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April 12th, 2017

2017April12VoIP_CSince Skype is a free service for consumers, it generally has to rely on advertising to turn a profit. As a result, most users regularly see banner ads on the video calling interface. Recently, hackers have begun to exploit these advertisements by distributing fake ads that contain ransomware. If you’re an avid Skype user, here’s what you need to know about the attack.

Initial reports found that the fake Skype ad was disguised as a critical Flash update. Clicking on the ad triggers a download of a seemingly innocuous HTML application named “FlashPlayer.hta”. If opened, the app would download malicious code that encrypts the victim’s files and holds them hostage until a ransom is paid.

According to security experts, hackers were obfuscating malicious code in the fake ads, which helped the ransomware evade detection from common antivirus tools. Many other users in the past have encountered similar Skype ads, but this is one of the first few scams that delivers ransomware.

To protect yourself against this ransomware you need to do the following:

  • Be critical - you must be careful of opening suspicious ads and links from Skype -- or any content off the internet for that matter. Before you click on a link, hover over it to see where it leads. Unsolicited emails with links and downloadable files should also be avoided unless you’re certain it’s coming from a credible source.
  • Download only from trusted sources - just like the tip mentioned above, make sure the software you download are from trustworthy app stores. In this case, Adobe Flash plugins should be downloaded directly from the official site, not from random ads.
  • Install security software - strong antivirus, intrusion prevention systems, and other cybersecurity solutions can detect and block ransomware before it makes your entire system unusable.
  • Invest in backups - storing your data in multiple cloud-hosted data centers will help you recover critical files should ransomware manage to infect your local computers.
When it comes to ransomware, hackers don't always return your files and we never recommend giving in to their demands. Staying informed and being prepared is the best solution to any malware.

Skype is the last place you’d expect a hacker to turn up, but if you don’t account for all possible vulnerabilities -- including security flaws in your VoIP solution -- your business has a bleak future. Contact us to protect your VoIP, your cloud, and your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 10th, 2017

170px-03We live in an age overflowing with information, and most of this is taking place in social media feeds and timelines. Social media is truly a window to the entire world, but it can be detrimental to your business if your employees are just messing about with hashtags, tweets, and likes all day. Annual social media policy reviews can give you and your business some much-needed clarity.

Avoid legal trouble Do you remember Chipotle’s social media debacle in 2015? It lost a lawsuit for firing an employee that posted negative content on social media because it turned out that Chipotle’s social media policy violated federal labor laws. That’s why you should work with your legal team to keep your policies up to date: so they comply with the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Protect company information Social media policies can actually help safeguard sensitive data from hackers and cyber attacks, especially in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) working environment. Employees must know the proprietary company information that must never be shared, as well as understand that confidential information -- such as marketing tactics, non-public financials, and future product launches -- are to be communicated only ‘internally.’ A good example is General Motor’s social media policy, which clearly spells out what can and can't be disclosed to the public.

Define which kinds of social media activities are and aren't allowed Although posting offensive or insensitive material on a company-branded social media page being is an obvious no-no, it still happens. For the people handling your company’s social media, what precautionary mechanisms are in place to avoid a public relations disaster? Are there rules for different platforms? Beyond that, however, is a lot of gray area when it comes to if and how employees will be held accountable for what they post on their personal profiles. When social media policies clearly outline how employees should behave online and the punishments that come with violating that agreement, you can deter rogue employee posts and avoid a viral fiasco.

Effective social media policies need to be fluid and responsive to the fast-paced modern business environment. Taking the time out to perform yearly social media policy reviews will save your employees a lot of confusion while helping your company steer clear of potential PR and legal nightmares. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 27th, 2017

2017March27VoIP_CMore companies will launch online video chat as a customer service platform by 2018...and it’s about time. Businesses have never been more eager to please, thanks in part to customer service satisfaction scoring sites and apps, which is how competition got increasingly tough. The eventual integration of online video chat as a customer service platform will soon play a part in making customer service satisfaction soar, and businesses ought to adapt and make the most of it now.

More visuals, better service

Unlike other customer service platforms such as phone, online chat, social media, and email, online video chat is highly personal and markedly interactive. The advantage is obvious: Customers see the person they’re talking to, which lends a greater sense of urgency and professionalism to a conversation. Businesses looking to improve their customer satisfaction rating can also benefit from a video-enhanced customer service capability.

That is not to say that an online chat or other ‘less visual’ modes of communication are insufficient in handling or managing complaints or queries. For some businesses, certain product or service inquiries could benefit from a visual demonstration, such as fixing a malfunctioning electronic equipment or assembling furniture. A video chat can also be massively beneficial to customers seeking help for an extremely technical computer issue.

Not all customers, however, would opt for a video chat to get assistance, but having it as an option is definitely going the extra mile. Having a video option also expands the customers’ options and increases their confidence in your capacity to assist.

Is online video chat really necessary?

Some companies aren’t eager to adopt a video-based customer service functionality due to several factors, such as costs associated mostly with staff training and contact center structure improvements. Despite being the least personal of all customer interactions, interactive voice response systems are still preferred by many because they’re cheaper to implement and maintain.

Other hurdles include inconsistent video chat quality and customer preference. The ubiquity of other platforms such as social media also poses a barrier to adapting video chat. Why spend money hiring extra staff and expend effort adding video capabilities when you can have anyone on the team log on to Twitter -- for free -- and solve complaint tickets?

Despite widely recognizing customer service and experience as a competitive differentiator, many businesses still resist video technology. For small- and medium-sized firms with limited resources that are therefore slow to adjust to new changes, this is understandable. Nevertheless, exploring video chat’s potential can undoubtedly enhance their customers’ experience, and, in time, prove invaluable.

As with many advances in unified communications technology, it wouldn’t be surprising if online video chat decimated other VoIP services and became the new norm rather than a budding trend. Do you want to explore the various features of your existing VoIP systems for your business? Call us for advice today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 13th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_481869592Businesses nowadays are focusing their marketing efforts towards social media. Precious time and money are being invested in expanding customer base, establish corporate identity, and drive revenue. That’s why it’s vital for owners to know which platforms work, and which ones don’t. And this is no walk in the park.

Over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old; as of 2015, the social network boasted over 100 million active users. It’s an ideal marketing option for businesses targeting a millennial audience. If you’re still unsure about Snapchat for your small business, consider these statistics:

    • 58 percent of college students are likely to purchase a product from coupons sent over Snapchat
    • 65 percent of Snapchat users contribute content on a daily basis
    • Only 1 percent of marketers are taking advantage of Snapchat, which means you can be an early adopter and gain a competitive advantage
Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and videos - called “Snaps” - to others. The media sent can only be viewed for 10 seconds or less (you can specify the length), after which it disappears for good. You can add a Snap or multiple Snaps to create your own “story” which can be viewed by others for 24 hours.

The reason Snapchat is getting the attention of marketers is that it allows users to personally interact with brands. Instead of regular content, you audience gets a candid, behind-the-scenes look at your business. Also, by using Snapchat regularly, you’ll be able to keep your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. Then, when they’re making a purchasing decision between you and your competitors, they’ll choose you because of the relationship you’ve established with them. Now that you know what Snapchat is, the next step is to gain followers.

How to grow a following on Snapchat Unlike other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags don’t suffice when you want to get your audience’s attention. They have to find and add you - not the other way around. Even if you want to add other users so they could add you back, you can’t base the search on vague terms -- you have to know their Snapchat username to add them. Basically, Snapchat has no native discovery features.

In order to gain followers on Snapchat, you’ll need to use your online presence as well as other social media sites to create awareness and entice others to follow you. Here are some easy methods to get the ball rolling:

    • The “Add Me URL” feature - share a custom URL on other social media platforms that allow other users to quickly add you as their Snapchat connections. To do so, replace “yourusername” in the following URL: https://www.snapchat.com/add/yourusername
    • Promote your username in your social media profiles - promote your Snapchat username by posting it in other profiles to encourage people to add you. You can also share your username in email signatures, blog posts, and even your company website.
    • Share relevant content - plan an interesting series of Snaps to share with your followers and post all the details on other social media accounts along with your username and/or QR code image, this gives followers an incentive to connect with your brand.
    • Snapcode image as your profile picture on other social networks - take a screenshot and crop your Snapchat QR code image (Snapcode) and set that as a profile picture on your other social media accounts. Anyone who points their Snapchat camera at the code will automatically add you to their friends list.
Snapchat is one of the newest social media outlets to date. If you start building your brand on it now, you’ll be taking a huge step ahead of your competitors - especially now that Snapchat is catching up to Facebook and other social media giants. If you would like to know more about what Snapchat can do for your small- and medium-sized business, feel free to give us a call!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 9th, 2017

2017March9VoIP_CMaking calls over the internet has been one of the greatest advancements for small- and medium-sized businesses in several decades. And although some are calling the newest addition to this field detrimental, we think it’s an awesome addition. For business owners who believe in staying ahead of the times, WebRTC is worth checking out.

What is WebRTC?

At its most basic, WebRTC is a way to make phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, and file transfers with nothing but a web browser.

And in addition to being immensely convenient for end users, WebRTC is relatively easy to configure for administrators and developers. You can create a link on your homepage that will allow customers to initiate a video call without the need to dial a number from their phone, or even open up Skype on their desktop.

The benefits to your customers

This creates a much more connected customer service experience. With WebRTC calls, you’ll never have to ask “Ok, are you looking at our site?” They had to navigate to your site to even make the call, so a certain amount of knowledge can be assumed the moment you pick up the line. This allows customer service representatives to assist customers calling through this medium in a more specific, nuanced way than calls they receive from cellphones and landlines.

What are the drawbacks?

Compatibility is one of the main reasons to avoid jumping on the bandwagon too early. Most notably, Apple has been on the topic of working with this new technology. Developers have noticed nods to WebRTC availability in Apple’s callkit, but no official announcement has been made yet.

It could hurt user experience if an Apple user sees a “Start a video call now!” button but gets an incompatibility message when they click it. If you are still interested in giving it a shot, make sure to work with experienced professionals to test it in the wild before committing wholeheartedly.

The WebRTC critics

Some industry professionals are crying foul. They believe this new technology will diminish the relevance of VoIP and throw internet-based telephony into uncertain territory. In reality, WebRTC is a far cry from a VoIP killer because people who are willing to make calls from their desktop computer are still a small minority.

With a Unified Communications infrastructure, your staff utilize VoIP solutions to make and receive calls from traditional phone numbers in the same place they receive WebRTC calls. At the end of the day, this new technology isn’t about disrupting VoIP, it’s just about partnering together to give your customers new ways to get in touch with you.

The main reason to partner with a managed services provider is to ensure you’re always getting the best technology available. Although WebRTC might not be for everyone, it’s important for you to know what your options are. If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter of this technology, don’t wait another minute to call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 24th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_195098972Facebook might be the biggest name in social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all platform, there are trendier options such as Instagram and Snapchat, with a burgeoning millennial base to choose from. With that in mind, it’s essential for business owners to understand the pros and cons of each platform before settling on one.

Facebook According to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, Facebook is the most utilized social media of all the options. Out of the survey’s 1,100+ respondents, 68 percent used Facebook as an integral part of their marketing strategy, with LinkedIn coming in second at 39 percent.

One of the contributing factors to Facebook’s popularity is the fact that it’s currently approaching a total of 2 billion personal users, making it the first place companies go to when they want to increase their brand awareness. Other marketing-specific reasons businesses choose Facebook are social media referral traffic, terrific conversion rates for e-commerce traffic, and a huge impact on user purchasing decisions.

YouTube YouTube is considered an undervalued social media resource for two main reasons. Firstly, although it’s the second-largest search engine on the internet, it still looms in the giant shadow of its rival Google Search. But when properly utilized, YouTube allows you to create channels for your products or services to be discovered by users, with little more than search optimizations.

Secondly, Google actually owns YouTube, and videos are reportedly 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than other organic content. Keep in mind that video production quality is more important than ever, so your content needs to be well-produced in order to make an impact.

Google+ Engagement and content on sharing might pale in comparison to Facebook, but an active Google+ page measurably contributes to the Google search ranking of your website -- just another way you can ensure your site’s position on the first page of Google results should be done. Also, Google+ has hundreds of millions of users and some of the platform’s features -- such as live Hangouts -- can be utilized to share content across all Google channels, including YouTube.

Snapchat and Instagram If your target audience is on the younger end of the scale, Snapchat is the way to go. The important thing to keep in mind when you want to connect with 18-24 year olds is to always be fun and creative. Your content doesn’t need to be overly-polished or corporate. Currently, there are over 100 million active users on Snapchat.

As for Instagram, it boasts over 400 million monthly users as well as a more well-rounded user base in terms of age and geography. The content on Instagram should look more professional and more artistic, and there’s an added benefit of direct integration with Facebook every time you post a new picture or video.

Yelp Review sites might not be the purest form of social media, but Yelp is another great way to connect with users and respond to (hopefully positive) feedback. If you’re concerned about the controversy and negativity that have arisen from Yelp reviews, the Yelp team is known for helping businesses improve their online status and rise above the harsh comments.

If you still have questions about social media platforms and how to utilize them to your advantage, feel free to contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 20th, 2017

2017February20_VoIP_CAs VoIP stormed onto the small business scene over a decade ago, a lot of businesses wanted to get in early. The only problem with doing so was that early iterations of this technology didn’t include advanced call-forwarding and “Follow-me” features. Newcomers made expensive outlays for new handsets that seem far less necessary today. So, for those asking “Do I really need VoIP handsets?” we’re here to help you find the answer.

Before you can answer your million dollar question, you need to examine the day-to-day calling strategies of your office. Consider the following six questions before deciding whether or not to purchase office handsets:

Question #1: How often would employees answer work numbers from their mobile devices if you purchased desktop phones?

We’ve all been there, you see a great new feature and automatically jump to the conclusion that you don’t need legacy technology. Just because call-forwarding and follow-me features are convenient, doesn’t mean you should use them exclusively. If employees would use desktop phones for more than half of their calls, you probably don’t want to skimp on handsets.

Question #2: Do your employees ever take calls from their personal numbers?

If employees are already handing out personal numbers to customers and clients, the transition to taking work calls on their mobile device is far more likely to go smoothly. If not, you need to clarify what’s expected of employees during off hours before making the decision to go 100% mobile.

Question #3: How much texting, emailing, and messaging do employees do from their personal mobile devices?

Similar to question #2, how much business is already taking place on mobile devices will play a big factor in transitioning to a mobile environment. If your team is taking calls at their desk, but sending the majority of their text-based correspondence from mobile devices, getting rid of desktop phones may actually be a more streamlined approach.

Question #4: Do you want employees to focus on desktop integrations during calls?

Don’t forget about the profitable ways you can integrate a desktop phone with customer relationship management software, productivity tools, and call tracking. Most of these won’t be nearly as effective when 100% of calls are taken from a mobile device.

Question #5: Does your company have a mobile device management system in place?

Unless your organization already has a full-fledged BYOD plan, it’s not prepared for the onslaught of security risks associated with connecting your business data to your employees’ personal devices. In an all-mobile environment, every single employee device would need to be set up with a personal profile and a work profile to keep the two data streams separate and secure.

Question #6: What are employee experiences with call quality on mobile devices?

Preconceived notions from employees about VoIP call quality can play a tremendous part in a mobile device transition. If employee devices are older, run-down devices, there may be problems with getting the most out of your VoIP solution. And even if your organization is providing the mobile devices, employees may still be looking to complain to colleagues, and even customers, about the “reduction” in call quality -- even if there’s none to speak of.

The sexiest answer isn’t always the right one when it comes to technology. Going all-in on a mobile call strategy may sound great as a headline, but it’s not a project to be taken lightly. However, if it still sounds worth it you, we’re the team to make it happen. Contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 6th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_CScroll, double-tap, repeat, might have been the original Instagram-ing routine, but not anymore. After partnering with global advertising giants, IG is introducing its latest feature: Stories. With it, you can share short videos, or even personally decorated snapshots of your daily life. But many of you might ask, “What does this have to do with online marketing?” Read on and find out.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 1st, 2017

2017February1_VoIP_CThe number of small businesses that will move their unified communications to the cloud is predicted to increase from 10% to 48%, while medium-sized firms and large enterprises follow, albeit in smaller percentages. These numbers are not surprising because migrating unified communications to the cloud presents a host of benefits to communication systems: simplicity, flexibility, and lowered costs. You probably have given it some thought, but haven’t concluded that migrating your unified communications is a good decision. These five tips for a successful migration could help your decision-making.

Opt for a gradual transition

Migrating unified communications to the cloud doesn’t have to be done at one fell swoop. You can move UC for departments that can benefit from it, while those with no pressing need for a cloud-based UC, such as a company’s call center, can keep using on-premise systems. This way, users can ease their way into the new system without experiencing network disruptions, which could lead to reduced productivity.

Secure sufficient bandwidth

Issues on speed and performance will inevitably arise, so make sure to cover all the bases before migration. That means securing a reliable internet service provider, checking the stability of your internal network, and having a Plan B. This is a particularly critical point to ponder if you have operations in locations where unstable or slow networks could pose serious difficulties. Determine the level of bandwidth your entire business needs, and get it from an ISP that can deliver.

Test, test, test

Transitioning UC to the cloud may appear seamless, but there may be a few unexpected kinks that would need ironing out long after the migration is declared a success. To soften the potentially costly and time-consuming impacts, test the systems throughout the duration of the migration. Whether you’re testing voice, data, or video, conduct tests, set benchmarks for performance, and predict future usage patterns.

Go live and act on identified problem points

After going live with your cloud UC, consider the overall user experience and availability of support for devices, applications and other components. Are persistent connectivity issues going to cause troublesome conference calls? This and similar issues may prove detrimental in the long-run, so keep them in mind when deciding to keep, enhance, or discontinue a cloud-based UC. Cloud migration should be solving problems, not causing them.

Constantly monitor performance and quality

Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few issues even after extensive testing. Migrating to the cloud simply requires planning and a sustainable strategy, whether your organization is dependent on instant messaging, voice conferencing, or video calling. There’s also a good chance that you will be working with several vendors, so always demand for the best service.

Having your UC moved to the cloud may seem like a daunting move, but with our cloud technology and VoIP know-how, we’ll make sure your unified communications in the cloud precipitates just benefits. Contact us today for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
January 17th, 2017

2017January17_VoIP_CDid you know that your VoIP systems are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks? When it comes to VoIP, hackers will go to great lengths to intercept messages over a network or even use denial-of-service attacks to shut yours down. To protect your network, firewalls and antivirus software may be your first options, but they simply can’t defend against modern voice attacks. What you need is an updated session border controller (SBC).

What is it? In a nutshell, an SBC is a dedicated hardware device or software application that acts as a gatekeeper of your VoIP network, controlling how phone calls are initiated, conducted, and terminated. Much like a firewall, an SBC examines voice messages transmitted as IP packets and prevents unauthorized sessions to the network. This protects your business from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attempts.

But even though most businesses deploy SBC, many tend to leave it unmanaged, rendering it ineffective against new and emerging VoIP-based attacks. To make sure this doesn’t happen in your business, consider the following security best-practices with SBC:

Update frequently Security threats are ever-evolving, and your security systems need to do the same. Set aside one hour per week to check for security updates and distribute them company-wide. To avoid disrupting daily operations and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, we recommend performing updates during off-hours.

Enable real-time alerts Whether via email or text, your SBC product should alert you when something happens, when it has blocked a call, and why. These alerts will let you know about any attempted attacks and will notify you when your SBC is due for an update.

Assess SBC performance To find out whether your SBC is routinely blocking threats, make sure to periodically evaluate its effectiveness. If a third-party is managing your VoIP systems, have them perform a security test to identify possible vulnerabilities within your system.

After the security assessment, your provider should compile a report about SBC performance and recommended solutions and updates you should install to mitigate security risks. This allows you to close up any security holes well before a malicious hacker exploits them.

Educate staff Understanding why you need to update your SBC is a good first step in defending against a variety of VoIP-based attacks, but that’s no silver bullet. Aside from technical attacks, businesses need to train staff to spot cunning threats like vishing, a social engineering scam whereby hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information via phone calls.

Installing an SBC is important, but it can give businesses a false sense of security. As we mentioned, the cyber security landscape is ever-changing. So if you’re not taking a proactive role in updating and assessing your SBC, then your business might suffer for it in the near future.

To avoid spending a lifetime recovering from successful voice attacks, contact us today. We take the time to ensure your SBC is up-to-date and your business is safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP