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Cloud Services

Support Remote Workforce without Sacrificing Productivity

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile there may be a number of technical and administrative hurdles preventing you from getting work done, during this time of year, inclement weather and a variety of holiday disruptions make doing so even more difficult.

thinkCSC offers a variety of solutions to help you foster productivity during the holidays while allowing employees to work from home. And we can help you protect your data at the same time.

Not only will you be able to minimize security risks, fostering a remote workforce can reduce risk of personal injury due to hazardous commutes and can keep your team members happy through the holidays. All of this can be realized without sacrificing your business. The goals of implementing a successful remote workforce program should include security, ease of use and flexibility.

Improve Security with Controlled Access

When you allow staff to work from home, one of the biggest concerns you’ll have to address is information security. From ensuring your secure data doesn’t land in the wrong hands to keeping relevant data with the appropriate employees, SyncedTool is a cloud-based solution that allows you to control who can access what files. This tool even provides a remote wipe option in case an employee opts to take a permanent vacation.

Make Working Off-Site Simple and Seamless with Remote Desktop and VoIP

When an employee logs in from home, regardless of the device they are using, it should be a seamless experience. The employee should be able to have exactly the same data set at home as they would at work. A remote desktop allows your employee to have access to everything he or she would have at the office, without the company’s security being compromised. VoIP allows any customer to call your employee’s extension and have it ring through to their cell phone wherever they are.

Improving Worker Flexibility Is Good for Business

Bob Schulz, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business, co-authored a book on the benefits of what Canadians refer to as teleworking. “It makes a lot of sense for not only corporate productivity but also reducing emissions, reducing accidents and also improving productivity. It really is difficult from an analytical perspective to see why companies aren’t encouraging more telework,” explains Schulz. Ensuring business as usual during the winter months can be one of the most pressing issues this time of year for any organization; however, allowing your employees to work from home and providing the means to ensure the successful launch of a remote workforce is a viable answer to this often bitter-cold challenge. And freeing your employees from the chains of a cubicle can improve productivity, loyalty and service.

When implementing a flexible work arrangement, whether this includes your whole staff or a single employee, the most important factors to address are the security of your data and the seamlessness of the experience. thinkCSC’s cloud solutions, including SyncedTool and Remote Desktop as well as VoIP, will help you develop flexible work policies that offer measurable benefit to the company without the risk to your data or your employees.

Lose DropBox: Get in Sync with thinkCSC’s SyncedTool

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anchorthinkCSC has partnered with Anchor, combining thinkCSC’s powerful hosting and managed services with Anchor’s sync, sharing and collaboration platform to give partners unprecedented collaboration on a secure, locally hosted network. SyncedTool provides a distinctive and secure way for you to do business. Implementing SyncedTool will allow businesses to eliminate the need for VPNs and FTPs, which can represent a significant cost savings.

SyncedTool is a true business solution.

Dropbox vs. SyncedTool: Collaboration

SyncedTool gives employees the ability to collaborate on documents, as files can be opened and revised simultaneously from multiple sites. It is a powerful and secure collaboration tool. Dropbox will recognize only one version of a file; therefore, there are no shared files, and employees working on identical files run the risk of overwriting one another’s versions.

Dropbox vs. SyncedTool: File Access

Many companies have moved their files to the cloud or are giving serious thought to making the transition to a cloud-based collaboration solution. Whereas in the past most companies have relied on local file servers to store and revise documents, this method has proven over time to be inefficient. Yet another drawback presented by local file servers is that, while users can access a file server via a virtual private network (VPN) or using file transfer protocol (FTP), there is no offline access. This prevents mobile access and forces users to email themselves files, which presents both a security risk and a risk that the most current version of the document is not available to the entire team. Furthermore, users provided with access to the file server may also have access to your system. Utilizing local file servers is not only inefficient; it is an insecure way of doing business.

Dropbox vs. SyncedTool: Security

SyncedTool can be scaled to the number of users who are required to work internally. If you have 50 internal employees and only 15 need to work offline, then you only need to have 15 users added to the service. Employees and guest users can be added as needed; however, you maintain control over what documents may be accessed by each user. When employees leave your company, access may be restricted as necessary. With SyncedTool, you can remove employee accounts from the system and remotely wipe file access from computers and handheld devices.

Google Drive and Dropbox provide ways to improve file access and efficiency, but they do not provide network security, nor do they allow users to work on the same file simultaneously. With these solutions, a stranger hosts your data, and everyone uses the same encryption key. There is no way to track employee data usage or document access, and there is no revision history.

Dropbox vs. SyncedTool: Secure Hosting

External hosting also means that your information will be stored on a remote, third-party server, without the benefit of local administration. And should the remote server go down, your documents go with it. There is no integration with your business environment or applications. Ultimately, these external hosting services control your data (deleting revisions and files without your consent) and provide no true means of backing up or restoring your files. These hosting services are consumer solutions, not business solutions.

One of the primary benefits of SyncedTool is that if you do have an issue, you can call thinkCSC. A stranger isn’t hosting your data anymore, a neighbor is. Other offsite data hosting services may be free, but in the end, you get what you pay for. SyncedTool is an investment worth considering to empower your teams for better collaboration without sacrificing security and compliance. When choosing between Dropbox and SyncedTool, there is only one choice.

Physical Security Goes Digital

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thinkcsc phys securityWhen you’re talking about physical security, the first thing that might come to mind is the “rent-a-cop” who drives around in his jeep, flashing a light on your building to make sure there are no hooligans hanging around. Of course, we’re not living in an 80s movie, and hooligans have been replaced by high-tech digital criminals. In this technological age, even physical security has become a digital endeavor – and one most businesses should consider, especially if they store valuable or sensitive data. What is digital physical security? Digital physical security covers everything from video surveillance to security systems, key card access systems to IP cameras – and it is the IP camera that is really revolutionizing the physical security industry. There are several advantages to choosing IP cameras over analog.

No Cables Required

Analog video provides composite outputs and requires you to run video cable through the walls between the camera locations and back to either a closed-captioned TV system or a digital video recorder. IP cameras, however, function more like IP phones, where the device uses network traffic instead of an analog signal in order to deliver feed to a network video recorder (NVR). In other words, with an IP camera, you can send the video to a monitor without running a bunch of cable to do it.

Offsite Monitoring Capability

IP camera security offers companies a much more robust system with the power to capture and save data. An IP camera security system allows you to capture the data in order to keep a history of your surveillance. It offers you the the capability of playing back the recorded data, and you can search for specific data if you need to. It can be delivered to an offsite monitor because you can deliver the video over your network and not have it hardwired to a closed-caption system.

High-Quality Video

One of the biggest advantages of the IP camera is the quality of video. You can think of the difference between analog and IP cameras as you would think of the difference between standard definition TV and HDTV. The resolution of an analog camera is D-1. The IP camera has a new H.264 video codec (the video encoder scheme). Commonly seen codecs are mpeg and QuickTime, but the codec for an IP security camera allows the video feed to be compressed in such a way that it does not affect the quality of the video but substantially affects the size. This ability to compress the video without losing quality makes it possible to send that video stream over the internet and over your network without having to use too much of your bandwidth to do it. It is a major evolution in physical security.

Superior Flexibility

The main reason to choose IP camera security instead of analog is flexibility. An analog camera uses a DVR, and DVRs are fixed appliances. It’s no different than the cable service you have at home for your television, which, until recently, required you to have a DVR for each TV – what you stored on the DVR in your living room could not be watched in your bedroom, and vice versa. When it comes to network security, an analog DVR is just like your old cable-box DVR, where you were locked to that one device for recording. There is no way to access one camera system from another device. There might be remote viewing software, but it still is locked to a DVR.

Every analog camera physically has to have a cable run to the back to the DVR system. You might have 30 – 40 cables running to the DVR from all of the analog cameras, and each building would have to have a separate system. Because IP cameras are network devices, instead of running hundreds of feet of cable, we can use switches to plug in the IP camera cables. The camera grabs an IP address just like your computer or VoIP phone would, and you are able to access the network and use NVR software on a server or a virtual server and – and here’s the critical point – access that feed from wherever you are. It makes adding additional IP cameras incredibly easy, and you can add cameras (just like VoIP phones) in a variety of different locations but have them feed back to the same NVR system. Corporate offices can monitor the physical security of their regional branches. The ability to funnel your physical security monitoring from your IP camera over the internet and utilize that network to access your video streams from a remote location is a real game-changer in physical security.

thinkCSC offers a cloud-managed hosted IP camera security service to safely archive and access your video from anywhere. For more information on IP camera security and how thinkCSC can help you, please contact us.

VoIP Makes a Virtual Office Work

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csc_voipAre you still not convinced that you should convert your traditional PBX (multi-line) phone system to a Voice over Internet Protocol system (VoIP)? If your company employs a virtual structure, there are many reasons to make the switch. VoIP easily solves those pesky challenges that often plague virtual businesses.

Connecting Employees Anywhere

Do you have employees who work exclusively from home or in offices scattered across the country? With nationwide distribution, no matter where your offices are or where your employees work, VoIP can connect you. If you currently use PBX, you know that you have to use 800-number dialing hubs for each company location or employee work center. VoIP eliminates the need for that dialing hub.

Phones on the VoIP system are pre-programmed with a server address, and they use the Internet to place calls. No more dialing hubs or phone lines; VoIP just needs a working Internet connection. You can also get creative with VoIP and customize your system. A follow-me service can be extremely useful for those employees that work in multiple offices or travel frequently. VoIP can be programmed so that calls literally follow you where you go. For example, calls to your office phone can ring for one second, and the call is not answered, VoIP will redirect the call and ring your mobile phone.

One-Stop Voicemail

Along with managing multiple offices, employees of virtual businesses are often tasked with managing multiple mail boxes. VoIP allows you to contain all voicemails in a central location. No more checking multiple assigned voicemails on multiple phones or numbers. Again, because VoIP can be programmed specifically for you, your voicemail will go wherever you need it: your email, your home or work office, or your mobile phone.

Who’s Calling Me?

With PBX, you know the frustration of receiving an internal work call and not knowing who it is, because one central number is displayed. The nature of the PBX native-line format can often disrupt Caller-ID functionality, omitting extension or internal caller information on the display. VoIP preserves that caller information, and it can be as detailed as you need it to be. Because you can program VoIP to your own specifications, you can decide the call display and extension information that makes sense to you.

There is one wrinkle in both the PBX and VoIP system Caller-ID set-up: the lack of ability to relay appropriate information to 911. For example, if you have an employee working at home and his Caller-ID information is set-up to display the head office number, calls into 911 from that home office will direct emergency responders to the head office instead of the employee’s home. However, because of the ability to customize VoIP, it is possible to assign a unique number to each virtual office. Another option would be programming your Caller-ID information to display corporate information for outgoing business calls, but local information for calls to 911.

With VoIP, you can let your imagination run wild and customize the office communication system you’ve always dreamed of. If you’ve been thinking about converting to VoIP, the question isn’t “what can it do for my virtual office?” The question is “what can’t VoIP do?”

Call thinkCSC’s sales team to schedule your Technical Needs Assessment today!

Is Your Head in the Cloud?

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thinkCSC cloudWe’ve talked about cloud computing before, but technology is an industry that moves quickly, and Cloud – or Sky – computing, is something everyone from individual computer users to CEOs and IT managers need to start considering as a mainstream component to the way you store data and provide solutions for clients.

In cloud computing, data and software are stored on servers, and devices like smartphones and computers access them through the Internet. The move toward cloud computing allows for music and video streaming, photo storage and sharing, and document retention. From a business standpoint, it can also mean improvements in efficiency and the ability to better collaborate on projects across the miles. As more people use gadgets with limited data storage, cloud computing may become an everyday convenience.

When Apple unveiled their version of cloud services to compete in a fast-growing market led by Amazon, Steve Jobs announced, “We’re going to move the digital hub, the center of your digital life, into the cloud. Everything happens automatically and there’s nothing new to learn. It just all works.” Wall Street analysts say with Apple’s iCloud service, the foundation has been laid cloud computing to effectively transform the way we store, access, share, and manage data.

Many users are already using cloud services without knowing it. Turbo Tax, with its internet-based tax preparation, Google Picassa and Yahoo Flickr are all well-known examples of the cloud at work. Even Facebook is a cloud-based interaction application. To most users, it’s just a popular web site, but they have an element of cloud computing to them: All the games – Farmville, Wheel of Fortune, Gardens of Time – are internet based with nothing stored locally on a computer.

Concerns for security and privacy are valid. Apple, Google and Amazon offer plenty of security promises about their cloud services, but promises don’t stop people from worrying about lost documents or privacy breaches. On the other side, PC and laptops are vulnerable to theft, loss or unrecoverable data damage. One of the advantages of cloud computing from a user standpoint is that if your system is compromised, you can log in from anywhere and recover all of your information.

The cloud has some pitfalls and bugs to address, and as technology increases, the concept becomes more appealing to business owners who can see the advantages of information being accessible to team members wherever they happen to be in the world. When handled correctly, the transition is less challenging. Netflix (the lack of popularity of their new pricing structure not withstanding) is a great example of a company that rebuilt its applications from scratch and smartly designed a successful cloud platform. Security issues need to be addressed with a more holistic approach. Traditional security techniques and aggressive monitoring by IT departments effectively apply to the cloud as well as existing hosted products.

thinkCSC believes that the future lies in the cloud. We understand security, privacy and the benefits of web-based data storage, and offer solutions that can help you and your clients achieve your data protection and storage goals. The advantages of thinkCSC managing our own cloud provide our clients with a local option and better service – with the same engineers that know your network — as well as fewer security concerns. We are ready to assist you to move forward – and upward. Meet you in the cloud!

Expand Your Workforce with Remote Work Possibilities

By | Cloud Services

office-620822_1920Do you remember how it used to work, way back in the 90s, when you wanted to hire someone with a specific skill set for your company? Before social media venues like LinkedIn changed the employment landscape forever, companies used to have to place ads in these archaic forms of communication called newspapers.

These newspapers only reached a specific audience: local readers who were actively seeking employment. It severely limited a company’s options. Of course, technological advancement brought things like Monster and CareerBuilder, and other online job search engines, so you could reach a larger labor pool, but companies then had the cost of bringing people in for interviews and paying for relocation expenses in order to be competitive.

As with everything in the tech industry, things change fast, and the last few years have brought a number of improvements to the way people work and live. Job seekers don’t use classified ads; in fact, they rarely use job sites anymore. Job seekers network, are comfortable conducting business over the Internet, and don’t need a tour of the corporate office to know whether or not you’re a good employer. It can be easier to find skilled employees who meet your criteria. For businesses, particularly in the tech industry, the biggest advantage of the changing nature of work is that instead of having to draw from the local labor pool, you can now draw from anywhere in the country they can find the talent – without having to pay relocation costs.

What does offering a flexible work environment mean for your business?

With the right tools and security in place, such as hosted exchange servers, cloud data storage, and encrypted security protects your information,data, and intellectual property, you can change the nature of your workforce, reduce overhead costs, and improve efficiency. Not only do you have more options for hiring, but your employees don’t have to give up their lives and homes to work for you. Remote work environments give you the advantage of having happier, more productive employees who are more likely to remain loyal. It can also free you to hire contractors on an as-needed basis and avoid the costs of paying for salaries and benefits when work volume shifts.

Whether your employees work from home or are out meeting with clients and away from the office, working remotely adds efficiency and immediacy to your ability to service your clients. Your employees simply need access to the Internet to be able to collaborate on projects, access needed information, and complete work. In the long-term, it’s possible that the typical corporate office will disappear and be replaced by virtual companies with employees who connect from all over the world.

Will you be ready?

Implement Security Before a Breach

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security breachE-mail is a cornerstone of business communications, and obtaining your customer’s email address is a privilege that allows you to personalize your marketing efforts and learn details about your target market and gain insight that might otherwise be difficult to obtain. How do you assure your customers that their email address (and all the other information they share with you) is secure?

Right now, Sony is busy doing damage control over the security breach that occurred on the PlayStation 3 that let user information, including credit card numbers, escape their grasp. Last month, many financial institutions and retail stores were scrambling to reassure customers and apologize for a breach that occurred when their email company, Epsilon, was compromised and hundreds of thousands of names and email addresses were stolen. While only names and email addresses were accessed and not credit card information, there was a lot of placating to do to reassure uneasy customers. The month before that, Play.com admitted that their email provider had experienced months of irregular activity before revealing that their customers email addresses had been accessed and compromised.

As a business, ensuring the security of your internal email as well as the information you maintain about your customers has to be a primary concern – something you think about doing before there’s a risk for a breach. The question is, can you really create an environment that provides you with the security you need to offer the reassurance your customers and your investors want? It’s a matter of choosing the right hosted e-mail service that provides you the best possible security.

Here at thinkCSC, we have biometric security in place that ensures that only certain people can access the data center and firewalls. We run regular backups, but our backups are completely encrypted, so even the information stored on our back up server is safe from harm. Even if someone were to break in and physically steal our servers, the thieves would not have access to anything because all of the information on it is encrypted. We’ve literally locked out the hackers from the get-go.

We can actually run a piece of software from your location that encrypts your data before it is sent over the internet. When it gets to our site, even we can’t access it unless we have that encryption password. Most of the time, we are taking care of your whole network environment, so we will be the ones managing that password, and we have layers of security protocols in place that keep you protected. But we can also provide you with complete control, and can set it up so you’re the only who has the password.

The choice is simple: you’re either aggressively protecting your customer’s information by having the best email security available, or you’re preparing a letter to your customers to apologize to them after their information was stolen.

The Benefits of Using a Hosted Exchange Server

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laptop-beachHave you ever been away from your office and urgently needed information that was only available on the server at work? What do you do? You either muddle your way through, without the information you need or make the long commute back to the office. Neither choice is completely satisfactory. There is a way you can have access to the information you need, without compromising security, that will allow you to make changes that update regardless of where you access your email: a hosted exchange server.

There are a number of reasons why businesses should consider using a hosted exchange server. One of the primary reasons is security. Free services like Gmail and Yahoo, who offer some centralized data capability, but do not offer the extensive security and privacy of a hosted exchange server. In addition, a hosted exchange server offers  the ability to efficiently share information with colleagues, including the ability to share contacts, calendars, and resources.  You can view someone else’s calendar and they can view yours if they have the proper permissions. Everything is maintained in one central location.

Another advantage of using an exchange server is the ability to access your email from anywhere. Because it is web-based, the same data set is available on your local computer, your terminal server, or even your mobile device – a mobile phone or tablet. It’s a single data set, whether your accessing sent files, contact lists, or your inbox, so whenever you make a change, the change is reflected wherever you access the email next.

That flexibility to access and change information from anywhere and have the changes reflect across every access point, ensuring everyone who shares the information has the most current data  possible, is the brilliance behind using a hosted exchange server.

With a typical email account, using a POP server, once you’ve downloaded the email off the server and onto your computer, that is the only location it is available. If you later need to access the email from your mobile device or another computer, it will not be there. With exchange email hosting, you have access to all of the data inside the exchange. Combined with the advantage of being able to access colleagues’ calendars and contacts makes it a powerful tool.

What does all this mean for businesses and busy executives? With a hosted exchange server, it means corporations can promote themselves as supporting flexible working conditions, without having to worry that they are sacrificing security or productivity. It means the c-level executive who spends more time in an airplane than an office won’t be out of touch with up-to-date information. It means coming back from vacation and getting a day of cleaning out your inbox, while staying in your pajamas and drinking coffee on your front porch. It empowers busy executives to have everything – including any historical data – they need to do their jobs at their fingertips, whether on they are in a meeting, at home, or in Barbados.