Category Archives: The Cloud

The Four Most Essential Integrations Your Business Phone System Should Have

Hosted business phone systems are popular for a plethora of reasons, but one of the best things about them is their ability to integrate with other software/solutions your company may use. 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 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. 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 your accounting software with your 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 with your VoIP is that that you can make calls and manage emails in tandem. Companies that opt to use Outlook usually store the bulk of their contacts there—including phone information. When you integrate the two, rather than look up phone numbers in Outlook before you want to make a call, 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.

The Pros and Cons of Desk Phones and Softphones

The primary types of VoIP business phones are desk phones and softphones. As you’re probably aware, desk phones are the physical phones that sit next to your computer at work. Sometimes they appear akin to and analog phone, but instead of being a landline, they are actually connected to the IP network.

Softphones, while also a type of VoIP business phone, are entirely different. They are apps that are installed on your PC or laptop. They have dialing pads not unlike a cell phone. Softphones can also have applications for your mobile devices.

Trying to find which one is the best fit for your company can be tricky. Below, is a quick guide to the pros and cons of desk phones and softphones, so that your company doesn’t spend money on a phone that doesn’t work for your business.

Desk Phones

Desk phones have been entirely redeveloped since the creation of VoIP. What you might imagine when you think of a ‘traditional desk phone’ is not relevant to a VoIP desk phone.

Advantages and Disadvantages

This may go without saying, but people are used to desk phones. Even if the VoIP desk phone is entirely different than that of a landline, people are still comfortable with them. The other great thing about desk phones is that they tend to have superior call quality. Unfortunately, desk phones are more costly than softphones. Furthermore, the cost of a desk phone can increase with the more features you add to them.

Softphones

A softphone isn’t truly tangible; it is a software program on your PC or smartphone. It, via the Internet, allows users to make or receive calls over that Internet connection. Softphones generally offer a very friendly user experience.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Because tangible equipment isn’t involved, softphones are installed quickly and boast a budget friendly option to businesses. As long as a user has Internet connection, they can get or receive calls from anywhere. However, if your lose your Internet connection, or your equipment computer or smartphone crashes, you will be unable to use it. Also, if you aren’t a fan of headsets, you may not prefer using a smartphone on your computer, as you will need it to respond and listen to calls.

At the end of the day, you will have to decide which pros appeal most to you and which cons are deal breakers. As with all business phone systems, you have to determine what your company needs to fulfill its’ communication requirements.

 

The Top Four Business Phone System Aggravations and How to Fix Them

Your business phone system is, perhaps, your most vital communication tool. However, sometimes your business phone system can create so much aggravation that it seems more trouble than it’s worth. Fortunately, for each of the following aggravations, there is a solution.

#1. When The Phone Lines Go Down, I Have to Fix the Problem

Hosted voice solutions are delivered via the Internet, which begs a valid question: “When the Internet crashes, what happens?” Unfortunately, when the Internet is down, your phone will go dark until Internet service is restored. In this scenario, your provider will work on finding the problem and fixing it as soon as possible.

However, that doesn’t exactly answer the question of what happens with the phone lines go down? If your company has a traditional business phone system, then you are accountable for power, uptime, connectivity, vendor management, and carrier services. If the lines go down, you will be completely without service until you can take care of the problem.

The upside to hosted voice is that if your Internet crashes, while your phone will not ring at your desk, other features will remain operational due to built-in redundancy:

  • Call Routing
  • Voicemail
  • Auto-Attendant
  • Soft Phone
  • Direct Inward Dial (DID)
  • Find Me Follow Me – also known as Mobile Twinning

#2. It is Very Difficult for Employees to Make Changes, and Yet it is Our Responsibility to Make the Updates

One of the biggest problems with a traditional business phone system is that they are not easy to alter after they have been installed. The biggest reason for this is because they are proprietary—meaning they require a qualified engineer to make the necessary changes and updates. For this customer, that means that they have to pay (typically be the hour) each time the technician visits.

The great thing about hosted voice solutions is that you can make most of the basic changes or upgrades without help. Your provider will be tasked with making the large changes and upgrades.

#3. Scaling your Business Phone System is Difficult

Premise-based business phone systems aren’t easy to scale. Usually modular components and software licenses are needed if you want to expand your premise-based system. This puts a business in the challenging spot of attempting to predict what kind of phone system they will need 5-10 years down the line. Not only is that risky, but you can end up purchasing equipment you don’t need.

Hosted voice solutions remove this aggravation. Adding or eliminating users and services can be done without breaking a sweat by simply telling your provider when you need the change made. They can virtually make the change and adjust your monthly cost accordingly.

#4. The Only Thing my Phone Can Do is Make Calls and Receive Voicemails

Unfortunately, most business phone systems friendly to your budget are typically lacking in features. Budget-friendly business phone systems often are only capable of receiving/making calls and getting voicemails.

With hosted voice, however, you can get a vast assortment of advanced features. Here are the most popular:

  • Voicemail to email/text
  • Caller ID business name and phone number
  • Personal Attendant and Virtual Auto Attendant
  • Find Me Follow Me: allows your desk phone to ring on 5 different devices at the same time (so wherever you are, you can receive calls made to your office)
  • Receptionist Dashboard: give your receptionist an all-encompassing view of your phone system
  • Soft Phones: no handset needed because you can make calls right from your computer or web browser
  • Move Your Phone: from desk to desk, to conference room, to home (work from anywhere)
  • Reporting: how many calls in and out; full call detail records; available at any time

Many of the aggravations of your present premise-based business phone system can be erased with a hosted voice solution, assuming it’s a good fit for your business.

How to Chose the Right Business Telephone System Based on Your Company Size (Part 2)

As we discussed in Wednesday’s blog, trying to decide on a business phone system can be challenging considering the vast array of options on the market. One of the biggest factors a company should take into consideration is how large it is. The size of your company will largely determine the right business phone system for your company. In our last blog, we discussed the best business phone options for personal, small, and medium sized businesses. Today, we will examine the most popular choices for large businesses and enterprises. 

 

Large Business and Enterprise

Popular Options:

  • Business VoIP / Unified Communications
  • SIP trunking
  • On-premise PBX

Large businesses have entirely different needs than that of smaller or medium sized businesses. Large businesses have numerous office locations, unique sales and support operations, and executives with personal assistants. Usually large businesses will need unlimited calling packages, CRM and business software, and multiple local and toll free phone numbers. Most large businesses will also need call center capabilities.

The best option for large businesses are unified communications services. Most frequently these will come from business VoIP providers. Business VoIP has an online interface that permits account administrators to add users and configure features in real-time. They also offer web-based products that incorporate voice, video, and messaging, as well as other collaboration tools like multi-device compatibility and screensharing, to give a complete business communications solution.

Some large businesses prefer even more control over their business phone system. With SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs, companies have more customization options. The drawback is that SIP trunking and on-premise PBXs necessitate on-site servers and hardware. If you elect to go this route, you will need an in-house IT team to maintain and update the system.  

Customization isn’t the only advantage; on-premise solutions are often selected for security purposes. National companies, government agencies, and banks all have strict requirements to ensure secure communications. Doctor’s offices also need special HIPAA-compliant business phone systems to encrypt patient data.

Business Telephone Service: Finding the Right Fit

There are a plethora of business phone system options on the market, but recognizing the size of your business can eliminate a lot of options that simply won’t work. With that said, landline phone systems, in general, aren’t a great option for any sized business in the modern world. Besides being outdate and expensive, they have poorer call quality, less features, and are problematic in terms of scaling. Landlines will also typically require a business to sign a lengthy, non-negotiable contract.

Company size is one of the biggest factors when determining the best business phone system for your company, but it isn’t the only factor. A business will also need to consider their budget, as well as a business phone system’s reliability, user experience, and capabilities. Choosing the best business phone system will mean considering all of the above.

How to Chose the Right Business Telephone System Based on Your Company Size

Trying to decide on a business phone system can be challenging considering the vast array of options on the market. One of the biggest factors a company should take into consideration is how large it is. The size of your company will largely determine the right business phone system for your company. We’ve listed some of the most popular choices below, organized by company size.

Personal or Small Business (1-5 users)

Popular Options:

  • Consumer VoIP
  • Residential VoIP
  • Dedicated mobile work phone

Most small businesses (or personal home offices) don’t require a complicated business phone system; they can usually suffice with a limited feature set. In some instances, you might be able to get consumer or residential VoIP solutions (something like Google Voice) that are simple to maintain and setup.

There is always the option of getting a dedicated smartphone separate from your personal cell phone. If you only have one or two users, this is an attractive option.

Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs)

Popular Options:

These types of businesses can’t get away with skimping on a business phone system. SMBs usually have moderate call volume and depend on good call quality, reliable service, voicemail management, and scalability for new employees. Many SMBs have remote employees and multiple office locations.

SMBs on a budget might want to consider bundling VoIP and Internet services offered by their respective cable companies. These types of business phone systems will frequently have additional features like caller ID, voicemail, and conferencing.

Virtual business phone systems, on the other hand, have higher service reliability and more advanced features when compared to consumer VoIP solutions. These types of services operate directly from your computer, smartphone, or tablet to create a virtual phone network. In addition to inbound/outbound calling, these services have basic call routing and call handling features.

Cloud phone systems are hosted business phone systems that offer web-based user portals and can be used with compatible deskphones and/or softphone apps. Cloud phone systems are a step up in terms of features; they have video calling, extension dialing, queues, and conference calling.

On Friday’s blog, we will take a look at the best options for large businesses and enterprises, and then we will offer a few concluding thoughts.

Methods to Overcome Challenges Within Contact Centers

The biggest challenge all businesses must overcome is how to deliver fantastic customer service at the lowest possible cost. Contact centers are not alone in this regard. In today’s blog, we will examine a few specific methods they can employ to conquer this challenge.

First, your agents must have real time access to the data they require. Dashboard delivered insights, KPI reports, and alerts can permit managers to tweak forecasts and schedules when unexpected events transpire. Managers can use the aforementioned tools to run scenarios and prepare for innumerable contingencies. These also allow for call recording and scoring, meaning that agents will receive the training and coaching they require to deliver exceptional customer service. 

The data gathered with these tools will allow the contact center manager to act on varied insights in a proactive manner. Every call center shift will be ready to deliver the great customer service that keeps customers loyal and happy. When your contact center is operating at peak efficiency, costs will be reduced as well.

Even greater cost savings can be accomplished when contact center technology is provided via the cloud as a subscription service. This will eliminate the requirement to invest in additional hardware and software. Under this model, contact centers only have to pay for the time and capacity that they need. For a smaller contact center, this means you can greatly lessen your upfront costs, while maintaining the option of scaling up as needed.

Data Center Redundancy

Most of us are geared to believe that redundancy is almost always a bad thing. When it comes to your data center, redundancy is most definitely a must have!  Here are some reasons why data center redundancy matters so much in today’s technology.

How Does Redundancy Work With Your Data Center

Redundancy is a way to ensure that your data remains viable. Data center redundancy ensures that data is not only predictable but more importantly, reliable every day. Redundancy in IT is a system design in which a component is duplicated so if it fails there will be a backup. In a data center, there may be redundant components, such as servers, or network system components, such as hard disk drives, operating systems and telecommunication links, that are installed to back up primary resources in case they fail. Imagine a disastrous storm takes down your data center and your back-up generator does not work.  What then?  Redundancy gives you reassurance that your business can continue to properly operate even if a portion of your data is corrupted or damaged.

Why Redundancy So Necessary

When one portion fails and another portion goes down, your company can be down for an extensive amount of time.  You don’t just need a back-up plan, you need a back-up to the back-up plan.  Make sure that your equipment is redundant and not just located at one data center, so that if one is compromised for any reason, there are still back-ups in place. It is incumbent on your businesses IT professional to ensure that your IT platform can continue to operate through failures. 

To discuss your company’s needs please call Jay Faulconer at ACS today.

PRI, DID, SIP Broken Down

If your phone line contracts are soon expiring with an existing carrier, there are many alternative options available depending on the volume of phone calls that need to be accommodated, and what services are provided in your specific geographical location. 

If you are a smaller company that does not require a great deal of call volume, individual telephone lines should be sufficient for your business. However, if your call volume dictates that you need as many as 10-12 or more paths for simultaneous conversations, it may be more efficient and economical to have your voice paths delivered by a digital or IP service. If your business requires individual phone numbers (DID) for each person within the company, or if you depend heavily on multi-party conference calls, an alternative to analog telephone lines should be considered. If you have special needs for your Internet bandwidth in addition to your dial tone, there are combination services using digital or IP delivery which would work as well.

Many carriers provide dial tone via digital PRI circuits. A PRI (Primary Rate Interface) will provide you with inbound and/or outbound phone calls and provide as many telephone numbers as you may need for Direct Inward Dialing. This becomes economically advantageous if you are already paying for 12 or more individual phone lines.

If you do not have a high call volume, but still have a need for Direct Inward Dialing phone numbers, SIP Trunks are another delivery option. SIP trunks are able to provide dial tone via IP to your business telephone system, and can customize the amount of call paths to meet your needs. SIP trunks can be a more economical option even if you have fewer than 12 individual phone lines.

As you can see, there are alternatives to basic analog telephone lines that can be very attractive options.

VoIP Phone Systems – Let’s Modernize!

Whether you have a large company or are just starting a new business, your telephone system will be crucial in achieving success. You can bet that you will be communicating with most of your potential customers via telephone, so creating a great early impression is crucial.

A modern VoIP phone system could very well give you the edge over your competition. By utilizing your system effectively, you should be able to attract new customers — and grow your business quickly.

On Hold..Use it to Your Advantage!

Let’s face it, we all have been put on hold and forced to listen to music that could lull us to sleep! Typically, you should avoid having a customer on hold.  But when it’s unavoidable, you can use the situation to your company’s advantage.

Instead of playing music, have your customers listen to something relevant and informative about your company. The latest VoIP systems also allow you to play customized messages to specific customer groups. For instance, relay your latest offers, products or services.

Customize Your Auto-Attendant

Auto-attendant features allow for a broad level of customization, which you can then use to turn prospective clients into actual ones. You can use your auto-attendant to direct calls to specific departments within your company.  There is also a great opportunity to highlight your company’s brand with an advanced auto-attendant system. 

Your best bet is to create a simple and short menu system. Use unique greetings and memorable slogans that set your business apart from the competition.

Click-to-Call Services

What is click-to-call functionality?  Simply, it allows customers to dial directly from your website. You may also want to include a click-to-call telephone number on your online marketing communications, your social media accounts and email signatures. The ease of click to call could be the deciding factor to winning a customer.

Cloud Hosted VoIP – Telephone Service Option

Yesterday we discussed security features within cloud hosted VoIP such as firewalls, passwords and WiFi.  Now, let’s delve into a few more important security features to consider when weighing your options of cloud hosted VoIP as a telephone service option.

DDoS

One of the worst security threats is a DDoS (or a Distributed Denial of Service). A DDoS usually comes with infected Trojans and are used to target sole systems. In terms of VoIP, a DDoS usually manifests a ‘busy signal’ on your IP business phone system. VoIP relies on continuous and reliable packet flows. When your company becomes the victim of a DDoS, availability becomes a real problem.

Fortunately, there are a few options that will help: SIP and H.323. If you have VoIP, these two protocols are great tools for guaranteeing your sensitive data will not be comprised when it is transmitted over the Internet.

 Phantom Calls

How would you feel if you got a call on your IP phone from a mysterious extension and you only heard silence when you picked up? Annoyed, right? These are called phantom calls, and alas, they can be more than just annoying if you don’t have the proper firewall set up. A true phantom call is made by a “port scan” by hackers fishing for a vulnerable phone network in which to gain access to.  As long as your firewall and firmware is kept up to date though, you should be safe.

 Is VoIP service secure?

VoIP certainly comes with its risks, but at the end of the day, if you remain vigilant in your security procedures the risk can be minimal.  Proper planning and effective security procedures ensure that IP telephony is both convenient and safe.