Posts

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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.

Work 3.0

A report recently published by Mitel Solutions asserts that, “We are on the tipping point of a workplace revolution that will signal a model for a dynamic, adaptive and smarter business that is focused around the human cloud workforce.”

Flexibility. Virtualization. Bring Your Own Device. These are all things that characterize a new era of business technology that Mitel and the tech-world call “Work 3.0.” It has the potential to provide businesses with more skilled talent, happier employees, and in turn, huge gains in productivity.

But what is this transition to Work 3.0 all about, and what does it mean for small business?

While it’s no secret that business technology and culture has become increasingly reliant on virtual communication thanks to rapid technological innovation, many companies who felt the sting of the recent recession found the cost-saving merit of making a complete switch to virtual voice and data technology through use of cloud computing and unified communications (UC).

With UC, companies can provide their employees the ability to work from anywhere, be it their home office, the coffee shop down the street, or on a plane.

Working remotely is admittedly not a new concept, but UC’s emphasis on mobile capability transcends anything we’ve seen prior. It allows workers to make their job a seamless part of their “on-the-go” lifestyle. Imagine doing your entire job from a smartphone. Unified communications technology makes this possible.

It also makes expansive physical office spaces a little less relevant. In fact, there are quite a few companies who have harnessed the power of UC and gotten rid of their offices altogether in favor of virtual communication between employees.

Since these voice and data innovations have made collaboration and communication as easy as a click of a mouse, companies have access to a larger talent pool that isn’t constrained by location or ability to commute. This means that businesses can hire people on other coasts and in other countries who are truly best-suited for open positions, with a lot less overhead.

The essence of Work 3.0 is facilitating a work environment that interacts seamlessly with the lives of employees. They choose (in part, at least) when they want to work, where they want to work, and how they want to work. It used to be that one’s office was the only place to find the technology needed to get work done. Now, with the ubiquity of smartphones, tablets, advanced laptops and cloud computing, people are just as capable of getting work done at home as they are at the office, if not more so. For a growing number of companies, small and large alike, the days of the 9 to 5 workday are coming to an end.

Your business can harness the power of Work 3.0 without getting rid of your office space or regular business hours. As a Mitel partner, BCS Voice and Data Solutions leads the way for advanced voice and data technology in Hampton Roads. Among other things, we provide desktop and mobile integrated phone systems, wireless networking solutions, and high level teleconferencing equipment that can help your company stay on the cutting edge of innovative communication and increase overall productivity and ROI. Call us at 757-497-3100. We can help.

Source: Mitel 3.0 Whitepaper