VoIP Features on Legacy Systems

VoIP gets all the attention – but what about companies that purchased a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) phone system or are just not ready to take the leap to a full VoIP (Voice Over IP) solution? Are there still VoIP options available? Does ‘the cloud’ come into play?

A PBX is a private telephone network used within a company. The users of the PBX phone system share a number of outside lines for making external phone calls. The PBX also connects the internal telephones within a business as well as connects them to the public switched telephone network (PSTN).

VoIP itself is merely a new way to transport calls…not the way calls are processed. And EarthLink Business has options available to see if your company can continue to operate using existing systems while still taking advantage of VoIP features…

EarthLink Business offers complete Line Side and PRI services, which we hand off to the customer as analog lines or TDM PRI, respectively, to the customer’s key system or PBX/IP PBX.   These EarthLink Complete Voice services transport calls and data across a VoIP network, allowing customers access to many of the same great features offered with EarthLink Complete Hosted Voice:

Network-based Unified Voicemail hosted in the network for access from any device.

Network-based Unified Fax for viewing inbound faxes on your computer, web-browser, or email from anywhere.

Auto Attendant provides a virtual receptionist and simulates a live operator. Auto Attendant directs callers to the correct department or employee. The main menu can be configured and personalized. Calls can be sent to a phone that is not on the system such as a cell phone.  This network option eliminates the need for an additional piece of equipment on site.

Call Router provides businesses with the ability to route calls from their main business number to alternative destinations. Features include automatically routing the main number to any 10 digit domestic phone number, send all calls to the main number to voicemail or set up a weekly call routing schedule based on: time of day, day of week, calling party and configure for holidays or special days in advance based on a calendar. Control of call router is through a secure administrative portal where customers can make updates and changes from any Internet connection 24/7/365.

Abbreviated Dialing enables customers to dial their other locations, on the same network, without having to dial the full 7-10 digit number, similar to extension dialing.  This is supported across all EarthLink Complete Voice products.

Site-to-site calling allows customers to call all of their locations without incurring domestic long distance charges.

Have questions or want to know more? Contact EarthLink Business and we’ll see how we can help!

Things to Consider when Switching to Hosted VoIP

Many businesses these days are evaluating the switch from their traditional telephony environment to VoIP (or “Voice-over I.P.”).  There are many compelling reasons to do so that are too numerous to cover in this article but a recent independent research study by Metaswitch  lists them as:

  • More features—and better features that enhance productivity
  • Easier system management—service and features can be self-provisioned, whereas with legacy telephony these options are limited as well as more difficult to deploy
  • Customer service—VoIP operators understand how their new service can be utilized, and support it accordingly
  • Business grade—VoIP quality and reliability is now on par with legacy telephony

So with all the great benefits it is easy to see why so many customers are flocking in that direction.  However, it is important to understand how your business will need to adapt to this new environment and what it takes to get there.  Here are the top 5 things to consider:

1. Incoming Call Management – In most legacy systems, calls come into a main phone number and light up the keys on every phone in an office, then hunt down a group of lines until all lines are full.  With a hosted VoIP solution the options are virtually unlimited…which is good…but can be challenging when it comes to making decisions on how to most efficiently handle calls.   Each phone is assigned its own unique telephone number or “DID.”  The main phone number can be routed to a network-based auto attendant, an individual user, or a group of users in what is referred to as a MADN group.  There are also often call routing options that allow you to reroute calls to mobile phones, answering services, or multiple locations. Before you make a change, evaluate which options providers offer and make sure they meet the needs of your business.

2. Wiring – Most legacy phone systems used based copper wiring to deliver the phone signal to the phone set from the wiring closet.  With hosted voice you will most likely need Ethernet cabling to the user desktop or the area where the phone is located, such as a lobby or break room, where Ethernet has not previously been required.   Most VoIP providers will advise you to contract a third party wiring vendor to get this completed prior to the cut over of your services but some providers also provide structured cabling options as part of their service like EarthLink Business.

3. System Management – When moving to a hosted solution, end users and business administrators have much more power and control than they ever had with legacy systems.  This is a wonderful thing when users learn the features and are empowered to make changes from web based controls “on the fly”.  However, these admins need to learn the ropes of the new system (including what they are expected to control and what the provider has to control on their end).  Some VoIP providers offer the option of either self-managed or carrier managed business group administration services, which is a big benefit if you are a small business with no office administrator.

4. Quality of Service – Saving money is a key driver when considering a switch, but don’t forgo the quality and reliability of your telephony services just for a lower price point.   For example, there are plenty of options to get VoIP over the public internet, and user experiences can be good with this option.  However, if you experience quality issues with these voice calls, there is not much recourse for determining where the problem is and how to resolve it.  By using this method of delivery you are also voiding any service level agreements offered by the provider on quality of calls.  Many carriers offer options for secured, private network connectivity that also provides for quality of service guarantees.   EarthLink Business provides multiple SLAs (Service Level Agreements) based on the types of services provided

5. Consultative Design – With all the options and things to consider when making a transition, it is important to have a subject matter expert (or better yet a team of experts) who can review your current environment, understand your future requirements and make recommendations on how you should design the VoIP services.   Most VoIP providers consider this a commoditized product and do not adequately address this area.  At EarthLink Business we provide a dedicated account team with subject matter experts on everything from VoIP to data networks to IT services that can address your complete environment when making a recommendation.  To find out more contact EarthLink Business!

Unified Voicemail & Faxing – Make answering & Fax Machines Green with Envy

Comparing today’s unified messaging solutions to a bulky fax machine or a traditional voicemail system seems like an unfair fight. Even the new hardware in the market place with IP functionality doesn’t have much promise when paired against cloud-based services. Voice and fax communications have clearly moved to the next level, and the market is coming right along with it.

For starters, businesses that have hardware to support these functions typically have maintenance and functionality issues on a fairly regular basis. Who hasn’t stood by a fax machine waiting for an important document to be received only to be faced with a paper jam or send/receive error message? When it comes to voicemail and faxes, the name of the game is knowing when you have messages and having access to them when (and where) you need them. The solution: unified voicemail and faxing that use the cloud.

Unified voicemail/fax utilities deliver messages to network-based servers and distribute them to end users multiple ways, including smartphones, tablets or PCs as an email attachment or via a secure web-based portal. Users no longer have be confined to their office to know they have voicemail; messages can be delivered to their email account as well as their faxes, and faxes can be delivered via a private number and stored in a secure online environment for later reference (which also eliminates the need to print every fax…going green was never so easy!).

Lastly, mobile integration is a big draw for anyone who carries a mobile phone and has a desk phone. With some providers it is possible to integrate the mobile line with their office phone number to create a single message store for all their voicemail messages (see illustration). This allows simplicity of use by only having one place to receive and manage messages. So the buying decision for these service involves determining which solutions works best for your environment. The easiest way to test the waters is through the use of a service provider that uses a web based or client based application to begin with unless you have specific requirements for a CPE deployment. While there are many carriers that can supply network-based voicemail and fax, you need to find one that can provide as an integrated part of your telephony environment so everything works seamlessly. That’s where EarthLink Business comes in; we provide a Hosted Voice solution and the consultation and expertise to recommend the best mix for your business. Want to learn more?  Click HERE!

EarthLink Business: Dispelling “VoIP” Misconceptions

With the ever-growing vocabulary of our world’s vastly expanding information highway, some terms become lost, skewed, or incorrectly defined. Let’s take the acronym VoIP for example. Even if we know that it stands for “Voice Over Internet Protocol,” we might not truly understand when it is taking place.  During our trainings and teaching sessions, we find that some ideas and concepts are lost in the mix.

Voice Over Internet Protocol is a way to send information more efficiently over a network. Using a “local area network” or “LAN,” both data and voice can be sent over a single Ethernet cable. This eliminates the need for additional runs back to the switch room which reduces costs for the customer. Through the use of VLANs the voice and data traffic is properly separated in order to prioritize voice at all times.

Some companies, like Skype or Vonage, utilize VoIP technology over their “wide area network” (or “WAN’), meaning their customers’ voice calls actually traverse the public Internet. This can be a simple and efficient way of placing a phone call on the run, however this design frequently leads to degraded call quality and reliability issues.

When considering our EarthLink Business Hosted Voice solution, it is important to understand the superior call quality and reliability that we are able to provide. With this business VoIP product, the customer receives a dedicated voice and data SIP circuit that is terminated at the customer’s location. When a call is made, the call travels over EarthLink’s private proprietary network until it is directly handed off to the PSTN. Because we own the entire leg of the call, we are able to guarantee QoS and superior call quality. Most companies claim to utilize QoS, but few can truly guarantee it. There are also several advantages to a SIP circuit over a traditional PRI, which I’ll write about in a future article!