Posted on April 7, 2020 by Casey Houser
When taking your company remote for the first time, VoIP security should be at the forefront of your mind.
The trained VoIP security professionals who manage the VirtualPBX Phone System have your best interests at heart. They’re here to help and make sure your small, medium-size, or large business has what it needs to protect itself and its staff who telecommute.
What questions should you ask about security in the first place? Our blog today will get you started.
Basic Internet Safety – Advice From an Expert
Len Cacioppo, the Vice President of Operations for VirtualPBX, is our resident expert in security. He’s managed complex networks since the 80’s and continues that charge now with daily development of our phone network.
He said the basics of protecting yourself on the internet are relatively straightforward:
“Avoid simple passwords. Don’t download or click on unknown links in an email. Pay attention to what you’re clicking on, and keep your awareness high.”
There are many ways in which enterprise firewalls can protect you from behind the scenes. Your vigilance as a user of the internet must take over when those protections aren’t available.
For instance, a corporate network might prevent you from visiting Amazon.co but allow you to visit Amazon.com. The first site (or a similar name change in a site) could be dangerous, which is why it would be blocked. The good news is that, as long as you pay attention, you can easily see that “.co” is different from “.com” and avoid the former case.
It’s possible that you can continue to take advantage of this network security by using your corporate virtual private network (VPN) while at home.
“Wherever they can,” Cacioppo continued, “remote employees should use their corporate VPN. If you have a large business, speak to your IT department about getting this set up at home.”
Enterprises oftentimes already have a secure network established at their offices. On-site computers and desk phones will connect to that network after your IT department sets them up. The process of connecting your home computer to that same network is simple, and your head of IT can help you reach it in a matter of minutes.
Home Networks Without a VPN
Many smaller businesses have never established their own secure networks. With a compliment of one or two employees, you may already be your company’s head of IT.
Gaining network security and VoIP security at home, however, doesn’t have to be difficult. It can make a huge difference in your protection to follow Cacioppo’s recommendations outlined above. If your passwords are secure and you’re aware of the links you follow, the internet can be traveled safely most of the time.
Your home router can also help provide VOIP security in ways that you may not have considered.
“By default,” Cacioppo said, “home routers are secure. They have good default settings to keep you protected.”
Most routers will automatically block inbound traffic from entering your home network. Although there are multiple configuration settings you can use to segment different parts of your network, this basic protection mixes well with a healthy dose of awareness.
Advanced VoIP Security
You might have a daughter who’s watching Netflix on her computer, a husband playing online games on his phone, and a grandparent watching shows on the home television. This doesn’t leave much room for the average home internet connection to handle your VoIP devices.
The Speed Test page on our site provides a quick link to SpeedTest.net that will show you how much download and upload speed you have on your home network. That page also shows how bandwidth can be taken when other devices are used on your network – the computer, phone, and television mentioned before.
What Cacioppo stresses is that available bandwidth isn’t usually the biggest problem when it comes to VoIP call clarity. Instead, it’s a matter or prioritization. The Quality of Service settings in your router can give VoIP calls priority over everything else on the network.
“The Quality of Service settings can tell the network that traffic related to phone calls are both uninterruptable and not discardable. Calls are protected, and all the other internet traffic on your network will be alright because it’s designed to deal with fluctuations in speed and quality.”
When you begin your service with VirtualPBX, we can discuss these settings with you and determine what router setup you need. And if you haven’t spoken to us already, contact us now to get help with a remote working network configuration.
VoIP Security Checklist
This discussion ultimately leads us back to the more complicated aspect of VoIP security that are discussed in our VoIP Security Checklist.
As a quick rundown, this includes:
- A brief discussion of the network demilitarized zone (DMZ) and why it shouldn’t contain VoIP devices
- Establishing firewall and VPN settings in line with your company’s standards
- Adjusting router settings to properly manage VoIP devices – settings like enabling network address translation (NAT) and disabling universal plug-and-play (UPnP)
- Establishing secure login credentials for VoIP devices with strong passwords
This is a document you may want to familiarize yourself with before having a discussion with VirtualPBX or your corporate IT department, which are both trained to keep you secure and recognize all these elements of network security.
If you have any doubts about your network security or VoIP security as part of a remote work environment, don’t hesitate to contact VirtualPBX, your IT department (if you have one), or your internet service provider.
We all want you to stay safe on the internet. At VirtualPBX, our professionals want to keep you connected and have your Business Phone Service working well through any type of work-at-home situation. A quick discussion can help us understand your needs and get your network set up properly, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
Posted on April 2, 2020 by Casey Houser
Of all the situations the VirtualPBX remote team faces in managing its Business Phone System, being a work at home mom may be the most stressful. But after interviewing two of our staff members about how they handle that reality, we learned that their challenge may also be among the most rewarding.
We asked our Marketing team member Jennifer Merrigan (and mother of Jade, who is one-and-a-half) and Services team member Kathy Melendez (and mother of Apollo, who is three) to reflect on how they balance work and parenting.
Their answers provided much valuable insight about the nature of remote work and the mental fortitude necessary to stay as productive as they are.
What’s the most challenging aspect of being a work at home mom?
Jennifer: By far, the most challenging thing is that my child is completely dependent on me.
I have to get creative about where I work and, importantly, how I work. I try to get smaller tasks done when she’s awake and playing. And when she’s napping, I try to focus on more in-depth tasks.
Kat: The most challenging thing is to work around the baby needing their mother.
The child will always want their mother, whether they’re with a babysitter or at home, and of course them being at home makes it even more apparent. What I’ve always tried to do was take my child to daycare.
Part of the difficulty now, in dealing with COVID-19, is to manage at home without the break that daycare provides. It’s important to find a space where you can stay isolated, like a coworking space, but now that daycare is inaccessible and coworking spaces are closed, I have to find different ways of working from home with a little boy who wants to see me every five seconds.
How do you find time to work and be productive throughout the day?
Jennifer’s daughter, Jade
Jennifer: I use hyper-focused bursts of work and energy to accomplish my tasks. Often, I only have 10 or 20 minutes to finish something small, so within those spaces, I do everything I can to complete as much work in as short amount of time as possible.
This requires that I consciously divert attention to my work or my child, instantly, as necessary. It also depends on scheduling to a certain degree. I know when playtime or naptime will regularly happen, so I plan as much as possible.
Every day presents something new, so I need to have a flexible schedule and a flexible mindset to handle everything that comes my way. There’s a lot of preparation that comes into it.
Kat: Being a work at home mom can require you to lean on others for support.
I have two older kids and an oldest niece that sometimes help take care of Apollo. If they’re not around, I do my best to juggle my primary methods of customer contact at VirtualPBX: phone and online chat.
When it’s possible, I try to use the phone when I know I have space to myself. Then when I need to pay more attention to my child, I’ll take time in online chat.
How do you deal with stress?
Jennifer: I try to make time for myself.
Every day before dinner, I unwind by doing a quick workout. This helps me stay fit, and it can help me mentally by releasing endorphins. It’s a nice change of pace from the scatter of the work day.
My husband, Jesse, will usually take Jade and give her a bath while I unwind. We can then put her to bed and take some time in the evening to really relax. I like to catch up on reading and watching shows online.
Kat: I like to take my child for walks. We’ll go around the block during my breaks at work.
Exercise after work is done can also help a lot. I also like to drink herbal teas; they help calm me down and release some of the stress.
What’s your best tip for mothers who are now working from home?
Kathy’s son, Apollo
Jennifer: My biggest tip for work at home moms is that you should have the mentality that you’re still going to the office to work.
Have a routine. Get dressed in what you would normally wear to the office. Go to your “office,” wherever that may be – a separate room, your kitchen, the living room.
My routine is to wake up at 6, get dressed for the day, have breakfast with Jade, and check my emails before starting today’s tasks.
Without my routine, I would procrastinate a lot. Your routine will depend on your job; try to work out something that fits your situation.
Kat: Be organized. Make sure you have a dedicated space for your gear. It’s not like the office where your computer and phone stay at your desk. Your home will get messy or disorganized. Try to prevent that as much as possible.
Also, take advantage of the time you have when you’re not working. Get enough sleep at night.
Any final takeaways for work at home moms?
Jennifer: Try to stay positive. Even in these tough times, I try to make the most of my situation.
We used to take Jade to a clubhouse where she could play, but it’s been closed, so we made our own little splash pad for her to play in.
I really appreciate that we can still have fun.
Kat: Enjoy your kids and everything they offer. In all the mess of coronavirus, the hectic nature of suddenly working from home, the huge changes in routine… it gets intense.
I try to be prepared to make work as easy as possible. And I look for the good moments with my kids both inside and outside of work hours.
Posted on March 31, 2020 by Casey Houser
VoIP softphones have helped bring Business Phone Plans out of the office an into the modern working world. They allow you to bring your business phone service anywhere, and in times when remote work is necessary, they can act as a lifeline to your coworkers and customers.
Our blog often mentions that the VirtualPBX Softphone is a fully-featured VoIP phone. That’s true, and it’s also statement that’s occasionally worth expanding.
How would you use our softphone as a remote worker to reach your daily department meetings or to keep in touch with customers? Today we’d like to answer that question.
What is a VoIP Softphone?
As just a quick refresher, remember that a VoIP network uses digital packets to send voice information. It runs on the same network as your computer uses to connect to the internet.
A VoIP softphone is a computer program; it’s software that might also be referred to as a “SIP softphone” or a “SIP phone app.” It’s an app on your smartphone or computer that sends voice information through the VoIP network.
For you remote workers, this means that you can use the VirtualPBX Softphone on your Android or iOS smartphone and connect to the same VirtualPBX Phone Plan you use at the office.
Remote Department Meetings
Distributed meetings have become commonplace for a many companies that didn’t use them a few months ago. Business leaders and department heads are scrambling to gather dozens of people in the same meeting room.
With VirtualPBX, this is an easy task. All VirtualPBX Phone Plans offer Audio Conferencing for as many participants as you need. Departments heads can easily create a meeting space in their phone system Dashboard and distribute that number to their team members. Connecting only takes a few seconds.
Remote workers can use their VirtualPBX VoIP Softphone to attend these meetings. Because it works like all other devices on your phone plan, employees only need to dial the conference number and enter the PIN for the room.
VoIP softphone users can expect the same high-quality audio they would receive through a desk phone. Whether the meeting joins two people or 20, all at-home employees will be heard clearly.
Reaching Out to Customers
What happens, though, when your meetings are done and you need to reach out to customers? Your VoIP softphone can play an equally important role here too.
Again, because it functions like other full-features phones you’re used to, the VirtualPBX Softphone has access to your address book and call history.
Your weekly followup with that supplier: done. Your reply to the missed call from earlier in the day: done. Your cold calls to the daily sheet of leads: done. And all this can be accomplished from any location.
Best of all, this customer outreach happens through your company phone number. Since your softphone is directly connected to your VoIP plan, you make and receive calls with your identity as a company employee. No lead will ever see your personal smartphone number unless you choose to share it otherwise.
Make Our VoIP Softphone Yours
It’s easy to get started with a VirtualPBX Unlimited Minute Plan (great for medium-size and large businesses) or an Unlimited User Plan (perfect for entrepreneurs and small businesses), and just as easy to begin using our VoIP softphone, which will have its device fee waived during the coronavirus outbreak.
We have remote work options for all business sizes and markets. Speak to one of our Sales representatives today to discuss your needs and how we can make the transition to a distributed workforce as simple as possible.
Posted on March 27, 2020 by Charlie Galaviz
As businesses shutter doors and adjust to the challenges of telecommuting, flexible scheduling, and remote work, we’ve been working around the clock to assist affected companies as they work from home.
VirtualPBX has been a remote-first company for several years and has continuously tested new tools and software to find out what works best for us.
We’re confident in our fully-remote operation and want to pass our years of knowledge to you. Check out our team members’ favorite remote work tools and tips.
Connect From Any Device, Anywhere
The VirtualPBX business phone system allows your employees to connect from any device, anywhere. Whether your employees prefer using their mobile phones, desk phones, or laptops, we can turn any device into a fully-functional PBX phone – while still showing your professional company Caller-ID to your company contacts.
We have even more tips and tricks in our Remote Work Training Webinar that can assist your business with going remote. Feel free to reach out for anything else you need.
Posted on March 26, 2020 by Casey Houser
Our partner in providing professional phone system messages, Snap Recordings, is now offering several free COVID-19 messaging resources for businesses to use in their automated attendants and voicemail services.
Snap’s talented voice actors have recorded dozens of free audio files for immediate download. It has also provided a guide for preparing your own voice messages during the coronavirus outbreak and is temporarily waiving all rush delivery fees for customers who order phone messages related to coronavirus.
Keep reading for a deeper look at the types of messages available and their fit in VirtualPBX Phone Plans.
Auto Attendant Messages
The VirtualPBX Automated Attendant comes with every Phone Plan we offer. It’s your friendly front line that routes all inbound calls.
Your Auto Attendant can be customized with professional recordings from Snap, including those offered in reaction to coronavirus. Snap’s free COVID-19 resources offer Auto Attendant messaging for the following situations:
- Simple Closures: Inform your customers that your office has needed to temporarily close its services, and reassure them that your doors will open again soon.
- Limited Hours and Access: Let customers know your staff is accessible by phone but not in person and that a limited schedule of hours can be found on your website.
- High Call Volume: Assure callers that you’re minimizing hold times as much as possible.
For callers, a familiar part of waiting on hold is being updated with periodic information.
Snap’s free COVID-19 resources can help you let customers know their business is appreciated.
On-hold messages in this messaging collection include phrasing like, “Thank you for holding,” and “We are open and ready to serve you,” assuring callers that although “wait times may be a little longer than normal,” staff is “committed to serving you as best as possible.”
There are six on-hold messages with unique phrasing to create a match that fits all types of businesses.
Snap’s included voicemail greetings fit well with VirtualPBX’s Voicemail feature, which provides all system users with their own voicemail box.
Updating individual messages can play an important role in customer relations. Whether your box was reached after hours or during a meeting, a greeting that addresses coronavirus will let customers know you’re aware of these trying circumstances.
Six available voicemail greetings in Snap’s collection address the reality of remote work to avoiding exposure and your intention to return calls promptly.
As a compliment to its core set of free COVID-19 resources, Snap also includes a range of industry-specific messages for your Auto Attendant greeting and on-hold information.
- Restaurant Messages: Let customers know your services are temporarily restricted to take-out orders but that orders can be taken on the phone.
- Event Closure: Unfortunately, many events have had to be postponed or closed. These brief messages address that situation and let customers know their support is always appreciated.
- Gym and Fitness Studio Closure: Assure patrons that your business will open again soon and that all precautions are being take to maintain a clean, safe environment.
Free COVID-19 Resources
Snap Recording is providing this collection of recordings for any business that wants them. You can download the messages for free and use them as much as necessary.
Instructions are also included on the Snap webpage for how to prepare effective messages that are clear, timely, and consistent. There are multiple scripts you can follow to create you own recordings, and if you want to order custom messages from Snap, all rush fees have been temporarily waived for new orders related to the coronavirus.
VirtualPBX is here to assist you with adding these recordings to your Auto Attendant and updating your system. Let us know if there’s anything we can do to help.