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August 3rd, 2017

Your business can rely on hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service providers to ensure internet connection is always at maximum speed. But a fast internet connection doesn’t necessarily result in excellent VoIP call quality. When expectations fall short, business owners can get very frustrated and resort to upgrading to a fiber optic connection until the desired quality is achieved -- this may end up costing more. What can help is a dedicated circuit.

Landline versus VoIP calls

Landlines use ‘circuit switching,’ a method of connecting two or more parties via a dedicated channel, which ensures that the connection will be maintained throughout a call’s duration. On the other hand, VoIP calls do not require the same dedicated channels as landlines to function.

VoIP calls work by taking analog audio, converting it into digital data, and transmitting them via the internet in a process called ‘packet switching.’ Because transmission of data over the internet can be affected by traffic issues, VoIP calls without a dedicated connection may be choppy or delayed.

How does a dedicated circuit improve VoIP call quality?

With a dedicated circuit, you’ll have a designated line that connects your organization’s on-premises phones to your hosted VoIP provider’s off-site servers. Having this setup simply means your users will be able to make phone calls over a private bandwidth that’s not shared with other users.

When you use a dedicated circuit, you are bypassing the public internet. To do this, a VoIP provider uses Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) technology, a system that enables them to control the causes of poor VoIP call quality -- latency, jitter, inadequate router, and packet loss -- and ensure clearer, landline-quality calls.

Ideally, your hosted VoIP provider could offer this specialized service. Not only is a dedicated circuit setup cheaper than getting a separate connection intended only for VoIP, but it also reduces the workload of your IT staff because they would have to manage only one internet network.

VoIP providers’ well-kept secret

Although a dedicated circuit solves businesses’ call-quality woes, it’s a highly specialized service that only a few providers offer. In fact, many providers wouldn’t offer it upfront because configuring a circuit requires greater effort on their part. However, there are providers who would be happy to customize your VoIP settings without additional charges.

Internet telephony is fast becoming the default choice for business communications because they’re multi-purpose, technologically advanced, and cost-effective. Businesses can’t afford to stick to legacy phone systems if they want to stay competitive. Get in touch with us to explore a vast variety of VoIP options for your company.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 19th, 2017

When it comes to technology, Microsoft and Google have competed in almost every front. Both have made huge strides in machine learning, cloud computing, and productivity software. And in terms of VoIP solutions, both tech powerhouses are also neck and neck. Google’s Hangouts Meet and Microsoft’s Skype for Business have plenty of similar calling and video conferencing features; but depending on your company requirements, you may prefer one over the other.

Calling features While Hangouts and Skype both offer enterprise-grade security, 1080p HD quality video, and screen sharing capabilities, there are some slight differences. For starters, Skype for Business users can set up and record online meetings for up to 250 participants and broadcast meetings for up to 10,000 attendees. With call forwarding and auto-attendant features, Skype ensures you never miss calls and streamlines caller management. What’s more, it has Skype Translator, a plugin that instantly translates voice and text.

Hangouts Meets, on the other hand, supports up to 30 people per session and lacks broadcasting and voting capabilities. It does, however, have intelligent built-in features like auto screen focus and muting so that participants get the right amount of attention when they’re sharing ideas with the group. You can also invite participants to the call by simply sending the URL link of the Hangouts session.

Presence Hangouts sports a simple green circle to indicate that a contact is online. Skype offers similar features, but the difference is that you have more status options to choose from such as Available, Busy, Away, Do Not Disturb, and In a Call.

Integrations and add-ons Being a Google product, Hangouts has tight integrations with powerful G Suite apps, including Gmail, Sheets, Maps, YouTube and Google Calendar. With Calendar, Hangouts can schedule appointments and set call reminders within the app. Using YouTube, you can even broadcast your presentations live.

Meanwhile, Skype for Business is heavily integrated into Office 365. This means you can initiate calls with colleagues working on the same Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file. Outside of Microsoft, Skype also integrates with Slack and other unified communication solutions.

Price The biggest difference between Google and Microsoft’s VoIP product is pricing. Hangouts is offered with every G Suite subscription plan (Basic, Business, Enterprise), and usually starts at $5 per user per month. By comparison, Skype for Business can be purchased as a standalone solution starting at $2 per user per month. Keep in mind, those with Office 365 Business subscriptions also get all the Skype features listed above.

What works for you? Based on these features, it should be easy for you to decide which platform is suitable for your business. Hangouts is clearly built for startups and small companies that need a low cost communication solution. It supports only up to 30 people per call, and while its features are a bit limited compared to Skype, it does offer companies with fewer than 50 employees what they need.

In contrast, Skype for Business and its robust features are designed for small and large businesses alike. Of course, if you’re still unsure about either product, you should opt for a trial run and make up your mind then. Otherwise, contact our team today so we can recommend a VoIP solution that fits your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 10th, 2017

Facebook is like a Swiss Army knife, practical and featureful. But did you know that Facebook has hundreds of built-in marketing features that 1.8 billion users worldwide are mostly oblivious to? With that in mind, here are four Facebook features you can use to boost your SMB’s social marketing efforts:

Audience Insights tool This free tool is designed to help businesses learn more about their target audience. Audience Insights takes the guesswork out of identifying your customers by providing data such as geography, purchasing patterns, and even the Facebook pages they like. You can also use your existing customer database, Facebook page, or email list to learn more about your clients. Audience Insights help save a lot of time and money by determining whom you should advertise to.

Facebook Product Shops This allows you to sell your products directly from your Facebook page. After following these instructions, you can set up your product shop in just a few clicks. You can choose whether you want buyers to purchase directly on Facebook or whether you want buyers to complete checkout on your website. Consider running ads using the data gathered from the Audience Insights tool to target ideal customers and increase sales.

New Facebook Ads Facebook’s advertising platform offers endless combinations to create the perfect ad. It features numerous placement options that go beyond the traditional newsfeed. There are two new ad destinations that could help you reach new audiences:

  • Facebook Messenger ads - deliver a highly personalized experience by providing an opportunity for you to chat with prospective customers. You can answer questions or schedule appointments from the Messenger app.
  • In-stream video ads - despite being relatively new, this prime advertising space allows businesses to deliver 5-15 second mid-roll video ads within live and non-live videos on Facebook.
Facebook Live marketing Due to its rising popularity, businesses are looking for ways to incorporate Facebook Live into their social media marketing strategies. Here are a couple of tips to optimize Facebook Live usage:
  • Livestream pre-scheduling - this tool creates and pre-schedules Facebook Live streams, thereby boosting anticipation for your videos and prompting viewers to mark their calendars if they want to tune in.
  • Merge it with your Product Shop - this feature can be used on your Facebook page only if you’ve set up your Product Shop. When you mention your products in a livestream, you’ll be able to tag your products in the video, allowing viewers to access your Product Shop directly from the video.
In order to surpass your competitors, you’ll need to not only establish a strong online presence but also know how to leverage Facebook to your business’s advantage. If you’re interested in adopting a social media marketing strategy, feel free to give us a call or send us an email!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 30th, 2017

In this digital age, mobile connectivity is a top priority for personal and business users alike. 5G, or fifth-generation wireless systems, will change not only people’s daily routines but also the way small- and medium-sized businesses operate. Here are three main ways that 5G will change VoIP for SMBs.

Improved video conferencing The major factor holding web and video conferencing back is how fast current networks can transmit data. Fortunately, innovations like Web Real-Time-Communications (WebRTC) and 5G networks will enhance VoIP for businesses. Providing open and stable streaming as well as sufficient transfer speeds will soon allow businesses to accommodate higher quality, even 4K and 8K resolution videos.

Virtual and Augmented Reality With 5G network speeds, virtual and augmented reality will become more common for small- and medium-sized businesses. 5G will blow past 4G’s Gbps (gigabits per second) limit, which is currently holding back the adoption of VR and AR applications.

VR and AR need to process significantly more visual data because of the freedom of movement they allow, and this puts an enormous strain on mobile networks. 5G is also set to ensure a better user experience by lowering latency levels that simplify and smoothen daily business operations, preventing network delays from affecting your bottom line.

Mobile VoIP VoIP calls rely heavily on sufficient download and upload speeds. For example, when mobile VoIP users on 4G networks are limited to 12Mbps upload and 2Mbps download speeds, they experience unstable and poor call connectivity and clarity. These limitations could also lead to packet loss, which happens when one or more “packets” of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination, typically caused by network congestion.

When businesses decide to adopt the up-and-coming 5G network, businesses can expect to see significant improvements when it comes to VoIP. Ensure the success of your SMB with increased network speeds, better call quality and conversations with consistent connectivity. If you’re looking to set up a VoIP system for your business, call or email us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
June 13th, 2017

Customers can get frustrated over your support hotline, usually involving confusing call options, troublesome connections, or unhelpful representatives. If your phone system has problematic on-hold messaging, you’re likely to cause further annoyance to an already irate person. Solving their problems isn’t something that you can leave to automated voice messages, but it’s essential in most cases. Here are some ways to improve your phone systems and relieve your customers of more frustration.

Use professionally recorded messages

A small nuisance like minimal static might not cause annoyance, but an unprofessional on-hold message certainly will. Banking on in-house resources such as your employees recording your on-hold messages might seem cost-efficient, but the poor quality of the recording could backfire.

To avoid this, hire professional voice talents for your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. They’ll enhance your company’s brand by conveying messages in a professional, friendly, and pleasant manner. Professionals have impressive enunciation and exceptional voice skills, and they’ll record messages using high-quality equipment.

Keep callers engaged with pleasant on-hold music

Your company’s on-hold music should be relaxing, well modulated (not too loud or too soft), and on-brand. If you don’t have the right recording equipment, hire professionals. Otherwise, your message may end up sounding distorted and the recording may produce static. It’s a small thing, but it can spell the difference between keeping customers and driving them away.

Offer an easy way to speak to a person

To solve time-sensitive issues such as overcharged billing or an ongoing service issue, customers would rather speak to someone who can reverse a charge or file an urgent customer report. Businesses that rely too much on recorded messages that spin a complex web of voice prompts risk frustrating their customers.

Companies that deal with a large volume of inquiries can combine the efficiency of an IVR and personalized assistance by offering an option that lets callers quickly get connected to a customer service representative.

Provide clear, useful information

According to a study, 83% of customers prefer human interaction over automated channels when solving customer service issues. Nevertheless, IVRs offer an efficient way to dispense non-critical information such as business operating hours, special offers, and minor account updates.

Automated responses also offer an appreciable value to businesses that need to funnel their most important customer service calls into the right customer support channels. When deploying an IVR system, your on-hold messages should provide information that’s up-to-date, concise, and useful.

Some of these issues can be solved using advanced VoIP solutions that not only automate and upgrade your customer support functions, but also turn it into a superior messaging system that can appease unhappy clients. Call us now for VoIP solutions that will help you integrate these tips into your customer support system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
June 12th, 2017

The waitlist for Pinterest’s latest “DIY Promoted Pins” tool is proof of how eager small- and medium-sized businesses are when it comes to social media marketing. Establishing a solid online presence, promoting corporate content, and driving website traffic at the same time is every business owner’s dream come true. Here are some pointers to keep in mind.

Know your audience According to a study conducted by Ahalogy and AcuPOLL Precision Research, Inc., Pinterest is largely used by women, mostly “Millennial Moms.” If your typical customer demographic is predominantly male, your marketing efforts would probably be better spent elsewhere. But if your business caters to women between the ages 15-29, you should consider creating an online presence on Pinterest.

Think like a content marketer Users are looking for engaging content, which is why 59% of active Pinterest users go for Pins that lead to blog posts, articles, and even photos. The most popular topics on the platform are more visual (e.g., food, fashion, decor, etc.), so if you don't have highly visual content, then infographics, images from blog entries, and even photos of staff members also do the trick.

Look for inspiration Getting stuck in a creative rut happens to the best of us, so check out the boards that are saving your Pins to get some fresh insight. There's a good chance that people saving your Pins have related content that can help you gain insight into what your typical customer is interested in. Not only that, it also helps you identify trends and come up with new ideas for a marketing campaign.

Categorize your boards By creating and properly labeling multiple boards -- one for each of your products or services -- your users are able to engage not only with your general content but also with content they’re more interested in.

Determine posting frequency Excessive pinning might overwhelm or simply annoy your audience, but not pinning enough might cause followers to lose interest. Create a posting schedule and gauge audience reaction before making any changes to the frequency of Pins.

In order to surpass the stiff competition, you’ll need all the help you can get, and that includes social media marketing. If you have any questions about Pinterest and how it can help your business grow, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 30th, 2017

Amazon is using its Alexa technology to ensure success at its second attempt at internet-based telephony. The company’s newly released patent details a phone system that will use the voice-controlled technology of their Alexa-powered devices to make and receive calls. Here’s everything we know so far.

How it works

Amazon’s 3D-enabled Fire Phone was its first attempt at launching a smartphone, but it failed to set the mobile phone market ablaze. Based on the company’s recent voice-controlled phone patent, they are developing a smarter and more practical wireless phone technology, which will be integrated into their successful smart speaker devices, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.

The system will work by linking a mobile number to the Alexa devices, which would have a mechanism for notifying the user of incoming calls, answering calls via the smart speaker itself, as well as placing calls by giving commands to Alexa. What makes the Alexa-powered devices a compelling phone system is its ability to identify users based on a voice recognition system already built into the devices.

Note, however, that the mobile carrier would still be providing the communication service, with the Alexa device serving only as a medium, which is how most VoIP communications works.

What it means for your business

Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are attractive for their voice-control technology. Although they did not pioneer it, they integrated it with devices that allowed them to go beyond what other AI devices can do. The Echo Dot, for instance, is especially useful to those who use a variety of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, such as lights, switches, and TVs, to name just a few.

Its voice recognition capabilities are also a cut above the rest, being able to recognize voice and adopt your speech patterns the more you use it. It can also serve as an all-around assistant in a room or in any office setting, helping you check the weather, send a message, or provide calendar event updates.

As Amazon develops its voice recognition technology for its Alexa-powered phones, it can be expected that this same technology would make it a formidable home or office phone system that can easily find contacts, screen callers, or conveniently set up conference calls -- all by voice command. But as of now, Amazon’s patent is in the early stages of development.

There are plenty of communication options for your business, and although there’s nothing quite like the Alexa phones yet, there are plenty of viable substitutes that can suit your business’s communication needs. Call us today for VoIP option recommendations.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 16th, 2017

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is changing the way small- and medium-sized businesses communicate. Due to VoIP’s affordability and efficiency, VoIP distributors are selling these feature-rich phone systems like hot cakes. But before deciding to purchase one, you need to make sure your VoIP distributor has the chops your business is looking for.

Highly-trained technical support A good VoIP distributor will provide technical support both before and after the sale. But a great VoIP distributor will offer highly skilled, well-trained, and certified support. Make sure your distributor’s IT team has been trained on the latest advances in VoIP technology and has obtained the appropriate certifications.

Provisioning capabilities Provisioning means providing service to the user. This includes the hardware, wiring, transmitting the voice and data, and especially the final configuration. It can also refer to configuring the hardware and software in order to provide service. In other words, when a device is provisioned, it works. Ask your potential distributor how many stations and ports they have available, and whether or not they offer custom provisioning packages.

API services Check whether your VoIP distributor offers Advanced API services. Short for Application Program Interface, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that specify how software components should interact. It helps streamline your ordering process and ensures your hardware will arrive correctly provisioned on your service platform.

Training programs Before committing to any VoIP distributor, be sure to check their educational resources. How often do they offer webinars on new products? Do they provide training and educational material on their websites and product portals? Also, check whether your VoIP distributor will create custom training materials for you and your customers.

Remember, a VoIP distributor that offers a complete suite of telephony services helps you overcome your business's phone service obstacles and lets you better serve your customers.

For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 8th, 2017

In today’s competitive business environment, SMBs are constantly finding new ways to outdo one another. Recently, social media and content marketing strategies have become increasingly popular. But because many of your competitors are utilizing the same platforms as you are, it’s essential for you to find new methods to make your business stand out. These tips might help:

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Create buyer personas Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Track the impact of your content marketing When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media Businesses can utilize social media as a way to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of their content on your own channels. Not only are user-generated content more cost-efficient, they also shorten the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats A Twitter Chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It's like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplifies the whole process. It easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter Chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All small- and medium-sized businesses are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
April 27th, 2017

With the recent headlines on cyber attacks via Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP) eavesdropping, the safety of your communication systems is clearly at risk. As cyber criminals constantly find new ways to infiltrate your business, now might be the right time to implement the proper defenses for your VoIP phone systems. Get the ball rolling with these following tips:

Never deploy with default configurations Everyone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendors An ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren't for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllers Another tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP calls Many cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP network Another method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level
In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP