How Does a VoIP Phone System Work for My Business?

Voice Over IP Telephony, or VoIP, is the modern standard for business phone systems. It has replaced premises based private branch exchange (PBX) as a way for companies to  to operate their phone systems over broadband connections and save money on expensive landlines. While VoIP is a bit of a catch-all term, companies utilize it in two main different ways.

IP-PBX Phone Systems

The equipment for IP-PBX is located on the office premises like traditional PBX. The difference between the two is that instead of a hardwired user network. IP-PBX uses SIP trunking, an IP-based private branch exchange and a PTSN gateway to route calls. All hardware is housed on site and since it is self-hosted, is the responsibility of the office. Usage charges vary from month to month. This is a reliable VoIP option for businesses with more than 20 employees and a high call volume. It is also highly customizable.

Hosted Phone Solutions

Hosted phone solutions take the pressure off of a company to house hardware, as the key functions of this type of phone system are completed off-site. The only hardware delivered to a business are the phones themselves. The hosting provider shoulders responsibility for keeping the system up and running and managing network downtime. Cost is on a per-user basis and doesn’t vary from month to month. This is a great option for small-to-medium companies without IT departments and those that need room to grow

What Type of VoIP Is Right for My Business?

When deciding on a VoIP solutions, business leaders must consider how much control they want over their company’s phone system. If the business has a robust IT department, consistently high call volume and a need for meticulous customization, IP-PBX is the best choice. If a business is looking for a simple outsourced solution that is feature-rich with predictable costs, a hosted solution might be a good fit.

No matter your unique needs, BCS Voice and Data Solutions offers a VoIP solution for you. Whether it’s an IP-PBX system, Mitel AnyWare hosted phone solution or perhaps just a new phone system, we are excited to help. Click or call today.

3 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Virtualization

Virtualization–the business tech craze that’s been sweeping the nation for some time now. For large companies, virtualizing multiple servers on a single server increases efficiency and cuts hardware costs. For small businesses, virtualization manifests itself in the operation of multiple operating systems on a single server and the deployment of virtual desktops. Virtual environments can be of great benefit to business big and small.

Here are three virtualization facts and tid-bits. 

1. A virtual machine allows you to back up entire operating systems and servers. In this way, virtualization of your OS is the ultimate companion to a good data backup strategy. In the event that hackers attack the system, you can simply load the backup and the headache of losing the information framework. This is also your best defense against a natural disaster or other catastrophe.

2. Virtualization lessens the need to replace hardware as frequently. Because you can run new programs and operating systems on older machines through the virtual environment, you don’t need to upgrade physical workstations as often.

3. Browsing the web via a virtual machine protects your physical operating system. When you install a browser on a virtual machine and run it on a desktop, you are not vulnerable to viruses and hack attacks and you won’t see a difference in the speed and functionality of the browser.

If you’re considering investing in a virtualization solution for your business, call the experts at BCS Voice and Data Solutions. We can implement virtual environments on any scale through our certified partnership with VMware–the most respected name in virtualization technology. Whether you are interested in virtual desktop capability or multiple virtual servers, VMware has the solution for your company. And since BCS serves the Hampton Roads region, we can personalize these solutions with ground support and face-to-face user training.

Call or contact us today!

 

 

Should you work from home?

It’s a liberating idea, isn’t it? Hopping out of bed, walking down the hall and sitting down at a computer to start your work day? For one in five Americans, this is a reality. Working from home has become a viable option in this Work 3.0 culture and made all the easier by the latest business communications technologies like virtualization and unified communications. But working remotely isn’t for everyone. If your company offers a remote option, weigh the benefits and possible drawbacks first.

Pros of Working From Home

  • The ability to make your own hours. 
  • Lack of a commute saves time and money. 
  • More expenses may be tax deductible. 
  • Save money with a smaller career wardrobe. 
  • More time spent with family and possibly fewer daycare expenses. 

Cons of Working From Home 

  • Less structure can lead to more temptation to become distracted.
  • Working in a space that doubles as a living space can become tiresome. 
  • Lack of face time with coworkers can lead to feelings of isolation and an absence of camaraderie. 
  • It’s easy to get too comfortable and then fall into a rut (but let’s be honest…that can happen at home and in a traditional office. 
  • There may be more pressure to “prove yourself” professionally if most other employees are in-office.

The decision to work at home is not one that should be made lightly. Doing business is doing business, but doing that business from home presents some unique challenges.

If you’re a company owner who is considering developing a remote telecommuting program, be sure to read “Tips for Implementing a Telecommuting Program” and call BCS to help you create the most effective strategy. The communications technologies we offer enhance the benefits of working from home and mitigate the drawbacks. In fact, our  Unified Communications and conference room solutions can make it feel as though an employee working from across the country is right there in the office. In the digital age, things like geography are virtually relative. Let BCS streamline communication in and out of your office. Contact us today.

Ring in the New Year with a New Business Phone System

What are your business’s communications challenges?

  • Outdated phone units that don’t offer new features? 
  • Unpredictable monthly costs? 
  • Unwieldy cabling and cluttered wiring?
  • Limited and unreliable teleconference capability?

Every company is different, and that’s why BCS tailors our services and recommendations to each company’s unique needs.

For those with outdated phone systems….

As an exclusive Mitel partner, BCS can outfit your company with new business phones that allow for seamless communication. You can go with traditional wired units, cordless phones or even a desktop Softphone. Most even pair with mobile phones, so your employees never have to miss a call.

For those who live in fear of the phone system bill…

BCS offers Mitel AnyWare hosted phone solutions as the perfect alternative to traditional IP-PBX and premise based PBX systems. For one monthly fee on a per-user basis, Mitel AnyWare gives small business owners peace of mind. Even more, AnyWare grows with your business. Add users as needed and know exactly what you’ll pay.

hosted telephone solutions

For those who have no clue where those cables lead…

Hardware failure is one of the leading causes of network downtime. This is why maintaining hardware like cabling, wiring and server components is an essential part of IT operations. Entrust your hardware to our expert structured cabling technicians. They will install (if necessary), inspect and organize your company’s cabling so that a frayed wire or bad connection won’t bring business to a halt.

For those who want the whole picture…

Relying on consumer-level video conferencing apps to connect with remote employees and distant clients is fine to a point, but exceptionally professional organizations need teleconference solutions that integrate directly with their phone and Unified Communications systems. BCS sells, installs and maintains a variety of the latest enterprise level teleconference equipment and applications.

Whatever the problem is, make a 2014 resolution to update and streamline your company’s communications technology by partnering with BCS Voice and Data Solutions. We specialize in providing tech solutions like feature-rich business phones, hosted PBX service, Unified Communications suites and more to small-to-medium businesses in Hampton Roads and beyond.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net/luigi diamanti

Best Cordless Business Phones for Retail

Calling all retail managers! With Christmas less than a week away, we’re sure that you are experiencing more than your fair share of stress and long hours, but we have some advice that may change the way you do business in-store (and hopefully take some stress out of the equation in 2014).

How do you handle in-store communication? Expensive cellphones? Hardwired cordless phones?  Consider transitioning to one of the business phone systems in Mitel’s IP-Digital Enhanced Cordless Communication (IP-DECT) arsenal. These cordless business phones connect over a wireless network and provide all the features of complex desktop phones with all the convenient portability of traditional cordless units.

And since no two companies’ communication needs are exactly alike, Mitel offers several different cordless phone units. All cordless business phones run on the the Mitel IP-DECT System for on-premises wireless communication.  As a certified exclusive Mitel partner, BCS Voice and Data Solutions is happy to offer this technology to SMBs in Virginia Beach, Virginia and beyond. These Mitel cordless units are two of our favorites.

Mitel MiVoice 5603 Wireless Phone

The Mitel Mivoice 5603 Wireless phone is perfect for small businesses that need a low-cost, basic cordless phone that though simple, is maximally reliable.The 5603 offers plenty of features to streamline the way your employees communicate with each other and the outside world. 

  • Customizable Graphical User Interface (GUI)
  • Phonebook with up to 500 entries
  • Speakerphone
  • Six languages
  • Vibration alert
  • High-quality voice
  • Call list with 25 most recent calls
  • Excellent battery life: 16 hours (talk) and 180 hours (standby)

Mitel MiVoice 5610 DECT Handset

For businesses that need to accommodate more users with more features, we give you the Mitel MiVoice 5610 handset with stand. This wireless handset operates much like a cellphone and offers all the features of the 5603 phone and more.

  • IP DECT Stand that supports up to 8 handsets and three simultaneous calls
  • Stand accommodates MiVoice 5312/5324/5320/5330/5340 and 5360 IP Phones
  • Handset with vibrant color display and adjustable brightness
  • Teleworker support
  • 9 Customizable polyphonic ringtones
  • Battery life: 8 hours (talk) and 240 hours (standby)
  • Multiple language support
  • MiVoice Business & MiVoice Office support
  • Has an operating range of up to 150 ft indoors and 300ft outdoors

Don’t be tethered to the desk by your business phone system. Give your employees the mobility and technology they need to get the job done. Call or contact BCS today to learn more about our cordless business phones and other business phone systems.

Unified Communications. Bringing People Together During the Holidays and Everyday.

All small to medium businesses can benefit from adding Unified Communications and Collaboration to their IT arsenal. The backbone of progress is efficient communication and UC allows companies to seamlessly integrate the various channels necessary to daily operations; email, messaging, virtualized environments, video and web conferencing, etc.

Many IT leaders are reluctant to embrace any one Unified Communications solution because they fear that such a change could leave their company “boxed in” to a certain server model or require an entirely new IT infrastructure to support it. We’re happy to report that these concerns are in large part unfounded, at least when companies choose to deploy a UC solution like Mitel MiCollab.

Mitel MiCollab is a single UC platform that addresses IT department’s concerns about complexity and inflexibility.

From Mitel:

  • One server for all functionality
  • One interface for user deployment
  • One management view
  • One point of control
  • Multiple deployment options including virtualized environments
  • Powerful APIs to bring other applications like email and CRM into the user’s communication realm.

In addition to the user-friendly interface, MiCollab offers the most sought-after UC features.

With MiCollab, the way you choose to deploy initially is not the end all be all for your company’s business communications future. Like we mentioned, the suite is compatible with public cloud hosting services, but it can also run on a dedicated site specific server, a private cloud or even a hybrid cloud model, depending on a business’s unique needs. And what’s more, it is incredibly easy to move the MiCollab suite to different platforms as your company grows. You may be running your business on a public cloud now, but if in two years you choose to upgrade to a private cloud model, MiCollab will upgrade with you. No need to invest in a new Unified Communications suite.

As an exclusive Mitel partner, BCS offers Unified Communications solutions like MiCollab as well as the latest business phone systems and the very best IT support and outsourcing in Hampton Roads and the Midatlantic region. Call or contact us today to learn more.

 

Business Phone Systems? Don’t Trust Just Anyone.

When it comes to business communications and modern phone systems, there are plenty of options to consider–so many that it can get overwhelming (See: Looking for a New Business Phone System: 10 Terms to Know). As a business owner, you are making an important investment in your future and the future of your employees. How do you choose the right phone system, and perhaps more critically, how do you choose the right communications provider? To answer the first question, check out “Mitel Business Phone Systems: Which One is Right for You?“. To answer the second question read on.

Top 5 Qualities to Look for in a Business Phone System Provider

1. Confident and knowledgeable about the products they sell. Many business communications companies leave it entirely to the consumer to research, compare and learn the ins-and-outs of a new business phone system. These companies act like little more than a middle man for phone system manufacturers and place little stock in the products. Choose a provider that loves what they do and is passionate about what they’re selling.

2. Offers reliable ground support. What’s the use of spending a great deal of money on a new phone system if installation and user training is disjointed and sub-par thanks to a provider headquartered across the country or even overseas? System installation, training, maintenance and repair should be a breeze for the client. Choose a provider that is geographically close and makes IT support top priority.

3. Provides knowledge and expertise in the broad spectrum of business communication issues. These days, a company’s communication strategy is anything but simple. The phone system is tied to the Internet service is tied to the cloud is tied to the private network is tied to the cabling.….you get the picture. Choose a provider that understands and is able to address the complex mechanics of the latest advancements in information technology.

4. Understands local challenges and circumstances facing your business.  Much like using a communications company with on-point ground support, we recommend joining with a local or regional company to manage your communication needs. Choose a provider that knows what you’re up against and can integrate that knowledge into its technology recommendations.

5. Is as invested in your company’s success as you are. Pretty self-explanatory. Choose a provider that does more than drop a phone system in your lap and collect their money. Choose a provider that wants to see your company grow, evolve and come out on top.

At BCS Voice and Data Solutions, our mission is “to provide our clients consulting, hardware, and services that maximize the value and effectiveness of their business technology,” and to do so with the previous five qualities constantly in mind. If you are in Hampton Roads, Virginia or the Mid-Atlantic region and are in the market for a new business phone system, unified communications solution, or IT support and outsourcing, contact us today.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net

The Three “H”s of VoIP Productivity

You may turn back the clocks this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you should turn back the clock on your approach to business communications. Technology in this industry is always changing, and falling behind could mean the difference between efficient productivity and lagging progress. VoIP and virtualized IP environments, for instance, have been adopted in recent years by the higher education, hospitality and healthcare fields. All three industries utilize IP communications to simplify once cumbersome processes.

Higher Education

Colleges and universities are full of bright minds, great ideas and data…a great deal of data. Rather than risk the loss of vital scholarship and student records, schools are widely transitioning to virtualized environments.

From Mitel: “A virtualized, IP communications environment enables educational institutions to run multiple operating systems via one physical machine—all of which can run on multiple servers. This way, if a blackout suddenly sweeps campus, the school’s IT administrator can access the central, physical machine via a remote server to ensure that all documents, projects and important files that were opened can be kept safe and restored.”

Hospitality

Last year we wrote about the success certain hotels have had with the implementation of VoIP technology. As the rise of mobile phones devalued hotel phone systems, hospitality managers transitioned to VoIP systems which allow users to make calls at a lower rate than the mobile provider’s. Read the full post here.

Healthcare

Efficiency and accuracy are important, especially when it comes to caring for people’s bodies and health.  This year, Cibola General Hospital in Cibola County, New Mexico,upgraded their Internet, data storage and phone services to a VoIP based system. Cibola General is one of many small hospitals that have grown to recognize the value of cutting edge communications technology. According to Rick Smith, the IT director at the hospital, “We’ve dramatically improved performance with built-in redundancy, which means there are two points to get to the same data backup system…If we put in a whiz-bang system but the nurses and doctors can’t use it, then it’s of no value.” (Cibola Beacon).

We agree with Mr. Smith that IT is nothing if it’s not user-friendly. That’s why BCS is proud to offer extremely intuitive Mitel IP Business Phone systems, innovative VMware virtualization solutions and more. Call or contact us today to learn more about how VoIP can add value to your enterprise.

Image: freedigitalphotos.net/stockimages

This Halloween, Avoid Network Downtime

 

network downtime

Forget the boogeyman and the little vampire asking for candy at your front door. Few things are more chilling for a business owner than the prospect of network downtime and the costs associated with it. According to Continuity Central, the top causes of network downtime include, in order:

  • Hardware failure. Listed as the cause of a whopping 55% of SMB downtime. Corrupted cabling, power surges and other hardware problems are often unexpected and tend to stop business in its tracks.
  • Human error. We all make mistakes, but when those mistakes happen in the context of business there can be serious repercussions. Causes 22% of network failures.
  • Software failure. Viruses and outdated software (among other technical maladies) constitute the cause of 18% of network crises.
  • Natural disasters. While Continuity Central emphasizes that natural disasters only “comprise a mere 5 percent of actual causes of downtime,” many business owners know firsthand how devastating natural disasters can be. They are perhaps the scariest of the risks because they are most out of our control.
Network downtime costs businesses countless dollars as owners must compensate for disrupted processes, productivity losses, reputation management and even litigation.

 

So what steps can you take to ensure things stay up and running with minimal risk of network operations failure, no matter the cause?

  1. Inspect all critical hardware periodically. This means checking for frayed wires, replacing old equipment and keeping an eye on the Storage Area Network (SAN) for any signs of problems. When it comes to cabling, it may be worth it to call a structured cabling expert like BCS to ensure that cables are organized in a safe and beneficial way.
  2. Build an internal IT department or outsource tasks. The best way to minimize the risk of human error is to make sure that the humans using the technology are well-trained in its complexities. Depending on the nature and size of your company, you may prefer a specialized internal IT department or outsourced managed support. Keep in mind that even the most skilled staff is bound to make mistakes, but doing what you can to combat human error is better than doing nothing.
  3. Be proactive about software updates and continually investigate emerging technologies. Software updates often include important security fixes and efficiency improvements. Delaying or failing to update puts your entire infrastructure at risk of malware, viruses and general continuity issues. Accordingly, avoid getting complacent with applications that just aren’t “working” as well as they should and instead keep one eye open for potential alternatives.
  4. Prepare as best you can for natural disasters by creating an IT Disaster Recovery Plan. Much like working to prevent downtime caused by human error, avoiding downtime resulting from natural disasters is all about planning. Having an IT disaster recovery plan on hand can make the difference between simple data restoration and rebuilding the network from the ground up (read our advice for creating such plan here).
  5. Invest in 24/7 network monitoring. Detect problems before they make a costly impact with professional network monitoring. BCS offers remote management of each device and application in a network, self-healing automation for instant resolution of network issues, virtual machine management and more.
The prospect of network downtime is frightening, but it doesn’t have to get the best of you. Do what you can to plan ahead and let BCS do the rest. Call or contact us today.

The Risk of Relying on Consumer Cloud Storage Services

Stephen Pritchard of ITPRO believes that the consumer cloud is experiencing a crisis of confidence and that this has implications for businesses who elect to use certain cloud storage services. In reference to the Google downtime earlier this week and other recent consumer cloud shutdowns (Amazon/Netflix and Microsoft in particular), Pritchard says,

“Companies are increasingly allowing, or even relying on, the use of services such as Google Drive, or Microsoft’s Office365….If businesses use these services to store documents, or instead of desktop software, even a short outage can cause a real loss of productivity. If companies build business processes around services such as Google Drive, the impact reach[es] even further.” (ITPRO)

Even if the company doesn’t officially adopt consumer cloud storage services like Google Drive and Microsoft’s Office365, individual employees often find them convenient for easy document storage and collaborative work on a project-by-project basis. The use of these services by employees may seem harmless (or maybe a little reckless), but as we saw with the Google server issues on Tuesday, the unpredictable nature of the consumer cloud has the potential to stall important office operations.

Best Cloud Storage Practices

We don’t mean to shed any suspicion on cloud-based data storage as a whole, but rather to emphasize the superior security of enterprise-class cloud services, which can be tailored to the unique needs of each business. When it comes to the cloud, you really do get what you pay for. A business that deploys an enterprise-class cloud storage service on a private network enjoys far less risk of downtime and increased efficiency (especially when paired with 24/7 network monitoring).

It seems obvious that companies should refrain from depending on the consumer cloud storage services , but the issue presents a more nuanced choice for IT strategists: Should use of consumer cloud services be prohibited in-office on an individual basis? The challenge in answering this question is that it is nearly impossible to remove such services entirely. Instead, as Pritchard recommends, “…companies should look at improving their in-house IT to make it more attractive, or else invest in enterprise-grade cloud services, and promote their use.”

If your business is currently relying on consumer cloud storage services for data storage, don’t wait until major downtime hurts productivity and revenue to research your options for enterprise-class cloud services like VMware’s Private Cloud. And if a dated IT infrastructure is leading employees to opt for consumer cloud services, consider an upgrade.

Call or contact BCS to talk to IT experts about your company’s cloud options as well as network monitoring services and outsourcing. We are your IT department (if you want us to be)!

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net