Conference Phone Features

Choosing a phone system is a task that should not be taken lightly. You want to choose business phones that suit your company and help to improve employee efficiency. For conference phones specifically, you want to think about the size of your conference room and the types of conferences you will be hosting. Here are a few conference phone features you should not overlook.

Bluetooth Connectivity
Bluetooth connectivity allows you to easily and quickly pair and connect mobile devices to the conference phone. With this feature, you are able to create a hybrid UC conference, allowing those in-office employees on a Bluetooth device to call in from their smartphones.

Call Recording
This vital feature is often underutilized. Call recording is important for various situations including customer disputes and employee training. With customer disputes, a review of the phone conversation can help to resolve issues quickly. For employee training, previously recorded calls can be used as examples for handing different situations. And conference calls can also benefit from call recording, allowing participants to recall information they may have missed or clarify any ambiguities from the meeting.

The call recording option should allow you to store recordings on both the phone and a USB flash drive. Always remember that before recording calls (especially over PSTN), you must obtain consent and know proper recording legislation.

External Noise Elimination
We all know how distracting background noise can be, especially during calls. Choose a conference phone that offers noise proof technology which should eliminate external sounds including typing, air conditioners, and background conversations. Clear, distraction-free calls help customers get the service and attention they need and deserve, while positively impacting productivity within the office.

This technology is especially crucial for callers with hearing impairments, sensorineural deafness, or hearing aids. Background noise may make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for these individuals to hear over the phone.

Wireless Expansion Mic Compatibility
In order to cater to the call and the size of the conference room, choosing a conference phone that works with wireless expansion microphones would be a smart choice. Because participants of the conference call may need to get up and walk around, especially during presentations, expansion microphones can be a great help.

Ideal microphone solutions will have 360-degree voice pickup and a 10-foot pickup radius, like the Yealink CPW90 Wireless Expansion Microphones. With larger conference rooms or tables, two wireless expansion microphones should suffice.

Active Speaker Feature
Some people are good at identifying different voices, most are not. To make it easier on everyone, choose a conference phone which provides an active speaker feature. This feature shows you who is speaking by identifying the caller on the phone’s interface, meaning you can simply check the phone to see who is currently speaking.

Power Saving Mode
Because it’s important to conserve energy, and not many offices need their conference phones on at all times, a power saving conference phone is a smart investment. Power saving mode will kick in when the phone has been idle for a period of time. Some conference phones even allow you to configure the office hour setting so that the phone automatically turns on power saving mode when the office is closed. The backlight will also be turned off to conserve energy and will become inactive after a designated amount of seconds.

What are your must-have conference phone features? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

For the best in new and refurbished conference phones and business phone systems, visit Startechtel.com or call 800-564-8045 today!

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VoIP Phone System Essentials

Phone systems can make or break a business. They are vital to customer support, sales calls, communicating with distributors as well as in-office communication. They can make small businesses seem big, while conveying the message that you take your business seriously. If you have a main phone number that is rarely tended to, accompanied by an outdated voicemail system, it is likely that your customers will go elsewhere.

While a traditional landline setup may be well-known and common, it is not the only choice. VoIP solutions allow you to make and receive calls over Internet connections. Some examples of this type of technology include Skype, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Aside from app-based softphones, there are VoIP and SIP phones that can be used in office and operate like traditional business phones.

Many businesses are choosing VoIP phone systems because they are cost-effective, easy to upgrade, and offer a multitude of enhanced features that are typically unavailable with traditional systems. Before you decide to make the switch, be sure the necessary requirements are met.

Broadband
Before choosing a VoIP solution, you should determine whether or not your Internet connection can handle it. In general, one VoIP call will use around 90-100Kbits/sec of bandwidth, both upstream and downstream. You can test your connection through online VoIP speed-quality tests.

A lack of bandwidth will result in poor quality VoIP calls so if your internet connection doesn’t cut it, and you are set on switching to VoIP, an upgrade is mandatory.

If your employees use the internet often and at the same time, you may want to invest in a second line solely dedicated to VoIP traffic to ensure call quality, connection, and performance. A backup link may be necessary as well if potential downtime is unacceptable for your business.

A suitable router is also essential. In order for external users to access your system, the on-site IP PBX needs port-forwarding rules configured in your router. Your router must also support quality of service (QoS) rules for prioritizing VoIP traffic. If SIP ALG (application layer gateway is available on your router, be sure to turn it off to avoid instability issues.

Trunk
If you are switching to VoIP, you will also need to sign up with a SIP (session initiation protocol) trunk provider to link your internal IP PBX to the public telephone network.

To determine how many SIP channels you require (each VoIP call uses one channel), examine your staff and how many of them use their phones during the busiest times. Remember that queued calls and callers on hold still use an SIP channel, and you may have mobile users running VoIP software on their smartphones as well. A good rule of thumb for moderate phone usage is one SIP channel for every three users.

Before choosing a provider, be sure to check the pricing as it can vary significantly. You should be able to easily upgrade or downgrade the number of channels purchased. You also want to make sure that you can have local phone numbers assigned to your SIP trunk and as well as multiple phone numbers which your IP PBX can then route through to different extensions.

On-site vs. Hosted
If you go for the on-site route, do not take shortcuts. Despite VoIP being a mature technology, everything must be configured properly to ensure optimal system performance.

Take the upgrade seriously and host your PBX on server-grade hardware dedicated to this task alone. Remember that you’re creating a single point of failure that will bring your entire VoIP system down if something goes wrong, or if there’s any conflict with other services running on the same host.

Also, never configure an IP PBX to use a dynamically assigned IP address. Because these can change at any time, your system will be susceptible to failure at any moment. Should your IP address change, your port-forwarding rules will fail and your IP phones will not be able to access the IP PBX.

Smaller businesses may have limited on-site IT expertise, therefore, may opt for a cloud-hosted VoIP solution. With the right support contract and service-level agreement, small businesses can avoid any confusion, stress, or dangers of something going wrong with their systems.

Telephones
With its wide range of features, a VoIP PBX system can be overwhelming at first. Before going live, try setting up a test system to play with the various features and understand how the system works.

Some of the great features include a “digital receptionist” to read off a menu of options, along with call redirection to route incoming calls to staff on the road or those who do not want their mobile numbers made public.

In regards to handsets, you’ve got even more choices. Aside from the wide range of IP and SIP phones, mobile users can use “softphone” apps on their own phones, however, these are not always included in the IP PBX price.

Give your business a professional image and save time and money with a VoIP system. If you are looking for a new phone system or looking to upgrade to VoIP, please feel free to contact us at 800-564-8045. Our staff will be happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have. You may also browse our selection of new and refurbished business phones, equipment, and systems online at Startechtel.com.

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Find The Right Business Phone System

The impact of business phone systems on business success is often underrated. It seems the only time their value is considered is when the system is down or having issues. Companies that have experienced these problems know how stressful it can be, as well as its impact on productivity and business overall.

If your current system or provider is not living up to your expectations, there are plenty of other options out there. When upgrading your business phone system or choosing a new provider, here are a few important factors to consider.

Price
First and foremost, budgets are the main concern for businesses small and large. The cost of a new business phone system may be the reason companies are hesitant to upgrade. But thanks to advances in technology, there are many affordable options for varying budgets and needs.

When determining your budget, here are a few things you should include:

  • How many phones will be needed
  • How many new phones might be added over the next few years
  • Whether or not your business plans on expanding tremendously
  • How many employees telecommute (if any)
  • The cost of repairs, lease agreements and service contracts for your current system

Once you have considered these things, you can better estimate how much you are comfortable spending on business phones and compare it to your current costs.

You should also factor in the cost of hardware, installation, platform charges, ISDN/SIP trunking charges and regular service charges that may come with the upgraded system.

For those on a stricter budget, leasing phones from a provider and paying a steady fee may be more feasible than paying a lump sum upfront.

Remember that investing in a proper phone system is investing in your company’s future. This system will help to increase productivity and thus improve overall success.

Usage
Once your budget is squared away, you need to determine which types of phones each in-office employee needs.

Consider the different job types, responsibilities, and call habits of each employee. For example, the roles and call habits for a customer service representative will vary greatly from those of an intern.

Aside from in-office employees, you should also consider those who are frequently on the field, and would benefit from the “follow-me” feature (which reroutes incoming calls to alternate phone numbers) and other related services.

Also, if international calling is common within your company, you should note that VoIP offers better international rates than analog services.

You should keep growth within your current location in mind, but also consider any additional offices you may acquire in the future. A company with multiple offices may want to avoid employing an analog system as costs may skyrocket when connecting private line connections at the main office with additional locations. In this case, VoIP systems are likely to make the process of expanding your network much easier and more cost-effective.

Flexibility
At all costs, avoid buying a phone system for the “now.” Instead, consider the “now” but also factor in the future and what your company will look like in a few years.

Whether you expect to grow rapidly in the coming months or not, most companies opt for a mid-level system that can grow with them. This solution offers the option to add features and equipment in increments instead of starting from scratch.

Connections
While keeping your employees connected is important, you must also think about keeping your customers connected to you.

  • When it comes to incoming calls, here are some options to consider:
  • Would you like callers to hear a dial by name or department directory?
  • Would you like some client calls to take priority over others?
  • Do you need to be able to instantly reroute incoming calls from anywhere to provide customer service even if the office is closed or an employee is unavailable?

Think about the times you have called other companies and were greeted by automated systems and prompts. Make a list noting the things you liked and disliked about it so that you know what you want and what to avoid for your own phone system. In addition, calling your own company and experiencing the call process yourself will also help to fine tune your system.

Remember, a large part of the customer experience is the phone call. It is often one of the first interactions customers have with your brand so you want to make sure it’s quick, easy, and pleasant. In addition, providing adequate transfer options, voicemails, and conference call capabilities after the initial contact is just as important to deliver an overall great customer experience.

Functionality
When it comes to features, because there are so many options available, creating a list of non-negotiable must-have features for your business is vital. Take a detailed look at the different procedures that take place regularly (internally and on the client side) within your organization. This will help you determine which features are used most and what options would help to simplify any of these processes.

Once you’ve completed that list, you can create a wish-list of features you would like, but could live without based on other factors such as price.

Here are some common features to keep in mind:

  • Automated directory services
  • Do not disturb
  • Public address voice paging
  • Caller ID
  • Express conferencing
  • Shared message boxes
  • Call blocking
  • Extensions
  • Speed dialing
  • Call forwarding
  • Hands-free alternatives
  • Speakerphone
  • Call logging
  • Hold options
  • Transfer capabilities
  • Central office line ringing
  • Multiple lines
  • Unified Communications
  • Custom greetings
  • Multiple voice recordings
  • Voicemail
  • Distinctive rings
  • Music on hold
  • Welcome message

Network & Equipment
Because phone systems and networks are constantly advancing with new features and technologies, it would benefit your business to choose a telephone provider with a solid reputation and can offer enhanced features and reliable services that help businesses thrive.

Also, there are numerous phone systems solutions designed for businesses of various sizes. It is important to consider your business and its size to determine the best options for you.

For small businesses, a comprehensive, sophisticated solution is likely not necessary. Instead, a provider than can offer management tools or calling features that work with the existing system or a simple phone system solution which meets business needs may be a better fit.

Larger SMBs or growing businesses should look for a provider who can scale the system as business grows and expands.

And enterprise businesses should look for a qualified provider that can act as a technology partner, offering not only the latest and best solutions, but advice for the organization as technology and business demands change.

Customer Service
While this may seem insignificant, think about what would happen if your phones were down? Will customers wait to call back or reach out to competitors? In order to deliver the best customer service, you will need a reliable business telephone provider.

Check customer service hours and ways to contact them to determine what level of service they can provide if something goes wrong. If your business works nights and weekends, it might be worth the extra costs to contract with a local vendor that offers 24/7 onsite support.

Another great way to find a provider is to ask around and get recommendations from people you trust. Friends, family, peers and associates are great sources and are not likely to misguide you.

Scalability
It’s a smart move to keep scalability in the back of your mind just in case the opportunity presents in the future. With that said, when choosing a new system or provider, think about how much it will cost to add new hires to your plan.

Some providers may charge a flat fee for a certain amount of users, for example, up to 25 employees or seats. If you are near the upper limit of that, you should look into prices for the next tier up to estimate the cost of the plan as your company expands.

On the other hand, other providers may calculate fees to add new users, install equipment, or otherwise change the agreement you have individually. You should check those costs as well.

With this information, you can compare costs to see which would be the most cost-effective solution for scaling up as your business grows.

Value
As you continue to narrow down your options, you should consider the value your phone provider will bring to your company versus the cost of the services. In regards to ROI, think about how new features will help employees save time and how much faster customers will get their answers and how this phone system will streamline employee tasks. Be sure that your business phone system adds value to both customers and employees before making any final decisions.

Business Culture
Does the culture of the business phone provider align with your company’s culture? Your company culture communicates your expectations, formality, commitment to service, your mission, values, and more. If you fail to share these values with your provider, then there may be some trouble when communicating your needs. This miscommunication can lead to problems getting the business phone system best suited for your business needs. Thus, finding a provider with a compatible business culture is vital.

If you need any help finding the perfect business phone system for you, we are happy to help! Contact us at 800-564-8045 to speak with a representative, or visit Startechtel.com to browse our selection of new and refurbished business phone systems and more.

You can also connect with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

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Cloud Vs. On-Premise VoIP

While the benefits of a VoIP phone system for your business may be obvious (cost-efficiency, improved customer and employee experience), much consideration must go into employing the ideal system to suit your needs. One of the main decisions is whether to employ a premises-based solution or a cloud-hosted system.

When it comes to this decision, there is no right or wrong answer. Here are some of the ways these systems differ to help you make the best decision.

Installation & Maintenance
On-premise systems are installed at the business’s physical location and are often managed by staff. Purchasing and installing the equipment and software can get rather costly, which is why this option is often better suited for large businesses that have the necessary resources. But you do get what you pay for since complete responsibility means complete control. Businesses that choose an on-premise system can design their systems to perfectly suit their needs while avoiding any fee increases and lower total cost of ownership as the system grows.

A hosted VoIP system is maintained off-site (usually in the cloud) by a third-party provider. Hardware and software upgrades are handled by your VoIP provider, who work hard to ensure you get the most convenient suite of services possible. However, because support requests must be channeled to the provider’s support team rather than your own, responsiveness and agility are negatively affected. Small businesses may gravitate toward this cost-effective and convenient option, while others may not be willing to sacrifice speed.

Scalability
At some point, your business may grow and you will need to scale up your systems to support more users or a new business initiative. This is where hosted VoIP solutions shine. They are typically always ready to offer more resources and capacity as needed. For on-premise solutions, it may take more time and resources to upgrade and expand the system. When choosing between the two solutions, businesses must consider their expected business trajectory, factoring in what will work best for them now and into the future.

Security
Concerns about cloud security remain, but we need not worry so much. Reputable cloud providers are likely better equipped to handle cloud security than you are. Because their reputations depend on maintaining strict security measures, they are constantly monitoring for vulnerabilities and identifying and patching any risks found. In addition, cloud entry points are well-defined and protected thanks to multi-factor authentication, limited-time restricted access and other advanced protection tools.

All things considered, it comes down to choosing the system fit-for-purpose. Smaller businesses may opt for cloud-hosted VoIP solutions until they grow to a size in which they can afford an on-premise system and hire the personnel necessary to run the system effectively. However, large enterprises may require more advanced features and customization, so an on-premise solution may work out better.

Which type of VoIP phone system do you prefer? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Visit Startechtel.com to shop our selection of new and refurbished VoIP phones, conference phones, phone system packages, and more! Call 800-564-8045 for more information.

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VoIP Security Threats

Upgrading to a VoIP phone system can provide businesses with many benefits. In comparison to analog phone systems, Voice over Internet Protocol offers a wider range of capabilities and features. But this can also open up a new set of potential security issues. Luckily, with these potential threats come a multitude of solutions.

Before you upgrade, it is important to understand the risks and prepare accordingly. Here are some common VoIP security issues and how you can solve them.

SPIT
Spam over Internet Telephony (SPIT) is like spam email in that it involves unsolicited messages (usually generated automatically) that waste time and serve as a nuisance. However, it is often underestimated because some SPIT calls try to scam you. SPIT is also harder to detect than spam email because you can’t know the content of the call until you pick up, in contrast to emails where you can read the subject line.

To safeguard against this, some providers include a robocall blocking feature within their plans, which improves over time as more hackers are detected and blocked. Or you can sign up with the cloud-based blocker Nomorobo, which won a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) challenge to develop a tool against robocalls. It works by quickly routing calls through a second line to identify SPIT. Another solution is to manually block specific numbers that send unwanted calls. With this method, you may still end up with a lot of junk calls because SPIT callers can easily falsify their phone number (a tactic used by traditional phone scammers).

Unencrypted Traffic
On a VoIP call, data flows from your device to your ISP to your VoIP provider to the person or people you are calling. If your call data is unencrypted, someone could potentially eavesdrop on your conversation at any of those points. Any personal information disclosed over the call is susceptible to being stolen. It is true that analog phones are also unencrypted, but VoIP phones are easier for cybercriminals to target because the data flow is less centralized compared to the traditional telephone system.

The easiest way to safeguard against this is to find a VoIP service that provides encryption for your calls, which most providers offer by routing calls directly through their cloud servers. Or you can set up a virtual private network (VPN) compatible with VoIP. These create an encrypted private network and establish a direct line of communication that is difficult to intercept, however, these do require an increased amount of bandwidth. If you have dial-up or satellite Internet with a slow connection speed, a VoIP VPN may significantly decrease the quality of your calls, while those with high-speed Internet connections will likely not see much of a change.

Hacking
The ability to access your number and voicemail from anywhere using a computer or mobile device is one of the major draws of VoIP. But, unfortunately, this also leaves your phone system vulnerable to hackers. Since VoIP is connected to the Internet, hackers have lots of different ways that they can attack your account, from stealing information to gaining control of your system.

While no VoIP provider can completely protect you from hackers, there are ways that you can minimize your risks. You can do so by practicing good computer safety and cybersecurity habits. For example, always change your passwords and PINs from the default options, and make sure you use strong passwords. If you have a Wi-Fi network, protect it with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol and set a strong password as well. Every computer and device on the same network as your VoIP should have updated software, be scanned for viruses regularly and use caution when downloading programs or clicking links. A single compromised system can quickly infect an entire network. Hackers can easily lurk on free Wi-Fi hotspots, so when you’re out and about, be wary of using these to make VoIP calls. If hackers spot VoIP traffic, they can listen in on your call or inject malware into your device.

Hardware
Unfortunately, VoIP hardware (ex. analog telephone adapters, IP phones) may carry vulnerabilities that manufacturers are unaware of until later. While firmware updates can fix these issues, in order to apply those updates, you must be aware of the issues in the first place.

To stay informed, it’s important to periodically check if the manufacturer has posted any security advisories and patch or update your hardware as soon as possible.

DDoS Attacks
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are increasing in frequency every year. Most people need not worry about DDoS attacks, however, those who run online businesses or do anything that places you in the public eye (ex. blogging, streaming) are at a greater risk. A DDoS attack against your IP address will overwhelm your Internet service and temporarily disrupt your VoIP system.

At home, a VPN is the best way to safeguard against DDoS attacks. Aside from encryption, VPNs protect your true IP address, preventing attackers from sending spam to the right location. VPNs may help businesses as well, but if you think your business is large enough to be a high-profile target, investing in dedicated DDoS safeguards might be a better route.

Of course, all of these threats may seem overwhelming, but with the proper security measures are in place, you can rest easy.

How do you deal with VoIP security threats? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

For a great selection of IP phones, SIP phones, VoIP phone systems, and more, visit Startechtel.com. Feel free to call 800-564-8045 with any questions.

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Best Practices For Business Emails

We all know, through others or from experience, that communication in text form may not always convey a message correctly. When it comes to business emails namely, you want to be very careful because one misstep can potentially make or break your career. Here are some tips to improve your business email communications and deliver your messages effectively.

  • Keep the subject line short and sweet.

A clear, concise subject line is more effective than an unnecessarily long one (no one wants to waste time reading it if they don’t have to). Also, no one likes to see “(no subject).” You should also avoid “Hi,” “FYI” and “Touching Base.” Lastly, capital letters are often interpreted as screaming, thus subject lines in all capital letters come across as confrontational to the recipient. You should avoid emailing in all caps (subject line or body), especially if you’ve never met the recipient before.

  • Be mindful of who you’re writing to.

Keep your recipient in mind as they may interpret your message differently than you did while writing it. When sending email to people from indirect cultures, it is proper protocol to research country customs to avoid any (potentially offensive) miscommunications. Better to err on the side of caution than have to apologize later.

  • Don’t send all recipients the same message.

When sending thank you notes after an interview, avoid sending everyone you spoke with the same message. They may compare notes so instead, each note should be tailored to that person.

  • Your work email is NOT your personal email.

Do not use your work email for non-business related messages. Just don’t. Doing so could cost you your job so it’s best to keep these things separate.

  • Make sure that attachment is actually attached.

Forgetting to add an attachment can be detrimental for important or time-sensitive matters. Always double-check that you edited your message and that all necessary documents or files are attached.

In relation, try to avoid using your company logo in your signature as these often come across as attachments. As a recipient, it is hard to tell the real attachment from a meaningless graphic.

  • Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want the world to know.

Does that sentence have the power to jeopardize or end your career? It might, it might not. It depends on the nature of the content, but when it comes down to it, business is business. Keep it professional so no one has the opportunity to bring to light any unethical or inappropriate messages made by you.

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Find a wide selection of new and refurbished business phones and phone systems at Startechtel.com. Browse our stock online or call 800-564-8045 to speak with a representative.

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Increasing Safety For Mobile Workers

Mobile workers are on the rise and are expected to keep increasing. By 2020, over half of the U.S. workforce is expected to be mobile. Mobile workers are enjoying flexibility and freedom while businesses are reaping the benefits of increased productivity and employee satisfaction.

But when employees are not operating in an office or controlled environment, it is a challenge for businesses to manage risks that workers may encounter. And it is difficult to know when a worker needs emergency assistance. Thus, the need for new safety protocols and new technologies to ensure the safety of mobile workers is necessary.

Aside from proper training in safety procedures, mobile workers also require the right tools to request and receive help in an emergency situation. Our ever-present cell phones and smartphones will not suffice – these devices can be limited in emergency situations as they are vulnerable to poor reception and may not be within reach to operate.

For example, a cell phone is not able to detect when someone has slipped and fallen, or caught a limb in a piece of machinery. Cell phones require a user that is conscious and within range of the phone to make a call for help.

And when it comes to tracking and monitoring the safety and health of mobile workers and lone workers, cell phones are not the most reliable and may lack the necessary features and functions. In addition, if a lone worker is confronted by a hostile third party, the cell phone is often the first item taken.

Wearables
Unlike traditional cell phones or smartphones, wearables or wearable devices can automatically report changes that would indicate an emergency. Because these devices are easily worn, they could easily dispatch an emergency call as needed, without having to speak or make much movement.

Smart hard hats, smart safety vests, smart eyewear, and even stick-on patches already exist and can monitor employee location, body temperature, and even positioning. While they eliminate the need for a worker to proactively report an emergency, they have their limitations as well.

For example, in an emergency, the devices are able to relay certain information about a situation to a manager or the human resources department. They do not, however, create a direct line of communication between the worker and the responder. The worker would still need to place a call on the phone.

Personal Emergency Response Devices
These may be a better option and are similar to those used by seniors. Essentially, these are help buttons that you can wear and can be pressed to alert emergency responders that assistance is needed. Before, they needed a base station device to place calls, which limited their range of use. Thanks to advanced technology, the base stations are no longer necessary making them much more convenient and functional. Much like wearables, these devices are small, lightweight, and provide location technologies as well as built-in fall advisory capabilities.

Personal emergency response devices allow workers to trigger the call for help automatically rather than having to initiate a call. Cloud-based technologies make it possible for supervisors and managers to respond immediately.

These devices also boast a long battery life since they have fewer functions than phones and do not need to be fully functional all the time. They need not be worn all the time and can be placed in hibernation mode until the SOS button is pressed. When this happens, location information can be sent to a central reporting destination and an emergency call can be placed. Depending on the configuration and use of the device, these may last up to a month on a single charge.

Regardless of the devices you employ for your remote workers, it is important that business owners take advantage of the new technologies that can improve the safety and health of their lone workers and mobile employees.

How does your business provide safety and security to remote workers? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Visit Startechtel.com to browse our expansive selection of new and refurbished business phone systems and equipment. To speak with us directly, please call 800-564-8045.

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Modern Business Communication

As you may have noticed or even experienced, business communication and the way we work are undergoing some changes. Many factors, such as digital transformation, advancing technologies, and a diverse workforce, are influencing the direction in which we are headed. Here are some of the ways these communication trends are making an impact.

The Cloud
Because of its excellent benefits, such as lower costs and greater flexibility, cloud communications is quickly becoming a business favorite. Thanks to its affordability, ease of use, and faster deployments, many businesses are adopting cloud-based systems.

Initially, the security of the public and private cloud raised concerns. However, since then, new technologies and protocols, including end-to-end encryption, have boosted security and have calmed worries and fears.

Mobility
Most companies will provide company-issued phones and laptops, especially for those frequently on the field. Mobile apps for businesses have become the new norm, keeping employees connected anytime, anywhere. Thanks to the emergence of 5G technology, communication and data exchange is faster and coverage is wider, thus expanding further capabilities.

Mobility gives employees more freedom, allowing them to work more independently with flexible hours. This also helps to increase employee satisfaction which can positively affect employee retention rates.

Collaboration
Although instant messaging has been around for a while, its abilities are somewhat limited. With dedicated workplace chat and collaboration tools, workers are able to use advanced features such as video conferencing, document sharing, instant connectivity, and task management.

Team collaboration tools are often cloud-based and internet-powered, meaning they can work across different devices and platforms. This offers a more seamless transition between devices, enabling increased productivity.

Business Integration
Originally business software was designed to be standalone, however, the business world realized that connecting business applications is more convenient. Therefore, application integration and automation services came about and have grown in demand.

Now most companies are enjoying the benefits of system integration and increasing efficiency in the workplace. For example, connecting CRM systems to communication platforms is helping to improve customer service and employee productivity. Customer service representatives are able to pull up information via CRM, and whether they need to contact that person through voice, email, or chat, the app will start up instantly.

Remote Internal Communications
As the demand for remote work increases, communication providers are working to cater to these needs. Many popular tools are upping their advanced features to facilitate ways to better connect remote workers and help to increase productivity and efficiency.

Which of these business communication trends do you find the most rewarding? Share with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest!

Visit Startechtel.com to browse our wide inventory of new and refurbished business phone systems and accessories from top manufacturers. If you have any questions or need help locating a specific product, please feel free to call us at 800-564-8045.

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Distributed Workforce

Whether your employees telecommute occasionally or permanently, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this type of work culture. For those companies struggling with building a team with specific skill sets, a distributed workforce can help solve this issue. On the other hand, some companies prefer to keep staff on site to enhance collaboration and creativity via direct person-to-person interaction. These pros and cons may give you better insight and help you decide if remote work is right for your business.

  • Drive Employee Productivity

Giving employees the freedom to set their own hours helps to increase productivity. Not everyone is their most productive during typical work hours. Some prefer getting an early start while others need a leisurely morning. However, some boundaries must be set as some workers are not as self-motivated to work without some type of management.

  • Retain Knowledge & Investment

Sometimes key players wish to move to other locations in the world. For example, if your employee’s spouse receives a great opportunity in a new location and thus the whole family is moving to support the opportunity, you could be losing a wealth of knowledge and investment. By utilizing a work-from-home policy, you may retain that valuable worker while allowing them to maintain their home-life.

  • Ensure Diversity

Being able to successfully organize and put a distributed team in place takes hard work from both the company and the worker. This effort is rewarded with a diverse work team with differing opinions, viewpoints, and work styles which feed into a more creative group for solving problems and connecting with customers.

  • Open Up Potential Security Issues

When you have employees working remotely, security may be overlooked, making the company vulnerable to cybercriminals .Neglecting this step can be catastrophic for the business and customers alike. Luckily, there are many ways to secure your data and protect your business, including cloud solutions to make remote work easier.

  • Attract More Talent

While most would prefer employees to work on site, the remote option is available in order to attract employees who may go elsewhere. Remote work has its advantages, and companies provide the necessary tools to keep workers connected, but there are also distinct benefits of face-to-face interaction in the office that cannot be achieved remotely.

  • Allow Improved Focus With Fewer Distractions

There can be a number of distractions when working remotely, but employees can usually figure out where and what works best for them. However, remote workers usually perform better than those who work in the office because meetings and common, shared office interruptions were omitted. They are able to collaborate with colleagues over video, chat, and project management software and are held accountable for their productivity.

  • Lose The Interaction Effect

Sometimes it is easier to speak in person rather than complicating things with back and forth messaging. As convenient as technology can be, some people need the face-to-face interaction. In addition, working from home may blur the line between your work and home life.

  • Expand Geographic Limitations

You are no longer limited to your local talent pool if you allow remote workers. Those companies with distributed workforces tend to have a larger pool of quality workers and talent.

  • Build a Strong Culture

Starting with a strong company culture will lessen the impact on productivity when environments change from in office to remote work. Starting from the top, executives must ensure all employees are included in all activities (ex. all-hands meetings, events, parties).

  • Improve Record Keeping

Because workers are split up and may be in different time zones, the need to transcribe all discussions is high. By keeping record of communications, you are enabling your workers to keep up with happenings and you are affording your business an easy way of pulling up information as needed.

  • Weaken Communication

Because remote employees often have flexible hours, it can be difficult for spontaneous meetings. Also, when meetings are conducted over video rather than in person, it is hard to gauge reactions without seeing complete body language.

  • Endanger Efficiency, Synergy, & Collaboration

When the idea of a distributed team came about, a main concern was whether or not the work would get done. Time showed that yes, the work could be done. The potential downfall was the lack of collaboration and synergy within the team, which could negatively affect employee enthusiasm.

  • Enhance Innovation

With the right technology and tools, a well-designed distributed workplace could become a breeding ground for innovation and highly productive work.

All things considered, is a distributed workforce right for you? Share your thoughts and experiences with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Find a great selection of new and refurbished business phones and phone systems for your office at Startechtel.com. Call 800-564-8045 if you have any questions or need assistance.

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All-Hands Meetings

Company-wide meetings can be tricky, time-consuming, and costly, but they can also reflect positively on the company. By holding such an event, you are portraying to employees that your business cares enough to keep everyone informed of major company updates and emotionally connected to the company’s goals, while openly listening to honest, unfiltered feedback and questions.

Staying Transparent
This practice is reflective of how our society has evolved over time. Rather than sending messages down the rankings, business communication should be frequent and open, and not only flow top-down, but bottom-up as well. Achieving this can be challenging, but if done properly, it can be met with great benefits and success. Here are some common traits of successful all-hands meetings.

  • The CEO Really Cares

In order for transparency and bottom-up communication to be successful, you need a CEO who truly cares and sees this as a priority, rather than a CEO trying to simply make it appear so. Inauthentic efforts are obvious and may have a negative impact your employees.

CEOs that truly care put in the energy and effort to keep their teams in the know on what’s important and what they should care about. Enthusiasm for the common end goal comes across as genuine and makes employees feel valued, spurring their motivation.

The true willingness to foster open communication will show itself when the tough questions surface. They will exist whether they are addressed or not, so in order to gain the best insight from your team, CEOs should find ways to address all topics.

  • They Are Well Executed

A big, important event should be treated as one, and within companies who truly value all-hands meetings, this is exactly what is done. These companies have stadium-sized conference rooms with the best remote connectivity software for remote workers. They put lots of thought and care to the content being presented, with proper preparation for a near-flawless execution. There is no way that these meetings will seem like they were put together last minute, because, honestly, these meetings were planned well in advance.

  • Their Frequency Is Predictable

It is important to address employees often, whether it is annually, quarterly, monthly or weekly. However, it seems that companies in which CEOs address employees on a weekly or bi-weekly basis emphasize the importance of all-hands meetings and tend to have the most success. Rather than feeling like a hierarchy, these work environments foster a more cohesive team atmosphere.

  • They Are Not Contrived

When meetings are infrequent, they tend seem insincere and forced. Employees take notice when companies make the effort to demonstrate that they are important enough to communicate with directly.

In the same vein, opening the floor to employees can be scary for some. Some companies may filter questions, only allowing the ones in which they feel competent enough to address. Doing this, using a script, or all together avoiding Q&A can end up hurting the business. It may seem like a safe bet, but there’s no way around openly listening to the team if that’s the message you would like to relay.

  • Anyone Can Speak Up

Bottom line, everyone should be able to direct a question. However, this doesn’t mean that employees should be forced to raise their hands and participate, as some may have a significant fear of public speaking. With that said, every question, good or bad, should be welcome, from the most extroverted and risk-tolerant employees to the soft-spoken ones.

The use of a tool to gather and curate questions (anonymous or not) during the days or weeks leading up to the meeting could help generate more success. That way, the entire team may vote on which topics are the most important and the top-voted questions may be addressed in order of popularity.

On the surface, these meetings are expensive, time-consuming, and can be disruptive to work. However, these meetings are also necessary and vital in keeping your team well-informed, focused and engaged. They also give your executive team great insight into every level of your organization without rankings getting in the way.

Share your own business meeting tips with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

To enhance your conference room with the best new and refurbished conference phones and equipment, visit Startechtel.com to browse our stock. If you have any questions about our products and services, please feel free to call 800-564-8045.

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