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We all know of institutions that are too big to fail. What about communication services in which failure is simply not an option?
According to many analysts and industry experts, the answer lies in 5G wireless communication.
Imagine smart roads that can alert municipalities when it’s time to plow snow or repair potholes. Or consider an electric grid knowing about a catastrophic power failure before it happens and fixing the problem in real time. Better yet, think about a person in need of life-saving surgery miles from the closest surgeon, who nevertheless receives the procedure through the use of telemedicine, where the surgeon uses computing power and robotics to control the operation.
In each case, a failure in communication might be disastrous. But with next-generation 5G wireless communication getting closer, faster broadband wireless speeds and increased capacity will deliver information better than it can with today’s 4G networks.
Therein lies the greatest excitement about 5G; entirely new business applications will be possible, according to Craig Mathias, principal analyst with Farpoint Group, a wireless and mobile advisory firm in Ashland, Mass. While a lot of new technology is being developed, “the business model impact is going to be more interesting than the technology,” he said.
The required 5G technology is nothing minor, however. A host of network trials, research and development of 5G devices, standards and specifications development, and government policies for 5G infrastructure buildouts stand between the promise and the reality of 5G technology. This year, carriers like Verizon and AT&T are expanding 5G tests in cities across the U.S. and globally. Verizon is also showcasing its 5G development during the 2018 Winter Olympics. In addition, organizations are working in partnership with telecommunications companies to develop 5G devices and the applications to be used on them.
That said, 5G wireless communication is coming, and enterprises are paying attention. The ones thinking ahead are putting plans in place so they’re prepared to take advantage of 5G technology when it’s commercially available. In this issue of Network Evolution, we explore what companies are doing to be 5G-ready.
It won’t happen overnight, much less in 2018. But this is the year for enterprises to sit up, take notice and start planning if they haven’t yet.
Also in this issue, network managers share their reasons for choosing smaller software-defined networking vendors instead of major providers like Cisco or VMware. In addition, one unified communications expert offers his tips for consolidating UC features and the pros and cons of deploying UC across the enterprise. Finally, in this month’s Subnet, learn about Durham County, N.C.’s, plan to create a more seamless experience through network automation.
Even in the era of Slack and Skype, email remains the key communication linchpin for business. But where companies use email is changing.
In July 2017, Microsoft said, for the first time, its cloud-based Office 365 collaboration platform brought in more revenue than traditional Office licensing. In October 2017, Microsoft said it had 120 million commercial subscribers using its cloud service.
This trend toward the cloud is reflected by the heavy presence of Office 365 tutorials in this compilation of the most popular tips of 2017 on SearchExchange. More businesses are interested in moving from a legacy on-premises server system to the cloud — or at least a new version of Exchange.
The following top-rated Office 365 tutorials range from why a business would use an Office 365 hybrid setup to why a backup policy is essential in Office 365.
5. Don’t wait to make an Office 365 backup policy
Microsoft does not have a built-in backup offering for Office 365, so admins have to create a policy to make sure the business doesn’t lose its data.
Admins should work down a checklist to ensure email is protected if problems arise:
- Create specific plans for retention and archives.
- See if there are regulations for data retention.
- Test backup procedures in Office 365 backup providers, such as Veeam and Backupify.
- Add alerts for Office 365 backups.
4. What it takes to convert distribution groups into Office 365 Groups
Before the business moves from its on-premises email system to Office 365, admins must look at what’s involved to turn distribution groups into Office 365 Groups. The latter is a collaborative service that gives access to shared resources, such as a mailbox, calendar, document library, team site and planner.
Microsoft provides conversion scripts to ease the switch, but they might not work in every instance. Many of our Office 365 tutorials cover these types of migration issues. This tip explains some of the other obstacles administrators encounter with Office 365 Groups and ways around them.
3. Considerations before a switch to Office 365
While Office 365 has the perk of lifting some work off IT’s shoulders, it does have some downsides. A move to the cloud means the business will lose some control over the service. For example, if Office 365 goes down, there isn’t much an admin can do if it’s a problem on Microsoft’s end.
Businesses also need to keep a careful eye on what exactly they need from licensing, or they could end up paying far more than they should. And while it’s tempting to immediately adopt every new feature that rolls out of Redmond, Wash., the organization should plan ahead to determine training for both the end user and IT department to be sure the company gets the most out of the platform.
2. When a hybrid deployment is the right choice
A clean break from a legacy on-premises version of Exchange Server to the cloud sounds ideal, but it’s not always possible due to regulations and technical issues. In those instances, a hybrid deployment can offer some benefits of the cloud, while some mailboxes remain in the data center. Many of our Office 365 tutorials assist businesses that require a hybrid model to contend with certain requirements, such as the need to keep certain applications on premises.
1. A closer look at Exchange 2016 hardware
While Microsoft gives hardware requirements for Exchange Server 2016, its guidelines don’t always mesh with reality. For example, Microsoft says companies can install Exchange Server 2016 on a 30 GB system partition. But to support the OS and updates, businesses need at least 100 GB for the system partition.
A change from an older version of Exchange to Exchange 2016 might ease the burden on the storage system, but increase demands on the CPU. This tip explains some of the adjustments that might be required before an upgrade.
Symphony Communication Services, which got its start through investments from Wall Street banks, says it’s ready to take on Microsoft and Slack in the team messaging market where Symphony is a relatively minor player.
The company introduced last week features that could make it a stronger competitor against its larger rivals. The new capabilities let companies distribute a custom instance of the Symphony collaboration software to establish a private channel with customers and partners. Cisco, Microsoft and Slack recently introduced similar capabilities in their respective cloud-based collaboration products.
Also, Symphony released a module for embedding the service into websites and third-party applications. The capability could be used, for example, to provide real-time customer service.
“The Customer Engagement Platform and Embeddable Chat Module open the door for Symphony in entirely new markets — extending our platform with new solutions that allow for secure collaboration with high-value clients and counterparties,” Symphony CEO David Gurlé said in a statement.
Gurlé has big ambitions for the company he founded in 2014. In a memo obtained by Business Insider, Gurlé told employees that the company was “kicking Slack, [Microsoft] Skype for Business and Teams out of every account where we compete with them.”
Symphony collaboration software playing catch up
Gurlé’s boast, however, isn’t reflected in the latest research. “I haven’t seen anything in our data that shows that kind of momentum,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.
In an April survey of 700 companies, Nemertes found 27% using team collaboration applications or planning to use them this year. Of that number, 35% used Microsoft Teams, 22% Cisco Spark and 16% Slack. Only 4% used the Symphony collaboration platform.
Symphony claims to have 235,000 licensed users across 200 companies. Microsoft Teams, on the other hand, is part of Office 365, the vendor’s cloud-based business productivity suite with 100 million monthly active commercial users. Slack claims to have 2 million paid users.
Nevertheless, Symphony has raised $233 million, bringing its valuation to more than $1 billion. Its backers include Google, venture capital firms and financial institutions, such as Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan.
Symphony’s strength is in its security, which stems from the company’s work with the banking industry. “I think Symphony can do well in organizations that have not yet moved to Office 365, or who do not yet feel that Teams offers acceptable security,” Lazar said.
For example, companies using Teams or Slack do not have the option of holding the encryption keys for the respective platforms — a feature that Symphony and Cisco offer. The feature is important to highly regulated businesses that do not want vendors to have the ability to decrypt message traffic.
Symphony’s and Cisco’s security advantage, however, is likely temporary. Microsoft and Slack are expected to offer on-premises encryption keys eventually.
Exchange Server and Exchange Online administrators not only keep the lines of communication open, but also must master the compliance management tools for those platforms to avoid repercussions.
When users delete email messages, it’s up to administrators to configure the back end to store those messages in compliance with regulations on the organization. Concerns about Office 365 features in this area may have kept some administrators from considering a move to the cloud platform. But Microsoft has slowly added features in the Security & Compliance Center to put enterprises at ease. Office 365 has a native reporting tool to track activities of users and administrators, and Office 365 eDiscovery offers features in key compliance areas, such as retention and preservation.
Messaging architects, consultants and other experts share these four tips to help admins understand what’s available in each messaging platform, as well as strategies and compliance management tools they can use to work through any potential compliance issues.
1. Ask compliance questions before committing to Exchange Server
Despite the rise of collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, email continues to be the main way business workers communicate. Many businesses want the admins to spend money to keep Exchange updated to tackle advances in technology, such as synching email to the users’ mobile devices. For organizations that must follow certain regulatory requirements, compliance remains a critical upgrade issue. When moving from the familiar environs of on-premises Exchange to a hosted service, such as Exchange Online in the Office 365 suite, it’s important to ask the potential vendor key compliance questions. Be aware of how often backups will occur and where email information is stored, in addition to other factors covered in-depth in this feature article.
2. Use Office 365 eDiscovery tool to retain messages and more
At companies legally bound to keep messages for two years, administrators must store — and easily retrieve — email data long forgotten by the workers creating it. While compliance concerns were once a road block for admins who wanted to shift from an on-premises messaging server into the cloud, those concerns have slowly dissipated as Microsoft has added more features and compliance management tools to Exchange Online. The Office 365 eDiscovery tool can retain messages, even if they are deleted by users or are purged by a misconfigured retention policy. This compliance management tool also features a litigation hold, which keeps all the data in the mailbox or other source until the administrator releases it.
Digitization has had a huge influence on all modern companies’ processes, and information governance and compliance in particular. Companies should explore how strategic data and compliance management can benefit the entire business, according to frequent SearchCompliance contributor Jeffrey Ritter.
3. Keep an eye on compliance with this Office 365 reporting tool
Office 365 provides several reports, available in dashboards, to monitor on a regular basis. This tip can help admins get familiar with the Office 365 reporting tool in the Usage and Security and Compliance categories. The Email Activity report particularly aids compliance, as it shows the total number of messages sent and received across the organization and compares that number to the previous reporting time period. With this tool, admins get an activity overview and can easily see how employees use Office 365, and is anything is going astray.
4. Build a preservation policy with Office 365 retention tools
The Office 365 retention tools have granular controls that help to fine-tune a preservation policy for organizations that must retain email and documents for a set period of time. There are two categories in the retention tool: Delete and Preserve. Delete allows admins to decide when a message is removed from the system, while Preserve protects email data from accidental deletion by company officers for a set amount of time.
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