A quick guide to VoIP Quality of Service

Every business is looking for ways to save money and improve their bottom line. Because of this, many are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as it offers a number of features and benefits that can help reduce costs while improving communication. However, not all VoIP providers are created equal. When choosing a VoIP provider, look into their Quality of Service (QoS) to ensure that you are getting the best possible value service. In this quick guide, we will provide an overview of what QoS is and some essential QoS-related questions to ask when choosing a VoIP provider.

What is QoS?

VoIP providers and IT experts define QoS as the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by looking at objective statistics like bandwidth usage, transmission delay, call jitter, error rates, and the like. Subjective data, like what end users think of the system’s performance, is also factored in.

Why does QoS vary among providers?

QoS applies not only to VoIP but also to traditional phone systems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the quality of landline calls is near perfect. This is because all traditional phone network providers invest in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS. This means switching from one provider to another doesn’t affect the quality of the calls.

However, investments in physical networks are expensive, and customers end up shouldering the costs. The high cost of maintaining the transmission network is also why there are only a couple of phone providers in most areas. In other words, it’s just too costly for small companies to invest in a traditional phone network system.

In comparison, VoIP systems are considerably cheaper to set up and maintain, leading to a high number of VoIP providers. And because anyone with capital can set up their VoIP systems without having to adhere to a standard, the QoS amongst providers can vary drastically. To find the provider with the best QoS, ask them these three questions:

1. What level of quality can you guarantee?
The best providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable to or even better than traditional phone networks. This is especially important for businesses that are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. Ask your prospective provider to run a few tests on your network and to give you a quality assurance. If the numbers are too low for your business needs, it’s best to look for another provider.

2. How much of the network infrastructure do you own?
Almost every VoIP provider will rely on public infrastructure in order to transmit data. And usually, the bigger the company’s share in the infrastructure, the higher its QoS is. This is because the provider will have more control over the technology. As such, one of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own almost all of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

3. How much traffic will run over public internet?
Some of the most popular solutions will use almost 100% public internet for their traffic, while other companies will use a mixture of public and private networks. The latter option allows better flexibility as these providers often use public internet for more affordable packages and private internet for high-end users. If you often use VoIP for functions that require heavy bandwidth like conference calling, then you may need to sign up for more expensive packages so the QoS doesn’t drop.

Get in touch with our experts today if you want to know more about how VoIP can benefit your business and how to pick the best VoIP provider.

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UC cloud migration: Crucial tips to keep in mind

Moving unified communications (UC) systems to the cloud can be a daunting task. If the migration is not planned carefully, this can lead to disastrous consequences for your business. Otherwise, it offers many significant benefits, including augmented security and scalability. In this blog post, we outline crucial tips to keep in mind when planning your migration so that you can enjoy all the benefits of UC in the cloud without any risks.

A gradual transition is the key

You don’t have to migrate your UC system to the cloud in one big move. Staggering migration can be more secure and beneficial. For instance, you can first move UC technologies for departments that will benefit from it. Meanwhile, those with no pressing need for a cloud-based UC system, such as a company’s call center, can keep using on-premises systems. Doing this allows users to ease their way into the new system without experiencing network disruptions that may hamper their productivity.

Ensure sufficient bandwidth

Speed and performance issues will inevitably arise, so make sure to cover all the bases before migration. To do this, you have to secure a reliable internet service provider (ISP), check the stability of your internal network, and have a backup plan. Ensuring sufficient bandwidth is a critical point to consider during migration if you often experience unstable or slow network connections that could pose serious problems. Determine the level of bandwidth your entire business needs, and get it from an ISP that can deliver.

Do not skip your tests

You may experience a smooth UC transition to the cloud, but you may also encounter unexpected issues that need ironing out long after the migration is declared a success. It’s best practice to test the systems throughout the migration process to soften potentially costly and time-consuming impacts. Whether you’re trying out voice, data, or video, you should conduct tests, set benchmarks for performance, and predict future usage patterns.

Immediately act on identified problem points

After going live with your cloud UC system, consider the overall user experience and availability of support for devices, applications, and other components. Are persistent connectivity issues going to cause trouble during conference calls? This and other issues may prove detrimental in the long run, so keep them in mind when deciding whether to keep, enhance, or discontinue a cloud-based UC system. Your new system should reduce headaches, not exacerbate them.

Constantly monitor performance and quality

Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few issues even after extensive testing. Migrating to the cloud requires planning and a sustainable strategy, especially if your organization is dependent on instant messaging, voice conferencing, or video calling. There’s also a good chance that you will be working with several vendors, so always demand the best service.

You too can have a smooth and secure UC cloud migration experience. With our cloud technology and VoIP know-how, we’ll make sure it’s an easy process. Contact us today to learn more.

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How theft of service impacts business VoIP networks

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) networks are vulnerable to a wide range of scams and fraudulent activities, including theft of service. In this article, we will discuss what theft of service is and how it impacts businesses’ VoIP networks. We will also provide tips on how organizations can prevent or reduce the risks of this type of scam.

What is theft of service?

VoIP theft of service is the most common type of VoIP fraud. It involves the theft of your organization’s VoIP account credentials, including usernames and passwords, either by eavesdropping or by introducing malware into your system. Once cybercriminals gain access to your accounts, they can freely make phone calls or change your call plans and run up your VoIP bill, which is why this attack is referred to as “subscription fraud.”

In addition, cybercriminals may use the stolen data to carry out other fraudulent activities. They can also use theft of service to flood your VoIP network with promotional calls similar to junk email via an attack called Spam over Internet Telephony, or SPIT. Once they infiltrate your communications network, they might broadcast unsolicited messages or advertisements over your VoIP system. This keeps users from making or receiving calls, which can have a significant impact on your business operations.

How can you avoid theft of service?

Preventing VoIP theft of service simply requires using a little common sense and implementing the following technical preventive measures:

  1. Make your passwords as secure as possible. Passwords must be at least 10–12 characters long, consisting of a combination of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. For added security, use passphrases, which are sentence-like strings of words. They’re usually longer than passwords, easier to remember, and more difficult to crack.
  2. Install firmware patches for your VoIP phones and infrastructure regularly, and keep your antivirus software up to date.
  3. Use fraudulent call routing detection and encryption software.
  4. Set up an enterprise-grade virtual private network (VPN) for employees working from home/remotely. A VPN encrypts incoming and outgoing traffic without compromising call quality.
  5. Review your organization’s call logs for any unusual trends or behavior, such as higher-than-usual call volumes or calls made during off-hours.

VoIP is an essential business communication tool, so it pays to learn about and set safeguards against theft of service to avoid its impacts on your company’s operations. For more information and useful tips on how to keep your VoIP system secure, drop us a line today.

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Why you should consider using softphones

Office desk phones are quickly becoming obsolete as many employees work off site. This is why forward-thinking businesses are using softphones instead of traditional telephony systems for most, if not all, of their communications. If your company hasn’t already done so, here are some compelling reasons to start using softphones.

Anytime, anywhere business phone

Softphones are applications you can run on internet-enabled devices like a smartphone or laptop. This removes the need for a physical handset, allowing you to make and receive calls from any location with an internet connection. Even if your workers are working remotely, softphones give them a lot of flexibility. They don’t have to waste time setting up lines for a traditional phone unit in their home office — with a softphone app, they can easily turn their personal smartphone into a business-level communication tool. Employees with a decent headset or microphone also get to enjoy hands-free calls.

Reduced costs

One of the biggest benefits of using softphones is that they significantly cut costs. Instead of spending a lot of money installing and maintaining office phone equipment, you only have to pay a small subscription fee to get powerful softphone features on your mobile device and computer. Your softphone provider will take care of all costs associated with server and system maintenance. More importantly, softphones transmit communication data over the internet rather than traditional phone lines. This means you won’t have to deal with expensive local and long-distance rates. In fact, some softphone providers offer a reduced rate for international calls, while others allow you to make calls for free.

User-friendly interface

Softphones come with an interactive user interface that’s easy to learn. If you want to transfer a call to a colleague, you just have to drag and drop the call to their name — there’s no need to dial an extension on your phone. If you need to call someone, all you have to do is search for their profile via a search bar and just click on their name to initiate a call. If you don’t want to be disturbed while working, you can enable the “do not disturb” mode for specific time frames to redirect incoming calls to voicemail or to the next available person. What’s more, softphones provide incoming call notifications with caller ID and profile information so you know exactly who you’re talking to.

High-quality video conferencing

If you need something more engaging than a simple phone call, softphones allow you to host multiparty video conferences. These make it easy to conduct team and company-wide meetings even if people are miles apart from one another. Participants can also see important visual cues through body language, making meetings with clients and colleagues more effective and more personal. Some softphone services even let you share your screen so you can better coordinate with remote workers on specific projects.

Tight integration with enterprise software

Another benefit of softphones is that they can complement your existing systems. When softphones are integrated with your customer relationship management software, for instance, you’ll be able to compile previous call logs and relevant client information before making a call. This is particularly useful for customer service and sales staff who need contextual information to provide better service to your clients.

All in all, softphones are perfect for any business that wants to operate at peak performance. They’re intuitive, feature-rich, and cost-effective, so if your business doesn’t have this essential communication tool, get an upgrade today. Call us now to enhance your communication systems!

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How to keep callers engaged while on hold in a call

If a business’s hotline keeps callers waiting for long periods, many callers may feel frustrated and just hang up. This results in an unpleasant customer experience that turns off current and potential customers. To keep callers on the line, use these Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) features.

VoIP phone systems can help make waiting on the line bearable or even downright enjoyable by sharing fun anecdotes and info, playing on-brand music, and conveying engaging messages.

Messages

Customers who are put on hold are captive audiences for your marketing messages. VoIP systems let you record a variety of messages for different numbers according to the purpose of the caller. For example, if the caller wants to get in touch with the sales department, the on-hold message could inform them of current special offers, promotions, or sales.

“Hold message” scripts that utilize your company’s TV, radio, or online ads might elicit an “I think I’ve heard this somewhere before” response. Conversely, you could put a totally new spin on the usual tone and style of your marketing messages and really get creative with humorous advertisements that make your customers chuckle. A little bit of levity never hurt anybody.

For the service department, you can use messages that assure the customer that an agent is taking care of their concerns. Using a service-appropriate message makes callers feel like they’re getting personalized care.

Information

Providing customers with new information and intriguing anecdotes will keep them from thinking that they aren’t being served when you’re actually doing your best to address their concerns at the other end of the line. You can also initiate a trivia or a guessing game where providing a correct answer once the call resumes wins them a prize.

Music

Callers who hear music while on hold tend to stay on the line compared to those who experience silence. While traditional phone systems also have a music on hold feature, VoIP services enhance this feature and offer more options.

Instead of being limited to legacy tools’ music loops, VoIP systems let you easily upload your audio of choice. Just a couple of tips: use music that suits your brand and take your clientele’s demographics into account. Upbeat music may work for a sporting goods brand, but not for an investment bank.

With VoIP systems, you can customize the frequency and duration of a track and configure whether the music restarts or continues where it left off when a caller is placed back on hold. You can also set the order of different tracks or randomize them for callers.

The rich functionality of VoIP systems allows you to turn the on-hold experience into a positive customer service experience. Make sure to take full advantage of this window of opportunity. Get in touch with us today and we’ll help you increase the odds that your clients will happily stay on the line and continue to do business with you.

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Choosing between Microsoft Teams and Google Meet

Microsoft Teams and Google Meet are two of the most popular online communication platforms today, thanks to their robust set of features that make staying connected with clients and colleagues easy and convenient. As the two tools are pretty much the same in terms of functionality, picking just one can be a challenge. Here, we compare the features of each platform to help you decide which is more suited to your needs and goals.

Calling features

Both Microsoft Teams and Google Meet offer enterprise-grade security, HD-quality video, and screen sharing capabilities, but there are some slight differences.

In the free version of Teams, there is no limit to the number of people who can use the chat and document collaboration functions. However, for audio and video calls, the limit is 100 users. Group meetings are also limited to 60 minutes per session.

The paid version of Teams, on the other hand, supports up to 300 participants per meeting, and offers meeting and group call recording capabilities. It even has captions and transcription features, as well as an inline message translation feature that automatically translates messages into the language specified in a user’s settings.

Google Meet’s free version also supports up to 100 participants in a video call. Additionally, it has intelligent built-in features like muting, live closed captions, screen sharing, and auto screen focus, which automatically switches the screen to the person who is currently talking.

Users of the paid version can join meetings even without an internet connection through unique dial-in phone numbers. Other features available in the paid version include breakout rooms, polls, Q&A, and meeting recording.

Integrations and add-ons

Microsoft Teams is, first and foremost, a unified tool that allows users to communicate and collaborate on a single platform. It enables content collaboration on Microsoft 365 apps (e.g., Word, PowerPoint, Excel) and easily integrates with hundreds of other productivity and collaboration platforms.

Meanwhile, Google Meet fully integrates with Google Workspace, which easily enables users to schedule appointments and set call reminders within Google Meet using Google Calendar. Users can even broadcast their presentations live on YouTube.

Pricing

Both Microsoft Teams and Google Meet have free versions, albeit with limited features.

Microsoft Teams’ most affordable subscription is $4 per user per month, and an additional $4 per user is needed for the call-in capabilities. Adding webinar features will also cost users extra.

On the other hand, for as low as $6 per user per month, your organization can get access to Meet along with all the other powerful Google business apps and tools.

Which one is best for you?

Now that you know the similarities and differences between the two platforms, it should be easy for you to decide which suits your business the best. Google Meet is designed for startups and small companies that need a low-cost communications solution, while Microsoft Teams, with its robust features, is suitable for small and large businesses alike.

If you’re still unsure about either product, you can opt for a free trial to help you arrive at a decision. Or you can get in touch with our team of experts today. We’ll be more than happy to help you pick the right video conferencing or VoIP solution for your organization.

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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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Get VoIP-ready for the holidays

For many businesses, the holidays can be one of the busiest times of the year, with clients calling left and right. Fortunately, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems offer numerous cloud-enabled features that ought to help you handle large volumes of calls and cover periods when you are closed. However, if you don’t optimize their utility, you may run into some problems. Beat the rush with these tips.

Check your VoIP equipment

Sometimes, problems with VoIP don’t have anything to do with your service provider or even the servers that host the solution. Issues may stem from the physical VoIP lines and phones themselves. One common issue with VoIP is that if your equipment is stacked too closely, users may experience a degradation in call quality.

You can ask your employees to check call quality, especially if two or more VoIP devices are close to one another. If there are issues, moving the devices further apart should clear this up.

Beyond this, take the time to inspect all cables and connections to ensure they are in good condition and are able to deal with increased wear and tear during the holidays. If your equipment is old and outdated, you may need to replace them with newer models.

Establish VoIP system monitoring

With people rushing to get their last-minute shopping done, your staff will likely experience a sharp spike in inquiries and assistance. A monitoring solution can predict when issues may arise. Whether you are open or closed for the holidays, make sure to implement the following:

For busy periods

  • Set up call queuing with hold music or estimated wait time.
  • Leave recorded messages with complete information and an alternative way to contact support, such as a hotline, an email address, or your website.
  • Change your configuration to help you manage shorter business hours.
  • Reroute or put messages on hold when the company has reduced hours.

For closed periods

  • Set automated messages or announcements to inform customers that your business will be closed during the holiday season and what day you will reopen.
  • Update receptionist greetings before Christmas to remind callers of your holiday hours.
  • Reroute incoming calls for employees who will be working remotely.

Enable dedicated support

The great thing about VoIP is the support that comes with it. You can keep call costs low, as employees working from home can still communicate with the office. A good VoIP system can be configured to work for you and your customers no matter what hours you are open during the holidays.

Whether it’s diverting calls to mobile devices or remote machines, a good VoIP service provider understands that your business needs to be operational even during the holidays, and can accommodate those needs.

Work with an experienced IT provider

Christmas is busy enough without having to worry about something like a phone outage. If you need help with your phone systems or want to discuss how VoIP could help your business, call us today and we’ll recommend the best VoIP solution to ensure that your customers are happy and satisfied.

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How to know if your VoIP system is in danger

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems are known for enabling mobile workforces, reducing costs, and offering advanced call features. However, what many people may not know is that VoIP systems are not immune to hackers and cyberattacks. Here are the signs that might indicate that your VoIP system is being hacked.

1. Irregularities in your call history

If you notice multiple calls being made or coming from unfamiliar locations or numbers, it’s usually an indication that your VoIP system may be under attack. Ask for a detailed copy of your call logs from your service provider so you can identify calling patterns that will allow you to pinpoint any irregularities.

2. Redirection to malicious sites

Being redirected to other — often potentially malicious — sites while browsing the internet is a telltale sign that your VoIP system is being hacked. Hackers may also install browser extensions and toolbars without your knowledge. To keep your VoIP system safe, run regular anti-malware scans and always log out of your VoIP account when you’re done using it.

3. Webcams and microphones starting on their own

Webcams and microphones make VoIP phones better than traditional landlines, but cybercriminals can use these features to infiltrate your network. Hackers can use your VoIP’s webcams and microphones to spy on your business, record conversations, and collect private information. If you notice your VoIP phone’s webcam and microphone behaving strangely, report it immediately to an IT specialist or your managed IT services provider (MSP) to see if your VoIP system is being breached by a cybercriminal.

4. Fake antivirus messages pop-ups

When you or your employees see pop-up messages that say your system is infected and needs to be scanned while your VoIP system is on, do not click on those messages. They may be a sign that a hacker has already infiltrated your system. It’s best to have your system administrator or MSP shut down the network so they can identify the source of the pop-ups and scan your system for any malware.

5. Sudden increase in VoIP bills

One benefit of having a VoIP system is a lower monthly bill compared to a landline service. So if you see a sudden spike in your monthly bill, it’s probably a sign that your VoIP system has been hacked. When cybercriminals infiltrate your VoIP network, they can make unauthorized calls to premium numbers without your knowledge.

Safeguarding your VoIP network from cybercriminals requires best-in-class security solutions and security awareness training. For more ways on how you can protect your VoIP system, contact us today.

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Keep your VoIP systems safe with these security measures

Investing in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology can help your business save on communication costs, but you can take a big bite out of those savings if you don’t consider its security as a top priority. Unprotected VoIP systems and devices may be harming your business without you knowing it, so it’s crucial to implement these security measures now.

24/7 monitoring

VoIP security breaches usually take place outside operating hours. Attackers make phone calls using private accounts or access call records with confidential information on the sly. To avoid these security breaches, contract outsourced IT vendors to monitor network traffic for any abnormalities.

Virtual private networks

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure connection between two points, as if they belong in the same closed network. It’s like building a safe secret tunnel between you and the person you’re calling. Using a VPN can also help overcome complications involving Session Initiation Protocol or SIP trunking, which is a recommended VoIP feature.

VoIP firewalls

Firewalls specifically designed for IP-based telephony curb the types of traffic that are allowed into your network. They ensure that every connection is properly terminated at the end of a session and identify suspicious calling patterns. Virtually every VoIP vendor provides these protocols, but you should always consult with your IT services provider as to how these protocols will be managed within your organization.

Encryption tools

VoIP systems that lack encryption can be easily broken into by hackers — even by amateur ones who can simply download and deploy tools to eavesdrop or intercept your calls. Some services claim to have built-in encryption, but companies still need to be vigilant and investigate how effective these are.

Using encryption ensures that even if hackers successfully download audio or video, they still won’t be able to decode the file unless they have the decryption key.

Password protection

Using passwords to authenticate your access to private information is not as secure as it once was. Hackers can easily guess a password and use it for cyberattacks. Protecting the passwords themselves adds a layer of protection against threats. This can entail enabling multifactor authentication or using a password manager to generate and store an array of complex passwords.

VoIP is as important as any of your other network security considerations. It requires a unique combination of protection measures, and we’d love to give you advice on these. Give us a call today to get started.

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