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Why VoIP is absolutely worth it for SMBs

So you’ve been thinking about upgrading some of your infrastructure, but where to start?
If you think your team could collaborate better, one of the best returns on investment is a VoIP phone system. It’s got all of the functionality of a traditional phone system with an emphasis on increased utility.
Maybe you haven’t switched over yet because the break-in period seems a bit daunting. We’ve compiled a list of reasons why the benefits will outweigh the costs for your business quicker than you think.

Installation and setup

Fortunately, the first time setup is often cheaper (because there may be less equipment to buy) and simpler than installing a traditional phone system from scratch.
When it comes to planning things out, there are a couple of factors that you wouldn’t usually have to think about with traditional phones. You have to figure out how much bandwidth you’ll use, and whether that will change your internet service needs. If everyone needs to make a call at once, will that make everything else grind to a halt? How soon will we need to expand the number of users? Is our connection fast enough to utilize the new system?
Once configured, however, your VoIP network is good to go. Most hardware comes with plug-and-play functionality, as VoIP phones are smarter than your average bear. If you find that you need to add more users it’s just as easy as extending your Wi-FI network: you just need to add another router to the network.

Related: VoIP implementation best practices

Flexibility

Here’s where the investment starts to pay off in spades.

Conference calls

They’re nothing new, but you’ll be surprised at how different they can be with VoIP.
Conference calls can get started right on time with minimal effort. During the initial installation of the network, you or your tech professionals will set up hub numbers. When it’s time for a conference call, it’s as easy as calling that number when it’s time to start. Everyone is in with no trouble.
This can make rescheduling less of a hassle and make impromptu team meetings possible, even if everyone’s not in the same building. This means your team can be much more agile – you don’t have to drop everything to go to a meeting scheduled ahead of time, just send out an email to get on this 15-minute call after lunch. Everyone’s on the same page because they are better connected.

Remote use

One of the best things about VoIP is that the network doesn’t care how you are gaining access. You can use a traditional phone with an adapter, a VoIP enabled phone, a computer configured to use VoIP, or even your personal cell phone. It’s all about unified communications.
VoIP makes it easy to set up smart call forwarding. Not only can you transfer a call if the original extension is busy or doesn’t answer, but you can preemptively forward calls at any time. If you know you’re going to be out of office, you can set up your number to automatically forward any calls to your cell phone or to a colleague.
Furthermore, if you have any team members that are entirely remote you can configure their extension to automatically forward to whatever device the remote worker chooses. Even though the original call started in your phone system, it’ll end up where it needs to be seamlessly. It’s the best thing next to being there in person.

Call recording

Let’s say that a couple of team members couldn’t participate in a conference call. Perhaps a fire came up that they had to go put out immediately. They can still get the full scoop on whatever they missed with a feature that almost all VoIP networks utilize (and yours definitely should): call recording.
How exactly it works depends on what software you choose to go with, but a VoIP network allows for the recording and archiving of any phone call with ease. Whether it’s for the benefit of an absent team member or for the team in question to be able to go back and review exactly what was said during the call, this is an invaluable feature that isn’t impossible with traditional telephone technology, but significantly easier to implement with VoIP technology.

In conclusion

With cloud technology becoming the norm across industries, these will not be the only advantages for switching over to VoIP for your phone network. New techniques and technologies will be sure to make VoIP even better in the future.
Research your options. If you ever get lost or need a second opinion, don’t hesitate to reach out and see what our experts have to say.

The best IT support tasks to trust to your MSP

Have you ever forgotten to install that Windows update you ‘rescheduled’ for a later date? How about installing those 5 new security patches?

Well, you were going to do it, but then you had a meeting. That meeting led to a mandatory orientation. From there, you nipped out for a cup of coffee and returned to an office with no working phone lines. Now, you must drop everything to troubleshoot while your computer systems remain open for attack without those oh-so-important security patches installed.

Welcome to the world of an IT technician.

With so many things to do, new systems to learn, new compliances to go over it’s little wonder these small problems grow out of control so quickly. Small businesses usually have small IT departments, so there’s not a lot of room for mistakes.

Outsourcing to a managed IT services provider (MSP) is an attractive proposition for both business owners and IT staff. It allows a trustworthy company with IT know-how to handle the most crucial tasks, while everyday business operations remain unscathed. IT techs can focus on growth-related tasks, while MSPs keep an eye out for alerts, updates and threats.

To get the most ROI from working with an MSP, outsource tasks that need more hands on deck to complete.

Tasks that you can easily outsource to an MSP are:

Security

Each year businesses spend millions in lawsuit payouts for data breaches, phishing scams and security compliance failures—and this isn’t the only loss businesses incur due to lapses in security.

According to Kaspersky, $1.3 million is lost each year on average due to cyber attacks. Sadly, much of this loss could’ve been prevented through simple data security measures. Many of the companies affected by security breaches had IT departments that were just too stretched to catch security threats before they created problems.

If the skills on your team aren’t as diversified as you’d like, or you lack the budget for a full-sized IT team, you can outsource your security to an MSP.

An MSP works hand and hand with your in-house IT team to deflect security breaches. This way your team can focus on pertinent tasks such as onsite equipment repair and installation, software setup, server maintenance and technical support.

Compliance Requirements

As you may have read recently, the EU introduced The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rule requiring all businesses with clients/customers in the EU to tweak their Terms and Conditions. This new rule helps customers understand how their data is being used.

According to Intersoft Consulting, businesses that don’t comply with this regulation risk losing customers and incurring a penalty equaling 4% of the company’s global turnover or $20 million (whichever is the highest of the two).

Most businesses—if not all—simply cannot afford to lose this amount of money. Outsourcing your compliance watch to an MSP insures you’re on top of these new regulations when they are first introduced.

Updates

Since in-house IT departments work traditional business hours on average, they have a very small window to deal with a heap of technical issues. Phones, computers, software, hardware, servers and websites are all under their radar—but what about maintenance and updates?

As software companies work to keep the risk of technical issues to a minimum, important updates are required to continue using their programs in the most efficient way. These updates take hours and may not finish by the end of the workday.

Some updates can’t even begin until everyone’s logged out for the day. This means the update will run overnight. If there’s a glitch anywhere along the line, or permission screens prevent the update from completing, the whole process will be repeated again.

MSPs start and monitor the progress of these updates from start to finish. If there are any hang-ups along the way, they will troubleshoot allowing it to complete. Best of all, MSPs are available after business hours so the updates can be installed on time.

Troubleshooting

Occasionally, IT staff will run into a glitch they just can’t seem to troubleshoot. Glitches of this magnitude can grind business to a complete halt.

MSPs work along with onsite IT staff to troubleshoot and solve these issues as soon as they occur. This minimizes downtime and in some cases, prevents it entirely.

VOIP Service

More and more businesses are looking to VOIP cloud-based phone systems over traditional landlines. VOIP systems are flexible and allow businesses to conduct business from anywhere, anytime so long as there’s a good internet connection. This saves time setting up new phone systems and troubleshooting traditional phone lines when they go down.

VoIP service also makes a great addition to any disaster recovery plan as it allows workers to continue from remote locations. MSPs offer VOIP services which they monitor and troubleshoot all without disturbing your everyday business tasks.

Backup Services

Rolling blackouts and power surges go hand and hand—but you know what else goes hand and hand? A loss of data and corrupt software.

When systems suddenly blackout due to storms or power outages, improper shutdown creates an avalanche of glitches. These systems generally require hard resets, essentially losing all data stored within them. According to Computer World, Superstorm Sandy caused this very issue, forcing some businesses to close permanently due to an inability to recover data.

MSPs offer real-time backup systems ensuring that your latest keystroke is recorded and saved. In the event of an emergency, this data can be uploaded to a new system or reinstalled on your existing PCs.

 

No matter the size of your business, an MSP provides great value for service. Not only will you save yourself the nightmare expenditure associated with data breaches, but you can also relax knowing that your most important IT tasks are in good hands—inside and outside of normal business hours.

Trends driving UC evolution

Unified communications has changed the face of business connections and raised the bar for capable tools. Vendors are constantly improving their UC solutions to ensure that they live up to the test of time and take emerging hardware and software into account. Let's take a look into a few trends that are driving the evolution of UC technology:

1. Mobility

Employees are no longer tied to their desks. They seek remote and mobile work opportunities to be productive and fulfill other obligations. As a result, businesses and UC solutions cannot rely on users being at a solitary computer all the time. SWNS noted that UC offers workers the ability to work, share and communicate on any device. This type of setup is simply too costly and not viable using legacy means. UC solutions will continue to evolve with mobility and collaboration across a variety of platforms as main drivers.

"People are increasingly using text and email instead of voice."

2. The shift away from voice

While voice calls will always be a necessary option, it's no longer the only connection opportunity that workers and customers want to use. People want to get critical answers quickly while completing other tasks, and voice calls don't always allow this flexibility. TechTarget contributor Tom Nolle noted that people are increasingly using text and email instead of voice, and UC is evolving with focus around these assets. Voice-centric UC models aren't going to be as valuable to youth entering the workforce, making it important for these solutions to take other options into account. Organizations must ensure that employees can hold ad hoc video and audio conferences, send instant messages and leverage a variety of other communications options to suit their preferences.

3. Customer experience

Organizations have always thrived off of their customers, but their strategies have only shifted in the past few years to actually focus on ensuring that their audience is provided with a great experience. Consumers will actively search out competitors if they don't have a positive interaction. Part of this has to do with connecting with the right people and receiving the best information quickly. UC integrates well with other programs, enabling employees to gain context around a caller's problem and quickly resolve problems. This functionality connects customers with the necessary party the first time and bolsters the overall experience.

UC solutions must continue adapting to emerging trends to meet customer expectations, provide mobile opportunities and facilitate more communications options. To keep up with UC shifts and leverage its features to your advantage, contact ISG for a consultation today.

How to choose an effective UC solution

Creating and maintaining meaningful connections is an essential part of business that can impact supplier, partner and customer relationships. Having the right solution on hand can make all the difference in supporting employee needs and facilitating critical opportunities across important assets. Unified communications appears to be the answer to many business interaction needs, but it can be difficult to know where to start when looking at potential options. Let's take a closer look at how your can choose an effective UC solution:

1. Consider organization growth

The number of staff within a business isn't a permanent figure. People join and leave, but all organization leaders plan with the belief that the company will grow. When considering a UC solution, it's not only important to look at the amount of staff you currently have, but to also prepare for scaling in the future. TechTarget contributor Chris Partsenidis noted that most UC platforms support a specific number of users and are designed around these limitations. This could create major problems in the future as the business grows, forcing organizations to seek out new solutions.

Organizations will need to team up with a UC vendor that not only serves current needs, but also acts as a partner for strategic development. A capable provider should be able to scale features and services up or down depending on business requirements. This will guarantee the flexibility that companies need as they develop while still ensuring that employees have quality tools.

UC solutions should be able to scale alongside business growth. UC solutions should be able to scale alongside business growth.

2. Ensure mobile enablement

When businesses start out, they might only choose a few of the most important, basic communications tools that they'll need. As time progresses and technology preferences change, organizations must ensure that their strategies encapsulate user demands. Today's modern organizations are still scrambling to meet remote and mobile work expectations, facilitating bring-your-own-device policies and other similar initiatives. Mobile capabilities are becoming a necessity for employees, making it essential for UC solutions to effectively support this functionality.

With the insurgence of consumer devices in the workplace, that means that IT departments no longer have tight control over everything that goes on within their networks. Network World contributor Zeus Kerravala noted that UC applications will be an essential component to ensuring that users can switch devices on the fly and access UC functions. This type of freedom can boost collaboration opportunities and improve overall productivity.

"Use your business objectives to customize your UC solution."

3. Align with your objectives

Any new initiative must be able to prove its value to stakeholders and users alike. The benefits of UC have been widely reported, but seeing is believing. To get the most out of your UC solution, you must have a clear view of your business objectives and use them to customize your UC system, digital content specialist Rajesh Kulkarni wrote in a LinkedIn post. By aligning the UC solution with your goals, you can deliver maximum value and ensure that the offering makes sense for your organization's needs.

UC initiatives must be planned out carefully to ensure that workers are engaged and motivated to use the tools. Leaders must put a training mechanism in place to facilitate even adoption and improve receptiveness to changes caused by UC. Employees are expected to leave behind familiar solutions, making it essential to align with objectives and deliver in a way that will help cushion the impact for staff.

UC is the next big necessity for businesses to keep up with user demands and offer flexible communication options. By following these tips, you can choose the most effective UC solution for your needs and ensure it benefits your organization. To find out more about what UC solutions can offer, contact ISG Technology today.