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.

Protect Yourself Against The Phone “Port-Out” Scam

Chances are that you probably haven’t heard of the port-out scam. However, just because it is something that has yet to attract widespread attention doesn’t mean it’s not a threat you should take seriously. Let’s take a look at why.

What Is a Port-Out Scam?
It’s very common for people to take their existing phone numbers with them when they switch mobile provider. Recently, unscrupulous individuals have been taking advantage of the ease with which this can be done by porting other people’s numbers and essentially taking control of them.

Here’s how it works: Someone calls your carrier or visits the store and pretends to be you. They then instruct the provider to port your number to a new carrier. Without warning, you find your cellphone service has been cut off, and some stranger has complete control of your number. A variation of this is SIM hijacking, which operates in a similar way but the attacker orders a new SIM.

Why Should You Care?
Losing the ability to use your phone is the least of your worries. Once the attacker has control of your phone, they will receive all your messages. If you have set up banking security measures that involve SMS authentication, the hijacker can potentially access your bank account and many other sources of highly sensitive information.

How To Protect Yourself
Fortunately, it’s really easy to avoid the port-out scam. All you need to do is add a security PIN to your account. From that point onward, people will not be able to make any type of change to your account without citing the PIN. As such, you are protected against both the port-out and SIM hijacking scams. Most carriers will let you set a PIN quickly and easily online or via the phone.

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.

Tech Experts Now Authorized To Sell, Install And Service ESI’s IP-Enabled Telephone Systems

Tech Experts recently became a factory authorized dealer for the ESI line of advanced communications business telephone systems. The ESI product line fits very nicely with our IT and computer services.

ESI telephone systems offer many features small and medium sized companies will find useful, but our primary motivation in taking on this product line was ESI’s converged voice and data platform. This is the future of business communications, and we’re excited to work with a company that is in the forefront of that technology.

What does “converged voice and data” mean? Simply, it is the combining of your data services, such as e-mail and Internet access, with your voice services, like voice mail, remote telephones and branch offices.

Here are some examples of how this system would work with your data infrastructure:

Remote telephones: Through the ESI telephone system, you can “Internet-enable” your phone system through a very secure VPN. You would then take a system feature telephone (just like the one that sits on your desk at the office) home, plug it into your high speed cable or DSL Internet at home, and the phone will connect to the office telephone system.

You have 100% of the features, services and extension capabilities at home, just as if you were sitting at your desk. This is perfect for taking orders at home, or for spending time working from home.

ESI-Link branch offices: If your business has multiple locations, you can connect ESI telephone systems together through the Internet – eliminating long distance charges between offices, or expensive tie-lines.

The systems interoperate as one unified system.

Unified Messaging: Receive your voice mails through email. This lets you forward them to others, keep copies on your computer for future reference, reply through e-mail, etc. This is a very cool feature.

Of course, the system offers a ton of other features any business would find useful. Take a quick look through these built-in features. How many would help your business?

Live call recording: With the touch of a button, record a conversation, conference call or personal reminder memo for later playback, as well as moving or copying to others’ mailboxes.

Perfect for making sure orders are correct.

Scalability: ESI Phone systems grow with your business. Most systems use the same telephones. As your business grows, you add to – not replace – your ESI telephone system.

Auto Attendant: Perfect for over flow call situations, or for a busy office. Provides extensive call routing, including directories, automatic day/night operation, off-premises transfer, pager notification and more.

Automatic Call Distribution: If you have a busy service or sales department, this is the feature for you. ACD places sales or service personnel in departments and either (a.) routes a call to the longest-idle agent or (b.) places the call on hold if all agents are busy and then immediately connects when the first agent is available. Constantly updates Feature Phone display regarding queues and wait times.

Voice Mail Delivery: You can program the system to call your cell phone when you have a voice mail, saving you from having to call in and check your voice mail.

Enhanced Caller ID: Lets you see who’s calling, screen calls going to your voice mail, and return calls with a single key press.

Verbal Help and Verbal User Guide: This is the most unique feature of any telephone system we’ve seen. A full, spoken tutorial is available at any time, as well as feature by feature help. No more looking at programming books!

These are just some of the interesting highlights. The system supports most all features you’d find on a business telephone system, at an affordable price. If you’ve been considering a new business telephone system, we’d appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about the ESI systems and how they can help your business grow.