Microsoft 365 Business Voice: Always Stay Connected
Why are so many companies turning to Microsoft 365 Business Voice? A big part of the drive is that so many organizations are already using Microsoft Teams. With the recent boom in remote work, Teams has become an integral part of routine business operations for many enterprises. This solution is typically used as a business communications system through Teams. It acts as a logical replacement for traditional telephony providers and seamlessly integrates with existing Teams clients. Considering all the benefits of Teams, adding purpose-built enterprise voice functionality is an easy choice.
This enterprise voice solution is an excellent choice for all businesses using Teams as their collaboration tool today. Microsoft Teams Voice empowers businesses to take advantage of all Microsoft Teams collaboration features while also fully integrating CBTS’ robust VoIP core capabilities like contact center, AI-enabled IVR, call recording, advanced analytics and call reporting, and many more advanced applications enterprise requires.
And because Voice integrates with Teams, you can turn any computer, phone, or tablet into a phone that uses your business voice number. Remote team members using Microsoft Teams can respond to calls anytime and anywhere. When you make the transition, you’ll be able to keep your existing phone numbers by porting them over to the new enterprise voice interface.
Whether you’re looking for a better way to keep your remote workers connected or wanting to bundle your communications and cut costs, Microsoft 365 Business Voice can help. Seamless communication, both online and offline, is key for a business of any size. Teams Voice is the easiest way for growing businesses to stay connected no matter what their conditions require. It’s ideal for companies of any size that need integrated communications with Teams-enabled clients. When you make the switch to Teams Voice, you get the following features and more:
Phone system — Standard phone features including voice mail, caller ID, call menus, shared phone lines, and emergency calling.
Domestic calling — Calls within your country or region are free. International plans and toll-free dialing are also available.
Video and audio conferencing — Host conference calls with people who don’t have collaboration applications or a reliable Internet connection.
How to make the switch to Microsoft 365 Business Voice
Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity suite is one of the most powerful business tools available. Working with a certified Gold Microsoft Partner like CBTS ensures that you get informed recommendations based on your unique IT environment and business needs. Even if you’re already using Office 365, CBTS can help you optimize how you use it and integrate Microsoft 365 Business Voice.
Leverage franchise technology solutions to foster a satisfying customer experience
The fast-casual restaurant business is no longer defined by simply serving meals with speed and convenience. Modern customers expect a comfortable and welcoming experience, from the time they order to when they leave the restaurant.
With this climate in mind, many corporate restaurant entities and franchise operators are investing in purpose-built technology solutions. These innovations take many shapes, but examples include app-based ordering systems, drive-through operations optimized by smart tablets, and more.
However, these tools are only as useful as the networks that power them. To make the most of cutting-edge customer service technology, corporate enterprises and franchise owners alike must improve their in-store networks. Managed Network as a Service (NaaS) by CBTS could be the ideal method for taking your business network to the next level.
Restaurants are rethinking drive-through lanes, using networked mobile devices to process orders faster and instill brand loyalty.
In-store Wi-Fi is no longer optional—customers expect to be able to enjoy a steady Internet connection while they dine.
If your restaurant doesn’t offer the option of ordering through a streamlined web page or mobile app, you’re falling behind the pack.
What holds restaurant networks back
When foodservice organizations grapple with the issue of modernizing the networks that support their stores, roadblocks aren’t uncommon. Some enterprises struggle to cut through the entanglement of sluggish long-term contracts with multiple service providers. Others are held back by licensing agreements that can prove frustrating to break out of.
Another common trial faced by restaurants is the issue of network consistency. Corporate entities and even franchise owners often find it challenging to maintain consistent network performance across disparate locations.
These obstacles lead to one result: many restaurant enterprises and franchise owners face overwhelming difficulty in implementing advanced technology solutions.
Businesses of any size and vertical can benefit from the cost savings and high-end performance of NaaS by CBTS. However, foodservice organizations are uniquely positioned to drive results and reduce expenses with this managed solution. At the same time, they can position their brands for the next generation of franchise technology solutions.
Downtime can be deadly for restaurants, which is why CBTS works closely with clients to deploy NaaS on demanding deadlines. This means NaaS by CBTS quickly delivers tailored networks that offer consistent performance across multiple storefronts and devices. Moreover, around-the-clock support from CBTS means owners and managers can worry less about network upkeep and focus on serving customers.
NaaS is also built to be flexible and scalable. As businesses grow and add additional franchises, restaurant enterprises can rest assured that their networks will grow with them. This flexibility also means organizations can adjust and customize their networks on the fly with minimal disruption.
Enabling the next generation of franchise technology solutions
The very concept of fast-casual restaurant service has taken on a new dimension. The customer experience is of high importance and modern customers expect convenience through technology as well. Capabilities such as checking the status of an order through a mobile app or table-mounted smart display are increasingly common. But these solutions need robust and reliable in-store networks to function.
With CBTS as your cloud networking provider, you can equip your restaurant with the conveniences your customers expect. At the same time, you can reap the rewards of lower networking expenses, simplified billing, dependable performance, and much more.
Read the full case study to learn how NaaS by CBTS prepared dozens of Arby’s locations to leverage new franchise technology solutions.
The widespread benefits of Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is a cloud-based team collaboration software and makes up a part of the Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suite of applications. Core features and benefits of Microsoft Teams include business messaging, calling, video meetings, and file sharing.
As a 15-year Microsoft-certified partner, CBTS can help customize an organization’s unique business functions while pointing users to a myriad of best-in-class features available within the Microsoft Teams platform. Microsoft Teams is especially useful for remote work, as it keeps dispersed groups of workers connected and communicating.
Enterprises can utilize Microsoft Teams to create customized video meetings, engage employees in chat-based workspaces, and collaborate on documents in real-time. This blog will illuminate the many benefits of Microsoft Teams that can make your meetings easy and enjoyable and further enhance productivity with integrated voice.
Messaging and video round out the dynamic Microsoft Teams package
One of the several benefits of Microsoft Teams is its ability to enable local and remote workers to communicate in real time across different devices. The platform also integrates with other Microsoft business applications such as Exchange, PowerPoint, and SharePoint.
On the features side, Microsoft Teams is built around clear communication with a side order of fun. Key features include:
Messaging chat – Teams is a chat-based workspace that combines individual messaging with threaded and persistent conversations. When sending an important message that needs to be seen immediately, users can simply change the delivery option to “Urgent.” This will show the receiver that their attention is desired ASAP.
Alongside one-on-one chats and voice and video calls, users can incorporate emojis, GIFs, and images into conversations. With the emoji feature, for example, you can add your appreciation and joy to online communication. Meanwhile, sending an amusing GIF to co-workers may be just the ticket to brighten up their day.
Video meetings – In addition to audio-only calls, participants can conduct virtual meetings. Microsoft Teams offers some key videoconferencing benefits such as customized virtual backgrounds, meeting recording functionality, transcription, whiteboarding, and breakout rooms.
Microsoft Whiteboard is a “digital canvas” bringing together people, content, and ideas. Whiteboard is automatically enabled for applicable Microsoft 365 tenants, though users can also sign in via Windows, iOS, and Microsoft Teams. To enable or disable Whiteboard:
Go to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center.
On the Admin Center home page, go to the Search box on the top right, then type “Whiteboard.”
In the search results, click “Whiteboard Settings.”
Go to the “Whiteboard” panel, then toggle “Turn Whiteboard on or off for your entire organization” to On.
Webinars – Microsoft Teams supports interactive meetings and webinars for up to 1,000 attendees, while Teams webinars can accommodate 10,000 people in a view-only broadcast. Larger broadcasts of 20,000 viewers are available until the end of 2021 due to the surge in pandemic-spurred remote work.
Teams – Teams are groups of people who connect through the platform and work together on projects.
Channels – Within each team, users create channels to organize communications by topic.
Tabs – Located at the top of each channel, tabs link users to files, apps, and services.
Mentions – Users can use mentions to message and alert other participants.
Feeds – The activity feed provides a summary of messages, replies, mentions, and other activity happening within team channels.
Threads – A series of messages creates a thread; within the tread, users can schedule voice and video meetings.
Calling – Integrated Microsoft Teams Voice with your existing PBX or have CBTS manage your Microsoft 365 portal for your calling.
Screen sharing – As the name implies, the screen sharing function permits users to share their desktop screens in real time during Teams calls or video meetings.
Calendar – Teams features extensive calendar capabilities so employees can track their work week, meetings, and daily appointments. Teams calendars are also highly integrated with Microsoft Outlook calendars.
File sharing – Through this document management feature, remote employees can store, share, and edit files with Teams.
External collaboration – The “Guest” feature in Microsoft Teams enables users to invite people from outside their organizations to join internal channels for messaging, meetings, and file sharing. Teams Connect is an additional external collaboration option that gives companies a shared workspace in which to chat, meet, and edit documents.
Microsoft Teams: the ideal communication choice for your company
As a Microsoft Gold Partner and Cisco Gold Partner, CBTS is in a position to design, deliver, and implement many benefits of the Microsoft Teams platform and integrated Microsoft Teams Voice. CBTS also offers around-the-clock support, which gives organizations the collaboration infrastructure they need to thrive today and into the post-pandemic era.
To learn more about the benefits of Microsoft Teams, click here.
Three Advantages of Managed IT Services for Healthcare
There’s no question that the healthcare field has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Resources have been stretched thin and organizations have been forced to adapt to an unprecedented and dire situation.
Hospital contact center employees and other non-medical staff were among the many professionals to embrace remote work early on. While this adaptation kept staff safe and vital medical services operational, it also revealed an opportunity for improvement. As healthcare organizations expanded their networks to accommodate remote employees, many realized that their network technology was lacking.
1. Empowering and safeguarding remote work with SD-WAN and NaaS
SD-WAN is a trusted and cutting-edge technology solution that revitalizes aging network infrastructure for the cloud era. While many verticals can benefit from this functionality, healthcare enterprises are uniquely positioned to embrace SD-WAN to its full potential.
Many hospitals have historically relied on Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) infrastructures that offer privacy but tend to be expensive. Legacy MPLS can also lead to jumbled network atmospheres bloated with disparate connections. The vendor-agnostic nature of SD-WAN makes carrier diversity a strength rather than a weakness. By virtualizing networks, it allows hospitals to deploy whatever form of connectivity is needed regardless of licensing agreements.
Instead of needing hundreds of MPLS circuits to network all their devices, SD-WAN gives hospitals one streamlined, unified interface. This “single pane of glass” lets doctors, nurses, administrators, and support staff access every endpoint from anywhere in the network.
What makes SD-WAN an ideal managed IT service for healthcare, however, is the remote work capability it offers. When contact center employees and other non-medical personnel were sent home due to COVID-19, secure and reliable connections were critical. SD-WAN allows these employees to safely access hospital databases remotely without fear of sensitive data breaches.
Additionally, NaaS by CBTS can be deployed as a business model to standardize hospital communications systems. Healthcare networks tend to grow by absorbing the infrastructure of smaller organizations, leading to cluttered and patched-together phone systems. NaaS can be used to streamline each voice asset through a single provider to keep costs low and facilities running smoothly.
Many hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare organizations struggle with an overabundance of communication systems—from landline phones to two-way radios. In many cases, these organizations were reluctant to make the switch to cloud voice until 2020. When the COVID-19 pandemic made remote work a necessity, the benefits of cloud voice technology in healthcare became clear.
In the healthcare field, where lives hang in the balance each day, efficient communication is paramount. That’s why leading clinicians and hospital administrators across North America are embracing UCaaS as an advanced communications solution. UCaaS transforms networks of traditional handsets into hybrid communications models that combine existing devices with cloud voice applications. As a managed service, UCaaS by CBTS also offers predictable expenses and ongoing ground-level support to ensure dependable performance.
The last thing medical professionals need to worry about is whether their phone systems work. Managed IT services for healthcare like UCaaS can be leveraged to mitigate this issue.
3. Integrating security measures into each layer of the network
Network security is a top concern for much of the enterprise world, but especially so for healthcare organizations. With hospitals and clinics processing and storing sensitive patient data every day, breaches must be prevented at all costs. To meet these standards, healthcare leaders are seeking out network security that accounts for every possible contingency.
SASE by CBTS tackles this challenge by implementing industry-leading firewalls at the edge of globally distributed cloud networks. This means every networked device can be as secure as the internal data center, with no weak links left vulnerable.
This solution is complemented by an industry-leading cloud security implementation process that starts with a thorough assessment by CBTS engineers. CBTS is capable of moving every security measure into the cloud, meaning security is no longer tied to physical buildings. This cloud-native approach marries well with the managed IT services for healthcare mentioned above.
Evolve your enterprise with these managed IT services for healthcare
New technologies change the face of medicine on a regular basis, and healthcare organizations often struggle to keep pace. That’s where managed services come in. A trusted partner can help your enterprise utilize the benefits of cloud technology in healthcare while mitigating risk and simplifying expenses.
Contact CBTS today to learn how managed IT services for healthcare can take your hospital or clinic to the next level.
Top 4 cloud solutions that will improve patient outcomes
How UCaaS is changing the face of education communication solutions
Colleges and universities must be prepared for any number of disruptions, a lesson learned over the last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. And with any disruption, communication is key.
Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) from CBTS is becoming a widely adopted tool for higher education leaders seeking to keep pace with the modern digital world. Forward-looking institutions are turning to UCaaS solutions for help navigating an IT environment that is becoming more unwieldy to manage and finance.
Evolving technology demands IT expertise and a large-scale upfront capital outlay that most schools can neither staff nor afford. Without expert support, poor security compliance and protection can erode the trust among an institution and its students, parents, faculty, and additional constituents.
UCaaS offers integrated cloud-based education communication solutions and services, all supported by trained staff, available with predictable monthly pricing, and capable of scalability for physical or virtual campus locations. Active support from CBTS reduces the burden of network upkeep and allows for a greater focus on the development of services that address the unique needs of students and faculty.
This article will detail the education communication solutions by CBTS, especially for entities ready to make the transition from legacy networks to cloud-based solutions.
Compared to other sectors, higher education is historically slow in adopting new innovations, including the paradigm shift associated with modern cloud-based solutions. It’s imperative for education CIOs to understand how the long-term benefits of cloud migration outweigh the temporary disruption of restructuring existing IT staff and services.
Put simply, the future is now, as the rapid pace of technological change can wreak havoc on higher education budgets. Savvy educators choose CBTS UCaaS for strategic cloud services that continuously deliver updated technologies and analytics, as well as tech support from anywhere on the planet.
Five ways UCaaS can help transform higher education:
Increased operational efficiencies
Improved safety and security
Enabling next-generation learning
Leveraging crucial education data
Seamless connection to an expanding network environment
Five communication solutions UCaaS offers the education sector
Unified communications requires multiple functions to work together while enabling departments and colleges to function independently. Strategic technologies assist schools in boosting academic quality, which fosters innovation and improves student retention—goals that can no longer be tethered to legacy technology platforms and practices.
As effective communication across all departments is key, UCaaS integrates communication channels, so that voice, teleconferencing, and messaging are woven into the student experience whenever and wherever they are needed.
Through UCaaS, educational institutions can:
Deliver seamless, simplified communications.
Offer single-number reach.
2) Better-quality security
Managing data storage, compliance, and security is a prime concern of education leaders seeking new communication solutions, considering most higher education institutions can’t afford the costly blowback from a massive data breach. UCaaS solutions protect enterprise data against potential assaults thanks to network segmentation backed by qualified CBTS experts. Schools using UCaaS can also:
Enhance staff response during a crisis.
Easily share emergency messages, or send them in a simultaneous, real-time broadcast.
Expedite communications with first responders.
Notify parents and emergency contacts within minutes of an incident.
With the pandemic accelerating a need for reliable remote teaching, UCaaS can make a key difference in how your institution reaches young learners. From utilizing online sources and class notes to communicating easily with professors or improving how students submit projects, UCaaS integration provides campuses with a singular solution rather than a confusing mix of vendors, software, and solutions. By including UCaaS in day-to-day operations, colleges can:
Provide cost-efficient IP-based phone services.
Enable communications and collaborative learning.
Give students and faculty access to global resources.
Data analytics tools can help schools find and retain students while identifying demographic trends that offer a competitive edge. This strategic analysis allows institutions to parse enrollment data alongside factors contributing to waning admissions.
At the governing level, business intelligence tools supported by CBTS give decision-making insight about every aspect of managing and sustaining a higher education enterprise. Education communication solutions from CBTS come with a single-pane management design, delivering operational analysis via dashboards and real-time displays.
5) Seamless connections
As campus footprints expand both physically and virtually, continuous connectivity will keep your entire digital universe operating as a single unit. UCaaS presents an integrated package of innovations that scales to both current needs and any future expansion.
A competitive edge through UCaaS
Migrating to UCaaS cloud-based services is a must for educators seeking to take their institutions into a competitive, secure, and future-forward academic landscape.
How Cisco Connected Justice modernized a county justice system
Remote accessibility has been a common goal for the professional workforce for the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to adapt to public health safety measures. These changes have been difficult to implement on an enterprise scale, and this difficulty is exaggerated for public services such as the justice system and regional courthouses.
These organizations are distinct from private sector businesses by nature of them being public institutions with strict security standards.
When a county court system in the midwestern U.S. struggled to virtualize its processes, it reached out for expert assistance.
That’s where Cisco Connected Justice came in.
Top five benefits of Cisco Connected Justice:
Ensures the secure continuity of government organizations without jeopardizing public health and safety.
Enables inmates to remotely conference with counselors, interpreters, visitors, attorneys, and more.
Allows for the complete virtualization of arraignments and other courtroom proceedings.
Streamlines rehabilitative programs and parolee supervision efforts.
Increases citizen engagement in the justice system and engenders trust between civilians and government institutions.
Enabling Cisco Connected Justice for lawyers, judges, and more
With inmates of the county justice system—as well as lawyers, courthouse staff, and the general public—requiring remote access to court services and functions, county leadership was in need of a virtualization solution that allowed for full accessibility without sacrificing on security or violating attorney/client privilege.
Ensuring that this virtualized courthouse solution would stand up to the future stresses that a government network would inevitably experience was also a primary concern.
CBTS, in partnership with Cisco, worked closely with the local justice system to implement Cisco Connected Justice, a suite of virtual conferencing solutions that would allow attorneys to interface directly with their clients via secure courtroom video conferencing, inmates to attend virtual court appearances, judges to confer with lawyers in private “side-rooms”, and more.
Through Cisco Connected Justice, these functions are available anytime, anywhere, from any authorized device.
Additionally, these solutions are built upon a flexible “plug and play” infrastructure that is designed to be easily updated, redeployed, and supported. This ongoing maintenance is critical for any entity that answers to taxpayers and has public-sector security and accountability standards to maintain.
For justice system agencies or government organizations in general, efficiency and ease of access are key. Virtualization solutions that enable courtroom video conferencing, such as Cisco Connected Justice, are steps forward in a widespread struggle to maintain public safety as well as efficiency in essential workplaces.
By empowering the justice system to deliver crucial services virtually, Cisco Connected Justice helped to maintain public health safety, improved the response time of associated government services, and cut various costs, including inmate transportation.
Benefits of investing in Cisco Connected Justice for lawyers and justice system administrators
For court systems and other publicly-accountable government organizations, it’s vital to be aware of the tools available to enable courtroom video conferencing and the many benefits they can deliver.
Cisco Connected Justice, when packaged with Cisco Webex, does more than simply enabling continuity of operations during an unprecedented pandemic: it grants easy and secure access to the justice system, increasing civic engagement and public trust.
The benefits don’t stop there.
Courtroom video conferencing solutions, when implemented properly, allow detention centers to more effectively quarantine inmates as needed; schedule telehealth appointments between inmates and doctors; arrange for remote educational programming, fully-virtualized court proceedings, and socially-distanced visitation procedures; and more. With solutions like Cisco Connected Justice, virtualized corrections departments and court systems can also remotely maintain rehabilitative programs for parolees.
Contact CBTS for more information on enabling video conferencing for lawyers and court systems with Cisco Connected Justice. Cisco Connected Justice can modernize the justice system for the COVID era.
LAN infrastructure from CBTS gives a boost to retail growth
The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified demand across all industries for modern networking technology that enables seamless and user-friendly collaboration. Retail is no different, as local area network (LAN) infrastructure gives merchants and customers alike access to actionable information anytime from any location. Benefits include:
Faster customer information processing.
An enhanced customer experience.
Increased sales and reduced costs.
Improved network performance.
Cloud-managed security cameras—the latest addition to the CBTS Network as a Service (NaaS) product line—are equipped with advanced sensors and work seamlessly within the Internet of Things (IoT) to streamline store operations, improve public safety measures, and optimize revenue without an increase in licensing costs.
LAN infrastructure also allows retailers to reduce spending associated with software and hardware development, maintenance, and staffing. Retailers can now deliver products and services at speed while monitoring data performance in real time.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the many ways in which innovations in LAN infrastructure from CBTS empower retail clients nationwide.
NaaS delivers a Wi-Fi-enabled network that boasts shared wireless connectivity and analytics across multiple locations. By harnessing NaaS, retailers can:
Spend less time and money managing expensive, complex resources such as LANs, appliances, switches, and application delivery controllers.
Provide customers with Wi-Fi connectivity for loyalty and award apps as well product information and reviews.
Use Wi-Fi to obtain customer travel paths and additional data for dissemination of personalized in-store promotions—wireless access points provide information on where the customer moves in store, which can help retailers design layouts and maximize foot traffic.
Cisco Meraki MV cameras are the newest feature of the ever-expanding CBTS product portfolio. By tapping into cloud-augmented edge storage, Meraki MV cameras eliminate the costs and complexities of traditional security camera systems.
Meraki MV cameras are managed centrally through the cloud, eliminating the need for in-house servers and enabling automatic firmware updates, bug fixes, and instant delivery of new features. Users with a retail cloud computing focus can stream and create video walls for monitoring critical locations without needing to configure IP or install plug-ins.
Updating your retail operations with LAN infrastructure
Smart wireless networks are a treasure trove of customer information that offer retailers valuable insights into customer behavior—from foot traffic patterns to time spent in store. Retailers can further improve customer experience and brand loyalty via branded landing pages, integrated applications, and push notifications.
Secure access service edge (SASE) is a network architecture that rolls SD-WAN and security into a cloud service, delivering simplified WAN deployment, improved efficiency and security, and appropriate bandwidth per application.
As a cloud service, SASE can be readily scaled up or down based on usage, an attractive option for retailers looking for a viable cloud computing option. SASE’s designation as a single service cuts overall complexity and cost, thanks to a decrease in hardware and the number of vendors retailers must meet with.
SASE also supports zero-trust networking, which bases access on user, device, and application rather than location and IP address. End users can therefore gain access without worrying about security becoming a focal point for future cyberattacks.
Ultimately, SASE allows businesses to respond to crises faster, ideally minimizing their impact. Additionally, SASE better positions stores to employ new innovations such as edge computing, 5G, and mobile AI.
By implementing UCaaS, businesses can replace outmoded voice-only systems and operate VoIP, room-based video, chat, web conferencing, and other real-time applications. UCaaS is a scalable cloud computing solution that improves the quality of voice calls while adding omni-channel features such as call reporting, video conferencing, and e-mail.
With UCaaS solutions from CBTS, retailers can increase productivity and eliminate upfront costs. Cisco’s Context Service, included in all CBTS contact center solutions, collects customer data from multiple channels and organizes it for use in marketing, sales, and other applications.
SD-WAN is another valuable cloud resource for retailers to manage services among UCaaS, LANs, software as a service (SaaS) applications, security systems, and private and public clouds.
Among its other benefits, SD-WAN minimizes delays over long distances and improves overall network quality. The technology allows cost-conscious merchants to maximize multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) costs, or even replace MPLS entirely and switch to broadband. SD-WAN can be deployed over MPLS and Ethernet as well as cable, fiber, DSL, Wi-Fi, and 4G cellular LTE.
LAN infrastructure in retail ensures business longevity
UCaaS, NaaS, and SD-WAN are subscription-based cloud computing solutions with usage-based monthly payments, meaning retailers won’t be responsible for upgrade costs or ongoing hardware and software licensing. Merchants can now better connect with customers, maximizing visitor data to develop beneficial business strategies and perfect customer service.
Cloud delivered SD-WAN and 5 fixes for networking obstacles
Businesses from nearly every industry and vertical are embracing the capabilities of Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN), especially in an age when it’s vital to empower remote workforces. But what exactly is SD-WAN?
Cloud-delivered SD-WAN explained
Simply put, SD-WAN technology is the natural result of business applications being migrated to the cloud. Most businesses are familiar with software and services like Office365, but businesses around the globe are also adopting cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. Disaster recovery and backup services are also increasingly being managed via the cloud.
As applications migrate to the cloud, so too are network functions—and that’s where cloud-delivered SD-WAN shines. By moving network operations to the cloud, businesses are no longer required to manage their communications infrastructures at the local level while also gaining improved visibility and analytical insight. From there, mission-critical applications can be layered into the cloud-delivered network. SD-WAN ultimately drives business outcomes by giving customers a better experience when accessing these applications.
Cloud-delivered SD-WAN software and cloud-based technologies:
Improve buisness agility with a software-defined solution that delivers faster deployment, on-demand bandwidth, and faster recovery.
Drive IT efficiency with automation and cloud management that takes the burden off in-house staff.
Reduce overall cost and stabilize IT budget management by eliminating data center upgrades and redesign costs.
Five remedies for remote or hybrid networking pain points
In the complicated global business environment, the versatility of hybrid and remote networking solutions enabled by cloud-delivered SD-WAN can grant a competitive edge—but only if they are implemented effectively. Enterprises often run into roadblocks when adopting a remote/hybrid networking strategy. Here are a few ways to minimize those obstacles:
1. Migrating your remote workforce onto the same network
Enterprises of all types and sizes have struggled over the past year to establish functional remote workforce networks. Given the chaotic conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder why so many remote workforce initiatives have suffered from limited performance. By partnering with a proven service provider like CBTS, a variety of remote work and internet-based connectivity solutions can be put into place using software-based virtualization—meaning your enterprise can benefit from greatly improved connection quality, reliability, and security.
2. Protecting your network with enhanced security across remote offices
With large numbers of employees working from home, many enterprises are finding their network security unsuitable for securing networks across a high volume of remote connections. An SD-WAN cloud security solution can easily be service chained with a cloud security solution to consistently deliver protection from external threats, including phishers, scammers, bots, and viruses—even as users access the network remotely. This reduces strain on your organization’s data center while providing peace of mind for remote employees.
3. Identifying opportunities for cost reductions while empowering remote workers
Especially at a time when operational expenditures are being inflated and complicated by the ongoing public health crisis, it’s critical to take advantage of cost savings wherever possible. Cloud-delivered SD-WAN accomplishes this by abstracting your organization’s network hardware and application transport characteristics to simplify management and enhance performance. This allows companies to replace expensive private WAN connections such as multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) by building higher-performance WANs that use lower-cost Internet access.
SD-WAN can improve your enterprise’s bottom line by:
Eliminating capital expenditures (CapEx), the traditional capital investment in IT infrastructure.
Leaving behind the complexity and high costs associated with building, sourcing, and supporting high-performance and leading-edge technology.
Allowing your organization to pay less for an agile, high-performance network.
4. Migrating applications to the cloud
With cloud-based applications becoming key components of modern business operations, network administrators are constantly on the lookout for new methods to ensure access and increase bandwidth availability. This is leading many organizations toward the cloud. A cloud solution that fits the unique needs of your enterprise can be a game-changer, but migrating critical applications to the cloud can also be difficult without a qualified partner.
5. Creating a more consistent and satisfying customer service
By embracing centralized, cloud-delivered SD-WAN functionality, enterprises can reduce the burden of managing disparate networking equipment across several locations, thereby creating more predictable performance and increasing quality of service. This has the desired end effect of allowing organization leadership to focus less on network management and more on long-term strategic initiatives and customer satisfaction.
How cloud-delivered SD-WAN improves operational efficiencies
The intelligent controls of SD-WAN are capable of managing public and private network connectivity within secure and reliable wide-area networks. Cloud-delivered SD-WAN is also able to automatically deploy and maintain these WANs using VPN and other technologies. This allows multiple sites to remain connected and supported via redundant 4G failover links.
SD-WAN’s efficiency-boosting features include:
Superior connection remediation with packet-duplication over single Internet links.
Connectivity-agnostic architecture capable of integrating public, private, and hybrid (public/private) networks and applications with automatic site-to-site VPN.
A centralized, policy-based management portal with Graphical User Interface (GUI)
Application enhancement and a high-quality user experience.
Dynamic link selection by aggregating multiple Internet connections and choosing the best path for traffic.
A suite of cloud networking solutions
To support organizations struggling to equip remote workers for success, CBTS has developed a suite of networking solutions designed to connect employees to reliable, secure bandwidth regardless of their location or the number of users or devices sharing the network. For decades, CBTS has been on a mission to optimize networks, making them more accessible and their users more productive. That mission continues with our latest CBTS remote worker bundles, including a Cisco Meraki Cloud Managed Security and SD-WAN Bundle, a VMware SD-WAN by VeloCloud Bundle, and a VeloCloud + Check Point Harmony Connect Hosted Cloud Security Bundle. These predefined remote network bundles are built to get clients up and running quickly in order to meet the challenge for today’s environments that demand flexibility with work-from-anywhere policies.
While it’s an understandable comparison to make, a truly thorough TCO analysis goes beyond the upfront capital expenditures and maintenance cost line items and considers all the key factors of a UCaaS adoption.
Here are a few of the areas your TCO analysis should cover:
UCaaS savings for your data center
A properly planned and implemented UCaaS solution can be a game-changer when it comes to your organization’s data center operations in terms of cost reductions, improvements in efficiency, and many other factors, including:
Servers and storage.
Software and virtualization.
Power and cooling.
Under a UCaaS solution, the provider is responsible for all of the above, reducing the workload on your internal IT staff and making for fewer expenses that impact your bottom line. With your UCaaS provider managing software procurement and maintenance, virtualization licensing and deployment, access control, and any compliance requirements unique to your industry, your enterprise can more freely focus on long-term strategic business goals instead of day-to-day communication operations.
These potential savings of both capital and personnel power should be taken into consideration in your total cost of ownership analysis.
How UCaaS can lead to IT staff savings
Many organizations struggle to keep up with the overabundance of daily management responsibilities that on-premises legacy communications networks demand. These burdens can include:
Service request management: IT staff have to be ready to respond to help tickets submitted by users.
Monitoring and response: The mission-critical nature of enterprise UC systems means that 24x7x365 readiness is a must-have, which in turn requires a large commitment of on-call tech specialists.
Updates and maintenance: Whenever bug fixes and upgrades are rolled out, careful planning and preparation are needed to ensure these updates are implemented smoothly.
Vendor and billing management: The process of billing and procurement with multiple solution vendors can be extremely tedious and time-consuming.
Disaster recovery and continuity: Communication infrastructures must be robust enough to continue operations and recover from disaster in case the unexpected occurs.
All of the above factors also demand a high standard of excellence from the IT experts hired to manage them. UCaaS providers take on the burden of recruiting, hiring, and managing the experts needed to keep these factors in check—reducing overhead for your internal staff and giving your IT teams valuable time back.
Cutting telecommunications spending with UCaaS
Telecom expenses can account for some of the greatest CapEx drain faced by modern enterprises, especially when considering the investments necessary to update and maintain legacy voice networks.
Under a UCaaS framework, the struggles inherent to traditional telecom systems are ameliorated by a customized, collaborative, and scalable managed solution that can easily incorporate new users, new devices, and new applications as needed—no new CapEx expenditure necessary. Additionally, the predictable monthly charge of a managed UCaaS framework means surprise expenses are a thing of the past.
UCaaS savings in an OpEx model
Another crucial component of your TCO assessment is a comparison of capital expenditure (CapEx) models and operational expenditure (OpEx) models, as this difference can be crucial information when making a decision regarding UCaaS adoption.
In a CapEx model, a large upfront investment of capital is needed to implement new technology or a new service, like an on-premises UC solution, for example. In addition to the upfront cost, this approach often involves ongoing maintenance costs as well.
In contrast, UCaaS functions as an OpEx model, meaning a fixed amount is spent per user. This makes it easier for enterprises to plan and budget for their UCaaS expenses, which are spread out over time as opposed to being concentrated in one large upfront capital investment.
The ability to adapt to changing conditions is another key factor that should be weighed in your total cost of ownership assessment, especially for enterprises with seasonal user bases that grow and shrink throughout the year.
With on-premises UC, adding or subtracting even a single remote site can eat up months; additionally, large capital expenditures may be required to increase capacity when user engagement surges. A UCaaS solution takes all of these factors out of the equation, offering unbeatable flexibility and agility when faced with shifting user counts.
The low initial capital costs of UCaaS technologies mean that it can also be onboarded on a trial basis, allowing an enterprise to “test drive” the solution and ensure it’s a fit for their organization’s unique needs.
A complete total cost of ownership analysis takes into account the above factors and usually results in substantial savings for UCaaS versus an on-premises solution.
Contact our team of experts for more information on how UCaaS can save your organization time and capital expenses.
Delivering effective online teaching tools for public educators
When shelter-in-place orders were given earlier this year, public schools were among the many organizations forced to adapt to the “new normal” quickly. One particular school district in Ohio was no exception. The district in question serves nearly 50,000 students, employs a staff of 8,500 teachers and administrators, and operates dozens of educational facilities, including elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as career technical schools.
Shifting each of these several components to a remote education framework was a daunting task, but the district had the skilled employees and partner necessary to pull it off.
Working closely with district personnel on a tight deadline, CBTS assisted in the design, planning, and launch of a suite of improved remote conferencing and collaboration tools for use by teachers, students, and administrators. Initially, the district’s remote conferencing system included around 100 users. Throughout the course of the new system’s deployment process, 10,000 new users were integrated. After the new capabilities were brought online, the total number of remote education and collaboration sessions exceeded 7,600 in April, compared to a high of 802 in March.
Learn how Webex enables virtual teaching and learning for primary education schools and improves administrative efficiency.
Defining the challenge
Early on in the process of modernizing the district’s online teaching tools, the academic community of the district sought a partner to ensure it had the network infrastructure, applications, and policies it needed to continue lessons throughout the pandemic. There was a wide variety of use cases to consider: teachers needed to be able to lead virtual classrooms with their students, students needed the capability to meet privately with instructors, administrators needed reliable contact with staff, and teachers and counselors needed to be able to reach students and their families at home.
Educators and IT specialists in the district were concerned that traditional collaboration platforms lacked the connection strength and security they were looking for. For example, Zoom sessions could be searched and accessed by uninvited participants. The district also hoped to give administrators and teachers the online teaching tools, such as Cisco Webex, that they needed to intuitively manage their classrooms while keeping education sessions secure.
Finding the solution
CBTS stepped in as not only a subject matter expert but as a partner dedicated to equipping the district with the right knowledge and capabilities to allow the 2019-2020 school year to continue with minimal disruption.
An extensive consultation process was initiated, during which CBTS worked closely with educators and administrators to define and plan for the multiple critical use cases the district needed to be addressed, from virtual classrooms to secure single sign-on and active directory integration for all employees and students. District personnel led the discussion around what they needed and how they needed it to be implemented.
Providing the online teaching tools was only a part of the equation, however. The district had little in the way of official policy guiding the proper use of these virtual collaboration applications. CBTS made specialized best practices training available for thousands of teachers in the district to acclimate them to remote teaching and prepare them to make the most use of their updated network and new conferencing programs.
When the strategy was decided on and district staff had been trained, deployment was executed on a very short timeframe, with a large number of new users requiring registration in the district’s active directory system. These directories were also updated to account for the substantial increase in student users of the system that would also need to be integrated into the single sign-on process.
These steps helped the district transition to fully-online instruction, with a record-high number of virtual sessions and meeting minutes being recorded in April. The district and its partners at CBTS are considering the implementation of virtual parent-teacher association meetings in the future as well.
Members of the local teacher’s union and IT administrators working at the schools themselves played a significant role in pushing for updates to the district’s remote education capabilities, seeking the expertise of CBTS to help make it happen.