All businesses value scalability, but for seasonal and growing businesses, the need for scalability is paramount. And that’s why these types of businesses value the Cloud. By transferring communications to the Cloud, businesses can scale quickly while driving greater operational efficiency.
Scalability is an important need for some businesses because of the way their industry is set up or positioned in the marketplace. Seasonal businesses, such as florists, lawn care services, and tax preparation services, will have periods throughout the year where they need varying degrees of phone system support. After all, why would you want to pay for a service you only use part of the year? The flexibility of a cloud phone system helps solve this problem by allowing more lines to be easily added during peak season, and easily reduced during the off season. Seasonal scalability such as this facilitates the ability of businesses to better control their expenses, and ultimately improve their profit margin.
Growth and Decline of Business:
A phone system that is scalable may be essential to seasonal businesses, but any organization can benefit from the flexible nature of cloud phone systems. Whether dealing with growth or a decline in revenues, both can be equally unexpected and require an immediate response. Scalability allows a business to quickly adjust to fluctuating market conditions.
If you deploy a hosted phone system and you have 100 employees who need phones, then you pay for 100 users. Should your employee count drop to 75, you only pay for 75. When your business needs to scale up, it’s simple to add users and change your billing accordingly.
Plus, growing businesses value the fact that hosted phone systems represent an operational expense rather than a capital expense, meaning that hosted systems are deployed as a service with little upfront cost and no maintenance obligations. Using a cloud-based solution means you have flexibility and can free up your working capital through the immediate cost savings of a hosted PBX.
The need for flexibility when your business expands doesn’t just apply to the number of employees (or users) that you may be adding. Cloud-based phone systems also help minimize the headaches that can come with expansion or when adding multiple locations. Whether you have multiple buildings across a campus setting that fall under one internal calling network, or you have several office locations across a certain geographic area, a hosted PBX can provide an economical answer to your communications needs. Not only do you save money by not having multiple phone systems at each physical location, you also have the added convenience of allowing those offices in different locations to call desk-to-desk, as if they were in the same building.
Choosing a cloud-based solution doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the features and flexibility of a full-scale UC solution. And because award-winning platforms like Switchvox Cloud use the same source code as the on-premise alternative, you don’t have to sacrifice features when opting for the flexibility and cost savings of a hosted phone system.
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What comes after a Unified Communications system? More unification of course! We are entering another phase in the evolution of the business phone system, where it is becoming an overall business communications system. And we’ll continue to see computing advances have a huge impact.
Let’s explore this a bit. From an architecture perspective, it’s not a big leap to continue an evolution towards adding more communications to the business communications system. Other outside networks, such as may be required for IoT interaction can be added to the mix. Other devices, that may have nothing to do with voice, such as building access control, cameras and sensors can be added. And the rules system and message broker brains also can get updated so that “voice” becomes just another type of communication method, not the method it was originally designed for years ago. As such, the Business Communications System is born.
And with all of this data coming from all of the business interactions, patterns and learning can be had and put to use in a positive way. The advances in compute power and the ability to analyze huge amounts of data swiftly and efficiently have given rise to elements of Artificial Intelligence entering the business phone system. In other words, the “rules.” And thus the Message Broker can get smarter. So the advent of Artificial Intelligence functionality with the PBX/UC platform has already started to occur.
The last mile to this Business Communications System will also likely be augmented. With 5G comes the ability to “network slice” or carve a portion of the network to be dedicated to an enterprise. In other words, a 5G wireless trunk.
The PBX has already undergone incredible evolution in the past 25 years. With much more to come. The office environment has also evolved from a single brick and morter facility to be a virtual, accessible at all times, and from anywhere environment. The PBX/UC platform branching out to become a more complete business communications system for the Evolved Office is a natural evolution for the PBX, and Sangoma is leading the way.
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Few things are more important to a SMB (small-medium business) than its reputation. Building rapport with your customers doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a relationship that builds over many years of dedicated service or quality products. One place where some businesses fall short is maintaining a basic, open communication channel with their customers. When customers call to see what your weekend hours are or if you have a certain item in stock, it should not turn into a long hold or a busy signal. A hosted phone system can ensure a “lack of communication” is never an issue. Here’s why:
RCF (remote call forwarding) is a business revenue saver and ensures that your customers always reach someone. If you set up notifications and call forwarding rules the call will cascade to the device of your choice, making that dreaded voicemail box less visited. You can leave to run to the post office or go grab lunch and calls can be forwarded to your mobile phone. The customers will have no idea you aren’t in the office, keeping them happy and content while you answer their questions. Need to take a break? Simply change your status to “away” and you can set up a call rule that will forward those calls to another co-worker or even a call queue, so you can take a much needed break.
Your business phone number is the face of your company. Think of all the commercials where people have made up jingles centering around their main phone number. Moving to a new hosted phone system doesn’t mean you should lose something that helps to identify your business. Keep your identity and port your number. Make sure to set up a number port with your current vendor before you cancel services and set up a paper trail with emails. Working hand-in-hand with your new provider will help ensure a smooth transition.
The Cloud is the way of the future, there is no denying that. Gartner predicts that by 2021, 90% of IT leaders will not purchase any new premise based UC infrastructure. Not only can hardware take up valuable space around the office or in server closets, but for many small businesses, having your IT person focusing on your phone system as well as day-to-day operations can be overwhelming and perhaps lead to burn-out. Not having a physical phone system in the office is ideal for businesses in areas where tornadoes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters are a threat. Everything is in the cloud, so less equipment to be damaged and replaced. With less equipment to worry about and maintain, you can focus on running your business and keeping your customers happy. Leave the phone system maintenance to your hosted phone service provider.
Switchvox Cloud is here for the long haul. We have all features included at one, low monthly rate. That’s your phone system and phone service rolled up into one bill. All you need is an internet connection, set up a few call rules, and you are ready to go. You can add extensions as needed, making Switchvox Cloud a flexible solution that is perfect for businesses that have busy and slow seasons. Updates come automatically, there is no bulky hardware in the server closet or around the office, and 24/7 support is there for you when you need it most. Contact our sales team today and see how Switchvox Cloud can help your business bring in more revenue, scale to your intended growth, and secure your business’s reputation.
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Last week, I described the basic architecture of a PBX system. But these systems have evolved into Unified Communication systems that handle more than voice – they handle messaging, texting, chat, video and others. This is where most business phone systems are today.
But how did they evolve so quickly? The basic architecture stays the same, so if you have a good architecture upon which to build, features can be added quickly. When doing an instant message for example, there still needs to be a database of users and rules that go with it, there needs to a message broker between the two people involved, and there needs to be trunks and an end user device. The basic architecture is there – just the type of media involved changes. The UC system simply had to handle different media beyond voice. The convergence of voice with IT (VoIP) proved to be monumental since voice became just a type of media- just another type of data to be moved. And once that happened, other media could be moved with the same constructs as voice. Hence, UC implementations became de rigeur.
Messaging via chat, or playback of a voice or video mail on your email are everyday examples of such communications in the office beyond a simple voice call. Different devices could be enabled for different kinds of interaction beyond voice, adding text, chat, and video for example.
The advances in the networks and the ability for applications to utilize these advances in network technology also played a huge role in enabling the PBX to evolve to truly become “Unified Communications”. Once such network was the emergence of 3G and 4G, which ushered in the world of mobile enterprise applications. Your office becomes mobile, because you have office apps such as your office phone, your instant messaging system, etc. on your smartphone or your laptop or tablet. Effectively, your offices move to wherever you are. And many of us reading this blog have experienced that.
But what is next? Next week I’ll explore some ideas.
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Organizations use conference calling as a means to communicate with remote employees, partners, vendors and customers. It can also help cut down on travel expenses and even enable you to connect multiple office locations.
As helpful as conference calling can be for a business, some people would describe the experience as boring and unproductive. Often the experience isn’t as good as it could be because people aren’t properly prepared. Here are some steps to take to ensure you have a productive conference call for everyone involved:Properly Prepare
Unpreparedness is the main reason conference calling take longer than they need to. To avoid this, create an agenda for the meeting. The agenda should contain the following information:
- Date & time of conference call, as well as dial-in number and access code (which should also be in the meeting invite)
- Topic of discussion & goals of the conversation
- Participants, job titles, and their role in the project or topic being discussed
- Detailed list of items to be discussed
- Attachments or links to documents relating to the discussion
Note: Make sure the items on the agenda can be discussed in the amount of time allotted. Employees are busy and have other responsibilities throughout their day. Running overtime while conference calling can throw a kink in the entire work day.Know the Conference Calling Technology
Nothing is more embarrassing than thinking you’re are on mute and saying things no one was intended to hear. Understanding the platform and technology you are using is an important step in conducting or participating in a conference call. Make sure your employees are trained on the conference calling platform your business uses, and prior to conducting your first conference call, run a test call and play around with all of the available features. It’s always helpful to have an employee who is technical and can help if an issue with the platform arises during the call. If you don’t have a tech-savy employee on the call, have a backup option for the meeting, or reschedule. (Even if you are familiar with the technology, make sure you pay attention to whether or not phones are muted, for example, to avoid awkward situations.)
Note: For remote and mobile employees, make sure they can easily access the conference call-in number and access code from their smartphone. Some platforms are not mobile-friendly and these numbers are not easily accessible from the emails the platform sends out, so including the dial-in number and access code in the agenda is key.Keep it Productive
Follow the agenda you created ahead of time, and steer the conversation back on track if it derails. Of course, if discussions of the weather or other topical issues come up, go ahead and share as a quick ice-breaker, but then get back on track and stay focused on your agenda. It’s helpful to have someone on your team keep track of action items discussed during the call, including who is responsible for specific action items, and when those items are due. It’s also helpful to use a call recording feature so that anything missed during the conversation can be referred back to or shared with those team members who were unable to join. Finally, it’s good practice to check to see if anyone has any questions about a line item before moving onto the next.Follow-Up
Following the conference call, you or someone on your team should send out an email to all participants recapping the conversation and action items discussed. Employee to-do’s should be very clear and include due dates if possible. If you have the capability, send the recorded conference call to participants for reference.
Conducting a productive conference call depends on how thoroughly you prepare ahead of time. A detailed agenda will not only keep your team on schedule but will also help achieve the goals of the conversation.
Sangoma Meet is an advanced video conferencing platform that seamlessly operates from a Firefox or Chrome browser. And right now, you can have access to this powerful tool capable of providing private, secure video calls for up to 50 participants – completely free.
The business phone system has evolved. If you didn’t know that before work from home, you know it now. If you have been on a Unified Communication system, you have been able to communicate in a variety of ways. And you found out while voice is an important element of the business phone system, voice is simply one of the ways you communicate with other people in a business environment today, and that is all supported within a UC business phone system. Voice is essential, but no longer unique. We communicate with other employees or customers via instant and group messaging, email, social media and the like.
When viewing the architecture diagram of a basic PBX office phone system, one can see four important elements. There are interfaces that connect to the “outside world” networks via “trunks” that come into the building. In “the old days”, which is only a few years ago really, this was simply a PSTN trunk to the wired and wireless PSTN, internet or wireless networks. Today this also includes SIP trunks connected to these same networks.
There are also interfaces that connect to whatever device one talks on. Again, in “the old days” that was simply a phone on your desk, or maybe a paging system, conference phone or intercom to the front door. Today, there are all kinds of softphones, or clients connected to your various mobile devices, including your watch.
The business phone system also has a database of users (phone numbers, etc.) and rules on how to route calls. Finally, there is a message broker which manages the interaction between internal and external devices and follows the rules set out by the system itself and the administrator of the business phone system.
Next week we’ll take a look at how the architecture has evolved to easily add Unified Communication features.
While there is a time and a place for the desk phone (and they aren’t going away any time soon), more and more companies are jumping on the softphone bandwagon. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a softphone is essentially a software version of a telephone that can be deployed on desktop computers or mobile devices. Calls are made via the Internet, using bandwidth (you may known this as Voice over IP, or VoIP), and many have similar functionality as their desk phone counterparts.
Here are four reasons businesses of all sizes are adopting softphones into their tech stack:Brand Consistency
Presenting a consistent brand message is central to maintaining professionalism and gaining customer trust. A softphone makes it possible for employees to provide their customers one phone number to reach them wherever they are located- in the office, at home, or on the road. From your customer’s perspective, they will feel like they’re calling your corporate office regardless of where you are located or which device you are using.Convenience & Privacy
With softphones, every employee extension is tied to the company’s phone system, so customers don’t have (or need) access to their personal cell numbers; only the business’s caller ID information is shown. This is ideal for two specific situations. First, when an employee leaves a company, this privacy layer eliminates the possibility of the employee poaching customers and taking their business along with them. Second, it is for the safety of the employees that customers don’t have their personal mobile numbers, as after-hours calling abuse (especially from an angry customer) is not uncommon. Also, softphones provide additional features that are useful when customer interactions go south, such as call recording and voicemail to email. Call logs are also useful to show the time each employee spends on the phone with customers. If Steve spent 3 hours talking to a customer at 3AM, that may be worth having a conversation about.Visual Voicemail / Voicemail to Email
Let’s face it- no one likes checking their voicemail. In fact, conglomerates Coca-Cola and JPMorgan both completely eliminated corporate voicemail due to lack of use by employees. While saving money obviously wasn’t a main motivator for Coca-Cola, the company estimated it would save about $100,000 a year by cutting the service.
While some companies have no need for voicemail, others rely on it. Either way, companies should make it easier for employees to access and handle voicemails if they want the service they pay for to be utilized. Some softphone apps, like those offered by Sangoma, include a visual voicemail feature, which is very similar to the iPhone’s voicemail layout. If a customer details an issue they are having in the voicemail and the employee needs a manager to hear it, it can easily forward the voicemail as a .wav or mp3 file via email. If a generic voicemail is left on a receptionist voicemail, he or she can forward the voicemail by email to the appropriate department or person to handle. Important voicemails concerning personal information, issues, or anything else worth keeping, can be filed in a customer’s CRM profile for future reference.Cost
As an extension to VoIP, softphones take advantage of its low-cost nature and eliminate the need to invest in desk phone hardware for every employee. Companies can save hundreds to thousands on communication expenses by offering their mobile employees a softphone pre-loaded with the same functionality their in-office coworkers have access to.
I was asked to contribute an article in FastMode about how we are responding, and helping our customers respond, to the pandemic. If you want to read the complete article, click here.
My thesis has been that the companies that utilize Unified Communications systems as their basic phone system, with its ability to offer softphones with the same business number, conferencing, collaboration, presence, and mobile phones that also utilize your business phone number, are at the forefront for enabling this new remote work and work from home environment we’re all experiencing right now. They were prepared.
And businesses will either want to continue to be prepared for the next ‘work from home’ emergency, or they will see that this WFH thing wasn’t so bad, and they’ll be OK with enabling this in some form full time going forward. It’s just good business.
This is why I see this whole pandemic as a tipping point for businesses and the use of Unified Communication systems. While UC systems were ‘nice’ before, they are now essential. And they’ll continue to be.
But the part of UC that has really exploded has been video. Video helps enable a sense of community, camaraderie, and really just necessary human interaction that comes with chit-chat, just like at a water cooler, coffee station, or lunch room. I’m seeing our employees get on Sangoma Meet video calls a little early so they can just talk for 5 minutes. The need to be connected is more significant than ever now.
Given what is going on out there around the world, we’ve decided to make our Sangoma Meet™ video conferencing and collaboration service available for free. We’re simply asking for feedback during this time via filling out a form when the call is over.
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It’s been a little over two months since .e4 joined the Sangoma team. In that time, we’ve had an opportunity to adjust to multiple new realities, and we are finding our stride despite the ongoing craziness of the world. It has been an enjoyable onboarding experience. Having worked closely with the Sangoma and Digium teams for years, the .e4 crew has had fun getting up to speed on our latest innovations and sharing in the “I can’t believe we’re all on the same team” conversations.
The talent pool is deep here at Sangoma, and I’m excited to report that our Open Source projects (Asterisk and FreePBX) are flourishing. Having known some of the more visible players from community events like AstriCon, folks like Jared Smith and Matt Fredrickson- my team felt right at home, but still, I wasn’t sure what to expect knowing that some previous members of the FreePBX team had left.
Having said that, I’m pleased to report that, while separated by great distances, our development teams continue to collaborate closely and produce effective work. Both the Asterisk and FreePBX teams have redoubled their efforts to be actively engaged in our online forums and mailing lists. Both teams are focusing both upon improving innovation and improving process. For example, they are improving their respective test suites so that more bugs are caught during the development process. These efforts keep both projects relevant to our customers, to our resellers, and to those in the ecosystem that use and contribute back to our open source communities.
While two months isn’t much time, and I am reminded daily that there’s much to learn when working at a bigger company like Sangoma. One thing is crystal clear: we have thriving FreePBX and Asterisk teams. Long live Open Source!
First of all, the question is really why would anyone need a cellular router? They could be useful as a backup mechanism in case your landline internet goes down.
That’s why I first thought of this blog. Everyone on the street was WFH, kids were “going to school” on the internet, and, poof, the internet goes down. Sheer panic, right? What does everyone do? I heard screaming for sure. And more. But soon everyone goes outside to see if anyone else is having the same problem, and soon, the whole street was outside (6 feet away from each other, of course)! Yes, we felt good it wasn’t just us, but it was good the internet came back on soon enough. Some people, though, just used their 4G/LTE phone as a hotspot and kept going…
But there could be another use for a 5G router – there is WiFi, and the data needs to go out on a cellular network. This could be because some IoT data needs to be transmitted, or because it’s more secure going on a cellular network. There are numerous use cases where a cellular to Wi-Fi router/gateway could be useful.
5G is coming, and just like Wi-Fi 6 (which I wrote about a month and a half ago), you’ll need devices and networks that support 5G to take advantage of it. So if you have 5G service in your area, it could be an option on how to get internet to your house. It could be the primary method, or maybe it’s a good backup method if you tend to have spotty landline service. And like I said above, it could work the other way around to get local Wi-Fi information back out.
In this case, a 5G to Wi-Fi router might make sense as a last mile option.
The importance of considering network security in VoIP/UC deployments cannot be understated. Unsecured VoIP networks are vulnerable to the same threats as regular data networks as well as many more, including toll fraud. But to protect a VoIP network requires more than simply locking it down from unsolicited outside data traffic as this would disable the primary function of a VoIP network: making and receiving calls. This is because, in making or receiving calls, the person called or calling from outside the network is technically sending unsolicited packets of data. Fortunately, there are several key tools network administrators can use to ensure their VoIP network remains safe from malicious activity. Here are some that are useful in securing VoIP networks with remote users.Using VoIP Firewalls
A remote phone deployment in branch offices or for work-at-home employees is completely different than SIP trunking. Remote phones are dynamic in location and require significantly more calling features. Remote phones cannot be considered as peers as phones register for services and change IP addresses often, across multiple devices and locations. Remote phones require automatic provisioning with file servers and possibly require web access and REST API access to the IP PBX. The interconnectivity between remote phones and an IP PBX is complicated with many communication requirements.
The application of security solutions involves providing a firewall solution that is used to define the remote phone to IP PBX relationship between various networks using VoIP application layers, file provisioning, and other services, while ensuring signaling and media are secure. Meanwhile, remote phones most often are located behind other firewalls, presenting additional communication issues.
In this example, the IP PBX resides behind a typical network firewall. The firewall is the border element between the Internet (or untrusted network zones) and Local Area Networks (or trusted zones). The remote phone is located on a remote network across the Internet. The firewall is monitoring network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules.
Firewall Features & Setup
The firewall controls the traffic by redirecting SIP signaling and audio media streams to the defined destinations. In this solution, the firewall is controlling communications for allowing SIP VoIP traffic from remote phones to be directed to the IP PBX.Using VPNs
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which relies on the Internet Protocol Security suite (IPsec), is a completely different way to provide a secure VoIP solution. Using already well-established encryption tunnel technologies, a secure tunnel is created between the remote phone and the IP PBX.
In this example, the IP PBX resides behind a typical network firewall. The firewall is the border element between the Internet and LAN. The remote phone is located on a remote network across the Internet and the remote phone is establishing a VPN tunnel to the IP PBX. VPN uses the IPsec network protocol suite that authenticates and encrypts the packets of data sent over the network. The firewall is relaying the VPN tunnel from the remote phone to the IP PBX.
In this example, the IP PBX resides behind a firewall, the firewall is the border element between Internet (or untrusted network zones) and Local Area Networks (or trusted zones). The firewall is a network security device and will forward the VPN traffic from the remote phone to the IP PBX.Using SBCs
As stated before, the interconnectivity between a remote phone and an IP PBX is complicated with many communication requirements.
The advanced application of security solutions involves providing a Session Border Controller (SBC) solution that is used to define the remote phone to the IP PBX relationship between various networks using VoIP application layers, file provisioning, and other services while ensuring signaling and media are secure. This method highlights the strength of the SBC to protect the IP PBX while providing access for remote phones located behind other firewalls.
In this example, the IP PBX resides behind an SBC. The SBC is the border element between Internet (or untrusted network zones) and Local Area Networks (or trusted zones). The SBC is a network security device as well as a VoIP security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network and voice traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of network and voice security rules. As far as networks go, nothing can ensure the security of a VoIP network as well as an SBC solution.Next Steps
Ready to secure an already existing Unified Communications (UC) or simple VoIP deployment? Check out our award-winning line of Session Border Controllers here.
Or perhaps you are still researching your next business phone system? In that case, download our free guide to determining your network’s readiness for Unified Communications! It explains the basics of VoIP networks including how fast your internet speeds should be and how to ensure safe and reliable voice service.
Even before the ‘new normal’ of WFH, the office environment was changing. Collaboration was starting to take hold, and the open office concept replete with cool wood tables, huddle rooms, latte machines, wide screen TVs, and even play and congregation areas was becoming de rigueur.
And when we all go back to work, this concept could be up for debate. Will it be even more important as people crave the basic interaction they couldn’t get when they were home? We could likely see an acceleration of these trends at some point. In with these open tables, lockers for your “stuff”, no set desk or work phone, working anywhere anytime, and out with stuffy cubicles and closed offices and set office hours.
However, at some point, are the key words. When will this occur? Even when we get the go ahead to go back to work, will it be the same right away? It’s doubtful. Some companies may choose to split up when people come in, so social distancing can still be observed. In the picture above the “old” picture may make a comeback, maybe even with plexiglass dividers or dare I say some kind of office. Every company will handle it differently, but the point is precautions will be in order.
No matter what shape the new offices takes, this type of environment would not be possible without the advances in the business communication system behind all of it – the Unified Communication system. In other words, the once lowly PBX has evolved to become essentially the hub of communications for this new business environment, because the mobile office, instant messaging, and other forms of unified messaging are core to the new enhanced person-to-person communication methods.
And video conferencing and collaboration, what we have with Sangoma Meet, will not just disappear. There will always be remote workers, whether it’s a single person or whether there will be teams split upon coming back to the office. And we’ve all gotten used to the benefits of sharing documents and seeing our remote colleagues. So that is here to stay. Conferencing calls likely become now video conference and collaboration calls.
We will likely continue to see change in the work environment, supported by your Unified Communications system. Sangoma will be there with you.
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The channel is the lifeblood for the technology industry. It enables vendors to focus on R&D and gives end users a more personalized experience by purchasing through a local company (the reseller). While vendors are responsible for creating a turn-key solution that can give immediate benefit to a business, it’s the reseller who can truly build the business case and provide an extra level of value to customers.
Value-added resellers (VARs) are the perfect example of this theory. They give customers an extra level of value by providing additional services that go beyond the scope of what a vendor can offer. Many solutions require additional services to support them and customers are faced with finding another provider. However, VARs are able to bundle the service or feature with the product and sell it as one complete, value-packed solution.
Resellers not only offer value by creating a next-level end product, they are also instrumental in shaping the business case to potential customers for why they should choose a specific solution. In today’s B2B landscape, buyers are able to research different product offerings online and educate themselves. Many buyers have a clear picture of the solution they want before ever engaging with sales. While vendor websites are a great place for prospects to conduct research and narrow down solutions, it’s the local reseller who meets face-to-face with the customer and discusses exact pain points that can make all the difference in the world. By having someone present to convey exactly how the solution will meet the needs of each user, customers can feel more confident with their decision and know the true value the solution will bring to them.
Furthermore, local resellers can provide value to decision makers by giving a more in-depth financial justification for a solution. They are in a position to compare competitor pricing and give a side-by-side analysis, and they can accurately depict total cost of ownership with the extra services they offer. Additionally, as resellers are deep-diving with customers, they can frame the “cost of doing nothing” if prospects were to keep their existing solution and provide a true ROI analysis for deploying the new solution.
There is oftentimes a disconnect between how vendors market to end users and what customers are expecting to hear from vendors. Because vendors are sometimes forced to create ‘umbrella’ messaging to be relevant to as many people as possible, it can sometimes lose the personalization that customers have come to expect. However, resellers are able to take that messaging and craft it specifically to the customer and their exact needs, and, in essence, close that gap. Vendors create the solution, but it’s the resellers who are oftentimes the face of the solution and convey its value directly to the customer.
Vendors are the driving force behind a product, but they can’t be everything to everybody. That is why it is necessary to have a strong channel and partners who can provide added value directly to the customers.
At Sangoma, we treasure our channel and the partners who serve as the face of our solutions. And we are always looking to expand the reach of our channel into new and underserved markets.
A few weeks ago, I recorded a podcast with Isha Mukherjee, Sangoma’s new APAC marketing manager. We talked about a wide range of topics, including WFH and how Sangoma has responded to it, to new products we have announced, and to APAC’s importance to Sangoma.
Regarding the first topic, Work from Home, Sangoma as a company is working from home, using our UC systems, so it’s been relatively smooth for us since we have a phone system that enables a softphone to your laptop or mobile phone with our office phone number, we have conferencing on that system, etc. We are also helping our customers by putting up a WFH / Remote working page on our website, and by putting up a support wiki as well for those customers who needed help using our many WFH features in our UC systems.
We’ve also hosted numerous webinars about how our products enable WFH. We will be hosting some soon in APAC, so be on the lookout for announcements about that if you are in APAC.
We also announced wireless headsets on March 31. These are also immensely useful in a WFH setting since you can be on calls and roam around the apartment or house if you need to.
We recently announced our Video Conferencing Service, Sangoma Meet™, which is free to all users at this time. Just go to https://meet.sangoma.com to use it. One way to help with overcoming the missing sense of community and human interaction is to utilize video more. Unified Communications, as readers know, is at the heart of what we do at Sangoma. Our UC hadn’t until this point handled video conferencing. Sangoma Meet has HD video standard, is secure (is encrypted and needs a password), can scale up to 50 users, and you can share files, chat, etc. You need to be on a WebRTC compatible browser like Chrome or Edge.
And like I said, it’s FREE to use right now. With your business or your family.
Isha also asked me about how important APAC was to Sangoma. It’s a growing region for us, and we are investing here. We expect it to grow. Most of our business in APAC is in the non-Unified Communications part of our portfolio (boards, gateways, phones), but one result of all this WFH stuff is that businesses see the importance of UC. And we provide exceptional value in our PBXact UC system. So we’re expecting growth over time here.
If you want to listen to the podcast, please go here: https://podcasts.sangoma.com/wp-content/uploads/sangoma-apac-001.mp3
We’ll likely be doing more podcasts so be on the lookout for them. And I’ll be in APAC as soon as we’re able to travel again.
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One direct impact of all this social distancing, not traveling, and working from home that is stark is the reduction in carbon emissions in the environment. It’s noticeable, dramatic in cases (such as people in Punjab being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in decades) and global.
Obviously, knowledge worker type employees not going to a building to work and working from home instead, and not traveling to see customers in trains, planes, or automobiles, is having a large impact on the environment. Companies that would have never embraced WFH before are starting to understand that WFH is possible, may not negatively impact the business, and may even have a positive long-term impact. For them.
For instance, employees may be happier since they don’t have to commute and spend time in traffic. And companies utilizing current technology available, such as video, to help customers remotely, or have team collaboration meetings, obviates at least some of the need for truck rolls or plane trips to go see them, thus saving the company money. Suddenly, work from home is more interesting since there may also be a financial benefit to the company.
These companies responded to a crisis by utilizing Unified Communications (UC), which gives the ability for employees to work from home as if they are in the office, or gives employees more tools such as video to help customers remotely or do team collaboration. They did it and utilized UC because they had to. There wasn’t some altruistic reasons behind these decisions. It was just figuring out how to move forward.
However, these work from home scenarios created less carbon emissions, something surely positive for the world. And therein lies an opportunity. Now that these companies are doing it, and in many cases, doing it successfully, will some of them embrace it and go on the path towards carbon neutrality? It’s a leap for sure, but when things “get back to normal,” could companies put policies in place to adopt WFH as a part of their company culture? That is highly probable. And if they do that, could they then take more steps and go for carbon neutrality?
Let’s examine first how could a company cut their carbon emissions? There are indirect ways of positively impacting the environment, such as recycling everything in your office (such as paper and aluminum), so reuse can occur. And using coffee cups instead of Styrofoam cups. Those are but a couple, but there are numerous examples I’m sure you can think of.
But there are also direct ways, such as changing air conditioning and heating even one degree as an example.
And there are companies exploring other ways, such as having smaller physical buildings to work in. We are already seeing trends where employees don’t each have an office or even their own cubicle. There are simply large work space areas where you go sit. Some of this is designed to try and foster better teamwork, while some is more practical given the need to try and cut monthly lease costs, or because more and more people were working from home anyway so there isn’t a need anymore for every single person to have their own space.
Whatever the original reason, the office square footage per employee has been decreasing, even before this crisis. This also has an impact on less heating and air conditioning required. In other words, for example, if work teams rotated when they came in an office, thus requiring less overall square footage the company would need to use, there would be multiple benefits to the environment. Less carbon emissions due to less employee travel and less heating/air conditioning. That’s a step, but not all the way to carbon neutrality.
So let’s say your company wants to embrace this. What does being carbon neutral even mean? It means having a net zero carbon dioxide emissions. How can a company become carbon neutral? Companies can start with the ideas like above, but also then support a myriad of carbon offset projects or initiatives that offsets what your company is putting into the environment. Companies are also taking it upon themselves to go further, driving to purchase clean energy, such as from wind or solar. A company can even strive to become carbon neutral certified.
All big ideas, but ideas that could turn into reality. And Unified Communications is an important pillar that can enable this to happen, because without UC, the FH from WFH isn’t really possible.
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As a Unified Communications (UC) provider, Sangoma has seen the potential for workspaces to stay more connected than ever while becoming flexible enough to allow employees to work from anywhere. So, we’re no strangers to working from home. Here’s some general tips for working remotely.Routine
The biggest pitfall employees working from home for the first time can encounter is the initial dissonance of trying to stay focused on work while surrounded by their leisure environment. It’s all too easy to slip into bad habits like inconsistent sleep schedules and wanting to “clock out” early.
Staying disciplined by sticking to a schedule and staying focused throughout the day actually makes the transition to working from home easier. If you start to mix work and leisure, the lines can begin to blur between the two, leading to either slacking or burnout.Disconnect Regularly & Take Breaks
Just like going into work, it’s not normal to sit for 8 hours straight. When in the office, you, no doubt, get up from time to time and walk around, take a coffee break, chat with a coworker, and stay stretched and refreshed. In just the same way, it’s important to get up every so often to move around even when you’re working from home.
Get up and take a walk around the block. Actually take your lunch hour and cook something. Play with your pet. It’ll do wonders for your mental health while keeping your mind fresh for the work at hand.Make Time for Yourself
Similar to the other two points, it’s important to make time for yourself, especially for those working from homes occupied by other people. In these types of situations, it can be all too easy to slip from being connected to colleagues to spending time with family with no time to collect your thoughts and take care of yourself. So, make sure to keep a solid distinction between work hours and home hours, and schedule in time to look after your own needs. This will keep you happy and productive, whether you’re working from home temporarily or full-time.Goals & Productivity
Set daily and weekly goals
At the start of every week and every day, identify your top priorities and physically write them down, highlighting especially the top 3 or so. This will ensure you stay motivated working towards a goal and ensure you don’t lose sight of the big picture of the business. This will also help you remain focused – especially when working in a home environment where there may be many more distractions than usual.Stay connected and responsive
Without the possibility of popping into each others’ offices, it’s vital to ensure you remain connected and responsive. Yes, it’s fine (even good) to stop responding to chats for a while to tackle some project, but making sure you are in sync with your team, answering their questions and getting their insight, will ensure that you stay engaged with your work and avoid losing morale or direction.Schedule regular check-ins
At the same time, though, be careful not to rely on random messages, emails, and phone calls to stay connected as a cohesive team. Take the time to schedule regular check-ins with all the people you need to stay in sync with. This will eliminate a lot of headaches and ensure that productive collaboration can continue outside the walls of the business office.Environment & Sanity
Dedicate a workspace in your home
One of the best ways to stay disciplined, on a schedule, and maintain a healthy work-life balance is to designate one part of your house as your home office, even if it’s just a table away from the high-traffic areas of the house.
Perhaps you already have a home office? Make sure it doesn’t share use with other activities, especially during work hours. Many are accustomed to using their offices for hobbies or personal paperwork, so it’s important not to get distracted by personal activities that could sideline the work you need to get done.Keep drinks and snacks at hand
One of the most dangerous journeys one can take while working from home is to run to the fridge outside of taking a break. En route and back, you’ll encounter many distractions and sidetracks that it may be better just to wait for a break. Or… just keep a small supply of snacks and drinks with you to keep you refreshed. Heck, move the coffee pot into your home office if you can. Then your breaks aren’t always to eat and drink, and you can snack while working without having to run to the fridge and back. Win-win.Don’t feel guilty about ambience or entertainment
Finally (and this is especially important for new remote workers), don’t feel guilty about doing perfectly appropriate things that you couldn’t do in a business office. Open the windows wide, run that noisy fan, play your music without headphones. In your home office, you control the environment, both for good and for bad. So have fun while staying productive, and you’ll find that remote work may be what you always wanted.
Interested in a Communications Solution that Keeps Remote Workers Connected?
No matter what line of work your business prevails in, Sangoma has a business communications platform for you. Switchvox is a Unified Communications (UC) business phone system that integrates all the ways colleagues stay connected to each other and customers into a single platform. Best of all, it’s available in both on-premise and hosted in the Cloud, using the same source code. That means it’s incredibly easy to get started, and most users are able to use it from day one. Check it out!
At Sangoma, we are already in our 6th week of WFH. Given we are a Unified Communications company, it’s been relatively smooth for us since we have a phone system that enables a softphone to your laptop or mobile phone with our office phone number, we have conferencing on that system, etc.
But a lot has happened in these just over these past few weeks. It seems like we started this months and months ago, but it’s just been a few weeks!
So what have we done:
- We started WFH on March 16
- Sangoma put out our Covid19 response via a post on our website and through email the next day
- We were getting many requests (some from existing customers) about how our systems can enable WFH instead of just being a “phone system”
- We put up a WFH / Remote working page on our website
- Support put up a Wiki for our customers
- We announced wireless headsets on March 31. (This was always in the plan, and we were going to announce this at Enterprise Connect)
- We announced our Video Conferencing Service, Sangoma Meet, which is free to all users at this time.
In review, our systems can help WFH because of the following:
- Your business phone number can go to the softphone on your laptop or your mobile phone, enabling regular business calls to get answered by the right people in your company. The softphone is part of the system people have already bought, so no additional money was required to get these people up and running if they were not using it.
- The softphone is not just a softphone either. It’s really a softphone and collaboration client. So you can chat on it as well.
- We have wireless headsets to help you roam around your house while on phone calls.
- We have a video conferencing service that you can use to collaborate with co-workers, keep in touch with your family, whatever…
- You can take your phone that you use at work home. It needs to be connected to the internet, it needs power, and the admin needs to do some work, but we’ve had customers doing that as well (or buying a 2nd phone to take home permanently now) quite a bit.
- Our UC systems have built-in conferencing. Again that is part of the system and is not an additional cost to use.
- You can enable the “find me, follow me” in case you need to send phone calls to your mobile phone number or your home phone number.
So, yes, a lot has happened in a month. I can’t wait until we go back to what we knew as normal, but no one really knows when that will be right now, so in the meantime, we’re all working hard to make this work.
As I was trying to figure out what to write about this week, I was thinking that doing business over a video calls is good, but not quite the same as FTF. And thinking about tradeshows that have been postponed or cancelled and the longer term business impact of that. Time will tell. But as we enter our 6th week of this, I, like many others, are probably starting to have a harder time with this.
Like everyone else, I think talking in person with someone to find out or learn new things is why I go to tradeshows, and conversation over a video conferencing solution like Sangoma Meet isn’t quite the same – it’s a bit too formal.
So I thought about the last tradeshow I attend, which was IT Expo. There, I did a stand-up interview with Rich Tehrani at IT Expo. It’s always good seeing and talking with Rich. We’ve known each other a long time. While I’m sure Rich would do a video call with me if I pinged him, it’s not quite the same as seeing him and talking to him.
Anyway, you can watch the interview here.
In summary though, Rich was asking about how it’s going at Sangoma. And everything is going well. We’re getting organic growth with our UC products. But he also asked about integrations of some M&A we did the past few years. Soon after we bought Digium, there was concern in the channel about both PBXact and Switchvox, because these are two different UC/PBX platforms and the concern was whether both would continue on. The channel now understands both products are still there – they serve different purposes and different target audiences. And then in October we bought VoIP Innovations and that integration is going well as we’ve added more resources to the SIP Trunking business. And then he asked me if we had other M&A on the horizon, like he always does, and this time I surprised him and I was like “ah… we just bought .e4”.
Sangoma is Offering Sangoma Meet Video Conferencing Service – Early Access and Free Right Now for Anyone to Use
Unified Communications systems, as I’ve blogged about numerous times already, with their ability to offer softphones with your business number, conferencing, collaboration, presence, and mobile phones that also utilize your business phone number, are at the forefront for enabling this new work remote / work from home environment we’re all experiencing right now.
We’re starting to see more and more articles about missing the sense of community, camaraderie, and really just necessary human interaction that comes with chit-chat at a water cooler, coffee station, or lunch room, and starting to see more and more articles about how to combat loneliness as we self-isolate right now. The need to be connected is more significant than ever now.
At Sangoma, we recognize this because we see this happening in our company as well. UC has most certainly helped. But there’s been a key ingredient missing. One way to help with overcoming the missing sense of community and human interaction is to utilize video more. Unified Communications, as readers know, is at the heart of what we do at Sangoma. Our UC hadn’t until this point handled video conferencing, but it’s been in our roadmap and we’ve been hard at work on it.
Given what is going on out there, and the large need we saw for it right now, we accelerated the development of it. We have been using beta versions for video conferencing ourselves, and we saw the positive impact it had made for those of us who had used it. And it’s ready now for a broader usage even though we will continually be adding features to it in the coming weeks and months.
And so that’s why today we’ve decided to make our video conferencing and collaboration service available in Early Access phase to our partners, and friends and family, and blog readers. For Free. Your feedback during this time is important, so please insure when you exit you fill out the feedback form.
Sangoma Meet™ is our video conferencing and collaboration solution. Go to https://meet.sangoma.com to get started. It is a stand-alone service that can be used independently or with our award-winning UC solutions.
Once Sangoma Meet goes GA, we’ll continue to offer it for free for as long as this new normal is normal. No gimmicks or anything – we are just trying to help as we’re all just trying to figure out the best way to stay connected. To be used with your company, your work teams, or even your family.
If you want to use Sangoma Meet, use it! Get going with your teams or your family and regain some of that camaraderie and sense of community.
Sangoma Meet is a web-based, multi-party (up to 50) video conferencing solution based on Jitsi Meet that can be used with any WebRTC compatible browser, such as Chrome or Edge. Sangoma Meet also fully encrypts its password-protected video conferences, and uses HD Video as the default video format. Optional calendar integration and dial-in capability to the video conference from a separate phone, will be available shortly, and will also offer enhanced security using a PIN.
By the way, UC will certainly continue to evolve, and I’ve written in the past about some of what I see out there. Rest assured, Sangoma will continue to evolve our UC solutions to meet the ever-changing requirements of UC, just like we’ve released this video conferencing solution.
At any rate, try it. It’s free so you might as well try it. Go to https://meet.sangoma.com to get started. Just set up your first video conference with your team and see how it goes. Have a virtual happy hour or just have everyone see each other. I have to go to a virtual coffee break with my team right now….
In the auto industry, there are many teams within a dealership hoping to achieve a singular goal: sell cars. And doing so today requires sales and service departments to separate themselves from the competition.
If you’ve ever worked at a dealership, you understand the sense of urgency that comes with each deal. Catering to customers, following up with questions and resources, and the overall nurturing process is of the utmost importance – and so is having the right communications tools to do the job.
A Unified Communications (UC) phone system can offer staff plenty of features to help them reach success in closing deals, but mobile softphone apps and mobility features are of the utmost importance to this process.
Keep your sales team available – no matter where they are
Chances are, your sales team is constantly on the go and hardly ever at their desk. Whether they’re on test drives or showing cars on the lot, a mobile softphone allows them to continue to receive calls from their work extension without giving customers their personal cell phone number. This ensures that your sales team never has to worry about missed calls sinking a deal or the woes of an overflowing voicemail.
Utilize Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) practices
Whether you’re looking to save money or give staff a bit more freedom, mobile softphones give dealerships the option to enact Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies. Rather than giving each individual a company-assigned mobile device, let your employees use their own devices with a mobile softphone app.
Manage multiple locations without being tethered to your desk
For GMs, mobility features offer the ability to transfer or forward calls between multiple devices, meaning you can switch from your desk phone to your mobile phone (and vice versa) without interrupting a call. And if you’re going between dealerships, you won’t return to your desk to find a slew of missed calls! You can focus your time on more pressing tasks rather than playing catch up.
Enable remote work
While many essential parts of a car deal are better handled in a dealership environment, today’s car buyers expect some flexibility, especially with new forms of internet car sales disrupting the industry. That flexibility to sell cars online and over the phone, while unfortunately lacking all of the in-person, “show-and-smell” effect that test drives and walk-arounds can have, does enable salespeople to enjoy the flexibility of working remotely from the dealership. Mobility features provide these salespeople with all the tools they need to prospect and sell from wherever, with the customer never having to worry about coming to a dealership sales floor.
If you’re interested in what a UC business phone system can do for your dealership, take a look at Switchvox. With powerful mobility features, CRM integration, and an abundance of contact center features, you can ensure your sales and service teams are well-equipped to provide the best customer service every time.
Want to learn more about how Switchvox can improve productivity at your dealership? Download our free guide now! You’ll learn how Switchvox can fit within tight budgets, connect multiple locations, help your team manage high call volumes, and more.