Using SIP Phones with Hosted VOIP

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by Tiffany Torbert — Tiffany is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

voip colorsEveryone knows that you can connect any phone to a hosted VoIP line, right? But what advantages does connecting a SIP phone provide? There are actually a number of them.

It might be natural to think that your work is over once your enterprise has made the decision to go with hosted VoIP. After all, VoIP can run nearly entirely in the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about keeping the resources around to manage the telephony services in-house. This alone can take a load off your mind. And it’ll certainly make life a lot easier for IT. At the same time, though, your employees will still be using their same old desk phones for their telephony needs. And there will be critical decisions to be made in this area — and I don’t mean simply who your hosted VoIP provider will be.

One of the decisions you’ll have to make will be which SIP phone you’ll want to use in order to complement your VoIP service. After all, all SIP phones are not made the same, as some people might have you think. If you do think this, then you might miss out on some critical features that might not be apparent until after your purchase. In order to assure this does not happen to you, here’s three key attributes of SIP phones that you should look for when you’re planning your move to hosted VoIP. They’re based on my extensive research.

  1. Ensure Compatibility with Your VoIP Provider

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s interesting how many times I’ve seen this one overlooked. Surprisingly, though, it’s a complex topic. The main gist of it, though, is that the VoIP service and the SIP phones are going to make up an entire single unit working together. They’ll be a holistic telephony solution, if you will. There are a wide variety of VoIP providers to pick from, and they all have many different features. At the same time, not all of the SIP phones are certified to work with all VoIP providers. So you need to do some homework beforehand in order to be certain that both of them working together will give you the features that you think you must have. If you don’t do this previous legwork, you will risk selling yourself short. At best, you’ll be undermining your own investment in the SIP phones and hosted VoIP; at worst it simply won’t work.

  1. Provide a Quality Experience

SIP phones are about delivering the best parts of VoIP to your workers, more than anything else. When using hosted VoIP, getting a dial tone reliably should be a given. You also shouldn’t need to worry about network management or connectivity. Since VoIP service is pretty much a commodity, the real distinctions are drawn at the endpoints, where the workers interface one-to-one with VoIP directly.

Legacy telephony has actually set the bar for quality pretty high, so VoIP audio quality has to be even better on a consistent basis. Its core feature set also has to be easy to use. If you try and go the inexpensive route — low-end phones that have poor audio quality — your workers will quickly notice, and soon become disenfranchised. To make sure that this does not happen, the SIP phones you choose should be able to use the high-quality G.729 codec. If you want to shoot even higher, for high-def. audio, then look for the G.722 wideband codec.

Simply put, if the SIP phones you invest in do not provide a quality experience, your workers will move on the other modes of communication that do. They’ll use mobile devices, or PC-based VoIP, perhaps — thus completely invalidating your investment in hosted VoIP.

  1. Fulfill the Needs of Your Employees

The workforce of today is frequently mobile and certainly always-on. Legacy telephony fails to address these needs, but it is exactly these sorts of things that VoIP addresses. As far as SIP goes, you should look for Power Over Ethernet, which uses any broadband connection to provide direct network connectivity. With this technology, any location can be utilized by a worker; they’ll get all of the same calling features they’d have at their desk.

Although SIP phones do not offer any mobile functions outside of the office, you can use DECT-based cordless SIP phones to serve the needs of those employees that need to be away from their desks but can remain on site. DECT phones offer a long range and a signal that doesn’t interfere with Wi-Fi. Another use case might be that of desk-based workers whose primary task is working with the phone, such as call center agents. These people would love to have headsets that have good audio quality, are comfortable, and are easy to use.

But not all SIP phone dealers will stock headsets. And not each third-party headset is going to be completely interoperable with every SIP phone. Specifically, you need to also evaluate the merits of cordless versus wired headset models. Cordless models offer a greater range of movement, yet be aware that there are two different types — DECT and Bluetooth. The former has a significantly greater signal range.

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

how-to-change-web-hosting

Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

hybrid

Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

Find the Right Internet Service Provider for Your Business

Finding the right Internet Service Provider (ISP) is critical to the success of your business, and with so many options to choose from, the task can feel quite daunting. In addition to the variety of providers, there is a multitude of different deals, offers, and promotions that are created to compete for your business. So which is right for you? Below is a list of the 5 “S”’s you should focus on when researching Internet Service Providers; Scalability, Security, Services, Support, and Symmetrical.

1. Scalability: Be sure that the ISP is able to scale your service as your business grows. Your internet demands will increase as your company develops and become more active. Having a provider that can easily adjust to meet your needs is essential. Some ISPs use technology that is not easily customized, such as DSL, so it is important to inquire about the technical capabilities of a provider before you commit.

2. Security: Question the level of security that the ISP is able to provide. Your company information and data is important, and you want to be sure that your ISP is able to provide you with a secure connection. However, it is crucial for your company to do what it can to increase security, such as installing a firewall, in order to obtain the highest level of protection.

3. Services: Finding an ISP that is able to provide a variety of services, such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), is highly beneficial. This will allow for your business to cut costs by obtaining all your services from one provider. It is also advisable to ask about their customer base; are they serving residential customers as well? Or only businesses? If they are providing service to residential customers, it is likely that you will be competing for bandwidth during peak periods. A slow internet connection during these times will hinder your employee’s productivity and impact your company’s bottom line.

4. Support: Most ISPs offer a service level agreement (SLA) that outlines the performance and support terms, such as up-time guarantees and support availability. You should also examine their communication practices. If you have a problem that isn’t related to the technical aspect of your service, who would you call? Do they have a dedicated customer service team? How does the ISP communicate any planned or unplanned service interruptions? These are all things that you should examine while researching ISPs.

5. Symmetrical: Businesses are now uploading data as well as downloading, so it’s important to have an internet connection that is symmetrical. This feature is growing in importance as cloud computing continues to increase in popularity. As previously stated, it is important to find an ISP that is able to match the growth of your business. Although you may not be uploading a lot of data at the start, it is likely that the amount will increase as your company develops. Having a symmetrical connection will allow for your company to upload its data to the cloud quickly and efficiently.

The success of your business is the most important factor, and finding an Internet Service Provider that is able to support the growth of your company is imperative. Reviewing these 5 S’s while researching ISPs will help you find a provider that is right for your business.

Next week, we will be discussing the different types of technology used to provide internet services to assist you in discovering which method is best for your business. Learn about fixed wireless technology now by clicking here.  

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Protect Your Data in the Cloud with Endpoint Security

Keeping vital and confidential information secure is a top priority for a vast majority of businesses. On the other hand, it is important for companies to implement current technologies in order to evolve and grow. One of the most recent large scale technology movements has been the development of cloud technology, which allows for users to upload their data to a virtual environment.

Undoubtedly, this innovation was welcomed by many businesses as a result of its ability to save on costs and offload the tasks of upgrading, running, and maintaining IT services to a web-based service. However, some businesses are concerned about the security of their data once it is uploaded into the cloud. Other companies have rushed the implementation of cloud technologies without having a full understanding of it, which can put the data they have uploaded at risk.

Recently, the most publicized example of a cloud security breach occurred when Dropbox users suffered a spam attack. The security breakthrough happened after a Dropbox employee member had his personal e-mail account password stolen. The hacker then used that same password to gain access to the employee’s Dropbox account, which had a document containing the e-mail addresses of several Dropbox users. Those email addresses were then used to send an abundance of spam messages to accounts used by Dropbox users.

Even though the users of this particular cloud provider had their security compromised, that does not mean that the technology should be avoided. The benefits of cloud technology far outweigh any associated risks, especially if additional security measures are implemented. There is also the option of using a private cloud versus a public cloud. A private cloud has the ability to provide a virtual location that is more secure than a public location, which is ideal for companies that possess sensitive or confidential data.

There are also several ways in which businesses can execute endpoint security within their offices, such as a two-factor password authentication process for all employees. Users should also consider the adoption of a company-wide data loss prevention solution that encrypts all private data that has been uploaded to the cloud. Additionally, using a secure internet connection to send and receive data in the cloud also protects company information.

Data is one of the sole reasons that companies spend so much money on IT and IT security. So the fact that many businesses are now giving up on properly securing, transmitting and storing their data is surprising. By using a private cloud instead of public, implementing endpoint security solutions, and using a secure internet connection, companies can feel confident that their data is safe.

To learn more about obtaining a secure internet connection, click here.

To read about the Dropbox investigation, click here.

How Does Fixed Wireless Technology Work?

Fixed Wireless Technology uses directional, narrow beam antennas and radios instead of using cables to deliver high-speed internet. The technology is completely different from Wi-Fi or cellular and guarantees that network access is only available to the customer who owns the communications link.  In order to operate, the radios must be pointed directly at each other with a clear, unobstructed line-of-sight. One radio is placed on top of the building in which the customer is located, while the corresponding radio is located on the provider’s hub site. The hub site is the location where the connection to the Internet Provider’s network occurs, and there are multiple hubs that make up a local network.

Point to multipoint (PTMP) is used when there is more than one customer accessing the network through a single broadcasting radio, while point to point (PTP) is used when providing network access to a single customer. The radios communicate with each other over the air using a non-standard protocol that is designed to maintain security while also optimizing network performance and availability. The proprietary, over-the-air protocol used in each piece of wireless equipment makes it difficult to intercept and interpret the data that is transmitted over the wireless link.

As mentioned in our previous blog, “Does Your Business Have a Need for Speed?”, fixed wireless technology is developing quickly in areas that don’t have access to fibre. When there is a vast amount of distance in between the closest fibre connection and a customer that requires service, it can cost a great deal of time and money to pull the fibre line to where they need it. However, fixed wireless technology is able to cover great distances at a lesser cost. When necessary, multiple radios can be used to transmit the signal across a large terrain, much like runners in a relay race passing the baton, as long as there is line of sight in between each radio.

Although fixed wireless technology is nothing new, it is quickly being adopted by businesses located outside of major cities. Additionally, it is able to provide many of the same services as fibre, such as high speed internet and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology.

To learn more about fixed wireless technology, please click here.

Does Your Business Have a Need for Speed?

It’s no secret that the internet has become a lifeline for most businesses across the globe. However, having access to an internet connection alone isn’t enough; speed is also an essential requirement in order to maintain business productivity. If an internet connection is slow or unreliable, employees are not able to accomplish as much as they are capable of within a standard work week. Additionally, the overall success of a company may be entirely dependent upon access to high speed internet technology. For example, a company that has a revenue stream tied to moving data to and from customers or other office locations, will be at risk of not realizing potential revenue if their connection is slow or even goes down.

As office space in city centers becomes depleted, and rental fees skyrocket, many companies have started to look elsewhere. Businesses have begun to infiltrate suburban areas, where there is an abundance of space at a reasonable price. However, businesses are finding it difficult to obtain a reliable, high speed internet connection in these areas. Many suburban areas do not have a fibre infrastructure in place, and installing fibre can be cost prohibitive and time consuming. As a result, internet providers supply their services through other technologies, such as TDM legacy telephony (T1) or with a more scalable and reliable approach: wireless.

One of the major issues with obtaining your internet through a T1 connection is speed. Since a T1 has been designed to carry a minimal amount of data at one time, large data transfers can take an extended amount of time. Although this type of internet connection is considered somewhat archaic when compared to fibre technology, it may be the only technology available to access the internet outside of the city centre. Consequently, businesses that obtain their internet through traditional landline services are subject to a slower connection which may impact performance.

Recently, there has been a strong push for increased development of wireless broadband networks in suburban areas.  Wireless broadband technologies boast higher speeds than most traditional landline services, and the cost of installing these networks is less than the price of a fibre network installation. If there isn’t an existing fibre connection within the building, the cost of installation can be significantly higher than the installation of a wireless service. In order to obtain fibre, new trenches may need to be excavated in order to physically bring the line to your building. Since a wireless connection operates above the ground, installation is faster and much less expensive.

The internet is only a viable tool to businesses if it can operate at the high speeds required by businesses today. Older technologies are no longer able to keep up with the demands of business users. In suburban areas, there is a strong requirement for an internet infrastructure that is able to support the growing bandwidth demands of new and existing businesses. Fixed-wireless broadband internet is a viable option to meet the demands of businesses today, and in the future.

To learn more about fixed-wireless technologies, please click here.

TeraGo Networks Attends iTech Summit

This year, TeraGo Networks was pleased to participate as a sponsor as well as an exhibitor in the 2012 iTech Summit, which is Canada’s largest conference dedicated to IT infrastructure technology, services, and education. This was a great opportunity for us to speak with IT Professionals about the concerns, pain points and opportunities they face in their business today.  This type of ongoing dialogue helps us to ensure that the products and services we offer are always meeting the needs of the marketplace.  We were also able to network with other professionals and discuss the latest technological innovations.

Members of our account executive team were present at the show to provide attendees and other show vendors with information specific to TeraGo Networks. Meeting with prospects in person is one of the best ways to assess their current needs and determine which one of our services can best contribute to the success of their business.  Introducing ourselves to fellow vendors is a great way to build partnerships and provide our customers with innovative technologies. Below is a short video of our visit to the Toronto based iTech Summit trade show on May 17, 2012.

In late October, we will also be attending the iTech Summit trade shows being held in Western Canada. Participating in multiple shows across the country also provides us with the opportunity to discuss the specific needs and requirements that are explicit to each individual region. If you missed us in Montreal and Toronto, then be sure to visit us at the Edmonton or Vancouver iTech Summit trade shows.

For event details, please visit the iTech website by clicking here.

To obtain more information about how TeraGo Networks can help your business, please click here. We look forward to meeting you at the next trade show!

Top 5 Reasons You Should Be Thinking about VoIP for Your Business

It is now evident that Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has multiple benefits to offer business users. In a previous article, Get More for Less, the operating methods and functionality of VoIP technology was outlined. Now let us discuss the specific advantages of using VoIP technology for businesses. We have compiled a list of the Top 5 ways that Voice over Internet Protocol benefits businesses.

  1. Lower Costs: By utilizing the internet to carry voice, you eliminate the need for a dedicated phone line. Accessing your voice communication services through your internet provider also allows for a greater range of scalability, which means that you only pay for what you use. Additionally, the cost of installation can be lowered by utilizing your existing PBX hardware. Attaching an Integrated Access Device enables the older PBX to function as a type of hybrid that allows for most VoIP calls.
  2. Scalability: Voice over Internet Protocol services can be easily upgraded as your businesses grows and requires additional phone lines. In some instances, increasing or decreasing the number of lines that your company is using is as simple as picking up the phone and calling your provider. There is no need for intrusive and costly installation procedures.
  3. Multiple Features: Features that are provided by traditional phone services are also available through VoIP. This includes caller ID, 911, directory listing, and long distance plans. Users are also able to access their phone system from their desktop computer when they are not near their handset. VoIP also allows for free on-network calling, so that you can call anyone on your network without incurring a charge.
  4. Unified Communications: VoIP enables the user to receive all their business communication, such as phone, voicemail, email, text messaging, fax, and more in a single inbox. VoIP also offers portability, which means that you can take your VoIP number anywhere. Users only need access to an internet connection to communicate. This means that relocating your business is easy since you only need to plug in your equipment and connect to the internet after you have moved to your desired location. Traditional phone companies may not be able to relocate all your lines to a new site, and there is the possibility that your phone service could be interrupted during the transition to your new location. These concerns can be eliminated by obtaining your business phone service through VoIP technology.
  5. Consolidated Bills: Accessing all your communication needs from one source means that there is only one bill to account for. Many voice and internet services are sold in bundles as well, making it easier to set up all your business communication needs at once.

Voice over Internet Protocol is the future of business communications and will soon become a necessity. Implementing a VoIP system is the first step to adopting unified communications, so your business can boost its efficiency and productivity. To learn more about how your business can benefit from VoIP, download our free white paper here.

Image provided by thaikrit.

Get More for Less

Innovative technologies are helping small and medium businesses become more productive at a relatively low cost. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology meets this criteria by providing a valuable service at a lower cost. VoIP is the use of IP-based networks to transmit voice signals instead of using a traditional telephone network. From the user’s point of view, VoIP works just like a conventional phone system. 

VoIP has only recently started to grow in popularity because the service is dependent on an Internet connection. Businesses that share an Internet network connection with residential customers are subjected to peak period slow downs, which means that call quality could vary throughout the day. Aaron McIntosh, Product Marketing Manager at TeraGo Networks Inc., has observed that “the rise of broadband internet, as well as internet networks that are designated for business use only, has made VoIP an attractive alternative to land line phone services.”

Since your internet connection can be used to carry both data and voice, the need for a dedicated phone line is eliminated. This also allows for users to bundle their services instead of managing multiple bills with different service providers. Businesses can also customize their telecommunication packages to meet their needs. This can include modified internet services, to ensure that companies are only paying for what they need, as well as a variety of features.

In order to utilize the benefits of VoIP, you will need a provider with connectivity to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) in order to make any type of phone call. Two methods used to connect a VoIP network to the PSTN are Session Initiated Protocol (SIP trunking) and the traditional Primary Rate Interface (PRI). There is no difference in call quality between the two, but there is a difference in cost. SIP trunking is less expensive than PRI because additional channels, or lines, can be purchased incrementally. On the other hand, PRI channels are only available for purchase in groups of 23. As a result, SIP trunking can be better tailored to the customer’s needs since they only purchase what they require.

VoIP services are growing in popularity as more and more businesses recognize its benefits. Many providers, such as TeraGo Networks, are presenting customers with all the same features that can be found on a traditional phone line service, such as caller ID, 911, long distance plans, directory listing, and more. Additionally, customers have the option of using either SIP trunking or PRI to connect to the PSTN. Regardless of which option you choose, the end result is transparency.

Businesses have the opportunity to take advantage of the cost and technological benefits that VoIP has to offer, while still being able to just pick up the phone and make a call to anyone. TeraGo Networks is providing customers with state-of-the-art broadband internet and voice services, allowing businesses across Canada to utilize VoIP technology while lowering their expenses. To learn more about this great service, please download our white paper by clicking here.

Image provided by photostock.

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