All posts by Christopher Cooper

How to Handle an Obsolete Business Phone System

obsolete business phone systemIt happens to the best of phone systems. At first, your business phone system simply requires more repairs and updates than it used to. Soon, the maintenance fees pile up and you have a difficult time finding technicians and general support for your system. One day, your provider announces the End of Life for your system; you now have an obsolete business phone system.  

What now?

What End of Life Means

The first thing you should know about having an obsolete business phone system is that it won’t be available after the end of sale date. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to purchase new or replacement parts after this date. This is problematic for businesses who wish to expand or require repairs on their system.

Your obsolete business phone system also won’t be able to receive updates. You shouldn’t underestimate how important those updates are; without them, your system will be vulnerable to security threats.

At the end of the day, if you experience issues with your phone system, there won’t be anyone to call. Your only option if you stick with your obsolete business phone system is to search out technicians who have experience in older technology. That can get expensive very fast.

How to Handle End of Life

Therefore, one of the best things you can do if you have an aging phone system is to get a technology assessment. A technology assessment will determine if there is a better way for your business to meet its communication needs. Cloud communications are a fantastic option if they have reliable internet, and companies who switch to the cloud often experience consolidated costs and expanded features.

Even if the cloud isn’t for you, you must begin researching alternatives as soon as possible if you have an obsolete business phone system. If you are proactive, you can make the switch to newer technology without any disruption in your workflow.

If you have any questions on aging Business Phone Systems, or other Business Phone System questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter.

5 Benefits of Cloud Communications

cloud communicationsThe cloud is often mentioned in conjunction with business phone systems. However, what is it exactly? Simply put, the cloud is a network of servers that hosted by a third party. They can are anywhere over the Internet. When you place a call utilizing cloud communications, you are accessing the Internet to place your call as opposed to a traditional landline.

Modern communications indicate that cloud communications are only going to get more prevalent. Many businesses are switching to the cloud because it offers a host of benefits that you can’t find via traditional landlines. We’ve listed some of the biggest benefits below.

No installation fees

As soon as your company makes the switch, you will begin saving money. Cloud communications are in an off-site server, and thus, installation of equipment and hardware isn’t necessary.

Scalability

Cloud communications facilitate growth for small businesses. Companies who are expanding (or scaling down, for that matter) don’t need to change any hardware to add or remove extensions. The changes are all done through the internet. This also helps reduce costs—and headaches—when your company decides to expand.

No downtime losses

One of the best benefits of cloud communications is continuity. Local weather and power outages don’t affect your cloud communications. In any event, redundancy should safeguard against other causes of downtime.

Disaster recovery

As we’ve mentioned, data is stored off-site. Thus, disaster recovery is simple. If you have any issues with the physical desk phone or hardware, you shouldn’t lose any data.

Productivity 

Cloud Communications are also simpler to use. It is a more streamlined system for your employees and permits them to focus on their work instead of their phone.

If you have any questions regarding the cloud, or business phone systems in general, please contact Advanced Communication Systems today at 800-750-3624. You can also follow us on Facebook.

Mitel Acquires ShoreTel

MitelLast week, Mitel announced that they reached a deal to acquire ShoreTel. This is part of their larger trend of acquiring Unified Communications (UC) companies. The move, perhaps provoked by increased customer demand for cloud-based solutions, will strengthen Mitel’s position in the UC market. The combined company will emerge as the #2 player in the UC market. Therefore, it will create a supplier with the technical ability to enable customers with new cloud-based solutions and applications.

The newly merged company’s headquarters will be in Ottawa, Canada, and will operate as Mitel. Rich McBee, Mitel’s Chief Executive Officer, will lead the organization.

“This is a very natural combination that enables us to continue to consolidate the industry and take advantage of cost synergy opportunities while adding new technologies and significant cloud growth to our business,” said Mitel CEO, Rich McBee. “Together, Mitel and ShoreTel will be able to take customers to the cloud faster with full-featured, cloud-based communications and applications.”

Uniquely qualified to bring customers and partners to the cloud

Together, the combined company will boast about 3,200 channel partners and an industry-leading portfolio of communications and collaboration solutions. Mitel and ShoreTel have stated their commitment to providing continued support for all customers and partners, whether they are cloud or premise.

“With the announcement today, this concludes our comprehensive review of strategic alternatives by delivering a significant cash premium for our shareholders,” said Don Joos, CEO of ShoreTel. “Customers are clearly moving to the cloud at a rapid pace. The combination creates a new UCaaS market leader with a differentiated strategy and solution, and a clear migration path so that no customer is left behind or will have to abandon what they already have to cloud-enable their organization.”

Once the merger is finalized, Mitel will be uniquely stationed to offer all customers the rewards of cloud-based communications. For enterprise customers, ShoreTel’s solutions will bolster Mitel’s ability to cloud-enable customers with existing premise or mixed estate deployments. Therefore, they will create the technical foundation for the emergence of next-generation cloud applications.

If you have any questions on the Mitel acquisition of ShoreTel, or other business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn.

VoIP and SIP: What’s the Difference?

VoIP and SIPVoIP and SIP are often confused for the same thing, but they are actually different. VoIP defines the kind of phone call (over Internet), and SIP refers to the method used to enable VoIP calls between different devices. Let me explain. 

Defining VoIP

Voice Over Internet Protocol is a rather broad term that discerns Internet calls from landline calls. VoIP operates over the Internet by digitally transmitting the voice signal to another telephone. VoIP usually operates with a mobile or browser-based application via an Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP).  

Defining SIP

One of the communications protocols used to transmit VoIP calls is SIP.  Phone calls always have two endpoints, and simply put, SIP defines the messages and governs essential elements of the phone call. SIP can also enable video conferencing, media distribution, and instant messaging.

The Workings of VoIP and SIP

Simply put, SIP is the protocol and VIP is the conduit. But how do they work?

VoIP condenses audio by way a codec into data packets. After that, it compresses them across an IP network, where it de-compresses them into audio at the other end of the connection. Dedicated desktop VoIP phones, softphone applications, and mobile devices (i.e. cell phones) are typical examples of VoIP endpoints.

In the IP protocol, the IP packets move through the Internet via nodes (devices and routers discovered on the way from source to destination).

IP telephony differs from traditional telephony in the sense that in traditional telephony the line or circuit between source and destination is always dedicated and reserved (also known as circuit switching). In other words, traditional telephony tends to be more expensive because of the overhead.

If you have any questions on VoIP and SIP, or other business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Why Every Company Should Consider Structured Cabling

structured cablingBusinesses often need to take stock of their communications needs, and this includes cabling. The most frequent times for assessment are when a company relocates or experiences consistent technical problems. It’s always best to examine the infrastructure first, because the wiring is the building block of your business phone system. A lot of businesses choose to a mainly wireless system, because they are attempting to keep costs low. However, this option sometimes leads to limited bandwidth, slow connectivity, and limited upgrade options. Structured cabling is a better choice for other businesses.

Structured cabling links the entire business phone system into a streamlined service for all your devices. It can require a onetime investment in hardware and installation, but the advantages typically outweigh the upfront cost.

Advantages of Structured Cabling:
  • Increased Bandwidth – permits faster connectivity to numerous devices
  • Centralized Control – allows quick assessments of issues and adjustments to the network
  • Organized Infrastructure – allows easier handling of all voice, data, and video needs of the business
  • Scalable Network –adapts to growing needs and easy addition of new devices
  • Aesthetic Appearance – streamlined wires to avoid cluttered and unsafe wiring

If structured cabling is right for your business, you then must assess the correct time to make the switch. One of the few drawbacks to structured cabling is the lengthy installation time. A business needs to carefully plan the best time to undergo the installation.

Best Times to Install a Cabling System:
  • When you are planning on relocating
  • If you have time for a little downtime in connectivity
  • When you have a short break on the work calendar (holidays or scheduled shut-downs)
  • If your current system needs repairs or replacements
  • When you are experiencing problems with your current system
  • If you are planning for growth in number of employees, number of devices, or size of facility

The infrastructure needs of businesses are always evolving. Some businesses are better off with a wireless solution, whereas some businesses benefit more from structured cabling. In either event, businesses should plan accordingly to determine which option best benefits them. If you have any questions regarding what solution would best help you, please contact Advanced Communication Systems today at 800-750-3624. You can also follow us on Facebook.

Are You Unhappy with Your Hosted PBX Provider?

Hosted PBXThe Virtual PBX (also known as Hosted PBX or Cloud PBX) has been a great benefit to companies. However, the product is only as good as the provider; if you’re experiencing problems with your Hosted PBX, it may be time to switch providers as opposed to ditching the service altogether. If you’re experiencing any one of the following, it may be time for a change.

 

Too Expensive:

While it is never a great idea to go for the cheapest price, it is undeniable that a lot of businesses are paying way too much for their Virtual PBX. For those businesses, it may not have begun that way; they may have started out at a reasonable rate, but their provider gradually raised their rates over time. Other businesses may have experienced a rate hike after their first contract ended. Either way, doing a VoIP comparison is probably a good idea if you feel like you are paying too much for your Hosted PBX.

Poor Customer Service:

If your provider isn’t offering superior and timely support, it might be a good idea to switch providers. A lot of businesses justifiably switch due to the customer representatives being rude and not knowledgeable. Sometimes this can simply be due to the provider’s sales outmatching the rate they are growing their customer support team, but either way, the customer is in their rights to make a change if they aren’t happy with the customer service.

Lack of Local Support: 

Cloud business phone systems have been a leap forward in telecommunications, but that doesn’t preclude the need for an engineer having to visit the site from time to time. If you have a local provider, this typically isn’t a problem; having a non-local provider, however, means that geography can sometimes impede them in getting an engineer out to your company in a timely fashion.

The Good News: Changing VoIP Providers isn’t Hard!

Before Hosted PBX, businesses had to spend a lot of money on their business phone system. To justify the expenditure, they had to hang on to the system for a while—which meant that switching providers due to poor service was unheard of.

With cloud business phone systems, making a change is simple. Nearly all businesses use an industry standard SIP phone, so changing providers doesn’t mean that you must change your phones too. Furthermore, cloud PBX hardware is in a data center, so you don’t have any expensive on-site equipment to replace either. Switching is as simple as your new provider programming the phones to recognize the new VoIP system.

If you are interested in Hosted PBX or have any other business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Facebook.

Are Business Phone System Repairs in Your Future?

business phone system repairsAllowing yourself to get caught up with your company’s day-to-day operations isn’t tough to do. Keeping an office running requires balancing customer satisfaction, office maintenance, and human resources. However, it is important not to allow business phone maintenance to slip between the cracks. Oftentimes, your business phone system is not operating at full capacity. Therefore, the required business phone system repairs will grow from minor annoyances to full blown problems if you’re not proactive. We’ve listed some of the most common business phone system warning signs below:

Warning Sign One: Your System Drops Calls

Dropped calls may be a sign that you need to replace your business phone system. Improperly maintained equipment will result in dropped calls, even if it isn’t indicative of replacement.

Warning Sign Two: Voicemails are Disappearing

You probably need a check-up if voicemails vanish from your business phone system, because it is likely a sign of system glitches, bugged displays, or even broken wiring.

Warning Sign Three: Increased Call Volume

If your clients keep getting ‘no service’ messages when they call, then your business phone system might be a victim of too much call volume. Only four percent of customers contact the business again if they got poor customer service due to phone difficulties . It is very likely that if your business phone system needs repair it is costing you money.

Warning Sign Four: Paying for Repeat Technician Visits

At a certain point, you should consider upgrading your current business phone system if on-site tech visits are beginning to outweigh the benefits. At the end of the day, your business phone system is an investment and therefore continuing to sink money into a obsolete system doesn’t do your business any favors.

By purchasing a maintenance service plan, you are thus purchasing peace of mind. With a service plan, the aforementioned business phone system issues can be rectified without breaking your budget. If you have any business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Why You Shouldn’t Forget About VoIP Security

VoIP SecurityEver since VoIP was developed, it has been an enormous aid to businesses everywhere. It has allowed businesses the freedom to communicate in ways that weren’t previously imagined. However, you shouldn’t forget about VoIP security. While VoIP has a plethora of benefits, it is also vulnerable to fraudulent activity, security breaches, and DDoS Attacks. Fortunately, you can achieve VoIP security if you enact some preventative steps.

Fraudulent Activity

Regrettably, any business that uses VoIP can become a fraud victim. Sometimes, they won’t even realize that there has been fraud occurring until they receive their phone bill. When you choose a VoIP provider, you have to ensure that they offer fraud detection and protection. You can also prevent fraud by placing authentication systems on your business phone system. One example of this are personal passcodes.

DDoS Attacks

A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack is an attempt to overload a network with requests. DDoS attacks don’t penetrate your system, but busy signals do render it unusable. The best way to avoid a DDoS attack is by working with your VoIP provider to make sure detection and deployment methods are in place. Also, be sure that your team is knowledgeable about DDoS attacks so that if it happens to your business, they will know what they are dealing with.

Consider Carefully

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling as though your company isn’t large enough to break into. Unfortunately, attackers will find reasons to target any system, and attacks can happen anywhere or anytime. VoIP has certainly been a major asset in providing more connectivity to users, but it does come with risks. The best way to stay safe—and get some peace of mind—is to put your security in place. 

If you have any questions regarding VoIP security, please contact Advanced Communication Systems today at 800-750-3624. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Why You Should Have a Business Phone System Auto Attendant


Business Phone System Auto Attendant
Here at Advanced Communication Systems, we understand the importance of a company giving their customers a good first impression. Typically, the first interaction a customer will have with your company is via phone, which is why it is vital that you have a great business phone system auto attendant greeting. The two most important aspects of an auto attendant is that it be professional and that it serve as an efficient conduit to whomever the customer needs to speak to; the last thing you want is to annoy the caller before you even get the chance to speak to them. Not only does it help the customer, but your employees won’t be tied up on calls that an auto attendant could handle. If you have a hosted voice business phone system, the auto attendant feature is something that can reduce a lot of aggravation in the office. 

Crafting a Business Phone System Auto Attendant: Step 1

            The first step in assembling a professional and efficient business phone system auto attendant is creating a call tree. The call tree is how you route a customer through your business phone system. The first rule of a call tree is to not have the caller jump through hoops to speak to someone. If you overload the customer with too many options, you will only frustrate them.

           As far as the greeting itself, you want to be sure that it is professional and simple. One example could be, “We appreciate you calling John Doe Company:  If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it now.  To speak to an Agent, press 1, for Office Hours press 2, for Accounting press 3, For the Company Directory press 4, or to speak with the operator press 0.  To hear this message again, press #.”

           It is important to allow the caller the option to bypass the call tree and speak to a live person by pressing 0. Too often, callers will get irritated and hang up if they aren’t permitted that option.

            Also, be sure to include the company directory feature; in many instances, callers know the person they want to speak to, but they can’t recall the extension. You shouldn’t force the caller to navigate the call tree or speak to the operator;  it is simply another unnecessary hoop that can be avoided with the company directory option.

Crafting a Business Phone System Auto Attendant: Step 2

            The last step to creating a functional business phone system auto attendant is an after hours greeting. The last thing you want is for the caller to navigate the tree only to have to leave a message! You should always let the caller know immediately that the office is closed and that you will return their call as soon as possible. A typical example is: “Thank you for calling John Doe Company.  We are currently unavailable to take your call.  Our normal business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM.  If you know the extension of the person you wish to leave a message for, you may enter it now.   To leave a message for an agent press 1…… etc.…”

            By crafting a superior auto attendant that gives your customers an impression of professionalism and efficiency, they will know that they have made a good decision in patronizing your company; the alternative will leave them searching for a different business instead. If you have any business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Twitter.

The Four Most Essential Business Phone System Integrations

Business Phone System IntegrationsHosted phone systems are popular for a plethora of reasons, but one of the best things about them is the business phone system integrations that you can use to link to other software/solutions. If you adopt a VoIP system that permits you to manage numerous business functions through a single, unified system, you can have better customer service and reduced operating costs. I have listed the four most essential business phone system integrations your business phone system should have.

Cloud Backup Features

Cloud business phone systems are great, but some businesses worry about what will happen if their VoIP provider doesn’t take the proper steps to ensure that customer contact information and calls records are kept safe. Having cloud backup features can minimize the risk of losing important data and automatically copy your VoIP information. Regardless of what happens to the provider, your information will remain intact.

CRM Software

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, software compiles customer data, organizes it, and uses it to manage sales and find new opportunities for growth. When you combine your business phone system and your CRM software into one integrated interface, customer service reps can have relevant data at their fingertips during calls. By keeping records and details about all customer service calls, you can serve your clients more efficiently. This will strengthen your relationship with them and increase the likelihood of them becoming repeat customers.

Accounting/Bookkeeping Software

Reliable accounting software is a must for any business. When you integrate your account software with VoIP, your accountants can monitor transactions from their phone or laptop. This allows them to quickly identify errors or irregularities . Marrying accounting software with VoIP also allows you to send reminder calls to clients who are late in their bills.

Microsoft Outlook & Email Clients

The best thing about integrating Microsoft Outlook and VoIP is that that you can simultaneously make calls and manage emails. Companies that opt to use Outlook usually store the bulk of their contacts there—including phone information. When you integrate them, you don’t have to look up numbers in Outlook before you want to make a call. Instead, your Outlook information is automatically available in your phone network. The other nice feature is that you can receive messages as audio files in Outlook, which means that you can check your phone messages without having to leave your computer.

If you are interested in Business Phone System integrations or have any other business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on Facebook.