Blog

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
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 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 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