4 VoIP services to help your business

More and more business owners are becoming aware of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology and its advantages over conventional landlines. However, some have not adopted VoIP yet since they cannot determine the type of service that suits their business’s needs. In this blog, we will explain the different VoIP services so you can make the right decision.

Device-based VoIP services

With this service, you will need to purchase a VoIP device from a service provider and plug it into your existing landline phone to be able to make free calls within the United States. Examples of device-based VoIP services include MagicJack and Ooma.

Software-based VoIP services

This is the most common type of VoIP, and many of us already use it on a daily basis. You either access a web-based application or install software on your computer. You then use your computer’s audio and video input and output devices to communicate with others. Popular examples of software-based VoIP services are Skype and Zoom.

Mobile VoIP services

Like software-based VoIP services, mobile VoIP comes in the form of an app. However, the latter is installed on mobile phones instead of computers, enabling you to make and receive calls wherever you are. Three of the most popular mobile VoIP services are Skype, WhatsApp, and Google Meet.

Business VoIP services

Business VoIP services are more cost-effective than traditional landlines. They offer a variety of useful features, such as video and audio conferencing, screen sharing, interactive voice response, automated attendants, call queues, and call reports. You also get complete technical support when you sign up for a business VoIP service.

VoIP for business can either be on-premises or cloud-based. For on-premises VoIP systems, businesses need to purchase all the equipment and house these in their office. This alone requires huge capital expenses. On top of that, businesses have to pay fees for system maintenance, repairs, and upgrades regularly. The upside is that you’ll have total control over your hardware.

On the other hand, when you choose cloud-based VoIP systems, you outsource your phone system to a VoIP provider. This eliminates the need to purchase hardware or invest in maintaining the systems as your provider will handle everything for a fixed monthly fee. You can also scale services easily. The downside is that you’re not in total control of the hardware, and you need to rely on your provider’s expertise to ensure system reliability and security.

Want to learn even more about VoIP? Talk to our professionals today. They have extensive knowledge about this efficient, low-cost communication technology and can explain everything to you in plain English!

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The difference between Groups, Yammer, and Teams

Yammer, Microsoft 365 Groups, and Microsoft Teams are all Microsoft 365 tools that are designed for sharing files and communicating with colleagues. So what differentiates them from one another, and when should you use which? Let’s find out.

Microsoft 365 Groups

With Microsoft 365 Groups, every member gets a shared inbox, calendar, project planner, notebook, and document library. You can also integrate third-party apps like Twitter, Trello, and Mailchimp to Groups so notifications are sent directly to your shared inbox.

This means all relevant messages and information are sent to one place, so if your organization normally communicates via email, Microsoft 365 Groups is ideal. What’s more, HR and sales departments that communicate with external parties will also find plenty of uses for its email features.

A big downside of Microsoft 365 Groups, however, is email overload. Since all messages and notifications are sent to one inbox, users may become overwhelmed by the number of emails they have to sort through every day.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, a chat-based collaboration platform, works with Skype for Business, so you can text, call, video chat, and share files with colleagues. Thanks to its seamless integrations with other Microsoft 365 apps, you can even work on shared files without leaving the app.

Unlike Groups, Microsoft Teams is designed for more advanced collaboration, making it great for completing projects with tight deadlines or other tasks requiring immediate feedback.

Yammer

Much like Groups and Teams, Yammer works well with other Microsoft 365 tools like Outlook and OneDrive. However, Yammer is a professional social media app designed to foster open communication and break down barriers between teams.

Yammer serves like a virtual office bulletin board: important files and announcements can be shared with the entire company through this platform. Users can also see the most popular post on their feeds, follow it, and even comment.

Yammer also takes design elements and features from social media apps like Facebook, making it a popular choice for companies with millennials in their workforce.

Although we’ve discussed the fundamental differences between Groups, Teams, and Yammer, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what each app can do. To figure out which apps you need, you must understand how your employees work, how they like to collaborate with one another, and what you want to achieve from such collaborations.

Fortunately, there’s another way to find the right app for your business: ask the experts. Contact us today for an IT assessment!

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What are the business benefits of adopting new IT?

Keeping up with changes in business technology can be difficult for small- and mid-sized businesses like yours. However, upgrading your company’s technology is something you can’t afford to put off or ignore completely — not if you want to stay relevant and competitive. Here’s what you’ll miss out on if you don’t adopt new tech.

Better efficiency

Implementing new technologies introduces more efficient, flexible ways to carry out tasks, thus streamlining business processes. For instance, Voice over Internet Protocol phone systems and instant messaging apps enable your team to get in touch with one another, as well as with clients and business partners, whenever, wherever, on any internet-connected device. This makes relaying critical information much quicker and easier.

Similarly, business process management solutions automate repetitive tasks, like those involved in accounts payable processes. With automation, your staff saves time and effort and can focus on other, more important tasks.

Ability to address remote and hybrid work challenges

Many businesses are still struggling to cope with the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, including how to manage remote and hybrid workforces. These issues can be addressed by implementing modern communications and collaboration solutions. Such tools allow entire organizations to stay connected and on the same page. Managers can check in on employees, and coworkers can call or message one another regarding projects they’re working on together. Teams can also share documents and edit these at the same time, if needed. Additionally, they can use collaboration tools to set and track task progress so everyone’s always kept in the loop.

Increased employee engagement and retention

Issues with technology, especially if these happen frequently, hamper employee productivity. They also lead to poor employee engagement and experience. Over time, minor inconveniences like computers that constantly freeze or web browsers that take ages to load can add up and create discontent among your staff.

Equipping your team with the latest hardware and software enables them to perform tasks smoothly and efficiently, without having to worry about the headaches associated with outdated technology. This also shows that you are invested in their comfort and employee experience, which increases their morale as well as their loyalty to your company.

Reduced costs

New technology pays off in the long run. The savings you will make from not having to constantly have your tech fixed or suffer productivity-draining downtime will far outweigh the costs associated with implementing new equipment and solutions.

If you invest in the cloud, you can enjoy even more savings, as doing so eliminates costs related to managing your own hardware such as maintenance and utilities. Such expenses will all be shouldered by your cloud service provider, so you no longer have to worry about budgeting for them.

Regardless of your business’s size and industry, there’s no doubt that new technology is critical for its growth. However, you need to ensure that any new hardware or software you decide to adopt is aligned with your company’s needs and goals. You must also make sure that it’s properly implemented so that you can make the most out of it. Our experts can help you do just that — drop us a line today to find out how.

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3 Disaster recovery myths, debunked

With advancements in cloud computing, disaster recovery (DR) has become more efficient and affordable than ever. However, many business owners still cling to some DR myths that can safely be disregarded, such as these three.

Myth 1: Tape backups are the best DR solution

Tape backups are physical objects that deteriorate over time. Try listening to a cassette tape from the ’90s. Its sound may be distorted already, or it probably doesn’t work at all. Similarly, your tape backups will start to fail over time. At first, only a few files may be affected, but you will gradually lose all your data.

It is also a common practice to store another set of tape backups outside your premises to secure them in case a natural disaster befalls your office. However, if your storage spaces themselves are unsafe from natural disasters, this could pose a problem.

Unlike tape backups, cloud-based backups are safe from deterioration. They are also stored in multiple secured locations that are protected from natural disasters, so your data backups are as safe as they can be.

What’s more, cloud-based backups save you time in many ways. Data is automatically backed up online, so you don’t need to manually copy information onto your tapes. You also won’t need to manage boxes of tapes, freeing you to focus on more valuable tasks.

Myth 2: The RTOs you want are too expensive

Essential to any DR plan is its recovery time objective (RTO), which is the ideal period when everything must be up and running again to avoid serious losses. Before the cloud, a “swift” recovery time would take days and cost up to six figures.

Cloud and virtualization solutions have made this much faster and affordable than ever before. Most DR providers can back up your critical data in an hour or two. And if you ever need to recover data, most services can do so in less than a day.

Myth 3: Disaster recovery is for big businesses, not SMBs

Due to the astronomical costs previously associated with DR, only big businesses could afford backup and recovery solutions. Thanks to the cloud, however, these have become more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). From dental offices to small retail operations, SMBs can now take advantage of the best DR solutions in the market. Advances in IT and the cloud have also eliminated the obstacles of complexity, costs, and insufficient IT resources.

We hope that by dispelling these myths, you’d be convinced to implement a disaster recovery plan (DRP) for your business. Thanks to improvements in data storage technologies, it is now more affordable and efficient to implement a DRP, in turn making it easier to ensure BC. If you’d like to learn how our DR solutions can safeguard your business, send us a message and we’ll fill you in.

This post was originally published on this site

Ignore these outdated disaster recovery myths

Disaster recovery (DR) used to be an expensive solution that relied predominantly on tape backups. Today, cloud computing has dramatically changed the DR landscape, affording even small- and medium-sized businesses cheaper and more reliable DR solutions. Unfortunately, there are still plenty of misconceptions about DR. Here are three myths that no longer apply.

Myth 1: Tape backups are the best DR solution

Tape backups are physical objects that deteriorate over time. Try listening to a cassette tape from the ’90s. Its sound may be distorted already, or it probably doesn’t work at all. Similarly, your tape backups will start to fail over time. At first, only a few files may be affected, but you will gradually lose all your data.

It is also a common practice to store another set of tape backups outside your premises to secure them in case a natural disaster befalls your office. However, if your storage spaces themselves are unsafe from natural disasters, this could pose a problem.

Unlike tape backups, cloud-based backups are safe from deterioration. They are also stored in multiple secured locations that are protected from natural disasters, so your data backups are as safe as they can be.

What’s more, cloud-based backups save you time in many ways. Data is automatically backed up online, so you don’t need to manually copy information onto your tapes. You also won’t need to manage boxes of tapes, freeing you to focus on more valuable tasks.

Myth 2: The RTOs you want are too expensive

Essential to any DR plan is its recovery time objective (RTO), which is the ideal period when everything must be up and running again to avoid serious losses. Before the cloud, a “swift” recovery time would take days and cost up to six figures.

Cloud and virtualization solutions have made this much faster and affordable than ever before. Most DR providers can back up your critical data in an hour or two. And if you ever need to recover data, most services can do so in less than a day.

Myth 3: Disaster recovery is for big businesses, not SMBs

Due to the astronomical costs previously associated with DR, only big businesses could afford backup and recovery solutions. Thanks to the cloud, however, these have become more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). From dental offices to small retail operations, SMBs can now take advantage of the best DR solutions in the market. Advances in IT and the cloud have also eliminated the obstacles of complexity, costs, and insufficient IT resources.

We hope that by dispelling these myths, you’d be convinced to implement a disaster recovery plan (DRP) for your business. Thanks to improvements in data storage technologies, it is now more affordable and efficient to implement a DRP, in turn making it easier to ensure BC. If you’d like to learn how our DR solutions can safeguard your business, send us a message and we’ll fill you in.

This post was originally published on this site

What do business phone systems look like today?

Although digital communication tools let businesses connect with customers and other stakeholders in an efficient manner, landlines are still used to communicate with business stakeholders. And for many organizations, determining whether to use internet phones or traditional landlines remains a concern. To help you decide, here’s a short guide on different types of business phones and their respective life cycles and technology options.

Different phone systems

Today’s businesses still use landlines to connect with various stakeholders, such as customers, investors, and suppliers, to service their needs. However, telephony has come a long way from when it first came about in 1876. For instance, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones have virtually unlimited reach, are automated, and are cheaper than ever to acquire.

VoIP is a telephony solution that uses the internet instead of wired circuits to transmit data. VoIP does more than just transmit audio — it can also send a variety of data (video, multimedia, SMS, etc.) and perform other tasks as well.

A VoIP system’s hardware (phone units, cables, CPUs, etc.) and software (one or more applications that run the system) can be either on-premises or hosted:

  • On-premises – Hardware and software are physically housed within the premises of the company.
  • Hosted – Some of the hardware, like phone units and other equipment, can be found within the premises. But most, if not all, of the software is hosted online. Service providers look after hosted systems for their clients.

Life cycles: On-premises vs. hosted

With hardware, it doesn’t matter whether it’s on-premises or hosted. Hardware is affected by the wear and tear stemming from daily use. Barring any accidents or physical damage, VoIP hardware should last several years.

On the other hand, software requires regular updates. It’s worth noting that it’s faster and cheaper to update software that’s hosted in the cloud versus one that’s on premises. However, there’s not much difference in how much either one can last — software for both types of VoIP systems can last upwards of 10 years, depending on how dependable your IT support is.

Technology today vs. before

In the past, hardware and software were built to last. Today, they’re built to adapt and change, thanks to cloud technology.

The effect of this shift on hardware and software is dramatic:

Most hardware components are very similar, with replacements and upgrades coming every 5–8 years on average.

Cloud software is faster, easier, and cheaper to upgrade than software for on-premises systems. Critical cloud updates can be released almost constantly, and a cloud system may be completely overhauled in as short as 2–3 years’ time.

Whichever phone system you choose, it should integrate smoothly with the other systems in your business, such as email or customer relationship management software. And as your business expands, your chosen phone system should easily scale with it, too.

Be a step ahead

Downtime results in loss of potential sales and, essentially, wasted money. If your phone service is spotty and constantly unreliable, perhaps it’s time to switch to VoIP phones.

Nowadays, it’s not the longevity of a tech solution that’s important, but rather staying ahead of the curve to trump the competition. Call our experts today so you can always leverage the best VoIP and other IT solutions available today.

This post was originally published on this site

What do business phone systems look like today?

Although digital communication tools let businesses connect with customers and other stakeholders in an efficient manner, landlines are still used to communicate with business stakeholders. And for many organizations, determining whether to use internet phones or traditional landlines remains a concern. To help you decide, here’s a short guide on different types of business phones and their respective life cycles and technology options.

Different phone systems

Today’s businesses still use landlines to connect with various stakeholders, such as customers, investors, and suppliers, to service their needs. However, telephony has come a long way from when it first came about in 1876. For instance, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones have virtually unlimited reach, are automated, and are cheaper than ever to acquire.

VoIP is a telephony solution that uses the internet instead of wired circuits to transmit data. VoIP does more than just transmit audio — it can also send a variety of data (video, multimedia, SMS, etc.) and perform other tasks as well.

A VoIP system’s hardware (phone units, cables, CPUs, etc.) and software (one or more applications that run the system) can be either on-premises or hosted:

  • On-premises – Hardware and software are physically housed within the premises of the company.
  • Hosted – Some of the hardware, like phone units and other equipment, can be found within the premises. But most, if not all, of the software is hosted online. Service providers look after hosted systems for their clients.

Life cycles: On-premises vs. hosted

With hardware, it doesn’t matter whether it’s on-premises or hosted. Hardware is affected by the wear and tear stemming from daily use. Barring any accidents or physical damage, VoIP hardware should last several years.

On the other hand, software requires regular updates. It’s worth noting that it’s faster and cheaper to update software that’s hosted in the cloud versus one that’s on premises. However, there’s not much difference in how much either one can last — software for both types of VoIP systems can last upwards of 10 years, depending on how dependable your IT support is.

Technology today vs. before

In the past, hardware and software were built to last. Today, they’re built to adapt and change, thanks to cloud technology.

The effect of this shift on hardware and software is dramatic:

Most hardware components are very similar, with replacements and upgrades coming every 5–8 years on average.

Cloud software is faster, easier, and cheaper to upgrade than software for on-premises systems. Critical cloud updates can be released almost constantly, and a cloud system may be completely overhauled in as short as 2–3 years’ time.

Whichever phone system you choose, it should integrate smoothly with the other systems in your business, such as email or customer relationship management software. And as your business expands, your chosen phone system should easily scale with it, too.

Be a step ahead

Downtime results in loss of potential sales and, essentially, wasted money. If your phone service is spotty and constantly unreliable, perhaps it’s time to switch to VoIP phones.

Nowadays, it’s not the longevity of a tech solution that’s important, but rather staying ahead of the curve to trump the competition. Call our experts today so you can always leverage the best VoIP and other IT solutions available today.

This post was originally published on this site

Protecting your data from hurricanes

Hurricanes damage property and put lives at risk. If you’re not prepared, hurricanes can also disrupt your operations and put your business through extended downtime. In this blog, we’ll help you quickly regain access to your data and get your business back to operational mode after a disaster.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT system are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems and/or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days so your business can resume operations quickly

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 miles per hour (as fast as Category 5 storms) and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage in case of floods.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in them. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud enables you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data as often as possible, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on September 15th and a storm makes landfall in your area on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Test your disaster recovery (DR) plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after a disaster. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during a hurricane, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

This post was originally published on this site

Protecting your data from hurricanes

Hurricanes damage property and put lives at risk. If you’re not prepared, hurricanes can also disrupt your operations and put your business through extended downtime. In this blog, we’ll help you quickly regain access to your data and get your business back to operational mode after a disaster.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT system are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems and/or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days so your business can resume operations quickly

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 miles per hour (as fast as Category 5 storms) and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage in case of floods.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in them. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud enables you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data as often as possible, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on September 15th and a storm makes landfall in your area on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Test your disaster recovery (DR) plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after a disaster. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during a hurricane, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

This post was originally published on this site

Cloud-based ERP and its benefits

Using the cloud is so common these days that most small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have at least one cloud service supporting their operations. An increasingly popular cloud-based service is enterprise resource planning (ERP). But what is it? And what are the advantages of using a cloud-based ERP solution? Here’s a quick and informative overview.

Define: Cloud-based ERP

ERP is management software, usually offered as a bundle of applications, that aims to help businesses automate the collection, storage, management, and interpretation of data from disparate sources like accounting, inventory, marketing, service delivery, etc. With ERP, business owners and managers can get an integrated real-time view of business processes, resources, and commitments.

Cloud-based ERP solutions are simply a suite of ERP apps delivered to users over the internet, usually accessed via a browser. The software usually does not need to be installed on computers and is offered on a per-user, per-month, flat-rate fee.

Companies using a cloud-based integrated ERP solution have experienced the following five benefits:

1. Decreased operating costs

An in-house ERP solution requires purchasing software and hardware to support it. Once you’ve built the solution’s infrastructure, you need to hire staff to install and maintain it. All of these will drive up the overall IT budget, something most SMBs cannot immediately afford.

But with a cloud-based ERP system, you normally only have to pay a flat-rate monthly fee, so the total cost of implementation will likely be far lower. Many providers can also manage the solution for you (i.e., they’ll take care of maintenance, upgrades, etc.). This will even out your operating costs, and if implemented correctly, will result in an overall decrease in expenses.

2. Increased ERP performance over in-house solutions

In-house ERP solutions require correctly configured hosting and proper maintenance to function at their most efficient. Your IT staff will be responsible for both, but if these are done poorly, then performance suffers.

With cloud-based solutions, the provider takes care of hosting the solution. You know that system maintenance is being done by experts, so you’re assured that your ERP software will be at peak performance.

3. Enhanced access to information

Companies that don’t have any ERP system will likely struggle to find the information they need, when they need it. ERP programs can help consolidate the relevant information in a more effective manner than, say, spreadsheets.

And since cloud-based ERP solutions are accessible via the internet, you now have access to the information you need from anywhere with an internet connection.

4. Continued support

Providers of cloud-based ERP solutions offer 24/7 support and can fix problems faster than if you leave them to your employees. They also make sure to keep their solutions updated. Hackers have been known to attack businesses that use outdated versions of popular ERP programs.

5. Increased security

ERP systems process critical business information, so you will want to keep your data secure from outside sources and unauthorized users within your organization.

In this regard, cloud-based ERP solutions have enhanced security measures that protect your data in storage and when it moves from your systems to the host servers.

And for internal data security, users will need an assigned account to access your ERP system. This gives you control over who is given an account or not. Furthermore, you can also limit who can access your system via central admin panels. All of these features make cloud-based ERP solutions more secure than in-house ones.

If you want to learn more about cloud-based ERP solutions, contact us. We’ll be glad to assist you.

This post was originally published on this site