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Business Phone Systems Chicago

4 Reasons Unified Communications as a Service is Replacing Premises-based Phone Systems

The business communications industry is seeing some of the greatest changes of its time. The leading driver being the steady adoption of the cloud, specifically unified communications (UC) and the delivery of these services, better referred to as unified communication as a service (UCaaS).

As we see in every space, products have life cycles. It’s becoming clear that the premises-based phone systems that many businesses relied on are quickly approaching the end of theirs. According to Gartner, there has been a 6.6% decline in premises-based revenue over the last 5 years.

So, why the steady decline of premises-based revenue?

Many businesses today are faced with aging premises-based phone systems and are left with the choice to either replace them with the same technology or migrate to newer technology like cloud-based UC solutions. Premises-based systems have a tough time competing with cloud based UC systems in several key areas. Here are 4 reasons why UCaaS is rapidly replacing premises-based systems.

1. Cost

From large enterprise businesses, all the way to small non-profit organizations, everyone is looking to reduce costs and become more cost-efficient. Companies are moving away from systems that require high upfront capital expenses and are gravitating to solutions that allow them to pay for only what they actually need and use. With premises-based systems, upgrading an entire system is no longer a financially attractive option, with many systems requiring a longer commitment and the inability to scale.  Cloud-based UC models offer greater flexibility, with financing options and the ability to add and remove services and users whenever needed, providing businesses with the assurance that they can scale at anytime with ease.

2. Advanced Features

Businesses are no longer interested in replacing older phone systems with newer ones that offer the same functionality. Companies today are looking for mobility, flexibility and more efficient ways to collaborate and work. Cloud-based UC systems integrate traditional telephony solutions with other communication and productivity applications on an internet protocol (IP) network, enabling a myriad of capabilities, including audio, web and a video conferencing, company-wide chat, presence, email, file sharing and integrations with leading CRM solutions. The enhanced capabilities that cloud UC solutions are able to deliver are much more equipped to meet the growing demands of the modern workforce.

3. Maintenance

Premises-based switched telephony systems, typically a PBX or IP-PBX system, can be time-consuming, complex and costly to maintain, requiring dedicated IT staff to manage the systems and servers for even the most basic of changes. With the additional costs and complexities, companies are fleeing to the simplicity and maintenance-free technology of the cloud. Unlike equipment that just depreciates, the cloud continues to update automatically and often for no cost. Cloud-based UC systems, which are easy for both employees and administrators to manage the features of the system without IT support, provide the ability to save even more time and money, while improving operations.

4. Security    

Premises-based systems don’t offer much in the area of security, with equipment and critical data all stored on site.  Cloud-based UC systems on the other hand, especially those that utilize the cloud for 100 percent of its storage and processing are hosted on the provider’s servers and accessible through an encrypted web browser, ensuring that nothing is left  on-site where it could be vulnerable to hacking, theft or damage.  The best cloud UC providers even guarantee calls using the public internet are encrypted from the handset into a secure network, ensuring call data remains protected and confidential. An added assurance is offered by the most secure UC providers  who encrypts calls, messages and recordings with Transport Layer Security (TLS), cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a provider’s network, and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), a symmetric encryption algorithm. Some cloud-based UC systems even allow internal IT staff to change user settings through flexible web portals that work across multiple devices. Offering these additional internal abilities, like controlling who is permitted to forward voicemail, further safeguards private information.

Businesses today are becoming more strategic with their communications investments. In addition to the desire for enhanced capabilities and collaboration features to improve employee productivity and customer service, they are also looking for solutions that are future-proof, secure and allow for growth and expansion. This extreme market shift and steady rise in cloud adoption and UCaaS is an indication that businesses are seeking a more holistic communication solution that extends well beyond voice communications.

If your businesses is looking to move to the cloud or upgrade to a more secure cloud-based UC solution, Prime Telecommunications can help!  Our award-winning unified communications solutions are 100 percent cloud-based, making it more secure and easier to use and manage than any other system.

Our solutions operate solely in the cloud, eliminating the reliance on phones, servers and power to operate and ensures nothing is stored on-site where it can be vulnerable to threats or theft.  With encrypted calling, messages and meetings, and its intuitive online dashboard, which features customizable user profiles, employees can quickly, easily and securely manage any feature of the system from anywhere, eliminating the need for IT support, increasing productivity and ensuring business continuity.

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

What do all these VoIP acronyms mean? Here is a glossary for you

Confused about a particular term or concept while learning about VoIP?  Allow the experts at Broadview to help clarify any question you have with our alphabetical glossary explaining the major themes in VoIP telephony.  If you still have questions, feel free to contact our team, we’re happy to help!

What are Analog Audio Signals?

– These signals are used to transmit voice data over telephone lines.  This is done by varying or modulating the frequency of sound waves to accurately reflect the pitch of the sound.  The same technology is used for radio wave transmissions.

 

What is Asterisk?

– A software implementation of a telephone private branch exchange; it allows attached telephones to make calls to one another and to connect to other telephone services such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.  Asterisk is open source and is often customized and rebranded.  People worldwide are familiar with the code – including hackers, which has become a major battle for competitors that use them.

 

What does ATA stand for? What is it?

– ATA, or Analog Telephone Adaptor, is the hardware device that connects the conventional telephone to the Internet through a high speed bandwidth line.  It also provides the interface to convert the analog voice signals into IP packets, deliver dial tones, and manage the call setup.

 

What does an Auto Attendant do?

– An auto attendant is an automatic response system that handles incoming calls and directs them to the appropriate phone or message through various options.  For example, a voice presents options to a caller such as press 2 for sales or press 5 for accounting.

 

What does bandwidth refer to?

– Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from one point to another in a specified time frame.  It is usually measured in 1000 bits per second (kbps)

 

I’ve been hearing a lot about BYOD lately, what does that mean?

– BYOD or Bring Your Own Device refers to the alternative practice of allowing employees to use a personally selected and purchased device within their company’s secure corporate network.  The practice usually refers to smartphones but can also apply to tablets, laptops, and other network connected devices.

 

What is call hunting?

– A calling feature for inbound calls that will “roll past” a busy signal or try multiple numbers until the call is answered.

 

It seems like everything is in the cloud these days, can you explain what cloud communications are?

– Internet-based voice and data communications where all telecommunication applications, switching and storage are hosted by a third-party outside of the group using them, and they are accessed over the internet.  Cloud telephony refers to voice services and more specifically the replacement of conventional business telephone equipment, such as a Private Branch exchange, with third-party VoIP Service.

 

What is a codec?

– Short for Code / Decode, it is software used by devices to convert or transform a data stream. For instance, at the transmitting end, codecs can encode a voice, video or data stream for easy transmission, storage or encryption. At the receiving end, they can decode the signal in the appropriate form for viewing or listening. They are most suitable for audio, videoconferencing and streaming media solutions.

 

What is direct inward dialing?

– DID or direct inward dialing refers to a service with a company’s PBX system that allows an enterprise to allocate individual phone numbers to each employee.

 

What exactly is dual-tone multifrequency?

– DTMF is the standard system used by touch-tone telephones in which it assigns a special frequency, made up of two separate tones, to each key so that it can be easily identified by a microprocessor.

 

What is dynamic host control protocol?

– DHCP, or dynamic host control, protocol, is a communications protocol that allows network admins to supervise and distribute IP addresses from a central point to each computer or device on a network.

 

How does find-me/follow-me work?

– This feature allows calls to find you wherever you are, ringing multiple phones (such as your cell phone, home phone, and work phone) all at once.

In telecommunications, what does full duplex mean?

– Full Duplex refers to the ability, in telephony and data communications, for both ends of a communication to simultaneously send and receive information without degrading the quality of intelligibility of the content.

 

What does hot desking mean and how can it save me money?

– Hot desking is an organization tactic for offices that involves multiple workers sharing a single physical work station or surface during different times.  The “desk” aspect in the name refers to an office desk being shared by multiple employees on different schedules rather than each employee have their own desk.  This can allow a company to minimize the number of desks or number of phone lines, resulting in savings for the business.

– Hot desking also refers to one employee being able to move from desk to desk, office to office and turn that phone into his/her own, including phone number, speed dials, feature preferences and voicemail. This enables employees to move freely both within an office and between multiple offices.

 

What is a phone system’s interaction voice response?

– A phone systems’s IVR is an integrated software that speaks to callers through the use of menus and voice responses.  Callers interact with the IVR by using keypad entries to get voice responses with real-time data.

 

What does IP stand for?

– IP is an acronym for Internet Protocol which defines the way data packets are moved between the source and destination.   On a more technical level, IP can be defined as the network layer protocol in the TCP/IP communications protocol suite.

 

What is my IP Address?

– Your IP Address is a unique numerical label associated with each device participating in a network that uses IP for communication.  The address serves two primary functions: network interface or host identification and location addressing.

 

Is IP Telephony different than VoIP?

– IP Telephony is the transmission of voice and fax phone calls over a packet-based IP data network.  IP Telephony is synonymous with VoIP.

 

What is an IP Phone?

– An IP Phone (aka Internet Phone or SIP Phone or VoIP Phone) is a phone system handset that connects to the IP PBX over an IP LAN.  Most often, IP phone look and function like standard legacy phone system handsets.

 

What is jitter?

– Jitter refers to a momentary fluctuation in the transmission signal that may result from an abrupt variation in signal characteristics, such as the interval between successive pulses.

 

What does KBPS stand for?

– KBPS is the acronym for kilobits per second and is used to define data transfer speed.

 

What does lag mean?

– Lag indicated the extra time that data takes to travel from the source to destination and back again which can be caused by poor networking or by excessive processing.

 

How does latency affect my VoIP system?

– Latency, a synonym for delay, is a way of saying how much time it takes for a packet of data to get from one designated point to the destination.  Latency is measure by sending a packet of data and once returned to the sender, that round-trip time is considered its latency.  Any disruptions that cause that time to slow are considered lag.

 

What does messaging refer to in internet telephony?

– This refers to any means of message store and forward.  This includes fax mail, voice mail and broadcast messaging. This horizontal application is the most popular of all other voice solutions. Messaging systems provide for the store and forward of “non-real time” communication. For example, a recorded voice message can be stored for later play back either locally or remotely, or a fax can be received and stored before it is re-transmitted to the ultimate recipient.

 

In terms of VoIP service, what is a packet?

– A logically grouped unit of data. Packets contain a payload (the information to be transmitted), originator, destination and synchronizing information. The idea with packets is to transmit them over a network so each individual packet can be sent along the most optimal route to its. Packets are assembled on one end of the communication and re-assembled on the receiving end based on the header addressing information at the front of each packet. Routers in the network will store and forward packets based on network delays, errors and re-transmittal requests from the receiving end.

 

How can packet loss happen?

– Packet loss can happen due to high network latency or due to overloading of switches or routers that are unable to process or route all the incoming data.

 

What does packet switching mean?

– A means of economically sending and receiving data over alternate, multiple network channels. The premise for packet switching is the packet, a small bundle of information containing the payload and routing information. Packet switching takes data, breaks it down into packets, transmits the packets and does the reverse on the other end.

 

What is PBX and what does it stand for?

– PBX stands for Private Branch Exchange and it serves as an in-house telephone switching system that interconnects telephone extensions to each other as well as to the outside telephone network (PSTN). A PBX enables a single-line telephone set to gain access to one of a group of pooled (shared) trunks by dialing an 8 or 9 prefix. PBXs also include functions such as least cost routing for outside calls, call forwarding, conference calling and call accounting.

 

How is peer-to-peer relevant to VoIP?

– It is a type of network communication that allows file and data sharing between hardware and software without passing through the services of a server. P2P transfer is faster because P2P does not need a server to share files and data.

 

What is the Primary Rate Interface (PRI)?

– The Primary Rate Interface consists of 23 B-channels and one 64 Kpbs D-channel using a T-1 line and can have up to 1.544 Mbps service.   Typically, it is a dynamic circuit that delivers both voice and data, giving preference for voice.  When a channel is not carrying voice it is automatically allocated for data.

What does protocol refer to?

– It is a convention or standard that defines the procedures to be adopted regarding the transmission of data between two computing end points. These procedures include the way the sending device should sign off a message or how the receiving device should indicate the receipt of a message. Similarly, the protocols also lay down guidelines for error checking, data compression, and other relevant operational details.

 

What does Quality of Service of a VoIP system mean?

– The ability of a network (including applications, hosts, and infrastructure devices) to deliver traffic with minimum delay and maximum availability.

 

What exactly is my router?

– A router is a network device that that handles message transfer between computers that form part of the Internet. The messages, which are in the form of data packets, are forwarded to their respective IP destinations by the router. A router can also be called the junction box that routes data packets between computer networks.

 

What does SIP stand for?

– SIP stands for session initiation protocol which is a standard for initiating, maintaining, and terminating an interactive user session involving video, voice, chat, gaming, virtual reality, and more.

 

How does SIP relate to Phones?

– A SIP phone is a telephone that uses the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) standard to make a voice call over the Internet (for signaling (and uses RTP for media)). The SIP phones come with several value added services like voicemail, e-mail, call number blocking etc. There are (normally) no charges for making calls from one SIP phone to another, and negligible charges for routing the call from a SIP phone to a PSTN phone.

 

How does a softphone differ from a standard telephone?

– A softphone is a software program for making telephone calls over the internet using a general purpose computer, rather than using dedicated hardware that would be needed with a standard telephone.  A softphone is usually used with a headset connected to the sound card of the PC, or with a USB telephone.

 

What is a switch when talking about VoIP?

– A switch is a device that keeps a record of the MAC addresses of all devices connected to it and then channels incoming data from any of multiple input ports to the specific output port that will take the data toward its intended destination.

 

What does TCP stand for?

– Transmission Control Protocol. The transport layer protocol developed for the ARPAnet which comprises layers 4 and 5 of the OSI model. TCP controls sequential data exchange in TCP/IP for remotely hosts in a peer-to-peer network.

 

Why is it called telephony?

– Taken from Greek root words meaning “far sound”, telephony is the discipline of converting or transmitting voice or other signals over a distance, and then re-converting them to an audible sound at the far end.

 

What exactly is VoIP?

– The process of making and receiving voice transmissions over any IP network. IP networks include the Internet, office LANs, and private data networks between corporate offices. The main advantage of VoIP is that users can connect from anywhere and make phone calls without incurring typical analog telephone charges, such as for long-distance calls.

 

What exactly is a VoIP Phone?

– A VoIP phone is one that uses the Internet to route voice calls by converting the voice data into IP packets and vice versa. The phones come with built-in IP signaling protocols such as H.323 or SIP that help in the routing of data to the right destination. A VoIP phone can also be a software application that is installed in the user’s PC. In this case it is known as the Softphone. Also, the calls in this case have to be made from the PC, and not through a telephone instrument.

– See more at: http://www.broadviewnet.com/resources/voip-glossary/#sthash.nZdkwX09.dpuf

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

What does it all mean??!!!! Learn the Alphabet Soup!

More businesses are moving to upgrade their legacy phone systems, which in many cases have been in place for decades. Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan says the hosted IP telephony and unified communications and collaboration market has reached mass adoption, and predicts the North American market for these services will reach 41.9 million users by 2021.

Companies just starting to research phone systems are likely to face a confusing alphabet of acronyms including VoIP, PBX and UC. What do these terms mean and, more to the point, how do these technologies make a business more competitive?

Let’s cut through the noise and define a few terms to help you understand the technologies underlying the modern phone system.

VoIP  Voice over Internet Protocol enables calls to be carried over the Internet using a telephone or computer. This type of phone system can reduce costs by eliminating the need for multiple carriers. It also enables access to applications and services delivered through the Internet or private cloud connection.

PBX and IP PBX  A PBX – or “Private Branch Exchange” – is a telephone switching system within an enterprise, where users share a limited number of outside lines to make external phone calls. Calls can easily be routed internally, by dialing a three or four-digit number. A traditional hard-wired PBX separates voice and data, but an IP PBX uses VoIP to combine voice and data networks.

Cloud Phone System  Also known as “hosted” or “software as a service” (SaaS), a cloud phone system opens up a wide range of possibilities. By hosting the communications platform in the cloud, a business reduces its cost and IT expenses. Vendors take responsibility for owning, configuring and managing applications and hardware. In addition, such systems allow companies to leverage technology and telephony across many locations.

UC –Unified communications integrates voice and data with critical business process applications, such as CRM, ERP and ATS. And, of course, communication features such as video conferencing, instant messaging (IM), mobility and online collaboration can be integrated into a single easy-to-use IP PBX solution. ShoreTel became a leader in UC by integrating our IP PBX with popular applications like Microsoft Outlook to create desktop call control, quick dialing, visual voicemail, automatic conference scheduling, and phone meeting invitation wizards.

By streamlining communications and enabling better collaboration, these technologies boost productivity and reduce costs, while helping businesses create competitive advantages. No wonder so many organizations are choosing to upgrade.

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Best practices in Business Communications Business Phone Systems Chicago

The Best Problems in Business and How Cloud Phone Systems and Storage Can Help

The business world is full of opportunities and potential problems. The funny thing is, some of the problems that a growing business can face along the way might not sound like problems at all. As a business grows, it will face new challenges that it will need to overcome in order to continue to grow and thrive. Accelerating growth might sound like nothing but good news, but knowing where to turn for support when these “problems” arise is of paramount importance.

Thankfully, modern technology can help. To be more specific, cloud-based technologies are stepping up in several big ways to help businesses of all sizes overcome the challenges they face on their long road toward success. Here are some of those challenges, along with some of the ways that the cloud can help.

Moving into new offices and adding new employees is easy and cost-effective with a cloud phone system.

Expanding Into New Offices

There’s nothing more exciting than expanding a growing business into new geographical territories. Granted, that excitement is frequently tempered by a sense of anxiety. What if the new company branches don’t perform as well as the original? What if the new offices aren’t conveniently located?

Those are questions that will be answered in time. As your company expands, however, there are steps you can take along the way to ease the transition. One of the biggest challenges when expanding to a new location is the question of communication infrastructure. You’ll need to install additional phone lines in the new location to maintain inter-office communication.

Thankfully, cloud phone systems have stepped up to help ease this transition. Using an existing high-speed Internet connection, an IP phone system can easily be scaled to add new locations to your phone network. This also means that the days of expensive phone line installations are over.

Adding Employees

Along with new offices comes the addition of new employees. Any growing business needs to make sure it has the talent it requires to stay on top of the increased workload. The aforementioned cloud phone system solution can help to lessen this burden as well. An existing IP phone network can add new lines for new employees in no time at all.

The cloud can help out in other ways, too. An expanding workforce means more people will need to access the same business assets. Cloud storage can be a huge boon to employee collaboration. Whether they work in the same office or in another city, your most important documents and other digital assets can be stored in a central location for quick and easy access.

More Customers

Perhaps the best “good problem” a business can have is to see a large influx of new customers. With increased demand comes a need for increased supply, and your company’s responsibilities will grow with each new customer.

The cloud can come in handy here as well. Cloud-based phone systems are easily customized, meaning you’ll have greater control than ever before over the way incoming calls are handled. What this means is that you’ll know with a greater certainty that your ever-growing customer base will have their calls directed to the proper department. In this way, maintaining excellent customer satisfaction is easy, even as you begin to face a greater demand for your products or services.

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

6 Reasons Business Communications are Evolving from Legacy Voice to Hosted VoIP and Cloud UC

Businesses are turning to cloud-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and unified communications (UC) solutions for myriad reasons: to control and reduce costs, manage complexity, increase productivity, and enable easier collaboration. But for many organizations, VoIP and UC implementations can be challenging to manage. Luckily, communications service providers (CSPs) can remove the complexity and alleviate the need for internal IT staff to manage and maintain the solution. According to recent IDC survey data, hosted and cloud solutions will continue to gain significant traction and significantly outpace on-site solutions.

Organizations surveyed in 2014 that had deployed VoIP:

  • 33% said they had a hosted VoIP solution.
  • An additional 29.6% indicated they planned to implement hosted VoIP in the future.

Organizations surveyed in 2014 that planned to implement UC:

  • 41.7% of current UC users said their organization had deployed a premises-based UC solution.
  • 61% planned to implement a hosted/cloud UC or UCaaS compared with 30% who planned to implement an on-site UC solution.

Here are 6 reasons why business communications are evolving naturally from legacy on-site voice systems to hosted VoIP and cloud-based UC solutions. To read the full IDC report, click here.

 

1. Shift in How Businesses Communicate

When it comes to how professionals communicate, it will always come down to voice. Voice communications will always be an essential aspect of conducting business in today’s fast-paced environment. But the way in which organizations communicate is shifting from siloed, legacy voice platforms to integrated cloud solutions.

2. BYOD Explosion

Business professionals are redefining how and where they work. The proliferation of mobile devices, fueled by BYOD and the consumerization of IT, combined with the increasingly distributed and virtual nature of workforces are key drivers of this shift.

3. Growing Comfort Level with the Cloud

The accelerating adoption of managed, hosted, and cloud-based communications solutions is being driven by organizations’ growing comfort level with cloud delivery models. Although businesses will continue to invest in on-site solutions, their growing comfort level coupled with increasing numbers of hosted and cloud-based services in the market has led to faster-than-expected adoption. As a result, the available UC delivery and deployment options now include managed, hosted, cloud-based and hybrid offerings, far beyond the traditional, premises-based offerings that dominated the market a few years ago.

4. Businesses want Cloud Benefits, Now and in the Future

Business communications are naturally evolving from legacy voice systems to cloud VoIP and UC solutions as organizations reevaluate their existing solutions and consider the benefits of moving to a cloud-based model:

  • Control and reduce costs
  • Simplify the delivery and management of communications
  • Boost productivity and efficiency
  • Facilitate migration to a converged network
  • Encourage collaboration internally and externally with customers, suppliers and partners.

In fact, some organizations are deploying cloud-based UC or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) not only because they believe their users will leverage the advanced features immediately, but also because the additional functionality will be there whenever it’s needed.

5. Demand for Mobile, Video & Social

The popularity of mobility, video and social business applications is also contributing to rising demand for cloud solutions that seamlessly integrate UC capabilities with advanced voice capabilities, mobility and collaborative apps. Businesses are considering how UC can enable new applications, help solve business process challenges, and enable users to communicate and collaborate whenever and wherever they want using any device. However, these applications and services must be easy to deploy and manage as well as intuitive and simple to use. That’s where online customer portals that centralize management of all UC services comes into play.

6. Centralized Management

Over the past few years, CSPs have paved the way for providing UCaaS by integrating unified messaging (email, voice, and fax messaging), IM, conferencing (Web, audio, and video), presence, and mobility with the underlying telephony and call management capabilities already resident on hosted VoIP platforms. An example of one such centralized portal is Broadview Networks’ innovative MyOfficeSuite®. The  MyOfficeSuite® portal enables customers to control everything within the OfficeSuite Phone® UC solution – phone, voicemail, email, HD Video and web conferencing, Android® and iPhone® apps for mobile access, online fax service, Instant Messaging and more.

To learn more, download the full IDC report.

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

Become More Efficient with Apps for Productivity

It’s hard not to associate mobile apps with absolute distraction, since some of the most popular are social media apps like Instagram and games like Candy Crush. That being said, apps can and do often use their force for good. In the working world, we need all the help we can get when it comes to productivity, and these apps are here to lend a hand.

Evernote
There are times that you think to yourself as you’re leaving work that you’ll look over that report at dinner, or research that topic early in the morning before work, or that you HAVE to remember to do that thing on your lunch break. And then some spare time rolls around, and you realize you forgot the necessary documents on your home computer, or you took a note somewhere and you can’t remember where you put it. Evernote for Apple, Android, and Windows solves this issue. It integrates your information – like your notes, calendar events, and documents – across platforms so you can access and change them anywhere. It’s like taking your home to work and your work home.

ClearFocus
We’ve all had “those days” at work where we just can’t seem to focus long enough to get anything done. One solution to this is the Pomodoro Technique, which alternates short breaks and long periods of work. You can do whatever you want on those short breaks, but you have to work during the working periods. It’s been shown that frequent breaks can improve mental agility, but it’s also a good way to boost your motivation to get things done. ClearFocus is essentially just an app that acts as a timer for this, and with it, you’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish. This particular app is only available for Android, but there are plenty of Pomodoro timers available for Apple, too.

Abukai
The last thing you want to do when you’re on a business trip is lose track of your expenses. The busy days can make this challenging, though – before you know it, your wallet is overflowing with expense repors. Abukai, for Apple, Android, and Blackberry, can help solve this issue by allowing you to take pictures of your receipts and automatically create fully itemized expense reports. One less thing you have to worry about when you get back!

Focus@Will
Are you the type who likes to whistle while you work? The Focus@Will app for Apple and Android will stream music specifically chosen to create productive work conditions. Don’t get distracted by Spotify’s suggested tracks or by creating the perfect Pandora station. Just tune in and start working!

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Best practices in Business Communications Business Phone Systems Chicago

9 Considerations for Selecting the Best Audio Conferencing, Video Conferencing and Web Conferencing Service for Your Business

9 Considerations for Selecting the Best Audio, Video and Web Conferencing Service for Your Business

By this point, businesses know why they need web and video conferencing. They need to gather teams of people from different locations; they need to reduce spending on travel; they want the flexibility to join meetings from smartphones and tablets; and the list goes on. More efficient collaboration means stronger teams, which result in faster speeds to market for new products and campaigns.

As you’re comparing video conferencing software, keep these considerations in mind.

1. How Will Your Business Use Online Meeting Software Now and in the Future?

Ask yourself two questions, ‘How will we use it today, and how should we use it tomorrow?’ The obvious use cases will be the answers for the first question: you’ll use it for internal team meetings. But how else could you use it? How about interviewing your customers to see where you can make improvements? Why not use it for training employees, especially if you have people in disparate offices or people who work from home? Why not host webinars to help answer those questions your prospects ask in the beginning of the sales cycle?

Once you determine your current and future needs, make sure you find online collaboration tools that can support what you want to do today and down the road.

2. Will it Work on Mobile Devices?

If your web and video conferencing software does not work easily on smartphones and tablets, then you’re inhibiting use. Today’s business people do not sit in the same office all day, every day. We travel to other offices, we go on-site to visit customers, we meet with vendors, we have lunch with colleagues, etc. So you need to make it easy for people to connect and collaborate from anywhere. The best video conferencing software enables people to join from their desktop computer, laptop, smartphone and tablet.

3. What is the Total Cost for Everything You Need?

You could go and buy teleconferencing, web conferencing and video conferencing separately, but why would you? It’s more expensive, and it is a hassle to use different services at different times, or layer them together. (A great example is having to use a separate audio bridge with your online meeting services.) That’s why finding a unified solution is the way to go. It makes it easier to use and lighter on your wallet. Our OfficeSuite HD Meeting™ is a great example– you get audio conferencing, web conferencing, and High Definition Video meetings for one low monthly price.

Besides finding a unified solution, the other word of caution here is to ask what features are included. For example, some providers offer the ability to share keyboard and mouse control and High Definition video, but those are optional features that are only included in the premium plan. In comparison, both of those features are included with OfficeSuite HD Meeting, and it costs about a quarter of the price of the most popular services on the market.

4. How Easy is it to Use?

This seems like an obvious consideration, but you would be surprised to find that not all conferencing services are easy to use. I have used several over the last few years, and one of the most popular ones (I won’t name names!) does not work well for me. It forces me to go through two different steps every time I have to join a meeting. It’s also not easy to allow another person to share their screen without giving them complete control. This may just be a personal preference, but you will find that many services have the same type of functionality but they work differently. Figure out which services offer free trials and take each one for a spin. We offer a completely free trial of OfficeSuite HD Meeting, so try it out!

5. Video Quality

In an age of text-style communications that are devoid of facial expressions and vocal tone, we often miss the full message that people trying to share. How often have you misinterpreted an email or text message because there were no accompanying social cues? The vast majority of communication is non-verbal. In fact, research has show that as much as 93% of what we’re trying to say is communicated non-verbally. Knowing this, you must find a video conferencing solution that offers high quality video. Face-to-face video meetings are only as good as the picture that comes across. If you can’t see the other person very well, you’ll miss their quick smile and their hand gesture.  With OfficeSuite HD Meeting’s dynamic voice detection feature, the screen changes to display the live video of the person who is currently speaking so it’s easier to catch these important social cues.

6. Flexible Audio Options

Having flexible audio options makes it easier for people to join and participate no matter where they are. There are two options for audio: you can dial in using a phone or use your computer’s audio (and plug in a headset if you wish). You can easily switch between the two options, even during a meeting. Having these options makes it easy for people to join meetings whether they are at their desk or in the field. While sharing your screen or showing a video for the other participants to see, you can share computer audio as well so that your meeting attendees get the full experience. And unlike other online collaboration tools, the audio conferencing is included with OfficeSuite HD Meeting.

7. Recording and Streaming

There are many reasons why you might want to record a meeting: for training purposes, to create webinar replays, to share video interviews, and more.  But what good is a recording if you can’t easily play it or share it? Make sure you ask what type of format the recordings come in. You might be shocked to learn that the most well-known services only offer proprietary recording formats, which means they’re not easy to play and definitely not easy to share. That’s why we made sure the recordings that come with OfficeSuite HD Meeting are standard MP4 video and MPEG 4 audio formats. They can be saved to any folder or drive you want. Other providers charge storage fees, but ours is cloud-based storage so there are no fees. What if you want to play a video during a web meeting? Not all web conferencing software supports audio and video streaming, so that is another good question to ask.

8. Outlook® Calendar Integration Only?

This goes back to the ease of use consideration. If your video conferencing service integrates with your calendar, sending invites is fast and easy and requires only one step instead of two. Many conferencing services offer calendar integration but only with Microsoft Outlook®. For all you Google users out there (like me!) you’ll be happy to know that OfficeSuite HD Meeting integrates with your Google calendar as well. With just the click of the mouse I can schedule a meeting and create a new calendar invite ready to share with others. And everything needed to join the meeting is in the invite, even phone numbers for people who do not wish to use their computer audio.

9. Customizable Screens and Meeting Rooms

Depending on the meeting you’re having, it might be easier to view your screen in different ways. You might want full screen video so it’s easier to see the person who is talking. If you’re looking at a presentation with your team, you probably want the gallery view so that the PowerPoint® is front and center and everyone’s video cam is shown on the right-hand side. Not all video conferencing services offer different views, and many do not offer customized personal IDs which allow you to customize your meeting room number so that it’s easy to remember. For example, my boss changed his to 867-5309. As a result, that song is always in my head, but it’s easy to join his meetings because I never forget it!

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

5 Alternatives to having On-Hold Greeting Melodies

We’ve all been that customer who impatiently waits on hold for assistance, listening to the “Please hold, your call is valuable to us” message over and over again as the theoretically calming symphony music plays in the background. Depending on how long you have been listening to the on-hold greeting, you may even be ready to throw your phone against the nearest wall.

Since you’ve had this feeling of enragement and customer dissatisfaction, it makes no sense for you to do the same thing to your customers. When used correctly, the on-hold greeting feature is a valuable tool for keeping loyal returning customers and making strong first impressions for new customers. Cloud-based phone systems provide you with the option for making your on-hold greeting unique to your company, so make sure you spend the time to make it that way. Break away from the default settings, so the greeting will be something to be remembered by and will contribute to the customer’s positive calling experience.

Here are 5 alternatives to using the traditional on-hold greeting melodies:

 

One: Change the Music

Play actual music people want to listen to. Unless you are a Mozart lover or classical enthusiast, most people don’t want to hear the typical classical music. Think of your audience. If you are selling teen apparel, play songs from the top pop hits for your customers to hear. If you are a movie review company, geek-out with the Star Wars theme song in anticipation of the newest movie approaching. Think about geography. Maybe your callers would appreciate country. After tracking the call location, you could find your customers want to hear Bollywood or blues. Music evokes emotion, memories, and feelings. Align the music with your mission statement so that playing reggae vs. Christian, vs. indie will make sense. Take a look at your music now, because most likely, you can do better than classical music.

 

Two: Pitch Your Product (within reason)

Another typical call. You just need help with transferring your phone number from one service provider to another. Meanwhile, they are blasting you about the latest and greatest data plan and YOU DON’T CARE! You just want your phone fixed—that’s all.  On-hold greetings serve as a prime opportunity to market your product and promotions, but be smart about it. Your customers are calling for help and the majority of them don’t want an overaggressive 10 second pitch looped as they wait for an hour. Hopefully, you don’t have your customers waiting that long anyway…but be sure that you have a reasonable sell that the customer could even benefit by relating to their problem.

 

Three: Tell a Joke

A different approach would be telling a joke. This could be a risky business move, but if done right, it is also a very unique strategy. There are many “don’t rules” which hopefully by common sense, you know as well. Don’t make them purposely corny, don’t make them crude or insensitive, and don’t repeat just one. Do have music breaks in between, do slip in business relevant jokes, and do use story jokes for potential calls that will require the customer to be on hold for quite some time. Again, this is a sensitive and risky option, but done with the right company, with the right taste in jokes, it could be a true winner.

 

Four: Provide Random Facts

People like the games Trivia Pursuit and Trivia Crack because they enjoy hearing random fun facts. Facts are endless, so running out of options and being forced to loop won’t be a problem. Keep the pace consistent, use a likeable voice that’s going to be talking for quite some time, and pick topics interesting to your customer. What’s an interesting topic? Probably whatever the person is calling about, so keep it relevant. If you are a technology company, talk about fun hacks you can do with your TV or phone that people don’t know about. Maybe even relate the fact to what your company offers as a subtle pitch. If you offer nutritional drinks and juices, maybe your facts include a list of different vitamins and supplements customers need for boosting bone density, hair color, muscle damage repair, etc. that happens to be contained in your drink in large quantities.

 

Five: Switch It Up!

Make sure your customer who called six months ago is not listening to the same on-hold greeting. Especially taking advice from the other following points, you should be changing your greeting often. Depending on your time, weekly or monthly would be ideal. There are ways to reuse your greeting content, but be smart about it. Save the content, mix up the order, and use it a few months down the road. You don’t need to create new material all the time, but it’s good to switch it up once in a while. Regardless of how awesome the music is, how funny the joke turns out, etc., your customer would prefer not to hear the same thing month after month if they are frequent callers.

In this day and age, it’s good to be different in every possible way. Your business will stand out and can generate more business with simple small changes like adding value to your on-call greeting. Having a VoIP dashboard with easy access anywhere can allow you to do this. Experiment with your options and see if you receive higher reviews with customer satisfaction.

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

Fall in Love with Your Business Phone System

Let’s face it, the word “love” isn’t typically the first word you hear people use to describe their business’ phone system, but with the advanced functionality that cloud-based systems can deliver, it should be. The quality and efficiency of your communications with your customers and your team is key to your business’ productivity, reputation and success.

Here are 7 must-have phone features that are sure to make you fall in love with your business phone system.

1. Mobile Twinning
Mobile twinning is one of the most convenient phone features, especially for those who are in and out of the office frequently. Twinning ensures that you never miss a call, no matter where you are. This eliminates the need to give out multiple phone numbers or worse, have to lug a work and personal cell phone around with you. When mobile twinning is enabled, your office phone and cell phone, or any phone number of your choice, ring simultaneously. It’s perfect if you’re not sure where you are going to be. Plus, it offers the ability to switch back and forth from each device, without the caller every knowing the difference. This is ideal for anyone who ever works outside of the office.

2. Voicemail Transcription
Listening to voicemail has become almost obsolete, but in business, we don’t have the luxury of not listening to our voicemail messages. Or, do we? With voicemail transcription, you can read your messages instead of listening to them. Genius! Messages are transcribed for your convenience and sent right to your email inbox. While they may not be 100 percent accurate, you can see who called and get the gist of what they needed to determine if you need to call them back or not. This is a huge time-saver, but also extremely convenient if you are in a noisy area, or in a meeting and listening isn’t an option. And, if you ever do want to listen to the message, the recording is also sent to you as a wav file attachment. This feature will forever change the way you feel about voicemail.

3. Softphones
Softphones are perfect for anyone who travels or works remotely. They offer the same functionality of your business phone on-the-go, like caller ID, contacts, using company minutes and extension dialing. Softphones are typically available for PCs, Macs and mobile devices. This will literally turn your desired device into your actual business phone so you don’t have to worry about disclosing your personal cell phone number and can communicate seamlessly internally with your team through your office extension.

4. Auto Attendants
A huge advantage with cloud-based phone systems are Auto Attendants or Digital Receptionists, which ensure your incoming calls are all answered and directed to the appropriate place, no matter who is physically available. Project a professional image and save on having a designated employee available to answer every single incoming call. The most frequent calls are for hours of operation, business location and directions. Using an Auto Attendant will reduce the number of routine calls that have to be answered by 25% and will ensure that callers are directed to right person and information every time

5. Forwarding Calls
If you are not using mobile twinning or softphones, another alternative for flexibility with your calls are advanced forwarding options. The most common of these are to forward calls to your cell phone or to another coworker. If you know you are going to be out of the office and want your calls directed to another phone number or to another team member, all you need to do is program a button on your phone and press the button before you leave to activate it. Then, every call will ring to that phone number instead of your phone in the office. This will ensure your calls will not be missed while you are out.

6. On-Hold Options
On-hold greetings and music options can make a big difference in how your company is portrayed and how your customer’s experience your business. While customers are waiting on-hold, take advantage of this feature and advertise specials you are running, your website or promote upcoming events to boost attendance. Be sure to also select music callers will actually enjoy and that is relevant to your business or target market to make their on-hold experience as enjoyable as possible.

7. Hot-Desking
Hot-desking is a unique and incredibly useful feature. It allows your employees to turn any phone, at any of your other locations or rooms into their own. Whether you are working from a different office location, in a conference room, or at another employee’s desk, by simply logging in to that phone with your passcode, you can turn any desk phone into your phone with all of your settings, contacts, voicemail and speed dials readily available. No longer move phones around offices or try to take phones with you, every phone within your organization can be used by any employee whenever needed; this is a huge convenience and cost-savings.

Cloud-based business phone systems have come a long way and provide the advanced mobility and functionality that modern businesses need to stay competitive. When investing in your next business phone system, be sure that it provides you with these must-have features.

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Business Phone Systems Chicago

5 Major Phone Trends in the Future

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Growth in technology now happens in leaps and bounds, and it doesn’t take long for news to be old news. In order to keep up with trends of the present, know what is coming in the near future and avoid being left in the past.

 

Once just a platform for the most advanced companies, unified communications is now being used by small and medium businesses, education, hospitality, healthcare, and across other industries. And with every advancement, the standards to which phone systems must adhere raise a little bit higher.

Multiple devices

1) Mobile Access Emphasis

The expectation for constant connectivity, anytime and anywhere, is only increasing. As businesses continue to build in ways for mobile workers to communicate more effectively, platforms will need to continue to innovate and extend even more office applications to devices as they travel. From executive to entry-level, workers now demonstrate productivity through constant availability.

Visimeet video conferencing

2) Increased Web Real Time Collaboration (WRTC)

Communication barriers that had previously prevented true collaboration continue to disappear, as WRTC becomes the standard. Employees and clients can enter video and phone conferencing on a single platform and tools for group chats, screen sharing, and other collaboration allows companies to communicate better than ever before.

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3) Unified Communications

So many businesses of all sizes are using unified communications to cut costs and simplify their communications infrastructure. In the coming year, enhanced collaboration will be seen through improvements in unified messaging, presence, instant messaging, and web conferencing.

Smiling technician at work

4) Outsource Telephony

As IT departments become more and more overwhelmed maintaining network security, application development and other inner technology demands, businesses will look for systems that can maintain business phone systems for them. This will allow internal departments to focus on business-centric missions and will remove an unnecessary burden from the company’s time and energy.

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5) Social Integration

Still at the beginning of its importance, organizations will continue to learn how maintaining a strong social media presence can benefit their business, and what that even will look like. In the past, social media sites have been perceived as highly distracting, and it is only recently that companies have begun to see the benefit of integrating communications. Companies who find new ways to communicate instantly with social media sites via UC applications will find themselves at the forefront of this long-lasting trend.
The ability to realize and react to upcoming trends happening in your industry and affecting your company will set you apart as a business and open up new possibilities. And when it comes to communications trends and changes, it is especially important to be among the first to join the most cutting edge technologies and stay connected to the rest of the world.

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