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February 8th, 2013

Facebook has become one of the main ways people communicate. You can post on people’s Walls or send them messages using Facebook Messenger. This, in and of itself is pretty impressive, but what’s lacking is the ability to call people directly from Facebook Messenger. With the number of people accessing Facebook from their phones nowadays growing more than accessing via a browser, this feature is highly requested.

In early January Facebook announced that they had started testing free calling to contacts over Facebook Messenger. This feature was tested in Canada for all users with an iPhone, and turned out to work well. So, in late January Facebook rolled this out to iPhone users in the US as well.

This new service uses VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology, commonly found in many business’s phone systems, to offer users in Canada and the US the ability to call other Facebookers using the Messenger app for free.

Calls can be made via your data connection or over Wi-Fi on your iPhone. No love for Android as of yet, but we are sure it’s coming soon. If you use the Facebook Messenger app, you should be able to use it now. You can call other users by:

  1. Opening the app (or download, install and open it from here) and find the person you would like to call.
  2. Tapping on their name to start a conversation.
  3. Pressing the “i” button in the top right of the conversation windows and selecting Free Call.

The user you are calling will see a notification on their phone similar to the one when you get a phone call over your cell network.

Will businesses benefit?
It’s hard to say whether businesses will find this feature useful at this time. If your employees use iPhones, and are often in an area with poor cell service but a decent data connection, this is a free way to stay in touch.

This could also prove a good way to deal with public complaints on your Facebook page. You could encourage the person to take the complaint offline and talk to them, as long as you both have an iPhone.

In reality however, most businesses will likely not use this feature at this time. However, there is a good chance that Facebook will release more business oriented calling features in the future which could give you another way to contact clients.

What do you think? Will you or your employees use this feature? Let us know, and if you have any questions about VoIP, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
November 16th, 2012

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become so commonplace that we likely use it without even knowing. One of the most popular customer oriented VoIP solutions is Skype, owned by Microsoft. Skype has received a recent update that sees Microsoft's popular Instant Messenger program (Messenger) merged into Skype.

A few weeks ago, Skype Version 6 was introduced which allowed users with a Microsoft account to sign into Skype using their account name and password and have access to their Microsoft contacts. This move, of Microsoft backing a non Microsoft branded product, was seen by pundits as an interesting one, but it works well for those who use both Skype and Messenger. It means you don’t have to have two programs to do essentially the same thing; communicate.

Last week, Microsoft announced that Messenger will officially be merged into Skype. This means if you use Messenger, you will have to switch to Skype. This should automatically happen the next time you update Messenger. This may seem like a weird move, but there are some great benefits to this merger that will make both Messenger and Skype more competitive. Some of the benefits to the merger include:

  • Messaging on more platforms - Skype is available for nearly every platform, which means you can communicate on nearly any device.
  • Central hub for communication - With this update, you can call phones, conduct video chats and use Instant Messaging all from one place. There is no longer a need to have 3-4 different programs open.
  • Group communication - If you are looking for a free platform that enables you to communicate with a group, say your team or employees, Skype allows for this.
  • Screen sharing - You can share your screen on Skype, which is ideal for giving product demonstrations, or even showing a PowerPoint presentation during a chat.
After you update Messenger or Skype, you'll be taken to the sign in screen and will be asked if you are an existing Skype user or a new one. If you are an existing user, you can click I have a Skype account and you’ll be taken to a new screen where you can merge your Messenger and Skype accounts. If you are new to Skype, you can sign up for a new account by pressing I'm new to Skype. Follow the signup process during which, you will be given the option to merge your accounts.

When you sign in and merge your accounts, you will see all of your messenger contacts synced and available under Contacts in the left-hand panel. Messaging a contact is as simple as double clicking on their name. To call you press the green phone button icon when you hover over their name. Alternatively, you can right click on the name and select either Call, Instant Message, Send Files, etc.

Skype is an ideal VoIP solution for light call volumes and inter-office messaging in small businesses. However, if you handle a high volume of calls, or are in a larger office, you will need a more robust system. If you're interested in a VoIP system for the whole office, regardless of if it's Skype or some other setup, contact us, we can help with that.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
September 13th, 2012

There are many positive benefits the Internet brings to organizations of all sizes. One of them is the ability of employees to connect to the office from almost anywhere, a practice commonly referred to as working remotely. Working from home, or anywhere that isn’t the office, can be attractive to many employees, but it can cause problems for managers though.

Here’s five tips on how you can better connect with and manage your remote workers, freelance or otherwise, to help ensure optimal productivity.

Establish workflow As your employees work off site, they will set their own hours. This means they have to rely on their own discipline to get work done. Because of this, it will be hard for you to set/control their hours, which means you’ll have to trust them to get their work done. You should be aware of when they prefer to work, simply by talking with them, and be flexible with their schedules.

Working with remote workers is a two-way street, and while you should know your remote employee’s schedules, they should also know your schedule, and how you work. If you answer emails in the morning and have meetings in the afternoons, be sure to let them know that you expect/will answer their requests before lunch, for example.

Communication is key As in most businesses, communication is key to both a happy and productive workplace. You, as the manager, need to ensure that an open line of communication with your remote employees exists. This could be as simple as a telephone number or VoIP account that’s always on, (within reasonable hours of course), or an instant messaging platform. It’s important to ensure that you find out if your employees have the tools to complete their job.

Two-way feedback, both positive and negative, is also an important part of the communication process. You need to provide near constant feedback, even on small issues that would ordinarily be glossed over in physical interactions, while encouraging your employees to do the same.

Remember: you’re the boss Many bosses with remote employees find that the employee seems to run the show, and getting projects or tasks completed on time can be a bit tough. As the boss, you need to clearly explain what is expected of remote employees, why it’s expected, and the consequences of not meeting expectations. If there’s a problem it’s up to you to try to fix it.

Most importantly, if you work with strict deadlines, you need to ensure that remote employees are not only aware of the deadlines but are held accountable for them. If deadlines are missed, you may want to find another employee, remote or otherwise.

Provide a secure platform While the majority of remote employees connect to the office from their home, there’s a chance that they may connect from other locations, like coffee shops or libraries. A large percentage of public Wi-Fi connections have little to no security, and the last thing you want is to have your data breached due to unsecure connections.

This means you should provide remote employees with a secure way to connect to the office. Some solutions include virtual desktops or a secure laptop. Providing a secure connection isn’t enough, you need to ensure your systems can actually handle remote connections and that IT support is available for remote workers. The added benefit to this is that you can better monitor productivity, as the systems can be monitored using the same software as is used for computers in the office.

Judge by the final product Productivity is not easy to judge when you can’t physically see someone sat in their seat. For remote workers, the easiest way to monitor productivity is by the quality and consistency of the final product turned in compared to the time it took them to provide it. In reality, remote workers should complete tasks in about the same amount of time it takes employees who work onsite. The time and date of submission shouldn’t enter into decisions unless there are deadlines.

Employees that connect remotely can offer companies who employ them many benefits too and if you’re interested in employing remote staff, why not contact us. We can help find a solution that will work for both parties for best productivity all round.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

April 12th, 2012

Communication is arguably the single most important aspect to a successful business. One of the most familiar forms of communication is the telephone, and with advances in technology, it’s unsurprisingly gone digital. The most commonly used digital voice system being Voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

VoIP has become the main backbone of voice communication for a growing majority of companies, offering numerous benefits including potentially large cost savings, and decreased maintenance costs. When it was first introduced, the technology needed to run a VoIP system was expensive, limiting it to multinational corporations and other large organizations. However, over the past few years, the technology has come down in price and is now available for next to nothing, allowing small to medium businesses (SMBs) to make the switch to VoIP. If your company is thinking of ringing the changes, there are some necessary requirements you should meet before you migrate.

Foundation
A solid foundation for VoIP is key, as without a good foundation you’ll find that network speed and call quality are poor during heavy use. Most SMBSs aim for a VoIP system that can handle around 10 employees on the phone at any given time. Before you start the integration, you should track your current call volume by keeping a note of the number of calls in and out, while paying close attention to call volume during peak hours and days.

You should also investigate the speed and stability of your current Internet connection. While a fast DSL or cable connection is good for browsing, it may not be robust enough to handle VoIP communications, which need a connection that is both quick and stable. Look at your downstream (traffic into your network) and upstream (traffic out of your network) connection speed during a time when the network is experiencing heavy data use. Anything over 1.5 Mbps in both directions should be enough to handle the majority of VoIP systems. Most Internet service providers offer a connection speed well above that, but it’s important to check it out first.

Framing
When you have a solid foundation that will support your needs, the next step is building the frame for VoIP. You should determine exactly what’s required from your new system. Some good questions to ask include: Am I going to need to make international calls? How many VoIP connections am I going to need? Am I going to want to make video calls? What’s my budget?

Once you’ve determined your needs you can move on to picking equipment. If you’re a business that typically sticks to local, and some long distance calls, you shouldn’t require much in the way of equipment. The vast majority of companies use a device called a media gateway that allows normal phones to interface with an Internet connection – essentially turning a regular phone into a VoIP phone. If you’re a business that would like to take advantage of the more advanced features of VoIP, like portability, you’ll need more state-of-the-art equipment.

The final issue you need to address is security. On its own, VoIP is not the most secure of connections, as it’s open to all the same types of security breaches that computers and networks can fall prey to. To combat this, many good VoIP service providers will have security measures in place to protect VoIP calls on their network. On your end, it also helps to keep your Internet security up-to-date and conduct regular system scans.

Once you’ve addressed your internal requirements, it’s time to start looking for a VoIP service provider. Talk to your Account Manager at Orion Integration Group (OIG) about how VoIP can help your business. We can do all the legwork to find a service provider, migrate your numbers, and find you the solution that provides the most value.

When you’re ready to make the switch to VoIP, OIG has all the resources to deploy, migrate, and support your system. We also work with your service provider to deliver a safe, efficient, and reliable voice network that will take your business to the next level and, in most cases, save you money. Good luck, and if you need more information about VoIP, we are here to help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

 

Topic VoIP
March 23rd, 2012

March is almost over, many of the big companies and MNCs have released their bonus figures, tax season is in full swing, the economy is kind of rebounding and people are looking for work. Chances are, your company will be hiring a new staff member or two in the near future. One of the most popular ways is to conduct interviews via VoIP based programs such as Skype and Microsoft Lync. Do you conduct interviews using VoIP?

Let’s face it, there are very few people out there who love conducting interviews. The ones that do, are journalists, the rest of us see it as a means to the end. But that doesn’t mean that you should put interviews on the back burner. Remember, the purpose of the interview is to find an employee that meets your needs and is a good fit for your business. Many of us have watched or conducted interviews over VoIP, and have walked away unimpressed, or unsure of the results. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most out of VoIP while interviewing.

Remember the Rules Many of us have another identity or personality when we are online, it’s common to see people who are usually quiet and reserved in real life become very vocal when placed in front of a computer. This also happens when people conduct interviews online, another personality often comes out during the interview. Remember: even though you are conducting an interview over VoIP, it is still an interview, and as such, you need to follow the same rules and guidelines you would when conducting a face-to-face interview. One of the biggest things interviewers forget when they conduct interviews via VoIP is that you are a representative of your company and its brand, the interviewee will form their own opinion based on what you say and how you act. Adopt your face-to-face interview persona, not the online persona.

Lights, Camera, Office? When conducting the interview it is best to pick a well-lit spot, with minimal to no distractions. Your office may be the one with Nirvana posters on the wall - which is cool - but they’re probably not the best thing to have as your background during the interview. The best spot to conduct face-to-face interviews is in a conference room, so why not conduct the online interview there? If you don’t have a conference room, pick a quiet spot in the office. Wherever you settle, be sure you are comfortable there, as chances are you will be conducting more than one interview.

When you have found a good spot, be sure to turn off your cellphone, or at least put it on silent. Also be sure to turn the various sound alerts on your computer off. Nothing is more annoying to interviewees than being interrupted mid-sentence by a telephone call, or the ubiquitous IM alert.

Test the Tech Before you conduct the interview, ensure you are familiar with the program you are using. You don’t want to accidentally mute the interviewee, or even worse, hang up on them. It is a good idea to set up in the place you are going to be conducting the interview, and check that the internet connection is stable, or if you are using WiFi, that the signal is strong. Conduct a test call with a colleague or another person to ensure that your webcam is working correctly, and you can hear the other person. It is best to do this a few days in advance, so you can iron out any glitches or problems with lots of time to spare.

If a technological mishap occurs during the interview, or you lose your connection, don’t give up and walk away, simply call the interviewee back, apologize and carry on. Better still, establish at the outset that if there is a problem, you will definitely call back. This will ensure that the interviewee isn’t calling you when you are calling them.

The Interview Remember that you are using technology for the interview, and this technology has many useful features, the most pertinent being the ability to record. Being able to play the interview back later if you feel you have missed something, or want to know other employees’ opinions, is an excellent perk to using VoIP. Be sure to let the interviewee know that their interview will be recorded, as it could be illegal to record the person without their consent.

One common oversight by both the interviewer and interviewee is time. It may happen that you need to conduct an interview with someone in another timezone. It’s important to be aware of the time difference and ensure that both parties are on the same page. Also, if you’re in an area that has Daylight Savings Time, be aware that some places don’t observe it, and adjust accordingly. If you know the interviewee is in another timezone, clearly state when you are setting up the interview time, if you mean your time or the interviewee’s time.

Finally, when conducting the interview: be aware of where you are looking. Most programs will have the other person in a large image with you in a smaller image. Look at the image of the person when they are speaking, and at the camera when you are speaking. This is the best way to replicate eye-contact in a face-to-face interview.

When you remain professional and can execute a good interview using VoIP software, you can be sure that the interviewee will be impressed and will want to join your company. Good luck! If you would like to know more about using VoIP for interviews, or other business operations give us a call - we are more than happy to hear from you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
March 9th, 2012

A new and interesting application of Unified Communications (UC) is using voice technology to improve warehouse operations management. Read on to learn how UC—specifically integrating voice into the item picking and packing process—can improve efficiency, effectiveness, and safety in your warehouse.

Business processes and activities in the warehouse have traditionally been very receptive to automation, with the goal of improving efficiency and effectiveness. Automation has been focused on areas including managing stock levels, tracking stock movements, and more. The processes done on the warehouse floor itself, such as item picking and packing, are now largely run by computer-based systems. One attempt at automation included outfitting staff with handheld systems, but they proved to be impractical or prohibitive since they required the use of both hands, were complicated to use, and made the overall process too complicated. Employees have generally preferred to stick with the simple pen and paper instead. But recent advancements in human-to-computer interfaces—such as the use of voice commands instead of keyboard and mouse, pen-based, or touch based systems—promises to change this.

Using voice technology, warehouse staff and managers can now send and receive instructions via voice, using a headset connected to a back-end system that understands and processes voice instructions and can respond in a natural sounding human voice. This can result in:

  • Faster and more accurate order fulfillment: Warehouse staff can be given more specific and accurate instructions allowing them to navigate the warehouse, identify specific bins or pallets containing items for packing, and be able to pick out the correct quantities for the right order.
  • Cost savings: Faster and more accurate fulfillment can result in reduced costs over time as it reduces the need to redo work, avoids costly customer returns and dissatisfaction, and lessens other costs such as training time for employees.
  • Improved safety: With pallets and bins stacked in long, tall rows, forklifts and other heavy machinery zipping from one place to another, and people moving around, usually in a hurry, with both hands full and sometimes distracted, accidents are commonplace in warehouses. With voice technology, this can be avoided by getting people to focus with voice commands, and freeing up their hands and body to work on other things.
Voice technology in the warehouse is new but promises to deliver great benefits for businesses who employ it. If you are interested, let us know so we can help you find out how UC can enable your warehouse or any other part of your business today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 22nd, 2012

Have you heard of the term Unified Communications before? Curious as to what Unified Communications is all about? Read on to find out what it is and what it can do for your business.

Because of continued improvements in technology and changes in the way people work, we now have a multitude of options to communicate with one another. This can be both a boon and a curse, as not only do we have to learn and master a variety of devices from which to communicate—but also contend with an equal or higher number of forms with which to communicate. For example, not only do we make a phone call to talk nowadays, but we also chat, text, tweet, post, like, poke, huddle, share screens, do white board sessions, and more. We can do all of these whether on the desktop computer, laptop, netbook, tablet, desk phone, mobile phone, TV – and soon maybe even from the kitchen refrigerator! Not surprisingly, people have started looking for ways to tame and simplify all of this complexity—and thus was born the concept of "Unified Communications."

Unified Communications, simply stated, encompasses the organization of different communication tools and models so that it can be used and managed in an integrated way, with the goal of improving flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness. To illustrate the benefits of Unified Communications, here are some examples of how it can be used in several business scenarios:

  1. Have a "single number to call" or a simpler way of reaching people. Instead of remembering and sharing a phone number, IM handle, email address, twitter account, and more, you can have just one number or address by which people can reach you—and systems will bridge that with whatever device or application your Unified Communications happen to be on or you prefer. So you can easily have calls placed to your desk phone routed to your mobile phone when you are out, and have voice mail emailed to you as a recording in case you can't answer.
  2. Reaching people when you need them. If you are working remotely, or managing remote workers, Unified Communications systems can indicate your or your colleagues' location or "presence"—i.e., whether you or they are available at the normal location, working remotely, or out in the field.
  3. Synchronous or asynchronous way of working. If you work with people in different time zones you can opt to conference when your schedules overlap, or swap messages that can be answered at their convenience if they don't —and be able to track and tie all of these together.
  4. Richer collaboration. If you work on projects, Unified Communications can allow you or your team to get in touch and collaborate in a richer and more interactive way. While working on a project you can chat, switch to voice calls for better clarity, or conference via video to provide more context, as well as share screens for easier collaboration—all from a single screen or session.
  5. Application integration. Imagine if you had the ability to call people from your email application's address book, or initiate a web conference from your instant messaging tool. With Unified Communications that is all possible.
Unified Communications may sound expensive and complex, but in reality it can actually lessen costs and make things simpler for you and your business. Learn more about Unified Communications and what else it can do to improve your business by contacting us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
February 16th, 2012

VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It's cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to use. Any business, no matter the size, should be using VoIP to increase productivity, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.

If you are running a business, then there is no reason you shouldn't be using Voice-over-IP, or VoIP, to reduce telecommunications cost, streamline operations, and improve the flexibility for your organization today.

VoIP, simply put, allows telephone communications to run over your data network or the Internet. The benefits of this setup are many, and the following are just a few.

  1. VoIP allows companies to maximize investments already made in their network infrastructure. The same network which handles the flow of data such as web access and email can now accommodate voice as well—no need to add and maintain additional wires and devices.
  2. VoIP can allow you to dramatically reduce the cost of communications, especially for interstate or international communications—everything can go through the Internet instead of incurring expensive long distance toll charges.
  3. VoIP allows your employees to be more productive and efficient by giving them the ability to receive and make calls anywhere with a data connection, using their laptop, mobile phone, tablet, or virtually any device connected to the Internet.
  4. VoIP increases the number of features you can use with your phone system. For example, it's easier to add extensions to your phone. You can provide a local number or extension for all your staff without additional costs or cabling. You can also set up sophisticated auto answering routines and call routing. You can marry voice messages with email and faxes all in one inbox.
  5. You can use VoIP as a tool for real-time collaboration—along with video conferencing and screen sharing. You can employ presence technologies that come standard with VoIP phones and VoIP communication systems. Communicate with colleagues about your presence or receive info on the status and whereabouts of your staff.
Previously, all these benefits were only available with a big price tag and a critical limitation—the unavailability or unreliability of the company's Internet connection—but not anymore. With the great strides made in technology and the wide availability and affordability of broadband connections over the last few years, VoIP is now readily within reach for many businesses—large or small.

VoIP is certainly a technology that has come of age. It's cheap, ubiquitous, and easy-to-use, and any business should have VoIP in their toolset. If you are interested in learning more about how VoIP can help your business, contact us today to find out more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP