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Your Business Needs to Invest in Collaboration Tools—Here are 16 Reasons Why

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Collaboration technologies have altered the workplace for employees nationwide. Here are the top 16 reasons your business needs to invest in them.

Team having a meeting in a modern workspace, blurredThe American workplace is transforming. As digital technologies make our world smaller by connecting people at the touch of a button, workplace boundaries are coming down, and the concept of what the workplace is and can be is changing. Collaboration tools are giving a competitive advantage to the businesses willing to invest in them and building a happier, more productive workforce.

Distance is one of the most significant roadblocks to collaboration and is responsible for productivity inhibiting communication silos. Fortunately, innovations in collaboration technologies and unified communications mean it’s no longer necessary to spend precious time and money on expensive work-related travel to bring busy workers or customers together in the same place. It is now possible to work—either face-to-face via video or in real-time via messaging or voice—regardless of physical location or time. We can collaborate at the moment in the way we choose across all boundaries and enjoy a range of features like whiteboarding and document sharing on any device—from your phone to your desktop, to the conference room. And that’s only a start to the vast range of benefits offered to businesses that choose collaboration tools.

Travel Costs Savings
One of the most significant benefits of investing in collaboration tools is the savings businesses can realize by eliminating unnecessary travel costs. The days of travelling to every client meeting or paying to bring team members together under the same roof are over.

Lively team meeting at conference table with several devicesSpeedy Access to Knowledge
Your employees want to learn, and you want to learn alongside them. Collaboration tools make it easy to connect with the entire knowledge base of your company quickly and efficiently. No more emails getting lost in over-crowded inboxes or desperately trying to squeeze in another 15-minute meeting on a stuffed calendar. Collaboration tech gives real-time access to every employee, with documented backups to make sure nothing gets lost.

Increased Employee Satisfaction
Employee satisfaction is key to running a successful company and avoiding costly expenses associated with high turnover and training. Employees are seeking more freedom in their work environments as the traditional 9 to 5 becomes a thing of the past. Collaboration technology makes it efficient and easy to give your employees this freedom and the options they seek. The ability to choose where and how they work results in higher engagement, a better sense of work-life balance and happier workers who want to see the company succeed and grow. Leading directly to our next point….

Increased Productivity
Happy workers are productive workers. And productive workers produce positive outcomes for your company—both cultural and financial. Employers who invest in collaboration technology report having employees utilize their abilities to their full potential, work more extended hours, log fewer sick days and ultimately work more deliberately and effectively.

Unlimited Data Archiving, Backup and Recovery
Forget server crashes and IT disasters setting your work efforts back weeks, if not months. Collaboration tools have options to integrate unlimited data archiving, backup and recovery technology through the cloud. Rest easy knowing your company’s data is securely backed up and available to your teams whenever and wherever they need it.

Remote Work Enablement
Collaboration software not only makes working remote easy, in many cases it makes remote work more efficient. Required travel, sick leave and bad weather no longer mean your team loses valuable time together. Collaboration tech makes it possible to have your full team together, in real-time, talking through video conference, chatting on messenger, sharing files, whiteboarding ideas and more from thousands of miles apart, meaning regardless of unforeseen circumstances, your team doesn’t skip a beat.

Team meeting at a table outsideQuickly Onboard New Employees
Onboarding new hires can often seem like a daunting and time-consuming task. Gathering the right files, setting up the appropriate meetings, training on specific platforms or devices and even just getting everyone introduced. Collaboration technology can remove all the headaches associated with growing your team by allowing instant communication to the full employee base, access to essential documents and hires to utilize any device with which he or she is most familiar and comfortable.

Efficient Project Management
Collaboration technology isn’t only about communication and working remotely. It can also create a smooth manner in which to manage your projects.  Sharing schedules, tasks, deadlines and essential documents with both clients and coworkers are all made more manageable. Speed is integral in the modern workplace. Missed emails and trying to get everyone in one place for 5-minutes are administrative roadblocks that slow projects down and extend timelines. With the proper cloud-based collaboration technology, these roadblocks become open highways.

In the not too distant past, access to servers and the files and documents they held required employees to be within a physical office and on a specific network. Collaboration technology allows your teams to have access to essential data regardless of location with centralized document storage. Multiple versions of files on different USB drives or saved on individual desktops complicate and slow down workflows. With centralized document storage, your team can view the latest versions of files from a single location, make edits as necessary and have access to them when and where they need it without unnecessary, and unorganized, duplication.

Breakdown of Organizational Silos
Organizational silos can make it feel like you have impenetrable walls between your departments and employees, making it difficult to share and effectively communicate with your teams. Whether they form from offices being separated by location or departments not cooperating, collaboration tech can make all the difference. Now your sales team on the east coast can be in constant communication with your accounting team out west. Collaboration tech encourages frequent contact by giving your employees choices on how they can connect, share ideas and deliver information.

Efficient Team Decision Making
With real-time interaction between full teams, including leadership, collaboration technology can help decision-making move more rapidly throughout the hierarchy of your company. By eliminating lengthy email chains and repetitive feedback, teams can work together in live environments, reviewing critiques as they happen, to efficiently provide not only approvals but suggestions and problem-solving ideas to get tasks done faster.

Work colleagues chatting and smilingReduced Operational Costs
Collaboration technology has the potential to drastically reduce your organization’s operational costs through multiple avenues. Travel costs and expenses are cut since teams can interact through voice, video, message or whiteboard interfaces. IT expenses drop with employees utilizing their personal devices more, which also increases productivity due to familiarity with their tools. Other costs such as office space rent, printing, building upkeep, hardware purchase and maintenance are also immediately reduced by adopting collaboration tech for your company, meaning you have more money to invest back into your products and employees.

Competitive Agility Leads To Competitive Advantages
Companies that can be flexible, quick and cohesive are at a huge advantage in today’s fast-paced, tech-driven economy. Being able to collaborate in real-time with your employees from any device, in any location and under any circumstance means you can make decisions quickly and confidently, knowing your team has full access to all the variables surrounding your business.

Speedier, More Transparent and Trustworthy Communication
Allowing more flexibility among your employees through the implementation of collaboration technology instills trust in your company culture. It shows you trust your hires to do the job they are supposed to do, regardless of location, which also builds confidence and pride in the work being done. Direct and fast access to leadership and coworkers encourages frequent and honest communication, which in turns reinforces this trust throughout. It’s a positive cycle that cultivates a healthy and productive work environment.

Facilitates BYOD
As we’ve mentioned already, collaboration software can be implemented across virtually any device and operating system. This lets your teams utilize their own devices, which can pay-off by not only reducing IT expenses but by allowing your employees to use products they are comfortable with, resulting in a faster, happier and more productive workforce.

Access Your Calling Platform and Contacts in the Cloud
The final item on our list of reasons to invest in collaboration technology is entirely utilitarian. Forget having to download conference software or remember a specific laptop when you need to access your contacts. With collaboration technology, everything is stored in the cloud. So whether you’re on your phone, desktop or tablet you’ll have direct lines to all your contacts, no matter if you need video conferencing, voice or messaging.

The right cloud-based collaboration technologies could be the difference that sets your company apart. Industry-leading platforms like Webex Teams, formally Cisco Spark, give your employees the ability to meet securely, message, voice or video call, whiteboard, share and access documents from anywhere with a wifi connection. The workplace is rapidly changing. Agility, flexibility and responsiveness are trends that are becoming more important than ever for viable companies to embrace. Collaboration technology was explicitly developed to adapt, improve and progress these behaviors. Are you benefiting from it?

Is it time for your business to invest in collaboration technology? We think it is. Contact Us for a no obligation consulting session with a collaboration technology expert at iConvergence and watch your business thrive.

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SaaS Tools For Work Are Awesome - How Do We Secure Them?

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Cisco Umbrella is the perfect solution to help your business embrace Mobility and the BYOD revolution.

Co-workers chatting and looking at a deviceThe average American worker uses a dizzying array of SaaS tools to complete tasks. Think about it. How many SaaS products do you make use of throughout the average workday? The number probably hovers somewhere between 5-10 products. Tools like Webex Teams, Salesforce, Google Docs, Office 365, and others, enhance productivity and collaboration among workers, resulting in increased financial performance and overall employee satisfaction.

“Because of the flexibility and efficiency that mobile devices provide, they have transformed the way we do business. Whether it’s through collaboration amongst employees, sharing information or communicating through emoji’s, the ability to access your corporate network and data—at any time and anywhere, right at the palm of your hands—is incredibly powerful.”Kalie Radsmikham, Product Marketing Manager, Cisco

These tools, however, present a significant challenge. Hackers have grown sophisticated, today, operating more like organized crime syndicates than ramshackle basement dwellers. At the same time, products for work continue to transition to the cloud, and more employees are taking advantage of flexible work and BYOD policies.

The result is a potential data security nightmare.

Ideally, communication to and from employee devices would travel over secured virtual private networks (VPNs). These networks deliver traffic to perimeter security systems to scrutinize, and, if necessary, block and isolate. The reality, however, rarely meets expectations.

Co-workers sitting at a table and talking while looking at devicesAccording to Gartner, “By 2021, 27% of corporate data traffic will bypass perimeter security (an increase from 10% today) and flow directly from mobile and portable devices to the cloud.”

“Creating and maintaining a security policy on a per-cloud-service basis is more than a chore when hundreds of cloud services are in use—it quickly becomes a high source of risk”—Craig Lawson, Research Vice President, Gartner.

Employees regularly bypass VPNs, and this trend will only grow. How then do you protect critical data? Most companies are in an awkward position. Businesses today must move to the cloud, but this move creates visibility gaps and fresh attack surfaces. Yesterday’s approach to security won’t hold up in the cloud era.

“82 percent of the corporate laptop users admitted to sometimes bypassing their organizations’ VPNs.”Gartner

Cisco Umbrella creates a new layer of defense, conceived and designed to address modern business concerns.  Umbrella provides security for your employees whether they are on—or off—the company network. In keeping with the ‘plug and play’ mentality of Cisco’s recent innovations, Umbrella is easy to deploy, supports worldwide installations, and minimizes latency. Cisco Umbrella is the solution your business needs to stay secure in the cloud era enabling you to embrace the BYOD revolution and allowing your employees to enjoy a safe remote work environment.

CISCO Umbrella logo“Think of this new category as a Secure Internet Gateway (SIG). A SIG is a secure onramp to the Internet. Wherever users go, even when they are off the VPN, this cloud-delivered Internet gateway provides safe and secure access. As Internet requests are made, a SIG acts as the first line of defense and inspection.”Brian Roddy, Engineering Executive, Cisco

At iConvergence, our goal has always been to connect people with technology. Computing in the cloud era has enabled us to achieve this goal and now, with Cisco Umbrella, not only do we have the ability to connect our customers with best-in-class technology solutions, we can help to provide security—anywhere, at any time, from every device, and on any network.

Learn for yourself how Cisco Umbrella can secure your business, on or off the corporate network. Contact iConvergence for a Cisco Umbrella free trial.

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It’s 2018—Reach Digital Maturity and Modernize Your IT Infrastructure or Face the Realities of Digital Disruption

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If you want to reap the benefits of the cloud, you need to set the foundation for success with a modernized IT infrastructure and managed services.

Abstract of team meeting in conference roomToday’s technology is intertwined with our work and personal lives, and it’s easy to forget just ten years ago, we were in a very different place. In 2008, there were no Uber’s, 4G phones, digital assistants, gig economy, or autonomous vehicles.

Why are we visiting this technological time capsule? Because, while the pace of change has accelerated in the last decade, the IT infrastructures of most businesses remain locked in the past. Some are operating on decades-old legacy equipment, cobbling together aging tech with new applications and services, creating a monolithic, immovable beast. Surprising (to some), our government is a perfect example of this.

According to the Government Accountability Office, there are government agencies actively using technology that is as much as 56 years old. By today’s standards, these technologies are ancient and not only slow progress; they create massive amounts of risk. Of course, government agencies aren’t the only examples of legacy equipment leaving gaps in security and slowing the pace of innovation to a crawl. Businesses, from SMB’s to large Enterprise organizations are working with cobbled together infrastructures that more closely resemble Frankenstein than the clean and automated environments we’d like to envision.

Business Transformation icons“…The Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy discs in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nations nuclear forces. In addition, the Department of Treasury uses assembly language code—a computer language initially used in the 1950’s and typically tied to the hardware for which it was developed.”Government Accountability Office

At the same time, every tech blogger on the Internet is publishing articles discussing the virtues of migrating to the cloud. And while nearly every business today is doing something in the cloud, or something digital, determining the right cloud approach is as unique and individualized as your business and your employees. Simply put, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to the cloud and IT modernization.

Should your business be in the cloud? The short answer is yes. Yes, your business needs to be doing something in the cloud. How you get to the cloud is a decision based on the specific needs of your company. Private, public, hybrid, multi-cloud—at iConvergence, the approach we suggest and implement for you is based on a holistic understanding of what will align with your specific needs and goals. This not only optimizes performance, freeing up your IT team to focus on business initiatives, but it also saves cost.

Modern abstract tech artThat being said, the underlying infrastructure needs to be modernized if you wish to make the most of your migration (in any capacity) to the cloud.  Adding new equipment, services and features to an aging infrastructure, in the long run, creates an expensive, time-consuming, monstrous beast, and no one wants to deal with that. Our consultative process looks beyond your technology to determine the ideal, most cost-effective approach to modernization and our managed services ensure the ongoing performance and success of your business and technology, leaving your IT teams free to work on what they do best.

At iConvergence, we create a plan to tackle the specific issues of your business and construct a tailored managed services solution to fit.

If you’d like more information on how to improve your business, save dollars and free up time for strategic initiatives with managed services from iConvergence, give us a call or fill out the form below.

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Cisco Spark is now WebEx Teams, and the Future Of Work Has Never Looked Brighter

Allow us to be the first to introduce you to the next generation of collaboration: WebEx Teams

Webex Teams logo markRecently Cisco held its famed Collaboration Summit in Phoenix, Arizona, and with it came the announcement of WebEx Teams, which will replace Cisco’s flagship collaboration platform, Spark.

Cisco’s WebEx meeting platform touts an impressive 100 million users worldwide, together accounting for more than six billion meeting minutes a month. Utilizing that sort of brand recognition for the evolution of Spark may seem like a no-brainer. However, the Cisco Spark rebrand is much more than simply a name change.

WebEx Teams merges all the team collaboration capabilities of Spark with the trusted video conferencing and meeting services employers, customers, and remote workers have come to expect from WebEx. The result is a simpler and more integrated user experience.

Prior to this rebrand, Spark users could communicate and meet with other Spark users, and WebEx users similarly with other WebEx users—there was however, little overlap between the two platforms. With WebEx Teams, everything is housed under one roof. And better yet, if you’ve only been a WebEx user in the past, when you’re ready to ad team collaboration software to your business plan, all you have to do is add the ‘Teams’ extension to your WebEx account.

Still included are the cornerstone features from the older versions of each platform, so previous users of Spark and WebEx will feel comfortable with the interface, features, and functionality of the new platform, but now, Cisco has taken collaboration to the next level in WebEx Teams, including upgrades and added features.

Take off those webcam covers
WebEx Teams shown on a tabletWith the new WebEx Teams meeting feature, Cisco is emphasizing a ‘video first’ mentality. The minds behind WebEx believe seeing the faces of your colleagues improves efficiency, creates constructive conversation, and encourages collaborative ideas and open dialogue. With the ability to add up to 1,000 participants in a single meeting, you’ve got a lot of potential interactions and interference. So, no more turning your microphone on mute while Jim scrolls through his presentation in Toledo. It’s time to tune-in and engage! WebEx Teams also allows you to seamlessly transition between devices without missing a beat. Whether you’re working from home, a conference room, or airport lounge, you can feel securely connected and fully involved.

Cohesive 360º Collaboration
As the new icon for WebEx Teams suggests, in addition to being a nod to the old Spark and WebEx icons, the new platform is all about seamless and uninterrupted collaboration across its features. WebEx Teams provides your employees with all the tools they need to produce great work effectively, including direct team messaging, file sharing, whiteboard sketching, and of course, voice and video calling—all designed to work with one another in tandem. Also new on the meeting side of things, is the ability for anyone to start one. Meeting hosts are now a thing of the past, as is waiting for them to get things started. Should inspiration strike before everyone is settled in, no worries just go ahead and start collaborating.

Team meeting at a table outsideImproved collaboration means improved business
We’ve discussed the growing trend of the remote workforce on this blog before, and there are many reasons this workplace transformation is beneficial to both employers and employees: agile work environments, flexible hours, lower operating costs, and most importantly, happier and more productive employees, leading to improved financial performance for companies. For remote work to be a viable option for your employees and business, workers need the right tools and technology. With WebEx Teams, you’ll have the ability to securely collaborate with colleagues from any place with a network connection, regardless of device.

iConvergence is here to help improve collaboration, productivity, and business outcomes for your company, and we think it’s time you put the power of collaboration to work for your business with WebEx Teams.

Get in touch if you’d like a demo of the new and improved WebEx Teams and put the power of collaboration to work for your business!

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Collaboration Tools Are Transforming the American Workplace.

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Over 170 companies today are operating in the US on a completely remote workforce. Should your company follow their lead?

Team meeting in a casual settingThe perception of remote workers in the United States has changed. Once viewed as the playground of twenty something’s working from a local coffee shop or stay-at-home moms with small children, telecommuting has gone from a fringe workplace trend to a commonplace aspect of the modern company.

According to CNBC, citing data from FlexJobs, there are today more than 170 companies operating in the United States on a completely remote workforce. This number has grown substantially since 2014 when FlexJobs reported just 26 companies functioning with an entirely remote employee base. CNBC calls these fully remote companies the “next big wave in work-life balance”, made possible by technology and an increasing concern with quality-of-life among workers—young workers in particular.

The term ‘phoning it in’ actually evolved from workers transmitting messages by telephone rather than in person. Fortunately, due to innovations in cloud technologies and growing improvements in collaboration platforms and unified communications, allowing employees to phone it in, may actually give your company a competitive advantage.

Collaboration tools in the cloud era, like Cisco Spark, now called Webex Teams, are more sophisticated than telecommuting tools of the past, and make it possible for any office job to be done entirely remotely.

Remote workers are happier and more productive
Man sitting at desk with laptop in the countrysideRecently conducted research has shown remote workers are more productive than employees who head into the office each day. Trusting your employees, and providing them with the tools they need to master remote work, has a measurable impact on productivity and worker satisfaction.

  • Employees who telecommute tend to work longer hours
  • Remote employees can travel without taking vacation
  • Employees are able to work in the way that best suits their needs and abilities
  • Happier employees make for more productive employees

Providing you employees with the flexibility to work how and where they choose has a direct correlation to productivity, happiness, employee engagement, and as a result, positive financial performance.

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality.” — Economists from the University of Warwick

Companies who allow employees to work remotely see improved economic outcomes.
Giving your employees the freedom to work remotely and investing in technologies to allow them to do so, could lead to measurable financial gain for companies. Think about the expense involved with employee travel; airline tickets, rental cars, employee meals, miscellaneous expenses—all of these costs can be eliminated by fostering a remote work environment. Your company saves money when your teams can work with each other and with customers via collaboration technologies.

  • -Drastically reduce, or altogether eliminate, work-related travel with collaboration technologies
  • -Save money for your company and your employees by eliminating costly commuting expenses (gas and public transportation reimbursements).
  • -Earn the financial rewards of an agile and responsive remote team
  • -Save company dollars by allowing team members to use personal devices

“Federal employees in Washington who worked from home during four official snow days, saved the government an estimated $32 million, according to Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics and Telework Research Network.” — New York Times, 2014

In Louisiana, where unpredictable weather can force companies to shut down for days, or in some instances weeks, embracing the cloud, and collaboration technologies, and arming employees with remote work capabilities, means your business won’t lose money when disaster strikes.

Convenient and secure access with collaboration tools from Cisco and iConvergence.
Using cloud-based collaboration technologies like Cisco Spark, now Webex Teams, gives your workers everything they need to do their jobs anywhere they have access to a network connection. SaaS platforms allow your employees to enjoy unlimited access to the latest version and upgrades of collaboration software, wherever they are. There is no wasted time or extra effort involved in keeping your teams up-to-date and secure.

Remote worker at table outsideGive your employees to the ability to meet, message, voice or video call, whiteboard, and share documents, from one easy-to-use platform, on any device, from any location, with Webex Teams. If security is a fear, with Webex teams, it shouldn’t be. The platform is secure, ensuring every conversation, shared documents and sensitive information, are safely transferred and encrypted, even when the platform is accessed via a public Wi-Fi networks.

The American workforce is changing to reflect remote capabilities and as more jobs become tied to technology, and a growing number of younger workers who aren’t afraid to embrace new technologies, enter the workforce—working from home will continue to be a rapidly growing trend.

Have you invested in the best collaboration technologies for you and your employees to reap the benefits of this modern workplace trend?

Contact us today for a FREE team collaboration audit and Webex Teams Demo.

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Digital Transformation Has Arrived, But Will Your Company Change?

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Digital Transformation can be a tough pill to swallow but if your company wants to survive and thrive, it’s time for a cultural shift, from the top down.

Hands holding a mobile phone with a mapping app on the screenDigital Transformation is a commonly used term in tech circles today and has started to work its flavor-of-the-week, buzzword popularity into mainstream culture. Most of us who’ve spent time working in the constantly evolving world of technology look at buzzwords and buzz-terms with a healthy degree of skepticism; we see a lot of them come and go.

This time however, the buzz is living up to its hype. Digital Transformation is happening. It is real and it is disruptive. Ask cab drivers competing with ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft, or the family-run retail shop down the street fighting for space with Amazon—businesses everywhere and of every size are feeling the effects of digitization. Nearly everything we do today—shopping, banking, keeping up with friends and family—happens through digital means.

“Disruptive innovation, often fueled by fast-moving, exponential technologies, is unstoppable. Yet many executives react to it by panicking or denying its impact, rather than seizing the opportunity to reposition their businesses for future relevance and growth.”Wall Street Journal

To stay relevant, or dare-we-say, to stay in business, companies need to embrace our digital world and transform the ways they interact with customers, employees, and sales prospects.

Our customers share security concerns related to digital transformation almost universally. Regardless of scale or industry, from Fortune 500 brands to regional universities and hospitals, cybersecurity is one idea shared consistently as the most important and often most difficult component of this transformation. Deciding on vendors and deploying technology is the easy part; change—getting employees at every level of a company or organization to think and act differently, and altering their work processes around new digital technologies and more importantly security, can be the greatest challenge.

Businesses and organizations are structured to operate in very specific ways and once processes are established, altering an existing mindset or practice presents a challenge. Disruptive technology innovator, Salim Ismail explained to the Wall Street Journal in 2015, “I’ve learned from experience that when you’re attempting disruptive innovation inside a big company, the immune system of the company will attack you. Large organizations are built to withstand change and avoid risk, and now we’re telling them to move fast and take chances.”

Regardless of a company’s willingness to modernize and accept organizational and technological change, whether we like it or not, disruption is here. As applications and data move to the cloud, IT team boundaries continue to blur, and the silos they traditionally worked within are toppling—bridging gaps has become increasingly important. Our customers have addressed these issues in a handful of ways, discussed below:

Team having a meeting in front of colorful whiteboardCollaborating with other companies under comparable circumstances.
Collaborating with friendly businesses and willing competitors who are facing similar challenges as they digitally transform and migrate to the cloud, can be helpful and enlightening. Scheduling time each month with a peer, or peer groups, to share ideas, work through issues, and discuss best practices can be advantageous for everyone.

Focusing on education surrounding the cloud.
We’ve found a need to help IT teams alter the ways they view the cloud. Investing time in education and working with your teams to ensure a baseline understanding and focused mindset prior to starting any project is essential. Ensuring your team members are trained on best practices for the development, deployment, and security of cloud applications is an ideal place to begin.

Building a specific and comprehensive agile team.
Companies often employ varying names for ‘agile teams’ and make use of different organizational models to bring team members out of their silos. However your company refers to these teams, and regardless of how they come together, a unified team with clear objectives and defined duties makes digital transformation easier and ensures success.

Transformation can be difficult at every level, but in this digital era, sticking your head in the sand to avoid the inevitable will only result in the wrong kind of disruption. iConvergence can help you manage this change and make sure your business comes out on top. Get in touch to learn how.

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5 Ways Virtualization in Business Produces Positive Outcomes

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Virtualization is much more than a trend—it’s a transformative tool for business.

Two people looking at serversVirtualization is a word uttered frequently in the halls at iConvergence, but as we’ve realized, many folks are still unsure of what the technology encompasses and how it can produce positive business outcomes.

The concept of virtualization isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around since the era of mainframe computing. Running two or more operating systems along with their associated applications on a single server as ‘virtual machines’ is a tactic that’s been used in the world of IT for decades.

In the past ten years however, the use of virtualization has exploded. Realizing the benefits this technology can provide in the realm of cost-savings, simplification, and efficiency, a growing list of companies—from the enterprise level down—have begun to hop on the virtual bandwagon.

There are many advantages this technology can provide—here are just 5 of them.

Reduced hardware costs
Most servers housed within a strictly physical environment are vastly underused and employ only a small percentage of their overall capacity. By implementing virtualized server and cloud computing technologies, hardware utilization is increased since one server can contain numerous virtual machines. iConvergence customers who have implemented a virtualization strategy have reported a significant reduction in hardware and software expenditures.

Improved disaster recovery
The ease with which you can move a virtual server from one machine to another makes the backup of critical data effortless and quick. The majority of enterprise virtualization systems include software that helps to automate failover in the event of disaster. Furthermore, virtualization makes it easy to test disaster recovery failover. When disaster strikes your data center, you’ve got the infrastructure in place to ensure a speedy and safe recovery with little to no network downtime.

ServersSpeedy server provisioning and deployment
Server virtualization speeds up system provisioning and deployment making it possible to clone existing virtual machines in minutes rather than the hours it takes to install a physical server. The efficiency and cost-savings realized by just this one aspect of virtualization makes it an indispensable tool for modern business.

Increased employee productivity
Using fewer physical servers means your team has less to manage and maintain. Network tasks that in the past may have taken days or weeks to complete can now be finished in minutes, leaving your IT staff with time to focus on mission critical responsibilities like implementing new business initiatives and producing positive outcomes.

Significant energy savingsMan sitting at invisible desk
A decrease in physical servers means an overall reduction in hardware spelling out substantial cost-savings for your business. Furthermore, you can sleep well at night knowing that your company has taken steps to reduce energy consumption thereby decreasing its overall carbon footprint and helping our environment.

Virtualization, while not entirely new to the world of information technology, within the last decade has taken large steps forward and is now a mainstream component of many companies overall IT strategy. The benefits this technology can provide when combined with the power of the cloud, should make it an attractive option for every business.

If you’d like to learn how iConvergence could help to produce positive outcomes for your business through virtualization get in touch or leave a comment below.

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Crossing the Digital Divide with Connected Education

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Expanded Internet access and digital technologies are helping students reach their greatest potential.

Children in a classroom all raising their armsIn recent years, the face of education has changed as the result of innovations in the realm of digital technologies. Still, in large sections of the United States, a lack of funding coupled with unreliable and limited Internet access, is having an unfortunate impact on opportunities for individual and professional growth among younger segments of the population. It has been documented that close to one in four school districts nationwide, are unable to support the bandwidth required to address the learning needs of students in today’s digital world.

It’s a difficult reality for the majority of people to comprehend, but there are still large swathes of the United States that are lacking in reliable Internet—something most of us today consider a basic necessity. As digital technologies continue to shape our world, a large percentage of American schools and students are being left behind. Cisco’s Muhammed Chaudry discussed the situation in a blog post and explained, “While many schools throughout Silicon Valley have integrated technology into their classrooms, the digital revolution has left many behind.” The truth is that there are still too many American schools without the tools to support digital learning.

“In today’s hyper-connected world, delivering educational access overwhelmingly means providing access to the Internet. At school and at home, in the classroom and outside of it, students need access anytime, anywhere and on any device”—Cisco

There exists an achievement gap between students able to access digital technologies at home and in the classroom, and students who are not. As the world continues along the path to near complete digitization and online learning opportunities continue to grow, students with near limitless Internet access will be disproportionately better equipped to realize the benefits of digital learning than those who are not.

Colorful illustration depicting education via bookThere is a broad assumption that the key to eliminating the digital divide in education lies in the modernization of network infrastructures. While this is certainly true, the solution to this complex problem is not simple. Once the infrastructure is in place, teaching students, parents, teachers and administrators to understand and use these new technologies will be critical if we wish to cross the digital divide.

“Today’s digital campuses and learning technologies require a robust network to support bandwidth heavy coursework and collaboration applications (video, voice, etc.), learning management systems and the multitude of devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones)”Jolene Tam, Cisco

Fortunately, the majority of tools being used in classrooms and at home for digital learning have become so simplified, intuitive and easy to deploy that once an underlying infrastructure is in place, it takes very little effort to learn how to use them. With Cisco’s Connected Classroom students and educators are easily able to collaborate in much the same way that tools like Cisco Spark enable seamless collaboration within the office. Resources can be accessed by students, educators and parents using their smartphones, tablets and connected devices in a secure environment on or off campus.

“With Cisco’s Connected Classroom, students can learn how they learn best: anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Whether on or off campus, in a flipped classroom model, students and educators have highly secure access to educational resources using their smartphones, tablets and other connected devices.”—Cisco

Colorful illustration depicting educationIt is the job of parents, educators, administrators, IT service providers and technology innovators to shape the future leaders of our country and while we’ve come a long way, there is still a good distance to travel before we’ve eliminated the digital divide. Fortunately, Cisco is working hard to develop and implement technologies to help bring the power of connected education to every classroom and every home, nationwide.

If you’d like to learn how at iConvergence, we can help to bring transformational digital technologies into the classrooms of Louisiana, reach out or leave a comment below.

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Getting Smart About Cyber Threats— Your Cyber Security Checklist

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Contending with cyber threats is an inevitable part of doing business in the digital age—ready your defenses with a cyber security checklist.

Checkboxes and green pen checking off the final boxAt this point, it’s pretty much accepted that every business will have to contend with a cyber attack. When companies like Arby’s, Domino’s Pizza and Whole Foods are getting hit alongside Equifax, Deloitte and the bakery down the street, you can assume it’s only a matter of time before your ticket’s called.

We’ve discussed the importance of cyber security incident response plans on this blog and as we watch company after company succumb to hackers, the team at iConvergence thought it would be a good time to put together an inventory of items that should be included on your cyber security checklist.

Wise up and use the information below to build a personalized cyber security checklist and safeguard your business.

Physical Security Check
Is your network physically secure? On-premise servers, if you have them, should be in a safe location accessible only to authorized personnel. Server rooms need to be outfitted with appropriate cooling, fire-resistance and power mechanisms to help safeguard and preserve your data in the event of a disaster. If your data management is outsourced, take a tour of the data center to ensure your information is well looked after and find out what controls are in place to keep your precious information protected.

Employee Training
It should go without saying that it’s absolutely essential to conduct cyber security training with every member of your team. Periodic, ongoing education and security drills are important to ensure that all of your employees are familiar with the policies and procedures you’ve implemented that protect the network and your data. We’d recommend that you document each training session and gather employee signatures to keep everyone on-point and compliant, because as we all know,  cyber security is only as strong as your weakest link—your employees.

Keep Your Software Up-to-Date
Person viewing device surrounded by vintage clockfaceIt’s essential to use up-to-date software and be attentive when it comes to patch management. Hackers know how to exploit software vulnerabilities using a whole slew of tactics to gain access to computers and data. Updating your software on network-connected equipment should always be a top priority. It’s also important to make sure you have business-class antivirus software installed and up-to-date on every office workstation and server.

Implement Simple and Effective Cyber Security Policies
Criminals will go to great lengths to exploit any weaknesses or gaps in your cyber defenses and your employees are often the first point of contact. Every company needs cyber security policies that help to regulate behaviors and activities among employees to protect the network and important information. These policies also ensure that employees, along with your company and partners, are protected from illegal or harmful actions committed by individuals both knowingly and unknowingly.

Always Back up Your Data
Daily backups are important to help your business recover from data corruption or loss as the result of a data breach. Not having reliable and safely stored backups can make it nearly impossible to recover from a breach should one occur. In today’s business climate, where companies are being attacked relentlessly regardless of size or industry, backing up essential data in preparation for the worst can be one of the best things you do to ensure the safety and longevity of your business.

Man looking at mobile device in the shadowsConducting business in the digital age means contending with cyber threats and that’s not going to change any time soon (if ever). You can’t control the hackers trying relentlessly to steal you and your customer’s data but you can take proactive steps to help prevent or prepare for an eventual attack. This list is merely a starting point, but it will help to put your business on the path to cyber security success.

Get in touch if you’d like to learn how iConvergence is positioned to keep your business safe with best-in-class cyber security solutions from Cisco.

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Breaking Down the Cloud: 4 Common Cloud Types You Should Know

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The number of solutions available in the cloud continues to expand—here are the terms you need to know

Single white cloud in a blue sky, several sets of arms and hands holding mobile devicesWhen the cloud was first introduced the concept seemed so esoteric that for years people both inside and outside of tech circles made jokes about it. The idea evoked images of information somehow floating above the earth in white fluffy stuff passing above us—no, it’s not data causing all that turbulence during your flights.

Of course now WE know, and hopefully you know too, that the cloud is not some high-flying source of information in the heavens. Your selfies, work documents and saved cocktail recipes are living right here on earth, in data centers dotting different corners of the globe.

Just as we all got that detail sorted out, the always-changing world of technology decided to add complexity to our understanding of what ‘the cloud’ is and what it can do. Today you’re likely to hear any number of cloud-related terms that can leave even the C-Suite scratching their heads.

Fortunately, we are here to simplify things for you. Keep reading to learn 4 of the most common cloud types you should know about today.

Public Cloud
The Public cloud model is the most recognizable form of cloud computing and is what most of us think of when considering ‘the cloud’. It’s the model you interact with everyday, on the Internet, your smartphone, or even your company’s website. In the public cloud model, service providers offer every resource required to get into the cloud. Virtual machines, applications and storage are made available to the general public over the Internet and are offered either for free or as a pay-per-use service. Some of the advantages offered by public cloud implementation are:

  • Reduced cost and complexity: organizations don’t have to invest in their own on-premises IT resources3D illustration of Public, Hybrid, and Private clouds
  • Businesses are able to scale capacity as needed by using a pay-per-usage model
  • Public cloud is a good use of resources as customers pay only for what they use/need

Private Cloud
The private cloud is a proprietary cloud computing architecture dedicated to a single organization. In the private cloud model businesses can take aspects of what is offered in public cloud architecture and apply it to their own data centers, offering full control over how infrastructure is provisioned or de-provisioned. In contrast to public cloud, private cloud requires an IT management team and a supporting infrastructure. The private cloud model is more complex and requires deeper resources but has many advantages including:

  • Complete control over environment and infrastructure
  • Enhanced Cybersecurity capabilities
  • The ability to reallocate resources in a matter of minutes without having to find a physical server with the necessary properties

Hybrid Cloud
The term hybrid-cloud brings together both the public and private cloud computing models and allows for orchestration between the two. This model can be an attractive option because it gives businesses the ability to realize the benefits of public cloud, while maintaining their own private cloud to control and secure sensitive information, applications and regulated data. The hybrid-cloud model is a holistic approach to IT and gives your company the ability to select the right solution for the job, at the right time. Other advantages include:

  • Greater accessibility to business-critical applications
  • Security and compliance concerns can be easily and adequately addressed
  • Businesses often realize improved organizational agility by implementing a hybrid-cloud solution


“It’s a multi-cloud world, where multiple services from multiple clouds play key roles in your digital transformation.”—Cisco

Public and private cloud computing models are pretty easy to understand—when it comes to multi-cloud environments, things get a little more complex. Put simply, multi-cloud refers to the combining of technologies and services from different cloud providers to create a custom business solution that best fits an organizations needs. Multi-cloud can be a challenge for IT teams to navigate but it has many advantages. Here are a few:

  • Businesses are able to leverage the most appropriate cloud services from multiple providers at any given time
  • Risk is spread across varying platforms greatly diminishing the possibility of network downtime
  • Spreading resources across multiple clouds reduces the possibility of a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack

Picturesque scene of large sky with clouds and green field“Cloud competency is a critical trait for business leaders, whether they’re in IT or not.”—ZDNet

The tech industry loves to use buzzwords and acronyms but most of the time these terms lead to awkward conversations and head scratching. With the growing list of buzzwords related to the cloud, it can be difficult to determine what the best solution for your business will be—fortunately we are available to help.

At iConvergence, we have the knowledge and expertise to help you select and implement the right cloud solution for your business. Leave a comment below to learn more.