The 5 Most Important Aspects of VoIP Business Phone System Preparation

VoIP Business Phone System preparationVoice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has innumerable benefits, but there are a few accompanying challenges. The good news is that these challenges aren’t difficult to overcome if you prepare accordingly. We’ve listed the six most important aspects of VoIP Business Phone System preparation below.

Calls

The first thing you should determine is what kind of calls you need to make. There are a couple of different ways to make a VoIP call; from a desk phone, from a computer, or from your smartphone. Prior to making any networking decisions, you need to figure out how you are going to make calls.

Cables

Another important VoIP Business Phone System preparation is to get the correct Ethernet cables. Cat 6 cables are one of the better choices, but they may prove too costly for smaller businesses. Cat 5e cables are a more budget friendly option, and should work fine for most businesses. However, potential VoIP users should avoid older Cat 3 cables, as their capacity and compatibility is not a good fit for VoIP.

Power Supply

Next, you need to ensure that you have the appropriate power supply. Power over Ethernet (PoE) cables are the best option; they allow devices not plugged into an AC source the ability to draw power from your internet.

Router

Like many things on this list, you need to determine if your router is able to handle the new traffic from VoIP. If your router doesn’t have Packet Per Second (PPS) capability, you should upgrade it. PPS capability provides traffic shaping and allows you to prioritize voice and video data on your network.

Firewalls

Software-defined firewalls are vital to VoIP Business Phone System preparation. Software-defined firewalls are designed to filter internal data traffic and packets as opposed to only data traffic.

These tips should aide you in making the proper decisions regarding your new VoIP system. If you have any questions regarding VoIP or business phone systems in general, please contact Advanced Communication Systems today at 800-750-3624. You can also follow us on Facebook.

Five Features to Look for When Selecting a School Business Phone System

school business phone systemIt may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to the needs of a school system, but business phone systems are one of the most important aspects of keeping students, teachers, and staff better informed and safe. Unfortunately, many school systems are still using decades-old phone systems. Such systems necessitate frequent maintenance and typically end up costing more than merely purchasing a new system. Newer VoIP (voice over IP) offer a much better alternative business phone system for a school system. Below, we’ve listed five features to look for when selecting a school business phone system.

Emergency 911 Monitoring

These days, schools must be vigilant about the safety of their students and staff. Whichever school business phone system you purchase must include a built-in emergency monitoring feature. Newer VoIP systems can notify school administrators via their desk phones and email when someone makes a 911 call. The notifications even tell you which room number initiated the call. This is important because the emergency dispatcher can also quickly recognize which room to send emergency assistance to.

Flexible Extension Dial Plan

Emergency 911 Monitoring is quite dependent on this next feature. Most schools require six-digit extension dialing, which will permit them to build an organized dial plan. Schools typically use the first two digits in the extension to specify the building, the third digit to specify the floor, and the last three to specify the room number. Flexible extension dialing not only makes emergency 911 monitoring possible, but it also creates cohesion and convenience in your dial plan.  

Ease of Use

Once you finally have a new VoIP phone system, you don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to use it. A properly designed school business phone system should be easy to operate. It should also be easy to access via the internet so that you can make adds, moves, and other changes.

User Training

Many people don’t like change. Attempting to switch your staff to a new phone system can present a difficult adjustment period. To ease the growing pains, you should have training sessions on the new system. Not only does this shorten the adjustment period, but it also allows your staff the opportunity to take full advantage of VoIP’s features.

Price

As with any purchase, price can make or break your decision. Who wouldn’t love to have the latest and greatest? Sometimes though, you have to prioritize your needs so that you don’t burst your budget. However, one of the advantages of VoIP is that it tends to pay for itself; with little upkeep and maintenance fees, you’ll inevitably find that after time it costs you less than hanging on to your old system.

If you have any questions business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn.

Tips For Protecting Your Employees From Cyber Security Attacks

cyber security attacksCurrently, cyber criminals are abundant on the Internet. They have a plethora of methods in which to penetrate your system. If you are not careful, they will attack your system. This means that you will have to educate your employees on the risks of cybercrime, as well as the methods used. Below are some tips for protecting your employees from cyber security attacks.

Educate Your Employees on the Warning Signs

There are typically red flags concerning cyber security attacks. Unfortunately, these signs aren’t always obvious. Foreign items on your computer, extremely slow Internet, and suspicious email activity are all indicators of security attacks. The general rule of thumb when it comes to cybercrime is that it is better safe than sorry.

Test Your Employees

Always test your staff on cyber security attacks. This doesn’t have to be formal testing, but oral quizzes or interactive games can be beneficial for ensuring that they—and your company—won’t become victims. The more you cover this material with your employees, the better prepared they will be when they inevitably face a hacker.

Require Your Employees to Attend Trainings

When permissible, you should mandate that your employees attend cyber security trainings. This should include your IT team, even if they are already versed in cybercrime. Technology changes from day to day, and cybercrime is no different. There is always something new to learn concerning cyber security attacks.

Unfortunately, hackers are developing new techniques every day. If you don’t have continuing conversations with your staff, you will likely run into problems. You should also dedicate time to cybercrime in staff meetings or online trainings. The alternative could cost you a lot of time and money.

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

Useful Call Transfer Tips

call transferOne of the most useful—and taken for granted—features of most business phone systems is call transfer. Call transfer is important to the general cohesion of a company. However, perhaps the most important benefit of call transfer is that you can route you customers to the appropriate department. Transferring customers effectively can drastically improve your customer satisfaction levels. The two most common types of call transfers are blind and warm transfers. Below, we’ll delve into the specifics of both.

Blind Call Transfer

A blind call transfer is when you transfer the call to a different phone or person without speaking to that person first. You merely answer the call, figure out who the customer needs to speak to, then transfer it to the proper person.

Blind transfers are great for customers seeking basic information. By using a blind transfer to send these callers onward, the customer spends less time on hold. Blind transfers are also useful when shorthanded and you require help assisting customers.

Warm Call Transfer

Warm (or Attended) call transfers occur when you need to provide information to the person you are transferring the call to. As opposed to blind transfers, you don’t simply transfer the call along and hang up. Instead, you put the customer on hold and then dial up the person you wish to transfer the customer to. Then, you can brief them on whatever issue the customer is having.

Warm call transfers are especially useful if your customers experience varied issues. They also provide higher levels of service; when the receptionist can brief the appropriate colleague on the customers’ issue, the customer doesn’t have to spend time re-explaining their problem.

Knowing how to take advantage of call transfer can improve the general cohesion of your company. At the same time, it can also improve your customer satisfaction levels. If you have any questions regarding business phone systems, please contact Advanced Communication Systems today at 800-750-3624. You can also follow us on Facebook.

The Most Important Considerations When Buying a Small Business Phone System

small business phone systemThere is a vast array of small business phone systems on the market. When a small business wants to upgrade or switch to a different phone system, the choices can seem overwhelming. Many small businesses operate on an Internet Protocol (IP) network. This is the same network that connects employees, devices, and information recourses. Thus, how does a small business choose the most appropriate phone system for their specific business? We’ve assembled the most important considerations when buying a small business phone system below.

Know What Your Users Need

At the end of the day, your small business phone system only needs to do one thing: give your people the tools to be more efficient. Do your workers need one phone number to ring to multiple devices? Do they need prompt access to mobile communication or video? Therefore, these are features and capabilities you may want to include:

  • The ability to make and receive calls from smartphones or tablets
  • Automated attendant
  • Mobile softphones, for using a computer as a phone
  • Video or web conferencing support
  • Paging and intercom
  • Unified messaging (including email, text message, or phone notifications)
  • Instant Messaging
Be Prepared for Change

A great small business phone system can change the way your employees conduct their daily workflow. While all change requires an adjustment period, it should be a good change! A new small business phone system that doesn’t improve the way your office functions, probably isn’t the one for you.

Reduce Your IT Costs

The fantastic thing about small business IP phone systems is that they also consolidate your communications into one platform. Not only does this decrease IT strains, but it also reduces communications expenses.

Talk to Your Trusted Advisor

Before making a purchase, you should always speak to a provider or vendor. They are knowledgeable in what features and capabilities best fit your company’s business goals.  

If you have any questions business phone system questions, please contact us. You can also follow us on LinkedIn.

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.