Unified Communications for the New Year

As mobile technology and remote accessibility continue to evolve, businesses, their employees and their customers now have a variety of devices, media types and communication platforms to choose from when building or growing their mobile workforce. While these different technologies and platforms provide effective communication on their own, full efficiency cannot be achieved – both technically and financially – if there is a lack of integration among them. As a result, the demand for multi-device connectivity to enterprise systems has grown substantially.

So, how do you meet these expectations to increase productivity, quality and efficiency for a modern workforce? Unified Communications, of course.

Bridging the Gap

Unified Communications bridges the gap between VoIP and other computer-related communication technologies. Through the real-time integration of both voice and data networks, business are able to manage every aspect of their communications in one entity, versus several – including the integration of email, voicemail, instant messaging technologies, fax, Short Message Services (SMS), web/video conferencing, screen sharing and more.

Through these real-time collaboration features, UC not only empowers people to communicate and make decisions at the rapid pace that is demanded in today’s business environment (users can save up to 20 minutes per day,) but it also reduces common communication barriers, such as the need to return missed calls and manage multiple email threads.

UC also provides businesses with the flexibility to choose and tailor the amount, and what types of communications platforms they would like to integrate, depending on what works best for their specific needs.

Consolidated Communication Tools on any Device

With UC, users can communicate with colleagues and customers from a business VoIP number on any device, including smartphones, tablets, PC desktops and desk phones, regardless of location. This means that personal numbers can be kept private, and communication delays are eliminated.

Integrated Voice

In UC strategies and solutions, hosted voice and Internet-delivered telephony services can be integrated. Hosted solutions, such as Hosted Voice, are becoming an increasingly popular choice as more companies adopt VoIP communications due to its inherent cost savings over traditional telephony, as well as the added convenience of fully managed services. These communication and collaboration features speed up almost every aspect of the business cycle, as well as provide workers with more freedom and flexibility in how they communicate and manage their communications.

Additionally, UC’s hosted voice services are a cost-saving, feature-rich, and scalable alternative to traditional and expensive phone services and equipment. With features such as self-service call routing, voicemail transcribed as email, call recording, and audio conferences, supporting a more mobile and productive work style is easily achieved.

Supporting the Needs of a Changing, Mobile Workforce

Having the ability to communicate and collaborate in real-time, no matter where you are, is advantageous for businesses of all sizes. From reduced total cost of ownership and travel time, unparalleled freedom, flexibility and productivity enhancements and more, UC solutions are an efficient way to embrace and benefit from the mobile, multi-device work style of today’s workforce.

 

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The True Pros & Cons of VoIP for Your Business

Over the last several years, great strides have been made to improve communication capabilities through Hosted Voice over IP (VoIP) solutions—a series of transmission capabilities that make communication over the Internet possible. This cloud-based phone system not only provides significant cost savings and superior flexibility, but also offers businesses of all sizes productivity, mobility and functionality features that are unmatched by traditional telephony.

What is VoIP?

VoIP converts analog audio signals into digital data, which can then be transmitted over the Internet. Implementing a VoIP system eliminates the pressures and costs of managing and maintaining a PBX, while giving your employees enterprise-grade features and other common features, including:

  • Voicemail
  • Call waiting
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Call forwarding
  • Visual voicemail (voicemail to email transcription)
  • Simultaneous and sequential ring
  • Audio conferencing
  • Auto attendant
  • Call Recording

Additional features are also available that allow users to specify how incoming calls are routed and/or forwarded, ensuring no important calls are missed. Furthermore, employees can make and receive phone calls on their cell phones through various mobility features through the VoIP business number. This means that VoIP long-distance calling plans can be utilized while working remotely, even from a mobile phone.

Scalability and Flexibility

Utilizing VoIP means that even as a company grows, there is no need to worry about installing new phone lines. Instead, businesses can use their existing broadband and simply purchase new handsets as needed.

In addition to scalability, the flexibility of VoIP is also a unique benefit. Since VoIP phone systems work through computer-to-computer connections, users can make calls and hold conversations anywhere there is an Internet connection. In addition to audio calls, VoIP also allows for video conferencing, meaning businesses can stay in touch with their employees or clients, regardless of their location.

Cost

When it comes to cost, VoIP is a winner. Most VoIP services are offered through a subscription-based cost model, allowing businesses to purchase only what they need, and then allocate funds that would normally be spent on traditional phone expenses to other parts of the business. Additionally, VoIP runs on the same network as the data, versus traditional phone packages that require businesses to manage separate networks and hardware for voice and data. This not only brings considerable cost savings and streamlines management, but also delivers more efficient communications.

Reliability

While VoIP can certainly increase productivity, efficiency and collaboration efforts, reliability is a common drawback – especially if you frequently experience downtime or hiccups with your Internet. These types of issues can cause users to experience latency, jitter, and packet loss during VoIP conversations. Doing your home and finding the right provider for your business needs is crucial in guaranteeing reliability.

The Bottom Line

When considering VoIP services, it’s important to understand how a service provider manages quality of service across their network, how features compare, if and how voice traffic is prioritized, and what kind of post-sales support you’ll receive. For more information, contact us today.

 

The Right Tools Make Switching to VoIP Easy!

You’re the IT Manager. It’s a big job. Servers, routers, and firewalls, budget cuts and smaller staff.  And then the CEO tells you they have just purchased a new IP phone system and you find yourself switching to VoIP. The sales manager is excited about the unified communications YOU will provide her team. Or maybe the CIO heard about Microsoft Lync and is thinking about using it for IM and presence.

Where do you begin? Can your network handle the additional traffic? Is that traffic any different from the email, web and other application traffic that exists now?

When it comes to switching to VoIP, there are some questions you’ll need to answer. Questions like:

  • How many calls does your organization make a day? A Week? A month?
  • Do you have a busy time of year?
  • What is the highest call volume you have in a 30-day period? When is that usually?

Don’t have the answers to these questions? Then it’s going to be a slow and bumpy ride.

Is it Really Any Different?

The answer to the question asked earlier is, Yes. The VoIP call traffic is different from the email, web and application traffic you already deal with. It’s persnickety and more sensitive to network interruptions.

Luckily, there are tools out there that can make the life of an IT Manager a LOT easier when switching to VoIP. Looks for tools to assess your current phone utilization, test your networks ability to provide quality VoIP calls, and allow you to monitor changes to network performance as the new system is deployed.switching to VoIP

Answering that first question of what does your network look like now can be tough. Where do you start? Do you have a call accounting system that can pull numbers for you, like number of inbound, outbound and internal calls per day? Could you ask your VAR or carrier for a traffic study? They’ll usually do it over a week and let you see things like total calls, trunk utilization and so on. Then, based on the codec you’ll be using with the new system, you’ll be able to calculate how much bandwidth you’ll need based on your current traffic patterns.

Once you are ready to choose a system, you’ll want to decide who runs it? Do you and your team answer alerts? Does your VAR? Or is it a combination based on severity, type of alarm, etc?

Find a vendor with a support system you are comfortable with. Ask questions like how much training is available? What type of training is it? Is there a charge?

System optimization is made possible with performance monitoring reports that help ensure that you continue to deliver quality of service and system performance.

The more work you do upfront to get things under control the easier life will be. You’ll look good. The CEO looks good. Win win.

If Space is the Final Frontier, what about China?

My colleague, Steven Weiss, is with China Telecom. China Telecom is the largest telecommunications provider in China. With 80% of China’s local access and transmission facilities and ChinaNet, the largest internet backbone in China, their network solutions are core foundations for business growth. I asked Steve to write some posts for us about the nuances of working in China. Here is his first post…

 

Space the final frontier… we still have a while until it is a viable place for commerce.  So, why not China? The air is slightly more breathable and there are plenty of people to build or buy your products.  With over 1.3 billion people, even a small hit for a product there would be a huge hit for any company.  In addition, relations with the US and China have never been better and continue to go in that direction.

Why not open up an office or a plant in China, purchase some internet and start growing your business like you would in most other areas of the world?  With the upside, there really is no reason not to.  China is poised to surpass the US in the next few years to become the world’s largest economy.  Although the GDP growth is slowing it was still 7.7% in 2013 compared with 1.9% for the US.  China has over 19% of the world’s population.  From 2000 to 2012 China’s middle class has grown from 4% of urban households to 68% and is continuing on that trend.  Middle class people make good money and spend most of what they make.  Selling your product to just .3 percent of the population would mean that you have put it in the hands of 4.2 million people.  Because of the government, the language and the culture, however, it is not that simple. It does not have to be that complicated either.  Like many things in business it comes down to making well advised decisions.

If you are currently doing business in China you have probably become aware of “The Great Chinese Firewall.”  This is not typically a big deal for traffic within the Middle Kingdom but when you are accessing content outside of China on an internet VPN it can range from excruciatingly slow to not working at all.  In addition, depending on the services and applications you use, you can be subject to whether or not the application provider is in the good graces of the government.  For instance, Google and China have differing views and because of that, Google’s products have been very limited there.  Just recently, Gmail was completely blocked in China and is slowly coming back up.  If you leverage Gmail and other Google products to run your business and are looking to do business in China, it is probably best to look at some alternatives or speak with someone that consults on such things to advise on how to get it to work.  The same rings true if you use YouTube (owned by Google), Facebook or other social networking sites in your day to day business.  If your employees will need access to these sites there are ways to do this and provide a good user experience.  The bottom line is the Great Chinese Firewall is something to be aware of but it does not mean that your internet access and the ability to leverage the applications that you depend on needs to suffer.

 

Small to Mid-Sized (SMBs) Businesses Deploy Mobile Workforces to Increase Sales and Productivity

 

According to a Cisco study, the growth of the mobile workforce has evolved from startups to enterprises and 3 out of every 5 workers say that they no longer need to be located in an office in order to be productive. With clear benefits in reduced rent costs, flexibility in scheduling, reduced employee commute times, environmental friendliness, improved employee morale, results-focused productivity and enhanced accountability, it’s no wonder that managers and employees alike are embracing the notion of the mobile workforce.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to embrace the idea of a remote workforce is that there is finally the capability for business owners to properly manage telecommuters through recent advances in technology. Also, the functionality of such technologies has matured to the point where they are reliable, simple and scalable.

One such feature that is quickly rising in popularity is called presence management. This technology enables a manager the same functionality as if they were in the same room as a remote worker, without actually needing to physically be there. Presence management technologies monitor employee location, track laptop activity, share availability and enable instant messaging for quick collaboration. In fact, presence management has gotten so precise that it can actually notify a manager when a remote worker has left his or her desk, is on the phone, or has taken a break to go to lunch. With managers constantly within an arm’s reach for assistance, this advancement completely eliminates the frustrating element of “phone tag” inherent in antiquated telecommuting environments.

Many of today’s businesses operate with a central folder on the Local Area Network (LAN) which stores all of the businesses key documents, spreadsheets, presentations and files. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one that enables remote workers to access all of the exact same files as if they were sitting at their desk in the office, through a secure and safe remote connection. With VPN access, remote workers can instantly collaborate with in-office or out-of-office coworkers, since they all have the same documents at their fingertips.

Furthermore, telecommuters can now leverage Desktop Optimization Centers (DOCs) which monitor, manage, enhance and fix remote laptops or desktops with ease. For example, regardless of location, an employee can call into a designated customer service line and get immediate assistance with any technical issues that arise. In fact, DOCs often solve computer issues much faster than in-house IT staff because of the inherent scalability associated with these firms and sheer number of technicians available. For example, if a computer crashes during an installation of new software program, an employee simply calls the technician and the technician remotely connects to the off-site computer and resolves the problem right in front of the employee’s eyes.

Lastly, call accounting, call forwarding and caller ID features have absolutely vital use-cases in the work-from-home environment. Sales managers can utilize simple call accounting software to track employee outreach, see how long employees spend on the phone, number of calls, and screen calls all the way down to specific words that are used. So, if a salesperson is never supposed to say “free,” a manager can know how many times that word was used. You now can have a remote workforce that essentially functions “under the same roof,” enhancing the customer experience. To the outside world, calls will sound the same to the end user whether that call is being answered at an employee’s home or in the boardroom.

When you have the same level of technology in the home office as you do in the corporate headquarters employees are able to save time on their daily commute, business owners can scale the organization more effectively by adding staff and everyone involved can enjoy increased flexibility and productivity. Now, business owners can leverage the talents and skill sets of people all over the world and it is our role at Prime Telecommunications to provide the technology and the guidance to get this accomplished.

Mobility in the Cloud: 5 Reasons to Make the Switch

With the increasing number of smartphones, tablets, and mobile devices proliferating the tech world, businesses are grappling with the question of how to incorporate these new technologies into their operations. Rather than outfit entire workforces with company-owned tech, BYOD (bring your own device) initiatives are integrating employee-owned, personal hardware into day-to-day business functions.

While proprietary software and unified communications systems can fully integrate all devices into the daily workflow, the practical problems of large-scale IT management begin to raise red flags. How does a company manage mobile devices, apps, and security on a network that includes both corporate and employee-owned devices? The answer is often overlooked: cloud mobile management.

Below are some advantages to a cloud-based mobile device management system.

1) Device Options: With such a broad array of mobile devices on the market operating on various platforms such as Apple’s iOS, Android, and Blackberry, it’s important that IT management solutions can cover each platform equally. Cloud-based management solutions can support all operating systems, offering a company flexibility and diversity when choosing hardware and software.

2) Rapid Deployment: Cloud-based MDM services can be rolled out faster than ever. This allows companies to deploy management services almost instantly rather than the weeks or months required for a traditional MDM system. Policies and access controls can be put into place and calibrated with easy, no-fuss configuration.

3) Single Console Management:Management of a broad range of hardware devices typically requires multiple control consoles, often requiring extra deployment time and longer development windows. With cloud-based MDM, all operating systems can be monitored and managed through one console that can be regularly updated to account for new developments in mobile technology.

4) Instant Updates: As the pace of new technologies quickens, the ability for mobile IT systems to shift at a moment’s notice is the new forefront of managed mobile systems. Traditionally, IT responses to software and OS updates can lag days, or even weeks behind. With cloud-based management, providers can update their services almost in an instant, allowing for real-time support that stays abreast with ongoing developments.

5) Adjustable Payments: Unlike fixed-fee MDM systems, cloud-based services allow companies to adjust their payment plans as they grow for optimum scalability. With convenient cloud systems in place with single console monitoring and easy updates and rollout, consistent IT resources can be devoted to any growing company, no matter the size. The efficiency and usefulness of a cloud-based MDM is unmatched.

Cloud mobile device management is the comprehensive and up-to-date answer to the widespread technological advancement occurring around the world. With complex software and communications systems keeping businesses running, Cloud MDM allows companies to run smoothly and focus their attention where it matters: on the customer.

Want to know more? Get your head in the cloud! FREE eBook

Learning how to Create Use Cases for Video Conferencing

I sat at my computer yesterday with my cloud video conferencing mentor, Dan Marchetto from Iocom. We were talking about the best ways to implement cloud video conferencing in organizations. It comes down to the “use case” more than the technology. A “use case” is just that- what are you going to do with the service once you get it. Think of it as a compelling “Why?” or “What are we seeking to do with the technology? What need does fulfill for us?”. Each organization has different needs- generally based upon industry. Therefore, you can look within your work flows specific to what you do and where you do it to look for efficiencies. I thought this was logical and fascinating. Being the web researcher I am, I immediately set to work to explore this further. I found a great paper from Frost and Sullivan from 2009 that describes this. Here is an excerpt from what they wrote: (five years later, still very relevant)

Use Cases for Videoconferencing

The best way to derive value from any technology is to use it in places where it will make the biggest difference within the organization. Videoconferencing is no exception. There are many key use cases for the technology— areas of business where using it will significantly reduce costs and/or increase productivity. Let’s look at a few of them in step two of our five-step process:

 

  • Training is a clear case where videoconferencing can save companies money, and their employees times and By using video to train everyone from salespeople to support staff to every employee who needs information on benefits and enrollment, companies can save money on travel and facilities costs for the attendees and trainers. They can also limit the time people spend in training to the event itself, meaning that a three-hour training session will take three hours, not 12 (or more, is flying is involved). That, of course, allows attendees to go back to their day jobs that much sooner. Using videoconferencing for training also allows benefits the trainers, who no longer need to fly around the country (or the globe) to teach. That ensures they can spend more time on prep and follow-up, and reach more people in the same amount of time. With videoconferencing, who gets trained doesn’t have to be determined by location and costs; now, everyone who could benefit from training can get it, without leaving the office.

 

  • Employee and recruiting interviews can be held via videoconferencing, allowing companies to reach out to more candidates, since location no longer Also, those candidates can speak with more people within the organization, without incurring travel costs for them or the interviewers.

 

  • Product development teams benefit from videoconferencing in two ways: The technology allows them to communicate and collaborate better, since video lets participants read body language and facial expressions; and it allows them to show team members parts, components, materials and other physical objects that relate to the particular product in development—something that would otherwise require an in-person

 

  • There’s a reason high-level managers and executives spend so much time traveling: Strategic planning and budget creation require open discussion and trust—two things that are best done when you can see the faces and body language of the people you are working But with videoconferencing, they can achieve the same level of intimacy without having to leave their offices, reducing the wear and tear that comes from extensive travel, freeing up time for more productive activities when they’re not in meetings and, of course, saving even more money on travel than the average employee.

 

  • The increasingly virtual workplace offers any number of benefits, but one thing gets lost in the translation: Team It’s tough for employees to develop deep and lasting relationships when they rarely see each other and communicate mainly via phone, e-mail and chat. But videoconferencing can change that, by making it possible for team members to see each other on a daily or weekly basis. Simply making that visual connection makes contact more personal—and that makes it easier for people to work together, because they feel like they actually know the people they are working with. That, in turn, makes it more likely that they will share information and skills, supporting each other throughout the work day and for the overall benefit of the business.

 

  • Finally, while some customer and partner engagements require a live, in-person meeting, many don’t—but they will benefit from the visual connection videoconferencing Just as employee relationships are deepened by videoconferencing, so, too, are those with customers and business partners.

The paper from Frost and Sullivan is a good read. If you want to download it- please click here.

 

If you are interested in actually trying this out, please click here and I will give you a 30 day free trial of Visimeet to develop your own use case with!

 

 

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Telecommuting and video conferencing go hand in hand

Do you enjoy the benefits of a remote working arrangement? The number of people “modernizing” the traditional workplace and looking for flexibility is constantly on the rise. Technology has started addressing the changing workplace needs and preferences. Telecommuting and video conferencing go hand in hand, allowing for real-time interactions between coworkers, professionals and clients, as well as business representatives and potential partners.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 3.3 million people in the US telecommute and their number is growing all the time. These professionals represent 2.6 percent of the US workforce. The number of individuals who consider their home to be their primary workplace has increased by nearly 80 percent since 2005. Telecommuting grew steadily during the recession and when it comes to self-employed individuals, nearly 80 percent are telecommuting.

How are video conferencing solutions like video conferencing  those brought to you by Prime Telecommunications through IOCOM Visimeet addressing this prominent trend? Telecommuting professionals get to benefit from it in a number of distinctive ways.

Enhanced Communication

Getting engaged in face-to-face communication with someone can make it easier for a professional to judge the situation, offer adequate solutions and make the most of the interaction.

Body language is a crucial part of business meetings. Hearing the voice of a person or carrying out communication in the form of emails will be insufficient to assess these fine nuances of human behavior and their meaning.

Video conferencing bridges the gap between people that want to do business together, yet lack the opportunity to meet in real life. Taking cues from body language can make the communication much more beneficial for both parties involved and lead to the tailoring of solutions to individual needs and preferences.

Team Spirit and Corporate Efficiency

Many people that choose telecommuting feel somewhat isolated from the team. Video conferencing solutions make it easier for such individuals to feel a part of the whole and to become actively engaged.

In addition, video conferencing enables real-time conversation. This possibility streamlines corporate processes and gives employees opportunities to use their time in the most rational way. There could be significant delays when it comes to email communication or other indirect methods of delivering information. Seeing each other and discussing vital issues at the same time enables all parties involved in the process to gain awareness about their responsibilities and to get started with the most pressing tasks at hand.

Productivity can be boosted across the team if video conferencing technology is used on a daily basis. This virtual meeting gets to replace the traditional staff sessions used to do planning and come up with an agenda. The efficiency will be as high, as the one achieved during an old school face-to-face conversation.

Time Saving

The use of video conferencing technology leads to saving a lot of time in terms of commuting and getting to meet with clients or business partners that work in a distant part of town, another city or another country.

Long-distance travels can lead to a lot of wasted time that can be used for the completion of much more important tasks. In addition, such business trips can be a truly expensive endeavor for startups and small companies. As a result, many professionals are opting for affordable and efficient possibilities like video conferencing . The results of such virtual meetings are the same as getting to meet in person, minus the wasted time and the transportation costs.

Telecommuting employees will boost their productivity by saving time and the entire corporate structure will benefit from the manner in which their business day is organized.

When should We Meet?

Virtual meetings can be scheduled at times that will be convenient for both parties involved. Getting to communicate efficiently may be a challenging task for professionals that live in different time zones. Sending emails will lead to serious communication gaps and delays in task execution.

Video conferencing enables the two parties to communicate to each other at a time that is convenient for both. It could be evening for one professional and early morning for the other but the virtual meeting that takes place in the comfort of one’s home or office will simplify and enhance the communication.

Many self-employed individuals and other employees that rely on telecommuting do work with clients in different countries. A virtual meeting becomes their primary communication tool and the option that helps them get started with the project quickly and that leads to quick clarification of questions or addressing of problematic issues.

Virtual meeting technology like video conferencing brought to you by Prime Telecommunications and IOCOM VIsimeet is becoming increasingly affordable and accessible. As a result, the number of telecommuting professionals that rely on such possibilities to do their job is growing. The examples mentioned above are just some of the ways in which video conferencing enhances telecommuting. There are various other important advantages that deserve to be mentioned and these include easy accessibility of the platform, the ability to get back to work soon after injury or a medical problem, a chance to work in informal settings and flexibility that enables a wide range of professionals to rely on such solutions

 

 

 

 

 

Orginally posted by Julia Writer on http://www.trainingzone.co.uk/blogs-post/ways-which-video-conferencing-enhancing-telecommuting/187760.

Why Not Just Use Skype for Business Video Teleconference? Let me count the ways!

I came across this post from AGT. I thought it would be beneficial to repost it.

“Why not just Skype?”

Being a video conferencing solutions provider, we get this question a lot. And to be frank, why would you not use Skype? It’s easy to use, well-known and for the most part, free. While all those characteristics are ideal, Skype is ripe with limitations when used as a business tool versus a consumer tool. In this post we will dig into a quick comparison of Skype and business video conferencing services.

Point-to-point vs. Multi-point

A key difference is simply what each solution is designed for. Skype is optimized for point-to-point audio and video calls, which means it is designed to support two computers and two participants. You have probably seen the Skype ads showing a traveling working mom or dad speaking with their child back at home (I have to admit, those ads get me every time.) On the other hand, video conferencing is optimized for multi-point calls, which means multiple parties on multiple devices can participate in a single call. While I do not have a TV spot to reference, imagine your weekly sales meeting where you have a few co-workers in a conference room at the headquarters, a couple of people working from home on their laptops, and an executive calling from his personal Telepresence system – all in a single call.

Interoperability

Fortunately, video interoperability has made tremendous strides over the past two years. Thanks to smaller vendors breaking barriers, there are video conferencing services that can interoperate with standards-based video conferencing systems, in addition to a wide variety of video-enabled devices, such as tablets, smartphones and desktops. Unfortunately for Skype, their users can only connect with other Skype users and cannot connect to your traditional video conferencing equipment.

Bandwidth

Skype requires a significant amount of bandwidth. A five-way Skype video call, which is the maximum number of participants Skype recommends, requires four times the bandwidth of a business video conferencing service. The substantial amount of bandwidth required for Skype calls can reduce or interrupt critical network performance since the Skype video traffic cannot be prioritized through the use of Quality of Service (QoS) settings. This leads to a degraded network and meeting disruptions, such as choppy audio, frozen video and dropped calls. Administrators and end users want to avoid these scenarios at all costs.

Advanced Features and Reporting

Since Skype is designed for consumers, it only offers basic features. Business video conferencing services include advanced features, such as streaming and recording, multiple screen layouts, full conference controls and real-time reporting.

Security and Control

All you have to do is Google “Skype + security” and article after article will show the security vulnerabilities associated with Skype. Business video conferencing services make security and control a top priority. Seamless firewall traversal, video call encryption, conference controls and real-time management of bandwidth are just a few capabilities that businesses should consider when seeking a video solution.

Support

Last but not least, support services are unavailable for Skype users. There is no one to contact when a problem arises. Business video conferencing services offer a wide variety of help desk and onsite services to ensure a high level of customer service.

In conclusion, Skype is an excellent tool for keeping in touch with long distance loved ones. If you are seeking a solution that requires secure video communication, low-bandwidth and interoperability across multiple platforms and participants, I recommend a business video conferencing service.

What about you, what do you use for your business video communications?

Want to know more? 

KEEPING YOUR PHONES RINGING DURING A BUSINESS RELOCATION OR EXPANSION

Moving or expanding your company office can be a source of tremendous stress and upheaval — but it also offers an opportunity to upgrade and improve a variety of office features, including your telecommunications system.

Many businesses find that they have outgrown their phone system long before they outgrow their office space. When planning a move to a new or expanded office, it is important to examine all aspects of your telecommunications needs — number and location of phones, voice mail, structured cabling, voice and data integration — to ensure that your new system responds favorably to your present needs, and will be able to expand to accommodate future growth.

There are a number of vital considerations to help you plan effectively for a phone system relocation or expansion with the most important being — selecting the right partner to guide you through the process. By choosing a leading telecommunications provider your company can turn a stressful situation into an easy transition eliminating any interruption to your business. However, selecting an inexperienced partner will cost your organization time, money, and possibly some of your customers.

The following check list will help you through the relocation or expansion process so you can make sure you’ve identified the right company to keep your phones ringing with no interruption in service:

• Select A Telecommunications Provider With Experience, and Rely On Their Expertise. You should elect to work with a provider that has expertise at the installation, expansion and relocation of corporate phone systems. Does the provider design and install communications systems using the latest technology, including the integration of your office computers with your phone system. In addition to installing your phone system, will the provider consult with you on how your business can maximize your communications effectiveness?

• Communicate Your Expectations. Ask your communications provider to assist you in thinking your plans through on paper first, ensuring that the proper phone configuration is agreed upon prior to installation. Make sure that the provider will work with you to effectively implement any needed changes to your existing system, including adding voice mail or upgrading the phone switch. Be sure to obtain an accurate indication of the time requirements needed to make changes to your system.

• Design Now and Save Later. An experienced telecommunications partner will take the time to review your facility and electrical drawings, which will aide in developing a game plan. They should provide you with design input, space planning and a communications layout for your facilities’ entire structured cabling infrastructure. This should include drawings of specific technical components such as the equipment room, telephone system, voice mail, server configurations, overhead paging and music, wireless IP, and Internet access.

The key is making sure your provider builds a compact, easy-to-manage, centralized equipment room, which acts as the hub for your business. Ideally, you should receive a design that is flexible and one that can expand as your business grows. Poor designs will cost you every time you call your provider when you need to make even a minor change to your system.

Properly designed and implemented in the blueprint stage saves having to retrofit and issue change orders later, which can be extremely costly. Leading companies do not charge for consultative services or design input. This is something to think about as you select a partner.

• Set A Realistic Move Date. If you want to eliminate headaches give yourself considerable time to plan ahead prior to your move or expansion date. Unexpected events almost always cause delays, and your business will function more smoothly if your move occurs when everyone is ready, instead of in the midst of a last-minute “scramble.” You should work closely with a telecommunications systems provider to help you set a realistic schedule for your phone system implementation. This will allow you to alert your customers and vendors of any anticipated phone number changes well in advance of your move date.

• Prevent an Interruption in Service.For many businesses, the early installation of phone lines, Internet access and new equipment may be critical to having dual service and to providing your customers with uninterrupted service during the entire move. If your provider waits until the last minute to switchover and does not have a plan to provide redundant service then you know something is wrong. An interruption in service can have a lasting impact on any organization.

• Don’t Let Anything Fall Through the Cracks.You should contact your communications system provider and give them advanced notice prior to your move to schedule a complete analysis of your present and future phone needs. Due to the highly competitive nature of local, long-distance, and Internet service, this additional “shopping” time can result in substantial savings. A reliable partner will walk you through this process identifying areas to save money, especially if you find yourself pressed for time.

Finally, make sure you redirect all of your local, toll-free, and fax numbers. Order this work to be done far in advance of your move, because it is vital that this important service be fully operational on Day One in your new facility.

Selecting the right telecommunications partner can make a world of difference when taking on the challenge of relocation or expanding your current facility. Choose an experienced provider that can set up a game plan for you and give you a sense of security that the transition will be a success. Leading providers will eliminate any unforeseen headaches and make what could be seen as a daunting task an easy one. If you don’t, your business could ultimately be in big trouble.