Unified Communications: Google Hangouts vs. Skype for Business

Written by neteffect technologies. Posted in ContentMX

As presented in previous articles, Skype for Business is a rebranded version of Lync, Microsoft’s business communication tool. It was launched in mid 2015 by Microsoft, and is full of enterprise Unified Communication features, with great tools for company collaboration. But Skype for Business is by no means perfect (although Microsoft is always making changes to enhance the product and correct any issues), and there are other alternatives out there to achieve some of the UC benefits Skype for Business brings.  It is argued that Skype for Business works best for most businesses due to unifying with other Microsoft products that people are accustomed to and business are already using, such as Outlook and Office programs. But not all businesses rely on the Microsoft platform. Today we look at Google Hangouts and compare it Skype for Business.

What is Google Hangouts?

Everyone is familiar with Google.  So much so, it has become a verb in our vernacular… you need to know something, just google it! But what exactly is Google Hangouts? At it’s most basic level, it’s a communication platform developed by Google which includes instant messaging, video chat, SMS and VOIP features. It replaces three messaging products that Google had implemented previously with its services:Google Talk, Google+ Messenger, and Hangouts, a video chat system present within Google+. Google has declared that Hangouts is designed to be “the future” of its telephony product. 

For some businesses, Google Hangouts can be deployed as a cost-effective UC platform and allows for collaboration. Employees can interact with their co-workers and customers using video, voice or text. They can also reduce travel expenses if using Hangout’s face-to-face functionality for online meetings and conferences.

For businesses that conduct online seminars/live webinars, Hangouts has a feature called “Google Hangouts on Air,” which enables Google+ users to stream video calls live via YouTube. And with its integration with Google Voice, Hangouts offer users with the capability to call domestic phone numbers from their computing devices.

Where Skype for Business Prevails – Office 365 Integration!

While Google has arguably one of the strongest brand names for consumers of all time, Microsoft has no doubt historically dominated IT operations for businesses. And it’s this history that pushes the benefits of Skype for Business to the forefront.  Because so many businesses are engrained with Microsoft, whether because they run their operating system, or use their Office suite, introducing Skype for Business into organizations is easy, both for deployment and for end user acceptance. 

Additionally,Skype for Business offers an abundance of features that boost productivity and encourage collaboration. For instance, up to 250 people can join an impromptu Skype conference. Plus, Skype’s price tag is among the most affordable in the industry. Skype operates on all devices, from your desktop to your smartphones, making it easy for users to link up and communicate with each other and helping each other stay on top of their business, ideas, projects, and more.

Skype for Business is easy to install and the learning curve is minimal since it integrates so well with Office 365 and products that everyone is familiar with when it comes to its operation. The whole idea behind Skype for Business and Office 365 is to ensure your communications don’t operate in silos, truly embracing the Unified Communications philosophy. With VoIP and Call Center software companies, such as AltiGen, working with Microsoft, UC with Skype for Business and Office 365 are taken to the next level by offering the ability to integrate your existing phone system, make PSTN calls, and more.

Learn more about AltiGen MaxUC by downloading our data sheet here.

Creating a Cyber-Safe School District in 8 Basic Steps

Written by neteffect technologies. Posted in ContentMX



With summer in full swing, it’s a good time for k12 school districts to reassess cybersecurity strategies and map out steps for keeping students and teachers safe from cybercrime in the upcoming school year.

How aware is your school district of the latest cyber threats, and what are your plans to mitigate them?

Digital Technology Brings Opportunities, Risks

As K-12 educators continue to seek out opportunities for richer, more personalized education experiences, digital technology becomes more embedded in the classroom. From mobile devices and wireless science tools to BYOD policies, these trends are focused on helping teach students develop 21st century skills.

Digital tools aren’t only used in the classroom. Student records, state assessments, parent communication — more and more aspects of K-12 education are going digital.

But these advances also create new challenges, especially as school districts struggle to balance budgets. Much of the outdated IT infrastructure wasn’t built to address modern cybersecurity threats, putting student and staff data (even safety) at risk.

Cyber Criminals Study Potential Targets

Cybercriminals have grown much more sophisticated over the last decade. By doing their homework, they identify targets that are both easier to breach and can provide more abundant personally identifiable information that’s valuable on the dark market. School districts can easily become low-hanging fruit, especially when they lack the in-house expertise to protect their information.

Eight Steps for Preventing, Detecting and Mitigating Risks

Monitor outbound traffic and data flow. Implement a data-loss prevention policy and ensure the security systems of your network, hosts and devices are configured properly.

Encrypt all sensitive data. Infosec professionals have adopted the mindset that a data breach is not a matter of “if” but “when” — and encryption is the easiest way to ensure data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands in the event of a breach.

Secure all devices. Every mobile device connected to the network provides a potential entry point into the network and must be secured. This also means carefully weighing the risks before implementing a BYOD policy.

Filter web traffic. This not only helps comply with the Children’s Internet Protection Act and helps keep out distractions such as social media, but can also prevent malware attacks.

Educate staff. Train teachers and administrators about the implications of data breaches as well as teach them basic cybersecurity hygiene.

Educate students. Students may be savvy enough to break into the school’s network or teacher’s grade book, but they may not understand how those actions puts the entire school district at risk.

Maintain the infrastructure. Ensure all your systems are upgraded and patched regularly.

Enroll outside help. Most school districts don’t have the in-house expertise to keep abreast with the threats and best practices. Hire outside experts — and make funding for IT infrastructure a priority.

A partner of Fortinet, neteffect technologies offers the services, technology and K-12 education experience to help you balance innovation and cyber risk. Our experts specialize in managed IT services and security solutions that leverage Fortinet’s innovative, high-performing network security platform.

Keeping College Campuses Open, Connected And Cyber Secure

Written by neteffect technologies. Posted in ContentMX

As campus computer labs with all devices bolted to workstations become a thing of the past, students and faculty have more freedom than ever to transport their devices of choice to wherever they’re most comfortable working—both on campus and off.

But with so much technology plugging into and out of campus networks, the possibility of a security breach becomes inevitable. Institutions of higher learning are paying attention: EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit promoting the safe and effective use of technology on campus, named information security their #1 priority in 2016 after ranking it tenth last year.

College Campuses Are Prime Targets Of Cyber Attack

College campuses are now the third most targeted institutions for cyber attack, behind only healthcare and retail organizations. It should be no surprise: College campuses house extensive financial data on students, faculty and the university itself; in addition to sensitive research data, health records and information on university affiliates.

Protecting the security and integrity of all this information and campus technology is critical; but it can’t be at the expense of open collaboration and connectedness. To find the right balance, we recommend the steps that follow.

1. Inventory All Data Across All Systems And Networks

In order to protect sensitive data, it is important to know where it all lives. Whether in the cloud, on a piece of hardware, on mobile devices or in emails, the IT security team needs to know where it is.

2. Centralize Security Management   

On sprawling campuses with countless mobile attack vectors, a comprehensive security strategy with full visibility of network environments from the cloud to the perimeter to all endpoints is critical. The strategy is best managed from a single, centralized platform that enables security teams to quickly detect, respond and remediate threats before they turn into big problems that run up operational costs and tie up IT resources.

3. Develop An Open Security Platform To Minimize Harms

There are plenty of tools and products available to manage security that work exceptionally well on their own, but are incompatible with other systems. For this reason, it is absolutely crucial to develop an open security platform wherein products and services that detect and respond to security risks can communicate with each other and share real time threat intelligence easily. This is the idea behind the new “security fabric” developed by our partner, global cybersecurity technology leader, Fortinet.

4. Make Students And Staff More Cyber Aware

It only takes one infected device to cause a major security breach. All the infrastructure and protocols in the world won’t stop threats if students and staff don’t know how to prevent and report them. Comprehensive cybersecurity training should occur at orientation for students and annually for staff to ensure the whole community is invested in protecting data.

Delegate Cybersecurity To Experts

Creating and deploying a robust security platform can be daunting—especially when it’s not your core competency.  With our extensive experience delivering and managing security solutions for higher education, neteffect technologies can keep campus data and systems secure so you can stay focused on keeping an open, connected learning environment.

Get Ready for Application-Layer DDoS Attacks

Written by neteffect technologies. Posted in ContentMX



For years, businesses offering Internet services have had to deal with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. That threat has gotten worse.

How do DDOS attacks work? Put simply, they overwhelm services with traffic, making it impossible to address legitimate service requests, and leaving an unfavorable impression on customers who can’t get what they want. Who do customers blame, for example, if they can’t pay bills online because the bill paying service’s website is offline? Not the DDoS attack. They don’t even know about it. They blame the billing service.  

Why Signature-based Defense Tactics Don’t Work

Various forms of defense have arisen in response. Most work by looking for some relatively simple signature, such as the specific IP addresses of attacking botnets.  

Lately, however, attackers are defeating this kind of defense with specific, precision-targeted attacks. By focusing on layer seven (the application layer) of the standard OSI network model, they can hammer a site with service requests that appear to be legitimate, but aren’t. And because they’re harder to recognize, they’re also harder to stop.

This can be devastating — especially when it brings a business’s online operations to a standstill.  

Consider a recent case cited by Imperva, in which more than 163,000 layer seven attacks per seconds were observed, consuming 8.7 Gb/second of bandwidth — shutting out customers entirely for the duration of the attack. Such attacks can, in theory, be sustained for days or even weeks, bringing Internet-facing services to a halt the entire time.

How Do You Fight DDOS Attacks At Every Layer?

At neteffect, a leading Charlotte-based IT service specialist, we’ve been tracking attacks of this sort for some time and have partnerships with top-tier security providers offering technology that responds effectively.

One of these partners is Fortinet, provider of the FortiDDOS solution which can recognize and block DDOS attacks at every layer — three, four and seven. This is possible because FortiDDOS is both faster and smarter than competing offerings, thanks to custom ASICs that assess incoming traffic at a packet level, then figure out what it’s trying to accomplish.  

This means that instead of simply looking at where attacks originate, FortiDDOS also recognizes threat behavior. For example, it can determine if traffic is going to overwhelm the crucial link between an application and a customer information database to bring down the whole service — and after identifying the threat as a layer seven DDOS attack — stop the attack.  

The whole process is extraordinarily fast, because the analysis is performed by optimized hardware (custom ASICs) and orchestrated via predefined policies that typically don’t require real-time human authorization. The upshot is that however powerful a layer seven DDOS attack may be, it gets very little time to impact business — so little time, in fact, customers may not even notice.

Of course, it’s also true that because FortiDDOS is relatively advanced, not all organizations have the in-house expertise to deploy and integrate it effectively. A partner of Fortinet, neteffect can help you defend against DDOS attacks of all types, including the application layer, by leveraging Fortinet FortiDDoS technology to work for you.

IT Innovators: Rethinking Assumptions About the Cloud

Written by neteffect technologies. Posted in ContentMX

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Today’s corporate environments are filled with leaps and often times hesitations, followed by even larger leaps toward cloud deployment. But about those hesitations: from fears about IT jobs being outsourced to security concerns and questions about the most effective ways to centrally manage a cloud solution, apprehensions can run far and wide.

IT Innovators recently caught up with John Webster, analyst at Evaluator Group, to chat about some of the most common assumptions about the cloud and what factors should instead be top of mind for a more effective cloud deployment.

What would you say is the most common assumption about the cloud? What’s driving this, and what do you believe is the truth behind the concern?

I think one topic that really needs to be examined in more detail is the issue of security in the cloud, particularly the public cloud. There are a couple things going on that are changing people’s perceptions about security in the cloud. First, the more you understand the cloud, how to use it and which provider you want to work with, the less security becomes an issue. The best thing you can do for security as an issue is to get more experience working with the cloud. More experienced users have a tendency to view security as less of an issue. They realize that things like finding people to actually administer a cloud IT environment is the number 1 priority. Security seems to fall down the list.

What steps can IT professionals take to calm security concerns?

The good cloud service providers have heard that security is an issue. They are more than aware of it, and they’ve taken measures to address the problem. Sometimes, enterprise IT users have acknowledged security in the cloud to actually be better than their own Internet security and have moved apps to the cloud because of that. Now, some people are more concerned about the communication links in between getting from their location to the cloud service provider and back as being a bigger security concern than the cloud provider itself. My advice is to talk to the cloud vendor to address those concerns.

Are there any misconceptions about shadow IT, or the concept of employees using cloud applications that haven’t been authorized internally for use, and what are corporations doing to address this phenomenon?

Enterprises have seen this cloud creep, if you will, or proliferation of cloud usage and have encountered issues with that. For example, the cost of all these clouds start to get out of control if they’re not managed. You’ve got contracts, commitments, but you start to sense that every department now gets a cloud and questions arise, like: what kind of control are we exerting over this, and if we are not exerting any kind of control, should we manage this centrally? While the shift to the cloud began as a shadow IT phenomenon, meaning that employees were using unsanctioned cloud and mobile apps without corporations being fully aware, it’s now becoming a centralized IT-administered phenomenon because of cost and governance reasons. If we’re going to put sensitive data in the cloud, we need to know the nature of that data, the service provider and whether or not we even have the authority to put some kinds of data in the cloud without running the risk of exposure to regulatory agencies.

As more companies shift toward taking a centralized position to cloud management, what kinds of things should be on their radar?

People are starting to understand that they can use the cloud resources much more efficiently if they know from a centralized position what it is they need. This includes what kinds of contracts they will negotiate, what kind of pricing is available, and how to best manage pricing. Weighing these types of questions will allow IT professionals to make the most effective use of the cloud.

Renee Morad is a freelance writer and editor based in New Jersey. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Discovery News, Business Insider, Ozy.com, NPR, MainStreet.com, and other outlets. If you have a story you would like profiled, contact her at renee.morad@gmail.com.

The IT Innovators series of articles is underwritten by Microsoft, and is editorially independent.

This first ran at http://windowsitpro.com/it-innovators/it-innovators-rethinking-assumptions-about-cloud

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