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Three Steps to a Great Conference Call

Holding conference calls is one of the biggest necessary evils in the business world. Clients tell us all the time how much they dislike the starts, stops and connectivity issues that go along with teleconferencing and how they wish there was a way to communicate effectively from afar. Well, the first thing we tell these clients is that done right, conference calls can be incredibly easy and productive.

By doing these 3 things before the call starts, you can help ensure a successful conference call.

1. Make the Details Clear to Participants

This includes the date and time (adjusted for time zones), names of all people on the call, and the equipment/applications needed to participate.

Send a reminder or two in the in the days preceding. One of those should be sent on the afternoon before.

2. Set Aside an Organized, Functional and Quiet Space

There are few things worse than conducting a conference call in the middle of a noisy coffee shop or with old and buggy equipment. Make sure your office space is equipped with the technology you need to be in control. That could mean something as simple as a quality business phone and projector or as complex as a an interactive whiteboard and multimedia collaboration hub. The equipment you use should make it easier to get your point across.

3. Test All Components Beforehand

Something worse than conducting a conference call in the middle of a noisy coffee shop? Finding out that half of the call participants can’t hear a word that you are saying thanks to a bad connection. Run a test call before the real deal and you will likely avoid this type of snafu.

BCS specializes in conference rooms for businesses of all sizes. We install, train users and provide support for teleconference equipment. If you need an integrated audiovisual solution, our IT experts can talk you through the best options for your business. Contact BCS Voice and Data Solutions today. Happy conference calling!

Image: freedigitalphotos.net/Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee

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.

 

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.

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.