4 Reasons Why You Will Move Your Phones to the Cloud

UCaaS in Chicago

4 Reasons Why You Will Move Your Phones to the Cloud

At times, there are events that are sudden- like a snow storm or a flood. At other times, events move like an erupting volcano. Other events have the change occur like a glacier- over time and colossal. In technology, we have change advancing at a rapid pace. Yesterday’s invention is tomorrow’s necessity. In business communications, the shift has been tremendous.  Communications have shifted from premise based systems to hosted systems. Communications have shifted from being its own separate network to another application running on the network.

The business communications industry is seeing some of the greatest changes of its time. The leading driver being the steady adoption of the cloud, specifically unified communications (UC) and the delivery of these services, better referred to as unified communication as a service (UCaaS).

As we see in every space, products have life cycles. It’s becoming clear that the premises-based phone systems that many businesses relied on are quickly approaching the end of theirs. According to Gartner, there has been a 6.6% decline in premises-based revenue over the last 5 years.

So, why the steady decline of premises-based systems?

Many businesses today are faced with aging premises-based phone systems and are left with the choice to either replace them with the same technology or migrate to newer technology like cloud-based UC solutions. Premises-based systems have a tough time competing with cloud based UC systems in several key areas.

Here are 4 reasons why UCaaS is rapidly replacing premises-based systems.

  1. Cost

From large enterprise businesses, all the way to small non-profit organizations, everyone is looking to reduce costs and become more cost-efficient. Companies are moving away from systems that require high upfront capital expenses and are gravitating to solutions that allow them to pay for only what they actually need and use. With premises-based systems, upgrading an entire system is no longer a financially attractive option, with many systems requiring a longer commitment and the inability to scale.  Cloud-based UC models offer greater flexibility, with financing options and the ability to add and remove services and users whenever needed, providing businesses with the assurance that they can scale at anytime with ease.

  1. Advanced Features

Businesses are no longer interested in replacing older phone systems with newer ones that offer the same functionality. Companies today are looking for mobility, flexibility and more efficient ways to collaborate and work. Cloud-based UC systems integrate traditional telephony solutions with other communication and productivity applications on an internet protocol (IP) network, enabling a myriad of capabilities, including audio, web and a video conferencing, company-wide chat, presence, email, file sharing and integrations with leading CRM solutions. The enhanced capabilities that cloud UC solutions are able to deliver are much more equipped to meet the growing demands of the modern workforce.

  1. Maintenance

Premises-based switched telephony systems, typically a PBX or IP-PBX system, can be time-consuming, complex and costly to maintain, requiring dedicated IT staff to manage the systems and servers for even the most basic of changes. With the additional costs and complexities, companies are fleeing to the simplicity and maintenance-free technology of the cloud. Unlike equipment that just depreciates, the cloud continues to update automatically and often for no cost. Cloud-based UC systems, like Broadview’s OfficeSuite UC™ , SNET Cloud Phones or Zultys Cloud Services which are easy for both employees and administrators to manage the features of the system without IT support, provide the ability to save even more time and money, while improving operations.

  1. Security

Premises-based systems don’t offer much in the area of security, with equipment and critical data all stored on site.  Cloud-based UC systems on the other hand, especially those that utilize the cloud for 100 percent of its storage and processing are hosted on the provider’s servers and accessible through an encrypted web browser, ensuring that nothing is left  on-site where it could be vulnerable to hacking, theft or damage.  The best cloud UC providers even guarantee calls using the public internet are encrypted from the handset into a secure network, ensuring call data remains protected and confidential. An added assurance is offered by the most secure UC providers like Broadview Networks, who encrypts calls, messages and recordings with Transport Layer Security (TLS), cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a provider’s network, and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), a symmetric encryption algorithm. Some cloud-based UC systems even allow internal IT staff to change user settings through flexible web portals that work across multiple devices. Offering these additional internal abilities, like controlling who is permitted to forward voicemail, further safeguards private information.

Businesses today are becoming more strategic with their communications investments. In addition to the desire for enhanced capabilities and collaboration features to improve employee productivity and customer service, they are also looking for solutions that are future-proof, secure and allow for growth and expansion. This extreme market shift and steady rise in cloud adoption and UCaaS is an indication that businesses are seeking a more holistic communication solution that extends well beyond voice communications.

If your businesses is looking to move to the cloud or upgrade to a more secure cloud-based UC solution, Prime Telecommunications can help!  Our stable of award-winning unified communications solutions are  100 percent cloud-based, making it more secure and easier to use and manage than any other system.

Our solutions operate solely in the cloud, eliminating the reliance on phones, servers and power to operate and ensures nothing is stored on-site where it can be vulnerable to threats or theft.  With encrypted calling, messages and meetings, and its intuitive online dashboard, which features customizable user profiles, employees can quickly, easily and securely manage any feature of the system from anywhere, eliminating the need for IT support, increasing productivity and ensuring business continuity.


7 Technologies to increase sales

7 Technologies that will IMPROVE your SALES

In business, time is money, especially for those who are responsible for producing and increasing sales. Salespeople by nature, are on the go and often under tight deadlines. Therefore, empowering these individuals with technology that allows them to work as efficiently as possible is key.

Here are 7 technologies that will help your team increase sales and work more efficiently.

1. CRM and Business Communication Integration
Customer Relationship Management solutions (CRM) provide a valuable way to manage and analyze customer data throughout the sales lifecycle. However, they become even more effective when they are integrated with your business communications. Cloud-phone system and unified communication integrations eliminate the need to switch back and forth between multiple systems and provide salespeople with immediate and direct access to important contact records. With convenient screen pop ups, click to dial functionality and instantaneous access to contact history, salespeople can communicate and work more effectively, while providing a more personalized customer experience.

2. Video Conferencing and Online Meeting Solutions
 In person meetings are always a great way to establish a new relationship, but can sometimes be challenging logistically. Some business deals require multiple decision-makers from different locations, or may take place far away and require multiple meetings where reoccurring travel is not feasible. For these circumstances, and so many others, HD video, audio and web conferencing solutions are a must-have technology for every salesperson. Having the flexibility to hold face to face meetings with upwards of 100 different people at one time from anywhere is a huge advantage. These solutions provide opportunities to give personalized and interactive demonstrations and share contracts and other important documents in real-time. Not to mention, they cost a fraction of the cost of travel.

 3. Email Follow Up Automation
Email is an important communication method with your customers and prospects, but can be time consuming to maintain, especially for busy reps on the go. Using software like HubSpot Sales allows salespeople to automate their follow up emails by creating sequences to send a series of emails to prospects over time. By personalizing and tracking each message, reps are better able to collect data and identify which messages are most effective.

5. Business Intelligence
A huge part of sales success is having the ability to analyze important data and be able to transfer that into actionable intelligence. However, when the data comes from systems that rely solely on data entry, you can be missing the big picture. Call history can tell you a great deal about sales performance. Phone systems that offer built-in call history reporting enable sales management and team members to pull reports by individual, team, department and location and view important call data such as: number of calls made, received and their duration by any given time period. These reports are more accurate and allow you to drill down to a more granular level to better evaluate and improve performance.

5. Visual Voicemail
Voicemail may seem like a pastime and for many, in our personal lives it is, but in business, customers will still resort to leaving voicemails. Fortunately, we no longer have to waste time finding a quiet place to listen to them or writing down what they say. Many cloud phone systems today offer the convenience of visual voicemail, where messages are transcribed so reps can read them quickly, easily and most importantly, discretely while out on other appointments. This is a huge time-saver and lessens the burden of voicemail, especially when on the road.

6. Internal Chat 

Whether your company utilizes a stand-alone chat client or one that is built-into your phone system portal or video conferencing software, internal chat can be incredibly helpful in sales. There are often times when reps or prospects have questions that could make or break a deal and require an immediate response. Sending a quick chat message to a manager or coworker will ensure they receive a quicker response and eliminates reliance on a colleague’s overflowing email inbox.

7. Business Apps
There are so many useful business apps out there that every professional should be taking advantage of. However, one that definitely comes in handy for any salesperson is Profit Story. This easy to use app, calculates what the margin would be on each deal in advance, along with other important profit-based metrics that are always good to know going into a meeting.

There is no doubt an arsenal of technology solutions available for your business.  We are fortunate to live in a time where technology is booming and advancements are made daily to improve how we work and live. Taking advantage of these 7 technologies and other valuable tools available will not only help increase your organization’s sales, but will streamline your daily operations and improve your overall efficiency.


Icy weather

National Preparedness Month is over- are you ready for disaster?

The National Centers for Environmental Information reported that as of July 2016, there have been eight weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. Every September, known as National Preparedness Month, we are reminded of the toll natural disasters like hurricanes and wild fires take on businesses. However, business leaders know that in reality, smaller man-made disasters, such as spilled coffee, have an even greater chance of impacting our daily lives and operations.

We are now in the beginning of October so consider the following three tips to provide continuity  for your organization’s communications from all business disasters and disruptions.

Back up Business Data
Eliminate costly downtime and risks of on-site failures by securing all critical communications and information exclusively in the cloud. The ability to access information is vital to make day-to-day business decisions and to keep critical communications with customers and clients intact, especially in the case of any disasters. We can help make sure all pertinent data from desktops, laptops and servers are backed up in the cloud to make a business more accessible and flexible to both customers and employees.  Make sure that your provider encrypts calls and keeps data secure in the cloud so that nothing is vulnerable on-site.  If primary data is lost, corrupted or inaccessible, a backup copy of the data stored safely in the cloud, provide recovery tools and allow quick restoration of files on demand easily – no matter the location.

Off Site, Not Out of Touch
By outsourcing the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components, in the case of an event where power dies or flooding shorts out the server, the device will be elsewhere.  Before moving your infrastructure to the cloud, consider reliability. Our service provides a service level agreement (SLA), a written guarantee that details its reliability and guarantees 99.99 percent uptime. Scalability is equally important so make sure you can turn up and turn down servers on demand. All of our hosted products allow you to make changes using an online portal,  a web-based customer portal that allows you to get new resources up and running on a moment’s notice, regardless of location and without any capital investment or additional IT resources. The last thing you need to worry about during a recovery is how to fund your next server, upgrade an existing server on the fly or allocate more resources (RAM, CPUs, storage or bandwidth) to meet unanticipated demand.

Reassess Your Phones
Keeping phone calls flowing with customers and employees is a key factor in helping your business recover after a disruption. With hosted voice solutions the phones are in your office, but the intelligence of the service is secure in the cloud so that no matter where you are, you can use the system to help your business survive any disaster. Hosted voice offers unique applications and features, like softphones and mobile twinning that are cost-effective ways to enable mobility and disaster avoidance across your organization. The softphone is completely integrated, offering your employees professionals full office phone functionality and seamless communication, making and receiving calls through any internet-connected PC, from any location using the same extension and accessing the same features, such as call forwarding, extension-to-extension dialing and voicemail. Mobile twinning allows you to send calls to your cell and desk phone simultaneously for complete coverage, allowing inbound calls to be sent to your cell and desk phone at the same time so you don’t have to be in the office to take calls. The ability to turn any device into your office phone means that you can switch from device to device. Start a conversation on your desk phone in the office and seamlessly continue it on your mobile device should you need to leave the office.

National Preparedness Month is a great time to start placing business continuity at the forefront of business planning. However, consider prioritizing preparedness year-round so that you may never need to recover from disasters – natural or man-made – because you can avoid them altogether. By choosing to equip your business with any one of our hosted voice cloud phone services, no matter what issues affect your organization, the system will remain safe and employees can easily continue “business as usual” anytime, from any location.


Unified Communications Chicago Business

4 Ways Seasonal Businesses Benefit from A Cloud Unified Communications Solution

According to the US Department of Labor, there are more than seven million businesses nationwide that employ approximately 135 million part-time and seasonal workers. In addition to increased staffing needs for retailers during the holiday season, the summer is also high season for many industries like tourism, hospitality and entertainment.

Communications with customers in any business is critically important, but especially during the busiest time of year when the interaction with customers is at all time high. Training can be  challenging at peak season, especially with a large influx of new employees. Therefore, having a communications solution that is cost-effective and easy-to-use and manage is a top priority. Fortunately, cloud-based unified communications (UC) systems fit the bill and offer many benefits to businesses that employ seasonal and part-time workers.

Here are just 4 ways that seasonal businesses can benefit from a UC solution in a big way.

1. Scalability
First and foremost, they offer a completely scalable technology solution. When employee needs fluctuate so drastically throughout the year, flexibility for these businesses is key. As new employees are coming on board to help with the busy season, they will need to get new users set up on the system as quickly as possible. Cloud UC solutions provide businesses with greater control and flexibility than traditional, hard-wired systems can. Traditional systems require time and the help of expensive IT consultants to install new lines and move and install new phones. However, with cloud-based unified communications solutions, businesses can add or remove individual users, features, services and equipment with ease, without costly set up charges. And, with many systems, you can do all of this instantly with just a few clicks from their online portal.

2. Hot Desking
With the best UC solutions, everything is stored in the cloud. This means that individual user profiles are not attached to a device, allowing phones and workspaces to be shared interchangeably. This is a huge advantage for business settings where employees share phones and offers the ability to save on equipment costs, while keeping productivity high. With cloud-based systems, the employees designated phone number, extension, contacts, voicemail and speed dials follows them with any device they log into. Advanced features like Hot Desking are ideal for work environments with multiple locations, employees who share workspaces and those who are required to work from different areas within a given site, which are all common circumstances for seasonal businesses.

3. User Profiles
With UC solutions, everything is managed online through a secure customer portal. The most advanced online portals, like Broadview’s MyOfficeSuite, provides administrators with the ability to create unlimited user profiles for their employees and departments. Since roles of employees vary and businesses may or may not want employees to have access to certain features or capabilities, creating custom profiles based on user personas is incredibly helpful. This is really beneficial in a seasonal business because they are faced with so many new employees coming on at one time, all with different roles. Restricted access helps to keep things secure, but also provides the right amount of access so employees can work independently and use the features you need and want them to. Not to mention, at the end of the season, these profiles can be saved for future use or deleted in just seconds.

4. Programmable buttons and Intercom
With seasonal workers, there is little time for on-boarding, so new employees need to be able to use the system quickly and efficiently. This is where having a phone system that has lots of programmable buttons, versus complicated menu trees to access common features is hugely important. Some phone systems will enable employees to customize programmable buttons as frequently dialed numbers, other employee’s extensions and the help desk. This functionality might not sound important, but when crowds start forming and there’s a long line of customers out the door, time-saving capabilities like these go a long way in the delivery of customer service. Intercom is an incredibly useful button to program. This allows employees to hit one button to speak hands-free directly to the rest of the organization, a department or specific employees, depending on how it is set up.

When it comes to seasonal workers, the most important aspects are cost-savings, efficiency and flexibility. Cloud-based UC solutions provide this along with advanced communication features that work across all sites, unifying organizations that have multiple locations. This model of paying for only what you need, when you need it, makes ramping up and winding down each season both easy and affordable for these businesses with peak seasons.


Presence management

Presence Management: The Greatest Form of Communication

Want to increase communications and productivity between employees and customers?  Then, presence management is the way to go.  This wonderful technology gives all individuals within a company the ability to know what everyone is else is doing in real-time.  Is someone in the building or even at their desk? Are they in a meeting? Are they on the phone? By having this information one can determine if and in what manner to connect with another person.  That’s essentially the purpose of presence management and it’s enhancing the way we communicate. Having this information presents one with an array of communication options that’s dramatically driving up productivity for those companies – both large and small deploying presence management.

Unified presence management is driven off of a company’s voice and data system and empowers people to control every facet of their communications.  It includes and functions off of all devices such as computers, cell phones, Voice over IP (VoIP), and personal communications services.  As soon as someone logs onto their computer a pop up window appears containing the names of fellow employees and their current activity as well as their location.  Essentially, the technology lets you see the presence status of others, send emails and voicemails, receive faxes, control all your phone calls via desktop phones or a softphone, send secure Instant Messages and voice messages, launch a collaborative web conference session – all with a single mouse click.  Users may also put notes into presence for everyone to see.  For example, a note may have the time when an employee will be back in the office from lunch or say an off-site meeting.  Another user may make everyone aware that they may be working from home that day.  Knowing everyone’s availability offers greater options to rapidly assist with everyday business issues.

The power of presence is absolutely incredible.  For instance, a customer may contact your facility with a question and the individual that answered the phone may not have the necessary information to respond appropriately.  Immediately, the employee can view presence and see who is available to assist the customer.  They may send a question via an instant message or put the caller on hold, contact their colleague to gather the information or directly transfer the call while giving the colleague a heads up.  The flexibility of presence is tremendous and one can assume that it is easily driving customer satisfaction levels through the roof.  A basic phone system cannot operate in this fashion and unfortunately those that utilize traditional telephony are missing the boat.

Included in presence are such features as find me follow me.  This unique technology gives people the ability to reach a specific individual anytime, anywhere based on the implementation of a few easy to set rules in the system.  A can call come in and the caller has the option of finding the person on their cell phone or at another predetermined location.  The user may also have all calls set to directly transfer to the cell as well.  Another relatively new feature is twinning – a setting that rings both the desk and mobile phone simultaneously.  Reaching the person you want to, has never been this easy.

Time is more important than ever in today’s business environment.  Presence management saves an incredible amount of time because of the technology’s innate ability to drive efficiency and productivity.  Every business owner realizes the positive impact that even a minimal amount of improvement in this area can have on an organization’s bottom line, not to mention the empowerment an employee has to make better-informed communication decisions that in the end drives satisfaction in the workplace.  Presence management is a true win for everybody!


Labor Under Correct Knowledge

Are You Relying on Luck? Key Technology for Business Continuity

Luck is in the air, or is it? St. Patrick’s Day may be today, but relying on luck in business can be catastrophic, especially when it pertains to your business’ communications. Luck is really L.U.C.K – and that means ” Labor Under Correct Knowledge.  You have to run your business on knowing what is the right way to deal with the changes in the business environment.

The reality is, things go wrong. And, just like we have insurance for our homes, car and life, the same precautions and investments are needed for the continuity of our business.

Many small and medium-sized businesses have neglected or postponed the adoption of business continuity due to the perception that the cost was too high. Years ago, this may have been the case. Developing a disaster recovery plan previously required your IT staff to completely re-engineer your entire business phone system so it could be recovered successfully in the event of a disaster. However, with the emergence of cloud-based systems, safeguarding your business has become both affordable and worthy of any investment.

With pay-as-you-go cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions, businesses are now provided with the ability to move to the cloud, without requiring a hefty capital expense. These models also enable companies to scale up and down as they see fit, eliminating any risk of over investment.

So, how does cloud-based UC technology provide business continuity?

Cloud-based systems eliminate the threat of down-time and provide continuity for your communications in the event of outages. Since communications are centralized, hosted virtually and routed through the internet, disastrous events or disruptions from landlines are no longer an issue. The technology itself is no longer stored on-site and can be managed online from anywhere, so you are not bound by the internet connection at your physical business. Should the internet go down, calls can easily be routed to cell phones, home phones or other locations without the disruption of call quality, enabling your employees to communicate with customers from anywhere needed.

Advancements of the cloud continue to eliminate the hurdle of price, providing cost-effective and scalable methods for infrastructure, applications and data. Companies relying on luck because of the once burdened financial commitment can now have a feasible and efficient path to business continuity thanks to cloud-based unified communications solutions.

So, don’t test your luck, check into cloud-based options that can protect and enhance your business.


Unified Communications Chicago

5 Reasons Every Business Needs a Unified Communications (UC) Solution

No matter what type of business or size business you have, the one aspect that you cannot afford to neglect is the communications you have with your customers. Businesses today are reaping the benefits of adopting one reliable solution for all of their communication needs thanks to the evolution of cloud-based unified communications (UC) solutions.

Here are 5 reasons why every business today needs a quality unified communications solution in place.

1. Cost
If you think about all of the individual services, equipment and staffing your business requires to communicate with your customers, you will be shocked at your monthly expenses. Communications, no doubt should be an investment, but one that is affordable. Quality and affordability are often both difficult to achieve, but thanks to modern cloud-based unified communications solutions, both are now obtainable. Every business should be looking to adopt a full service, subscription-based UC solution, one where everything is included. When we say everything, we mean it. The best UC solutions will include your phones, advanced calling features like auto attendants, unlimited calling, online faxing, video conferencing, toll-free and the latest mobile apps and tools, all for no capital expense. When you think about the value of this and what you can eliminate, for example, your fax machine costs and maintenance, modernizing and unifying your communications into one cost-effective solution is a no-brainer.

2. Disaster avoidance
When you think of disasters in business, you immediately think of revenue lost and unanticipated costs. Disasters can range from man-made interruptions to natural disasters like hurricanes and blizzards that can affect your business for days on end. With a cloud-based unified communications solution, disasters are no longer a concern. Communications can remain intact because all of your features and services are managed and accessed through a secure, online portal from any device. This means, that you can forward your calls to any number and voicemails can be retrieved from anywhere you are. Features like auto attendants, can also be used to inform customers of office closures. So, while your physical place of business may need to close, your communications with your customers will never be down.

3. Mobility
One of the greatest benefits of a cloud-based unified communications solution is the mobility and flexibility they provide. The world has become forever mobilized and so should your business. You no longer need to be chained to your place of business waiting for calls, or be worried about giving out your personal cell phone number. Cloud-based UC solutions offer the mobility to get calls on any device, through features like mobile twinning, where your business phone and mobile phone will ring simultaneously, so you never miss a call or mobile softphones, where you can make and receive calls on your mobile device using your business number. The ability to make business happen wherever you are and on whatever device you choose, is a benefit that no business should overlook.

4. Scalability
No matter what type of business you have, your hope and plans are for growth and profitability. Since the speed of growth is unknown, it is often difficult to plan ahead when making important investments, such as your business technology. Fortunately, cloud-based UC solutions allow you to scale up and down as needed. Having the reassurance that you can add and remove new employees, services and equipment instantly, gives you peace of mind and more control over your bottom line.

5. Productivity
With a cloud-based UC solution, your employees productivity level gains an instant boost. Not only can employees from any of your locations communicate on one system through 3 or 4 digit extension dialing, but they can also chat live through a secure, online customer portal. New tools like video, audio and web conferencing allows your employees to meet, collaborate and share documents from any device, anytime.

Cloud UC solutions offer countless advantages to businesses and help to ensure it is business as usual, no matter what takes place or where you or your employees physically are.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of UC solutions? Broadview offers an award-winning, 100 percent cloud-based unified communications solution, OfficeSuite Phone and has more than a decade of cloud experience. Click here for more information or a free quote for your business.


Are you a good fit for the cloud?

Is your company a good fit for the cloud?

Are you a good fit for the cloud?
When deciding if you are a good fit for the cloud, there are tell-tale signs that serve as reliable indicators.

This post is a great starting point if you’re looking to qualify whether your company is a right fit for cloud applications:

Of course, as a cloud computing provider, we geek out and get pretty excited about the cloud and the opportunities it presents to businesses. However, customers won’t necessarily have the same reaction. And some aren’t even great targets in the first place, either because they’re closed off to the concept of moving to the cloud, or they’re functioning fine as is. Rather than focusing on these organizations, it’s important to focus efforts on businesses that are open to change and have needs that the cloud can address. These early technology adopters and innovators will be excited to learn more about the solutions. Other good targets won’t even know how much the cloud can help their organization, and that’s where you come in. Below are some key things we look for:

For Cloud Computing

While we strongly believe that many businesses are ready to move to the cloud because it addresses various aspects of IT, there are some specific signs that an organization is a particularly good fit for the cloud in general.

We ask companies the following questions right off the bat:

  • Do you want to upgrade software?
    Do you ]want to refresh your hardware?
    Are you in need of a data backup plan?
    Do you want to cut down on CapEx?
  • Do want to implement BYOD (bring your own device)?

Once we’ve discovered some of you needs, we find out more about your organization.

  • What’s in its service catalog, and what are the top applications it runs the business on?
  • What are its goals and requirements for the future?
  • Who currently supports IT, and what is the leadership team like?
  • How does the business budget work? Is the organization in a stage of growth?
  • Do its users need data access 24×7?

All of these questions are important because they help us determine exactly how the cloud can fit your organization.

Maybe you  think you need one solution, but based on the information we’ve gathered, we know something else is a better fit.

For Infrastructure as a Service

Once we move into the specific cloud services, the signs we look for will change a bit. For Infrastructure as a Service, we  look for companies that are eager to always use the latest enterprise-grade technology but can’t necessarily afford to achieve this themselves.

We look for companies that:

  • Are running applications on physical or virtual servers
  • Are rapidly growing or scaling
  • Want to take advantage of enterprise-level hardware and security
  • Have limited capital
  • Have compliance needs
  • Have disaster recovery needs

Once we determine that you are a company that qualifies with some of the above criteria, we figure out what kind of infrastructure you have  in place today, including how many servers and their specifications (CPU, RAM, Storage). Additionally, we determine which operating system and critical applications the business is running. We are sure to determine if your  business currently has a plan in place if a server goes down, and if any equipment is due for an upgrade.

For Desktop as a Service

For Desktop as a Service, we look for companies that are interested in the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and have traveling or remote employees that have to be accommodated.

W e look for companies that:

  • Deal with refreshing desktops, laptops, or tablets
  • Want to move to a BYOD model
  • Have remote employees
  • Have employees who travel
  • Need the ability to add or remove users quickly
  • Have limited IT resources

Businesses that haven’t yet moved to the cloud may spend a lot of time maintaining devices like desktops, laptops, tablets, etc. We try to find out how much time is going to this task currently so we know if a Cloud Desktop or Cloud Office can help save time. Similar to IaaS, we find out what applications your  organization is running, because these could potentially move to the cloud. We are sure to get details on the licensing they own and how they manage it. Other questions might include how many users the organization has, how users are sharing files, and who currently manages IT?

For Disaster Recovery as a Service

For Disaster Recovery we look for companies that are extremely reliant on the availability of their data at all times.

We look for companies that:

  • Still run physical servers on-site
  • Live in areas affected by natural disasters
  • Have a very low RTO and RPO
  • Are heavily reliant on their data
  • Can’t afford to be down without their data
  • Need to have quick access to their data in the event of a disaster

We try to find out what kind of disaster recovery plan your business already has in place – do you back up your data, and if so, how long would it take to retrieve backed up data? Do you know what you’d do if all systems were down? We are sure to request your business’ Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO), and find out which business-critical applications are running in-house.

 


Obstacles for new office technology

Common Obstacles of Communication Technology in Business

A business’ success and its employees’ ability to communicate are directly correlated. Communication amongst one another as well as with other businesses and clients is crucial. That’s why newer and more powerful technologies for communicating are popping up every day.

Of course, with new technology comes the potential for speed bumps, and smoothing them out is essential for maximizing the efficiency of using communication technology. Technology issues that entrepreneurs will face in business run the gamut, and mastering them is something to consider spending time on.

Researching Communication Technology
Often, it’s not the technology itself but rather finding the right communication product to use that is problematic. Before investing in a new email platform or phones for the office, it’s important to read reviews, compare prices, and have a consultation with representatives from the company. You want to know what their support availability is like, whether the product will be useful for a business the size of yours, and whether it can help you to accomplish your goals.

Maintaining a Website
Making a website for your company seems simple, right? Many people don’t realize that a website isn’t just a basic source of information. It also acts as a sort of business card and a way to engage potential customers. Therefore, you need to streamline the communication aspect of it and make sure you stay with the times. Having a knowledgeable development and design staff can help with that aspect of it, but sometimes it’s a good idea to consider implementing an instant chat client to immediately answer customer questions.

Deciding on Communications Media
Technology has changed the way businesses reach out to their clients and work internally. While phones used to be the only necessary technology, you now have to decide if you want cell phones, a cloud phone system, conference call capabilities, video chat services, et cetera. On top of that, you need to select data plans, put together a customer service team, choose a reliable e-mail platform, and more. Gather a list of practical options and consider whether or not they will be useful within your industry and for your company in particular. Don’t underestimate the need for a customer service team that can respond to emails – as your company grows, you’ll find you can’t do this yourself in a timely manner. You don’t want inefficient communication, or an unnecessary overuse of budget, to become an issue down the road.

Social Media
Many companies don’t even consider social media to be a communications technology, but that’s a very dated way of thinking. Though it’s a recent phenomenon, it’s an important one. Do you have someone manning your social media profile, ensuring that the tone is consistent, customers are being responded to, and branding opportunities are being maximized upon? It’s worth considering having a consultation with Social Media Marketing experts if you’re not seasoned in this area yourself.


Communications solutions Chicago

What Is the Best Communications Solution for My Business?

There are so many alternatives out right now for companies and organizations that are looking for a communications solution. There are many factors that need to be considered in making the decision. Sometimes you come across an article that you just have to share. This is a case where I came across an article that encapsulates almost all of the necessary elements of that decision and is a very well organized presentation. As always, we are here to listen and to help you make sense of all of the information presented. Please feel free to call us and we will gladly explain what you may be confused about or would like additional information on. For over 20 years, we have helped businesses and organizations throughout Chicago make sense of the two, three and four letter acronyms that make up crucial components of your communications solution.

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Sandra Palumbo, research fellow, reports into Yankee Group’s Research Council. Her research focuses on cloud computing, enterprise mobility and service provider strategies, with particular emphasis on software as a service (SaaS), mobile applications, Web portals, managed services, professional services and wholesale.

Picking the Right Communications Solution for Your Business Is Critical in This Fast-Paced World

Businesses large and small continue to evolve their communications infrastructure in an attempt to garner the greatest benefits from the latest technologies. Today, the technology options available to businesses of all sizes are greater than ever before. Instead of just choosing between a managed service and a traditional on-premises deployment of a communications solution, we now have cloud delivery as an option. The move to communications and collaboration applications is not just thought of in terms of office worker use, but mobile worker use as well. Security, reliability, performance and flexibility are solution criteria that are now more important than ever before in a highly competitive, rapidly evolving world.

History shows that while many companies struggle with choosing the best communications solution for their business, other companies enamored with the promise of the latest technologies move quickly to adopt them without considering how those new solutions fit into their existing infrastructure and if they will truly benefit the business and its employees.

Enterprises are rapidly extending beyond their physical borders and to be successful, businesses must be able to communicate and collaborate with their employees, partners and customers, no matter where they are located. Implementing technology solutions that are easy to adopt and can scale to meet the needs of the business today and tomorrow is a real challenge for any IT department looking to stay competitive in today’s marketplace (see image 1).

image 1This report examines the evolution of communications services and their associated underlying technologies. Specifically, we analyze the architectural and feature evolution of managed/hosted telephony, VoIP, IP trunking and unified communications (UC). Additionally, we present key decision criteria for selecting the right IP telephony solution for a particular business.

The Evolution of Managed and Hosted Telephony

In today’s complicated technology world, the terms “managed telephony” or “hosted telephony” can often refer to a variety of solutions. Yankee Group defines VoIP/IP telephony as the use of business-class voice and multimedia applications provided through IP telephony systems, handsets and software. When the terms “managed” or “hosted” are added to “VoIP,” “telephony” or “IP PBX,” we are referring to businesses using a third-party service provider to manage and maintain at least some aspect of the voice service. Typically, this includes the monitoring and management of any hardware and software required to make the voice solution work. Managed solutions typically involve some on-premises equipment and hence remote management and monitoring, while hosted services are typically more cloud-based or hosted at the service provider’s location.

As enterprises come to terms with the business challenges that prevent them from reaping the benefits of IP telephony and UC solutions, it becomes time for these businesses to understand what solutions exist for overcoming these challenges and leveraging today’s IP networks. Because the underlying network is based on IP, IP telephony solutions can be located anywhere within the network reach, including the telecommunications provider’s cloud or hosting/data center. This allows for the possibility of a business offloading some of the day-to-day management and maintenance work to a service provider. A managed or hosted model is typically a most intriguing option for small and midsize enterprises because they don’t have the same staff expertise or balance sheet flexibility as larger enterprises.

From an economic or cost standpoint, a managed/hosted service is typically less front-end loaded with capital expenditures for equipment. Instead, a monthly service fee is billed over the typical three-year course of a contract. A managed/hosted service also offers savings in terms of time and productivity for IT staff, since most of the day-to-day management and maintenance work is handled by the service provider, meaning internal IT staff can focus on more strategic IT priorities and projects. This lets businesses with small in-house IT staffs do much more with the resources they have.

Many businesses that turn to managed/hosted IP telephony services already have some history with outsourcing and view it as a strategic business priority. With the emergence and adoption of cloud-based services, companies that are newer to outsourced services may find this the perfect time to consider a managed or hosted solution. As more applications are pushed to the cloud, a managed service can be a great first step and foundation for future communications and collaboration application adoption that doesn’t require a lot of heavy lifting from the internal IT staff every time something new is deployed.

Yankee Group’s Anywhere Enterprise: 2010 US Unified Communications (UC) FastView Survey proves that for enterprises, speed and savings are the primary drivers for the move to managed and hosted IP telephony and UC solutions (see Exhibit 2). Enterprises are looking to save on IT maintenance, integration between multiple providers and infrastructure costs. These drivers tie nicely into the value proposition behind all managed and cloud-based or hosted services. Businesses also can benefit from the hosting/managed service provider’s road map for the evolution of available services and applications. It often is easier to undertake technology improvements and refreshes when using a managed service because those arrangements can be worked into the agreement upfront, without having to renegotiate or wait for a contract period to end.

image 2Concerns around a perceived lack of cost savings require some upfront conversations between businesses and their potential providers. Providers and businesses need to work together to identify the best IP telephony solution for a given business, whether it’s fully managed, a cloud-based hosted solution, a more traditional on-premises deployment or a hybrid. Every business will have different needs and goals, and service providers need to partner with businesses in putting together the right solution. Even when cost isn’t the concern but something such as reliability or performance is, VoIP’s benefits are no different in a managed arrangement as in a traditional one and need to be addressed as part of the initial solution plan and architecture.

If cost savings are an overall driver, the business must work with its provider to build a detailed cost assessment of VoIP and UC solutions, bearing in mind the business’ current and future communications environment. This ensures there will be no surprises when the bill arrives each month. Managed/hosted solutions can provide some savings over traditional deployments, but savings aren’t guaranteed until the enterprise architecture is really analyzed and evaluated. In a later section of this report we provide some detailed guidance for areas of consideration in selecting your service provider and solution.

The Benefits of Consolidated Trunking

Despite its benefits, managed and hosted telephony solutions may not be the answer for every business. For companies that choose to keep the IP PBX on their own premises, an architectural change that can have immediate cost savings is to move to consolidated IP trunks. Typically, VoIP is deployed on a node-by-node basis, with each location having its own call control and voice infrastructure. This means each location has its own trunks for calls out to the PSTN. In some cases, multiple trunks may be required for redundancy purposes. This architecture can result in a very high cost together with very low trunk utilization.

An alternative architecture choice is to centralize call control either in a central data center or corporate headquarters and then leverage the corporate WAN to distribute call control. This provides companies with the ability to consolidate trunking services to fewer locations. It also gives organizations the option of using higher bandwidth trunks that can carry more calls, which translates to fewer lines to terminate.

By adopting an IP trunking architecture, businesses can capitalize on the many core strengths of IP solutions, particularly when compared to traditional PSTN voice solutions. In addition to consolidation, these improvements and benefits include:

  • Better network reliability than traditional PSTN solutions. The idea that VoIP is any less reliable than traditional voice is one of the biggest myths holding back greater adoption. IP is a resilient protocol and reliability can be built into the design. For example, instead of having separate voice and data networks, a company could choose to deploy two data networks that act as a backup for one another. This would cost no more than the traditional model but could protect against any network outage. It would also provide better disaster recovery capabilities than running separate networks.
  • Lower intra-enterprise calling costs. All on-net calls (that is, calls within a corporation) are kept on the corporate data network, meaning the cost of these calls can be eliminated altogether or at least greatly reduced, depending on architecture. Cost savings will vary by organization type. A large, distributed multinational company will save orders of magnitude more than a large company located in a single building.
  • Faster deployment of UC applications. Particularly when a centralized architecture is adopted, new UC applications can be deployed in the central location and then distributed to all users over the company network. This can improve the time to market of new applications by orders of magnitude compared with the node-by-node deployment of traditional communications applications.

In these tough economic times, businesses are trying to improve profitability and reduce costs, and they are forced to look for ways to save when it comes to their communications expenses. Additionally, companies with smaller IT organizations must look for new, less staff-intensive ways of solving problems. The right IP telephony solution helps companies achieve the following benefits:

  • Reduced overall communications costs
  • More efficient use of network assets
  • Optimized trunking to match a company’s calling patterns
  • Accelerated deployment of current and future UC applications through the simplification of network design
  • Higher reliability and better disaster recovery capabilities than traditional TDM-based systems

VoIP is the direction every business is moving in and will eventually adopt. The key for businesses today is to find the right solution and the right service provider partner to deliver that solution to their business. And while the decision to move to VoIP may be an easy and straightforward one, choosing the best solution and solution provider can be a bit more complicated.

Finding the Right VoIP Solution

Businesses that do their homework in preparation for the adoption of a VoIP solution will find the decision an easy one. These businesses will also discover that VoIP and UC will benefit their business in many more ways than just cost savings. They bring tremendous productivity and collaboration improvements as well. IP trunking is the most cost-effective method of creating a scalable IP telephony and ultimately UC deployment, and it has benefits beyond those of PSTN trunking. The key to true success, however, is finding the best service provider for your company. What are the key considerations when making the decision?

For every business and situation, the answer varies, but Exhibit 3 offers a guide to better understand the areas for consideration and evaluation in selecting the right solution. We break the table up into two key components—voice and data—because a VoIP solution requires that companies not only have a handle on their voice costs but also their data costs, since the move to VoIP is a move toward convergence. When evaluating new solutions, companies must also understand their current costs (recurring, capital and operating) and be able to compare that to the expected new costs of the various solutions. With the various telephony solutions, it isn’t easy to do an apples-to-apples comparison, but it is possible to know exactly what a company’s investment and costs are with each solution to help make the best decision for how each particular business likes to operate.

image 3Except in some very specific cases, the cost of a solution is not the sole driving factor, especially when dealing with more complex solutions and services. Once a business has a handle on the costs and infrastructure pieces of the decision as outlined in Exhibit 3, IT decision-makers must consider the qualities of the actual solution provider. Features to consider include:

  • The quality and coverage of the trunking service
  • The quality and coverage of the underlying network
  • Experience in the market and availability of reference accounts
  • Interoperability with the major UC vendors
  • Deep expertise in trunking solutions and IP communications solutions
  • Commercial availability of IP telephony services
  • Managed and professional services experience and offerings

VoIP and IP trunking solutions are never going to be one size fits all. Businesses must find the solution that is right for their particular circumstances. Does the business prefer managed/ hosted solutions to premises-based? What are the growth plans? How easy is it to add, remove or change services? What is the state of the current telephony solution? These are just some of the many questions businesses will need to consider, and finding a service provider willing and able to have these discussions and offer business options and flexibility is always a great place to start.

Working with the right service provider partner to deploy a VoIP architecture that leverages IP trunking not only has an impact on costs, but also provides businesses with a road map to other communications and collaboration solutions, such as those found within the UC suite of applications. The right VoIP and UC solution, coupled with the best partner for the business, can lead to a path of change and growth beyond what many traditional communications solutions can enable.

Understanding the Implementation of UC

Communications, collaboration and worker productivity are key components to a business’ competitive advantage. Workers are being challenged to reach more people in shorter periods of time with the right information at hand. To meet these communications demands, many companies are turning to UC, especially as a means to enhance the functionality and use of their IP telephony infrastructure.

UC, in short, brings all a company’s communications and collaborative tools together into one solution. It is the convergence of voice, video, Web and desktop communications built on an IP network and allowing businesses and employees to overcome time, distance and media barriers. UC ultimately enables employees to communicate with each other virtually anywhere, any time and over any device. UC improves the manageability and effectiveness of the ecosystem and makes the enterprise more responsive and agile.

UC consists of the following tools:

  • IP telephony/VoIP: VoIP enables companies to use the corporate data network for phone calls rather than having a dedicated network just for telephone service. Historically, VoIP was considered by many organizations as the foundation of UC. However, during the past year, presence and desktop integration have been elevated to being critical to the success of UC.
  • Presence: The ability for users to understand one another’s availability and willingness to communicate over a variety of devices is critical in today’s quick-moving business environment. While instant messaging (IM) applications are common today, presence is also being used to understand a user’s status on phones, wireless devices, video conferencing and other collaborative tools. Additionally, presence can be extended to objects such as alarm systems, medical devices and even documents.
  • Mobile client: Enterprise mobility is rapidly becoming a key driver for UC. A mobile client mobilizes a UC platform and puts the desktop in the hands of mobile users, which make up 40 percent of the work force. The holy grail of mobility is when a worker can seamlessly access UC applications anytime, on any device.
  • Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC): FMC enables a worker to seamlessly move calls between desktop and mobile phones for voice call continuity. As the mobile workforce grows, the ability to provide mobile integration becomes a key decision point for organizations evaluating UC solutions.
  • IP network: An IP network is required to deliver information and communications to users. IP is the only protocol that is scalable and simple enough to make the vision of UC a reality; it will be the common network for the deployment of all communications systems. Although IP is a dynamic, scalable technology, it does require ongoing optimization. Management of a network life cycle is critical now as more applications are running on the network.
  • Integrated multimedia conferencing: Conferencing applications have existed for a number of years, but only recently have they become integrated into UC. Yankee Group considers the following services multimedia conferencing:
    • Video conferencing: Long a nice-to-have, video is now one of the main applications driving UC deployments. Quality and ease of use have improved dramatically, allowing more users to take advantage of video communications.
    • Web conferencing: This form of conferencing has become popular within the last five years, due largely in part to ease of use and accessibility. Audio and Web conferencing are now the most widely adopted forms of converged conferencing.
    • Audio conferencing: The most mature form of conferencing, audio conferencing through the use of bridge lines is still the most widely adopted form of conferencing. However, as this space evolves, we will see audio become more integrated into other forms of conferencing systems and UC solutions. Yankee Group has seen companies recoup their investment in UC in as little as six months by shedding expensive bridge line services.

Yankee Group believes a strong UC strategy begins with a solid foundation built on a well-planned VoIP environment and leveraging the concept of presence. Exhibit 4 depicts the key components of a full UC and collaboration solution.

image4UC is valuable on many levels. It is one of the few technologies that can fulfill on the promise of any IT project. Specifically, UC can:

  • Lower TCO
  • Increase worker productivity
  • Create new efficient business processes
  • Improve customer satisfaction

Over time, the focus of the value proposition has changed. A few years ago, the primary driver for VoIP and UC revolved around cost savings alone. Though cost savings still remains a key part of the UC decision, especially in tough economic conditions, the real potential is as a foundation for fundamentally changing the business and building long-term competitive advantage. Yankee Group believes we are finally approaching the time when UC solutions will be rapidly adopted by businesses of all sizes as collaboration and communications is poised to take businesses to the next level.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Deploying VoIP and ultimately UC is a key component to transforming into an Anywhere Enterprise®. The business benefits that can be achieved from the flexibility, scalability and functionality of a full IP environment can take business and employee productivity to the next level of success. If deployed strategically, it can also help companies redefine business processes around communications and leapfrog their competition. However, any new technology deployment needs to be a well-planned, strategic initiative with full buy-in at all levels of the organization and the right service provider selection.

Businesses must adopt VoIP and ultimately UC with a view to where their business will be in the future—what technologies and applications are on their road map. Taking into account business expansion, the number of remote and mobile workers, business plans around the customer experience and other possible initiatives all need to be factored into any IP telephony decision. Unlike other technologies, the voice and communications solution chosen by a business today will likely be one that is around for a while. With that in mind, Yankee Group recommends businesses:

  • Ensure full support from management executives to run the show. The deployment of VoIP solutions, hosted or on-premises, is not a one-time project. Long-term service commitment and collaboration from the management team is instrumental in achieving a seamless service migration without sacrificing the expected quality of service.
  • Choose a solution provider that has a robust IP network as a foundation to the service. For a managed service to provide the necessary levels of reliability and scalability, the data infrastructure needs to be rock solid. An all-IP network will provide high-quality services, newer services faster and a level of reliability that is better than a service built off a hybrid of IP and circuit switching.
  • Assess your readiness. UC can be too complex to be deployed across the entire organization in one sweep, especially in larger companies. Find a department or group of workers that would benefit most from UC. A younger group of workers or a highly mobile group is ideal. This will help you establish a strategy for deployment and start a grassroots adoption campaign as UC is slowly rolled out to a wider portion of the company.
  • Evaluate service providers on decision criteria that are relevant to this era of communications. Too often, companies make decisions based on vendor incumbency or simply choose the lowest cost provider. UC is ushering in a new era of communications and decision-makers need to evaluate solution providers based on criteria that will enable this transformation. Specifically, organizations should look for the following: Dedicated account managers and project managers to help with the transition, financial stability to ensure investments in UC will continue, full 911 compliance, a one-stop shop for all a company’s communications needs and an aggressive road map of future UC services.
  • Do your homework prior to any service-level agreement (SLA)/quality-of-service negotiation. Be ready to compare and analyze SLAs among multiple service providers. Assess your major business-impacting breaches to determine optimal uptime and negotiate business-driven SLAs. Be aware of contract lock-in by setting up baseline service requirements and expectations.

 


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