A look at what business telephone providers have offer to your business
Business telephone providers have a range of products and services that can significantly improve the operation of your small business.
Outside of their initial offering of helping you call customers, clients, and suppliers, business telephone providers can provide a range of specialist services – often very specific to your needs as a business owner.
Not just issuing physical handsets, software and accessories, a good phone provider will also manage the installation setup process – while offering valuable expertise and experience throughout the duration of your contract.
Understanding what your business telephone service provider includes is important. Do they offer packages? Do they have specific plans suitable to your business? Can they provide equipment and services that match your needs?
Business phone services
Once you’ve worked out what type of calls you likely be making, how often this will be, and where your phone will be located, you can start considering what business phone services will best suit you.
- Landline:Very self-explanatory, if your business chooses to solely use a landline for its calls, you’ll gain all the features you have on your home phone, but nothing more. Most home phones will allow you to make multiple calls at once, via the help of cloud-based conference call software. However, most providers will bill these as separate calls, so you’ll most likely incur high charges – particularly if some recipients are overseas.
- Business mobiles:Commonly referred to by business owners as their ‘work phone’, a business mobile is a regular mobile phone – but with all bills paid for by the business. An obvious benefit, particularly for a small firm, is that the phone can passed around between employees as and when they need it – and used outside of the office.
- Multi-line system:Also referred to as switchboard systems, multi-line systems allow you to condense multiple phone lines into a single device – allowing you make, receive and transfer multiple calls from a single desk. Very user-friendly, multi-line phone systems operate in the same way landlines do.
- Sip Trunk phones:Standing for session initiation protocol, Sip trunk phones allow you to make calls using your internet connection. Containing elements of VoIP, which we explain below, a SIP trunk connects your business to an internet telephony service provider (ITSP) and allows you to make multiple calls at once in a very cost-effective manner.
- VoIP phones:Once again, using your business’s internet connection to host calls rather than through traditional analog signals VoIP allows for both video and voice chat. A big benefit for businesses: calls are essentially free, even international ones, once your broadband or mobile data plans are paid for. Furthermore, VoIP can allow you to make calls to remote staff members via their notebook PCs or tablet. However, initial setup for VoIP can be expensive and calls to other businesses are only free if you’re both using the same provider.
Business phone services and features
Business phones require and offer a range of features to help your staff operate as effectively as possible. In the table below, you can find out a little bit about some of the features you might have included with your business phone system.
Automated call forwarding – Automatically transfer calls to your business phone to a different number at any location. Can be very useful if you are expecting an important call to your business but are out of the office or even on holidays.
Conferencing – Use conference calls to speak to people off-site, without issue. Conference calls can be popular for team meetings with off-site staff members or for calls between your sales team and relevant clients.
Automated attendant – Also known as a virtual receptionist, an automated attendant allows callers to be automatically transferred to an extension without the intervention of an operator – while also informing callers of how long they can expect to wait until their call is answered, what hours you are open for business, or even directions to your office.
Dashboard – A dashboard allows you to manage your office phone system from one unified interface or programme, with access for all staff, dependant on what their needs are. Some dashboards also allow you to integrate all your communication channels, so you have control over your voicemails, emails, SMS and fax messages at one touch point.
Voice to email – Converting voicemails into a readable email that gets sent straight to your inbox, this feature allows you to sort and scan through missed calls and voicemails at a quicker rate than simply listening to each message individually
Call logging – Helps you to collect and correlate information from all the calls you receive or make, known as meta-data, which you can then use to help fine-tune customer services, anticipate consumer demand during certain periods, or evaluate various sections of your business
Hunt group – Much like the automated call forwarding feature, in a hunt group, inbound calls are configured so that a group of local extensions ring in unison. Should no one answer from this group, the call is quickly routed to the next free extension until the call is answered. This feature is particularly useful for when you’re waiting on important sales or customer service enquiries or even a client call
Call barring – A standard feature, even on most household appliances, call barring allows you to block numbers from being dialled – as well as blocking numbers from calling you. A good use of this feature might be to block cold calling businesses who are continuously pestering you
Auto dialler – Popular with telemarketers and call centres, auto dialers are used to call multiple numbers at much. Normally this is accompanied by an automated voice which will give the receiver various options to select. If the receiver agrees to press a suggested number, they will normally be then put through to an actual sales or customer service rep.
Headset-enabled – Allowing you work hands-free, provided you have an appropriate headset, headset-enabled phones are a must for sales staff or those in customer services
Microphone muting – Important in a number of situations, muting your microphone so the person on the other end can’t hear you can allow you to delegate in private during a conference call.
Hold music –Although a source of irritation for many consumers, studies actually show that when a customer is put on hold, they are less likely to hang up if they are greeted by music rather than silence. For this reason, many businesses choose to play ‘hold music’.
Though many people do not know it, there are three variations of the phone line that a business phone provider can offer.
- POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) lines– Sometimes referred to as the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), these traditional analogue lines let users make or receive one call at a time and provide very basic features such as caller ID and call diversion. Less common in business environments, this option is the same as those used in houses before the introduction of more advanced lines such as a DLS line.
- ISDN2– Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) lines allow for two channels to be used at the same time and also allows for data and voice to be transmitted simultaneously. Sometimes referred to as Basic Rate Interface (BRI), ISDN2 lines generally offer higher quality than POTS.
- ISDN30– ISDN30 lines have eight channels available through a single cable, significantly improving on both options above. ISDN30 lines offer higher quality than POTS and also help businesses to save space by reducing the number of lines required in total.
- SIP/VoIP– As mentioned above, SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and is the line type for connecting Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to a phone system – allowing video and voice calls to be made over the internet.
Business phone lines, while often overlooked in lieu of the hardware, handsets and accessories are integral and essential in any telephone system. Understanding what your business needs, and what providers can offer, is incredibly important.
Major components of a VOIP Phone
A VoIP phone is designed to take full advantage of VoIP services and features. Traditional desk phones can provide some of the functionality when used with an adapter that converts the phone’s analog signals to a digital format suitable for VoIP.
VoIP phones incorporate software that supports a range of calling, productivity, and collaboration features, a display to show status or access features, a keypad for making calls or accessing features, and a handset. To enable the VoIP service, the phone uses a set of VoIP protocols and voice codecs, and incorporates a link to the internal network.
Screens for information and access
The screen on a VoIP phone provides you with useful information about the services and features you are currently using. Screen size, quality, and functionality varies with the model you have.
A basic grayscale screen provides status information on your services. It indicates the features you are using, shows the number you are calling and allows you to read communications such as instant messages or emails if your system supports unified messaging.
Phones with larger color displays make it possible to participate in video conferences or view multimedia information.
Top of the range models with large, high-resolution color touchscreens improve conferencing and multimedia quality and give you interactive access to your VoIP services and features.
Keypads you can program
The keypad on a VoIP phone includes traditional alphanumeric keys for making calls. It also includes fixed keys for accessing different VoIP features and may include programmable softkeys that you can use to customize your phone and improve productivity.
Some top of the range models incorporate HTML toolkits that help you develop applications for your phone using softkeys and a touchscreen.
Software for your VoIP services
The software in a VoIP phone provides the features and services available from your service provider. Depending on the version you have, your phone could include features such as Presence, unified messaging, instant messaging, video conferencing and Follow me, as well as standard features like voicemail, three-way calling, and call management tools.
Handsets and headphones for clear calling
Like traditional deskphones, a VoIP phone gives you the option of handling a call using a handset or, for hands-free calls, an integral microphone and speaker or a headset plugged into the phone.
The method you choose depends on the phone’s call quality and the noise level in the surrounding environment.
VoIP phones are available with call quality that goes up to hi-fi wideband sound for extreme call clarity. If you work in a noisy environment or need to take a high volume of hands-free calls, you may prefer a headset that incorporates noise reduction facilities.
Protocols and codecs to make the connections
VoIP is a digital service. To convert your voice into a digital signal that can be transmitted over an IP network, VoIP uses audio codecs, software programs that encode and decode outgoing and incoming signals. Call quality depends on many factors, but the choice of codec is one of them.
VoIP phones also support different protocols that determine how the voice signals are transmitted over an IP network. The most popular protocol is SIP – Session Initiation Protocol.
A VoIP phone connects to the internal network using a removable Ethernet cable. Compared to analog deskphones that require fixed connections to the internal network, a VoIP is more flexible. You can plug your phone into any network connection anywhere in the building and access the same set of VoIP services.
A Complete Guide for selecting Industry specific Communications Solutions
What is communication? Let’s look at the importance of regular and proper interaction amongst the internal workers in an organisation. Since the time, humans were labelled as storytellers; people know that internal communication spells success for any industry. It is apparent that from writing letters to sending text messages; the tools and meaning of communication have received tremendous modifications. While talking about the communication devices, technology has developed from Analog to VoIP. The shifts have also changed the way entrepreneurs have to channelize budgets for investing in communication solutions.
Increasing utilization of VoIP technology has improved access to different communicating modes. By installing in an EPABX, enterprises can consolidate these and help employees minimize the struggle of working through multiple channels. Besides this, there are many facilities that any communication solution is designed to deliver.
Each feature has different application in every industry. Therefore, businesses have to be careful when looking for an office telephone system.
- Real Estate: The developers have to offer impeccable services to their clients for building a loyal customer base in this era of fierce competition. They have to get personally involved in all the aspects of property whether it is selecting the construction venue or deciding interiors of houses. They have different tasks to handle and at the same time they have to remain constantly connected with their customers as well. For smooth management of all the activities, realtors should invest in a hybrid communication solution that offers mobility and access to different trunks. The real estate developers can use the communication solution to send text as well as picture messages for promoting their properties and amenities amongst hopeful clients.
- Travel and Tourism: Since the demand of travelers keep on changing with time, agents need to keep themselves updated regarding the trends. They need to remain constantly connected with each other for discussing ways to offer enhanced experience to their clients. Tourists carry good reputation of the agency if they get to talk with the same agent every time. The agency owners can eliminate customers’ need of repeating their requirements by investing in EPABX telephone system that routes the call on basis of previous interactions. By using sequential ringing and group ringing feature of the PBX, the authorities can weave an improvised experience for their clients. Purchasing a PABX with a recording capability can help the authorities keep a track of the conversations and ensure quality of offered services.
- Hospitality: Hospitality is one of the most dynamic industries services are constantly evaluated on parameters of promptness and precision. To rest assured that the guests are served well, authorities need to build different departments which can take care of different aspects. The receptionists have to manage multiple tasks along with handling and transferring numerous calls to desired extensions. The hotel is also judged on its aesthetic value therefore, hoteliers need to invest in a solution that offers wireless connectivity between rooms and departments and consumes minimal space.
- Retail: Like hospitality, there are different departments in retail center where internal communication plays a critical role in ensuring proper supply chain management. The employees have to remain on move for promotion of their products and services. For retailers with branches across the globe, uninterrupted flow of information between offices and headquarter is important. To fulfill all the needs, authorities can invest in EPABX telephony system which brings different premises on the same IP network and is equipped with redundant power supply and processing units.
Talk the Talk: Moving your Business Mountains!
Make the mountains move
Communication makes mountains move, and businesses learn this fact over time. Embrace VoIP systems, because moving your business mountains becomes much easier with these systems by your side.
Insurmountable cost-per-call benefits :
Almost every business decision can be tilted in either direction by bringing in the cost equation. In the case of evaluating VoIP phones for your business, the cost factor will help you get the budget you want for the procurements and installations. That’s because the cost-per-call for VoIP phones is less than other alternatives for business.
- VoIP technology doesn’t come under the ambit of regular tariff rules such as those for GSM and landlines.
- VoIP service providers also don’t have to pay the kind of taxes that regular telephony service providers need to pay, which helps them offer their services at lower costs.
- Plus, interconnection charges are not a part of the pricing equation for VoIP, unlike traditional telephony. All these factors accumulate into significant cost cuttings on telephony costs per month.
And since remote voice communication is going to be there as long as your business, it’s worth spending upfront to benefit from the lifetime cost savings.
Quick, low-cost communication
Mobility is an enabler of success for businesses; ask any entrepreneur! Many businesspersons need to travel to leverage business opportunities, and that’s where the need for low-cost, always accessible, and reliable telephony systems that enable them to contact employees, customers, investors, or anyone in any corner of the world without worrying about costs becomes crucial. VoIP systems offer this flexibility, apart from a ton of other benefits.
- Companies can even change offices without having to worry about procuring new telephony lines or sharing new telephone numbers with clients if they invest in VoIPs.
- Anybody can log into the VoIP system and start using the telephone service just using a broadband connection.
- As long as you have Internet access, you can use your office VoIP systems for low-cost calling across the globe.
The flexibility offered by VoIP services is absolutely amazing and makes them totally incomparable to traditional telephone systems.
- VoIP systems allow you to use your conventional phone with the help of devices known as VoIP telephone adapters or VoIP converters.
- These converters look just like routine USB drives and can be plugged into computers.
- Once done, these devices start converting signals from analog phones into digital format and transmit them to any corner of the world using the Internet.
Of course, the one caveat is that the computer needs to be switched on for this functionality. This avenue enables businesses that have already invested heavily in analog telephone systems, and wish to continue using the hardware to offset the depreciation of the assets for some years.
Also, VoIP systems help you acquire a unique personal VoIP number. This number is all you need to be able to use low-cost, and reliable telephone services from any place in the world, as long as you have high-speed Internet.
Enabler of integration with the enterprise’s digital assets
Because VoIP telephones use the Internet for sending and receiving digitized voice data, they can be integrated with many other communication and data-management systems. This can deliver massive business benefits. For instance, consider a case where the VoIP system is integrated with a CRM system.
The result — whenever an old customer calls, the integrated system will link the contact number with the recent order history of the customer, enabling the CSR to suggest products with a high likelihood of being purchased. This is just one example; there is no end to the kind of useful system integrations that can be achieved by linking the VoIP system with other systems.
This can help the customer out, too, since it saves them time because the person they are speaking with understands them more.
Video calling and teleconferencing without additional costs
VoIP systems, even though the nomenclature suggests otherwise, can be used for a lot more than voice data transmission. For instance, video conferencing can be enabled using VoIP systems with complementary camera hardware. This can significantly improve the quality of communication your employees have with your customers, vendors, and among themselves.
Also, conference calls using VoIP are much more convenient and effective than otherwise. That’s because VoIP uses a converged network; this makes such systems perfect for handling multiple callers at the same time. For businesses that need several telecommuting workers to be on daily calls, these functionalities make VoIPs a must-have instead of a mere nice-to-have.
Other stellar benefits of VoIP systems
That is right – there are several other benefits of VoIP that make them the perfect choice for any office, irrespective of the scale or purpose.
- It’s super easy to scale up VoIP telephony infrastructure in your company, should the need arrive.
- Maintenance of existing VoIP infrastructure is inexpensive and easy to manage.
- With bare minimum wiring requirements, VoIP makes the modern office look “good,” because there’s no need to have traditional telephony cables crawling everywhere.
- Modern VoIP systems come with dedicated apps that add considerable value to the communications experience.
- With additional plugins that bolster sound quality, enable meeting recording, and provide screen-sharing capabilities, VoIP makes a strong case as a communications platform for businesses.
Cloud telephony will be the next big thing to invest in 2018
With the presence of various technological solutions, businesses now have more prospects to reach out to the customers. Cloud telephony has been the most powerful tool of this century. Most of the businesses are using this technology to organize its in-house processes and customer experience simultaneously. This further enhances the connectivity between a buyer and a seller by breaking down the location barriers.
As a consumer, we have not yet realized how cloud telephony is being used in our daily life. From using GPS navigation to exchanging data internally in the company or even scheduling meeting online. Gradually, cloud telephony is penetrating into the general public life as well.
Easy to use cloud telephony technology has replaced the traditional PBX or EPABX and has shifted the telephone system over cloud. It is going to see steep growth in Indian market in the coming years. Cloud telephony will be the next big thing to invest in and will emerge as the most demanded SAAS platform.
Given below are the key trends to look out in 2018 in cloud telephony sector.
1) Language-based Technology
India has a diversified culture. Each region has its own native language. Communication is one medium which bridges the gap between different culture and brings people closer to each other. With the enhancement in technology, now, it is possible to have a multilingual communication system. Indian language based recognition speech technology has evolved over the years. Due to this, Indian businesses are exposed to customised telephony experience which has been fruitful for their growth. Technology has further enhanced the text to speech, speech to text for Indian languages in recent years. Leading cloud services providers like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have launched speech recognition technologies for Indian languages on their cloud platforms. Cloud Telephony will provide better language support, features and functionalities in the coming years.
2) Future holds in hands of Voice Bots
There has been a paradigm shift in technology. We have seen people using transistors, then landline phones, mobile phones and now everything is on cloud. Both the individual users and the businesses have witnessed this change. With the increasing penetration of mobile phones, voice bots have already come into existence at consumer level. With such advancements, voice bots will become a reality for businesses but would be limited to high volume operational processes. Talking bots will save a lot of man hours for businesses and hence reduce the cost drastically.
3) Analytics is the key
Digital marketing has increased the horizon of marketing for all businesses. With the onset of voice bots, automated chats and voice analytics which includes keyword analysis, emotion analysis will also drive attention of all business segments. Voice analytics usage would be limited to enterprises and mid-enterprise market due to increased demand of consumers. Voice Analytics will also help businesses streamline the audit process.
4) Important SaaS tool
Cloud telephony is scalable in nature. They are easy to integrate with other SaaS tools. The costs and efforts associated with the upgrades are lower than the traditional model that usually forces the user to buy an upgrade package and install it, or pay for specialized services to get the environment upgraded. Therefore, cloud telephony will be the most significant and efficient SaaS tool for any business in India.
5) Sector Agonist
Cloud telephony is one platform that serves all businesses irrespective of their nature, to have seamless inbound and outbound communication process. In today’s scenario, E-commerce sectors, banking and telecoms’ customer care is driven with the help of IVRs which is a byproduct of cloud telephony. Institutional and governance sector is using toll numbers to reach millions of audience hassle free. Therefore, cloud telephony is serving as a sector agonist tool, thereby driving rapid business growth.
Advancement and adaptation of technology among people have raised the bar of businesses in India.Cloud telephony serves as a central platform to all businesses. The awareness and growth of cloud telephony has increased significantly in the recent times. Its demand is not only restricted to enterprise sector now, but has evolved around small and medium businesses as well.
How much value Collaboration solutions add to your workplace?
Collaboration has undergone a major change since it moved out of the boardroom. It’s more democratic, available and affordable for every employee. It’s accessible from any location on any desktop or mobile device. And, it’s becoming an integral part of the workplace of the future.
Collaboration is successful when employees throughout the organization are able to easily interact, participate in projects, share ideas, and provide feedback to colleagues. To support this, they need easy-to-use channels of communication and a quality experience when they collaborate. That helps build a collaborative environment by engaging people and showing how collaboration can transform working practices.
While solutions like VoIP and Unified Communications (UC) offer many important collaboration features and services, it’s important to focus on how those features help employees to do their work more efficiently.
Recent findings from Avaya, including the Team Engagement Solution Survey, offer some useful insights. The survey helps to identify how much value collaboration solutions add and where they need to change.
Email lives on
One question produced surprising results. When businesses were asked which collaboration solution was most important for enabling employees to get work done, email topped the list at 91 percent.
Office suites at 47 percent were ahead of web conferencing at 38 percent and instant messaging at 35 percent. Respondents also ranked email as the top solution for ease of use at 83 percent with instant messaging not too far behind at 67 percent.
Although email is frequently written off as a solution of the past, the survey indicates that it remains an important part of the collaboration process.
Integration is essential
There was a strong indication from businesses that integration of communication and collaboration tools is important. In fact, 90 percent agreed it was important.
When asked about the importance of integrating collaboration tools with business applications such as customer relationship management (CRM) or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, 78 percent of respondents were in favor.
However, opinion was divided over whether different types of collaboration tool work well together. For example, 51 percent of respondents felt that instant messaging and web conferencing were well integrated, while 49 percent felt they didn’t work together.
Collaboration solutions need more
The survey also asked businesses about their “wish lists” for collaboration. The most popular “must have” was a feature that supports screen sharing. That resonated with 95 percent of respondents.
Close behind with 92 percent was a solution that allows users to schedule meetings from their calendar apps. Integration with productivity tools like Microsoft Office or Google Docs was popular with 77 percent of respondents.
User experience improves ROI
The emphasis on driving team engagement through the right collaboration tools has a positive impact on ROI, according to Avaya. 52 percent of engaged employees say that work brings out their most creative ideas, helping to increase innovation and drive future growth.
The most-engaged workplaces experience 18 percent higher productivity and 12 percent higher profitability. Highly engaged employees are 87 percent less likely to leave, reducing recruitment costs and retaining skills and knowledge.
Security threats in VOIP!
With every new communication tool comes certain threats and VoIP is no different. While using VoIP has far more benefits that it does risks, it is important to be aware of the risks that do exist. Whether you are a long time VoIP user or thinking about moving to the system, having a good understanding of what to expect can protect your business. So what VoIP threats exist?
Identity and service theft
Service theft can be exemplified by phreaking, which is a type of hacking that steals service from a service provider, or use service while passing the cost to another person. Encryption is not very common in SIP, which controls authentication over VoIP calls, so user credentials are vulnerable to theft.
Most hackers steal credentials and other information. Through eavesdropping, a third party can obtain names, password and phone numbers, allowing them to gain control over voicemail, calling plan, call forwarding and billing information. This subsequently leads to service theft. Stealing credentials to make calls without paying is not the only reason behind identity theft. Many people do it to get important information like business data.
A phreaker can change calling plans and packages and add more credit or make calls using the victim’s account.
He can of course as well access confidential elements like voice mail, do personal things like change a call forwarding number.
Vishing is another word for VoIP Phishing, which involves a party calling you faking a trustworthy organization (e.g. your bank) and requesting confidential and often critical information.
Viruses and malware
VoIP utilization involving soft phones and software are vulnerable to worms, viruses and malware, just like any Internet application. Since these softphone applications run on user systems like PCs and PDAs, they are exposed and vulnerable to malicious code attacks in voice applications.
DoS (Denial of Service)
A DoS attack is an attack on a network or device denying it of a service or connectivity. It can be done by consuming its bandwidth or overloading the network or the device’s internal resources.
In VoIP, DoS attacks can be carried out by flooding a target with unnecessary SIP call-signaling messages, thereby degrading the service. This causes calls to drop prematurely and halts call processing.
Why would someone launch a DoS attack? Once the target is denied of the service and ceases operating, the attacker can get remote control of the administrative facilities of the system.
SPIT (Spamming over Internet Telephony)
If you use email regularly, then you must know what spamming is. Put simply, spamming is actually sending emails to people against their will. These emails consist mainly of online sales calls. Spamming in VoIP is not very common yet, but is starting to be, especially with the emergence of VoIP as an industrial tool.
Every VoIP account has an associated IP address. It is easy for spammers to send their messages (voicemails) to thousands of IP addresses. Voice mailing as a result will suffer. With spamming, voicemails will be clogged and more space as well as better voicemail management tools will be required. Moreover, spam messages can carry viruses and spyware along with them.
This brings us to another flavour of SPIT, which is phishing over VoIP. Phishing attacks consist of sending a voicemail to a person, masquerading it with information from a party trustworthy to the receiver, like a bank or online paying service, making him think he is safe.
The voicemail usually asks for confidential data like passwords or credit card numbers. You can imagine the rest!
Call tampering is an attack which involves tampering a phone call in progress. For example, the attacker can simply spoil the quality of the call by injecting noise packets in the communication stream. He can also withhold the delivery of packets so that the communication becomes spotty and the participants encounter long periods of silence during the call.
VoIP is particularly vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, in which the attacker intercepts call-signaling SIP message traffic and masquerades as the calling party to the called party, or vice versa. Once the attacker has gained this position, he can hijack calls via a redirection server.