Over the past decade, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become increasingly popular. While the digital revolution has allowed businesses of all sizes to become more efficient, there can be unanticipated problems.
For example, fax machines were originally designed for use over analog-based telephone lines. Attempting to use an older fax machine with an all-digital phone system can be problematic.
The key, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net, is to embrace change.
“You have to evaluate how change affects your business,” he says. “Change comes with a little pain, and with pain comes new solutions.”
Smart Business spoke with Desberg about converting to VoIP, questions to ask when making the switch and the importance of conducting a tabletop scenario.
What are some of the biggest struggles for a business when converting to VoIP?
We find that businesses are very happy to convert their traditional phone systems to a hosted VoIP product. What they often don’t realize, however, is how many things within their organization depend on traditional phone line communications. First and foremost are fax machines; fax technology and VoIP don’t normally mix very well. There are a couple of solutions, however. We can help a business completely transition to a paperless technology where they are able to receive faxes through email or desktops and get rid of their old fax machines. Or, we can implement a technology that integrates the traditional fax machine in a device that ‘pretends’ it is a phone line designed for a fax. This fakes out the traditional fax machine into thinking it’s doing what it’s supposed to be doing, when it’s actually being converted into a digital format.
What questions should a business ask its service provider when making the switch to VoIP?
During the discovery process we ask our clients what might not function if we took all of their phone lines away. The common responses are that the fax machine and credit card processing machines would not work. Sometimes, there are other systems aligned with the phone lines that aren’t closely associated with the network. For example, we recently came up with a solution for one of our clients for their postage meter. Other things we’ve encountered are fire alarms and security systems running on phone lines. These are the important things we need to be discussing to make sure that when the conversion happens, organizations don’t lose technologies that are important to the function or safety of their business.
What should a business consider when replacing an aging system?
Aging systems tend to have Band-Aid products in place. When you get rid of a legacy phone system, the Band-Aids are exposed. For example, there are still businesses that require remote access to equipment such as dial-up modems. When you take away the phone system there will be hiccups. Another example is door access systems. Traditionally, an access control system works in conjunction with a phone system — you dial an intercom number and somebody on the other end picks up their desk phone and talks to you. When the phone system is being replaced, how do you get the door access system to work? You may either need a VoIP solution or new Band-Aid product in place.
Why is it important to do a tabletop scenario that covers all forms of technology when replacing phone lines and systems?
In addition to talking about phone lines, it’s also important to talk about disaster recovery. How is a business impacted by a loss of power, loss of Internet communication or a situation where they can’t even get into their building? Tabletop scenarios are a part of risk analysis, but unfortunately most businesses don’t conduct them often enough. When conducting a tabletop scenario it’s important to have a risk analysis professional or a technology professional to walk you through the different scenarios.
Alex Desberg is the sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net
When office equipment goes down or doesn’t work properly, it can disrupt the entire business. And as the industry consolidates functions into one device, it’s critical to have the correct equipment that meets your business’s needs.
“It truly is a lifeline in an office,” says Edward Kromar, director of service at Blue Technologies. “If it’s a small office, it can almost stop the processes internally, as opposed to 20 years go when it was just one facet of many. Understanding your vendor’s service protocol is absolutely vital.”
Smart Business spoke with Kromar about how to maximize your office equipment.
What should business owners know before investing in office equipment?
Take time to understand your business and processes. Knowing the volume you use ensures the equipment is big enough. But if printing is most important, you may need a multifunction device that allows you to categorize your priorities in the workflow, so all printing comes before copying or faxing.
If the function is mission critical, you may want a second unit. This is mechanical equipment — failures are going to happen — so you may need backup equipment and data storage. If scanning is imperative but you have an all-in-one device, then you need to consider having another unit to provide back-up scanning. Look for an alternative that doesn’t break the bank but gives the necessary insurance, which could be a desktop device. In trying to understand your needs and priorities, develop and use your relationship with your office technology salesperson, which also helps you get the right product(s).
How does the technology life cycle work?
Technology is changing monthly, so a best practice is having the flexibility to move into different products with your vendor. Look for a product line with options and versatility as well as a history of improvements. Not only are your business needs changing, but a feature that wasn’t out six months ago could add efficiency.
While there’s no rule about how often equipment needs to be upgraded, make sure the technology still meets your needs. The faster your business is growing, the faster you’ll need to update. And, if you come across a broken process, don’t forget to consider that your office hardware could be part of the solution.
What’s problematic about switching to digital phones?
Digital phone lines are very practical for businesses that want to save money. Unfortunately, fax technology has not kept up with digital phone technology, so they don’t fit reliability together, and the industry is not spending research and development funds on merging these two. So, if you are changing phone systems and your organization has a high demand for faxing, you need to keep an analog phone line for your immediate needs and begin converting your clients to email communication.
What’s important to know about color?
Color has helped businesses present, at a more affordable cost, their marketing message to customers. But some business owners have misconceptions about their device’s color and the difference between business and production color. Production color, which is often outsourced to print production facilities, handles high-end color, where a red will always print the exact same shade. Business color is an acceptable quality that can be used internally and sometimes for outside marketing pieces. You can buy devices of either type, but there’s a cost difference. With help from your salesperson, you can discover what color needs to be used and when, including whether the volume justifies the cost of bringing it in-house.
How can your company maximize use?
First, your equipment salesperson should understand your IT support. Additional services and training may be needed to help make the transition seamless. An established equipment dealer can even provide support for more than just your hardware needs, the dealer might also provide various network support before and after installation.
You also need to fully understand the capabilities of the equipment you’ve purchased and how it fits with your business. If you don’t know what your equipment can do, find out. Also, as your business changes, you could take advantage of a feature you never thought you would.
Edward Kromar is the director of service at Blue Technologies. Reach him at (216) 271-4800 or ekromar@BTOhio.com.
Blog: For useful tips on improving office efficiencies, visit our blog at www.btohio.com/news-resources.
Insights Technology is brought to you by Blue Technologies