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8 Critical Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Hosted VoIP | Step 4: Being Prepared To Support A Variety Of Media

by on Aug.24, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications

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Last week, we talked getting assurance about service availability and documented uptime. This week, we’re focusing on the importance of preparing your hosted VoIP network to support a variety of media.
 
When planning for the needs of your network, you should first determine the number of users that will need to access it, how you want to be able to interact with each other internally, and how you want to communicate with other outside audiences, such as your customers. There are certain protocols, called codecs, which are tied to the amount of bandwidth you use on different devices, as well as the quality of the call itself. As such, the variety of codecs used in a network directly impact the amount of bandwidth required to sustain a clean, crisp voice call.
 
Firewall Requirements
A regular onslaught of new hardware and applications being added to the network means it needs to be more flexible. It’s important to do your research by looking at the logs and the types of security protocols you want for your firewall. Applications that are running with voice, video, IM and presence, for example, need to have open ports on the firewall. This is why, when looking for a Hosted VoIP vendor, it’s important to have one that brings the equipment on site, installs it, and runs a demo pilot. This is key to how we operate at iCore, which means our customers are assured that their firewall is configured to block the ports it needs to, is open for other services, and can reach our data center to get the proper information needed to run properly.
 
Other considerations include what services are managed vs. unmanaged, since quality of service internally vs. externally needs to be able to optimize your business’ use of resources such as equipment installed and money spent on the WAN.
 
Quality of Service – An Ongoing Priority
Another key factor when selecting a Hosted VoIP vendor for your network needs is the quality of service. This includes factors like response time, signal to noise ratio, cross talk, echo, interrupts, frequency noise, loudness and more. Different types of media require different levels of density, and each individual company has its own standards for success.
 
For some customers, this is irrelevant, given they’re solely focused on features like IM, presence and phone calls. But for others in the mid- to enterprise-level, they need to take into account several things:
 

  • The equipment being used.
  • Which devices are terminating on that equipment.
  • How that device is connecting to the edge of the network.
  • Making sure trunk ports are set up properly with VLANs.
  • Ensuring the data is sent through the firewall for all voice, and that the video traffic is totally bypassing the firewall.

 
Don’t Forget the Conference Room
Another area where many types of media reside, but companies often forget about when it comes to analyzing their network needs, is the conference room. Making sure the right equipment is in place – IP phones, dropdown mics, VTC options, and more – means they also need to be properly tied in so they can be segmented on the network and prioritized over another circuit if in fact they need the ability to connect to other offices.
 
At the end of the day, most customers have both a point-to-point and a broadband circuit, but in some cases customers put voice over managed network and video over broadband – especially if video is a nice to have, but not a must have. Video over broadband ensures the bigger video packets don’t interfere with – or interrupt – voice.
 
For these reasons and more, when transitioning your network and Hosted VoIP options, the media your company uses on a day-to-day basis really plays a big role.
 
To learn more, access teh full TechTarget whitepaper here.
 
In our next blog post, we’ll talk about providing visibility into your on-premise equipment.

8 Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Transition to Hosted VoIP | Step 1: Dialtone Business Phones vs. Unified Communications (UC)

by on Jul.21, 2015, under Trends, Unified Communications

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Communication is key to the success of any business, so as new technologies that enable easier and more efficient methods of communication have become available, companies in turn have improved the way they interact with their employees and customers. For many, this means finally making the transition from their traditional PBX systems to Voice Over Internet Protocol, or what’s commonly known as Hosted VoIP.
 
So problem solved – ditch the old PBX, move over to Hosted VoIP, and you’re all set, right? Or, maybe you’re already using a Hosted VoIP service, but don’t quite feel like you’re getting the most out of it.
In our newest whitepaper with TechTarget, we discuss eight critical steps to ensuring a seamless and worry-free transition to a new business phone system.
 
For this blog post, we’ll talk about number one: self-evaluation – how to identify what communications capabilities your company requires, or needs to improve, and use that information to help you select the best possible Hosted VoIP solution.
 

Determining Business Needs – Dialtone Business Phones vs Unified Communications

As a first step, companies need to thoroughly evaluate how they currently manage their business communications– and how they want to be connecting with their customers moving forward. Are they just looking for a static dial-tone PBX to make traditional phone calls? Or do they need more mobility?
 
While there are surely some still out there, in today’s business environment it’s safe to say that most businesses are using more than one form of communication that serve as collaboration tools – be that mobile applications, conference calling, local or long distance phone calls, video/web conferencing, or instant messenger (IM). Together, these services are known as Unified Communications (UC) or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).
 

Moving to the Modern Office: Hosted VoIP and Unified Communications

Unifying the integration of these capabilities is vital to the execution of smooth day-to-day business functions, which is why choosing the right VoIP provider– especially one that can scale – is so important.
 
As the industry grows and companies continue to migrate toward Hosted VoIP that offers much more than just voice, they in turn move away from things like poor quality of service, different sets of equipment, and multiple pieces of IT hardware.
 
Moving to Hosted VoIP rather than on premise -based, or upgrading from your current hosted provider to one that offers more unified communications options, guarantees organizations the ability to upgrade, remove, or change features as they determine the level of user adoption.
 
To learn more, feel free to listen to our accompanying podcast on self-evaluation, which you can find by clicking here.
 
In our next blog post, we’ll talk about understanding what network options are currently available and how to determine which network management capabilities are best for your company.

VDI vs VPN Part II- Do I Need a Virtualization Solution?

by on Jul.16, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications

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Last week we kicked off our VDI vs VPN blog series with a high level overview of the importance of virtualization and it’s place in the modern office. This week we’ll tell you the key benefits of both to help you see how a virtualization solution can benefit your business.
 
So…What is VDI?
 
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure also known as VDI is a form of virtualization that hosts a desktop operating system with a virtual machine (VM) that runs on centralized servers through the cloud. It allows applications such as Outlook, Office and Internet Explorer to be stored on a central server rather than on the clients physical machine. This, in turn, allows users to access all the network resources giving the business centralized management, increased security and reduced overhead costs.
 
What is so great about this? VDI has many advantages including centralized management, increased security, and reduced costs.
 
Let’s break it down.
 
Centralized Management: Adding RAM, pushing out new software, or disabling temporary and former employees can be deployed at the server level in the administrative location saving IT departments countless hours.
 
Increased Security: All valuable data of the business would now be stored and located in the data center instead of the local device. This translates into fewer chances of data leaks via malware and viruses.
 
Reduced Costs: Businesses can now look forward to less upfront costs by not purchasing equipment, software and licenses. This in turn lowers the number of IT staff who provision virus removals and configuration issues.
 
Now that we’ve learned a little about VDI, let’s dive into VPN…
 
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a private extension of the Local Area Network (LAN) available over the Wide Area Network (WAN). This is designed to provide a private encrypted tunnel connection to ensure privacy of information that is transmitted between the two locations.
 
What is so great about this? VPN’s advantages include online anonymity, the ability to unblock websites and bypass filters, and secured Wi-Fi hotspots.
 
Let’s break it down.
 
Online Anonymity: VPN allows browsing with complete anonymity. This allows the IP address connected to a desktop computer, laptop or any other mobile device to be hidden from privacy invasion or hackers.
 
Unblock websites and bypass filters: This is an advantage for those who are doing business with countries who have firewalls and restrictions on what content their residents can see or exchange with other countries.
 
Secured Wi-Fi hotspots: When using any Wi-Fi hotspots, the VPN will create an encrypted firewall link for your mobile device so that browsing is completely privatized.
 
Now that you know the benefits of each, which do you think is right for your business? Next week we’ll conclude this blog series with a discussion on the key differences between VDI and VPN. Interested in learning more now? Click here for a free demo of VPN OR here for a free demo of VDI.

VDI vs VPN- Which Virtualization Solution is Right for Your Business?

by on Jul.08, 2015, under Cloud Services, Unified Communications


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As the summer vacation season reaches its peak, more and more workers are on the go. Whether you need to quickly email a file from your desktop while you’re out of the office, or find a colleague’s phone number in the company’s directory- having access to your desktop environment on demand is crucial. Thankfully, virtualization makes it possible to do all of the above and more.
 
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll be posting a series of blogs that will give you an overview of today’s most popular virtualization solutions: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) and Virtual Private Networks (VPN). We’ll highlight the pros and cons of each to help you decide which virtualization solution is best for your business.
 
Want to learn about these solutions now? Read more on VDI in this whitepaper A Business Case for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Deployments and VPN here.

Why Unified Communications Will Make you Question Your Current IT Strategy

by on Jun.22, 2015, under Trends, Unified Communications

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Hosted Unified Communications (UC) for business is a disruptive idea. It disrupts the notion that IT departments need to spend a good chunk of their time and money maintaining business communications with in house IT teams. It also shatters the notion that a successful IT strategy requires multiple vendors for collaborative services such as voicemail, email and mobile applications. In reality, IT professionals can save up to 30 percent of their time by implementing a UC solution.
 
Over the years, as mobility began to play a greater role in enterprise communications, IT systems became much harder to manage. As a result, IT Departments are getting out of the business of managing hardware and software. Instead they are opting for UC solutions that provide a more efficient manner of using technology. With a single UC solution, IT leaders can quickly solve business problems, save money on staffing and infrastructure, and simplify their billing processes by paying one vendor instead of working across multiple.
 
Beyond the immediate benefits seen by IT departments, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) poses advantages for businesses overall. Many business leaders recognize that the employee mobility and flexibility available with a Unified Communications solution leads to higher productivity and are now equipping their work forces with the technology resources they need to do so. A Stanford University study found that telecommuting alone leads to a 13.5 percent increase in worker productivity. The graphic below from Rypple, provides a breakdown of the amount of time the typical employee wastes on inefficient business communications. All of which could be avoided by implementing a UCaaS solution.
 
Savings from Implementing Unified Communications
Image by Rypple, Inc. via Pinterest
 
The future of UCaaS is endless and allows us to think innovatively when it comes to saving time and increasing overall business profitability. One thing is for certain though, there will be an upward trend in business investments when it comes to unifying communications in the cloud.
 
Interested in learning more about Unified Communications? Have one of our UCaaS experts walk you through a private demo. Click here or call 1.866.949.4267 to set an appointment.

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