Blog

November 24th, 2016

2016november24_voip_bOne of the latest innovations from Microsoft involves various popular Insider Programs. The newest of these is a Skype Insider Program. Available for all desktop and mobile operating systems, this program will grant business owners and individuals access to more frequent updates and new, special features to one of the most important voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications on the market. Find out more about the Skype Insider Program here.

At its core, the new Skype Insider Program is a way to allow Skype users to beta test cutting-edge features and software fixes. In addition to granting users access to the latest features before they become public, this program also gives Microsoft a major advantage because more beta testers means it can roll out full updates and upgrades more quickly. After joining, users can test out a wide array of improvements for any Skype platform, including Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before joining this Insider Program, or any betas for that matter. It exists to test out how well new features work “in the wild,” and there is potential for bugs. The catch 22 is that with so many users beta-testing the software, those problems and bugs will be fixed far more quickly than before, and participants will have a head start on using those features when they officially roll out.

VoIP has been around for years now, and most vendor offerings are similar to one another. In our opinion, getting access to new VoIP technology is definitely worth it. You’ll be able to get a head start on the competition, and Microsoft will reward your contributions with a faster, more secure Skype connection.

An open and well-populated beta program almost always means great things for users and the software they’re using. If you are interested in becoming part of Skype's Insider Program, or if you have any VoIP-related questions, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
November 9th, 2016

2016november9_voip_bUnified Communications (UC) may be a solution to problems and potential issues a business may not even realize it has. The process of integrating multiple communications into a singular communication process can be both daunting and exciting. To determine whether or not UC are right for your company, learn more about their pros and cons by reading on.

Understanding UC is important to understanding the pros and cons of this communications platform. Essentially, UC is the use of service, software, and equipment that creates a communications system that is fully integrated and centralized. This allows for phone calls, emails, video conferencing, calendars, and the like to be accessible on one system alone.

Pros of UC

There are numerous benefits of choosing a UC system over a non-integrated, disjointed communications system. One is that all people involved in the business process -- from bosses and employees, to vendors, customers, and other business associates or partners -- can access the same information and quickly and easily communicate with one another one-on-one or in groups.

VoIP UC makes it possible to receive phone calls through a computer, have them pushed to a mobile phone, and even get copies of voicemails and information about callers on the computer. Essentially, everything runs through the internet and wireless communications.

Additionally, mobile technologies can more easily be used to bring work groups together and make employees as productive as possible wherever they are. This means that virtual conference calls and meetings are possible and can be an important tool in the process of doing business. UC also save employees and other business associates a great deal of time and can improve productivity.

And then there is the issue of cost. UC can save businesses money in the short- and long-term by making it possible to telecommute, have meetings over great distances, and make work hours more productive overall.

Cons of UC

Of course, no business change or decision is without potential drawbacks. The initial overall cost of switching to a UC system can be high because of the software, equipment, and training needed. Already accustomed to existing systems, some employees might resist adopting a new technology. And other employees, considering their unique roles in the company, might think the new communications system irrelevant to them and so see little benefit to it.

Better understanding these potential benefits and drawbacks to UC can help you decide what is right for your business. Contact us if you have any questions or if you are ready to begin using VoIP UC processes in your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
October 24th, 2016

2016october24_voip_bCyber-crimes based on denial of services (DoS) attacks are nothing new. But of the businesses facing the threat of a DoS to their Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, most have no idea how to prevent this type of attack, or even why it’s being launched against them. If you’re one of those businesses, we have everything you need to know right here.

Denial of service attacks

The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that the system is eventually forced to shut down. Telephony DoS (TDoS) attacks are a subcategory wherein these types of attacks are leveled at VoIP systems. Sadly, this security bulletin has jumped to the front of security concerns as a result of its use against hospitals and 9-1-1 phone lines.

In another depressing development, some TDoS attackers demand a ransom to halt the attack. Much like ransomware, with the help of cryptocurrencies and caller-ID spoofing, it’s incredibly difficult to identify attackers.

TDoS attacks generally employ fewer resources than the DoS attacks that are designed to cripple IT systems such as networks, servers, and software. At its most basic, all that a TDoS attack requires is an automated phone dialer that calls a target phone number and hangs up -- over and over. That very simple concept can stop anyone else from getting through the line.

What organizations need to do

Counterintuitive as it might sound, locking down your VoIP system with complicated and unnecessary security measures will ultimately do more harm than good. Most businesses can’t operate if they can’t communicate with their customers.

Although VoIP may be a digital resource similar to your other IT systems, the very nature of phone lines makes it impossible to hide them behind firewalls and other protections. However, there are new solutions that offer protection to VoIP systems. The new security protocols can protect your communication infrastructure against those who try to use force to gain access to your directory information. These protocols can also identify, reroute, and filter calls coming from known attackers.

If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with your VoIP system, or if you want to deploy the most up to date solution that the market has to offer, we have just the company in mind. With years of experience in the field, our expert staff is ready to help you at the drop of a hat -- just call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
October 5th, 2016

2016october5_voip_bVoIP acts as a bridge between traditional landlines and our internet-centric lives. By unifying communications under a single system for voice, data, and video converged networks, many businesses are realizing unprecedented savings and improvements to their workflow models. If that sounds like something your SMB could benefit from, you’ve come to the right place.

Fax

Modern VoIP does more than just make calls, it also receives faxes. Why would a business be interested in this seemingly outdated service? A significant portion of businesses, government bodies, and medical facilities still use some form of fax service to send and receive physical documents. If a customer or vendor prefers to send you a fax, most VoIP solutions are equipped to receive and convert fax documents into a PDF file.

Interactive Voice Response

The new VoIP feature allows businesses to route their calls to the correct client’s or staff’s number. This feature helps to reduce the use of mass cold calling and unwanted calls, saving the businesses' time and money, and enhances proper service delivery to your clients. VoIP systems promote minimal routing calls, increasing your employees' ability to work well.

Spam Call Filter

It’s election season and that means robo-calls. If you hate them as much as we do, VoIP is one of the best services to eliminate them. Spam filters combine several different pieces of caller data to help you differentiate between potential customers and annoying telemarketers. About as effective as the spam filter protecting your email inbox, this feature is not something we could live without.

Telemarketer Block

Automatic filters are never perfect, and some telemarketers may be able to slip through the fence your filters have erected. Depending on the scope of your VoIP system, you may want to input blocked numbers manually. If you have specific times that your spam filter and blocked call list would become prohibitive, they can be turned off with the flip of a switch.

Network Down Forward

One of the biggest concerns for VoIP solutions is their bandwidth requirements. Users in areas without a robust or reliable internet connection may think they can’t reap the rewards of a internet-based communications service. Modern VoIP systems have a feature called ‘network down forward’ to overcome these hurdles. When turned on, network down forward allows you to send calls to your signal-based mobile devices when your internet is down -- thereby guaranteeing customers can always get a hold of you.

VoIP technology has opened up entirely new avenues of what businesses can achieve with their communication systems. Beyond just making and receiving calls over the internet, users can block unwanted callers, receive faxes, and design pleasant hold menus. For any VoIP inquiries, call us today -- we’re always available.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
September 19th, 2016

2016september19_voip_bRecently, a story circulated amongst industry insiders of an official in a hospital’s records room who couldn’t customize her legacy phone system’s hold messages. The upshot was this particular platform restarted the hold message each time a caller was placed back on hold. Her provider - a reseller with little control over the system’s functionality - was unable to help, and the “on-hold caller” hang-up rate increased 35% over a 3-month period.

When an operator asks a client for permission to put them on hold, what they’re really saying is “Can you wait there a short time not talking to anybody?” It’s a small window of speech-free standing-by that occurs at different times throughout a call, and for different durations.

And, it can result in two distinctly different outcomes: an untroubled customer who will stick around to finish their business, or a disgruntled one who will most likely quit the call and come back another time. With a VoIP phone system, a mix of engaging music, constructive messages, and interesting information can put the kibosh on finicky fleeing clients.

Music

We’d all agree there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to music, but there are some things you definitely DON’T want playing while a potentially agitated or impatient customer is on hold. So how do you choose the best sounds for them to hear whilst waiting?

With a VoIP system’s easy-to-navigate dashboard, you simply click a tab called “Hold Music” or something similar, and then upload your audio. Focus on trendy, easily recognizable music that suits your brand, and takes your clientele’s demographics into account.

You can also enter through your VoIP user interface freely to schedule how frequently a particular track plays and for how long, and to configure whether it restarts or continues where it left off when a caller is placed back on hold.

Marketing Messages

Your VoIP system’s audio files aren’t restricted to music, of course. There is a world of opportunity there to keep your on-hold customers not only engaged by sound, but marketed to, too. Remember, your goal isn’t just to eliminate silence, it’s to do so with a purpose.

“Hold message” scripts that riff on your company’s TV and radio ads might elicit an “I think I’ve heard this somewhere” response. Conversely, you could put a totally new spin on the usual tone and style of your marketing messages and really get creative with humorous mini-commercials that make your customers chuckle (and a little bit of levity never hurt nobody!).

You could also create files that catalogue your company’s services in unconventional ways, such as in alphabetical order; highlight seasonal promotions or other new specials; and announce upcoming product launches -- or simply hint at them to coax your customer into a bit of standby sleuthing. Whatever the case may be, your VoIP system’s interface makes it easy to have multiple messages at the ready.

Facts & Figures

Why is your customer doing business with you in the first place? Try to remind them while they wait, perhaps by telling them about your company’s founding fathers’ esteemed histories or about some of the innovations you’ve brought to your industry’s marketplace.

New information and intriguing anecdotes will take their minds off of the fact that they aren’t being served, so you could also pose a playful trivia or “Did you know?” kind of contest where providing a correct answer once the call resumes wins them a prize.

Or, tailor-make announcements that make it clear you’re doing your best to solve the customer’s issues: whether they went through the “internet service” IVR menu or they’re there to “renew membership,” program your VoIP system to play an upbeat, service-appropriate message that makes them feel like they’re getting personalized care.

VoIP functionality actually gives you an opportunity to turn the on-hold experience into a positive customer service experience. So if you’re looking for a way to make sure the window of speech-free standing-by doesn’t slam shut, get in touch with us today and we’ll help you increase the odds that your clients hold the line happily.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
August 31st, 2016

2016August31_VoIP_BIt’s hard to deny how reliable Skype is as a VoIP telephony system. Having something good doesn’t mean you should stop at that; for the sake of your small- or medium-sized business, you should always be on the lookout for the next best thing that helps facilitate your company’s growth. Enter Skype for Business. We’ve compiled three main reasons why you should consider utilizing this tool as opposed to relying on its predecessor.

Cloud PBX

Skype for Business is designed for simple management, with Cloud PBX (public exchange servers) allowing you to store and transfer data via the Internet as opposed to a computer or other hardware that the end-user owns. With Skype for Business, you are able to easily record and store any audio or video conversation history. You can also store instant messages for future reference in a separate email folder.

In order for a cloud PBX system to work, it requires an IP connection or Internet phone for the necessary Internet connection. From there, you can access it through a personalized account from any Internet-enabled device capable of running the Cloud PBX’s interface. Your cloud PBX service provider is in charge of storing and managing all the data, meaning that your calls are connected to their recipients via the Internet. Your service provides “redundancy,” which backs up all your data in the event they were to get lost or corrupted because your computer crashed.

Expanded Capability

Over the past decade, webinars have become quite popular, mainly due to the fact that they allow important meetings to be held without having to converge at the same location. It’s like having a video chat with your friends. Whereas Skype allows up to 25 participants, Skype for Business accommodates up to 250. Other nifty features include:
    • Skype Meeting Broadcast - broadcast meetings for up to 10,000 people in large webinars.
    • PSTN Conference (or Dial-in conference) - allows attendees to join a meeting via landlines or cellphones.
On top of all that, Skype for Business is fully integrated with a host of other useful office applications. You have access to Microsoft Office (e.g., Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.), and you can share files with other participants throughout the meeting.

Enhanced Security Control

With Skype for Business, users have better security control through the authentication and encryption of private communications. So you have better access to guest accounts, and you can enable or disable certain call features to enhance communication.

Knowing which tools to utilize is vital to help you get the upper hand. By utilizing what’s best for you and your business, you won’t have to search for success; it’ll come looking for you instead. For any questions regarding Skype for Business and its functions, feel free to give us a call or send us a message. We’re more than happy to help you any way we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
August 15th, 2016

2016August15_VoIP_BVoIP has come a long way since the mid-90s when the technology first enabled phone calls over the internet. Thoughtful developments in telephony hardware and software have driven its growth, and enhanced internet functionality has been a key component, too. So as the internet continues progressing, will Voice over IP keep pace? And if so, how can your company benefit?

Before we check our VoIP crystal ball, we’d like to give you a quick rundown of what small- and medium-sized businesses get from a robust Voice-over-IP internet calling plan today:

  • Convenience - it’s easy to manage
  • Scalability - it’s even easier to expand
  • Economy - calls over the internet are cheap
  • Portability - access from anywhere with high-speed internet
  • Efficiency - attach emails, send efaxes, conduct virtual meetings, etc.
These are, in brief, the core qualities that make VoIP systems so beneficial to SMBs. But how will value propositions like these be affected by future telephony trends? Could advances in internet technology possibly have adverse effects on VoIP, or will the two continue moving in harmony?

Here’s a look at three ways we envision VoIP and internet coming together in the not-too-distant future.

The Cloud + VoIP

Many companies’ first step away from their traditional phone system is to a premised-based VoIP system. It’s a great option, but one that may not fully capture all the benefits of VoIP such as the lower expense and easy expandability.

A better solution, and the one that seems poised for preeminence in the future, is commonly referred to as “Hosted VoIP.” This translates to a “cloud phone system” that offers low upfront costs, lower maintenance costs, and the lowest hardware costs. Have you considered the potential for virtualization of your office environment?

Social Media + VoIP

Present-day online applications like Skype, Line, and WhatsApp - which deliver an internet-calling function as part of the package - are present-day syntheses of social media with VoIP functionality. In the future, perhaps through a service called a “chatbot,” this combination could transcend everyday personal use and make a big impact on small businesses.

Imagine if you could program a chatbot to engage interested customers through Facebook, “converse” with them via an automated Q&A session to find out their needs, and end by inviting them to connect with your CSR via video chat. A VoIP/CRM integration could easily handle it, bringing you that much closer to potential clients and closed deals.

IoT + VoIP

The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a term given to the variety of devices, gadgets, vehicles, and household products transmitting information over the internet. Think of data from earthquake early-warning systems delivered to first responders, or your bpm numbers sent from a wearable heart monitor to your cardiologist’s office.

The Internet of Things has the potential to coalesce with VoIP in many productivity-enhancing ways, such as by sending notifications from your calendar app to your VoIP interface; mobile-phone text messages can be programmed to drop into your VoIP mailbox; or GPS information can be used to automatically update employee statuses on their VoIP extensions.

You + VoIP

The future of VoIP may seem far away, at least as it pertains to its compatibility with the cloud, social media, and IoT. The reality, however, is that it’s actually starting right now.

So if you think your business would benefit from a cutting-edge VoIP solution, give us a call today, over the internet or otherwise.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 25th, 2016

2016July25_VoIP_BMost people have always assumed that a landline from the established local telco is what their office needs, but the new reality is that you have options. Now you can choose to make calls over the internet with VoIP (Voice over IP) and enjoy convenience, simple set-up, and all the features you’d expect from a traditional phone system, for less money. But what about call quality?

Phones are an absolutely essential aspect of any company’s communications arsenal. And after Alexander Graham Bell made the first coast-to-coast long-distance call in 1915, it was clear that this was technology that had the power to transform business. But as with all emerging technologies, there were some kinks to work out.

Those earliest phones had power and leakage issues surrounding the wet cell batteries; more recently, cell phones have had their failings as well, such as dropped calls and short battery life; and today, VoIP technology has to deal with some minor complications, too.

The keyword, though, is “minor,” and our aim today is to help you identify these relatively slight hangups and help you optimize an already superior telephony solution.

Voice Echo

It’s fun to hear your voice repeating throughout the high-walled canyon you’re hiking, but not so great when you’re having a quick chat on the phone. And while VoIP echo won’t totally disrupt your conversation, there are a few things you can do to reduce it such as adjusting volume and gain settings, upgrading your USB headsets, or even implementing VoIP echo cancellation software.

Static

Many VoIP systems use an ATA, or Analog Telephone Adapter, to convert analog voice signals to digital signals. This sometimes produces static during calls, with the culprits usually being incompatible power supplies or feedback from the phones plugged into the ATA. Easy fixes include unplugging/replugging the ATA and/or the devices connected to it, or switching to IP Phones which require no analog/digital conversions.

Choppy Voice

The main factor in disjointed, start-stop sounding messages in a VoIP environment is packet loss, which occurs if individual data “packets” are lost in transmission. When this occurs, the gateway at the receiving end of the call tries to predict what’s been lost, but when it can’t, the gap in data remains empty. With a simple tweak to your VoIP system’s bandwidth settings, sending and receiving voice data will become smoother and significantly reduce these interruptions.

Post-dial Delay

Commonly referred to as PDD in VoIP parlance, post-dial delay is fairly self-explanatory. It refers to a delay between the time the caller finishes dialing and when they hear ringing, a busy signal, or some other kind of “in-call” information. It can be a nuisance when, instead of the ringing being delayed, it never actually occurs and you suddenly realize that your call has been connected. This is actually an externality from a vital piece of VoIP technology known as SIP. At the moment the only solace we can offer is that its widespread nature means you’re not alone, and a solution should be coming along soon.

By now it’s clear to most SMBs that a VoIP phone system can benefit their business, even with the occasional delayed ring or scratchy call. Because what we’ve learned from previous telephony advances is that inconveniences like this are manageable; and we can help you manage. From VoIP planning to installation to optimization, contact us today for more information.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 8th, 2016

2016July8_VoIP_BTraditional mobile calling plans may not be heading the way of the dodo bird quite yet, but there is a viable threat to their existence. The challenge comes from VoIP, and while it’s only in its nascent stages, it is foreshadowing a dark future for Telecoms’ costly monthly plans, sometimes spotty call quality, confusing invoices, and questionable customer service.

In technical terms, VoIP is a broadband phone service that uses the internet instead of a public switched telephone network (PSTN) for things like voice calls and video conferencing. In simpler terms, VoIP stands for “Voice over IP” which is another way of saying “making phone calls over the internet instead of over traditional telephone lines.”

Here are some statistics on internet-based communications that really show where the trend is heading:

  • Telecom companies are losing an average of 700,000 landline customers per month.
  • Skype’s 300 million users spend an average of 3 billion minutes per day on calls.
  • During its annual stockholders meeting, Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that there are 15 to 20 million FaceTime calls every day -- and this was back in 2014.

Why the big numbers?

Surely you’ve noticed that you incur no charges when using an application like FaceTime for that quick face-to-face with your associate who’s away on business, or for the video conference with your clients who are stuck at LAX after a cancelled flight.

But phone calls for free aren’t the only advantage of VoIP. Many of us utilize it because it has features and benefits that make it a more attractive alternative to the phone company’s usual mobile calling plans.

Take the VoIP functionality in Apple’s latest version of its iOS operating system (iOS 10). Apps like Skype and Facebook Messenger are so well incorporated that they work just like the iPhone’s own phone application. Incoming/outgoing calls interface just like your regular phone, your contacts are fully integrated...You can hardly tell the difference.

So as consumers and businesses continue to recognize the benefits of VoIP and default to applications like FaceTime, Skype, Facebook, Line, or Viber for their calling needs, will conventional providers like AT&T, Verizon, Rogers, Bell Canada, etc. get squeezed out?

Can you ditch your legacy voice plans altogether?

It’s food for thought, and even if you don’t abandon them entirely, there are plenty of reasons to make broadband internet phone service a part of your day-to-day operations. And not only on your smartphones and other mobile devices.

Did you know that small businesses that change over to a VoIP network can save up to 40% on their local calls and up to 90% on their international calls? Or that a recent piece in PC World indicated that a business with 30 users on its calling plan saves nearly $1,200 per month when switching to VoIP?

Add in features like call recording, call-routing, conference call bridges, auto attendants, and virtual faxing and it’s easy to see why roughly 31% of all businesses now employ some type of internet-based VoIP telephone system.

So if you have a good-quality internet connection and you’re intrigued by the prospects of moving your business away from your local phone company’s services, we’re here to help. Call us today and together we’ll develop a robust VoIP solution that delivers cost savings, provides state-of-the-art functionality, and presents a professional image to the world.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
June 17th, 2016

2016June17_VoIP_BMost of us have heard of the wonders that VoIP can provide to businesses, cheaper telephony, more diverse functionalities and increased mobility -- but have you heard about the better access to customer data? As technology continues to connect us in new and exciting ways there is an endless supply of data to interpret. VoIP is no different, which is why we’re going to outline 5 innovative ways to make your VoIP data work for you.

Time/Date Data

One source of information that nearly any VoIP system should be able to easily access is time, date and duration of calls. As a small or medium-sized business, you probably work on a tight budget. Properly analyzing this data can be invaluable when deciding how many staff you need on the phones and on what schedule.

For example, you may notice that on Mondays you get a rush of calls in the morning, but by Tuesday afternoon the lines are dead. Just asking your employees when the phones are dead may work, but consider looking for more specific trends to better assign call responsibilities to your staff. You may find that there is a particular combination of time and day that simply doesn’t generate a need for anyone to work the phones.

The more agreeable the person on the other end of the line is, the more likely they are to vote for your company with their dollars. If you’re making outbound calls, pay close attention to when you see the most success. Everyone knows that no one likes to get a call during dinner time, VoIP allows you to take this one step further and find other stress points in your call schedule.

Location Data

Location data is also easy to track and a simple way to make your call strategy more agile. Understanding how purchasing or support habits differ between different locations can improve your marketing, customer service and client retention.

Ask your VoIP service provider about call-routing options so that whoever answers your phones is an expert on the area the caller is from. With the right amount of preparation you can help a client on the other side of the country as if your company was right around the corner, and there are few things as valuable as being helped by a local.

Customer Intelligence

Combining your VoIP services with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software opens up entirely new data points. How many times have you called a support line with an issue and have had to explain all of your history with the company? Even if you somehow did win the customer service lottery and got the same representative every time, the chances of them remembering you and your story are slim to none. With proper CRM integration, your VoIP system can route callers to the same service representative every time they call and provide your staff with a detailed support history.

Customer Habits/Personalities

Analyze client call habits and predict how to contact them and offer assistance before they even realize they need it. Does your data show that one of your clients generally calls once a week, but missed last week’s? Give them a call and check up on them.

If you want to really get in the weeds with your data, you can begin to match clients with your service and sales representatives based on ‘personality’ data. Data points like staff’s age, gender and average call time can potentially be used to route customers to the best possible representative.

Product/Service Trends

Whenever possible, tie data to specific products and services in each call and look for the most consistent patterns that result in a successful contact. If you notice that most of the customers that buy your flagship product come back and buy an accessory to it within three months, stop dumping money into marketing the accessory products during the original sale and trust what your data tells you. Follow up in a month and ask if they’re interested in that ancillary product.

You may be thinking that some of these data points were accessible with your legacy systems by simply logging the information separately. Tracking data that way is prone to user error and requires a pre-meditated plan. VoIP services track all of your data, all the time. Your SMB can easily view and analyze up-to-date data in no time. This agility and efficiency can revolutionize how you design your customer interaction strategies.

Do you feel like you could be getting a better ROI from your VoIP services by taking another look at your calling data? It could be as simple as better organizing your usage statistics, or as intricate as installing specialized analytics software. Regardless of how you want to go about it, we’re the ones to do it -- contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP