkansas delta not far from Memphis. By 1850, Wilson had acquired nine hundred acres and cleared one hundred acres for cultivation, eventually growing his holdings to over 2000 acres. In doing so, he had sown the seed that would eventually make his family one of the largest cotton producers in the world.

Close up of cotton plantAfter Wilson’s death in 1916 and a protracted legal battle over his estate, Wilson’s holdings eventually passed to Robert E. “Lee” Wilson. Despite Lee’s limited education, he gradually transformed the original holdings into a Delta empire.

Overcoming floods and various legal battles during the first two decades of the twentieth century, as well as significant financial issues in the 1930’s, Lee grew his holdings to forty-seven thousand acres and developed the town of Wilson, a quintessential “one man” company town. Nearly every building was owned by the Wilson family. Ninety-four employees and its residents shopped at Wilson owned stores and even paid for goods with Wilson currency.

Lee died in 1933 and is buried in the center of town square, a constant monument to the man that truly put Wilson on the map. After Lee’s death in 1933, the business was shortly run by his son, who ceded control to a non-family member, Jim Crain, due to health issues. Jim served as a “placeholder” until the third generation of Wilsons came of age.   From that point forward, the family transformed the business into a portfolio agricultural business holding with twenty-three thousand acres devoted to three primary commodities: cotton, soybeans and rice.[1]

The latest chapter began in 2010 when Gaylon Lawrence purchased the family agricultural holdings, including the town. Gaylon is gradually transforming the town into a culturally significant destination via an investment in new buildings, the renovation and reopening of the Wilson Café, organic farming, art events and a new private school.  All in addition to his nation-wide portfolio of businesses, including Heitz Cellars in California.

Wilson, Arkansas signageOctober is cotton ginning season, and the ginning operation in Wilson is something to see. The outside of the gin looks like an ordinary metal building; however, inside you’ll find aa sophisticated computerized system capable of sorting, cleaning and processing tons of product. This season, the Lawrence Group will process approximately 175,000 bales of cotton and and 60,000 tons of seed for resale. Each bale is approximately 500 pounds and at a price of .80 cents per pound, that means The Lawrence Group will process approximately $70 million in cotton this season.

iConvergence is proud to be a part of the town’s renaissance and as an IT partner entrusted with making sure The Lawrence Group’s IT system functions correctly. In 2018, we sponsored the Town’s music series, which is well known for bringing national acts to Wilson. Despite having a population of fewer than nine-hundred people, Wilson is blessed with a state-of-the-art fiber optic network and public WiFi. As the primary IT and telecommunications provider for the Lawrence Group, iConvergence designs, implements and supports all of its voice, data and video services across seven locations. This includes Meraki switching, point-to-point WiFi, SD-WAN, managed security, Cisco WebEx collaboration, desktop support and remote datacenter services.

Wilson cafeiConvergence has become an integral part of the town. People come up and speak to us when we’re in the Café enjoying a piece of pie or attending town events. They wave to us and see us as “locals,” a sign that the relationship is personal and more than just business. At iConvergence, we try to never lose sight of that and always emphasize the “human” part of what we do.

Y’all come see us in Wilson.

Reach out today.

[1] Jeannie Whayne, Delta Empire, Louisiana State University Press, 2011


Artistic depiction of man using technology

IT and Data Security Should Be a Way of Life for Your Business

Artistic depiction of man using technology

You’re going to get hacked.  Just read the news any day of the week and you’ll quickly realize it’s impossible for any government, corporation, small business or resident to protect their data with 100% confidence.  IT security isn’t just something you install on a computer or connect to your network.  If you want to close the security gap as tight as possible you will have to change the way your business functions.  Security needs to be a way of life.  It has to be as important as the products or services you sell that keep you in business.  Security has to be a part of every business much like accounting. It’s something that every business, no matter the size, must be able to maintain.

Your Current IT Security May Be No Match for Today’s Hackers

Today’s hackers are entering organization’s in so many different ways it’s challenging just to keep the holes plugged.  Just check out this recent article on how “Hackers Could Read Your Hotmail, MSN, and Outlook Emails by Abusing Microsoft Support.” This is why a security stack is necessary.  It’s like layers of an onion.  Someone may get through a layer or two but there is another one waiting just under that one. Stacking your security solution provides your business with the best odds for protecting your data. Below is the stack I recommend every business implement.

  • Firewall
  • DNS Protection
  • Multi-Factor Authentication
  • OS Security Updates & Patching
  • Anti-Virus/Anti-Malware
  • Email Spam & ATP
  • Offsite Backups
  • Employee Security Training

You might be thinking this is overkill and will cost your business way too much.  How much will not having all of this cost you?  This is the world we live in now.  Data breaches leaking medical records, banking information, case files, copy right records, engineering drawings and client information.  Resulting in lawsuits, fines, revoked licenses, degraded brand recognition, loss of customers and business closure. Keep in mind, this example was only a data breach.  I won’t even go through the ransomware attacks or even worse, the guys that just want to delete all of your data because they find it amusing.

Fact is, if you don’t have all of the layers in place that I have recommended above, then you are not doing your best to protect your company’s data, your employees, your customers and frankly, the doors from closing on your company.

At iConvergence, we’re happy to chat about your current environment and see how our security experts and strategy can help ensure your company remains on a path to uninterrupted growth and success.

Let’s talk about protecting your business – contact us today!

Jeremy Roth

Director of Managed Services, iConvergence