The rush to work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has led to a rapid adoption of video-based meeting services, often without organizations having the time to perform necessary due diligence to evaluate security and compliance capabilities. Of late, a few security-related issues have arisen around Zoom Meetings, leading Zoom founder Eric Yuan to pen a blog post stating that he has implemented a 90-day feature development freeze to focus resources on addressing security issues.
As you can imagine, Zoom’s competitors have used these issues to reinforce their own commitments to security as they attempt to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
Most recently, Zoom’s encryption model has come under attack, underscoring an issue that isn’t unique to Zoom. Like Cisco and Symphony, Zoom offers end-to-end encryption for its messaging app. However, Zoom doesn’t provide end-to-end encryption for meetings. Rather, as described her, it encrypts voice and video data in transit between the Zoom client or Zoom Room endpoint to Zoom’s servers, but once the data reaches the servers, Zoom must decrypt the data to support recording, transcription, and a variety of other features. Zoom isn’t alone in this respect. For meeting vendors to offer advanced features such as transcription and recording; take advantage of emerging AI capabilities like facial recognition; or support third-party integrations, they must be able to unencrypt video and audio data to analyze it.
The common model for encryption among meeting applications is data at rest (on the provider’s servers) and in motion (e.g., endpoint to server). Cisco is worth noting as an exception, as it does offer an end-to-end encryption option for Webex Meetings.
However, as Cisco notes, using this option disables its web app, recording, the ability for participants to join a meeting before the host arrives, and the use of video endpoints. Another vendor, Wire, offers end-to-end encryption for videoconferencing and messaging, but has a limit of 10 participants per call. The fact that most all video meeting vendors have neither end-to-end encryption nor the ability for customers to manage their own encryption keys as standard in their services means that government entities can obtain a warrant and tap meetings.
Most cloud providers, including Cisco, Google, and Microsoft, publish transparency reports that list government requests for data. Yuan’s blog post notes that Zoom will soon likewise do the same to address concerns about meeting data the government might be requesting to access. More to the point, the debate over end-to-end encryption brings up the question as to whether or not enterprises truly need it to meet their security and compliance needs. Obviously, the unique needs of the organization will drive requirements.
Those operating in regulated industries, conducting meetings in which personally identifiable information is shared (e.g., telemedicine), or involved in national security, will likely have more stringent security requirements than say an analyst firm having an internal meeting to discuss an upcoming research project. For those organizations that truly can’t take the risk of a meeting vendor, or third-party entity, gaining access to meeting data, on-premises meeting platform options from vendors such as Cisco, Compunetix, and Pexip may suffice. Using these kinds of platforms means that a company is buying, deploying, and managing its own conferencing infrastructure within its data center, or within a public cloud service that it controls.
For those responsible for information security and/or collaboration, it’s worth taking some time to understand the security capabilities of vendors in use, and those you may be evaluating for future use. Start first with documenting your own requirements for information protection and privacy and conduct a thorough assessment of whether or not cloud providers can meet your needs, or if you will need to consider an on-premises option.
As businesses adapt to remote-only environments, they are learning very quickly the importance of Unified Communications
Businesses today, due to the work from the home environment we are in, are finding they need Unified Communications. While some haven’t made the purchase yet, others are just discovering Unified Communications for the first time. Some businesses have found they indeed have Unified Communications (UC) or some elements of it but didn’t know. In this article, we dive into the four must-haves of Unified Communications solutions.
Perhaps the most critical feature of a UCaaS system these days is mobility. The mobility feature is non-negotiable and is a must-have. Furthermore, this feature should be free. In this context, mobility is the ability of your office phone number to ring on your laptop or smartphone. This is accomplished using a soft client installed on your laptop or as an app on your smartphone.
Since the communication is on IP, it can be via LTE or Wi-Fi, which means you can be connected remotely relatively easily. This enables your employees to work from anywhere, even if anywhere is home. The business can keep running smoothly since you can still talk to customers, using the same phone numbers you have always used. Predictions indicate, even when we are all past this, various forms of working remote will continue. With an expected 628 Million public Wi-Fi hotspots by 2023, (up from 169 Million in 2018), and with 5G coming, the ability to be connected from just about anywhere will increase by orders of magnitude, so this trend will continue for sure.
2. Presence Service
This brings me to the second point. I mentioned the soft client above, but the soft client should not just be a way to make a phone call. It needs to be able to handle presence as well. As we all work remotely, knowing the person you need to communicate with us online and available is a productivity enhancer. You can get an answer right away, even if that person is on a conference call, or you can set up a call at a later available time.
3. Video Collaboration
The third important feature is video collaboration. We have all heard of Zoom by now and in fact, it is turning into a verb. But a UC system needs to have the ability to handle large video conference and collaboration. Just seeing other employees and customers, and sharing documents, is becoming woven into the fabric of how we conduct business now, and it will surely continue into the future, as one of the ways meetings and discussions will be held. There are many options available for this and it does not have to be Zoom. But this is a critical feature of a UC system these days, and your UC supplier should be able to offer this to you.
4. Contact Center features
Finally, as an “office” became more of a place you used to go, many businesses found that answering the call and just looking for the right person does not work anymore. Businesses are finding that having a basic contact center would enable so much better customer service and are asking to add multimodal contact center features to the UC system. Why have another specific expensive contact center unit (either on-prem or another monthly cloud expense) if the UC system can handle the basic contact center features that would help a small business? Because why not – the UC system already includes multimodal communication potential.
Some basic contact center features include music on hold, IVR, and call queues. Call queues allow companies to provide top-notch customer service with features like queue callback, allowing callers to maintain their position in line without waiting on hold. Built-in queue priority ensures that customers are put in contact with an agent as quickly as possible by assigning specific callers to designated, prioritized queues that take into account arrival time. Callers can also take advantage of callback features, allowing your team to schedule calls and allowing recipients to confirm, cancel, or reschedule. These all-important call center or contact center features enable better customer service and make small businesses look larger to the outside world. These features, allow you to handle customer calls remotely, routed to your business phone number via your desk phone, smartphone, or laptop.
When you look for a UCaaS system, make sure these features are included at a simple to predictable price. If there are a bunch of “well..I’ll have to check on that” sort of things going on, that is a red flag.