Category Archives: Small Business Communication Technology

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.

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.

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.

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.