All About Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

The pros and cons of VDI. Is it right for your business?

First things first, let’s talk about VDI basics. An acronym that stands for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, VDI is a functional outflow of the client/server computing model. When enabled on a network, programs and applications on multiple computers connected to the private network deploy from the same central server.

VDI allows remote workers to access the virtualized corporate desktop from their own PC, laptop or mobile device as if they were working in-office.

BCS works with industry leader VMware to provide VDI services to our clients. This partnership puts clients at an advantage because VMware helped pioneer VDI as we know it today (they even coined the term!)

Here are the Top 4 pros and cons of VDI:

1. Pro: Supports Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) with less security risk than the traditional computing model.

Con: Requires the acquiring of new skills and knowledge on the part of the existing IT department or outsourcing to a VDI vendor.

2. Pro: Facilitates greater control of employee desktops while allowing for limited personalization on the employee’s part.

Con: Tasks IT staff with the sometimes difficult task of managing a hybrid desktop environment.

3. Pro: Greener and more efficient than traditional computing models. VDI preserves the life of hardware while simultaneously allowing hardware upgrades that are independent of the desktop image.

Con: Efficiency depends on skilled deployment of VDI and close monitoring.

4. Pro: Easy to make network-wide software updates. Instead of updating each physical desktop one-by-one, VDI allows IT staff to make software changes across the network with the click of a mouse.

Con: Because of the uniform nature of the desktop image, the user-experience may feel impersonal.

Most all of the “cons” associated with VDI deployment can be avoided by trusting a virtualization specialist like BCS Voice and Data Solutions to manage the service. Call or contact us today to learn more about VDI and other VMware virtualization solutions.

Images courtesy of: freedigitalphotos.net

Looking for a New Business Phone System? 10 Terms to Know.

When on the hunt for a new business phone system, navigating the waters of technical jargon can be exhausting, limiting and just plain frustrating. Whether you are thinking of investing in a cloud-based solution, a premise-based solution or even one of our used business phone systems to pair with your existing infrastructure, we’ve compiled ten key industry terms to help guide your search.

business phone system

  1. Auto attendant- a virtual receptionist that can run a phone system even in the event of network downtime. Directs callers toward their desired extensions and often has the capability, if the desired party is out of office, to direct said caller to the extension’s mobile device (see “mobile twinning”).
  2. Cloud-based business phone system-  Also known as a hosted phone system or hosted PBX (private branch exchange), a cloud-based business phone system stores all communications data wirelessly in the cloud. Requires subscription to a cloud-based VoIP PBX service like Mitel AnyWare and generally has fixed monthly charges on a per-user basis. Usually managed via a graphical user interface. (See: 5 Ways Hosted Telephone Solutions Can Help You Do Your Own Thing)
  3. Hosted PBX- See Cloud-based business phone system.”
  4. IP address- Internet protocol address. A series of numbers assigned to each device on a network. Can be either dynamic or static (fixed).
  5. Mobile twinning- A phone system’s capability to direct a call from a user’s desktop phone or softphone to his or her mobile device.
  6. On-premise PBX- Traditional Private Branch Exchange analog technology with hardware and connectivity maintained on site.
  7. On-premise IP PBX- Uses on-site SIP trunking to make calls and otherwise communicate over the Internet (VoIP). Communications costs vary month-to-month based on usage.
  8. SIP Trunking- Stands for “Session Initiation Protocol.” Acquired through an IP service provider, SIP trunking allows companies with IP-PBX phone systems to place calls outside of the office environment over the Internet.
  9. Softphone- Generally a Unified Communications client, a Softphone allows the user to place and receive phone calls from the desktop of their PC, just as they would from a desktop phone unit.  (See our recent product profile on Mitel’s MiCollab Client Softphone)
  10. Unified communications- Refers to the strategic integration of phone, instant messaging, video conferencing and other communication channels over the Internet through the private network.

Call or contact BCS to talk to an expert who can answer your questions about bettering your business’ communication potential. We’ll offer you advice, perspective and, most importantly, solutions.

 

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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.

Business Technology FAQ: What equipment does a VoIP business phone system require?

As a trusted hosted telephone solution provider in Hampton Roads, BCS is well-equipped to answer any question you may have about VoIP, Unified Communications, and more, because we’ve just about heard them all.

We get this one a lot from clients: “I understand that VoIP provides lower ongoing costs, but what equipment do I need to make it worth my while? How much do other system components drive up costs?” 

 

Here’s our answer:

First off, there are two approaches to VoIP — a premise-based system that doesn’t use an internet connection, and a hosted or cloud-based solution that does use the internet.  In either case you can use an IP-based business phone system.

 

Internet Connection and a Hosted or Cloud Solution

For hosted or cloud-based phone systems, a fast and reliable internet connection is its main requirement.  However, you don’t need to have a fast internet connection to take advantage of VoIP benefits within your office.  If you’re not sure if your network can support a hosted phone system, give BCS a call and we can perform a network analysis and help you select the best system for your current, and future, situation.

VoIP Business Phone System

If the situation calls for it, a business may not even need a phone system, since VoIP calls can be made from a desktop, laptop or mobile phone as part of a Unified Communications solution.

Newer systems are quite affordable, adaptable, and many are even more feature-rich than the leading analog-based business phones.  IP phone systems like the kinds Mitel offers through BCS grows with your business without the fuss of complicated installation and hardware rewiring.

 

Most of the costs incurred by switching to a VoIP business phone system pay for themselves over time, whether they are cloud-based or premise-based. With minimal ongoing maintenance charges, lower (or nonexistent) local and long-distance rates, and the flexibility of modern business phone systems, you’d be surprised how much you can save by upgrading.

Are you interested in discovering the VoIP phone solutions that are right for your business? Call or contact BCS today to learn more.

June is National Employee Wellness Month: Manage Stress With BCS

Your employees are more than just employees, but you knew that. They are people with multifaceted needs, including the need for a balanced, healthy life. Without that balance, your workers won’t be able to do their jobs to the best of their potential. Since June is National Employee Wellness Month, we encourage you to consider what you can do to help improve your employees’ mental, physical and spiritual well-being, and learn a bit about how BCS can help you do that.

According to a 2011 Gallup poll, about 86% of workers in the U.S. are “above normal weight and have at least one chronic condition.” These workers missed an estimated 450 million more days of work than their healthier counterparts. In a separate poll, focused on U.K. workers, Gallup found that overweight and obese workers miss an estimated 103 million additional days of work, “resulting in an estimated cost of more than 21 billion pounds [over 32 billion U.S. dollars] in lost productivity annually.”

Employee wellness boosts productivity, improves office morale and helps reduce absenteeism. You can promote wellness in the workplace by offering corporate gym memberships and mental health screenings, stocking the office kitchen with healthy options, and most importantly, doing all that you can to help your employees manage stress–arguably the biggest contributor to chronic illness.

While BCS doesn’t have much say in whether or not your employees make it to the gym, we can help reduce stress in their work lives by making day-to-day communication a breeze.

Unified communications technologies like Mitel UC360 allow employees to work from home as needed without missing a beat. This capability is especially important for maintaining the work-life balance. If need be, a home-bound employee can give an entire multimedia presentation to the office from the comfort of their kitchen table using UC360.

IT outsourcing is another BCS solution that can cut down on office stress, not only for your employees, but also for you. We handle the maintenance, daily operations and support of your entire IT infrastructure so you don’t have to worry about fixing technical problems yourself or hiring an expensive internal department to do it for you.

What can you do this month to enhance the well-being of your employees and the productivity levels in your office? How can we make it easier for you? Call or contact BCS today for a free IT, VoIP or audiovisual consultation.

 

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.

Cover All Your Bases For Less With Mitel AnyWare Hosted PBX

At BCS Voice and Data Solutions, we believe that your business should be able to communicate flexibly, reliably and in a way that maximizes your bottom line.

If yours is like many small to medium sized companies, you may find that managing a complicated, premises-based executive phone system can be anything but flexible and reliable and often  incurs extra (and unpredictable!) communication costs. Some of the more complex systems require a specialized IT staff to fix even small issues, and employing such a staff isn’t always an option for still-growing businesses.

For those businesses, BCS recommends using a virtually hosted telephone solution (aka hosted PBX service) like Mitel AnyWare. With Mitel AnyWare’s low cost monthly per-user subscription, you receive everything you need to streamline business continuity and take the headache out of phone system management. What’s that exactly? Mitel AnyWare gives your business:

  • Mitel’s feature-rich, intuitive, executive class business telephones. One for every user.   And Mitel’s phones aren’t simply phones. They are cutting-edge, unified communications clients that put the world at your employees’ fingertips.
  • Reliable and pristine call quality.
  • Unlimited calls to the US and Canada.
  • Mobile device integration, or “Mobile Twinning.” This means that, if you so choose, calls to an employee’s desktop phone can be directly routed to his or her mobile phone. Your remote workers never have to worry about missing a call, no matter how far they are from the office.
  • Faster disaster recovery with less downtime. Mitel AnyWare’s mobile Auto Attendant continues to run your phone system, even in the event of a power outage. And with Mobile Twinning, business doesn’t have to stop short for Mother Nature.
  • Highly customizable and user-friendly web-based interface.

We can’t say enough about the benefits of using a truly complete hosted phone solution like Mitel AnyWare. Lots of voice and data solution companies provide bits and pieces of the necessary communication arsenal, but BCS in its partnership with Mitel offers the full spectrum. We come to your business, install the phone system and even train your users so they can make the most of Mitel AnyWare. And when your business grows enough that it requires a more complex premise-based phone system, we can help you with that too.

 

Do you think that Mitel AnyWare hosted PBX service might be the right choice for your business? Do you have some questions?  Call or contact BCS today. We are looking forward to helping you make business happen!