VirtualPBX Blog

3 Business Service Audits You Should Conduct for Success in 2018

Business Service AuditsWhen it comes to having the right partners and services in place for your business, there is little room for error. Outsourcing operations and employing business systems that help your business perform are consistently more expensive than accomplishing those task in-house. However, many of the advanced and sophisticated platforms and services businesses outsource are simply too cumbersome or highly specialized to be handled by their existing resources. Thus, it seems like these types of outsourced operations will remain a necessary part of doing business. This isn’t anything to lament, however, as even the largest Fortune 500 companies in the world have their own areas where they need to lean on the expertise of outside firms. The key to making these investments have the most positive impact on a bottom line is that they need to be regularly reviewed and thoroughly vetted as to their need, value, and their return. It’s with that in mind that we present to you these business service audits you should conduct for success in 2018 and beyond.

Business Service Audits

To maximize the value of the dollars you invest into work done on your behalf that doesn’t also stay in the hands of your employees, maintaining the highest levels of scrutiny will go a long way. Remember that will all business relationships, you are in trusted partnerships but in the end, you are also the customer. Insist on being treated the way you would have your own customers treated and understand that expecting the best and settling for nothing less thereof is nothing to be ashamed of. Keep that in mind as you run these business audits you should conduct for success in 2018 below.

  • Financial Stress Testing No, this isn’t the same things as what we subjected our national financial institutions to following the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, but it’s similar. One of the most critical steps to assessing your business’ health and one that will help you contextually rate other audits as we proceed is knowing how financially fit your company is in the event of hardship or disaster. This exercise simulates the impact that acute strain on your cash flow and fundamental business health to determine if your company is prepared to weather any storm ahead. One major thing to consider before conducting this critical baseline exercise is how your financial stress test is considered as part of your overall Business Continuity Plan, or BCP. Once you have a precise understanding of how a crisis would affect your operations and how a BCP will keep you fully operational during one, you’re well positioned to succeed in 2018 no matter what turbulence may lay ahead.
  • Internet Network Audit Let’s face it, nothing happens for a business at an acceptable speed these days when the internet is down. Certainly there are moments when upstream carriers have outages, and for those times we have little recourse. However, more often than not, business experience suboptimal connectivity not as a result of their upstream provider, but rather as a function of their omission of any legitimate network audits. While the above audit is crucial because you’ll need to be able to pay for your services in the long run, the importance of a proper Network Health Check can’t be overstated because you’ll want to ensure the service you are paying for is adequate for your needs. By conducting a comprehensive around-the-clock assessment of how a business uses their network connection, the types of strains that are put on it (video conferencing, streaming, webinar hosting, etc.), and devising a plan to optimize bandwidth to prioritize that use, a company can be confident knowing that they are maximizing the efficacy of their most essential business service.
  • Unified Communications Audit Unified Communications (UC) refers to the complete integration of all modern business communications platforms and technologies and is achieved by one of two ways. First is ideal for larger organizations with handsome operations budgets and plenty of in-house telephone engineering staff and it entails building on-site PBX switching and server systems to manage all of a company’s communications. The second and far more popular method is to harness the power of the cloud to unify all of these same systems. A modern hosted business telephone plan will have enterprise-grade features and reliability but will only carry a fraction of the expense of the same system if it’s built on-site. And though users of an on-site PBX option are legitimately hampered with the time and expense it costs to make changes to their system compared to their cloud-based UC competitors, they can still bridge the gap between the two platforms with SIP Trunking. Effectively a hybrid of both systems, SIP Trunking allows you to keep your existing on-site PBX setup but connects to the PSTN (Publicly Switched Telephone Network) over an internet connection to deliver a lower price per minute. For users of a purely cloud-based UC, however, the infinite flexibility of the cloud enables them to integrate all of their other critical business systems including Salesforce CRM software and the increasingly popular collaboration platform, Slack. Additionally, following both a comprehensive financial systems review and a complete assessment of a business’ network health, a business will be poised to make decisions on their UC system needs and expectations better than before embarking on these critical annual review.

Time Is Money

Clearly, time is the most valuable resource that any enterprise can invest. That’s why, though certainly there are other important considerations a company needs to make on a regular basis, these are the most important business audits you should conduct for success in 2018. Fortunately, the resources we’ve included above should get you well on your way to streamlining the process, but we’d be happy to help further, too. Simply reach out to one of our experts in business communications and connections to learn more about how you can harness the power of the cloud to benefit your own organization, today.

I’ve Got Your Telephone Number. Call Me, Maybe?

telephone number call me maybeThe telephone number has long been the first and most trust point of contact for any business. Though there is a multitude of other communications methods out there now, the importance of having a business telephone number hasn’t faltered one bit. Online portals allow one-click-to-call interfaces directly from a web browser that makes having a conversation with customers faster and easier than ever. Additionally, studies have long proven that the simple act of placing a phone call indicates a much higher likelihood of a prospect making a purchase. Plus, the odds of that customer purchasing from the first company they speak with are staggering, as well. All of the evidence that supports the need for a business to have an immediate voice connection with their market makes having the right business telephone number almost as simple and simply having one. But for many newer companies that are accustomed to cutting-the-cable and employing modern, cloud-based communications and collaboration methods, enrolling with an antiquated telephone company’s usurious service contract doesn’t sound very attractive at all. We agree. That’s why we maintain hundreds of thousands of business telephone numbers as part of our total business communications services product array.

How to Get The Right Business Telephone Number

The need for your business to have a telephone number should be pretty clear, but the path on how to go about obtaining one may not be as apparent. Fortunately, thanks to the infinite amount of flexibility and routing options that are inherent in modern, cloud-based business telephone systems, adding, removing, and managing telephone numbers is easy. With a VoIP business phone system like Dash, for example, you can select from any of the following telephone number options below:

  • Local Telephone Numbers Being a successful business is more than just being good at operations and having a compelling product, it’s also about being a good neighbor. There’s no better way for a “local” business to get rejected than to have an out-of-state telephone number. Counter that but searching for a new telephone number by Area Code from our bank of numbers.
  • Toll-Free Numbers For companies that have grown outside of their immediate surrounds, have a healthy e-commerce business, or that are just looking to offer an easy way for their customers to reach them, nothing works better than a toll-free business telephone number. And when it comes to toll-free, nothing conjures the image of stability and familiarity than a true 1-800 number. Did I mention we have plenty of those on hand for you, too? Go ahead and start searching for your new 800 number now!
  • Vanity Phone Numbers For that added element of recognition and to inject some brand awareness or personality into your business telephone number, why don’t you explore your options with a vanity number? A vanity number is the same as any other business phone number, but because we have so many of them to choose from, you can let your creativity run wild in finding the best seven letter combination for your business.

You Don’t Even Need VoIP to Get a New Number

Because we’ve been pioneering advances in the hosted communications industry for over 20 years, we’ve picked up a few techniques that are pretty handy. Want all the instances of telephone number to be linked to a certain ad campaign to track ROI? We can do that. Need to know that the location of calls and office branches are being coordinated from the very moment the number is dialed? Yep, we can do that, too. We can also route calls to and from subsidiaries and port numbers in and out of your existing telephone service to a different provider, too. Plus, because all of our telephone services are hosted in the cloud, we can accomplish all of that more quickly and with far less expense than you’ll ever be able to say with your old, copper-wired telephone company. In fact, you don’t even need to have an existing telephone number to get started. By signing up for Dash, you’ll be guided through the clear, intuitive process of choosing your telephone number directly from our bank of hundreds of thousands of numbers from over 140 countries and be up and running in about 5 minutes. So what are you waiting for? We’re open 24 hours a day, and here’s our number, so call us, maybe?

Cool History: A Timeline of the Fax Machine

Timeline of the Fax MachineUnderstanding the history of the fax machine means a lot more than simply conducting a quick cleaning of the supply closet. Fax machines aren’t considered the cutting edge of communications technology like they once were, and so people tend to forget that they have been a mainstay for business communications for a long time. In fact, much longer than many people may even expect. If you were to guess when the patents were granted for the underlying technology behind the fax machine, how long ago would you think those were filed? 40 years? 80? The answer may surprise you. You might also be surprised to learn how popular the fax machine still is across the globe and why you may already have one in your office that you can’t even see! Spoiler alert, it’s called Internet Fax and it’s as easy as using your existing email client server. Either way, follow along below to learn the about the cool history of the fax machine.

The Timeline of the Fax Machine

While the history of the fax machine is, as you’ll see, quite longer than what most people expect, the core philosophy has remained the same throughout. Sending and receiving printed material from one location to another one through electrical or telephone wiring is what all fax machines across history have been designed to do. The first person to really develop the technology may have been a bit ahead of his time, though, because the actual need for communications at this new breakneck speed was too low to warrant wide adoption of the fax machine. But it’s where we’ll begin as we examine the cool history of faxing.

  • May 27, 1843 No, you’re not reading that incorrectly, well over 150 years ago, the Scottish inventor Alexander Bain applied for and was granted British Patent #9745 for his, “Electric Printing Telegraph.” This is the first known mention of using electronic signals to read documents and reprint them in alternate locations. But, like we mentioned, the business community in London where he tried to sell his new technology saw little need for such a harried and immediate form of communication, so it failed to gain popularity.
  • 1880 Though it was still not ubiquitous in business circles, the core technology of the electric printing telegraph was still a novelty that inspired other inventors. One such person, the British inventor Shelford Bidwell, developed the “Scanning Phototelegraph” that was the first machine to replicated two-dimensional images, unlike Bain’s which was used solely for text.
  • 1888 Faxing technology is refined again but this time across the pond in the United States by electrical engineer Elisha Gray’s “telautograph” that was the first fax machine to be able to replicate more complex shapes, specifically signatures.
  • 1908 Through the implementation of the above contributions to faxing and slight variations by German inventor Arthur Korn and his “Bildetelegraph,” the first known transcontinental fax transmission was used to share wanted posters among police agencies between Paris and London. This marked the breakthrough that faxing needed to become a legitimate method of communicating that was quickly going to outpace the simple telegraph.
  • May 19, 1924 AT&T in the United States refined the technology of faxing to a new height by sending 15 photographs via their electrical photo transmission method from Cleveland to New York City that each had quality great enough to be used in the following day’s newspaper. This was a method that was more reliable than the previous technology developed by RCA that did the same thing over radio frequencies.
  • 1948 The first fax machine that could fit onto the top of a normal desk was produced by Western Union. The new “Deskfax” signaled the beginning of a period of widespread adoption of faxing technology because they size of the machine was small enough to begin including into all of the many Western Union locations from coast to coast.
  • 1964 Xerox Corporation revolutionized the now widely popular faxing industry by transitioning the transmissions from the insecure electrical wiring network over to the telephone system. They patented the LDX (Long Distance Xerography) which marked the beginning of the end for all other non-telephone operated fax machines despite the LDX’s unwieldy size and prohibitively expensive price tag.
  • 1966 Xerox develops a new version of their LDX, the Magnafax Telecopier, that was capable of sending and receiving high-quality documents in under 6 minutes, weighed less than 50 pounds, and was ready for mass production. The Maganfax Telecopier was the prototype of technology that generally was left untouched but refined and condensed throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s to become the fax machines that were mainstays in business for more than a generation.
  • 1985 Hank Magnuski, founder of GammaLink right around the corner from our corporate HQ in Sunnyvale, California and that still operates as a former subsidiary of Intel, was the first to develop a computer interface for faxing. The “GammaFax” was still ahead of its time, but not unlike the forefathers of the fax machine in the 1800’s, what Hank developed would eventually become the standard for faxing well into the future.
  • Email to Fax/Fax to Email Fast forwarding to today, companies are aware that their new employees are less likely to be familiar with operating a fax machine than they are with how to check their inboxes. However, because faxing remains a worldwide commerce necessity as telephone access is far more common than internet access across the globe, faxing is still an essential for business. To balance those realities, savy companies all over the world employ an Internet Fax policy as part of their hosted VoIP telephone service which allows them to simply send and receive attachments as faxes to their partners who require it for security purposes.

Where is Faxing Headed From Here?

There are many industries like medical or legal practices that are bound to keep using faxing for their daily operations well into the future, but the reasons to expect to keep using faxing are greater than just affects them. The permanence of the fax machine’s need in the business world seems to be undeniable based on the fact that it remains essential in spite of the variety of alternatives that exist for communications today. So while we don’t have a crystal ball to tell you what the next milestones on the fax machine timeline will be, we can guarantee you that the final chapter hasn’t been written yet by far.

The Top Digital Tools Your Business Needs to Succeed in 2018

Top Digital ToolsWith the new year comes a groundswell of new hopes, aspirations, goals, and resolutions. With that in mind, we have compiled a list of the must-have digital tools your business needs to succeed in 2018. They were selected from our wide array of business partners, inspirational sector leaders, services we’ve vetted ourselves, and even some competitors. The following digital tools your business needs to succeed in 2018 were selected to be the quintessential, must-have assets for any modern business looking to achieve great things in the coming 12 months.

Digital Tools Your Business Needs to Succeed in 2018

The following list of digital tools are ones that are going to be the deciding factor for many businesses to make or miss their goals for 2018. This isn’t just because they’re great tools that deliver what companies need to succeed in 2018 and beyond, but also because in many instances, they also offer vast cost savings over traditional alternatives. That’s because digital tools that are hosted in the cloud are inherently more efficient, faster, and far less expansive than in-house or proprietary options. So without further ado and so you can get started on your path to achieving your goals for the next year, here are the must-have digital tools your business needs to succeed in 2018.

  • Google Docs This is one of those times when the biggest player in the game actually has the upper hand over other options. We’ve reviewed some online document collaboration tools in the past, but the proof is in the pudding with Google Docs. G-Docs has all of the same functionality that users will recognize from popular Microsoft Office applications but they are living, online documents that can be collaborated on in real time, have in-doc chat features, and even come with some handy offline functions, as well. Honestly, we don’t have much bad to say about G-Docs at all and for businesses looking to save on overhead, paper waste, and time, it’s at the top of the must-have digital tools for success in 2018.
  • Google Meet This is a fine segue into the other Google property that is a must have for modern mobile teams, Google Meet. This is Google’s video conferencing software and it’s crystal clear with a good internet connection and super simple to use. With just a couple clicks, users can share condensed and secure links to people already in their email address books for videoconferences. These virtual meeting rooms come with one-click methods to share screens, documents, toggle mute, and more, and are an essential tool for remote or mobile workforces in 2018.
  • Slack Okay, we have been all aboard the Slack train for a while now and have written multiple times about how healthy they are of a company from a fundamental analysis standpoint. An aspect of their operational efficiency seems to come through in the elegant simplicity of their online business collaboration tool, as well. With the perfect combination of standard functionality and plenty of opportunities to create open-sourced integrations, the Slack interface balances professional potency and personal expression better than any other digital tool out there. In fact, you could even call Slack the mullet of business tools because it’s business in the front, party in the back. Or just call it one of the must-have digital tools for your business to succeed in 2018. They’d probably prefer that over the mullet thing, anyway.
  • Salesforce CRM Customer relationship management software is one of the largest categories of SaaS products out there for businesses, and Salesforce CRM is the leader in that sector for a reason. One of the most comprehensive sales automation tools out there, Salesforce can sometimes get a bad wrap because it isn’t inexpensive. But, because one of the criteria we used to create this list of digital tools was cost-savings, it’s important to point out that the opportunity costs of replicating all of the tasks that are automated by Salesforce software would be prohibitively expensive to recreate with working hours alone. Plus, considering that these automations can also be scaled quickly and seamlessly, it’s tough to argue that there is more cost-effective way to operate a powerful and agile sales-driven organization.
  • Dash Business VoIP Tying together all of the benefits of the above tools in a way that keeps your business humming should be an advanced, cloud-based business telephone system. No pother system out there has the ability to do that with more simplicity in the interface and power in the backend than the award-winning Dash Business Telephone System. Plus, because Dash already has Salesforce CRM integrations, Slack-enabled webhooks, and even G-suite integrations either fully up and operational or already in beta-testing, it’s poised to way more than a must-have digital tool for your business to succeed in 2018. These integrations and the VirtualPBX history of innovation are sure to keep modern businesses saving money and streamlining operations well beyond simply the next 12 months.
  • SEO Intelligence Software We’re actually including two options in this category because unlike the other items on this list where we’ve selected a clear winner, SEO strategy is different for every company. Sure, there are some tasks that should be evergreen and ubiquitous like optimizing for your target audiences, but because the levels of proficiency and resources to invest in this department vary, so too do the needs from any given SEO intelligence software. That said, <sarcasm font> because we’re not likely to see this whole internet fad die down anytime soon </sarcasm font>, it will be critical for a business to continue to focus on their online content strategies. To do that, we recommend leveraging the business intelligence from either Moz or SEMrush. They each have the customary trial periods and guided tours that you’d expect from an online partner, so play around with each and see which one works best for your particular team. Either way, the insights and tools that you or your digital marketing contract partners gain from these platforms will be invaluable in maximizing the potency of your online ad and marketing budget.
  • Strong Internet Connections What is the one thing that everything above has in common? They’re all products or services that require a reliable connection to the internet in order to keep your business humming. Part of getting the best connection is having the right network equipment to maximize and optimize bandwidth for the needs of your business. While not quite digital tools, getting either the right network hardware for businesses or enlisting a professional Network Bandwidth Assessment Service will ensure that all of your digital tools are fully up and operational and at the ready to drive your business forward.

What Other Digital Tools Do You Use?

There are still plenty other arrows we keep in our digital tool quiver, if you will. But in order to keep this list as helpful as possible, we had to distill it down to the absolute essentials, which we have. It’s almost a certainty that, with the above tools in your business toolbox, you’re already ahead of your competition in achieving what you want in 2018. Because we do have other niche assets that we rely on, though, we understand you probably have some favorites that didn’t make the cut, too. What are they? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook with the other tools you’d add into the mix. Either way, please take this information with our best wishes for a successful and fruitful 2018 and beyond!

Public Service Announcement: San Francisco Auto Break-Ins Happen

San Francisco Auto Break InsThis is a space where we enjoy talking about the many benefits of using hosted communications and how we’re fortunate enough to bring them to the variety of businesses that rely on them. However, today, instead of talking about the interesting people and technologies that keep our products online, I have a less exciting but very real situation to discuss. Early this morning as I was getting ready to head into the office a most unpleasant sight greeted me before I left. Instead of finding my car dew-covered and ready to depart, I found the sidewalk to be glass-covered and ready to be swept for prints. Yes, I had been the victim of a senseless car break-in. And for the record, nobody sweeps for prints in this situation as it is, woefully, all too frequent of an occurrence for most people to bat an eye at. The point of this is to say that, while we have often discussed how the remote-first nature of cloud-based communications like Dash make it easy to work from exciting and exotic locations, those same features apply to the mundane parts of life, too.

San Francisco Auto Break-Ins

Car burglary, like I mentioned, is a bit of a scourge of life in the City by the Bay. In fact, if you want to get a bit of a depressing look at crime in San Francisco, you can play around with the city government’s Crime Heat Map and you can get a vivid picture of the amount of property crime that occurs in this otherwise magnificent city. Therefore, while many San Franciscans may be known for the tech industry’s many employment benefits like unlimited PTO or on-site chefs, we’re also known to spend regular working hours in one of the city’s many auto glass repair facilities. I’d like to give a special shout-out to the fast wifi at my personal favorite, In and Out Auto Glass, without which I’d be unable to upload this blog today. Of course, even if I wasn’t able to access a webpage, I’d still be connected to my business communications network thanks to my VirtualPBX Softphone App that operates over the same data network that powers my mobile phone.

The Moral Of the Story

The point of sharing this personal experience with you all is not to play the world’s smallest violin for an unfortunate start to a weekday. Quite the contrary. The point is to illustrate just how useful it is to be able to be flexible when it comes from working remotely. Sure, you can use the tools we talk about here to boost your holiday hours by hitting the road early, but they also work for life’s less glamorous events, too. I’d also add that when unfortunate events like this one occur, the ability to work remotely is even more valuable because unlike vacations, car break-ins don’t take your work schedule into account beforehand.

So what’s a frustrating reason you’ve had to leave work? Tell us about it on Twitter or Facebook because misery loves company. And also, if you ever come and visit our world-class, lovely city of San Francisco, or any large metropolitan area for that matter, make sure to leave nothing of value in your car. You can trust me on this one.

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