Mke Cloud Blog

July 19th, 2012

Voice over Internet Protocol, VOIP, is not a new technology, businesses have been dabbling with it for almost a decade. It’s safe to say that VoIP has become so commonplace that we hardly think about it. While it’s common, small businesses with a PBX - Private Branch Exchange - have had little choice when it comes to digitizing their systems. There is one option at their disposal however, SIP trunking.

SIP trunks blend together voice, telephone and data - Internet - connections, which allows your voice to travel over data lines. In other words: You pick up your phone, dial a number outside the office. Your call goes through the PBX - Private Branch Exchange - which tells the call where to go. The SIP picks this up, digitizes it, mashes it together with your data connection and sends your voice over the Internet to the recipient where it drops down to the original telephone lines.

There are three main components of SIP trunks

  1. PBX. A PBX which can switch VoIP calls to traditional lines and vice versa.
  2. Internet Telephone Service Provider - ITSP. An ITSP is similar to your Internet Service Provider, only they focus on digital telephone transmission. Often times, the ITSP is a subsidiary of, or a branch of your Internet Service Provider.
  3. SIP trunk. The SIP trunk is a device that facilitates the two above networks, and allows them to work together to send out and receive voice and video calls.
There are some great benefits to SIP trunking including:
  • Decreased phone bills. When you make calls, they are transmitted over data lines which cost a lot less than traditional phone lines, especially if you’re making long distance calls. You could even ditch your current phone provider, as all voice will be transmitted over data lines, freeing up funds which can be spent elsewhere.
  • Don’t lose numbers. If you move offices you’ll be able to take your numbers with you, without having to pay to have them connected to the traditional phone networks.
  • Calls can be easily rerouted. If your business is caught in a disaster, you can easily establish an SIP trunk in another location and have calls to your numbers routed through there.
  • Don’t need to discard old phone system. Unlike VoIP, SIP trunking works with your old phone system, which means set up costs are considerably lower.
If you’re interested in SIP trunking for your business, or would like to learn more, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 22nd, 2012

Technical terminology with what seems like millions of acronyms is among the most difficult to understand. If you listen to IT people speak, it can often sound like nothing but a string of abbreviations with the odd technical sounding word thrown in for good measure. The same goes for VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol.

Here are seven of the most commonly used VoIP terms and what they mean.

Internet Service Provider - ISP. The company that provides your company with Internet access.  Private Branch eXchange - PBX. A system within a company that allows internal phones to connect to an outside line. This is also referred to as a switchboard in larger businesses. An IP PBX, Internet Protocol Private Branch Exchange, is the same thing, but it handles VoIP calls as well. Analog. The old system that transmits voice over telephone lines. Your normal landline telephone connection is most likely analog. In many countries, this is also called the Plain Old Telephone System - POTS for short. Analog Telephone Adapter - ATA. A piece of hardware that allows you to use a traditional telephone for VoIP calls. Digital. Any information, including sound, that’s on a computer. VoIP is a form of digital communication, because it uses a digital system, the Internet, to transfer your voice. Integrated Services Digital Network - ISDN. A telephone network that allows digital signal e.g., VoIP, to be transmitted over traditional phone lines. Softphone. A VoIP application that is run strictly on your computer.

There’s a lot of technical terminology out there, the majority of it in acronyms. Don’t be afraid to ask us for more information. If you’d like to learn about ways you can use VoIP in your company, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 4th, 2012

Skype is the most well-known Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) program and is used by businesses all over the world. It offers many benefits including cheaper calls, a solid instant messaging platform that allows employees to communicate as a group, and the ability to conduct video calls with any user.

Skype has some excellent features but many businesses stick to the basics. Here are four ways you can better utilize Skype.

  • Call forwarding. If you’re expecting an important call but have to step away from the computer for a bit you can forward any calls to your phone. To set up call forwarding: open preferences and select Calls. You will see the option to set up call forwarding at the top of the page. Press the Forward calls radio followed by Set up Forwarding. Be aware that regular call rates will be charged.
  • Screen sharing. Skype is a terrific collaboration tool and many businesses take advantage of it by holding virtual meetings. You can take this one step further by sharing your screen with other parties you are chatting with. This is a fantastic way to give virtual presentations. To share your screen while in a chat press the plus symbol at the bottom of your screen, or right click, and select Share Screen.
  • Customer service tool. Using Skype is a convenient way to get in contact with your customers. Ask your website developer to put a Skype button on your website. Be sure to add when you or your employees are available to be contacted.
  • Add-ons. Skype has solid features but there are a multitude of add-on apps that can make it even better. Some apps allow for closer collaboration, let you broadcast pre-recorded messages, or record video and audio calls. The apps can be downloaded from the Skype Shop.
Skype has many useful features that when utilized allow businesses’ clients and employees to communicate with ease. If you would like to know more about using Skype or other VoIP services in your company please give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
April 12th, 2012

Technology has advanced at a rapid pace over the past 30 years, with many devices moving from physical systems to digital versions, including one of the most useful: the telephone. While the use of landlines is still prevalent among some businesses, many have started to turn to the digital version, Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

VoIP has become the main backbone of voice communication for a growing majority of companies, offering numerous benefits including potentially large cost savings, and decreased maintenance costs. When it was first introduced, the technology needed to run a VoIP system was expensive, limiting it to MNCs and other large organizations. However, over the past few years, the technology has come down in price and is now available for next to nothing, allowing SMEs to make the switch to VoIP. If your company is thinking of ringing the changes, there are some necessary requirements you should meet before you migrate.

Foundation A solid foundation for VoIP is key, as without a good foundation you’ll find that network speed and call quality are poor during heavy use. Most SMEs aim for a VoIP system that can handle around 10 employees on the phone at any given time. Before you start the integration, you should track your current call volume by keeping a note of the number of calls in and out, while paying close attention to call volume during peak hours and days.

You should also investigate the speed and stability of your current Internet connection. While a fast DSL or cable connection is good for browsing, it may not be robust enough to handle VoIP communications, which need a connection that is both quick and stable. Look at your downstream (traffic into your network) and upstream (traffic out of your network) connection speed during a time when the network is experiencing heavy data use. Anything over 1.5 Mbps in both directions should be enough to handle the majority of VoIP systems. Most Internet service providers offer a connection speed well above that, but it’s important to check it out first.

Framing When you have a solid foundation that will support your needs, the next step is building the frame for VoIP. You should determine exactly what’s required from your new system. Some good questions to ask include: Am I going to need to make international calls? How many VoIP connections am I going to need? Am I going to want to make video calls? What’s my budget?

Once you’ve determined your needs you can move on to picking equipment. If you’re a business that typically sticks to local, and some long distance calls, you shouldn’t require much in the way of equipment. The vast majority of companies use a device called a media gateway that allows normal phones to interface with an Internet connection - essentially turning a regular phone into a VoIP phone. If you’re a business that would like to take advantage of the more advanced features of VoIP, like portability, you’ll need more state-of-the-art equipment.

The final issue you need to address is security. On its own, VoIP is not the most secure of connections, as it’s open to all the same types of security breaches that computers and networks can fall prey to. To combat this, many good VoIP service providers will have security measures in place to protect VoIP calls on their network. On your end, it also helps to keep your Internet security up-to-date and conduct regular system scans.

Once you’ve addressed the internal requirements it’s time to start looking for a VoIP service provider. Take your time, shop around, ask competitors and other businesses what service they use. One question to ask a prospective provider is if they will be able to migrate your current number onto their system? While most can switch over your existing numbers, it can take a while, depending on your location and local legislation. So be sure to check if the provider can migrate your numbers and how long it will take.

From there, you should be ready to switch over to VoIP. If you’re still unsure of the process, there are consultants available who can help with the preparation, selection and integration. Good luck, and if you need more information about VoIP, we are here to help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 23rd, 2012

Spring is almost here, and you know what that means: many companies and employees are looking for a fresh start. Chances are high that if your company is going to experience employee turnover, it will happen in Q2. This means that you will probably be conducting interviews, and one of the most convenient and popular ways of conducting an interview is via VoIP software - Skype, Microsoft LYNC, etc. Do you plan to conduct an interview using VoIP?

Let’s face it, there are very few people out there who love conducting interviews. The ones that do, are journalists, the rest of us see it as a means to the end. But that doesn’t mean that you should put interviews on the back burner. Remember, the purpose of the interview is to find an employee that meets your needs and is a good fit for your business. Many of us have watched or conducted interviews over VoIP, and have walked away unimpressed, or unsure of the results. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of VoIP while interviewing.

Remember the Rules Many of us have another identity or personality when we are online, it’s common to see people who are usually quiet and reserved in real life become very vocal when placed in front of a computer. This also happens when people conduct interviews online, another personality often comes out during the interview. Remember: even though you are conducting an interview over VoIP, it is still an interview, and as such, you need to follow the same rules and guidelines you would when conducting a face-to-face interview. One of the biggest things interviewers forget when they conduct interviews via VoIP is that you are a representative of your company and its brand, the interviewee will form their own opinion based on what you say and how you act. Adopt your face-to-face interview persona, not the online persona.

Lights, Camera, Office? When conducting the interview it is best to pick a well-lit spot, with minimal to no distractions. Your office may be the one with Nirvana posters on the wall - which is cool - but they’re probably not the best thing to have as your background during the interview. The best spot to conduct face-to-face interviews is in a conference room, so why not conduct the online interview there? If you don’t have a conference room, pick a quiet spot in the office. Wherever you settle, be sure you are comfortable there, as chances are you will be conducting more than one interview.

When you have found a good spot, be sure to turn off your cellphone, or at least put it on silent. Also be sure to turn the various sound alerts on your computer off. Nothing is more annoying to interviewees than being interrupted mid-sentence by a telephone call, or the ubiquitous IM alert.

Test the Tech Before you conduct the interview, ensure you are familiar with the program you are using. You don’t want to accidentally mute the interviewee, or even worse, hang up on them. It is a good idea to set up in the place you are going to be conducting the interview, and check that the internet connection is stable, or if you are using WiFi, that the signal is strong. Conduct a test call with a colleague or another person to ensure that your webcam is working correctly, and you can hear the other person. It is best to do this a few days in advance, so you can iron out any glitches or problems with lots of time to spare.

If a technological mishap occurs during the interview, or you lose your connection, don’t give up and walk away, simply call the interviewee back, apologize and carry on. Better still, establish at the outset that if there is a problem, you will definitely call back. This will ensure that the interviewee isn’t calling you when you are calling them.

The Interview Remember that you are using technology for the interview, and this technology has many useful features, the most pertinent being the ability to record. Being able to play the interview back later if you feel you have missed something, or want to know other employees’ opinions, is an excellent perk to using VoIP. Be sure to let the interviewee know that their interview will be recorded, as it could be illegal to record the person without their consent.

One common oversight by both the interviewer and interviewee is time. It may happen that you need to conduct an interview with someone in another timezone. It’s important to be aware of the time difference and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Also, if you’re in an area that has Daylight Savings Time, be aware that some places don’t observe it, and adjust accordingly. If you know the interviewee is in another timezone, clearly state when you are setting up the interview time, if you mean your time or the interviewee’s time.

Finally, when conducting the interview: be aware of where you are looking. Most programs will have the other person in a large image with you in a smaller image. Look at the image of the person when they are speaking, and at the camera when you are speaking. This is the best way to replicate eye-contact in a face-to-face interview.

When you remain professional and can execute a good interview using VoIP software, you can be sure that the interviewee will be impressed and will want to join your company. Good luck! If you would like to know more about using VoIP for interviews, or other business operations give us a call - we are more than happy to hear from you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 22nd, 2012

Because of continued improvements in technology and changes in the way people work, communication in today's business has become richer but also more complex. Unified Communications is a great new way of taming this complexity. Read on to find out how.

Because of continued improvements in technology and changes in the way people work, we now have a multitude of options to communicate with one another. This can be both a boon and a curse, as not only do we have to learn and master a variety of devices from which to communicate—but also contend with an equal or higher number of forms with which to communicate. For example, not only do we make a phone call to talk nowadays, but we also chat, text, tweet, post, like, poke, huddle, share screens, do white board sessions, and more. We can do all of these whether on the desktop computer, laptop, netbook, tablet, desk phone, mobile phone, TV – and soon maybe even from the kitchen refrigerator! Not surprisingly, people have started looking for ways to tame and simplify all of this complexity—and thus was born the concept of "Unified Communications."

Unified Communications, simply stated, encompasses the organization of different communication tools and models so that it can be used and managed in an integrated way, with the goal of improving flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness. To illustrate the benefits of Unified Communications, here are some examples of how it can be used in several business scenarios:

  1. Have a "single number to call" or a simpler way of reaching people. Instead of remembering and sharing a phone number, IM handle, email address, twitter account, and more, you can have just one number or address by which people can reach you—and systems will bridge that with whatever device or application your Unified Communications happen to be on or you prefer. So you can easily have calls placed to your desk phone routed to your mobile phone when you are out, and have voice mail emailed to you as a recording in case you can't answer.
  2. Reaching people when you need them. If you are working remotely, or managing remote workers, Unified Communications systems can indicate your or your colleagues' location or "presence"—i.e., whether you or they are available at the normal location, working remotely, or out in the field.
  3. Synchronous or asynchronous way of working. If you work with people in different time zones you can opt to conference when your schedules overlap, or swap messages that can be answered at their convenience if they don't —and be able to track and tie all of these together.
  4. Richer collaboration. If you work on projects, Unified Communications can allow you or your team to get in touch and collaborate in a richer and more interactive way. While working on a project you can chat, switch to voice calls for better clarity, or conference via video to provide more context, as well as share screens for easier collaboration—all from a single screen or session.
  5. Application integration. Imagine if you had the ability to call people from your email application's address book, or initiate a web conference from your instant messaging tool. With Unified Communications that is all possible.
Unified Communications may sound expensive and complex, but in reality it can actually lessen costs and make things simpler for you and your business. Learn more about Unified Communications and what else it can do to improve your business by contacting us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 16th, 2012

A few years ago, Voice-over-IP or Internet telephony was touted as the next big wave in technology. However, it previously came with a big price tag—but not anymore. With the great strides made in technology the last few years, VoIP is now readily within reach for many businesses—large or small.

If you are running a business, then there is no reason you shouldn't be using Voice-over-IP, or VoIP, to reduce telecommunications cost, streamline operations, and improve the flexibility for your organization today.

VoIP, simply put, allows telephone communications to run over your data network or the Internet. The benefits of this setup are many, and the following are just a few.

  1. VoIP allows companies to maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. The same network which handles the flow of data such as web access and email can now accommodate voice as well—no need to add and maintain additional wires and devices.
  2. VoIP can allow you to dramatically reduce the cost of communications, especially for interstate or international communications—everything can go through the Internet instead of incurring expensive long distance toll charges.
  3. VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection, using their laptop, mobile phone, tablet, or virtually any device connected to the Internet.
  4. VoIP increases the number of features you can use with your phone system. For example, it's easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without additional costs or cabling. You can also set up sophisticated auto answering routines and call routing. You can marry voice messages with email and faxes all in one inbox.
  5. You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration—along with video conferencing and screen sharing. You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. Communicate with colleagues about your presence or receive info on the status and whereabouts of your staff.
Previously, all these benefits were only available with a big price tag and a critical limitation—the unavailability or unreliability of the company's Internet connection—but not anymore. With the great strides made in technology and the wide availability and affordability of broadband connections over the last few years, VoIP is now readily within reach for many businesses—large or small

VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It's cheap, ubiquitous, and easy-to-use, and any business should have VoIP in their toolset. If you are interested in learning more about how VoIP can help your business, contact us today to find out more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP