5 Pain Points Found in SMB VoIP Deployments

Sometimes small and medium-sized businesses focus too much on cost and not enough on deployment details.

In deploying VoIP, small and medium-sized businesses often experience pain points in five critical areas, Adtran found in examining its Custom Extended Services deployments. The troubles crop up for a variety of reasons, from poor equipment choices to shoddy installation work.

Is Somebody Managing the Switch?
Large enterprises may take managed networks for granted, but to many SMBs the concept of a managed switch doesn’t take hold until comparing a $119 stripped-down appliance lacking in features and performance to a fully managed switch appliance costing $1,000 or more. Throw in Power over Ethernet (PoE) and associated costs, and many SMBs will ask, “Why should we pay so much for a switch?”

In the answer to that is an old problem: value-added resellers (VARs) installing cheap retail solutions. While these “trusted” partners initially may garner kudos for providing low-cost deployments, they aren’t really helping their customers in the long term. Unfortunately, issues will eventually surface for any number of reasons, including when customers attempt to deploy VoIP, call recording, or a local server supporting voice recognition. Trying to troubleshoot a LAN without managed switches is akin to chasing your tail — and this can become very costly as VARs bill for time and material.

When installing managed switches back in the mid 1990s, we used to tell customers they had 10 days to cancel their orders. None ever did, because the managed switches resolved the target issues; business owners place value on solutions that address their problems.

During this same era, we had arguments with plenty of IT and non-IT people about ripping out hubs and replacing infrastructure with managed switches. Today, the argument spills over to managed vs. non-managed, with the inaccurate but deep-rooted perception that a switch is just a switch.

Got Enough Capacity on That LAN?
Insufficient bandwidth certainly impacts SMBs with streaming video requirements, but a sluggish switch is going to bog down performance for low-bandwidth applications, too. An unmanaged switch is going to allow havoc to occur on that customer network, and the ability to isolate core problems greatly diminishes.

When these off-the-shelf unmanaged switches are uplinked to other retail appliances, problems compound. “A switch is just a switch” — well, no, it’s not. This argument from the IT perspective isn’t only lame, it is ill founded. How much backplane bandwidth a switch supports matters just as much as which features it includes.

Making cost the key consideration is where many SMBs err. They shouldn’t be evaluating on price alone, but factoring in considerations such as productivity and ability to operate on a network with a degree of consistency. A user experience that involves constant rebooting as a “fix” is not a good one. A managed network can boost productivity, streamline business processes, and improve customer relationships.

You Really Think Your Cabling Infrastructure Is Ready?
In some cases, Adtran found that SMBs thought their cabling infrastructures were ready when they weren’t. It would find, for example, that materials in use were not appropriate for the type of job or environment. With such errors comes problems like reverse polarity; in general, shoddy work on cabling infrastructure can end up costing an SMB in repairs and lead to lost revenue and even lost customers. Yet, it’s totally avoidable.

portable

Sometimes I find cabling infrastructure that’s not just not ready, but a mess of old and new layers of cabling added in over the years. Different contractors touching the cable plant coupled with bad work or inferior or misaligned products spell trouble.

One of my favorite cabling anecdotes involves the men’s room of a certain establishment — its telephone connections are vulnerable and the work is shoddy. Even more importantly, who would hang a network interface over the men’s room door?

How Much Value Is in That Low-End Solution?
Customers cite the benefit of being able to log in to their IP/SIP telephone sets from anywhere in the world, but when it comes to logging into their LAN infrastructure locally or from any other location there’s a gap. Unmanaged LANs are troublesome and carry security and other risks. On the other hand, a managed switch can help an SMB meet compliance mandates and lock down the network and endpoint assets.

Many retail locations utilize low-end Wi-Fi to serve customers; however, these often uplink to unmanaged switches and a poorly secured LAN. These companies are putting themselves at risk and, when security issues arise, they disconnect and abandon the Wi-Fi. They utilize off-the-shelf products and, again, trusted partners or IT staffers throw in low-cost solutions that result in high-end problems.

The value of logging into a telephone is highly overrated; how often do employees really need this capability, and what are the real benefits of providing it? If the answer were to save on expenses for moves, adds, and changes, then I’d question that because most phones in most SMBs remain static for years or at least until there’s a turnover. Even then, some SMBs simply don’t manage or pay to manage these changes, and many users simply don’t care so long as they can utilize the desk phone for what they want to accomplish.

Got the Right Power?
Adtran found switch ports suffering damage and other issues caused by the use of local power supplies for endpoints. This timeless problem is completely avoidable, too. Local power bricks create the potential for a wired lightning rod of sorts. Investing in a centralized managed PoE switch that is power protected and backed up with an uninterruptible power supply pays off.

These issues are real, but some SMBs with whom I’ve engaged head on at times don’t fully understand the need to address them and the benefits in doing so — until they experience low latency and high availability after deployment. Adtran offers free pre-sales engineering services, including heat mapping for Wi-Fi deployments, and this should entice the many if not the few SMBs that move from off-the-shelf appliances and step into solutions that managed PoE switches offer.

Adtran has incorporated power protection into its Netvanta 1550 series switches to prevent damaged ports from the numerous transients that occur on LAN infrastructures. LANs and local power infrastructure married together equate to increased risk and loss from local power disturbances. Unless you mitigate those risks you will continue to have losses.

The was originally published on NoJitter. As a service to our readers-I thought to repost it here. Matt Brunk did a good job writing about this. Here is the link to the original post! http://www.nojitter.com/post/240170322/5-pain-points-found-in-smb-voip-deployments

 

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Five Major Phone System Trends of the Future

cloud scalable solutions

 

Growth in technology now happens in leaps and bounds, and it doesn’t take long for news to be old news. In order to keep up with trends of the present, know what is coming in the near future and avoid being left in the past.

 

Once just a platform for the most advanced companies, unified communications is now being used by small and medium businesses, education, hospitality, healthcare, and across other industries. And with every advancement, the standards to which phone systems must adhere raise a little bit higher.

Multiple devices

1) Mobile Access Emphasis

The expectation for constant connectivity, anytime and anywhere, is only increasing. As businesses continue to build in ways for mobile workers to communicate more effectively, platforms will need to continue to innovate and extend even more office applications to devices as they travel. From executive to entry-level, workers now demonstrate productivity through constant availability.

Visimeet video conferencing

2) Increased Web Real Time Collaboration (WRTC)

Communication barriers that had previously prevented true collaboration continue to disappear, as WRTC becomes the standard. Employees and clients can enter video and phone conferencing on a single platform and tools for group chats, screen sharing, and other collaboration allows companies to communicate better than ever before.

increased_security

3) Unified Communications

So many businesses of all sizes are using unified communications to cut costs and simplify their communications infrastructure. In the coming year, enhanced collaboration will be seen through improvements in unified messaging, presence, instant messaging, and web conferencing.

Smiling technician at work

4) Outsource Telephony

As IT departments become more and more overwhelmed maintaining network security, application development and other inner technology demands, businesses will look for systems that can maintain business phone systems for them. This will allow internal departments to focus on business-centric missions and will remove an unnecessary burden from the company’s time and energy.

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5) Social Integration

Still at the beginning of its importance, organizations will continue to learn how maintaining a strong social media presence can benefit their business, and what that even will look like. In the past, social media sites have been perceived as highly distracting, and it is only recently that companies have begun to see the benefit of integrating communications. Companies who find new ways to communicate instantly with social media sites via UC applications will find themselves at the forefront of this long-lasting trend.
The ability to realize and react to upcoming trends happening in your industry and affecting your company will set you apart as a business and open up new possibilities. And when it comes to communications trends and changes, it is especially important to be among the first to join the most cutting edge technologies and stay connected to the rest of the world.

 

 

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.

Hang-Up on Your Traditional Telephone System: 3 Advantages of VoIP

Along with adopting cloud services, many businesses are taking advantage of progressive technological developments to further save money and allocate resources elsewhere. By implementing Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), businesses are enabling vocal communication over the Internet, and reaping the many benefits of the system.

In essence, VoIP—colloquially referred to as Internet telephony—is a series of transmission capabilities that facilitate communication over the Internet. The technology converts voice vibrations to compressed digital signals, and then transfers them into regular telephone signals—thus, playing the part of a conventional telephone.

But enough with the tech talk. Here are three quick tips that illustrate why VoIP services will make you want to hang-up on your traditional telephone system.

Costs Savings

The most obvious—and arguably most attractive—feature of VoIP is the money you will be saving from the get-go. For starters, moving away from public telephone networks makes long-distance calling affordable. VoIP also reduces the cost of equipment, manpower, lines, and maintenance. Despite the initial setup costs, businesses save immensely by managing only one network and not having to bear the financial burdens of a telephony system. Gone are the days of needing a team to manage your data network and your voice network.

Flexibility & Mobility               

Sure, VoIP increases savings by lowering your businesses initial communication costs. However, it does so much more. Internet telephony enables users to access software programs—think common features such as email, fax, and remote conferencing—over the Internet. In short, users can utilize voice services while accessing other applications simultaneously.

And what’s even better? VoIP users can use their adapters anywhere that Internet is offered, including their mobile phones. This is mobility, people—and a feature that is proving to be extremely relevant in a workforce that has become more mobile and remote.

Approachability

VoIP requires very little technical knowledge. In fact, the installation process is simple compared to traditional telephones. With VoIP systems, businesses are no longer required to use separate cabling (which also greatly reduces clutter and fire hazards associated with electrical wires!). Once installed, VoIP systems are easy to maintain—after all, the transfer of voice to digital signals requires no specialized hardware. Finally, VoIP is scalable, meaning that it’s simple to add extra components with very little hassle.

Sound enticing? These are only a few of the benefits of switching to VoIP services. Much like transferring to the cloud, making the switch to Internet telephony is a no-brainer. For more information, contact us today. old phone

Understanding the Power of SIP Trunking and How to Harness It to Take Your Business to the Next Level

How can a communications protocol elevate your business? Consider the impact of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications and its ability to lower costs and offer powerful new business applications.  These two benefits alone are accelerating the adoption of IP based technology, also known as the convergence of voice and data, on a global level regardless of the size of company.   Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) raises the bar of IP by adding intelligence to business processes and providing both users and IT departments with greater control over their communications.

SIP is an IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force), internet-based protocol originally designed for call set-up and control.  According to the SIP RFC, the protocol defines how two or more end-points can negotiate to set up and control a communications connection that suits the capabilities of the devices and the needs of its users.  In simple terms, SIP supports any form of real-time communication regardless of whether the content is voice, video, instant messaging, or a collaboration application.  Additionally, SIP enables users to inform others of their status, their availability, and how they can be contacted before a communication is even initiated.

Many companies have made the transition to VoIP; however, most are only using it for communication on the LAN.  In this scenario VoIP is only being used as a one-to-one replacement for traditional telephony.  These businesses realize a sound return on investment by lowering administrative costs as well as costs associated with calls made within the company.  SIP trunking, on the other hand, provides a greater return because it takes VoIP a step further.  For instance, full potential for IP communications can be realized only when communication is taken outside of an organization’s LAN.  SIP trunks thus eliminate the need for local PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) gateways, costly BRIs (Basic Rate Interfaces) or PRIs (Primary Rate Interfaces).  Furthermore, it directly operates with existing IP PBXs so there is no need for additional hardware.
SIP trunking also offers a number of unique features that have a direct correlation on improving a company’s productivity.  These features include

  • Enhanced 911 Service
  • Disaster Recovery
  • 411 Directory Assistance
  • Interactive User Portal for setup and MAC’s
  • Multiple Location Interoperability
  • Long Distance Bundles available as well as A La Carte as needed
  • 800 Number

 

Essentially, SIP makes employees more productive, business processes more efficient, and customers more satisfied.  In today’s business world there are many communication channels, but with little or no integration between them.  This presents a guessing game for users and a problem for management.  SIP transforms communications into a single integrated tool determining how calls are handled and the manner in which they are routed.  Communication is the lifeline of every company and SIP gives users complete control.  As a result, SIP trunking has the ability to increase profitability and give businesses a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

 

The Big 2012 Communications Predictions: How Are They Faring

As a global leader inbusiness communications systems, Avaya takes its position seriously. That’s why at the beginning of the year, it gets its best thinkers together to make predictions about communications technology trends, service innovations and broad market drivers.

Now that we’re into 2013, Avaya decided to take stock and see which predictions have been on target and which have missed the mark. You can see the full report at http://www.avaya.com/usa/resource/assets/whitepapers/12CommunicationTrendsfor2012Update.pdf

Here’s a synopsis:

#1: Mobility raises the expectation of availability. There is no question about the accuracy of this prediction—but it probably didn’t go far enough. Mobility is no longer just about availability. In its mid-year update, Avaya notes that employees now expect the same features and functionality in mobile devices as they have in their office.

#2: Contact centers test the value of voice. This is true, but it’s turning out to be a bit more complicated. In its update, Avaya points out that in today’s customer service world, it’s not about pitting one mode (voice, e-mail, text, etc.) against another, but “offering the right channel at the right time.” This requires proactively determining what kind of experience the user wants. “Once you identify the preferred channels, you can focus energy and resources on making them — and the customer experience — great.”

#3Contextual data spans the last mile of personal productivity.  Contextual data is information about the communications, not the communications itself.  Having contextual data easily accessible, for example, lets you retrieve a dial-in number and passcode after being dropped from a conference call. Or lets you instantly see a list of participants with information about how you’ve interacted with them and the documents and other resources relevant to the interaction. Getting contextual data is happening, but perhaps not as fast as expected. “At this point, contextual capabilities remain in their infancy,” Avaya notes, “with promising prototypes surfacing in the marketplace.”

#4: Businesses advance from social media to social business. Despite Facebook’s troubled stock market debut, social media is still hot. In the update, Avaya points out that companies increasingly use social media not only as a listening post but as a springboard to action. Establishing a command center for monitoring and responding to social media is becoming commonplace.

#5: Social media and customer care enter into an arranged marriage. Not only that, but the marriage seems happy all around. Avaya notes that as organizations get their arms around social media/customer care alignment, it helps them put real legs on their social media strategy.

#6: The SIP bar is raised again. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the foundation for streamlining enterprise networks and extending advanced communications to small and medium-size businesses. As more SIP-enabled applications become available, Avaya sees more organizations abandoning a cautious, stepwise approach to deploying SIP.

#7: Social interactions expose customer care’s flaws. There is no hiding in the world of social media.  Avaya notes that companies are getting used to its rough and tumble dynamics and responding by creating a culture of openness that encourages employees to engage.

#8: IT support staffs converge, part 2. This prediction will never be NOT true. But Avaya notes that while the movement to bring voice and data staffs together continues unabated, challenges keep arising (e.g., how to deploy unified communications.) Facing these challenges, IT continues to proceed cautiously “perhaps too much so in the eyes of some users,” notes Avaya.

#9: Continuous connectivity drives communications support services. Raw connectivity is critical to support services, allowing vendor support teams to “swarm” a customer problem using real-time by video and other tools.  In its mid-year update, Avaya notes that some companies are also migrating to other approaches, such as managed services, total outsourcing or software as a service (SaaS).

#10: Clients take control of managed services. IT departments are becoming more discriminating in the managed services they purchase and asking tougher questions, such as “Are our IT operating costs predictable? Do we have the IT staff we need? Do we have the budget to invest in the infrastructure to meet organization expectations?”  Answering “no” to any of these questions can make a company a prime candidate for managed services.

#11: UC managed services/outsourcing facilitates alignment between IT and business units.  Yes IT and business units keep cozying up. More and more, they are conducting unbiased analyses to determine whether creating a solution internally or turning to a service provider offers better value.

#12: “True” UC apps proliferate. Expectations for UC continue to grow, especially as BYOD enables true UC applications on smartphones, tablets and other devices. But barriers remain, as conflicting technologies and approaches limit usability and adoption. At midyear, Avaya is counseling companies to “discount the hype and do the homework.”

Simplifying Video Collaboration for Everyone (Part 1)

Avaya made a number of important announcements at the Avaya Evolutions event in San Francisco about its Unified Communications and Collaboration portfolio. The press release is available here, but the purpose of this blog is it to offer some perspective on the announcements, particularly as they relate to the Scopia® video products.  

Avaya is driving toward enabling the mobile enterprise with easy-to-use, open collaboration solutions that work anywhere, anytime.

For the sake of clarity, it makes sense to break the announcements down into two categories: unified communications (UC) and video conferencing. Avaya provides the best of both worlds when it comes to UC and video. Some of the most exciting announcements have to do with the excellent progress Avaya towards the integration of these two worlds: For example, Scopia interoperability with Avaya Aura and integration with Avaya IP Office, the Scopia Gateway,and Avaya Client Applications (ACA) for Microsoft Lync.

The reality is that most businesses today have two separate networks—newer UC SIP-based technologies and separate H.323-based video networks. The good news is that Avaya offers investment protection regardless of which migration path a customer is pursuing—whether it’s moving from video to fully integrated UC or adding video to its existing UC solution. With this in mind, here’s a recap of the news for Unified Communications, we’ll tackle video conferencing separately (for pricing and availability, refer to the press release):

Unified Communications

  • Avaya announced that Avaya Aura® Conferencing with Avaya Flare Experiencewill now incorporate video conferencing capabilities. Avaya already had video on the Avaya Desktop Video Device (ADVD), and is now expanding it to Apple iPad, Windows PCs, tablets, and smartphones. But wait… there’s more… the cost per user remains unchanged when you add video to your Avaya Aura session. We think that’s pretty cool. And because Aura is a distributed SVC-based switched architecture for very high scale video collaboration, it utilizes up to 25 percent less bandwidth than solutions from other vendors.   
  • Avaya also announced the Avaya Client Applications (ACA)with Microsoft Lync, Outlook and Office integration.  ACA basically adds an overlay to Microsoft Lync and other systems, which enables customers to use their preferred user interface while connecting various platforms for point-to-point and multipoint video as well as other applications.

In summary, Avaya is enhancing its collaboration portfolio to simplify video conferencing, making it easy for people to collaborate by video virtually anywhere, anytime, using any device and over any platform.

Why You Need to Take Tablets Seriously

Six months ago, Microsoft gave its imprimatur to the tablet craze by introducing Surface™  and making a rare foray into hardware manufacturing.  Does the endorsement of the enterprise software leader mean that tablets are here to stay as an enterprise tool?

Yes—but Microsoft’s entry just adds to the momentum.  Tablets for business use have taken off. The form factor, the easy swipe and flick interface plus the rise of more cloud-based services are all coming together to drive the tablet juggernaut.

Forrester predicts sales of 375 million tablets in 2016 with business users accounting for a third of all purchases. (http://blogs.forrester.com/frank_gillett/12-04-23-why_tablets_will_become_our_primary_computing_device) Already, according to Forrester, about 25% of computers used for work globally are tablets and smartphones, not PCs.  In December 2010, a survey by Citrix found that 13 percent of respondents already considered the iPad “mission critical” for their jobs, and an overwhelming majority said their organization grants them access to corporate resources on the device. The software company SAP AG has distributed about 14,000 tablets and plenty of other businesses are following suit.

Tablets are cannibalizing the PC’s domain. When the only option was a PC, you used a PC for everything. Tablets are simply better for some things:

  • Quickly accessing information
  • Entering very limited amounts of data (e.g., complete service orders )
  • Routing data
  • Delivering presentations
  • Working in groups—sharing information
  • Sharing information, such as with a colleague or a shopper on a storeroom floor
  • Conducting videoconferences and online meetings with remote workers and road warriors

Many enterprise vendors have begun to offer tablet versions of their software. Brand names like SAP, Oracle, salesforce.com and MicroStrategy are just a sampling of the vendors now openly offering iPad versions of their solutions.

Vertical markets are also playing a large role is embracing tablets.  Adobe Digital Marketing Insights found that tablet users spend over 50 percent more for each transaction at an online retailer compared to smartphone users and 20 percent more than traditional computer users.  (http://success.adobe.com/assets/en/downloads/whitepaper/13926_digital_marketing_insights.pdf)

Health care is another example. In the highly mobile hospital environment, information is shared faster and people stay in touch more easily. Practitioners with an application on their tablets can more easily and quickly handle alerts, test result notifications and stat requests. They can instantly see who is available at any time and contact them.

Finally, demographic changes are behind the shift to tablets. For digital natives – just now entering the workforce – using a tablet for many tasks just makes sense.

Analyses of early adopters of iPads in business show a shift in usage patterns. For example, according to Gartner (http://www.gartner.com/id=1724634), a large sales force that deployed iPads discovered that people were spending 20% more computing time total per day when they used a tablet, a smartphone and a laptop than if they were using a smartphone and laptop alone. Laptops were relegated to less-frequent (but longer) sessions, and users were reaching for tablets frequently throughout the day.

The transition to tablets in the enterprise is not without its speed bumps. Security is an issue. Apple’s iOS still isn’t as tight as the fated BlackBerry. iTunes does not make widescale corporate deployments easy. In Here Come Tablets, Here Come Problems (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203986604577253162552946038.html) The Wall Street Journal recounted some of the problems businesses have encountered, including:

  • Tablets not being rugged enough for some situations
  • Traditional computer programs that won’t work on tablets
  • Documents sent from a computer to a tablet ends up losing some key characteristics

These and other challenges have to be overcome. But the widespread nature of these problems—coming so soon after tablets have hit the market—are themselves evidence of how pervasive and critical tablets already are in business.

For more about how today’s mobile devices are helping to drive a new wave of innovation, see the Forrester whitepaper–Mobile Solutions Connect Information Workers To Collaboration And Innovation Processes at  http://www.bulldogsolutions.net/Avaya/knowledgebase/AVA1042/BCL%20-%20Mobile%20Collaboration%20-%20Mobile%20Solutions%20Connect%20Information%20Workers%20-%20Mar%202012.pdf

For a good example of the kind of mobile app that’s helping to support new levels of mobile collaboration, see this brief demo of the Avaya Mobile Collaboration Solution for Small and Midsize businesses:  http://www.avaya.com/usa/VideoPlayerInLine.aspx?CurrentPath=/master-usa/en-us/resource/assets/videos/sme_mobile_collaboration_demo.flv&htmltrigger=video-overlay

Get Ready for Industrial Strength Wi-Fi

It started in a section of the radio spectrum known as the “garbage bands.” Then came standards, a catchy name and in 1999 Apple made it an option on its flashy new iBook computers.

Today Wi-Fi is one of the most successful examples of consumer technology invading the workplace. It’s well on the way to becoming a dominant networking protocol, on track to carrying the same amount of IP traffic as wired networks and rapidly taking its place in the mobile world. The vast majority of tablets and smartphones today are Wi-Fi ready.

Wi-Fi is also rapidly shedding its reputation as not being industrial strength. It’s actively used by military and public safety agencies in applications that demand stringent performance and security. Utilities are giving Wi-Fi a core role in smart-grid deployments. The fact that all of these agencies often have access to reserved spectrum, yet turn to Wi-Fi, is a huge endorsement. Wi-Fi’s performance, functionality, choice of interoperable devices and cost-effective pricing all remain compelling advantages

In an era of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in the workplace, WiFi’s time has come, with major enhancements poised to significantly increase how it is used:

  • Wi-Fi devices that comply with the 802.11ac standard will use the 5GHz band to achieve speeds of at least one gigabit per second.
  • For very short distances (i.e. from a laptop to external storage) the 802.11ad specification at 60GHz will allow speeds of up to seven gigabits per second, matching USB 3.0 wired speeds and potentially making many of the cables we use today unnecessary.
  • 802.11 – 2012—the first full revision of the Wi-Fi standard since 2007–promises more integration with both wired and mobile networks, holding out the holy grail of the seamless handoff from one to the other. Carriers in the U.S. welcome this as a way to use Wi-Fi to offload data traffic and even supplement coverage footprints.

As the power and utility of Wi-Fi increases, so do expectations and requirements for deploying it. For most businesses, this means implementing Wi-Fi with scalability in mind, knowing that 5GHz speeds are just around the corner. According to a recent Gartner study, by 2015, 80 percent of newly installed wireless networks will be obsolete due to a lack of proper planning. (http://forwardthinking.pcmag.com/show-reports/289313-gartner-why-enterprise-wireless-is-not-ready-for-the-mobile-explosion)

Wi-Fi deployments with just a few access points (APs) were fine when laptops were the only Wi-Fi devices in the enterprise and users were stationary. This is rapidly changing as employees increase their use of smartphones, tablets or other mobile devices designed to be used on the move and/or while conducting some task (e.g., visiting a patient). The Gartner study also found that, without out an effective plan, enterprises deploying iPads today will need 300 percent more Wi-Fi just to be effective. The demands of real time voice and video traffic will increase the pressure for scalability even more.

For more insights into getting your network into shape for the era of BYOD, take advantage of the Avaya whitepaper: “BYOD and the Wireless Revolution” at https://www.avaya.com/usa/registration/byod-and-the-wireless-revolution/