Hosted PBX – How Will It Help My Business? No Capital Investment

This week we will be concentrating on the question of “How can changing to a hosted PBX solution for your telephony needs help your business?” Important question and we have answers.

 

The first way is that it requires no (or very little) capital investment. Unlike on-premise systems, almost all of the headache of ownership is off-loaded to the hosted provider. What does this mean for your business?

 

  • No hardware to buy: …or ship, or receive, or install, or set-up.

  • No licenses: since you don’t own the equipment, there are no annual expenditures to make sure you are “up-to-date.”

  • Simple single monthly charge: ease of knowing and predicting cost.

  • No dedicated voice circuits: give up paying for phone and fax lines (T1’s, fractional T1’s, etc.) All you need is an internet connection.

  • No new features costs: something upgraded on the system? You get it without paying more (o installing anything.)

  • Easy scalability, even for new sites: expansion is as easy as plugging in a phone to the network.

  • Unlimited or pay-per-use conferencing: no more contracts to manage and pay for.

  • Promotion eliminates phones cost: in most situations, basics user phones come free.

 

We provide expert consulting on how you can leverage hosted PBX using your existing internet connection. Ask for a free trial or quote today.

 

If you would like to discuss Soteria’s portfolio of uConnect offerings, please schedule a time to connect.  (Click HERE)

 

 

uConnect – Any to Any

I was pondering this morning about how important “any-to-any” communication is for voice communications – me connecting with someone somewhere on any device. The opposite of that would be to imagine that only Verizon users (or substitute your mobile carrier of choice) could talk to Verizon users. Or, iPhones could only call iPhones. Would make for an interesting world no doubt.

 

Now imagine if we had this any-to-any capability on your business voice system. What if you could have the capability to direct your inbound calls to a desk phone, to a mobile phone, to an iPad, or to a laptop soft phone?  Imagine the capability to direct that same call to all of those devices at the same time, think you would miss a call?

 

What if you, instead, want your calls directed to someone else and they are on a mobile, or laptop, in the same state or in Europe at the moment?  Can you voice system do that with a click of few buttons?  And, what happens when you do miss that call, do you only have one option – voicemail?  What about email? What about forwarding to your assistant and you at the same time? Imagine, again, for this to follow you, wherever you are and on any device.

 

Let Soteria explore with you about getting away from a monolithic voice system and allowing it to meet your unique communications needs.  We’d love to hear from you.

 

If you would like to discuss Soteria’s portfolio of uConnect offerings, please schedule a time to connect!

(Click HERE)

 

 

uConnect – Dots-and-Dashes or Cloud?

“The Telephone purports to transmit the speaking voice over telegraph wires. We found that the voice is very weak and indistinct, and grows even weaker when long wires are used between the transmitter and receiver. Technically, we do not see that this device will be ever capable of sending recognizable speech over a distance of several miles.”

Chauncey DePew, Western Union (1876)

 

 

Even a few years ago, the thought of taking business-quality voice communications to the cloud was unrealistic according to many in the technology arena. Too many unknowns, too many factors to control, right? Right?  Today, as with the evolution from telegraph to telephone, if you still hold to this paradigm, then get in line with Mr. DePew – times have changed.

 

There are a three items that need to be check-boxed in order to be successful, however, here a list to consider.

 

  1. Broadband: despite all the best intentions, not all broadband providers are created equal. It is critical that your provider have a business class service. Don’t get caught utilizing consumer-grade service.

  2. Network Management: the days of throwing in the switch-de-jour behind your broadband is over. Make sure your switch is cloud-manageable and that you can apply different QoS and protocols per device.

  3. Cloud Management: a critical component. Your hosted cloud solution must have browser-based management capability, down to the individual user. Don’t settle for less.

 

Time to explore getting away from dots-and-dashes for your organization?

 

If you would like to discuss Soteria’s portfolio of uConnect offering, please schedule a time to connect!

(click HERE)

 

 

uConnect – How Are You “Operating”?

 

At the advent of the telephone, connecting two parties was a manual process. A wire would run from each home to a central office, and when a party wanted to talk to another, the Operators would “make a connection.”

 

Later, machines would take over this function, replacing rooms of operators with rooms of machines. Eventually, even homes and businesses had their own systems on-premise to handle multiple lines and other functions like voice-mail, conferencing, etc.

 

Today, with the advent of cloud-based telephony, making connections has never been simpler, more powerful or more cost-effective. Businesses now have the capability to make connections with customers, prospects and vendors and look like a Fortune 50 company doing it (AND without the cost!)

 

One of the projects Soteria engaged in in 2014 was talking a spin-off from a Fortune 100 company and helping them quickly and efficiently move small offices and remote users to a cloud-hosted PBX system. Set-up and provisioned with enterprise-quality features in a matter of days – all with low, per-user, per month pricing and no contract.

 

No Operators, no equipment, just connection!

 

If you would like to discuss Soteria’s portfolio of uConnect offering, please schedule a time to connect!

(click HERE)

 

 

Meraki – Cloud Managed Networks

Leveraging cloud-based solutions is great … if you can get to the cloud.  And once there, understand how to protect, manage and shape that web-based traffic is critical.

 

At Soteria, we have standardized on one product – Cisco Meraki.  This product line was developed by a group of PhD students at MIT specifically for the cloud and it delivers.  Watch the Meraki story here.

 

Meraki is a great success story and their success can be your as well.  Equipped with free evaluation gear, free wireless product and a world-class on-line demo, Soteria can be your partner to a better, more secure and manageable network.  To review your options, visit this website and then contact Soteria for how you can take advantage of these great offers.

 

 

Meraki Offers
Meraki Offers

 

 

Contact us today for more information.

 

ATA Device Ports On Hosted VoIP Solution

Want to implement a Hosted VoIP Solution but need to integrate existing applications/adjuncts currently connected to analog station ports from a legacy PBX?  Well you can with an ATA device as going with hosted VoIP does not necessarily require you to toss out prior investments in self-service IVRs, VRUs, workforce

management, image/fax and even voice-mail solutions.   As companies weigh the cost of owning a tradition PBX solution vrs migrating to a browser based VoIP solution, there is an opportunity to breathe new life into older technology that helped to differentiate good customer service.  Imagine adding new voice mail-to-email options to a 10 year old IVR application, or including remote agents by way of a mobile device or soft-phone.

 

The reality is, hosted VoIP is here to stay.  Its ability to level the playing field for small- to mid-sized companies with powerful enterprise capabilities is going to change the competitive landscape.  Larger companies no longer hold the advantage on telephony capabilities as smaller competitors are able to offer the same self-service and follow-the-sun solutions and without the racks of servers and cubicles of technicians.

 

Although today hosted VoIP cannot match feature-for-feature, the scope and scale of an on premise enterprise solution (yet), there are several solutions and workarounds that will close the features gap as hosted VoIP continues to evolve.  When these features do arrive, notification will be via an email and new menu selections in your management portal vs. a scheduled weekend cut with the associated on-going maintenance costs.

 

ATA’s in Hosted VoIP Migrations

 

After being in the Lucent/Avaya and Cisco Telecom space for over 17 years, I can’t tell you how powerful the story of Add/Move/Change support has become with hosted VoIP vs. legacy PBX administration.  Which brings me to my discussion on the power of introducing the port adapter device (or ATA) as the MacGyver to a successful Hosted VoIP Solution.

 

Many of my customers need to keep in place analog connectivity when migrating to a hosted VoIP solution to accommodate cordless phones, fax machines, scanning/imaging systems, lobby phones, or paging systems… all items that an ATA device can address and do a great job to carry over into a hosted VoIP.

 

This post is not about those items but rather how to leverage the ATA for a much larger feature gap which is connectivity to enterprise systems where call volumes are extensive and reintegration is essential.  I had one particular customer who had to reconnect their existing 8 port IVR/VRU servers; a custom-built solution which provides subscriber benefit and enrollment status information for over 8,000+ end users and with over 70,000 per month minutes of self-service (about 9 minutes per user, per month). My end customer calculated they would have to hire a minimum of 10 new call center agents if their IVR solution was removed or was down for more than a month. So the only option was to figure out how to reconnect their IVR Solution with the hosted VoIP solution.   To do so, I opted to go with 4 dual port Cisco SPA112 Phone Adapters.

 

Working with legacy IVR/VRU systems can be tricky but with a few key steps, you will be successful and not run out of time during your on-site scope.  Here are the steps I’ll be covering: prepping the hosted VoIP solution, configuring the ATA devices, testing and adjusting the existing IVR scripts, turning over to call center management for final testing and feedback.

 

Prepping the Hosted VoIP Solution

My first task involves setting up my extensions, building an auto attendant, and placing all 8 (showing only 7 in my screen captures) extensions into a Hunt Group on the Hosted VoIP system.  Once each ext is labeled, assigned a 3/4/5/6 digit extension and permanently logged-in as an available agent (I won’t need to manually log-in and out for lunch breaks or even after hours as I can control access to the resources through business and after-hours with the auto-attendant)… it’s go time!
 

Note: It’s nice to work with automated ports as they don’t take smoke breaks or need lunch but keep in mind, if this is a production system you are setting these resources up on, be mindful of conducting after-hours as you may need to add/remove settings from a production area.  The usual way apply when dealing with a phone system as everyone expects and forgets about the internet going down, while everyone remembers when the phones go out.

 

 

 

Configuring the ATA Devices
My next step is to configure my Cisco SPA112 2-Port Phone Adapters, which allows up to two lines to be handled with one device.  For larger deployments, I would recommend going with one of Cisco’s VG Analog Gateways which offer high-density options for up to 160 analog ports (I’m looking forward to a future blog post which focuses on some of the more advanced features you can introduce with Cisco’s IOS Software).  But for the majority of smaller to medium sized sites, 8 – 24 ports is nicely served with the Cisco SPA devices currently available.  Configuring the SPAs is quick and easy once you obtain the IP address, which can be had with any analog phone (even that old ESPN Football phone from the 80′s will do) as you can dial into the device and receive a clear text to speech read back of the IP address for plugging into your browser.  Once in, you can access the configuration screens which I’ve gone ahead and attached below.  Since you’ve already built your extensions in the prior step, you simply need to assign each line with its specific name on the ATA.  Down the road, you may need to configure some additional screens on each of the devices so I would suggest a good spreadsheet to keep everything neat and orderly as you build out your solution.  Note: each phone line can be configured independently and it’s a good idea to have a labeler ready to notate each device and label each line out (as associated with the exts assigned).

 

 

 

Testing and Adjusting the Existing IVR Scripts
Now for the fun part and to see if you have a basic grasp of how call flows, exts and auto-attendants work.  Assuming you have un-plugged your legacy adjunct analog line ports whether they be from an IVR, VRU, Voice mail, Fax Server, or anything with an analog adapter, you are now ready to swing over these system port(s) to your new ATA ports.  Note: keep a look out for dual line ports on your cards, if you are plugging directly from an ATA, you are only going to get a single line in.. two line splitters and multi-line cables is a sure bet and you may even be able to reuse them if they were jacked into wall boxes.  Otherwise, you will need to recreate the 2 line into the server(s) analog card(s) (Brooktrout, Dialogic, etc.), but I would suggest ordering or having them locally built by a cable maker.  Note: see image attached below of the ones I ordered as this makes a much cleaner solution and just looks professional. Once you are all hooked up, begin test calling into your auto-attendants and/or hunt groups (which I will have a future blog post on) and even direct dial each IVR Ext just to ensure every line is working as depending on how you setup your hunt groups, you may or may not be able to hit every IVR port depending on how you assigned round-robin, most idle agent, etc.  Pull out that ESPN Analog Football phone again and manually test ring off the back of every ATA line port to be even more anal!

Turning Over to Call Center Management for Final Testing and Feedback
After you hit your adjunct ports, you are just about there as now you need to do some menu select prompt testing to ensure things are working and you have compatibly with the new ATA’s.  You may need to edit the exiting adjunct scripts to make them compatible with your ATA devices as every system will be different and depending on what your legacy phone system was: Avaya, Nortel, Aspect, NEC, etc., you can sure bet they all have specific timeouts and PBX commands for the simplest of commands, such as off-hook and transfer, etc.

 

 

But this is the fun part and this is where you complete the journey specific to your endeavor or call Soteria, LLC. as we are ready to help. www.soteria365.com

Ready to try something new?  Bring your phone system out of the closet and experience the freedom.  Contact Soteria today!

*  FREE CloudConnect hosted PBX evaluation

*  30-day FREE hosted PBX trial

*  FREE 2-page comparison of hosted vs on-premise offerings

 

Click HERE to make your request for one or more of our FREE offers!

 

See how we can change the way you look at communications!

 

Hosted PBX – Ready or Not?

The “Tele” of things …

Aesop, in his fable of “The Fox and the Lion,” is credited with the idiom “familiarity breeds contempt”.  I think the same can be said of the English language, as we often don’t know the origin, or even the meaning, of certain words.  Case in point for me recently, the term “tele.”  The origin is Greek, the meaning is “from afar.”  After a half century of using it, I finally know the meaning.  Never too late, I guess. (Insert joke of your choice here.)

 

Telecommunications (“Communicating from afar”)

Gartner estimates that in 2014 the telecommunications market will be 45% of all IT spend: $1.72 trillion worldwide.  This spend will be allocated among goods and services supporting the industry and, given the large amount of money being spent, brings up the question of how are those dollars being spent.  As a business owner or IT manager, how are your telecommunications dollars being spent?

Here are three questions to ask.

 

1.      Do you regularly make changes to your telephony system?

If your answer is “No” then your money is not being spent on a business-generating asset.  The trademark of proprietary phone systems of the past is that they were closed systems; meaning, unless you had in-house skills and knowledge no changes were possible.

The correct answer is “yes.”  Having the ability to easily manipulate your system to customize your callers experience is a critical differentiator.  If your system doesn’t allow for this capability, time to look elsewhere.  Time to look at hosted PBX.

 

2.      Are people calling you able to “follow” you – wherever you are and on whatever device you are using?

Your system should have the ability to extend calls to mobile devices (smart phones, tablets, laptops) and to customize the out-of-office experience for callers, at a minimum.  The proliferation of mobile devices allows your customers to call you from anywhere, you should be able to answer from anywhere.

While on the island of Crete in 2013 my mobile phone (Droid) was connected to the Starbuck’s Wifi (yes, they have Starbucks in Crete.)  Though our cloud-hosted PBX I received calls like I was sitting at my desk, for free.  That’s hearing voices “from afar.”

 

3.      Do you know what your “per-person” cost is for telephony?

If this is a complicated process of gathering costs for on-going maintenance and licensing to your phone system provider, allocating costs for multiple PSTN line charges as well as internal support personnel, etc. then you are in the wrong model.

The cost in a hosted PBX model are on a monthly “per-user” basis so the costs are easily understood.  They are also an operations-based, monthly expense vs. a long-term capital outlay.  Financial freedom and flexibility of hosted PBX is the right model.

 

If you would like to explore more about if hosted PBX is right for you, contact us and we can provide the details you need via a no-obligation evaluation, a 30-day trial, or a ROI analysis – all at no cost to you.

 

Contact Soteria at evolve@soteria365.com, 800-643-7066 or visit our website @ www.soteria365.com.

 

 

Hosted PBX: Bring Your Phone System Out-of-the-Closet

If your organization is typical, your on-premise phone system is tucked away (often NOT neatly) in a spare closet along with the mop bucket and the half-empty bag of sidewalk salt.  And, from a business perspective, odds are that being in the closet reflects the sense of value placed on the telephony system.  After all, all phone systems are the same, right?  Not anymore.

 

Soteria’s CloudConnect hosted PBX offers businesses some very compelling benefits that can lower cost, increase productivity and create a differentiation from your competitors.  Here are some highlights:

 

  •  Mobile Flexibility:

Traditionally your phone is on your desk, at work, all the time.  What if your phone could be taken with you … virtually?  With our hosted solution you can “install” your phone on your laptop, your mobile phone, your tablet and use it anytime and anywhere you are.  It doesn’t have to stay on your desk.

  • Unlimited Calling:

A variable cost for most businesses is the time employees spend on the phone, whether it is through mobile minutes, long-distance fees/charges or leased line costs, it all adds up.  With hosted PBX, all calls within the US and Canada are free.  We also have the ability to port existing local and 800 numbers from existing carriers so your numbers stay the same.

  •  No Maintenance:

Trying to keep systems up-to-date is both time-consuming and costly.  When using a hosted PBX solution you don’t worry about annual contracts, system updates or repair costs.  Systems are always on the latest releases and the only thing you have to do is … nothing.

  •  Predictable Costs:

When buying a new, or replacing an existing system, the task of trying to predict current and future growth can be challenging.  With hosted PBX there is no initial investment and you only pay for the users on the system.  No money being wasted on buying what you need 3-5 years from now and users can be added (or deleted) at any time.

  •  Business Continuity:

A lifeline for most businesses is the ability for customers to communicate with them.  With the hosted PBX, you are guaranteed a fully reliable (99.99% up time) and fully redundant communication platform that will be there whenever you, or your customer, picks up the phone.

  •  Fully Configurable:

Most traditional phone systems are “set-and-forget”, i.e., once the installation is complete no one touches the system until it is replaced.  As a result, many of the functions and features never get turned-on.  The hosted PBX portal allows anyone to custom-configure music-on-hold, auto-attendants, custom voice prompts, hunt groups and many, many other features all through a browser interface.

 

Ready to try something new?  Bring your phone system out of the closet and experience the freedom.  Contact Soteria today!

FREE CloudConnect hosted PBX evaluation

30-day FREE hosted PBX trial

FREE 2-page comparison of hosted vs on-premise offerings

 

Click HERE to make your request for one or more of our FREE offers!

 

See how we can change the way you look at communications!

 

Cloud Managed Network with Meraki

Cloud vs. On-Premise

Cloud-managed networking vs. an on-premise network management is the difference between proactive vs. reactive when it comes to ensuring the availability of a hosted cloud solution.  Taking systems management from an on-premise console to a web-based browser gives several advantages to companies that want to ensure availability of their cloud applications while allowing their cloud providers to troubleshoot and measure availability of their applications.  The web-based browser is as important as ever as enterprises move in-house solutions to the cloud; giving networking capability and viability an even higher priority.

As far back as ten years ago, “convergence” was about data and voice combining together on the same network and today we’ve seen that transition become a reality.  Now we are seeing the convergence of data applications that carry with them embedded voice, storage, social, and mobile features and functionality.  Without a cloud-managed network – proactively monitoring, measuring and prioritizing a hosted application – you are setting yourself up for failure.

Customer Experience

On a recent customer installation, we saw the value of a Meraki cloud-managed network.   The client was deployed with a cable broadband solution with a contracted download speed of 80.00 Mbps and an upload speed of 36.00 Mbps.  Reading through most standard broadband contracts, you are not guaranteed the delivery of those speeds are they are often dependent on several factors: quality of coax to-and-from the demarcation point(s), networking equipment and structured cabling.   Cable provider service have other contributing factors as it is a shared service (varying number of users on a local loop), the geographical area  and the time of day.

Utilizing Meraki’s reporting capabilities, we were able to see the peaks and valleys of the client’s broadband  with speeds of 30.00 Mbps down and 12.00 Mbps up.  These Meraki reports, with graphs and associated data, allowed us to analyze the cloud-managed network (facts are difficult to argue) and provide this information to the broadband carrier’s support desk.  Upon dispatching an on-site technician, it led to the discovery of a faulty trap.  (The result of an older, non-scrambled system in which the cable provider installed these trap(s) to remove signals the client was not paying for.  As a result of this trap, the broadband signal between the CO and demarcation point was significantly truncated by this out-of-date trap and, once removed, the speeds more than doubled.

 

One issue solved but there will be more in the future as Meraki will continue to alert Soteria and the client to future trends, should the quality of service degrade over time.  Moreover, Soteria will also be provisioning a redundant broadband connection to ensure dual paths for business continuity and proactive management to the network.

 

 

Capabilities

Soteria LLC. (a Meraki Business Partner) builds wireless and wired cloud-managed networks as well as providing network acceleration and security capabilities.  We deploy solutions that allows remote management through web portal control to centrally manage an enterprise network with immediate and full control over applications, devices, policies and all users.  The alternative: dispatching an on-site technician or a high hourly-rate technical resources with specific certifications in router, layer 3 switching, firewall and general security.  As well, upgrades, patching or firmware efforts are moved to the cloud and receive 24/7 managed update and scheduled control; meaning, customers no longer have controller hardware or management software to install and maintain.

So what does this really mean for our customers?  In our opinion, the power of cloud-managed networking is the ability to leave maintenance, secure system access and device integration to the cloud, while allowing enterprise IT professionals to focus on the areas which optimize their organization’s access to cloud hosted solutions.  With the additional time, administrators can ensure that content shaping, protocol priority, firewall rules and content management is fully optimized and continuously managed and measured to ensure the most optimal environment.  Call Soteria, LLC. as we are ready to help.

 

Good Luck!