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Enabling Situation-Appropriate Communications with UC

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The proposition that phone calls (especially from desk phones) are no longer a preferred means of communication in the business world is not a new one. As communication options and technology evolve it’s natural to question the usefulness of more traditional modes of communication.

This morning I read an Inc.com article titled, “5 Reasons Millennials Aren’t Answering Your Phone Call,” by Ryan Jenkins. The article points out all the ways in which phone calls are bothersome to the millennial generation, and suggests older generations send text messages instead.

While I agree that phone calls can sometimes be distracting, time consuming, and superfluous, I think of them in the same way I think of listening to a podcast vs reading an article. Sure, a lot of people like reading articles (which I’m comparing to texting, in this case), but they usually require your full attention. Wouldn’t it be much less distracting, time consuming, and superfluous to listen to a podcast instead? It frees your eyes to wander (like a phone call); you can listen while you drive (like a phone call) and you don’t have to guess the tone of the content (much like…a phone call!).

My point is that there is a time and a place for each mode of communication. As bothersome as it may be to some millennials, there are some situations in which anyone, at any age, should use the phone and most likely prefer using the phone over written communication (texting, IM, email), such as: a time-sensitive conference call, a job interview, a customer service interaction, or any emergency situation. Circumstances in which texting, instant messaging, or email are preferred might include: reminders to coworkers, communicating outside normal business hours, or reporting an incident, just to mention a few.

Today, there are four generations in the workplace, each of which grew up with the tendency to use some technologies over others. Being able to recognize which situation is appropriate for which method of communication is a skill that must be acquired. One way for businesses to acknowledge and appease the diversity among employees and customers is to integrate all of the available communication services (voice, chat, IM, presence, mobility, web and video) via one unified platform. That’s one of the many advantages of a Unified Communications (UC) solution. As mentioned earlier, certain situations call for certain ways of communicating, so why limit your options or your productivity potential? Give your business the advantage of communications by upgrading to UC.

See what other tech trends are driving changes in how businesses communicate.

Why Fortinet

Following Fortinet’s press release, Wavelink would like to introduce Fortinet to our Resellers.

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Fortinet and Wavelink sign ANZ distribution agreement to tap into burgeoning secure enterprise wireless market

Wavelink is very pleased to share an important press release from Fortinet. This is an extremely important announcement for Wavelink, as it reinforces our position as a specialist wireless distributor for Fortinet, with our years of experience with their wireless product range (formerly under the Meru banner).

Read the Press Release

Media Coverage:             ARN  |  CRN  |  IT Wire  |  Reseller News

 

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An Unbiased Look at the On-Premises vs. Hosted Phone System Debate

Benefits of a hosted IP PBXThe debate focused around which phone system deployment method is preferred, a hosted PBX (aka Cloud-based solution) or on-premises, is one that has been building for years. With the rise of software-as-a-service (Saas) options and more SMBs considering them, the argument of hosted verses on-prem has become more intense. Unfortunately, like most debates, the responses that you will hear are varied, complicated, and oftentimes very biased. Many articles on the subject are written by phone system vendors that offer solutions focused around only one deployment method, and therefore favor it in all of their publications. Other articles give a laundry list of pros and cons that, although helpful, don’t give a ton of guidance on how to move forward in either direction with a decision.

Digium is in a unique position that allows us to give an unbiased opinion as to which deployment method is ideal. Yes, we are a phone system vendor, but our Unified Communications (UC) solutions are unique in that they take advantage of the same software regardless of deployment method, and deliver the same powerful user experience to each one – hosted and on-prem. Our focus is to find the deployment method that best fits each individual customer.

With that, let’s also try and simplify the matter. We can help you make a decision on which method is best for your company by asking 5 key questions. These questions require you to analyze different aspects of your business in order to determine which is the best fit for you. But before we jump into the questions, let’s define the two deployment methods so that you understand the differences as we move forward.

 

2 Deployment Methods:

On-Premises

On-Premises phone systems (also referred to as on-prem or on-site) are physically deployed at your office(s) or data center. Typically, you will buy and own all equipment including appliances, servers, interface cards and more, which will be installed at your physical locations. Your IT staff will have complete control of the system as well as responsibility for all moves, adds, changes, on-going maintenance, and updates. Your company will also supply voice service to the system via analog, PRI/T1, SIP or other connection. On-premises has been the traditional option for phone systems for decades.

Hosted/Cloud

Hosted, or Cloud-based phone systems, are deployed by a hosted provider in an off-site data center. Your company will pay a monthly fee to use the system, which is connected to your office via a public or private Internet connection. The only equipment you will typically have to purchase are desk phones. You will have some control over moves, adds, and changes, and the hosted provider performs all updates and maintenance. You will not need to supply voice service as the provider delivers that as well.

Now that you know the difference between the two phone system deployment options, let’s help you decide which is best for your company by looking at 5 simple questions:

 

5 Questions:

 1. How Would You Prefer to Pay?

There is a distinct difference between the two options when it comes to payment preference. On-prem systems are almost always fully paid for up front, also known as a CapEx expense for your business. Money will need to be paid out and exchanged for full ownership of the equipment and licenses. This method is great for companies that have the budget and prefer to own the equipment they use. On-prem systems typically have a better Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) when looking purely at equipment costs.

Hosted systems allow companies to leverage OpEx, which turns your phone service into a monthly expense. OpEx is often the preferred method by today’s CFOs because it offers tax advantages and frees up cash for revenue-generating spending opportunities. Hosted customers pay a monthly fee that can be reduced with extended contract terms. Although on-prem systems typically have a lower TCO, hosted customers see equal financial benefits through tax savings and lower IT costs.

 Bottom Line:

  • Choose on-premises if you have the budget and cash upfront to but the system outright in exchange for ownership and control
  • Choose hosted to take advantage of the tax benefits of OpEx, and move your phone system purchase to a phone service expense

 

2. What Is The State Of Your IT Group? What Are Their Priorities?

When talking about the state of your IT group, you want to know how many people are available and if they have the time to manage a phone system. If you have a group that has the willingness and knowledge to support it, than on-premises gives them full control of the system. If not, hosted can take on the responsibility and free up the IT team to focus on other projects.

The priorities of your IT group are often a more important consideration when deciding which deployment method to go with. You may have a group that is fully capable of managing a phone system, but would rather do something else that actually helps you generate revenue. Many large enterprises are justifying the higher TCO of hosted systems by using their IT resources in areas that directly generate revenue, such as system integration or customer experience projects.

Bottom Line:

  • Choose on-premises if you have the resources and desire to maintain your own phone system in exchange for full control and better long-term system TCO
  • Choose hosted if you want to IT to focus on revenue generating projects instead of maintaining a phone system

 

3. Do You Need Full Control?

On-premises deployments deliver full control of the system, which includes moves, adds, changes, fine tuning network settings, advanced IVR creation, and more. Hosted providers open up enough of the system for a user to do what they want to do, but handle everything else. Allowing a service provider to do the bulk of managing the phone system is also attractive to small businesses with limited or no in-house IT support.

Bottom Line:

  • Choose on-premises if you need (or want) full control of your phone system
  • Choose hosted if you could care less about full control and prefer the provider to handle the heavy lifting of phone system maintenance

 

 4. Do You Have Multiple Offices or Remote Users?

On-premises systems are certainly capable of handling remote users and multiple offices, but it’s more complex and more expensive. Oftentimes, additional equipment is required to connect the offices or users together that is not necessary in an hosted environment.

Bottom Line: If you have remote workers and multiple offices, consider hosted to save money and avoid installation headaches

 

5. Scalability: How Flexible Do You Need to Be?

Are the staff levels of your company fairly stable? Do you foresee any spikes or drops in the number of employees due to growth or contraction during the lifetime of the system? If you predict significant growth or contraction in your business during the time you use the system, hosted is the best choice. With hosted, you only pay for what you use. If you need to add or remove users, you either start or stop paying for them on a month-to-month basis. With on-premises, you pay upfront for the users you have, and if you contract, you have paid for an unnecessary user. Seasonal businesses should deploy a hosted solution since they only have a certain number of users for a portion of the year (such as a ski lodge or a CPA group).

Bottom Line: If you foresee significant changes in staffing levels, both up or down, consider hosted. Changes  to users can be made immediately you only pay for what you use.

As you can see, choosing whether you want your phone system to be on-premises or hosted depends on several factors. There’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, as both methods have advantages and considerations that need to be taken into account. Once you walk through the 5 questions above, you should have a better idea of which is best for your business.

At the risk of adding a layer of confusion, sometimes you may have a need for both deployment methods, referred to as a hybrid solution. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered there, as well. Keep reading to see when a hybrid deployment option might make sense for your business.

For more detailed information on this business decision, check out our Hosted vs. On-Prem guide here!

 

6 Ways VoIP Saves Your Business Money

It’s no secret that business owners are always looking for ways to cut their monthly expenses. If you own or manage a business, there’s one area that has big savings potential that you may have overlooked – your business communications. Are you stuck with a legacy phone system that is bleeding you dry and needs to be replaced? Voice over IP (VoIP) can be a great option for your small or medium-sized business.

Typically, the primary reason businesses switch to VoIP is to save money. There are several potential cost savings in a VoIP system and particularly a hosted or cloud-based solution vs. traditional phone systems, some of which include:

Hardware: Most phone systems require an expensive up-front hardware cost. With a traditional phone system, if your company needs an auto-attendant, you have to purchase auto-attendant hardware and pay for installation. Additionally, if you need to add a second auto-attendant to another location, you are forced to purchase additional hardware. With VoIP, you have complete freedom to change or update your system in real time, without any extra purchases or installation. Add users or phones instantly, update IVRs, route calls to any location, all without any added expense or hardware.

Maintenance: Just like any other machine, phone system hardware can fail, and when it does, the downtime can cost your company thousands. If you deploy VoIP in the cloud, you can easily eliminate worrisome hardware failures, and other maintenance issues that result in lost revenue. Also, older phone systems have parts that are becoming very expensive to purchase, and hard to come by. Add on top of that the cost of a technical expert to maintain the system, and you have one very expensive way of communicating. Keep in mind that because companies aren’t making the old phone systems anymore, the people that know how to maintain them are becoming scarce, so their services are becoming more expensive. This will only continue to go up in cost over the years as more businesses switch to VoIP solutions.

Calling Fees: Since IP telephony connects calls over the Internet, businesses using VoIP avoid paying any long distance or interstate fees. Moreover, international calls can be made at half the cost of traditional landline-based communications.

Free Upgrades: As with many forms of technology, phone systems require periodic updates, which are your responsibility if you have a traditional phone system. With VoIP, the upgrades are covered by your provider, and you should always have access to top-of-the-line equipment.

Mobility: Traditional landline phones keep you tethered to your desk for fear of missing an important phone call. If you need to move offices, whether across the hall or across town, you have to manually reroute your phone number to your new location. With VoIP, your number represents your account, not your physical location, so it travels with you wherever you go. As long as you have an IP connection at your new location, a VoIP system recognizes it as a handset and you are good to go. VoIP takes mobility a step further by utilizing smartphone apps, making your mobile phone an extension of your network, which allows you to take business calls on your smartphone no matter where you are.

Advanced Features: Majority of VoIP providers offer advanced features that can help small to mid-sized businesses appear larger and well established, at no additional cost. Features such as auto-assistant, call routing, music on hold, presence, find-me-follow-me, and many others help smaller businesses appear more professional and capable of exceptional customer service- which always increases business.

These are just a few of the ways VoIP can be a big cost savings for businesses of all sizes. However, it is important to pick the right vendor for VoIP services and equipment to make sure they are the best match for your specific business needs.

For more information on the ways VoIP can benefit your business, check out our on-demand webinar

“Understanding the Basics of VoIP: Because You Deserve More Than Just a Dial Tone”

How Unified Communications Enables Alternative Work Options

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Our CEO, Danny Windham, posted an article a few weeks ago on the 5 key business communications trends for 2016. One of the key trends he believes will continue to see growth is in flexible work options. Throughout 2015, over 3.7 million employees worked from home at least part time, and that number is expected to double in 2016. Companies that offer flexible work options for their employees enjoy higher employee moral, cost savings from not having to furnish office space, higher retention, and a wider talent pool from which to recruit new employees.

One of the key factors to help ensure companies are able to fully reap the benefits of a remote workforce is to deploy a Unified Communications (UC) system. The right system should include the tools required to keep employees connected and productive.

Here are some of the leading UC features and technologies that are enabling alternative work options:

Collaboration

A significant hurdle that often must be overcome for alternative work options to be possible is enabling teams to collaborate on projects, regardless of their location. Collaboration tools like audio conferencing, screen sharing, and video calls have made it possible for teams to communicate with the same effectiveness as if they were all together in the same physical conference room or office building.

Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging, or chat, has become an extremely important communications tool. A recent study by the Radicati Group found that there are now over 3.2 billion instant messaging accounts worldwide, which has more than doubled since 2013. It has become the primary mode of communications for many organizations, including Digium. Instant messaging greatly decreases the amount of email circulating and allows users to get answers quickly. This type of conversation style is perfect for remote users and teams since the experience is the same for all employees despite physical location.

Presence

Presence is a feature that allows users to let others know what’s going on with them by changing their presence, or status. For example, status can be set to Available, Away, Do Not Disturb and many other pre-set or customizable options. Presence allows managers access to the current status and whereabouts of their staff, both remote and office based, helping them keep track of everyone on their team and have confidence that work is moving forward.

Mobility

Mobile functionality in UC systems has improved drastically over the past few years. What was once the ability to have incoming calls forwarded to your cell phone, is now the ability to have the same communications experience from your mobile phone as from you office desk phone. Features such as call recording, transfer, presence and others are now standard features that allow remote employees to have the same communications tools that in-office employees enjoy.

Cloud

Cloud, or hosted, phone systems have made the once difficult and expensive undertaking of communications management and feature enablement of remote employees affordable and simple. Remote employees no longer need to configure hardware to connect them to the corporate system. Cloud-based phone systems now connect employees from all over the country with a simple Internet connection.

As you can see, communications tools make up a critical part of the solution for connecting your remote employees to the rest of the organization and enabling your company to also take advantage of all the benefits that come with offering flexible work options. For more information on how we can provide a solution for your company to make the transition to remote employees easy and cost effective, click here for a personal demo of Switchvox or join us for one of our upcoming webinars in the new series on business communications trends. 

 

2016 communications trends for business

 

What is SIP Trunking and How Does it Work?

As a business owner, you are constantly looking for ways to cut costs and reprioritize your spending. With all the services you are tasked with managing (merchant services, shipping services, payroll services, etc.) it’s understandable you haven’t mastered the knowledge of each industry. Maybe you’ve heard of SIP trunking, and maybe a friend of yours saves money by using it with his business, but you’d like to know more about how it works before you contact providers. Understandable.

Below is a high-level overview of SIP trunking and how it works:

 

What Is SIP Trunking?

Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, is the way you achieve a voice over IP (VoIP) call. It’s an application layer protocol for setting up real-time sessions of audio and/or video between two endpoints (phones). Simply put, SIP is the technology that creates, modifies, and terminates sessions with one or more parties in an IP network, whether a two-way call or a multi-party conference call.

A SIP trunk is the virtual version of an analog phone line. Using SIP trunks, a SIP provider can connect one, two, or twenty channels to your PBX, allowing you to make local, long distance, and international calls over the Internet. If you have an on-premises PBX in your office, a SIP trunk provider can connect to you and allow you to make outbound calls on your existing system, without restrictions on the number of concurrent calls.

Here is a diagram to show you how SIP trunks work:

What is SIP Trunking diagram

 

How Much Does SIP Trunking Cost?

The cost of SIP trunking can vary depending on your business needs, but typically businesses can expect to pay a set up fee of $0-$150, and monthly costs of $25-$50 per trunk.

Some SIP trunking providers, such as Digium, offer metered plans in addition to channelized plans:

Metered SIP trunking is delivered and charged on usage, so each minute will incur a charge. Metered trunking is very flexible in that there are no limitations to the number of concurrent calls, as you are just charged for each minute of each call. Metered services allows businesses the flexibility to dynamically add calls and just pay for the additional usage.

Channelized SIP trunking is a prepaid option that provides unlimited inbound and outbound local and long distance calls on per channel/call basis. Each Channel provides the ability to make or receive a single call. Once you have filled all of your channels you will be unable to make or receive additional calls. Channels can always be added for more capacity by contacting your provider. This type of SIP trunking service allows businesses a way to easily budget their telecom spending.

How Many Concurrent Calls Can Be On A Metered SIP Trunk? What About Bandwidth?

The limitation is based on Internet bandwidth capacity. Each non-compressed call uses approximately 85kbps of bandwidth. In most Internet connections your upload speed is normally your slower speed, so when determining the number of calls your connection will support, you should use your upload speed. If, for example, your upload speed on your Internet connection is 4Mbps, then the maximum number of calls would be 47 (4,000,000/85,000).

Number of Concurrent Calls During Busiest Hours
X
85 Kilobits per Second
=
Bandwidth in Megabits per Second Required for SIP Trunking

 

Now that you know a little more about SIP Trunking, you should determine if your network is ready to handle it:

Launch Network Assessment

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