Stay on top of the Latest IT Tips and Suggestions with this Selection of Blog Posts from BCS

Mitel Product Spotlight: MiCollab Client Softphone

Through our partnership with telecommunications leader Mitel, BCS is proud to offer the finest and most innovative business communications products available on the market. And since we see more remote employees add their talents to the workforce everyday, we wanted to draw attention to Mitel’s MiCollab Client Softphone: the perfect solution for “road warriors” who want to stay seamlessly connected to the corporate network wherever they are.

A ‘softphone’ offers the remote worker all of the features and utility of an advanced business phone right from their PC’s desktop.

The MiCollab Client Softphone, in conjunction with MiCollab Client (formerly Mitel Unified Communicator Advance (UCA)) pairs with both Mitel’s MiVoice Business and MiVoice Office via a secure network, making it a fantastic choice for offices that are already equipped with those IT platforms. It “lets users record calls on their computer, add customized ring tones, and configure HID-compliant USB devices through an intuitive user interface.” And not only that, but the MiCollab Client Softphone goes above and beyond the competition with instant messaging capability and real-time knowledge of when colleagues are available for collaboration on the corporate network.

Some key benefits of the MiCollab Client Softphone:

  • Keeps remote employees connected 24/7, no matter how far they are from the office.
  • Serves as the perfect companion to preexisting Mitel Unified Communications platforms.
  • Supports Mobile Twinning for the remote worker on the go.
  • Offers features that are not readily available on basic business phones like instant messaging, presence information and visual voicemail thanks to the MiCollab Client.
  • Fits the needs of companies who have ten employees as well as it fits the needs of companies with thousands of employees. It can grow with the business.

Not sure if a softphone is the best solution for your company, but still interested in upgrading your phone system? If all of your employees work in-office, take a look at Mitel’s extensive assortment of traditional IP button phones and feature-rich IP application phones (We will highlight some of those in the near future.) You are sure to find one that suits your needs, and if you have questions, call or contact the IT experts at BCS Voice and Data Solutions. We are excited to help your business streamline communication.

Tips For Implementing a Telecommuting Program

When Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced in February that Yahoo employees could no longer work remotely, the internet went up in flames with opinions over the change. Some applauded Mayer for her leadership decision while others saw it as a regression to a corporate ethic of long hours at the office and a disrupted work-life balance. We maintain that while a telecommuting program is not right for every company or every employee, it can afford a great deal of benefits across the board when implemented correctly.

Telecommuting in the U.S. grew 73% overall between 2005 and 2011 (Global Workplace Analytics, 2011). It is estimated that over 3 million American workers did at least part of their job from home in 2011.

Employers who run telecommuting programs report happier, more productive employees. Not only that, but telecommuting can help both businesses and employees save money by cutting transportation costs, office overhead and childcare expenses. It’s all part of the Work 3.0 culture we’ve discussed so thoroughly in the past.

Could  telecommuting be right for your business? Take a look at these guidelines for developing a successful program.

Realistically assess your employees’ personalities and working styles.

While remote work is friendly to many company roles across a multitude of industries, understand that it simply isn’t for everyone. The ideal candidate is highly self-motivated, inquisitive and a team-player while in-office. If one or all of your employees don’t quite meet that criteria, a telecommuting program may fall flat.

Evaluate the tools you need to succeed.

Paramount to any functional telecommuting program is high-level communication between remote employees and the physical office. This requires special equipment that will vary in complexity based on the size of your business and its unique communications needs.

Two of the more basic necessary components are Unified Communications and video conferencing ability (check out Mitel UC360 for an amazing synthesis of the two). Both UC and teleconferencing enable instant productive collaboration between in-office employees and their telecommuting counterparts. It can also assist you in keeping them accountable.

Design a telecommuting policy and set the ground rules clearly.

How long must an employee work in-office before they can take advantage of the telecommuting option? How will you measure their work-time, breaks and overall productivity (weekly status reports, network monitoring, etc)? Are you liable for any at-home accidents during work hours?

These are just some of the elements of telecommuting that you need to consider, set in stone, and put in writing for your employees. Provide a mandatory in-office training session for all employees where you set forth company-wide expectations for telecommuters. When everyone knows the rules, they will feel more motivated to be part of the team.

Periodically evaluate productivity.

Like we mentioned before, you must set a standard procedure for monitoring the work activity of remote employees. Along with weekly status reports, an advanced Unified Communications suite is your best bet for ensuring that things stay business-as-usual whether your employee is down the hall or at their desk at home.

Stay on top of network security.

When employees are no longer under one roof during business hours, special attention should be paid to keeping the network, be it cloud-based or premises-based, safe and secure. 24/7 network monitoring, encrypted file sharing and the aforementioned ground rules can help make sure that your information stays protected.

Don’t rush into it.

As you can see, a telecommuting program brings with it a number of concerns and considerations that go beyond sending your employees home and hoping they continue to get things done. Take the time to plan, acquire the necessary technology and prepare your staff accordingly before jumping in.

BCS has the expertise and technology to facilitate a successful telecommuting program for your business. Whether you need Unified Communications, teleconferencing equipment or network monitoring, call or contact us today.

 image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Top 5 Ways Hosted Telephone Solutions Can Help You Do Your Own Thing

As a small business leader, we know that you don’t always (read: rarely) get to operate on your own schedule or make decisions that align perfectly with your ideal. That’s why a big part of our mission here at BCS is to bring you greater freedom in business communications with innovative things like Mitel AnyWare hosted telephone solutions.

Unlike premises-based IP business phone systems, hosted telephone solutions are closely managed and monitored off-site by experts and don’t require any expensive or complex hardware. We offer Mitel AnyWare hosted PBX to our SMEs and so many of these clients rave about the time and money they’ve saved as a result.

Here are the top 5 ways hosted telephone solutions can bring you freedom and help you do your own thing:

hosted telephone solutions

1. Choose your own phone system.

One of the greatest things about Mitel AnyWare is its compatibility with a wide range of IP-enabled phone systems. Mitel’s phones are a perfect fit with AnyWare, but you can likely use your legacy IP-enabled system too. This means that you are not required to purchase any extra expensive hardware in order to make the most of your hosted telephone solution.

2. Enable the UC softphone feature (if you want).

Want the world on your desktop? AnyWare works seamlessly with Mitel’s extensive Unified Communications suite, including the Unified Communicator Express Softphone, which affords you all of the feature-rich usability of a business phone right on your computer screen.

3. Be here…or there.

Much like the advantages that come with Softphone capability, AnyWare lets you take advantage of mobile twinning and auto attendant so you NEVER miss a call because you’re out of the office or the system is down. In this day and age, you shouldn’t have to be tied to a desk and you won’t be with a Mitel AnyWare hosted telephone solution.

4. Grow or shrink.

Your business may be small now, but what if in a few years it doubles or triples in size? Will you have to upgrade to a bigger, more complex, more expensive IP-based phone system? No, not unless you think it’s time for a change. The reason for this is AnyWare’s incredible flexibility. Add or subtract users as you see fit and it will only be reflected in a change in the fixed monthly fee. Which brings us to one of the bests ways in which Mitel AnyWare brings you freedom in business and in life….

5. Budget without guessing.

Rather than dealing with the stress of usage-based charges that fluctuate from month to month, Mitel AnyWare works for you for one fixed monthly fee. That way you will know what to expect and be able to invest confidently.

Go ahead and get excited about the freedom hosted telephone solutions can bring you. Call or contact BCS today to learn more about Mitel AnyWare hosted PBX and discuss your options.

The Beauty of IT Outsourcing: We’re the IT Department That Never Takes a Vacation.

 

Summer is almost here and as the weather heats up, you and your team are sure to start dreaming of days spent relaxing on sandy beaches and maybe even putting in requests for time off to make those dreams realities. But before you pack the sunscreen and arm your email with an out-of-office message, remember that business doesn’t slow down for summertime–and neither do IT demands. Could IT outsourcing be right for you?

Trusting BCS to be your offsite IT department can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that all is taken care of, no matter where you or your staff happen to be. Our Basic Managed Services Plan provides small businesses with the kind of flexibility and constant vigilance required to stay on top of the competition these days. You can’t afford downtime and we want to make absolutely certain you never have to face it.

Along with server maintenance and backup monitoring, the Basic Managed Services Plan includes:

  • Priority Queuing to ensure that the server handles the most important tasks first and doesn’t get overloaded with commands.
  • 24/7 Help Desk Support to give you professional and clear technical assistance whenever you need it.
  • Network Hardware Maintenance so you can avoid downtime and never skip a beat in reaching your business goals.
  • Anti-Virus Updates installed in a timely manner so you can focus on your company’s mission instead of worrying about network security.
  • Security Audits of each component of your IT infrastructure.
  • Onsite Labor that includes installation of new hardware, repair of existing hardware and friendly, knowledgeable BCS staff members to answer any questions you might have.

For 27 years, BCS Voice and Data Solutions has been a trusted IT outsourcing authority in Hampton Roads and beyond, so you can rest assured that we will guide you in the right direction.

One of the best things about using BCS for your IT outsourcing or support is the freedom we give you to choose exactly what services you need from us…nothing more and nothing less. Deciding whether to fully outsource your IT department, utilize partial support for some tasks, or to create a fully in-house department is a complex question for many companies. Schedule a free IT consultation with BCS and let us help you think through your needs and options.

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Never bring your laptop to a meeting again. Introducing the Mitel UC360.

Concerning multi-party collaboration, clients come to BCS looking for a solution that is affordable and simple to use while still providing all of the high-tech capabilities of a dedicated multimedia business communication suite. Some might think that sounds like a tall order, but thanks to Mitel’s UC360 Collaboration Point, we’re happy to say that they are wrong.

Mitel UC 360 Collaboration Point

Mitel UC360 is a single device that is open and standards-based, meaning that it fits seamlessly into diverse communication infrastructures and is compatible with most PBX systems and computing environments. No hassle or expensive infrastructure upgrade here. You just connect UC360 to your network and its intuitive user-interface will guide you through the simple setup process. From there, you can begin to engage in the kind of collaboration that drives innovation… with the ease of making a phone call. Watch this informative video to see UC360 in action:

 

UC360 is ideal for those offices and shared spaces that wouldn’t usually be used for intensive multimedia collaboration and those businesses that want more than what even the most expensive business phones offer in the way of collaboration.

A few of UC360’s fantastic features include:

  • Intuitive touchscreen and user interface.  The vibrant 7-inch color display takes the guesswork out of device deployment and operation. It serves as the hub of all of your activity and makes it so you don’t even need to bring your laptop into the meeting with you, no matter how intensive your presentation.
  • Superior audio and display quality. Whether you have two or four parties participating in your meeting, UC360 boasts high definition audio that will provide each member of the conference with an in-room experience no matter where they are. And UC360 supports HD display on LCD monitors and top-of-the-line projectors so every crisp detail of your presentation will have the utmost clarity.
  • Easy access to everything you need. Pull up all the important documents you need for your presentation however is most convenient for you. UC360 supports USB flash drives and micro SD cards as well as instantaneous access to Dropbox and Google® Docs™. You can even connect to a remote desktop. Again, no laptop necessary.
  • Seamless Mitel integration. From Mitel: “When integrated into Mitel Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) Solutions, UC360 also supports user dialing into audio conference calls on Mitel communications platforms and on the desktop collaboration application Mitel Collaboration Advanced (MCA). You can include UC360 in Mitel Personal Ring Groups, and seamlessly manage UC360 with the aware-winning unified communications application Mitel Unified Communicator® Advanced (UCA), so that calls reach you based on your presence and availability.”

In short, if your business already uses Mitel Unified Communications technology, Mitel UC360 is the perfect addition to your office. And even if you don’t, UC360 will complement your existing infrastructure and streamline productive collaboration without putting extra strain on your IT department.

As an exclusive Mitel business partner, BCS is proud to offer your company UC360 and the rest of Mitel’s cutting edge business communication solutions. Call or contact us today to learn more.

IT Outsourcing…Is It Right For My Business?

There comes a time for most businesses when growth and increasing success includes larger challenges–especially in the realm of IT. When faced with these technological complexities and strategic decisions, business owners have choices. They can develop and manage an internal IT department, or choose professional IT outsourcing services with a company like BCS.

Which is the smartest choice? The answer depends on the size, staff structure and level of technological expertise of each individual company. However, for many the benefits of outsourcing IT management significantly outweigh those of using internal resources.

Seasoned Experience and a Competitive Edge

All businesses have the need for meticulous IT management, but few have the expertise or the time to carry it out themselves. IT, done well, is a full time job, even for a smaller company.

Building an internal IT department from within your existing staff generally will not provide you with the knowledge and experience you need to keep your mind off strategic IT decisions and on your core business.  Also, bringing self-professed IT experts onto your payroll is expensive and still doesn’t guarantee technical mastery (“certification” does not always equal “experience”).

While we can’t speak for other companies, when you choose IT outsourcing with BCS, we give you real solutions and careful attention. We are your fully staffed, highly experienced IT department whether you are right down the road or across the world.

If you have a capable existing in-house IT department, BCS can act as a support team when you need us. We are only a call away. Our IT support and outsourcing services include:

Whether you are looking for a total outsourcing solution or a small-scale enhancement to your IT department, our Managed Services Plan might be just what you are looking for.
Opting for this plan gives your business:
  • Priority Queuing
  • Unlimited Help Desk Support
  • Server Maintenance
  • Network Hardware Maintenance
  • Security Audits and Anti-Virus Updates
  • Backup Monitoring
  • Onsite Labor

When you hire BCS, you can have confidence that your latest IT challenge is nothing we haven’t seen before. Let us be your IT department. Call or contact us for more information and a no obligation estimate.

 

image: freedigitalphotos.net

Mitel 5360 IP Application Phone

Mitel Business Phone Systems: Which One is Right For You?

As a certified Mitel Exclusive Business Partner, BCS Voice and Data Solutions offers Mitel’s wide range of first-class business phone systems. From the basic desktop IP phone for small businesses on a budget to the cutting edge Windows screen-based soft phones for big companies with lots of mobile workers, BCS can provide you with the Mitel phone system that fits your company’s needs, and then some.

Mitel designs and produces four kinds of IP-based business phone systems including 1) Traditional IP Button Phones, 2) IP Application Phones, 3) Industry Specific IP Phones, and 4) Business IP Soft Phones.

Not sure of the right option for you and your business? Read on for a quick overview of the highlights of each system and an example of a business phone system in each category:

Traditional IP Button Phones

For the small to medium sized business that wants an IP-enabled phone with all the telephony features needed to facilitate fast and reliable communication, the traditional IP button phone is a good choice. Priced reasonably, these desktop phones are beautifully designed with ergonomics in mind.

Pictured below, the Mitel 5324 IP phone is a great example of an advanced traditional IP button phone:

Mitel 5324 Traditional IP Button Phone

 IP Application Phones

For the busy medium to large business with many remote workers and a need for fast-paced creative communication, the large touch screen IP application phones are a great fit. Not only do the IP application phones have all of the telephony features of the button phones, they provide instant on-screen access to web applications and development tools.

Mitel’s 5360 IP phone boasts a full color, backlit touch screen and 48 programmable keys.

Mitel 5360 IP Application Phone

Industry Specific IP Phones

Mitel specializes in providing the hospitality and financial industries with IP phones that suit their unique communication needs.

The Mitel 5505 Guest Phone, for use in hotel rooms and similar venues, allows guests to cordlessly communicate with the front desk and beyond without hassle. It has large-dial buttons, a hands-free speaker phone, a built in alarm clock, and many other innovative features. It also greatly reduces costs for both the hotel and its guests. Read more about the benefits of VoIP in the hotel and hospitality industry here.

Business IP Soft Phones

Mitel softphones aren’t physical phones, per se. They are actually web applications that allow mobile workers to access all the features of a top-of-line physical IP phone right from their Windows-enabled PC’s desktop. Softphones provide the ultimate benefit of IP telephony and Unified Communications by offering businesses seamless flexibility.

The Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced Softphone gives remote workers the full functionality of an IP phone as well as secure instant messaging, visual voicemail, and personalized USB configuration.

Mitel Unified Communicator Advanced Softphone

So whether you are in the market for a basic IP telephone system for your small company or remote IP Unified Communications software for your remote team, Mitel and BCS can help you find the perfect VoIP solution. Call or contact BCS today for more information.

A Data Backup Strategy is Your Best Defense

With the next destructive natural disaster seemingly always around the corner and “big data” getting bigger every day, small companies have to stay on top of protecting their business’ critical information with a solid backup strategy. Part of this task involves regularly, if not constantly, backing up important data.  Businesses that don’t back up their data consistently and reliably put themselves at risk for costly recovery downtime, not to mention the loss of customer trust that comes with any kind of data or security breach.

Some businesses approach the issue like a teenager behind the wheel and feel invincible, but no one is immune to the eventuality of data-loss events. Be prepared. How? If you don’t already have a backup strategy in place, follow these three steps to keep your business-critical information safe, secure, and enduring:

Pinpoint business-critical data

Especially if you are a very small business, it may not be necessary to have 2 or 3 copies of every single file, image, or video you have ever handled.  Larger companies with bulkier databases would do well to use less discretion. It’s all about using your best judgment. A good rule of thumb to use is to ask yourself, “Can I do business without this?” If not, you have your answer.

Choose an external backup system

Once you decide on the most important data, you must then decide on the ideal backup medium. What you choose depends largely on the size of your company and the volume of business-critical data that you handle.  Your options include (but are certainly not limited to) placing multiple copies of your information on CDs, storing them on a basic external hard drive or tape drive, or storing your backups offsite in a virtual environment.

BCS recommends combining onsite backup storage on a hard drive or tape drive with offsite virtual backup, as this will keep your data most secure in the event that a natural disaster destroys onsite copies. We work with the company VMware to provide our clients with dynamic virtualization solutions. Along with virtualization, we offer VMware’s top-of-the-line data protection that enables “fast and efficient backups to disk and, more importantly, fast and reliable recovery.” Technology like this allows a growing company to safely store their data in the cloud without worrying excessively over corruptible hardcopies. (Although it is wise to still keep those on hand.)

Backup regularly

Like we mentioned before, part of a solid backup strategy is consistency. If you only backup once a year, you are doing yourself a big disservice.  Perform a manual backup at least once a month, but if you prefer (and your backup medium can perform the function) it, you can schedule automated backups daily. The second option is the better one because not only does it make routine data backup one less thing to think about, it is also extremely thorough.

When you work with BCS to protect your data offsite, we make sure that nothing you need is ever lost and that it remains easily accessible to you and your team at a moment’s notice.  If you have any questions about your data backup strategy, call or contact BCS Voice and Data Solutions today. We are excited to help.

BYOD Policy and Your Wireless Network

We live in an increasingly interconnected world and the line between people’s work lives and their personal lives becomes blurrier every day.  In the workplace, this “Work 3.0” culture translates to the common practice of employees using their personal technology (smartphones, laptops, etc.) to access the corporate wireless network both in the office and out of the office.  It used to be that employees came in at 9 a.m. with their company issued cell phones to sit in their company-issued cubicles and work at their company-issued desktop computers. At five, those employees went home—and more or less left work at the workplace.

 

These days, thanks to the consumerization of technology, corporate employees have no reservations about accessing company information and enterprise via their own smartphones, tablets, and laptop computers from the office, from home, or from the coffee shop down the street. Check out this breakdown of employee behavior on personal devices:

 source

While this culture enhances productivity and the flexibility of employee daily life, it presents a huge security challenge for IT professionals who must attempt to protect company information on a number of vastly different devices on and off of the network. It’s enough to make a CIO want to throw their hands up and ban all personal devices from accessing the server on the wireless network—which is a strategic option. The problem is that too many companies neglect to form any kind of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at all, thus putting their sensitive data at great risk. Mitigate the risks associated with BYOD and reap the productivity benefits by following these three steps:

 

Define your policy

Weigh the pros and cons of BYOD for your business if you haven’t already. Are the productivity gains and the lower hardware costs worth the headache of Mobile Device Management (MDM) across myriad platforms for your IT department? Your policy is likely to fall in a grey area between total tech license for employees and total barring of non-company owned devices from the wireless network.

 

Promulgate your policy

You can develop the clearest, most reasonable BYOD policy out there, but if your employees are unaware of it, your efforts will be wasted. In our last blog post we talked about the importance of well-structured business-IT alignment, and the need for a top to bottom understanding of BYOD policy is a perfect example of why said alignment matters. When everyone is on the same page, your sensitive data is safer.

 

Enforce your policy

Once your BYOD policy is well known by all involved in the organization, enforcement of it becomes top priority. Of course, most of the continued implementation relies on experts in IT who must ensure that all firewalls and encryption mechanisms are in good working order.

 

How solid is your BYOD policy? Or perhaps it’s better to ask, how safe is your sensitive data on the wireless network? Let BCS provide you with a free IT consultation. We can help you decide the best course of action for a BYOD policy and provide wireless network monitoring solutions for your company. With these services, you can rest assured that no unauthorized device is infringing on your wireless network. Call us today. 757.497.1300.