Blog

November 24th, 2016

2016november24_voip_bOne of the latest innovations from Microsoft involves various popular Insider Programs. The newest of these is a Skype Insider Program. Available for all desktop and mobile operating systems, this program will grant business owners and individuals access to more frequent updates and new, special features to one of the most important voice over internet protocol (VoIP) applications on the market. Find out more about the Skype Insider Program here.

At its core, the new Skype Insider Program is a way to allow Skype users to beta test cutting-edge features and software fixes. In addition to granting users access to the latest features before they become public, this program also gives Microsoft a major advantage because more beta testers means it can roll out full updates and upgrades more quickly. After joining, users can test out a wide array of improvements for any Skype platform, including Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before joining this Insider Program, or any betas for that matter. It exists to test out how well new features work “in the wild,” and there is potential for bugs. The catch 22 is that with so many users beta-testing the software, those problems and bugs will be fixed far more quickly than before, and participants will have a head start on using those features when they officially roll out.

VoIP has been around for years now, and most vendor offerings are similar to one another. In our opinion, getting access to new VoIP technology is definitely worth it. You’ll be able to get a head start on the competition, and Microsoft will reward your contributions with a faster, more secure Skype connection.

An open and well-populated beta program almost always means great things for users and the software they’re using. If you are interested in becoming part of Skype's Insider Program, or if you have any VoIP-related questions, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
November 9th, 2016

2016november9_voip_bUnified Communications (UC) may be a solution to problems and potential issues a business may not even realize it has. The process of integrating multiple communications into a singular communication process can be both daunting and exciting. To determine whether or not UC are right for your company, learn more about their pros and cons by reading on.

Understanding UC is important to understanding the pros and cons of this communications platform. Essentially, UC is the use of service, software, and equipment that creates a communications system that is fully integrated and centralized. This allows for phone calls, emails, video conferencing, calendars, and the like to be accessible on one system alone.

Pros of UC

There are numerous benefits of choosing a UC system over a non-integrated, disjointed communications system. One is that all people involved in the business process -- from bosses and employees, to vendors, customers, and other business associates or partners -- can access the same information and quickly and easily communicate with one another one-on-one or in groups.

VoIP UC makes it possible to receive phone calls through a computer, have them pushed to a mobile phone, and even get copies of voicemails and information about callers on the computer. Essentially, everything runs through the internet and wireless communications.

Additionally, mobile technologies can more easily be used to bring work groups together and make employees as productive as possible wherever they are. This means that virtual conference calls and meetings are possible and can be an important tool in the process of doing business. UC also save employees and other business associates a great deal of time and can improve productivity.

And then there is the issue of cost. UC can save businesses money in the short- and long-term by making it possible to telecommute, have meetings over great distances, and make work hours more productive overall.

Cons of UC

Of course, no business change or decision is without potential drawbacks. The initial overall cost of switching to a UC system can be high because of the software, equipment, and training needed. Already accustomed to existing systems, some employees might resist adopting a new technology. And other employees, considering their unique roles in the company, might think the new communications system irrelevant to them and so see little benefit to it.

Better understanding these potential benefits and drawbacks to UC can help you decide what is right for your business. Contact us if you have any questions or if you are ready to begin using VoIP UC processes in your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
November 7th, 2016

2016november7_socialmedia_bThe use of social media for marketing is practically inescapable at this point. And for good reason: companies gain access to increased visibility, more sales opportunities, and more opportunities to define their brand. But why limit your business to a few of the most well known options? The internet is full of useful social media platforms, and we want to let you know some of our favorites.

Having great content on your site is the magnet that attracts visitors. However, when there is too much competition on the most popular platforms, it's hard for your social media reputation management to deliver the results you expect. To reap nominal rewards from social media marketing, you need to devise new methods to stand out from the crowd.

Meetup

For people with similar interests, Meetup is a great site to plan face-to-face meetings. Does your company sell hiking, camping, and backpacking products? Organize a meetup for the people in your community to go on a hike. You really can’t get a better customer interaction than engaging them in the activities they love.

Eventbrite

If you’re looking for a more formal event platform, Eventbrite helps you to organize, plan, and market your event so you can ensure its success. Another way it differs from Meetup is its recruitment potential. You can easily market yourself as an expert in an industry to either attract freelancers or educate potential customers about the problems you aim to solve for them. Townscript, and Picantic, offer similar services and can go to great lengths to improve your social media reputation.

Answer Forums

How many times have you scoffed at the amatuer responses to the questions posted on sites such as Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Reddit? However, if you take a step back you’ll realize that these people are often searching for information about certain industries or products. When providing helpful answers to their questions, establish your credibility by identifying your expertise and product.

Disqus

It’s easy to get stuck in a narrow interpretation of ‘social media.’ It’s just web technology that helps us to communicate with each other, right? By embedding apps such as Disqus into your online content, you can connect with readers and external websites to boost your material as well as your reputation. What’s more social than getting people talking about about your products or industry?

Slack

Most people who use the messaging app Slack see it as a way to communicate with friends and coworkers. However, with a little creativity you can join conversations from all over the world to boost your online presence. There are countless channels devoted to industries, categories, hobbies and more. All you have to do is insert yourself and your company into the conversation to get people talking about your business!

It’s hard to deny that technology has made our lives more complicated. We still believe it has made up for this downside ten fold, but we understand it can feel a little overwhelming at times. Thankfully, the answer is simple: a managed technology provider. For a never-ending source of information on reputation and social media management, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
October 24th, 2016

2016october24_voip_bCyber-crimes based on denial of services (DoS) attacks are nothing new. But of the businesses facing the threat of a DoS to their Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, most have no idea how to prevent this type of attack, or even why it’s being launched against them. If you’re one of those businesses, we have everything you need to know right here.

Denial of service attacks

The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that the system is eventually forced to shut down. Telephony DoS (TDoS) attacks are a subcategory wherein these types of attacks are leveled at VoIP systems. Sadly, this security bulletin has jumped to the front of security concerns as a result of its use against hospitals and 9-1-1 phone lines.

In another depressing development, some TDoS attackers demand a ransom to halt the attack. Much like ransomware, with the help of cryptocurrencies and caller-ID spoofing, it’s incredibly difficult to identify attackers.

TDoS attacks generally employ fewer resources than the DoS attacks that are designed to cripple IT systems such as networks, servers, and software. At its most basic, all that a TDoS attack requires is an automated phone dialer that calls a target phone number and hangs up -- over and over. That very simple concept can stop anyone else from getting through the line.

What organizations need to do

Counterintuitive as it might sound, locking down your VoIP system with complicated and unnecessary security measures will ultimately do more harm than good. Most businesses can’t operate if they can’t communicate with their customers.

Although VoIP may be a digital resource similar to your other IT systems, the very nature of phone lines makes it impossible to hide them behind firewalls and other protections. However, there are new solutions that offer protection to VoIP systems. The new security protocols can protect your communication infrastructure against those who try to use force to gain access to your directory information. These protocols can also identify, reroute, and filter calls coming from known attackers.

If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with your VoIP system, or if you want to deploy the most up to date solution that the market has to offer, we have just the company in mind. With years of experience in the field, our expert staff is ready to help you at the drop of a hat -- just call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
October 10th, 2016

2016october10_socialmedia_bFacebook has been used by people to connect and share information for a long time. However, until now Facebook struggled to break into the world of business. The good news is that starting today, the launch of Facebook at Work will make it possible to incorporate social media into your company’s workflow. Take a look at our review of the new service here.

Facebook releases generally take place in the company’s home country, the US. However, this time around the social media giant will launch its take on enterprise communication tools in London, where Facebook at Work was first dreamed up.

Facebook at Work has set its sights on improving productivity in the workplace. In addition to aesthetic updates like changing from the iconic blue color to a business-friendly grey, users will have a totally separate platform from the original Facebook. Work accounts are strictly for work interactions and will not mix with users’ personal profiles. So how is it different from just creating a work-friendly account on the original platform?

Facebook at Work creates a microcosm of the social media site, just for your company. Employees can communicate with coworkers, post pictures, plan for upcoming events, and make office announcements at ease. As an added bonus, Facebook at Work will employ auto-translate functionality to make communication between foreign nationals easy.

Aside from the fact that transitions will be easy with so many people already using the site for personal accounts, Facebook at Work is hoping Work Chat and Video Call options will be able to rival the likes of Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, and Slack. And with the addition of new avenues of privacy come new security guarantees. In an attempt to assuage the concerns of HR departments and paranoid employees alike, the improved security measures in Facebook at Work are separate from the personal platform and unique to the enterprise.

Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the original, Facebook at Work is a product keen on helping enterprises improve communications and increase work productivity. If you’re interested in getting in on the ground floor of this new workplace application, we’re your ticket. From product updates to completely new social media sites, we’re your one-stop-shop for getting the word out about your business and your product. Message us for more information today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
October 5th, 2016

2016october5_voip_bVoIP acts as a bridge between traditional landlines and our internet-centric lives. By unifying communications under a single system for voice, data, and video converged networks, many businesses are realizing unprecedented savings and improvements to their workflow models. If that sounds like something your SMB could benefit from, you’ve come to the right place.

Fax

Modern VoIP does more than just make calls, it also receives faxes. Why would a business be interested in this seemingly outdated service? A significant portion of businesses, government bodies, and medical facilities still use some form of fax service to send and receive physical documents. If a customer or vendor prefers to send you a fax, most VoIP solutions are equipped to receive and convert fax documents into a PDF file.

Interactive Voice Response

The new VoIP feature allows businesses to route their calls to the correct client’s or staff’s number. This feature helps to reduce the use of mass cold calling and unwanted calls, saving the businesses' time and money, and enhances proper service delivery to your clients. VoIP systems promote minimal routing calls, increasing your employees' ability to work well.

Spam Call Filter

It’s election season and that means robo-calls. If you hate them as much as we do, VoIP is one of the best services to eliminate them. Spam filters combine several different pieces of caller data to help you differentiate between potential customers and annoying telemarketers. About as effective as the spam filter protecting your email inbox, this feature is not something we could live without.

Telemarketer Block

Automatic filters are never perfect, and some telemarketers may be able to slip through the fence your filters have erected. Depending on the scope of your VoIP system, you may want to input blocked numbers manually. If you have specific times that your spam filter and blocked call list would become prohibitive, they can be turned off with the flip of a switch.

Network Down Forward

One of the biggest concerns for VoIP solutions is their bandwidth requirements. Users in areas without a robust or reliable internet connection may think they can’t reap the rewards of a internet-based communications service. Modern VoIP systems have a feature called ‘network down forward’ to overcome these hurdles. When turned on, network down forward allows you to send calls to your signal-based mobile devices when your internet is down -- thereby guaranteeing customers can always get a hold of you.

VoIP technology has opened up entirely new avenues of what businesses can achieve with their communication systems. Beyond just making and receiving calls over the internet, users can block unwanted callers, receive faxes, and design pleasant hold menus. For any VoIP inquiries, call us today -- we’re always available.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
September 19th, 2016

2016september19_voip_bRecently, a story circulated amongst industry insiders of an official in a hospital’s records room who couldn’t customize her legacy phone system’s hold messages. The upshot was this particular platform restarted the hold message each time a caller was placed back on hold. Her provider - a reseller with little control over the system’s functionality - was unable to help, and the “on-hold caller” hang-up rate increased 35% over a 3-month period.

When an operator asks a client for permission to put them on hold, what they’re really saying is “Can you wait there a short time not talking to anybody?” It’s a small window of speech-free standing-by that occurs at different times throughout a call, and for different durations.

And, it can result in two distinctly different outcomes: an untroubled customer who will stick around to finish their business, or a disgruntled one who will most likely quit the call and come back another time. With a VoIP phone system, a mix of engaging music, constructive messages, and interesting information can put the kibosh on finicky fleeing clients.

Music

We’d all agree there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to music, but there are some things you definitely DON’T want playing while a potentially agitated or impatient customer is on hold. So how do you choose the best sounds for them to hear whilst waiting?

With a VoIP system’s easy-to-navigate dashboard, you simply click a tab called “Hold Music” or something similar, and then upload your audio. Focus on trendy, easily recognizable music that suits your brand, and takes your clientele’s demographics into account.

You can also enter through your VoIP user interface freely to schedule how frequently a particular track plays and for how long, and to configure whether it restarts or continues where it left off when a caller is placed back on hold.

Marketing Messages

Your VoIP system’s audio files aren’t restricted to music, of course. There is a world of opportunity there to keep your on-hold customers not only engaged by sound, but marketed to, too. Remember, your goal isn’t just to eliminate silence, it’s to do so with a purpose.

“Hold message” scripts that riff on your company’s TV and radio ads might elicit an “I think I’ve heard this somewhere” response. Conversely, you could put a totally new spin on the usual tone and style of your marketing messages and really get creative with humorous mini-commercials that make your customers chuckle (and a little bit of levity never hurt nobody!).

You could also create files that catalogue your company’s services in unconventional ways, such as in alphabetical order; highlight seasonal promotions or other new specials; and announce upcoming product launches -- or simply hint at them to coax your customer into a bit of standby sleuthing. Whatever the case may be, your VoIP system’s interface makes it easy to have multiple messages at the ready.

Facts & Figures

Why is your customer doing business with you in the first place? Try to remind them while they wait, perhaps by telling them about your company’s founding fathers’ esteemed histories or about some of the innovations you’ve brought to your industry’s marketplace.

New information and intriguing anecdotes will take their minds off of the fact that they aren’t being served, so you could also pose a playful trivia or “Did you know?” kind of contest where providing a correct answer once the call resumes wins them a prize.

Or, tailor-make announcements that make it clear you’re doing your best to solve the customer’s issues: whether they went through the “internet service” IVR menu or they’re there to “renew membership,” program your VoIP system to play an upbeat, service-appropriate message that makes them feel like they’re getting personalized care.

VoIP functionality actually gives you an opportunity to turn the on-hold experience into a positive customer service experience. So if you’re looking for a way to make sure the window of speech-free standing-by doesn’t slam shut, get in touch with us today and we’ll help you increase the odds that your clients hold the line happily.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
September 15th, 2016

2016september15_socialmedia_bAside from having an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, there seems to be more waiting around than getting job interviews or receiving promotions. Why so? You’ve given all the relevant information needed to land a job, or to convince your boss that it’s time for you to step up the corporate ladder -- but what else is missing? Your network. Knowing how to fully utilize your network will help advance your career by leaps and bounds. All you have to do is start using LinkedIn’s Alumni tool.

Get started

Access the Alumni tool by going to the homepage and hovering over “My Network.” Then select “Find Alumni.” From there, you are free to perform any search for individuals who have attended your school. You can apply one or more of the following filters:
  • Where they live (geographic location)
  • Where they work (company)
  • What they do (job function)
  • What they studied (major)
  • What they’re skilled at (LinkedIn skills)
  • How you are connected (first- and second-degree connections, group members, etc.)
On top of that, you can also identify alumni by the year they attended school, or you can conduct a text search for specifics that don’t fit in any of the listed filters.

The benefits of LinkedIn Alumni

Imagine that you’re looking for work in a new city. Let’s say you're looking for a marketing job in Texas. With the Alumni tool, select “Dallas/Fort Worth” area under “Where they live” and “Marketing” under “What they do.” If you are interested in a specific area of marketing like social media, you can refine your search by selecting “Social Media Marketing” for the “What they’re skilled at” filter. The more you target your search, the more relevant your results will be. From there, you can sift through profiles and send messages to those you want to have an actual conversation with. You can dip your toes into the water first by setting up an informational interview or exchanging questions via email.

If you’re looking to change careers but don’t know anyone in your new sector, all you need is filter for your alma mater. It shouldn’t be hard to reach out to anyone who went to the same school as you, because going to that school is what you both share in common. If you want to know how others made the leap toward where you’re headed, you can use the “What they studied” and “What they’re skilled at” filters for further information. You might also be able to find an individual with a nontraditional background, but who’s nonetheless working in the industry you want. This person may have insight into how to land the job without possessing the typical required experience.

Know how to contact the candidates

After narrowing down your search by utilizing the appropriate filters, you now have a list of individuals you wish to connect with. Technically, you’re just about done with the “Alumni Tool” portion of the process, but you’re not at the finish line just yet. All that’s left is to reach out to the people in your list and make the most out of the search.

If you have a first-degree connection with certain people, message them by clicking on the envelope icon found below the job title. Without a first-degree connection, you’ll see a silhouette and plus sign below the job title. From there, look to the bottom right of the profile photo; if there’s a Venn diagram, hover over it to see the connections you share. If you have a good relationship with one of these mutual connections, you should consider reaching out to see whether he or she would be willing to make an introduction.

There are a few ways to connect even without mutual connections. One option is to leverage your school’s alumni database to find contact information. Another is to send a personalized connection request. In the message, politely and briefly explain your reasons for wanting to connect. That should do it!

When used properly, networks truly are the keys to success. Like any other untapped resource, you must proceed with caution and know how to fully utilize it. If you have questions or concerns regarding LinkedIn’s Alumni tool, don’t hesitate to call in or send us an email. Let us be a part of the success that awaits you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 31st, 2016

2016August31_VoIP_BIt’s hard to deny how reliable Skype is as a VoIP telephony system. Having something good doesn’t mean you should stop at that; for the sake of your small- or medium-sized business, you should always be on the lookout for the next best thing that helps facilitate your company’s growth. Enter Skype for Business. We’ve compiled three main reasons why you should consider utilizing this tool as opposed to relying on its predecessor.

Cloud PBX

Skype for Business is designed for simple management, with Cloud PBX (public exchange servers) allowing you to store and transfer data via the Internet as opposed to a computer or other hardware that the end-user owns. With Skype for Business, you are able to easily record and store any audio or video conversation history. You can also store instant messages for future reference in a separate email folder.

In order for a cloud PBX system to work, it requires an IP connection or Internet phone for the necessary Internet connection. From there, you can access it through a personalized account from any Internet-enabled device capable of running the Cloud PBX’s interface. Your cloud PBX service provider is in charge of storing and managing all the data, meaning that your calls are connected to their recipients via the Internet. Your service provides “redundancy,” which backs up all your data in the event they were to get lost or corrupted because your computer crashed.

Expanded Capability

Over the past decade, webinars have become quite popular, mainly due to the fact that they allow important meetings to be held without having to converge at the same location. It’s like having a video chat with your friends. Whereas Skype allows up to 25 participants, Skype for Business accommodates up to 250. Other nifty features include:
    • Skype Meeting Broadcast - broadcast meetings for up to 10,000 people in large webinars.
    • PSTN Conference (or Dial-in conference) - allows attendees to join a meeting via landlines or cellphones.
On top of all that, Skype for Business is fully integrated with a host of other useful office applications. You have access to Microsoft Office (e.g., Excel, PowerPoint, Word, etc.), and you can share files with other participants throughout the meeting.

Enhanced Security Control

With Skype for Business, users have better security control through the authentication and encryption of private communications. So you have better access to guest accounts, and you can enable or disable certain call features to enhance communication.

Knowing which tools to utilize is vital to help you get the upper hand. By utilizing what’s best for you and your business, you won’t have to search for success; it’ll come looking for you instead. For any questions regarding Skype for Business and its functions, feel free to give us a call or send us a message. We’re more than happy to help you any way we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
August 29th, 2016

2016August29_SocialMedia_BIf you aren’t a celebrity or a multimillionaire capable of purchasing millions of Twitter followers, it’s quite hard to establish a notable online presence these days, especially if you’re a small- or medium-sized business. It’s undeniable that the benefits of a strong online presence on prominent social media platforms such as Twitter are numerous. With this in mind, why not give Twitter’s latest stand-alone dashboard app for SMBs a whirl?

According to Noah Pepper, Twitter’s product and engineering manager, “For businesses, Twitter is a place to share news, tell stories, and have conversations that support, educate, and delight their customers.” On top of that, he states that “It's a place for authentic interactions – but we know that creating these kinds of connections isn't always easy for businesses that are time and resource-constrained.” Because of this, Twitter has developed a brand new application that helps lighten your social media load -- enter Twitter Dashboard.

Twitter Dashboard specifically caters toward small- to medium-sized businesses, helping them to establish a fast, efficient and affordable means to manage their online presence. It helps you easily track and engage with audiences. The free app is still in the beta phase but is available to all businesses in the United States via iOS devices. There’s also a desktop web version as well.

With the help of Twitter Dashboard, social media managers can schedule tweets and set up customized feeds with the sole purpose of tracking what’s being said about a particular business. There are tools in the app that aids in tracking keywords as well as brainstorming ideas for potential tweets.

Here are some examples from Noah Pepper:

  • Say you work at a restaurant. You can come up with something like, “Your team is as unique as your business. Tweet a surprising fact about one of your team members.” This helps remind you to share some of the recent recognition your chef has received.
  • Or if you are an interior designer, when you see the tweet “Share the love. Like and Retweet kind words from your customers,” you’re prompted you to Retweet the next customer’s reaction to one of your projects.
Twitter Dashboard may not be of much use to savvy online marketers, but for those who have just dipped their toes into social media, it might help build the confidence needed to take flight. And this is exactly what Twitter needs if it's aiming to increase overall platform engagement.

Small- and medium-sized businesses should seize every opportunity they can to grow. Leverage the power of social media and see your company spread its wings and fly, soaring amidst the chirp of the blue birds tweeting. For further questions about Twitter Dashboard, feel free to give us a call, follow us, tweet us or give us a direct message -- we’re always ready to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media