Author Archives: Chicago Business VoIP Hosting

Cloud VoIP for Business

Can Hosted VoIP Be a Game Changer for Your Business?

Can Hosted VoIP Be a Game Changer for Your Business?
Many business transactions may be moving away from the telephone, but it is still a must-have for any business. Not everyone is Internet-savvy after all. Nowadays, there are plenty of telephone options out there, but only one carries no upfront hardware costs or a exorbitant fee structure: Hosted VoIP. Today, we will take a look at the benefits of cloud hosted VoIP, and how to get one working for your business today.

What is Cloud-Hosted VoIP?
Before we go into what cloud-hosted VoIP is, you have to understand what VoIP is. With Internet bandwidth increasing very quickly, there are now phone systems that work over an Internet connection rather through the traditional telephone infrastructure. As a result, Internet-based phone systems are growing in popularity. Called Voice over Internet Protocol, companies who were looking to take full control over their communications costs, started to purchase expensive PBX technology, hosting it in their place of business, and paying a VoIP provider per user. Sure it was expensive to start up, but once a company owned the hardware, costs normalized and the phone system was theirs to do with as they please.

Cloud-hosted VoIP moves the PBX platform from your server room to the cloud, removing the upfront hardware and maintenance costs that typically keep businesses from investing in their own telephone solution. With a cloud-hosted VoIP solution, you and your staff gain anytime-anywhere access to a feature-rich and reliable telephone system without the cost, headaches, and hassle that traditional telephone systems are often associated with.

Cloud-Hosted VoIP Features
While the main advantages to integrating a cloud-hosted VoIP system come from the transfer and reduction of cost, there are other benefits. Being able to quickly, and affordably, scale to your organization’s needs, provides you the opportunity to pay only what you need to pay, and not get locked into a lengthy and expensive long-term contract. If you need a new phone line, you can get one, and it will be reflected in next month’s bill.

Speaking of bills, the Cloud-hosted VoIP solution allows you to budget your communication costs based on your users, not on your whole system. This provides an advantage for project-oriented businesses, as they can easily add a phone when they need one and get rid of it when they don’t.

Another major benefit isn’t one you would typically expect. The security of cloud-hosted VoIP systems is solid. Your VoIP provider is in charge of your system’s hosting and security. As with most data center-based computing platforms, a cloud-hosted PBX server is completely protected with comprehensive disaster recovery protocols as well as ample physical security.

A lot of hosted-cloud VoIP options offer conferencing solutions and the opportunity to unify your organization’s communications platform. This can have several positive benefits including simpler management, cost reduction, and increased efficiency.

With Cloud-hosted VoIP at the center of your business’ communications, you can do more with less. For more information about the VoIP options Prime Telecommunications at 847 329 8600


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Category : SD WAN Chicago

The only truly scarce commodity in business is time. You can’t create time, so it must be spent wisely. The most successful organizations are ones that always find ways to be more efficient and productive with their time; leading to a low cost structure, high customer satisfaction and good employee morale.

Over the past 20 years, MPLS became entrenched as the gold-standard of WAN transport and many organizations have found a way to absorb the high cost and inefficiencies inherent in MPLS. Why? Because with technology, there’s a strong tendency to stay with what you already know so it’s no surprise that most organizations have not spent time looking to escape their MPLS WAN. But things are changing quickly.

The rise of cloud computing has exposed “real world” limitations of MPLS and created a new reality where it is draining knowledge worker productivity. Whether it’s a new site deployment, an employee running cloud applications, or an IT engineer configuring the network, MPLS is wasting your time. Successful organizations may be able to spend twice as much money to maintain the status quo with MPLS, but when you consider the new SD-WAN math, you save time and money. So the question is, What are you waiting for?

SD-WAN is about accelerating productivity.  SD-WAN enables your organization to collaborate and innovate at 10 times the speed of MPLS. Putting aside the 50% TCO savings from SD-WAN, the fact is cloud-driven organizations can’t afford to waste another minute waiting on MPLS.  Given the efficiency of SD-WAN it is no wonder that late 2017 marks the tipping point; according to IDC, the SD-WAN market is projected to grow to $8 billion in annual revenues by the year 2021.

3 Key Areas Where MPLS Is Wasting Your Time

1.) Site Deployments  First, MPLS circuits have notoriously long provisioning times. This delays new branch deployments hugely.  “There’s simply no fast way to deploy MPLS,” explains Futuriom Founder and Chief Analyst, Scott Raynovich, during a recent webinar presentation of his SD-WAN Growth Outlook. “It often takes months, not weeks or days.”

2.) Worker Productivity — With cloud applications on the rise, MPLS is unnecessarily slowing down day-to-day worker productivity. Cloud applications running over MPLS can be sluggish, disrupting the flow of productivity by causing workers to waste time waiting on their network instead of focusing on their tasks.  The two primary causes of slow cloud performance are relatively low MPLS bandwidth speeds, which is exacerbated by indirect routes connecting users to their cloud applications. “MPLS is designed to support point-to-point data centers, not cloud,” describes Raynovich. “Now you have people going out to the cloud with applications like Salesforce CRM, Box and Office365 and the performance of these applications is really the productivity of your business.”

 

3.) Network Engineering Time — These MPLS deficiencies didn’t just spring up overnight, they are part of MPLS’s DNA. IT teams have been spending precious time combating these issues for years. Branch router complexity has been increasing and WAN optimization appliances are often inserted to overcome MPLS limitations. Maintaining the old WAN model requires specialized knowledge and hands-on configuration. Bottom line, your IT team is spending too much time supporting your MPLS network. An engineer’s time and expertise is highly valuable, so according to Raynovich the question is, “as a corporation, do you want this person spending their time on manual router configurations, or do you want to free them up to service customers or for projects that create even more value?”

MPLS is designed to support point-to-point data centers, not cloud. Now you have people going out to the cloud with applications like Salesforce CRM, Box and Office365 and the performance of these applications is really the productivity of your business.
Scott RaynovichFounder and Chief Analyst, Futuriom

SD-WAN Accelerates Innovation

Technology is now driving the business ecosystem, from internal teams, to supply chains, to customer interactions. At some level, every major business initiative relies on skilled IT personnel to connect, integrate and operate the software and systems that help you compete and win in the market.  To accelerate key initiatives, organizations must shift their best and brightest technology minds away from basic network operations functionality so they can focus on strategic, revenue-impacting technology initiatives.

SD-WAN simplifies branch networking through network function virtualization.  Centralized orchestration brings network automation and efficiency to a new level. SD-WAN performance and resiliency radically reduces the amount of IT time spent reacting to network outages and trouble tickets.  Network-as-a-Service offerings maximize IT time savings, providing a fully managed SD-WAN solution including solution design, network integration, ongoing branch orchestration and even the SDN overlay transport network to connect all your sites, users and applications.

SD-WAN Accelerates Productivity

When application performance is sluggish, it can interrupt the user’s stream-of-consciousness which brings productivity and innovation to a screeching halt. SD-WAN eliminates last-mile MPLS bottlenecks that leave users starving for bandwidth, enhancing throughput and productivity for everyone including remote offices, mobile workers and even IoT devices.

SD-WAN is an overlay technology that works with your existing technology ecosystem, powering the software, systems and connections you already use to run way, way faster. From the employee perspective, SD-WAN is a seamless and transparent productivity boost.  Existing employee workflows are accelerated because SD-WAN provides faster access to business-critical cloud services, with 10X the bandwidth speed and more direct, low-latency routes to power cloud applications.

SD-WAN Accelerates Growth

When multi-site organizations look to expand, they need to enter new markets and that leads to opening new sites in new territories. SD-WAN eliminates the long wait times for MPLS circuit deployments, so you won’t need to wait months to turn-up a new site.

SD-WAN provides customers the freedom to connect using any locally available circuits and/or carriers in the last-mile.  Versatility to use any Cable, DSL or even 4G/LTE connections allows new sites to be online in days. Once the last mile loops are installed, SD-WAN CPE are shipped overnight and remotely provisioned through a centralized orchestration portal in the time it that takes to grab a cup of coffee!

Next Steps

To get familiar with SD-WAN and how it helps improve performance beyond MPLS, check out the on-demand replay SD-WAN Growth Outlook: Lowering the Costs of WAN Services, featuring Futuriom Founder and Chief Analyst, Scott Raynovich.

For those ready to move forward on their Journey to an SD-WAN, we offer a series of eight free analyst white papers by Dr. Jim Metzler to guide you along the way.


Hosted Business VoIP in Chicago

Mobile Workplaces Report Higher Productivity and Engagement Among Employees

Category : Cloud Phones

The mobile revolution is steadily gaining momentum, with the increased use of smartphones and other popular devices continuing to transform how we communicate and work.  Working outside of the office has become more than just a convenience, but rather a powerful business strategy.  Beyond the increase in productivity derived from the ability to work from anywhere, at anytime, it’s been reported that employee engagement is considerably higher in mobile workplaces as well.

Hosted Business VoIP in Chicago

We all know that productivity is higher when employees are engaged and happy. But, who knew that mobility was a key driver?  A recent global study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), revealed a direct link between mobile work environments and an increase in employee engagement and other key areas.  The study found that mobile enablement resulted in a 16 percent boost in productivity, as well as an 18 percent increase in creativity, a 23 percent increase in satisfaction and a 21 percent increase in employee loyalty.

This correlation doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Employees who have the ability to work from anywhere effectively can get more done. Less time is spent commuting, the number days off needed for appointments, conferences, traveling and inclimate weather decreases, and more work gets done on the road and after hours, resulting in higher productivity and a better work-life balance.

With vacation season in full swing, the kids getting out of school, and many businesses and industries reaching their peak busy season, effective communications and collaboration outside of the office is in even greater demand.

Thanks to cloud-based communications solutions and features that enable workplace productivity and collaboration beyond your office walls, keeping employees connected, productive and engaged has never been easier.

Here are some of the most in-demand mobile features transforming workplaces today.

Mobile Twinning
This highly coveted feature is a life saver for employees who are frequently in and out of the office. It allows for spontaneous mobility, enabling a second phone number, like a mobile phone, to be designated to ring simultaneously and twin business calls that ring a deskphone, ensuring calls are never missed regardless of one’s location.

Softphones
For anyone who works on the road or remotely, softphones are critical. Available for iOS, Android, Mac and PC’s, softphones turn a designated device into your business phone. Utilizing your company’s minutes and individual extension, voicemail and contacts, calls remain professional no matter what device is used.

Hot Desking
Mobility among workplaces and multiple locations is just at crucial for productivity. For businesses where employees need to share desks or conference rooms, hot desking enables business phones to be shared interchangeably. Users can login to any phone at any location and their contacts, voicemail, settings and personal extension becomes activated, saving on equipment and enabling the flexibility to work efficiently from wherever needed.

Video Conferencing
Video and virtual meetings have become the meeting method of choice for many organizations. With the ability to meet face-to-face at anytime, from any device, meetings that would not otherwise be possible, can now include more participants without the barriers of location or room capacity. Through screen-share and live chat capabilities, mobile and local employees and clients can engage in more interactive, impromptu and productive meetings.

Visual Voicemail
Voicemail is very much alive in the business world, but has gotten a much-needed facelift for mobile workers. Voicemails can now be delivered via email, retrieved online through a secure online portal or better yet, transcribed so you never even need to listen to them at all.  These advanced voicemail options ensure missed calls are returned promptly no matter where employees are.

By integrating mobility into the workplace, businesses are not only reaping the benefits of a more productive workforce, but one that is more loyal and engaged, providing the foundation and culture for long-term success.

Looking to take your business mobile? We can help!


Bandwidth Services

Deskphone, smart phone — no phone. What’s the difference?

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Category : Cloud Phones , Hosted VoIP

As smartphones have become the central hubs for business users to manage communications and store contacts, traditional business desk phones are increasingly becoming isolated, less-useful devices. In fact, according to a new third-party survey of 486 U.S. workers with access to both a dedicated work desk phone and a smartphone, only one in two regularly use their desk phones for making voice calls, and one in three prefer to use their smartphones to make voice calls—even when they have easy access to a desk phone. One in three say they are willing to give up desk phones at work entirely.


Eliminate connectivity downtime

What is Downtime and how to Avoid it in Business

I love to read. One of my favorite authors is Malcom Gladwell who is renowned for explaining human nature and why we behave the way we do and why we make decisions. However, when it comes to phone services, it seems as if so many people make decisions based on a few narrow factors. Price, the charm of the salesperson and the inertia of staying with a current provider seem to be the qualities most common to business clients staying with a poor performing hosted voice provider. I read their horror stories – when the primary motive was saving money or they did a “plug and play” install – which turned out to be “plug and pray“.

In order to find out what is happening in real time to those people that make poor decisions, I went to www.downdetector.com. It is an interesting website where you can see outages from a variety of providers in real time. You can see maps of where outages are occurring and you can also read comments from people posting throughout the outages. It was astounding to see the comments and the shear misery of the downed businesses.

How much does misery cost? A simple method to calculate the cost of an outage is: what is the amount of fixed monthly expense you have per hour for the people that are most affected by the outage and cannot do their job. For example, if I have a call center taking inbound sales calls with seven agents and I am paying the agents each $12.00 per hour, my fixed direct cost is $84. An outage of 4 hours costs me $ 84 x 4= $336.  That is the lowest estimate of what that four hour outage cost – speak to your accountant on how your indirect costs will increase your cost (for most businesses) to almost double that amount. If I factor in the cost of lost business- people that were trying to reach me during those four down hours, my costs are further increased due to the lost revenue.

If I look at the heat map of the outages on downdetector.com, I see that I live in a sea of red for my Internet service provider- the worst place to be. How can I mitigate the costs of an outage? As my father has taught me, the best way out of a critical situation is never to be in one.

Technology is supposed to help us. Right? Well, that is why we have the latest and greatest development called SD WAN (software defined wide area network). The best way to make sure that your provider doesn’t go down is to make sure that you have multiple providers and multiple ways of reaching the Internet. That is the rationale behind SD-WAN. Basically, it means that you have a device on your premise that enables you to plug in multiple connections to the Internet into one device to make one big connection to the Internet. When service is not down due to an outage, you are able to aggregate your services. When service on one of the component connections is down, the SD WAN provider routes all of your traffic to the other connections. So if I have a cable modem, a fiber connection and a wireless LTE connection, the probability of all of them going down simultaneously is virtually null. If I couple that with a hosted service that is housed in a Level III data center and a portal that allows me to route incoming calls to other devices or locations, I have eliminated the chance of an outage.

If you look at 99% reliability, that means approximately 20 hours of down time a year. Even 99.9 % reliability can cost 2 hours of downtime. You can’t choose when that downtime is going to happen. It can happen at a low impact time – or it can happen at the worst possible moment.

Lessons Learned:

  • Go onto downdetector.com and see if there are lots of outages with your provider
  • If you want to avoid the risk of downtime, diversify your bandwidth
  • Make sure that your cloud phone provider is housed in the best possible data center
  • Make sure your cloud phone provider is completely virtualized with redundancy.
  • Make sure that you have access to a portal and know how to re-route your calls immediately.
  • Make sure that you use SD WAN as part of your total solution.

Use Chicago UCaaS

7 Technologies that will Improve your Sales

n business, time is money, especially for those who are responsible for producing and increasing sales. Salespeople by nature, are on the go and often under tight deadlines. Therefore, empowering these individuals with technology that allows them to work as efficiently as possible is key.

Here are 7 technologies that will help your team increase sales and work more efficiently.

1. CRM and Business Communication Integration
Customer Relationship Management solutions (CRM) provide a valuable way to manage and analyze customer data throughout the sales lifecycle. However, they become even more effective when they are integrated with your business communications. Cloud-phone system and unified communication integrations eliminate the need to switch back and forth between multiple systems and provide salespeople with immediate and direct access to important contact records. With convenient screen pop ups, click to dial functionality and instantaneous access to contact history, salespeople can communicate and work more effectively, while providing a more personalized customer experience.

2. Video Conferencing and Online Meeting Solutions
 In person meetings are always a great way to establish a new relationship, but can sometimes be challenging logistically. Some business deals require multiple decision-makers from different locations, or may take place far away and require multiple meetings where reoccurring travel is not feasible. For these circumstances, and so many others, HD video, audio and web conferencing solutions are a must-have technology for every salesperson. Having the flexibility to hold face to face meetings with upwards of 100 different people at one time from anywhere is a huge advantage. These solutions provide opportunities to give personalized and interactive demonstrations and share contracts and other important documents in real-time. Not to mention, they cost a fraction of the cost of travel.

 3. Email Follow Up Automation
Email is an important communication method with your customers and prospects, but can be time consuming to maintain, especially for busy reps on the go. Using software like HubSpot Sales allows salespeople to automate their follow up emails by creating sequences to send a series of emails to prospects over time. By personalizing and tracking each message, reps are better able to collect data and identify which messages are most effective.

5. Business Intelligence
A huge part of sales success is having the ability to analyze important data and be able to transfer that into actionable intelligence. However, when the data comes from systems that rely solely on data entry, you can be missing the big picture. Call history can tell you a great deal about sales performance. Phone systems that offer built-in call history reporting enable sales management and team members to pull reports by individual, team, department and location and view important call data such as: number of calls made, received and their duration by any given time period. These reports are more accurate and allow you to drill down to a more granular level to better evaluate and improve performance.

5. Visual Voicemail
Voicemail may seem like a pastime and for many, in our personal lives it is, but in business, customers will still resort to leaving voicemails. Fortunately, we no longer have to waste time finding a quiet place to listen to them or writing down what they say. Many cloud phone systems today offer the convenience of visual voicemail, where messages are transcribed so reps can read them quickly, easily and most importantly, discretely while out on other appointments. This is a huge time-saver and lessens the burden of voicemail, especially when on the road.

6. Internal Chat 

Whether your company utilizes a stand-alone chat client or one that is built-into your phone system portal or video conferencing software, internal chat can be incredibly helpful in sales. There are often times when reps or prospects have questions that could make or break a deal and require an immediate response. Sending a quick chat message to a manager or coworker will ensure they receive a quicker response and eliminates reliance on a colleague’s overflowing email inbox.

7. Business Apps
There are so many useful business apps out there that every professional should be taking advantage of. However, one that definitely comes in handy for any salesperson is Profit Story. This easy to use app, calculates what the margin would be on each deal in advance, along with other important profit-based metrics that are always good to know going into a meeting.

There is no doubt an arsenal of technology solutions available for your business.  We are fortunate to live in a time where technology is booming and advancements are made daily to improve how we work and live. Taking advantage of these 7 technologies and other valuable tools available will not only help increase your organization’s sales, but will streamline your daily operations and improve your overall efficiency.


Chicago Cloud Phones

4 Reasons Why You Will Move Your Phones to the Cloud

At times, there are events that are sudden- like a snow storm or a flood. At other times, events move like an erupting volcano. Other events have the change occur like a glacier- over time and colossal. In technology, we have change advancing at a rapid pace. Yesterday’s invention is tomorrow’s necessity. In business communications, the shift has been tremendous.  Communications have shifted from premise based systems to hosted systems. Communications have shifted from being its own separate network to another application running on the network.

The business communications industry is seeing some of the greatest changes of its time. The leading driver being the steady adoption of the cloud, specifically unified communications (UC) and the delivery of these services, better referred to as unified communication as a service (UCaaS).

As we see in every space, products have life cycles. It’s becoming clear that the premises-based phone systems that many businesses relied on are quickly approaching the end of theirs. According to Gartner, there has been a 6.6% decline in premises-based revenue over the last 5 years.

So, why the steady decline of premises-based systems?

Many businesses today are faced with aging premises-based phone systems and are left with the choice to either replace them with the same technology or migrate to newer technology like cloud-based UC solutions. Premises-based systems have a tough time competing with cloud based UC systems in several key areas.

Here are 4 reasons why UCaaS is rapidly replacing premises-based systems.

  1. Cost

From large enterprise businesses, all the way to small non-profit organizations, everyone is looking to reduce costs and become more cost-efficient. Companies are moving away from systems that require high upfront capital expenses and are gravitating to solutions that allow them to pay for only what they actually need and use. With premises-based systems, upgrading an entire system is no longer a financially attractive option, with many systems requiring a longer commitment and the inability to scale.  Cloud-based UC models offer greater flexibility, with financing options and the ability to add and remove services and users whenever needed, providing businesses with the assurance that they can scale at anytime with ease.

  1. Advanced Features

Businesses are no longer interested in replacing older phone systems with newer ones that offer the same functionality. Companies today are looking for mobility, flexibility and more efficient ways to collaborate and work. Cloud-based UC systems integrate traditional telephony solutions with other communication and productivity applications on an internet protocol (IP) network, enabling a myriad of capabilities, including audio, web and a video conferencing, company-wide chat, presence, email, file sharing and integrations with leading CRM solutions. The enhanced capabilities that cloud UC solutions are able to deliver are much more equipped to meet the growing demands of the modern workforce.

  1. Maintenance

Premises-based switched telephony systems, typically a PBX or IP-PBX system, can be time-consuming, complex and costly to maintain, requiring dedicated IT staff to manage the systems and servers for even the most basic of changes. With the additional costs and complexities, companies are fleeing to the simplicity and maintenance-free technology of the cloud. Unlike equipment that just depreciates, the cloud continues to update automatically and often for no cost. Cloud-based UC systems, like Broadview’s OfficeSuite UC™ , SNET Cloud Phones or Zultys Cloud Services which are easy for both employees and administrators to manage the features of the system without IT support, provide the ability to save even more time and money, while improving operations.

  1. Security

Premises-based systems don’t offer much in the area of security, with equipment and critical data all stored on site.  Cloud-based UC systems on the other hand, especially those that utilize the cloud for 100 percent of its storage and processing are hosted on the provider’s servers and accessible through an encrypted web browser, ensuring that nothing is left  on-site where it could be vulnerable to hacking, theft or damage.  The best cloud UC providers even guarantee calls using the public internet are encrypted from the handset into a secure network, ensuring call data remains protected and confidential. An added assurance is offered by the most secure UC providers like Broadview Networks, who encrypts calls, messages and recordings with Transport Layer Security (TLS), cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a provider’s network, and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), a symmetric encryption algorithm. Some cloud-based UC systems even allow internal IT staff to change user settings through flexible web portals that work across multiple devices. Offering these additional internal abilities, like controlling who is permitted to forward voicemail, further safeguards private information.

Businesses today are becoming more strategic with their communications investments. In addition to the desire for enhanced capabilities and collaboration features to improve employee productivity and customer service, they are also looking for solutions that are future-proof, secure and allow for growth and expansion. This extreme market shift and steady rise in cloud adoption and UCaaS is an indication that businesses are seeking a more holistic communication solution that extends well beyond voice communications.

If your businesses is looking to move to the cloud or upgrade to a more secure cloud-based UC solution, Prime Telecommunications can help!  Our stable of award-winning unified communications solutions are  100 percent cloud-based, making it more secure and easier to use and manage than any other system.

Our solutions operate solely in the cloud, eliminating the reliance on phones, servers and power to operate and ensures nothing is stored on-site where it can be vulnerable to threats or theft.  With encrypted calling, messages and meetings, and its intuitive online dashboard, which features customizable user profiles, employees can quickly, easily and securely manage any feature of the system from anywhere, eliminating the need for IT support, increasing productivity and ensuring business continuity.


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