Chelan David

Recent media attention, including ubiquitous coverage of the Target Corp. security breach over the holidays, has highlighted the increase in security intrusions affecting organizations across industries. As technology moves forward exponentially, security threats and leaks continue to emerge.

“In the digital age, nearly every company holds personally identifiable information of its employees or customers in digital form,” says Christina D. Frangiosa, an attorney at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. “It’s imperative that this information is protected from unauthorized disclosure and that companies have a plan to address any breaches.”

Smart Business spoke with Frangiosa about data protection, the role of state laws when it comes to breaches and the importance of assembling a strong data breach response plan.

How should a business go about protecting the data it collects?

First, it’s important to understand what kind of data are collected and what are stored. For instance, some companies collect credit card numbers in order to process transactions, but don’t keep them.

Once a company understands what it stores, it’s important to understand where the data are kept and who has access to them. Companies should limit access to relevant personnel and ensure that security protocols are up to date. If vendors or third parties will have access to these data, it is important to understand their policies so the company’s privacy policies can accurately reflect them.

Customers need to know what the company is going to do with their personal information before they entrust it. It’s essential that a company abide by the privacy policies it announces.

How should a business proceed if it experiences a data breach?

The first question to ask is, ‘What has been accessed and how many people have been exposed?’ Then it’s important to act quickly. Hopefully, the company already has a plan in place for locking down the data to prevent further breaches, for investigating the source and nature of the breach, and for notifying affected individuals. State laws will govern when and how affected individuals need to be notified.

What role do state laws play in notifying affected individuals?

Forty-six out of the fifty states have implemented data breach notification laws. Companies should consider such laws in each state where their customers reside or where they do business. These laws provide the timeline for reaching out to individuals affected by a data breach and, potentially, notifying credit agencies. The notification may need to happen very quickly after the breach occurs. Some data breach notification statutes provide exceptions to the notification requirement. However, companies should plan ahead so they know what their obligations are and are able to meet them promptly.

What type of personnel should be included in a data breach response team?

A data breach response team should include not only internal personnel — like IT, HR, legal counsel, facilities management, and upper management — but also external resources, such as forensic investigators, law enforcement, notification firms and consumer fraud protection agencies. It’s also important to enlist publicity/marketing personnel to help craft public communications about certain breaches. A security breach can have a negative impact on a company’s reputation. For instance, Target reported that its profits plunged 46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, largely due to revelations of customer data theft.  Preventing further loss will be important.

Why is it so important for companies to be proactive about data security?

If a breach occurs, there will only be a short window of time in which the company has to act. Companies that have prepared in advance and developed a response plan will be in a better position to protect themselves, their customers and their employees. It’s important to reach out to potential resolution partners before there is an issue so that the company can complete its own assessment of available services and costs without needing to make immediate decisions in response to a ticking clock.

Christina D. Frangiosa is an attorney at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach her at (267) 620-1902 or cfrangiosa@sogtlaw.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

Some firms owned or dominated by family have achieved monumental success. Others have found the transition process to be more difficult. Relentless competition and struggle for customer loyalty, combined with the thorny issues of family dynamics, prove challenging.

When preparing to transfer a family business, the first step is making certain each successor is fully committed. Talk to them well in advance and explain the benefits and pitfalls from the perspective of an owner.

Prior to joining the family business, outside employment in a related field is beneficial. “Working for an accounting, finance or legal firm can help a member of the younger generation gain confidence and stature while attaining valuable knowledge,” says Howard Greenberg, managing member of Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia.

Smart Business spoke with Greenberg about the characteristics of different generations, family dynamics and the importance of outside help.

How would you describe a typical entrepreneurial founder?

Typically, entrepreneurial founders do not have significant resources, but they do have lots of resourcefulness, drive and passion for the business, talent, and willingness to work very long hours with little pay. These characteristics, along with an intense drive to succeed, help an entrepreneur create something that can be passed on to the next generation.

What characteristics does the second generation typically possess?

The second generation watched Dad and/or Mom exert their efforts into their venture, witnessed their passion, and it rubbed off on them. They feel the responsibility to further the business and want to look good for their parents. Although they might not have quite the same drive, they may have the privilege of greater resources and more education. They are often successful at maintaining, growing and managing the business.

What changes with the third generation?

This is where problems arise and where some outside help is required. Often, the third generation has more resources, more education and more alternatives than the founding patriarch/matriarch had. But they may have other interests, lack the same abilities, and there are usually more of them.

How should management issues be handled?

You shouldn’t staff your business based on family. Staff it based on talent. Perhaps your family has talented managers, or people in finance. If not, you need to fill the gaps in with non-family members. Similarly, if the third generation isn’t ready to take the reigns, bring in interim managers as caretakers until the younger generation is ready for its role.

What problems can arise with shared third-generation ownership?

The people who run the business often resent producing for the people who just inherited the business. Conversely, those who inherited the business often resent those who run the business because of their salaries and compensation.

It may be better to provide the people not actively running the business with other assets from the estate. To reward long-term performance for a successor generation running the business, it’s advised that the company recapitalize to lock in the current value with preferred interests. This provides the generation ceding control with the value of their interests, and provides the next generation to control with the value of their future contributions. Include these provisions in shareholder and operating agreements as well as employment agreements and continuation plans.

Why use outside consultants?

It’s nearly impossible for the first or second generation to objectively evaluate the talents and value of their children. And if the second generation comprises more than one sibling, there will be arguments concerning rewarding the third generation and picking leaders. And trying to make things equal for everyone is a mistake because people are not equal. Outside advisers can help make those decisions objectively. They can assist in preparing the comprehensive agreements that are carefully tailored to the particular family business. Doing this in advance of the generational transition is highly recommended.

Howard Greenberg is a managing member of Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. Reach him at (215) 887-3042 or hgreenberg@sogtlaw.com.

Insights Legal Affairs is brought to you by Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC

Regardless of its size or sector a company works within, all businesses have certain common threads. For instance, the need to communicate effectively and efficiently — both internally and externally — is something every business deals with. However, it’s also important to note that every business has a unique communication DNA. A phone system that works for one company might not make sense for another.

“Every business is different,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “They shouldn’t be shoehorned into an off-the-shelf phone solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the importance of customization, and how VoIP can be tailored to serve various industries.

How can VoIP be designed to fit different markets that have different needs?

Different industry segments have characteristics that are only seen within that space. By deploying a customized VoIP system, a company can gain advantages from certain functions that are designed to fit that industry’s specific needs. It’s important to avoid trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

How can VoIP be tailored to serve the manufacturing sector?

Manufacturing facilities typically have two different components. First is the headquarters, which serves as the hub of communications and houses accounting, sales and administrative personnel. The sales team, which generally uses headquarters as their home-base, need a phone system that can help them keep in touch with their main facility while they’re out pounding the pavement. Then there are remote manufacturing and warehouse facilities that are often spread throughout the country or world. Not only is there a need for fluid communication at the administrative level, but the remote facilities must also be able to correspond effortlessly with headquarters. A VoIP system can be tailored to meet the disparate needs of a manufacturing facility, enabling that facility to become more accessible, and ultimately, more efficient.

How can VoIP support the needs of CPAs and financial institutions?

Typically, in these types of businesses, the staff are housed in a single location. If there are multiple locations, the phone needs are often identical. Employees are usually on the phone a good part of the day and there is a need for continual customer contact. The basic administrative functions are the most important components for such businesses. Because the workforce is stationary, there is rarely a need for remote or mobile applications.

How can VoIP streamline calls for the medical sector?

Most small to midsize doctor’s offices are structured so that during the day inbound calls go through a receptionist. During the evening, medical practitioners utilize absentee services where callers are redirected through phone numbers that lead to on-call personnel or forwarded to hospitals in the case of emergencies. A VoIP system can redirect, or triage, phone calls as needed.

How can VoIP allow a virtual company to appear as if they are well grounded?

More and more companies are shedding their brick and mortar locations in favor of having their employees work remotely. By having a front-end VoIP configuration, organizations can present a unified communications system that will give the appearance of a solid business. Functions like call forwarding, voice mail and conference calling are available so employees can stay connected without being tied to an office. Also, VoIP can eliminate the need for companies to utilize traditional phone lines and equipment, so overall cost savings and service enhancements can be significant.

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offerings have come a long way in a short time. One of the primary advances has been the evolution from fully hosted VoIP systems to VoIP solutions that can be managed internally.

Such a setup is ideal for IT managers or telecom managers in organizations that are moving to VoIP platforms, says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

“The VoIP provider provides the environment — so it is secure, stable and packed with feature-rich options — while the day-to-day details can be managed by a client’s telecom professional,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about software developments, integration and how to properly evaluate VoIP systems.

What’s in telecommunications that is improving the business phone service model?

The VoIP software industry is creating a feature-enhanced experience not only for the end user, or the people using the phones, but also the people who manage the phone systems. By utilizing cloud-based platforms that are virtually housed, businesses can manage their own systems internally. The phones are deployed wherever they are needed, regardless of geography.

The end-user experience is enhanced because the same phone service is accessible even if there are multiple locations. For example, a company might have five locations spread across the country, each with a different phone system. From a corporate standpoint, training employees on phone systems becomes difficult, and managing the system so customers have a uniform experience is even more challenging. With VoIP, all the phones are on the same platform, look the same, work the same and the end user’s experience is identical.

From a traditional phone system perspective, whenever you want new features, you have to buy new hardware and pay someone to upgrade the system for you. However, with a cloud-based system, it’s as simple as having your VoIP provider make a configuration change. For example, you can tell the provider to add call recording to your system remotely and then select which users on the system need it.

What are the benefits of working with a VoIP provider that can offer multiple platforms?

Traditionally, when you buy a phone system, you’re buying from a provider that represents a specific brand or type of offering. So, in most cases, you need to bring in three or four different service providers in order to evaluate different versions. However, a versatile VoIP provider should have the ability to offer multiple service packages with completely different software, hardware and deployment options. This is ideal for companies that are growing and want to evaluate different options from a single source.

What are some of the new trends in VoIP?

VoIP providers are now implementing software for phone systems designed to seamlessly integrate with CRM and other customer management software. Typically screen-pop technology and data queries can be launched from a VoIP phone system.

Finally, smartphone and app integration are becoming increasingly popular. For example, employees can have apps on their smartphones, which allows them to toggle back and forth between their cell phone and office phone. Basically, the smartphone serves as an extension of the office system.

What is the best way to determine an appropriate VoIP solution?

It’s important to perform a thorough evaluation of what’s out there. VoIP is portable, so have a provider come to your office and give a demonstration. It’s important to see it function in your environment and test various features to ensure the system is a good fit. Any VoIP provider that is offering a modern platform should be able to bring its system directly to you for an evaluation from the comfort of your own office with no charges incurred.

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Most everyone is aware of the seismic changes occurring in the health care industry. While the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is garnering most of the attention, a fundamental shift is occurring in the health care real estate business.

Buoyed by a perfect storm — providers are receiving lower reimbursements, construction costs are rising, interest rates are slowly nudging up — hospitals and doctors are searching for ways to most effectively and efficiently treat patients as trends suggest there will be more health care services needed, but patients will make fewer facility visits. This requires a sea change in how health care real estate is realized.

Smart Business spoke with Beth Young, senior vice president of Colliers International, to learn more about where health care real estate is headed.

New Campus Structure

A growing trend is the popularity of off-campus medical office buildings (MOBs). More and more physician practices are moving from central hospitals to retail options in the suburbs. Freestanding emergency and urgent care centers are sprouting up. The competition is fierce. Some hospital systems are erecting emergency centers directly across from competing hospitals. Others are master leasing excess space in MOBs in order to establish a competitive recruiting advantage under the assumption that the best and brightest physicians will be drawn to systems with roomy, plush office space.

Green Movement

Physicians tend to be attracted to green buildings. A somewhat surprising trend, because of the high upfront costs, is the construction of 40,000-50,000 square foot Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design-certified MOBs. However, because of lower operating costs, green buildings are a smart long-term investment. Developers are quoting operating expenses for LEED-certified MOBs at $4-$5 per square foot per year, compared to $10-$14 in older, non-green buildings.

Repurposing Real Estate

In an industry driven by mergers and acquisitions, it is inevitable that there will soon be fewer, but larger hospitals. Systems with real estate leases spread across large cities are struggling to determine what to do with their properties. Obsolete or underperforming buildings may be sold or redeveloped. Options for repurposing include skilled nursing, hospice, post-acute and long-term care.

Multiple properties may be consolidated into a single building. A significant single-tenant trend is developing a large “destination” that will provide multiple specialties including emergency departments, ambulatory surgery centers, radiology, pediatrics, orthopedics, common waiting areas, snack areas or restaurants, and in some cases even workout facilities.

Construction Prospects

New construction opportunities will be limited, as fewer large hospitals will be built. Most new buildings will be small facilities situated near residential communities. In an effort to shield themselves from risk, many hospitals moving forward with off-campus projects are opting to partner with outside firms that bring clinical or other expertise to the table. Some systems face obstacles when erecting off-campus buildings. They want to be in residential areas, but find that land is expensive because of zoning issues. Further, they are concerned about the future use of a potentially obsolete property at the end of 10-15 year leases.

More for Less

Non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts are raising $1 million dollars per day to invest in medical properties. However, there is scarce supply compared to the amount of money available for investments. Cap rates are expected to stay flat because of the large sum of money being invested. In such a climate, preferred yield is difficult to achieve. Some people are concerned that such conditions will create overpricing of health care properties. However, underwriting appears sound compared to recent history — investors are not jumping at deals just to acquire a health care property.

Market Conditions

It is expected there will be 50 to 100 basis points increases in the long term, but no changes short term. The markets are more competitive, so acquisitions are accelerated. A greater amount of debt is available and there is less structure. From the equity side, the further a project strays from basic MOBs the harder it is to obtain financing. Projects such as assisted living buildings present more challenges as such projects require more of a multi-family model. Lenders, for their part, say they generally prefer owner/operators to third-party developers.

Beth Young is senior vice president of Colliers International. Reach her at (713) 830-2166 or beth.young@colliers.com.


Cloud computing for business has become commonplace. The reason? Companies want technological conveniences and marketplace advantages. However, phone services are often left behind 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.

In the future, Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net, says he envisions a mass migration away from stationary services tied to brick and mortar to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) capabilities that incorporate the desk phone, the cell phone and Web-based services.

“VoIP can play a huge role by incorporating offices with telecommuters and a mobile workforce,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about the evolution of VoIP, who is driving the changes and what he expects in the future.

How is the VoIP world evolving to serve its customers?

It’s amazing how quickly the VoIP industry has evolved in a relatively short time. In contrast, traditional phone services are nearly exact replicas of what they were decades ago. While traditional telecom offers different services and features on various phone systems, the fundamental telephone service hasn’t changed.

In the VoIP world, the primary change we’ve seen has been moving from basic emulation and hosted services to highly expandable VoIP solutions that incorporate many new features. Businesses have developed a high comfort level with VoIP, so there has been a shift to businesses wanting to manage their own VoIP solutions; they just don’t want the responsibility of hosting the phone system. This do-it-yourself approach has gained traction as a tactic to save money by limiting outsourcing. Since VoIP systems are cloud based, a company’s communications infrastructure, which is hosted remotely, is still safe and secure.

Are there any other areas of evolutionary change?

Another example of evolutionary change is that VoIP providers are now incorporating functionality into cloud platforms that were traditionally only available on a network.

For instance, call recording on a hosted system used to work by having a server with devices that were able to record phone calls. With the second generation of cloud-based private branch exchange, this can be brought into the cloud environment and is immediately available for anyone on the phone network in real time.

Who is driving the changes?

Most VoIP systems are driven by the software and platform that they were built with. That has been the limiting factor of early versions of VoIP. Now, customers are dictating how they want the system to work and how quickly the evolution curve is. In essence, the customer’s input is impacting the direction of VoIP.

How is VoIP able to respond to changes in the telecom market so quickly?

The VoIP life cycle moves at an accelerated pace when compared to traditional telephony. Perhaps the best way to measure VoIP time is to compare it to Internet time, which moves at a much quicker rate than anything we’ve seen historically.

Over the next several years, as software changes and new technologies develop, consumers are going to witness further evolutions in the VoIP field.

How do you envision the future of VoIP?

We are going to continue to see the shift to a cloud-based model. With hosted VoIP, there are still phone devices on the office desk. However, businesses want their phone services to integrate with their mobile devices. A common request from customers is to have their business phone number integrate to their cell phone so they can respond to the needs of their customers more timely.

Businesses are looking for different characteristics associated with their phone system that will help set themselves apart from their competitors.

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Houston is known for many things: rockets, energy, the Astrodome and Beyoncé. It is also one of the top-performing U.S. metropolitan areas as measured by nearly any business or economic indicator, making it a cost-effective and internationally competitive business environment.

Houston is the fourth largest city and fifth largest Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) in the nation. Between 2000 and 2010, the Houston MSA increased its population by an impressive 26.1 percent, from 4.7 million residents to 5.9 million. Demographers agree that population growth will remain strong into the foreseeable future as domestic and international migration trends favor Houston’s geographical, cultural and economic strengths.

Smart Business spoke with Lisa R. Bridges, Director of Market Research at Colliers International, to learn more about the strengths of Houston’s business environment.

Ideal Workforce

It’s not just quantity, but also quality of the workforce that attracts companies to Houston. Area residents are well-educated with the majority of the population over 25 years of age holding a high school diploma and residents with college/graduate educational studies outnumbering those with less than a high school education.

Educational prowess among Houston residents can be attributed to the area’s nationally recognized colleges and universities, as well as technical and trade schools, including Rice University, University of Houston, Texas Southern University, Houston Baptist University, Baylor College of Medicine, University of St. Thomas, San Jacinto College, and Houston Community College.

The high level of educational achievement translates to higher average income levels. The median household income in 2014 is projected to be $63,857 and the average household income level is pegged to be $85,409, both significantly over the national average.

Companies that do business in Houston not only have access to an educated workforce, but also a population able to spend money on their products and services. Houston’s employment sector has weathered the recession better than most major metro areas. The downturn was short-lived in the area and the Houston MSA began recovering jobs sooner than most.

Diversified Portfolio

Bolstered by above-average demographic trends and a strong base of diverse industries, Houston is well positioned to compete in today’s global markets. Long recognized as the energy capital of the world — with every major energy company represented locally — Houston now stands as a global example of economic diversity. The area is home to a thriving stable of industries including medical/biomedical technology, aeronautics, plastics manufacturing, electronics, software design, integrated power and global trade.

Houston’s strong economic base is a key factor in driving both domestic and international migration trends. In fact, Houston ranks third among U.S. cities with the most Fortune 500 companies with 23, trailing only New York and Chicago. Notably, Houston surpassed other major metros on the Fortune 500 list including Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta.

Houston has long been recognized as one of the most competitive U.S. cities for corporate relocation and expansion activity. Recently, Houston ranked No. 2 in the country for Site Selection Magazine’s Tier One New and Expanded Facilities for MSA’s with a population of more than 1 million. Chief Executive Magazine — for seven straight years — named Texas as the No. 1 state for Best Business, in which Houston’s energy industry played a huge role.

Favorable Business Climate

In addition to its diverse growth industries, and the skill and education of its workforce, a key factor underscoring Houston’s business appeal is that it is one of the least expensive major cities in which to conduct business. Significant benefits include the absence of state or city income taxes, no state property tax, as well as an exceptionally low cost of living index.

As a major transportation hub with two major airports, a world-renowned port, and superior rail and road infrastructure, Houston facilitates the interconnection of global business locations. Business alliances with major U.S. and international markets is further enhanced by the presence of 94 foreign consulate offices in Houston.

Houston’s ability to foster continued expansion in future-growth industries responsible for generating high quality, well-paid jobs across all business sectors has placed it in the top tier among U.S. cities. With its numerous business advantages, Houston is well positioned to successfully compete in today’s global marketplace.

Lisa R. Bridges is Director of Market Research at Colliers International. Reach her at (713) 830-2125 or lisa.bridges@colliers.com.

Pushing the envelope by implementing new Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services makes sense for forward-thinking companies. After all, streamlining data and communications allows you to become more efficient. And increased productivity translates to the bottom line.

However, it’s important not to jump on board with an inexperienced VoIP provider that hasn’t properly tested its technologies.

“Most people prefer something that is tried and true, regardless if it’s new or not,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net.

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about fully hosted and cloud-based telephone systems and what to look for in a VoIP provider.

What are some of the characteristics that make hosted and cloud-based telephone systems more attractive than traditional phone services?

Typically, with traditional premise-based private branch exchange (PBX), you buy a hardware solution and pay for the features that you want upfront. Until you need to renew the licensing or upgrade your system, you are pretty much set. However, adding services can be an arduous task because if you want to add lines or provide call queuing someone has to come out to manage the hardware and update the software at your location.

Hosted VoIP and virtual PBX are cloud-based, so when changes are needed it’s as simple as contacting your VoIP provider to remotely toggle a specific feature or service on or off.

How can companies feel secure about using cutting-edge technologies for their telecommunication needs?

New offerings are constantly coming out in the VoIP world, but the most important thing is that they are properly tested and correctly launched. You don’t want to take a gamble on a new VoIP technology that may or may not work for your business — you want to be sure that it will work.

Make sure you are working with a provider that has a history of telecommunications experience and focuses on staying ahead of the technology curve. It’s important to work with an experienced VoIP provider that can help you navigate through the new technology waters and figure out what will be best for your business.

What resources should a mid-market company evaluate when choosing telecommunication services?

The first resource that should be evaluated is technical talent: What kind of talent do you have available internally to assimilate VoIP technologies into your business model? Some companies prefer to handle their own problem-solving, and if they have capable IT personnel, this is a valid option. If you don’t have the technical expertise available internally, then you can use a VoIP provider that handles everything from setup to recommended upgrades.

Another resource to consider is capital investment versus a service model. If you want to buy a phone system with capabilities for popular services such as call recording, queuing, integration into customer relationship management software and fail-over services, there is going to be a significant upfront investment. However, if you want these services, but don’t want to pay for it all upfront, you can have a VoIP provider incorporate these services on a monthly basis.

How can a business save money by handling VoIP services internally?

If you have talent on-hand with time to spend on implementing VoIP services, then you can realize significant cost savings. Some VoIP providers make the learning curve very easy. For example, you can buy space on a virtually hosted cloud platform and have your personnel learn how to operate the system in a safe and secure environment, rather than trying to figure it out in a brick and mortar location.

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Monday, 02 September 2013 22:50

How the DIY model applies to VoIP

More and more business professionals are exploring the do-it-yourself (DIY) model when it comes to their telephone communications. In many cases, however, a hosted model — where a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) provider manages your system at a data center location — might make the most sense.

Having a hosted solution may free your business from bearing the responsibility of installing, maintaining and repairing telephony software. In the long run, this could add up to large savings.

When searching for a VoIP provider, Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net, says you must make sure you are able to find the proper fit.
“It’s important to find a company that works the way that you want to work,” he says. “If service and support is important to you, find a VoIP provider that will support your needs and expectations.”

Smart Business spoke with Desberg about VoIP, the flexibility of a supported, DIY model and the benefits of a hosted model.

How can a good VoIP provider help with the transition to a cloud-based telephone system?

There has been a shift in the VoIP industry toward implementing open-source voice applications. The supported, DIY VoIP approach has gained traction because it can save money by limiting the amount of outsourcing while working with an experienced provider. For example, IT consultants and VoIP companies frequently install solutions such as Asterisk, an open-source telephony software system, and then the company manages the applications internally. However, this DIY approach can present challenges when it’s not well supported by your dial tone provider.

In order to fully realize the benefits of new technologies, it’s best to combine the new software environment with a VoIP provider that is well versed in hosting, hardware and integration to the traditional world of telephony. If the telephone is your primary way to communicate with your customers, it is too important of a matter to leave to chance.

How much control can a company have over the VoIP system?

There are three options. The first is a hosted model where the VoIP provider handles all of the changes, including managing the software. This is a service-based model, so if the business needs support, it can contact the VoIP provider that helps provide solutions to any problems that may be encountered.

With new cloud-based systems, some companies prefer to support their own changes. The supported DIY or Virtual PBX solution provides a stable environment to host the software-based phone system. This would be ideal for a business with capable IT personnel, where executives want to keep control of their technology reins but still have a fall back for technical support.

The final option is to have the end-user handle everything, from setup to tech support in a secure environment with dial tone and trunking available. Essentially, the business may bring its existing software-based phone system into a data center that is focused on VoIP services.

What is the advantage of divvying up responsibility when it comes to phone systems?

In the traditional telephone world, every time a phone system breaks down or there is a need for an upgrade, a call is made to an outside consultant who specializes in that specific phone system.

It stands to reason that the same might ring true in the cloud-based world if you dive in unprepared. Working with an experienced VoIP provider will help future proof your telecommunications by distributing responsibility and having a good support structure. In fact, a solid VoIP provider will have built-in redundancy to protect against downtime.

With a traditional or even VoIP premise-based model, if a system goes down, you’re down until it gets fixed. With a virtual — or host-based model — the system simply doesn’t go down because there is redundancy already in place.

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

Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Ohio.net

Page 1 of 35