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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Benefits of Premise-Based Phone Systems vs. Hosted Phone Systems

In a world dominated by emailing, tweeting and text messaging, one device has continued to remain an intricate component of communication in business, the telephone. As easy as it may be to send a quick email instead of dialing the phone, there is no more effective method of communicating with another human being other than face-to-face than that of the phone. As far as technology has come, a telephone system is still a necessity in the workplace. When evaluating what VoIP phone system to implement in your workplace, it boils down to hosted vs. premise-based phone systems.  A premise-based phone system is one that is completely controlled and maintained within the business itself while a hosted phone system is one that is hosted in the cloud. In a time where most technology is migrating to the cloud, a phone system in house is still the more appealing option.             

Features

The most obvious starting point when choosing which system suits your business better is what features each has to offer. When researching various hosted phone systems, it’s obvious that they do not offer all of the features as the ones that are offered in premise-based. In most cases this is true as queues (automatic call lineup and routing) and IVRs (interactive voice response) are missing or at the very least, cost extra.  These additional features are more often than not already included with premise-based phone systems at no additional charge. If your business needs its critical business communication features, a premise-based system could ultimately be the way to go.

Control

It’s only natural preferring to have control over your assets. By choosing a premise-based phone system over one that resides in the cloud, the user will have more control and more flexibility. As it is when owning any type of asset, the owner has complete control over its use and operation. The premise-based phone system resides within your facility and is controlled and managed in-house as well making it much simpler to make necessary changes. Having to make any modification such as changing VoIP providers becomes much easier when you own your own PBX and it can be done much quicker as well.

Location

The provider’s location of a hosted phone system is more than likely hundreds or thousands of miles away. This large distance might cause certain latency for your phone system as well as the constant need for a powerful internet connection. Just one of the advantages of a premise-based phone system is the signaling over your own Local Area Network opposed to over the internet. All signaling occurs mere feet away. It’s common knowledge that the speed of the internet is never a constant. Having such a necessary tool as your telephone depending on the speed of your internet connection is an incredibly risky move.

Cost

One of, if not the largest factor that goes into a purchasing decision is the cost. Premise-based systems have up-front costs such as installation. In addition to purchasing the IP PBX, the customer will need to buy all handsets, gateways, routers as well as purchase the proper training for all employees. These costs can initially appear as quite a burden to small to medium sized businesses. However, as mentioned above premise-based phone systems more often than not include all of the premium features businesses need at no additional cost. Hosted phone systems require the user to purchase those extra features. In addition to paying for features, cloud providers also charge extra for service and maintenance costs and upgrades. Premise-based phone systems often include service and maintenance contracts when first purchasing the equipment. Depending on future issues with the system, the maintenance fees that come with a cloud-based system can pile up substantially over time in addition to your yearly or monthly service costs. The total cost of a premise-based phone system could appear large at first, but becomes quite appealing given the amount of years you plan on using it compared to the constant costs of a hosted phone system over that same time period.

As many services transition to the cloud, some services might actually be better off on the physical surface. However, any decision regarding the purchasing of an asset such as a phone system will always boil down to customer need. Phone system providers work with the customer to ensure that they are getting the proper system to fit each of their needs to improve everyday function of their business. Tell us about what type of phone system your company has and why in the comment section below!

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5 Tips For Successful Video on Wireless Networks (WLAN)

Video conferencing is tool a now widely used by businesses, schools, government agencies, and households.  The development of high-speed wireless access has greatly increased the number of computer users who regularly video conference over wireless networks (WLAN).  Today, users typically bring their own device (BYOD) when it comes to making video calls through wireless networks.  The variety of devices – tablets, laptops, smart phones, etc – is formidable.  Tips for ensuring successful video on wireless networks include:


1)  Bandwidth:  Having enough bandwidth to support high quality video calls is essential. When it comes to supporting video calls the 802.11n standard is ideal.   Basically, 802.11n is a wireless networking standard that governs transmission rates.  With an 802.11n network, multiple antennas are used to increase the data rates necessary to support multimedia, video, and other high bandwidth applications.  If you require high-quality video conferencing, particularly when multiple users will be using the same Wi-Fi network, then utilizing a standard as up-to-date as the 802.11n protocol is essential.  Ideally, both the wireless router and the adapter in a BYOD will adhere to the 802.11n standard. 


2)  Use a Quality Video Conferencing Service:  Free video conferencing services, such as Skype and Google Hangouts, offer a decent quality when it comes to video conferencing with friends and family.  However, if you are a business person who needs to make a good impression, then make sure you are utilizing professional quality video conferencing software.   Losing a client over a dropped call or technical glitch is not worth it.


3)  Security:  Security is of paramount concern when logging onto or managing a WLAN network.  Put simply, wireless networks are vulnerable to outside hackers and legitimate users who might misuse their network privileges.  The proliferation of BYODs necessitates security protocols that identify each and every user and device that connects to a network and grants them an appropriate level of access.  Managing security can help insure that network resources are available for legitimate activities, such as video calls.   


4)  Router Signal: Making sure you receive a strong signal from a wireless router is important if you will be utilizing high-bandwidth activities like video calls.  Most devices include bars and graphics, which visually illustrate the signal strength you are receiving.  If the signal seems weak, then try moving your device around until you find a stronger signal.


5)  Upgrade Your Device’s Wi-Fi Adapter:  Upgrading the Wi-Fi adapter in your device can help improve performance when it comes to video calls.  Most new devices probably include the latest networking standards, such as the 802.11n protocol.  However, in most cases, older computers and laptops can be adapted to the latest standards because they include slots for wireless PC cards and USB adaptors.  Adapting devices like smart phones might not be as easy.


Video calls are an increasingly important and common feature of our daily lives.  Schools, businesses and households are utilizing video calls for educational purposes, to conduct business and stay in-touch.  When they go well, video calls can be fun and productive.  However, technical glitches still mar many video calls.  Configuring devices and wireless networks to optimize video calls is often a simple process.  When it comes to video calls, doing a little tech homework and preparation can help ensure that your video conferences go smoothly.

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Chicago Teachers Union

Chicago Teachers Union

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 30,000 teachers and personnel of the Chicago Public Schools system and has been doing so for more than 75 years. In 2014, CTU announced that it would be moving their offices from the Merchandise Mart to a newly renovated three-story, 70,000 square foot ...

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