Archives: August2017

How to Diagnose VoIP Problems in 2 Minutes

diagnose voip problemsSo you’ve made the switch to a hosted telephone system from your old copper-wired system? Congratulations! What’s that, though? You’re not sure you like the new service because you have problems with the connection? That’s frustrating but the reality is that, though some networking and PBX hosting issues require the help of an expert, much of the time, problems with VoIP connections don’t reside in the hosted PBX itself, but rather in the network that you’re using on it. I know that isn’t immediately helpful if you have voice jitter, latency, or your HD voice audio isn’t feeling very high-def, but it will help you to be able to quickly ascertain where the problem is so that it can be solved ASAP.

2 Minute Diagnosis for a VoIP Network

In business, time is money. A two-minute investment might be too much to give at the wrong time, but if you’re experiencing problems with your VoIP connection, there’s no time like the present. That’s why if you have any persistently negative experiences with your VoIP service you should set the receiver down for a second and take a quick run through these simple diagnostic suggestions. Once you’ve gone through this, you’ll be able to contact the appropriate parties with reasonable confidence that you know what the problem is.

  • Check Your VoIP Provider’s Status Page The fastest way to determine if you have a problem with your VoIP provider is to see if they are up and running. Do that by checking their service status site, which is typically pretty conveniently linked on their Support Page. This will tell you right off the bat if they have a problem on their end.
  • Check Your Internet Speed How well your VoIP service works depends on how well you internet connection works, and nothing checks that faster than a simple VoIP Speed Test. At the absolute minimum, you should have an additional 100kbps of upload and download speed available per VoIP device.
  • Reboot Your Modems It always amuses me whenever this comes up into conversation because it’s so familiar to what we have to do from time to time anyway. Rebooting hardware is often how we install necessary firmware updates that improve functionality and security, so not only is it a good way to potentially get you back up and running, it’s also a good practice to do occasionally, anyway.
  • Assess Additional Traffic Are you experiencing major call volume? Is there a deluge of activity that you normally don’t have? Or is your coworker Johnson just streaming three screens of cat videos again? Either way, massive spikes in network activity can cause bottlenecks to form that, in turn, slow down all internet traffic. That means that if you don’t have a comprehensive network services strategy in place, poor VoIP performance could be explained by Johnson’s crazy buffing times for more Pizza Cat streams.

Knowing is Half the Battle

Knowing the outcomes of following these steps will make any Support Engineer’s job much easier if you still find yourself with suboptimal VoIP connections. We know this because, like the thousands of employees who enjoy improved VoIP performance by switching to VirtualPBX, few of them even had this basic level of direction explained to them with their former VoIP provider. We have the in-house expertise and the 24/7, around the clock support to back all of our VoIP Plans with the industry’s leading, US-based Network Services Team. They can conduct total network diagnostics, optimize bandwidth allotment by use type, and even conduct deep-digging VoIP remediation from your telephone all the way to your VoIP service provider, even if it isn’t VirtualPBX! Plus, we’re sharing additional helpful tips and tricks on how to optimize your VoIP and cloud communications experiences on Twitter and Facebook, too. No matter what your VoIP challenges may be, we’ll never be too far away with the answers you need, when you need them.

Hurricane Harvey Causes Massive Flooding in Houston

hurricane harveyHouston, Texas, the fourth largest city in America, is currently being flooded by the most massively high water levels the area has ever recorded. Over the past several years we’ve been exposed to greater destructive forces from Mother Nature in the form of hundred year flooding, infrastructure failure, and increasingly unpredictable climate instability. What is happening right now in Houston and the surrounding Gulf Coast area, however, is literally in the realm of a thousand year storm. For more on the magnitude of the flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey and how there is no immediate end in sight, we’ve outlined these few key aspects of the storm.

Hurricane Harvey’s Record-Breaking Floods

To begin with, the first rainfall that hit the greater Houston area was so abrupt that it caught many residents, plenty of whom were already preparing for the storm, totally off guard with the speed it moved in. By dropping a whopping 20” of rain in the first 24 hours, the stage was set for what is turning out to be some of the most destructive flooding the area, and much of the country, has ever seen.

  • From Inches to Feet By now the images of families being saved from rooftops should be engrained in our minds. Many of these residents knew floods were likely, but seeing as how the total rainfall caused some areas to flood upwards of 10 feet in under 24 hours, there simply was no time to get away safely without a boat.
  • No End in Sight The rainfall is continuing right now and, according to every report, will not see a break until the coming weekend. That means that an additional and unprecedented 50” of rain is expected to fall on some areas in under a week’s time. This amount of water is too much for any community to safely handle, much less an area like Houston that normally sees fewer than 50” as their total average annual rainfall.
  • Rainfall Away From Houston There are some security measures in place to protect from unexpected flooding in the area, specifically two nearby overflow reservoirs. However, due to the massive rainfall that is flowing into them, the city just Monday morning was forced to open them both to avoid additional areas being affected. This means that close to the coast, already affected areas near the riverbanks where the water is released to will have more ground water added.
  • Storm Surge A term that most Americans may not have been familiar with until the flooding from either Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, but the flooding in Houston may be getting much worse yet from it as well. Now that Hurricane Harvey has returned to the water after touching down in Texas, the pressure system will once again cause ocean levels to rise as it begins its agonizingly slow journey eastward.

What To Do Now

It’s only natural to see the catastrophic effects of this flood and want to find a way to help out. We agree. That’s why we encourage you to find a way to help that works for you but remember to both protect yourself from pop-up phony charities and to never, under any circumstances, impede the work of the professionals. The last thing that anyone wants is a group of well-intentioned people to need their own rescue mission by wandering into unsafe areas. I’ve found this article with comprehensive donation and contribution strategies that I’d recommend to anyone who wants to help. But I’d also remind people that, more often than not, the best offense is a good defense. By that, I mean that, just like we all need to plan for any contingency for the safety and protection of our personal lives in the event of a tragedy, we need to do the same for our professional lives, as well. We’ve seen this before, and we’ve also seen the costs of when people forget the past with a phenomenon known as Hurricane Amnesia, and it ends poorly for those who aren’t prepared.

These waters will fall, eventually, and then the cleanup effort will be in full swing, no doubt. But as we’ve seen in the case of any number of natural disasters in the past, the lasting effects to the area will be felt for months and possibly years to come. When community infrastructure is damaged as much as it is in these situations, it can take businesses from being in the black to being irreconcilably in the red. Depending on the type of operation is it, companies that don’t have an automatic failover for their communications system in place as part of their business continuity plan risk tens of thousands of dollars a day in lost productivity. And when the recovery effort is likely to extend for as long as it is in Houston, that is more of a hit than the vast majority of businesses can safely endure.

We hope that everyone who remains in the area affected by Hurricane Harvey is safe and our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the people who have lost their lives in this terrible storm. We will be eagerly looking forward to the cessation of beating this storm is inflicting upon the Gulf Coast communities.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces on Earth

VirtualPBX 5

Welcome to Edition 18.0 of The VirtualPBX 5 where we share our favorite topics, gadgets, and apps!

Entrepreneurs working from exotic beaches are not the only ones taking in extraordinary views at work. Recently, coworking spaces have become their own paradises so start-ups, entrepreneurs, and freelancers could escape bulky office leases and home offices. Because of the rise of the remote workforce, the world’s top designers have transformed ordinary spaces into some of the most beautifully designed coworking spaces on earth.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces on Earth

1. WeWork Yanping Lu located in Shanghai, China

Once upon a time, WeWork YanPing Lu was a British settlement. Today, visitors are greeted by 23,680 sqft of shared office space and a giant fish tank. The founders of Linehouse design firm, Briar Hickling and Alex Mok, study human inhabitation to deliver a coworking experience which is focused on the element of whimsy.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces
“Designer: Linehouse design”

2. KWERK located in Paris, France

Designers Albert Angel and Lawrence Knight hit the nail on the mark when they set out to create a 33,000 sqft boutique hotel style co-working and lifestyle space. Using their travels as inspiration, each room contains tranquil art and staged designs from around the world.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces
“Designer: Albert Angel”

3. Hubba-to located in Bangkok, Thailand

It’s nearly impossible to keep your eyes not fixated on the turquoise networking lines extending across the vaulted ceilings of this 10,645 sqft coworking space. Designers Yupadee Suvisith and Pitupong Chaowakul successfully transformed this mall shop into a thriving artisan ecosystem for both making and working.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces
“Designer: Supermachine Studio”

4. Kolektif House located in Istanbul, Turkey

It’s remarkable to think that at one point the 32,292 sqft Kolektif House was once an embroidery factory. Kontra designers aimed to rechannel the cold energy of the industrial building into an eco-friendly urban zone. The design is focused around flexible workspaces and synergy across generations.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces
“Designer: KONTRA Architecture”

5. Neuehouse located in New York, New York

The name may or may not have originated from the German words “Neue Haus” which means “New House” in English. The Rockwell Group transformed this 35,000 sqft century-old manufacturing building into a hospitality centric canvas. The design brings to life the themes of park, pier, and neighborhood landscapes.

5 Most Beautifully Designed Coworking Spaces
“Designer: Rockwell Group”

Ready to opt out of your office lease and start exploring the most beautiful coworking spaces in the world? Don’t forget your dynamic business phone system! Obtain a toll-free, local, or international number, and route all your business calls to your cell phone – all while keeping your personal information completely anonymous. No matter the location of your office of the day, you’ll always be just a call away!

We hope you enjoyed our 5 most beautifully designed coworking spaces on earth. If you did, be sure to check out the VirtualPBX blog for more of our favorite topics, gadgets, and apps. We would also love to hear any coworking space suggestions on Facebook and Twitter!

Getting Past the Gatekeeper with Professional Sales Scripts

Professional Sales ScriptsSales organizations are benefitting from automation and data-driven marketing techniques more now than ever before. However, as much as it helps to drive highly-qualified leads into the sales pipeline, the close of a sale more often than not still falls at the feet of the men and women in the sales department. The precision and insight that tools like Salesforce CRM software offer to the sales teams is irreplaceable, but when it comes down to making those first sales calls, it’s essential to have the same level of confidence in your sales scripts, too. In fact, whether you have veteran salespeople or junior sales development team members, the right telephone sales pitch can make or break the sale even before they reach the contact. That’s why we’ve put together some of the most effective ways to tailor sales scripts for dealing with the biggest hurdle in the telephone-based sales world, the gatekeeper.

Know The Players, Gatekeeper and VITO

An od acronym I became familiar with during my days as a cold-caller before I became a stockbroker is the Very Important Top Officer, or VITO. This is interchangeable with a decision maker, lead, contact, and basically any other sales target you can imagine. Regardless of the title you give to the person who you want to make the purchase decision, however, they all have one thing in common and that’s that they have at least one layer of protection between themselves and the inbound world. Meet, the gatekeeper. The gatekeeper’s job is much like that of the soldiers who would protect the old ramparts of yore. By guarding, monitoring, and approving or denying the traffic that comes through the telephone lines into the world of the decision makers, the gatekeeper may never make a buying decision but is the first person your sales script needs to address in order to find success. The gatekeeper is also all-too-frequently an overlooked portion of the sales call process and, as such, very rarely are sales scripts written to accommodate for them. Until now! Following these few pointers when writing sales scripts will help you and your sales team to navigate your way into a conversation with the right individuals more often.

  • Don’t Act Like You Own It Contrary to an old school perspective that suggested that you should muscle your way past the gatekeeper, you definitely get further by not coming off as impatient or impertinent. Certainly, confidence is important, but be very careful not to let that overstep into the territory of arrogance where the gatekeeper feels you are being rude.
  • Mind Your P’s and Q’s And as a perfect segue out of not being rude, it’s also important to always include please and thank you into your conversation, regardless of your tone and tact. Remember, the gatekeeper is the person who will ultimately decide if you get to speak with your contact, so it’s important to always treat them with respect and kindness. Also, let’s face it, you should be doing that to everyone anyway, so you can extrapolate this one into your entire life.
  • The “can you help me?” Technique This isn’t terribly new for many salespeople, but there’s a subtle distinction between those who use it effectively and the rest of the people who go to voicemail. By saying something like, “I need a little help please…” but then immediately following it up with a request for the individual you’re looking for with a, “Can you tell me who is the individual who…” you’ve taken from the gatekeeper the opportunity to actually respond. If you ask for a bit of assistance in your sales script, you need to pause and allow them the opportunity to actually ask how they can be of service. You’ll find after they inquire how they can help you, they are far more likely to actually pass you along to the right person.
  • Stand Up, Smile This is a good idea to do on all calls and regardless of who is on the phone because it’s insanely effective. Body posture and facial expression, although unlikely, can be heard through the phone. Not only will you project your voice more clearly and confidently when your back is straight and your diaphragm is open, but the sound of a person’s voice is always more appealing when they aren’t slumped over. I’m telling you, if you are in a tough run of calls, try taking away your chair and only dialing from a standing position and you’ll find that the same sales script you’ve been using will be more effective without making one edit.
  • Brevity is Key It’s important that every sales script be as succinct as possible. Getting to the point of the call, and specifically to how your service or product will benefit the person on the other end of the line as quickly and clearly as possible will be invaluable. Taking too long to communicate those things means that the contact will have more time to get distracted or, even worse, annoyed. That’s not a buying mindset and you want to avoid it at all costs.
  • Be Prepared for Objections Obviously you won’t be able to predict all of the possible objections you’ll get on the phone from a contact, but you can anticipate them to be in a few key categories. Price, timing, interest, and a few other categories that are customary objections need to be considered beforehand and an appropriate response readied as part of a successful sales script. Considering these objections before you place the call will prepare you to be more effective when dealing with them in a live conversation.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice Which leads us to the final, and most important tip of all- be prepared. There is nothing more cumbersome and uncomfortable than a salesperson reading a sales script for the first time to you over the phone. You do not want to be that salesperson. In fact, I’d make the argument that you need to be so comfortable with the script that it is one that you don’t need in front of you to deliver over the phone. Don’t think of it as memorizing it so much as internalizing it. Robots reciting lines are far less effective than people who know what they are calling for, how it will help you, and what we need to do to close this deal today.

Continuing Education

We’re big proponents of continuing education, and writing professional and successful sales scripts is no exception. And because we know we don’t know everything, we’re constantly researching better ways to provide not only the best VoIP service we can but the very best in business related suggestions like these, too. You may also like our guide on how to make Professional Voicemail Greetings, but we regularly post tips and tricks for having an effective sales organization on Twitter and Facebook, as well. Stay tuned for more sales script writing suggestions, and until then, happy hunting!

Preparing for the Total Solar Eclipse

preparing for the eclipseUnless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three months, you’ve probably heard about the upcoming total solar eclipse. On Monday, August 21, 2017, for the first time in about a century, a total solar eclipse (not to be confused with an annular or “ring of fire” eclipse) will be visible from across the United States. Starting in the morning on the Pacific beaches of Oregon and traveling in an arc across the continent to South Carolina, this rare celestial event will last only a mere 1 hour and 33 minutes. If you’ve been paying attention, there has been a lot of commotion around people preparing for the eclipse in a lot of grandiose ways for a relatively small amount of time. Everyone will feel differently about whether or not they want to see it, but if you’re making the trip to be under the Path of Totality, there are some things you’ll want to know as you begin preparing for the eclipse.

Pro Tip: Don’t Look at the Sun

That shouldn’t be something you need to be reminded of, but allow us to remind you once more- looking at the sun can cause irreparable damage to your eyesight. So, you know, don’t do that. But for people who want to get to view the eclipse first hand there are ways to make that happen safely. Mostly, people will be using a pair of disposable eclipse glasses that will make watching the eclipse safe. Here are some things to know about eclipse glasses that could help you have a safe and enjoyable eclipse viewing experience.

  1. Yes, You Need the Special Glasses Eclipse glasses block out all but 0.003% of visible light along with most ultraviolet and infrared waves as well. Your Ray Bans do not. Eclipse glasses typically even have a thin layer of aluminum, chromium, or silver on them to accomplish this and nothing in the consumer market short of the darkest available welder’s shields (shade 12 or higher) will act as a replacement.
  2. Beware of Counterfeiters This is terrible, but the huge demand has meant that there are a bunch of bogus shades out there. Keep in mind to check for the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification labeled, “ISO 12312-2,” or to rely only on the list of approved eclipse glasses vendors of the American Astronomical Society.
  3. This Goes for Viewing Devices, Too Just because some people seem to be unclear on this, you need to protect your eyes even when looking through devices, too. In fact, at the risk of sounding condescending, telescopes and binoculars magnify images. That effect will only amplify the damage done to your eyes if you aren’t protected.

No More Glasses? Make a Light Box!

It’s very possibly, likely even, that if you’re just starting this process that the only eclipse glasses available to you will be either out of stock or inordinately expensive. Fear not! You can get your DIY on with a light box that will still provide you with a perfect way to enjoy the eclipse safely. Making a pinhole projector, as they are also known, is so simple that there are some amusingly basic how-to guides out there. Seriously though, anything with a hole in it (a colander, a piece of paper, your thumb and forefinger) that casts a shadow onto a white background will do. For a more detailed, yet still remarkably easy, how-to guide on making a light box for the eclipse, check out this video below.

Make Haste Or Wait Until Next Time

There are an estimated 12 million Americans who live in the direct path of the eclipse with millions more pouring into the strip of land where the path of totality will travel across. If you don’t want to fight the crowds, you’ll have to wait until April of 2024 to see the next eclipse in the United States. Also, if you really feel motivated or if you’re a scientist, you can basically count on a total solar eclipse about every 18 months or so to occur somewhere on the planet.

What are your plans? Are you heading out to hunt a great camping spot or are you already in the path of the eclipse? Or are you going away from the crowds and letting those stargazers have it all to themselves? Whatever you plans may be, we’d love to hear about them on Twitter or Facebook, so make sure to let us know!

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