Category Archives: Voice over IP (VoIP)

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Boost Concentration During Business Phone Calls and Conferences

Business Phone Calls and ConferencesThere have been many transformations to the business phone system in the past ten years, and we’ve greatly altered the way we communicate with clients and customers. With that said, one of the most effective communication tools is still the phone call or conference call. Unfortunately, some of today’s technology prevents calls from being as effective as they could be and reduces concentration during Business Phone calls and conferences. 

For example, employees frequently bypass their desk phone in favor of their mobile phone. Despite employees comfortable relationship with mobile phones, they aren’t exactly the best way to handle large call volumes. For one thing, mobiles have limited battery life and it is not atypical for an employee to miss a call due to a dead battery.

However, the biggest problem with an over reliance on mobile phones is erratic signal strength. This particular problem multiplies in a busy office setting when numerous devices are attempting to connect to a limited capacity cell.

This is where the desk phone comes in; after all, there’s nothing worse than dropping off  due to poor coverage or a dying battery during an important call. With a desk phone, this problem is nonexistent. Desk phones also tend to have much better call quality.

Which brings me to my point: is there a variation in concentration levels when comparing desk phones to mobile phones? If employees are using a mobile phone that has poor call quality, inconsistent cell coverage, and poor battery life, are they going to become disengaged and frustrated?

The best way to solve the aforementioned issues is to invest in an advanced business telephone system. With a great business telephone system, you can marry the ease of a mobile phone with the sophistication of a business telephone system. A great phone system will likely increase your concentration during Business Phone calls and conferences. Here are the things to look for when getting a business telephone system:

Latest Bluetooth technologies 

By opting for a business telephone system with an upgraded version of Bluetooth integrated, employees not only get crystal clear calls when using a Bluetooth handset or headset, but they get a similar freedom that they might achieve from their mobile device.

Mobile integration 

Allows mobile calls to be received on an employ’s desk phone, in effect increasing the audio quality.

HD audio 

HD audio is among the best quality audio available. A sealed acoustic chamber is recommended for the speaker phone. Sealed acoustic chambers avoid feedback loops and stopping tiny vibrations from interfering with the audio.

Avatars integrated into the desk phone 

Viewing an actual image of the person makes the call personal and can improve the back and forth on calls.

By choosing a business telephone system with these features, employees will be a lot more attracted to their desk phones. Odds are, they will accomplish more throughout the day.

If you have any questions about Business Phone calls and conferences please contact us. You can also follow us on Facebook.

The Pros and Cons of Desk Phones and Softphones

Desk Phones and SoftphonesThe 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.

Determining 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

Softphones are installed quickly, because tangible equipment isn’t required. They also 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.

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

Top 4 Business Phone System Aggravations and How to Fix Them

Business Phone System AggravationsYour business phone system is, perhaps, your most vital communication tool. However, sometimes Business Phone System aggravations make it seem like more trouble than it’s worth. Fortunately, for each of the following Business Phone System 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 should make 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.

Hosted voice, however, allows you 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 premise-based Business Phone System aggravations are erased by a hosted voice solution, assuming it’s a good fit for your business.

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