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.


Mxie Presence

Deskphone? Smartphone? What’s the difference!

As smartphones have become the central hubs for business users to manage communications and store contacts, traditional business desk phones are increasingly becoming isolated, less-useful devices. In fact, according to a new third-party survey of 486 U.S. workers with access to both a dedicated work desk phone and a smartphone, only one in two regularly use their desk phones for making voice calls, and one in three prefer to use their smartphones to make voice calls—even when they have easy access to a desk phone. One in three say they are willing to give up desk phones at work entirely.

 


Predeployment Network Assessment

So Your Company Wants to Adopt VoIP… How Do You Know If Your Network Is Ready to Make the Transition?

While the cost savings and new applications of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) are rapidly attracting many small to mid-sized companies to this popular communication solution, it may come with a significant price to your network.  Not only must your network carry more traffic, but VoIP traffic demands very high performance and is more sensitive to normal network problems like delays and choppy communication.  Even modest levels of impairment, unnoticed by users of most data applications, will cause significant caller frustration and will not sit well with your customers, business partners, or even your own employees.

Before investing in a large-scale VoIP deployment or even in a small trial, you need to know how well your network infrastructure will handle the additional, quality-sensitive voice traffic.  Many seemingly well-planned trials encounter delay after delay, exceed cost estimates, and are eventually cancelled when the network proves unable to meet the unique requirements VoIP places on it.  However, these business issues can easily be avoided if your telecommunications provider properly assesses your network ahead of time to truly understand the scope and type of work required to ensure a successful transition to VoIP.

Gartner reports that 85% of networks are not ready for VoIP.  What’s even more shocking is that 75% of companies that do not perform a pre-implementation analysis of their network infrastructure will not realize a successful implementation.  These are astonishing statistics because without conducting a network assessment with a quality assessment tool, the potential for wasting time and money is extremely high.  In order to increase the likelihood of a successful VoIP implementation, an evaluation of the network must be properly executed and should include the following four steps.

  1. Pre-Deployment Assessment

The pre-deployment assessment step analyzes the current capabilities of the network, evaluates its ability to support VoIP, identifies potential problems, and determines the requirements needed to handle expected call traffic.  It is strongly recommended that the pre-deployment test is conducted prior to the purchase or installation of any VoIP equipment.  The analysis should include such items as bandwidth, utilization, jitter, throughput and latency.

  1. Post-Deployment Assessment

The purpose of the post-deployment assessment is to gain a complete understanding of VoIP quality and network efficiencies prior to turning it on.  This step determines the level of success and prevents issues with call quality or dropped calls.  Whenever new equipment is introduced to a network the chance for unexpected issues rises; therefore, it is critical that post-deployment assessment is not overlooked.  This assessment should be immediately performed so any changes can be made in a timely manner.

  1. Regular Maintenance Assessment

As you’re probably aware, your network is dynamic and constantly evolves.  New devices such as IP phones, laptops, switches, and routers are added or removed.  Whether it’s a minor change or a major one it will impact your network.  Therefore, it is important to re-evaluate your network regularly to identify any faults so they can be corrected as soon as possible.  Conducting ongoing assessments will help your organization increase quality, optimize system infrastructure, and reduce costs.

  1. Break/Fix Strategy

Unfortunately, unforeseen things may happen to a network that’s not readily identified by your IT department.  The situation may be brought to your company’s attention by a customer, an employee or business partner.  The Yankee Group has reported that some companies’ labor costs grew 30 to 40 percent with VoIP because of dealing with network problems.  Having a network assessment tool in place enables one to take action quickly, diagnose the problem, and resolve it, while minimizing its impact to the system as a whole.

Essentially, these four key steps have illustrated the primary objective and the many benefits of conducting network assessments.  Whether your company is about to take the plunge into VoIP or has already gone down that path, it is critical to deploy a tool that can accurately analyze your network.  Surprisingly, most companies overlook this integral component of the VoIP implementation process and the research clearly shows its negative impact.

As you tap into this relatively new communication solution that’s changing how business gets done, make sure you ask yourself this question.  What is my telecommunications provider doing to create a network environment that enables my company to take full advantage of VoIP? If network assessment is not included in the response then something is definitely wrong.


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.


Chicago hosted phones

5 Tips to help you choose the right hosted provider!

My colleague Harry Bhattia wrote this article. I was really impressed – so impressed that I couldn’t say it better myself.

In the recent times, VoIP service providers have crowded the market and made it difficult for businesses to choose the one that would actually do what they commit to. You may have made the toughest of your decisions while moving to VoIP services from the traditional phone set up and you would definitely not expect your business to face down times due to a poor telephone network.

Promoting managed IT services that save money and provide greater functionality, is like marketing of any other service, which means that the providers must take into consideration the time-honored factors of price, promotion & distribution. With all the sophistication in their pitching styles, it is possible for you to get trapped in a non-rewarding deal. So, we have stated a few points that to help you select a reliable VoIP service provider in Chicago.

Ask to explain things & talk out of the acronyms – The telephone technology is full of acronyms. They may be comfortable using terms like VoIP and PBX but you, as they may overwhelm a customer /the SMB owner. In a confused state, you may not even understand what they are trying to explain and consequently you may miss important details of the technology you will be using thereafter.

Demand a complete solution – Do not forget that you are on the demanding side. Understand the details of how the VoIP services offered by the provider will influence their businesses. Look at what’s unique in his offerings. Also, study their previous works and customer feedback so that you get a brief about past experiences of businesses like you with the service provider.

Plan & implement wisely – Ask the provider to spend a weekend at your business set up (pre-installation planning) to understand how the present system works and where is the need to rebuild things. A good installation plan will make the configuration easy for you. It really makes a difference.

Safety must be the first commitment – A recent study revealed that about 40% of the VoIP users did not have specific plans to secure their VoIP deployments. The end-points of your VoIP systems are vulnerable to attacks right from their operating systems to internet protocols and management interfaces of VoIP phones. It sounds scary; it also means that there is a lucrative chance for those who sell VoIP security services. Check if your VoIP provider includes a security plan in his package to cut down on the cost of hiring another provider selling security services.

Training as a part of service – Plug n play does not imply installing software and leaving the rest. The automation also requires users to be trained to know how the new software will help them reduce efforts. It is a bad idea to leave users baffled on a completely new set up of devices. Ensure that your VoIP provider will train you on using the VoIP systems.

Well, if you are convinced that these tips will help you build a better VoIP network that never fails, you may consider another advice from us. Call us – we talk in plain English (without jargon and we define every three letter acronym we use!).

Learn More!


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.


Attracting Millenials

Rethink the Phone to Attract Millenials to your Business

Millennials became the largest generation in the U.S. workforce in 2015. By 2025, they will account for more than 75 percent of the U.S. labor pool. The millennial workers bring immense value to a team, including self-motivation, creativity and enthusiasm. To ensure a stable, productive and engaged team tomorrow, organizations should create a culture with sophisticated technology where millennial employees can thrive and provide maximum benefit to the company today.

Recruiting and retaining millennials requires companies to cultivate a work environment with the flexibility, open dialogue and collaboration they value. Offering cloud-based communication technology that’s available anytime, anywhere and from any device, is vital to a happy and productive team. Below are additional tips businesses can use to allow millennial employees to thrive.

1. Enable Smooth and Secure Access
Some of the greatest benefits of cloud-based UC solutions are the mobile, flexible and economical access they provide. Seamless remote work and team collaboration requires businesses to fully embrace the cloud to ensure universal access for employees working off-site. This applies to everything from company data and current evolving projects to routine meetings. Housing data and servers in a truly 100 percent cloud-based solution also provides a much more secure, disaster-proof way to store business information.

2. Rethink the Phone
As businesses transition to next-generation technology across the board, they should be sure to upgrade their phones, the heartbeat of team collaboration in a workplace. Selecting a cloud-based phone system offers full access to tools that foster two-way dialogue and encourage collaboration. In addition, a streamlined online portal where employees can manage the technology themselves, molding it to fit their own workflows and processes instead of the other way around is vital. For example, if employees can configure their personal phone settings within the cloud, rather than on a physical device, switching from an office location to home will be effortless. It also allows businesses to leverage features that enhance mobility like softphones, which employees can use to make and receive calls on any internet-connected device using their business number.

3. Connect Co-Workers
Connecting employees with each other in a real-time manner improves individuals’ flexibility, ensures full-team collaboration and reduces money and time spent traveling. When vetting different video conferencing tools, businesses should select an online-based HD option that allows face-to-face meetings and makes screen share and collaborative editing simple. A more informal solution to consider, that has become a must-have tool for employees, is internal chat to help maintain strong working relationships and encourage real-time collaboration. Businesses should select a chat tool that integrates with all other communication channels and is available on desktop and various mobile devices to ensure the smoothest communication.

Creating a collaborative, flexible environment requires deliberate action and consideration of leadership to ensure all team members have universal access to key documents and are supported with sophisticated communications channels like cloud-based phone systems and video meetings. Whether team members are in another office, working at home or onsite with clients, business leaders staying ahead of the curve by attracting and maintaining millennial employees must put a technology plan in place to empower team communication and collaboration.


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.


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.