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May 16th, 2017

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is changing the way small- and medium-sized businesses communicate. Due to VoIP’s affordability and efficiency, VoIP distributors are selling these feature-rich phone systems like hot cakes. But before deciding to purchase one, you need to make sure your VoIP distributor has the chops your business is looking for.

Highly-trained technical support A good VoIP distributor will provide technical support both before and after the sale. But a great VoIP distributor will offer highly skilled, well-trained, and certified support. Make sure your distributor’s IT team has been trained on the latest advances in VoIP technology and has obtained the appropriate certifications.

Provisioning capabilities Provisioning means providing service to the user. This includes the hardware, wiring, transmitting the voice and data, and especially the final configuration. It can also refer to configuring the hardware and software in order to provide service. In other words, when a device is provisioned, it works. Ask your potential distributor how many stations and ports they have available, and whether or not they offer custom provisioning packages.

API services Check whether your VoIP distributor offers Advanced API services. Short for Application Program Interface, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that specify how software components should interact. It helps streamline your ordering process and ensures your hardware will arrive correctly provisioned on your service platform.

Training programs Before committing to any VoIP distributor, be sure to check their educational resources. How often do they offer webinars on new products? Do they provide training and educational material on their websites and product portals? Also, check whether your VoIP distributor will create custom training materials for you and your customers.

Remember, a VoIP distributor that offers a complete suite of telephony services helps you overcome your business's phone service obstacles and lets you better serve your customers.

For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 8th, 2017

In today’s competitive business environment, SMBs are constantly finding new ways to outdo one another. Recently, social media and content marketing strategies have become increasingly popular. But because many of your competitors are utilizing the same platforms as you are, it’s essential for you to find new methods to make your business stand out. These tips might help:

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Create buyer personas Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Track the impact of your content marketing When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media Businesses can utilize social media as a way to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of their content on your own channels. Not only are user-generated content more cost-efficient, they also shorten the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats A Twitter Chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It's like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplifies the whole process. It easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter Chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All small- and medium-sized businesses are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 27th, 2017

With the recent headlines on cyber attacks via Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) eavesdropping, the safety of your communication systems is clearly at risk. As cyber criminals constantly find new ways to infiltrate your business, now might be the right time to implement the proper defenses for your VoIP phone systems. Get the ball rolling with these following tips:

Never deploy with default configurations Everyone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendors An ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren't for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllers Another tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP calls Many cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP network Another method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level
In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 12th, 2017

2017April12VoIP_CSince Skype is a free service for consumers, it generally has to rely on advertising to turn a profit. As a result, most users regularly see banner ads on the video calling interface. Recently, hackers have begun to exploit these advertisements by distributing fake ads that contain ransomware. If you’re an avid Skype user, here’s what you need to know about the attack.

Initial reports found that the fake Skype ad was disguised as a critical Flash update. Clicking on the ad triggers a download of a seemingly innocuous HTML application named “FlashPlayer.hta”. If opened, the app would download malicious code that encrypts the victim’s files and holds them hostage until a ransom is paid.

According to security experts, hackers were obfuscating malicious code in the fake ads, which helped the ransomware evade detection from common antivirus tools. Many other users in the past have encountered similar Skype ads, but this is one of the first few scams that delivers ransomware.

To protect yourself against this ransomware you need to do the following:

  • Be critical - you must be careful of opening suspicious ads and links from Skype -- or any content off the internet for that matter. Before you click on a link, hover over it to see where it leads. Unsolicited emails with links and downloadable files should also be avoided unless you’re certain it’s coming from a credible source.
  • Download only from trusted sources - just like the tip mentioned above, make sure the software you download are from trustworthy app stores. In this case, Adobe Flash plugins should be downloaded directly from the official site, not from random ads.
  • Install security software - strong antivirus, intrusion prevention systems, and other cybersecurity solutions can detect and block ransomware before it makes your entire system unusable.
  • Invest in backups - storing your data in multiple cloud-hosted data centers will help you recover critical files should ransomware manage to infect your local computers.
When it comes to ransomware, hackers don't always return your files and we never recommend giving in to their demands. Staying informed and being prepared is the best solution to any malware.

Skype is the last place you’d expect a hacker to turn up, but if you don’t account for all possible vulnerabilities -- including security flaws in your VoIP solution -- your business has a bleak future. Contact us to protect your VoIP, your cloud, and your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 10th, 2017

170px-03We live in an age overflowing with information, and most of this is taking place in social media feeds and timelines. Social media is truly a window to the entire world, but it can be detrimental to your business if your employees are just messing about with hashtags, tweets, and likes all day. Annual social media policy reviews can give you and your business some much-needed clarity.

Avoid legal trouble Do you remember Chipotle’s social media debacle in 2015? It lost a lawsuit for firing an employee that posted negative content on social media because it turned out that Chipotle’s social media policy violated federal labor laws. That’s why you should work with your legal team to keep your policies up to date: so they comply with the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board.

Protect company information Social media policies can actually help safeguard sensitive data from hackers and cyber attacks, especially in a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) working environment. Employees must know the proprietary company information that must never be shared, as well as understand that confidential information -- such as marketing tactics, non-public financials, and future product launches -- are to be communicated only ‘internally.’ A good example is General Motor’s social media policy, which clearly spells out what can and can't be disclosed to the public.

Define which kinds of social media activities are and aren't allowed Although posting offensive or insensitive material on a company-branded social media page being is an obvious no-no, it still happens. For the people handling your company’s social media, what precautionary mechanisms are in place to avoid a public relations disaster? Are there rules for different platforms? Beyond that, however, is a lot of gray area when it comes to if and how employees will be held accountable for what they post on their personal profiles. When social media policies clearly outline how employees should behave online and the punishments that come with violating that agreement, you can deter rogue employee posts and avoid a viral fiasco.

Effective social media policies need to be fluid and responsive to the fast-paced modern business environment. Taking the time out to perform yearly social media policy reviews will save your employees a lot of confusion while helping your company steer clear of potential PR and legal nightmares. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 27th, 2017

2017March27VoIP_CMore companies will launch online video chat as a customer service platform by 2018...and it’s about time. Businesses have never been more eager to please, thanks in part to customer service satisfaction scoring sites and apps, which is how competition got increasingly tough. The eventual integration of online video chat as a customer service platform will soon play a part in making customer service satisfaction soar, and businesses ought to adapt and make the most of it now.

More visuals, better service

Unlike other customer service platforms such as phone, online chat, social media, and email, online video chat is highly personal and markedly interactive. The advantage is obvious: Customers see the person they’re talking to, which lends a greater sense of urgency and professionalism to a conversation. Businesses looking to improve their customer satisfaction rating can also benefit from a video-enhanced customer service capability.

That is not to say that an online chat or other ‘less visual’ modes of communication are insufficient in handling or managing complaints or queries. For some businesses, certain product or service inquiries could benefit from a visual demonstration, such as fixing a malfunctioning electronic equipment or assembling furniture. A video chat can also be massively beneficial to customers seeking help for an extremely technical computer issue.

Not all customers, however, would opt for a video chat to get assistance, but having it as an option is definitely going the extra mile. Having a video option also expands the customers’ options and increases their confidence in your capacity to assist.

Is online video chat really necessary?

Some companies aren’t eager to adopt a video-based customer service functionality due to several factors, such as costs associated mostly with staff training and contact center structure improvements. Despite being the least personal of all customer interactions, interactive voice response systems are still preferred by many because they’re cheaper to implement and maintain.

Other hurdles include inconsistent video chat quality and customer preference. The ubiquity of other platforms such as social media also poses a barrier to adapting video chat. Why spend money hiring extra staff and expend effort adding video capabilities when you can have anyone on the team log on to Twitter -- for free -- and solve complaint tickets?

Despite widely recognizing customer service and experience as a competitive differentiator, many businesses still resist video technology. For small- and medium-sized firms with limited resources that are therefore slow to adjust to new changes, this is understandable. Nevertheless, exploring video chat’s potential can undoubtedly enhance their customers’ experience, and, in time, prove invaluable.

As with many advances in unified communications technology, it wouldn’t be surprising if online video chat decimated other VoIP services and became the new norm rather than a budding trend. Do you want to explore the various features of your existing VoIP systems for your business? Call us for advice today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 13th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_481869592Businesses nowadays are focusing their marketing efforts towards social media. Precious time and money are being invested in expanding customer base, establish corporate identity, and drive revenue. That’s why it’s vital for owners to know which platforms work, and which ones don’t. And this is no walk in the park.

Over 71 percent of Snapchat users are under 34 years old; as of 2015, the social network boasted over 100 million active users. It’s an ideal marketing option for businesses targeting a millennial audience. If you’re still unsure about Snapchat for your small business, consider these statistics:

    • 58 percent of college students are likely to purchase a product from coupons sent over Snapchat
    • 65 percent of Snapchat users contribute content on a daily basis
    • Only 1 percent of marketers are taking advantage of Snapchat, which means you can be an early adopter and gain a competitive advantage
Snapchat is a social media application that allows users to send pictures and videos - called “Snaps” - to others. The media sent can only be viewed for 10 seconds or less (you can specify the length), after which it disappears for good. You can add a Snap or multiple Snaps to create your own “story” which can be viewed by others for 24 hours.

The reason Snapchat is getting the attention of marketers is that it allows users to personally interact with brands. Instead of regular content, you audience gets a candid, behind-the-scenes look at your business. Also, by using Snapchat regularly, you’ll be able to keep your brand in the forefront of your audience’s mind. Then, when they’re making a purchasing decision between you and your competitors, they’ll choose you because of the relationship you’ve established with them. Now that you know what Snapchat is, the next step is to gain followers.

How to grow a following on Snapchat Unlike other social networks like Twitter and Instagram, hashtags don’t suffice when you want to get your audience’s attention. They have to find and add you - not the other way around. Even if you want to add other users so they could add you back, you can’t base the search on vague terms -- you have to know their Snapchat username to add them. Basically, Snapchat has no native discovery features.

In order to gain followers on Snapchat, you’ll need to use your online presence as well as other social media sites to create awareness and entice others to follow you. Here are some easy methods to get the ball rolling:

    • The “Add Me URL” feature - share a custom URL on other social media platforms that allow other users to quickly add you as their Snapchat connections. To do so, replace “yourusername” in the following URL: https://www.snapchat.com/add/yourusername
    • Promote your username in your social media profiles - promote your Snapchat username by posting it in other profiles to encourage people to add you. You can also share your username in email signatures, blog posts, and even your company website.
    • Share relevant content - plan an interesting series of Snaps to share with your followers and post all the details on other social media accounts along with your username and/or QR code image, this gives followers an incentive to connect with your brand.
    • Snapcode image as your profile picture on other social networks - take a screenshot and crop your Snapchat QR code image (Snapcode) and set that as a profile picture on your other social media accounts. Anyone who points their Snapchat camera at the code will automatically add you to their friends list.
Snapchat is one of the newest social media outlets to date. If you start building your brand on it now, you’ll be taking a huge step ahead of your competitors - especially now that Snapchat is catching up to Facebook and other social media giants. If you would like to know more about what Snapchat can do for your small- and medium-sized business, feel free to give us a call!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
March 9th, 2017

2017March9VoIP_CMaking calls over the internet has been one of the greatest advancements for small- and medium-sized businesses in several decades. And although some are calling the newest addition to this field detrimental, we think it’s an awesome addition. For business owners who believe in staying ahead of the times, WebRTC is worth checking out.

What is WebRTC?

At its most basic, WebRTC is a way to make phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, and file transfers with nothing but a web browser.

And in addition to being immensely convenient for end users, WebRTC is relatively easy to configure for administrators and developers. You can create a link on your homepage that will allow customers to initiate a video call without the need to dial a number from their phone, or even open up Skype on their desktop.

The benefits to your customers

This creates a much more connected customer service experience. With WebRTC calls, you’ll never have to ask “Ok, are you looking at our site?” They had to navigate to your site to even make the call, so a certain amount of knowledge can be assumed the moment you pick up the line. This allows customer service representatives to assist customers calling through this medium in a more specific, nuanced way than calls they receive from cellphones and landlines.

What are the drawbacks?

Compatibility is one of the main reasons to avoid jumping on the bandwagon too early. Most notably, Apple has been on the topic of working with this new technology. Developers have noticed nods to WebRTC availability in Apple’s callkit, but no official announcement has been made yet.

It could hurt user experience if an Apple user sees a “Start a video call now!” button but gets an incompatibility message when they click it. If you are still interested in giving it a shot, make sure to work with experienced professionals to test it in the wild before committing wholeheartedly.

The WebRTC critics

Some industry professionals are crying foul. They believe this new technology will diminish the relevance of VoIP and throw internet-based telephony into uncertain territory. In reality, WebRTC is a far cry from a VoIP killer because people who are willing to make calls from their desktop computer are still a small minority.

With a Unified Communications infrastructure, your staff utilize VoIP solutions to make and receive calls from traditional phone numbers in the same place they receive WebRTC calls. At the end of the day, this new technology isn’t about disrupting VoIP, it’s just about partnering together to give your customers new ways to get in touch with you.

The main reason to partner with a managed services provider is to ensure you’re always getting the best technology available. Although WebRTC might not be for everyone, it’s important for you to know what your options are. If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter of this technology, don’t wait another minute to call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 24th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_195098972Facebook might be the biggest name in social media, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only one. Since there isn’t a one-size-fits-all platform, there are trendier options such as Instagram and Snapchat, with a burgeoning millennial base to choose from. With that in mind, it’s essential for business owners to understand the pros and cons of each platform before settling on one.

Facebook According to the 2017 Wasp Barcode State of Small Business Report, Facebook is the most utilized social media of all the options. Out of the survey’s 1,100+ respondents, 68 percent used Facebook as an integral part of their marketing strategy, with LinkedIn coming in second at 39 percent.

One of the contributing factors to Facebook’s popularity is the fact that it’s currently approaching a total of 2 billion personal users, making it the first place companies go to when they want to increase their brand awareness. Other marketing-specific reasons businesses choose Facebook are social media referral traffic, terrific conversion rates for e-commerce traffic, and a huge impact on user purchasing decisions.

YouTube YouTube is considered an undervalued social media resource for two main reasons. Firstly, although it’s the second-largest search engine on the internet, it still looms in the giant shadow of its rival Google Search. But when properly utilized, YouTube allows you to create channels for your products or services to be discovered by users, with little more than search optimizations.

Secondly, Google actually owns YouTube, and videos are reportedly 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than other organic content. Keep in mind that video production quality is more important than ever, so your content needs to be well-produced in order to make an impact.

Google+ Engagement and content on sharing might pale in comparison to Facebook, but an active Google+ page measurably contributes to the Google search ranking of your website -- just another way you can ensure your site’s position on the first page of Google results should be done. Also, Google+ has hundreds of millions of users and some of the platform’s features -- such as live Hangouts -- can be utilized to share content across all Google channels, including YouTube.

Snapchat and Instagram If your target audience is on the younger end of the scale, Snapchat is the way to go. The important thing to keep in mind when you want to connect with 18-24 year olds is to always be fun and creative. Your content doesn’t need to be overly-polished or corporate. Currently, there are over 100 million active users on Snapchat.

As for Instagram, it boasts over 400 million monthly users as well as a more well-rounded user base in terms of age and geography. The content on Instagram should look more professional and more artistic, and there’s an added benefit of direct integration with Facebook every time you post a new picture or video.

Yelp Review sites might not be the purest form of social media, but Yelp is another great way to connect with users and respond to (hopefully positive) feedback. If you’re concerned about the controversy and negativity that have arisen from Yelp reviews, the Yelp team is known for helping businesses improve their online status and rise above the harsh comments.

If you still have questions about social media platforms and how to utilize them to your advantage, feel free to contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 20th, 2017

2017February20_VoIP_CAs VoIP stormed onto the small business scene over a decade ago, a lot of businesses wanted to get in early. The only problem with doing so was that early iterations of this technology didn’t include advanced call-forwarding and “Follow-me” features. Newcomers made expensive outlays for new handsets that seem far less necessary today. So, for those asking “Do I really need VoIP handsets?” we’re here to help you find the answer.

Before you can answer your million dollar question, you need to examine the day-to-day calling strategies of your office. Consider the following six questions before deciding whether or not to purchase office handsets:

Question #1: How often would employees answer work numbers from their mobile devices if you purchased desktop phones?

We’ve all been there, you see a great new feature and automatically jump to the conclusion that you don’t need legacy technology. Just because call-forwarding and follow-me features are convenient, doesn’t mean you should use them exclusively. If employees would use desktop phones for more than half of their calls, you probably don’t want to skimp on handsets.

Question #2: Do your employees ever take calls from their personal numbers?

If employees are already handing out personal numbers to customers and clients, the transition to taking work calls on their mobile device is far more likely to go smoothly. If not, you need to clarify what’s expected of employees during off hours before making the decision to go 100% mobile.

Question #3: How much texting, emailing, and messaging do employees do from their personal mobile devices?

Similar to question #2, how much business is already taking place on mobile devices will play a big factor in transitioning to a mobile environment. If your team is taking calls at their desk, but sending the majority of their text-based correspondence from mobile devices, getting rid of desktop phones may actually be a more streamlined approach.

Question #4: Do you want employees to focus on desktop integrations during calls?

Don’t forget about the profitable ways you can integrate a desktop phone with customer relationship management software, productivity tools, and call tracking. Most of these won’t be nearly as effective when 100% of calls are taken from a mobile device.

Question #5: Does your company have a mobile device management system in place?

Unless your organization already has a full-fledged BYOD plan, it’s not prepared for the onslaught of security risks associated with connecting your business data to your employees’ personal devices. In an all-mobile environment, every single employee device would need to be set up with a personal profile and a work profile to keep the two data streams separate and secure.

Question #6: What are employee experiences with call quality on mobile devices?

Preconceived notions from employees about VoIP call quality can play a tremendous part in a mobile device transition. If employee devices are older, run-down devices, there may be problems with getting the most out of your VoIP solution. And even if your organization is providing the mobile devices, employees may still be looking to complain to colleagues, and even customers, about the “reduction” in call quality -- even if there’s none to speak of.

The sexiest answer isn’t always the right one when it comes to technology. Going all-in on a mobile call strategy may sound great as a headline, but it’s not a project to be taken lightly. However, if it still sounds worth it you, we’re the team to make it happen. Contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP