7 Ways Business VoIP Empowers More Productive Employees

Voice-over IP, also known as VoIP, is a very common system used for business phones. VoIP technology can turn an average network of phones and computers into a robust tool for productivity. Some of the ways business VoIP empowers productive employees will help any company get more out of the resources they already have in place.

 

1. Enhancing Mobility

With VoIP phone systems, it is possible to have calls routed to mobile devices when a worker is not at their desk. This makes employees more productive by allowing them to get around to meetings and client visits without worrying about missing out on important phone calls.

2. Improving Collaboration

Through the use of a VoIP phone system, you can hold remote conferences with other employees very easily. This means that it is much less of a challenge for small teams that are working together on projects to update one another about individual progress, which improves the productivity of each group member.

3. Making Troubleshooting Less Complex

There are few bigger hindrances to productivity than a network or phone system going down. With VoIP, companies don’t need to worry about traditional cabling or all of the potential problems that could come with it. VoIP uses one single network, so that when changes or fixes do need to be made it does not require users to alter hardware or work with live wires.

4. Allowing Document Sharing

Many software platforms that work with VoIP tools allow users to instantly share documents and files with their colleagues. If an employee needs to send over an important report or some numbers regarding a project, they can do so easily thanks to an integrated VoIP network.

5. Better Training

More training usually leads to more productive employees. VoIP can assist with training through its 3-way calling and whisper features. With the whisper feature, you can be on a call with an outside number and someone else on the network can place a call to your number. They will be able to talk to you, but the outside caller will not hear the third party. This feature is great for live training on sales calls, for example.

6. Improving Notes And Recall

Employees who want to be able to go back to a call repeatedly to take thorough notes or glean additional information can do this through the VoIP call recording feature. With call recording, employees can re-listen to seminars or important conference calls with clients to make sure that they are approaching their work the right way.

7. Easier Interpretation Of Voicemails

Everyone knows how helpful voicemails can be for providing information or alerts when someone can’t get to the phone. With the right VoIP systems in place, your employees can access features that transcribe voicemails into text and send the text to an email address. This enhances productivity by allowing employees to instantly learn the information their voicemail messages contain, instead of having to play the message over and over again to write down important details.

 

For more information about ways business VoIP empowers productive employees, get in touch with an expert provider of integrated communication systems so you can see how these tools may be able to benefit your particular organization.

 

At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, low voltage and collaboration technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more, connect with us here. We are happy to help!

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6 AV Tech Upgrades To Pursue When Moving (Relocating)

When a business moves to a new location, it presents unique opportunities for the company to pursue AV upgrades that otherwise might not have been available. If your business is going to be moving soon, it makes sense to look into upgrading your audiovisual systems so that you can improve the efficiency of your operation once you are settled in your new location.

1. Invest In A Connected Communication System
Whether your organization primarily uses video conferencing or audio chats, it is important that your machines are all connected so that anyone can engage in communications internally or externally when they need to. Some platforms allow users to conduct video or audio conferences with anyone on the company network, which can reduce the amount of time spent on meetings and enhance individual productivity.

2. Utilize The Power Of Unified Communications
Unified communications refers to a company’s use of a single platform for communication across several channels, including audio, video, and instant message chats. When your company is moving you can upgrade your hardware systems to ensure that they are compatible with unified communications platforms that will contribute positively to collaboration within your company.

3. Improve Physical AV Security
It goes without saying that security is a concern for companies. The widespread reporting and speculation about the recent hacking of the Community Health Systems hospital network proves that security is on the mind of many consumers and business professionals. While you take measures to improve your online security, don’t forget to physically secure your AV equipment when you move. This gives your company a well-rounded ability to safeguard your important information and devices.

4. Upgrade Display Technology
Moving is a good opportunity to improve the kinds of monitors and television screens that your organization currently uses in its AV strategy. With a better display you can receive higher resolution video and images, which will help you hold more effective presentations that better convey their intended message.

5. Integrate AV With Office Furniture
In the office furniture industry, integrating technology with furniture is a very popular trend. If you are looking to upgrade your AV during an office move, investing in conference tables, lounge seating, or other types of furniture that are integrated with company networks is a smart decision. This helps your entire office stay plugged into your network more effectively.

6. Obtain More Servers
If you are expanding to a new office, it often allows you to have more room for your company’s operation. More room means more space for additional servers, which allows you to improve your bandwidth and scale up your operation while you get more out of your company’s existing hardware and software.

Moving to a new office location requires attention to detail and the consideration of many different kinds of logistics. Fortunately, moving to a new office also affords companies the opportunity to upgrade their systems. These six AV upgrades will go a long way towards helping you maximize the use that you get out of your company hardware to better accomplish your organizational goals.

At Pentegra Systems, we work closely with our clients to provide them the right audio, video, low voltage and collaboration technologies that support their business goals. Serving customers throughout Chicagoland, Pentegra aspires to be the first company you call for your system integration needs. Ready to learn more, connect with us here. We are happy to help!

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Every School Needs a Systems Integrator

If you are reading this, chances are you went to school at a time when you were lucky to have an overhead projector in your classroom and really had it made when your teacher rolled in the TV cart to watch a movie. You’ve most likely been out of school for some time and might not realize just how large of a contributor education technology has become in the classroom today as opposed to ten years ago, let alone twenty or thirty. What was either considered a luxury back then or just extremely expensive is now a thing of the past. Schools are now depending on these technologies more than ever and actually use it as a selling point to make their school a more appealing option. If you’d walk into any given classroom in 2016, you might not see as many textbooks as you’d imagine. Instead, you’d see students with Chromebooks or iPads in their hands working on educational software or other educational apps. A school’s technology is sure a lot to keep track of and stay on top of that personnel at the school most likely aren’t capable of handling. This is where a systems integrator comes in.

 

Consultation

 

Whenever you are looking to purchase something, the best thing to do is talk to somebody. Independently researching only goes so far. If you are seriously looking to acquire or upgrade your technology, your best bet is to talk with someone who knows the industry, knows the products and pretty much has their finger on the pulse. You can’t expect your school’s Director of Technology or other IT personnel to know everything. What types of technology are available? What do I really need? What is best for the students? Working with a systems integrator will answer all of your questions. Teachers and faculty of the school know how day-to-day operations go and what areas need improving. A systems integrator can help identify these areas for improvement and suggest what the best solution would be based on their vast knowledge of systems integration.  Having a direct line to that source of knowledge is extremely beneficial.

 

Healthy Business Relationship

 

Consulting and doing business with are two different things, yet a trustworthy and reliable systems integrator has you covered in both aspects. Not only can they steer you in the right direction they also bring the vision both of you come up with together to life. Having a strong relationship with an integrator means you don’t need to go elsewhere. This saves you a lot of time and from the hassle of having to find someone else. Working with a systems integrator is more than just purchasing technology; it should be a partnership and a team effort to ensure not only the best working environment for teachers and faculty, but most importantly the best learning environment for students.  The benefit of finding a reliable, hard working, honest integrator is a luxury if you often make technology purchases and upgrades for your school. Repeat business not only benefits the integrator, but also the client by getting better deals and better pricing given the repeat business over an extended period of time. As in any sort of relationship, both sides need to benefit for the relationship to continue

 

Changing The Culture

 

Having a good systems integrator can single handedly change the culture of how students learn at your school. Sure, the technology itself is the real propeller of instituting change when it comes to learning, but the systems integrator is the means of transportation to get it there. A good systems integrator can be the one to bring in the very best and top-notch systems into the classroom, not only making the teachers jobs way easier, but bringing a new level of collaboration and interactivity among students that they might have no had previously.

 

 Management All In One Place

 

Having your own integrator is not just beneficial to the school and all of its end-users, but also to the technology itself. All aspects of your technology both in AND out of the classroom can all be managed in one place. Your sound system, presentation system, phone system, data network, surveillance, etc. can all converge on the very same I/P network and going through the same systems integrator can make that all possible. Having all of your low-voltage integrated systems run on the same I/P network simplifies not just how it operates, but also adding new technology in the future.

 

 

Having a systems integrator that you can call your own can help your school in several ways. The only real question left is where you find a good systems integrator. For more information on what to look for when picking the right systems integrator, check out one of our recent blogs posts Picking The Right Integrator.

 

Are you looking for a systems integrator? Perhaps Pentegra can be of service.

Call us today at (630) 941-6000 or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com!

 

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Are you using Video Conferencing yet?

It is almost 2017. The internet has allowed us to achieve levels of communication and collaboration we would have never dreamed about. You can communicate with someone halfway across the globe instantly and effortlessly. This has improved not only our personal lives, but these possibilities have also had a lasting impact on the world of business. Basically, unless you have been living under a rock, video conferencing is here to stay. It goes without saying that nothing beats a real face-to-face conversation, but what do you do when that’s not available? Sure you can have your emails, instant messaging, telephones, etc. but the next best thing to an actual face-to-face conversation is indeed video conferencing. Can you believe there are still people out there NOT utilizing this technology? There is nothing wrong with being a late-adopter, but if you ARE a late-adopter you’ve most likely heard time and time again how beneficial video conferencing from others that have used it. Here are some major advantages and reasons to start using video conferencing:

Productivity:

Whether your employees work out of the office or at home, the luxury of attending a meeting whenever wherever is a blessing for businesses. The world of video conferencing negates any travel whatsoever. You don’t have to drive across town, hop on a plane or even just walk to the meeting room upstairs. Taking traveling out of the equation leaves employees more time to get work done which increases productivity for any business.

Money Saver:

In most cases business meetings are local, but in other cases you’d need to catch a flight to wherever. In either case it costs the company money. Traveling not only costs you productivity (AND TIME), but it also hits you financially. Got a meeting and it takes an hour to get there and an hour back? That’s gas money. Need to attend a meeting in Phoenix next week? You’ll need to pay airfare, accommodations, rental car, food, etc. Imagine the money you’d save by just clicking an application on your computer or mobile device and remote in through video conferencing? No muss, no fuss.

Employee Satisfaction:

Let’s be real, traveling can be a hassle to varying degrees. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days. Who wouldn’t want to remain at their desk opposed to spending time on the road or in the air just to attend a meeting? You don’t need to pack your suitcase, you don’t need to dread the road trip, don’t need to go through TSA, don’t need to be away from your family, etc. Instead of boarding a flight, your employees will be onboard with this.

Improved Communication:

You get all the benefits of a face-to-face conversation with video conferencing. Much of communication is determined by body language and facial expressions. It is difficult to read a person over a conference call or e-mail. This helps build your relationships with your customers and also your fellow employees. You get the effect of being there…without literally being there. It is much easier to become engaged in a meeting when you can see the people you’re speaking with.

Sharing:

Most meetings have visual aids, something to compliment the speaker. With video conferencing, not only can you see the people you’re speaking to you can also share files effortlessly online. Need to show an informative video? Need to display a PowerPoint? The members of your meeting can view these files through screen sharing and easily keep up with the topics on the agenda.

Build the Best Staff:

As a business owner or decision maker for you company, you want to do what is best for business. A crucial aspect of any good business is employing the right people. Through the use of video conferencing you don’t necessarily have to limit your personnel search to just locally. Let’s say you find a prime candidate for a position that is more qualified than any of the local applicants however this person is in the next state. No problem. Video conferencing enables you to bring this person onboard because you can work from home and never miss a meeting or suffer from a lack of communication. Also this enables your business to cover more ground if your employees are working out of different locations.

 

Technology has come a long way and is becoming more easily accessible to everyone, everywhere. There are several different options to choose from when it comes to video conferencing and they are all so incredibly user-friendly. Even the most out of touch late-adopters would find it easy to use should definitely take advantage of this communication tool. Let one of our engineers steer you in the right direction and help determine what video conferencing system is best for you today.

 

Call us today at (630) 941-6000

Or visit us online at www.pentegrasystems.com

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Picking the Right Integrator

Time flies. We have all heard that expression. You can’t stop the clock. Everyone and everything gets older, including your technology. Well, especially your technology. It seems like every day you look at your once “state-of-the art” presentation system complete with projector, ceiling speaker system and all of the bells and whistles that would and did impress people about 10 years ago. Now? Well you are looking for an upgrade. This goes for all sorts of technology. You want something completely brand new, but most of all you want it designed, engineered and installed by professionals. So, what do you do? You need to pick the right integrator.

Here are 5 things to look for when choosing the right integrator:

Compile a List of Integrators

Picking the right integrator is easy if you have the right options. Finding said options is a little tougher of a task. Give a general contractor or a consultant a call and ask some questions. These are the companies and individuals that work with integrators often and would have a solid knowledge base on the matter and can definitely point you in the right direction. Also, it goes without saying, the internet is your best friend. A simple Google search of local integrators should turn up some results. Pick some accurate keywords when searching online. For example: “CCTV” and “Access Control” when searching for potential security integrators, “sound masking” or “digital signage” if you are trying to find an AV specialist. Some names could be very familiar to you and some you may never have heard of and that’s okay.

Competency

By now you have a short list of a few integrators you’d like to explore working with. You now need to find out if these firms can even do the work and do the work properly. The firm you ultimately choose will need to be certified in the specific field. The target firm not only needs qualified individuals, but industry leaders when it comes to all facets of your potential project such as sales, engineering, project management, etc.) The firms’ websites are a primary destination to find out most of your answers and are a decent indicator of the firms’ abilities. The more information on a company’s website the better your perception of them will most likely be. Give each integrator on your list a call and let them help you find out what it is you really want and really need. There is nothing better than interacting with a potential future integrator early in the planning process. You can feel them out, ask questions, and test their knowledge. Have them help you identify your issues and aid you in finding the perfect solution. That is what an integrator does, identifies a problem and devises a solution. Have multiple conversations or have a representative come out to your site so they really get a good grasp of the situation. This will give you a much needed and accurate perception of the integrator and give you a pretty solid base to select the perfect one for you.

Firm Size

Dig deeper into the firm, more than the basic information. Is this firm the size of a firm that can make your project a reality? What is their annual revenue? You have already spoken to these companies and have a pretty good perception of how qualified their staff is (or not), but do they have a reasonably sized staff to execute such a project as yours? Is this firm too small to be taking on your project? Or is this firm actually too big to be taking on your project? For example: You’re a small business looking for a small telephone system for your office. The one firm you have an eye has contracts with companies that makes $50 Million dollars per year or higher. Will they even take time to work with you? Will they exhibit the same care they show for their high-end clients? These are just some things to think about.

Reputation & References

Being capable of doing something and actually having done something are two different things. You have a good idea that a couple firms can get the job done, but now you want to know their track record. To really get a good idea of what working with a certain firm is like you need to talk directly to some of their clients. Many firms have some of their notable clients listed on their websites that you can get in contact with and some firms will actually give you a client list with the proper information of who to contact, which is a very good and telling sign of how they go about their business. When making any decision, the more information you know the better off you’ll be.

Post Installation Support

When you are doing research about an integrator please do not forget to also look further into their post-installation methodologies. This includes their ability and reliability of servicing and maintaining your system to ensure it operates to its full potential. For more information about what to look for in a great service department, check out our previous blog here.

 

Much like a consumer buying a new car, businesses and organizations do their due diligence when it comes to purchasing new technology for their space. This is not a task that should be rushed. A worthwhile investment such as a new phone system or sound system requires investment from a financial standpoint, but also a time standpoint. Rome was not built in a day. If you follow the steps above and get serious about searching for the perfect integrator, you will find one and hopefully build a lasting business relationship with for several years.

 

Pentegra Systems is a low-voltage integrator specializing in audio, video, data, security and telecom solutions. Are you in the market to upgrade the technology in your business or organization? Visit our website for more information at www.pentegrasystems.com or give us a call at (630) 941-6000.

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Advantages of Leasing Technology

It is 2015 and let’s face it technology has become a necessity in almost every aspect of your life. This is a harsh truth to some people, but so is the fact that if you want the best technology it sure doesn’t come cheap. Is your business in need of network equipment? How about a video wall in your lobby? Chances are you can be looking at a substantial investment. What if you just don’t have that sort of money when you need it most? Leasing technology quickly becomes a pretty appealing option.

SAVING You Money

Let’s say you are the facilities manager at your company and you need to look into buying a video surveillance system to monitor the grounds. To acquire a proper system fitting both your needs and your wants, your system has a price tag of $60,000. Your company definitely needs this system, but just doesn’t have that money to spend right now. By leasing this surveillance system your company can get the exact system you want and need today and pay it off over a specific time frame with a pre-determined monthly cost. Plus, more than likely there will be no down payment to begin with. You can spend that total of $60,000 over the entire lifetime of you using it opposed to dropping that serious amount of money all at once. By leasing this technology, you conserve your capital. By not buying the system upfront, you free up that money you would have spent otherwise. This way, you not only get your video surveillance system, but now have additional money to spend in other areas that also need it.

Keeping You Up-to-Date

In today’s world your brand new cutting edge technology could become outdated by tomorrow. You buy a brand new phone and within months, or weeks now it seems, an even newer phone comes out with much better features that is miles ahead of the one you just purchased. We have all been there. Being stuck with outdated technology is just a common burden that cannot be avoided. Leasing technology gives the buyer the option to update their current equipment when their current lease is up giving them the freedom to periodically have the most up to date products on the market. When your lease agreement comes to an end you simply pick from the current options available and begin a new lease agreement. Plus, since the technology you are leasing will never be outdated, you are also saving yourself the expenses of necessary repairs. If you are stuck with technology that you bought up front, the longer times goes on the more and more that equipment will need to be repaired and maintained, thus saving you even more money.

Other Advantages

When tax time rolls around, the IRS lets you deduct the full cost of all newly purchased assets in the previous year. This does not only mean equipment you purchased upfront, but it also includes equipment you leased. Select lease structures are 100% tax deductible. The entire cost of you leasing your equipment can often be reported as an expense item when its income tax season and could potentially give you a larger tax deduction.  Also, when looking to take out a lease on equipment or technology, most financial services can turn your transaction around in one day’s time. Depending on the size, the much larger transactions are often given high priority. Financial Services not only make the transaction smoother, but also save time and resources making it as hassle-free as possible.  In addition, depending on your type of organization, you can qualify for additional benefits. For example, School Districts have an even greater advantage when leasing due to tax-exempt and flexible payment lease programs that lower the costs of ownership even further down. Schools have tight budgets as it is, they can’t afford to buy equipment upfront in most cases, so in addition to the money leasing will save them additional programs will also save them even more. Faculty, staff, students and parents can definitely appreciate a school with the most up to date technology without the large financial burden of paying for it all at once.

In the grand scheme of things, leasing technology makes the most sense, especially for education and government customers. Municipalities and schools definitely need up-to-date technology and just can’t consistently afford or be as efficient by purchasing that equipment outright when compared to leasing it. Leasing gives you more money to work with now which is crucial in today’s economy. The advantages of leasing become extremely beneficial not just when it comes to affording the equipment, but also using it given you will always be using current technology that will rarely need repairs, let alone replacing.

 

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Misconception of Business Class VoIP

When making any sort of important decision, you need all the facts. Whether it is for your personal life or professional life, your home or your business, a thorough analysis needs to be conducted on the road to your ultimate solution. A common issue for both homes and businesses, for example, is what phone system to choose. In the communication industry, Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is quite the popular and appealing choice. However there can be quite the misunderstanding when customers assume getting a VoIP Phone System for their business is the same as the one they’d get in their own homes. This is specifically why having all the facts is crucial.  When the average, non-tech savvy consumer hears VoIP, they tend to think of residential phone systems that make calls over the internet and carry the reputation of terrible call quality given the internet cannot be controlled and bandwidth is always an issue. Many businesses are hesitant to go the VoIP route because of this reason. Why would a company choose a phone system if they know terrible call quality is even a remote possibility? More importantly, why would a company choose a phone system that relies solely on the internet? However, they are simply making an assumption without having all the facts.

A business VoIP phone system is actually a premise-based phone system that is Ethernet-based and uses the data pipes of the business. Basically, the VoIP system combines with the business class phone service that the company uses. This system utilizes the data network to make calls within the building only, but uses the standard phone line to communicate anywhere outside the building. Call quality is not an issue since it doesn’t function like a residential VoIP phone. There are several advantages for businesses to use a VoIP telephone system. For instance, changes and modifications to the system can be made much easier and at a quicker rate.  Let’s say an employee needs to move their desk somewhere else in the building. Historically this would require quite the amount of effort to make the move. With a business class VoIP phone system, all of the phones are already programmed. The employee simply just needs to plug it into the network jack at their new desk. This eliminates the unnecessary time and resources it would take to get that employee up and running at their new desk if the company didn’t use a VoIP phone system. A phone system in the office that uses the company’s data line enables the phone system to interact with company computers; accessing contacts, transferring voicemails, managing voicemails and completely integrating with the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) system, just to name a handful of possibilities. This interaction is called Computer Telephone Integration, also known as CTI. Another attractive aspect to business class VoIP systems is that the company would not need to install a second set of cabling since the existing data cables are already in place. Easier connectivity, countless features and crystal clear sound quality make business class VoIP quite the appealing option to businesses.

As you can clearly see, VoIP in the business world is significantly different than a VoIP system in the home. A residential VoIP phone system does have its own advantages and features that are appealing to the consumer, and all of those features are also available with a business class VoIP system without the quality of the call being an issue like it occasionally is with a residential VoIP. The potential and upside of using a VoIP phone system in the business world, such as the systems ShoreTel offers, is quite large considering all of the integration possibilities of the system. Much like any decision maker, if you want to truly make the right choice and the choice that makes the most sense for both your needs and your wants, you should make sure you have all the correct information first and foremost.

 

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Commercial Vs. Residential VoIP

For most people, life in the workplace and life at home are commonly two completely different entities. Professional lives are called professional for a reason, same goes with personal lives. They are meant to be separate. The way you interact with colleagues in the office is always much different than how you interact with friends and family outside the work environment. Life is just simpler when both worlds are split. You don’t dress the same way at work as you do at home. You don’t use your computer the same way at work as you do at home. The world of business is treated with a different level of importance as opposed to the personal lives of the people working in it. Let’s take the age-old telephone as a prime example. The phone system inside your office needs to be drastically different than the phone system inside your home. Since we are living in the year 2015, let’s specifically target the voice over internet protocol (VoIP) phone systems.

Using a VoIP telephone is basically making a call over the internet because honestly, what doesn’t use the internet at this point in time? Whether in the office or at work, technology keeps shrinking the world. Much like any technology out there, any given consumer is concerned with what they are going to get for their money. Features are what the customer looks for first. Residential VoIP systems are pretty straightforward in every sense of the word. This system will have just one phone number and two phone lines. In most cases that is the maximum. You will generally get one or two voice mailboxes to listen to your messages. Typically you also will get one forwarding number, no extensions and a rather cheap “minutes per month” plan. In some cases the minutes per month are unmetered. Businesses are much more complex than the way your average home functions. It’s common knowledge that businesses use far more minutes of talk time than your average household. Business VoIP providers offer a slew of other options that a typical residential customer surely wouldn’t need or even want. Business VoIP systems have extensions so every inbound call is sent to an extension of the main office number. Direct phone numbers can be purchased for additional cost in addition to extension numbers. Business VoIP providers offer such features as call centers, auto-dialers, telepresence and conference bridges as well as various software packages to enhance your system and integrate with other technologies. Many providers also offer additional features beyond that, for a premium cost, for features like call groups and automatic callback.

The number of features the system has can go a long way in determining its overall capabilities. A typical VoIP phone line can manage several simultaneous calls at once. This number of calls is determined by the bandwidth available at any given time. A business VoIP system can usually be able to handle 100 calls at the same time with ease. Residential VoIP systems can manage three calls, two of which are concurrent with the third being put on hold. The residential VoIP system is obviously cheaper to correspond with consumers’ wants and needs. Plus, the residential system needs to be affordable for the consumer, thus justifying the lack of features. Although designed for strictly household purposes, the residential VoIP system is sometimes offered to businesses as well. Since residential VoIP commonly has a flat rate pricing strategy and business VoIP pricing models can get quite intimidating and confusing, small businesses might opt for the cheaper route if at all possible. If a small business can function using the restrictions that come with a residential VoIP, they are able to purchase and use it for the same rather inexpensive rates.

As you can clearly see this is an “apples-to-oranges” comparison opposed to an “apples-to-apples.” VoIP, whether commercial or residential, are aiming to replace standard telephone and PBX phone systems whether that be in the home or the office. Residential users are attracted by the lower prices and businesses love getting the most out of services like video conferencing that present much more than just the typical voice offering. The telephone used to be one of the most straightforward and timeless inventions on the market, but as you can clearly see the telephone you would use in the workplace is bound to be extremely different and incredibly more complex from the one you use in the comfort of your own home in this day in age.

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The Difference Between Consultants and Integrators

Imagine this scenario. You are the owner of a medium sized business whose sales have been on the upswing for the past several years. Due to this increase in business, your company is in the process of expanding into a brand new facility to support the increased operational demands that accompany your business success.  Your new facility has ample office space to house your growing workforce, and includes huddle rooms for ad hoc collaboration and a large conference room for formal presentations. Even your warehouse space is drastically larger than your previous location. You are now faced with a dilemma and you need answers. What technology systems will you need to best support the way you do business? What are your options for audio and video systems, telephones, internet connection, security, etc? Where do you start? These are decisions that need to be made not only in a timely fashion, but they need to be made correctly for the overall well-being of your business. At this fork in the road, there are two directions you can go: seeking out the help from an independent consultant or enlisting the services of a design-build systems integrator.

Independent Consultant:

Whenever someone is faced with an issue in life, they tend to seek out help or advice. They tend to consult someone on what they should do next. That is where independent consultants come into play in the technology field. A consultant is there to steer you in the right direction when you have very little to no knowledge of what steps to take. These consultants are skilled at strategically evaluating current and future needs. They have no particular affiliation to a product line or relationship with a contracting company and as a request will provide an unbiased opinion. Independent consultants can conduct a feasibility study after visiting to your site or start with a “blank slate” when designing for a new facility, and in either case formulate the design direction. Independent consultants are typically part of a larger architectural and engineering team charged with designing a new facility or renovating an existing facility, and will ensure the technology systems are integrated within and coordinated with other elements of the facility design. Independent consultants act as the Owner’s advocate, refining the technology systems’ design to best balance the Owner’s concerns, including technology scope, system complexity and level of user expertise, and costs. The design process typically culminates in a set of documents – drawings and specifications – that are used to solicit bid proposals for each trade division that are required to construct the facility, and consultants often have the opportunity to recommend a list of prequalified  systems integrators that  can best execute the scope of work.  The independent consultant method serves best to establish a defined scope of work on which multiple systems integrators may bid, resulting in bid proposals that may be compared directly to each other in an apples-to-apples way.

Design-Build Systems Integrator:

When Owners are looking for a more cost-effective option, they seek out the alternative.  Known as a Design-Build process, it utilizes the design knowledge and expertise of the systems integrator, themselves.  For the Owner, the initial process of selecting a systems integrator is the most difficult, and requires a targeted effort on their part to be successful.  How do I find the right integrator?  What integrator has the appropriate expertise?  Can the integrator design multiple types of systems for my facility? All of these are important questions to ask, and the Owner must ask these and other questions in order to receive answers that establish a level of comfort and trust in choosing an integrator that will deliver success on every aspect of the project scope. So, what exactly are the answers an Owner should expect from such an integrator?  Owners should ask for – and contact – an integrator’s references for similar projects, which is likely the best indicator of how successful they will be on your project. A systems integrator should have a detailed process for assessing the Owner’s systems needs and should compile those needs in a written narrative describing the design of each system in conceptual form, and then review and refine the design and associated costs with the Owner toward arriving at a final design and cost that best meets all of the Owner’s needs and concerns.  Integrators should be capable of working with multiple applications and system types that interoperate with one another, typically through the data network, of which the integrator must also have design expertise. They should also have a good track record of working with other vendors and trades on a project in a harmonious way.  Integrators must have the personnel and internal resources to make the project a reality from concept to completion, including industry certified design engineers, standards-based CAD departments, certified project managers and highly trained shop and field technicians. A systems integrator designs and builds systems for Owners by combining both hardware and software from multiple vendors to assemble multiple systems in a custom way, which when performed correctly can lower the overall cost of the design and installation of these systems by achieving an economy-of-scale typical of a single integrator approach.

As you can see, both independent consultants and systems integrators more than serve their own respective purposes in the world of technology. Which method would you choose when making decisions about the technology in your new space?

 

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How to Manage BYOD on a Wireless Network

In the past, it was commonplace for employees of a business to only use resources provided and owned by their respective employer. Usual examples include computers and company phones. Businesses had total control of how these devices were being used since they were in-house and more than likely that’s where they stayed. Fast forward to present day, things have changed quite a bit. Through the help of wireless networks, a movement called BYOD has become quite popular. BYOD is an acronym standing for “Bring Your Own Device.” This allows for employees of the company to bring their own personal mobile devices to the workplace to use. These devices are most commonly used to carry out usual business practices which often involve the accessing of privileged company information and applications. BYOD has proven to drive employee satisfaction as well as overall productivity. This initiative also saves companies money since they do not have to supply the employee with a company device. The issues are that since these devices are also used for personal use of the employee, companies don’t have that complete control over these devices and how they are used. Since BYOD is a trend that most likely will grow, the question arises: how does one manage BYOD on a wireless network?

When first implementing a BYOD policy in the workplace, the decision needs input from everyone across the board. If valuable company information is going to be accessible on personal devices of employees, collaboration is needed from top ranked management officers, the IT department, human resources, etc as to what extent of information can and can’t be accessed. Every single person involved needs to be on the same page when thinking about what is best for the company. Once these decisions are made rules and guidelines absolutely need to be put in place as to what employees are and aren’t allowed to do on their devices while using them for work purposes. These rules need to be as specific and as clear as possible to avoid any unexpected or unwanted usage issues.

There are several ways to go about managing BYOD. Companies want the capability to monitor what employees are doing with their devices. Many mobile devices already offer a slew of technologies that can monitor usage of multiple features. Such technologies include GPS receivers, camera recorders and audio recorders. However, most companies commonly implement the use services and suites to closely manage how their users are using their devices. These technologies have the ability to act as a safeguard for both outgoing and incoming files and information. If these devices have access to valuable company information, companies wouldn’t want any of their private information to accidentally leak out. BYOD management software has a tight hold on the data traffic ensuring nothing will fall into unwanted hands. The same principal goes for monitoring what comes into these devices such as downloading files or applications that can be harmful to the business.  Alert systems are also incorporated to immediately notify necessary parties of any sort of issue that arises. Tighter security measures must also be in place for CEO’s and various higher ups within the organization due to their access to perhaps more confidential information than that of the average employee.

Any website, hyperlink or e-mail attachment has the potential to be extremely hazardous. As employees browse the web and open e-mails, the possibilities of viruses arise. Viruses are a significant issue when individual users’ devices get infected given the amount of data stored within those devices (account numbers, financial information, personal information, etc.). However, the issues only intensify when an entire company is at risk. Viruses can’t only steal information; they have the capability of bringing down an entire network. Policies need to be in place where all devices need to be running antivirus and anti-malware programs especially if the device runs a vulnerable OS such as Windows, Android or Linux. These programs will be the first line of defense against incoming threats. In addition to companies already securing their data, companies need to deploy a dedicated device such as SonicWALL to manage the security of the network. Relying on simple firewalls is not enough. Your network should be a managed impenetrable fortress to the outside world.

In an effort to manage the system in a much more efficient way, the BYOD initiative should not include “any” device. Employees shouldn’t assume they can bring whatever device they have and expect it to work with the system. There are a slew of mobile devices available and one cannot expect every single one to be able to be included. The business has quite a large task on their hands as it has to oversee what is going on with everyone’s device, the narrower the spectrum of devices, the easier it will be to manage and create policies and security measures.

Security is the big picture when managing a BYOD program, obviously. Decision makers need to also create loss, theft and exit policies. How many times has one of your friends or family members told you that they lost their phone again? When an employee brings their device to work and has access to company information, these devices indirectly become an asset to that company without the company actually owning them. A prime example is contact information. If an employee leaves a company for whatever reason, they no longer just take away the experience from that job; they have information in their device such as important contacts among other things that they can more than likely utilize elsewhere. These policies will need to balance features and risks to protect the personal information of the user as well as the reputation of the business.

If employees are to use their own personal devices for work purposes, policies and security measures must be in place. However, the employees using their personal mobile devices most likely won’t want their phone or tablet on total lockdown. It’s at this point BYOD creates a risk for both the employer and employee. There needs to be a medium. In terms of what a company can have access to, there needs to be a fine line between a user’s company data and a user’s personal data. This is where managing a BYOD becomes critical for the initiative’s overall success and prosperity. The BYOD system has proven to be ultimately successful if this balance can be achieved.

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Village of Schaumburg

Village of Schaumburg

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Schaumburg is a well-known northwestern suburb of Chicago of about 75,000 residents and has been ranked as one of the best places to live in Illinois by MONEY Magazine. The village is best known for the massive Woodfield Mall, currently the 11th largest mall in the United States. The mall contains ...

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