Blog

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 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
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 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
November 24th, 2016

2016november24_voip_cThe latest announcement from Microsoft is an extension of its new and beloved Insider Programs. If you are a Skype user -- whether for business, personal use, or both -- then this new program just might be for you. Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows users can join the Skype Insider Program and gain access to benefits and features not available to the average Skype user. If you are interested in maximizing your VoIP experience, we’ve compiled all the necessary information in this article.

At its core, the new Skype Insider Program is a way to allow Skype users to beta test cutting-edge features and software fixes. In addition to granting users access to the latest features before they become public, this program also gives Microsoft a major advantage because more beta testers means it can roll out full updates and upgrades more quickly. After joining, users can test out a wide array of improvements for any Skype platform, including Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before joining this Insider Program, or any betas for that matter. It exists to test out how well new features work “in the wild,” and there is potential for bugs. The catch 22 is that with so many users beta-testing the software, those problems and bugs will be fixed far more quickly than before, and participants will have a head start on using those features when they officially roll out.

VoIP has been around for years now, and most vendor offerings are similar to one another. In our opinion, getting access to new VoIP technology is definitely worth it. You’ll be able to get a head start on the competition, and Microsoft will reward your contributions with a faster, more secure Skype connection.

An open and well-populated beta program almost always means great things for users and the software they’re using. If you are interested in becoming part of Skype's Insider Program, or if you have any VoIP-related questions, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
November 9th, 2016

2016november9_voip_cMany business owners wonder whether Unified Communications (UC) would ultimately benefit their business. If you are one of those business owners, get to know some of the facts about UC before you make your ultimate decision. Read on for information on the pros and cons of UC and contact us as soon as you are ready to make your choice.

Understanding UC is important to understanding the pros and cons of this communications platform. Essentially, UC is the use of service, software, and equipment that creates a communications system that is fully integrated and centralized. This allows for phone calls, emails, video conferencing, calendars, and the like to be accessible on one system alone.

Pros of UC

There are numerous benefits of choosing a UC system over a non-integrated, disjointed communications system. One is that all people involved in the business process -- from bosses and employees, to vendors, customers, and other business associates or partners -- can access the same information and quickly and easily communicate with one another one-on-one or in groups.

VoIP UC makes it possible to receive phone calls through a computer, have them pushed to a mobile phone, and even get copies of voicemails and information about callers on the computer. Essentially, everything runs through the internet and wireless communications.

Additionally, mobile technologies can more easily be used to bring work groups together and make employees as productive as possible wherever they are. This means that virtual conference calls and meetings are possible and can be an important tool in the process of doing business. UC also save employees and other business associates a great deal of time and can improve productivity.

And then there is the issue of cost. UC can save businesses money in the short- and long-term by making it possible to telecommute, have meetings over great distances, and make work hours more productive overall.

Cons of UC

Of course, no business change or decision is without potential drawbacks. The initial overall cost of switching to a UC system can be high because of the software, equipment, and training needed. Already accustomed to existing systems, some employees might resist adopting a new technology. And other employees, considering their unique roles in the company, might think the new communications system irrelevant to them and so see little benefit to it.

Better understanding these potential benefits and drawbacks to UC can help you decide what is right for your business. Contact us if you have any questions or if you are ready to begin using VoIP UC processes in your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
October 24th, 2016

2016october24_voip_cIf there’s one constant in the field of cyber-security, it’s that hackers will never stop looking for new ways to hurt your business. In the most recent development, they’ve set their sights on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems. Technology administrators for hospitals, government entities, and small businesses need to be on alert for the possibility of damaging denial of service (DoS) to their communication system. Read on for a complete rundown on this scary trend.

Denial of service attacks

The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that the system is eventually forced to shut down. Telephony DoS (TDoS) attacks are a subcategory wherein these types of attacks are leveled at VoIP systems. Sadly, this security bulletin has jumped to the front of security concerns as a result of its use against hospitals and 9-1-1 phone lines.

In another depressing development, some TDoS attackers demand a ransom to halt the attack. Much like ransomware, with the help of cryptocurrencies and caller-ID spoofing, it’s incredibly difficult to identify attackers.

TDoS attacks generally employ fewer resources than the DoS attacks that are designed to cripple IT systems such as networks, servers, and software. At its most basic, all that a TDoS attack requires is an automated phone dialer that calls a target phone number and hangs up -- over and over. That very simple concept can stop anyone else from getting through the line.

What organizations need to do

Counterintuitive as it might sound, locking down your VoIP system with complicated and unnecessary security measures will ultimately do more harm than good. Most businesses can’t operate if they can’t communicate with their customers.

Although VoIP may be a digital resource similar to your other IT systems, the very nature of phone lines makes it impossible to hide them behind firewalls and other protections. However, there are new solutions that offer protection to VoIP systems. The new security protocols can protect your communication infrastructure against those who try to use force to gain access to your directory information. These protocols can also identify, reroute, and filter calls coming from known attackers.

If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with your VoIP system, or if you want to deploy the most up to date solution that the market has to offer, we have just the company in mind. With years of experience in the field, our expert staff is ready to help you at the drop of a hat -- just call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
October 5th, 2016

2016october5_voip_cVoice over Internet Protocol ensures businesses benefit from cutting-edge communication systems. VoIP is easier to install, configure and to maintain, and most importantly it can easily be adapted to assimilate post-purchase features. If you’re considering migrating to a VoIP solution, or if you just want to shop for the most recent developments in the service, we’ve got everything you need right here.

Fax

Modern VoIP does more than just make calls, it also receives faxes. Why would a business be interested in this seemingly outdated service? A significant portion of businesses, government bodies, and medical facilities still use some form of fax service to send and receive physical documents. If a customer or vendor prefers to send you a fax, most VoIP solutions are equipped to receive and convert fax documents into a PDF file.

Interactive Voice Response

The new VoIP feature allows businesses to route their calls to the correct client’s or staff’s number. This feature helps to reduce the use of mass cold calling and unwanted calls, saving the businesses' time and money, and enhances proper service delivery to your clients. VoIP systems promote minimal routing calls, increasing your employees' ability to work well.

Spam Call Filter

It’s election season and that means robo-calls. If you hate them as much as we do, VoIP is one of the best services to eliminate them. Spam filters combine several different pieces of caller data to help you differentiate between potential customers and annoying telemarketers. About as effective as the spam filter protecting your email inbox, this feature is not something we could live without.

Telemarketer Block

Automatic filters are never perfect, and some telemarketers may be able to slip through the fence your filters have erected. Depending on the scope of your VoIP system, you may want to input blocked numbers manually. If you have specific times that your spam filter and blocked call list would become prohibitive, they can be turned off with the flip of a switch.

Network Down Forward

One of the biggest concerns for VoIP solutions is their bandwidth requirements. Users in areas without a robust or reliable internet connection may think they can’t reap the rewards of a internet-based communications service. Modern VoIP systems have a feature called ‘network down forward’ to overcome these hurdles. When turned on, network down forward allows you to send calls to your signal-based mobile devices when your internet is down -- thereby guaranteeing customers can always get a hold of you.

VoIP technology has opened up entirely new avenues of what businesses can achieve with their communication systems. Beyond just making and receiving calls over the internet, users can block unwanted callers, receive faxes, and design pleasant hold menus. For any VoIP inquiries, call us today -- we’re always available.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
September 19th, 2016

2016september19_voip_cA common refrain heard by installers of traditional PBX phone systems and over-the-internet VoIP systems is “Wait, before you go, what’s best for on-hold music and messages, and how do I set those up?” Usually it’s an easy process for both types of phone systems, but with VoIP solutions it’s typically easier and provides greater flexibility to small-business owners in their attempts to reduce hang-ups and keep their on-hold customers happy.

When an operator asks a client for permission to put them on hold, what they’re really saying is “Can you wait there a short time not talking to anybody?” It’s a small window of speech-free standing-by that occurs at different times throughout a call, and for different durations.

And, it can result in two distinctly different outcomes: an untroubled customer who will stick around to finish their business, or a disgruntled one who will most likely quit the call and come back another time. With a VoIP phone system, a mix of engaging music, constructive messages, and interesting information can put the kibosh on finicky fleeing clients.

Music

We’d all agree there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to music, but there are some things you definitely DON’T want playing while a potentially agitated or impatient customer is on hold. So how do you choose the best sounds for them to hear whilst waiting?

With a VoIP system’s easy-to-navigate dashboard, you simply click a tab called “Hold Music” or something similar, and then upload your audio. Focus on trendy, easily recognizable music that suits your brand, and takes your clientele’s demographics into account.

You can also enter through your VoIP user interface freely to schedule how frequently a particular track plays and for how long, and to configure whether it restarts or continues where it left off when a caller is placed back on hold.

Marketing Messages

Your VoIP system’s audio files aren’t restricted to music, of course. There is a world of opportunity there to keep your on-hold customers not only engaged by sound, but marketed to, too. Remember, your goal isn’t just to eliminate silence, it’s to do so with a purpose.

“Hold message” scripts that riff on your company’s TV and radio ads might elicit an “I think I’ve heard this somewhere” response. Conversely, you could put a totally new spin on the usual tone and style of your marketing messages and really get creative with humorous mini-commercials that make your customers chuckle (and a little bit of levity never hurt nobody!).

You could also create files that catalogue your company’s services in unconventional ways, such as in alphabetical order; highlight seasonal promotions or other new specials; and announce upcoming product launches -- or simply hint at them to coax your customer into a bit of standby sleuthing. Whatever the case may be, your VoIP system’s interface makes it easy to have multiple messages at the ready.

Facts & Figures

Why is your customer doing business with you in the first place? Try to remind them while they wait, perhaps by telling them about your company’s founding fathers’ esteemed histories or about some of the innovations you’ve brought to your industry’s marketplace.

New information and intriguing anecdotes will take their minds off of the fact that they aren’t being served, so you could also pose a playful trivia or “Did you know?” kind of contest where providing a correct answer once the call resumes wins them a prize.

Or, tailor-make announcements that make it clear you’re doing your best to solve the customer’s issues: whether they went through the “internet service” IVR menu or they’re there to “renew membership,” program your VoIP system to play an upbeat, service-appropriate message that makes them feel like they’re getting personalized care.

VoIP functionality actually gives you an opportunity to turn the on-hold experience into a positive customer service experience. So if you’re looking for a way to make sure the window of speech-free standing-by doesn’t slam shut, get in touch with us today and we’ll help you increase the odds that your clients hold the line happily.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP