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Cybersecurity Wall of Shame: The Top 5 Biggest Data Breaches of 2017

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2017 has been a good year for cybercriminals and a tough one for the rest of us.

The Equifax breach shows that businesses of any size and in every industry are prime targets for a Laptop with lock icon on screenhack, and while the scale and notoriety of this breach ranks it among the worst cyber security events of the year (or of all time), there have been many others.

During the first half of 2017, data breach activity saw a steep increase with the number of reported breaches jumping 29% to 791, according to a report from the Identity Theft Resource Center. The report shows that at the current rate of growth this number has the potential to reach up to 1,500 breaches, a 37% jump over 2016 when data breaches reached an all-time record high of 1,093. The increase in attacks shows an evolved level of sophistication among cybercriminals and a high-level of unpreparedness amongst businesses regardless of size or industry.

Keep reading to learn what we consider to be the top 5 biggest data breaches of 2017 (so far):

Deloitte experienced a data breach in March of this year but the event wasn’t disclosed until late September. The breach is a huge embarrassment for the company Gartner once named “the best cyber security consultant in the world”. Deloitte failed to use two-factor authentication and as a consequence when hackers uncovered a single administrator password they were able to access all areas of Deloitte’s email system. Deloitte maintains that only a small number of their largest clients were impacted but many experts believe the incident was far more severe.

In May of this year, it was revealed that Gmail users were targeted in a sophisticated phishing scam that was seeking access to accounts through a third-party application. Many users fell prey to the attack because the emails were made to look like communication sent from known contacts that were interested in sharing a Google doc with them. When clicked, the victims were led to a Google security page where they were asked to allow a fake Google doc application to manage their email accounts. While Google claims users were only vulnerable for an hour, they estimate that roughly one million accounts were affected.

Whole Foods Market
America’s most beloved and derided grocery chain, Whole Foods, revealed in September that they had been impacted by a breach that compromised the credit card information of shoppers at 29 locations nationwide. Whole Foods has suggested that shoppers keep a close watch on their credit card statements for suspicious activity. The chain has not yet released an estimate for the number of compromised cards but we expect more information to be revealed as the full scope of this breach becomes understood.

14 million Verizon user accounts were impacted by a data breach in July of this year and if you’re a customer there’s a good chance you were one of them. The security lapse left subscriber information unprotected on an Amazon Web Services server that included user PINs, names and phone numbers. While it isn’t known (to the public) whether or not the hackers accessed this data, it is estimated that ten percent of Verizon’s 108 million total customers were impacted. The incident at Verizon highlights the importance of moving data protection practices to the cloud.

Last February, Arby’s publicly acknowledged that they had fallen prey to a data breach after the event was exposed by the website KrebsOnSecurity. The attack occurred a month prior but according to a spokesperson, Arby’s was asked initially by the FBI to hold off on going public. Malware infected cash registers accessed the information of a reported 350,000 credit and debit card accounts that were used at over 1,000 of the fast food chains restaurants.

No business is immune
Woman looking at a data breach on her laptop screenThe recent rash of large-scale cyber security events demonstrates the expanding capabilities of cybercriminals and the need for greater protection and response from businesses of any scale. At iConvergence, we use best-in-class security solutions from Cisco to keep our customers protected and are committed to educating business leaders in Louisiana on effective cyber security practices. Everyone wins when businesses make cyber security a top priority.

What is your business doing to stay protected?
Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about cyber security and how iConvergence can help to prepare and protect the sensitive information of your business and customers.

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4 Reasons Your Business Needs a Cybersecurity Incident-Response Plan

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Cyber-defense isn’t enough—you need a plan to mitigate the effects of an attack!

Cyber criminal with black gloves typing on a keyboardWith so much discussion surrounding cybersecurity, you’d think by now every business would have a dialed-in approach to protecting themselves from cybercriminals. The truth is, not everyone does. In fact most businesses aren’t prepared at all. A recent study revealed that while 80% of survey respondents expect a cyber attack to impact their business this year, the majority of organizations are as yet still unprepared and are struggling to keep pace with the current threat landscape.

Even less encouraging, today’s security experts believe that cyber attacks are no longer a question of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’. Businesses of all sizes and in every industry must come to grips with the reality that there will come a time when they must contend with a data breach.

It’s vital to take proactive steps to keep your business protected, and it is equally important to have a plan in place to address the worst-case scenario. That’s where your cybersecurity incident-response plan comes into play.

Keep reading to learn 4 reasons your business needs a cybersecurity incident-response plan:

    1. Cyber Attacks are inevitable – just ask Equifax

      Cyber-attacks happen. Its an unfortunate part of doing business in the digital era. Hackers want your data, they want your money and sometimes they just want to be a nuisance. It’s possible, likely even, that at some point your business will be forced to contend with a data breach and when that time comes, you’ll want to be prepared. Crafting an incident-response plan will help your business have the appropriate steps in place to respond and recover as quickly as possible.

    2. Your incident-response plan will help you get to the root cause of the attack-and make sure it doesn’t happen again

      Every incident-response plan should include a checklist of items that will help your team to determine how, when and where the breach occurred. Your plan provides the steps you need to take to uncover the details associated with a cybersecurity event and to make effective changes that safeguard your business against future attacks.Ponemon Institute report quote

    3. An incident-response plan reduces the cost of a data breach

      Implementing a cybersecurity incident-response plan will save your business money following a data breach. The measures laid out by your plan provide a roadmap for swift action that will drastically minimize the impact and amount of data accessed or lost to hackers. One of the primary reasons an incident-response plan for cybersecurity is important is that it readies your team to face both the seen and unforeseen, and lessens the panic and disorder that can cripple your ability to respond and costs your organization precious time and money.

    4. Your ability to speedily recover from a data breach is a matter of survival

      Criminal's arms reaching out of a laptop stealing from a walletDowntime, for any reason, can have a significant financial impact on your business. When downtime is the result of a cybersecurity incident, the ramifications extend beyond lost revenue. According to a Ponemon Institute report, 90% of organizations that go offline due to a cyber attack find themselves out of business within two years. Having an incident-response plan in place prior to experiencing a data breach is critical to your organization’s ability to recover quickly and remain operational into the future.The first step to failure when it comes to defending your business from cyber criminals is to assume that you and your organization won’t be compromised. By taking proactive steps with your technology and preparing for the worst-case scenario with an incident-response plan, you’ll be able to stave off an attack or at least be ready to handle things should a breach occur.

At iConvergence, we are focused on addressing and delivering solutions to help your business stay safe from the threats posed by cyber criminals. Our solutions are delivered as components of a Self-Defending Network Security strategy. This approach allows organizations to streamline IT Risk Management by reducing security and compliance risk, enforcing business policies and protecting critical assets, all while decreasing IT administrative burden and reducing total cost of ownership.


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Cisco Spark: Solving Problems for the Enterprise and for Individuals

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Notebook with Teamwork related doodlesOver the last decade, collaboration tools have become standard issue in the modern workplace, in large part due to the popularization of early business-messaging platforms like AOL Inc.’s, AIM and Yahoo’s Messenger. Not to say collaboration wasn’t a critical component of business before the time of messaging platforms—collaboration has always been an important aspect of business—but prior to the era of business-messaging, collaboration, in general, required face-to-face interaction equating to wasted time and resources…and money!

Today’s collaboration tools offer a range of capabilities that have transformed the ways people work. Time and physical space become irrelevant when your team has the ability to chat and to share documents inside an application designed specifically for that purpose, or to place a video call within the same space without having to deal with calendar invites or outside applications. And, in an era where hackers have the ability and motivation to take over entire companies by delivering malware within an email, collaboration tools have become a welcome addition to every organizations toolkit because of the security features they offer.

When it comes to budget, the amount of money that can be saved by cutting out business travel and by speeding up efficiency and productivity, can make an organizations initial investment in collaboration technologies easy to justify. It has also been proven that happier employees tend to be more productive, and employees are happier when they have the ability to enjoy flexible work and can use tools that are an enhancement to the ways they work instead of a hindrance. It’s not hype when technology insiders say that collaboration technologies represent the future of work.

Photo montage of different coworkersAt iConvergence, we’ve observed the evolution of business collaboration technologies since the beginning, and have ourselves worked with a number of them. Prior to implementing Cisco Spark as our in-house collaboration tool, we experienced the same issues that many of our customers have faced. In the past, IP communications were inefficient and cumbersome and in many cases impossible. A lack of industry maturity and standards meant that communicating via video or sharing content with an outside organization without using email was extremely difficult. The ultimate goal has always been to enjoy the same communication experience whether speaking with colleagues inside iConvergence or collaborating with friends outside of our organization.

For us, Cisco Spark became an attractive solution when we realized we’d have the ability to communicate with anyone else, anywhere in the world, at virtually anytime. If we are collaborating with colleagues outside our organization who also use Cisco Spark, there is no extra work involved for IT administrators because there are no bilateral peering agreements and no need for clearinghouses. All that’s required to start collaborating is the email address of the Spark user you’d like to reach. To make things even more attractive, there is no loss of functionality when working with an individual outside the organization, versus those inside. You’ll enjoy all of the same features—document sharing, voice/video call capabilities, real-time communication regardless of time or location, spaces, group read notifications, message deletion etc.—whether you are working with individuals inside or outside your of company.

For individual users (non-enterprise), Cisco Spark is available as a free download accessible from mobile, web or desktop devices, and allows users to communicate freely with paid Cisco Spark customers within the enterprise, or with friends, or really, anyone. Cool, isn’t it?  We certainly think so.

As we’ve observed, the earliest incarnations of business messaging platforms pale in comparison to the tools available today. Technology providers like Cisco are continually innovating, altering what the future of work will look like for us all, and creating possibilities unimaginable just ten years ago.

Now that business leaders have started to realize the power of allowing teams to work together in a flexible, virtual environment, the collaborative work revolution is fully underway. At iConvergence, it is our goal to introduce these powerful new tools for business to all of you, our friends here in Louisiana, so that you, too, can realize the positive outcomes that are available by harnessing the power of collaboration in the cloud.

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Crosstown Concourse: Bridging the Past and the Future with Today's Technology!

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Inside view looking at Crosstown Concourse screenAt iConvergence, we are constantly looking to the future to stay in step with the latest IT trends. Our customers rely on our company to provide them a way to leverage technology so that they too can stay in step within an ever-competitive market landscape. This past week in Memphis, we were proud to play a role in bridging the gap between what was, what is and what shall be in a very poignant way that is sure to revitalize a community for many years to come!

On Saturday, August 19th, Crosstown Concourse held its official grand opening ceremony. It was a rebirth celebration that was nearly 90 years in the making, in a once abandoned and decaying building that had first sprung to life in late August, 1927 as a massive Sears department store.

The 10-story, 1.5 million-square-foot facility is now home to more than 40 business tenants, including a performing arts theater, a 25,000-square-foot YMCA, several restaurants, an art-making lab, small grocery, coffee shop, bakery, pharmacy, barbershop, an 8,000-square-foot rooftop deck and a rooftop greenhouse.

iConvergence was honored to play a role in this reawakening of a long sleeping giant by working with the local investors from the earliest states of the project to its recent grand opening. From the Cisco Switches and Meraki Wireless Access Points throughout the building to the Cisco Spark Cloud-based phone systems that several of the tenants are utilizing, we were able to inject a future-proof solution into a history-filled structure while still keeping the aesthetics timeless. iConvergence will also be responsible for the ongoing management of the building infrastructure and its public wireless services.

The project held an even deeper meaning for Beau Peyton, a Memphis native who manages iConvergence’s growing presence there. Beau took the time to share his thoughts and recollections on the festivities as well as this building and the community it has helped to anchor all these many years:

Inside view looking at Crosstown Concourse signageCrosstown, Then and Now
It’s easy to get caught up in all the mayhem and misery in the world, especially in Memphis, where we face seemingly insurmountable problems with poverty, crime and educational issues. But if you allow yourself to become overwhelmed, as I often do, you miss a tremendous amount of good. Daily acts of kindness, generosity and diverse people coming together for the common good.

We had a major feel good event in Memphis yesterday, the grand opening of Crosstown Concourse, the jaw-dropping renovation of the old Sears building. The million square foot building was originally built in 1927 and housed not only a Sears retail store, but an enormous distribution facility. It finally closed in the early 90’s and sat empty for many years until a couple of really smart and innovative thinkers, Todd Richardson and Chris Miner, hatched a brilliant idea to restore and reinvent the facility.

I’ve had a deep emotional connection to the project from its earliest stages, because I spent a good portion of my childhood in that neighborhood. I’d ride my bike to Sears every week. I bought my first baseball glove there as well as my first album, “Elton John’s Greatest Hits.” Like many people that grew up in and around Crosstown, we were saddened to see its decay. My mother also grew up in that neighborhood and watched it transform from “the place to be” in the 1930’s and 1940’s to a community marred by rising crime, poverty and hopelessness. For most of us, we thought the building and perhaps even the neighborhood were goners.

Challenging conditions are still present in the community, but the transformation of the building into a multidimensional urban village filled with housing, businesses, educational and medical institutions, art, music and recreation is the Crosstown community’s cornerstone for change. It’s a catalyst, literally and figuratively, of colossal proportions.

Inside view looking up at Crosstown Concourse levelsAt the opening, I saw people from all walks of life smiling, singing, dancing, telling old stories and walking around in sheer amazement. There were no social barriers in Crosstown yesterday. We were all just people sharing a monumental moment in Memphis history. I was so proud to have played a small part in the project. It was quite emotional for me. But I’m a pathetic sentimentalist that desperately clings to the consequential events of my life, especially the people and places of my past. I tear up too easily. As the night ended and the plaza emptied, I looked back at the door I used to walk through when I was just a kid. One more time, I closed my eyes and imagined the layout of the old store. I walked past boys clothes and took the escalator downstairs where the Craftsman tools were displayed. I went back upstairs to women’s clothing where I’d look for places to hide while my grandmother shopped. I thought about Christmastime, the decorations in the store and compiling my check list of wants. I looked out at the plaza and imagined where the sporting goods and auto shop used to be. Where I’d park my bike. Getting lunch at the Krystal.

Then I opened my eyes and absorbed the present, surveying the glistening lights of the building and considering what I’d witnessed throughout the day. Everything seemed brighter and better. I knew my grandmother, always the social butterfly, wouldn’t have missed last night. She probably would have skipped 8Ball & MJG, but I know she would have loved to see it all come back.

Just before I crossed Cleveland Street and headed to my car, I took one last glimpse before moving onward. I’m sure thousands of others did the same thing. We were all one yesterday, moving from the cherished past to the promising present.

What a wonderful and eloquent testimony from Beau! Looking back, this project will continue to serve as a shining example of the long-standing motto we strive to live up to every day at iConvergence – “Bringing People and Technology Together!”


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What are the True Benefits of Collaboration Tools for Business?

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Collaboration is a word that gets thrown around so loosely these days, it’s in danger of losing all relevance. If you’d like to test this statement, type the word into Google, you’ll get millions of results and millions of opinions. In the world of technology, the term is so ubiquitous, that it’s spun into an entire category of tools and applications for businesses. Some of these tools are fantastic; many fail to hit the mark.

What’s turned this seemingly humble word into one of the most important topics in technology next to digital transformation and cyber security? Before we answer this question, lets take a moment to define the term. Tech Target provides a simple, concise definition:Two colleagues working together

Collaboration is a joint effort of multiple individuals or work groups, to accomplish a task or project. Within an organization, collaboration typically involves the ability of two or more people to view and contribute to documents or other content over a network.

This definition, while accurate and reasonable, is missing something. Collaboration is about harnessing the wisdom of the crowd, engaging, empowering and inspiring individuals to use their collective knowledge to innovate. Somewhere along the way, the talk surrounding collaboration changed and the human element took a backseat to technology. You may be surprised to learn, that when we talk about collaboration at iConvergence, we focus more on business outcomes and individuals than we do the supporting technologies.

Now, let’s get back to the subject of why. Why has collaboration become such a popular topic? The answer really is simple; there are huge benefits to companies willing to get behind collaboration technologies. Let’s explore a few of these benefits:

Harness the Power of a Global Talent Pool
Attracting talented employees is a critical component of success for any organization. With the evolution and widespread use of collaboration platforms, businesses now have the ability to pull from a global talent pool and aren’t limited to a specific region.

View of people working from aboveSave Money and Time by Traveling Less and Working More
Think of how much time and money is wasted when members of your team are forced to travel for work. High quality collaboration tools make it possible for employees to work together from any location, all but eliminating the need for travel. Less travel equals more money saved and less downtime when traveling means higher levels of productivity.

Speedy Work Means Speedy Results
Collaboration technologies make it possible for ideas to flow and documents to be edited and shared in an organic, seamless environment. The time it takes for ideas to transform from concept to reality is drastically sped up, giving your business the agile stance that’s necessary for success in the digital era.

Flexible Work and Useful Tools Make for Satisfied Employees
2 coworkers doing a fist-bump while workingWhen your team has more flexibility in how and where they work and functional tools for collaboration that are efficient and a pleasure to use, your business will realize a huge uptick in employee satisfaction. These tools also free up time, enhance connections among workers, minimize stress, and bring about an atmosphere of transparency and growth – all things that can contribute to overall happiness while at work.

The relevancy of the word ‘collaboration’ is diminished if it’s used in reference only to technology. The real power of the term is realized when collaboration technologies are thought of and discussed as a means to produce positive outcomes for businesses and people, and not simply as a discussion surrounding the tool itself. While we realize this article will be added to the millions of pieces of content available on the subject, we are hopeful it will stand out amongst the crowd and will bring back some authenticity to the conversation.

If you’d like to know more about how iConvergence can help to select and implement the best collaboration tools for your business, reach out to us. We are always happy to help!

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Disaster Prepping: A Gulf Coast Guide to Weathering a Data Loss Storm!

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Satellite view of Louisiana with hurricaneNo one likes to think about disasters, but as business owners we know it’s important to prepare for the worst. Afternoon storms are a trademark of Louisiana summers, and a calm soak can quickly turn into a devastating event. The heat of summer in the south produces hotter sea surface temperatures that transport moisture off the land, equating to increased levels of rainfall. As we all know, flash floods are a constant threat and the word ‘hurricane’ can push any Louisianan into a state of panic.

As the threat of summer storms looms large, gaps in your disaster recovery solution can put your business at risk. Are you prepared for an eventual disaster?

At iConvergence, we are always thinking of ways to help business owners mitigate the risks associated with Gulf Coast natural disasters. From working with customers to create comprehensive disaster recovery plans, to selecting and working through the implementation of advanced technologies that help to avoid network downtime, our goal is to provide businesses with the tools necessary to protect data and disaster-proof critical IT systems.

We’ve got a few tips to help your business prepare for our region’s toughest season:

Plan for the Worst, but Expect the Best
Creating a plan for the eventual disaster is important no matter where you are, but in Louisiana, having a Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP), or Business Continuity Plan as its sometimes known, is a matter of business survival. There are two objectives when it comes to creating a disaster preparation plan: to minimize downtime and to prevent data loss. Our recommendation is to take stock of everything that your business requires to function and consider what level of data loss and downtime you can withstand while still remaining operational. Identify what is important for your business and work with IT to develop a plan that supports your benchmarks. When you are prepared for the worst, you can expect the best possible outcome for your business despite unfortunate circumstances.

Monitor and Modify your Plan when Necessary
Your Disaster Recovery Plan isn’t etched in stone and should be viewed as a living, breathing, flexible document that can and should be updated frequently. Monitor and modify your plan when necessary to assure the components are successfully implemented and be proactive in its continued maintenance to guarantee fewer IT issues and decreased downtime when a disaster occurs.

Update your Network Architecture
Large ominous thunderstorm cloud formation and lighteningUpdating your existing network architecture is critical to the successful implementation of your disaster recovery/business continuity plan. Legacy systems can be a hindrance to your business in a number of ways and this is especially true when it comes to disaster recovery. Legacy IT systems can leave your business open to cyber vulnerabilities and the increased risk of unexpected operational failures. Outdated technologies are also a limiting factor in your team’s ability to innovate. When it comes to disaster recovery, legacy systems require costly and robust data backup and retrieval products while newer, hyper-converged systems have layers of redundancy built-in and can provide significant cost-savings for your business. Updating your architecture will ensure your business gets back up and running quickly in the event of a disaster and at the same time will free up dollars for important business initiatives.

When disaster strikes, it’s important to have a fully realized, well-tested and targeted disaster recovery plan to keep your business operational. At iConvergence, we have the tools, knowledge and resources to help you prepare for the worst and to ensure you are back to business-as-usual with little to no downtime. Summer in Louisiana should be about relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends, not being paralyzed with fear because of the threat of natural disasters. We’d like to help liberate your team from the worries that come part and parcel with our hot and humid Gulf Coast summers.

For additional information, check out our guide for creating a DR Plan for data protection or get in touch with us, we are always happy to chat about Technology – its what we do! We will be there to help you weather the Data Storms in your organization.

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Cisco Live 2017: Five Takeaways You Need to Know!

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We weren’t able to attend the recent Cisco Live in Las Vegas in-person, but thanks to the nearly 24/7 coverage provided by the networking giant, it’s hard to say we missed anything. Interestingly, the event seemed to coincide with the 10-year anniversary of Apple’s now iconic first iPhone release, and we can’t help but draw parallels between the two. Chuck Robbins opening keynote, which happened to feature a rare appearance by Apple’s Tim Cook, will likely go down as a watershed moment for those of us in technology. In ten years, we will talk about this event as the dividing line between the old way of networking and the new.

Cisco Live 2017: Speaker on stage5 takeaways from Cisco Live 2017

We Live in a Multi-Cloud World
Chuck Robbins, at the start of his opening Keynote, jokingly asked, “How many of you use only ONE Cloud?” The question garnered a hearty, if not somewhat embarrassed, laugh from the massive audience most of whom already acknowledge that we live in a multi-cloud world. The biggest challenge today is navigating and leveraging the many clouds and vendors that make up a multi-cloud universe. Cisco aims to address this experience by taking a complete approach to multi-cloud with solutions that simplify, secure and transform how customers work, with the ultimate goal of maximizing business outcomes.

The Partnership Between Apple and Cisco Continues
Cisco and Apple have been partners for two years and given the success they have found, it makes sense to widen the scope of their relationship. Tim Cook rarely appears at events outside the occasional Apple product release, and as he took the stage, an enraptured audience waited with bated breath to hear what would be announced. While the conversation contained broad generalities about the companies’ deepening partnership, the unveiling of ‘Security Connector’ marks an exciting turning point in the relationship, combining the Cisco Umbrella and Clarity security products into one robust application. Security Connector gives organizations an increased level of visibility, control and privacy for iOS devices. Businesses will now have in-depth insight into what is happening on enterprise-owned mobile devices and will have the best protection for users, anywhere they travel.

The Network Intuitive will Change the (Digital) World
With the Network Intuitive, Cisco has defined a new era of networking built around the Cisco DNA architecture. The ‘intent-based network’ is designed to work within a multi-cloud world and has the ability to connect at scale, remove complexity and provide a level of security assurance virtually unheard of before. The intuitive network anticipates actions, stops security threats and has been designed to continually evolve and learn. Cisco’s revolutionary new network helps businesses get the most out of their data and provides security throughout the process, to make it more beneficial for businesses to digitally transform.

Cisco Live 2017: Chuck Robbins quoteCatalyst 9000 Machine Learning Enabled Network Switches
Cisco’s latest series of switches are an extension of the companies moves into the compute space, this time fueled by the addition of Cisco DNA Center, an easy-to-use management dashboard for all network functions. The switches have been designed to better analyze and control network traffic, and make it possible to manage access policies and privileges for devices entering the network. The machine learning part of this equation makes it possible for the Catalyst 9000 switches to change policies to recognize varying devices and users. The switches are fully programmable and include new, custom-built ASICS, allowing for the separation of different kinds of traffic from desktop networks.

“What we believe is the network has to provide you with the ability not only to connect but to deal with the data at the edge”Chuck Robbins

Securing the Internet of Things is Everything!
With more than 50 billion connected devices expected to enter the network by 2020 and with the recent onslaught of global cyber attacks, security, for most of us, is top of mind. Cisco IoT Threat Defense is an architecture approach to security that segments devices on the network to provide adaptable and extensible protection for businesses at IoT scale. The architecture allows for visibility and analysis of traffic to and from IoT connected devices, as well as traffic entering and exiting the network to detect threats. During the event Cisco’s experts were on hand to discuss Cisco IoT Threat Defense and to give insight into how Cisco plans to address the proliferation of connected devices today and into the future.

Cisco Live 2017 centerpieceCisco’s role in shaping the digital business of the future is, at this point, undeniable and watching the 28th edition of Cisco Live unfold gave us a peak behind the curtain of what’s to come. We can only imagine what has been announced is merely the tip of the iceberg and that, in the coming months, Cisco will release more products and information surrounding the Network Intuitive.

We, at iConvergence, would love to have been able to attend Cisco Live in-person but because of Cisco’s brilliant and comprehensive coverage of the event, we were able to soak up all the energy, information and excitement while still being available for our customers here in Louisiana. If you would like to learn more about some of Cisco’s latest initiatives that will grow out of these Cisco Live announcements, don’t hesitate to contact us and we will be more than happy to work with you to adapt and apply these technologies within your organization’s IT environment.

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Do You Need a Managed Services Provider for Your Business?

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10 people sitting around a wood desk with many devicesKeeping up with the growing list of technologies and services your business needs to realize success in today’s world is tricky. As a result, more and more companies are turning to IT professionals like iConvergence, to handle everything from network security and data center environments to mission critical applications, data storage as well as data backup and recovery. Studies have shown that by 2019, the managed services market is expected to increase by as much as $193 billion, demonstrating that the MSP revolution is far more than a trend. Does your business need a Managed Services Provider? We certainly think so; keep reading to learn why.

A Professional IT Staff at Your Fingertips
Working with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) is less expensive and time-consuming, than hiring and training your own IT staff. More often than not, companies that don’t have access to an IT team, wind up having to manage complex and frustrating technology related tasks on their own. Making the choice to work with a Managed Services Provider means you have access to a dedicated IT team, giving your employees more time to focus on getting work done.

Companies with an in-house IT staff can still benefit from using an MSP. A Managed Services Provider can supplement your existing IT staff by off-loading the daily management and operation of your network, giving your team time to focus on more important projects.

Enhanced Productivity
Leaving the complicated and time-consuming work of managing IT services to an MSP, gives employees more time to work on producing positive outcomes for your business. Managed services can also help to drastically decrease network downtime and as a result keeps employee morale high, creativity flowing and revenue streams pointed in the right direction.

Man holding device amidst abstract technologyIncreased Cost Savings
Managed services, implemented on even a small scale, can deliver significant cost savings that free up dollars for more pressing business needs. Amazingly, these savings are realized without impacting the readiness and reliability of technology businesses use everyday to get work done. While the benefits and reasons to use a managed services provider extend beyond cost-savings, we can all agree that saving money is always a good thing.

Stress Relief for You and Your Team
The relief that comes from knowing all of your technological resources are in the hands of a dedicated team is worth more than you may realize. MSP’s keep applications up-to-date, give you peace of mind with top-notch security, manage data centers, and increase business uptime. When you outsource IT operations to a managed services provider like iConvergence, you can get back to focusing on business outcomes and spend less time worrying about technology.

There are so many reasons more and more businesses are opting to outsource their IT management and services and not all of them are based strictly on cost savings. As technology and the world become more complex, businesses are thinking strategically and are looking for guidance and expertise when it comes to their technological resources. Surprisingly in the Gulf Coast region, the number of companies that are taking advantage of managed services remains relatively small and we at iConvergence would like to change that.

With iConvergence’s expertise and commitment to Customer Service, your organization is sure to be in great hands! Our goal and our promise is to provide a “MUCH” better experience than anything our clients are accustomed as we always strive to exceed any initial expectations they may have. Click here for a comprehensive info-graphic that explains our MUCH philosophy and methodology in servicing not only our Managed Services customers, but every one of our clients.

If you’d like to learn more about iConvergence’s Managed Services offerings or want to find out how our staff can help to grow your business, get in touch with us, we are always here to help!

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Cisco Spark: Sparking a Whole New Concept in Collaboration

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What can we say about Cisco Spark that hasn’t already been said? A lot. Cisco’s revolutionary cloud collaboration platform has transformed the way we, at iConvergence, as well as a growing list of our customers work and we are positive it will be transformative for your business too.

The backstory…
Cisco Spark began in 2014 as a project spearheaded by Cisco’s guru of collaboration, Rowan Trollope. Initially dubbed ‘Project Squared’, the platform was designed to shore up Cisco’s collaboration solutions like WebEx and to take on similarly positioned consumer offerings like Skype and now, Slack. Not long after the initial release, Cisco renamed the project Spark and the collaboration platform has been taking aim at bad meetings ever since.

So…What Can Cisco Spark Do?
The real question is what can’t Cisco Spark do? Cisco’s flagship collaboration platform can quite literally do-it-all. Spark is so versatile it’s pushed email to the back of many organization’s toolkits and made on-the-fly collaboration part of our daily practice at iConvergence. With Cisco Spark, your team can work together in real-time, share documents and initiate video or voice calls on virtually every device no matter where they are, from the office, to the boardroom, and everywhere in between.Cisco Spark colorful illustration

In the words of Cisco, Spark is “an app-centric, cloud-based service that provides a complete collaboration suite for teams to create, meet, message, call, care, whiteboard, and share, regardless of whether they’re together or apart – in one continuous work stream, before, during and after meetings.”

Cisco Spark quoteCan Cisco Spark take the place of email for business?
More than a few studies have shown email to be a black hole of lost productivity for businesses. The Washington Post, in an article last year, described email as a “burdensome time-suck that everyone hates but that remains essential to functioning.” In a startling report published by Adobe in 2016, it was discovered that white-collar employees spend 4.1 hours checking work email each day, equating to 20.5 hours each week, 1,000 hours each year and more than 47,000 hours over the course of a career. Given these numbers it comes as no surprise that so many of us are feeling the symptoms of email fatigue.

Cisco Spark is the perfect tool to help liberate you and your employees from the shackles of an overloaded inbox. Who needs email when you’ve got an all-in-one solution that gives your team the ability to work within a seamless environment in real-time, and allows them to share documents, whiteboard, initiate video meetings and create project specific groups to work from.

In the future, we envision more and more businesses using Cisco Spark for all their internal communication and meetings, leaving email as a last resort method of reaching people outside the organization and for marketing materials or subscriptions.

3 different types of devices with Cisco SparkEnter Spark Board
With Spark Board, Cisco has thrown their hat into the collaborative whiteboard space once dominated by Microsoft and Google. Cisco Spark Board is built around the Spark platform and the system works for collaborative whiteboard style note taking and video collaboration. With an on-board 4k camera and a 12-microphone array featuring VoiceTrack technology that allows the camera to zoom-in on specific speakers, Spark Board is a collaboration powerhouse.

The beauty of Spark Board is its’ compatibility with the devices you already own. Once you’ve got Cisco Spark downloaded to your phone and verified, Spark Board detects your device within the room and you’ll be ready to use the solution without the hassle of passwords or scan codes. Where most video collaboration products are messy and difficult to use, connectivity with Spark Board is shockingly easy and the clean design is impeccable.

What about Security?
Security is the greatest concern of the digital era and for good reason. Understandably, users are worried about the security of their collaboration platforms.

In Cisco Spark, your data is safely encrypted end-to-end, from within the application to when it’s in transit to Cisco’s cloud servers. When your data is processed and stored, it is always encrypted to ensure your information stays safe. For real-time media like voice, video and screen sharing, Cisco encrypts what is shared by using the Secure Real-Time Transport Protocol (SRTP). In addition to end-to-end encryption to keep content safe, the Cisco Spark application offers user and IT level features that provide added security controls. To put it simply, Cisco Spark is the Fort Knox of collaboration platforms.

We could continue to list more features and reasons why Cisco Spark would be a great fit for your organization, but the best way to prove that is to allow you an opportunity to see it for yourself. There are several different Demo Trials and Try and Buy options that we can offer to provide you with the ability to put Spark to the test. Contact us for more information and learn how you too can “Spark” up a new way to collaborate and communicate within your business.

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Don't be Held Hostage by Ransomware

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Network security alert with lock icon superimposed over code and the word virusHighly publicized cyber attacks like the recent ‘WannaCry’ attack that crippled an estimated 200,000 organizations worldwide has brought much-needed attention to the topic of cyber security.

Experts have long decried the lack of knowledge and preparation most small to medium-sized businesses have when it comes to network security.  An article published by ZDNet last September explained that nearly a third of SMBs are unfamiliar with what ransomware is and are not prepared to deal with the threats posed by cyber criminals.

Ransomware is your organization’s silent enemy
What is ransomware and why is it so dangerous for every business, regardless of size or industry? Ransomware is a style of malicious malware that hijacks your computer until a sum of money is paid. Once your system is infected, ransomware can either lock your computers’ screen, or, in the case of crypto-ransomware, can encrypt predetermined files. As simple as this may sound the results are devastating and might leave your business vulnerable to future attacks. A report published by the National Cyber Security Alliance shows that 60% of small companies are unable to sustain their businesses within 6 months of a cyber attack. Unfortunately, once an organization falls victim to a ransomware attack, it is likely they will be hit again and again.

To make matters worse, hackers are experimenting with new techniques, even offering payment platforms to make ransom payments easier and evolved distribution models that threaten to cause crippling damage to targeted organizations.

Ransomware quote by SEC Commissioner Luis A AguilarHow does a Ransomware attack occur?
A misdirected click or a file mistakenly or irresponsibly opened can have devastating consequences and even those of us who are familiar with cyber threats can fall victim. Studies have shown human error to be a major factor in a large percentage of cyber security breaches. Stolen or lost devices, misaddressed emails and even small mistakes made by IT admins can also prove to be catastrophic for small to medium-sized businesses who have fewer resources available to them than their larger counterparts.

Unfortunately, a ransomware attack can also be born from within an organization. As much as we’d all like to trust our employees, it is not unheard of for a malicious team member to be the source of an attack. There can be a whole host of reasons for this but most often it simply comes down to an employee with an ax to grind. Companies must remain vigilant even if they are confident that their employees are not likely to act in a malicious or irresponsible manner. It ultimately all comes down to accountability and visibility!

What can my business do to stay protected?
Before you begin to think about technology, it’s best to start with the basics. There are many simple actions your business can take to be proactive in the fight against cyber criminals. A good place to start is by educating your teams through user awareness programs. Knowledge is power and with education and training you can turn employees into your first line of defense.

Person using 2 devices with security icons superimposedRead below for a sample checklist of cyber security basics:

– Update and maintain complex user passwords
– Maintain a list of all approved devices (and ports utilized) connected to the network
– Keep important files backed up
– Refrain from opening files that appear to be suspicious
– Adopt clear cyber security policies and strategies
– Keep your teams aware of the latest threats

Once the basics are covered, your organization can implement technology that works to enhance your internal cyber security strategies and processes. That’s where iConvergence comes in.

We can work with your organization to develop and implement a strong network security posture as well as ongoing management of these security services designed to improve agility, flexibility and cost effectiveness to meet the next generation needs of information security and compliance programs for your business.

iConvergence and Cisco are here to help
iConvergence and CISCO logosLet us worry about the security of your network so you don’t have to. We are focused on addressing and delivering solutions to help keep your organization secure and operating smoothly. Our Managed Security solutions utilize Cisco Next Generation Firewall technologies and provide multiple, dynamic layers of security in a single solution, protecting your business from spam, viruses and worms, email attacks and fraud. To help protect your business further, iConvergence can also provide secure, cloud-based Compute and Business Continuity solutions which make it possible for your teams to maintain operations during unexpected outages and/or disaster scenarios. As we know, with the unpredictable weather within the Hurricane Alley of the Gulf Coast, this is critical! We are also able to provide email archiving and retrieval capabilities as well as Web protection services to keep your business safe from malware and malicious web infiltration.

iConvergence’s Network Security experience coupled with Cisco’s Security products and solutions provides you with a best-in-class portfolio of solutions designed to span the entire security attack continuum, addressing threats before, during, and after an attack. Cisco’s platform-based solutions solve your specific challenges while smoothly integrating into an overall security system approach. The result is complete protection throughout your entire network. Contact us for a Free Network Security Proof of Value Assessment today.

For your security… And your peace of mind.