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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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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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 Collaboration Technologies That Millennials Want At Work

Millennials are the most tech-savvy, collaborative, and socially-minded generation in human history.  Millennials have grown up using smartphones, Facebook, and the cloud.  They can navigate the web like the back of their hand.  Millennials realize the future belongs to them.  They are determined that today’s workplaces match their expectations and ideals.

In a nutshell, Millennials seek work environments that foster connectivity, meaning, and social purpose.  They seek work hours and arrangements, which reflect their desire to balance career goals with their family and personal aspirations.  In particular, Millennials view work as an “activity,” not a physical place.  Therefore, they look at flexible hours and telecommuting as prerequisites. They want the workplace to reflect their values and ideals.  In short, they want work environments that provide the technological and collaborative opportunities they expect.  Five collaboration technologies that Millennials want at work include:

1) Video:  Traditionally, business people have opted for in-person meetings as their preferred method of communication.  Millennials value face-time, but they have embraced video-conferencing as an ideal tool for conducting meetings, saving time, and enhancing collaboration.

2) Huddle Rooms:  Millennials want to flatten and dismantle hierarchies.  They dislike and distrust command-and-control environments.  They are more interested in team-building than individual status.  In this regard, huddle rooms are an ideal way to tap the creative energies of Millennials.  What is a huddle room?  Essentially a huddle room is a space where a small number of workers can gather to discuss or tackle a common agenda.  Huddle rooms are an alternative to large, costly, and less intimate conference rooms.  Huddle rooms typically involve a display, such as a flat screen monitor, a table or workspace, and a webcam that facilitates video or teleconferencing with outside parties.  Huddle rooms vary in size, as do their specific features, depending on the needs of the organization.  But basically huddle rooms are designed to foster and tap the creative energies of small but nimble teams focused on common goals.  Millennials distrust top-down environments.  Instead, they value work environments where teamwork and horizontal relationships are more prominent.  Innovative working arrangements, such as the huddle room, facilitate the kind of work experience Millennials expect.

3) Social Media:  Technology is the air that Millennials breathe.  They are accustomed to using services like Facebook, Twitter, and Linked-in on a daily basis.  They utilize these platforms throughout the day (at home and on the go) and they expect to use them at work as well.

4) Telecommunication:  By 2025, about 40% of the workforce is expected to work from home.  Millennials value flexibility, comfort, and family time.  Millennials view commuting and the nine to five workday as anachronistic.  Milennialls see working from home as natural.  Indeed more than 90% of Millennials want to work from home, and more than 85% want to work according to their own schedule.  Millennials want to work, but they want technological options that will allow them work from remote locations and according to their own schedules.

5) Gaming Apps:  Millenials have grown up in the world of videogames.  They want work to be fun and exciting; not boring and frustrating like the jobs their parents endured.  According to Adam Penenberg, companies are responding to this reality by developing “gamification applications,” programs and systems that turn the work experience into a something of a game.

Millennials are going to shape the future of work.  Like previous generations, Millennials value work, but they have a different idea of how to get work done than their predecessors.  Millennials value transparency, collaboration, and flexibility.  They believe corporations need to be less hierarchical and more socially accountable.  They want to telecommute and set their own schedules.  They also want work to be creative and fun.   Millenneials will embrace tools that foster collaboration and other ways of interacting creatively with their peers and their work environments.

Resources:

Information Week What Millennials Want at Work

Forbes: 10 Ways Millennials are Creating the Future of Work

 

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Peerless Industries

Peerless Industries

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Peerless Industries, Inc. is a leading designer, manufacturer and distributor of American-made audio-visual solutions. The company’s innovative product line includes flat panel and projector mounts, wireless technology, motorized mount solutions, cables, kiosks, AV furniture and racks and other ...

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