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April 3rd, 2014

VoIP_March31_BThe landline phone provided by the telephone company used to be the only option companies had with regard to communications. With the advance of technology and the popularity of the increased use of the Internet, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, was introduced. It has since become increasingly popular, with the majority of larger and many small companies now using this communication method. To determine if you should adopt VoIP in your business, learning about its benefits can help you in making your decision.

More affordable communication costs

Using VoIP services like users communicate to other users either for free or at drastically lower call rates than regular providers, as long as they are connected to the Internet.

Other VoIP services let you use your existing phones that are connected to the Internet to enjoy unlimited calls for a lower price compared to the per minute charge of telephone companies. These service providers offer different packages to choose from, many of which might suit the size of your company, your business needs, and your budget.

More affordable hardware and software

If you are having second thoughts about using VoIP because you are concerned that the hardware and software used would cost you a fortune, fret not. The vast majority of VoIP systems require little to no installation and many can run using existing equipment.

When it comes to the hardware, companies that choose to use VoIP through a computer need a working sound card, which your computer probably already has, as well as a headset or microphone and speaker, whichever you prefer.

Other service providers may also require the use of VoIP phones. The price of these phones is also not that costly and in some cases these phones might be provided by the VoIP providers for a nominal monthly fee.

VoIP supports multiple calls at the same time

A regular phone line normally only lets you talk to one person at a time. VoIP allows multiple calls, including conference and group calls, which is an important advantage to many businesses. This makes it easier for employees, management, and business associates to collaborate with each other and to communicate with clients.

It’s also faster for clients to connect with customer support. As a result, their concerns can be handled and resolved faster, which in turn improves the customer experience and strengthens your business relationship with them.

VoIP offers more features that traditional systems

Aside from supporting multiple calls simultaneously, there are also several more features that you can enjoy from using VoIP. These features may vary from one particular service to another, but the most common features include:
  • Fax
  • Voicemail
  • Caller ID
  • Call waiting
  • Call forwarding
  • Call blocking
  • 411 directory
  • Last number redial
There are also advanced features that some service providers offer, including call transfer, return call, speed dialing, SMS, and area code selection. Many of these features come included in VoIP subscriptions, which help keep costs of add-ons low.

These are just some of the reasons why you might choose to switch to VoIP for your business communication. If you have further questions about VoIP, don’t hesitate to give us a call. Our support team is always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
March 6th, 2014

VoIP_Mar03_BIt’s widely known how the benefits of having a VoIP system greatly outweigh the costs or of simply not having one. Not only are you able to utilize the great variety of features that it offers, but the fees are also usually very manageable too. The only question many have regarding VoIP is, whether they are getting the best system.

Consider these tips when choosing a VoIP system and you'll stand a much better chance of ending up with the best one for your business:

The cheapest ones aren’t always the best

Just like bidding for projects, you need to be wary of those systems that offer full services at incredibly low prices. Don’t be tempted with how low the fee might be, as in the long run, you might end-up with a system you're not happy with. You don't want dissatisfied customers because they won't be able to reach you, or a system that's not a good fit for your business.

A good way of going about this is to test the service to see if the quality is in fact on a par with what you’re looking for. Another factor to consider is how seamlessly the new VoIP system will integrate with your business

Think about what your phone system’s key roles are

When you have a clear idea of the “what”, your “how”, “when” and “whom” will be a lot easier to determine. This is where you determine what kind of features you’ll need your VoIP system to have. Consider whether you need voicemail, auto-attendant or voicemail to email capabilities (among many others). Once you have a clear picture of what you need, you’ll have a better idea of which package or provider to obtain your VoIP system from.

Review different packages

There are many packages that are packed with features, making them seem incredibly appealing. Don’t get carried away with how seemingly amazing these packages are though. Instead, focus on what your business needs are and stay within the bounds of these demands. There is no point in having unlimited calls to Canada or other countries when your customers are based in the US, for example.

Look for excellent customer support with an almost zero downtime record

Regardless of how seemingly perfect and tailor-made your system is to your business, if you’re experiencing a lot of downtime from your provider it just isn’t going to work. You need to do a background check on your provider to make sure that their system has a near zero downtime.

Another factor to look into is their customer support. You’ll always encounter situations where you have a question about the system, such as a technical issue or maybe even to ask about upgrades. In cases like these, your provider must have an excellent customer service so you know that your questions and issues are going to be dealt with properly and quickly.

Work out what the real costs are

Don’t just think about the package that’s being sold, think about the equipment you’ll need and the manpower needed to get the system up and running. As your company grows, you’ll have to add more users to your system too. You have to think about the costs relating to upgrades and purchasing add-ons.

If you only consider the upfront payment and neglect the upgrades, maintenance, and any other factors of operating with a VoIP system, chances are you might end-up spending more than expected.

If you are looking for the perfect VoIP system, then we can help. Contact us now for our expert advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
February 6th, 2014

VoIP_Feb03_BWhen it comes to business communication, VoIP can bring great benefits to the table. Not only is Voice over Internet Protocol able to remove the geographical boundaries that limit your business, but its cost saving potential (among many others) can help you immensely as far as optimizing your business. Many companies understand this and are looking at the numerous platforms that are available, some of which are free. The question: Does free equal better?

Here are four of the most popular free VoIP apps available and a look at what they can offer businesses.

1. Skype

Skype is one of the pioneering apps that revolutionized VoIP. As a leading VoIP app, It has a large user base, with about 50 million users logged-in at least once during January 2013.

This service lets users make free Skype-to-Skype audio and video calls, group calls, and instant messaging. But, if you want more advanced calling features like call forwarding, SMS messages, caller ID, calling landline or other mobile phones around the globe, video conferencing, and having your own Skype number, you are going to have to subscribe to a business plan.

2. ooVoo

ooVoo, another free app, offers the optimal basics like free audio and video calling services to other users, instant messaging, and even 12-way video conferencing, which can be great for individual users and small businesses.

The biggest downside to this app is that while it does allow calls to landlines and other numbers, you need to purchase credits or a premium account which can prove a bit expensive for many users.

3. Viber

Viber offers users free calling and instant messages to other Viber users and is one of the most popular VoIP services for mobile users.

Although Viber has already released a version for Windows and Mac, this app is definitely made for Smartphones. You need to have a Viber mobile account before you can use its desktop version. This is a good solution for individual users, but may not be the best option for businesses that need to make calls to landlines or non-Viber users.

4. Jitsi

Jitsi is a free open source VoIP program formerly known as SIP Communicator that is primarily written using a popular Java script. Jitsi supports multiple operating systems as well as a variety of internet telephony.

Aside from video calling, Jitsi also offers you the features of instant messaging, desktop streaming, call recording, encryption for calls, and file sharing. Jitsi's broad compatibility and powerful encryption support may make it seem like a great tool for business. However, because it is open source it could pose potential security risks and be a challenge to manage for your business.

Is free really better?

In all honesty, the free aspects of the services above will satisfy many of the communication needs of individual users. The problem is, that many businesses still rely on traditional landline style communication e.g., people calling the business. This means that you need a service that can port - transfer - your number from the old provider to the VoIP one, while also allowing others to call the business. Many of the free services don't allow this. What this means for your business is that you will be able to call people with the program for free, but others who don't use it likely won't be able to call you so easily.

The VoIP systems provided by IT partners like us however are designed for business use and can offer the same benefits as many of the free solutions - video calls, text messaging, etc. - along with the traditional phone requirements, only delivered through a digital connection and at a cost that is usually far below traditional landline subscriptions.

The other main problem with choosing free services is that they may not be able to handle a high volume of communication, largely because many of them are designed for personal or home use, rather than a business environment. Adopting the business features will usually require a paid subscription that could end up costing you more, especially if you subscribe on a per-user basis.

If you are looking to use one of the free apps above or are considering another solution, we strongly recommend you talk to us first. We can talk you through the process, and help ensure that any service is truly right for your business. Beyond that, we can also make recommendations for a system that will truly fit your business.

If you want to know more about VoIP, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
December 13th, 2013

VoIP_Dec09_BTechnology of any kind has become an important business component. While many companies are upgrading servers, virtualizing environments and even implementing the cloud, there is one function often ignored: The telephone and phone lines. One option to modernize older phone systems is to upgrade to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

If you are using older, more traditional phone systems, here are five reasons you should switch over to VoIP.

1. It offers more than just voice calls

Aside from offering voice calls, many VoIP programs also allow for video calls, video conferencing, and even screen sharing. For those who don't have a phone - say someone who is out in the field, or who is working in a noisy environment, many VoIP systems also have chat capabilities that are also integrated into the service.

In other words, they allow for a wider range of communication from one system and can really help with collaboration.

2. It's more flexible and scalable

Because VoIP systems rely on the Internet to send data and calls, they can be easily expanded. Adding a new line or number is usually as simple as clicking a button. If you have lines that aren't being used, you can also remove these easily too. This means that as you grow, you can easily scale VoIP connections and lines.

This level of flexibility and scalability is not easily achieved with older, more traditional phone systems.

3. The cost is usually lower

If you make a large number of calls in your business, or are calling long distance on a regular basis, you know that telephone bills can become a large expense, especially when you begin to add in extra features and lines.

With VoIP, you often get cheaper calling rates and lower monthly fees, which means you usually save money. Costs are also lower because you won't need to install new lines for each office or cubicle. As long as there is an Internet connection, you can often just plug an existing phone into an adapter and start making calls.

4. It's easy to set up

With many VoIP connections, there is no need to install extra wires, switching boards, or phone connections. Some systems can be installed by simply downloading an app to your computer. Other systems require that you install an adaptor to your existing phones that converts the analog voice signals into digital, before sending them over the Internet. These adaptors are small and usually all you have to do is plug the phone's cable in, then plug the adaptor into an Internet connection socket.

Many systems also offer Web or app-based management which allows you to easily manage everything related to VoIP. Because the management tools are light, you likely won't need to invest time or money into actually running the system, which is great for many small businesses.

5. There are more features included

When you use traditional systems you usually have to pay extra for features like call display, call holding, call forwarding, fax lines, etc. These are often features that businesses need, and having to pay extra for them seems at times nonsensical. Most VoIP providers, on the other hand, include many important features in their products, meaning businesses won't have to pay extra for them.

If you are interested in implementing a VoIP system into your company, contact us today to see what we have to offer and how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
September 27th, 2013

VoIP_Sep24_BVoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems have proven to be an incredibly disruptive technology. With companies of all sizes increasingly relying on these systems for their telecommunications needs they have become the go-to system. However, despite how great this technology is, there can be issues with call quality and delays. Experts usually attribute this to something called 'packet delays'. Are you familiar with this concept?

So what exactly are packet delays and what you can do to minimize any issues and ultimately improve the quality of your VoIP based calls?

What are packet delays? Before we look into this, it is a good idea to know what a packet is. In digital communication, data goes back and forth between a sender and receiver. This data can be anything from a file, information or even a VoIP call. In practice, this data is too large to actually send as one chunk. As a result, it is broken down into smaller pieces that are called packets.

These packets are then transmitted to the receiver and reassembled into the original piece of data. The time that these packets take to get from one source to another is called latency. However, because digital transmission lines can only handle so many packets at once, they occasionally become overloaded. This means it takes packets longer to get to their destination, causing higher latency, or in other words, packet delays.

When this happens, you will likely notice a drop in call quality, echoes and even delays.

What causes these delays? In a perfect world, all networks and VoIP systems would be able to essentially organize their packets so as to minimize delay and offer high quality calls with zero issues. Unfortunately, this is not possible all of the time.

Packet delays are actually a normal part of VoIP, and providers have integrated systems and buffers to minimize their impact, offering call quality on a par with, and often better than traditional landlines.

There are two main reasons why delays occur:

  1. Network connections - If there are a high number of users connected, or there is a high volume of bandwidth being used while you are also trying to use a VoIP connection, you will likely see a drop in call quality. Be aware that peak usage times e.g., working hours for businesses, may result in some delays.
  2. End systems - Sometimes, it is the end system - the system where the data packets are reassembled into data - that creates the delay. The cause of this is usually older equipment that lacks the computing power to handle fast connections and large data transfers.
How to minimize the effect of packet delays As the end-user of VoIP systems, it may seem like there is little you can do to actually reduce packet delays. This isn't true. There are actually several steps you can take to decrease delays:
  1. Reduce the systems between the connection and you - Generally, the higher the number of systems that have to code and decode packets the higher the chance of delays. If you are connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi, try connecting directly to your router or modem via a cable. This will drastically reduce the chances of delays.
  2. Try turning equipment off and on again - If you normally experience a high call quality, and are experiencing delays or low quality, try turning your computer, server or router/modem that the VoIP line is connected to off and on again. This cycle refreshes systems and may improve quality.
  3. Close other applications - Other applications that user bandwidth could be causing delays. For example, if a colleague is downloading a file via a P2P program, you may notice delays in Internet speed. This will affect call quality, so try turning other programs off.
  4. Work with an IT partner - Sometimes the problem runs deeper. For example, the cabling in your building may need to be upgraded or servers might not be configured properly for VoIP. Try contacting your IT partner to see if they can help spot and fix problems.
VoIP is a valuable communications system, and if you are looking to integrate it into your business, or speed up and improve the quality of your calls, why not contact us today? There will be no delay in us looking for a solution you might just need.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
June 28th, 2013

VoIP_June26_BFor many people, technology is incredibly complex and confusing, and often regarded as the domain of highly specialized experts. Sure, the vast majority of us know how to use a fair amount technology, but when it comes to understanding technology terms there are often blank stares. This is certainly true with regard to VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) which has some pretty confusing terms associated with it.

Here is an overview of the 10 popular terms you will hear regarding VoIP:

POTS - Plain Old Telephone System. This is the term applied to traditional or older phone systems that rely on analog (phone line) transmission. Many smaller businesses and homes still use this system.

ATA - Analog Telephone Adaptor. This is a small adaptor, usually about the size of a thumb drive, that you plug into a normal phone to allow it to connect to a VoIP network and send calls over the Internet.

PBX - Private Branch Exchange. The PBX is an internal company phone system that allows phone calls to different lines, with an answering service, automated menus, and voice mail, as well as call transfers, etc. Think of it as the system that controls everything related to your phones.

Bandwidth - Is the amount or volume of data that can be transmitted over an Internet or communication line in a given amount of time. It is measured in bits per second (bps) e.g., 100 mbps for Internet speed, and Hertz (Hz) for phone/analog systems. The higher the number, the faster communication will be.

DDI - Direct Dial In. Is a function of VoIP and some POTS, whereby a caller can directly call a phone on a desk instead of having to go through the PBX and answering system.

CTI - Computer Telephone Integration. This system allows your phones to interact with computers. An example is the ability to make a call directly from Outlook, or send voice mail to your inbox.

SRTP - Secure Real-time Transfer Protocol. This is a security protocol that many businesses and VoIP systems rely on. What it does is create a unique encryption code for each call, which makes eavesdropping nearly impossible, without reducing call quality.

QoS - Quality of Service. This is the ability of a VoIP network to deliver traffic with a minimal amount of downtime and the highest quality.

Find-me/Follow-me - This service can find you wherever you are, and forward calls to that location or the phone closest to you, such as a mobile or home phone.

IP Phone - This is another term applied to VoIP phones. This phone can convert voice into a digital signal called 'packets' which can then send the audio over an Internet connection. It can also convert digital packets of back into voice audio.

VoIP doesn't have to be confusing, especially when you work with a partner who takes the time to talk to you and ensure that you are comfortable with the system. If you are looking for a VoIP partner, why not give us a call to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
May 2nd, 2013

VoIP_May02_BWhile email has definitely become the most popular form of communication for businesses, there's still something about a good old fashioned phone call that email just can't convey. One of the most popular phone systems in use these days is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses an Internet connection to convey phone calls. Are you looking for a new phone system? VoIP may be what you need, especially since there are some great features your business could benefit from.

Here are five VoIP features offered by many providers that small to medium businesses will benefit from.

1. Voicemail/call forwarding Many smaller businesses simply can't be open 24 hours. This means that there will be time where you or your employees are unable to answer the phone. Most industry leading VoIP providers offer the ability to convert phone messages into emails, which could be a great help to your business.

A good VoIP solution will also provide you with a voicemail system and a feature called Find me/Follow me. This is a call forwarding feature that allows users to receive calls regardless of their location or phone number. This makes it easier for you and your managers to be reachable when they are outside of the office, especially if calls can be forwarded to their mobile phone.

2. DND DND, or Do Not Disturb is an important feature for those who work with clients on a regular basis. When you are talking to a client, the last thing you want is to be interrupted by a phone call as it can make you look unprofessional.

Many VoIP systems actually offer advanced DND features like the ability to send calls to voicemail, or transfer to another colleague who may be able to answer the call at the press of a button.

3. Conferencing You can pretty much guarantee that you will need to eventually make a conference call. Some managers and owners may even make this type of calls on a regular basis. The best VoIP systems go further than just supporting conference calls, they also enable users to send files, chat messages, collaborate on calendars, share presentations and even desktops. This is often called Unified Communications by many vendors.

4. Auto Attendant This feature gives your business a bigger footprint by allowing you to setup multiple numbers in local areas, and have a menu system like many large companies. This means you can setup a system where a caller can easily get into contact with different departments, or even a live operator.

Some users don't like this feature because they see it as an impediment to immediate customer service - think of the last time you had to navigate a menu system over your phone? It really comes down to the preference of your company.

5. Call Recording If your company operates in an industry that is regulated, you may need to record calls. Or, you may want to record calls to track customer satisfaction and questions. Regardless of your need, a good VoIP system will allow the user to easily record calls, often at the click of a mouse, and store them in an audio format that can be easily replayed later.

These are just five of many features offered by many VoIP providers. If you are looking for a new telecommunications solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
April 5th, 2013

VoIP_April03_BImagine the last time you were dealing with a frustrated customer over email. It can be hard to convey meaning through the digital medium, context is often missed. That's why a good old-fashioned phone call can do wonders. Traditional phone systems are a large investment, however there is an alternative: Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

The question many business owners ask is: Can it bring any benefits to my business? In short, yes, it can. Here are five benefits of VoIP.

1. Automation Most VoIP systems can be easily configured to route calls to numbers without the need of an expensive switchboard. This means that you could route calls to your mobile phone when you are out of the office.

Any good phone system offers callers the ability to leave messages. Some VoIP systems can take voicemail messages and turn them into emails, which makes it easier for you to track and reply to these messages.

2. Larger appearance Solid VoIP systems allow you to have different numbers that can route into one branch. For example, if you have a presence in four states, you can set a local number in each state and when users call, they are automatically routed to your office.

By having a local presence, many customers will think your business is bigger than it really is, and may be more trusting. Similarly, you can also assign numbers to different 'departments' that get routed to one phone. This is a great way of making your company seem bigger and more reliable.

3. Features With most traditional phone services, you have to pay extra for features like all display, extra numbers, call monitoring, etc. VoIP systems often include these features and more at little to no extra cost.

4. Savings As VoIP uses your Internet connection, calls are not geographically routed which means that a phone call that would normally be considered long distance, isn't on VoIP. This translates to lower phone bills. These systems don't require complex infrastructure and wiring that traditional phone systems do. Existing phones can be easily integrated into VoIP systems with a small piece of hardware, meaning you won't need to invest in new hardware.

5. It's scalable It is easy to add numbers and phones to any VoIP system. This means that when you hire new employees, you can quickly (often in as little as three minutes) and easily assign them a number and a phone at little to no cost. This means that as you grow, the system grows with you.

If you are looking to update your current phone system or save money, please contact us today. We may have the VoIP solution that fits your business needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
February 8th, 2013

Social media has taken as one of the major change agents to modern society. Its popularity has found over a billion people on one service, Facebook. Here people can connect with one another in ways previously unheard of, and it's Messenger app allows users to chat with with one another through its Messenger app. It's not surprising this platform is so popular and a recent update leverages VoIP to add even more functionality to Facebook.

In early January Facebook announced that they had started testing free calling to contacts over Facebook Messenger. This feature was tested in Canada for all users with an iPhone, and turned out to work well. So, in late January Facebook rolled this out to iPhone users in the US as well.

This new service uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, commonly found in many business's phone systems, to offer users in Canada and the US the ability to call other Facebookers using the Messenger app for free.

Calls can be made via your data connection or over Wi-Fi on your iPhone. No love for Android as of yet, but we are sure it's coming soon. If you use the Facebook Messenger app, you should be able to use it now. You can call other users by:

  1. Opening the app (or download, install and open it from here) and find the person you would like to call.
  2. Tapping on their name to start a conversation.
  3. Pressing the "i" button in the top right of the conversation windows and selecting Free Call.
The user you are calling will see a notification on their phone similar to the one when you get a phone call over your cell network.

Will businesses benefit? It's hard to say whether businesses will find this feature useful at this time. If your employees use iPhones, and are often in an area with poor cell service but a decent data connection, this is a free way to stay in touch.

This could also prove a good way to deal with public complaints on your Facebook page. You could encourage the person to take the complaint offline and talk to them, as long as you both have an iPhone.

In reality however, most businesses will likely not use this feature at this time. However, there is a good chance that Facebook will release more business oriented calling features in the future which could give you another way to contact clients.

What do you think? Will you or your employees use this feature? Let us know, and if you have any questions about VoIP, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General
November 16th, 2012

Landline phone systems are quickly going the way of the dinosaur, with companies having to have either digitized or leave the traditional phone behind. This digitization is commonly referred to as Voice over Internet Protocol, or simply VoIP. One of the most popular VoIP platforms is Skype, which is currently owned by Microsoft. Skype has recently been updated, which makes it a little less Skype and a lot more Microsoft.

A few weeks ago, Skype Version 6 was introduced which allowed users with a Microsoft account to sign into Skype using their account name and password and have access to their Microsoft contacts. This move, of Microsoft backing a non Microsoft branded product, was seen by pundits as an interesting one, but it works well for those who use both Skype and Messenger. It means you don’t have to have two programs to do essentially the same thing; communicate.

Last week, Microsoft announced that Messenger will officially be merged into Skype. This means if you use Messenger, you will have to switch to Skype. This should automatically happen the next time you update Messenger. This may seem like a weird move, but there are some great benefits to this merger that will make both Messenger and Skype more competitive. Some of the benefits to the merger include:

  • Messaging on more platforms - Skype is available for nearly every platform, which means you can communicate on nearly any device.
  • Central hub for communication - With this update, you can call phones, conduct video chats and use Instant Messaging all from one place. There is no longer a need to have 3-4 different programs open.
  • Group communication - If you are looking for a free platform that enables you to communicate with a group, say your team or employees, Skype allows for this.
  • Screen sharing - You can share your screen on Skype, which is ideal for giving product demonstrations, or even showing a PowerPoint presentation during a chat.
After you update Messenger or Skype, you'll be taken to the sign in screen and will be asked if you are an existing Skype user or a new one. If you are an existing user, you can click I have a Skype account and you’ll be taken to a new screen where you can merge your Messenger and Skype accounts. If you are new to Skype, you can sign up for a new account by pressing I'm new to Skype. Follow the signup process during which, you will be given the option to merge your accounts.

When you sign in and merge your accounts, you will see all of your messenger contacts synced and available under Contacts in the left-hand panel. Messaging a contact is as simple as double clicking on their name. To call you press the green phone button icon when you hover over their name. Alternatively, you can right click on the name and select either Call, Instant Message, Send Files, etc.

Skype is an ideal VoIP solution for light call volumes and inter-office messaging in small businesses. However, if you handle a high volume of calls, or are in a larger office, you will need a more robust system. If you're interested in a VoIP system for the whole office, regardless of if it's Skype or some other setup, contact us, we can help with that.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP General