The transition to cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) presents companies with a number of benefits, such as boosting productivity and innovation, increasing mobility and enhancing flexibility. But deploying UC also comes with its fair share of challenges and security concerns. As more businesses embark on a digital transformation journey to equip their workplaces with the latest technologies, below are four major security concerns, along with best practices, on how to mitigate these risks to ensure a successful UC deployment.
1 | Access rights and restrictions
A strong, security-focused UC platform should first and foremost have clearly-defined rights and restrictions for internal and external users. This is the first step to “guarding the gates” and preventing any unwanted breaches that could result in financial or reputational losses. A user’s identity – including device, location and credentials – need to be verified before they can gain access to company UC tools, be it email, instant messaging, audio, video or web conferencing.
IT administrators should also have master-level security controls to perform tasks like enabling single sign-on (SSO) functions, remotely managing user access, adding and removing accounts at a moment’s notice, changing user permissions and managing user PINs. The right balance needs to be struck between batched and restricted access for employees, and allowing them access to data necessary to do their jobs.
2 | Data security and encryption
A secure database – whether on premise, in the cloud, or a hybrid mix of both – is another concern when it comes to deploying UC for the entire organization. This includes a robust Information Security Management System (ISMS) with the right policies, procedures and protocols in place, as well as an up-to-date Configuration Management Database (CMDB) with document classification and monitoring processes to avoid confidential information being shared in the cloud.
Ideally, all of a company’s data transmitted through the UC vendor’s network should be encrypted. This applies to all incoming and outgoing files, text and voice messages, as well as for password data stored in the cloud. It is vital, therefore, to ensure that your UC platform supports industry standard encryptions, such as the IEEE for signaling and the ITU-T for voice communications.
3 | Employee error and vulnerability
As the end users of UC technology, employees are often knowingly or unknowingly the biggest threats to a company’s security, according to the Wall Street Journal. In fact, an industry report found that employee negligence is the main cause of data breaches, with remote workers and external vendors increasing the risk. Training and education for staff, therefore, is essential.
Keeping employees up-to-date on the latest security standards will not only change poor habits like choosing weak passwords or clicking on email spam, but contributes to an overall safer environment. Effective training can be conducted over video, web conferencing or even UC tools, resulting in users gaining a better understanding of UC tools’ functionalities. As employees become more confident of their own skills, the chances of turning to shadow IT – a huge risk for data leaks – will be greatly reduced.
4 | Mobile devices and third party apps
With the rise of a flexible, remote and mobile workforce here in APAC, employees will be relying less and less on physical desktops or the office network for their communications. The popularity of mobile phones and BYODs will mean that employers need to give their teams the freedom to select tools that best meets their needs. However, boundaries do need to be set, so that adoption abides by compliance, regulatory and security rules.
Examples include establishing a mobile or BYOD security policy, communicating the importance of following protocol, as well as enforcing tracking and labelling of devices and mandatory anti-virus solutions. With good security management, employees can reap the benefits of being able to perform effectively outside the office environment.
Companies of all sizes are adopting UC in their digital transformation efforts as they recognize the value of these technologies for improving end-user productivity, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing communications costs. These benefits, however, do not come without risks. That’s why it’s important for companies to work with their service partners to ensure these security concerns are addressed effectively. In the increasingly borderless world that we live in today, it’s worth investing the time and resources to make sure the right protocols are in place in order to create a safe, flexible and productive work environment for all.