Author: Dan Quick

Spring Cleaning – VirtualPBX Recommended Network Hardware

spring cleaningIf you didn’t realize, this week saw the official last day of winter on Monday. And while that may be a little challenging to believe for some of our PBX Parachute customers on the eastern seaboard who were snowed in much of the last week, that also means that Spring has officially sprung. There are plenty of analogies about rebirth and planting seeds for a harvest and whatnot that all speak to a “new beginnings” attitude this time of year, but we focus on something else. As much as we may not be proud to admit it, we are just like many others and look at Spring as a time to clean house, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively. It is this sentiment that was the motivation for us to review our listing of Recommended Network Hardware to make sure we are offering the best options available to our customers.

Recommended Network Hardware

Why bother with a list of recommended network products, you ask? Well, let’s just say that having been in the industry for as long as we have, we’ve had occasion to come across the latest bit of “Snake Oil” insofar as new hardware products are concerned. Additionally, throughout our years of third party Network Monitoring and maintenance, we’ve also seen plenty of businesses suffering from subpar hardware choices that may have saved them a few cents up front, but ended up costing them much more in the long run. That’s why we’ve regularly maintained a curated list of recommended hardware options at various price points for our customers. Between bad actors and uninformed purchases, plenty of businesses are often at a disadvantage based on the quality and reliability of their hardware decisions. Plus, considering that a hosted business phone requires so very few actual physical devices to operate, reliance on those devices operating at a satisfactory level is at an all-time high.

Why These Products?

To actually make it onto the list of VirtualPBX Recommended Network Hardware, a product has to pass through a series of stringent barriers first. Beginning with thorough stress testing of the actual performance of the item, we first check the data thresholds of a product. Then we subject them to a variety of durability and reliability tests that ensure the item not only can meet the performance claims of the manufacturer, but will it also handle the occasional surges beyond those limits that are commonly reached through the course of a product’s lifetime. Then we look at a combination of factors including pricing, competitive landscape, and even go as far as to make sure the manufacturer satisfies the overall sustainability and ethical standards that we subject all of our business partners to. The end result is a thoroughly vetted, exhaustively tested, and value certified array of Recommended Network Hardware for businesses of all sizes and on any budget. So go ahead and take a look at the latest updates to the product list and compare them to what you’re currently using in the office. Not sure if your network challenges are related to the hardware you’re using? We can help! Just reach out to one of our Networking Hardware Experts and we can help assess your current hardware situation as well as walk you through your options, so get in touch now!

The Future of Recommended Hardware

If you’re anything like us, new technology is something you’re passionate about. That’s why we wanted to also let you know that in addition to the updates to our Recommended Hardware, we also have some exciting things in the works for entirely new products, not just a list or recommended ones. However, it’s a little early to totally let the cat out of the bag, so we can’t share all the details just yet. That said, sign up now to receive notice when these all-new products hit the market. We expect you to be more than impressed with what they’re promising, so it should be worth your time, trust us.

Also, if you haven’t seen us posting all about it on Twitter or Facebook, we’ve currently got part of our Social Media Team down in San Diego for the Social Media Marketing World conference, so make sure to follow along as we share the latest tips and tricks of the social experts!

Why Businesses Should Adopt Remote Working for March Madness

March Madness BracketIt’s that time of the year again! March Madness is here and the annual NCAA College Basketball Tournament is one of the most widely participated in, and often divisive, sporting events of the year for spectators. It’s typically a point of contention among fans because with over 64 teams (don’t get me started on the adoption of the “First Four” because we’ll be here for hours) from all over the country including teams from conferences typically invisible from the national spotlight, there are plenty of opinions to go around. While the conflicting predictions and inevitable upsets can cause a little consternation and a lot of excitement, one prediction that seems to remain constant each year is the cost that this tournament our national economy suffers. According to ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports, estimates for this year’s March Madness expect that 50 million workers will fill out brackets and, on average, spend at least one hour of their work day focused on the games themselves. Estimates on the costs of when 20% of the national workforce commits an hour a day over the course of the tournament range from $1.3 to $1.9 billion in lost productivity. Using this as a lens through which to work habits during March is just the context we need to consider a new approach to working through it and the other remaining 11 months of the year.

Where We Work During March Madness

It’s no secret that people spend time watching and playing along with March Madness at work. It’s so well known, in fact, that there’s even a well-known feature on the streaming feed of games called the “Boss Button” that surreptitiously changes your live basketball feed into a working spreadsheet. You know, because you’re super hard at work, right? The point is that we know some employees are going to be hooked to the tournament each year, so it’s time to let work be flexible to accommodate it. Still need some convincing? Here are some non-sports related points to consider when you pitch your new Working From Home policy to HR.

  • Boost Productivity – Have you ever heard (or been guilty of?) the phrase that work expands to fill the time allotted? Well, it’s true. Working from home has yielded anywhere from 10-20% increases in productivity. Considering that 1 hour out of a typical 8-hour workday is 12.5%, you actually stand to gain productivity over the course of March Madness by working from home.
  • Improved Job Satisfaction – Being flexible with your in-office working requirements is definitely going to go over well with the employees who are following the tournament, but it will have lasting effects well beyond basketball season, too. You can expect about 25% of your telecommuting workforce to experience a sizeable increase in job satisfaction over their in-office counterparts.
  • Improved Work-Life Balance – A staggeringly high 80% of remote workers report an improvement in their work life balance by not being required to go into the office each day. In the current business climate where businesses are offering more benefits focused directly on improving this aspect of employment, what better way than to leverage the resources your employees already have; namely, their homes? And, of course, their televisions and sports networks, too, but let’s not get distracted from the benefits too quickly!
  • It’s Better For the Environment – The average commuter spends at least 45 minutes a day commuting and the vast majority of them do it in a personal vehicle while not carpooling. Also, considering that over 40% of all jobs can be done at home with the proper connections and telecommuting tools, that is a potential savings of nearly 500,000 tons of greenhouse gasses to be saved each day that all of those workers stayed home.

The Cost Savings Outlast March Madness, Too

Obviously, considering that this is my bracket here in the blog, I am biased on how important the March Madness tournament really is to the American workforce. What isn’t slanted in anyway, though, is the fact that an advanced telecommunications system routinely saves businesses anywhere from 40-80% on their service charges over an on-site PBX system. Combine those costs savings with the reduced overhead on ancillary office charges from power use to furniture wear and tear, and the savings begin to make a better case for working from home than March Madness ever could. Plus, you can try it out before you roll it out, too. We always provide total access to our award-winning Dash VoIP Plans for free with our Hassle Free, Free Trial. So get started today if you want, or, if you need to catch the next game, make sure to let us know on Twitter or Facebook how your bracket compares to mine. Good luck and enjoy the games!

Sources: Staples Advantage, Workopolis, The Telework Coalition, The Telework Research Network, The Oil Drum, Opportunity Now

3 Ways to Get All the Pie on Pi Day, Even if You’re Working

Pi DayWe at VirtualPBX love what we do, and when you enjoy your work, every day is a good day. Some days, however, receive an extra special amount of recognition, and this week has one such exception. In honor of possibly the most important and compelling figure in all of mathematics, Tuesday, March 14 (3/14), is internationally recognized as Pi Day. While the focus on tomorrow’s festivities happens to be mostly on celebrating math and STEM education, there are also businesses that leverage the day’s attention, as well. Specifically, dessert counters and pizza parlors are playfully offering deals on the homophonic nature of Pi Day by offering discounts on slices of their own “pies.” And while we’re 100% in support of emphasizing the importance of mathematics in education, let’s face it, a bunch of deals on pie is motivation enough to get out of the office for a bit. And with that in mind, we’ve offered these three steps to maximizing your productivity while you’re also maximizing your pie consumption.

3 Ways to Get All the Pie on Pi Day

When you tell me there’s a deal on pie all day long, I don’t need to be asked to join because I’m already half way out the door. For others, though, they might want to get some more details first. Before you begin your unofficial pie scavenger hunt, take to Twitter or your local Rotary Club and learn what businesses in the area are running a promotion. Once you have your itinerary outlined, it’s time to hit the streets and let the fun begin! But as a public service announcement, it’s important that this is a day founded on more than just a love of flaky pastry and pizza dough. Again, only because our engineering team was so diligent with their math homework back in the day are we able to use these tools to get out of the office. But that being said, they didn’t design these cool remote-working features to not be used, right? That’s what we thought, too. Anyway, once you’re ready to begin, this is how we suggest you proceed.

  1. Cover Your Absence – Whenever you need to step out of the office, be it for pie or a doctor’s appointment, it’s always important to make sure people know you’re gone. Ideally, you’ll even have someone covering you while you’re away, too. When that isn’t an option, we suggest you employ an Auto Attendant to automatically field and direct all of the calls you might miss while you’re away.
  2. Stay Connected to the Office While You’re Out – For when the above isn’t an option or also isn’t enough to absolve you of responsibility for when you are out stuffing your face, you may need to still be available. You can do that a few ways, but if you don’t want to share your personal mobile number with inbound callers on your voicemail, or if you need to actually still appear to be in the office, an advanced call forwarding system like Follow Me Calling will automatically forward all your calls to any mobile device (or hardline to your favorite bistro, even!) that you desire!
  3. Pick Your Battles – As unexciting as it is to admit, sometimes you just can’t justify leaving work, surprisingly, not even for pie! For those unfortunate situations, it’s good to remember that delivery services are often available that will bring Pi Day to you, or for those deals that are so good that they are all, “In Store Only,” just take comfort in knowing they’ll probably be available for dinner after your shift, too. However, if you are able to just disconnect for the day, first let me congratulate you! Second, you probably don’t want work to get in the way of enjoying a bevy of baked goodness. If that’s the case, go ahead and flip on your automatic Do Not Disturb feature and make sure that nothing stands in the way of you and Pi Day celebrations.
  4. BONUS FOURTH STEP – There is no way this one should be overlooked, but it’s less of a step on how to enjoy Pi Day and more of a bit of advice on how to enjoy it correctly. It should go without saying that, no matter the circumstances, if you happen to step out or call in for a little slice of goodness on this Pi Day, make sure to get extra for everyone. Because if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that Pi Day, like all holidays, is meant to be shared. Plus, if nothing else, it’ll make that 3-hour lunch break you took be forgotten a lot sooner if you return with a few pastry boxes to share.

More than One Way to Slice the Pi

There you have it, this is the (un)official VirtualPBX Pi Day Celebration Guide! But we also know that no two Pi Days are alike, so make sure to let us know how yours goes on Twitter or Facebook, and we’ll make sure to do the same. Until then, have a productive day and Happy Pi Day!

Exactly What is an Automated Attendant?

What is an Automated AttendantWhat is an Automated Attendant is something that people new to hosted telephony often ask us. Often referred to as Auto Attendant, AA, AutoAttendant, or even Virtual Receptionist, an Automated Attendant is one of the most important features on a hosted telephone system because it’s the first point of contact for inbound callers. In this post, we’re going to review the different types of Auto Attendants, use cases, and other elements as well. Our goal is to bring you all of the information you need to answer confidently the next time someone asks you what an auto attendant is.

What Kinds Of Auto Attendants Are There?

This question can be a bit misleading because, although they can be presented in a variety of ways, all Automated Attendants are effectively the same technology. That said, how a business chooses to use it, or how their VoIP provider makes it available, will determine what the final Auto Attendant looks like.

  • Simple Menu System – This is the most basic Auto Attendant you can have with an easy to navigate recording of a business’ extension options. Typically this is a computer generated or pre-installed voice recording and has little or no preloaded branding available for a business.
  • Recorded Greeting – This method of using an Automated Attendant lets a business leverage some personality or seasonal promotion. By recording your own messages (or leveraging a professional recording option), you can have the actual voices of your team members on the recording. Also, this is a good way to rotate the message to highlight events on the calendar.
  • Interactive Voice Response (IVR) System – Not to be confused with an actual Auto Attendant, IVR’s are designed to achieve the same type of directory services but include added functions for systems that take voice activated bill pay, customer service, etc. These systems are very expensive and rarely used outside of large enterprise organizations and, for the sake of telephony, are viewed as a distinct system to traditional Automated Attendants.

Why Use Auto Attendants?

Use cases for Automated Attendants vary as widely as the types of companies that employ them. The cost savings of an Auto Attendant system, though, are generally reason enough for most businesses to entertain experimenting with them. Combine the simplicity and reliability of leveraging a virtual receptionist with the overall benefits of a hosted business phone system, and most businesses that try an Auto Attendant will generally never go back to a traditional phone system ever again. Some of the benefits of a hosted system that pertain to an Auto Attendant specifically, however, are below.

  • Professional Image – Adding an automated greeting to an on-site business phone system is incredibly costly. That’s why many businesses employ a hosted VoIP option as a way to promote a larger, more professional business image to callers, well before even actually speaking to them on the phone.
  • Save on Overhead – Having an Auto Attendant is like hiring a receptionist who never takes sick days, always shows up on time, and is willing to work for free. All jokes aside, virtual receptionists are literally that, hosted telephony’s cost-saving answer to the headaches of hiring dedicated phone receptionist staff.
  • Improved Call Navigation – Not to be overlooked is the simple ease of use benefit that callers who encounter an Automated Attendant experience. By streamlining the menu options to inbound callers with an Auto Attendant, businesses can also shorten the path for callers to get their support, sales, and miscellaneous needs met.
  • Increased Efficiency – Having a virtual receptionist is more than just a cost saver, it’s also a one-way ticket to increased productivity on a team. By eliminating calls to the wrong people and by freeing employees from the diligence it takes to keep an ear open for the phone, they are also liberated to focus more on getting the job done throughout the day.

Auto Attendants Are Just The Beginning

Automated Attendants are definitely one of the most popular and most widely used elements of a hosted business phone system, but they represent only a small fraction of VoIP’s total capabilities. Modern day VoIP telephone systems for businesses include an entire battery of intelligent, mobile, and integrated options that are either cost-prohibitive or simply unavailable on traditional PBX platforms. To experience the total battery of VoIP features with no risk, businesses can take a free, 14-day trial of a hosted phone system with Auto-Attendant included. Now, with the information above and the opportunity to try a phone system for yourself for free, there should never be a need to ask what is an Automated Attendant ever again!

Putting the Saving into Daylight Saving Time!

Daylight Saving TimeAt 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 12, 2017, the majority of the United States of America will begin the 2017 Daylight Saving Time season until the following November. This, for many of us, is an annual occurrence that sometimes complicates things in regards to our disconnected devices (car dashboard clocks, clock radios, etc) but is otherwise a fairly automated affair. Surely, with many people relying on their smartphones for alarm clocks and even more businesses switching to business phone systems like Dash that all switch to and from Daylight Saving Time automatically, there’s very little impact on our daily lives. However, for some of our customers, namely those who rely on the robust ACD Queues and technology behind our VirtualPBX Office Plans, time changes have to be executed manually. Because this relatively forgettable maintenance step is, well, forgettable, we wanted to take a moment to remind Office Plan users to plan for the switch this week. And to help reinforce the reminder, we’ve decided to put some literal “saving” into the Daylight Saving with a promo code for 10% off all Dash and Dash Unlimited Plans!

Daylight Saving Time!

See what we did there? When you enter the promo code “daylightsaving” you will receive 10% off of any Dash or Dash Unlimited plan. This includes any of the payment options, too, so you have the chance to really boost your savings if you use it for an annual plan. And what’s more, you don’t need to be currently on the Office Plan to benefit, so go ahead and share the promo code with colleagues and your network. You’ll receive a triple benefit when you do because you’ll let them in on a fool-proof way to save on their business communications, you’ll be providing them with a way to save even more with the promo code, and you’ll be reminding them of the fact that Daylight Saving Time hits this weekend. Triple dipper winner, right here.

Want to Make the Final Switch?

Because Dash and Dash Unlimited were made to be as user-friendly as possible, the DST changes are all automated by the system itself. For our customers who are on Office Plans and who also want to stop having to make the change manually, there is another way to benefit, too. Migrating your business communications from Office to Dash is an option that many of our customers have opted for and, we’re more than pleased to report, the results have been terrific. Of course, there are some situations where a business that relies heavily on some unique features is going to be best served with an Office Plan, regardless of how easily Dash handles the DST time change. That’s why we invite Office Plan customers to speak with one of our Plan Migrations Experts to discuss their specific needs and how Dash or Office will best meet them. But don’t worry, because in most cases the switch to Dash is also a boost to savings, but for those companies that might incur additional charges in a plan change, the “daylightsaving” savings still apply! So go ahead, remind your friends and colleagues about the time change, share the “daylightsaving” promo code with them, and be the business winner today. It is Monday, after all, so you might as well take the layup while you can.

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