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IBM Services Jumps on UC-in-the-Cloud Bandwagon

September 23rd, 2010

 

by Charlene O’Hanlon

 IBM Global Technology Services has expanded its consultancy offerings for customers interested in making the move to the cloud.

 The services arm of IBM has introduced a new strategy and assessment service for cloud-based unified communications to help customers understand and/or pave their pay into the cloud, said Jeri Korkki, global services category leader for IBM Integrated Communications Service Cloud Services.

 “Until now we have offered consultancy services for premise-based, non-cloud unified communications, but now we are seeing customers asking us, ‘What can we do in the cloud? Can we take the benefits of virtualization and use that technology with unified communications?’” he said.

 The new service, Korkki said, will educate customers on the different types of cloud offerings – public, private and hybrid – and help them decide whether they should use a cloud-based infrastructure over an on-premises solution. “We look at everything from what it takes to go into the cloud to what are the ramifications,” he said. “Business requirements, functionality requirements, performance, security, resiliency, management requirements – we look at it all.”

 If the customer decides to move into the cloud for its UC services, IGTS will help them find the proper solution using a vendor-agnostic approach, Korkki said.

 “What we do today is help customers build a long-term strategy and help them understand what the differences are in an on-premises private cloud vs. the public cloud,” he said. “We’re not pushing one technology over another. We start from the customers’ point of view and look at their needs, and then determine what the solutions are. Then we help them understand best deployment option.”

 Korkki said the new consultancy arose from customers’ desire to move more applications into the cloud, as well as a need to reduce overall expenses. IGS helps them determine whether moving UC into the cloud is a sound strategy, and what solutions are available.

“In some cases, moving into the cloud is not an option due to regulatory compliance issues or security issues,” he said. “That’s what we help them determine.

iPad rivals stuck in ‘upcoming’ mode

September 15th, 2010

  by Brooke Crothers

Head-turning consumer tablets using Intel processors are still mired in to-be-shipped status, leaving the iPad as the sole high-profile 10-inch class consumer product.

 A tablet running the MeeGo operating system will ship next week. But no high-profile shipping iPad rivals emerged at an Intel conference this week.

 Launched in April, the iPad is still racking up impressive sales numbers with 2010 shipments expected to be more than 10 million. Yet nothing has emerged from the Intel camp of computer makers, comprised of some of the largest computer companies in the world.

 The latest “upcoming” tablet is from Dell: a hybrid design that may be more Netbook than tablet. The only shipment information available at this stage is “later this year,” according to a statement from Dell at the Intel Developer Forum on Tuesday. The Dell design follows an analogous Lenovo hybrid tablet that was slated to appear in June but was then delayed.

 Ironically, a keynote speech at IDF by Renee James, a senior vice president at Intel, was backdropped with a lot of tablet art. But the only real product disclosed in the keynote was a tablet from a relatively obscure European company, 4TIITOO AG. That tablet, based on the MeeGo operating system, will ship “next week,” James said.

 And Intel’s view of the tablet is still relatively indifferent. In a CNET interview, Executive Vice President David Perlmutter called the tablet “a wonderful companion device” then added, “but we’re not talking specifically (about tablets) because we want to be talking when something is shipping.” In other words, there’s nothing really to speak of yet.

 And Intel Chief Executive Paul Otellini has downplayed tablets consistently. Speaking at the company’s investor meeting in May, Otellini said: “On the scale of the PC industry, they’re relatively insignificant.” I don’t think Apple would agree with that assessment.

Cypress Communications to Provide Hosted Unified Communications and Managed LAN Services to International Law Firm

September 14th, 2010

Aug 19, 2010 (PRWeb.com via COMTEX) — Loeb & Loeb LLP, an award-winning, multi-service international law firm, will implement Cypress Communications(R) hosted VoIP and hosted unified communications solution, C4 IP(R), to connect the company’s five U.S. and Beijing locations, enabling collaboration regardless of geographic location and fortifying the firm’s business continuity and disaster recovery initiatives. Loeb & Loeb also expect to realize operational efficiencies and cost savings from the Cypress cloud-based services. As a hosted solution, there’s no need to make a capital investment, another cash savings for the firm.

“Our attorneys and staff regularly work across practice lines and industry disciplines – and across geographical boundaries – to meet our clients’ various needs for specialized knowledge and capabilities. With Cypress’ C4 IP, our staff will be able to more quickly and efficiently collaborate using desktop video, conferencing, secure messaging and file sharing,” said Judi Flournoy, chief information officer of Loeb & Loeb LLP.

Cost reduction and business continuity were also drivers behind the decision to select Cypress’ C4 IP. Adds Flournoy, “By centralizing communications in the Cypress cloud, we are able to create a single enterprise-wide virtual platform for the firm’s communications and voicemail. Our goal, to quickly recover or continue operations in the event of a crisis, will be met with Cypress’ C4 IP solution. We’ll also see expenses reduced and operations streamlined. Employees will have the ability to extension-dial their colleagues at any of our locations, eliminating long-distance and reducing international calling charges between offices.” Cypress will also provide managed LAN services for Loeb & Loeb, including proactive network monitoring and fault management of network devices, transport, and protocols for the firm’s network infrastructure.

“Known for their of leadership and innovation, Loeb & Loeb exemplifies how best to exploit technology to produce tactical results – more accessibility, increased collaboration and cost-savings – as well as to facilitate strategic initiatives such as future scalability, continuity and a greener footprint,” said Frank Grillo, executive vice president of marketing and customer support at Cypress Communications. “We are continually validated by the success our customers achieve; Cypress’ cloud-approach to delivering unified communications and managed services has proven again and again to be an effective and cost-efficient way for law firms to communicate better while improving performance throughout their organizations.” C4 IP is the leading hosted VoIP and hosted unified communications solution for enterprises and law firms of all sizes. With integrated voice and data services, desktop and soft phones and advanced collaboration functionality, C4 IP offers a comprehensive solution that can be tailored to fit the needs of each individual user. C4 IP also offers anywhere, anytime communications with mobility-supporting features such as find-me/follow-me, advanced call routing, audio and web conferencing, unified messaging, presence, secure instant messaging and file sharing. While callers may simply dial the user’s office phone number, the C4 IP user can use any phone, in any location as their office phone. Conversations appear to be taking place at their office desk.

As a hosted solution, C4 IP enables small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from a premium unified communications experience without the hassles of owning and maintaining an in-house solution. SMEs avoid upfront capital expenditures, ongoing maintenance costs and inevitable technological obsolescence. Cypress owns all of the equipment and manages C4 IP from its robust network cloud to the phone on each desk, so enterprises pay a single monthly fee and avoid devoting internal IT staff to managing the solution.

About Loeb & Loeb Loeb & Loeb LLP is a multi-service law firm with more than 300 attorneys focusing on select practice areas, rather than endeavoring to be all things to all clients. Winner of the 2010 Chambers Award for Excellence in Media, the firm is recognized as a leading law firm in the areas of advanced media; bankruptcy, restructuring and creditors’ rights; business litigation; energy; entertainment; finance; intellectual property; mergers and acquisitions; real estate; securities; technology; and tax and wealth services. Loeb & Loeb has five domestic offices in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Nashville and Washington, DC, as well as a representative office in Beijing serving a rapidly growing number of Asian clients.

About Cypress Communications For over 25 years, Cypress Communications has been helping small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) connect, communicate, collaborate and continue(R) with a range of fully hosted and managed voice, data and Internet solutions. Beginning in 2006, Cypress revolutionized the communications industry with its hosted VoIP and hosted unified communications solution, C4 IP, making it easy for SMEs to take advantage of productivity-enhancing technology such as integrated audio and web conferencing, multimedia collaboration tools, presence, chat, Microsoft(R) Outlook integration, and more. As a Deloitte Fast 50 and Fast 500 award recipient, Cypress is recognized as one of the fastest growing telecommunication companies in North America. The company has also been named one of Atlanta’s Best Places to Work. Cypress has won a total of 26 awards for excellence and product innovation to date. The company’s web address is www.cypresscom.net.

For more information, contact: Heather Whitt Roberts Cypress Communications 404-442-0034 hwhitt(at)cypresscom(dot)net (C) 2006-2010 Cypress Communications, Inc. The Cypress Communications logo is a registered service mark of Cypress Communications, Inc. C4 IP and Connect. Communicate. Collaborate and Continue are registered trademarks of Cypress Communications. All other marks used herein are the property of their respective owners.

Business VoIP Provider Evaluation – A Buyers Guide

September 9th, 2010

by alyx001

The growing adoption of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service by businesses echoes the recent vast improvements in the technology. This migration is due in large part to not only cost reductions, but the ability to integrate voice data with other parts of the business data network, for improved productivity and efficiency.

The goal of this guide is to outline the top criteria you will want to review when making a vendor selection. You will most likely want to evaluate several vendors, in order to ensure that you are selecting the one that will best fit your company’s needs.

2. Preparation: Key to Successful Business VoIP Implementation

Prior to considering VoIP service providers, you will want to begin by defining your business requirements. This includes looking at the number of calls your business routinely receives, and the amount of network data traffic during peak hours. You will also want to evaluate the cost of creating a merged network in which voice and other business data belong to the same network. Often over time, this becomes the real value for a business, since one network system is utilized for both voice and information technology, reducing maintenance and support costs.

You will also need to define what services you will want implemented. Will you want voice mails automatically forwarded to employee emails? Do you need to have customer contact information integrated with your phone service, allowing sales and customer service representatives to view an automatic pop-up when customer calls come in? Carefully defining the features you require will assist with pricing the cost of implementation.

Once you have defined your business requirements, you will also want to take a careful look at your existing network, and see how “VoIP ready” your business is. VoIP requires having a rapid, reliable broadband connection (cable or DSL) in place, or voice quality may be affected. Many VoIP service providers will also provide a (free) initial consultation with your company engineers, in order to identify any hardware or network routing issues that should be resolved prior to implementing your business VoIP telephone system.

3. Evaluate Multiple VoIP Service Providers

Not all VoIP phone service providers are equal in the service quality they provide. They can range from small companies geared mainly to consumer solutions, to carriers that specialize in the implementation and hosting of business-grade VoIP services. There is a vast range in not only pricing, but in the quality of support, the backbone connection and software used, which affects the services that will be available.

For most small to mid-sized businesses, a hosted VoIP service (also called VoIP PBX or Virtual PBX) is the best option. The hosting service maintains switches and other hardware on their end, while the business is responsible for providing their own ISP service and for purchasing IP phones.  These phones contain a special Ethernet jack that will plug directly into your network, and like a computer, have their own IP address assigned.

If you have an existing onsite PBX system that you want to continue using, a business VoIP service can alternatively provide you with business-grade analog telephone adaptors (ATAs) that will allow you to continue using your conventional phones.

Mid-sized to larger businesses may want to consider buying their own equipment from a firm that provides this equipment and assists with the initial implementation, as well as supplying the actual VoIP phone service.

3.1. Critical Criteria for VoIP Provider Evaluation

A. Technology Capabilities

You may be surprised to see this near the top of the criteria to look at, instead of cost. But integration of your company’s voice and other data can provide the most cost-effective and efficient use of your existing IT infrastructure, with significantly improved employee productivity. This productivity will be affected by the applications the hosting service is able to provide.

For instance, do you want the ability to rapidly access your customer database and contact information from an IP phone?  Or the ability to provide “click and call now” capability from your website? Not all providers can offer these features, but many of the larger ones can. What features are offered with their “basic service” package? Do they provide caller ID, follow-me roaming, and the ability to support multiple four-digit extensions at no extra charge?  Also check that they support E911, allowing emergency services to find an exact location when a call is made.

The ability to support increased employee productivity is key when evaluating VoIP phone service providers.  For instance, with some providers, voice mail, faxes and emails can be integrated, allowing voice messages and faxes to be forwarded to company email inboxes. Others will allow a single receptionist to receive calls from multiple offices, or to have interactive voice response capabilities for incoming and outgoing calls. With most services, after-hours calls on your office phone can be automatically routed to your cell phone by programming the system to do this at set hours each day. Or you should be able to easily implement features such as call billing, allowing your employees to click on a button to begin tracking the time spent on a specific call, with charges automatically added for billing purposes.  

Reporting Capability

With VoIP, you should have easier access to management reports than with a traditional phone service. Your system administrators should be able to click on a password protected link to gain access to reports on the IP calls made from your business. This allows you to identify trends, including when peak voice traffic occurs, and to review the types of calls made, among other features.

Can it Grow with Your Needs?

Another important factor when evaluating a VoIP phone hosting service is their scalability. Can they support a growing business, including adding lines as needed? Including the features and applications required not just now, but in five years or more?

Carefully checking out the provider’s capabilities and ability to integrate with your existing network will help ensure that you maximize the capabilities of VoIP for your business. You may want to consider a provider whose initial startup costs are a bit higher, but who can adequately support your anticipated growth for years to come.

B. Call Quality

Call quality can vary greatly among providers, with the lowest quality offered by consumer services that simply provide a phone adaptor. The vendors you consider should offer business-grade equipment, whether in adaptors or IP phones. The call quality offered should at a minimum equal that of a traditional service, with a low rate of dropped calls, and you will want to check this out first-hand by calling references.

What is the business VoIP provider’s “uptime” (this should be at a minimum 99.6% or greater). Ask the firm how they handle network and power outages, and whether they provide automatic data backup.

You should be aware that call quality can be affected by not only the VoIP hosting service, but by the quality of your own ISP service. VoIP will only work well with a reliable, rapid broadband connection such as cable or DSL; satellite will not work due to the long distances that data much travel and back. Other factors include how well the existing network is set up to support VoIP. The better providers will visit onsite to identify whether routers or the current business firewall will prevent transmission of voice data, as well as other issue, prior to implementing service.

C. Customer Service

Customer service level is critical to an excellent experience when making the transition to VoIP phone service. The level of support may vary greatly between providers. Do they offer a consultative approach, helping you to identify issues that would reduce the quality of voice transmission? Do they suggest options for overcoming them? How experienced is the firm in setting up a business-grade VoIP telephone system?

An experienced business VoIP hosting service may deliver their service over a dedicated IP network to increase the bandwidth available. They should be able to suggest a good quality of service (QOS) software for giving voice data priority over your other network data. This can prevent dropped calls or poor quality voice transmission during times of peak traffic over your business network.

In addition to the above, you will want to evaluate the level of support that is provided not only during the actual implementation, but on an ongoing basis. How available are the customer service and technical support staff? How quickly can you expect a response to any issues that arise? Check on whether they have network performance monitoring in place that can help proactively identify potential problem areas. You will want to carefully evaluate the guarantees and warrantees that the vendor provides in their service level agreement.

D. Company Reputation and Reliability

Just as you would look into the references for other vendors, you will want to check into the reputation of the business VoIP phone service vendors you are evaluating. How experienced are they with implementing business PBX systems? A well-managed, financially sound company with an excellent reputation and experience will be the best choice when comparing providers.

Word-of-mouth from friends and business acquaintances can provide a good starting place for learning what their experience – and rating – of a VoIP provider is like. You can also go online, and view ratings for different providers at sites such as myvoipprovider.com.

E. Cost

Comparing cost goes beyond lower lost distance rates, although this can be a significant reduction in overhead if you have branch offices in other locations, or your employees travel frequently. Monthly service plans will vary among providers, and should be compared to see which offers the best cost for the services your company requires.

When factoring the costs for service, you will want to evaluate the following:

-Initial startup costs: this will vary with the size of the system, and how “VoIP ready’ your current business network is. For instance, IP phones will need access to a power source, and your business will likely need to implement a QOS (quality of service) software system for your network that gives priority to voice data. You will also need to evaluate if you currently have enough bandwidth to handle both network and voice data traffic. Implementing a VoIP PBX system may require upgrading routers or adding extra bandwidth to your current business network.

-Operational costs: this includes the costs of software and equipment upgrades as well as routine maintenance and trouble-shooting.

Ask the different business VoIP service providers what the total monthly operating costs will be for your business if they are selected for VoIP hosting, and get this in writing. Research to discover if there are any “hidden costs” that have not been defined upfront, and define whether you are leasing or purchasing any equipment provided. Find out what it costs to employ more advanced features, such as remote messaging capability, or call center services.

The real cost savings for many businesses comes over time, due to the fact that they no longer have to maintain separate networks for their phone and IT services. An IT person can take over managing the VoIP phone service.  Another long-term cost benefit comes from increased employee productivity (see point A above).  If an employee can work after hours or weekends from home and answer calls that ring at his desk; and simultaneously broadcast an important managerial alert to each branch manager with one call that also forwards via email, then the time savings can become significant – resulting in reduced company overhead. This is where evaluating the vendor’s ability to provide the productivity features you want is an important factor when comparing costs.

F. Security

This is being increasingly addressed by service providers, through encryption of voice transmissions and others. You will want to evaluate the security features provided by each one, and how well they answer your questions regarding firewall security. A good VoIP provider can suggest solutions that range from software that provides security, to advising you on how to minimize security risks when your VoIP phone system is implemented.

4. Conclusion

When you are considering a vendor for any important service, it’s important to take the time for due diligence – and VoIP vendor selection is no exception. You will want to talk to business references for firms that are similar in size to yours.

The number of business VoIP service providers is growing, which has created competition that is to your benefit. By defining your firm’s requirements, and evaluating providers carefully, you can ensure that you will see a return on the investment you put into implementing VoIP phone service for both cost and improved employee productivity.

To find and compare business VoIP providers in your areas of business click on the link below:

Corporate Telephone Answering Service

September 8th, 2010

by johnkinskey1

When the call volume in your office rises up unexpectedly, a corporate telephone answering service will help you manage the situation efficiently. Customer satisfaction contributes much to your business.  This phone service provided in integration with PBX phone systems manages all inbound and outbound calls in an office in a cost-efficient manner.

 An Able Substitute for a Live Receptionist

 Reliable customer care service is the driving force of any business establishment. A corporate telephone answering service ideally serves as an alternative for a live receptionist. All calls are handled in a professional manner. When calls are made to your office, you can engage your callers with pleasant music, greeting messages and interactive voice responses that would appeal to them and give them a sense of importance. If you are busy or not in a position to attend calls, these calls can be redirected to your voice mail boxes after effective communication with the callers. Since this unique answering service carries out all the functions of a live receptionist, you don’t need to appoint additional staff in your office.

 Impressive Call Management Features

 With a corporate telephone answering service, you can have 24/7 call answering service. You can manage calls, operate your business from anywhere and impress your callers, by making use of its advanced call management features which include:

  • Call recording for all calls
  • Live telephone answering
  • Call screening facility
  • Call forwarding
  • Facility to forward messages through SMS to your mobile or email
  • Voicemail services

 

Low Investment Features

 Corporate telephone answering service helps you save on the costs of employing live receptionists for attending calls. The cost involved in implementing this service is very low. Since the service is operated by the service providers, you can also enjoy considerable savings on the cost of maintaining expensive PBX equipment in your office.

 Corporate telephone answering service is scalable and can therefore meet the future demands of your expanding business.  This service can be efficiently integrated with local and toll free numbers.

Business VoIP Provider Evaluation – A Buyers Guide

September 1st, 2010

by alyx001

The growing adoption of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone service by businesses echoes the recent vast improvements in the technology. This migration is due in large part to not only cost reductions, but the ability to integrate voice data with other parts of the business data network, for improved productivity and efficiency.

The goal of this guide is to outline the top criteria you will want to review when making a vendor selection. You will most likely want to evaluate several vendors, in order to ensure that you are selecting the one that will best fit your company’s needs.

2. Preparation: Key to Successful Business VoIP Implementation

Prior to considering VoIP service providers, you will want to begin by defining your business requirements. This includes looking at the number of calls your business routinely receives, and the amount of network data traffic during peak hours. You will also want to evaluate the cost of creating a merged network in which voice and other business data belong to the same network. Often over time, this becomes the real value for a business, since one network system is utilized for both voice and information technology, reducing maintenance and support costs.

You will also need to define what services you will want implemented. Will you want voice mails automatically forwarded to employee emails? Do you need to have customer contact information integrated with your phone service, allowing sales and customer service representatives to view an automatic pop-up when customer calls come in? Carefully defining the features you require will assist with pricing the cost of implementation.

Once you have defined your business requirements, you will also want to take a careful look at your existing network, and see how “VoIP ready” your business is. VoIP requires having a rapid, reliable broadband connection (cable or DSL) in place, or voice quality may be affected. Many VoIP service providers will also provide a (free) initial consultation with your company engineers, in order to identify any hardware or network routing issues that should be resolved prior to implementing your business VoIP telephone system.

3. Evaluate Multiple VoIP Service Providers

Not all VoIP phone service providers are equal in the service quality they provide. They can range from small companies geared mainly to consumer solutions, to carriers that specialize in the implementation and hosting of business-grade VoIP services. There is a vast range in not only pricing, but in the quality of support, the backbone connection and software used, which affects the services that will be available.

For most small to mid-sized businesses, a hosted VoIP service (also called VoIP PBX or Virtual PBX) is the best option. The hosting service maintains switches and other hardware on their end, while the business is responsible for providing their own ISP service and for purchasing IP phones.  These phones contain a special Ethernet jack that will plug directly into your network, and like a computer, have their own IP address assigned.

If you have an existing onsite PBX system that you want to continue using, a business VoIP service can alternatively provide you with business-grade analog telephone adaptors (ATAs) that will allow you to continue using your conventional phones.

Mid-sized to larger businesses may want to consider buying their own equipment from a firm that provides this equipment and assists with the initial implementation, as well as supplying the actual VoIP phone service.

3.1. Critical Criteria for VoIP Provider Evaluation

A. Technology Capabilities

You may be surprised to see this near the top of the criteria to look at, instead of cost. But integration of your company’s voice and other data can provide the most cost-effective and efficient use of your existing IT infrastructure, with significantly improved employee productivity. This productivity will be affected by the applications the hosting service is able to provide.

For instance, do you want the ability to rapidly access your customer database and contact information from an IP phone?  Or the ability to provide “click and call now” capability from your website? Not all providers can offer these features, but many of the larger ones can. What features are offered with their “basic service” package? Do they provide caller ID, follow-me roaming, and the ability to support multiple four-digit extensions at no extra charge?  Also check that they support E911, allowing emergency services to find an exact location when a call is made.

The ability to support increased employee productivity is key when evaluating VoIP phone service providers.  For instance, with some providers, voice mail, faxes and emails can be integrated, allowing voice messages and faxes to be forwarded to company email inboxes. Others will allow a single receptionist to receive calls from multiple offices, or to have interactive voice response capabilities for incoming and outgoing calls. With most services, after-hours calls on your office phone can be automatically routed to your cell phone by programming the system to do this at set hours each day. Or you should be able to easily implement features such as call billing, allowing your employees to click on a button to begin tracking the time spent on a specific call, with charges automatically added for billing purposes.  

Reporting Capability

With VoIP, you should have easier access to management reports than with a traditional phone service. Your system administrators should be able to click on a password protected link to gain access to reports on the IP calls made from your business. This allows you to identify trends, including when peak voice traffic occurs, and to review the types of calls made, among other features.

Can it Grow with Your Needs?

Another important factor when evaluating a VoIP phone hosting service is their scalability. Can they support a growing business, including adding lines as needed? Including the features and applications required not just now, but in five years or more?

Carefully checking out the provider’s capabilities and ability to integrate with your existing network will help ensure that you maximize the capabilities of VoIP for your business. You may want to consider a provider whose initial startup costs are a bit higher, but who can adequately support your anticipated growth for years to come.

B. Call Quality

Call quality can vary greatly among providers, with the lowest quality offered by consumer services that simply provide a phone adaptor. The vendors you consider should offer business-grade equipment, whether in adaptors or IP phones. The call quality offered should at a minimum equal that of a traditional service, with a low rate of dropped calls, and you will want to check this out first-hand by calling references.

What is the business VoIP provider’s “uptime” (this should be at a minimum 99.6% or greater). Ask the firm how they handle network and power outages, and whether they provide automatic data backup.

You should be aware that call quality can be affected by not only the VoIP hosting service, but by the quality of your own ISP service. VoIP will only work well with a reliable, rapid broadband connection such as cable or DSL; satellite will not work due to the long distances that data much travel and back. Other factors include how well the existing network is set up to support VoIP. The better providers will visit onsite to identify whether routers or the current business firewall will prevent transmission of voice data, as well as other issue, prior to implementing service.

C. Customer Service

Customer service level is critical to an excellent experience when making the transition to VoIP phone service. The level of support may vary greatly between providers. Do they offer a consultative approach, helping you to identify issues that would reduce the quality of voice transmission? Do they suggest options for overcoming them? How experienced is the firm in setting up a business-grade VoIP telephone system?

An experienced business VoIP hosting service may deliver their service over a dedicated IP network to increase the bandwidth available. They should be able to suggest a good quality of service (QOS) software for giving voice data priority over your other network data. This can prevent dropped calls or poor quality voice transmission during times of peak traffic over your business network.

In addition to the above, you will want to evaluate the level of support that is provided not only during the actual implementation, but on an ongoing basis. How available are the customer service and technical support staff? How quickly can you expect a response to any issues that arise? Check on whether they have network performance monitoring in place that can help proactively identify potential problem areas. You will want to carefully evaluate the guarantees and warrantees that the vendor provides in their service level agreement.

D. Company Reputation and Reliability

Just as you would look into the references for other vendors, you will want to check into the reputation of the business VoIP phone service vendors you are evaluating. How experienced are they with implementing business PBX systems? A well-managed, financially sound company with an excellent reputation and experience will be the best choice when comparing providers.

Word-of-mouth from friends and business acquaintances can provide a good starting place for learning what their experience – and rating – of a VoIP provider is like. You can also go online, and view ratings for different providers at sites such as myvoipprovider.com.

E. Cost

Comparing cost goes beyond lower lost distance rates, although this can be a significant reduction in overhead if you have branch offices in other locations, or your employees travel frequently. Monthly service plans will vary among providers, and should be compared to see which offers the best cost for the services your company requires.

When factoring the costs for service, you will want to evaluate the following:

-Initial startup costs: this will vary with the size of the system, and how “VoIP ready’ your current business network is. For instance, IP phones will need access to a power source, and your business will likely need to implement a QOS (quality of service) software system for your network that gives priority to voice data. You will also need to evaluate if you currently have enough bandwidth to handle both network and voice data traffic. Implementing a VoIP PBX system may require upgrading routers or adding extra bandwidth to your current business network.

-Operational costs: this includes the costs of software and equipment upgrades as well as routine maintenance and trouble-shooting.

Ask the different business VoIP service providers what the total monthly operating costs will be for your business if they are selected for VoIP hosting, and get this in writing. Research to discover if there are any “hidden costs” that have not been defined upfront, and define whether you are leasing or purchasing any equipment provided. Find out what it costs to employ more advanced features, such as remote messaging capability, or call center services.

The real cost savings for many businesses comes over time, due to the fact that they no longer have to maintain separate networks for their phone and IT services. An IT person can take over managing the VoIP phone service.  Another long-term cost benefit comes from increased employee productivity (see point A above).  If an employee can work after hours or weekends from home and answer calls that ring at his desk; and simultaneously broadcast an important managerial alert to each branch manager with one call that also forwards via email, then the time savings can become significant – resulting in reduced company overhead. This is where evaluating the vendor’s ability to provide the productivity features you want is an important factor when comparing costs.

F. Security

This is being increasingly addressed by service providers, through encryption of voice transmissions and others. You will want to evaluate the security features provided by each one, and how well they answer your questions regarding firewall security. A good VoIP provider can suggest solutions that range from software that provides security, to advising you on how to minimize security risks when your VoIP phone system is implemented.

4. Conclusion

When you are considering a vendor for any important service, it’s important to take the time for due diligence – and VoIP vendor selection is no exception. You will want to talk to business references for firms that are similar in size to yours.

The number of business VoIP service providers is growing, which has created competition that is to your benefit. By defining your firm’s requirements, and evaluating providers carefully, you can ensure that you will see a return on the investment you put into implementing VoIP phone service for both cost and improved employee productivity.

To find and compare business VoIP providers in your areas of business click on the link below:

Should You Use Ethernet For Your Voice & Data Network?

August 27th, 2010

by FreedomFire Com

It seems that whenever you talk about an upgrade or new installation of a company’s voice/data network these days you hear the buzz word “ethernet” sometime in the conversation. With all the buzz… should you seriously consider ethernet in the mix for your network solution?

Now think about that for a moment. Are you just “jumping on the bandwagon”… or is there some truth to all this hullabaloo?

To answer that let’s get serious for a moment… no gushing idol worship. Just facts.

First …. it’s very clear that today Ethernet has gone from a nice to have option to the preferred choice for WAN (Wide Area Networks) access links. Many companies also use it in their backbone for IP connectivity. So the question often is “why not Ethernet” ….. rather than “should you use it.”

For example it is increasing commonplace that in a campus network just about all high bandwidth communications is Ethernet based. Also many things that used to be separate such as voice, CCTV, security/card locks can be migrated. Although you might need something to drive the migration. Can someone say cost savings??? Don’t forget scalability with future technologies and increased performance efficiency too. All three will go over very well with your Big Boss …. and your shareholders.

If you need a few bullet points to drive home this message to that audience …. try using these:

- You really don’t need a router. It is simply an Ethernet Handoff to your network.

- As you increase in bandwidth …. the per meg price goes down much quicker than with DS3 or OC3 bandwidth.

- For off-net/on-net sites Ethernet can be much cheaper than standard DS3 or OC3 bandwidth …. because you do not have to deal with loop costs.

However, I don’t think Ethernet is really the common denominator, but IP (which tends to use Ethernet in most places). Since that means you don’t need Ethernet everywhere and you can integrate useful technologies you might need – MPLS, VSAT, ADSL, and DS3 for example.

Be aware though that some parts of networks are likely to not be Ethernet compatible for a long time. The issue with “everything must be xx” is not whether you can get xx (sic Ethernet) in most places, but how to cope with the last few “hold outs”.

A definite pro is that ethernet remains a layer 2 service. Which if you buy from a carrier means that you are in control of the routing. Whereas if you take an IP VPN service this will impact your internal routing configuration. Layer 2, Ethernet based connectivity between sites gives a lot of flexibility and often improved latency/jitter performance.

So if you’re using IP today on SDH services then a migration to Ethernet should be a lot simpler. But again this depends on the scenario. Most carriers now use Ethernet as the last mile and also for backbone connectivity. This has provided higher speeds without the capital outlay …. and has the requisite reliability you should expect.

I also wouldn’t use Spanning Tree and so would rely on the Network Layer to take the path decisions …. as this is a lot more deterministic and saves having multiple different protocols performing on the fly updates. Any IP application including voice and video should run just the same as over SDH …. but Ethernet would give you the options of putting Voice into it’s own VLAN. Controlling bandwidth in this manner …. incorporating Ethernet …. should be so much cheaper. You could over engineer the backbone and keep things simple.

There are no real drawbacks using Ethernet in my mind …. and I personally believe that this would give you more flexibility than either a traditional SDH structure or an IP VPN based network.

The only Cons I can think of relate to the maintenance and troubleshooting of the network. Depending on your architecture and design, it may be a nightmare to maintain the network. For example, point-to-point is simple, but rings and mesh is challenging and will require clever and flawless design.

You really need to design and test the network carefully. You need to be aware of the type of services you will be running. Such as constant traffic, bursty traffic, low-latency traffic etc… as all of that will impact on your network and will require careful configurations. You need to have your QoS (Quality of Service) planned accurately if working with VLAN’s or different types/classes of traffic.

Designed correctly, Ethernet models work well, but poorly implemented ones often have challenges. Its important for you to understand that Ethernet based WAN is not simply “plug-n-play”. It requires additional planning and setup.

Overall I think there are many more pros than cons for choosing ethernet for your voice/data network . We are seeing lots of improvements to Ethernet these days via various industry working groups ….. as well as evolving packet transport technologies such as MPLS-TP and PBB-TE. So the future of etherent looks even brighter.

To get right to the point ….. I would not hesitate to recommend Ethernet as a viable solution. It is a cheap and scalable solution.

If you want help deciding what type of Ethernet bandwidth package best fits your specific business network application(s) …. I encourage you to take advantage of the free assistance offered via Ethernet Bandwidth Solutions

Michael is the owner of FreedomFire Communications … including Best Telecom Deals and Ethernet Bandwidth Solutions. Michael also authors Broadband Nation.

Corporate Telephone Answering Service

August 26th, 2010

by johnkinskey1

When the call volume in your office rises up unexpectedly, a corporate telephone answering service will help you manage the situation efficiently. Customer satisfaction contributes much to your business.  This phone service provided in integration with PBX phone systems manages all inbound and outbound calls in an office in a cost-efficient manner.

 An Able Substitute for a Live Receptionist

 Reliable customer care service is the driving force of any business establishment. A corporate telephone answering service ideally serves as an alternative for a live receptionist. All calls are handled in a professional manner. When calls are made to your office, you can engage your callers with pleasant music, greeting messages and interactive voice responses that would appeal to them and give them a sense of importance. If you are busy or not in a position to attend calls, these calls can be redirected to your voice mail boxes after effective communication with the callers. Since this unique answering service carries out all the functions of a live receptionist, you don’t need to appoint additional staff in your office.

 Impressive Call Management Features

 With a corporate telephone answering service, you can have 24/7 call answering service. You can manage calls, operate your business from anywhere and impress your callers, by making use of its advanced call management features which include:

  • Call recording for all calls
  • Live telephone answering
  • Call screening facility
  • Call forwarding
  • Facility to forward messages through SMS to your mobile or email
  • Voicemail services

 

Low Investment Features

 Corporate telephone answering service helps you save on the costs of employing live receptionists for attending calls. The cost involved in implementing this service is very low. Since the service is operated by the service providers, you can also enjoy considerable savings on the cost of maintaining expensive PBX equipment in your office.

 Corporate telephone answering service is scalable and can therefore meet the future demands of your expanding business.  This service can be efficiently integrated with local and toll free numbers.

BT Expands its Hosted IP Telephony Service to Business Customers in the U.S.

August 25th, 2010

By Vinti Vaid, TMCnet Contributor
BT announced the expansion of its hosted Internet Protocol telephony service to business customers in the U.S. 

The service uses BT (NewsAlert) and Cisco’s cloud computing-based technologies to bring converged voice, mobile and data services to every desktop in an organization. The service which was launched in 2009 has already seen success with several business organizations in the U.K.

Based on Cisco’s (NewsAlert) Hosted Unified Communications Services platform and BT’s Onevoice UCC portfolio, the service can be used by business organizations in reducing upfront investment costs if they are looking at adoption of unified communications on a global scale.

The hosted IP telephony is a collaborative offer based service. It has been designed for rapid deployment and the services can be extended to both large and small sites. Through these services, BT now offers its customers significant savings as well as operational predictability.

Robert F. Mason, principal research analyst at Gartner and author of Market Clock for Communications Services said that as a service, UC makes it possible to evaluate functionality and potential productivity benefits of a UC implementation without having to invest upfront for an on-premises solution.

BT and Cisco’s collaboration providing cloud-based unified communications system can help businesses reduce capital expenditure, enhance communication and introduce productivity enhancing tools says Neil Sutton, vice president, global portfolio, BT Global Services (NewsAlert). He added that the extension of their services to the U.S market was a milestone achievement for BT. 

Barry O’Sullivan (NewsAlert), senior vice president, Voice Technology Group, Cisco, noted that the company was excited about the potential and prospects that will rise as a result of the expansion of BT into new global markets. He further added that both BT and Cisco were partners in the unified vision of providing customers with flexible deployment models leading to reduction in costs while enhancing communications across any business organization.

BT Conferencing recently announced addition of Kontiki (NewsAlert) video platform.

Explaining The Types Of DS3 Bandwidth In Simple Easy To Understand Terms

August 20th, 2010

by FreedomFire Com

Too often the less informed confuse DS3 bandwidth with DSL when searching for a solution for their business’s voice/data network infrastructure.  This is especially true of a business without an inhouse IT specialist.  Since these broadband circuits are completely different … when searching for a DS3 network solution you need to understand what DS3 bandwidth means in simple terms you can relate to.

First, DS3 (or also called T3) has nothing to do with the service you plan to put over it. It is simply a 45 Megabit SONET Layer 1 protocol connection.   This just means you’re getting a lot of capability for your money.  In other words DS3 bandwidth brings more to the table … allowing your business to do much more (e.g. multi-media, video-conferencing).

The types of DS3 bandwidth you have available to you are ……

1. Full DS3 Bandwidth -

A DS3 line has 28 times the bandwidth of a T1 line (most common small line for businesses) …. so it will carry more traffic and deliver a faster response time when on your netowrk since you are not having to wait your turn as long with a T1.  It typically costs ten times the cost of a T1 depending on the location you want to install it.

Think of it as you have a car that can go 45 miles an hour.

2. Fractional DS3 Bandwidth -

A Fractional DS3 line has from 3-10 times the bandwidth of a T1.  But if you need to scale to 28 times …. it will not take much time to do so.  It will be a simple software change since the circuit has already been delivered. Fractional DS3 bandwidth obviously costs proportionally less than a full DS3 line.

Think of it as you have a car that can go 45 miles an hour …. but it has a governor set at 20. It’s easy to remove the governor, it just costs more money if you do.

3. Burstable DS3 Bandwidth -

A burstable DS3 line can provide up to 28 times the speed of a T1 …. but if you are bursting all of the time it will become more expensive than a full DS3 and you should upgrade.   A burstable DS3 line is cost effective if you need more than a T1 …. and only occassionally need up to a DS3.

Think of it as you have a car that can go 45 miles an hour …. and you pay extra for every mile an hour you drive over 20.

4. Point-To-Point DS3 Bandwidth -

A Point-To-Point DS3 line provides 28 T1’s worth of bandwidth between two offices (locations).   A point-to-point DS3 line is a very secure dedicated circuit.

Think of it as your car can go 45 miles an hour from Miami, Florida to Atlanta, Georgia and back. No where else. However there’s no traffic but you … and you can carry sensitive cargo without any concerns.

Now the above is a very basic explanation of the types of DS3 bandwidth you can choose from.  The details are much more technical … but at least you get the point.

If you want help deciding what type of DS3 bandwidth package best fits your specific business network application(s) …. I encourage you to take advantage of the free assistance offered via DS3 Bandwidth Solutions.

Michael is the owner of FreedomFire Communications …. including DS3 Bandwidth Solution.  Michael also authors Broadband Nation where you’re always welcome to drop in and catch up on the latest BroadBand news, tips, insights, and ramblings for the masses.