Tag Archives: VoIP

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.

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.

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.

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.

Why you need a totally separate VOIP network (part 2)

acs-logoIn our last installment we discussed how VoIP voice packets tend to get garbled in a congested network. This time, we will delve into how to separate your VoIP network from the rest of your Internet traffic. Here’s how:

Have your office put in a separate wired Ethernet network just for VoIP. This way you won’t have to plug the PC to the computer port on the back of the VoIP phone. This is very cost-effective and is typically simple to do. Once you have a dedicated Ethernet switch for the VoIP LAN connected to a broadband router, you should be able to manage as many simultaneous calls as necessary. If you calculate the maximum number of simultaneous calls and revisit that number from time to time, your voice quality will be as good as it can get with anything under your control.

Of course, the trick is to figure out how much broadband bandwidth is right for a company of your size. Right now, many VoIP salespeople make their bread and butter by telling customers that they can do away with the costly phone lines and share their existing LAN and connection to the Internet. While this is cheaper, the call quality will suffer if (as previously discussed) someone in the office is uploading a large file.

Some ISP’s have figured out that the better solution for perfect VoIP calls is to offer a dedicated VoIP broadband connection. Many of them are already offering their large customers this option, but the writing on the wall is clear: sooner, rather than later, a separate VoIP network will become the norm rather than the exception.

 

 

The Benefits of VoIP for a Multi-Site Office

One of the most important aspects of maintaining a viable business is consistency. If your clients are to remain loyal, then your business has to deliver a quality product and service during each and every customer interaction. This presents unique challenges for companies with multiple branches and sites. How are you to appear as one company with one image if you have hundreds of employees spread out at different sites? It can make delegating duties among branches nearly impossible. Hosted VoIP might be the solution for such businesses.13953903_s

Upfront Costs

Hosted VoIP systems do not require a lot of upfront costs for individual sites. With an analog business phone system, each site would need to purchase a separate system and coordinate amongst themselves. With a hosted system, your company would essentially be one site located in the cloud. You simply have to advise what the address is for each individual site and within days your business can have an operational system.

Time

Once the system is programmed, setting up your hosted VoIP business phone system is as simple as plugging the phones into routers and switches. There is no need to deploy IT to each location which saves your business time and makes your initial deployment quicker. In addition, if any problems arise IT will not have to rush to each and every site to troubleshoot.

Ease of Changes

If your business is seasonal or on a high growth trajectory, VoIP is ideal. As your business grows or scales back, you can alter how many seats/phones you want with a pay per month plan. Many providers allow month to month contracts for your multi-site business phone system knowing that you will have to adjust; you can keep the phone handsets for each busy season, but the recurring pricing would change as needed.

Is Your Phone System Ready for Remote Employees?

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Imagine for a moment that you are a sales manager at a rapidly expanding company and you’ve been tasked with assembling a remote team of fifty sales reps…

Your company is located out of Washington D.C., but the majority of your reps will mainly work from a home office. Much of their time will be spent on the phone, either calling prospective customers or following up with existing clients. Most of them can use their smartphones on the go.  However, business calls are ideally conducted on a private line to ensure reliable call quality. 

The problem is that it is nearly unfeasible to set up and maintain private business phone systems in each of the reps home offices. With a traditional business phone system lacking VoIP, there are many complex steps to ensure that your remote workers are connected to the company’s internal network:

  • Purchase expensive phones for all of the employees
  • Do circuit work to guarantee that your company’s system can handle the additional call load
  • Perform the necessary regular maintenance on each of the off-site business phones

Cloud-based VoIP technology has solved many of these challenges. A cloud-based VoIP business phone system has made setting up a remote worker as easy as connecting a phone to the Internet and downloading certain software. There are no other setups or maintenance schedules and employees can now enjoy the conveniences of a home office without suffering the inconveniences of being out of the office.

Contact Advanced Communication Systems, LLC at www.advcomsol.com for details!

The Difference Between IP Telephony and VoIP

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The terms “IP Telephony” and “VoIP” are often used interchangeably.  There is a difference that you should be aware of when making this decision as it has a significant impact to your business telephone system.                                            

Simply put, VoIP is a dependent subset of IP Telephony.  IP Telephony (or Internet Telephony) involves digital phone systems based on different IP standards. The aim of IP Telephony is to increase business productivity with the use of technology. VoIP on the other hand, is a digital transport vehicle for placing phone calls. The benefit of VoIP lies with its cost effectiveness and additional features to voice communications.

To see it in a broader picture, VoIP is the building block for delivering conversations over an IP network. The IP network is usually a data network used by businesses to achieve a lower cost of operation. However, without the ability to assure conversational quality and the means to manage the data traffic, a company’s business telephone system would lack the high quality and advanced features that they have grown accustomed to in the office setting. Avaya brings IP Telephony and VoIP together into a seamless package.

Your IP infrastructure could be any vendor but it is the backbone or the core of what you are using to fully implement a VoIP environment. Avaya Services help companies select the right solutions, assess the readiness of their LAN or WAN to carry voice traffic, implement the solutions, and maintain them after installation.

How to Compare Business Telephone Systems

Businessman standing looking at detailed business flowchart
Regardless of the nature of your business, communication is key to your success, and despite the increasing use of email, social media, and other online networking tools, organizations still depend on the telephone for a large portion of their communications. Technology has brought a plethora of options for business owners to select from, including traditional land line service, voice over IP service and cell phone service. In order to get the most for your money, you need to evaluate your needs, seek out quality service providers and consider each plan carefully.

Step 1

Determine your company’s needs, including how many phone lines you require and how many employees your business expects to have. Quantifying the scope of your organization will ensure accurate quotes on the new business phone system your company requires. You can discover which companies serve business customers in your area online, as well as in your local telephone directory, local business journals, newspapers, and periodicals.

Step 2

Compare both traditional land line service and voice over IP services. In many cases VoIP can provide lower rates than traditional services, but it is still best to compare both kinds of phone service. Many VoIP or virtual PBX solutions don’t require a physical office phone.  You can utilize an app on your computer (sometimes known as a “softphone”) or a smartphone to serve in place of a telephone, which can make teleworking easier.  Let’s face it, many companies from busy cities such as DC Metro, Northern Virginia and Richmond area are saving with VoIP/Teleworking.

A hosted VoIP phone system allows you to receive messages from your phone, on your PC, on another PC using the web portal, or even as a simple .wav file in your email inbox. You can also manage your phone system via a web portal, which allows you to turn features on and off, manage messages and configure your phone from any web browser.

Step 3

Compare the total costs of each plan, including the basic cost of service and any add-ons you might be required to pay. Choosing a business service plan with a monthly fee allows for consistent budgeting and business planning.

A hosted VoIP phone system is very scalable, so almost any business can afford and benefit from features that you used to only see in big, expensive systems. As a business owner, you pay only for the phones you need and can add them easily when your staff grows. Your hosted VoIP phone system provider can easily deploy hundreds of phones, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever outgrow it. Only a small business containing one or two people is too small to profit from hosted VoIP features.

Step 4

Get a list of the standard services that come with each plan. Plans that include popular services like voice mail, call forwarding and caller ID can make your business telephone service more useful and versatile.

A standard hosted VoIP phone can be connected to any Internet connection and handle incoming and outgoing calls, transfers and messages just like it would at your office. A hosted VoIP phone system features Find-Me, Follow-Me, which is particularly useful for workers who are typically away from the office. Employees can set their phone to ring to other numbers (home, cell, etc.) with no interruption to customers/clients.

Step 5

Compare the warranty plans for each business telephone system. A lengthy warranty plan can be very valuable, since it can save the company money down the line.

Cloud-Based IP Phone Service…Let’s Break it Down!

Looking for business communication systems in the Washington, DC, Northern Virginia area can be technically challenging. In the past, businesses had a choice of a dozen or so PBX manufacturers which was confusing enough. Now that business phones systems have the option to utilize Voice over IP (VoIP) technology, the evaluation process must include the adequacy of your data network to support voice also.  You now have the option of buying your new business phone system or “paying” for it monthly as a cloud-based IP phone service.   The challenge of reviewing and selecting a new business phone system/service is substantial. Today, we aim to help you with some of the fundamentals you need to know. We’ll start by providing definitions to help explain the basic technologies used in today’s business communications solutions.

What is VoIP?

Simply put, Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is the technology that allows voice to be transmitted on a data network. It’s important that voice is being absorbed into the data network as the entire world’s devices are converting to Internet Protocol and connecting. Your phone system should, too.

What VoIP Isn’t: VoIP is not a Hosted PBX, cloud PBX or Virtual PBX. Those three services use VoIP technology, however, most premise-based phone systems also use VoIP technology. Why all of this confusion about IP phone service?  Because the first providers to use VoIP were the Hosted and Virtual PBX providers and the name stuck.

What is SIP?

Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) is the recognized VoIP standard of today.  All IP phone services utilize this protocol. With this standardization, services and products integrate very easily; unlike the old days where you had to buy everything from one manufacturer.

Now that we know a bit about the basic technologies, we can move on to the specifics of the types of phone services available.  The following definitions are commonly found on the web:

What’s Hosted PBX? 

Private Branch Exchange (PBX) phone system that’s delivered as a service, a Hosted PBX eliminates the investment of costly business phone system equipment on premise, and more.  Hosted PBX companies handle call routing at their data center and manage the PBX equipment and software involved in the Hosted PBX service. Hosted PBX services work over the Internet via a technology called Voice over IP (VoIP).

What’s Virtual PBX?

A Virtual PBX is software based and it eliminates the need for traditional, hardware-based PBX. Since it is software based, it offers easy installation and many additional features that a traditional PBX cannot. Yet, a Virtual PBX is the most affordable phone solution for a business.

What is Cloud PBX or Cloud Communications?

A cloud PBX system is a based on cloud computing technology, where data is stored and transferred over the Internet, rather than on a computer or piece of hardware that an end-user owns.  Cloud technology means that you can access the data and services of your cloud from any device connected to the Internet. So, with a cloud PBX provider, you can use all of the standard PBX features, without the need of an actual PBX in your home or office.

Wait, Isn’t That the Same?

Hmmm, these definitions look strikingly similar, don’t they? As you may have gathered, there is no fundamental difference between a Virtual PBX, Hosted PBX or a Cloud PBX. They are all virtual phone systems located in the cloud and purchased on a monthly basis. They all utilize VoP technology and the SIP protocol standard.

Do your own VoIP comparison and it will soon become apparent that the major difference is in the marketing.  Sure, when you compare providers you’ll find some variations in their features, but the underlying technology is the same, regardless of what the salesperson claims.  For more information, please call a member of our ACS sales team at 703-910-2455.