Blog

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
February 6th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_CScroll, double-tap, repeat, might have been the original Instagram-ing routine, but not anymore. After partnering with global advertising giants, IG is introducing its latest feature: Stories. With it, you can share short videos, or even personally decorated snapshots of your daily life. But many of you might ask, “What does this have to do with online marketing?” Read on and find out.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 1st, 2017

2017February1_VoIP_CThe number of small businesses that will move their unified communications to the cloud is predicted to increase from 10% to 48%, while medium-sized firms and large enterprises follow, albeit in smaller percentages. These numbers are not surprising because migrating unified communications to the cloud presents a host of benefits to communication systems: simplicity, flexibility, and lowered costs. You probably have given it some thought, but haven’t concluded that migrating your unified communications is a good decision. These five tips for a successful migration could help your decision-making.

Opt for a gradual transition

Migrating unified communications to the cloud doesn’t have to be done at one fell swoop. You can move UC for departments that can benefit from it, while those with no pressing need for a cloud-based UC, such as a company’s call center, can keep using on-premise systems. This way, users can ease their way into the new system without experiencing network disruptions, which could lead to reduced productivity.

Secure sufficient bandwidth

Issues on speed and performance will inevitably arise, so make sure to cover all the bases before migration. That means securing a reliable internet service provider, checking the stability of your internal network, and having a Plan B. This is a particularly critical point to ponder if you have operations in locations where unstable or slow networks could pose serious difficulties. Determine the level of bandwidth your entire business needs, and get it from an ISP that can deliver.

Test, test, test

Transitioning UC to the cloud may appear seamless, but there may be a few unexpected kinks that would need ironing out long after the migration is declared a success. To soften the potentially costly and time-consuming impacts, test the systems throughout the duration of the migration. Whether you’re testing voice, data, or video, conduct tests, set benchmarks for performance, and predict future usage patterns.

Go live and act on identified problem points

After going live with your cloud UC, consider the overall user experience and availability of support for devices, applications and other components. Are persistent connectivity issues going to cause troublesome conference calls? This and similar issues may prove detrimental in the long-run, so keep them in mind when deciding to keep, enhance, or discontinue a cloud-based UC. Cloud migration should be solving problems, not causing them.

Constantly monitor performance and quality

Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few issues even after extensive testing. Migrating to the cloud simply requires planning and a sustainable strategy, whether your organization is dependent on instant messaging, voice conferencing, or video calling. There’s also a good chance that you will be working with several vendors, so always demand for the best service.

Having your UC moved to the cloud may seem like a daunting move, but with our cloud technology and VoIP know-how, we’ll make sure your unified communications in the cloud precipitates just benefits. Contact us today for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
January 17th, 2017

2017January17_VoIP_CDid you know that your VoIP systems are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks? When it comes to VoIP, hackers will go to great lengths to intercept messages over a network or even use denial-of-service attacks to shut yours down. To protect your network, firewalls and antivirus software may be your first options, but they simply can’t defend against modern voice attacks. What you need is an updated session border controller (SBC).

What is it? In a nutshell, an SBC is a dedicated hardware device or software application that acts as a gatekeeper of your VoIP network, controlling how phone calls are initiated, conducted, and terminated. Much like a firewall, an SBC examines voice messages transmitted as IP packets and prevents unauthorized sessions to the network. This protects your business from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attempts.

But even though most businesses deploy SBC, many tend to leave it unmanaged, rendering it ineffective against new and emerging VoIP-based attacks. To make sure this doesn’t happen in your business, consider the following security best-practices with SBC:

Update frequently Security threats are ever-evolving, and your security systems need to do the same. Set aside one hour per week to check for security updates and distribute them company-wide. To avoid disrupting daily operations and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, we recommend performing updates during off-hours.

Enable real-time alerts Whether via email or text, your SBC product should alert you when something happens, when it has blocked a call, and why. These alerts will let you know about any attempted attacks and will notify you when your SBC is due for an update.

Assess SBC performance To find out whether your SBC is routinely blocking threats, make sure to periodically evaluate its effectiveness. If a third-party is managing your VoIP systems, have them perform a security test to identify possible vulnerabilities within your system.

After the security assessment, your provider should compile a report about SBC performance and recommended solutions and updates you should install to mitigate security risks. This allows you to close up any security holes well before a malicious hacker exploits them.

Educate staff Understanding why you need to update your SBC is a good first step in defending against a variety of VoIP-based attacks, but that’s no silver bullet. Aside from technical attacks, businesses need to train staff to spot cunning threats like vishing, a social engineering scam whereby hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information via phone calls.

Installing an SBC is important, but it can give businesses a false sense of security. As we mentioned, the cyber security landscape is ever-changing. So if you’re not taking a proactive role in updating and assessing your SBC, then your business might suffer for it in the near future.

To avoid spending a lifetime recovering from successful voice attacks, contact us today. We take the time to ensure your SBC is up-to-date and your business is safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
January 10th, 2017

2017january10_socialmedia_cSkype used to dominate an area of VoIP communications that serves a special function: group video calling. With apps like Snapchat, WhatsApp and, most recently, Slack nipping at its heels, it comes as no surprise that social network behemoth Facebook takes a slice of the cake with its recently rolled out desktop group voice calling. With this functionality, anyone who has ever participated in a Facebook-enabled conversation should embrace this new development.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 27th, 2016

2016december27_voip_cSkype as a desktop communication tool is largely popular with consumers and businesses alike, yet its mobile app leaves much to be desired. Whether it’s the slow VoIP service or limited communication features, there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. And apparently, Skype has acknowledged these concerns as they’ve recently launched Skype Mingo, a communication hub for Android OS. Let’s find out what it does and how it improves upon its previous iteration.

Skype Mingo borrows a lot from the original Skype app’s features and interface, but with some slight differences. For instance, Mingo allows you to manage call history and phone contacts. This means that if you use Mingo’s search function, the mobile app will search both your Skype directory and your contact list.

Skype Mingo also comes with SMS relay, a feature that allows you to sync native texts with your Skype account, Skype desktop program, and mobile app. All these features suggest that Skype wants smartphone users to set Mingo as their default for photo sharing, SMS, VoIP, file sharing, and contact management.

What’s more, Mingo reinforces Skype’s already strong data-powered video and voice-calling functionality. Microsoft promises that the communication hub is “small, fast, and optimized for speed.” So far, we know that Skype plans to achieve this by offering solutions for data saving through Economical Calling and On-Demand Sync features.

If that hasn’t sold you on the Skype Mingo, you’ll also be able to enjoy the full functionality of Skype bots and virtual assistants for numerous tasks. Need to look for cheap flights? Let Skyscanner know about your travel plans. Want to schedule meetings on the go? Send Zoom a message to set an appointment. Need some medical attention? The Baymax bot can be your healthcare companion.

It’s certain that most of the possibilities that were once out of reach for mobile phones are now possible thanks to Microsoft’s innovations. Though it’s unclear how it will affect the way we use our VoIP or messenger applications in the near future, Skype Mingo definitely looks like a promising addition to the Skype brand.

Currently, the app is still in its alpha testing phase, so expect new features when the full version is rolled out. We will likely keep track of Mingo’s development and public release date, so stay in touch with us to get the lowdown on Skype.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
December 12th, 2016

instagram-170px-03Because of its image-heavy content, Instagram has become a tremendously popular social platform, as evidenced by its 500 million users and over-a-billion daily engagement. More than being a photo-sharing social network with fun filters, Instagram’s potential to turn your followers into customers is worth exploring. Make the most of your Instagram account with these 5 practical tips.

Ensure your posts are shoppable

This simply means providing a convenient path in which your followers can buy the products posted on your page. With a shoppable Instagram tool, you can direct users to your online shop where they can make an actual purchase. Instagram is, arguably, not the best ecommerce platform to use if you depend on clickable media, but if you know how to tweak the app to your advantage – and provide an attractive presentation of your products – you can turn likes into sales.

Give away discount codes or coupons

Entice followers to engage with you and share content with incentives such as discount codes or coupons. You can do this by running contests with an interesting concept, cool prizes, and a sharing or voting element that encourages participants to share your content with their friends. Better yet, engage followers by tapping into user-generated content via photo contests, resulting in free promotion for your brand.

Come up with a strong call-to-action (CTA)

Instagram doesn’t exactly have the most mobile-friendly CTAs, but don’t let this prevent you from sending followers to your sales page. Whether it’s telling them to go to the link on your bio or simply incorporating a shoppable Instagram feature on your page, specific instructions on how to buy or know more about your product can spell the difference between making a sale and getting ignored.

Post frequently and make the most of all available tools

Post photos using stylish filters, create snappy and quirky videos, or let your followers take a friendly behind-the-scenes peek at your organization using the Stories feature. Come up with a catchy and relatable caption that encourages participation and engages your core audience. Also important: using hashtags on your posts. Any business Instagrammer worth his or her salt knows that a simple hashtag can pave the way for other users to reach your content and, ultimately, buy your product.

Last but not least…

Create captivating content

Remember that Instagram is a visual platform, and as such, users are enticed by striking images rendered in flattering filters, vivid colors, and clear messages. Although other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are excellent mediums for promoting products, the image-oriented nature of Instagram brings in a wealth of opportunities for promoting your brand. Aside from coming up with likeable posts, crafting a clear and concise caption can lead to a winning Instagram marketing campaign.

With some creativity, visual flair, and a well-defined strategy, these tips can help shape your Instagram feed as an attractive online sales generator. If you need further advice on how you can make the most of your social media presence, contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 9th, 2016

2016december9_voip_cBusiness communications have never been the same since VoIP (Voice-over-Internet Protocol) was launched in 1995. Thanks to this cutting-edge technology, businesses of all sizes are able to use IP telephony systems to significantly cut costs and increase communications efficiency and flexibility. CallKit, Apple’s new framework introduced in September 2016, is a compelling new technology designed to make communications even more seamless. How does CallKit turn your third-party VoIP apps into a first-party tool? We present the facts right here.

What does CallKit do?

Plenty. For one, it integrates all the useful functions of VoIP apps with Apple’s native interface. Remember that CallKit is merely a way for third-party apps to integrate with Apple mobile devices. As such, the CallKit framework has already been integrated with Windows-owned Skype and a slew of other third-party apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, among others. These developments present a host of benefits to businesses looking to integrate communications under a manageable corporate account. It also offers a significant enhancement to the user experience, mainly in eliminating the need to open an app when answering, dropping, or blocking a call.

With CallKit, seemingly minor inconveniences -- such as having to unlock your phone, going to the app, and pressing answer -- as well as having to drop VoIP calls for incoming cellular calls are addressed and solved. For added convenience, CallKit also allows you to tag contacts as favorites.

VoIP benefits

The benefits of VoIP apps are varied and plenty, especially for businesses. VoIP apps are inexpensive to implement and easy to install and configure. Most iterations offer connections that are as good as, if not better than, cellular-based telephone calls, with VoIP apps like Skype constantly making improvements on both interface and functionality.

CallKit’s architecture is designed to make VoIP app calls as seamless as possible. With CallKit, users can initiate calls with Bluetooth, a voice command to Siri, and Apple’s native interface for iOS 10 and above. It also has a mechanism for blocking spam calls, enabling a Do Not Disturb functionality, and interacting with other VoIP apps, which means users are now able to handle incoming and outgoing calls and messages with more efficiency.

Despite improvements in VoIP apps, many users don’t bother with mobile apps unless circumstances -- like being in a foreign country, where making phone calls would be expensive -- compel them otherwise. VoIP and developments like CallKit can turn that around. Thanks to CallKit, users can now make VoIP calls from iOS’s native call history and contacts apps – provided, of course, that there is a stable internet connection, which in this day and age has long ceased to be a luxury but a necessity.

A call to action for an improved CallKit

With CallKit, business communications are definitely much easier. But at this point in its development, has it solved all possible problems inherent to unified communications? While there still are some challenges with routing calls through enterprise unified communications platforms, CallKit presents a compelling advancement that promises an even greater communications experience.

As more VoIP app developers look for ways to improve their technology, businesses that depend on VoIP-assisted communications can expect more developments, and Apple’s CallKit is one to watch for. Call us today if you want to explore how VoIP solutions can help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP