The use of cloud computing is surging in the business world. Against such a backdrop it only makes sense that companies would want to emulate this model with their phone services — that is, make themselves available no matter their location. While traditional phone services have been slow to respond to the requests, VoIP providers are jumping at the opportunity.

“Telecommunications is a 100-year-old technology,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “Things have changed, and now it’s more important than ever for customers to get through to businesses quickly and effectively.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about how innovation is reshaping the telecommunications landscape and why it’s so important to always be available to customers.

How is innovation changing the telecommunications landscape?

Businesses are looking for different characteristics associated with their phone system that will help set themselves apart from their competitors. This goes beyond just having a business phone system designed to answer calls or put people in voice mail. In terms of innovation, these can be simple changes or complex changes — it depends on what the business is looking for.

How are companies integrating their telecommunication features into their business model?

Cloud computing is becoming very popular. People are pushing their data away from their facility so it is available anywhere. However, they haven’t done this with their phone system because of traditional phone service capabilities. This is starting to change. Now, instead of being subject to the capabilities of a phone system, businesses are dictating how they want to communicate with their customers.

Why is it so important to be readily accessible to customers?

Customers have short attention spans, and they want to be served quickly. They don’t have the time to leave a voice mail message and wait for someone to respond a half-day later or the next business day.

Much like the traditional way of finding a business in the Yellow Pages, if the first company didn’t answer, you’d simply call another one. A lot of consumers are doing that now because time is money. If they can’t immediately reach the person that they want to talk to, they will move on. You don’t want that to happen to your business.

How is VoIP helping incubated businesses that are not as moveable as they might think?

Business incubators are starting to crop up all over the place. Such entities support the development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. When the companies grow and need to move out of the incubator, they realize that they can’t easily take the phone number that they’ve been using to conduct their business transactions.

Now VoIP providers are working with incubators to provide VoIP services that can be moved quickly and easily with a business when it’s ready to graduate from an incubator and expand its footprint.

Why is reducing system duplication becoming such a big trend?

Reducing system duplication is particularly popular with businesses that have multiple locations. When such businesses start pushing data out to the cloud and they are remotely accessing the information, they realize that every facility they own doesn’t need a server or duplication of other resources like phone systems.

It makes sense for these businesses to have centralized communications. Everyone accessing the phone system can share centralized voice mail and four-digit dialing between locations. Not only does this make sense economically, but also from a unity standpoint in terms of a single telecommunications presence.

Alex Desberg is ales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at adesberg@ohio.net.

To find out more about Ohio.net’s VoIP solutions, visit www.ohio.net.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Published in Cleveland

We’ve all been there before. A call that should take mere seconds extends 10 minutes or more because of an aggravating and antiquated phone system that fails to connect you to the proper party or does not notify the person who you are trying to reach.

There are ways to improve customer service simply by updating technology and making the switch to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Some businesses are using automated systems to improve screening, routing and transitions to the right professional, while others are using VoIP to ensure a more personal touch. Neither way is wrong. The important thing is that customers aren’t left on the phone fuming.

“With VoIP you can choose between the two extremes; you can make it very personable or leverage technology for maximum efficiency,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about how VoIP can enhance customer service, improvements on the horizon and the importance of customization.

How can VoIP services help enhance customer service?

Customer service takes so many different forms — it ranges from one extreme to another. Some companies, typically smaller businesses, believe that good customer service requires every incoming call be answered live, and they strive for one-call support. On the flip side, larger organizations want to make sure that technology is in place so the customer can reach the person or department that he or she wants to speak with. This can take the form of auto attendants or dial-by-name directories. VoIP allows large businesses to maximize efficiency and small businesses to add layers to their phone systems, both of which enhance the customer service experience.

What VoIP changes and improvements are on the horizon that will help companies connect with their customers?

First, it’s important to note that companies can keep the current technologies they have in place, such as an inbound dialing system, while moving into the VoIP realm. New technologies on the horizon include virtual PBX systems that will allow more hands-on control and management. Virtual PBX, a private branch exchange phone system offered as a hosted service, can be a very useful tool for marketing efforts. With this system, you can direct people to call the store they are most likely to shop at rather than a call center, where they will have to be redirected.

How can companies identify the right size for their VoIP configuration?

This boils down to picking the right technologies for your mode of communications. I recently worked with a midsize company that has multiple locations in various communities. It’s extremely important for this business that when someone calls them they are connected to the correct office. They don’t want their customers to get shuffled around or transferred to the wrong extension. The system they now have in place allows their customers to call a local number that supports the local office, while from a grand-scheme perspective, they are able to manage their telecommunications under one large phone system so there is four-digit dialing and no long distance between offices.

How can companies customize their VoIP system to improve customer service?

Once you move out of the traditional analog phone world, you can start using a mix-and-match platform. For example, if you determine that you need specialized services for a regional or remote location, it’s possible to incorporate a virtual PBX system into your VoIP solution. This allows you to keep adding bits and pieces to the existing platform under the management of a single supplier. Internally, a person handling a VoIP call might notice a difference with the phone, but customers will have a seamless experience — they will simply reach the person who can serve them best.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at adesberg@ohio.net.

Visit www.ohio.net for a list of educational seminars.

Insights telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net.

Published in Akron/Canton

As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) matures, a growing number of businesses are making the switch from traditional phone services to Internet-based services.

When looking for a VoIP provider it is important to seek a company on the forefront of technology that can serve as a trusted adviser.

“Businesses are looking for flexibility, reporting functions and a provider that has its best interests at heart — someone who can help them recognize current trends and provide true consultative services,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the latest VoIP trends, the importance of adaptability and the re-emergence of user-friendly phone systems.

What are the trends for new or growth companies?

Organizations are creating subgroups within themselves for different lines of business.

The best way to illustrate this is to think of a holding company with smaller companies underneath — they want a division within their organization and they are using a phone system to create this impression.

For example, a publishing company might have a traditional publishing arm and an electronic publishing arm. By setting up different VoIP phone routes within their organization, they are able to have different pods even though they are all just part of a greater whole.

With this model, if a customer needs to reach the electronic publishing division he or she doesn’t have to go through the traditional publishing arm’s receptionist and get re-routed, he or she is directly reaching the people that he or she wants to talk to.

Why is VoIP a good fit for companies that are start-up, virtual, experiencing growth or changing their structure?

There has been an insurgence in the number of businesses turning to VoIP solutions that are either start-ups or changing their structure away from the brick and mortar model to a virtual model.

Some change so they can gain the advantage of having a new phone system with new capabilities. Others make the change so they can segment various parts of their business operations.

Either way, they are able to present a new look, sound and feel when they are communicating with their customers.

How important is a phone system’s adaptability for a company in transition?

A good VoIP system can almost serve as a marketing tool for a business. Companies want to know how their phone system can adapt to changes in their customers’ desires to communicate.

For example, VoIP offers custom reporting tools so management can track how customers react to different messages.

If needed, the system that drives communication can be adjusted in order to ensure optimal customer satisfaction.

What features are businesses looking for today?

There has been a huge shift back toward the importance of talking to a live person.

Bringing the customer closer to the person that they really want to talk to is paramount in the business world today.

Businesses want to make sure that their customers aren’t on hold for extended periods of time and that they don’t have to go through voice mail hell.

Advances in telecom technology should not be used to create barriers between a business and its customers — they should bring them closer together.

Alex Desberg is sales and marketing director for Ohio.net. Reach him at adesberg@ohio.net

For a list of educational seminars, follow this link.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Published in Cleveland

As Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has entered the mainstream, most businesses are aware of its primary benefits: cost savings, ease of use and flexibility. There are also many customizable features that can pay dividends quickly.

When looking for a VoIP provider, it’s important to ask how services have been upgraded over the past year or so. You want to work with a provider that is adapting to the current business landscape and can tailor services to meet your needs.

“If they are selling a standard, proprietary system that hasn’t improved, they are using off-the-shelf technology and you won’t be able to receive tweaks or necessary upgrades when you need them,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about using VoIP for integrated marketing efforts, the importance of portability and the move toward virtualization.

What are some of the things that make VoIP an attractive option?

When we demonstrate what our services can do during the demo stage, clients often have an ‘aha’ moment when they see a characteristic that enables them to do their job better. One of the major attributes is timely reporting of how phone systems are being used. Businesses can take a look at an entire day’s worth of calling and examine how employees and customers are using the phone system.

Retail customers can incorporate this knowledge to integrate marketing into their phone service. For example, car dealerships want to know where their customers heard about them, what they’re inquiring about and when activity is the highest. Traditionally, the dealership would have to wait until the end of the month to get a full, detailed report of the calling patterns.

Many car dealerships use custom phone numbers based on the marketing outlet — a newspaper ad is assigned one phone number and a radio ad is assigned another. With VoIP, they can see who called what phone number and what time they called almost instantaneously. Let’s say the dealership ran a morning drive commercial on radio and it received calls from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday. This is a pretty strong indicator that people are responding to the radio ad rather than the print ad, which doesn’t appear until Wednesday. The business is able to see a payoff in its advertising, which makes for good marketing decisions.

What are some of the overlooked capabilities that VoIP has to offer?

One of the most overlooked aspects is having the freedom of not being tied to a specific geographic location. Sometimes we forget that VoIP-hosted phones can be unplugged and transported to any area with power and Internet access.

Recently, we worked with a customer that wanted to reduce overhead costs by moving into a smaller office space. The business was concerned because it had a number of employees who performed vital functions, but couldn’t be accommodated with the new layout. We helped the company realize that their customer service people could work from home as flexible telecommuters because they didn’t need traditional office infrastructure to do their job. The client was able to reduce its office size, which reduced its overhead. Its employees love the freedom to work out of their home offices and they still do their jobs well.

What impact have customer requests had on the services you offer?

Customers constantly ask about smartphone integration. A new service allows a cellphone and a desk phone to work together as a single extension. In the past, VoIP users had the ability to have calls directed to their desk phones forwarded to their cellphones. Now, a third-party application has been incorporated that allows customers to receive calls simultaneously on their desk phones and cellphones.

What’s next with VoIP?

So many customers are going virtual with their phone and computer systems. With virtualization, no one will have a static desk anymore. Everything will be travelling with you, whether it’s an iPad and a cellphone, or hoteling, where you sit down at anybody’s desk, log in as yourself and all of your services come to that desk. This releases you from a single piece of equipment and enables you to access what you need wherever you are.

Alex Desberg is the sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. Reach him at adesberg@ohio.net.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

 

Published in Akron/Canton

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 adesberg@ohio.net.

 

Event: Join Ohio.net for a free technology seminar on March 28, 2013 at TechColumbus. Visit www.ohio.net/events for more information.

 

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

 

Published in Cleveland
Friday, 30 November 2012 21:09

How VoIP has progressed since its infancy

In today’s business climate, people want the convenience of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), in which employees use their personal mobile devices to access company resources such as email, file servers and databases. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is also a part of the BYOD movement.

“People want their voice to follow their devices,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “To meet this demand, VoIP providers are looking at assimilating voice and video, integrating tablets with phone systems and running different types of voice applications.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about how technology has improved VoIP capabilities, how it can help keep a business up and running in the event of a disaster, and the cost savings associated with this phone service.

How has VoIP availability expanded in recent years?

In the early days of VoIP, providers installed their own networks and used their own facilities to port numbers and bring services to new areas. In essence, providers shouldered the responsibility for creating an infrastructure.

As the product has matured and more services have become available, carriers and other telephone companies now port numbers for providers into remote service areas. It has become far easier for providers to deploy services in places where, previously, there was no availability.

How has technology improved VoIP capabilities?

VoIP came on to the scene about seven years ago. As it has become more accepted and heavily used, the software programming has become much more refined. The code has been tightened, which allows for better networking and compatibility with different devices. As with any technology, the more it is used and the more it becomes accepted, the less expensive it becomes to maintain and operate, and the easier it is to deploy.

Why is VoIP ideal for disaster recovery?

With Hurricane Sandy dominating the news, disaster recovery is a hot topic. Businesses are making sure that they back up their data and have alternative points of access so they can keep their companies up and running if there is a catastrophe. Unfortunately, many businesses fail to include a plan for their phone system when preparing for a disaster.

A common misconception is that an organization can simply rely on cell phones if its phone system is down. In reality, a business cannot operate at full strength when its communications system is down for an extended period of time.

With VoIP, businesses can be prepared for a disaster by having their provider host their phone system. This enables organizations to run seamlessly in the event of a calamity and carry on business as normal.

Customers and suppliers won’t even realize that your business model has changed and that you have switched to disaster recovery mode.

How can telecom costs be contained with VoIP?

Usually, as new technologies emerge, a service becomes cheaper and easier to deploy. However, when it comes to traditional telephone services, this has not been the case. People have requested new features for their phones and those have been accompanied by exponential increases in cost. The biggest costs associated with traditional phone systems are adding new features and the monthly service fees that accompany those.

VoIP has taken a different approach. Providers have simplified the process of delivering a dial tone to phone systems and driven down the cost of monthly service. Also, VoIP serves as a fixed-cost model, and additions and changes are usually included as part of the package. You are not making another investment every time you need an upgrade to meet the demands of your business.

Finally, VoIP is a nonregulated product, so tariffs are not set by the FCC. This enables providers to be able to offer new services at whatever rate they choose.

How does VoIP compare to traditional phone service in terms of ease of management?

Oftentimes, management of a phone system falls to IT personnel. In other cases, there is a dedicated telecom professional whose sole responsibility is the upkeep of the phone system.

VoIP providers offer two options. First, they can take all of the management responsibilities away from an organization by adding a hosted provider and serving as a service provider, which includes adding and changing features, troubleshooting and training.

Second, they can change the level of management to provide a single point of contact. A business can take as much or as little responsibility for managing its phone system as it would like.

In what ways has the track record of VoIP improved over the years?

Customers have demanded improvement. If VoIP providers are going to offer cloud-based phone services, the quality has to be as good, if not better, than that of traditional phone companies. Good means dependable and reliable. Better means that VoIP providers need to offer features and services well beyond those of any regulated telephone company, and they must be ahead of the curve in terms of developing and deploying new offerings.

Alex Desberg is a 20-year veteran of launching and marketing Internet technology. Most of his technology tenure has been with regional and national providers. At Ohio.net, a wholly owned subsidiary of Doylestown Communications, Desberg has been the development spearhead of a mature VoIP product line designed for business application and brings his support and knowledge to the B2B environment.

Published in Columbus

By implementing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)-based call center, businesses can slash their operating costs and increase sales. VoIP allows for delivery of voice information over the Internet. Untethered from costly infrastructure investments, companies that have VoIP dial tones or hosted systems can concentrate not on managing the call center but on serving the needs of their customers.

As an added benefit, there’s no need to spend money to train IT administrators on the nuances of the system.

“The training for a VoIP system is very similar to the training you receive when you get a new traditional phone system,” says Alex Desberg. “VoIP is another tool, similar to features such call transfer or conferencing. The technology is not hard to grasp.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about VoIP, the benefits of call queuing and what types of businesses are likely to reap the biggest rewards.

How do VoIP call center services differ from traditional services?

A traditional call center is equipped with a large, private branch exchange (PBX) phone system designed to manage the network. This requires a hefty financial investment in the system, as well as software to manage reporting. In the hosted realm with VoIP, there is just data service. For example, if a company has 100 people, but only 20 are in the call center, services can be added for just those 20 people, which keeps the economy of scale down.

Also, in the traditional telephone world, you need a phone line for each inbound call in order to stack up callers. This requires a significant volume of phone lines and is accompanied by cash outlays month in, month out, whether you use them or not.

In the VoIP world, the features aren’t line by line, they are phone by phone, so you never run out of calling lines. VoIP call center services are ideal for small to medium-sized organizations that want to provide call center-type services without making a huge investment.

How can a company benefit from call queuing?

Call queuing allows an unlimited number of callers to wait for an available customer service representative while they are on hold. The primary benefit of call queuing ties into the economy of scale aspect.

Businesses have a limited number of customer service representatives who can schedule appointments. Companies don’t want to staff 20 people to manage 20 call-ins; they want two or three customer service people taking calls in the order they were received so customers receive personal interaction and information while they are on hold. Call queuing helps minimize the number of personnel needed to service the same number of customers.

What kinds of companies can benefit from VoIP call center services?

Clients such as plumbers, electricians and glass replacement companies can benefit. They service a large area and operate out of one centralized location, and it’s important for them to have a local number in every market that they service. Businesses that utilize VoIP call center services are able to provide a local number even though the calls are handled remotely. This works particularly well with franchises that are supporting a large geographic area.

Car dealerships also benefit from VoIP call center services. Typically, they have different call volumes throughout the day. In the mornings, car dealerships receive a lot of calls into their service departments but might only have two service managers, and the influx of calls can be overwhelming.

With call queuing, the service managers can handle calls in the order they were received and customers don’t feel like they are getting the run-around or being routed to voicemail. The calls can be stacked and everyone can be tended to relatively quickly. By utilizing VoIP, dealerships don’t have to invest in a huge call center-type phone system.

Are there disadvantages to using VoIP call center services?

VoIP call center services aren’t designed for megacorporations. Companies with huge call center capacities can’t achieve all of the statistics and reporting they need. However, for small and medium-sized businesses that have never done call center services — but that would like to — VoIP is a great starting point. VoIP can make companies look bigger than they really are and can help them handle a larger customer base.

How can a call center make a smooth transition from traditional phone services to a VoIP model?

There are two ways to employ VoIP. It can be hosted, or it can provide dial tones to an existing phone system. You can take baby steps away from the traditional phone services by first transitioning to a VoIP dial tone. Then the next step would be to release yourself from your existing phone system and transition to a hosted system.

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Desberg is a 20-year veteran of launching and marketing Internet technology. Most of his technology tenure has been with regional and national providers. At Ohio.net, a wholly owned subsidiary of Doylestown Communications, Desberg has been the development spearhead of a mature VoIP product line designed for business application and brings his support and knowledge to the B2B environment.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Published in Columbus

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) involves sending voice information in digital form rather than by using the circuit-based protocol of traditional telephone networks.

VoIP can mean different things to different people, says Alex Desberg. “We define VoIP as delivering voice services across a network. It could be Internet-based, it could be private-network based. Such services have been strategically designed to replace traditional telephone services.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about VoIP, the cost efficiencies such a platform provides and how it can lead to increased productivity.

What’s new with VoIP?

Ohio.net adapts VoIP to accommodate virtual businesses. People are getting rid of brick-and-mortar offices and setting up telecommuter or remote environments. In the past month we’ve had several of our VoIP customers realize that they really can have everyone work out of their homes and get rid of their offices. One company we work with has 26 employees working remotely, but all working together as if they were sitting in their office.

When you can front-end a business with what sounds and acts like a traditional phone system, but nobody is sitting in the same building anymore, it really makes sense. A VoIP system helps a company become more cost effective by eliminating the need for a facility, not to mention rent expenses, power expenses and commute costs for employees.

What are the benefits of VoIP?

One of the key benefits is the release from traditional telecom. There are inherent geography issues associated with traditional telephony. Plus, people get wedded to legacy phone systems that keep perpetuating the need to be upgraded or repaired. This becomes costly. By moving away from legacy equipment, you can take advantage of a hosted environment for your phone system. You won’t be responsible for upgrading your software anymore or making sure the rollout of a new feature is integrated into an existing system. A VoIP system is more of a service-based model: as long as you are subscribed to the service you can take advantage of all the upgrades, changes and benefits that the provider offers.

Are there any drawbacks?

VoIP is like any business technology, if we are poor managers of technology, we might be a poor manager of a phone system in a VoIP environment. You have to pay attention, just as you do with any other technology. If you use questionable or problematic Internet service, then you will have questionable or problematic phone service as well.

A lot of it depends on the provider that you choose. The VoIP environment has been a little volatile. Some entities want to become a phone company overnight without realizing the impact they can make on a customer by not providing a quality service or not understanding the market properly. It takes a history and understanding of the traditional telecom world to do well in the VoIP market.

If you’re going to choose this type of technology, you have to do the research. There are plenty of VoIP providers available online, but I’m a big believer in working with a local company that is close and can support you. You don’t want to have to buy service from a company in Denver that is down due to a power outage or snowstorm while you’re still working and trying to do business.

What advice would you give about implementing VoIP solutions?

We have three areas that we really stress to new customers. First, it’s crucial to select the right hardware. Some people believe they can go with inexpensive voice equipment. However, quality hardware on a quality network really makes a difference to the end user’s experience.

Training is also very important. We have a staff of trainers that help with the implementation of a new phone system to ensure that everyone knows how to use it when it’s launched and that they have the proper resources. Finally, there should be a go-to team available if any problems are encountered once the technology is implemented.

How can VoIP translate into increased productivity?

Let’s say you have an office in Cleveland, an office in Kansas City and an office in Florida. With VoIP we can tie these together like they are one. With traditional telephony you can’t easily do that. Also, you can work with one provider so you have one telephone company and one bill for as many locations as you have. Finally, the upgrades, additions and changes that are made for the phone system are service-driven so you don’t have to buy a phone system every 10 years, or live with outdated technology until you can afford it.

Why is investing in new technologies like VoIP so important?

If your organization is going to run on antiquated equipment, then you are going to be an antiquated business in about five years because technologies change so often. What is big with VoIP today is not going to be the same thing that drives people in five years. We see the growth of mobile phones being integrated into VoIP today. Five or six years ago, we didn’t even have that on the radar. Most people thought that VoIP would just replace landlines. Now companies have field teams that are armed with smart phones but still need a VoIP system so they look like legitimate enterprises, rather than giving everyone’s cell phone number to do business.

Alex Desberg is a twenty-year veteran of launching and marketing Internet technology. Most of his technology tenure has been with regional and national providers. At Ohio.net, a wholly owned subsidiary of Doylestown Communications, Desberg has been the development spearhead of a mature VoIP product line designed for business application and brings his support and knowledge to the B2B environment.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Published in Columbus

Telecommunications is a critical part of the business environment and always has been. As analog-based telecommunications become obsolete, the evolution of Internet protocol is the next long-term — and unavoidable — solution.

“Voice over IP (VoIP) has come a long way, improving call control and quality immensely since its infancy,” says Michael Louden, director of enterprise sales at Comcast. “As Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) technology matures, it has created a revolutionary ripple effect, setting universal adoption of IP Voice in motion.”

Smart Business spoke with Louden about how VoIP works, its advantages and what to consider before adopting it at your business.

What is the difference between analog voice and VoIP?

For analog voice, POTS (plain old telephone service) uses a dedicated path through the public switched telephone network and enables a connection as long as circuits are available. The network was designed to maintain a stable, high level of voice quality that is available nearly anywhere. POTS is still based mostly on a copper medium and one line handles one call at a time.

Voice over IP uses SIP in much the same way as the public switched telephone network and has similar clarity and consistency. However, there are fewer infrastructure concerns, as IP can run over multiple physical mediums, including copper, fiber or collective forms of wireless technology. As long as you can route IP traffic, you can use VoIP, and you can technically utilize any Internet connection to place calls. There is no limit to your call capacity, as long as the Internet protocol-private branch exchange (IP-PBX) and network bandwidth can support it. Another advantage is that restrictions and surcharges on long distance calling are minimized or eliminated.

How does a business know when to adopt VoIP?

There are a few key questions to ask that will give you a place to start when considering VoIP.

  • Step back and take a holistic look at how the current phone system complements your business, specifically how it is utilized and what the critical functions are. Ask what employees like and dislike about the current system, as receptionist needs, executive management requirements and inbound/outbound call flow are important to consider.
  • Look at the physical networking and switching. Most IP phones have two ports so you can connect both a computer and phone through the same wall jack. However, this limits the port speed of your computer workstations.
  • Are your switches able to provide Power over Ethernet? PoE-capable phones conserve space by eliminating the need for AC power adapters. If not, then AC powered PoE injectors are options.
  • If multiple offices are part of this equation, review interoffice communication, as the ability to extension dial between locations is sometimes overlooked.
  • Are there field personnel who work from smaller satellite offices or remote locations? Teleworkers also impact call capacity. It might be worth having a phone system that allows IP or virtual private network connectivity, giving remote workers the ability to access the system as if they were on site.
  • Consider whether to get a locally managed or hosted private branch exchange. The locally managed PBX is managed within your own organization by a telecom administrator or outsourced IT consultant. It’s a good solution for mid-sized to larger organizations because of scalability and control over provisions, features, handsets and ingress/egress call processing. It takes more initial capital investment but has lower operating expenses in the long run.
  • Hosted PBX is a product powered by a cloud-based software phone switch, often good for small and mid-sized businesses, or businesses with multiple locations. Features are available to unite desktops, mobiles and telephones, and disaster recovery capability is possible. Hosted PBX is an operating expense with predictable costs per user.
  • There are some core considerations when looking also at a service provider, including call quality control because voice quality and stability are directly affected by poor network performance, causing dropped calls, poor quality audio and loss of in or outbound audio. When considering price, look at the value of the provider as a whole and ask about network infrastructure and ownership, reputation with VoIP, how the implement/installation process works, equipment requirements and package options.

What is Metro Ethernet, and how would it impact a business?

A Metro Ethernet network, loosely defined as a regional extension of your Ethernet-based LAN, connects geographically separate sites as if they were offices in the same building. You no longer have to traverse the public Internet for interoffice communication with VoIP. Metro Ethernet also has no special interfaces because most networking equipment has at least one Ethernet interface. It uses network divergence rather than converging voice and data over a single network, which can help with bandwidth availability for both voice and data.

Fiber-based Metro Ethernet enhances business continuity, performance and stability for all types of VoIP communication. The networks are scalable, resilient and built to meet the needs of demanding networking applications.

Why is VoIP the future of telecommunications?

VoIP carries most of the world’s voice traffic today. A vast majority of the advanced services you appreciate now are enabled using VoIP such as voicemail to email, click to dial, find-me-follow-me, web-based PBX administration and more. With VoIP, telephone calls can be made anywhere an Internet connection is available.

 

Michael Louden is Director of Enterprise Sales at Comcast. Reach him at (610) 499-2331 or Michael_Louden@cable.comcast.com.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast Business Class

Published in Philadelphia

Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, involves delivering voice telecommunication services across a network. Companies that utilize VoIP can realize significant telecom savings. Let’s say your business has offices in multiple geographic locations. With VoIP, you don’t need to duplicate efforts by having different carriers that charge different rates.

“VoIP is a great leveler because it’s geographically independent — the price doesn’t change based on where you’re employing it,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director for Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the cost savings that can be realized by utilizing VoIP, how to make a seamless transition, and what to look for in a provider.

How can you stretch your telecom dollars by utilizing VoIP?

Normally, when you have a traditional phone system, there is a maintenance agreement. Every time you need to do an add/move/change with the system, you are paying someone to do it, or someone on your staff is investing their time. In the world of VoIP, because it is a service model, adds/moves/changes are usually included as part of the package. With VoIP, maintenance of the system is removed from the equation, which can lead to significant cost and time savings.

Often, when people are looking to change their technology from traditional to VoIP, it’s because the nature of their business has changed and they need to get a new phone system that isn’t antiquated. With VoIP, there is far less equipment needed than there would be in replacing a traditional phone system. In the past, if you needed to replace or upgrade a phone system, you were looking at software, someone to come out and do the installation, and possible hardware to update the system. With VoIP, all you’re buying is a VoIP phone so the costs are much less.

Also, VoIP services can be cyclical: there are plenty of businesses that have busy and slow seasons. For example, we work with car dealerships who sell more cars during spring, summer and fall than they do in the middle of winter. Car dealerships call us on a regular basis during the winter months and say, ‘Go ahead and scale back our services — we don’t need as many phones or as many lines.’ As a result, they’ll save money over the winter period when they know they won’t be nearly as busy.

This is very hard to do in the traditional telecom world because a contract will hold you to a certain dollar amount per month regardless of usage.

How can VoIP be used to service multi-location companies?

VoIP is geographically leveling the playing field. If I’m going to deploy 100 phones in the VoIP world, I don’t care if there are 100 phones all together in the same physical building or if they are being used by 100 different people in the company spread out across the country at multiple locations. The phone system itself is going to work the same in both cases because it’s essentially a virtualized phone system.

Also, VoIP offers local dialing between all the phones. For example, if I’m in New York and someone in my VoIP partition is in California, I can still do a four-digit dial.

How can a business make a seamless transition from traditional telephony to VoIP?

Training is essential; it is the difference between a clean start with VoIP and a bumpy one. Any time you implement a new phone system, people are going to be uncomfortable with the change. You have to get all of the individuals trained and get them comfortable with the phone before the system goes live.

With VoIP, the transition is seamless because we can have the new system running parallel to a traditional phone system. Once the users become comfortable we do a changeover where their old numbers become live on the new phone system.

After the transition happens, it’s important to have support available. Customer service is an important part of our model. One of the biggest complaints we hear about traditional telecom is that their support is terrible.

What advice would you give about selecting a VoIP provider?

Because it’s technology-related, a lot of young companies think they can enter into the VoIP business and be accepted. In truth, however, they need a stable backing in order to understand the technology they are deploying. In addition, they need to have a support system that can serve their clients. There are fly-by-night VoIP service companies that swoop in and make promises, but then quickly realize that they can’t support their customer base.

Look for a VoIP provider that has experience in your industry. If it hasn’t done what you need it to do before, I would be wary. Also, it should have a good future plan. A big part of our business is understanding what’s next and how to integrate that into a seamless service for our customers.

How are VoIP technologies being integrated into smartphones?

We are integrating to any phone out there, whether it is a smartphone, regular cell phone or landline. We can deploy services that allow calls to be routed to cell networks or home networks. For example, we work with a small government agency that has case workers who work from home. We just did our first installation for a remote case worker who is never going to step into the home office, but needed office connectivity.

It doesn’t matter what phone is on the other end. Let’s say you have an iPhone, one of your coworkers has a BlackBerry and another has a landline — you still want to be integrated. In order to allow integration, we built the service into the VoIP system rather than trying to build an app that changes every time someone gets a new type of phone or operating system.

Alex Desberg is Sales and Marketing Director for Ohio.net, a wholly owned subsidiary of Doylestown Communications. Reach him at (330) 658-1888 or adesberg@ohio.net.

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Published in Columbus
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