Hosted Voice Services – Be Heard

sub-hosted-voiceIt is impossible to duplicate the power of the human voice via text, email or online chat,and many experienced salespeople swear by the strength of closing a deal (or answering questions) over the phone.

At EarthLink Business we know the value of the human voice and we place a high value on delivery of high quality voice transmission over our nationwide IP network. Whether your business requires Hosted Voice services and mobile devices, or relies on traditional telephony communications EarthLink has a full voice product suite delivered with quality of service second to none. So if you want your voice to be heard loud, crisp and clear reach out to an EarthLink Business representative today.

Hosted Voice Services Can Unify Your Team!

Hosted Voice systems are an important part of modern-day business. In the past, businesses have had limited ways of unifying office employees, multiple location workforces, and remote employees into a team environment. This is a major concern, as teamwork is what allows individuals and office locations to back each other up during outages,emergencies, and cover clients in different time zones.

earthlink hosted voice solutionAnd managing the calls and activities of each location was difficult, due to a lack of visibility and reporting possibilities. Each location (or remote employee) was stuck in its/his own communication bubble using separately-managed, low-end communication solutions (and we use that word loosely).

With the advent of call routing, network based auto-attendants, and communication portals that provide online visibility, all that can be left in the past! Businesses can now unify all of their locations, provide call routing based on single or multiple numbers, and run detailed reports; this gives leadership visibility into how their business is functioning, and the tools they need to assign responsibility and ownership to call functions. Being able to have all phone communications “under one roof” is even more important when you consider the growing number of remote employees in the workforce.

EarthLink Business wants to provide your company with the hosted voice solution it needs; contact an EarthLink Business resource today to find out how the EarthLink Hosted Voice product can change the way you do business!

Hosted Voice – Total Cost of Phone System Ownership

Making the decision on whether to purchase a new system, go with a hosted voice solution or keep the old one running is somewhat daunting with all the options available in today’s market place.  The best place to start is to answer a couple simple questions.  Do you have the internal staff to support an onsite hardware based system?  Do you have specialized Customer Relationship Management software or Integrated Voice Response software? Do you have the time to invest in reviewing all the hardware options available and perform a total cost of ownership analysis?  If the answer is yes, then read on.  If not, a Hosted Voice solution may be a better choice for your business.  For more details on EarthLink Businesses offering visit us at hosted voice.  For those readers who want to explore the TCO model for a phone system here are the basics to get you started.

Several factors go into calculating the total cost of ownership, or TCO. Here are the key costs to include in your calculations when considering a move to a new phone system.

Planning your purchase: First, you’ll want to do a survey of your requirements, including how many users you’ll need to support, and what kinds of phones and features they’ll want. If you’re going to support multiple sites, you’ll probably need to do an analysis of your IP network to make sure it will be able to handle the new traffic it will have to carry with the required quality of service.  EarthLink Business provides this consultation as part of our engagement process for Hosted Solutions at no additional charge.

Upgrading infrastructure. If your network analysis indicates the need, you may end up spending considerable money upgrading your infrastructure. Particularly if you’re going to take advantage of the ability to serve several branches or sites from a single centralized IP PBX, you may require more advanced data equipment to carry the voice traffic back to the central location. Such upgrades can run as high as 50 percent to 100 percent of the cost of the telephony system itself.  Other possible preparation needs include providing additional air conditioning, equipment space or racks.

The purchase cost of the IP phone system. Moving to IP telephony opens up all kinds of new opportunities and choices to make. You may provide different users with IP desk phones, or softphones with headsets. With some systems, users with minimal needs may be able to keep using their old phones.  You will also want to evaluate the cost of the software licensing in addition to the hardware as a separate line item as the two can carry different cost components.
Installation and integration. You might buy and install a low-end turnkey IP telephony system yourself. If so, add the cost of staff time for the installation. The other option is to utilize one of the manufacturers certified resellers or VARs.  When going this route keep in mind there are still things that need to be done outside of installing the new system.  For example, integration with your support desk(help desk), linking the system alarms into your monitoring software for automated alerts and your email server for voice to email or other unified communications needs.

Maintenance. Maintenance contracts will be a major ongoing expense to include in your total cost calculations. But the contracts will be more complex than in the days of all-in-one phone systems. To start with, you may end up buying multiple contracts for hardware to cover equipment from different vendors. The annual cost will typically run from 5 percent to 12 percent of the list price of the equipment. Key factors affecting price is whether support is available only during business hours or 24/7 and whether service technicians come to your site to install parts, or you receive them by courier and have to install them yourself.

Utilities charges. Depending on your new system’s requirements, electricity charges for air conditioning and for powering the new system and phones could end up about the same as with your old system. They also could be significantly more, or even less. Either way, they will be part of your TCO.

IT staff. With a new IP telephony system, administration will likely be cheaper and easier. You won’t have to call the reseller you bought the system from every time you want to move, add or change users. But that means you’ll have to assign someone on your staff to at least oversee it. Thus while each operation may take less time, it will still cost money. An easy way to estimate the cost to administer a unified communications system serving a hundred users, figure on allocating one-fourth of an IT staffer’s time. For smaller installations, it does not decrease in a linear fashion because there are still base maintenance items and training that is required to keep your IT person current.
IP bandwidth requirements. One of IP telephony’s greatest benefits is that it allows you to consolidate the telephony functions for numerous sites in one place. That saves considerable hardware and staffing costs. But it also means you need additional IP bandwidth to carry all the voice traffic back to the central location over your corporate IP network. EarthLink Business can help you evaluate the bandwidth needs and provide a private network solution that allows you to maintain security while maximizing your bandwidth with our MPLS solution.

Obsolescence – Like any other piece of equipment, an IP PBX can become outdated. You can upgrade it, but at additional cost. At the end of the day it is much like your last laptop.  After a few years the technology is out of date and harder to support.

So, after going through the list if it seems daunting consider the following about a hosted voice (IP-PBX) solution from EarthLink Business:

No Capital Costs – All IP Phones and equipment can be packaged into a monthly recurring operating expense and allow you to implement.

Predictable Operating Expense – Monthly voice and data charges appear on one bill and include a full array of VoIP features, local and long distance minutes and internet bandwidth per month.

No Management Expenses – The VoIP service provider manages a range of IP service features in the network that are accessible by the customer via a self-service portal via myLink.

Obsolescence, with the EarthLink Businesses hosted voice solution we are constantly looking for ways to add new services and upgrade our platform to keep your business ahead of the technology curve.

Business Phone Systems – Are You Prepared?

During this time of year most people are focused  on celebration,  and a well-deserved time away from the office.  If you are not in the retail industry then chances are your business will slow down over the holiday and many employees will be asking for time off.  Managers and business owners are faced with the challenge of balancing the need to give employees time to enjoy their families, travel and holiday activities while still having resources available to respond to customers, internal teams and vendors to serve the daily needs of the business. While there are limited options available for some types of business that require employees to do tasks that necessitate you to be on site there are options for service related business like insurance, healthcare, real estate, legal firms and software companies. Here are a few ways to soften the workload and make it a happier holiday for all while staying connected:

  • Un-tether your employees from the office – To do this there are several tools available to make it easy for employees to stay connected from home or in their car while making the trip over the river and through the woods.
  • Call Routing from your business lines – This feature allows you to route calls to mobile phones, home phones or other business locations.  Some providers like EarthLink Business can even provide options to try multiple numbers simultaneously or sequentially.  To make it easy for employees and business administrators they can also build rules ahead of time to pre-schedule the routing options.
  • Auto-attendant – whether it is a traditional premise based phone system or a cloud-based auto attendant this front ends the incoming calls with a system generated greeting that provides the caller with options.  You can provide options for callers to get routed to a live person via re-routing to a mobile number or alternative phone number even for holiday or after hours if required.  You can also have callers leave a voicemail for critical issues and forward those messages auto-magically to an email distribution list for visibility by your employees on any email platform.  There are also options to set a schedule for the greetings and call treatments in advance of a holiday to make it as easy as turning it on when needed.
  • Voicemail – Don’t forget to have your employees change their voicemail to notify callers of the business hours during the holiday and have an alternate contact if they will not be responding during certain times. Once again a schedule can be set up ahead of time so they don’t have to change it on every holiday.
  • Soft phone or soft client access – If your employees must stay “online” during the holiday  these software based phones can be loaded on their laptop and taken home and remain active on home DSL or cable based networks.  Most software based IP providers offer the same functionality as if the user were in the office.  Coupled with network access to get to key applications like work email and key business software programs this makes a powerful way to stay connected without having to leave their homes or while on the road.
  • Lastly, make sure whatever tools you use to stay connected have web based portal access to allow for employees and office administrators alike to give you the ability to make changes on the fly without having to drive back to the office to make changes.

Here is wishing you and yours a happy, carefree and connected holiday season!