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Balance employee health and productivity with remote work best practices

Communication channels are rapidly changing alongside evolutions in software. With remote work now commonplace, agile enterprises are turning to hosted unified communications as a service (hosted UCaaS) to maximize productivity. For organizations adopting the Cisco Webex collaboration tool, leading technology provider CBTS is delivering an integrated platform that empowers companies to stay completely connected.

While such integration can increase your organization’s productivity and efficiency, staring at a computer screen all day can also have an impact on your staff’s physical and mental well-being.

This blog will detail remote work best practices that can help your teams adjust to working from home. Implementing these best practices can result in happier workers and higher levels of productivity.

Also read: Give your remote teams the tools to connect seamlessly with Cisco Webex

The impact of remote work on mental health

According to a survey conducted last year by health benefits provider Aetna International, around 33% of people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic were concerned about their mental health.

The online survey compiled responses from more than 4,000 employees and 1,000 employers in the United States, United Kingdom, Singapore, and United Arab Emirates. Based on this sample population, the survey found that:

  • Stress (32%) and weight gain (43%) were the top health concerns for remote employees.
  • About 74% of all workers—including 88% of those aged 18 to 24—said poor mental health had negatively impacted their productivity.
  • Nearly 84% of employees surveyed agreed that their mental health was more important in 2020 than the year prior.
  • 40% of employers expressed concern that a lack of social interaction would have negative long-term effects on employee mental health.
  • Around 61% of workers want to return to the office by mid-2021. 81% said they would return if able to work remotely for part of the week.

Since March 2020, CBTS has been exploring ways to enhance the remote work experience. As businesses move from pandemic mode to long-term planning, executives must put remote work best practices in place to create a working environment that supports the needs of employees.

Also read: Four Considerations for Building a Remote Network with SD-WAN

CBTS suggests the following best practices for remote work:
 
  1. Stand up and stretch at least once an hour, or take a five-minute walk outside or around your home. Simple exercise not only improves your circulation—it can make it easier to focus on work as well.
  2. Add a block of time to your calendar for a relaxing lunch.
  3. Change your online status to “Out to lunch” or “Be right back” to let co-workers know you need some downtime or use the “Do not disturb” function on your phone or collaboration app.
  4. Create a daily schedule when working from home, including dressing as you would for the office. This will put you in the right mindset from the moment you boot up your computer.

Make the best out of your remote work practices with Webex

The CBTS Hosted Unified Communications (UC) solution is now fully integrated with Webex. This combines two powerful platforms to deliver the ultimate collaboration and communications experience.

Building on our mutual vision to delight the small to medium business customer, Cisco is thrilled to join with CBTS to deliver Hosted UC with Cisco Webex. With fully integrated Webex technology, CBTS users will experience a modern, all-in-one collaboration tool that delivers simple, flexible communications, making their businesses more productive and more secure.
 

Tony Lopresti
Product Management Director
Webex
Implementing remote work best practices keep teams productive and engaged.

At the click of a button on the Webex app, users can:

  • Make and receive calls.
  • Send and receive instant messages.
  • Set up audio conferences.
  • Host and attend video meetings.
  • Share screens and files.
  • Integrate apps to build relationships and speed projects forward.

This convenience, flexibility, and user-friendly operation aligns Webex with remote work best practices that keep teams productive and engaged.

To get the best out of your remote work situation, CBTS also suggests these best practices for remote work:
 
  1. Find the right place to work: It helps to have a dedicated working environment, whether a spare room or a table in the living room. Even simple things—like using the same side of the table each day—can help get you into “work mode.”
  2. Get your equipment ready: Take time to fine-tune your keyboard, mouse, displays, speakers, coffee mug, and any other remote workplace accessories.
  3. Cancel out noise: For folks sharing space with children, spouses, pets, or roommates, a good pair of headphones can be a lifesaver.
  4. Check in with teammates: Make time for Friday happy hours or other non-work events with Webex.

Also read: Your Quick Guide to Conducting Secure Videoconferences

Conclusion: Bringing power to the people who work remotely

Seamless integration of Cisco Webex permits workers to meet instantly and securely while ensuring the best and most stress-free remote work experience possible.

Contact CBTS for more information on how Webex can keep your remote teams healthy, productive, and engaged.

Enhance services for your communities with Unified Communications for Government

In an increasingly remote work environment, governments around the globe are improving the effectiveness of their workforces by combining voice, video, and data functionalities in one streamlined channel, a technique known as Unified Communications (UC).

Unified Communications (UC) improves government workforces
Unified Communications (UC) addresses service issues faced by government constituents.

Adoption of UC is particularly crucial for communities navigating the economic impact of COVID-19. As the pandemic raged across the U.S. last year, CBTS assisted a government Jobs and Family Services (JFS) office in the Midwest that was overwhelmed by unemployed residents seeking new employment opportunities.

CBTS designed and implemented a UC for government solution to address service issues faced by JFS constituents. The solution included scaling existing call paths, organizing remote call center operations, and configuring a new Interactive Voice Response (IVR) solution. Cisco’s Unified IP IVR was deployed at scale specifically to address mass layoffs by major companies.

Even as the pandemic dissipates, state and local governments worldwide are meeting citizens’ heightened service expectations with Cisco UC solutions. This article will explain the benefits of UC innovations for agencies and municipalities of all stripes.

Also read: VoIP vs UCaaS: What is right for your business?

How to utilize the benefits of UC for government

Accustomed to reliable online and automated voice service from retailers and other private-sector institutions, most people expect the same response from their government. Antiquated phone systems and outdated legacy systems are being replaced by UC technology boasting a wide range of benefits:

  • Enhanced public safety: First responders are more efficient when they can communicate and access critical information from anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance.
  • Improved service effectiveness: Citizen satisfaction is enhanced when services are easier to obtain. Reaching an employee or agent on the first call, receiving a medical consultation from a nearby clinic, or reserving a public meeting via an automated voice response system can foster greater trust and satisfaction among citizens and stakeholders.
  • Citizen empowerment and social inclusion: Connected communities enable residents and businesses to get timely government information and services through self-service voice applications and web portals. UC for government also helps public agencies reach out to underrepresented or rural populations that are typically unable to access key services.
  • Economic development: Employers are attracted to communities that make it easy to do business—which UC for government can provide while also enabling the education and training required to cultivate a skilled workforce.

Also read: Four Considerations for Building a Remote Network with SD-WAN

With Cisco UC services, communities and agencies are bolstered by:
  • Effective phone systems, unified messaging, and collaboration.
  • Advanced call processing and contact centers.
  • Robust video collaboration and surveillance.
  • Mobile voice and interoperability.

Eight benefits of UC for governments

Public safety, effective services, high productivity, and social inclusion are keystones of any strong community. A cloud-based UC solution can help transform governmental activities, while the right partner will lead your agency to success.

CBTS provides industry-leading modern communication resolutions for any number of municipal functions and use cases. Here are a few examples:

1) Surveillance video: An ability to see real-time video improves citizen safety and public safety personnel responsiveness. For example, when police officers in Everett, Washington, are dispatched to a crime scene, they can plan an effective response by viewing live surveillance footage from vehicles equipped with Cisco mobile access routers.

2) Rapidly deployable communications: Public safety agencies must be able to maintain lanes of communication in case of network shutdown or lack of infrastructure. With Cisco’s rapidly deployable communications solutions, a first responder can simply flip a switch to connect to an IP network by satellite. This creates an instant network through which to send and receive voice, video, and data utilizing wired or wireless devices.

3) Access to government services: In many cities, individuals who reach the wrong department must wait while an employee searches a paper directory for the appropriate extension. With Cisco UC for government, calls can be seamlessly transferred by selecting an employee’s name from an up-to-date online directory located on their Cisco Unified IP Phones.

4) Well-organized contact centers: Cisco Unified Contact Centers route calls to agents ready to meet callers’ pressing needs, improving service efficacy, and reducing call-handling time. Derwent Living, a UK-based not-for-profit organization that partners with local governments on affordable housing, harnesses UC technology to direct calls from citizens to expert housing advisers.

5) Unified messaging: With Cisco Unified Messaging, government personnel can access messages all from one interface, either their PC or voicemail inbox. Responsiveness improves further when employees retrieve communication and collaboration tools from a single screen.

6) Workplace transformation and efficiency: Many agencies provide permanent desks to mobile employees who rarely work in the office. Cisco UC for government solutions enable desk sharing, allowing workers to make and receive calls from any available desk. This is made possible either by logging into a Cisco Unified IP Phone or Cisco’s Unified Personal Communicator software on PC.

7) Access to human resources: Rural residents can link to social workers, child psychologists, and other human resource offices by using Cisco video telephony and Cisco Telepresence available at their local government offices.

8) Ease of doing business: With so many employers preferring to base their companies in business-friendly communities, Cisco IVR solutions and online web portals are key for governments seeking to provide secure tax payments and other services to new and established businesses.

Also read: Case Study: Safer travels with CBTS on-premises private cloud

A foundation for government services of all kinds

Cisco Unified Communications for Government solutions bridge the gap between needed services and available resources. Ultimately, this technology creates a foundation for a connected community, satisfying demands for public safety, service reliability, citizen empowerment, and a thriving economy.

Contact CBTS for more information on converting your government agency’s legacy infrastructure to a modern cloud-based environment.

Revolutionize Your Cloud Disaster Recovery Capabilities with DRaaS

Building and maintaining a data environment that is used for daily business activities may be expensive but, by any measure, is more than worth the effort. Doing the same for an environment that is rarely, if ever, activated is both expensive and burdensome, with little prospect for a decent return on the investment.

And yet, this is what a large portion of the enterprise community does in order to maintain continuity of critical operations during a disaster. In this age of connected devices, with applications acting as the lifeblood of most business models, downtime of data infrastructure for even a short while can quickly throw an organization into financial turmoil and perhaps cause lasting damage to the brand as users are able to switch to new providers at the touch of an icon.

When it comes to disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud, the enterprise must rethink the complex and costly approaches of the past in favor of streamlined, easily managed infrastructure that is ready to activate at a moment’s notice. And for this, there is no better solution than the public cloud.

The key advantage that the cloud brings to DR is the ability to provide this vital function on the same footing as any other Software as a Service (SaaS) offering. This provides a range of cost and feature benefits that enable you to reap the rewards of a state-of-the-art DR environment without the high overhead of dedicated equipment that sits idle for the majority of its lifetime.

Specifically, disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) provides the following:

Low cost

By shifting disaster recovery services from a capital expenditure (CapEx) model to an operating expenditure (OpEx) model, you can vastly reduce your overall cost structure in two ways. First, you no longer need a massive upfront capital outlay because there is no infrastructure to buy, build, provision, or integrate. Disaster recovery services are delivered from the cloud, where the cost of infrastructure is shared among multiple clients. Secondly, ongoing operational costs are lessened because the management and upkeep of infrastructure are outsourced to the cloud provider. All you have to do is oversee your own internal processes and coordinate testing with the managed cloud provider to ensure data and operating environments can be failed over quickly and smoothly to ensure the highest levels of continuity are being maintained.

Advanced features

Unlike on-premises environments, managed cloud disaster recovery services are routinely upgraded with the latest features and to the most robust industry standards. Cloud DR providers must compete for your business just like any other supplier, which means they are constantly striving to out-perform their own competition. Already, in fact, many providers are deploying advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics process automation (RPA), and even quantum computing to ensure that their services stand out from the rest of the field.

Customization

Contrary to the stereotype of the cloud as a warehouse of generic computing and storage technology, the fact is that in recent years, providers have made great strides in the delivery of highly customized advanced features and solutions. Starting with robust templates for key industry verticals like finance and healthcare, most providers work closely with leading technology consultants like CBTS to craft solutions that meet the unique requirements of each enterprise and address your industry’s compliance and regulatory requirements.

Scale

Unlike the traditional data center, public cloud provides just the right level of storage and compute to satisfy business objectives—in this case, continuity after a failure—without over engineering the environment. There is no need to overprovision resources only to have them sit idle most of the time. The cloud provides near-instant provisioning of virtual environments so that your consumption matches your data load. Also, data environments can be migrated from cloud to cloud with relative ease, offering an added layer of protection against failure in the event of a regional disaster like an earthquake or hurricane.

The key challenge when it comes to DRaaS, however, is the need to acquire expertise in cloud infrastructure and services. Your provider will certainly offer a wealth of assistance, but it is usually better to bring in an independent contractor to ensure that the environment you create offers the highest return on your investment.

This is where CBTS becomes invaluable. Our proven methodology delivers highly targeted solutions for your managed cloud disaster recovery needs. We begin with a thorough assessment of existing infrastructure, services, workflows, business objectives, and other aspects of your enterprise, followed by a robust program designed to fulfill optimal recovery point and time objectives (RPO/RTO). We also have the means to incorporate a wide range of managed services, including annual testing to ensure a successful recovery every time, and we also provide ongoing maintenance and support of the full environment so your IT staff can focus on running your data ecosystem.

The ease with which robust DR environments can be created in the cloud and integrated into the enterprise business environment is nothing less than revolutionary. With the business model quickly becoming wholly dependent on functioning data infrastructure, the risk is simply too great to avoid making this transition much longer.

Download this case study from CBTS for an example of a cloud disaster recovery solution that mitigates natural disaster risk.

How CBTS changes the game with the Network as a Service solution

What can a business do when its growth has outstripped its networking resources? With IT personnel stretched thin and struggling with limited budgets, many organizations have seen their networks suffer from increased downtime and higher operating expenses as a result. Over time, this has led to business networks becoming more difficult to manage, even in terms of simple day-to-day tasks.

That’s why so many organizations across a wide variety of industries have turned to Network as a Service (NaaS) to simplify and streamline their IT needs while gaining improved network reliability, total transparency, overall lower operating costs, and many more benefits. With NaaS, clients are able to offload the monotonous daily tasks from their in-house IT teams to CBTS experts, freeing up the client’s resources, which can then be dedicated to more long-term and mission-critical strategic initiatives.

NaaS by CBTS streamlines your organization's network. Download CIO's definitive guide to cloud network solutions

As the business world works tirelessly to match the relentless pace of cloud technology’s evolution, managed solutions like NaaS will only become more relevant and in-demand. In fact, NaaS’s flexibility in cloud-powered networks is one of the key factors of its rapid adoption rate—many top-performing companies are seeking a way to leverage the power of the cloud and with NaaS, CBTS delivers that power along with a dependable partnership and ongoing technical support. Currently, more than 600 clients in 5,000+ locations rely on NaaS by CBTS.

Currently, more than 600 clients in 5,000+ locations rely on NaaS by CBTS.

On top of providing measurable and superior business outcomes with its customized NaaS solutions, CBTS also brings to the table years of valuable experience in implementing unified communications (UC) services, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions, and other offerings that synergize to deliver clients a full-spectrum and future-forward networking strategy.

One aspect that makes the NaaS by CBTS offering unique is the involvement of Cisco Meraki, a platform that enables seamless expansion, maintenance, and security of a client’s managed network—all with unparalleled scalability. This leaves the client’s network in capable hands while it scales as needed and is kept safe from intrusion. These capabilities add up to a tremendous value for CBTS NaaS clients, who gain peace of mind and the precious breathing room necessary to reallocate their internal IT resources toward the mission-critical objectives that drive the growth of their companies.

CBTS also leverages automated monitoring capabilities to make seemingly complicated installations significantly more manageable. During the consultation and auditing phase, CBTS experts work closely with the client to solidify a functional template for the client network. This then allows CBTS to utilize a hybrid monitoring system and launch automated processes that manage the network with minimal input. These cutting-edge solutions make it possible to install NaaS environments quickly and painlessly.

One example of the success that NaaS by CBTS has brought to clients can be found in the story of Tire Discounters, an automotive service company based in the Midwestern United States that operates 137 locations. When Tire Discounters found itself in need of a new point-of-sale solution to process transactions and manage inventory, as well as a more standardized network to manage analytics across the corporation, the company turned to CBTS for support. After CBTS implemented a NaaS solution, Tire Discounters benefited from a seamless, interconnected, and managed networking environment that balanced more than a hundred disparate retail locations, leading to less network downtime and lower operating expenses.

NaaS by CBTS would not be the popular solution that it is without the trademark CBTS commitment to agility, adaptivity, and meeting client expectations at all levels. As the provider, we’re not content to sit still either—CBTS has plans in motion to launch new services to address demands in the marketplace for cyberthreat detection, patch management, multifactor user authentication, and more. NaaS has proven to be a gateway to the future of enterprise networking, and that future waits for no one.

Contact us for more information on how NaaS by CBTS can help streamline and simplify your organization’s network for the cloud age.

Integrating Hosted UC and Webex to enable unified collaboration and simplified IT

As communication channels rapidly evolve in today’s digital age, businesses must adapt quickly to support seamless interactions across voice, video, mobile, messaging, and chat. With workplace trends shifting toward more remote collaboration, it can be challenging for organizations to effectively manage a multitude of tools to keep employees, customers, and partners actively engaged across channels, devices, and locations.

business woman on the move, utilizing unified collaboration tools

To provide a more flexible workplace for their employees, agile enterprises are turning to hosted unified communications as a service (hosted UCaaS) to streamline collaboration and maximize productivity. Now, the advanced collaboration capabilities of Cisco Webex are fully integrated into the CBTS Hosted UC platform powered by Cisco BroadWorks—bringing together hosted VoIP, chat, video conferencing, remote meeting capabilities, and many more features—all through a unified collaboration application: Webex.

By combining all the features of Hosted UC enterprise-grade cloud communications solutions with the Webex collaboration tool, CBTS delivers an integrated platform that empowers companies to stay completely connected. Keep reading to learn how this integration can increase productivity and improve efficiency in your organization.

Unified collaboration and communication

Modern communication can be a juggling act that requires toggling between systems, devices, and networks to carry on a conversation. When enterprise phone systems are completely integrated into cloud-based collaboration tools, it streamlines the user experience and simplifies IT operations.

Leveraging the leading VoIP technology from Cisco BroadWorks, the CBTS platform enables WiFi calling, hosted VoIP calling, and smooth VoIP handovers to support calls as you move between data networks. Similarly, the system can seamlessly move active calls from audio to video, or from desk phone to softphone to mobile phone with a single click—without interrupting your call.

By integrating these calling capabilities with Webex, CBTS users can enhance the omnichannel collaboration experience for internal employees and external partners alike. Group chat, file sharing, whiteboarding, chat, and presence features make it easy to collaborate anywhere, at any time, with built-in application integrations that automatically connect to other business tools you use every day.

Meanwhile, Webex meetings features keep teams connected even when working remotely. Users can join meetings from any device with a single click, while effectively multitasking and staying productive. Online meeting rooms blend audio, HD video, chat, messaging, screen sharing, and wireless content sharing to keep participants engaged.

Blending these features on a single hosted UC platform creates a seamless communication experience. Instead of dealing with dial-in numbers or using mobile phone minutes, CBTS users can join virtual meetings with the click of a button from the company’s enterprise dial plan. You can make and take phone calls through the Webex application—using the desktop, tablet, or smartphone device of your choice—to connect more easily and collaborate more effectively. If you prefer to continue to use a traditional desk handset, that option is available as well.

The enhanced Hosted UC experience

By integrating cloud calling and collaboration solutions onto one secure platform, CBTS delivers a managed UCaaS experience to help companies future-proof their communication infrastructure. Designed to be open and interoperable across the most complex enterprise ecosystems, our integrated solutions are custom-designed to deliver the tools you need to enhance your unique customer journey.

Whether your employees work from one central office, multiple locations, or remotely from home, they can enjoy one core user experience across multiple devices, software applications, and workstyle preferences. Plus, CBTS can layer on advanced applications such as hosted IVR, mass notifications, e-911, and other contact center features to make your employees or agents more productive and your business more profitable.

Simplifying enterprise calling, messaging, and video conferencing through the unified Webex platform can also reduce telephony hardware costs and ongoing maintenance requirements, since upgrades happen automatically without any downtime or additional investments. The predictable fixed monthly cost of hosted UC enables you to focus on core innovations instead of billing surprises.

Hosted UC from CBTS delivers all the features of an enterprise-grade, cloud-enabled communications solution, combined with the latest remote collaboration apps—all on a single platform that’s flexible enough to scale up as your business grows. With 99.999% network availability and full redundancy, along with end-to-end security and 24x7x365 support, CBTS integrates Hosted UC with Webex to meet the full range of ever-changing communication and collaboration capabilities your enterprise needs in order to be equipped for the future.

Contact us to learn how Webex can empower your business to leverage the benefits of Hosted UC.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month: the Essential Security Practice

I’ve spent more than half of my 23-year IT career in security. In seeing shifts from standalone viruses to networked worms to state-sponsored attackers and ransomware, I’ve heard folks say periodically that we’re failing as an industry. “Look at all the breaches,” they say, “we’re obviously having no impact, we need to rethink everything we’re doing.”

To which I say, frankly, that view is nuts. Totally bonkers.

Effective prevention, detection and response is the goal of information security

Of course, the number of breaches we see, the volume of lost records, and the degree to which certain threat actors can act with impunity inside certain networks, is always alarming. The practitioners I know don’t see that as a hopeless situation, but instead as an opportunity to which they will rise. The fact is, we’ve had a clear positive impact. I know that, because no threat actor can do whatever they want on any network they want. Attacks are stopped every day. Breaches are detected, cleaned up, and improvements are made every week.

Think of it like law enforcement: The goal of law enforcement isn’t to stop crime, because you’ll never stop all crime. It’s not possible. It’s not even a reasonable goal that any police officer aims for. The goal is to minimize crime and allow law enforcement to protect as much as they can.

The information security industry has a similar goal: It’s not possible to guarantee an organization won’t suffer a breach. However, organizations can commit to doing their best to stop opportunistic attacks. When a breach does occur, the organization can commit to a complete and effective response.

Use October to re-commit your organization to cybersecurity awareness

I’ve been reminded recently, though, where our most challenging work will continue to reside, and that is in improving the cybersecurity awareness of the non-technical folks in our midst.

Fraud, business email compromise, and e-mail account compromise are still plaguing many organizations.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center noted recently that in the last three years we’ve seen over $26 billion dollars lost to these attacks.

Technical controls can help, but the most important step we can take is educating individuals about the types of attacks that they can expect to see and how to report them.

Our partners Proofpoint and Cofense have some great resources available to help address this threat. I know we can continue to make our organizations more secure as we work together, equipping our customers with the tools and practices to protect themselves and their assets.

Happy October, and Happy Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

 

Related Articles:

Understanding the “attacker mindset” in security

Three steps to enhancing security solutions

Create your data breach response plan