Wavelink Blog

Eliminating The Cost Of Downtime With Virtualisation

One of the major challenges companies face is attempting to reduce downtime, in addition to finding a reliable and inexpensive method to handle disaster recovery.  This challenge comes with good reason.  The average cost per minute of unplanned downtime for a company is over $7900!  This number grows significantly with the size of the organization.  Fortune 1000 companies face over $100,000 per hour of infrastructure downtime.  This number doesn’t take into account the damage that can be done to your brand due to disappointed customers and bad press.

Phone system vendors have developed different technologies such as redundant hardware, cold spares, warm and hot fail-over systems, N+1 redundancy, and more.  Within these options, companies can typically find a method that is sufficient for them, but they often come with a steep price and complexities that make them almost unusable.

There is one method of reducing downtime that seems to stand above the rest, and that is virtualization.  If your company virtualizes its IT infrastructure, you understand how it brings high availability and reliability.  For those who don’t, here’s a little about how it works.

What is Virtualization

Virtualization has fundamentally changed the way IT departments deploy systems.  In the past, IT departments would deploy individual hardware servers for each application.  Virtualization allows companies to now deploy one powerful server with virtualization software and allows that server to run multiple operating systems and applications simultaneously.  Virtualization software organizes and controls the different applications (often called instances) and allows administrators to determine the amount of resources allocated to each instance.  Common applications that are virtualized include file servers, SQL databases, Microsoft Exchange servers and SAP or CRMs.

How Virtualization Reduces Downtime

Virtualization platforms like VMware® provide features including live migration, high-availability, and storage migration, all of which keep applications running in the event of a hardware failure. These features create an environment where two physical servers act as one, allowing communications applications to migrate between servers automatically and seamlessly.  These native features to a virtualization platform help companies meet their up-time goals, and do so without the complexity and cost of multiple vendor-specific servers.

Another advantage that virtualization delivers is the ability to create a private infrastructure to assist in disaster recovery.  With a private cloud infrastructure, redundant virtual servers can be placed in an off-site data center, allowing systems to be accessed in the event of a weather-related outage, power outage, or any other unforeseen event that occurs at the main office.  Private cloud lets IT manage those off-site servers in the same way it manages in-house servers, and systems can be migrated on and off-site as necessary.

To see more about how Switchvox and VMware can deliver a reliable communications experience to your company and the other virtualization benefits, check out this video.

7 Ways Technology Can Increase Productivity

technology and productivity

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are constantly looking to new technology to create a workforce that is more productive, more efficient, and more innovative. In addition, the rising trend of remote workers has led to an increased demand for on-demand data: data that is accessible at any time, from anywhere. David Klein, Director of Marketing for the timesheet management software ClickTime, defines productivity as “the strategic alignment of vision, focus, and technology.” Identifying technology solutions that unlock these attributes and enable true productivity, all while staying under budget, is a goal of all SMBs. Here are some ways today’s technologies help increase the productivity of your business:

  1. Connect dispersed workforces. As in-house staff levels contract and the mobile workforce expands, businesses are making due with a smaller physical office spaces. More and more companies are giving their employees the option to work offsite, allowing them to save money on the overhead required to maintain large workspaces. This option also allows hiring managers to cast a wider net into the talent pool, increasing the odds of finding a well-qualified candidate. Productive employees need instant access to business information, data, and their team; mobile-friendly technologies are a sure-fire way to provide that.
  2. Enable collaboration tools. Collaboration is essential to business, but employees don’t have to be in adjoining cubicles to achieve it. With the abundance of free applications like Google’s cloud-based suite of products, staff members working from remote locations can collaborate and share documents easily. Custom cloud solutions offer more robust solutions with greater security for sensitive data. UC systems allow for various types of communication- so you can choose which would be the most effective: a phone call, an instant message, a conference session, or video chat. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems like Salesforce, Zoho or Insightly allow your sales team to save time by keeping track of the status of a prospect in one shared location. These solutions increase consistency in your customer relations, which, in turn, increase productivity and profitability.
  3. Get organized. Countless hours can be wasted searching through spreadsheets for information stored in large data sets, some of which are only accessible via desktop. Investing in a database system that allows your staff to easily add and access data pays for itself in efficiencies. For example, a cloud-based time tracking software such as ClickTime allows on-the-road employees to keep track of their hours, mileage, and expenses, all in one place. Tracking solutions such as these keep the mundane yet critical information accurate and in one place, which helps managers, employees, and clients remain compliant, well-informed, and productive.
  4. Be reachable. Make sure your remote employees are armed with updated mobile devices and the support solutions to keep them connected. A missed call can mean a missed business opportunity. Invest in a business phone system with UC so you can take advantage of the features that keep you connected. Voicemail to email, find-me-follow-me, softphones, and work caller ID are all features that ensure employees never miss an opportunity, all while maintaining a consistent level of professionalism.
  5. Know your painpoints. Make a careful assessment of your company’s greatest productivity challenges. For example, dealing with slow or obsolete technology or throttled Internet bandwidth can slow down even the most productive employees. Develop a plan to proactively upgrade hardware and software on a regular basis before it slows you down and breaks the budget.
  6. Explore virtualization. Extend the lifespan of older desktop computers by virtualizing operating systems on offsite servers. Virtualization helps lower hardware maintenance costs and capital expenditures by reducing the frequency of required upgrades, in addition to saving costs on service upkeep. If you already have a virtualized environment, add things such as your phone system to it to save even more and increase business redundancy. It’s hard to be productive during a power outage, and downtime is expensive, so having a virtual copy of your infrastructure can get your team back up and running instantly.
  7. Trust the experts. Instead of attempting to be the jack-of-all-trades around the office, be the master of one: managing your business. All kinds of services and processes can be outsourced, but as a general rule of thumb, anything outside of your scope of expertise or anything that can’t be automated should be outsourced. Keep yourself and your employees focused on the job you hired them to do and trust the experts to handle things that are over your head or out of your control.

Improve Your Company’s Customer Experience with Switchvox 6.2

Customer Service Switchvox 6.2

There is nothing more important to a company than the customer experience it delivers.  How a customer interacts with company employees and systems can make or break sales and has a direct effect on revenue and profit for that organization.  When executed well, a quality customer experience can ensure a lasting relationship with a customer and increase revenue.

With this idea in mind, we are extremely excited to announce Switchvox 6.2, the latest release of our award-winning business phone system.  Switchvox 6.2 focuses on helping your company deliver the best customer experience possible with:

  • New multimedia chat and screen-sharing
  • A new wallboard for contact centers
  • Advanced queue call control
  • Guided Tours that can help you navigate through the setup and new features.

Let’s take a closer look at Switchvox 6.2 and see how these new features work!

To see Switchvox 6.2 in action, sign up for our live demo and see for yourself how Switchvox can change the way your company communicates.

The Key to Seasonal Business Success: Increase Revenue & Decrease Costs

Father And Son Harvesting Vegetables from family greenhouse. In foreground is a wooden box with tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.

All businesses deal with two types of costs: fixed costs and variable costs. A fixed cost is constant; it’s an operational expense that isn’t influenced by how your business is doing, how much you are selling, or whether or not your doors are open. Examples of fixed costs include building rent, equipment purchases, and salaried employees. On the other hand, a variable cost fluctuates and incurs as sales are made. Examples of variable costs include materials, utilities, and hourly employees. For a seasonal business to be profitable year-round, two things need to happen: costs need to decrease and revenue needs to increase.

Increase Revenue: Expand Your Season

Businesses with seasonal offerings can extend their selling season by getting creative with their product and services. For example, a shaved ice company could offer coffee and hot cocoa during the winter months to maintain relationships with customers and increase sales in the off-season. Lawn care businesses could offer tree removal or gutter cleaning services in the fall and winter months, without having to invest in additional tools or materials. By utilizing the skills and materials you already have, you can extend your selling season and increase profits. Another option is to partner up with a complementary business and gain exposure through cross-promotion. Think of a real estate agent sharing an advertisement with an interior decorator, a bed and breakfast and a local activity center offering each others’ guests discounts, or a children’s museum sponsoring an early intervention program. Partnering up can be mutually beneficial in that it increases your exposure to groups that are more likely to be interested in your business- more likely to buy.

Increase Revenue: Market in the Off-Season

Just because your doors shut at the end of the season doesn’t mean your marketing efforts should come to a halt. Stay in touch with customers throughout the year so you are fresh on their mind when your doors open back up. Here are a few ideas:

  • Promote clearance and sale items on your website to clear up old inventory and make room for new products. Everyone loves a “Christmas in July” 50% off sale!
  • Send your product to a popular blogger and ask for an honest review. If it’s a positive one, share it on your social media and add that blogger to your network- personal referrals are the most influential marketing tool
  • Start blogging! Blogging establishes you as a thought leader, and provides useful content for you to share within your network
  • Take the time off to network and discover new communities that could benefit from your products or services
  • Ensure your website and social media profiles are up to date

Decrease Costs: Consider Staffing

For many businesses, payroll is one of the largest expenses. Deciding how to staff with a seasonal business can be tricky, as the debate between salaried and hourly employees depends on several factors, including length of season, budget, business needs, and employment laws. While a salaried employee may be an expensive fixed cost for you, it might end up being less expensive when compared to training an entirely new group of employees every season. Compare the costs to see where you can make cuts. Make sure to stay on top of important issues surrounding full-time and temporary employment regulations and developments surrounding the minimum wage in your area.

Decrease Costs: Outsource

Outsourcing is a great way to save on costs, especially for businesses that are only operational for a portion of the year (no need to pay for yearly services if you’re only open for three months!). Practically anything can be outsourced, but as a general rule of thumb, anything outside of your scope of expertise and/or anything that can’t be automated should be outsourced. For example, moving your business phone system to VoIP can save your business up to 70% off your monthly communications costs, and since you only pay for what you use, it’s the perfect solution for seasonal businesses. If your IT guy isn’t knowledgeable in VoIP technology- outsource the responsibility and go with a hosted solution. By handing over responsibility to the experts, you can save money, sleep easier at night, and focus on tasks that are core to your business.

Adjusting staffing and outsourcing technologies can significantly reduce business costs as well as the headaches that come along with managing everything by yourself. Cross-promotion and expanding your selling season by differentiating your products and services can increase sales and open the door to several new possibilities for your business. The right balance of revenue-generating and cost-cutting strategies can help a seasonal business achieve year-round success.

Learn more about how a hosted VoIP phone system can save your business money in the off-season

How the CTO’s Role Impacts Digium’s Customers and Partners

How smart school technology can improve your learning environment

A smart school is a school that uses the Internet of Things and other technologies to develop an interactive and modern learning environment. This includes the use of devices such as interactive smart boards, wearables, eBooks and tablets, collaborative classrooms, smart lighting and HVAC and video/motion trackers.

A survey conducted by Extreme Networks1, with more than 600 primary, secondary, and higher education IT managers, revealed that 46 per cent of participants believe smart schools will have a major impact on the education system over the next one to two years. However, the Extreme Networks infographic shows only nine per cent have implemented parts of a smart school plan, and three per cent plans to do so in the next one to three years.

Read More

Bringing Enterprise-level Technology to Small Business

enterprise technology for small businesses

Throughout history, there has been a significant difference in the quality of technology available for large, enterprise companies compared to small businesses.  New, feature-rich, cutting edge technology systems were reserved for the larger enterprise because they could afford them financially and had the technical staff available to manage them.  Small businesses were forced to settle for older, scaled-down versions of these systems since they didn’t have the funds to purchase the more advanced systems and could not afford to pay someone to support them even if they did.

Over the past few years, several new technologies and factors have created a major change in what is available to smaller organizations.  Cloud computing, open source options and user-friendly user interfaces have made even the most historically complex and costly systems, including operating systems, email platforms, CRMs and more, affordable and easy to use.  The Unified Communications (UC) industry is a perfect example of this paradigm shift.  Let’s take a closer look at a few of the drivers that are bringing advanced phone systems to the small business.

Open Source

For the second half of the 20th century, the business phone systems industry was dominated by a couple of large companies making and selling costly and complex systems.  A couple of large corporations, dominated by Nortel, used almost entirely proprietary technology, making it difficult for smaller phone vendors to break into the market and kept prices high.  Small businesses were priced out and were forced to settle for residential communications features.

In the late 1990’s, Mark Spencer invented an open-source phone system platform called Asterisk that completely disrupted the communications industry and changed phone systems forever.  Companies, led by Spencer’s own, Digium, used Asterisk to bring advanced phone system technologies like IVRs, queues, and advanced call routing to companies of all sizes.   To this day, Asterisk-based phone systems like Switchvox are allowing small and medium businesses to take advantage of features that were previously reserved for the enterprise.

OpEx Pricing Models

Cloud-based phone systems have been a major driver in making advanced phone systems available to everyone.  One of the major reasons cloud has been such a key driver is the fact that cloud-based phone systems use an OpEx pricing model as opposed to requiring CapEx funds to purchase a system.   It can be very difficult for a 20-person company to come up with tens of thousands of dollars in cash to purchase a new phone system outright, but it is often easy for them to spend a few hundred dollars a month for all the modern phone system features and service options they need.   With cloud, small businesses can now afford enterprise phone systems.

The Cloud Effect on IT

Cloud also solves the challenge that small businesses face when it comes to having IT resources to manage complex systems.  Cloud systems are managed by the vendor and take the vast majority of the work and worry out of the hands of the small business.  Now small organizations can continue to focus on what they do well to solve problems for their customers and not worry about having to support a phone system.

Simple UI

Another challenge that prevented small businesses from using advanced phone systems was they were just too difficult to use.  Even if the small business had a resource to manage a system, they didn’t often have the specific coding and telephony expertise to setup the system to be usable for the staff.  Modern systems like Switchvox use simple, web-based user and administrative portals with no scripting or coding, allowing companies of all sizes and technical know how to setup and use advanced communications features.

Switchvox is a great example of a system designed to deliver enterprise level features for the small and medium business.  See for yourself how Switchvox can solve your communications problems at a price you can afford.  Sign up for a live demo of Switchvox today!

Current Issues with Faxing and IP Technolgy

BYOD, CYOD, or COPE? Which Mobile Model Should Your Business Choose?

New Panorama

Mobility isn’t just a fad, it’s a firm reality in the modern workplace. BYOD or “bring your own device” was coined in 2005, but went into use in 2009, when Intel realized employees were bringing their own devices into the workplace and connecting them to company data. Many companies were not properly prepared for the challenges BYOD posed for IT and management, so its popularity took a slight dive as security breaches and legal implications became a real threat. Eventually, companies morphed the fine print, fine-tuned the budget, and came up with two additional mobile options: CYOD (choose your own device) and COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled).

Here are the three mobile-models for the workplace, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each.

BYOD (bring your own device)

In this environment, employees assume full responsibility for choosing and purchasing the device(s) they want to use for work. This is a popular choice for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) on a budget, and is a better option for companies that deal with less sensitive data.

Advantages: Lowest hardware and service costs, fastest deployment time, minimum wireless carrier management requirements, most convenient option for employees.

Disadvantages: Higher configuration costs, difficult to enforce security (leading to enhanced legal implications), more complex support definitions.

CYOD (choose your own device)

This model has emerged as a direct result of BYOD. Many companies’ IT departments have trouble managing the software, hardware, and possible security breaches caused by the multitude of employee devices in the workplace. With the CYOD model, employees choose from a limited selection of approved, corporate-liable devices with the pre-configured security and control that IT needs to protect company data. Similar to BYOD, the employee is responsible for purchasing the device, but the company usually owns the SIM and the legal rights to the data.

Advantages: Streamlined support and easier management, convenient option for employees, IT control over applications and remote-wipe capabilities, more secure option, lower upfront costs for business when compared to COPE.

Disadvantages: Less employee freedom with device choice, slower deployment than BYOD, less defined responsibilities for hardware repair, more up-front costs for businesses when compared to BYOD.

COPE (corporate owned, personally enabled)

This is the most expensive yet most secure option for companies. With COPE, employees are supplied a phone chosen and paid for by the company, but they may use the device for personal tasks in addition to work. The main difference between this model and CYOD is tighter legal control (searching the device for intellectual properly theft is more straightforward), and corporate discounts on the devices and usage plans.

Advantages: Ultimate IT control and authority of devices, best option for companies with heavy compliance or security requirements, low to no cost for employees, sizable corporate discounts are available.

Disadvantages: Less freedom on devices, business is fully responsible for maintaining and monitoring, detailed usage policies must be implemented, highest cost of all models, slowest deployment time frame.

Bottom Line

BYOD, CYOD, and COPE each have advantages and disadvantages within the workplace, and every business has varying needs as far as security, costs, and resources are concerned. Gartner predicts that by 2017, half of employers will require employees to supply their own devices. For the other half, CYOD and COPE offer a realistic option for meeting those essential mobility needs. Whichever way you decide to go, make sure you have the proper policies in place to keep your data secure and your employees satisfied.

For more on managing remote workers, check out this blog post

COBS SMART1 | Designing a secure and durable device

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