To SIP or not to SIP?

To SIP or not to SIP?

Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about with SIP trunking? Well, for starters, not only can SIP trunking improve communication and collaboration, it can also significantly lower your IT costs – so much so, that some organizations have taken advantage of the savings to justify additional investments in Unified Communications.

Traditionally, an enterprise’s private branch exchange (PBX) is connected to the public-switched telephone network (PSTN) over a “trunk”, which is a hard-wired connection of the enterprise to the rest of the world. Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking is an alternative to that model, in which third-party Internet telephony service providers (ITSPs) connect the PBX to the Internet and then to the PSTN, allowing communication with fixed and mobile devices worldwide without the hassle of a physical wire trunk.

Why Switch to SIP…THE BOTTOM LINE

Switching to a SIP trunking solution can yield significant communications savings and offer a quick return on investment, especially if your company has multiple locations and often uses international calling.

So what are the benefits of SIP trunking, and how can SIP help your organization? SIP trunking will better utilize your bandwidth because telephony and Internet lines are combined, allowing for optimization based on average consumption rather than peak usage.

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Additionally, call speed is increased because all data, voice, and media is passing through carrier systems as IP traffic rather than analog signals. The risk of implementing new technology is mitigated by using an ITSP, as the ITSP keeps you current with technology updates without recurring costs. By using multiple ITSPs and least cost routing (LCR) to always make the most cost-efficient call, a company can realize substantial savings – especially with regard to international calls. What’s more, SIP reuses HTTP ports so it can be easier for end users to work with. Plus, billing is bundled, making things easier on you, the end-user. These aren’t the only benefits; check out the list below for more.

Benefits of SIP trunking

  • Reliable delivery of communication applications such as instant messaging (IM), presence tracking, video conferencing and application sharing. 
  • You will no longer need a costly PSTN gateway. 
  • Long-distance charges will be reduced. 
  • Voice, video, and data are combined in a single line. 
  • SIP trunking can be a cost-effective delivery option for external communication.
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Connecticut Communications can help you decide if SIP trunking is for you.  We can analyze your phone bill and go over the advantages and disadvantages.There’s an ongoing debate questioning the value of SIP trunk costs savings as justification for migrating your PBX. Some believe the value is an overstated reason to migrate, while others point to real cost savings. Which side are you leaning toward?

Newsletter October 2013 – Conference Bridge

Newsletter October 2013 – Conference Bridge

This month’s newsletter talks about the NEC Conference Bridge.  Do you use a 3rd party conference service?  If so, save money with the added convenience of hosting your own conference calls.

The NEC SV8100 VoIP unified communications server has a conference bridge card that connects to your LAN and phone lines.  Easily setup conference calls with email notification.  Callers can call in when they are ready to join the conference.

The newsletter also talks about changing your company’s main greeting on your automated attendant.

View the Connecticut Communications newsletter to learn about the NEC conference bridge.  Host your own conference calls with this easy to use feature.

– Save money, purchase the card and host unlimted conference calls at no extra charge!

– Comes in 8 or 16 user conference capability

– Host mulitiple conferences simultaneously

NEC Conference Bridge

Host your own conference calls

NEC offers a built in conference bridge where you can setup and run your own conference calls.  I’m not talking about 2-3 party conferences, I’m referring to a conference bridge where callers call in, enter a PIN number, and are joined together with superb voice quality.

The conference bridge connects to your LAN so administers can easily setup a conference.  Invitees are sent an email with the call in information where the user can click to add it to their Outlook calendar.

NEC offers the conference bridge as an 8 or 16 party conference.

Get rid of your monthly 3rd party conference bill.  Purchase the NEC conference bridge one time and get unlimited conference calls forever at no additional cost.

Click below for a brochure on the NEC Conference Bridge!

NEC Conference Bridge

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Video Surveillance – analog or IP cameras?

Video Surveillance – analog or IP cameras?

More and more companies are installing video surveillance systems.  Businesses want to protect their property against thieves and outside cameras are a deterent.  And any person foolish enough to commit a crime with video cameras installed will surely be caught.  In addition to protecting the business from intruders, video surveillance is also installed inside the office to prevent employee theft and false workmans comp claims.  So, the question is not should you install video surveillance, it’s what kind of video surveillance, analog or IP?

Analog:  An analog video surveillance system connects analog cameras to a DVR.  A DVR is much like the DVR at your home, its an appliance that records video for easy playback.  DVRs come in 4-camera, 8-camera, 16-camera or 32-camera configurations.  How much video you want to store will decide on the size of the hard drive you purchase for the DVR.

Analog cameras use coax cable to connect back to the DVR.  This coax cable can distribute power as well as video so the analog cameras do not need to be plugged into a power source.

Analog cameras are very high quality…about as good as today’s IP cameras.  Analog video is not compressed, its sent down the coax cable as is, therefore, the image is not going to be getting any better with advances of technology, but it is still very good.  The DVR can be connected to the LAN for easy viewing from a networked PC or smartphone.

Analog video surveillance is still the most cost effective method of installing video surveillance and still represents over 85% of the video surveillance market.

IP:  An IP video surveillance system connects IP cameras to an NVR (network video recorder), a server on the network.

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The NVR can handle any number of IP cameras, you simply purchase IP camera licenses for the NVR.  As with the analog solution, the size of the hard drive will determine the amount of days you can keep your video.

IP cameras require data cabling (CAT5e or higher) to connect back to the NVR.  To supply power to the camera you will need a power over ethernet (POE) managed data switch.  Data has a range of 350′ so any IP camera that needs to be installed further than that will require another managed POE data switch in between the NVR and IP camera.

Today, in my opinion, analog and IP camera quality are basically the same.  As technology progresses IP cameras will be better than analog.

An IP system is already on the LAN so it also can easily be viewed from networked PCs and smartphones.

Both analog and IP video surveillance systems can work with your business phone system for added security at the entrances.  The NEC unified communications systems has a door box that allows visitors at the entrance of a building to press the door box to talk to employees on the phone system.  The employee can view the person at the door using their PC which is connected to the video surveillance system.  Once they have a positive ID on the person they can choose to press a button on their phone to let the person in.

Price:  IP video surveillance systems are typically 30% higher than analog camera systems.  If you want a really good video surveillance system at a good value, install an analog system.  If you want to preserve the investment for the future because you feel you will need better camera technology later, spend the extra money now and install an IP video surveillance system.

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Free Trial of Cloud Backup Service!

Free Trial of Cloud Backup Service!

EarthLink is offering a free 30-day trail of their Cloud backup service.  Simply download their software and schedule it to backup your files after hours.

Never have to worry about your hard drive crashing, keep all your files safe in the Cloud!

This service is extremely affordable for a very low monthly fee.

The Cloud can be used for data backup, hosted VoIP, IP video surveillance and hosted desktop.

 Cloud Backup – Free Trial !

EarthLink, a $1 billion dollar IT services and communications provider, is offering a free 30-day trial of their Cloud Backup service.

Cloud Backup

Backup all your important data to the cloud.  You can backup your personal PC / Laptop or your entire server, no more tape backups!

Quick, Simple Backup and Restore:

  • Reduce business risk for lost data or downtime
  • Recover data rapidly anytime, anywhere
  • Eliminate capital expenditures for new storage units
  • Define your backup levels – incremental, full system, real time, full hardware
  • Access and control your backup online
  • Scale easily as your needs change
  • Gain immediate access to data in SAN disk environment
  • EarthLink’s SSAE 16 SOC2 certified data centers offer the highest levels of data protection.
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To get yourself up and running:

  1. Visit https://backup.earthlinkcloud.com/
  2. On the left side of the page, click Download EarthLink Backup Agent
  3. In the section beneath Download EarthLink Backup Agent, click the link to the EarthLink Backup Agent installation wizard
  4. In the window that opens, click “EarthLink Backup Agent” in the Download section.
  5. Install the program and launch the client
  6. When the client opens, click Next
  7. Enter your User Information and Email Address (Login Name and Email should both be your email address)

My suggestion for the trial is to backup a small amount of data to see how it works.  When you are ready to do a full backup EarthLink will send you a USB drive to perform the first backup. Subsequent backups will be only incremental.

Affordable!

If you wish to continue after 30 days, monthly cost is only:

$25     50GB
$50   100GB
Additional plans up to 50TB, call for details.

If you ever had a hard drive crash and you lost all your data, you know how important backing up your data is…be smart, backup your data to the Cloud!

Music on hold for a VoIP phone system

Music on hold for a VoIP phone system

Music on hold (MOH) is the playing of music to a caller placed on hold so they don’t hear silence.  Callers calling into a VoIP phone system often get put on hold for a variety of reasons; being transferred to another extension or because the user needs to walk away from the telephone.  Without something to listen to the caller might think they were disconnected by accident and hang up.

A PBX, or VoIP phone system, has a music on hold port to connect any audio device for music on hold.  That music on hold device can be a radio, CD player, an .mp3 player or any device with an audio output.

The problem with a radio is that it is illegal in the United States to re-broadcast without the permission of the radio station.  And even with permission, it’s illegal for the radio station to license it because it would violate their agreement with music title owner.  Besides, who wants to risk the caller hearing a commercial on the radio from one of your competitors?

SiriusXM radio offers businesses a music on hold option.  You pay for the service so it is legal, but it does come with a monthly fee that never expires.

A CD player that plays music is also illegal unless you first obtain permission from the owner of the song.  You can record your own message and download it to a CD player, such as ‘please stay on the line your call is important to us’.  If you select this option, please make sure the CD player automatically replays in an endless loop.

An .mp3 player, like the one above, is one of the more advanced options for music on hold for unified communications systems.  You can easily create your own message file from a PC and then plug the USB drive back in the .mp3 player.  Once again, you cannot load music that you do not have permission to use, but you can creatively produce your own messages anytime you want.  Click on the link below for detailed information on an .mp3 music on hold player we offer.

.MP3 Music On Hold Player

To add music on hold to your digital phone system, hosted VoIP phone system, or premised based VoIP phone system, please contact Connecticut Communications at 203.985.1000.

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Connecting your NEC phone system to your LAN for advanced features

Connecting your NEC phone system to your LAN for advanced features

This month’s Connecticut Communications newsletter describes advanced features an end user can receive by connecting their phone system to their local area network.

  • Conference Bridge
  • Remote Programming
  • Smartphone Integration
  • Unified Messaging
  • Call Center
  • Presence
  • IP Networking of Phone Systems

VoIP phone systems already realize the advanced features of connecting to the LAN.  However, older PBX systems can also connect to the network to realize the same features of VoIP systems.

Connect your Phone System to your LAN

If I asked you why would you connect your phone system to your data network, most people would think of VoIP.  However, there are many features that are available because of the LAN connection.

Remote IP phone:  Use an IP phone from home or remote office. Callers have no idea you are not in the office and you have the convenience of being connected to your office.

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Conferencing:  A Conference Bridge in the phone system allows for professional grade conference calling.  From your PC you can send email invites and setup the conference.

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Remote Access:  Connecticut Communications can remote into the system to make programming changes for you.  Maintenance customers get remote programming changes free of charge.

Unified Messaging:  Voice mail to email is a large part of unified messaging.  All voice messages are sent your email as .wav file IP Networking: Link other phone systems together to allow extension dialing, trunk/line sharing and a single voice mail system.attachments for easy listening from your PC or smartphone.

User Mobility:  Users can use their smartphones to connect to the phone system.  Never miss a call when you are away from the office, check voice mail and intercom fellow employees.

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Call Center:  Agents can view the number of people on hold in real time and run reports of detailed call activity.

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Presence:  PC users can see other users that are available to take a call.  Users set their presence to show if they are in the office, out of the office or unavailable.  Phone buttons only show the status of on/off the hook and the number of users you can see is limited by the number of buttons on the phone.  Presence shows more detail and can include every single user on the phone system.

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IP Networking:  Link other phone systems together to allow extension dialing, trunk/line sharing and a single voice mail system.

NEC Aspire Displays

The display on the NEC Aspire display telephones will go bad eventually. Humidity gets into the displays and damages the pixels.

If you would like the displays fixed, a technician can come out and install new displays.  Cost is $75 per display plus labor.

If you have a Maintenance Contract with Connecticut Communications a technician will come out and replace them free of charge.

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Seven Reasons to Consider Cloud Based Unified Communications Services

Seven Reasons to Consider Cloud Based Unified Communications Services

The productivity benefits of Unified Communications (UC) continue to be recognized as it moves into mainstream adoption. As organizations consider how best to deploy, there are a number of factors to consider.  This post focuses on the top reasons to consider Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS).  UCaaS capabilities, also known as hosted or cloud-based UC, include the features found in premises-based IP telephony, as well as presence, integrated audio and web conferencing, mobility, collaboration, video solutions, and business application integration features all delivered as a service.

The benefits of UCaaS go above and beyond simply shifting costs from a capital expense to a predictable operating expense.  Here are our top 7 reasons to consider hosted UC solutions:

 1. Business Agility

Many IT organizations are stretched too thin and struggle to balance day-to-day operations with strategic projects.  One of the advantages of UCaaS is the speed of deployment.  Businesses have the flexibility to rollout UCaaS without the IT time and resource commitments associated with a legacy deployment model. Additionally, maintenance and support time is reduced as there is no longer the need to plan and implement system updates.  UCaaS offers quick updating through the cloud, so a business can choose to deploy new applications to all users or a single department as soon as they become available. This gives an IT department greater flexibility with their communications system, as upgrades can be rolled-out without any disruption to the system.

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2. Increased Efficiencies

Hosted UC services provide business customers with the communications they need without the associated capital costs of traditional on-premises systems and the costs associated with management and support. This increases both budgetary and IT resource efficiencies. With a lower budget barrier to entry, businesses can avoid the upfront capital outlay with UCaaS. Additionally, the predictable monthly expense allows businesses to plan more efficiently. A hosted UC solution can also increase IT efficiencies as there is no need to support and maintain a physical systems on-premises.  Eliminating a number of time consuming tasks for IT folks allows the organization to focus resources on core competencies and provide strategic value to grow the business.  

3. Increased Reliability

Hosted UC providers power their UCaaS offerings via the cloud. The best providers have secure and resilient data centers that are redundantly configured and geographically separated to ensure continued service in the event of catastrophic events and Service Level Agreements that provide uptime guarantees. Each organization’s data and user settings are backed up and mirrored in multiple locations, creating a disaster-proof backbone for your business communications.  Hosted UC providers also offer 24×7 monitoring, as well as the latest encryption and security protocols, so you can rest assured that your data is safe and secure. 

4. Disaster Recovery

In the event of an emergency or disaster, a UCaaS service provider can easily adapt to your changed situation without additional expenses on your part.

Most companies have a Disaster Recovery Plan in place to ensure that data and records vital to the operation of the business are duplicated or protected in off-site storage repositories.  UCaaS now provides the ability to ensure that business communications are also protected in the event of an emergency and can be incorporated into the overall Disaster Recovery Plan.

5. Greater Mobility

UCaaS is a strong enabler for the mobile worker, the BYOD explosion, and remote/home office worker.  It allows users access to all business communications features from any registered user device, including a smart phone, laptop, desktop and, of course, desk phone.  Organizations can enable users’ smart phones to transparently bridge calls from the company’s Wi-Fi networks to cellular networks and back again, keeping  “on-the-go” and “location agnostic” users connected.  Desktop client software can turn any networked PC into a virtual desktop phone and unified messaging terminal.  Users can travel with their extensions, use video conferencing, and access advanced call forwarding and web-browser dialing. IT organizations often struggle with managing application across numerous devices. With UCaaS, users download the device application from the app store and IT can easily manage their access.  An additional user benefit is that the experience is the same across all devices.

6. Increased Collaboration

True collaboration means anywhere, anytime access on any device. UCaaS gives your users access to applications that will let them instantly chat, set up on-the-fly conferences/meetings (both video and voice), share and exchange documents, and engage customers in real-time dialog. This will not only improve your workforce’s ability to be nimble, but will also improve customer satisfaction.

7. Better Customization

UCaaS combines enterprise-grade voice features with sophisticated Unified Communications and Collaboration applications and hosts them in the cloud. UCaaS gives you the flexibility to choose the deployment model and applications to fit your specific requirements. It also offers the flexibility to expand or contract as your business requirements change.

Additional Resources

To learn more about how Unified Communication as a Service can help you take advantage of the latest UC technology, easily connect mobile and remote users, and free up time for the other IT projects you need to get to, click below

NEC UCaaS Brochure

IT Convergence: Key Technology Trends that are driving Businesses towards converged IT infrastructure

IT Convergence: Key Technology Trends that are driving Businesses towards converged IT infrastructure

Modernizing IT infrastructure and becoming a Smarter Enterprise

The need for modernization among IT departments is a trend that is becoming increasingly relevant as IT departments are constantly faced with generational shifts in technology. The pressures of modern business require that IT departments close the gap between yesterday’s IT implementations and tomorrow’s demands.

Organizations that fail to modernize will rapidly lose their ability to respond to changing customer needs. They will weaken their competitive positions in the marketplace. And most importantly, the gap between where they are and need to be will only widen, leading to an expensive and uncertain future.

With most businesses facing incredibly tight or shrinking IT budgets, taking the appropriate steps toward modernization will seem expensive. With a modernized platform, however, organizations can add new capabilities and enhance overall employee performance while reducing their electronic footprint, leading to increased savings over time.

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What is a Smart Enterprise?

Smart enterprises leverage more converged IT technologies to optimize business practices, drive workforce engagement, and create a competitive edge. Merely leveraging a converged IT framework in your IT department means that you are on your way to operating a smarter, more efficient business. IT organizations can utilize four key areas of value and then assess their plan against:

1: Business Agility

Today, most workforces are mobile. As such, your applications and enterprise architecture should empower these mobile workforces. Creating a more adaptive and more programmable infrastructure will enable IT to be more responsive to your organization. Businesses in today’s world are always on, and as a result, you need to consider how your most critical services can adapt more naturally and automatically to the mobile and always-on workforce.

2: Cloud Delivery

Modern businesses need to be incredibly efficient. Cloud delivery provides businesses with the opportunity to flexibly deploy services and software more consistently across converged premises, cloud, or hybrid infrastructures. An enterprise IT business plan should consider how and when to deploy certain services in the cloud, when to operate them on-premises, and when to purchase them as-a-service.

3: Collaborative Communities

Today’s growing workforce demands rich Internet-style applications that are easy to access from anywhere and work consistently from any device.  Organizations who have built collaborative communities by providing powerful tools that deliver consistent and intuitive user experiences, converged applications, and distributed architectures are able to adapt dynamically to change and empower employees to their fullest extent.

4: Assured Services

Securing business information—protecting your company’s intellectual properties and digital assets—falls squarely on the shoulders of IT.  Add security with the need to assure business continuity, and you get a business that must consider greater infrastructure planning, high availability at multiple layers, a consistent and aligned security credential methodology, and which must validate automated archival methods.

Steps to Modernization

Competing in today’s business environment is about meeting challenges, making decisions, and innovating rapidly—using the best and most current technologies, tools and information.

Cloud services, mobile integration, real-time collaboration, and high availability are becoming essential ingredients for the smart and secure enterprise. They are part of a rapidly evolving technology foundation by means of which the best solution providers enable new approaches to how your businesses IT services are delivered and managed, allowing you new opportunities for growth.

Want to know more about IT Modernization?

Contact Connecticut Communications at 203.985.1000 to find out more.

NEC VoIP Unified Communications Free Lunch-N-Learn

NEC VoIP Unified Communications Free Lunch-N-Learn

On April 10th NEC and Connecticut Communications will be hosting a free lunch-n-learn in Shelton, Connecticut.  NEC will present their latest features in unified communications.

There are so many unified communications features available, come see first hand how these features will impact your business and how it will make you more efficient.  From mobile phone integration to desktop call control, NEC has something to offer you.

Lunch & Learn

You are invited to attend a Lunch & Lunch at NEC.  The NEC SV8100 VoIP system will make your office phone work like your smartphone, come see the exciting new features!

NEC Corporation of America4 Forest ParkwayShelton, CT 
Thursday, April 10
11:00am – 2:30pm
Lunch will be provided

Please RSVP to:  Scott@ctcom.com or 203.985.1001

Unified Communications as a Service Continues to Grow

Unified Communications as a Service Continues to Grow

The cloud-based communications services market is one of the fastest growing segments in the quickly expanding Unified Communications market.

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) is essentially a delivery model for Unified Communications (UC). With UCaaS, employers have the opportunity to outsource communication and collaborative applications to a third-party provider for online delivery. It serves exactly the same purpose as traditional premises-based UC, combining multiple communications means and methods into a single, unified application.

Even with the advantages UCaaS offers, there remain some concerns about adopting these solutions. A recent Spiceworks survey of 267 IT pros in North America (11% of whom have already implemented UCaaS in their organization) points to two main concerns about hosted solutions: availability and performance.

By educating IT pros on UCaaS adoption trends and advantages, we hope to offer a closer look at the burgeoning UCaaS market.

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Innovators using UCaaS

Early technology adopters tend to buy and try out new hardware and software, and versions of existing programs sooner than most of their peers. According to Everett Rogers, author of the Diffusion of Innovations (DoI) theory and book, early adopters make roughly 14% of consumers.

And while early adopters are eager to explore new options like UCaaS, they are not the only ones worth watching. According to Rogers, there is a small minority of early adopters called innovators. Only one person out of 40 is of this type. Innovators are the people most likely to conceive and develop new methodologies and technologies, and who often end up running large IT corporations or founding new ones.

As the Spiceworks research shows, they are the ones adopting UCaaS.

IT Pros Responding to UCaaS

Among IT pros responding to the Spiceworks survey, 11% had adopted UCaaS. However, another 12% indicated they are planning to adopt it in the next year, which will more than double the number of people using UCaaS today.

This projected growth tracks consistently with the expectations of UCaaS market growth reported in 2013 by researchers at MarketsandMarkets. Their report on UCaaS projects that the global market will grow from $2.52 billion in 2013 to $7.62 billion by 2018, at an estimated CAGR of 24.8%.

Some suggest that developing confidence in hosted solutions in general is the impetus for the projected dramatic increase in adoption. Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research, has pointed out, “…more than 90% of companies now use software as a service (SaaS) applications.”

UCaaS’ potential to create uninterrupted communications across multiple devices and methods appeal to companies whose employees are increasingly seeking seamless 24/7 access to communications. According to Denise Culver, research analyst and author of a recent Heavy Reading Insider report on UCaaS, “As UCaaS continues to be viewed from the lens of a solution that cuts the landline cord and eradicates the need for a traditional PBX, it will be looked at as a business enabler, rather than a simple phone system.”

UCaaS Adoption Advantages

  • Up-to-date UC Technology and Applications: UCaaS applications can be updated easily and deployed company-wide as they become available via the cloud. UCaaS helps avoid technology obsolescence and the time and resources associated with large scale “technology refreshes.”
  • Cost Savings: SMBs that choose UCaaS for their communications solution avoid the capital outlay required to set up and maintain on-site hardware. Instead, that cost is shifted to operational expenditures via the third-party UCaaS provider. Businesses also only pay for the level of service they require.
  • Scalability: UCaaS models allow SMBs to quickly and easily increase their service levels as they add employees. This means that the SMBs pay for only what they need and they are not required to predict their potential needs in advance. This helps streamline the budget and makes the communications plans more scalable, as the business can easily modify as the workforce expands or even if it shrinks.
  • Higher Levels of Performance:The best hosted service providers have secure and resilient data centers that are redundantly configured and geographically separated to ensure continued service in the event of emergencies and Service Level Agreements that provide uptime guarantees. Each organization’s data and user settings are backed up and mirrored in multiple locations, creating a disaster-proof backbone for their business communications. This alleviates the potential of SMBs losing their communication capabilities due to a technical problem or severe weather events or other disasters. UCaaS also ensures their employees stay connected and productive even if they are unable to make it into the office through the off-site cloud-based tools that provide them access from any location and any device.

According to the Synergy Research Group, UCaaS subscribers will grow an average of 76 percent annually over the next five years. SMBs are expected to be a large part of that group.