10 Everyday Technology Myths That Could Cost You Your Job

Myth in technology

10 Everyday Technology Myths That Could Cost You Your Job

1.) MYTH: The more bandwidth I add, the better my voice quality and cloud performance should be… I will just change my COMCAST cable modem from 50 to 100 without spending a lot of extra money. It’s a cost-savings win.

If only we had a dollar for every time we have been told that a business decision maker (even in the IT department) decided to save money by relying on public cable (like COMCAST) to power their Internet and cloud applications by making a simple modem change from 50 to 100 without spending a lot of extra money. The problem with this thinking is simply that the quality of Internet that powers your business is often dependent upon the regulation of traffic on the network. In many of the situations, the first inclination is to go out and purchase the next tier of Internet speeds available. There are two fallacies with this statement:

  • Increased Internet speeds will improve your cloud and voice performance.
  • You will save money by using a public Internet provider in the process.

First, whether you are using 1 or 100 Megs of bandwidth, the call performance will be exactly the same regardless of the amount of speed you purchase. Why? Think of your Internet pipe as a street. There can only be so many cars on the street at one time or else the street becomes congested, bottlenecks occur, and everything comes to a halt. If your network is oversold—more Internet won’t help.

Secondly, once you hit the public Internet, all bets are off. While the public Internet can guarantee a certain Internet speed, those of you who rely on COMCAST during busy periods know that the speed of your Internet may vary by time of day and that’s simply because there are many users trying to access the same source. Comcast will claim that the speed is high, but the quality of your Internet is something different.

That’s when you head on over to Speedtest.net and run a speed test. Here’s another secret, if you are located near the source (data center) that Comcast uses to push out Internet, then your connection may be good. The farther you are from that source, or if there is other congestion on the Internet, your speed with vary.

You can solve this problem by implementing a traffic controller on the network that will monitor and maintain consistency for near and far locations and regulate the amount of bandwidth that your boss consumes while at work listening to Spotify. Let us know if you would like more information on how to do this. 

2.) MYTH: VoIP does not use a lot of bandwidth.

One of the first problems you will experience – out of the gates—if you choose to move your traditional PBX (on premises) phone system to the cloud is performance. Why? Because, contrary to widespread belief, VoIP does use bandwidth. One of the biggest challenges you will have to overcome is how to allocate the right amount of bandwidth to your Internet phone service.

But the real issue is not an abundance or deficiency in the quantity of bandwidth. The real issue is quality. When you are working with voice, it is important to prioritize quality over quantity. Adding more quantity will not change when what you are really looking for is a consistent, high-quality supply of Internet without interruption. Learn more.

Begin by asking any VoIP provider how they guarantee the quality of a call. Decide if you will have other services and applications running on the network that will require bandwidth and then work with a professional who can help you configure the right Quality of Service (QoS) settings so that you optimize your performance because VoIP uses a lot of bandwidth.”

3.) MYTH: I’m going to save money by ripping out my phone system and using a free version of Lync…

…My CFO and I both agree this is an effective way to save money.

While the individual price of products like Lync come in considerably lower than maybe a cloud-based phone system, performance of applications and voice calls over the Internet come at a price. To demonstrate, we recently worked with a client who had a solid network that was regularly monitored. The CIO wanted to reduce cost, so he/she decided to rip out the existing phone system and replace it with a less expensive version of Lync. What they did not account for was the Monday morning 1,000 employees who opened facebook right when the CEO was on an important call…long story short, the router could not save inferior quality voice performance; the network could not support and regulate the bandwidth to allocate the right amount to the CEO’s call. When the call is choppy or drops, the boss does not realize that its associated with the cloud performance because shortcuts and other inexpensive technologies cost you in performance when you least expect it.

4.) MYTH: Mac runs on a very secure operating system by Apple. For that reason, I don’t think I need any antivirus for my Mac.

The questions around whether Macs need antivirus software is not a new one, but the answer is changing. Long and short, while Macs are generally more secure than Windows, they are far from being immune to email and security hacks. Bottom line, there is no reason why a Mac cannot be targeted by cybercriminals.

The most obvious target is email. Cryptolocker and other cyber-attacks encrypt your system gaining access through (yep, you guessed it) email. Even more alarming is the fact that once access is gained, a cybercriminal can monitor your PC through your email and lock, steal or corrupt your data. At the end of the day, it seems smart to be safe rather than sorry.

5.) MYTH: I’m an Amazon Prime user, and I plan to save money by buying my computer from Amazon. I’ll just load my business applications on it when it arrives.

Unfortunately, it is not that easy. Daily we encounter smart technical people that purchase equipment like computers, routers, and firewalls at discounts shops like Best Buy and Amazon to earn points or save dollars. What those individuals don’t realize is that these items do not always come with the right version of Windows to work on your business network or lacks the ports and security software to ensure your system is secure. In fact, the money saved on equipment costs you down the road when you must hire an hourly IT professional to route VPN at home so that you can access QuickBooks on your server from the Internet. Technology must all work together.

6.) MYTH: Upper Management told us to migrate our servers and back-up to the cloud. That should be easy, right?

But here’s the rest of that statement: they don’t want to hear what infrastructure changes and cost are required to make this happen.

The cloud is cool, and it is a part of our future, but the cloud requires a retooling of existing infrastructure and systems to get top performance from high-quality Internet service, routers, and switches that can handle intelligent network management including things like bandwidth management, QoS, and proper security.

7.) MYTH: I work from home. I will just use my own WIFI router and provide visitors with the password only when needed…

…besides, it is such a pain to change the default passwords on routers, access points. It’s also worth remembering that the end user is always the weakest link. A hacked or compromised router (any device on the network) can be attacked in every known way. It can be used to spy, steal data, collect passwords and trick you into installing encrypted software. Now, image your companies network is being fed into your home WIFI router… just because something is working, doesn’t mean it is working right, or securely.

8.) MYTH: I got a great deal from COMCAST by adding security surveillance to the office.

In one innocent move, you have just made it more difficult for your IT guy to identify what not working when one of your many systems goes down.

For example, if you have Comcast managing the Internet, another resource managing your wireless, and yet another outside company managing your printers.

What happens when the printer stops working? Is it because…

  • …the printer is broken?
  • Maybe the Internet bandwidth is slow and that is impacting printing?
  • Maybe your Comcast service is allowing non-critical traffic that could be opening a security hole in your network?
  • Maybe you are experiencing DHCP conflicts on the network?

Whatever the case, this is no longer a quick fix. You have three different resources that must be called in and paid to troubleshoot the problem. We suggest you use one outsourced IT organization that can monitor, detect and prevent any and all the above from ever happening. Who wouldn’t want one call to make instead of three?  The best course of action is always to simplify with good products that are easy to use from a trusted provider.

9.) MYTH: I thought MPLS was included in the price.

Nope, you declined this offer when you changed your Internet providers and implemented your cloud network. This now means that once your Internet hits the public cloud, the performance of your cloud applications and all online systems are at the mercy of your local provider. If the network is overloaded, there is no quality assurance that the majority of your bandwidth will not be eaten up by employees using apps during working hours like Spotify, facebook, and Youtube. If you would have chosen the cloud Quality of Service overlay and added a cloud dashboard that monitors speeds and feeds, you would not be in this pickle. Going back to management and justifying costs because you declined an offer during implementation can be awkward.

10.) MYTH: I’m saving a lot of money by buying my printer and toner supplies at Office Depot.

Well… only at first. Consider this: If you buy a business printer at $1,200 with replacement toner at $300, you will not need to replace your toner until after 40,000 prints.

In option two, you buy the cheaper printer and toner at Office Depot, giving you 1,200 prints before you need to replace your toner at $99. Seems cheaper, right?

Wrong. After 120,000 prints, the Office Depot printer, while cheaper initially, would cost you a total of $7,899 over time ($99 printer; 100 toner replacements at $78 each). The business printer, for the same number of prints, will cost you $2,100 ($1,200 printer; 3 toner replacements at $300/each).

Do the math, the cheaper printer will eventually cost you $6,699 more. Your total cost of ownership should always be taken into consideration.

We hope you have found many of these myths useful in making your own future decision about technology. 2018 is right around the corner and if you would like to sit down with our team and plan your own 2018 Technology Roadmap, we are here to help. Many businesses find that the planning of resources and technology will save them thousands of dollars in unforeseen emergencies and unnecessary purchases.

Let us help you get the most out of your technology investment.


UC for Small Business

7 UC Benefits for Every Small Business

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. Regardless of how small a business is, communications is the most essential component to their success. In the past, having the latest communication technology in place was a costly challenge for small businesses to maintain. Fortunately, with cloud technology and the developments of cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solutions, it is much more attainable.

With many of the most advanced features built-into UC systems and the top providers including maintenance and free upgrades, helping your customers remain professional and connected to their customers and colleagues has never been easier or more affordable for even the smallest of businesses.

Here are 7 UC benefits that provide a competitive benefit to every small business.

1. Auto Attendants
Auto Attendants are one of the most utilized built-in benefits of cloud-based phone systems. They ensure that all incoming calls are answered and directed to the appropriate place, no matter who is physically available. For small businesses, this is a huge advantage. They gain the ability to pre-record greetings they’d like customers to hear, ensuring a professional image is projected with every single call. Plus, they can save significantly by not having to designate employees to answer calls. Since the most common reasons for calls are for hours of operation and directions, using an Auto Attendant for this purpose alone will reduce the number of routine calls that need to be answered by 25%, allowing staff to focus on their business and better serve their in-person customers.

2. On-hold Greetings
The best cloud-based phone systems include on-hold greetings and music options. This feature can really make a difference in how a company is portrayed. While their customers are waiting on-hold, they can take advantage of this time with pre-recorded messages to promote and advertise specials, their website and upcoming events to boost sales or attendance, all for free. Free direct advertising opportunities like this are few and far between and definitely a great benefit for businesses with limited advertising budgets. Additionally, small businesses instantly seem larger and more legitimate having professionally recorded messages or music entertaining their callers while they are waiting on hold.

3. 800 Numbers
Another great feature that helps your prospects project a larger company image are 1-800 numbers. They can be used in a variety of ways, such as designating a phone number for advertising campaigns to track results, to direct calls to a specific employee, or to just project a larger company image in a specific location. They are a great way to centralize calls for little to no cost and a huge advantage to provide customers who would otherwise be calling long distance.

4. Online Fax
Faxing may seem obsolete, but it’s still very much alive in business. With online fax, your prospects can fax digitally and eliminate the need for a traditional fax machine and the high costs associated with it, like phone lines, paper, maintenance and ink. Faxing with UC systems is basically free and so are they. Free to fax to and from any device, from anywhere. Transactions become instantaneous, secure and hassle-free from wherever they need them to be.

5. Video Conferencing
Face-to-face meetings are critically important, but can be costly for businesses who serve clients located in other parts of the country or the world. Delivering personalized service and collaborating on deliverables can be both affordable and simple with the right video, audio and web conferencing software. These solutions allow customers to share documents, give presentations and meet and connect with their clients or team members from any device, anywhere, for a fraction of the cost of travel.

6. No IT Required
A big draw for UC systems are their ease of use. These systems are designed with the user in mind and provide access to every service, feature and setting, so your customers can easily and independently manage their own communications without the need of costly outside support. Systems that are even more advanced, go beyond just admin privileges and enable your customers to grant access to their own employees so they can manage the features needed, which saves them even more time and money.

7. Online Management
With cloud-based systems, everything is well, in the cloud. This is incredibly helpful for a business of any size, but especially a small business because everything can be managed and accessed remotely at anytime through a secure online portal. Many small businesses have limited staff available so for basic changes like recording a greeting or checking the company voicemail, owners would previously have to physically go to their place of business. Everything with cloud UC systems becomes mobilized and flexible, giving your customers the ability to forward calls, fax, listen to voicemail, change greetings about hours and much more, from any device, anywhere.

Small businesses work with limited resources. All-inclusive, cloud UC solutions offer them an affordable path to the latest technology for a low monthly fee and often no capital expense. This gives businesses of any size, the opportunity to compete with even the largest of competitors, while improving their sales, operations and customer service. We expect to see an increase in UC adoption in small businesses over the next few years. Ensure you are the one to help them transition and reap the benefits of having a cost-effective solution in place.


Presence management

7 Ways Small Businesses Benefit from UC Solutions

Happy Small Business Week! National Small Business Week has been celebrated every year since 1963 and recognizes the key contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they generate about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year. Since many of our customers are small businesses, we see first-hand how hard they work and the impact they have on America’s economy.

Regardless of the size of your business, communications is the most essential component. In the past, having the latest communication technology in place was a costly challenge for small businesses to maintain. Fortunately, this has all changed with cloud technology and the developments of cloud-based Unified Communications (UC) solutions. With many of the most advanced features built-into UC systems and the top providers including maintenance and free upgrades, remaining professional and connected to customers and colleagues has never been easier or more affordable for even the smallest of businesses.

Here are 7 ways that small businesses can benefit from UC solutions in a big way.

Auto Attendants
Auto Attendants are one of the greatest built-in benefits of cloud-based phone systems. They ensure that all incoming calls are answered and directed to the appropriate place, no matter who is physically available. For small businesses, this is a huge advantage. You get the ability to pre-record the greeting you’d like customers to hear, ensuring you project a professional image with every single call. Plus, you save significantly by not having to designate employees to answer calls or worse, answer them all yourself. Since the most common reasons for calls are for hours of operation and directions, using an Auto Attendant for this purpose alone will reduce the number of routine calls that need to be answered by 25%, allowing you to focus on your business and better serve your in-person customers.

On-hold Greetings
The best cloud-based phone systems include on-hold greetings and music options. This feature can really make a difference in how your company is portrayed. While customers are on-hold, you can take advantage of this time with pre-recorded messages to promote and advertise specials, your website and upcoming events to boost sales or attendance, all for free. Free direct advertising opportunities like this are few and far between and definitely a great benefit for businesses with limited advertising budgets. Additionally, small businesses instantly sounds larger and more legitimate having professionally recorded messages or music entertaining callers while they are waiting on hold.

800 Numbers
Another great feature that helps to project a larger company image are 1-800 numbers. They can be used in a variety of ways, such as designating a phone number for advertising campaigns to track results, to direct calls to a specific employee, or to just project a larger company image in a specific location. They are a great way to centralize calls for little to no cost and a huge advantage to provide customers who would otherwise be calling long distance.

Online Fax
Faxing may seem obsolete, but it’s still very much alive in business. With online fax, you can fax digitally and eliminate the need for a traditional fax machine and the high costs associated with it, like phone lines, paper, maintenance and ink. Faxing with UC systems is basically free and so are you. Free to fax to and from any device, from anywhere. Transactions become instantaneous, secure and hassle-free from wherever you need them to be.

Video Conferencing
Face-to-face meetings are critically important, but can be costly if your business serves clients located in other parts of the country or the world. Delivering personalized service and collaborating on deliverables can be both affordable and simple with the right video, audio and web conferencing software. These solutions allow you to share documents, give presentations and meet and connect with clients or team members from any device, anywhere, for a fraction of the cost of travel.

No IT Required
A big draw for UC systems are their ease of use. These systems are designed with the user in mind and provide access to every service, feature and setting, so you can easily and independently manage your own communications without the need of costly outside support. Systems that are even more advanced, go beyond just admin privileges and enable you to grant access to your employees so they can manage the features you need them to, which saves you even more time and money.

Online Management
With cloud-based systems, everything is well, in the cloud. This is incredibly helpful for a business of any size, but especially a small business because everything can be managed and accessed remotely at anytime through a secure online portal. Many small businesses have limited staff available so for basic changes like recording a greeting or checking the company voicemail, owners would previously have to physically go to their place of business. Everything with cloud UC systems becomes mobilized and flexible, giving you the ability to forward calls, fax, listen to voicemail, change greetings about hours and much more, from any device, anywhere.

Small businesses work with limited resources. All-inclusive, cloud UC solutions offer an affordable path to the latest technology for a low monthly fee and often no capital expense. This gives businesses of any size, the opportunity to compete with even the largest of competitors, while improving their sales, operations and customer service. We expect to see an increase in UC adoption in all markets over the next few years, but small businesses can most certainly reap the benefits of having these solutions in place for their business’ communications.


Chicago Managed IT Services

Eight Reasons Why Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Need Managed IT Services

Chicago Managed IT Services

Managed IT services is rapidly becoming one of the hottest solutions in business today because it dramatically improves an organization’s profitability, frees up internal resources, and offers a unique competitive advantage.   Simply put, managed IT services are designed to assist companies in maintaining and supporting their network and IT infrastructure with the assistance of an outsourced managed services provider (MSP).  Types of services may include remote network monitoring, programming and reporting (24/7), firewall monitoring, intrusion detection, preventative tasks, disaster recovery, data backup and help desk support.  There are eight critical reasons why small to midsized businesses (SMBs) need managed IT services now and throughout the life cycle of their business.

Dependence On IT

Almost all businesses have become more dependent on computer technologies in the past few years.  And, it’s a rapidly changing environment.  Every business has become dependent on its IT infrastructure to perform at a high level, while effectively delivering its products or services.  As a result, it has become more difficult to maintain the expertise to properly deploy, manage, and monitor this new technology, especially as a business evolves.

Complexity

The fact that this new technology is new makes it more difficult for the average employee to understand and use effectively.  The level of demand and sophistication from today’s businesses are driving up complexity.  Distinct disciplines or specialties are emerging in a variety of technology related areas such as telephony, desktop, network, application and database support.  The breadth and depth of technology an organization requires immediately places the resources at a small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) at a distinct disadvantage.

Insufficient Solutions

Traditional support options such as a one man IT consultant, or a one or two person in-house IT department cannot effectively handle the occasional network breakdowns that are bound to occur. This is especially true when compared to a team of external resources that  proactively monitor the SMB’s installed technology at all times.

Lack of Process

An IDC study reinforces the notion of lack of process, showing that 78% of all IT downtime is caused by change.  If you could simply eliminate change from the computing environment, you would substantially decrease the risk. Unfortunately, most SMBs lack the procedures, documentation standards, and scope of work, which often results in major disruption and downtime.

Increased Use of Technology

Increasing use of computers, new software and procedures, often leads to increased complaints and loss of productivity. Typically, when network or desktop problems arise and escalate inside a company, the response time of the one man shop or internal staff is quite slow. This dramatically increases employee complaints and lowers productivity.  In many situations employees have to wait in line to receive help.  As a result the downtime and morale will impact the organization’s bottom line as well as their ability to meet their customers’ needs.  By implementing a managed IT services program, the demand on internal IT resources are lessened, and they can now be utilized for other purposes such as directly supporting strategic business objectives rather than becoming bogged down in frequent break/fix issues.

Controlling Costs

During these challenging times, the IT budget is frequently reduced.  In a recent survey of nearly 950 IT managers at companies in North America and Europe; nearly half of the U.S. respondents said they have already cut their IT spending budgets.  Unfortunately, a cut in IT spending doesn’t mean there is a cut in demand for services.  This adds tremendous stress and pressure on internal departments to support the same amount of work with fewer resources.

Technology Erosion

Computer systems must be maintained just like any other systems used within the business. Vehicle fleets, manufacturing equipment, and the physical plant, have all moved to a preventative approach. If a company does not implement this preventative maintenance strategy for its technology components, disaster might be the unpleasant and unprofitable result.

Compliance

Finally, the technology utilized within an organization in most cases must meet specific compliance standards.  For example, a company’s business processes supported by technology may need to comply with Sarbanes-Oxely, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) and other requirements. Most companies don’t have the resources to fully understand and comply with all the detailed requirements of these regulations.

All of the above issues are driving the popularity of partnering with a managed IT services firm.  Companies that have made the transition already answered this question.  If deploying, managing and monitoring my IT infrastructure has absolutely nothing to do with the core competency of my business, why wouldn’t I outsource it to an expert?  This is a fairly easy question to answer and these organizations have reaped the rewards of increased profitability and a competitive advantage.


Use HD meeting for interviews

How Using our HD Video Conferencing Can Simplify Your Hiring Process

Hiring top talent is critical to the growth and success of every organization. Each company has its own process. Even after your human resources department, or recruiting agency narrows down hundreds of applicants for each job posting, the interview process with the most qualified candidate pool can still be a daunting and expensive task. Here’s where video conferencing technology can simplify the hiring process.

After candidate applications and resumes are carefully reviewed, your next step is most likely to set up an initial interview in-person or over the phone with several of the most qualified candidates. However, in-person interviews can be costly to bring all the candidates in, not to mention time-consuming. Sure, there are phone calls, but they are not as effective at showing you the whole picture, literally. Meeting face-to-face through video conferencing software, especially when it pertains to hiring employees can really tell you a lot and save you a ton of time in the process.

Narrow down candidates more efficiently
For one, you have the opportunity to screen candidates more thoroughly to see if their resume and application match up before moving them further along in the interview process. Speaking with candidates via a brief video conference gives you the opportunity to evaluate their verbal and non-verbal communication skills, without having to do lengthy in-person interviews. You can better evaluate if they would be a good fit for the role than you can with just a phone call. How professional do they come across in terms of their appearance, attire and posture? Do they communicate effectively and display confidence? Are they energetic and excited about the potential role? Visual cues are critically important. And, if your company will be using video conferencing in your daily business, it’s a great opportunity to see each candidate’s comfort level with this important business technology.

Include colleagues easily
Another great benefit is the ability to include other key decision makers in the interviews who may be working from another location or traveling. This is a common hiring issue, and instead of delaying the interview process and potentially losing qualified candidates, multiple parties can participate in the interview process from any device, anywhere. This is incredibly useful and not to mention, practical.

Simplify geographic challenges
For out-of-state and international candidates, you may even opt to just do a series of video interviews and skip the costly and complicated in-person interviews all together. This is becoming an increasingly more popular method for hiring top talent located elsewhere. This powerful tool can save both you and your candidates time and money.

In sum, video conferencing provides your business with a cost-effective, time-saving and efficient way to interview and hire new employees. There is a great deal that can be learned from video interviews and many ways it can help to expedite and simplify the hiring process altogether. This will most definitely become a more common hiring practice and one that can really benefit your business both now and in the future.


Call History

What Your Call History Can Tell You About Your Business

 

In business, your call history can really tell you a great deal. Having insight into your entire company’s communications can be beneficial to improving various areas of your operations.

As managers, reviewing call activity gives visibility into employee performance, customer needs and issues, as well as your sales and marketing efforts.

But, who has time to review call activity the old-fashioned way?

Thankfully, with modern UC technology and state-of-the-art online portals, the ability to view and analyze critical call data is simple.

Viewing call history as a whole doesn’t provide much insight. However, when inbound and outbound call data can be broken down and evaluated by departments, individual employees, phone numbers and even extensions, a great can deal can be learned.

Using a built in Call History component is a good example of how built-in business intelligence tools can make the reporting of this critical data work for your business’ needs.

For instance, running reports for the longest and most frequent calls your customer service department makes and receives can provide perspective as to which customers require the most assistance and whether or not you may need to monitor or intervene in order to keep an important account. It also gives you a better idea of your personnel needs throughout the day and individual employee workloads, which can help to improve staffing efficiency.

For sales departments, outbound calling is critical to sales results. So, having the ability to view all the outbound calls by day, week, month, employee or region provides you with a valuable performance evaluation tool and a concrete way to improve productivity.

Inbound call reporting for specific phone numbers is a great way to track marketing campaign activity. When designating a specific phone number for a new campaign, you can instantly see the results based on the amount of call activity.

Customizable call reporting is also a crucial component; every organization has different needs, so having the ability to create customized reports will enable you to get to a more granular level in your analysis.

As you can see, diving deeper into your call analytics can really help to improve employee performance, sales, marketing and customer service throughout your organization. So, be sure to take advantage of the important call data that is already available to you. And, if you are not using a system that provides you with the advanced technology and reporting you need, check into our award-winning unified communications solutions.


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.

 


Staying with your current provider is bad

Why Staying with your Old Phone Provider is Killing Your Business

Take a look at your smartphone. There’s a good chance that, somewhere in the icons, you’ll see a throwback to old technologies, such as an image of a traditional telephone handset or the layout of numbers and pound signs that we’re all intimately familiar with by now.

This sort of aging iconography might make you feel as though phone technology is progressing slowly, but nothing could be further from the truth. While it’s true that traditional phone solutions and obsolete business models are effectively holding back progress, there’s another way.

How are you being held back? Let’s take a look at the ways, and at the best solution available right now: cloud based VoIP systems for your business.

Traditional Phone Isnt Scalable

Traditional office telephone systems have long been an all-or-nothing proposition. Smaller businesses ended up subscribing to the same services, at the same prices, as larger businesses. This is hardly cost-effective, particularly for growing companies that need to keep their overhead as low as possible.

In contrast, VoIP technology is scalable, meaning you only buy what you need, and pay a low subscription cost that’s proportional to the size of your workforce.

Traditional Phone Isnt Mobile

For better or worse, existing phone technology has created very clear delineations between our work lives and our social lives. In other words, business hours ended as soon as you stepped away from your desk. This might be appealing for those who want to very deliberately carve out their personal time from otherwise busy schedules, but it might also result in lost calls and, worse still, lost opportunities.

Whether you end up trusting Broadview for your office communication needs or end up with another VoIP provider, you’ll enjoy mobile productivity as never before. Thanks to compatibility with the leading mobile operating systems, you can take your VoIP network with you wherever you go.

Traditional Phone Isnt Efficient

At first glance, it might not seem as though changing phone providers could have a significant day-to-day impact on your company’s efficiency. The truth is, you may not even realize how much time you’ve already wasted investing in, and overseeing, your antiquated phone system.

Smaller companies don’t have the capital to invest in a dedicated IT department, which makes it essential that your communication technology doesn’t have a steep learning curve; wasting time learning and troubleshooting your phone system is going to kill your productivity. VoIP, in contrast, is very easy to set up and maintain, even without an in-house IT department.

Traditional Phone Is Unreliable

You may not spend a significant amount of your day planning for the next time a telephone pole breaks in half, or a flood sweeps through your area, but the icing on the VoIP cake is the fact that you don’t need to worry about natural disasters interfering with, or even destroying, your communications infrastructure.

If the worst should come to pass, remember that your phone settings are always saved securely in the cloud, meaning that you’ll be able to continue right where you left off, at any site with an Internet connection.

In closing, remember that business is already full of challenges; why not eliminate as many as you can?


Cloud for Human Resources

Cloud and Human Resources

Chain-of-people-holding-hands-paper-cut-outs

Cloud computing is penetrating every corner of business, and this includes human resources. Human resources professionals can benefit greatly from effective communication, instant access to information and applications, and cloud-based systems. HR is often thought of as a pretty administrative job. With the implementation of cloud tools and resources, HR professionals can remove this administrative stress and instead turn their attention to the employees and the business. Here are some benefits of cloud computing for human resources:

Cloud Software for HR

There is a lot of HR cloud software available, and the best ones combine the many functions of HR into one central place. This software can help get a lot of tasks done, including tracking applications, searching resumes, generating reports, calculating payroll, tracking performance appraisals and maintaining data on current employees. This streamlines many HR processes, helping to boost productivity and communication. And the end environment remains familiar. Users might not even realize they’re working in the cloud.

Businesses and customers also get quick access to the software they need, as it can be installed company-wide in hours, rather than days. They will also receive access to the latest software updates automatically, which is a perk of a cloud software subscription.

Efficient Recruiting

Recruiting is a huge part of human resources, and today the pool of talent is increasingly competitive and complex. HR cloud solutions make it easier to create job postings and expand their reach to multiple platforms, while collecting candidate information. HR and talent acquisition professionals have to be able to grow their reach without needing to greatly expand resources. Luckily, cloud software can track, measure and report from various online databases that hold candidate information, helping HR professionals access more talent. And once they’ve accessed talent, big data can compare various candidates and provide both relevant and targeted results to HR professionals. This means that positions can be filled faster, reducing time between hires and costs of hiring.

A Mobile Workforce

You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll say it again: cloud computing offers professionals the ability to access their data and applications on-demand via the Internet. This means they can work from any device, in any location, at any time. Yeah, that’s pretty hard to beat. This allows businesses to grow a mobile workforce. HR professionals can access their programs and data on the go. So if they’re off on a recruiting trip, these employees can still take advantage of cloud software and maintain communication with the folks back at the office.

An Affordable Solution

Cost concerns are always prevalent when considering new technology. Fortunately, cloud computing makes HR solutions affordable for any size business. The costs that often come with server space, extra in-house IT personnel, expensive software and licenses, and maintenance are eliminated. A provider like RapidScale comes in and manages the solutions, simply offering the business access to these resources.

Sophisticated Security

Like cost, security will always be top of mind when looking at new technology. Cloud security has greatly matured in recent years and HR professionals, who often work with sensitive information, get access to sophisticated security systems through their provider. Cloud provider’s depend on their reliability and reputation, so they go great lengths to ensure client information remains secure. This includes measures like in-flight and at-rest encryption, geographically diverse data centers, strong firewalls, 24×7 monitoring and support, strict SLAs, intense physical security and more.


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