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

VOIP For Small Businesses – Is It Worth It?

Small businesses might have heard the term VoIP – but they might not be too sure why it should matter to them and their organisation in particular.

Businesses might have legacy phone systems that use analog or ISDN ( Integrated Services Digital Network) phone lines to make and receive calls.

Small businesses are no strangers to the headaches these systems present, including dropped calls, costly on-site installation and maintenance fees as telephonic infrastructure fades over time.

The good news is that switching to VoIP might just be the answer to any business’ communication system headaches.

voip for small businesses

What is VoIP?

VoIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, and uses IP networks to make and receive calls.

Simply, this means that VOIP calls are made and received using a business’ internet connection rather than via analog landlines, eliminating the need for traditional telephony infrastructure like cables and handsets.

Although examples of this kind of technology include household names like WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom, VOIP is actually far more versatile and can be implemented to assist small businesses and their communication operations.

In the early days, VOIP received some criticism from skeptics over call quality, for the most part, due to internet connections not being fast enough or entirely reliable. Today, however, VOIP is the gold standard for handling calls of all kinds, and is renowned for its superior quality, amongst other key benefits that make moving away from a legacy phone system, a no-brainer.

voip phone and voip headset

How does VOIP work?

In simple terms, VOIP works by converting analog audio signals into digital signals, compressing and transmitting them in the form of data via broadband/the Internet. This negates the need for analog or ISDN landlines and physical hardware to connect multiple employees to the same phone system.

It is a secure, high quality way of making calls, at reduced cost, with minimal hardware installation required. But more about that later.

Check out this diagram that covers how VOIP works:
how does voip work diagram

Benefits of VOIP: Why should small businesses use VOIP?

There are plenty of benefits that come with replacing a legacy phone system with VOIP services for a small business, from minimal downtime, to significant monthly savings on phone bills.

headsets for receiving voip calls on desk monitor

Cost effective call rates with VOIP

The low call rates associated with VOIP are one of the reasons why more and more small businesses decide to get rid of their traditional phone systems. Whilst data costs have decreased year on year, especially in South Africa – the phone bill for legacy phone systems probably hasn’t changed all that much.

Let’s compare traditional landline costs with those of VOIP.

For a traditional landline there’s the line rental fee, followed by monthly packaged costs for making local calls, and possibly some out of bundle fees for making or receiving calls to and from international clients.

With VOIP, charges only apply for the extensions in use, rather than being tied down to a fixed monthly line rental.

Another benefit is that cost per call rates can be up to 68% lower using VOIP compared to a traditional landline because there is no cable infrastructure to maintain. This same cost saving is applicable to international calls, with a cheaper cost per call rate. VoIP also provides the ability to purchase a number in another country to handle international calls, which can help reduce cost per call rates even further.

For small businesses, finding ways to reduce monthly expenses, without compromising on business efficiency, has a positive impact on the bottom line in the long run.

Cut the costs incurred by the business’ current monthly phone bill, take action and switch to VOIP to start saving!* immediately!

video conference call over VOIP

Scalable for Small Businesses

Small businesses need telephony systems that can scale as the business grows.

With a traditional legacy PBX system, it’s necessary to have more lines available for more employees as the business scales, which means adding more physical phone connections, handsets and possibly even upgrading the PBX system entirely.

Using VOIP services gets rid of the need for physical landlines, costly on-site installations and proprietary handsets. With VOIP, adding more employees to access a company’s call system is a breeze and requires no extra hardware while also having the choice to integrate the current PBX system or get access to a Cloud based PBX system in order to manage the calls made and received.

Small businesses have often already invested in, or plan to invest in fibre connectivity. Faster internet is a compelling reason to migrate to VOIP and in doing so, it allows businesses to cut monthly costs for traditional phone bills in half.

small business team discussing ideas in coffeeshop

More opportunities with secure, high-quality calls & conferences

Every call that a small business receives is an opportunity to gain a new client and missing calls, or having to talk over each other with a constant “can you hear me?” is less than ideal.

VOIP services provide call quality that is considered the gold standard in telephonic communication, and is more secure, especially compared to traditional landline telephony. VOIP will allow businesses to maintain a crisp quality and a secure connection whether they’re having a voice call or face-to-face video call with clients.

VOIP phones usually come standard with caller ID integrated within the call handling protocol, providing businesses with the ability to screen calls as they come in. There’s also the ability to modify the business’ outbound caller ID should it be necessary.


Portability: Ideal for the modern remote working environment

As remote working has become more widely accepted and popular due to the global pandemic, VOIP services have been considered far more preferable than traditional telephone systems.

Traditional phone systems make remote work impossible, as if you’re not coming into the office, you’re missing calls.

With VOIP and SIP (session initiation protocol) trunking, it’s possible to convert a traditional landline PBX system into a cloud based system, giving businesses the ability to contact customers from anywhere.

VOIP phone services allow employees to have access to a small business’ phone systems from anywhere, and from multiple devices. It’s as easy as installing an app on a smartphone, tablet or accessing the business’ VOIP account online via desktop.

VOIP provides access to many features that would be difficult to implement using a legacy phone system.

By using these features to manage inbound and outbound communications, small businesses can rest assured knowing that they aren’t missing opportunities.

multiple devices laid out across workstation

Feature packed with no extra hardware required

VOIP is feature packed. In fact, today’s VOIP services offer many of the same functions like automated assistance, call recording and forward, voicemail and fax to email functionality, amongst others. It is like having a call center and receptionist combined, for minimal extra cost and without any hardware requirements.

Here’s a list of features accessible when switching to VOIP services, including but not limited to:

  • Voicemail
  • Call forwarding
  • Call hold
  • Transfer
  • Call recording
  • Automated attendant & IVR (Interactive Voice Response)
  • Fax to email
  • Unified communication
  • App integration
  • Audio and video conferencing
  • Call ringback
  • Call queuing
  • Instant messaging
  • Video Conferencing
  • Call analytics
  • Toll free number
  • Ability to integrate with live chat, ticketing, comprehensive analytics, and sales CRM software.
  • Porting

Office VOIP phone surrounded by cloud based communication features

Small business’ Questions About VOIP Services Answered:

How much does VOIP cost?

VOIP is more than 50% cheaper than calling using traditional legacy phone systems, and is especially economical when it comes to making international calls which can be incredibly costly.

The cost of VOIP calls in South Africa depends upon the VOIP service provider, and whether the business is making national and international calls.

National calls made using VOIP can incur a per minute charge of around depending on the provider, with no initial fee for making a call.

With VOIP, a monthly fee for the rental of an analog line isn’t necessary and there’s the flexibility of only paying per extension required.

There is a small R100-R200 porting fee to keep the business’ number on a new VOIP provider’s network. After which the business selects a monthly package that covers the amount of minutes required for calls per month.

These combined costs still amount to much lower than the bill a business may expect from a traditional analog landline and phone system.

Traditional landline phones incur a line rental fee per month (around R70-R150 per month), before the first call is made.

A landline call is also usually associated with a minimum charge (around 70c) followed by a per minute charge (usually 30-50c) which can increase depending on how far away the call of the recipient is from the business’ location, with international calls being even more expensive per minute (R3-R5).

So – VOIP in South Africa is definitely the way to go to improve the functionality of a small business’ communications at a monthly cost that is far lower than what the business can expect to be billed for their legacy phone system.

person making call on office VOIP phone

How much data does VOIP use?

A VOIP voice call can use up to 0.5-1.5 megabytes per minute on average whilst a video call via VOIP might use around 3 megabytes per minute. However, this is very dependent on how the VOIP service provider compresses and transmits audio and video data.

The data used will also depend on calling habits and how many calls the business expects to make and receive.

employee analyzing data usage statistics

What type of internet connection/speed does VOIP require?

While internet connection speed may have been more of a concern in the early days of VOIP, today, most internet connections can support VOIP services.

A good VOIP experience will also depend on the number of concurrent calls that need to be made or received – with a higher number of concurrent calls requiring a higher internet connection speed.

connection speed meter: 2G; 3G; 4G; 5G.

Who is the best VOIP service provider in South Africa?

We believe that we are the best VOIP service provider in South Africa. SAICOM provides high quality VOIP services with happy clients that boast about our 99.98% uptime.

Our cost per call varies from client to client, depending on their specific needs. However, we can promise you that your monthly phone bill will be reduced significantly by switching to our VOIP services. Some of our clients have experienced savings of 50% or more per month after integrating VOIP over legacy phone systems.

Another key benefit is that VOIP can be integrated into your current PBX system, allowing you to cut costs, get increased portability and functionality, while retaining your current office phones to answer calls while you’re at the office. When you’re out and about, or remote working you get the added benefit of being able to make and receive calls via desktop and mobile devices.

Conclusion: Is VOIP worth it for small businesses?

The short answer is: absolutely!

VOIP can be a cost cutting asset for small businesses, plus it provides  high quality, secure telephony, and can act as an automated assistant – which is particularly useful if a small business can’t afford a full-time administrative assistant.

Not only will small businesses be able to say goodbye to a significant portion of their monthly phone bill, but the cost per client acquisition might even go down, if clients can be converted at a lower call tariff and to ensure enquiries aren’t missed (with recording and call forwarding to make small businesses more efficient).

Small business owners or key decision makers should make the switch. It’s not complicated and in most cases the setup costs will either be minimal. Then it’s possible to start reaping the benefits of lower call costs and plenty of hand features that VOIP has to offer!

Contact SAICOM to switch to a VOIP service package tailored to the needs of small businesses!

8 benefits of cloud migration & how to migrate

Are you considering moving your business to the cloud?

Having your business  in the cloud provides a variety of opportunities to benefit  operations and improve processes in your organisation.

Here is everything you need to know about cloud migration and why you should do it as soon as possible. We’ll also give you an overview of the migration process.

What is cloud migration?

Cloud migration is the process of moving your business’s digital assets to cloud infrastructure. These assets typically include data, workloads, IT resources and applications.

What is cloud infrastructure?

Cloud infrastructure refers to the infrastructure on the internet where digital assets are stored. The cloud is technically shorthand for cloud computing, and refers to a group of computer services accessed over the internet. These computer services are accessible on-demand and are self-service, providing access to services with minimal setup. Through cloud computing, businesses are able to  store masses of data in data centres around the world.

So, what is cloud migration?

Cloud migration typically refers to moving systems and data from on-premise infrastructure and servers to cloud infrastructure. It also applies to moving business data from one cloud platform to another – or, cloud to cloud migration. Lastly, it can also include refactoring your systems and data to consume it in a different way, using cloud native applications.

Now that it’s clear what cloud migration is, the key as a business owner is to understand the benefits that cloud migration could have for your company.

The benefits of cloud migration

Moving your business to the cloud offers a variety of benefits, which can ultimately make your team more productive and your company more profitable. Here are some of the benefits of migrating your business to the cloud.

1. The cloud offers flexibility

Businesses often have fluctuating bandwidth demands, and a business in the cloud, allows you to upscale or downscale your capacity. Upscaling or downscaling can happen easily because cloud capacity draws on remote servers, and flexibility is part and parcel of the service.

Having a high level of agility can give businesses an extra advantage over their competitors as they are able to bring products to market quicker without being hamstrung by IT.

2. The cloud keeps data safe in case of a disaster

Adopting cloud can help your business implement an effective and affordable disaster recovery solution. Through the use of tools and services offered by service providers, systems and data can be easily protected and moved in a way that best suits your business in terms of it’s disaster recovery plans. Some examples include: replication to other clouds entirely (hot, warm and cold standbys), cloud backups with multiple copies, multi tier applications load balanced across multiple clouds.

3. The cloud provides automatic updates to infrastructure

A significant benefit of cloud computing is that it provides automatic software and security updates on the underlying infrastructure ensuring security best practices and resiliency in the platforms you choose to host your applications and data on.

Many service providers also offer full managed services to gain the same level of security, stability and resilience to the Operating system and mainstream applications. This gives you more time to focus on your business while keeping your data safe and secure.

4. The cloud saves you money on hardware

When you are using the cloud, it decreases the necessity for various hardware such as onsite data storage and servers. These large CAPEX investments happen on a 3-5 year cycle. This means that you will be saving money on hardware that traditionally would have been a necessity for your business. Many cloud providers offer a pay-as-you-go subscription model, which can be helpful for your cash flow.

5. The cloud promotes company collaboration and remote work

The cloud allows employees to collaborate on documents that they can share, access and edit at any time, from anywhere. Many businesses were left with no choice, but to introduce remote working in light of recent events, and online collaboration has become an increasingly important part of many  business strategies.

Using the cloud means that you can have your employees working from anywhere with an internet connection, and still meaningfully collaborate.

6. The cloud provides increased security

Using the cloud means that if a company laptop is lost or stolen you do not lose all of your data as it is backed up to the cloud. Additionally, if you experience load shedding or server downtime using the cloud decreases chances of data being broken or lost.

There are intelligent ways of ensuring that only the individuals that need access to the systems or data have access to them. Thus ensuring your data is always protected.

7. The cloud saves time

There are a few ways that using the cloud can save your business time. When you are collaborating on documents, your team can now share documents quickly and receive feedback quickly. Stopping an endless loop of email attachments.

Additionally, if you are using the cloud with a support service, such as Saicom, you will have support with your use of the cloud and the migration, where you can reach out to the service team at any time – no more waiting for the IT guy to show up! Cloud computing overall saves time and effort.

8. The cloud gives your business a competitive edge

Moving to the cloud provides a simple and efficient way to become more competitive. Through the cloud your business can have access to enterprise-class technologies regardless of your business size. This allows businesses of all sizes access to the same playing field.

The cloud migration process

When you are moving your business to the cloud the process that you follow will depend on the type of migration you want to perform and what workloads you want to move to the cloud.

There are few key elements you will need to consider when you are planning your cloud migration:

  • Evaluating performance and security requirements
  • Selecting the type of cloud: public cloud or private cloud or hybrid cloud
  • Selecting a cloud provider
  • Calculating costs
  • Any necessary reorganisation
  • Any possible refactoring

As part of the planning phase you should prepare for the following steps in the process:

1. Understand why you are migrating

The key question to answer is, why are you moving to the cloud? Is it to modernise your organisation, or save costs? To innovate or increase efficiency?

As a business  leader it is important to be clear on the purpose of migrating to the cloud. This will help you set KPIs to measure the cloud migration process. Ultimately, this will help you know if the migration has been successful by the end of the process.

2. Plan the data migration

A good starting point is looking at what data you can move easily to the cloud and what data has various interdependencies making it more challenging to move. After that, figure out what you migrate first and how you will migrate it.

You will need to plan for the fact that some data will need refactoring, making the migration a more time consuming process. During this planning you will want to figure out how long the migration might take.

It is worthwhile identifying a partner, who can give you professional advice and help you understand your data types, the difficulty of migrating each to the cloud, and how long it will take.

3. Migrate your data to the cloud

Once you have finished planning you can then start migrating your data. It is best to get a professional’s help for this. When you start migrating start with something simple that is not business critical. This increases the chances of a quick win that can boost excitement and provide a learning experience.

During this period you are going to need to test everything before decommissioning your old system – which means  running two environments for a time. Choosing to work with a professional cloud migration service can help decrease the length of time that this has to happen and speed up the physical migration.

Once you are certain that everything is working on the cloud you can then decommission the old system.

4. Don’t stop innovating

Once you have migrated to the cloud, you have taken a big step toward greater innovation for your business. The key now is to not let you give up on continuing to improve the efficiency and innovation in  your business. Look for new tools and improvements that you can make using your new cloud-based data system and keep using the cloud to encourage innovation.

Cloud migration challenges

During the cloud migration process there can be a few challenges that you will need to be prepared for. These challenges include:

  • Interoperability – the ability of computer systems or software to exchange and make use of information. You will need to ensure that your computer systems and software are still able to connect and share information correctly using new and old data.
  • Application portability – the flexibility of an application when used on multiple platforms or when accessed from the internet, desktop or network. You will need to utilise applications and services across various domains, portability allows this.
  • Data integrity and security – Data security is the protection of data against unauthorised corruption. Data integrity is the accuracy of your data. As you know keeping your data safe and accurate is an increasingly critical requirement .
  • Business continuity – is the ability of your business to ensure that business operation and core functions are not severely affected by a disaster or some other unplanned event.

Consulting a professional cloud service provider to help with your migration can help you plan and prepare for the potential challenges of cloud migration.

Use Saicom for business cloud migration

If you are looking to migrate your business to the cloud we can help with the process and to further manage your cloud computing.

Our cloud services are designed to minimise management and operational headaches while helping you improve relationships with your customers. We have the experience to bring you the benefits of cloud migration within the South African context. We will help you throughout the migration process planning for a smooth transition and preparing your business for any potential challenges. We can provide you with Data Management , AnyCloud and Physical hosting.

Let us know if you have any questions about cloud migration and how we can help your business. We can help you improve your business operations today!

Is your cloud strategy enabled the right way?

If not implemented properly, moving to the cloud can become a costly exercise for any business. Success lies in identifying your key objectives and then utilising and harnessing the offering that best suits your operation.

“The first step,” says Joshua Grunewald, Cloud Hosting manager at SAICOM, “is understanding your motivation, where your pain points are, and what you’re trying to achieve as a business.”

A key aspect is the ability to mitigate those risks and plug the gaps in your IT infrastructure. “If these are clearly defined, then moving to the cloud is not that difficult,” he adds. “The next step is choosing the provider that can offer you the services you require at an acceptable cost.

“Once your cloud strategy is set out, SAICOM is ideally situated to have this conversation with you and guide you on how this cloud strategy can be achieved. We assist you in deciding what can and should be moved, so your business operates more efficiently.

“If you understand your IT workloads and what it is you want to shift, you need to then look at each of the cloud’s native applications in determining the overall cost factor.

“For some businesses, it makes sense to utilise a mixture of public and private cloud, and our aim is to advise customers on how they can get the best of both worlds. SAICOM’s private cloud offers customers flexibility in terms of service and support, which is beneficial for businesses that are not keen on moving everything into a public cloud. The aim is assisting customers in putting their workloads in the place where it will be most beneficial and advantageous to them.”

For this reason, SAICOM launched its AnyCloud offering in the latter half of 2020.

“In essence, it’s a hybrid multi-cloud management portal that gives our customers the ability to make use and take advantage of a hybrid cloud strategy, but managing it through a single pane of glass,” Grunewald says. “An added benefit is that it is backed by SAICOM’s service and support, which in the public cloud space can be expensive and somewhat frustrating.”

The response from customers has been incredibly positive, he adds. “Quite a number of our customers are still running all their IT within their environments and on their hardware systems. So AnyCloud has been quite an eye-opener for them. I have seen customers light up when they see the features and functionality, and the control and level of insight they can achieve within their environment, when some of their workloads are in the cloud as opposed to running on their equipment. This is especially true when they realise they still have the same control over their data, but without the headache of owning the underlying infrastructure.”

One of the biggest benefits of clients understanding the cloud is that their IT staff can now concentrate on growing their businesses as opposed to spending time managing servers and hardware.

“And they also realise that if approached with the right strategy and guidance, they can operate more efficiently because they are utilising the cloud environment to suit their specific business needs,” Grunewald concludes.


Question: How long did it take to develop AnyCloud?

Answer: It has been a shift for SAICOM as a whole; initially, we were very much a voice connectivity business. I have personally been working on it for a few years within the SAICOM business because we wanted to expand our offerings to the marketplace. Adding cloud services has been quite important for us as we diversify our service offerings and become more relevant for the marketplace. During the development of AnyCloud, our existing customers from a voice and connectivity aspect kept asking us if we also offered cloud services, so creating this product has been a natural progression for the company in our growth.

Question: What are the advantages of using AnyCloud?

Answer: AnyCloud offers a wide variety of features and functionalities that can benefit any customer regardless of their size. Along with monitoring services directly through the portal, several automation features can be built into it. So whether you are a small company or a big enterprise, its features will enable you to meet all your relevant cloud needs through one single pane of glass. You could be a business with as few as 1 or 2 servers, requiring some additional functionality and greater insight but with a small team , a development house utilising automation on a large scale, or even a large enterprise with vast amounts of workloads that require monitoring and logging on an individual basis – it meets all of those needs and more.

Question: Was it coincidental that AnyCloud was launched in 2020?

Answer: We had planned to launch in 2020 and the fact that Covid-19 brought digitalisation with companies moving to the cloud with employees working from home was beneficial for us. The pandemic forced businesses to implement their digital transformation policies and cloud strategies and AnyCloud was in the right place at the right time to meet these requirements.

To read more about AnyCloud, go to: https://saicom.io/solutions/private-cloud/

Originally published in the March 2021 issue of Brainstorm magazine

Secure access in COVID times

Much has already been written about how COVID-19 lockdowns have changed the workplace location and in so doing, the IT dynamic. In hindsight, many commentators have admitted that worldwide lockdowns accelerated a trend that  was already picking up steam – work from home, work from anywhere, as long as you work!

When we engage with our customers, this “trust-but-monitor” cultural mindset is clearly articulated in the feedback they offer.  Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) are telling us that ‘we trust our employees to work from anywhere.  As long as they are productive, we don’t care where they are’ and critically, that ‘we need to monitor our employees – for governance, compliance and productivity reasons of course’.  And as the need for secure remote working has grown, they are telling us that “it’s IT’s job is to make business happen SECURELY.  Just make it happen.  And don’t get hacked”.

From my perspective, the essence of these insights from customers  align  with several of the buzzwords already top of mind for C suite executives (CISOs, CIOs and CTOs):

These technologies/frameworks align perfectly with the introduction of SASE (Secure Access Services Edge) that was first used by Gartner in 2019. Pronounced sassy, this new category of technology solution is currently at the top of the 2020 Gartner hype cycle ‘peak of expectation’ for Cloud security, and is defined as all the above technologies, or at least, some sort of venn between them.

* Source: https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/top-actions-from-gartner-hype-cycle-for-cloud-security-2020/

Cloud Native, COVID-19, and True Secure Access Service Edge

* Source: https://www.catonetworks.com/blog/what-the-2020-gartner-hype-cycles-taught-us-about-sase

Wrapped up into a single pane of glass goodness, delivered as a service, seamless security for the user and the administrator, SASE  will ensure perfect secrecy for all your employees – onsite and remote, technical or technophobe, malicious or technologically illiterate.

However, due to the vast expanse of SASE’s intended goals, there is no one-stop-shop.

You might buy a Cloud Access Security Broker  (CASB) solution, with elements of SD-WAN, Secure Web Gateway (SWG) and  Firewall-as-a-service (FWaaS) from a vendor that historically provided only one of the elements, and has built; acquired or integrated the other components.

Alternatively you may take a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) approach to deploying SaaS applications, and a different approach for endpoint security.

One size does not fit all.

Selecting  one of the aforementioned technologies as the centerpiece of a security strategy,  would depend on a combination of  technical goals, appetite for risk, level of maturity and importantly,  budgetary constraints.

For example, if you’re buying an SWG you need to force people browsing through the nearest cloud based proxy. You will  need an identity mechanism, and the tools to implement forward proxies and/or tunnels to get you there.

You then want to get as much out of your SWG spend, by turning up the security dials until the security/convenience trade-off tilts too far. And,  then dial it back to a more usable level of security, while still implementing a level of Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

On the other hand, ZTNA presents more complicated architecture decisions, given that the  goal is to provide direct access to IaaS, PaaS and  SaaS apps, without a VPN perimeter. Identity (and  two factor authentication [2FA]) comes to the fore when thinking about ZTNA, and you will rely heavily on the authentication tools provided by your SaaS vendors.

That said, ZTNA is one of the frameworks that  places heavy emphasis on the end user experience, by ensuring that convenience is top-of-mind – a proven method to ensure that users don’t have to think of creative ways to  bypass security controls.

CASB could be viewed as the middle ground.  The vendor provides cloud on-ramps at multiple locations (POPs – points of presence) to ensure low latency access for ingress and egress traffic. Reverse proxying enters the arsenal of tools.

If you run a business on laptops and SaaS applications only, CASB has the potential to evolve  into your SIEM (Security Information and Event Management). But  what about your endpoints?  You’re probably going to need an Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) solution, , and the trusty old Firewall, perhaps with a “Next Generation” sticker.

SASE has nothing to do with endpoints, and  is therefore not  the complete solution.

It could therefore be thought of as a framework, composed of a bundle of services, which achieve a percentage of your security goals.

The winners and losers have yet to be determined, and indeed most of the large vendors are jostling for dominance, either through mergers and acquisitions or strategic partnerships. For example, VMWare has established partnerships with Menlo Security and ZScaler, while Cisco leverages its  acquisition of Meraki, Viptella and Umbrella to piece together  secure access to public and private Clouds.

The following peripheral services could also be components of a SASE solution:

  • Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)
  • Web API Protection as a Service (WAAPaaS)
  • Identity Access Management (IAM) – delivered via an IDP
  • Virtual Private Network (VPN)
  • Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
  • Advanced Threat Protection (ATP)
  • Quality of Service (QoS)

This acronym soup reminds me of the UTM narrative security vendors pushed in the early to mid  2000’s. They combined WF, AV, AS and AC (Web Filter, Anti Virus, Anti-Spam and Application Control respectively) into a single  box to rule them all, but were ultimately superseded by the Cloud. Of course these vendors are ideally positioned to pivot into SASE.

This series of blog posts will follow this exciting world of evolving security technologies. I’ll explore many of the above concepts in more detail in subsequent posts.

Stay tuned for the trough of disillusionment.

Ian Shak, Chief Information Security Officer at Saicom


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