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How a certified Microsoft partner can advance your digital disruption

The benefits of moving to the cloud are no longer a secret. Cloud services make everything easier for businesses and organizations of any size. The key to maximizing your benefits is making sure your transition to the cloud is customized to meet your specific business objectives and your environment becomes cloud efficient. To that end, it’s critical to find a Microsoft certified partner that helps you develop the right strategy and ensures a successful deployment.

A Microsoft certified partner can increase your efficiencies and improve your security posture
A Microsoft certified partner can increase your efficiencies and improve your security posture.

If you’re like most organizations moving to the cloud, your first step will be an Office 365 migration for collaboration and communication solutions. Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite is one of the most powerful business tools available. According to Gartner, nearly three-quarters of all medium and large organizations in the U.S. use the platform, particularly in areas like healthcare and finance, which have seen usage double over the last two years. 

An end-to-end solution provider 

A qualified Microsoft certified partner can offer informed recommendations based on their ability to capture a holistic view of your IT environment’s infrastructure and applications to provide a modernization roadmap for your journey to the cloud.  A Microsoft certified partner should have the proven experience and certified expertise to assess your environment, look at every workload application, and determine what’s ideal for the cloud and what is not. Even if you’re already using Microsoft, a Microsoft certified partner can increase your efficiencies, lower costs, and improve your security posture. 

Also read: Efficiency, security, and savings are in reach with managed database services

Leverage the experience of a 15 year partnership with Microsoft
  • Microsoft licensing optimization
  • Managed Azure Cloud
  • Collaboration and Communications
  • Application Development and Consulting Services

Why invest in a Microsoft certified partner?

There are many benefits to partnering with an experienced Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider, including:


Only pay for what you need. Take Office 365, for example. If you had 1,000 Office 365 licenses and needed to increase that by 50 licenses for a big project but wanted to drop it back to down to 1,000 afterward, you can. When using Azure, you only pay for what you use, just like an electric bill.

Logical billing.

Every month, you’ll receive a bill for the communication licenses you used and/or the amount of Azure you utilized. Gone are the days of upfront licensing costs.

Superior Microsoft support.

Your Microsoft certified partner also acts as your support team. When necessary, your partner deals with Microsoft on your behalf. This ensures a resolution that can occur in a matter of hours vs. days or longer.

Trusted advisors.

You may be aware that Microsoft’s service offerings and licensing can be complex. With a Microsoft certified partner, you have an experienced guide that is able to evaluate your options and enable you to maximize your technology investment.

Right-size your Microsoft environment

Whether your organization’s IT infrastructure is on-premises, in the cloud, or uses a hybrid model, CBTS—as a Microsoft certified partner—can customize solutions to fit your unique needs. If you’re unsure of what you need, no worries. CBTS has the expertise to evaluate and recommend agile solutions that meet your currents needs and can easily scale. 

If you already use at least one Microsoft solution, CBTS would love to show you how to get the most out of your investment. You’ll be surprised at how unlocking the full potential of your current Microsoft solution can transform your organizational digital disruption.

Contact CBTS  for assistance with finding a Microsoft certified partner and streamlining your cloud migration

Continue reading:

Learn what the power of a fully managed Microsoft Azure cloud platform can do for your organization

Leverage Office 365 to transform your business

How CBTS is integrating Hosted UCaaS with Microsoft Teams

Frost & Sullivan report places CBTS in top bracket for UCaaS innovation and growth

The past year has seen a meteoric rise in the demand for, and proliferation of, remote collaboration technology as organizations of every size, shape, and type have scrambled to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an influential figure in this rapidly shifting atmosphere, CBTS has been recognized for its efforts in providing access to revolutionary solutions for mid-size and enterprise businesses.

Market research and business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan recently placed CBTS within the top quadrant of the 2020 Frost Radar™ for growth and innovation in Hosted IP Telephony and Unified Communications as a Service [UCaaS] for North America.

“CBTS differentiates from its competitors with its broad cloud, infrastructure, communications, and consulting expertise, and its unique ability to leverage the resources of a large organization and nimbleness of an entrepreneurial company culture to deliver excellent customer value. With its rich portfolio of cloud communications, collaboration and contact center solutions CBTS can effectively address the diverse needs of a broad customer spectrum—from SMB to large enterprise and from private to public companies. CBTS also stands out with its tailored approach to different industries. Specialized teams of vertical industry experts enable CBTS to custom-tailor solutions for SLED, healthcare, retail and other verticals’ highly specific requirements.”

Elka Popova
Vice President and Senior Fellow, Digital Transformation of Frost & Sullivan

The report further explores the tumultuous but opportunity-rich environment that managed service providers currently find themselves in.

“Digital technologies, including cloud communications solutions, have captured the spotlight in this time of crisis,” the study reads in part. “At the time this study is publishing, the global pandemic is already experiencing a second wave, which means that most businesses will be unable to resume normal operations for the foreseeable future.”

Despite the myriad challenges presented by the pandemic in 2020, there is also significant room for growth that agile and forward-facing organizations may capitalize on.

Although cloud migration rates could be hampered by the current economic climate, the Frost Radar report suggests considerable growth potential for the UCaaS marketplace.

“In the near term, UCaaS solutions are likely to see pockets of rapid growth in certain customer segments and verticals,” the report reads. “Service providers leveraging modern cloud architectures and with the ability to deliver services over public broadband, on any connected device and network utilizing technologies like SD-WAN, are likely to better capitalize on the growing demand for hosted IP telephony and UCaaS than providers relying on managed circuits, premises-based infrastructure (e.g., session border controllers (SBCs) and desktop devices.”

Frost Radar Report: Benchmarking future growth potential - Click this banner to download the report

The report elaborates that in the future, diversified offerings and comprehensive service suites that offer “one-stop shopping” for clients, such as unified communications, contact center solutions, and collaboration toolkits, are likely to provide the broadest avenue toward sustainable growth.

“Going forward, providers with broader cloud services suites are likely to experience faster growth than those selling point solutions,” the report reads. “Integrated cloud collaboration suites such as Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, and Cisco Webex will gain traction as businesses seek to deliver more compelling user experiences whereby users can use a single pane of glass to access a variety of modalities including, voice, video, team messaging, SMS, and more.”

By leveraging technologies from trusted third-party vendors such as Cisco HCS, Cisco Broadworks, Microsoft Teams Voice, and Cisco Webex Calling, CBTS is able to offer the following solutions with unparalleled reliability:
  1. Hosted Enterprise UC
  2. Hosted UC
  3. Microsoft Teams Voice
  4. Cloud Calling

Additionally, CBTS spares no effort when consulting and collaborating with clients and partners in order to deliver superior business outcomes.

Contact us to find out how CBTS can prepare your organization for the future with tailored UCaaS solutions.


Community in 2020: we give where we live

CBTS is a global company with deep roots in our communities. The events of 2020 strengthened our resolve to “give where we live” and devote time and effort to the neighborhoods where we live, work, and do business.

We quickly adapted as restrictions created in response to a global pandemic halted plans for in-person events and activities. The company expanded on existing initiatives, sought and organized other opportunities, and we gave to those in need in a variety of ways.

  • United Way of Greater Cincinnati
    We raised $614,000 for the United Way of Greater Cincinnati’s fund raising campaign through employee contributions, exceeding our $600,000 corporate goal. This year’s United Way campaign came during an extremely challenging time as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, our company made a contribution of $250,000, plus a subsequent corporate pledge of $136,000 to help United Way close their funding gap.
  • Connect Our Students Program
    With Connect Our Students, parent company Cincinnati Bell partnered with Cincinnati Public Schools, Greater Cincinnati Foundation, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, and ComputerXpress to help thousands of K-12 public school students in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky access free Internet connectivity at home in time for the 2020-21 school year. This program focused on increasing digital equity through pilot programs in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky that will be tailored to meet the needs of local school districts.
  • CancerFree Kids
    We have supported CancerFree Kids for over a decade in its effort to eradicate cancer as a life-threatening disease in children by funding promising research that might otherwise go unfunded. This year we sponsored CFK’s annual Celebration of Champions Dinner, which raised a record $436,700.
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
    At Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night—which went virtual for its October 8 event—our corporate team raised more than $13,000. We’re also proud to share that teammate Kat Taylor, Community Relations Manager, has been nominated for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society 2021 Man & Woman of the Year. She will dedicate the next six months to fundraising for LLS.

Employees came through in so many other ways: fulfilling our ArtsWave fund raising pledge, helping Make-a-Wish wishes come true; delivering meals to local homeless shelters and families; tutoring students virtually; corresponding with local senior citizens who have been isolated by pandemic restrictions; completing our annual wish list drive for local families; answering calls for telethons supporting local charities; and joining the virtualized Heart Mini Marathon.

2020 has demanded more of each of us than at any time in recent memory. We are proud to have collectively accomplished so much for our communities; this year and we look forward to exceeding these efforts in 2021.

Surviving 2020: our employees are at the heart of our business

Our employees and how they responded to the events of 2020 personally and professionally mirror how CBTS has weathered the year: with the resilient attitude on which our customer-first approach is built. Like our company, they adapted, transformed, and rose to the occasion to support our clients and each other.

From the moment we went home, our leaders made internal communication a priority, and took care to encourage us to communicate with them. Early on, more than 1,200 employees posted on an internal Gratitude Wall, sharing the positives coming out of the situation. The company, in turn, is indescribably grateful to our employees not just for their hard work but also for speaking out and trusting the company to have their safety and comfort at heart.

Employees are at the heart of our business

Headsets and earbuds became our new work wear and our loved ones became our new office mates. We are now intimately familiar with connectivity, collaboration tools, alternative backgrounds, and when we are—and are not—on mute during a record number of Webex meetings. Through trial and error we improved how we operate remotely as we worked toward an effective and productive remote situation. If this crisis has a silver lining, it is that it gave us the opportunity to explore how to improve the collaboration and communication experience for our employees and enhance our remote work products and services for our clients.

The key to everything was and is communication. In response to the initial reports about COVID-19, company leaders acted quickly to issue travel restrictions and establish frequent communications with employees. By mid-March, we’d all gone home and begun adapting, hoping, and planning for a temporary situation. Daily emails from the CEO stimulated transparency throughout the entire company and frequent health alerts empowered our new work-from-home culture with news about COVID-19, changes in the company, and suggestions and resources to help us all take care of ourselves and remain connected, productive, and healthy.

While CBTS is primarily a technology company with powerful tools to enable collaboration and communication, it is the recognition that our people are essential to our success is what drives us to survive and thrive in 2020 and beyond.

Join our team! Visit our careers page.

The key to finding the right SD-WAN provider for your organization

As cloud-based applications catch on in terms of both popularity and availability, the users who rely on them are expecting easier and more reliable access from any remote work situation they operate in.

Simultaneously, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology is solidifying its place as the leading solution for deploying and managing cloud-enabled network environments. Small, medium, and enterprise-level organizations alike are seeing the value in partnering with a qualified SD-WAN provider to enhance and simplify their cloud application and managed software processes.

Identifying and selecting the right partner for your managed SD-WAN needs is no simple matter, however. It’s crucial for organizations to have an intimate knowledge of their existing network architectures in order to find the best fit for their goals.

Not every provider has the expertise to smoothly transform a legacy Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) network into a cloud-powered hybrid or SD-WAN architecture, regardless of the industry or vertical the client occupies. This requires a provider to work closely with the client’s IT teams to identify vulnerabilities, map out the existing network environment, and meticulously plot out a transition plan.

The right SD-WAN partner must also bring a critical eye and modern approach to your organization’s security situation. When designing and deploying an SD-WAN environment for your enterprise, solutions like Check Point Harmony Connect should be layered throughout the architecture of the managed service. In short, your SD-WAN provider should fully and comprehensively assess your existing network to not only optimize bandwidth but to safeguard data and applications as well, counseling you on where to layer on additional security measures when needed.

Additionally, a managed SD-WAN solution provider should offer a suite of services that achieve the end goal of freeing up your IT personnel and resources to focus less on mundane daily tasks and more on critical strategic business initiatives. A properly implemented SD-WAN environment can achieve this, but only if the provider works alongside your team throughout the entire deployment process by monitoring, maintaining, and updating the environment as necessary to ensure a smooth transition.

It’s a common misconception that after migrating to a Software as a Service (SaaS) SD-WAN model, organizations lose direct control over their network. This isn’t the case for experienced and proven SD-WAN providers, which partner closely with clients to co-manage the new network environment. In this manner, a truly collaborative SD-WAN solution combines the strengths and expertise of both client and provider to achieve the client’s long-term goals.

Contrary to some popular perceptions, SD-WAN is not a magic button that solves every networking difficulty with the press of a button, even when users are extensively trained and experienced in the operation of SD-WAN networking solutions. That’s why a qualified and trusted partner is so important to effect an orderly migration from legacy MPLS networking to a cloud-enabled SD-WAN environment while giving your organization a greater degree of flexibility and control over your network.

That’s where CBTS comes in. Whether your strategic goal is to cut down on operating expenses or greatly increase application uptime, CBTS will synergize with your IT infrastructure to formulate a customized SD-WAN solution that is tailor-made for your specific circumstances and needs. CBTS can also easily factor in and balance additional features like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) as needed.

SD-WAN is defining both the present and future of enterprise networking and is creating exciting new opportunities, but it takes an expert guide to navigate these turbulent waters safely. Choose your partner carefully to get the most out of this cutting-edge technology.

Contact us for more information on finding the right SD-WAN provider for your organization.

How NaaS is putting the cloud within reach for every enterprise

Legacy networks, and the businesses that rely on them, are running out of juice. For the most part, these outdated network environments are simply not equipped to meet the high demand that exists today for reliable, full-spectrum communication capabilities. The spike in remote work situations during the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified the demand for modern networking technology that enables seamless and user-friendly collaboration.

Network as a Service (NaaS) has emerged as a transformative solution to the flagging effectiveness of most legacy networks. NaaS works by leveraging the programming and connectivity power of the cloud to provide managed, cloud-based networking capabilities as a comprehensive service and a simple transport method.

Joe Putnik, chief innovation officer at CBTS, recently sat down with CIO Review to discuss new advances and developments in NaaS, which won CIO Review’s Product of the Year award.

When combined with other revolutionary solutions such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN) and Hosted Unified Communications (UC) and implemented by a trusted vending partner, NaaS is capable of completely reinventing any enterprise’s networking architecture. Indeed, reinvention is crucial at a time when organizations are settling into a semi-permanent state of remote operation in the face of the COVID crisis.

However, networking solutions are only effective when enabled by the correct hardware. That’s where Cisco Meraki comes in. A collection of scalable and secure network platforms for the future-focused enterprise, Meraki offers intuitive cloud integration, auto-provisioning, VPN, and other valuable capabilities. As an experienced partner for enterprise-level organizations as well as small- and medium-sized businesses, CBTS pairs the Cisco Meraki platform with its array of managed SD-WAN, Hosted UC, and NaaS services to deliver unparalleled results for clients.

CBTS has implemented its NaaS for more than 600 clients and more than 5,000 locations since it began offering the solution in 2016 and has achieved this milestone by partnering with other leaders in the market, including Cisco and Dell/VMware. CBTS is able to deploy solutions from these partner firms over any transport, from Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) to 4G LTE. This flexibility makes CBTS an attractive provider for organizations of any size that are seeking a future-ready network architecture.

The CBTS NaaS solution arose from a need for a fully-managed, streamlined, and holistic approach to secure connectivity. Customers in multiple industries were seeking a method to address both their Wi-Fi and firewall concerns, which NaaS is purpose-built to solve. NaaS is also designed to be easily scaled for growth, a major benefit for small and midsize businesses (SMBs), especially those with a need to expand their networks to multiple locations or facilities.

From day one, the NaaS approach has been driven by the goal to simplify the lives and day-to-day processes of every client, regardless of the vertical they occupied or the size of their business. However, implementing a solution is only part of the equation. To ensure success for their clients, CBTS takes the initiative to establish a monitoring environment that allows for continuous system auditing, patching, and improvements to deliver the best experience possible for the client. CBTS accomplishes this by partnering with software company ServiceNow and creating automated monitoring processes that help clients proactively maintain their network environments and databases in the long term.

Commitment, flexibility, and collaboration are the keystones of the NaaS service that CBTS employs for all of its clients. By utilizing the latest technology available and anticipating the needs of its customers, CBTS stays ahead of the curve and consistently delivers intuitive, effective, and future-forward managed solutions for organizations of every size.

Contact us for more information on how CBTS can enable your network infrastructure to be smarter and simpler.

Expert breakdown webcast series: Microsoft Teams in the Big Picture

Team collaboration is evolving quickly as companies strive to maintain smooth operations and meaningful interactions, whether working from home or utilizing traditional office environments.

Service providers, master agents, partners, and customers alike are exploring new tools and channel options with a multitude of questions about the future of communication. To tackle these questions and help you navigate the solutions, CBTS will host a three-part webcast series during which our experts will break down Microsoft Teams in the Big Picture.

Through three engaging discussions, this series will explore the most pressing issues and opportunities surrounding collaboration tools today. Below is an overview of what we’ll cover.

Webcast Series 3.1: Comparing collaboration platforms

In the first installment of this webcast series, the team of CBTS experts will compare major collaboration platforms including Cisco Webex Teams and Microsoft Teams. By examining the benefits and downsides of each platform, this webcast will explore how different collaboration tools integrate with Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to provide a seamless experience from the desktop to the cloud.

The first webcast will feature insights from CBTS experts including Justin Rice, Senior Solutions Architect; Matt Douglass, Senior Director of Solution Engineering; and Alex Broome, Senior Sales Engineer.

Secure your spot now for this webcast, scheduled for Wednesday, September 16, at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Sign up here

Webcast Series 3.2: Taking a technical deep dive

In the second session of this Expert Breakdown series, we’ll take a technical deep dive into Cisco Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams Direct Routing, and UCaaS.

We’ll evaluate how Direct Routing connects Microsoft Teams to SIP trunks and third-party voice applications. Then, we’ll highlight the game-changing advantages of combining the Cisco Webex Teams toolset with Cisco UCaaS integrations from CBTS.

Join our duo of technical experts—Chris Pope, Director of Solution Design, and Matt Douglass, Senior Director of Solution Engineering—to take a closer look at these integration issues.

Reserve your virtual seat today for this webcast, scheduled for Wednesday, September 23, at 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Register here

Webcast Series 3.3: Exploring work-from-home collaboration

The final webcast of the series will explore how companies can use remote collaboration tools to excel in today’s new work-from-home environment. Through a live panel discussion moderated by CBTS Channel Chief Rob Messmer, several cloud experts will analyze how collaboration tools like UCaaS and SD-WAN can elevate remote work productivity like never before.

A panel of experts—featuring Cisco Cloud Calling Specialist Bryan Wilson, Director of Cloud Networking Jon Lloyd, and Senior Director of Solution Engineering Matt Douglass—will confront the biggest questions, challenges, and opportunities surrounding remote collaboration. By the end of the conversation, your business will be better equipped to make the most of working from home.

Tune in to participate in the live Q&A, scheduled for Wednesday, September 30 at 1 p.m. EDT.
Reserve your spot here

Navigating all the different platforms and potential pitfalls of today’s rapidly shifting communications experience can be a challenge, whether you have sophisticated IT resources or a one-person IT department. That’s why CBTS designed this new webcast series to explore Microsoft Teams in the Big Picture and guide companies through the maze of collaboration tools impacting operations in every industry.

Join our three-part webcast series to find answers to your biggest collaboration questions.

Register for Webcast Series 3.1

Register for Webcast Series 3.2

Register for Webcast Series 3.3

CBTS and state administrators collaborate to prepare for overwhelming call volume

While the health impact of COVID-19 on the world has been devastating and tragic, the economic impact in the United States has also been profound. As businesses shuttered to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, revenues dropped and jobs were lost, leading to record high unemployment figures across the country.

In this particular state, layoffs and furloughs were occurring at staggeringly rapid rates over a matter of weeks. As a result, calls for assistance and applications for benefits began to flood and overwhelm the state’s Department of Jobs and Family Services (JFS). The JFS office’s contact center normally handles an average of 12,000 calls per day, but that number spiked to more than 1 million calls in a day and eventually settled on approximately 800,000 calls per day.

Additional issues included busy signals and dropped calls that callers often received when trying to contact the JFS office. End users were also not confident that their claims were being processed even in the event they managed to speak with a JFS agent, due to the lack of benefit status updates.

Fortunately, JFS personnel had anticipated the need to keep up with the drastically increased call volume. The JFS office engaged CBTS to help them manage the overwhelming number of calls to address the various service issues that constituents were facing. CBTS was able to design and implement a solution within a week’s time. The solution included scaling existing call paths, organizing remote call center operations, and designing and configuring a new IVR solution.

Sorting out the chaos

CBTS stepped in with a customized suite of telecommunications solutions to enable JFS agents to cope with the massive call volume they were facing while also improving the user experience for constituents seeking assistance during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the solutions implemented was a self-service system designed to allow JFS applicants to manually check the status of their claims. All of the JFS Unemployment directory numbers were sequestered into separate carrier trunks to increase available bandwidth and reduce strain on the rest of the state agencies. Additionally, the contact center capacity was optimized by 400% to allow for all callers to be answered by automation or an agent.

Remote access licenses for Jabber softphones were also increased and extended to hundreds of additional users, boosting the number of available call center agents. Cisco’s Unified IP Interactive Voice Response (IVR) was deployed at a large scale specifically to answer mass layoffs by major companies.

Another improvement implemented was the redirection of calls away from busy signals to holding messages, which engaged constituents and informed them that their calls would be answered momentarily or offer self-service options to every caller.

Lastly, an extensive effort was made to design and deploy an optimized IVR system to generate responses to benefit inquiry, simplify call tree structures, and create more efficient queue management programs. Moving forward, CBTS will be partnering with the state’s JFS to introduce new functionality that will provide tier one agents with basic caller benefits status info that will assist them in answering initial questions. Callback scheduling will also be used to address more advanced questions that can’t be answered by tier one agents at the time.

CBTS and the state’s JFS planned ahead and collaborated closely to prepare for a pressing issue that would prevent vulnerable citizens from accessing the assistance they needed. The standard reporting and dashboard programs built for this client are part of an ongoing process to optimize solutions in accordance to customer experiences.

Contact a CBTS specialist today for more information on what a customized Cisco collaboration solution can do for your enterprise or government organization

Meet Justin Hall, Director of Security Services

Tell us a little about yourself.

Well, I was born at a very young age (apologies for dad jokes right out of the gate!).

Born and raised here in Cincinnati, grew up in Colerain Township, and I’ve been a nerd since age four, sitting with my dad, goofing around on our Commodore 64. I’ve been in IT for 24 years, starting from computer repair and sales, to tech support, to running an IT shop. Fifteen years ago I jumped into cyber security here at CBTS, first as an engineer, then architect, and now overseeing our security consulting program.

I’m a husband, dad, follower of Jesus, and I still geek out about technology. You’ll also find me gaming, cooking, sailing, and sipping some bourbon.

Justin Hall, Director of Security Services CBTS

How have you seen your job and the field in general change since you began your career?

In the mid-90s there was no cybersecurity industry, and there wasn’t much of one in the mid-2000s either. As threats have matured, so has the concerted effort to protect our data and assets from them. It’s been really fun to be a part of that, to see new technologies emerge, formal higher-ed programs to train practitioners, and most of all, to see the community grow. The cybersecurity community—the loose, informal network of practitioners that gather at meetings and conferences—is pretty special, and I think more than any other area of growth in the past few decades, has done more to better our collective ability to defend against threats.

With those changes, how has your interaction with our clients changed?

I don’t have to work as hard to convince leaders and executives that they should take cyber security seriously. The question nowadays isn’t “should I invest resources into protecting my data?” it is “how do I do it?” We are fortunate to have a customer base that’s been smack in the middle of that transition for the past few years, because as a team and a company, we’re really good at having that conversation. That said, it’s still surprising how few of our customers have developed a formal information security program, and if I have a passion in my day-to-day work, it’s evangelizing that idea: a security program is essential in 2020.

How do you stay on top of new developments and skills to learn?

It’s definitely not as easy as it once was. I spend more time in PowerPoint than PowerShell nowadays, which I often lament; it means I have to carve out personal time to learn things like cloud security, DevOps, and containers. Just because I’m a manager doesn’t mean my customers will forgive my ignorance about modern IT.

I have a lab at home and try to spend time with new tools periodically. I stay close to the community, and watch a lot of talks, training, and how-to videos on YouTube and LinkedIn Learning. More than anything, I learn from my team—the technical consultants that do our assessments—since they are the folks doing the hard work day-to-day of assessing our customers and, as a result, have the best understanding of the tools, tactics, and procedures used by attackers.

What are some of your favorite aspects of information security?

First, it’s never, ever boring. As a consultant I get to talk to a new customer, in a different industry, with new challenges, every week. As someone who gets bored easily, it’s perfect!

Second, there’s a nobility to the cause. We’re not solving world hunger or saving lives or improving justice for the oppressed, but as technical jobs go, we make a dent in the world. It means something that I spent my day helping a hospital protect its medical devices, or a manufacturer protect its shop floor so that its workers can get paid.

Third, the community is wonderful. The crew I work with are some of my favorite people, and the larger community—especially here in southwest Ohio—is really great, made up of smart, passionate, fun folks that love to help each other grow and learn.

What advice do you have for students who are looking to go into information security?

Do it! We need you. The jobs gap is continuing to grow, and so now’s a great time to jump in feet first. I wrote a three part blog series a few years ago on what I see as the three key paths to starting a career in infosec. One, develop a broad knowledge of enterprise IT. Two, learn how the attacker thinks and what they’re after. Three, get comfortable with the tools and frameworks we use to protect our assets and data.

Any final thoughts?

I’ve really found a professional home at CBTS. Our CEO, Leigh Fox, likes to talk about the culture here as an “engineer’s playground,” and I’ve found that to be true. I’m surrounded by the best technical talent in the region, because this is a place that recognizes, rewards, and promotes smart people. I also like that Leigh pushes the idea of servant leadership, and that he does more than talk the talk—he leads by example. I’m incredibly proud to have spent 15 years here and look forward to the next 15.

Learn how Justin and his team at CBTS can help improve your organization’s security posture.

Meet Tim Linder, Director of Security Solutions

Today I sat down with Tim Linder, Director of Security Solutions at CBTS. Tim has been in the security industry for 17 years so we thought it would be interesting to get his perspective of the changes in cybersecurity over those 17 years and how he’s grown the CBTS security practice.

Introduce yourself.

I started my career in cyber security with a small information security consulting boutique in late 2003…before it was cool to be in the security world. I joined CBTS in 2006 with a vision of building a team that would be based on delivering value-added benefits to our customers. However, I was the entire team focusing on selling solutions and leveraging partner relationships to deliver services. Within the first year of our existence, we were able to develop trusted relationships with our customers and ended up with approximately $7MM in revenue. As years went by, we added more sales and technical resources as well as more vendor partners. We closed out 2019 with $45MM in revenue and 15 employees which is pretty amazing to me.

Tim Linder, Director of Security Sales at CBTS
Tim Linder,
Director of Security Solutions, CBTS

How did you get into information security?

Let’s just say it wasn’t planned, as IT and IT Security wasn’t anywhere on my radar. My career started off in telecom as a central office implementation engineer. I was in that role for a number of years learning as much as I could about telecom implementation eventually joining the Telecom Staffing business as a salesman. From 2000 to 2002 the telecom bubble hit terrible lows and I found myself needing a different career path. I took a job at a small security boutique in Cincinnati and began to learn about Check Point firewalls and antivirus. After being there for a short time I was sold on the industry, finding it exciting and rewarding all at once. After three years of learning the industry, I was afforded the opportunity to come to CBTS to develop a security practice.

What were the “top of mind” security topics when you first started at CBTS and how does that compare to what you currently hear from customers?

It’s interesting. We are still dealing with some of the same challenges that we faced in 2003 but with some notable differences. Back in the day, hackers were putting out viruses, worms, etc. for notoriety. They wanted everyone to know who was wreaking havoc in the technology world. In our current world, hackers need to remain anonymous because they’re building attacks to make money. Another major change is back in 2003, workers were in the office on their desktop computer. With the emergence of technologies, remote workers grew, devices changed, and security changed with the endpoint. Customers used to throw gear at a problem without thinking of risk. I think now you will find that everyone is most concerned about the risk associated with certain technical business decisions and therefore take a holistic approach with security.

What do you see as the main value your group offers customers?

I really look at our group as super consultative, which allows us to assist customers by understanding all the requirements of a project…meaning business, technical, and financial requirements. We don’t come into any situation or project with preconceived ideas of how we will tackle their issue. A huge positive about my team is that most of them have defended networks in their career. Whether it was with a large Fortune 5 or a small consulting firm, my team has spent time on the customer side which helps them empathize with our customers, making them more relatable. We also have a vast variety of skillsets on the team, and by working together, we bring a broad base of expertise to our customers.

Security professionals are difficult to find – how are you able to grow such a dedicated team?

You’re so right, good security professionals are so difficult to find but we’ve been blessed to have some of the best and brightest in the industry. Some of the folks on the team are folks that I’ve worked with since my career began, some are from when I first started at CBTS with contacts I made in the industry, colleagues of current engineers, or recommendations from our vendor partners. One of the things we focus on here on my team is integrity. Obviously they need the skillset and the desire to learn more. As for keeping them, I’ve really tried to provide a family atmosphere. What that means is that we are there for each other through thick and thin, helping each other with different tasks, issues, in both work and life. The other major reason we keep our talent and attract new is due to their ability to work such diverse projects whether it’s product related or focused on the consulting business. The vast amount of customers we support and diverse situations the customers put us in keeps the job interesting. The engineering crew eats that up for sure.

You’re responsible for vendor relationship, how do you choose which partners you go to market with?

I am responsible for our vendor partnerships which is now up to 70+ security partners, which can be a daunting task sometimes. There are multiple criteria that go into selecting a security partner here at CBTS. Is the company relevant in the industry, do they fit our strategy, is there demand in the industry, are they innovative, could we potentially offer managed services, and good support, to name just a portion of considerations. A number of our partnerships have spawned from relationships we’ve had for years due to the trust built by the sales and engineering folks. IT is a small enough industry but when you narrow it down even further, cyber security is even smaller. As a matter of fact, most trade shows I go to I refer to them as a family reunion because I see everyone I’ve worked with for the last 17 years.

I also look at the mindset of the company and its employees to see if they align with our same “Customer First, Customer Last” mindset. One of our vendors has this as their tagline and I’ve adopted for our team as well as in selecting partners for CBTS. Our partner’s attitude needs to be one of helping our customers and not just selling product. The ones that do this are the most successful here.

With the new work environment, corporate networks edge has expanded – how has that changed security?

The edge really has expanded from data centers to cloud to remote workers. That has driven the need to be more secure than we ever have. We need to make sure that data in the cloud is just as secure as the data in our data center. We also have to make sure that we make that remote user feel as though he/she is sitting in the office from an experience and security perspective. Can we trust that cloud providers and users are doing enough to protect corporate data? I don’t think so, which means we need to continue to be vigilant in securing data without impacting productivity.

Learn how Tim and the other experts at CBTS can help improve your organization’s security posture.