Breaking down the technology and creating the right strategy, here’s everything you need to know about cloud and Unified Communications. Decision-making starts here.
Though business services have advanced immensely over the past decade, it’s a fact that phone calls remain critical to the health of a company. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) uses technology to provide calling via the web, saving on costs and providing feature-rich options to help manage call volume. Despite the many benefits of VoIP, myths still abound around this useful tech tool. Several of these are addressed below.
It’s unclear where the misconception was born that installation of VoIP systems is difficult, but that is most certainly not the case. Service providers typically furnish a simple user interface (normally a web site) where the system can be configured, and include equipment that has already been set up. At that point, installation is as simple as making sure the Internet is connected and the phone has been plugged in.
When VoIP first appeared on the technical scene, it is true that some users had difficulty making or receiving calls. However, Internet speeds and capacity have since improved immensely, largely solving that particular problem. Today’s Internet connections are fast, dependable, and have more than enough bandwidth as long as a business purchases a sensible option from the communications company. This translates to minimal reliability problems and outstanding call quality.
VoIP depends on an Internet connection rather than old telephone company wiring, leading some to believe there’s a security risk as a result. Thanks to information security methods that include encryption, firewalls, and intrusion-detection tools, risk stemming from use of VoIP is next to nothing. In actuality, voice calling on regular telephone company lines has a higher risk of hacking than a properly protected VoIP-based telecommunications system.
Many people believe that VoIP calls are low quality, but this could not be further from the truth. Most callers could not tell the difference between VoIP calls and those made from a traditional POTS (plain old telephone service) line. The sole caution regarding Internet calls is that the system must be set up with adequate bandwidth to support call volume. Failing to configure this properly can cause some quality issues, but they are easily avoidable.
Too Small for the Technology
VoIP isn’t just for big corporations anymore. The availability of scalable packages from quality vendors has made this essential tool accessible to start-ups and mid-sized businesses as well. Installation costs for these systems are typically low, allowing any size of business to enjoy VoIP’s features and flexibility. In addition, many smaller companies find that VoIP has allowed them to grow and expand more quickly than expected.
Internet phone services are of great value to the vast majority of companies. The key to successfully using this mighty tool is in planning for adequate bandwidth and security coverage. By properly preparing, a business will enjoy the numerous benefits that VoIP affords.
The saturation of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking provider pool can make selecting one a formidable task. A web search reveals pages and pages of possible vendors, all seemingly similar. With so many available options, what is the best choice? Keep reading for tips and information about SIP trunk provider selection.
Before choosing a SIP trunking vendor, it’s important to know some of the common terms that relate to the field. SIP is a service that connects a company’s normal private branch exchange phone system to the Internet for telecommunications. Video and phone conferencing, global calling, and instant messaging are common tools in a SIP arrangement. A SIP trunk provides all of the services of a traditional phone line as well as many more. SIP trunking is valuable to businesses due to its powerful functionality and ability to reduce costs.
Requirements of a SIP Provider
Any communications provider must be reliable. They must guarantee nearly 100% uptime and provide concrete proof that they can support that expectation. Look for vendors that have a well-defined failover system in case of an outage. Rerouting of calls should be instantaneous if a system goes down. Providers that have geographically dispersed servers are essential in times of emergencies.
Ask prospective vendors about their relationships with their selected communications providers. A vendor with a direct connection to a Tier 1 comm provider is a better selection than a vendor purchasing from a reseller.
A company may not stay the same size for long, so choosing a SIP trunking provider should be done with future growth and needs in mind. Will it be easy to add more trunks? What is the lead time when doing so? Quality providers can fulfill such requests in a short amount of time and will not have an issue adding on as many trunks as needed.
Hackers are clever, resourceful people, and SIP trunking is not immune to their efforts. Be sure that the SIP trunk provider has a solid security system in place. Consider the following basic security requirements:
- Do they use techniques such as call barring to prevent more well-known toll fraud trends?
- Does the account have a credit limit in case of undetected international fraud?
- What intrusion-detection systems are used, and is monitoring done 24/7?
Expandability and Flexibility
When first implementing a SIP trunk system, it may be difficult to know what features will be useful. A good provider will be able to enhance the system simply and easily, and usually for very little cost. A few items to consider for the future include:
- direct dialing,
- additional phone numbers for future needs,
- call forwarding,
- phone conferencing,
- tracking via account code input,
- auto attendants,
- toll-free lines, and
Quality Customer Service
While good customer service may seem like a given, it’s important to document that expectation. Consider a service level agreement (SLA) that covers ticket response time, 24/7 availability of assistance, and any other uptime or quality requirements needed. Good SIP trunking providers will have a full support staff and easily meet those expectations.
Choosing a SIP trunking provider is not a painful process if approached logically and with future business needs in mind. Ask vendors as many questions as necessary, and let their answers guide the decision.
In recent years, IT has emerged as a major platform for business continuity planning, as businesses of all sizes are increasingly reliant on the Internet in their efforts to maintain productivity and competitive advantages. Outages — and the major financial losses and operational setbacks that come with them — are a real threat to businesses, especially those that rely on continuous, interruption-free activity. More and more, it’s becoming clear that traditional approaches to continuity planning aren’t adequate to address the real needs of businesses in today’s tech-driven landscape.
The Shortcomings of Traditional Approaches to Business Continuity
When the Internet first emerged as a key commercial technology, many larger businesses included it in their continuity plans using models that emphasized the need for regional backups of centralized data centers. Secondary data storage sites and colocation solutions may have provided strategic benefits to resource-rich companies, but they simply weren’t viable for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) primarily due to cost and complexity.
As a result, a large contingency of SMBs simply continued to operate without a viable, concrete business continuity plan. But with the emergence of a new generation of cloud-based tools, there is simply no need for any business to be without a comprehensive continuity plan.
How Cloud-Based Continuity Platforms Deliver Superior Solutions
Today, backing up critical data on cloud-based platforms has become the norm, and it’s a practice used by even small businesses with loose continuity needs. The vastly improved capabilities of the computing cloud also allow big companies with complex, dynamic, and data-intensive continuity planning needs to take advantage of the platform. The cloud delivers three key benefits that every company should prioritize when building a continuity plan:
- It’s readily available. A growing number of providers are offering cloud-based business continuity services, affording businesses a wider range of choices beyond market leaders like Amazon Web Services.
- It’s financially attainable. Cloud-based continuity solutions are among the most cost-effective ever devised, and even small businesses with limited resources can usually afford them.
- It’s mobile. The cloud is accessible from anywhere, on any Internet-connected device. Portability features can also be integrated with other cloud-based solutions to deliver enhanced levels of practicality and accessibility.
Business continuity experts stress that the cloud should form an integral part of any complete plan, with the key word being “part.” It is still vitally important to account for a full range of potential outages or interruptions to business activities and deploy the most logical, affordable, and diversified suite of industry-specific solutions available.
ROI Networks, LLC today announced that it has become a Platinum member of Avaya Connect Channel Partner Program, a reseller program encompassing more than 10,000 companies around the globe. The Avaya Connect Platinum Partner level shows that the ROI Networks team has demonstrated skills in the sale and design of solutions based on Avaya technologies with a standard of excellence on which customers and Avaya can depend.
ROI Networks is authorized to sell Avaya Midmarket /Team Engagement / Customer Engagement / Networking/ Video Solutions to businesses in the United States. As a Platinum Avaya Connect Partner, ROI Networks will have access to the technical support and training needed to help companies use Avaya solutions to transform their operations and achieve better business outcomes.
Members of the Avaya Connect Partner Program must meet rigorous criteria for solution design and ongoing customer satisfaction.
“The Avaya Connect Partner Program helps us ensure that customers have a consistent, quality experience, whether they buy direct from Avaya or indirect through a partner like ROI Networks” said Richard Steranka, vice president, Worldwide Channels, Avaya. “As a member of our program, ROI Networks is delivering value to the end customer through their commitments to advancing their expertise and customer satisfaction. ”
One of the customers benefiting from ROI Networks relationship with Avaya is iQor, Inc., a company that is utilizing Avaya’s Contact Center and Unified Communications solutions to enable their worldwide customers to deliver best-in-class interoperability and reliability at significantly less costs than hosting this solution in house.
Unified communications as a service (UCaaS) has changed the rules of the presence technology and enterprise messaging game for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). By packaging essential services such as instant messaging, voice messaging, telephony, and video conferencing using a unified cloud-based delivery and management model, UCaaS provides a cost-effective, flexible, and scalable alternative to traditional telecom solutions.
SMBs have responded in kind by adopting UCaaS services in record numbers. By understanding the key drivers of this trend, businesses can more easily evaluate the potential benefits of adopting UCaaS services themselves.
UCaaS Driver #1: The Cloud Is Better than Ever
When the cloud first emerged as a viable service delivery model, there were legitimate concerns about its reliability and scalability. Next-generation models have enacted major improvements in these areas, with Internet giants like Google and Amazon embracing the cloud with open arms. This has rightly given a growing number of SMBs the confidence to adopt UCaaS and other cloud-based computing models.
UCaaS Driver #2: Integration Improvements Boost Usability
Essential tech tools like customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software moved into the cloud some time ago, and integration platforms are quickly catching up. This is allowing UCaaS to partner with other key cloud-based resources to create interactive multi-modal platforms with comprehensive capabilities.
A growing number of mainstream software suites are also moving into the cloud — Google Drive and Office 365 are prime examples. Cloud-based services are quickly becoming the new norm, making it even easier for businesses to adopt and deploy them to reduce costs, boost internal efficiency, and create better, more easily managed professional and commercial relationships.
UCaaS Driver #3: The Future
Even though cloud-based services like UCaaS have come a long way in the past few years, it’s important to remember that these technologies are still in their relative infancy. Improvements are expected to continue in the near future, with tech industry experts and IT pundits predicting that UCaaS and other cloud-based technologies will effectively become embedded not only in the business world, but throughout society in general.
Further, millennials — the first generation that grew up with ubiquitous Internet technology — are now joining the workforce in large numbers. Their high rates of technological literacy will be a major asset to businesses using traditional models as they seek to transition to cloud-based platforms.