Sep 27, 2016 Dennis Behrens
Communications technology is constantly evolving. A one-size-fits-all technology approach suited the needs for voice communications between employees in an age when the number of buttons and size of the phone was a status symbol. Fast forward to now, where employees have a myriad of options for each communication transaction – traditional to collaborative, landline to mobile, company-provided to consumer. The most empowering organizations focus on the experience of their users and clients, enabling choice.
These Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) solutions:
- are software driven
- can involve a single vendor or multiple technologies carefully stitched together, and
- can include the right mix of mobile, video, and software-based endpoints
However, at the core, many of the same communication building blocks of the past still exist. Specifically, we all have phone numbers so that we can be reached ubiquitously by anyone (sure – additional technologies can layer on top, like WebRTC, SIP URIs, and more).
When an organization chooses to migrate to a new UCC platform, typically a new underlying phone system is implemented. Although this new system promises to enable the new modern communication experience, the manner by which we get there has remained unchanged in decades.
That is, until now.
Traditional Approaches: Inconvenient, Inflexible, and Inefficient
The traditional approach to a phone system transition can happen in one of two manners:
- a flash cut, or
- a migration
A flash cut is quite simple – typically reserved for smaller solutions, the new system is configured and made ready. At that point, all users get moved to this new system in one event. Afterwards, the old system gets removed.
The migration approach can be more complex. It involves integrating the new and old systems, moving users in batches from old to new, and then removing the old system after all of the moves are completed. Moving the users becomes a focal point in the work effort. In most migration situations the following occurs:
- the vendor and client teams identify EXACTLY what devices are going to be part of a move
- the user data gets configured into the systems
- phones get installed in parallel (which can be mobile clients or softphones)
- the engineers that understand both systems perform a cutover and test over a weekend or evening
- the old phones get removed during another visit to each workstation
This age-old approach works. We’ve all been conditioned to accept it as the norm, the way consumers accepted the need to rewind VHS cassettes in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. This approach of restarting a video still technically works, but is outdated in the world of Blu-ray and Netflix.
Black Box felt it was time to innovate.
bMigrate: Cutting-Edge System Migration
Why not perform cutovers for individual devices? Wouldn’t this reduce a significant amount of the planning, inflexibility, risk, and delay associated with telephony migrations? These are the exact questions that Black Box has answered with its bMigrate approach and software. bMigrate simplifies migration—providing an on-demand method for moving between phone systems by utilizing software automation to perform the migration work predictively. This approach transforms the experience for end users and technical teams alike:
- the technical teams no longer need to be EXACT about what devices are going to be transitioned and when
- the engineers that know both systems don’t need to be engaged for coordinated cutovers
- the end user no longer will have phones installed in parallel, reducing confusion
- testing can be performed AT THE ENDPOINT to assure everything works the first time
- endpoints can be installed at any time of the day and the cutover will only affect that specific user (This is especially helpful in 24x7 environments or where a user already has an IP phone.)
If your organization is considering an upcoming transition to a new UCC platform, how would you like it to be performed? Would you consider renting and rewinding a VHS video instead of streaming with Netflix?
It’s time to evolve.
To download more information about how bMigrate can work for you, visit our website.
Sep 6, 2016 Kathy Brahan
Software Defined Networks, the Internet of Things, Big Data—these technology trends are taking the business world by storm. How do they fit into your comprehensive IT strategy?
We can help you figure that out.
For the last 40 years, Black Box has guided and enabled our customers to stay ahead of the information technology curve while growing and adapting with the times—providing state-of-the-art solutions for positive business outcomes. But many Black Box customers who leverage our solutions don’t know about our rich history, and only know about some of our areas of expertise.
Whether deploying agile, mobile-first networking solutions, providing secure, unrestricted access to the Cloud, harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT), or enabling virtual collaboration, Black Box partners with our clients to set the pace in the IT world. We’re helping clients connect their things in IoT networks—improving efficiency in manufacturing, reducing medical errors in hospitals, and enabling comprehensive management of anything connected to a network. Our Federal Team works closely with government agencies to develop SDN solutions that are receiving recognition for being innovative and effective. Our state-of-the-art display technology is used by customers in all industries to support Big Data visualization—communicating complexity through real-time, high-definition video walls.
To learn more about how this small start-up has grown to be a major force in delivering IT solutions—and how we can work to advance your IT strategy—watch our latest video, Leave the Tech to Us, and visit us at www.blackbox.com
Jul 1, 2016 Kathy Brahan
First in a two-part series
With today’s BYOD, virtual office, and millennial expectations, many companies are realizing that it is in their best interests to install their own facility-wide Distributed Antenna System (DAS) for employee, vendor, and customer smarthphones, and other wireless devices. This capital-intensive project should following a set of well-defined practices to insures your company’s IT investment is well spent. But where do you start?
Staking Claim: DAS Needs, Wants, and Must-Haves One of the best places to start conceptualizing a DAS is with the people who will depend on it. Internal and external stakeholder input will help you identify any real-world problems immediately--helping to define the parameters and specifications for your system.
Critical company users need to have their wireless needs fulfilled. For employees, these can range from “my cell phone always drops in the cafeteria” (most likely a coverage problem) to “my cell phone makes calls fine in my office but data is always so SLOW” (possibly a capacity problem) to “my colleague’s phone works great, but mine doesn’t” (lack of multi-carrier support).
Specific needs should also be considered:
- How will customers, patients, travelers, and others interact with the wireless network and what are their expectations for supported commercial carriers (AT&T, Verizon, etc.), compatibility and usability?
- Does Operations have a private radio system that needs to be supplemented in certain areas?
- Does a new construction project require public-safety coverage to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy?
- Is there instrumentation (e.g. heart monitors, wireless kiosks, registers) that needs to be monitored wirelessly in the facility?
- Are there IT or sales and marketing programs that need to be promoted using the system?
By evaluating all stakeholder needs, your DAS solution can be tailored to address existing and future coverage, capacity, and criticality demands. This is an important investment. Your company should get the biggest bang for its buck.
Faces of Change: Leaders and Champions A well thought-out DAS solution is not a quick undertaking. It will take a committed leader within the organization to oversee the project, and most likely, a corporate sponsor to interface with multiple internal groups and to move the project through all necessary approval gates. The project leader can come from any part of the business, but generally he or she is in the Facilities or IT department. Both the project leader and sponsor will need to focus on continued stakeholder communications—like status updates and progress reports—to ensure success and buy-in.
Dollars and Sense Available capital will impact the type of solution you choose. Once your true wireless needs for the building are identified, the total price of that solution can be calculated. Like other IT investments, the initial monetary outlay may be higher than initially anticipated.
So, what if the price of the desired solution is more than your available budget? Here are several options:
Scaling: Consider scaling back the project. Has your team specified a Cadillac when a Chevrolet would be fine? Be realistic and be practical. See if scaling back services will get you back to your available budget. For example, think about supporting two, instead of all, commercial carriers.
Phasing: Look at staging the project in phases. If the services required are too expensive to do throughout the total coverage area, examine doing the most critical areas of the building first. Then provide additional coverage as funds become available. An alternative to this phased-in approach may be to stage services within the entire structure. For example, a business that needs public safety in a new structure might do that layer first, and follow it up with commercial carrier services at a later time, as the budget allows.
Working with a qualified system integrator is key to making tradeoffs for both scaling and staging.
Partner-Picking Protocol The right integration partner will make a project go well, while the wrong integration partner can make a project challenging. A good partner should not rush your decision, but rather, be available to answer all of your questions and provide a comprehensive assessment of your needs. Your integration partner should have experience and knowledge addressing all requirements: commercial carrier services, public safety, private radio networks. This includes interaction WI-FI.
References are very important. The scope and resources involved warrant a thorough vetting of the partner you select. It is a good idea to ask for references from other clients who have installed similar solutions in the same vertical industry. IT solutions ideal in a healthcare environment differ vastly from those required in retail. It is important that your solutions partner understands your specific business/implementation or technology requirements. If a reference from your vertical is not available, get two:
- one that generally aligns with your business needs to confirm that implementation requirements are well understood, and
- one that required similar technology (commercial, private radio, public safety, and Wi-Fi) to assure technical requirements are understood and supported by the partner
Avoid Last-Minute Surprises: Carrier Requirements Vary Any enterprise customer may purchase and install a DAS, but to rebroadcast the signals of the commercial wireless carriers, the enterprise must have the commercial wireless carriers’ expressed permission. To obtain that permission, all of the commercial wireless carriers will expect the DAS to meet minimum performance measurements to insure their subscribers’ experience on the enterprise’s DAS is consistent with their own network standards.
Unfortunately, there is no universal answer to what those standards are. You can think of a commercial wireless network like a constantly growing and evolving organism. Requirements in one location may be entirely different than those in another location – even if the sites are only miles apart. These variances are due to terrain, building structure, proximity to cell sites, building capacity, and host of other factors.
A good systems integrator will confirm specifications and requirements with each wireless carrier. This critical step helps to ensure that commercial wireless carriers will allow the rebroadcast of their signals when the time comes. Otherwise, a costly and lengthy process—including substantial rework of the DAS—may be required to meet the specifications post-development.
So... A well-planned and executed DAS is a long-term project that requires assistance and buy-in from many internal groups. Major considerations include budget, users’ needs and expectations, partner capabilities, and carrier considerations. But we’re not done yet. Stay tuned for Part 2.
May 31, 2016 Rockie Brockway
You May be Surprised
A recent poll of 1,100 corporate executives across the globe found that 64% of them consider compliance a “very” or “extremely” effective strategy in preventing data breaches.1 This poll is troubling, especially since many of the largest, most recent data breaches affected organizations that reported themselves to be compliant with appropriate mandated regulatory frameworks for their industry.
While there are many terms and phrases that have become overused in the Information Security and Risk industry, this one holds true: Compliance is not Security.
IT Risk and Security: Framing the Issue
Organizational leaders should recognize the lesser importance of compliance frameworks, and the greater importance of protecting business-critical data:
- What is it?
- Where does it live?
- Who has access to it?
- How do we know if any violations have occurred?
- If they have, what next steps should be implemented?
To establish a baseline for discussion, it should be understood that compliance is an either/or, pass/fail, yes/no decision-tree model. The compliance model is not very good at qualifying effectiveness.
Let’s run through an exercise:
- Do you have a firewall?
- Do you have anti-virus?
- Do you enforce complex passwords?
- Would any, or even all, of these infrastructure controls prevent an advanced adversary from stealing your business-critical data?
- Would these infrastructure controls prevent an adversary from using your intellectual property to generate profit on the internet black markets?
This exercise illustrates how the compliance model falls short in qualifying effectiveness. Let us look a bit deeper:
- Firewall installed? Your firewall prevents any unknown traffic INTO your network, but your HR director just got phished into visiting a website that installed a malicious remote-access application onto his laptop. It’s now communicating back to a command and control server somewhere on the Internet because your firewall is also configured for unfettered OUTBOUND access for your users.
- Anti-Virus installed? Everyday more malware is discovered that infects hosts and injects itself into memory. The malware bypasses most (if not all) Anti-Virus products by not relying on the execution of binaries from disk for the initial infection point.
- Password policy that enforces complex passwords? An adversary might call your users posing as IT support, and politely ask them for their passwords. At the very least that malware that just injected itself into memory also has the ability to scrape your complex passwords from running processes.
At a high level, one of the obvious issues with static compliance frameworks is that they are used to measure a subjective abstract. Understanding point-in-time objective security (“how safe you actually are”) is not an easy task, and borders on being an art of risk calculation and analysis rather than a skillset. But answering the question, “how safe do you feel?” is completely subjective; in relation to security, everyone “feels” differently based on their own experiences and status quo. Chris Nickerson, from Lares Consulting, addresses this in his excellent TEDx talk: Hackers are all about curiosity, and security is just a feeling.2
The Cost of Complacency
Where things typically get messy with compliance vs security is the “safe” feeling one usually enjoys when passing a compliance assessment—that static Yes/No framework being used to measure objective security without quantitative or qualitative data and/or analysis. The passing grades tend to give the feeling of increased security, even though the threat likely remains unchanged, and risks to the business still exist. Here is a real-world example of how feelings may not mirror reality: today’s continuous news coverage of global threats fosters feelings of reduced personal security. However, the actual threat to an individual is exceptionally low. Recognizing the difference between feeling secure, and being secure is critical in the information security discussion.
In the end, the advanced adversary that is incentivized to try to steal your business-critical data cares very little about your successful compliance audit or framework. To your competition, your data is merely a series of 1s and 0s, in transit or at rest. When vetting compliance auditors, ensure that they are familiar with your industry’s specific compliance framework. However, when vetting red and purple team attack vendors, make sure that they are experts in simulating the theft of those 1s and 0s. Your adversary does not care about your compliance framework. Neither should your pen-testing vendor.
With that said, the “Compliance is not Security” viewpoint tends to lean in a slanted direction with Information Security and Risk professionals, many of whom are of the mindset that compliance frameworks should be de-valued at the least, or thrown out in the extreme. The reality today is that compliance frameworks (mandated or otherwise), while flawed and perhaps over-emphasized in relevance, are still an important aspect to:
- any organization’s Enterprise Security Architecture (ESA), or
- any program that helps align business goals with the protection of business critical data
An Enterprise Security Architecture framework that focuses on the protection of business-critical data and evolves with your business should act as the anchor for your compliance requirements. For compliance, each and every one of the static yes/no questions maps directly into the broader security initiative supporting the business
Compliance does not mean Security, but Security does include Compliance.
Apr 27, 2016 Kathy Brahan
You understand the intrinsic value that an integrated Unified Communications (UC) system can mean to the business, but justifying the cost of this capital investment to your leadership is a challenge. Beyond the actual dollars and cents on the balance sheet, there are “soft gains” that need to be considered—such as improved user satisfaction and productivity—as well as the opportunity cost of NOT moving to a collaborative UC platform.
What if you had a way to quantify and demonstrate the ROI of a UC tool? By answering 5 simple questions, Black Box can help you calculate the cost of upgrading or installing an advanced UC system, and presenting the positive financial gains to business leaders.
We’ll calculate your UC ROI Don’t allow fear of the unknown to drive inaction. Provide us with the information below, and we will calculate your UC ROI. With that information, you’ll be able to build a solid business case for your UC implementation strategy—presenting your leadership team with the information they need to make an educated funding decision.
- Is the solution replacing an existing PBX or augmenting it with UC-only for some or all users?
- How will the UC system be deployed? Will it be completely premise, Cloud, or a hybrid of both?
- What is the total number of users the proposed UC system will support at deployment in 2015 and in 2020? This includes telephony-only users if the proposed UC system is replacing an existing PBX.
- What percentage of the users in a PBX replacement will need UC capabilities in 2015 and 2020? This only applies to PBX replacement, and is assumed to be 100% for PBX augmentation.
- How many contact center agents will get UC functionality in 2015 and 2020? Note: These are included in the total number of users as above.
Contact us today We'll walk you through the process and calculate the ROI quickly and accurately.
The UC ROI tool from Black Box can be the difference between the IT status quo and taking a proactive strategy that improves your organization’s productivity and collaboration. It’s never too late to prepare for your IT future. Start today.
Apr 12, 2016 Kathy Brahan
Over 970,000 licensed physicians are responsible for patient care and referrals in the United States. With seventy-five million Baby Boomers aging into retirement and an estimated shortage of 80,000-200,000 physicians by 2020, the demand for healthcare providers is at an all-time high. Increased demand requires healthcare providers to be agile, operating from multiple locations - from office to clinic to hospital - and with diverse care teams.
Legacy IT Impacts Patient Care Many healthcare providers are still working with legacy technologies--such as alphanumeric pagers with one-way communication capabilities--that lack real-time directional functionality. These dated technologies are inefficient and incapable of true collaboration. Ineffective communication is noted as the primary cause of over 70 percent of medical treatment delays and sentinel events. Mobile Unified Communications (UC) is the key to reducing this statistic.
On-the-Go Communications Critical in Today's Healthcare Ever-improving EMR access enables healthcare providers to interact with other staff to optimize patient engagement and overall practice operations. They are also leveraging smart devices to support clinical workflows better. More hospitals, clinics, and extended care facilities are using VoIP services to increase communication, but the unification of these systems is where healthcare is most effective.
Patient care workflows require Mobile UC to increase responsiveness at critical junctures. Mobile UC helps reduce decision latency via local and remote collaboration solutions designed to share data and improve care coordination. Mobile UC utilizes Wi-Fi or cellular access with a range of resources, such as voice, conferencing, instant messaging, and video across a diverse set of devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and wearable technology.
For healthcare providers using VoIP, Mobile UC is the next evolution in healthcare. Mobilizing integrated communications allows healthcare providers real-time access to maintain the highest quality of care no matter the location.
Get Our Must-Have Mobile UC Healthcare Checklist Download our free Mobile UC for Healthcare Checklist to help guide you as you research UC solutions for your health care organization.
Learn more about how Black Box support Healthcare IT at: https://www.blackbox.com/us/industries/healthcare
 Joint Commission, Improving America’s Hospitals, Annual Report on Safety and Quality, 2007
Mar 17, 2016 Kathy Brahan
Today’s physicians are on the go. On any given day, a doctor will see patients at his office, at a local clinic, and at one or more hospitals. That's why Mobile UC is so important in a fast-paced, decentralized healthcare environment.
For the mobile doctor, the ability to communicate with support staff and collaborate with other healthcare providers greatly impacts his or her ability to treat patients effectively.
Among other benefits, Mobile UC allows a doctor to:
- approve the discharge of a patient who’s ready to go home
- communicate with a pharmacist about prescription issues
- join a meeting with another doctor to discuss emergency post-op treatment
Mobile UC enhances clinical communications by providing multiple methods of collaboration via a range of devices. When direct calls are not an option, clinicians can collaborate via instant messaging--reducing lag time and enabling secured, encrypted communication. A Mobile UC solution also offers a single contact number across devices--from smartphone, to tablet, to PC--increasing the likelihood that the doctor can be reached quickly in an emergency.
And when the need arises for an impromptu, time-critical meeting to discuss patient treatment, Mobile UC means that the doctor can be brought into the meeting, can view diagnostics, and can collaborate with his or her colleagues on a course of action. All this can be done remotely – and securely – via a smartphone or tablet.
As more and more healthcare enterprises grow from a single building to multiple buildings to multiple sites, IT directors are looking for ways to provide secure and reliable communication and collaboration tools for doctors and other healthcare staff who need to work together across distances.
If you’re that IT director, a Mobile UC solution might be just what the doctor ordered.
To learn more about how you can give your doctors the communications tools they need, check out this short but informative video on UC for today’s mobile doctor.
Feb 23, 2016 Kathy Brahan
Are you conflicted about using external IT Services to supplement your IT organizations? Many IT leaders are, but this is changing. Consider this: 74% percent of businesses anticipate increased demand on IT. This type of demand will put an enormous strain on your ever-decreasing resources.
That's why more and more, companies like yours turn to IT Services to improve productivity and to save costs. IT Services allow companies to:
- Free up internal resources for key initiatives
- Leverage external knowledge, skills, and expertise
- Improve operations and
- Gain greater visibility into IT costs
Black Box can help. Our infographic, Leveraging Trends in IT Services, offers easy-to-share, critical information, including:
- What's driving the shift to IT Services
- The 3 key resource challenges
- The importance of expertise, efficiency, and transparency
- The benefit of consuming the right service, and
- Knowing where and how to start the process
Click here to download Black Box's Infographic: Leveraging Trends in IT Services
- Increase productivity and reduce costs
- Refocus resources on strategic objectives
Leveraging Trends in IT Services can support your efforts to get the buy-in of decision makers--helping to reframe the IT Services discussion to focus on cost savings and productivity.
Visit the Black Box IT Services web page for more information on IT Services Solutions by clicking here.
Dec 17, 2015 carly burton
What is the vision for pervasive and connected healthcare? What mobility trends will define the industry, and can your wireless network support these critical and evolving services?
This past October, IT leaders and strategists gathered at HetNet to answer these questions and talk about how mobility trends are taking the healthcare industry by storm.
Healthcare IT goes beyond providing high-quality patient-care, and includes a supportive infrastructure that thoroughly addresses capacity, criticality, and workflow demands. Listen to Black Box expert, Al Mockaitis, share his insights on wireless networks needed for:
- digital and virtual healthcare
- value-based reimbursements and data analytics
- mobile health and eHealth commerce
If you missed the conference, watch Al Mockaitis field questions in this video excerpt from The Mobile Health Revolution, October ‘15’s HetNet EXPO.
Click here to download Black Box's eBook "Enable Comprehensive Wireless Across Healthcare".
- Wireless issues that influence healthcare operations
- How to mitigate IT challenges
Dec 10, 2015 carly burton
The demand for wireless is growing exponentially.
- There are more than 7 billion mobile devices on Earth. *1
- Global mobile data traffic grew 69% in 2014. *2
- 66% of emails were opened on a smartphone or tablet. *3
It’s a full-time job creating and maintaining a reliable mobile environment for employees and users, and you need leadership’s buy-in to succeed. But how can you communicate the importance of an evolving wireless strategy to your peers and your organization’s decision-makers? Black Box can help.
We’ve created a infographic that summarizes the 6 key wireless issues that impact an enterprise. In one easy-to-understand graphic, you’ll be able to:
- define the challenges that businesses face with wireless
- share industry statistics
- explain network selection based on device and applications
- show the value of an integrated DAS and Wi-Fi system
- outline the foundation of a solid wireless deployment, and
- recommend strategies for successful implementation
*1 Jason Dorrier, Computing, Gadgets, Singularity, 2/18/14
*2 Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update 2014-2019 White Paper
*3 Movable Ink’s Q1 2014 US Consumer Device Preference Report
Click here to download Black Box's eBook "Enable Comprehensive Wireless Across Healthcare".
- Wireless issues that influence healthcare operations
- How to mitigate IT challenges