Leverage Your Existing Cisco Phone System with Informacast

Warren Swingle – Senior Systems Engineer

Do you have the need to send mass notifications to people in your organization?  Would you like to leverage your existing Cisco phone system to add a paging system and/or notification system?  Informacast software can integrate with your existing or new Cisco phone system to provide numerous paging and notification features.

PrintSince the release of Cisco Call Manager Version 9, Cisco has included a Singlewire software called Informacast with Call Manager Business Edition 6000.  It also can be downloaded free and installed with Call Manager 8.5 and higher.  The Informacast Basic Paging license lever is free with Cisco Call Manager.  Basic Paging allows customers to live page up to 50 IP phones through the speaker built into the phone.  Custom groups can be created to page different areas, departments or groups.  Informacast can run as a virtual appliance on your existing VM hosts supporting your current UC virtual machines.  Since Informacast runs as an appliance, no Windows licensing is needed.  Informacast Basic Paging is also supported by Cisco TAC if you have an active support contract for Call Manager.  Within the same application supporting Basic Paging, a license upgrade unlocks the Advanced Notification features.  Below are some of the most popular features.  These features can be easily customized to fit your business need in healthcare, education, manufacturing, financial or retail.

  • Live or pre-recorded audio paging to Cisco IP phones and overhead paging systems.
  • Notification and confirmation to mobile devices (Apple iOS, Andriod and SMS), IP phones and desktop workstations.
  • Common Alerting Protocol integration with the National Weather Service, NOAA and Homeland Security.
  • Notification to Jabber Clients and Twitter
  • 911 call monitoring, alerting and recording
  • Automated weather notifications
  • Message confirmation
  • Trigger notifications from other systems (door locks, panic buttons, lights, etc.)

 

Informacast HeaderInformacast Advanced Notification can provide customized notifications and confirmation of those notifications.  An example situation would be if there is an emergency that requires a site lockdown.  Informicast Advanced Notification can send a pre-recorded audio page to IP phones and overcisco-paging-cdn-informacasthead speakers.
Simultaneously, notifications are sent to computer desktops, Apple/Andriod mobile devices and SMS text messages.  If a user has received a message via a mobile device, SMS, IP phone or desktop they can acknowledge receipt of the notification.  Informacast management console has the ability to track the acknowledgement of those notifications. Informicast Advanced Notification can also receive Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) notifications from the National Weather Service, NOAA, and Homeland Security.  Based on the type, location and severity of the alert, Informatcast can trigger an alert via paging and/or notifications.

 

Another feature of Informacast is the emergency call notification.  Emergency call notification can notify personnel in your organization that a 911 call has been made from your facilty and record the emergency call.  The receiver of the notification will have the internal extension and name of the phone that dialed the emergency number.  Many times if you have a large building or campus, the 911 PSAP is only the number and physical address of the location.  Emergency call notification allows groups within your organization to be aware an emergency call has been made, where it originated, and a recording of the call.  This can be critical information that can be given to first responders when they arrive.

There are many other powerful paging and notification features available with Informicast software.  If you have any questions about Informacast Paging and Notification contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager.


Cisco SMARTnet became Smart Net Total Care on July 27, 2015

The converged service will now be branded Smart Net Total Care.  The new service delivers the same award-winning technical service capabilities of SMARTnet, while entitling every customer and partner to the smart service capabilities of Smart Net Total Care, which includes:Total Care

  • Validated data about your installed base, viewable on an intuitive web portal.
  • Easy access to contract status so you can see you have the right service coverage.
  • Consolidated network view to better identify, track, manage, and respond to issues with proactive diagnostics and
  • Faster problem solving and improved network uptime through award-winning technical support services

 

With Smart Net Total Care, you receive highly secure, ongoing visibility into your Cisco installed base, analyzed and correlated with Cisco intellectual capital. This gives you an up-to-date understanding of what is covered and not covered, and what is nearing or past the last day of support.

 

To better understand the new Cisco merged service, please find links below to short video clips:

SMARTnet merges into Smart Net Total Care   7:44min

Smart Net Total Care – How it works   0:50min

Smart Net Total Care – Portal Overview   1:29min

Smart Net Total Care – Is it secure?   2:17min

Smart Net Total Care — Quick Start version 3.0   9:42min

 

If you have any further questions regarding Cisco Smart Net Total Care, your Keller Schroeder Account Manager would be happy to assist you.


Spotlight On…

Ty Nixon

Employee Owners: Ty Nixon

 

Ty has 9 years of experience in the Information Technology field.  Prior to his role with Keller Schroeder, he designed, implemented, and maintained server, network, and cabling infrastructure for 56 locations in a post-secondary environment with over 8,000 students.  For that institution, he carried the primary responsibility for 100+ Windows Servers, Active Directory, Exchange 2013, SQL Server, Systems Center, Sharepoint Server, Hyper-V, Cisco LAN, WAN, and wireless technologies.  He also led the design and implementation for SAN solutions, and designed high-availability solutions based on clustering, multi-homing, and replication.

In addition to his Microsoft and Cisco background, Ty has experience with Symantec Backup Exec, Simpana Commvault, and Websense security products.  He also has experience with infrastructure automation through the use of Powershell.

Ty and his wife Teresa recently moved to the area from Texas.  They have two young children – a son named Flint and daughter Ela. In his spare time, Ty enjoys spending time with his family and being outdoors. He loves riding motorcycles, carpentry and woodworking, and studying theology.

Contact the Keller Schroeder Account Team to learn more about Ty and how you can leverage his experience and skills to benefit your organization.


Phish or Be Phished? The Choice is Yours

PhishingBrad Mathis, Senior Consultant, Information Security

It is mid-2015.  By now, we have all seen incoming emails claiming we have been bequeathed a huge sum of money from a Nigerian Prince, or we have won a foreign lottery we never entered.  Most employees have seen these scam emails long enough to know they are not real.

However,

  • What about the seemingly benign email coming in from a recognizable sender?
  • What if this legitimate looking email has an attached PDF or Word document?
  • What if it contains a seemingly real link to a web site?
  • How many of your employees would open the attachment or click on the link?
  • How many employees will assume it is safe since it made it unscathed through all of your layers of security, including email and web content filters?
  • Do your users understand the ramifications of introducing undetected malware into your environment? Do they know this malware can capture their keystrokes, turn on their web camera and microphone, and capture screen shots or data from their system and transmit this data to cyber-criminals completely undetected?

If you can answer these questions with a high degree of certainty, you are either a one-user environment, you are sitting at each user’s desk approving their every keystroke, OR, you have already identified and implemented the requirement for measurable security awareness training and the importance of recurring testing of your staff to see how Phish prone they are.

This would be a good time to stress the importance of continuing to maintain an effective defense-in-depth strategy.  What does this mean?  Defense-in-depth all comes down to remembering not one single defense mechanism will protect your environment.  It takes several layers to lower risk.  Examples of necessary defense-in-depth layers are:

  • Continuous Vulnerability Management
  • Continuous Patch Management of Applications and Operating Systems
  • System Hardening and Configuration Standards
  • Effective Next Generation Firewall Strategy
  • Intrusion Detection and Prevention
  • Malware Defenses and Content Filtering
  • Secure Perimeter and Network Security Architecture
  • Complete elimination of obsolete operating systems and applications, as well as the elimination of technologies no longer supported or considered best practice, such as RIP and WINS
  • Strengthened Controls such as Password Requirements and Rights Management
  • Policies, Procedures, and Standards

Data SecurityWon’t a strong defense-in-depth strategy prevent the introduction of cyberattacks into my network? Unfortunately, no amount of technical defenses can completely prevent the actions of a user lacking security awareness from clicking or opening something they should not.  The danger point is the window of opportunity the cyber-criminal are all too familiar with.  Cyber-criminals know there is a time lag between the time vulnerabilities are discovered and the time organizations get around to correcting the vulnerability.  The criminals know to attack swiftly while defenses are down and the chance of detection is low.

According to a recent information security study, it takes organizations an average of 176 days to remediate known vulnerabilities.  However, it only takes cyber criminals an average of 7 days to exploit known vulnerabilities.  During the 169-day delta between vulnerability remediation and cyber-criminal exploitation, your defense in depth layers may be at the mercy of your end user’s level of security awareness education.  On top of this, we have been seeing a window of several days before anti-malware providers can detect the newest malware strains.

Of the 150+ Million phishing emails being sent every single day, over 10% are making it through SPAM filters.  Of those, over 8 million are opened, and over 800,000 users are clicking on phishing links.  An average of 80,000 users a day are actually providing sensitive information to cyber-criminals because they believe the email or web link to be legitimate.  Every Day!  Are your users among the 80,000 daily victims?

Know Be 4If you haven’t figured it by now, Security Awareness Training and Effectiveness Testing is now a required layer to an effective Defense-In-Depth strategy.  Knowing this is critical, Keller Schroeder has partnered with KnowBe4 to offer effective and measurable Information Security Awareness Training, as well as perform ‘safe’ simulated phishing attacks to help determine what your current Phish-Prone percentage is and how to lower it.  For years, law enforcement learned their best crime prevention techniques from Criminals.  KnowBe4 has taken this approach, as well, with Security Awareness Training.  The training was co-developed with reformed cyber-criminal Kevin Mitnick, the Most Wanted Hacker in the World during the mid-nineties.

For more information about how Keller Schroeder and KnowBe4 solutions can help you determine and lower your Security Awareness Risk, please contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager.


Reporting Solutions with SQL Server

Brett Romershausen – Applications Consultant

Are you looking for a great reporting solution and are not quite sure where to start?  You may already have one and simply not realize it.  If you have Microsoft SQL Express Advanced, SQL Server Standard Edition or greater, then you have SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) available at no extra charge. ssrsWith Reporting Services, you get a lot of great ways to present the data to the user.  The package allows for a mixture of tables, lists, charts, gauges, and maps.  A created report can be used stand-alone, as a sub-report within another SSRS report, or as a linked report.  Think of all the possibilities!  Besides traditional reports, now you can create dashboard style reports that combine charts and/or reports, chart trends, reports with a table of contents, and reports that allow you to drill down into the details. You can also design your own presentations in SSRS, such as a calendar view we created for a healthcare organization that displays data in monthly or biweekly calendar formats. Reporting Services has some neat features and visualizations built-in.  Some include:

  • Drop down lists and calendar controls for choosing selection criteria
  • Column sorting and grouping
  • Expand/collapse toggling
  • Use expressions to condition column visibility, table values, text and column formatting, building links to other reports or URLs, etc.
  • Link to reports from charts
  • Create report templates

SSRS ExampleSSRS reports can be presented directly to the user with desktop apps, web apps, or SharePoint.  Another built-in feature is exporting a report to PDF, Word, CSV, XML, and MHMTL.  In addition to viewing and printing a report via the provided viewer, you can choose to schedule and email a report in any of these formats. Here are a few other things to consider:

  • Choose which product to use to design reports — SQL Server Data Tools or Microsoft Visual Studio. At Keller Schroeder, we typically use Visual Studio, but the Data Tools product is available to you at no cost if you do not own Visual Studio.
  • Before the reports can be utilized by the users, they must be published to the SQL Report Server (included with SQL Server) or a SharePoint site.
  • If you have complex queries that are better suited for views or stored procedures in SQL Server, this is possible in SSRS.
  • In addition to reporting against SQL Server, SSRS can be used to develop reports against Oracle, MySQL, most ODBC compliant databases, and even SharePoint lists.

An important feature of SSRS is the ability to allow users to filter report data based on selection criteria or parameters. You can insert a dropdown parameter list tied to a SQL table.   You can configure optional selection criteria, required criteria, and criteria that allow you to select one or many values.  These features are based on a few simple settings when defining the parameters, and then you just need to account for them in your query statement.

There are links to some of my favorite free info for Reporting Services:

Wise Owl SSRS Tutorial Series

Wise Owl SQL Procedures and Programming Tutorial Series

Reporting Services Concepts

How to Locate and Start Reporting Services Tools

Conditional Formatting in SSRS

If you need help getting started or would like to hear how SQL Server Reporting Services can benefit your organization, please contact us at Keller Schroeder.


Bandwagon Thinking

Cards UKI don’t get it, but people sometimes accuse me of being a “bandwagon” guy.   I’m a huge St. Louis baseball fan and a lifelong University of Kentucky basketball fan.  Just because the Cardinals have won more World Series Championships than any other National League team, and the Wildcats have won more games than any other Division I college team, does that make me a “bandwagon” fan?

 

It’s not too hard to imagine how a little guy growing up in Paducah, Kentucky would be indoctrinated as a follower of both of these sports “religions.” Admittedly, though, it’s not too hard to follow the Cardinals and the Wildcats.  They are winners.  Most people enjoy winning more than losing.  And yes, I am going to resist any temptation to reference the Chicago Cubs in this article.

 

While my sports loyalties subject me to some unfounded criticism (heck, I even have a license plate on the front of my SUV espousing my commitment to both teams – shouldn’t that count for something?), being a bandwagon person can be a very good thing when it comes to choosing your information technology partners, solutions, and strategies.  You need to choose proven winners – paths, organizations and people with demonstrated success over the long run.

 

At Keller Schroeder, we are well-informed and connected with the latest tools, vendors, technologies, and processes to help you leverage the best outcome for your business.  We have been intentional about avoiding the “bleeding edge.”  We encourage and embrace innovation and change, but we believe in doing our research, aligning ourselves with successful partners, products, and techniques, and focusing on substance and excellence over form and fashion.

 

We may be accused of being “bandwagon-types”, but we are okay with that reputation.  Picking the underdog might be fun in sports – even profitable at times at the race track – but it is not what you expect of us.  Whether it is the employee-owners we recruit, or the vendors we partner with, or the solutions we recommend, we look for experience and a proven track record of performance.  We hope you appreciate this about us.

 

Larry May

President