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.

Infographic: Elevate Your Business with the Cloud

Companies are increasingly challenged with the rapid increase of data in their business and the subsequent need to manage and store it in a secure, reliable way. Storing your data and IT infrastructure onsite leaves it vulnerable to a variety of threats, including floods, earthquakes, fires, and tornados. In fact, 43% of businesses that experience a disaster never reopen. Cloud computing is no longer just an IT priority – it’s a business priority.

Go Cloud TeraGo Infographic

 

Interested in discovering how Cloud Solutions can elevate your business? Click here to learn more, or submit the form below:

Data and Servers get Gold Treatment at Vancouver Vault Data Center

At the beginning of 2014, it was announced that TeraGo Networks had purchased it’s first west coast data centre facility as a part of it’s strategic initiative to provide complementary solutions. However, this wasn’t just any regular facility — it was a vault, literally. The location was originally built for the Bank of Canada in 1966 to store gold bullion. The Bank of Canada occupied large parts of the building until 1997, and the vault is now used to house the critical IT infrastructures of several businesses.

Vancouver Vault

The massive vault door is still intact and fully functional, guarding the secured entrance to the server floor. This cool, dry area is the protected by 22″ thick steel reinforced concrete – providing some serious physical protection. Taking it to the next level; the space was also constructed utilizing a room-in-room design, which is essentially a concrete room inside a concrete room. There’s just enough space for a person to walk the perimeter of the inside room, which gives employees the space they need to monitor the condition of the structure to ensure it’s in pristine condition.

Vancouver Vault Data CenterVancouver Vault TeraGo

With many of the Bank of Canada’s original security features in place, the location provided the perfect space to house servers and IT equipment. After adding in some other protective items, like a state-of-the-art digital video recording system, a full man-trap solution with two factor authentication, and a second generator, the facility was ready to start welcoming customers and their IT infrastructure.

Vancouver Vault Data Center

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the facility is becoming popular with IT professionals that are looking for something more interesting – and more physically secure – than the run-of-the-mill data centre facilities.

Vancouver Vault

 

Click here to learn more about the Vancouver Vault, or call us at 1.866.837.2565 to arrange a tour of the facility.

Canadian Cloud Adoption Slow, But Picking Up Speed

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Cloud computing has dominated the industry in recent years, with almost every provider under the sun offering some variation of the service. Cloud’s ability to cut operational costs and improve flexibility is a great benefit to businesses, yet a recent study found that several Canadian executives are uninformed about cloud technology – despite it’s popularity.

In fact, only 10% of the C-level employees polled during the study said they were familiar with the cloud, and of that small group, only 45% could correctly define what the cloud is. This lack of education and understanding is having an impact on the implementation of cloud, putting Canada’s adoption rate 10% behind that of US companies – so what can be done to close this gap? Identifying the concerns of Canadian business leaders is the first step.

The three perceived barriers to cloud adoption by Canadian companies are:

  1. Security: With so many stories on large businesses falling victim to data security breaches, it’s no wonder why companies are proceeding with caution. Approximately 45% of study respondents believe storing information in the cloud is unsafe, with heavy hitters like Target and Home Depot cited as cautionary examples.
  2. Education: A study conducted by IDC found that several Canadian businesses believed there were regulations in place that inhibit their ability to use the cloud.
  3. Technology: Canadian business are still purchasing traditional hosting and outsourcing services, which can impede their adoption of cloud.

The next step is to address those perceived barriers:

  1. Security: Canadian companies need to look for cloud partners who are taking security seriously and investing in a variety of tools that have been designed to protect data. For example, do you feel safer putting your money in the bank or stuffing it under your mattress? Cloud providers have made investments to ensure their customer’s data is secure, much like banks invest in keeping your money safe.
  2. Education: IDC found that 66% of Canadian cloud users believe they surpass their peers in revenue growth, and 64% find themselves at a competitive advantage.
  3. Technology: Businesses could spend 8-12 weeks to get a server installed and configured, while cloud solutions may only take 8-12 minutes. Small and medium businesses in Canada have been the primary adopters of cloud so far, since they typically don’t have a reliance on legacy hardware – making the transition to cloud easier.

For Canadian businesses to level the global playing field, it’s important that they get serious about cloud adoption. The number of cloud providers in Canada is increasing, signifying that businesses are slowly but surely turning to cloud technologies. However, it’s important that companies do their research and partner with a provider who truly understand the cloud and can put any CIO’s mind at ease.

Want to learn more about cloud? Click here.

Prepare Your Business for the Digital Disruption

The message from Gartner’s recent CIO Survey is clear; a digital disruption is on the horizon, and not many businesses are prepared for it. Having the ability to manage, harvest, and analyze data is essential to success in 2015 and beyond. The top two priorities indicated by the survey results are responding to the ongoing needs for efficiency and growth by renovating the core of IT and shifting to exploit a fundamentally different, digital paradigm, including new technologies and trends.

Industry change

However, over 50% of CIOs that took part in the survey also stated that they were worried this shift in the industry is coming faster than they can handle, and 42% feel that they don’t have the right skills and capabilities in place to navigate this future. Further compounding the issue, CIO IT budgets are only expected to change by +0.2% on average. This presents a significant challenge, as there is an expectation to simultaneously renovate the core of IT systems and services while employing new technology options.

So what can businesses do to overcome these barriers? Aligning with the right technology partner can make a huge difference. Many of the current telecommunication leaders are set up to thrive in the old platform environment, not the new “big data world” that the industry is moving towards. As a result, businesses can no longer rely on the big telcos to help them navigate this new world since many of them are learning it themselves.

Businesses need to look for the partners, vendors, and providers that are competent leaders in this new digital environment. Some key indicators to look for would be:

  • How much of their product offering is based in the old platform?
  • How much experience do they have with cloud technology?
  • Do they own their network? Or is it outsourced?
  • Do they have FTEs? Or do they use contractors?

The answers to these questions will give you a sense of their level of commitment (as indicated by whether they “rent” or own their network infrastructure or employee base) and their understanding of the type of technologies needed to be successful. To learn more about this pivitol change in the industry, we recommend reading Gartner’s Taming the Digital Dragon.

Is your business is prepared to handle this industry change? Comment below and let us know what you think.

 

Infographic: APIs that Secretly Rule Your Life

Data and user information is the lifeblood of businesses in today’s market, and having the ability to collect and utilize that information is essential. Application program interfaces, or APIs, are used by companies and establishments to collect, organize, and analyze data on a daily basis. But what type of information is being collecting? In one word – everything. This includes political preference, social insurance number, Facebook likes, emails, reviews on Yelp, ecommerce, and much, much more. The data collected is then used by companies to learn about their customers (or target market) and create messaging that is custom tailored for each individual. Check out this infographic, provided by Who Is Hosting This?, to learn just how pervasive APIs are:

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How do you feel about companies using your online information to promote their product or service? Is this a natural progression as we continue to move to a more virtual lifestyle? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below

The Future of Cloud Computing Infographic

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Ivan Serrano, an online entrepreneur who enjoys writing about tech, globalization, and business communications. He often contributes to 1800-number.com’s blog, and he prides himself on his love of sharing information with others. Ivan is passionate about what he does, and aims to stimulate conversation with his work.

The digital revolution is long underway, moving from block-sized computers of the 90’s to sleek, one-pound MacBook Air laptops to a now invisible landscape up in the clouds. Cloud computing, where computers can sync up and store data on large databases “in the cloud” is growing increasingly popular for companies to store and share data in a safe and reliable way.

The digital clouds are now blowing north. Cloud computing is primarily used by American companies, who have been using the cloud not only to store and share data, but also for messaging and conferencing purposes. But two years ago, the cloud had yet to catch wind in Canada. In fact, until recently, Canada had the lowest internet caps in all of the developed world. This is something the Canadian Cloud Council is trying to change; to create an open and democratized proliferation of information online. While the Canadian government remains skeptical of cloud computing for security purposes, Canadian companies are beginning to privately take the reigns using dot-ca domain names hosted outside Canada, and the cloud is becoming the route to take. This infographic explains how cloud computing works, and the dangers that come along with it.

 

CloudUpIntheAir

Measuring the Value of Unified Communication for Business

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Tanya Williams, a freelance writer and blogger. She has been working with telecom companies for over 20 years, writing about new technologies and how businesses and business owners can take advantage of them. Her topics included IP based communications technologies, cloud computing, website development, and many more.

Up until now, Unified Communications (UC) has been an ambitious promise — albeit one that seemed quite likely to come true. The real bottom line, though, and the deal-breaker with any technology – no matter how promising it seems, is its return on investment (ROI). In the case of UC, it’s been difficult to truly define because it’s so diffuse in nature. Thus, it is a difficult matter to get a real handle on its ROI. However, as of late this metric is finally shaping up for the following seven reasons.

The Story from Vendors

There is considerable progress being made in the video conferencing and telepresence sectors, and these types of platforms are being included in unified communications packages more and more. CDW’s business development manager, Bill Coe, said that if he can inform a CFO that adding video will reduce the time-to-market of a product by up to six weeks, then the gains are often enough to convince that senior exec to give it the green light. If that’s not enough, then he just has to remind the exec of the added advantages that the same video platform will provide elsewhere in the company when moving forward.

Cost Reduction

By deploying a cloud-based communications solution, the need for installing, supporting, managing and maintaining an in-house infrastructure is eliminated. This allows your enterprise to downsize its IT management and maintenance costs. Deploying UC also allows other resources to be redirected to other tasks.

Productivity

Return on investment is not always measured in dollars — sometimes it comes in the form of increased productivity. This is certainly the case with UC. Since communications are made so much easier with UC, the productivity of your employees is enhanced almost immediately. For example, Salesforce has developed an interface that integrates click-to-dial technologies, saving the user 15 to 20 seconds per phone call. That may not sound like a lot — but if you multiply that figure by the hundreds of calls your sales team makes every day, and the thousands of calls they make every week — it adds up, giving them a few extra hours every week to connect with customers or prospects. And on top of that, UC enabled systems allow for improved collaboration and communication, as there is less time wasted trading unproductive messages back and forth or tracking people down.

Mitigation of Risk

Given its redundant, cloud-based infrastructure, communications are far more stable than non-unified solutions. Therefore, a UC service is much more likely to stay up and running at all times.

Better Customer Service

One major factor setting any business apart from its competitors is how quickly it’s able to respond to its customers and partners, and how effectively it’s able to resolve their problems. Businesses that take steps to improve their communication systems are much more likely to enjoy customer loyalty, retention, and repeat business.

Heightened Business Agility

By using UC, information can be distributed quickly across your entire enterprise. This enables your team to act as a cohesive unit, and to gain a better understanding of critical information than ever before. This, in turn, positions your organization for faster decision making.

Mobile Employees are Supported Better

Since UC connects all devices across your enterprise, no matter where they are, it allows any employees that are in the field to work with real time information. They don’t have to wait to “check in” to get the latest data.

Conclusion

UC always did seem like a good idea, as did what it’s built upon — things such as video conferencing and VoIP. There is one major difference now, though: The industry is finally at a point where it can actually be proven.

Ways Small Business Can Benefit from VoIP

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Matt Larson – a Canadian tech blogger. Matt writes primarily for the VoIP industry and is currently working from the road with VoIP Spear – a global VoIP monitoring service provider. For more about Matt, including links to his blogs, check out his Google+ profile.  

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Small business owners are always in a precarious situation. For one thing, you should give your business – especially if it’s a startup – all that you’ve got. This is the wallet-hurting “you get what you give” kind of relationship, where tenacity, dedication and hard work are required when you want to recoup your investments. On the other hand, you should always get your money’s worth. You can’t just bleed money – you’re in business to make money.

In this scenario, VoIP is your telecommunication salve. You get benefits that lodge your business up there, among forward-thinking movers and shakers. It’s kind to your wallet too.

Save Money

Of course, the foremost benefit of using VoIP is that you can save money. Calls you make from/to anywhere in the world will be cheaper. Account setup is easy and doesn’t cost much too. You can start off using softphones to save money. Or, use analog telephone adapters (ATA) with your old phones. ATAs cost less than SIP phones.

Do More Than Talk

VoIP comes with several functionalities that help your business work more efficiently and reach out to partners and clients more effectively. These functions ultimately fall under “telecommunications convergence.” Cross access and share information through your phone system. Login to your voicemail remotely. Work anywhere and still be reachable through VoIP. Come across as more professional and trustworthy through videoconferencing. These added functions enhance your user experience, and can ultimately create better employee and client relationships.

Enjoy Portability

Your mobility can make a big difference in your business’s profitability. Through technology, the world has opened up into one big diverse market. Your business can be located in a First World small town, and still, you can deal with partners in Asia and Europe. It pays to be accessible wherever you are. People can call you at your First World small town number even when you’re in India, England or France doing business – at the same low cost VoIP rate.

Improve Employee Cooperation

Better cooperation among employees is often a byproduct of the easier flow of information. VoIP, through telecommunications convergence, can do this for your business. Access and sharing of information become more efficient.

Protect Your Investment

For a small business to enjoy the full benefits of VoIP, you have to protect it, as you would your important investments. You can do so through two simple steps:

  1. Ensure that your VoIP is always accessible, at your end, through the set up of emergency power sources and call forwarding.
  2. Monitor your VoIP’s performance through services like VoIP Spear to ensure consistent uptime and quality of service.

The Impact of the Heartbleed Bug on Business

The Heartbleed bug has swept across the nation, impacting a countless number of businesses and consumers. The bug is a vulnerability in OpenSSL, which is the name of a 1998 project that was started to encrypt websites and user information across the web. What started as a project committed to data encryption is now standard on 2/3 of all websites on the Internet. Without OpenSSL, our personal information submitted across every website we visit could land in the hands of cyber criminals. Ironically, the OpenSSL software that was designed to protect users contained a flaw that made it possible for hackers to trick a server into spewing out the data that was held in its memory.

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When news of the Heartbleed struck, business scrambled to find out how many of their systems were using the vulnerable version of OpenSSL. While the big web companies, such as Google and Yahoo, were able to move fast to fix the problem – smaller e-commerce sites are struggling to “patch” the software quickly. As the larger sites close the door on the Heartbleed bug, hackers are turning their attention to any small and medium businesses that may not have the knowledge or manpower to update and protect their e-commerce sites accordingly.

However, regardless of the size of the business, if customers learn that a company’s system has been hacked and their personal information was compromised, legal issues could arise. Angered customers – and their lawyers – will look to hold businesses accountable for any personal data that lands in the hands of hackers. Businesses need to communicate with their customers to inform them what steps have – and will be – taken to fix the problem. That way, customers can update their passwords accordingly once a business has confirmed that their site is clean.

Many of the impacted sites are not just popular for personal usage, but are used every day by businesses of all sizes. Companies will need to follow the same steps as their customers and wait to receive confirmation from any frequently used websites that the issue has been resolved before changing their passwords. It’s also important to realize that other devices, such as Android smart phones and tablets, are vulnerable to the bug as well.

The Heartbleed bug ordeal is just another reminder of the security challenges companies are facing as more and more economic activity move online. According to eMarketer, an independent research organization, worldwide business-to-consumer e-commerce sales are likely to increase to $1.5 trillion this year. With money like that on the line, you can bet cyber criminals will be vigorously targeting businesses to try and get a piece of the pie. Companies need to take all necessary precautions to protect themselves and their customers.

To learn more about protecting your business, click here.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

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