Enhancing PCI Compliance and Security with Private APNs

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a crucial regulatory framework that ensures the security and privacy of credit card transactions across various industries. With an increasing number of cyber threats and vulnerabilities, it is essential for businesses that process credit card transactions to stay updated with the latest security practices. One such practice is using a Private Access Point Name (APN) for transmitting sensitive data. While not explicitly required by the PCI DSS, private APNs can provide an additional layer of security for organisations seeking to bolster their network protection.

The Benefits of Private APNs

A private APN is a customised network gateway that allows mobile devices to access a specific private network. By implementing a private APN, organisations can isolate their traffic from public networks, significantly reducing the potential attack surface. This isolation helps to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive cardholder data, thus complementing the security measures outlined in the PCI DSS.

Private APNs offer several benefits, including:

  • Enhanced Security: By isolating network traffic, private APNs create an additional barrier against cyber threats and minimise the risk of unauthorised access to sensitive information.
  • Customisation: Private APNs can be tailored to an organisation’s specific security requirements, offering greater control over data transmission and network access.
  • Improved Performance: As private APNs separate an organisation’s traffic from public networks, they can provide better performance and reliability for data transmission.

Complying with PCI DSS

While private APNs can offer valuable security benefits, it is crucial for organisations to remember that they are not a substitute for PCI DSS compliance. To ensure full compliance, businesses should adhere to the specific requirements of the standard, including:

  • Network Security: Implementing robust firewalls, encryption, and secure connections to protect cardholder data.
  • Data Protection: Safeguarding stored cardholder data and ensuring that it is only retained as long as necessary.
  • Vulnerability Management: Regularly updating and patching software to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Access Control: Restricting access to cardholder data on a need-to-know basis and implementing strong authentication measures.
  • Monitoring and Testing: Regularly testing and monitoring network resources to detect and address potential security threats.
  • Information Security Policies: Establishing and maintaining clear, up-to-date security policies and procedures.

While not explicitly mandated by the PCI DSS, private APNs can play a valuable role in enhancing your organisation’s network security. By combining the use of private APNs with strict adherence to the PCI DSS requirements, businesses can better protect sensitive cardholder data and mitigate the risks associated with cyber threats.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

7 Reasons Why You Should Choose a Private Cloud Company Over a Public Cloud Hyperscaler

Cloud computing has become an indispensable part of modern business operations. With the rise of public cloud hyperscalers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, organisations have been quick to jump on the bandwagon, leveraging these platforms for their various cloud needs. However, the debate over the benefits of public cloud hyperscalers vs. private cloud providers continues to brew. In this post, I’ll explore several reasons why you should think twice about using hyperscalers and consider private cloud companies instead.

1. Customisation and Flexibility

Hyperscalers offer a broad range of services and features, but they often come with a one-size-fits-all approach. This can lead to a lack of customisation and flexibility for businesses with unique needs. On the other hand, private cloud companies can provide tailor-made solutions specifically designed for your organisation’s requirements. This flexibility allows you to optimise your infrastructure, streamline processes, and ultimately reduce costs.

2. Data Security and Privacy

Data security and privacy are critical concerns for any organisation. While public cloud hyperscalers invest heavily in security measures, their sheer size and popularity make them more attractive targets for cybercriminals. In contrast, private cloud companies can offer a more secure environment, with less exposure to potential threats. Additionally, private cloud providers often have more stringent data privacy policies and can comply with specific industry regulations, ensuring your sensitive information remains protected.

3. Personalised Support

Hyperscalers often cater to a massive client base, which can lead to impersonal and sometimes slow customer support. Private cloud companies, however, are better equipped to offer personalised, dedicated support. They can assign account managers or support teams that intimately understand your organisation’s needs, enabling faster issue resolution and more effective communication.

4. Cost Predictability

Public cloud hyperscalers usually employ a pay-as-you-go pricing model, which can lead to unpredictable costs as your usage scales up or down. This variability can make it difficult for organisations to accurately budget and forecast expenses. Private cloud companies, however, typically offer more predictable pricing structures, including fixed monthly or yearly fees. This predictability allows for better financial planning and cost control.

5. Vendor Lock-in Risks

As organisations become more reliant on hyperscaler services, they may find themselves locked into a specific platform. This dependency can lead to increased costs and reduced flexibility, as migrating to another provider may be time-consuming and expensive. Private cloud companies often provide more open and interoperable solutions, allowing you to avoid vendor lock-in and maintain the freedom to switch providers if necessary.

6. Supporting Local Economies

By choosing a private cloud company, especially those operating within your country or region, you contribute to the growth of local businesses and economies. This not only fosters innovation within your area but also helps support job creation and economic development. Moreover, local private cloud providers are more likely to understand the unique needs and regulations of your region, further enhancing your overall cloud experience.

7. Data Sovereignty

Data sovereignty refers to the legal requirement that an organisation’s data be stored and processed within the borders of a specific country or region. Public cloud hyperscalers, with their global infrastructure, may not always be able to guarantee that your data remains within your desired jurisdiction, which can lead to potential compliance issues. Private cloud companies, particularly those operating locally, are more likely to adhere to data sovereignty requirements and ensure that your data remains within the designated borders. This can help you avoid legal complications and maintain compliance
with local regulations.

While hyperscalers have their advantages, private cloud companies offer a compelling alternative for organisations seeking customisation, flexibility, enhanced security, and personalised support. By carefully evaluating your organisation’s needs and priorities, you can make a more informed decision regarding your cloud provider and enjoy the benefits of a tailored solution that aligns with your unique requirements.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

Unlocking the business benefits of APN technology

Many South African companies had a knee-jerk reaction during COVID and started using whatever connectivity was available to ensure operations could continue while employees worked from home. But what was initially only going to be a 21-day hard lockdown period got extended with varying levels of restrictions, which only ended recently, more than two years later.

This extended lockdown, and subsequent work from home (or from anywhere) model, contributed to a mobile data explosion as SIM cards were purchased in bulk from retailers and distributed to staff.

Between December 2019 and March 2020 (when the lockdown began), Saicom saw a threefold increase in mobile data usage. Since March 2020, until the end of lockdown a few weeks ago, there has been an elevenfold increase in demand for mobile data.

Managing this expanding SIM real estate over the long term has become a challenge for business decision-makers, who are turning to Access Point Name (APN) as a potential solution.

Access point name, or APN for short, is the name of the gateway that connects a mobile network with the internet. Or put another way, the identity of the mobile carrier so that the device knows which carrier network it should connect to. AN APN is like a virtual network overlaid over the Mobile Network Operator (MNO), giving service providers and corporate customers the use of the MNO’s network as an extension of their own.

Despite things returning to a semblance of normality, many organisations are still using APN as a risk mitigation solution and because of its centralised SIM management functionality, businesses have started tapping into numerous other use cases for the technology within their organisations.

Beyond work from home

So, while APN does provide benefits under certain conditions to work from home, such as white and blacklisting applications which employees can and cannot use to reduce mobile data abuse, its potential is so much bigger.

Every industry can benefit from APN. For instance, using telemetry data to improve fleet management for logistics companies. SIMs connected to IoT sensors can proactively monitor truck performance and flag the need for maintenance.

Symbol for connectivity with tracking icons

On the mobile workforce side, APN is about more than simply monitoring mobile workers and salespeople. For companies reliant on deliveries, APN technology is the key to securely connecting and monitoring tablets for delivery drivers to optimise their routes while tracking packages and keeping customers informed throughout the process.

In fact, the location-tracking functionality available through APN enables companies to monitor the whereabouts of any connected equipment, vehicles, products, and even team members. Not only can the security of these assets be improved, but organisations can better manage supply chains to ensure stores maintain stock levels of products that are the most popular. Additionally, APN can facilitate effective machine to machine (M2M) communications to track temperatures of sensitive goods and send alerts when something goes wrong.

The next level

From a consumer perspective, APN makes sense for the spate of connected wearables (think smartwatches) and even connected cars (for insurance purposes).

Person tying shoe laces with wearables and connected apps

While APN is still used today to optimise costs in work from home situations, the technology can also deliver improved security, control, and manageability through a single portal that provides companies with the scalability they need to take care of a mobile workforce.

Ultimately, APN delivers value across a variety of use cases that extends far beyond what many decision-makers thought. And COVID was the catalyst to introduce APN into the workplace with new business cases beyond just connectivity.

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

Transitioning to true hybrid work collaboration

Most employees would still like to work remotely at least some of the time, reinforcing the sentiment that we will never return to the fully office-based environment of the past. Embracing the tools and platforms that enable hybrid work will be critical. But these need to balance security and bandwidth concerns with a willingness to improve familiarity with remote solutions and processes.

Central to this, is rethinking how voice and networking technologies can unlock business capabilities. According to the Microsoft State of Work Report, the majority of decision-makers in the US and India believe that the right technology can enable the remote workforce to be very effective. However, handling the transition from a completely remote environment due to the lockdown conditions of the past two years and one that reflects the potential of hybrid will be key to success.

The good news is that there are solutions available that can provide a foundation on which to build an enabling tech-driven work environment.

Cloud Potential

Woman on laptop with headset

The potential of SD-WAN, connectivity, cloud PBX and voice have been made clear even before the pandemic. Despite this, there are business leaders who still do not understand how to get the best out of a more integrated voice and networking environment and learning to optimally collaborate and work from home have become one of the key organisational priorities. Doing so securely while still maintaining a corporate identity and nurturing the company culture are the others.

The result is the establishment of virtual collaboration sites where employees share and edit content, chat to one another, video call, use Web services, and so on. The likes of Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 have become instrumental in providing the means to do so. And now that this has been done, even at a superficial level, companies can further enhance such environments by integrating collaboration with cloud PBX calling.

By injecting direct routing capabilities into these platforms, companies can further accelerate hybrid work and bridge the divide between the old way of working and the new. Even so, McKinsey believes that decision-makers must be aware that the potential for remote work is determined by tasks and activities, not occupations. Across all sectors, 38% of respondents in its survey expect their remote employees to work two or more days a week away from the office after the pandemic, compared to 22% of respondents surveyed before the pandemic.

Physical to virtual

Having voice and cloud voice services connected to the Teams endpoint means collaboration between employees (from an internal perspective) and customers (externally) can take place more effectively than before. This also reduces the number of platforms that the user and company need to support and interact with, significantly simplifying the entire engagement process.
For example, a boardroom takes up a significant amount of office real estate. And how often is it really used? Instead, businesses can deploy huddle rooms where people can collaborate in more manageable environments. They will also use Teams Meeting Rooms as the means to engage with one another. Invariably, this will result in the legacy boardroom shrinking, and the organisation much better able to deliver targeted environments more conducive to teamwork.

Talk anywhere

Woman in coffee shop speaking on her mobile phone

This will also create the impetus to transition from on-premises PBX solutions to cloud-based ones.

Additionally, direct routing can be used to integrate the cloud PBX into the collaboration platforms and employees can be reached on one number, whether at the office or working from home. They can dial out directly from Teams to any telephone number in the world, and access all of this through their mobile devices.

The enhancements in productivity by having an integrated environment cannot be ignored.

However, the security of mobile devices, become more crucial than ever. To this end, mobile device management will become a critical business component as collaboration extends beyond the desktop to the smartphone and tablet.

Platforms like Teams, direct routing technology, and even SD-WAN functionality mean different things to different people. But it all comes down to how the use of these solutions can deliver the strategic value vital to grow the business in a digitally-driven world where hybrid work will be the way of the future.

Ultimately, the organisation must ask itself what it wants to accomplish from this collaborative environment and identifying the quick wins and business use cases can make a significant difference to the company, its people and ultimately, its productivity.

The modern workplace needs to use integrated solutions that deliver a consistent and collaborative experience regardless of whether employees are interfacing face-to-face or remotely. By creating this universal approach to tools and collaboration, companies can significantly improve adoption and engagement as employees embrace this new way of working together.

Michael Ziervogel, GM: Microsoft Division at Saicom

5 Ways the right VoIP platform sets your business up for success

Since its introduction in the market, more and more companies have switched from using regular phone lines to Voice over Internet Protocol (or VoIP).  In South Africa, the ageing copper infrastructure and limited capabilities of traditional fixed line telephony make for compelling reasons to look at VoIP as a more scalable, flexible and agile telephony solution, with the added benefit of being able to do more than just make and receive calls.

VOIP headset with phone

What is the difference between VoIP and IP telephony?

VoIP is the method used to place and receive phone calls over the internet.  Virtual telephony, virtual calling and online phone systems are other words used to describe VoIP.  

In its day, Skype was the VoIP  platform of choice.  Today, it could be Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet. When you make a VoIP call, there is no breakout to traditional fixed line networks.  We call this point-to-point calling (Teams to Teams, Zoom to Zoom or Google Meet to Google Meet)

So how is IP Telephony different?  IP telephony uses VoIP technology, but has access to traditional calling platforms. Simply put, you can make calls from your VoIP platform, to a fixed or mobile line or even a different VoIP calling platform.

In this article, we talk interchangeably about VoIP and IP Telephony and refer to both, as VoIP.

How does VoIP work?

VoIP technology is designed to work across a range of devices, including smartphones, laptops, desktop computers and tablets. It uses Digital Signal Processors (DSPs) to encode analogue voice into IP packets and packet switching technology transmits the IP packets over the internet. DSPs then decode the IP packets back into analogue voice on the receiving end.  

This is done as a person to person (or point to point) connection.

Today, many organisations are leveraging their VoIP capabilities and integrating IP telephony tools, to give access to hosted PBX and business communications systems like UnifyOne with Webex or Microsoft Teams.  Not only are they able to make calls to fixed or mobile lines on traditional networks, but they get access to even more useful features like fully featured cloud calling, messaging, file sharing, screen sharing, and more.

VOIP Handset With Collaboration Icons

5 Ways VoIP can benefit your business

The right VoIP platform allows you to streamline operations and communications, making it possible for team members to work more effectively and with greater ease. 

Choosing the right VoIP platform for your business starts with understanding how it will be used not only today, but also in the future.  It needs to offer scalability to account for future growth in operations. 

Let’s find out more about the benefits of the ideal VoIP platform  for businesses:

1. Reduce costs: cheaper call rates & minimal maintenance costs

VoIP provides businesses with a cost effective alternative to fixed line, on-premise PBX phone systems. It is estimated that call rates on VoIP can be up to 65% less than landline call rates.  

In addition, traditional phone systems require on-site maintenance – which can include call out fees, labour fees and hardware costs, upgrades and additional licences.

With VoIP, business communication is run in the cloud, and managed by dedicated specialists, providing an easily accessible usage dashboard, to monitor incoming and outgoing calls across the telephony environment. 

VoIP upgrades are done in, and via the cloud with nominal impact on the telephony system.

2. Get rid of costly, bulky phone systems taking up critical office space

VoIP allows businesses to streamline their communications by taking operations digital. 

Let’s compare VoIP phone systems and traditional landline systems and their components.

Traditionally an office would have phone lines, connectivity and on-site PBX.  Each component is essential to the system and its effective functioning, and for a growing business this is not only costly, but it takes up space. 

Space that could be used for workstations, meeting rooms or additional office space.  When businesses migrate to VoIP they remove the phone lines and on-site PBX and instead use the data circuits to carry those services.

Some businesses may choose to receive VoIP handsets once connected, but in the modern day, businesses are able to handle communications using their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other devices using mobile and desktop VoIP soft clients. .

3. Better calling features, quality and collaboration

The quality of VoIP calls including the features are often dependent on the reliability of the business’ internet network, a mobile network and the VoIP service provider. 

With a fast and reliable internet connection, and a VoIP service provider with a good  reputation, VoIP calls can create improved speech clarity and provide access to an array of features. .

Maintaining a reliable and secure connection, and being able to communicate seamlessly with crisp audio and video, while collaborating with your participants, can provide more opportunities to pursue quality leads and partnerships, and improve your current workflow with clients. 

A better communication system can stimulate increased productivity and accountability, between team members and clients. Team members can also make and receive calls on the move, by connecting the VoIP service to their mobile devices. This is useful for the modern world of remote work, and team members travelling for work.

4. Uninterrupted services

We know that businesses cannot afford to be offline, or out of reach of customers. 

At Saicom, our uptime for VoIP services is 99.98%, and the white glove service we deliver, means faults and downtime is quickly and effectively resolved.  

To ensure uninterrupted service through loadshedding and power outages, a small and cost effective UPS (uninterrupted power supply) or alternative power supply that keeps the internet router and fibre box running is sufficient.  

You can rely on VoIP being online 

One of the most significant benefits of  switching to VoIP, is the seamless transition to better technology, without losing existing business contact details.

5. Access more features designed to help businesses thrive

We have already covered some of the ways that VoIP can help your business succeed, however, there are even more helpful features to help streamline business communications.

Some of VoIP’s key features for businesses include:

Call recording, rating & voice analytics: Record calls for business and client transparency, and rate interactions to improve customer experience metrics. Voice analytics can be used to evaluate agent performance (and quality assurance); gauge and track sentiment in the customer experience and deliver compliance through transcription.
Voicemail to email: Receive voicemail via email
Receptionist : VoIP systems allow you to enable virtual receptionist functionalities improving efficiency and saving on hiring costs.
Auto attendant & IVR (Interactive Voice Response) VoIP systems make it possible for calls to be directed to the right extensions without the need for intervention by a front-of-office person.
With IVR, businesses are able to interact with callers through menu-based options.
CRM Integration Integrate your CRM platform with your hosted PBX. Get a pop-up from your CRM , showing the caller’s details, when a call is received.

VOIP conference call on laptop

Which VoIP Software and service provider should I choose?

VoIP systems can be expanded or upgraded seamlessly, however, having the right system in place early on can make the transition between on-premise  PBX phone systems to VoIP much easier in the medium-term. 

Always consider the needs of your business when choosing a partner, and VoIP solution. The benefits of transitioning to VoIP can be unlocked with a reliable internet connection and working with a reputable, trusted VoIP service provider, with a track record for delivering best fit, best-of-breed solutions.

We deliver world class call quality, a dedicated support team and 99.98% uptime for VoIP services,  nationally 

We have quick turnaround times and are ready to meet your business’ exact communication needs. Contact Saicom today!

The phone is dead, long live the (digital) phone

In the not too distant future, half of the world’s connected population will be using collaboration tools. As part of this shift towards an integrated, digital way of working, how we view the phone will also change. Thanks to the growth of Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Zoom, this has already started to happen.

Considering that the global demand for unified communications as a service (UCaaS) is expected to triple and top $140 billion by 2025, the traditional handset market will be all but dead. As critical mass starts to build in Teams, Webex, Zoom, and others, standards that enable federation between these different platforms will mature and eventually become a reality. What this means in layman’s terms is that a user will be able to instant message, video call, or see presence information regardless of the platform they use.

Even IP-based business phone systems like cloud PBX services will eventually be gobbled up by UCaaS providers. This is due to fewer people making extension calls or using the functionality of the PBX in a distributed working environment despite it being integrated into the UCaaS platform. The disruption resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has and will still kill many industries within the telecommunications space.

Changing tides

In fact, unified communications will become one of the most important sectors in this changing new environment. Already, we are seeing Microsoft Teams dominating the market share in South Africa.

While this does not mean Webex and Zoom are irrelevant, they simply do not have the market reach and brand awareness of Microsoft in this geography.

Increasingly, people will make and receive calls from inside these platforms. This more integrated environment offers significant advantages to having separate devices (like IP-based business phones).

Licensing channel

Moreover, this will result in local service providers needing to shift their operating models.

No longer able to purely rely on hardware, cloud PABX, and voice minutes, they must begin to investigate the licensing model with Microsoft and other vendors. The reality is that resellers will start losing out on their seat licenses and need to make up for it using other means.

For customers, the transition should be a smooth one. If anything, things will become even more integrated for them with calling, messaging, collaboration, and everything in between available from within their application environments.

Direct routing (the dial pad in the app) is the way to go if operations are going to be future-proofed for any external factors driving change in the telecommunications market.

And while businesses and vendors are adjusting to more integrated, and seamless communications, at speed, service providers cannot continue to operate the same way. It is time for them to not only reinvent themselves, but also how they provide communication services. Change is inevitable, or they face the risk of becoming obsolete in a rapidly changing communications landscape.

Lean into the opportunities provided by UCaaS today with Saicom’s UnifyOne with Webex

Greg de Chasteauneuf, Chief Technology Officer of Saicom

8 Benefits of Mobile APN for Businesses

You might have heard about a mobile APN before, but what really is it and how does it benefit businesses? 

We’ll give you the rundown on exactly what to expect from a mobile APN solution and how it can streamline your business’ communications. 

Let’s find out a little bit more about APN below

Employee communicating from home using mobile device & mobile APN.

In this blog we are going to cover some key APN related topics and themes

What does APN stand for? 

APN stands for Access Point Name (APN). 

It is the name given to the gateway between a 3G/LTE/5G mobile network and another computer network, accessing the public internet or virtual private network (VPN). 

It is a unique identifier that allows a connection to the network and identifies the data access services associated with your account. The APN is the exit point from the mobile network operator’s (MNO) 3G/LTE/5G network into either the public internet or a private network.

What is an APN and how does it work?

A mobile APN can deliver a secure connection that creates a private network on a mobile device, protecting information and linking multiple devices together.

This means a business or organisation can manage multiple SIMs, each delivering data connectivity through a private APN to remote workers. The company can set usage caps for employees, and view bandwidth on an application level, for example whether the user is accessing social networks or work-related sites.

Ultimately, a mobile APN can significantly reduce data spend in the organisation as management has an integrated reporting environment with a universal view of how employees use their mobile data. A mobile APN solution can also use prepaid or postpaid data to provide complete budgetary control.

Employee remote working in a coffee shop using their mobile phone for a call.

Types of APNs

There are a few types of APNs businesses might implement depending on their communication needs. 

With the right type of APN, it’s possible to streamline communications and provide an enterprise with an array of benefits. 

Public APN Network

  • Shared Firewall
  • Firewall lite

A Public APN provides mobile internet access, allowing your mobile workforce to connect to the internet, on common ports and protocols. 

With Saicom’s Public APN solution, IP addresses are allocated either statically or dynamically, and traffic is routed out to the internet via a centralised Firewall. 

Here is how Saicom’s public APN works:

apn diagram - how does a public apn work?

Private APN (also known as a Corporate APN)

A private APN provides clients with a higher level of control and customisation than a public APN solution. 

It  can be likened to implementing a VPN on a mobile network connection. 

With a private APN, businesses can control activities at an application level, and a mobile workforce’s communication is routed using custom  configurations to connect users to a  business’ Head office or data centre (either  via an MPLS or SD-WAN network). 

Traffic might also be routed through a dedicated or shared firewall, or into a data centre or hosting environment.

Learn how a private APN  solution, through Saicom, works below: 

apn diagram - how does a private apn work?

8 Benefits of Mobile APN for Businesses

1. Central management of data usage & budget

A mobile APN solution acts as a way to manage SIMs, carriers, users and departments.

Each device connected to the business’ APN can be analysed to determine usage, from minutes and megabytes used, to understanding which applications are behind the most data usage. 

Analytics are provided via an easy to use  management portal that can also help the business  institute budget control methods. 

 These controls may include setting specific rules for blocking applications and sites, or implementing usage caps for devices. 

Stakeholders can also choose  to receive notifications about data usage percentages throughout the month. 

manager at her desk analysing usage of devices in the workplace.

2. Soft lock and unlock SIMs in real-time 

Administrators are able to soft-lock SIMs and unlock them in real-time. 

A soft lock restricts a device from making outgoing calls but the device can still receive incoming calls. 

This can be useful if a particular device has reached its usage cap, been lost or if a third party is using a specific device.

employee place call from iPhone from their desk.using a specific device.

3. Centralised billing for all users and devices

Monitoring the billing associated with  devices across a large mobile workforce doesn’t have to be stressful. 

From a billing perspective it might appear that one may need to monitor the usage of each individual sim card and therefore handle separate bills for each and every device owned by the business. 

However, this isn’t the case. 

A Mobile APN mitigates the need for complicated billing for a company’s mobile communications and data use. Although devices might have varying sim cards and carriers, each device is connected to a shared, public or private APN. 

A  shared APN allows businesses to monitor and settle the charges associated with the communication and data use across an entire company – streamlining billing management headaches. 

stakeholder managing central billing for employees’ communication devices.

4. Provide devices with specific static IP addresses

Mobile APN solution providers are able to assign specific APN settings

Giving company devices static IP addresses is typically one of these options, allowing the business to keep track of the usage associated with specific company devices and their owners. This is crucial for data management and billing purposes, helping the business analyse their data usage in alignment with their budget and informing smarter decisions in the future.

devices placed on table with different static IP addresses.

5. Multiple carrier options for reliable connectivity.

A mobile APN solution provides high speed national mobile data coverage (LTE, HSPA+, 3G, 4G and Edge) across a wide range of carriers (including MTN, Vodacom and Telkom). 

With a mobile APN solution businesses can connect devices in remote locations where fIbre and/or ADSL are not available. 

Carrier flexibility can enable mobile workforces to gain the best coverage wherever they are situated. 

Supported Networks

saicom mobile logo vodacom
saicom mobile logo telkom

6. Protect communications and devices with a selection of security options.

When implementing a mobile APN solution, the business has access to a variety of security options to protect their communications with ease. 

APN solutions are typically public or private – meaning that data is either routed through the Internet using common ports and protocols or using a custom routing configuration that can be used to connect a workforce to its headquarters. It is also possible to select whether the business wants its traffic to be routed through either a shared firewall or a dedicated firewall. 

This customisability allows a business to select just how confidential and secure they would like their communications to be. 

In addition, once a mobile APN solution has been implemented, the business is able to access other security features such as pairing the ICCID of a device to the IMEI number associated with the SIM card – rendering a sim card useless unless used with the correct device.

security lock icon on device

7. Scalable communications management for large workforces

APN solutions are ideal for businesses of all sizes. 

A mobile APN solution allows you to manage multiple APNs, companies, departments, individuals and their SIMs. 

It’s a no-brainer for large corporate companies with multiple branches, divisions as well as enterprises with hundreds or even thousands of employees and devices

employee communicating via video call with other employees using a mobile apn data solution.

8. Get access to company infrastructure off-site

Implementing a private APN setup can provide employees with access to company infrastructure that is connected to the business’ network.

This could mean providing an employee with access to a private email server, or the ability to view video feeds for the business’ security cameras. 

The business will still be able to control and analyse which devices access parts of the company’s network.

employee working on laptop accessing company files off-site

Get started with a mobile APN solution that suits your business’ needs.

So we’ve covered how an APN can offer a wide range of benefits for a business especially with the rise of remote working which has made data security and mobile connectivity an even more essential part of a business’ considerations. 

Setting up an APN solution requires minimal infrastructure and is such a great option for mobile workforces working as part of small, medium or large businesses.

If you are interested in mobile APN solutions for your business, contact us. We can assess your specific needs and risks and provide specific mobile APN solutions for your business

Too big to fail. Too large to care – why small tech means business

Too Big to Fail (TBTF) is a theory that over time has become synonymous in banking and finance industries. It is built on the tenet, that certain corporations, particularly financial institutions, become so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater economic system and that they, therefore, must be supported by governments when they face potential failure.

More recently however, we have started to see the emergence of the too large to care theory, in the telecommunications industry. And we find ourselves in the midst of an ongoing battle with many Davids and Goliaths.

For the most part, the Davids of the ICT industry cannot compete with the bottomless budgets that the Goliaths have at their disposal for everything from marketing spend, uncapped operational resources, legal counsel, or inorganic growth strategies.

Even with so much stacked against the Davids, the idea that traditional large companies can’t innovate, and that smaller agile companies will render many of them extinct, is rife. It is clear that large, established tech corporations are being increasingly displaced by small tech companies that are bold enough to use new technologies, develop uncharacteristic solutions, propose against the grain ideology, and deliver left-field blueprints.

Innovate don’t replicate

Contrary to popular belief, mainstream media, and the plethora of advertising spend by large companies, they are delivering very little innovation. They do not innovate, but replicate, driven by bottom lines, GPs, revenue, market share and corporate image.

The result?

They are being outsmarted, outwitted and disrupted by small tech companies that are thriving, continuously investing in tech and innovation with intangible assets, thinking on their feet, making decisions within hours, while at the same time, keeping their only asset top of mind, the customer.

Small businesses, particularly in the tech space, fundamentally have two key differentiators:

The ability to care
The agility to action

More importantly, they are focusing their efforts and resources on solving client challenges, and creating bespoke solutions to overcome client pain points.

Customers first

BYOC, because it is born in the cloud, lends itself to the scalability required for modern organisations. Whether it is a handful of users, or thousands, BYOC and UCaaS deliver the flexibility and functionality needed to scale up or down as necessary.

With more people adopting a hybrid work approach and looking for technology to make them as productive as possible, the pandemic has been the catalyst for UCaaS and BYOC to provide businesses with simplified management for their communication environments.

If the last 24 months have taught us anything, it is that flexibility and agility are critical for businesses across all industries and solving challenges at pace will always differentiate the innovators from the imitators.

ICT landscapes are transforming, and the captains of industries should be asking themselves if their incumbent providers are able to anticipate, navigate and provide future forward solutions.

Some of the top priorities for CIOs, CTOs, CFOs and Heads of ICT in 2021 are digital transformation, cybersecurity and cloud migration. Customer-centricity and experience is also a top priority, indicating the continued importance of a customer-centric attitude aimed at increasing customer retention, encouraging repeat business and driving up revenue. The pandemic and recession have also driven a much greater emphasis on cost savings.

Which begs a few of the following questions weighing heavily on our 2022 ICT Strategies;

  • Are we duplicating costs by supporting disparate technologies and collaboration tools?
  • Public, Private, or Hybrid, which Cloud strategy is right for my organisation?
  • Is your mobile data scalable, depending on the size of your workforce?
  • What are the success criteria for a business’s digital transformation?
  • Is our distributed workforce functioning efficiently and securely?
  • Is our cloud strategy actually helping to reduce IT costs?
  • Are real-time failover, application control, and network insight important?
  • As technology evolves exponentially each year, does our business have the right innovative IT strategy?

Year-on-year growth in cybersecurity, cloud migration and cost savings means choosing a provider that can not only navigate the challenges, but also advise on the priorities will be essential.

An overall increase in the following areas year-on-year:

    • Digital transformation
      • 2021 – 56%
      • 2020 – 54%
    • Cyber Security
      • 2021 – 56%
      • 2020 – 49%
    • Cloud Migration
      • 2021 – 48%
      • 2020 – 40%
    • Cost Savings
      • 2021 – 27%
      • 2020 – 9%

Most importantly, they need to ask if their providers understand rapidly changing security demands, digitalisation needs, hybrid and distributed workforce requirements and challenges and what the future of cloud adoption looks like.

Are they listening, planning, implementing, investigating, and investing, or just nodding their heads.

Because small tech means business – and we aren’t just nodding our heads.

If you are looking for a technology partner that understands the changing landscape, and can match your business needs, contact us today.

About Saicom

Saicom is a leading service provider in the Telecommunications market, delivering a host of communication solutions that are designed to help organisations improve their collaboration and deliver an unsurpassed customer experience. Beyond it’s unified communications, voice and connectivity solutions, Saicom provides SD-WAN, APN, UCaaS and cloud hosting solutions tailored to meet each customers’ needs.

David Cooke, Sales and Marketing Director at Saicom

Multinational hyperscalers vital for SA digital growth

Ostensibly, the government’s recently published Draft National Data and Cloud Policy aims to ‘accelerate interventions focusing on unlocking investment opportunities’ and to ‘put in place a conducive and enabling environment for the data ecosystem to thrive’. But upon closer inspection it looks to introduce regulatory practices that can be seen as primarily targeting the multinational hyperscalers operating in the country.

The document suggests that there are not enough local providers that are able to compete with the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). There is also an undercurrent of anti-competitive messaging when referring to the international offerings available. However, this does not account for the variety of services these hyperscalers deliver at different price points. Simply put, there can be no argument for unfair business practices if these solutions are available to every organisation in the country at reasonable rates.

One must remember that these are massive global organisations, delivering services to millions of companies around the world. These businesses use them out of choice and not because they are forced to.
In South Africa, there is also no need to compete with these hyperscalers at their level.
The market is big enough to harness the opportunities in delivering cloud computing solutions. In fact, local service providers can do better than the hyperscalers, when it comes to providing tailored services to customers and focus on creating a better user experience on top of the technology infrastructure.

Data portability

In the proposed policy, the argument is made that cloud providers make it difficult for companies to move applications and workloads between different environments. And while it might not be as user friendly as it can be, the portability of workloads between clouds is certainly possible. There are a myriad of tools available that enable this. For example, VMware allows a customer to create a cluster on-premise using its own infrastructure and scale to the likes of AWS, Azure, and GCP.

Cloud computing with devices and workloads

And while this is a paid-for feature, there are many other solutions to choose from that do the same thing in assisting with the transition of workloads between different on-premise and cloud environments. What this document fails to recognise is that local companies are using these public cloud environments out of choice. The strengths of local service providers must come in at the level and quality of service and support delivered.

Skills development

Furthermore, the multinational hyperscalers are greatly aiding in South African skills development. Having their presence in the country means we can keep many of the skills here instead of having them move overseas. These companies are global for a reason. First World countries rely on their services because they are critical in a digital world.

Ultimately, these are three separate companies operating independently from one another offering different solutions. They are building infrastructure here, employing South Africans, and enhancing our skills for the requirements of a digitally transformed environment. So, perhaps before trying to limit them, the focus should turn to creating more affordable connectivity for all South Africans, more effectively delivering e-government services to citizens, and the like before taking on the public cloud.

Joshua Grunewald, Cloud Hosting Manager at Saicom

Intrusion Detection System – a business imperative

From 2005 to 2020, almost 160 million individuals were affected by data breaches in the United States alone. In April last year, more than 500 000 Zoom accounts were found for sale on the Dark Web. As if that is not bad enough, it takes an average of 228 days to identify a breach and 80 days to contain it. Just imagine the financial and reputational consequences for an organisation if a malicious user has almost seven months free reign on the corporate network. This is where breach detection becomes critical.

Unfortunately, many companies regardless of size or industry sector do not understand what this technology entails and why it is so important. For them, it is a case of prevention being better than the cure. They argue that they already have firewalls and anti-virus solutions installed that prevent breaches from happening in the first place. Sadly, the reality is a bit different.

Even the best firewalls and antivirus products in the world cannot guarantee that breaches will not occur. It really is a case of when rather than if it will happen. There are plenty of local and international examples to choose from. In May, the South African arm of fitness group Virgin Active was targeted by cybercriminals. And even though it claims that no data was removed, the company still took all its computer systems offline resulting in a disruption of services to customers.

Rewind a further two months to March and insurance and investment group PPS was hit by a cyberattack. And while they also claimed that no data had been in danger, client service was negatively impacted as systems had to be taken down for several days until cybersecurity teams could restore everything.

Constant change

Simply put, the technology employed by threat agents have evolved to such an extent that traditional security defences are no longer sufficient to withstand an attack. The prevention environment is a vast one. Firewalls, intrusion prevention systems on SD-WAN, endpoint protection, and even endpoint detection and response are all focused on better safeguarding organisational systems.

And then there are the likes of Zero Trust Network Access, Secure Access Service Edge (SASE), and Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) software that must be factored into the cybersecurity equation. But despite the availability of all this technology, breaches still occur. This can partly be attributed to the weakest link in the chain – that of human error.

Cybersecurity - man holding lock

People make mistakes and are prone to falling foul of increasingly sophisticated social engineering attacks. Despite having the best anti-social engineering training in place, there is an air of inevitability when it comes to the success of these attacks. It comes down to a numbers game. People not only have to be aware of those age-old 419 scams, but phishing (email), vishing (phone calls), and smishing (text messages) attacks are becoming an increasingly common occurrence.

And then let us not forget about the dangers of whaling where cybercriminals masquerade as a senior executive. They can even pose as a supplier to inform the finance team that the account details on the system have changed and that all invoices must be paid into a compromised account.

But out of all these, ransomware is still the most lucrative form of attack that companies must contend with today. By breaching a business network, exfiltrating its data, and holding it to ransom through encryption, companies are under pressure to pay as quickly as possible or have the data made public. Even though it is tempting to pay the ransom, it merely fuels the attackers’ business model and can even pose the risk of future ransomware incidents happening.

Because of this, the business focus must turn to the importance of data management. By thinking strategically about the likes of backup-as-a-service, business continuity, resilience, and even disaster recovery, a company can put in place one of the most effective last lines of defence against ransomware. This makes it critical to review existing backup policies and potentially partner with a trusted data management or cloud backup provider.

Canary in a coal mine

Detecting breaches does not have to be an onerous and complicated process. We partnered with Thinkst Canary to make it as simple as possible to do at a speed no human cybersecurity team can manage manually. Like a canary sent down in a coal mine, time is of the essence when it comes to breaches. This solution reduces the amount of time it takes between a breach taking place and it being discovered on the network.

This is the ideal set and forget solution that is easy to install and manage. Furthermore, it alleviates one of the biggest challenges when it comes to breach detection technology – that of high noise. The more frequently companies get alerted to perceived breaches (it could be something as simple as an employee accessing the network from a new location), the more blasé they become about these warnings. Canary is a low noise solution that means if an alert is received, the company must act.

Breach detection solution network of computers and servers

Certainly, there are more advanced honeypot solutions available, but these are difficult to set up, not easy to manage, and expensive. Our approach has been to make a product available that is as easy to deploy as possible which yields the maximum effectiveness.

Understanding the importance

For intrusion detection to work, there must be a level of maturity in the organisation. Firstly, they must already have all the preventative measures in place. Secondly, they must realise why intrusion detection systems are important. Typically, this means the technology is more geared towards medium and larger companies and less focused on the small start-up.

Fortunately, there is a more cost-effective workaround to this. Canary Tokens can be used to ‘seed’ specific files on the network. These provide digital breadcrumbs by alerting managers if certain documents are opened. Say, for instance, a token is put inside a CV. The person will receive an alert every time the employment agency or potential employer opens the document. This works well if it is hidden in a document that is hidden in a secret location on the Web server. As soon as that document is accessed, signifying a breach, then the company is alerted to it.

All told, breach detection has become an integral part of a cybersecurity strategy. Having these in place to supplement defensive measures, an organisation can best deal with the rapidly expanding attack surface today.

Ian Shak, Chief Information Security Officer at Saicom

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