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VirtualPBX Blog

How do SIP Trunking and VoIP Equal a Small Business Advantage?
Posted on January 27, 2015   by

In the Palm of Your HandThe Answer is in the Cloud

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking is one of the essential technologies required to make Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), virtual reproductions of the physical switches and routers of the telephone service from yesteryear, possible. The technology isn’t new, but lately it has been experiencing a dramatic increase in adoption.

Virtually all of the big, original telephone companies have been doing everything from changing their pricing models to beginning to invest in their own VoIP infrastructure as more of their customers are cutting the cables to switch to an online telephone option. When there is that much at stake for telecom companies who are scrambling to catch up, though, there is bound to be a lot of noise.

Thankfully, the folks over at Software Advice, the online software research and recommendation engine, took it upon themselves to conduct a little research on the topic but with the people who have the most to lose by falling victim to marketing smoke and mirrors; specifically the IT professionals who have to install and maintain these systems.

 

SMB’s Lead the Way
In Software Advice’s most recent study of over 200 companies on SIP trunking and VoIP, they noted that, among other key findings, small and medium businesses are outpacing their larger counterparts in adopting cloud-based telephone service. This is partly due to the relative affordability of virtual phone systems for enterprise, but also because more often than not, smaller companies tend to have less interference between IT and management, and often times they are one and the same.

“Organizations with knowledgeable IT decision-makers who guide purchasing decisions have adopted SIP trunking at a much higher rate than most enterprises.” Said Daniel Harris, Market Research Analyst at Software Advice and author of the study.

One thing to note with this in mind is that taking a look at the performance, simplicity, and affordability of a telephone system with direct input from the IT professionals who will service it, should be paramount.

 

Factors Considered by IT PurchasersSound quality remains important, but security has taken the top spot

Security On the Rise
Or rather, people’s concern over security is on the rise. Likely in part to many of the high-profile corporate security failures in the news lately, the security of information transmitted across virtual phone networks is of increasing importance to users. In fact, for the first time, security was cited at the number one contributing reason why an IT provider selected their service claiming the primary response for 23% of those surveyed.

Not surprisingly, though, Quality/Clarity of Service and Favorable Pricing continue to round out the top three responses. Predictably, though, pricing is actually on the decline in importance here, which could indicate a more common expectation that any VoIP option should be more affordable than a traditional, physical phone system.

 
 
 

Satisfaction GuaranteedSatisfaction abounds with modern SIP Trunking

Don’t Believe the Hype
One of the most misplaced concerns in the conversation of whether a company should switch to VoIP or not is over the quality of the sound sent and received thereon. As indicated above, it is still very much a concern, however, even though the staggering majority of users report little to no problems.

“When VoIP technology was emerging, audio quality issues were quite frequent. Moreover, users of “free” VoIP solutions such as Skype still experience audio quality issues at a significant rate,” continued Harris.

Fortunately, all of that seems to have changed for good. Over 90% of respondents were satisfied with their voice clarity with SIP trunking and VoIP. Furthermore, only one person reported even a, “minimal dissatisfaction,” with their call clarity.

 

Trending Upward
As more and more small businesses are getting stellar call quality that is secure and financially well within their means, larger firms are going to have to begin considering the same changes. It isn’t uncommon for the scrappy underdogs of the business world to be the leaders of change, and disruptive technologies like virtual telephone service are threats to both the larger telecom companies who charge more for physical wiring and switches and to larger enterprises that can afford to buy them.

By adopting technologies like VoIP that are nimble, reactive, and that positively impact the bottom line by easing operating margins, companies of any size can benefit handsomely. Have you given VoIP a try yet? If not, here are some resources for you to help determine if it is right for you:



Don’t Be Scared, Internet Faxing Is Easy
Posted on January 21, 2015   by

Technology Can be ScaryFaxing Safety, Email Speed

To paraphrase from the great Mark Twain, rumors of faxing’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. In fact, if you didn’t already realize, faxing is still the best option for safe document exchange, and the only one that complies with the American Bar Association’s confidentiality and security guidelines. Furthermore, from a global perspective, the relatively sparse penetration of broadband internet in developing countries has keep phone lines as the most ubiquitous form of connectivity.

All of this is wonderful for faxing’s legitimacy as a consistently relevant business technology, but it would be naïve to suggest that it remains as sexy as it was when it was first introduced. I was having a conversation with a colleague the other day when we both admitted to occasionally having to stop and really consider what the heck we were doing whenever a fax had to be sent. I mean fax machines are like printers with telephone keypads, what’s that all about? Suffice it to say we needed to find a new way to fax documents whenever the need arises. Good thing we both work for VirtualPBX.

Ditch the Hardware

Fax machines are hard to find these days, unless of course you happen to be at the barren wasteland of electronics section of your local Goodwill. They have been instead replaced by all-in-ones from big companies that have combined printing, faxing, scanning, and copying into a formidable, and often costly, piece of equipment that might not be what you need. With VirtualPBX, however, you don’t even need an impressive all-in-one, you can do all of your company’s faxing right from the convenience of your computer wherever you have an internet connection.

VirtualPBX Internet Faxing lets you:

  • Send and Receive faxes from your vConsole online communications portal
  • Use the same number for phone calls and faxes
  • View inbound faxes in the vConsole or email them as attachments as needed
  • Maintain an online fax library for frequently sent forms and browse fax history for retrieval or review of past faxes
  • Plus you can do all of this for FREE as an included benefit of your VirtualPBX service

The price to send outbound faxes depends on the specific plan you are on, but for many plans it is free for the first 100 pages, and then only 5.9 cents per page after that, though unlimited faxing plans are available, as well. Inbound faxes only draw from whatever minutes plan you are on, too, so depending on the inbound faxing traffic you expect and the plan you are on, this cost be vary.

Faxing isn’t dead, it isn’t even on life support, so how do you plan to keep your business humming when you need to send and receive a fax? I’m not terribly keen on rushing over to the local copy center or grocery store to pay $1 a page, myself. If you feel the same way, refresh yourself on how to fax with VirtualPBX or get in touch with our Support Team for any additional assistance.



These Kids Today – Millennials Use Texting Over Calling More Than Ever
Posted on January 20, 2015   by

Teens With PhonesHere’s a news flash for you, kids these days aren’t doing it right. I’m pretty sure that ever since the first human communities came out of caves to live in the light of day they’ve been complaining how their children, “have it so easy,” and they, “don’t know what it was like to grow up in the caves.” Sure, the youth can seem annoying, unappreciative, even downright reckless, but they also end up being responsible for coming-up with some great contributions, too.

Rock and Roll, AirBnB, the Free Speech Movement, Sallie Mae, and even Pop Tarts (obviously important) all developed directly from or for a younger generation that was behaving in a way that was different than those before it. Whether it was the growing amount of dually-employed parents needing faster, easier ways to provide breakfast, or a bunch of college students in Berkeley standing-up against things they thought weren’t right, youth impacts our development more than some might think. Young Americans are, in fact, the largest contributor to the economy by a long shot, and spend about 87% of their income, which doesn’t account for gifts and dispersals from family. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I understand the whole fascination with the Kardashians or Miley Cyrus any more than I did before, but at least it puts youth behavior into the context of how it contributes to disruptive change and shaping our society, regardless of whether or not we can recognize it at the time.

One of the unique developments from the current crop of the nation’s youngest members, however, isn’t a new musical genre or tasty breakfast treat; in fact it isn’t even a development at all. Yet.


More Connection, Less Conversation

Millennials use their phones more than any other demographic, but in spite of that frequency, they use phones to actually place telephone calls less than anyone else as well. It is believed the trend of texting over calling stems from the popularization of instant messaging platforms like AIM and MSN Messenger, but regardless of its origin, this trend is becoming more and more pronounced.

Cited as a major factor in the reasons for telephone call abandonment by many young smartphone owners is the speed with which other forms of communication offer over that of traditional phone calls. Texting, Facebook messaging, and other popular message apps like WhatsApp, and Apple’s iMessenger are wildly preferred for their immediacy. In fact, many outgoing voicemail messages for young people no longer include requests for pertinent details to be left in the voicemail, but rather offer suggestions to text or email for quicker replies.


Radio Silence Effects Service

Early in 2014, the New York Times reported on how voicemail usage, and even initial voicemail activation and set-up, is dropping by 8-14% a year for many mobile service providers. This, in combination with an overall drop in voice minutes in general, is a major contributor to mobile companies offering more unlimited minutes as a feature in their service plans. To differentiate themselves, many major carriers are now offering Visual Voicemail to their service plans, in response to their customers’ unlikeliness to utilize traditional voicemail features. And in somewhat of a gambit by going against the constricting policies on data plans, some carriers are revisiting versions of unlimited or banked data plans again. T-Mobile has a new “rollover” plan where unrealized data usage gets carried over into the following month and AT&T has been quick to follow suit. All of these changes, some of which are rather risky for the companies involved, are all directly linked to the grossly disproportionate use of messaging over voice communications.


Moving Forward

We don’t necessarily need to look far beyond the changes in mobile service plans to see how these behaviors are changing communications. One particularly popular method for young people to communicate by is ephemeral messaging. Originally vilified for its impermanence as being the channel through which young people would send inappropriate messages to one another, ephemeral messaging is gaining popularity in other demographics. Found to be an effective way to add security to business communications, ephemeral messaging is evolving to become more appealing to users who value data security as much as whimsical, impermanent messaging.

The final effects of the declination of voice services are obviously yet to be fully realized, but it is clear that this behavioral shift is substantially impacting the telecommunications industry. While that future remains uncertain, I am clear on at least one issue; I still haven’t set-up my own voicemail from a number I got in August, maybe you should try and text me instead.



Visual Voicemail – Untangling a Web of Messages
Posted on January 15, 2015   by

SpiderwebSometimes we are on another line, out of the office, or just plain have to send a particular caller to voicemail, it happens. Heck, even Gwen Stefani has been walking into spiderwebs, so leave a message and she’ll call you back. What, then, are you to do if you didn’t have time to take a call but need to quickly check and see what the message was about? Visual Voicemail is the quick way to do just that.

Visual Voicemail refers to both voice-to-text transcription of voice messages to be delivered to you via text or email, and it also refers to archiving voicemail into more easily managed interfaces. Both are, of course, great improvements over the tape-recorded messages of yesteryear, though.

Today, there are a host of ways that you can get even more out of your voicemail by making it easier to collect, scan, and listen to your messages. Two apps in particular that are worth checking out are briefly reviewed below-

HulloMail – Get your voicemails converted into audio files to be delivered to your email or access them from the HulloMail web portal, dictate messages from your phone or the same web access, and even designate personal greetings for each of your contacts along with a lot more. This app is great for two reasons, first being that the basic version (which is still rather robust) is free. The second reason is that there is a business subscription that gets you access to additional options (including the voice transcription of voicemails themselves) plus unlimited cloud-based storage.

Google Voice – This service from the online giant is really compelling for folks who don’t mind turning their contact lists over to the mothership. The fact that Google offers voice to text transcription free of charge has been enough for many people to stick with the reliable service. However, in spite of the intelligent and progressively accurate voice recognition software that Google Voice uses, this author must suffer a terrible case of mush mouth because transcriptions of my messages are nothing short of hilarious.

In addition to going with a third-party app, there are options for visual voicemail available through most major mobile service providers, too. T-Mobile and Sprint have basic services similar to what is available with the free version of HulloMail as part of their basic array of features. Verizon offers actual transcription for a $2.99/month premium and you can get similar service from AT&T, but only on their Android phones. Of course, there is also a variety of ways to get voicemail messages through VoIP service, too, which are included as part of VirtualPBX’s award-winning Office Plan.

For more on modern voicemail features, you may want to check out the following reads:



Out of Office: Can Your Business Keep Up With You?
Posted on January 12, 2015   by

Business Moves Pretty FastWhat are your Out Of Office Options?

I love alliteration, especially when I can get the oft mentioned, “OOO,” for Out of Office to include a fourth O-word. But that’s beside the point because you’re a busy professional and you are always on the go, right? Right. So what are you going to do when you have to leave the office at a moment’s notice and haven’t planned to forward calls or even update your voicemail message? First you’re going to make sure you’ve signed-up for the VirtualPBX RSS Feed so you can finish reading this from anywhere, next you’re going to take into account how you can keep in touch with your customers and important calls while you’re out. Fortunately, with VirtualPBX Business VoIP plans, you have a couple of compelling options for how you can do that.

Voicemail

I’m going to assume that most people are familiar with what voicemail is as a technology. Now that’s settled, let me invite you to throw everything you know right out of the window. VirtualPBX has developed a slew of options for your voicemail on our hosted telephone lines that will give you reason to reacquaint yourself with the often overlooked service.

  • Never Full Mailbox – First off, how about never having to miss an important call because they couldn’t leave a message? That’s now a thing of the past. With the virtual mailbox, callers can keep leaving messages without you fretting that it’s about to suddenly shut down.
  • Automatic Callback – It may as well be throwback calling, because this feature is as good as the old *69 of yesteryear. If you get a message but the caller doesn’t leave a number, Automatic Callback connects you to where the call originated.
  • Smart Notifications – You can rely on your never full mailbox to get the messages you need, but what if an urgent call comes through when you’re not at your phone? With notification preferences including notes to your email, vConsole, and even as text messages to any mobile phone, you’ll be back in touch with important calls as quickly as if you received them yourself.
  • Smart Message Access – Taking notifications one step further, you can retrieve your messages by calling your extension from any touchtone phone, through your vConsole web portal, or delivered to your email as a .WAV file.

Follow-Me Calling

Voicemail not really your bag? No problem. Follow-Me Calling is a little bit call forwarding, and a little bit spy satellite in that, if you choose, you can always be found. With Follow-Me Calling, you can preprogram up to four different numbers to be cascaded through for each extension. This way, a call going to the phone on your desk that isn’t answered can cycle through to your mobile phone, then your home phone, or any other number you want to include until the call reaches you. You can also specify the amount of time allotted for each number in the sequence so that your caller isn’t on the line for ages before they reach you, either. The best part about Follow-Me calling is that, when combined with a VirtualPBX Softphone and Softphone App for smartphones, you never have to give out a personal number again. Your business number will be all that your callers need to find you anywhere along the line of the devices that you choose to include. This advanced call-forwarding system is a little eerie in just how well it can keep you connected. There is no need to worry, though, because like all of the great features from VirtualPBX, you can customize it however you like, including switching it back to Voicemail once your day is done.

Which is Right for Me?

That depends on your needs. If you are mobile and absolutely can’t miss a call, Follow-Me Calling is the way to go, whereas if you just prefer to not keep people waiting long after leaving a message, you can really create a nice and efficient Voicemail experience for your callers, too. However you decide, though, with these solutions at your disposal you shouldn’t have any problem being there when your callers need you the most.

Whether it’s with a clever and specific series of voicemail messages or always being ready to get that important call no matter where you are. Your time and schedule don’t need to operate around your phone system, make your phone system operate around you. If you are interested in learning more about your Voicemail and Follow-Me Calling settings, or if you have any more questions, please get in touch and he’d be happy to help.