Windows Server 2003 Support is Ending

Microsoft is shuttering its Windows Server 2003 support on July 14, 2015. This gives business owners, entrepreneurs, and IT professionals just a few months to replace their systems and migrate to new platforms.

And trust us, you will want to migrate. The end of support from Microsoft means that the 2003 version of Windows Server will not receive any more security updates, will not receive patches for any remaining software bugs, and may not interact well with other (newer) products that companies may integrate with. The software will become a cancer of security risk and outdated technology that will limit the potential growth of your computer systems.

Many business will ultimately have to upgrade, and there are several “next steps” in the migration process that BCS can assist with:

  • The first step is to discover how much of your infrastructure relies on Microsoft Server 2003. This includes applications, workloads, documents, and more. A business that heavily relies on the antiquated service will need to invest more time and more money in their upgrade process, but that business may also stand the most to gain in a well-facilitated upgrade with new opportunity and competitive advantage.
  • In the upgrade process you are likely to find that more than just Microsoft Server 2003 is out of date. Prioritizing all of your applications and workloads that rely on the service will give you a larger picture of your network strengths and vulnerabilities.
  • After researching and prioritizing your current situation and pitfalls (or lack thereof) its time to determine the best migration path for you. This may include transferring to cloud computing and off-site data-centers. Virtualization using the Windows Cloud OS network or Microsoft Azure could be the next big step for your business, but any transition you make will require research and planning.
  • The final step is to build a detailed migration plan that meets the requirements that you have set forth in the steps above. They will give you a detailed list of what you need and help define where your business fits in the growing digital landscape.

The change can be daunting but it also allows for new opportunity and a time to upgrade. BCS can help facilitate the transition to new platforms and ensure that your business reacts in a way that fits your budget and your needs.

Structured Cabling for the Smart Office

computer_structured_cabling_va_beach

You’ve likely seen news stories about the “smart home” of the future.  You may even have a smart home feature like the Nest thermostat installed already. But what about your office? Established office and retail spaces should have the structured cabling in place to take advantage of many of the new automation technologies coming to market. Sometimes retrofitting of the existing cabling is needed to take full advantage of the new systems.

While WiFi is great for many applications, when it comes to high quality AV applications, hard wiring is still superior.  In areas where you have projectors or monitors meant for display it’s important to have both Cat5 and coax cable run.  Likewise, alarm systems for security, smoke, and carbon monoxide are best hardwired with a cellular backup feature. There are numerous options for automating functions like lighting and surveillance cameras that involve a combination of structured cabling and wireless technologies.  

You may also want to rewire if you have suspicions of unsafe wiring. You should have your wiring inspected at least once every five years to ensure that your equipment stays in good working order. If at any time you notice any scorch marks on plugs or sockets, hear the sound of arcing (buzzing or cracking), or anything unusual you should have your wiring inspected or repaired immediately.

If you’re interested in wiring or rewiring your business to handle all your security and automation needs, call BCS at (757) 497-3100 to talk to one of our structured cabling specialists.

 

Hospital and Medical Practice Telephone Systems

Do you handle IT and telecommunications for a hospital or a multi-location medical or dental practice?  Mitel offers solutions that work for almost every healthcare organization. Watch the video for a brief overview, and then call BCS Voice and Data Solutions and talk to one of our specialists about how we can help you make internal and external communications easier.

Streamline Cloud Communications and Lower TCO with MiCloud

cloud storage services

Mitel helps service providers streamline cloud communications and lower TCO with MiCloud

New features expand on Mitel’s ‘speed-to-market’ advantages.

Mitel has added new features to its MiCloud portfolio aimed at helping service providers quickly deliver cloud communications to their customers. Additionally, the latest release of the MiCloud solution contains a number of enhancements to help service providers lower total cost of ownership (TCO) even further.

This coincides with news from Synergy Research Group that Mitel is the global market share leader for cloud business communications based on subscribers and seats, with nearly 20% worldwide.

“Customer interest in our Mitel-powered cloud communications solution has been growing as customers seek flexible, affordable communications solutions that fit their unique business needs. MiCloud’s new features further strengthen our offering increasing our scale up into large enterprises while adding even more mobility for our SMB customers,” said Bertrand Laurioz, Telecom BU Director, Hub One.

A comprehensive cloud communications solution, MiCloud powers Mitel’s own cloud services as well as providing the platform for a growing number of service providers. MiCloud enables service providers to customize solutions to reach their target audience, from small-to-medium size businesses up to large enterprises. New features enhance mobility, increase scalability for enterprise customers and further tighten integration with popular applications including Salesforce.com and Google Business Applications.

Lower TCO

With more features now included in Mitel’s licence bundles, MiCloud offers even more functionality at a lower cost. These include features aimed at supporting an increasingly mobile workforce. Additionally, Mitel has streamlined the provisioning, management and support of Mitel users to further lower the TCO.

Flexibility and speed to market

New features for MiCloud simplify provisioning of new services, helping service providers to quickly configure, upgrade or downgrade service bundles. Not only does this accelerate the on boarding of new customers, it also allows service providers to easily provide attractive new ‘try and buy’ promotional offerings.

To help service providers quickly deploy a new MiCloud solution, or to help optimize existing services, Mitel has introduced standardized and tested solution blueprints and an expanded suite of professional services.

“Mitel now offers what we believe is not only the most compelling cloud communications solution for service providers, but also the most price-competitive offering for their customers,” said Andy Bull, managing director of Mitel South Africa. “This lowers initial costs, and more importantly, the long-term total cost of ownership.”

MiCloud powers more than 33 million cloud connections per day. Solutions include applications for unified communications, audio and video collaboration, and contact centers.

For more information please visit Mitel.

Provided by Mitel.

Is a Cloud CRM Right for Your Business?

cloud storage servicesBenefits of a Cloud CRM

Cloud computing has changed many aspects of business.  Some studies indicate that cloud platforms will dominate IT spending by next year, and half of all businesses will be using cloud-based software by 2017.

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is frequently the first platform businesses move to the cloud.  Like traditional CRM software, these platforms track sales interactions and identify patterns.  Using a cloud-based platform has some particular advantages.

1) Cost

Many cloud solutions mean upfront costs are significantly lower. Cloud based CRMs are usually subscription-based and paid monthly.  There’s no upfront licensing or installation fees.

2) Productivity

Cloud-based CRMs are very helpful for employee productivity, especially for sales people that are working off-site, at conferences, or from a customer’s location.  The ability to access the CRM from anywhere is exceptionally helpful when a team is spread out. Additionally, it scales easily for businesses in a major phase of growth.

3) Advanced Data and Analytics

Many CRMs offer excellent business intelligence without the need for manual uploading and backups.  Because cloud-based softwares sync in real time, executives can always have a current picture of customer data, sales, and invoices.

 

While there are many advantages to Cloud CRMs, it’s important to ask the right questions when choosing a provider.  As many companies learned during the recent Verizon cloud outage, not all clouds are the same. Before committing to a platform, ask about up-time, back-ups, and security.  If you want help choosing the right cloud provider, give us a call. We’d be happy to help you find the right solution for your business.

 

 

 

How Secure is Your Company’s Network?

computer_structured_cabling_va_beachNetwork security issues have been in the news a lot lately, from major consumer data breaches at retailers to the recent debacle at Sony.  Sadly, many small and mid-size businesses fail to have even the most basic security in place to protect their employees, their customers, and themselves.  Here are some of the most common problems we find.

1) Unsecure WiFi networks.
While it’s great to provide WiFi for your customers, it’s vital that any open WiFi network is not used for business purposes.  The network that’s used by employees should be secure and the SSID should be hidden.  The password should be changed from whatever the default was.

2) Out-of-date and/or poor quality virus protection software.
There is a lot of confusion about virus and malware protection.  For example, it’s not uncommon to see people install two different anti-virus programs, which can cause additional problems.  Also, many free programs come with a host of problems (like endless pop-ups) which end up distracting users from real potential threats.

3) Out-of-date software.
Do you have some computers on Windows 7 and some on Windows 8 in your office?  Or heaven forbid, still have a machine in the corner running Windows XP?  A mix of operating systems is fine, as long as they’re all up-to-date with the most recent security patches available.  However, if you have anything running XP, it’s time to get a new machine.  XP hasn’t been supported (i.e., there are no more security updates) since April, 2014.

If you want to make sure your network is secure, give us a call.  We can help whether your network is 10 computers or 500 at five different sites.

Is Your Network Ready for VoIP?

If you’re considering switching your office phone system to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), you need to be sure your network is ready for the traffic.  Voice packets, unlike data packets, are large and require high quality connections.  When you introduce voice packets to an existing network, bandwidth can suffer.  Lost data packets can cause glitches in programs, but lost voice packets mean interrupted (or poor sound quality) conversations.

Obviously, poor call quality is unacceptable in a business environment, so it’s critical that your network provide adequate bandwidth for voice and data applications.

Before You Switch

Prior to implementing VoIP technology on your existing network, your IT staff and your VoIP provider need to fully understand your company’s voice and data requirements. Priority should be given to voice traffic so that call quality does not suffer.  If your existing network does not have the capacity (bandwidth) to support voice and data, don’t try to force it.  VoIP implementations where the network was inadequate at the outset can end up costing a business much more in the long run.

If you have questions about whether or not your network is ready for VoIP, call us today at 757-497-3100.

 

Our Office Phones are Down. Now What?

573_5391_5330_headset

It doesn’t matter if you run a law office, a medical practice, or a toy store, having office phones go down is a major problem for any business. Sometimes it takes time to realize that the phones have stopped ringing because calls within the building are still working. Other times, you may find out very quickly when someone tries to dial out. Regardless of how long the phones have been down, there’s always a bit of panic to get them back up as quickly as possible.

If you have VoIP, check that you have internet connectivity.  If the internet is not working, the phones will not work.  If the internet is working normally but you can’t call out or receive calls, resetting your router(s) or integrated access device may solve the problem.  If that isn’t feasible, or doesn’t work, it’s time to call your VoIP provider via a personal cell phone.

While there are many “DIY” VoIP office phones on the market, the support for such an installation may be almost non-existent.  BCS Voice & Data is a local company based in Virginia Beach with a fleet of vehicles and trained technicians that can be onsite anywhere from Richmond to Suffolk to Virginia Beach in short order (depending on Hampton Roads traffic of course).

If you find yourself in a situation where your office phones are down and you’re unable to resolve the problem, call us at 757-497-3100 and we’ll see if we can help your reach a solution.

3 Things Virtualization Helps You Do

Virtualization isn’t just for companies with a need for huge servers.  Here are 3 ways virtualization can help small and medium sized businesses.

1)  Run old programs or applications.  Sometimes an older program doesn’t run well on newer operating systems.  That industry specific software that you really need every now and then that won’t run on Windows 8 will run just fine on a virtual machine (VM) that’s running XP.  VMware Player has a function called Unity mode, which lets programs running in the VM to look as if they’re running on the host computer.

2) Test updates or new configurations.  Want to make sure that an upgrade isn’t going to bring down the whole system?  Run a copy of your current system in a virtual machine, do the upgrade in the VM and test it for problems or discrepancies.

3) Run multiple operating systems.  Want to try Linux?  You can do it in a VM.  Have some employees working on Macs? They can run Windows in a virtual machine and have access to all the programs their co-workers on PCs do.

If you have questions about how virtualization can work for your business, call BCS at 757.497.3100 to speak to one of our IT specialists.  BCS Voice and Data serves the greater Hampton Roads area, including Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, and Northeastern North Carolina.

Server room structured cabling

Network Security

computer_structured_cabling_va_beachNetwork Security for Small Business

Think your business is too small to worry about network security?  Think again.  Cyber criminals don’t discriminate based on the size of a company and often cast wide nets that find weaknesses and exploit them.  Here are some key tips to help you protect your business.

1)  Secure your WiFi network.

If you offer Wifi to your customers, set up a separate network that is visible, and either open or has a simple password that the staff gives to customers only.  Have a separate password-protected and hidden network for devices that belong to the business.  To hide the WiFi network, configure your router so that the network name is not broadcast (the network name is also known as the SSID).

2) Know your risks.

What do you need to protect?  Confidential client information?  Credit card numbers?  Do you do business with larger firms that might be attractive targets to cyber criminals?

3) Control access to computers and network components.

Take care to prevent laptop theft. Ensure employees don’t leave their office laptop in a car, even if the car is locked and it’s a good neighborhood.  If you have onsite servers, be sure that access to them is tightly controlled.

4) Keep your software and anti-virus protection up-to-date.

Software vendors regularly release patches and product updates meant to fix security vulnerabilities. Make sure that all computers and devices are set to install such updates automatically if at all possible.   It’s also important to use anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on all devices and keep it up to date as well.

If you have questions or concerns about your small or mid-size businesses network security, call BCS Voice and Data.  We specialize in designing and maintaining networks for businesses of all sizes, and we are well equipped to address all types of networks.