Posted on July 2, 2015 by Dan Quick
If you’re anything like us, you’ve been looking forward to this weekend for a while now. Our team is scattered (or currently about to begin scattering) all over the world visiting friends and family to share in celebration of Independence Day. It sure is a good thing that we have a connection in the hosted telephone game, too, because that means everyone can stay connected when they are out of the office. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? That’s not entirely the focus this, though, because we feel it’s important to recognize what is sometimes overlooked this time of year; what exactly we are celebrating.
Obviously the Fourth of July commemorates when the original colonies signed the Declaration of Independence from England, but the following acts of war are what ultimately granted the Great Experiment of her freedom. Our world looks much different today than it did in 1776, but what remains is that we have millions of men and women in five branches of the military that are willing to fight to protect and preserve our freedom. This is no small commitment on their part and the parts of their families, and we want to say thank you for their sacrifices.
Organizations like the USO are making plans to bring a bit of the flavor of Fourth of July celebrations from home to servicemen and women all over the world, and for those fortunate enough to be back home, we want to make different concessions. VirtualPBX recognizes that being home with their families is amazing for folks who have been deployed, but transitioning into civilian life is something that poses a different set of challenges.
Veterans have world-class leadership and discipline and have proven time and again to become indispensable assets to the business community after their military careers have ended. To help see them launch their new professional lives in the civilian sector, we have created a special Military Discount Programs for exclusive access to all of our award-winning features and service.
We are grateful for our freedom to enjoy this weekend and the significant contribution that the military continues to make in preserving it is not lost. Helping veterans with their businesses is a small token of our appreciation, and we carry our commitment to them into everything we do. Our Customer Support Team is located here in San Jose and is available around the clock to help with any concerns as they arise. Whether you are a veteran or not, we pride ourselves on bringing the same effort to building a feature-packed telephone system as we do to making sure you never need to worry about navigating it alone.
If you have any questions about the VirtualPBX Military Discount Program, your service in general, or anything else that we can help you with in achieving the time-saving, cost-cutting, industry-leading telephone system your business needs, please do not hesitate to contact us.
And from all of us at VirtualPBX, please enjoy a safe and happy Fourth of July Celebration and long, holiday weekend!
The Do’s And Don’ts of Adopting Hosted VoIP
Posted on June 30, 2015 by Dan Quick
By: Reuben Yonatan –
VoIP systems are a great way to save your company money on phone service, but just like any other utility, they also can encounter a wide range of security issues, call quality concerns, and other pitfalls. Getting around these problems isn’t difficult, but you can’t approach your new phone system the same way you would a landline one. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to consider when switching to VoIP telephony:
Cloud hosted and on-premise are the two most common options for VoIP services, and each has its advantages. Cloud based involves buying phone service from a VoIP provider. This option has almost no upfront costs; there’s no need to buy software or phone equipment, and you’ll only pay for the calls you make. On-premise solutions, on the other hand, involve installing voice servers and delivery lines in your office. Cloud based phone services are great for most small businesses with little money for upfront investments, whereas on-premise is better for big businesses, particularly those who handle confidential customer information.
Businesses that opt for VoIP usually do so because they believe it will lower their operational costs, and while this is generally true, it’s not the full story. As in any industry, you have to read the fine print and fully understand the terms and conditions. One common pitfall is to assume that a flat fee for toll free calls applies to all phone services. If you plan to send faxes, for example, make sure there isn’t an extra fee for that. Be sure to ask about any setup fees, number porting fees, and cancelation fees.
One of the downsides of integrating all of your office’s communication endpoints into a VoIP system is that wrong numbers and confused extensions affect everyone. To avoid wasting workers time, consider how you would configure an auto-attendant system along with your VoIP network. An advanced auto-attendant can handle many customer concerns on its own while directing other customers to the right numbers. This will decrease call times and volume and thus reduce pressure on your business’s bandwidth.
Though many people associate VoIP with video conferencing, the technology is compatible with most communication forms and endpoints. If your business uses a fax machine, for example, you can convert the machine’s analog connection into a digital link and send faxes over a VoIP network. You also integrate traditional handset telephones, headsets, computers, smartphones, and most other communication devices into the system. Consider all of the endpoints your employees use or would like to use for company purposes, and adopt a VoIP system compatible with all of them.
If you haven’t already gone through your network infrastructure, updated obsolete software and hardware, and eliminated any other inefficiency, now is the time to do so. A VoIP system will increase your business’s bandwidth use by several orders of magnitude, especially if multiple employees will have to use the phone simultaneously on a regular basis. If your network can’t handle this increase in demand, you’ll suffer from dropped calls, poor call quality, and reduced productivity in all areas of your business.
Before you buy compression software and jitter buffers, look into simpler solutions to preserve call quality. You can eliminate many call quality problems simply by buying better ethernet cords and headsets, lowering speaker volume, and making calls when bandwidth use is low. Adopt these measures when you install your VoIP system, and then keep track of call quality for a month. If you’re satisfied with the quality, elaborate software may be unnecessary.
Reuben is the founder and CEO of GetVoIP, the online resource to businesses trying to find the right cloud communication solution. With an extensive background in cloud communication technologies and building industry leading internet companies, Reuben’s writings blend commentary, research, and perspective on cloud computing, digital media, business/leadership strategies, and enterprise solutions. Follow Reuben on Twitter @reubenyonatan
Infographic: Maintain Brand Standards & Call Experience
Posted on June 25, 2015 by Dan Quick
Well-branded companies have a familiarity and cohesion throughout their user experience. Recently however, much of that design is focused on the theme and feel of web-based interactions and apps. Truly committed companies understand that each one of their potential touch-points needs to be given the same level of attention in order to maintain a high standard across the board. Take a moment to go over this simple infographic and see how you can maintain your brand messaging through call experience as well. Plus, for a very limited time, you can even save on professional recording for any new messages you want to use as part of a branding exercise for your phone system.
Updating to Auto-Attendants Only Half-Way to Effective Telephone Modernization
Posted on June 23, 2015 by Dan Quick
Although the world seems to believe that this whole internet fad might just be here to stay, the truth is that there is still an extremely high likelihood that you will have business coming to you from more traditional channels. No, letter-writing is a little more antiquated than I was shooting for here, but specifically the telephone is where nearly half of all consumers still prefer to conduct their business. With that high volume of potential business filtering through your phone lines, it is especially critical that it flow freely onto the desks of your employees. Yet, the real challenge here is that an alarmingly high number of consumers still feel frustrated with poorly designed telephone auto-attendants.
This isn’t one of those Henry Fordisms about giving people a faster horse because they didn’t think of building a car, this is a far less abstract concept- people get impatient with terrible design. Not your company’s logo or your color scheme, but the design of the telephone architecture could be helping or hurting your business substantially. Simply stated- if someone wants to do business with you, make it as easy as possible.
According to the reliably thorough think-tank Software Advice, the expert software reviewers that revealed added benefits of both OTT Apps and SIP Trunking, we’ve been able to quantify and verify things we have suspected for a long time to be true. Specifically that if a caller doesn’t feel like staying on the line, they won’t.
At the risk of violating this very simple rule, allow me to explain. Of the consumers surveyed in this most recent study from Software Advice, 42% of them said they would take their business to a competitor after a frustrating experience with a company’s auto-attendant. Nearly half of all callers to your business are ready to jump ship to your competition if your auto-attendant isn’t efficient. Even when you’re discussing succinct communication, that number is representative of enough business to warrant repeating.
These consumers have already dialed your business, which indicates they clearly want to investigate working with you. In order to keep them on the line, according to the study, the best way is to focus on two key areas, namely length of introduction messaging and complexity of menu options.
- Intro Message Length – Remember the Rule of Eight? This was the concept that messaging should be distilled to 8-second sound bites. Turns out, that’s too long. In fact, 69% businesses already have greetings less than 5-seconds long, yet consumers still prefer a 3-second greeting or less.
- Menu Options – In addition to the length of time it takes typical auto-attendant programs to send callers to the menu, the actual amount of menu options themselves were cited as the second most aggravating characteristic of poorly designed auto-attendants. Keeping the number of menu items as close to five as possible is ideal, but never any more than eight, according to respondents.
Very few businesses will benefit from not having an auto-attendant. Simply having an around-the-clock resource for customers can yield huge dividends, but then there is the added advantage of not requiring a receptionist, too. However, it’s obvious that the wrong auto-attendant or one that is poorly designed can also be a crippling blow to a business that can’t afford to lose 42% of their potential inbound leads.
Partnering with a modern business telephone provider will be the easiest and quickest way to test, iterate, and improve your inbound caller experience. VirtualPBX’s sleek and simple Extension Manager is fully web-based so you can take it wherever you have an internet connection, and our Customer Support Team is located right here in San Jose and ready to help you get the most out of your phone system.
Protect Ya Neck – Patriot Act
Posted on June 18, 2015 by Dan Quick
In this series of blogs we will examine all topics under the information security umbrella. From corporate blunders to rogue state attacks to the occasional celebrity hack, we believe there is something for businesses and individuals to learn from any cyber security event. We also believe that, while experience is the best teacher, it’s even better to let other people make the mistakes for you.
Okay, politics and religion are the third rail of conversation, I get it. But every now and then there is something so relevant to anyone who has ever been on the internet or a telephone (read- “everyone”) that it begs our attention. So here it is, the political edition of Protect Ya Neck. Hip-hop references considerably diminished for this one.
The Senate held late night talks on a Sunday at the end of May to discuss matters of both national security and personal privacy. Yeah, there’s a lot going on in that sentence, mostly surrounding the fact that the Senate was working late on a Sunday, but I digress. The topic that got the 100 distinguished gentlemen and women to have a senatorial slumber party had to do with the expiration of certain parts of the USA PATRIOT Act. To help understand how this has a huge impact on the personal information of all Americans, we’ve compiled this handy guide for you to know the facts.
- NSA Metadata Collection – You’ve heard about this before, this was the big sweeping dragnet that allowed the National Security Agency to collect huge stores of data from America’s telephone service providers that was made part of public scrutiny by the now expatriated Edward Snowden. The data that was collected was permitted to be stored for five years, but this sweeping power is, for the time being, no longer permitted to continue.
- Roving Wiretaps – This provision allowed law enforcement officials to only include the individual(s) they intended to wiretap and not each specific device or phone number. The concept was based on the fact that terror suspects would often change pre-paid phones and so going through the standard procedures of getting a warrant for each new line was too cumbersome to provide any meaningful surveillance.
- Bonus Provision – There was a third component of the Act that dealt with appropriating “national security tools” against the “lone wolf” operative. I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one for three reasons-
- It doesn’t directly affect the world of telecommunications like the former two do so it isn’t particularly relevant here.
- According to the Department of Justice, this provision actually hasn’t been used since the Act was written into law.
The term “national security tools” is pretty intense and I don’t want to venture guesses as to what all that entails.
The USA Freedom Act made slight changes to the metadata collection and roving wiretap provisions but left the lone wolf provision intact. Therefore, moving forward, current changes to these provisions include-
- The NSA is no longer collecting the metadata, but rather they will present warrants to telephone companies for release and will only be able to collect info on individuals rather than wide swaths of millions of people. So that’s nice.
Wiretapping practices that were permitted under the original Act will be allowed to continue so long as they were begun prior to the June 1, 2015 expiration date of the Act. Any such wiretaps moving forward will not be immediately allowed, but rather will be subject to approval from the super secretive FISA Court so, basically nobody will know if these are actually expired practices or not.
The yes we are camp says– Absolutely. Mostly backed by national security hawks, there are dissenting voices on both sides of the aisle. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the inability of the Senate to act on extending these provisions would result in, “a serious lapse,” in America’s ability to protect herself from terror.
The no we’re not camp says– Well, not exactly. Retired General Michael Hayden was the head of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and was recently quoted at a Wall Street Journal conference saying that, effectively; nothing has changed for the security organization. According to Hayden, by merely transferring the responsibility of storing metadata onto the telephone companies, the NSA can essentially continue operating as if the provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act were still wholly unchanged. So, net-net, this former security official seems to think it’s business as usual.
In case you were wondering why USA PATRIOT Act is written in all caps, it’s not because we yell things that are important. Actually, it is because unlike the acronym, SCUBA, this is a backronym (acronym that was constructed to fit an existing word, not a word from an acronym) that stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. So, there’s that.
One more thing, all of this is still tenuous in that there will very likely be additional voting, extending, editing, revising, and deliberating of these and a bevy of other surveillance-related provisions. Stand by for more as it develops but in the meanwhile, always remember to stay safe out there and Protect ya Neck.