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7 ways to improve unified communications security

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Unified communications describes a broad range of applications and business communications technology. This type of technology has many benefits for a growing business, but you also want to make sure you have the right unified communications security procedures in place.

Users are able to communicate via email, video, SMS, VoIP, as well as scheduling and workflow applications, text messaging, and various voice-mail systems. These can be integrated through multiple devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers which allows for real-time collaboration and keeping teams current with every aspect of their projects.

What’s more, unified communications allows employees the flexibility to enjoy an in-office experience, singly or collaboratively, at any location–ideal for mobile employees and the departments that need to work closely with them.

While there are huge advantages to tying together all your business communication options, the disparate technologies involved can present some unique security issues–particularly for small or medium-sized businesses without the same resources as a large business.

Fortunately, managing unified communications security for an SMB isn’t too different from managing any other security concern. Consider some of these best practices when setting up and using your unified communications platform:

Strong passwords

It almost goes without saying that the first step in securing any computer, network, or Internet connection is a strong password policy.

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At a minimum, strong passwords should contain combinations of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

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Ideally, they shouldn’t form any obvious word structure and certainly shouldn’t rely on public information such as birthdays or anniversaries.

Next, try to avoid repeating passwords on multiple devices. A lost phone with an exposed password could risk opening access to your unified communications platform leaving your network exposed.

Also, consider a two-step verification process that includes dual-password setups or identity confirmation questions.

Keep current on updates

Smartphones, operating systems, VoIP systems, and other tech tools require regular updates. While keeping current on system updates can seem tedious or annoying, remember that you’re protecting your business and your clients by doing everything you can to treat security seriously.

Using a managed IT service provider can make this step easy for you. A good provider will be constantly improving security and closing potential holes in your system to keep devices from being exploited by unauthorized users.

Check your history

Regularly reviewing the history of your devices adds a level of protection to your unified communications security.

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Checking call logs, incident reports, log in and log out times, file transfers, and browser history can reveal if there has been any unauthorized activity on devices or accounts.

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This is especially important if you find that there is an unexpected increase in activity over a certain period of time.

Many people don’t even realize that these are options for review, and hackers exploit this to their advantage. Keep on top of activity logs and catch trouble before it becomes too serious and brings risk to your business and clients.

Deactivate unused devices

It’s safe to assume that any device that is turned on is vulnerable in one way or another. An unattended computer or open Wi-Fi hotspot can be an open port of entry to someone attempting to infiltrate your system.

Shutting a device down when not in use is a simple solution to this potential hazard. You can also train your employees to close unified communications applications when not in use, thus requiring a password when someone tries to log back in.

Set up a strong firewall

A firewall monitors all communication going in and out of your network for potential risks.

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Many networks used by small or medium-size businesses often neglect setting up a good firewall, and leave themselves vulnerable to not just random hackers, but malware and ransomware.

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There are many different types of firewalls that can be set up. It can be a little overwhelming deciding what is best for your business, but an IT consultant can help.

At a minimum, you’ll want to block unknown traffic into your network and only allow traffic from trusted sources. While that can be difficult for a web server, your unified communications should be behind the firewall for its protection.

Set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for remote users

Most networking devices run by SMBs have VPN capability built-in.

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By using a VPN when employees are connecting remotely to your network, you create a private network that keeps your traffic safe.

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You can also add encryption to an extra layer of security.

There are only a few ports open to VPN traffic. And because VPN requires additional authentication before connection, you can have them open to the entire unified communications platform.

Using the tools your unified communications devices provide

Finally, there is wisdom in taking advantage of the tools already provided you. Most devices allow you to block specific IP addresses or limit network access over Wi-Fi and other wide area networks. Other tools can block access after a predetermined number of failed login attempts.

Don’t ignore the security and management tools that come with your unified communications system. Learn what they are and how to use them to keep your system safe.

Final thoughts

Unified communications is a powerful tool bringing together multiple aspects of your business. It encourages collaboration and increases efficiency. But your network is only as safe as your unified communications security.

Contact your managed IT service provider to make sure your unified communications system is secure and your business is protected.