Category Archives: Voice over IP (VoIP)

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.

How to Boost Concentration During Business Phone Calls and Conferences

There 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 these 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 relying on a mobile phone with the sophistication of a business telephone system. Here are the things to look for when getting a business telephone system:

  1. 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.
  2. Mobile integration – Allows mobile calls to be received on an employ’s desk phone, in effect increasing the audio quality.
  3. HD audio – HD audio is among the best quality audio available. A sealed acoustic chamber is recommended for the speaker phone, which is really important to avoid feedback loops and stopping tiny vibrations from interfering with the audio.
  4. Avatars integrated into the desk phone – Actually viewing an image of the person calling makes the call more personal and can help 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, and odds are, they will accomplish more throughout the day.

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.

Tips for Selecting the Right Ethernet Wiring System for Your Company

The technology that you select for your company doesn’t have to be permanent, but ideally you shouldn’t have to make any radical changes as you grow. The correct Ethernet wiring system is something simple to add on, but the correct Ethernet wiring system can be tricky to find! Below are some tips for selecting the right Ethernet wiring system for your company.

Do You Use PoE Devices?

Power over Ethernet (PoE) devices can include VoIP phone systems, WiFi, cameras, door access devices, and anything else that requires constant access to the Internet. If you are using a lot of PoE devices, the minimum you should choose is Cat 6 cable.

Do You Own Your Building?

Use Cat6 Ethernet cabling if you own your office building. If you lease your office building, you should think about the duration of your lease first. You should also consider if your network speed needs to increase or if it acceptable the way it is?

Do You Have a Manufacturing Company?

If you use a manufacturing company or an industrial facility, you need to choose Ethernet cables that are industrial grade. The outside of an Ethernet cable can be damaged working with hazardous materials.

How is Category 6 Cable Different?

The difference between Cat 6 cables and Cat 5 cables, are that Cat 6 cables are more efficient when handling large amounts of data. This means that you won’t have to waste time transmitting data multiple times or even wind up with corrupted data packets. If you use the Internet often and need to transmit large amounts of data, Cat 6 cables are almost always the better option.

ESI – Much Improved VoIP Implementation and Support

ESI, a pioneering producer of IP business telephone systems, has launched a suite of applications that will assist customers and resellers support ESI VoIP solutions from pre-sales to post-installation.

Esi-Networx, the most popular application contained in Esi-Tools, has been improved to boost support for customers in LAN and WAN problems. It evaluates a LAN for any possible issues and subsequently simulates the brunt of an ESI IP business phone system to decide its fitness for an IP installation. Esi-Networx then generates a comprehensive report that details parts in need of network design adjustment before the introduction of an ESI phone system. After installation, Esi-Networx can regularly monitor the network’s performance to assure that the quality of voice traffic is satisfactory.

One of the other great features of Esi-Tools’ diagnostic applications concern the ESI Remote IP Feature Phone. Esi-Check scrutinizes the link from the Remote IP Feature Phone to an ESI business phone system. It supplies users with an inconspicuous option to evaluate lost packets, jitter, available bandwidths, and latency between them. Esi-Address is an easy application used to program Remote IP Feature Phones.

Esi-Access and Esi-Admin are applications that assist in the installation and programming of ESI IP business phone systems. In addition to habitual programming, Esi-Access has been enhanced to guide the installer through the programming of Esi-Link, ESI’s IP multi-site networking software. Esi-Access allows the programming of every aspect from IP addressing, to remote location name and numbering. Esi-Admin allows the end user to program functions such as extension features, system speed dials, message notification options and the programming of Group, Q&A, and Information mailboxes.

Has your VoIP Business Phone System Been Hacked?

VoIP business phone systems have radically altered the ways businesses handle their communication needs. The benefits, from voicemail, e-faxing, and softphones, are innumerable. However, one of the drawbacks is that you run the risk of getting hacked. Without taking the proper security precautions, hackers could easily attack your VoIP business phone system. We’ve listed some indications that your system might be hacked below.

Fake Anti-Virus Messages

VoIP business phone systems operate off of the Internet, and thus can receive some of the same issues as Internet browsers. If your employees begin receiving false antivirus pop-ups when your VoIP business phone system is in use, it is time for an IT professional to review your business phone system to see if malware is the culprit.

Double Check Your Call History

If your call history contains numbers that you don’t recognize or irregular call patterns, it might be an indication that your system has been hacked. Even if you aren’t worried about hacking, it’s typically wise to frequently review your business phone system to guard against irregularities.

Your Bill is Sky High

If your VoIP business phone system bill has suddenly shot through the roof, it is irrefutable that something is amiss. If your bill has doubled or tripled, it is time to call your IT professional, because it is a sure indication that you might have been hacked.

Microphones and Webcams are Acting Strangely

This is one of the most common indications that you might have been hacked. Sometimes when a hacker has infested your system, you will discover that your webcams and microphones you use through your VoIP system are being turned on without the worker doing so. The hackers’ intent in doing so could be to try to garner information about your business. A lot of hackers steal sensitive financial information using this method.

How SIP Trunking Can Benefit Your Business

SIP Trunking works with VoIP by utilizing a SIP-based PBX that delivers telephone system services without a traditional analog phone line. Rather than a physical wire, a SIP Trunk acts as a ‘virtual’ line that uses a data circuit to connect to a network.  SIP Trunk also includes voice, video, and streaming media services, making this option ideal for businesses.

The lack of physical lines requiring maintenance with a SIP Trunk means that costs are considerably lower than traditional business phone service. SIP Trunking coupled with VoIP can save a company up to fifty percent on their monthly bill. SIP Trunking permits companies to only pay for the numbers they use rather than getting stuck in an agreement that includes excess analog lines. This results in companies being more efficient with the amount of resources they use.

Additional benefits of SIP Trunks include:

  • Inexpensive DID – A Direct Inward Dialing number, the number clients will use to reach a business on, costs less when purchased with a SIP Trunk. In the past, a DID is obtained directly from the phone company and charges were applied for the DID, IT and maintenance services, as well as the hardware associated with the system. A DID with SIP Trunking doesn’t include this infrastructure.
  • Better customer service– By adding additional geographical and international numbers, businesses allow customers more options when dialing in. With this barrier between a business and their customers lifted, sales will increase.         
  • Flexible locations – If a business changes office locations, they can still keep the same number because SIP Trunks are not bound to a physical location.
  • Flexibility– It is easy to add channels to your SIP trunk to cope with increased calls. A simple phone call will allow you to add channels, and often this can be done immediately.