Copper, Cable or SIP Trunks…which is best for your Phone System?

Copper, Cable or SIP Trunks…which is best for your Phone System?

In the July 2014 Connecticut Communications Newsletter, read all about the difference between analog copper lines, cable company lines and SIP trunks.

As you know, the world is transforming to IP based service, but is that right for your business right now?

Your current phone system or new VoIP Unified Communications phone system can integrate with all the various types of phone line service.  Read the newsletter to see which service is right for your business.  Still confused after reading it?  Reach out to a representative from Connecticut Communications for a free face to face discussion.

Copper, Cable or SIP for Phone System?

Copper Lines:  In 1878, the phone company started using copper pairs to connect telephones to the central office.  Today, AT&T is getting out of the copper line business in Connecticut, selling their copper infrastructure to Frontier Communications.  Service is delivered by copper lines from the street.

Typical configuration:  Main number (line), followed by additional rollover lines.  Lines cost about $40 each per month.

Good:  When you have a problem with one line, its only one line. You can use the other lines to call out.  Simply busy out the bad line until its repaired.

Bad:  Very difficult to have direct lines for employees.  You can get one line and direct it to a phone, but the next caller gets a busy signal.

Ugly:  Copper is going away.  Caller ID is extra.

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Cable Lines:  In 2005, Comcast started offering voice lines to customers.  The lines use VoIP to transmit voice and digitally stream the voice down to a cable modem where the signal is converted to analog.  Service is delivered over coax cable.

Typical configuration:  Same as copper lines.  Main number (line), followed by additional rollover lines.  Lines cost about $40 each per month.

Good:  Unlimited Long Distance.  Caller ID included.

Bad:  Same as Copper with direct lines.  Cable companies have terrible customer service, especially with voice service because they are new to the game.

Ugly:  Cable lines do not provide a loop current disconnect, something phone systems rely on so it knows when a caller hangs up.  This results in lines not disconnecting.  The fix?  Power cycle your cable modem.   You may experience dropped calls or no audio.  This is result of the cable company trying to convert VoIP to analog.  The fix?  Power cycle your cable modem.

SIP Trunks:  SIP trunking is a Voice over Internet Protocol that delivers voice service over the internet.

Typical configuration:  Call Paths.  Simply decide the number of simultaneous calls you need.  Telephone numbers are virtual and ring in over the internet circuit through a call path.

Good: Caller ID included.  Users can have direct numbers very inexpensively (less $1 per month).  Since individual numbers use the same call paths, no busy signal for additional callers.  VoIP is the backbone of all future phone calls, no conversion to analog is necessary.  If you lose internet connection, service can automatically route calls to another telephone number.

Bad:  Can be expensive for small companies that have a phone system since you need to pay for a T-1 circuit. 

Ugly:   Your phone system must be configured properly for the specific carrier SIP trunks, otherwise you may experience ‘no audio’ and ‘dropped calls’.

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Talk to your Connecticut Communications representative to discuss the best option for your business.

203.985.1000

The Top Traits of Unified Communications Innovators

The Top Traits of Unified Communications Innovators

How to Rank Unified Communications (UC) Technology

It should come as no surprise to anyone that companies are still struggling to understand how to make the right technology decisions. Too often, businesses make important growth decisions based on a narrow understanding of their IT environment—which can have a negative impact down the line as the environment continues to change.

To avoid error when choosing new technologies, businesses need successful growth strategies that make use of innovative technologies. In order to determine what your business’s growth strategy should encompass, you need a thorough understanding of your market. By assessing the technical innovations within your market, your industry’s key challenges, your customers, and the best practices that have led to your own past successes, your business can preemptively ward off future regret by making the right technology choice the first time.

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Key Industry Challenges

The businesses that are most equipped to meet the challenges of modern communications are already employing UC technology and infrastructure. They specifically leverage these new technologies to enhance the quality of communications for employees and customers, while also utilizing innovative UC technology and infrastructure as a means to optimize network traffic as network demand changes.

The following are two of the most common enterprise communications challenges that are addressed by UC technological innovation, and the most popular traits that innovative UC leaders have to answer those stresses:

  • IT Infrastructure Stress — the transformation to modern unified communications platforms has seen enterprise communications become more reliant on IT infrastructure—particularly application and media servers, data center and campus IP networks, wide area networks, media gateways and session border controllers.
  • Bandwidth Sensitivity — in converged voice, video, and data environments, bandwidth-sensitive IP telephony solutions are now sharing resources with other enterprise applications, with real time applications media traffic granted priority access through configurations set by network administrators. While Server and desktop virtualization has allowed UC to become increasingly dynamic in terms of on-demand capacity, the underlying infrastructure that carries voice and video traffic has largely remained static and unadaptable to utilization spikes.

Trait 1: Innovation-driven leaders are beginning to take a more holistic view of UC infrastructure.

Rather than treating the UC platform, data centers, and enterprise networks as discrete components, innovators are applying emerging standards within their own solutions to deliver a new level of intelligence and self-awareness to UC infrastructure. This ultimately allows UC systems to identify sources of trouble, and then adjust themselves to accommodate spikes in traffic or demand.

Trait 2: Innovative leaders enable UC and enterprise infrastructure solutions to thrive together rather than coexist.

Rather than having a static UC platform running alongside static infrastructure solutions, innovators are building intelligence and feedback loops between UC platforms and the enterprise network that empowers them. This allows the UC solution to preemptively prepare the infrastructure for planned events that will potentially stress it. Also, with the many existing manual configuration processes automated, the enterprise infrastructure is able to become as dynamic as the solutions it serves.

Key Benchmarking Criteria for Innovative UC Technology

Each year, Frost & Sullivan determines how best-in-class companies worldwide manage growth, innovation, and leadership. Based on the findings of their best practices research, they present an annual Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award in Unified Communications.

If you’re wondering how to differentiate between UC innovators, Frost & Sullivan has created criteria for benchmarking leading unified communications solutions.

  1. Uniqueness of Technology
  2. Impact on New Products/Applications
  3. Impact on Functionality
  4. Impact on Customer Value
  5. Relevance of Innovation to Industry
Best Practice Award Analysis for NEC

NEC has been an early proponent, adopter, and provider of many new networking technologies. Frost & Sullivan analyzed NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C and UCaaS Solutions for technological innovation. Part of their findings include:

Impact on New Products/Applications

NEC’s UNIVERGE portfolio of solutions are built on key pillars of NEC’s IT Empowered Framework and Smart Enterprise programs, the foundation of which is utilizing adaptable network infrastructures. NEC’s UC products are therefore fully-distributed and data center-ready, virtualized UC solutions. In contrast, traditional network architectures require a near duplication of hardware and costs to achieve similar levels of business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities.

Impact on Customer Value

NEC’s innovation in delivering a high-level of integration between enterprise communication applications and the underlying infrastructure ultimately drives customer value through automation and optimizations. Integration with Software-Defined Networks (SDN) enables real-time communications between the UC platform and the network. NEC’s UNIVERGE 3C platform programmatically adjusts the infrastructure to work around trouble or allocate additional network resources to cope with spikes in demand without administrator interaction.

Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award

According to the 2014 Global Technology Innovation Leadership Award Report, NEC’s holistic approach to deploying enterprise communications solutions, and the level of automation and dynamic flexibility inherent in NEC UC infrastructures should appeal to customers and serve as a roadmap for the direction of communication networks.

NEC Ranks Highest in Customer Service, Trust and Technology

NEC Ranks Highest in Customer Service, Trust and Technology

Our unified communications (UC) customers have always said that NEC provides highly reliable communications solutions designed to support their unique businesses, and industry analysts have also agreed.

Recently, Nemertes Research surveyed 500 IT decision-makers to determine how they rate their technology vendors. The survey asked 20 key questions that were designed to help determine which IP telephony vendor has the best customer service, and what that service actually means when put into context.

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The survey results show that NEC ranks the highest among vendors in the following categories:

Trusted Advisor

IT decision-makers know that vendor credibility is as important when making a purchasing decision as the architecture of the solution purchased.

A trusted telephony vendor should be able to stand behind its solution. It should commit to providing consistent product software updates and maintain a track record of evolving customer technology. A trusted telephony vendor doesn’t do forklift upgrades, preferring instead to provide value, measurement and consistency. And, most importantly, a trusted telephony vendor should always make a commitment to businesses of all sizes—small, medium, and enterprise alike.

To better understand how IP telephony providers measure up in this area, Nemertes built “Trusted Advisor” questions into its survey. These questions help numerically determine each vendor’s:

  •  technology expertise
  • credibility
  • innovativeness
  • character
  • timeliness in response to customer needs

NEC ranks highly in all of these sub-categories, but two of our greatest strengths have always been our expertise and credibility. As one of the original telephony vendors, we not only understand, but have also helped define both the industry and its technologies.

We bring our expertise and credibility to the market in multiple ways. One way is through innovative products. The second, according to the report, is through our value-added resellers or dealers. NEC customers have determined that we are the most capable at passing our knowledge to our dealers—who serve as an equally knowledgeable and capable extension of NEC.

Technology

In today’s environment it’s extremely important to choose the right UC solution. IT organizations are under pressure to select multiple business solutions that provide the best technology available and that deliver the best value possible—and communications technology is no exception.
The technology portion of the Nemertes report shows how each vendor’s products rank in the following sub-categories:

  • reliability
  • interoperability
  • management capabilities
  • technology roadmap

NEC consistently ranks highly among communications vendors as providing reliable, interoperable and innovative communications and IT solutions. In fact, our highest scoring metric was product reliability, meaning that in the eyes of our customers we not only provide innovative products, but also deliver reliable and dependable products that provide a continuous path forward.

Customer Service

According to Nemertes, NEC unequivocally ranked highest in the Customer Service category. The survey assessed the customer’s needs in the following categories:

  • pre-sales responsiveness
  • post-sales responsiveness
  • break-fix responsiveness
  • accuracy and timeliness in delivering invoices

From the results Nemertes determined that no other vendor is currently providing the same quality of response to its customers as well as NEC.

NEC is proud to rank highest in this category, and we continue to make customer service of the utmost importance to our business. We have award-winning products. When our technology is factored with our credibility, expertise and the quality of our customer service, it’s easy to see why the report shows that NEC has the highest percentage of organizations who wish to stay our customers of all the vendors polled.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. Download the Nemertes Report now.

Contact Connecticut Communications for a discussion on NEC technology and how it can help your business. 203-985-1001

NEC Contact Center: The Importance of First Call Resolution

NEC Contact Center: The Importance of First Call Resolution

Tech professionals love their acronyms, and FCR—First Call Resolution in customer service industries and contact centers is no different. Lately, it seems every vertical industry has its vocabulary; with an acronym for every ideology, methodology, principle, and strategy. Most of these terms have been discussed to death—to the extent that it becomes difficult to get excited about the topic at all. 

FCR is one of the acronyms we don’t see nearly enough of, though; which becomes evident when running a simple search for the term. In fact, search engines seem to return every generic name for FCR other than the one discussed here.

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FCR is one of the five most important operational metrics in today’s contact centers and is also one of the key drivers of customer satisfaction. You would think that in a challenging economic environment, one that is increasingly focused on the importance of customer satisfaction in a word-of-mouth-equals-free-marketing-distribution kind of world, that the topic would be written about so extensively that it would dominate search engine results.

So why aren’t we talking about it?

Contacts vs. Calls

Customer relationship managers use FCR to mean two principles/metrics that are often used interchangeably—when they shouldn’t be. Is FCR first contact resolution or first call resolution?  The answer to that question depends on your business’ individual needs.

First Contact Resolution incorporates the same principles as first call resolution—which is generally accepted to mean that a contact center agent addresses a customer’s need the first time they call, thereby eliminating the need for the customer to follow up with a second call.

First Contact Resolution takes First Call a step further by tracking the contact’s behaviors and providing additional analytics and data based on their actions.

While purists might agree that First Contact Resolution is the better of the two metrics and most reflective of true customer experience, the reality is that purchasing the customer lifecycle tracking software needed to appropriately track the First Contact Resolution metric is often expensive and impractical.

Why impractical?

Well, for the answer, we must look at the Pareto Principle.

The 80/20 Rule

The Pareto Principle—also known as the 80/20 principle—is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. His theory, originally a socio-economic commentary on the distribution of wealth in early 20thcentury Italy, was adopted by business strategists in the 1940’s as an all-inclusive philosophy of the “vital few and the trivial many.”

In the context of the call center, this typically means that 80% of customer service calls/requests are coming from 20% of a given customer base.

So, taking the Pareto Principle into consideration means understanding that the customers who are on the phone with your contact center agents today, will likely be the same customers who are on the phone with your agents next week. Knowing this turns the immediate need for First Contact-level tracking into a lower-priority concern.

If you have the budget to spend on customer lifecycle management technology, then you shouldtrack that data.

But I’d rather focus on First Call Resolution, and how implementing sound practices with appropriate contact center technology makes it possible to improve this essential performance metric.

What the Statistics Say

Last year, WhitePages and the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) performed a study of 542 contact center professionals titled “Using Big Data in the Contact Center.”  The study found that 60 percent of contact center managers feel like they are unable to deliver actionable customer service information to agents due to data overload and a lack of focus on customer satisfaction. In addition, the survey found that:

  • More than 40 percent of customer contact information is manually recorded by agents instead of fed through automated APIs or Web-based systems, which means reps are often not as connected to relevant customer data as they need to be to guarantee FCR.
  • Half of call center agents feel hampered by productivity challenges such as having to ask customers for basic contact information.
  • More than a third of contact centers do not collect any data around customer satisfaction, and 15 percent collect it but don’t use it at all.

While there are a great number of businesses continuing to operate with legacy call center equipment and ignore the importance of technology that helps achieve immediate customer satisfaction, today’s customers are becoming increasingly demanding. Customers are becoming more aggressive when comparing prices and are apt to switch their loyalty to your competition because of a poor customer service experience.

The study shows that without the right tools and guidance, agents are neither able to handle the volume of data that is in front of them, nor able to extract the vital pieces of information that they need to drive successful outcomes.

Everyone lately has experienced a terrible call or long hold time. In fact, the entire experience has created a small culture on Twitter that identifies with the hashtag #onholdwith.

Obsolete technology doesn’t give any business the extensibility it needs to answer customer complaints. When you consider that these same businesses are also becoming overwhelmed by data, one wonders whether or not first call resolution as a principle is also becoming obsolete and forgotten.

Keeping your customers in focus

Failure to resolve customer issues in the first call results in callbacks and increased total costs. If customers have to call back two or three times to resolve their issue, they may not call back ever again.

No matter how fast your company grows your customer service has to remain razor sharp. After all, the cost of acquiring a new customer is considerably greater than retaining an existing one.  So how can you work aggressively to make sure that each interaction with your agents ends with resolution? By considering the following:

  1. Educate agents and get them involved: Educate your agents and then empower them to improve first call resolution-related processes. Your agents know customers and customer care probably better than anyone. Smart managers actively solicit suggestions and insight from their agents regarding how they may be able to enhance first call resolution performance. Given the opportunity, your call center agents will tell you what tools, training, and workflows are lacking and what processes and metrics are interfering with their ability to resolve customer issues effectively.
  2. Consult past records: Don’t attempt to solve the problem without doing due diligence. Encourage your agents to review past interactions with their customers for clues and indications about why certain interactions resolve and others do not. Doing so will put your agents in a better place to remedy problems instantly.
  3. Install recording software: To get a sense of whether your agents resolve customer queries or escalate them, invest in call recording software which can record and archive every single interaction. Doing so gives your call center managers something to rely on to identify best-in-class behavior and zero in on patterns needing improvement.
  4. Optimize workforce management processes: Even the best trained and equipped agents on the planet can’t be successful if they’re over-worked. The same applies if the customer, who has been caged in a queue for 15 minutes, is screaming at them for taking too long when answering the phone. Accurate forecasting and sound scheduling is critical, as is mastering skills-based routing, so callers get sent to the right agent with the right skill set to handle a customer’s specific issue right there on the spot.
Solutions available to your business

Ultimately there is a high cost, in terms of inefficiencies and operational cost, when you continue to operate outdated technologies. Taking inventory of your existing call center technologies can help you determine if it’s time for an overhaul or a simple upgrade.

You don’t have to choose between favorite software and hardware. You can choose to invest in contact centers with automatic call distribution and attendant technologies so that calls coming into your contact center are routed correctly. Many of these technologies now include Unified Communications with presence technology, which can help you identify available subject matter experts instantly.

How Secure is the Cloud?

How Secure is the Cloud?

Coud security is a hot discussion topic these days. Security is one of the main reasons that many business leaders have been slow to adapt to the cloud. Keeping data on premises makes business and IT leaders feel more secure.

But lately there seems to be a shift—the cloud tipping point has arrived, and more companies are moving to the cloud to replace various on-premises technologies and services.

The truth is that the cloud offers many of its own security advantages—many of which are the same as on-premises storage technologies. Before you assume that the cloud isn’t safe, it’s worth taking a look at what’s available to you and evaluating the risks associated with moving to the cloud—particularly when doing so could provide serious benefits.

According to Corey Louie, the Head of Trust, Safety, and Security at Dropbox, the best solutions will serve as an extension of the network and security infrastructure that you already have in place. When deployed properly, cloud solutions can help SMBs and Enterprises achieve more agility and can help with cost savings.

If we specifically look at one cloud service—let’s take Unified-Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS), one of the fastest growing markets in communications, the cloud can enable companies to:

  • Offload equipment costs 
  • Shift certain budgeting from a CAPEX to an OPEX model 
  • Simplify management and cost tracking 
  • Increase scalability 
  • Increase IT speed and agility 
  • Improve disaster recovery and business continuity

There are still those who hesitate when choosing the cloud, which is why it is important to understand what the security threats are, and how to approach security for a cloud-based technology or solution.

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What are the risks?

In 2013, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) identified “The Notorious Nine,” the top nine cloud computing threats. The report reflects a consensus among industry experts surveyed by CSA, focusing on threats specifically related to the shared, on-demand nature of cloud computing.

These nine threats include:

  • Data Theft/Breaches
  • Data Loss
  • Account/Service Traffic Hijacking
  • Insecure Interfaces/APIs
  • Denial of Service
  • Malicious Insiders
  • Cloud Abuse
  • Insufficient Due Diligence

Physical theft, employee mistakes (like lost devices), and insider threats are responsible for 42.7% of 2013 data breaches in the United States, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. In another 29.6% of data breaches, hackers broke into data owned by companies and government agencies. Big tech companies, major retailers, and airlines were some among many 2013 victims.

Each year, Alert Logic, an IT services provider, publishes a semi-annual State of Cloud Security report, surveying their customers to understand from where security threats are coming.

The results are interesting:

  • An enterprise data center (EDC) is 4x more likely to suffer a malware/bot attack than a cloud hosting provider (CHP).
  • EDCs and CHPs are equally vulnerable to a “vulnerability scan” and a “brute force” hack. 
  • EDCs are 3x times more likely to suffer a recon attack and 4x an app attack. 

Cloud providers are 40% more likely to suffer a web app attack and 10% more prone to vulnerability scan weakness than an enterprise data center. In recons, malware, bot, and app attacks, the cloud seems to have less risk than most on-premises technologies.

According to Louie, the takeaway is not that cloud is better but that the risks are manageable. No one—regardless of their resources—is 100% secure.

What are the benefits?

Cloud-based technologies and services are not without their own security advantages. For many cloud service providers, there is a deep commitment to security—perhaps deeper than the media typically portrays. This commitment means a few, quite significant, things:

You get enterprise hardware for a small business price.

With cloud computing, your data is stored on enterprise-grade hardware, equipment that is typically unaffordable for most small and mid-sized businesses. By using the cloud for your business, you are upgrading to safer equipment.

You get more focused security.

For cloud vendors to succeed they need to focus on securing their service. This means that instead of attempting to prevent a variety of more general threats (as your in-house model would require) cloud vendors are free to (and great at) securing the one thing you want protected: your data online.

You get flexibility and agility.

Many IT organizations are stretched thin and struggle to balance day-to-day operations with strategic projects. One of the advantages of cloud services is the speed of deployment. Businesses have the flexibility to rollout cloud services without the IT time, and resource commitments typically associated with a legacy deployment model.

You get professional management.

Using the cloud to store data means that you get trained professionals managing your patch updates and keeping the server’s software up-to-date. Maintenance and support time are reduced since there is no longer a need to plan and implement system updates, and you can redeploy IT resources to more strategic initiatives to help advance the organization.

You get well-funded security.

Investing in top-level security features adds value to individual cloud service providers’ businesses. Investing in this way is a necessity for success. Businesses adopting cloud services gain the opportunity to put someone else’s financial resources to work, which can help take the sting out of security spending.

That deep commitment to security means that cloud service providers have to invest far more in scalable infrastructure and information security than do most organizations. Those investments are quite significant, and service providers will bear that burden for you. They can create economies of scale and efficiencies that benefit you.

Think about it like this: services like Dropbox go above and beyond to protect your data — so that you don’t have to invest heavily in secure systems and servers, constantly consider network and product security threats, submit to in-depth compliance reviews and audits, undergo regular testing against attacks, set up complex logical access controls, and assure data centers have advanced physical, environmental, and operational security measures.

The Cloud in Perspective: UCaaS

Hopefully, it’s clear why the cloud has some real advantages. Let’s take a quick look at UCaaS for a perspective on a unique cloud service.

The market for UCaaS is growing pretty rapidly. Among IT pros responding to a 2014 Spiceworks survey, 11% had adopted UCaaS. However, another 12% indicated they are planning to adopt it in the next year, more than doubling 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.” Much of that confidence is due to the service providers’ dedication to security improvements.

Are you excited by the opportunities UCaaS presents to the communications market?

Security concerns shouldn’t hold you back from learning more. Check out the Reducing UC Costs and Increasing Business Performance whitepaper to take a deeper dive into the advantages of UCaaS, market drivers, concerns, and what to look for in a provider.

Can Teams Collaborate Effectively While Working Remotely with NEC IP?

Can Teams Collaborate Effectively While Working Remotely with NEC IP?

It’s estimated that telecommuters will total 3.9 million people by 2016.The question remains though—can work-from-home teams collaborate effectively with the help of technology?

Telecommuting seems to be a business trend that thrived during and survived the recession. There’s been an abundance of news articles on this very topic since Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced almost two years ago that the company’s new policy would only allow telecommuting occasionally. Yahoo’s human resources chief, Jackie Reses, announced the telecommuting change in a memo, saying, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

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The indication here seems to be that collaborating and communicating from multiple locations and across technology doesn’t work nearly as well as in-person collaboration—a bold statement which many critics claimed was unfounded and misguided. With most businesses using some form of communications technology like Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) that have applications and features like presence, unified messaging, and video collaboration that have been proven to make teams more efficient—the decision to re-route two decades of Yahoo and HR modernization and improvement seems like a giant step backwards.

The teleworker discussion seems to be a small piece of a much bigger conversation—whether or not technology actually brings people together, and how best to define the new workplace and teleworkers’ individual roles in it.

“No one would disagree that the U.S. work force is increasingly mobile,” said the Telework Research Network in a 2011 paper on the state of telecommuting. “But, beyond that broad statement, we know little about the rate of increase in mobility — how often people are out of the office, where they are, and what they’re doing. For that matter, there’s no agreed-upon method of defining who they are.”

The Challenges Facing the Remote Workforce

It’s clear that the remote workforce discussion was taking place long before Marissa Mayer and team entered it. And they certainly aren’t the only ones to question the effectiveness of a constantly remote work-force.

In an article by Gallup Business Journal author Steve Crabtree, Google’s Chief Internet evangelist Vint Cerf emphasizes the importance of frequent casual interactions between coworkers.

Tools like instant messaging and video collaboration can help create opportunities for these interactions for remote workers—provided of course that UC and communications solutions are evenly distributed and widely used throughout the given organization.

Dr. Cerf, one of Gallup’s senior scientists, is widely regarded as one of the fathers of the Internet for his seminal work on the TCP/IP protocols that form its underlying architecture, and the networking tools he helped make possible now allow many people to do their jobs from almost anywhere.

Google has faced its own challenges with employees working together remotely. “‘We had people participating in teams, [and] they would almost never see each other face to face. Often they were in different time zones, which meant they had to work harder to stay in sync,’” Dr. Cerf said. “‘So we started recompiling groups to make them, if not co-located, at least within one or two time zones of one another so that it was more convenient to interact.’”

Many similar challenges are faced by organizations that have large telecommuting populations. As more workplaces become dispersed and reliant on remote workforces, more companies will experience the tension of helping employees work together effectively while allowing them to do their jobs from disparate locations.

Modesty is Key to Higher Telecommuting Success Rates

One of the top telecommuting questions that most people want answered is: “How does telecommuting affect employee engagement?” On the one hand, working remotely offers employees a measure of autonomy, helping them feel better equipped to do their jobs. On the other hand, employees must have positive, trusting relationships with their managers and coworkers to stay engaged, and such relationships become much more difficult to sustain with less face-to-face interaction.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report suggests that the ability to work remotely corresponds with higher engagement, but, primarily among those who spend less than 20% of their total working time doing so—a pattern that makes “intuitive sense,” according to Dr. Cerf.

Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, who has studied teleworking for two decades, said her research shows that much of what managers and professionals call telecommuting occurs after a 40-hour week spent in the office. These people check email, return calls and write reports from home, but in the evenings and weekends.

Flexibility is a remote work benefit that will elicit a positive response while it remains a benefit, but beyond that it becomes less useful. In terms of the limits to the utility of telecommuting, it seems that studies and statistics suggest that the strategy involved in managing in-office and remote work is as important, if not more so, than the tools used while telecommuting.

Solutions are found in Balance

Balance is needed between utilizing the advantages of online collaboration tools and the need for the personal and informal interactions that boost workplace morale/cohesion; a balance which depends on the nature of the job being done and specific situations.

In inclement weather or other crises, cloud computing services such as remote desktops, softphones that can be accessed from home or at work, and video collaboration tools can help organizations ensure that everyone continues working even if they cannot physically get into the office. The benefits in this situation are great, and often allow employers to keep employees safe without losing, what many times can end up being weeks of, productivity.

“The ability to set up a collaborative environment literally within seconds is an extraordinarily powerful tool,’ Dr. Cerf says, ‘as opposed to having to coordinate everybody’s calendar and waiting two weeks before we can all put our heads together [in the same room].’”

But it’s still just as important to interact directly with co-workers on a regular basis. According to Dr. Cerf, face-to-face conversations help “cross-pollinate” talent and creativity among varied workgroups and departments within an organization.

The Flexibility of Modern Communications

In the end, companies will have to devise policies that meet their own needs and values. As we mentioned before UC&C, video collaboration, presence, instant messaging etc., can help organization scale communications more appropriately to affordably allow telecommuting as needed/wanted.

But UC&C does a lot more than that. UC&C integrates real-time and regular communications with business processes and requirements based on presence capabilities, presenting a consistent unified user interface and user experience across multiple devices and media types. UC also supports each organization when managing various types of communications across multiple devices and applications, and across geographies, with personalized rules and policies, while integrating with back-office applications, systems and business processes.

UC&C can help you re-define what “remote work” means for your business by helping you eliminate many of the social issues typically associated with long-term work outside of the office. How? UC&C enables people to connect, communicate and collaborate seamlessly to improve business agility and results. These results include better user and group productivity, dynamic collaboration and simplified business processes—all goals that need to be met to keep remote workers connected to each other and the home office.

Connecticut Communications Newsletter January 2015

Connecticut Communications Newsletter January 2015

This month’s newsletter talks about a bluetooth adapter for the NEC office phone.  Everyone has a large contact list in their smartphone, why not be able to call from this list using your office telephone?

If you receive a call on your smartphone, answer it on your NEC office phone.

Connecticut Communications can offer a 0% Fair Market Value lease on a new NEC VoIP phone system for up to 60 months. Contact us for a demo of unified communications using VoIP phones from NEC.

Bluetooth Adapter

This NEC Bluetooth Adapter allows you to connect your smartphone with your NEC phone.

Receiving calls from Smartphone connection: User is able to able to establish a talk path from a call connected on the smartphone device and talk through the handset on the NEC terminal via the handset of the NEC terminal.

When a call is received by the smart device, the NEC Terminal will provide an audio notification of incoming call (ringing).

– Calls can be answered and terminated by placing the NEC terminal in a on/off hook mode (via handset) or pressing the speaker button on the NEC terminal.

– Speaker and handset volume output can be controlled by the NEC terminal.

– Music can be streamed from the smartphone to the speaker of the NEC terminal.

Placing Calls via NEC terminal: User can place a call from the Smart Device through the NEC terminal.

– User can enter a calling number from the smart device in order to establish the voice connection through the NEC Terminal.

– User can link the internal phone book of the smart device in order to establish a voice connection through the NEC terminal

This solution requires a 3rd party application to be active on the smart device.

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Maintenance

Our Maintenance customers enjoy free NEC software upgrades, unlimited training and free phone labels.

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Wireless Headset

This headset is compatible with your NEC system, only $295.

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Video Surveillance

Keep track of your office surroundings with high resolution video cameras.  Watch live from your smartphone.

Unified Communications as a Service Regains Losses during Storms

Unified Communications as a Service Regains Losses during Storms

It’s that time of year again. Blizzards like Winter Storm Juno are ravaging the North-Eastern United States. People are snowed in and can’t get to work. The effects of the storm will be felt across seven states this year—meaning more SMBs and Enterprises will grind to a screeching halt in 2015 than did this same time last year.Businesses across the country will take a hit in sales and service departments, delayed by loss of employee manpower and lack of customer activity.

So now seems like the right time to continue the discussion on enterprise technologies that facilitate mobility and remote work during bad weather and emergencies. The market for UCaaS is growing rapidly, and UCaaS is seeing widespread adoption in organizations of all sizes. If you’re at home right now thinking “maybe it’s time I start thinking about facilitating remote work environments for our team,” then I suggest you take a look at last year’s article, published in it’s entirety, below.

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Winter Storms Ion and Hercules, followed by a polar vortex, are spreading a swath of heavy snow across the American Midwest and ushering in dangerously cold temperatures throughout the United States. As of Monday, there were more than 100,000 people across six states without electricity, with temperatures continuing to fall. Flights have been canceled nationwide, and people are staying indoors.

It hasn’t been this cold for almost two decades in parts of the Midwest and Southeast, and businesses across the country are feeling the weight of the storm hit their bottom lines.

What many people don’t know is that having Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) in place means that businesses can actually stave off some of the sales losses seen during cold weather outbreaks.

Inclement Weather and Remote Workers

Firms that have adopted UCaaS or cloud-based communications could find that it curbs the amount of revenue lost from storms during the winter. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) estimates that cold weather snaps can seriously affect small and medium sized businesses. While places reliant on foot traffic are most at risk, any business can be beset by weather delays.

Working remotely, or in the cloud, is increasingly feasible and beneficial thanks to services like UCaaS. Tools like softphones, instant messaging, and audio and video conferencing can keep your business up and running even in the worst weather conditions.

How UCaaS Solutions Can Help

By giving your employees access to cloud computing services such as remote desktops and softphones that can be accessed from home or at work, organizations can ensure that employees are continuously able to do their jobs even if they cannot physically get into the office. This allows you to keep employees safe when conditions are too dangerous to travel without losing, what many times can end up being multiple days of, employee productivity.

UCaaS is one of the few services that can offer the tools required to help keep businesses communications running smoothly.  This is critical for organizations that rely on communication for their revenue. In the normal course of doing business, or remotely during inclement weather periods, Unified Communications Solutions can:

  • Integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a cohesive communications system so all employees can stay in-touch as needed.
  • Provide access points to all data used by your organization, so users can communicate with others inside and outside their organization more easily and more quickly.
  • Lower overall IT and telecommunications costs, particularly for labor, because of the inherent economies of scale available with an integrated communications platform.
  • Provide access to carrier-grade communications that deliver consistency with easy-to-use functionality.

UCaaS solutions are just one of many cloud-based solutions businesses can utilize to protect themselves during inclement weather.

In the event of a cold weather snap, the right UCaaS solution can easily adapt to your changed situation without any extra spending on your part. These services house your businesses data in centers that are part of global networks. This ensures that once your data is backed up, it is mirrored in multiple data centers across the globe, meaning that there is more than one copy of your data to rely on in the case of a disaster or emergency.

With these types of disaster recovery options, it becomes easier to see how UCaaS and cloud-based services can help create a safe and secure solution to protect your businesses applications and data, helping to insure your businesses against losses caused by winter weather storms.

Contact Connecticut Communications today (203-985-1000 or concom@ctcom.com) to learn more about our cloud-based solutions and their disaster recovery benefits.

4 Crucial Steps to Executing a Unified Communications Cultural Shift

4 Crucial Steps to Executing a Unified Communications Cultural Shift

The advent of unified communications (UC) technology has transformed the business landscape for companies that successfully adopt and use it.

These days, email, instant messaging, and social media combined with the myriad types of mobile devices can work together to create an incredibly versatile and productive work environment. But this environment, known as unified communications, is only successful if a business devotes the time, energy, and resources to implement both the physical UC solution as well as a UC-oriented cultural shift.

It’s estimated that roughly 80 percent of companies never “fully realize” their UC implementation.  Why?  Well, while the physical implementation  of a new technology is often planned for, it’s typically assumed that users will accept the new communications system out of the box and will automatically understand its features. More often than not, this isn’t the case.

Here is the problem stated as blatantly as possible: either plan for the culture shift or reap the consequences that unrealized ROI can bring.

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Whether your business is thinking of making the UC transition or  if you’re just upgrading to a new iteration of your current communications system, there are steps to follow to make sure that everything goes both physically and culturally smoothly. 

Here are our 4 Crucial Steps to Implementing a UC Cultural Shift.

1. Involve the Entire Team

The first critical step in implementing a UC initiative is obtaining the needed buy-in from everyone in the company (not just the management team). The need for buy-in warrants a process that ensures consultation of all department leaders and requires they come to the same understanding in regard to the implementation. This process makes it so all stakeholders can work and learn together—helping define what the vision for the UC implementation will be.

But developing a clear-cut picture of the UC initiative is just a small part of this step. Once upper-management has communicated the needed information to the department leaders, these key players must then take the time to energetically and continuously communicate with their subordinates. This portion of the implementation process is the time to cull departmental knowledge—on the current technology’s best practices and failings, and to get employee opinions on the tools that they think would increase productivity.

Topics discussed should include all of the opportunities that UC offers, even those that may not directly affect most people’s daily work. Case in point: a good UC solution can help businesses realize more timely interactions (that means more revenue) and can help them implement a Capex/Opex shift

While Capex/Opex isn’t something that even I think about on a daily basis—I more than realize the need for more revenue. And if a new affordable technology is the way to achieve that, then I can more readily get on board with the technology change than I could if I didn’t know anything about the change at all.  And, when I get a look at the full picture, I begin to feel included in the actual decision-making process (which also makes me more likely to be at least interested in the new solution, if not a little excited in anticipating it).

2. Test for User Acceptance

While your IT department will lead the technical aspects of the implementation, departmental leaders, and other key personnel will need to be and should be included in the piloting phase. The role of the latter is to ensure that the software is usable in a practical, real-world, day-to-day scenario.

This step should include demo sessions for both senior executives, who can give “big picture” recommendations, as well as front-line employees. These employees are your best resource when testing new UC solutions because they can explain and highlight specific difficulties with certain tools—giving you the opportunity to take note and the company to tailor the solution appropriately.

Even if this project is your responsibility—i.e., you are the one who knows more about it than anyone else in the company—you must remain open-minded to any recommendations or criticism. In the end, a new UC solution will have to both accommodate the needs of everyone in the company more easily while also helping achieve new business objectives.

3. Market Internally

There are many enterprise-level software products that are remarkably robust and dependable. The failure of a UC-oriented one is rarely the fault of the technology. Instead, the more common cause is implementers failing to impress upon their team the importance of embracing the new “initiative.” Everything must be planned for, and everything must be explained.

But you can’t force change. You have to win over your converts. And that requires marketing. The language and materials that you use to market your UC initiative internally can have a dramatic effect on user acceptance and can potentially win over converts. The choice of the word “initiative” instead of “project” is not accidental. The word “initiative” denotes more powerful and compelling reasoning than the word project, and better conveys the all-encompassing nature of a UC implementation.

That vocabulary choice that we just made is actually called marketing. And when you market appropriately to the majority of your end-users, the stragglers will inevitably follow.

4. Mandate Training and Measure Afterward

Here’s a fact. People hate “training”. When you’re in the process of implementing any new technology, you’ll find that most of your co-workers will balk at the idea of attending when the training sessions start.

In the same vein, many businesses are also hesitant to make training mandatory. Regardless of how your employees will feel about it, training provides valuable information on how to shift to the new solution and gives you another opportunity to champion your new solution. So they need to be there. And if you have to incentivize it with something awesome to keep everyone happy, then that’s what you should do. Making UC training fun and valuable—and it is imperative that you have your vendor’s help during this period—is the key to getting ultimate buy-in.

BUT, before you count the implementation as “complete”, you need to measure the adoption rate. Analytically speaking this is your one chance to determine whether the UC implementation initiative was truly successful. It’s also an opportunity to identify the last pockets of employee resistance.  If you want to overcome any and all lingering objections to the implementation—measuring the adoption rate is the way to do it. 

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your UC implementation. They will make the whole process simpler and really will raise your overall chances of success.

Connecticut Communications Newsletter February 2015

Connecticut Communications Newsletter February 2015

February’s newsletter from Connecticut Communications talks about the new NEC desktop telephone from NEC.  It’s a tablet that works on an NEC phone system.  It is very sleek and is packed with useful features.

For a detailed brochure on the UT880, click UT880 Brochure

NEC UT880

NEC brings you the next step in desktop phone development.

The new UT880 desktop telephone re-invents the office phone by integrating the traditional desktop telephone and tablet into one innovative, feature-packed device. The UT880-revolutionizes your desktop experience.

The UT880 offers you;

  • Full seven inch color display with multi-touch capabilities 
  • USB port 
  • Multiline SIP client that emulates any NEC telephone 
  • Open interface for application development 
  • NEC platform voice functionality and hands-free, wide-band speakerphone 
  • Integrated Bluetooth capability 
  • Built-in camera for pictures and video applications

The UT880’s interface is designed to improve the overall user experience, while remaining intuitive-with no extensive training needed. Global icons indicate status at-a-glance including notification of new voice or instant messages, missed calls, the telephone user’s current presence status, and the device’s current data protection mode.

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maintenance-image

Maintenance

Our Maintenance customers enjoy free NEC software upgrades, unlimited training and free phone labels.

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Wireless Headset

This headset is compatible with your NEC system, only $295.

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Video Surveillance

Keep track of your office surroundings with high resolution video cameras.  Watch live from your smartphone.