Why You Should Consider VoIP For Your Business

A growing number of small businesses are switching from traditional landlines to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems. While it can be an uphill task to overhaul the entire telecommunications system of any small business, it is definitely worth considering in light of the ever-increasing costs of traditional services. In fact, according to In-Stat, almost 79 percent of American businesses use VoIP phones, a 37 percent increase since 2009.

VoIP is a method of making phone calls using the internet as opposed to using typical landlines. VoIP services integrate IP phones, which look pretty much like traditional office phones, except they plug into an internet connection with an Ethernet cable.

Cost effectiveness
The biggest VoIP attraction is low cost. Since it is internet-based, hosted systems usually require little to no hardware investment apart from routers, Ethernet cables and the phones themselves, which are offered at reduced prices. According to estimates, the monthly service fees can run up to 40 percent less than traditional phone lines, and many providers offer monthly services with no long-term contracts.

VoIP is particularly cost-effective, if you have employees working from satellite offices or telecommuters. A telecommuter can take a VoIP phone home and make calls by plugging it into his home internet connection to make and receive calls on the company lines at no additional cost.

Other benefits
Certain VoIP service providers have introduced mobile apps that allow workers to make and receive phone calls on their mobile devices using the company phone numbers. Their privacy is therefore protected since they do not give their personal phone number. In addition, the company owns the line so if an employee leaves, calls are routed to the company rather than the employee’s cell phone.

Drawbacks
While the mobility and scalability of VoIP systems are attractive features, there are some drawbacks to consider. For instance, since phones depend on an internet connection, if the connection fails, the phones would be dysfunctional. You can still as a precaution measure automatically drive incoming calls to voicemail or redirect them to the user’s cell phone.

In addition, bandwidth problems could affect the quality of the calls made. If other office activities are consuming the greatest portion of bandwidth, calls will be filled with pauses and clicks, and dropped calls may also occur. There might also be extra charges for connecting to mobile phones or conference calling, and many VoIP providers don’t offer 911 services or charge extra for it.

The future
The increase in VoIP adoption is undeniable, and analysts predict that it will become the predominant business phone service over the next decade.

Is It Time You Had A Failover ISP?

Jason Cooley is Support Services Manager for Tech Experts.

So, you may want to ask – what is a failover ISP? Let’s not over complicate it: it is exactly what it sounds like. A failover ISP is a backup Internet connection through a secondary Internet service provider.

This means paying two monthly bills, for two Internet connections. Strong selling point? Probably not for most people. So what is the appeal? Is it something that will be that useful? First, we would need to know a few things.

How much of your business relies on the Internet? Sure, a quick 10 minute outage is an inconvenience, but most businesses will survive, albeit with different levels of comfort and success.

What happens if there is an extended outage? Can you operate an entire day without an Internet connection? How much money would you lose from being offline for an entire business day?

While the answers to these questions will vary, the fact is there are a growing number of daily business operations that utilize an Internet connection.

VoIP phones? No Internet, no phones. Credit card processing? Unless you use an analog telephone line, that’s out too. Rely on email?

Your phone may be capable, but is that something you want to be stuck doing for an extended period? The fact is, more and more, we really on a stable Internet connection.

What impact does lost time have on your daily operation? While I touched on some of the basics here, think about how you could function without a connection. For some people, it just isn’t possible.

If you are a financial institution that utilizes an offsite financial database, you rely on a connection to service your customers. If you are an insurance company that sends and receives quote information over the Internet and take payments through online processing, you can’t operate.

If you have an office with all VoIP phones and every employee utilizes online tools and services, you can’t operate. Or maybe you are a healthcare provider that needs a connection for patient insurance?

You will have to make some choices about losing a day if any of these apply to you. This is a reality and, in some cases, a gamble.

This just isn’t something we need right now.

Understandable for a lot of businesses out there. There are different needs for different business types.

Restaurants, for instance, probably couldn’t accept credit or debit cards if they lost connection. During a temporary outage, you can relay to your customers that you can only accept cash.

If you have a few users and work from a laptop, you can tether your mobile connection. Whatever the case, it isn’t something everyone needs.

Isn’t it just wasted money if my connection never drops out? Not necessarily. With some good IT work, you can route different Internet traffic through your two ISPs.

Consider it like load-balancing. You can also have it set up that if one of your two networks drop, the other one connects automatically. Again, lots of options are available to you.

Think you need a failover ISP?

There are places where you may not have the option of multiple providers, but in most business areas, there are different options available.

So what happens if you do have a second connection? How do you connect to your backup? Is it automatic?

Your IT department or managed service provider, like Tech Experts, can set that up for you. There are many options depending on your specific setup, but being covered against Internet service outages is universal.

VoIP Phones: Is It Time You Made The Switch?

It’s 2017 and, in case you didn’t know, VoIP phone systems just keep getting better. Yes, the landline is losing ground to yet another competitor: VoIP. Cell phones have made home phones much less prominent, but for businesses, there is and likely always will be a need for dedicated multi-line phone systems.

What is VOIP?

For those less tech savvy folks out there, you may not have heard of a VoIP phone before. Even if you have, you may not know what it means. VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol.” Very simply put: by using software or sometimes a physical converter, phone calls are made over the Internet.

Cell phones may be the reigning champion, but the need for dedicated phone systems will never go away. Many home users that do have home phones have VoIP and may not even know it.

If you are bundling phone service with your Internet and even cable television, then you most likely are using a VoIP system. In most home applications, it is common for your modem to have phone ports which can tie your existing phone jacks into the modem, allowing calls to be made.

For businesses, a VoIP system can be configured like you are used to. User extensions, call holds or parking, and line transfers – they’re all there, including other features your business may find useful.

Hold music, call directory, and even call recording are all easily put in place, too. There are many different solutions for businesses of different sizes, but the use of desktop multi-line phones works better for just about everyone.

Using a phone that connects directly to an Ethernet line provides great reliability. Most of these phones come with a second port allowing you to use your existing wired connection for your computer to connect the phone, which then sends the connection through to the computer.

This also allows for options of integration with your computer, such as software that can display incoming calls and outgoing calls, service queues, and the ability to call extensions or transfer calls with the click of your mouse.

So what’s better about it?

There are a number of advantages to using a VoIP system. The call clarity is better. The quality is better. Conference calls are easier and more reliable.

The many features provided by using an Internet-based product are surely more than you’d think. There are so many things that make a VoIP system attractive, but none of those will speak to you like the sound of cutting your phone bill down by up to 40-50% a month.

The number of simultaneous phone calls available to your business can be one of the biggest contributors to high costs. Long-distance on landlines can also add up whereas VoIP calling is cheaper per call than landlines, whether it’s local or long-distance calling.

Many businesses can see phone bills over $2,000 a month with a traditional landline system. Imagine cutting that in half. That is $12,000 a year in savings versus landlines. Maybe you’re a smaller business and have 10 employees. Your landline with multiple lines ringing in can cost you as much as $400 a month. Why not save yourself $2,400 a year?

Don’t let the initial cost of potentially buying new phones scare you away. When you are saving 40% a month, you will recoup the initial investment faster than you think. After that, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy better quality, better clarity, and all that extra money in your pockets.

VoIP Is The Ultimate Solution For Small Biz Phone Woes

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

One major technology pain point small businesses have revolves around communications. If your clients and prospects can’t effectively reach your staff, customer support and productivity is weakened. Increasingly, small businesses need more out of their phone system, and VoIP solutions offer more features with less expenses.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is, essentially, phone calls in the cloud. Voice signals are converted to packets that are sent across the Internet and reassembled in the correct order when they reach their destination. VoIP services can be deployed over the Internet or private IP networks (LAN/WLAN).

Why should your business invest in a powerful VoIP solution? There are several reasons, but the most important one is that it’s a huge opportunity to save on your business’s operating expenses. VoIP services can save a small business hundreds of dollars per month on their phone service costs. [Read more…]

How Can Small Businesses Amplify Employee Communication?

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

Using email to conduct important business always starts with the best intentions, like saving everyone time. Just think back to the last time you used email to solve a significant business issue or answer detailed questions from an important customer.

But, sometimes, email creates a disaster of miscommunication. Tone, intonation, and emotion get lost in translation. Messages and ideas are misunderstood. Nothing really gets accomplished.

So, what’s your next step when email isn’t working?

Usually, it’s a meeting in person or a quick conference call. Un-fortunately, those communication methods can create a whole new problem. In an increasingly mobile business world where teams, employees, and customers are spread out over multiple remote offices, work-from-home setups, or field operations, it can be nearly impossible to get everyone into the same place at the same time.

Tethering to the mothership: The lasting value of a virtual phone system
Web conferencing has helped mitigate the above problem. However, the fact that many businesses lack the communication and collaborative tools their team’s need — regardless of where they work — is the bigger issue. For example, even with web conferencing, many remote or work-from-home employees still rely on personal cell phones that aren’t connected to the company’s main phone system.

That’s problematic for a couple of key reasons:

• With personal landlines and cell phones, it’s significantly more difficult for remote employees to access antiquated company systems for voicemail, call forwarding, and conferencing.

• Without a true company-owned connection between the corporate office and the employee, the relationship between the two feels more like a contract gig than a full-time job — hurting employee engagement and retention.

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple way to solve that problem: implementing a new, company-owned communication system that’s flexible, mobile, and collaborative.

One common solution is a VOIP (Voice Over IP) service, which can be based in the cloud or on-site.

The reality is that voice communication is still a far superior — and much more immediate — way for team members to connect with each other. It typically leads to richer, more sincere, and more empathetic communication, which in turn amplifies productivity.

These tools are like a tether to the corporate mothership. They’re a lifeline that allows everyone to feel connected to their colleagues and customers, but in a way that aligns with the mobility and functionality that today’s remote workers need.

Why many businesses are moving to the cloud
Of course, the image of a desktop phone doesn’t exactly convey a sense of mobility. And it certainly doesn’t solve the problem of being able to connect from any location.

That’s where cloud-based phone systems come in.

Cloud-based phone systems allow team members to receive company calls, access corporate voicemail, and set up virtual conferences from a basic Internet connection.

When employees step out of the office, calls can be forwarded and certain features can be accessed from their cell phone.

Traditional phone systems, on the other hand, often hinder remote workers’ communication effectiveness because of their limited mobile capabilities. This often results in lost money, lost productivity, and big headaches. Even worse, businesses often pay more for traditional phone systems in the form of equipment maintenance and outages.

Virtual communication systems create an overall experience that makes people feel like an effective part of the team, wherever they are. No more emotionless email exchanges and no more awkward, disjointed conference calls. At the end of the day, that’s good for your team, your company, and, most importantly, your customers.

Why Your Company Should Make The Switch To VoIP

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

We made the switch to a Voice over IP (VoIP) phone system a few weeks ago. I opted for an in-house telephone server, but could have easily chosen a hosted option that didn’t require any hardware in the office except for phones.

A growing number of small businesses are making the same switch. While it can be a lot of work to overhaul the entire telecommunications system of your small business, it is definitely worth considering in light of the ever-increasing costs of traditional services.

What is VoIP?
VoIP is a method of making phone calls using the Internet as opposed to using typical landlines. VoIP services integrate Internet connected IP phones, which look pretty much like traditional office phones, except they plug into an Internet connection with an Ethernet cable.

Cost effectiveness
The biggest VoIP attraction is low cost. Since they’re Internet-based, hosted systems usually require little to no hardware investment. You might need to upgrade your firewall or Ethernet switches to accomodate the increased traffic.

An in-house system requires an investment in a mid-grade voice server, the phone system software, new phones, and possible network upgrades. The equipment cost is around half of what a traditional phone system would cost.

We’ve seen our monthly phone bill drop from over $300 per month to less than $60 using VoIP carriers instead of a traditional phone company.

Hosted fees run from $20 to $30 per extension, which includes all of your local and long distance calling, and the rental of the cloud based phone system.c150103_m

VoIP is particularly cost-effective, if you have employees working from satellite offices or telecommuters.

A telecommuter can take a VoIP phone home and make calls by plugging it into his home Internet connection to make and receive calls on the company lines at no additional cost.

Other benefits
Certain VoIP service providers have introduced mobile apps that allow workers to make and receive phone calls on their mobile devices using the company phone numbers. Their privacy is therefore protected since they do not give their personal phone number.

In addition, the company owns the line so if an employee leaves, calls are routed to the company rather than the employee’s cell phone.

Things to consider
While the mobility and scalability of VoIP systems are attractive, there are a few things to keep in mind. Since VoIP services depend on an Internet connection, if the connection fails, the phones would be dysfunctional.

In a business such as ours, where phones are integral to daily operations and client service, we would strongly recommend a backup Internet connection.

Almost all VoIP systems also have a fail over function, where the system will automatically route incoming calls to another number, such as a cell phone, if the Internet goes down.

The future
The increase in VoIP adoption is undeniable, and analysts predict that it will become the predominant business phone service over the next decade. Our system works great, and I’m glad we made the switch!

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

The Benefits Of VoIP Over Traditional Phone Service

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is the general term used for transmitting two-way voice communication over a network.

This can work on any network, whether it be at home or work, connected to the Internet. VoIP can also be used for internal communications and do not necessarily need to be transmitted out to the Internet.

Plain old telephone system (POTS) is the traditional phone service that everyone is used to, and it is commonly known as a home phone.

This system is designed to run on dedicated electronic circuits and is transmitted using analog signals where VoIP uses digital.

There are many reasons that you should use VoIP over POTS many of which include cost and expansion. Where ever you have a network connection, VoIP can be implemented. POTS often are much more costly.

As I said before POTS requires a dedicated circuit to transmit on. This means every time you add a new phone you would have to run a phone line and a network drop.

POTS can become quite expensive for an office building if you have to run phone lines to each person’s office.

In the event of expansion POTS will require costly hardware upgrades and provisioning of new lines. VoIP will only require more bandwidth and possibly software upgrades which are generally inexpensive and very easy to do.

There is much more competition in the VoIP market. Where POTS may have a few providers to choose from in your area, VoIP will have hundreds to choose from on the Internet.

When using VoIP you have control over the traffic of the phone calls as well. This makes it easy to manage, record, and maintain all phone calls.

Many of the features such as call waiting, conference calling, music on hold, multiple extensions and voice mailboxes are all free with VoIP. These features have always come at a premium when using POTS.

VoIP does not limit you to what you can transmit over its call. For instance you can make a video call or a voice call using VoIP. While in your call you can send over an attachment which is quite similar to email.

There are downsides to using VoIP as well, but most of them can be mitigated. The first is unpredictable quality of service. You may not always get great sound or video quality.

This is usually dictated by the available bandwidth. If you notice your quality is not as good as you like, then you may need to upgrade your Internet speed or you network equipment.

VoIP may not always get you to the correct 911 responder in the event of an emergency. They are not centralized like POTS. The traffic could be routed around the world.

Since VoIP relies on the Internet and the Internet relies on electricity, you will lose your VoIP service if either Internet or electricity goes down.

This can be avoided by having a redundant Internet connection and battery backups for your network equipment.

You can also install an IP based private automatic branch exchange (PABX) which will allow you to integrate your POTS with VoIP so you can take advantage of VoIP and not lose the benefits of POTS.

If you are looking into VoIP or have any questions we would be happy to help.

Does VOIP Phone Service Make Sense For Your Business?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

When we moved our office last month, part of the process included reviewing things like our telephone and Internet services.

Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service is basically technology that allows you to make and receive calls over data networks.

Instead of traditional phone services which channel analog signals such as the sound of your voice over copper wires, VoIP converts these sounds to digital form first—so that they can be sliced, diced, packaged, and routed over a digital network.

Because VoIP technology uses the same ideas behind data networking, and allows the use of the same networks used by computers, voice traffic can also be routed through the Internet as well.

Suddenly you can now dramatically reduce the cost of voice communications, as well as achieve creative combinations of both services to create new applications for use.

VOIP (voice over IP) services have really evolved over the past few years. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to use it because the service could be flaky – and since 90%+ of our business comes in by telephone, I wasn’t comfortable with something that wasn’t reliable.

Fortunately for small business owners, that’s changed. The service is now as reliable as service from the phone  company. And with the ubiquity of high speed Internet service, call quality has improved to the point of being indistinguishable from the old telephone network.

Our switch to VOIP provided two significant improvements over the service we used before.

First, we increased our telephone line capacity and coverage. We’ve added telephone numbers for our client’s in Toledo, Dundee, and the downriver area to be able to call us locally.

Second – and perhaps more importantly – we’ve cut our  telephone costs in half.

Cost and coverage were my primary concerns when looking at a move to VoIP services. Here are a few reasons you may want  to consider switching to VoIP for your office:

You can make and receive calls from multiple devices – for instance, on a dedicated phone, your PC via a software-based phone, or even a mobile phone with VoIP capabilities.

It’s easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without  additional costs or cabling.

VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and  efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make  calls anywhere with a data connection.

You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration along with video conferencing, screen sharing, and digital white boarding.

You can potentially unify your communication channels,  streamlining communications and information management—for instance, marrying email with fax and voice in one inbox.

You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. This technology can tell colleagues about your presence or give you info on the status and whereabouts of your staff.