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Why is SD-WAN Critical to Your IT Strategy

Part 1 – Legacy WANs are Complex. 

Historically, WANs (Wide Area Networks) are complex. In a distributed enterprise with multiple locations, you had to invest in dedicated MPLS circuits to connect all sites together.  Even then, you weren’t able to get the bandwidth necessary to truly meet the needs of your business.  For example, you’d have to purchase a T1 at all of your branch locations from your service provider for the MPLS connectivity.  That provider would then place a router at the edge of your network, which you do not have access to, route all traffic back to a head end.

In this type of deployment, you had one primary goal:  Give me a private, dedicated circuit to connect to my head end that has consistent quality and reliability to ensure by business does not suffer.

MPLS was a great solution at the time because the transition to the cloud really hadn’t started.  All of your compute (servers, etc), was still on premise, as were your applications and storage.  You HAD to connect back to a head end, so what better way than MPLS?

To meet this goal, you HAD to invest in this technology.  First off, lower cost bandwidth was nowhere near as reliable and you certainly couldn’t get quantity of bandwidth that is readily available today.  A simple cost/benefit analysis would prove that this just wasn’t an option.

The downside of the MPLS investment is two-fold:  1. Lack of bandwidth speed, and not easily scalable.  2. Lack of visibility.  Sure, you’re getting better quality and reliability – no argument there; however, you can’t truly see what’s happening across the MPLS network, you can’t guarantee control of your applications, and you have no real mechanism to hold your MPLS provider accountable if they are not meeting their SLA.

Part 2 – Movement to the Cloud. 

As the 2010s came around, there has been a historic shift to “Cloud Services”.  It’s almost cliché to a point, but it’s true.  There is such a large shift in cloud investments, that keeping services on premise is becoming a rarity.  For example, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure are making on premise compute and data centers essentially obsolete.  They make it so easy to spin up and migrate data centers to the cloud  that businesses are able to become more nimble than ever before.  The same rings true for phone systems.  You used to have to invest in a large phone system that would sit in a telecom closet somewhere in your facility.  If your building lost power, you were done.  Now, if you buy an on premise phone system you are in the minority.  Cloud Phone Systems give you so much more flexibility and features than an on-premise ever would.

Those two are the low hanging fruit, but let’s not forget about Software-as-a-Service.  The days of keeping local servers for applications such as email, customer relationship management, billing, etc. are long gone.  You can now move almost any application to the cloud to give you much better flexibility, quality, and reliability than ever before  The list goes on and on: Storage, Security, are just a couple of more examples.

This movement to the cloud has two HUGE implications if a business is still running on a legacy WAN.  1. Not enough bandwidth to support the demand of cloud applications.  2. Can’t guarantee quality and reliability to cloud-hosted applications outside of your existing WAN.

Part 3 – SD-WAN, Another Cloud Service

I mentioned in the last paragraph about all of the services moving to the cloud.  Why does the network have to be any different?  It doesn’t.  This is where SD-WAN comes in.  SD-WAN, by Industry Terms is:

The software-defined wide area network (SDWAN) is a specific application of software-defined networking (SDN) technology applied to WAN connections, which are used to connect enterprise networks – including branch offices and data centers – over large geographic distances.

In the MPLS days, as you are designing the network, you talk in terms of “What kind of bandwidth do I need at the branch location to connect back into my head end”, but there isn’t really a lot of talk around business outcomes.  That conversation changes with SD-WAN, where we start talking about Outcome-Based Networking. 

When we talk about Outcome Based Networking with our clients, we start asking about what applications are critical to your business in order for you to be successful.  Thus, what outcomes do you need from your WAN to make you succeed?

Learn more about SD-WAN from CBTS.

 

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First things first: What is SD-WAN?

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First things first: What is SD-WAN?

CBTS recently participated in an SD-WAN technology panel discussion at MicroCorp’s Ultimate Partner Training conference. I was pleased to join representatives from several other technology companies to help educate the audience on SD-WAN – which stands for Software Defined Wide Area Network – technology and its benefits to a wide variety of businesses.

The audience was made up of sub-agents, who serve as trusted IT advisors to businesses across the country. One key takeaway for me from the conference was the importance of providing customers with context around SD-WAN technology before diving into how the solution can help their businesses.

SD-WAN technology explained


SD-WAN technology is really the continuation of moving applications into the cloud. Most businesses are familiar with Software as a Service applications like Office365. Businesses are also increasingly embracing cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, and they often manage Disaster Recovery and Backup services through the cloud.

What we don’t talk about as much is how network functions are moving to the cloud – and that’s where SD-WAN technology is so powerful.  Businesses are used to managing their networks at a local level. By moving to the cloud, we can control and manage the network; provide visibility and analytics to the network; and provide insights that these businesses never had before over any connection.

Next, we layer mission-critical applications into the conversation. SD-WAN ultimately drives business outcomes by giving customers a better experience when accessing these applications.

CBTS was excited to share our thought leadership on SD-WAN technology at the MicroCorp conference, and we look forward to better helping you understand this powerful solution.

To learn more about the CBTS SD-WAN solution from VeloCloud, please contact us at www.cbts.com/contact.

 

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CBTS NaaS: Helping to Build the Next Generation of Explorers

How can a wireless access point create a lifelong dream to explore the world’s oceans?

Well the answer is simple. Well not “really” simple. But if the access point is located in an elementary school that leverages CBTS’ scalable Network as a Service (NaaS) solution, then the following scenario could unfold:

Miss Wheeler’s 2nd grade class has been waiting for this day all year.  The Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institute has selected her class to participate in a remote session with marine biologists aboard the research vessel Atlantis, which is currently located just off the Galapagos Islands.  The students will listen to and speak with the scientists about the research they are conducting.  The grand finale includes the children using remote technology to control the robotic arm of Alvin, the Institute’s advanced research submersible, a mile and a half deep and almost 3000 miles away.

The children are excited; a few have never seen anything like this before, growing up in the Midwest.  Miss Wheeler is excited for them and continues to check with Steve, the school’s IT administrator, who is on hand for the event to ensure everything will go smoothly.  She would hate to see the children disappointed as sometimes the school’s Internet can be a little questionable (apparently the 5th grade teachers like to binge watch The Great British Baking Show while their classes are at gym, lunch or recess, and use all the bandwidth).

Now Steve is comfortable because he knows the school system had recently converted to NaaS from CBTS, the most flexible, reliable, secure and scalable solution available to them.  Steve knows that CBTS manages the solution for him with a staff of world-class engineers and operators ready, at a moment’s notice, to solve any issue.  Steve also knows about The British Baking Show marathon so, at the click of a button, he requested a private SSID for this specific event with traffic shaping enabled, allocating priority to the remote session traffic.  All changes were executed on his existing NaaS hardware, with zero downtime and via rapid and flexible cloud management.  Oh, and he requested a filter for Nexflix traffic on the remainder of the network.

So ultimately, Steve can relax knowing that CBTS NaaS will do its part to ensure that Miss Wheeler’s 2nd grade class will enjoy their opportunity of a lifetime.  Miss Wheeler can smile as one little girl steps up to the screen and sees an image transmitted from 3000 miles away of a hydrothermal vent 1 ½ miles under the ocean, then reaches out and in real-time controls the robotic arm of a real submersible, fueling dreams of one day becoming a marine biologist herself.   Or that wireless access point could be from another less reliable solution. In this scenario, as the little girl steps excitedly up to the screen, her dream dies before it ever had a chance as she sees, “Safari cannot open page”.  While just down the hall, consuming all the school’s available bandwidth, the 5th grade teachers look on aghast as yet another baker is sent home for having presented a scone, which was just not round enough.

CBTS NaaS incorporates features designed to meet the needs of educational institutions of all sizes.  As solutions become more complex and the demand for growth, security and operational oversight increase, you need a solution to keep pace now and in the future.  CBTS NaaS provides the capabilities to meet and exceed those needs with key benefits such as:

  • Scalability
    • Designed for distributed environments
    • Grows with your needs
    • Reliable for high number of client devices
  • Flexibility
    • Self-maintaining devices automatically retrieve configurations/updates from the cloud
    • On-demand MACD
    • Plug-and-play device addition
  • Security
    • Segmented SSIDs for different user groups with full policy configuration
    • Detection and containment of wireless threats in real time
    • Identification of attack profiles: rogue SSID, spoofing, packet floods
    • Content and user filtering at the AP level
    • Application level throttling
    • Policy-based management: bandwidth limits, firewall/traffic shaping
  • Centralized Management
    • Aggregated visibility: sites, devices, users, applications
    • One click configuration change
    • Alerting
    • Auto VPN (SD-WAN) provides secure site-to-site connectivity
  • Intuitive reporting
    • Who is using the network: devices, users, applications, websites, ports, etc.
    • For what are they using it: bandwidth, application, individual client usage

Leveraging CBTS NaaS in your school system or campus environment provides the robust capabilities to ensure students of all ages have the ability to achieve great learning opportunities while giving IT administrators the peace of mind to know that the network is ready for what comes next.

And, our man Steve? He also knows that if, on a really slow day, he lets the 5th grade teachers watch The British Baking Show season finales, well, he’s got the pick of the doughnuts in the teachers’ lounge for life.

Network as a Service Transforms 6 Key Industries

The Network as a Service (NaaS) model for deploying and managing networks eliminates the costs associated with MPLS networks while easily adapting to the specific needs of different industries, such as retail, healthcare, and manufacturing. Until recently, organizations with multiple remote locations had no choice but to grapple with the costs and complexity of managing their own Wide Area Networks (WANs), including their wireless connectivity.

Adding to the pressure on IT staff, different locations have their own unique requirements. This is further complicated by the Bring Your Own Device phenomenon and the Internet of Things (IoT), which both require robust security, flexibility, and scalability to meet fluctuating demands.

With the emerging NaaS model for delivery of enterprise-wide connectivity, organizations can shift responsibilities for networking to a third party, just as they moved to deploying applications using the popular Software as a Service approach. The NaaS paradigm reflects the reality that deploying a network in a dynamic environment — whether a retail location or a healthcare facility — adds complexity to IT in terms of installation and ongoing management, regardless of company size.

Network as a Service Basic Functionality and Benefits

CBTS recognized this shift in WAN management by creating NaaS offerings that provide businesses with scalable methods of supporting, maintaining, expanding, and securing commercial networks. CBTS’s NaaS eliminates the capital expenses that come with building out individual networks or performing forklift upgrades to replace aging equipment that doesn’t meet traffic and application demands.

Many different industry verticals can benefit from replacing expensive MPLS networks with the flexibility of NaaS:

  • Retailers with multiple store locations and business offices can securely connect endpoints. These endpoints include increasing wireless point of sale devices and kiosks.
  • The NaaS paradigm is ideal for supporting temporary locations that deliver healthcare services. Healthcare services such as satellite clinics and short-term research labs within hospitals.
  • Taking the NaaS approach to factory-floor networking reduces capital costs and eliminates downtime. This is done by providing scalable, reliable connectivity in an industrial environment that’s primed to take advantage of IoT devices.
  • NaaS has security baked in, rather than requiring additional time and expertise to layer it on top of the network infrastructure. This makes it particularly well-suited for industries that handle Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as the financial sector, where breaches by hackers that result in leaked credit card data are a persistent threat.
  • Restaurant chains such as fast food franchises and coffee shops can easily provide network connectivity to new locations and securely segment their NaaS. For employee and customer use.
  • Finally, the budget-conscious, resource-constrained education sector can easily and securely accommodate both staff and student connectivity expectations through a NaaS deployment. A NaaS deployment offers superior performance when transmitting a wide variety of content, including HD video, software applications, voice, and data.

Regardless of the type of industry vertical, CBTS’s customized, fully-managed networking products bundle together cloud integration, security, switching, Wi-Fi, management, monitoring, VPN, and SD-WAN. In addition, CBTS NaaS is available as a utility pricing model for businesses across the United States. The full-stack NaaS offering includes 24/7/365 monitoring, management, and support in addition to upgrade services over any connection type for single locations and multiple branch offices.

Through NaaS offerings, CBTS supports the entire spectrum of network and IT infrastructure requirements. This occurs via leveraging a software-defined approach to networking that responds dynamically to application and traffic requirements. CBTS makes managing hybrid, public, and private networks with remote sites more affordable and less complex. With CBTS NaaS, businesses can migrate to a high-performance network without the price tag and IT management burden.

Read more about Network as a Service from CBTS.

 

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5 Ways NaaS Benefits the Financial Sector

The financial world is moving quickly, especially when it comes to technology. Everything in your company depends on technology these days, but you need to focus on servicing your customers. You need your network to be reliable and fast so that your key systems are always available to customers and employees. When your network is down, your financial services firm loses significant money with every minute.

Many financial services firms are now using Network as a Service (NaaS) to power their network. It is similar to SaaS, but instead of a single program being accessible from the cloud, the business can access the entire network from any location or device.

By using NaaS, your financial services firm can see the following five benefits:

1. Frees IT Department to Focus on Customer Facing Technology Projects

Your IT department no longer has to spend their time maintaining and administering the network. With NaaS, this is handled by the integrated communications solutions company, and your firm has minimal upkeep for the network. This frees up your IT department to work on technology projects that will create a more personal customer experience.

2. Scale Your Network Seamlessly as You Grow 

It’s hard to predict growth. If you buy infrastructure that cannot handle your organization as it grows, you will be spending extra money improving that infrastructure. And on the flip side, if your company becomes smaller, you’ll have too big of a network. By using NaaS, you can add and delete employees without buying any additional technology. You can also add bandwidth and even new offices as your business grows. This allows your business to evolve without worrying about having the right technology to make it happen.

3. Reduced Hardware Costs 

Technology has a short life span these days because everything is growing quickly. It sometimes seems that as soon as you have the latest product deployed on your network, it’s outdated, which increases your costs. With NaaS, you always have the latest features and capabilities without purchasing additional equipment.

4. Security 

Today’s security threats are costly—both in terms of dollars and reputation. It can be a full-time job to protect your financial network against security threats. NaaS uses the latest security applications and hardware to keep your network safe. Your network is protected, and you can focus on your customers.

5. Ability to Use Cutting Edge Technology 

Your customers are expecting to soon see video ATM kiosks in bank branches. By using allocation and throttling, critical systems continue to maintain optimal performance. At the same time, customers and employees still have the network access they need to do their jobs or complete their transactions.

By using NaaS, your financial institution or firm no longer has to worry about your network or having the bandwidth and connectivity necessary to run your firm. You can now focus on your strength—sharing your financial expertise with your customers and ensuring they have a great experience.

Meet uptime and dependability targets with NaaS

Whether your manufacturing business is large or small, 24x7x365 uptime availability and secure, dependable operations are critical to success. Regardless of the cause, network equipment or software failures in the factory environment threaten productivity and competitiveness and could result in unnecessary and potentially devastating manufacturing delays. Fortunately, Network as a Service (NaaS) offers a solution. By moving from an MPLS network to the NaaS approach, your company could utilize reliable, managed connectivity between locations provided by a trusted network services adviser to eliminate downtime while reducing CapEx costs.

NaaS Scalability and Security
NaaS is a highly scalable approach that meets the IT requirements of both single- and multi-location businesses. Companies pay a monthly fee that covers the equipment, network management services, and support along with an extended warranty program that ends technology obsolescence by building automatic and managed hardware upgrades into the solution lifecycle.

NaaS solutions empower SMB through enterprise organization with the ability to focus on their core businesses, to grow their companies and achieve enterprise-grade network capabilities without the headaches of learning the ins and outs of network management. These solutions also integrate state-of-the-art SD-WAN technology that enables larger midmarket and enterprise businesses with multiple sites to achieve centralized, highly customizable network management solutions with multilevel perimeter security from an on-premises location.

Easy & Efficient Integration
CBTS’ NaaS solutions with SD-WAN are delivered as easy to install all-in-one network appliances that seamlessly connect multiple locations together while supplying advanced network analytics. Based on Cisco’s Meraki technology, the solutions also provide cloud integration, dashboard-based network monitoring and management, a next-generation firewall for network security, Wi-Fi for agile manufacturing on the shop floor, and flexible routing and switching for taking bandwidth to new heights.

Multi-location businesses now have access to customized solutions to address their specific IT needs, making it easier to use available resources more efficiently without sacrificing security. Branch locations can take advantage of bandwidth-intensive applications that were once limited to larger hub offices. Using Meraki’s built-in auto VPN technology, NaaS solutions quickly plug in to facilitate distributed networking over the Internet, cellular wireless networks, and existing MPLS infrastructures.

Security doesn’t stop at the firewall layer. NaaS solutions with SD-WAN also integrate security tools that include unified threat management, intrusion detection and prevention systems, gateway antivirus software, content filtering, application control, and advanced encryption standards for data privacy, which is particularly useful for companies that partner and share data with manufacturing entities across the globe.

Reduce manufacturing vulnerabilities while increasing productivity and maintaining uptime with CBTS’ comprehensive NaaS solutions. This secure, cost-saving solution with SD-WAN connectivity makes it easy to migrate to a higher-performance network while reducing IT management burdens for operations of all sizes.

CIO Review names CBTS to Top 20 UC List

CIO Review has named CBTS to its list of the 20 Most Promising Unified Communications Solution Providers for 2017, and is featuring an interview with Chief Technology Officer Tom Simpson in its March edition.

In an interview with CIO Review, Simpson discussed three key CBTS services:

  • Enterprise Hosted Communications Solution: EHCS is built on Cisco’s HCS product and is a fully hosted and managed solution that provided enterprise-grade voice, video and business communications services.
  • Network as a Service: A fully managed solution that provides customers with a simple, scalable method to offload the complex task of maintaining and securing a commercial network.
  • SD-WAN: A solution that allows businesses with multi-site locations to support mobile workforces while reducing the need for expensive MPLS connections.

The story also highlights CBTS’ work with the State of Ohio, where our Next-Generation Telephony Service (NGTS) solution has saved the State $5.3 million in the first 18 months of use while providing a suite of collaboration tools that mark a significant upgrade from the State’s previous system.

 

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4 Reasons Retailers Love NaaS

Not only does NaaS support scalability and flexibility for businesses prone to seasonal fluctuations, but it also provides a platform to capture customer insights that drive revenue growth.

Just as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) has made inroads into retail as a means of shifting IT responsibilities for applications to a third party, a similar model for networking is gaining popularity. The Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) paradigm reflects the reality that deploying a network in a store, regardless of size, adds complexity to IT — both in terms of installation and ongoing management.

Having internet connectivity and a wireless local area network (WLAN) at any location means a retailer must be responsible for security, administration, updates, modifications, scalability and troubleshooting. Factor in the various endpoints that require connectivity — including increasingly wireless point of sale (PoS) devices and kiosks, along with identity management — and running a network becomes a complicated proposition. NaaS transfers many of these responsibilities, including security monitoring, to a third-party provider that offers a centralized network (as opposed to a WLAN) while delivering improved access to cloud-based management services and mobile enterprise solutions like apps. That’s all in addition to the following benefits.

Control Over Allocation and Bandwidth of the Network
NaaS enables retailers to cost-effectively shift network responsibilities to their NaaS service provider in alignment with this cloud-service approach to applications. This also increases the flexibility to support fluctuating numbers of users, mobile devices and endpoints.

Improved security is another major benefit of moving to a NaaS model. Recently, high-profile retailers such as Home Depot, Neiman Marcus and Target have been hacked and had customer data exposed. Cyberthreats such as malware, botnets and ransomware are increasing in frequency and ferocity, and NaaS places cybersecurity tasks in the provider’s hands instead of the retailer’s.

Less Time Managing the Network
Despite shifting responsibilities to a service provider, NaaS provides retailers with greater central control and visibility. This control means a retailer can have visibility across all networks from “a single pane of glass.” The ability to see every location in one dashboard enables IT staff to make better-informed decisions about allocating network resources and bandwidth. They spend less time managing the network and focus on more strategic IT initiatives that support the customer experience and business growth.

Endless Scalability Options
Scalability is critical, and NaaS can provide the agility to scale up or down in a business environment prone to seasonal fluctuations. Not only is it simple to add or remove users from the network, but with the advent of the pop-up store, entire locations can easily be provisioned or decommissioned centrally in a replicable “cookie cutter” model.

Connecting Multiple Retail Locations
Connecting multiple locations provides a retailer with a bigger picture not just in terms of network traffic and bandwidth usage, but also in consumer behavior and customer feedback. NaaS provides a platform for capturing Big Data from various endpoints, including emerging Internet of Things (IoT) applications, making it easier to intelligently invest in retail strategies that drive revenue growth.

About the Author

Gary Hilson is an expert tech journalist with over 20 years experience contributing to North American technology publications.

His specialties include memory and data storage technology, enterprise software, networking hardware, sustainable vehicles, green technology, technology standards, Internet of Things, B2B content, education and research.  His work has appeared in many leading technology publications including EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Network Computing and InformationWeek, as well as, Toronto Business Times, and Strategy Magazine.

 

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Cisco Certifies CBTS as UCCE Partner

CINCINNATI, Feb. 29, 2016 — Cisco has named CBTS as one of its Unified Contact Center Enterprise (UCCE) Partners in the United States. As an Authorized Technology Provider for Cisco UCCE solutions, CBTS adds Cisco’s most exclusive designation to its already broad portfolio of certifications.

CBTS is committed to serving as a strategic partner for enterprise businesses that want to offer their customers a dynamic, world-class contact center experience, which can increase customer satisfaction and overall business profitability. Earning Cisco’s UCCE certification further strengthens CBTS’ ability to execute on this commitment.

“As a Cisco UCCE Partner, we can provide enterprise customers a range of innovative solutions for their contact centers,” said Al Early, VP and Principal, Consulting Services at CBTS. “This certification – when combined with our existing deep expertise in other applications – further differentiates CBTS in the market.”

Enterprise businesses are increasingly investing in customer contact centers and moving toward “Omni-channel” solutions that facilitate interactions across a variety of platforms – including voice, video, instant messaging and e-mail. As a Cisco UCCE Partner, CBTS can deliver to enterprise customers both the technology infrastructure and the necessary applications to create this environment.

“Our enterprise business customers want to provide an engaging service experience where interactions with their own customers occur on multiple platforms,” said Early.  “They recognize that a great contact center experience strengthens their brands, and ultimately adds value to their businesses.”

CBTS can leverage Cisco’s UCCE solutions across a variety of contact center models. This includes creating a premise-based solution; delivering a managed services solution across several properties; and providing a cloud offering.

For more information on CBTS and its full suite of business solutions, go to www.cbts.com.

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