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Avoid customer frustration with these tips

Bad customer service is one of the reasons why customers switch to competitors. It often begins the moment they pick up the phone to report a service issue, only to end up getting frustrated with your phone system. Your on-hold message may seem inconsequential, but it can play a big role in your customer’s dissatisfaction. Avoid giving your customers another reason to switch by following these tips.

Use professionally recorded messages

A small nuisance like minimal static might not cause annoyance, but an unprofessional on-hold message certainly will. Banking on in-house resources such as your employees recording your on-hold messages might seem cost-efficient, but the poor quality of the recording could backfire.

To avoid this, hire professional voice talents for your company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. They’ll enhance your company’s brand by conveying messages in a professional, friendly, and pleasant manner. Professionals have impressive enunciation and exceptional voice skills, and they’ll record messages using high-quality equipment.

Keep callers engaged with pleasant on-hold music

Your company’s on-hold music should be relaxing, well modulated (not too loud or too soft), and on-brand. If you don’t have the right recording equipment, hire professionals. Otherwise, your message may end up sounding distorted and the recording may produce static. It’s a small thing, but it can spell the difference between keeping customers and driving them away.

Offer an easy way to speak to a person

To solve time-sensitive issues such as overcharged billing or an ongoing service issue, customers would rather speak to someone who can reverse a charge or file an urgent customer report. Businesses that rely too much on recorded messages that spin a complex web of voice prompts risk frustrating their customers.

Companies that deal with a large volume of inquiries can combine the efficiency of an IVR and personalized assistance by offering an option that lets callers quickly get connected to a customer service representative.

Provide clear, useful information

According to a study, 83% of customers prefer human interaction over automated channels when solving customer service issues. Nevertheless, IVRs offer an efficient way to dispense non-critical information such as business operating hours, special offers, and minor account updates.

Automated responses also offer an appreciable value to businesses that need to funnel their most important customer service calls into the right customer support channels. When deploying an IVR system, your on-hold messages should provide information that’s up-to-date, concise, and useful.

Some of these issues can be solved using advanced VoIP solutions that not only automate and upgrade your customer support functions, but also turn it into a superior messaging system that can appease unhappy clients. Call us now for VoIP solutions that will help you integrate these tips into your customer support system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Amazon phones to become a reality soon

Amazon is setting its sights on the VoIP market again and will use its Alexa technology to launch a new phone system. Based on a new patent, users of Amazon’s artificial intelligence (AI) devices might soon be able to enjoy a smart speaker and phone in one. This won’t be the eCommerce giant’s first attempt at launching a wireless phone system, but this time it seems that they’re taking the time to develop the technology. Read on to find out more.

How it works

Amazon’s 3D-enabled Fire Phone was its first attempt at launching a smartphone, but it failed to set the mobile phone market ablaze. Based on the company’s recent voice-controlled phone patent, they are developing a smarter and more practical wireless phone technology, which will be integrated into their successful smart speaker devices, Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, and Echo Show.

The system will work by linking a mobile number to the Alexa devices, which would have a mechanism for notifying the user of incoming calls, answering calls via the smart speaker itself, as well as placing calls by giving commands to Alexa. What makes the Alexa-powered devices a compelling phone system is its ability to identify users based on a voice recognition system already built into the devices.

Note, however, that the mobile carrier would still be providing the communication service, with the Alexa device serving only as a medium, which is how most VoIP communications works.

What it means for your business

Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices are attractive for their voice-control technology. Although they did not pioneer it, they integrated it with devices that allowed them to go beyond what other AI devices can do. The Echo Dot, for instance, is especially useful to those who use a variety of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled devices, such as lights, switches, and TVs, to name just a few.

Its voice recognition capabilities are also a cut above the rest, being able to recognize voice and adopt your speech patterns the more you use it. It can also serve as an all-around assistant in a room or in any office setting, helping you check the weather, send a message, or provide calendar event updates.

As Amazon develops its voice recognition technology for its Alexa-powered phones, it can be expected that this same technology would make it a formidable home or office phone system that can easily find contacts, screen callers, or conveniently set up conference calls -- all by voice command. But as of now, Amazon’s patent is in the early stages of development.

There are plenty of communication options for your business, and although there’s nothing quite like the Alexa phones yet, there are plenty of viable substitutes that can suit your business’s communication needs. Call us today for VoIP option recommendations.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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What to look for in a VoIP distributor

With a quick Google search, numerous VoIP distributors instantly appear. The problem is knowing whether they will meet your business’s needs. To attract consumers, these professionals throw around superlatives such as 'the best' or 'world-class' -- but that doesn’t always mean they are. Before committing to a distributor, here are some things you should take into consideration:

Highly-trained technical supportA good VoIP distributor will provide technical support both before and after the sale. But a great VoIP distributor will offer highly skilled, well-trained, and certified support. Make sure your distributor’s IT team has been trained on the latest advances in VoIP technology and has obtained the appropriate certifications.

Provisioning capabilitiesProvisioning means providing service to the user. This includes the hardware, wiring, transmitting the voice and data, and especially the final configuration. It can also refer to configuring the hardware and software in order to provide service. In other words, when a device is provisioned, it works. Ask your potential distributor how many stations and ports they have available, and whether or not they offer custom provisioning packages.

API servicesCheck whether your VoIP distributor offers Advanced API services. Short for Application Program Interface, an API is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications that specify how software components should interact. It helps streamline your ordering process and ensures your hardware will arrive correctly provisioned on your service platform.

Training programsBefore committing to any VoIP distributor, be sure to check their educational resources. How often do they offer webinars on new products? Do they provide training and educational material on their websites and product portals? Also, check whether your VoIP distributor will create custom training materials for you and your customers.

Remember, a VoIP distributor that offers a complete suite of telephony services helps you overcome your business's phone service obstacles and lets you better serve your customers.

For more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Five tips to prevent VoIP eavesdropping

Eavesdropping is the intentional act of secretly listening in on a conversation, usually not for the best of intentions. Although today the act also includes VoIP telephone systems, it’s not a recent trend. As exemplified by the SIPtap attacks of 2007 and the Peskyspy trojans of 2009, cybercriminals have had their eye on VoIP ever since it was introduced to the market. Here are five tips to combat VoIP eavesdropping:

Never deploy with default configurationsEveryone wants to get things rolling as quickly as possible, but this often results in VoIP phones being deployed with their default configurations. You don’t want to do this because it allows the bad guy to search vendor documentation. Depending on your VoIP solution, you should have the option of changing default handset configurations. Otherwise, you’ll need to come up with a manual process to change phone defaults when you roll handsets out to your employees.

Listen to your handset vendorsAn ideal example of VoIP handset vulnerabilities happened in 2015, when Cisco detected vulnerabilities in IP phones which enabled an unauthorized attacker to listen in on phone conversations. If it weren't for those security alerts, several companies could have found themselves victims of VoIP eavesdropping. The lesson learned here is you must regularly monitor advisories from your hardware vendor. Without proper monitoring, you won’t know how susceptible your corporate VoIP phones are to being eavesdropped.

Update session border controllersAnother tactic to combat VoIP eavesdropping is to constantly update your session border controllers (SBCs). By doing so, you’ll be updating your VoIP’s antivirus software; because cyber threats are constantly evolving, your security products should as well. Routine SBC updates are essential for secure SIP trunking as well as responding to new threats.

Encrypt VoIP callsMany cloud VoIP providers offer call encryption guidelines, and some even offer it as a premium service. If you work in a regulated industry like healthcare or finance, encrypting VoIP calls are essential to staying compliant. Work with your VoIP provider and auditors to determine the best encryption options for your communications infrastructure.

Build a hardened VoIP networkAnother method to fend off VoIP eavesdropping is to build a hardened VoIP network that includes:

  • IP private branch exchange (PBX) using minimal services so that the hardware can only power the PBX software
  • Firewalls with access control lists set to include call control information
  • Lightweight Directory Access Protocol lookup, and signaling and management protocol
  • Reinforced end point security with authentication at the endpoint level
In order to effectively combat VoIP eavesdropping, businesses need to take a holistic approach. This includes policies, deployment, as well as security practices to ensure malicious agents are unable to tap into your calls. Feel free to contact us for further information on how to protect your business.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Ransomware traps Skype users with fake ads

Skype has made many improvements to become the go-to audio and video communication tool. But as more people turn to Skype to conduct their business, hackers are sure to follow. Recently, Skype has been plagued with fake Flash ads, which if triggered, lead to devastating ransomware infections. Read on below to find out how you can stay safe from this attack.

Initial reports found that the fake Skype ad was disguised as a critical Flash update. Clicking on the ad triggers a download of a seemingly innocuous HTML application named “FlashPlayer.hta”. If opened, the app would download malicious code that encrypts the victim’s files and holds them hostage until a ransom is paid.

According to security experts, hackers were obfuscating malicious code in the fake ads, which helped the ransomware evade detection from common antivirus tools. Many other users in the past have encountered similar Skype ads, but this is one of the first few scams that delivers ransomware.

To protect yourself against this ransomware you need to do the following:

  • Be critical - you must be careful of opening suspicious ads and links from Skype -- or any content off the internet for that matter. Before you click on a link, hover over it to see where it leads. Unsolicited emails with links and downloadable files should also be avoided unless you’re certain it’s coming from a credible source.
  • Download only from trusted sources - just like the tip mentioned above, make sure the software you download are from trustworthy app stores. In this case, Adobe Flash plugins should be downloaded directly from the official site, not from random ads.
  • Install security software - strong antivirus, intrusion prevention systems, and other cybersecurity solutions can detect and block ransomware before it makes your entire system unusable.
  • Invest in backups - storing your data in multiple cloud-hosted data centers will help you recover critical files should ransomware manage to infect your local computers.
When it comes to ransomware, hackers don't always return your files and we never recommend giving in to their demands. Staying informed and being prepared is the best solution to any malware.

Skype is the last place you’d expect a hacker to turn up, but if you don’t account for all possible vulnerabilities -- including security flaws in your VoIP solution -- your business has a bleak future. Contact us to protect your VoIP, your cloud, and your business today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Enhance customer service through video chat

Online video chat turns stiff customer service interactions into a more personal experience. Seeing the person you’re talking to makes for a more substantial conversation. With that in mind, businesses ought to integrate such a function if they want to make significant changes to the way they handle customer inquiries. Despite the obvious advantage, few companies have adopted an online video chat functionality. It’s predicted that by 2018, that will change.

More visuals, better service

Unlike other customer service platforms such as phone, online chat, social media, and email, online video chat is highly personal and markedly interactive. The advantage is obvious: Customers see the person they’re talking to, which lends a greater sense of urgency and professionalism to a conversation. Businesses looking to improve their customer satisfaction rating can also benefit from a video-enhanced customer service capability.

That is not to say that an online chat or other ‘less visual’ modes of communication are insufficient in handling or managing complaints or queries. For some businesses, certain product or service inquiries could benefit from a visual demonstration, such as fixing a malfunctioning electronic equipment or assembling furniture. A video chat can also be massively beneficial to customers seeking help for an extremely technical computer issue.

Not all customers, however, would opt for a video chat to get assistance, but having it as an option is definitely going the extra mile. Having a video option also expands the customers’ options and increases their confidence in your capacity to assist.

Is online video chat really necessary?

Some companies aren’t eager to adopt a video-based customer service functionality due to several factors, such as costs associated mostly with staff training and contact center structure improvements. Despite being the least personal of all customer interactions, interactive voice response systems are still preferred by many because they’re cheaper to implement and maintain.

Other hurdles include inconsistent video chat quality and customer preference. The ubiquity of other platforms such as social media also poses a barrier to adapting video chat. Why spend money hiring extra staff and expend effort adding video capabilities when you can have anyone on the team log on to Twitter -- for free -- and solve complaint tickets?

Despite widely recognizing customer service and experience as a competitive differentiator, many businesses still resist video technology. For small- and medium-sized firms with limited resources that are therefore slow to adjust to new changes, this is understandable. Nevertheless, exploring video chat’s potential can undoubtedly enhance their customers’ experience, and, in time, prove invaluable.

As with many advances in unified communications technology, it wouldn’t be surprising if online video chat decimated other VoIP services and became the new norm rather than a budding trend. Do you want to explore the various features of your existing VoIP systems for your business? Call us for advice today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Is WebRTC a worthwhile addition for you?

The VoIP industry is becoming increasingly hard to define. More and more are voice communications being made over internet connections, and sometimes you may not even realize you’re doing it. WebRTC is a newcomer to the internet-based telephony field. Read on to decide whether it's for you.

What is WebRTC?

At its most basic, WebRTC is a way to make phone calls, video calls, instant messaging, and file transfers with nothing but a web browser.

And in addition to being immensely convenient for end users, WebRTC is relatively easy to configure for administrators and developers. You can create a link on your homepage that will allow customers to initiate a video call without the need to dial a number from their phone, or even open up Skype on their desktop.

The benefits to your customers

This creates a much more connected customer service experience. With WebRTC calls, you’ll never have to ask “Ok, are you looking at our site?” They had to navigate to your site to even make the call, so a certain amount of knowledge can be assumed the moment you pick up the line. This allows customer service representatives to assist customers calling through this medium in a more specific, nuanced way than calls they receive from cellphones and landlines.

What are the drawbacks?

Compatibility is one of the main reasons to avoid jumping on the bandwagon too early. Most notably, Apple has been on the topic of working with this new technology. Developers have noticed nods to WebRTC availability in Apple’s callkit, but no official announcement has been made yet.

It could hurt user experience if an Apple user sees a “Start a video call now!” button but gets an incompatibility message when they click it. If you are still interested in giving it a shot, make sure to work with experienced professionals to test it in the wild before committing wholeheartedly.

The WebRTC critics

Some industry professionals are crying foul. They believe this new technology will diminish the relevance of VoIP and throw internet-based telephony into uncertain territory. In reality, WebRTC is a far cry from a VoIP killer because people who are willing to make calls from their desktop computer are still a small minority.

With a Unified Communications infrastructure, your staff utilize VoIP solutions to make and receive calls from traditional phone numbers in the same place they receive WebRTC calls. At the end of the day, this new technology isn’t about disrupting VoIP, it’s just about partnering together to give your customers new ways to get in touch with you.

The main reason to partner with a managed services provider is to ensure you’re always getting the best technology available. Although WebRTC might not be for everyone, it’s important for you to know what your options are. If you’re interested in becoming an early adopter of this technology, don’t wait another minute to call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Do VoIP-enabled offices even need handsets?

“Follow-me” features from VoIP vendors have revolutionized modern business telecommunications. Because internet-based phone solutions allow office workers to answer one phone number from multiple devices, companies can reduce costs and increase efficiency. But for all its certainties, VoIP may have you questioning one thing: Do you even need office phones any more?

Question #1: How often would employees answer work numbers from their mobile devices if you purchased desktop phones?

We’ve all been there, you see a great new feature and automatically jump to the conclusion that you don’t need legacy technology. Just because call-forwarding and follow-me features are convenient, doesn’t mean you should use them exclusively. If employees would use desktop phones for more than half of their calls, you probably don’t want to skimp on handsets.

Question #2: Do your employees ever take calls from their personal numbers?

If employees are already handing out personal numbers to customers and clients, the transition to taking work calls on their mobile device is far more likely to go smoothly. If not, you need to clarify what’s expected of employees during off hours before making the decision to go 100% mobile.

Question #3: How much texting, emailing, and messaging do employees do from their personal mobile devices?

Similar to question #2, how much business is already taking place on mobile devices will play a big factor in transitioning to a mobile environment. If your team is taking calls at their desk, but sending the majority of their text-based correspondence from mobile devices, getting rid of desktop phones may actually be a more streamlined approach.

Question #4: Do you want employees to focus on desktop integrations during calls?

Don’t forget about the profitable ways you can integrate a desktop phone with customer relationship management software, productivity tools, and call tracking. Most of these won’t be nearly as effective when 100% of calls are taken from a mobile device.

Question #5: Does your company have a mobile device management system in place?

Unless your organization already has a full-fledged BYOD plan, it’s not prepared for the onslaught of security risks associated with connecting your business data to your employees’ personal devices. In an all-mobile environment, every single employee device would need to be set up with a personal profile and a work profile to keep the two data streams separate and secure.

Question #6: What are employee experiences with call quality on mobile devices?

Preconceived notions from employees about VoIP call quality can play a tremendous part in a mobile device transition. If employee devices are older, run-down devices, there may be problems with getting the most out of your VoIP solution. And even if your organization is providing the mobile devices, employees may still be looking to complain to colleagues, and even customers, about the “reduction” in call quality -- even if there’s none to speak of.

The sexiest answer isn’t always the right one when it comes to technology. Going all-in on a mobile call strategy may sound great as a headline, but it’s not a project to be taken lightly. However, if it still sounds worth it you, we’re the team to make it happen. Contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Moving unified communications to the cloud

Migrating your organization’s unified communications (UC) to the cloud seems like a no-brainer: it’s practical, it’s cheap, it’s the future. Big-name companies such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon now offer Unified communications as a Service (UCaaS), and it’s only a matter of time before it takes over the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) space. Despite that, IT departments of many organizations remain hesitant due to concerns about network stability, service performance, and over-reliance on legacy systems. To alleviate those concerns, here are five tips you can consider when moving your UC to the cloud.

Opt for a gradual transition

Migrating unified communications to the cloud doesn’t have to be done at one fell swoop. You can move UC for departments that can benefit from it, while those with no pressing need for a cloud-based UC, such as a company’s call center, can keep using on-premise systems. This way, users can ease their way into the new system without experiencing network disruptions, which could lead to reduced productivity.

Secure sufficient bandwidth

Issues on speed and performance will inevitably arise, so make sure to cover all the bases before migration. That means securing a reliable internet service provider, checking the stability of your internal network, and having a Plan B. This is a particularly critical point to ponder if you have operations in locations where unstable or slow networks could pose serious difficulties. Determine the level of bandwidth your entire business needs, and get it from an ISP that can deliver.

Test, test, test

Transitioning UC to the cloud may appear seamless, but there may be a few unexpected kinks that would need ironing out long after the migration is declared a success. To soften the potentially costly and time-consuming impacts, test the systems throughout the duration of the migration. Whether you’re testing voice, data, or video, conduct tests, set benchmarks for performance, and predict future usage patterns.

Go live and act on identified problem points

After going live with your cloud UC, consider the overall user experience and availability of support for devices, applications and other components. Are persistent connectivity issues going to cause troublesome conference calls? This and similar issues may prove detrimental in the long-run, so keep them in mind when deciding to keep, enhance, or discontinue a cloud-based UC. Cloud migration should be solving problems, not causing them.

Constantly monitor performance and quality

Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few issues even after extensive testing. Migrating to the cloud simply requires planning and a sustainable strategy, whether 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 for the best service.

Having your UC moved to the cloud may seem like a daunting move, but with our cloud technology and VoIP know-how, we’ll make sure your unified communications in the cloud precipitates just benefits. Contact us today for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to protect against VoIP call hacking

VoIP has become the ultimate communication tool for enterprises, but it has also become another vulnerability that hackers exploit. Because voice is essentially transferred as data, the risk of digitized messages being intercepted and heard by unauthorized ears increases. That’s why businesses need security systems like an up-to-date session border controller (SBC) to protect against a plethora of voice attacks.

What is it?In a nutshell, an SBC is a dedicated hardware device or software application that acts as a gatekeeper of your VoIP network, controlling how phone calls are initiated, conducted, and terminated. Much like a firewall, an SBC examines voice messages transmitted as IP packets and prevents unauthorized sessions to the network. This protects your business from call jacking, eavesdropping, and denial-of-service attempts.

But even though most businesses deploy SBC, many tend to leave it unmanaged, rendering it ineffective against new and emerging VoIP-based attacks. To make sure this doesn’t happen in your business, consider the following security best-practices with SBC:

Update frequentlySecurity threats are ever-evolving, and your security systems need to do the same. Set aside one hour per week to check for security updates and distribute them company-wide. To avoid disrupting daily operations and consuming large amounts of bandwidth, we recommend performing updates during off-hours.

Enable real-time alertsWhether via email or text, your SBC product should alert you when something happens, when it has blocked a call, and why. These alerts will let you know about any attempted attacks and will notify you when your SBC is due for an update.

Assess SBC performanceTo find out whether your SBC is routinely blocking threats, make sure to periodically evaluate its effectiveness. If a third-party is managing your VoIP systems, have them perform a security test to identify possible vulnerabilities within your system.

After the security assessment, your provider should compile a report about SBC performance and recommended solutions and updates you should install to mitigate security risks. This allows you to close up any security holes well before a malicious hacker exploits them.

Educate staffUnderstanding why you need to update your SBC is a good first step in defending against a variety of VoIP-based attacks, but that’s no silver bullet. Aside from technical attacks, businesses need to train staff to spot cunning threats like vishing, a social engineering scam whereby hackers attempt to obtain sensitive information via phone calls.

Installing an SBC is important, but it can give businesses a false sense of security. As we mentioned, the cyber security landscape is ever-changing. So if you’re not taking a proactive role in updating and assessing your SBC, then your business might suffer for it in the near future.

To avoid spending a lifetime recovering from successful voice attacks, contact us today. We take the time to ensure your SBC is up-to-date and your business is safe.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Facebook’s group voice calling

“What’s your Facebook name?” is not a question you’re often asked when someone needs your contact details. In the first place, Facebook messaging isn’t everyone’s voice call app of choice, especially for group conversations. As of now, Skype rules that arena, especially for business communications. However, once the social media giant has put the finishing touches on its desktop-capable group voice calling, you can expect to hear “What’s your Facebook name?” a bit more. It might even become the norm.

No one gets left behind

In group chats, there’s always that one person who gets the joke last, or reads it last, and so feels left out. With Facebook’s group video chat, this never has to happen as every participant in the group can be connected at the same time. The functionality is still in the “small test” phase, which means certain details are still being ironed out. When it fully launches, though, expect a considerable portion of Facebook Messenger users to consider moving their Skype group video conversations to Facebook.

Potentially compelling benefits

Since introducing its audio calling capability in 2013, Facebook has worked hard to keep up with the competition. Facebook’s introduction – and potential domination – of desktop group video calling might signal the end of times for Skype and other players. For one, Facebook and social media user growth hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. Moreover, most users of internet telephony might inevitably see the advantages of using a single platform for their social media activity and online communications.

Possible user reservations

Users who prefer a communication tool that creates zero distractions in their chats might not opt for Facebook when conducting group video conferences. Facebook is, first and foremost, a social media platform, which serves as a springboard for important news updates, personal anecdotes, and funny cat videos. Not everyone will prefer all those distractions while in a business meeting.

Those looking for a clean communications tool might find the wealth of content a bit overwhelming. In addition, employees of small companies in need of a free communications tool might not immediately warm up to the idea of surrendering their Facebook profile as an official point of contact.

If there’s anything Facebook has proven, however, it is the ability to improve upon previous versions by adding or removing details to enhance user experience. Users may not always be pleased with the updates, but that hasn’t slowed down the billion-user company’s popularity. If the newly introduced desktop group video calling function proves efficient, Facebook might persuade even more users to lean towards its messaging tool.

With many options to choose from, the only thing left for people to do is discern which platform best serves their communications needs. For advice on which VoIP platform is best for your business, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How Skype plans to revamp their mobile app

In a mobile communications space dominated by WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger, the voice and text messaging company, Skype, wants to be much more than just another mobile messaging tool. Earlier this month, they launched their new communication hub named “Skype Mingo” to improve upon the traditional, well-known Skype app. Here are just a few of the many new communication features you can expect from the revamped Skype app.

Skype Mingo borrows a lot from the original Skype app’s features and interface, but with some slight differences. For instance, Mingo allows you to manage call history and phone contacts. This means that if you use Mingo’s search function, the mobile app will search both your Skype directory and your contact list.

Skype Mingo also comes with SMS relay, a feature that allows you to sync native texts with your Skype account, Skype desktop program, and mobile app. All these features suggest that Skype wants smartphone users to set Mingo as their default for photo sharing, SMS, VoIP, file sharing, and contact management.

What’s more, Mingo reinforces Skype’s already strong data-powered video and voice-calling functionality. Microsoft promises that the communication hub is “small, fast, and optimized for speed.” So far, we know that Skype plans to achieve this by offering solutions for data saving through Economical Calling and On-Demand Sync features.

If that hasn’t sold you on the Skype Mingo, you’ll also be able to enjoy the full functionality of Skype bots and virtual assistants for numerous tasks. Need to look for cheap flights? Let Skyscanner know about your travel plans. Want to schedule meetings on the go? Send Zoom a message to set an appointment. Need some medical attention? The Baymax bot can be your healthcare companion.

It’s certain that most of the possibilities that were once out of reach for mobile phones are now possible thanks to Microsoft’s innovations. Though it’s unclear how it will affect the way we use our VoIP or messenger applications in the near future, Skype Mingo definitely looks like a promising addition to the Skype brand.

Currently, the app is still in its alpha testing phase, so expect new features when the full version is rolled out. We will likely keep track of Mingo’s development and public release date, so stay in touch with us to get the lowdown on Skype.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Apple CallKit: what it can and cannot do

VoIP technology has done wonders for business communications by simplifying the way business owners and staff communicate with stakeholders. VoIP apps compete for a big slice of the consumer spending pie and those who adapt well to developments are poised to succeed. One such development is Apple’s new framework, CallKit. Although still in its beginning stages, this new framework presents exciting innovations in VoIP technology.

What does CallKit do?

Plenty. For one, it integrates all the useful functions of VoIP apps with Apple’s native interface. Remember that CallKit is merely a way for third-party apps to integrate with Apple mobile devices. As such, the CallKit framework has already been integrated with Windows-owned Skype and a slew of other third-party apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, among others. These developments present a host of benefits to businesses looking to integrate communications under a manageable corporate account. It also offers a significant enhancement to the user experience, mainly in eliminating the need to open an app when answering, dropping, or blocking a call.

With CallKit, seemingly minor inconveniences -- such as having to unlock your phone, going to the app, and pressing answer -- as well as having to drop VoIP calls for incoming cellular calls are addressed and solved. For added convenience, CallKit also allows you to tag contacts as favorites.

VoIP benefits

The benefits of VoIP apps are varied and plenty, especially for businesses. VoIP apps are inexpensive to implement and easy to install and configure. Most iterations offer connections that are as good as, if not better than, cellular-based telephone calls, with VoIP apps like Skype constantly making improvements on both interface and functionality.

CallKit’s architecture is designed to make VoIP app calls as seamless as possible. With CallKit, users can initiate calls with Bluetooth, a voice command to Siri, and Apple’s native interface for iOS 10 and above. It also has a mechanism for blocking spam calls, enabling a Do Not Disturb functionality, and interacting with other VoIP apps, which means users are now able to handle incoming and outgoing calls and messages with more efficiency.

Despite improvements in VoIP apps, many users don’t bother with mobile apps unless circumstances -- like being in a foreign country, where making phone calls would be expensive -- compel them otherwise. VoIP and developments like CallKit can turn that around. Thanks to CallKit, users can now make VoIP calls from iOS’s native call history and contacts apps – provided, of course, that there is a stable internet connection, which in this day and age has long ceased to be a luxury but a necessity.

A call to action for an improved CallKit

With CallKit, business communications are definitely much easier. But at this point in its development, has it solved all possible problems inherent to unified communications? While there still are some challenges with routing calls through enterprise unified communications platforms, CallKit presents a compelling advancement that promises an even greater communications experience.

As more VoIP app developers look for ways to improve their technology, businesses that depend on VoIP-assisted communications can expect more developments, and Apple’s CallKit is one to watch for. Call us today if you want to explore how VoIP solutions can help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Skype Insider Program from Microsoft

Microsoft has recently announced an Insider Program offering for Skype. This program will allow Skype users on Android, iOS, OS X, and Windows to access more features and updates to its Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service and application. Read on to learn more about Microsoft's new Skype Insider Program and how it can benefit you.

At its core, the new Skype Insider Program is a way to allow Skype users to beta test cutting-edge features and software fixes. In addition to granting users access to the latest features before they become public, this program also gives Microsoft a major advantage because more beta testers means it can roll out full updates and upgrades more quickly. After joining, users can test out a wide array of improvements for any Skype platform, including Android, iOS, OS X, or Windows.

Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into before joining this Insider Program, or any betas for that matter. It exists to test out how well new features work “in the wild,” and there is potential for bugs. The catch 22 is that with so many users beta-testing the software, those problems and bugs will be fixed far more quickly than before, and participants will have a head start on using those features when they officially roll out.

VoIP has been around for years now, and most vendor offerings are similar to one another. In our opinion, getting access to new VoIP technology is definitely worth it. You’ll be able to get a head start on the competition, and Microsoft will reward your contributions with a faster, more secure Skype connection.

An open and well-populated beta program almost always means great things for users and the software they’re using. If you are interested in becoming part of Skype's Insider Program, or if you have any VoIP-related questions, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The pros and cons of Unified Communications

When you run a business, having multiple communications streams and programs can be incredibly challenging and difficult. However, with Unified Communications (UC), there may be a way to combine all those communication streams into one. However, you may wonder about the pros and cons of UC. Before you choose a system, explore some of these benefits and drawbacks by learning more and then contact us with questions or to get information about how to transition to UC.

Understanding UC is important to understanding the pros and cons of this communications platform. Essentially, UC is the use of service, software, and equipment that creates a communications system that is fully integrated and centralized. This allows for phone calls, emails, video conferencing, calendars, and the like to be accessible on one system alone.

Pros of UC

There are numerous benefits of choosing a UC system over a non-integrated, disjointed communications system. One is that all people involved in the business process -- from bosses and employees, to vendors, customers, and other business associates or partners -- can access the same information and quickly and easily communicate with one another one-on-one or in groups.

VoIP UC makes it possible to receive phone calls through a computer, have them pushed to a mobile phone, and even get copies of voicemails and information about callers on the computer. Essentially, everything runs through the internet and wireless communications.

Additionally, mobile technologies can more easily be used to bring work groups together and make employees as productive as possible wherever they are. This means that virtual conference calls and meetings are possible and can be an important tool in the process of doing business. UC also save employees and other business associates a great deal of time and can improve productivity.

And then there is the issue of cost. UC can save businesses money in the short- and long-term by making it possible to telecommute, have meetings over great distances, and make work hours more productive overall.

Cons of UC

Of course, no business change or decision is without potential drawbacks. The initial overall cost of switching to a UC system can be high because of the software, equipment, and training needed. Already accustomed to existing systems, some employees might resist adopting a new technology. And other employees, considering their unique roles in the company, might think the new communications system irrelevant to them and so see little benefit to it.

Better understanding these potential benefits and drawbacks to UC can help you decide what is right for your business. Contact us if you have any questions or if you are ready to begin using VoIP UC processes in your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Denial of service attacks on VoIP systems

When most of us think of cyberattacks, we think of viruses, trojans, and ransomware. Unfortunately, those aren’t the only types of attacks you need to be on the lookout for. Companies that utilize Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems are also vulnerable to another type of attack. One of the biggest threats to these systems is denial of service (DoS) attacks, and if you have a VoIP system it’s imperative you learn more about it here.

Denial of service attacks

The end goal of any DoS attack is to overwhelm a system with so many requests that the system is eventually forced to shut down. Telephony DoS (TDoS) attacks are a subcategory wherein these types of attacks are leveled at VoIP systems. Sadly, this security bulletin has jumped to the front of security concerns as a result of its use against hospitals and 9-1-1 phone lines.

In another depressing development, some TDoS attackers demand a ransom to halt the attack. Much like ransomware, with the help of cryptocurrencies and caller-ID spoofing, it’s incredibly difficult to identify attackers.

TDoS attacks generally employ fewer resources than the DoS attacks that are designed to cripple IT systems such as networks, servers, and software. At its most basic, all that a TDoS attack requires is an automated phone dialer that calls a target phone number and hangs up -- over and over. That very simple concept can stop anyone else from getting through the line.

What organizations need to do

Counterintuitive as it might sound, locking down your VoIP system with complicated and unnecessary security measures will ultimately do more harm than good. Most businesses can’t operate if they can’t communicate with their customers.

Although VoIP may be a digital resource similar to your other IT systems, the very nature of phone lines makes it impossible to hide them behind firewalls and other protections. However, there are new solutions that offer protection to VoIP systems. The new security protocols can protect your communication infrastructure against those who try to use force to gain access to your directory information. These protocols can also identify, reroute, and filter calls coming from known attackers.

If you’re experiencing any abnormalities with your VoIP system, or if you want to deploy the most up to date solution that the market has to offer, we have just the company in mind. With years of experience in the field, our expert staff is ready to help you at the drop of a hat -- just call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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5 of the newest VoIP features for businesses

Do you want to cut long-distance costs and streamline your business? There is a remedy. With Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), you can improve your business operations, cut costs and add flexibility to your business telephony. This technology is always evolving, and we think it's time for an update on all the most recent features.

Fax

Modern VoIP does more than just make calls, it also receives faxes. Why would a business be interested in this seemingly outdated service? A significant portion of businesses, government bodies, and medical facilities still use some form of fax service to send and receive physical documents. If a customer or vendor prefers to send you a fax, most VoIP solutions are equipped to receive and convert fax documents into a PDF file.

Interactive Voice Response

The new VoIP feature allows businesses to route their calls to the correct client’s or staff’s number. This feature helps to reduce the use of mass cold calling and unwanted calls, saving the businesses' time and money, and enhances proper service delivery to your clients. VoIP systems promote minimal routing calls, increasing your employees' ability to work well.

Spam Call Filter

It’s election season and that means robo-calls. If you hate them as much as we do, VoIP is one of the best services to eliminate them. Spam filters combine several different pieces of caller data to help you differentiate between potential customers and annoying telemarketers. About as effective as the spam filter protecting your email inbox, this feature is not something we could live without.

Telemarketer Block

Automatic filters are never perfect, and some telemarketers may be able to slip through the fence your filters have erected. Depending on the scope of your VoIP system, you may want to input blocked numbers manually. If you have specific times that your spam filter and blocked call list would become prohibitive, they can be turned off with the flip of a switch.

Network Down Forward

One of the biggest concerns for VoIP solutions is their bandwidth requirements. Users in areas without a robust or reliable internet connection may think they can’t reap the rewards of a internet-based communications service. Modern VoIP systems have a feature called ‘network down forward’ to overcome these hurdles. When turned on, network down forward allows you to send calls to your signal-based mobile devices when your internet is down -- thereby guaranteeing customers can always get a hold of you.

VoIP technology has opened up entirely new avenues of what businesses can achieve with their communication systems. Beyond just making and receiving calls over the internet, users can block unwanted callers, receive faxes, and design pleasant hold menus. For any VoIP inquiries, call us today -- we’re always available.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to get the most out of your VoIP data

Big data is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days, but rarely in conjunction with SMBs. VoIP has often been touted as a way for small businesses to access enterprise-level functionalities, and better access to customer data is one of the many ways to do exactly that. Keep reading for coverage of the best ways to leverage your VoIP data to increase conversions and provide better service to your clients.

Time/Date Data

One source of information that nearly any VoIP system should be able to easily access is time, date and duration of calls. As a small or medium-sized business, you probably work on a tight budget. Properly analyzing this data can be invaluable when deciding how many staff you need on the phones and on what schedule.

For example, you may notice that on Mondays you get a rush of calls in the morning, but by Tuesday afternoon the lines are dead. Just asking your employees when the phones are dead may work, but consider looking for more specific trends to better assign call responsibilities to your staff. You may find that there is a particular combination of time and day that simply doesn’t generate a need for anyone to work the phones.

The more agreeable the person on the other end of the line is, the more likely they are to vote for your company with their dollars. If you’re making outbound calls, pay close attention to when you see the most success. Everyone knows that no one likes to get a call during dinner time, VoIP allows you to take this one step further and find other stress points in your call schedule.

Location Data

Location data is also easy to track and a simple way to make your call strategy more agile. Understanding how purchasing or support habits differ between different locations can improve your marketing, customer service and client retention.

Ask your VoIP service provider about call-routing options so that whoever answers your phones is an expert on the area the caller is from. With the right amount of preparation you can help a client on the other side of the country as if your company was right around the corner, and there are few things as valuable as being helped by a local.

Customer Intelligence

Combining your VoIP services with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software opens up entirely new data points. How many times have you called a support line with an issue and have had to explain all of your history with the company? Even if you somehow did win the customer service lottery and got the same representative every time, the chances of them remembering you and your story are slim to none. With proper CRM integration, your VoIP system can route callers to the same service representative every time they call and provide your staff with a detailed support history.

Customer Habits/Personalities

Analyze client call habits and predict how to contact them and offer assistance before they even realize they need it. Does your data show that one of your clients generally calls once a week, but missed last week’s? Give them a call and check up on them.

If you want to really get in the weeds with your data, you can begin to match clients with your service and sales representatives based on ‘personality’ data. Data points like staff’s age, gender and average call time can potentially be used to route customers to the best possible representative.

Product/Service Trends

Whenever possible, tie data to specific products and services in each call and look for the most consistent patterns that result in a successful contact. If you notice that most of the customers that buy your flagship product come back and buy an accessory to it within three months, stop dumping money into marketing the accessory products during the original sale and trust what your data tells you. Follow up in a month and ask if they’re interested in that ancillary product.

You may be thinking that some of these data points were accessible with your legacy systems by simply logging the information separately. Tracking data that way is prone to user error and requires a pre-meditated plan. VoIP services track all of your data, all the time. Your SMB can easily view and analyze up-to-date data in no time. This agility and efficiency can revolutionize how you design your customer interaction strategies.

Do you feel like you could be getting a better ROI from your VoIP services by taking another look at your calling data? It could be as simple as better organizing your usage statistics, or as intricate as installing specialized analytics software. Regardless of how you want to go about it, we’re the ones to do it -- contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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VoIP: 5 security tips for SMBs

As SMBs continue their steady transition away from traditional telephony services in favor of VoIP, threats of cybercrime and fraud are more common than ever before. Risks to VoIP systems are distinctly unique from those posed to your other networks and understanding how to combat them is critical. Here are 5 tips for securing your organization’s internet-based communication devices and services.

Types of threats

The majority of VoIP services involve live communications, which often seem far more innocuous than stored data. Unfortunately, your business has just as much valuable information moving across VoIP networks as it does hosted on company servers. Internet-based calls are far more vulnerable to fraud compared to more traditional telephony services and face threats from identity theft, eavesdropping, intentional disruption of service and even financial loss.

24/7 monitoring

A recent study by Nettitude reported that 88 percent of VoIP security breaches take place outside of normal operating hours. This could be attackers trying to make phone calls using your account or gain access to call records that contain confidential information. This can be avoided by contracting outsourced IT vendors to monitor network traffic for any abnormalities or spikes in suspicious activity.

VoIP firewalls

Every VoIP vendor should provide a firewall specially designed for IP-based telephony. These protocols will curb the types of traffic that are allowed, ensure the connection is properly terminated at the end of a session and identify suspicious calling patterns. Consult with your VoIP or IT services provider about which of these features are available and currently in use at your organization.

Encryption tools

One of the reasons that eavesdropping is so common is because a lack of encryption. Inexperienced attackers can easily download and deploy tools to intercept and listen to your calls. Although some services claim built-in encryption, be sure to investigate how effective they really are. Many of these protocols require the same VoIP client on the receiving end of the call -- something that’s much harder to control. Encryption should be compatible with as many other software clients as possible to effectively prevent anyone from undermining the privacy of your calls.

Virtual private network

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure connection between two points as if they were both occupying the same, closed network. It’s like building a tunnel between you and the call receiver. In addition to adding another layer of encryption, establishing a VPN can also overcome complications involving Session Initiation Protocol trunking, a recommended VoIP feature.

Password protection

Usually password protection refers to requiring password authentication to access sensitive information. However, in this case it actually means protecting the passwords themselves. Eavesdropping is one of the easiest, and most common, cyber attacks against VoIP networks and even with all of the protocols above, employees should be instructed to never give out any compromising information during a VoIP call.

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 implementing any of these protections or managing your VoIP services. Give us a call today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Empower work at home employees with VoIP

As a business owner, it’s important to raise your company’s morale to be more productive. But you can’t just keep throwing office parties everyday of the year. Thanks to advancements in VoIP technologies, you can offer a better way to keep your employee’s spirits high by allowing them to work from home. This allows your employees to take a breather from the monotony of the office environment while still being able to get some work done in the comfort of their home. Not convinced? Here are a few reasons why work at home strategies paired with VoIP systems is a good idea.

It’s good for business

Many businesses have misconceptions about their employees choosing to work from home. They assume that their employees will be less productive if they are not within the office environment. However, this is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, according to a Harvard Business Review study, work at home policies for your small business tends to be more beneficial for your company. This is thanks to the combination of cloud computing and VoIP technologies, which can easily migrate the office environment virtually anywhere with an Internet connection. Along with this, VoIP services can empower your small business and work at home employees in a number of ways:
  • VoIP technologies allow you to keep your employees on track with an array of management tools like barge, monitor and whisper which allows you to coach and micro manage your employees.
  • The cost of business resources, furniture, space and sick days are reduced when there is an effective way for your employees to work at any location.
  • VoIP services promote continued collaboration between employees even if some of them are not in the office, allowing workflow to be more efficient.
  • As a business owner, VoIP gives your company more opportunity for growth. You can communicate and hire people from different countries with minimal cost.

Perks for employees

Work from home policies with VoIP systems isn’t just good for business either. It’s also good for your employees. As more of their workload is digitized, working from home or anywhere else has never been easier. In fact, studies have shown that employees who took days to work from home were actually more productive. Part of this is because it gives them a break from the stressful office environment and, with a VoIP service readily available to them, they feel as if they haven’t missed a day’s worth of work. With the right VoIP systems installed, employees can easily collaborate with co-workers.

Using VoIP at home also saves your employees from long and costly commutes in the morning. They can simply pick up their VoIP device and join the conference meeting without physically being in the boardroom. Furthermore, employees who want to recall important events during conferences or seminars can use the VoIP call recording feature. This way, employees can make sure they are correctly approaching their work in their own time.

VoIP requirements for remote workers

If you’re convinced that working from home is a good solution for your company, it is essential that the VoIP service provider that you choose offers the features listed below:
  • Voicemail: a must for any VoIP device. This feature will record a missed call and send you an email of the audio file.
  • Call forwarding: allows your employees to simply take and transfer calls between VoIP devices and their smartphones.
  • Whisper, monitor and barge: allows you to check on your employees. If they’re in a business call you can still contact them without disrupting the call. This is also a good tool for call coaching.
  • VoIP integrated to shared documents: products like Office 365 let your employees access Skype while collaborating on a Word document. This means your employees can give instant feedback and correct each other without the need to send emails.
Many companies are now benefiting from a mobile and remote work environment. Although work at home strategies may seem like a risky venture, making the most out of your VoIP technologies will keep your employees happy and productive. If you want to learn more about the VoIP services that we offer and where it will fit in your company, give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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