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.

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.

Is VoIP Safe From Surveillance Systems?

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.

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Recently, there has been serious objections about government agents’ and other agencies’ spying on private calls, leaving many users are worried about their privacy. There are some doubts on whether VoIP is strong enough to guard against such eavesdropping and phone tapping. However, as technology VoIP tends to provide better security than its pervious systems. Landline communications were easily traceable, while VoIP runs protocols to safeguard information.

Safety with VoIP

Hackers know how to attack Internet-based devices and services, such as VoIP, allowing them to easily get hold of customer account data, records of conversations and voicemails. Additionally, if a user’s account details are compromised, that information can be used to charge third party services. However, it requires a high level of skill and technical knowledge in order to that.

VoIP has its own safety measures, which pose a challenge to such hackers or surveillance agents. All the traffic is routed through a firewall and network address translators (NAT). Utilizing a firewall is one of the most commonly used safety systems for protecting a device from Internet-based attacks. Translators help in interconnecting networks and creating a safe communication system. Services like Skype use proprietary protocols for protection by routing calls through other skype peers on the network. This enables it to traverse symmetric NATs and firewalls.

Encryption is one of the most powerful tools in protecting digital information, but VoIP is not using it currently. Due to this, it gets easier for spies to eavesdrop on voice calls that are made on a data network. There are solutions like Wireshirk, which help in doing that. Protocols like secure real-time transport protocols (SRTP) and ZRTP are used for securing VoIP. IPsec also help in securing point to point VoIP by encrypting all traffic.

Why is VoIP more secure than previous systems?

As we know, traditional phone systems were based on analog signals, which cannot be encrypted. VoIP uses data signals, which are digital, and can be easily encrypted for protection. When the signal is sent, the receiving device can then decrypt the packets easily as they get the respective decryption key. This decryption process is necessary if real information is required. In process transmission if this signal is traced, the hacker would have to decrypt it based the decryption key, which is possible only with the device for which signal was intended.

Privacy

It is hard to tell whether our conversations will remain private or not because powerful authorities, such as the government, might implement laws that could give them the power to do surveillance. In the USA, the FBI recently announced its plan to expand Communication Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) in order to bring Internet calling, such as VoIP, under this law. This law gives them power to intercept calls. If the plan is passed, then providers will have to make the tracing easier for them, which would compromise the privacy of the user.

However, despite the possibility that VoIP may fall under CALEA, several hospitals, military organizations, and large corporations have adopted VoIP. If we see figures, almost one third of businesses in world today use VoIP. When compared with other communication systems, VoIP is still the best possible option because of it’s low cost and higher level of security when compared to traditional systems.

Deciding What to Put in the Cloud

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 developement, and many more.

Situation: “I have clients across North America, and some of my critical parts come from around the globe. I have a robust ERO system that helps me keep on top of production, deliveries, and collection. I have decided to move into Unified Communications to speed up everything. – Now, what part of my application should go to the cloud for my vendors and clients to see? What about safety and security?”

This situation may be specific, but is common among many business organizations. Clients and partners can come from different places all over the globe. However, the answer generally lies in the amount of information or applications that will be put in the cloud for general use across the organization, as well as issues relating to security and safety.

Here are some factors to consider when deciding what your company should put in the cloud.

  • Provider Responsibilities: As an organization, it is very important to be comfortable with giving up a certain level of control to cloud providers. Organizations who choose to take advantage of deploying on-premise platforms typically own the unified communications application. Upgrades, enhancements, extensions and other integrations are done as needed. Cloud providers do allow a certain level of management to the users, such as managing their servers, but organizations may not have full control.
  • Potential savings: When talking about savings which can be potentially achieved, it is vital to acknowledge that these savings are indeed, real. Research was conducted by Search Unified Communications in 2013 discussing the cost analysis of cloud technology vs. on-premises IP telephony. It concluded that a significant amount of savings is realized when incorporating this type of technology in businesses.
  • Availability: Cloud-based unified communication services are practically available all over the world. However, only a few companies have the capability of supporting and delivering a single global cloud service through diverse geographies. Therefore, if you have partners, clients and sites distributed throughout Europe, North America and Asia, it is possible to acquire such technology with the help of a limited number of possible partners who can provide support to all sites.
  • Services offered: For quite a while, cloud-based unified communications services lacked some features and applications needed to compare to on-premise solutions. Among such features are mobile extensibility, video and a wide range of end-points solutions. However, the evolution of the technology has increased the popularity of the cloud. Leading providers have developed various platforms that are derived from the original infrastructures, incorporating them to the existing platform.
  • Cloud management: It is a common belief that by using the services offered by cloud technology, a user organization offloads itself from responsibilities, casting the burden to the providers. However, such relationships require a good partnership between the cloud provider and the organization. The overall success of the delivery of services requires access to the company’s internal network coming from the operations center to the provider.

Therefore, the abovementioned tips will certainly assist an organization in evaluating the services offered by cloud technology. It is vital to keep in mind that these applications continue to evolve rapidly. Taking note of any possible future enhancements can also help in making decisions as to the amount of information, and the number of applications that should be put in the cloud. Bottom line is that taking advantage of the benefits now can make an organization well prepared for further enhancements in the future.

Why IT Can’t Seem to Let Go of Traditional PBX Phone Systems

Letting go of traditional (PBX) phone systems is proving to be more difficult for some companies than expected. IP telephony adoption has been steady, but it’s occurring at a very slow rate. So why are IT departments dragging their feet? Below, I’ve broken down the three main reasons why IT professionals are seemingly reluctant to implement IP telephony.

  1. Trust and Reliability: Businesses have come to trust traditional phone systems because they have provided reliable and predictable service throughout the years. For many businesses, voice communication is critical to their overall success. Since traditional phone systems haven’t evolved over time, businesses feel that they don’t need to worry about any unexpected changes or problems. Implementing a new technology can be perceived as risky, which explains why IT professionals are not always eager to make the change. If the IP based phone system that they install does not operate the way they anticipate, it could reflect poorly on the IT staff member who recommended the switch.
  2. Knowledge: IT professionals may not be fully aware of the numerous benefits offered by IP phone systems. Legacy phone systems are only capable of transmitting voice, while IP based systems can carry voice, data, and video. This allows for companies to utilize features like video conferencing, which is quickly becoming a very popular communication tool because it allows for employees to communicate with other team members or customers face to face without ever leaving their office. Since IP phone systems use the internet to operate, the service can be easily scaled to meet the needs of the business. There is also minimal hardware costs associated with IP based phone systems because they use the Internet as the backbone of the network.
  3. Future Operations: Although traditional phone systems may be working well for business today, they won’t be effective for the ways that companies will need to communicate in the future. New technologies provide businesses with more communication methods, allowing for them to connect with employees and customers in a variety of ways. As more and more businesses migrate to IP based phone systems, traditional PBX support and vendors are declining. A recent study conducted by Infonetics Research found that the percentage of companies using IP phone systems will rise from 38% today to 58% by the year 2015. Researching IP based phone systems and starting the implementaiton process sooner, rather than later, will ensure that your business isn’t “left behind”.

Simply updating your existing traditional phone system is no longer enough, and businesses need to get serious about adopting an IP based phone system. As more and more companies make the switch, it will only get more difficult for IT employees to avoid the change. Although IT staff members may be concerned about implementing new technologies, it may be more damaging to wait. IT employees that are not on top of the latest technology trends could appear as though they’re falling behind, which would reflect poorly on their performance and expertise.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Sources: Infonetics Research Study: http://www.infonetics.com/pr/2013/SIP-Trunking-and-SBC-Enterprise-Survey-Highlights.asp

Choosing the Right Business Phone System

Following our previous blog posts about utilizing WAN, LAN, and VPN technologies to connect your office computers, the next step is connecting your office telephone system. Selecting the right phone system for your business is very important because it’s one of your main connections to customers, prospects, and fellow employees. To help you in your search for the right provider, we’ve compiled a list of 3 mistakes you should avoid.

  1. Basing Your Decision Solely on Price: Trying to save your company money where ever possible is only natural, but the best deal isn’t always the best service for your business. Although traditional phone systems may appear cheaper, there are additional upfront costs that you may not be aware of. A traditional land line system requires hardware, intrusive installation, and ongoing maintenance for each office location. As I’m sure you can image, this can really add up if your company has multiple locations or expands in size. Additionally, your call quality may be degraded if you choose to obtain a cheaper service, resulting in a poor connection or dropped calls.
  2. Wrongfully Estimating Your Company’s Growth: This can be a costly mistake, whether you over or under estimate your company’s potential growth. If your company does not grow as large as expected, you’re stuck paying for phone lines that aren’t in use. Conversely, if your company expands quicker than anticipated, you may need to pay an expedited cost to speed up installation. If you choose a cloud-based or VoIP phone system over a traditional wire line service, scaling your phone system to meet your needs is much easier. Since cloud-based and VoIP phone systems are operated through your internet connection, adjustments to your service can be done quickly and with little to no impact on your daily business operations.
  3. Not Considering Your Customers: Obviously, it’s important that your employees are able to communicate easily and efficiently with each other by phone, but what about your customers? You need to examine the type of experience your customers have when they dial your number. Starting from the moment they pick up the phone; what number will they dial? Is it a toll free number? Is there only one number to call for all inquiries? Once you have made a decision on what your company’s phone number will be, you will need to start examining the internal structure of your phone system. Will you provide them with a dial by name or department directory? Do you want certain customers to take priority over others when calling in? Would you like to be able to reroute your calls seamlessly from any location? Cloud-based or VoIP phone systems are capable of offering a wide range of features, such as one number to dial for all inquiries, no matter what part of the country customers are calling from. Additionally, internet based phone services can be easily configured to provide simple call routing, while a traditional phone system requires an IT manager to come out to the necessary changes.

It is important to choose the right phone system for your business because it can impact your company’s performance and productivity. Interrupting the work day to install or repair a traditional phone line can impact your office efficiency, as well as result in a loss of revenue. Finding a phone service that can be easily scaled too meet your company’s needs while also providing a positive customer experience is essential.

To learn about VoIP services offered by TeraGo Networks, click here.

How VoIP Works at TeraGo: Part 2

In our video “How VoIP Works at TeraGo: Part 1”, we explained how TeraGo Networks provides Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to our customers. Part two of our VoIP video series, posted below, describes the benefits of a VoIP connection in comparison to a traditional land line service. Martin Ramjit, Technical Sales Specialist at TeraGo Networks, explains the additional features and advantages of utilizing VoIP technology for business. Three main benefits highlighted in this video are cost savings, scalability, and optimization. To learn more about how these three features can assist you business, watch the video posted below.

To learn about other benefits offered by VoIP technology, download our whitepaper by clicking here.

How VoIP Works at TeraGo: Part 1

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is becoming an incredibly valuable tool for businesses. It has the capability to provide its users with an array of benefits, such as scalability, multiple features not available with traditional land line service, and overall cost savings. As more businesses migrate to VoIP technology, the staff at TeraGo Networks felt that it would be beneficial to provide an explanation of how VoIP operates in conjunction with an existing TeraGo internet connection. Below is part one of a two part informational video series describing the functions of VoIP – hosted by Martin Ramjit, Technical Sales Specialist at TeraGo Networks.

To learn more about TeraGo’s VoIP services, just click here, or follow our blog to receive an update when part 2 of our series is posted.

VoIP for Business: Common Misconceptions

Several companies are looking to use innovative technologies to advance their business, including Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Instead of using a traditional phone service, businesses are implementing VoIP for their voice communication requirements. However, even though VoIP is a proven alternative to land line services, some businesses are apprehensive about making the switch based on a few common misconceptions.

Firstly, business owners believe that there is a complicated and long installation process associated with VoIP. Like any other new technology, businesses are hesitant to change their ways and employ innovative services because they fear that it will interfere with their business practices. In actual fact, a VoIP phone system is relatively simple to install, whether it is a basic, hosted, or integrated service.

The existing PBX hardware used to communicate with traditional phone services can also be used for VoIP. By attaching an Integrated Access Device, the older PBX hardware is able to function as a type of hybrid that allows for most VoIP calls. A business may also need to purchase new handsets, but the overall costs of installing VoIP is often three times less than a traditional PBX.

Secondly, many businesses assume that VoIP only offers minimal savings. In reality, VoIP services are relatively cheaper than traditional phone lines. Many VoIP providers offer free calls between users on their network as well as lower rates for calls made to any other landline, mobile, or overseas numbers. Since the calls are made through your internet connection, the rates are much lower than traditional phone calls. Also, several VoIP providers offer additional features without any additional costs, such as caller ID, 911, and directory listing.

The scalability of VoIP also contributes to overall lower costs, since businesses are able to only pay for what they need. As your business grows, adding more lines can be as simple as picking up the phone and contacting your provider. 

Lastly, some companies believe that the quality of VoIP is poor in comparison to traditional phone services. However, the only aspect that impacts the quality of a VoIP call is your internet connection. If you have a reliable internet connection, the voice quality can actually be better than a traditional landline since VoIP uses digital technology instead of analog.

These are three of the most common misconceptions about VoIP technology. To learn more about VoIP technology and the benefits that it is able to offer, download our white paper here.

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