Trends

 

The VoIP industry has revolutionized so much with each passing year, that it is difficult to anticipate what the future will bring. As an organization looking to invest and adapt to a VoIP system, it is important to know what the future may bring.

Due to lower costs and less maintenance needed with a hosted VoIP service, more organizations are favoring this type of service. It is a good choice for businesses that are looking to transition from traditional business lines to IP enabled technology. Cloud services has always been favored by small to medium sized business, but even larger organizations will start using cloud

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PBX systems as vendors scale up their infrastructure to match the growing demand. With the increasing level of customized features available, having a cloud PBX makes more sense for everyone.

Many organizations are moving towards SaaS services for various internal departments-whether it be accounting, CRM’s or contact centers. As VoIP continues to mature, integrations like this will quickly become essential providing a Unified Communication (UC) system. UC systems bring together various channels such as video, audio, IM, and more. VoIP systems are often used as the foundation on which further applications can be integrated with.

Today’s IP networks use mechanisms to deal with the time-sensitive nature of voice packets and also provide many advantages that are not possible with the traditional PSTN. Although the traditional PSTN has been a standard for decades, it has recently been surpassed by the quality and reliability of today’s VoIP networks, making VoIP the preferred choice when it comes to choosing a business telephone solution.

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Understanding and Preventing Ghost Calls

Many people do not understand what a ghost call is and why they occur. A ghost call, which is also sometimes referred to as “phantom ringing” is an incoming phone call with no one on the other end, usually from a random number, and occurs frequently. They usually occur from neglected auto dialers from telemarketers, or hackers looking for a way to exploit your network. The majority of these calls occur during odd hours of the night when users in other countries are awake. A lot of times, clients believe this to be the fault of their service provider, in most cases, it is not. The good news is that these calls can be prevented by following a couple of basic steps.

Update Firmware:

Make sure your firmware is kept up to date. Some service providers do this automatically when pushing updates, but it is best to double-check. It can also be done manually from some older phone models. It is best to check with your phone manufacturer, for instructions as every phone make and model vary.

Use a Firewall:

A firewall is a network security device that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and decides whether to allow or block specific traffic based on a defined set of security rules. It can be either hardware or software based. Some routers allow you to block port scans in their settings page. Investing in the proper equipment will virtually eliminate these calls from occurring.

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Change Local SIP Port:

By default, the SIP Port is usually set to 5060. By changing it to something between 5060-5070, for example, the port scanners will skip you. Although this is not considered a permanent solution, it will slow down any port scanners. When doing this, you will need to get your VoIP company and internet service provider involved as some ISP providers do not support VoIP traffic on different ports.

cute-ghostBy having the proper protection, whether it be hardware or software related, you can make sure your business is not affected by these annoying and sometimes costly ghost calls. Reach out to your service provider if you have experienced these types of calls for support and guidance.

 

 

A Beginners Guide to Disaster Recovery and your Phones

How do you plan for Business Continuity around your phone system? With the recent hurricanes, it may be prudent to review. The world of telephony is changing. Subtly over the past several years there has been some changes as convergence of voice and data continue. Everyone sees the need to have data accessible via some cloud strategy, but the idea of keeping the pulse of your business alive, the phones, is critical. What we have discovered is that people think about data and voice a very distant second. Phones are taken for granted, as result, most do not even know what questions to ask. The purpose here is not to give answers but help you start thinking and asking better questions.

The decision starts with a premised based system or a hosted type model. There are many variances within these two segments. However, most PBX’s (Private Branch Exchange) can be classified one way or the other. The way disaster recovery is handled with a Hosted Based system IS NOT the same as a premised based system.

 

Premised Based Systems

How do you identify a premised based system? It is fairly simply. If the PBX is located in your building it is premised based. Your local carrier will connect directly to that PBX. They have the responsibility to deliver dial tone to that PBX only. Meaning, if that PBX is not “there” to receive that call the person originating the call will get a fast-busy signal. In order for your clients to not get a fast-busy signal, that PBX will need to remain operational at all times. In the case of a natural disaster or outage in your area, you may need extra protection and extra features in order to keep your business from experiencing any down time. This will sometimes need a secondary PBX for your peace of mind and protection.

You will want to talk to your PBX maintenance contact person about an off-site PBX or off-site backups. You will also need to talk to your local carrier about what to do when your PBX is off line. Where and how can you forward your calls? The most common answers are to either a cell phone or a second office located elsewhere. Keep in mind the phone number chosen will receive every call that comes in and there will be no ability to transfer any of those calls back to your team. Having to juggle calls on a cell phone is not the most ideal solution, but it is one of the less expensive options you get with a premised based PBX.

 

Hosted Systems

Hosted VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a model that leverages the Internet. The idea is that the call control is out of the building and in the “cloud”. Hosted models have become more popular as VoIP has become a stable and effective business model. By making sure that the company you select is hosting the PBX (call control server) in a housed facility like a carrier hotel and is geo-redundant, your disaster recovery becomes a seamless transition. Each extension can be individually routed to any number(s), eliminating the influx of calls to just one number.

Something to be aware of is that not all hosted VoIP providers are the same. This is especially true if you are shopping exclusively based on price. When considering a telephony disaster recovery plan, you must become an educated buyer and interview each potential vendor.

Below is a simple check list that will help organize some of your thoughts around disaster recovery. It is meant as a starting point and is far from an exhaustive list. A comprehensive disaster recovery plan will spell out clear hourly cost associated with downtime, a business impact analysis, and possible action guide that is to be followed by each employee.

Most companies do not do this exhaustive planning and become comfortable as long as “most bases are covered”. The checklist below is to assist in helping you start to think through some of those major needs.  By reaching out to a good VoIP provider, you will be able to address these questions.

 

Question Premised Solution Hosted Solution
 
Do you need to have a power back up? (Like a UPS) Yes No
Do you have geo-redundant systems for fail over? Yes, if you have 2 PBX’s Yes*
Can you forward or direct calls to other numbers locations or cell phones if necessary? Yes, long process with downtime Yes*
Do you need to be on premises to forward or redirect calls? Maybe No
Will inbound calls always be answered? Maybe Yes
Will you be able to handle outbound calls? Maybe Yes*
Will you be able handle a prolonged scenario? Maybe Yes
Will voicemails be accessible? No Yes
Can employees work comfortably from home Maybe Yes
Does your business benefit during certain outages? (IE a Roofing Company after a storm) Make certain you can be up to assist people that need you.
Do you need a remote location to work from? And can you easily set up at that location No Yes

 

More than just a firewall…

The beginning of a new year is a time when many business owners reflect on highs and lows of the previous year and begin working on their goals for the current year. Business continuity and data security are, of course, top priorities and securing the network is a vital part of this.

For network professionals, there is no word more fearsome than “breach.” A security breakdown can mean lost data, stolen secrets, expensive lawsuits, and more. This is why nearly every organization that knows what’s good for it now invests in antivirus, data loss prevention (DLP), and of course, firewalls.

These days, however, we need to protect more than just data. Enterprise communications have grown into a multi-billion dollar market, particularly due to the widespread adoption of VoIP and unified communications (UC) services. This presents a new challenge that firms will have to face in order to gain a winning edge: voice security. IP phone services present a whole new attack area to potential hackers, a frontier that firewalls simply cannot protect by themselves. The essence of this challenge lies in the fact that we’re talking about two entirely different types of information transmission that, in turn, require different security solutions.

Distinguishing between two types of traffic

Data is transmitted in packets, or “frames,” with each one containing the addresses from which the information is sent and received. When threats emerge, firewalls identify and quarantine a select range of data packets before bringing the full force of its security tools to bear. Digital voice traffic doesn’t work this way — once the circuit (voice call) is established, no further address information is exchanged until the call ends (termination of the circuit). No packets are transmitted in this scenario. In essence, these two types of traffic are speaking in different languages. It would be a major coup for network professionals if these two mutually unintelligible languages could be reconciled and administered in a uniform manner. But that point of voice and data evolution has not yet occurred.

Fortunately, this not to say that voice security isn’t achievable today: intelligent edge solutions, particularly through the use of enterprise session border controllers (eSBCs), are fully capable of securing voice traffic. While firewalls are able to approve or deny access to certain callers or call recipients based on established parameters, intelligent edge systems monitor voice sessions as a whole, and in real time. No packets? No problem. That means the ability to cut out DoS (denial of service) threats without interrupting network traffic. Conversely, reconfiguring firewall protocols on the fly can be disruptive to IP communications services.

As VoIP and UC adoption expands and their offerings become more diverse, the essential need for intelligent edge solutions increases in lockstep. In addition to security, there are two main benefits offered by eSBCs that firewalls cannot match: interoperability and quality assurance. To get a handle on why this is, we need to talk about layers.

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Where do voice calls fit in the OSI model?  

The OSI model consists of seven layers which all need to be administered in unison for enterprise communications to function as intended. The problem with firewalls by themselves is that they only address layers 3 (networking) and 4 (transport) without touching layer 5 (session). Modern workplace communications, from security to call quality, depend on coherence among all three. With no control over the session layer – the one concerned with network apps like video conferencing – QoS (quality of service) cannot be assured. Intelligent edge solutions avoid these issues altogether by working in concert with a firewall: depending on the nature of the problem, eSBCs can permit firewalls to police network threats, but when the session layer comes into play, intelligent edges address the danger while avoiding disruptions in service.

CONCLUSION

Firewalls were designed to address security first, with potential collateral impacts on network functionality taking a bit of a back seat. The brilliance of intelligent edge solutions lies in the fact that firms no longer have to choose between the two.

If you’d like to learn more about intelligent edge solutions for your business, contact us at 844-PCS-VoIP (844-727-8647).

PCS VoIP Service Notification

This morning, some PCS customers may be experiencing an issue that impacts the normal completion of inbound calls.

 PCS engineers identified an issue with our upstream carrier Level3.  Their inbound traffic is not completing to our network as expected.  We are working with Level3 on this issue.

PCS VoIP has obtained information that the Level3 Network is experiencing sporadic outages nationwide on their network.   Due to this issue, customers with telephone numbers originating with Level3 will experience Inbound call failures.  PCS engineers continue to work with Level3 and will provide more information as it becomes available.

The PCS VoIP local telephone number is being affected by the outage. To reach PCS VoIP, you may still contact us by calling 844-727-8647. We will continue to provide updates as we work towards a resolution.

10 ways VoIP improves business productivity

Most people understand that VoIP allows you to make calls over the Internet, thus saving lots of money in long-distance calls.

But VoIP can also be a powerful productivity booster, even for businesses that don’t make a lot of long distance calls. Because IP telephony moves seamlessly between voice and data on the same network, it allows functionality that is not possible when voice is transmitted separately. Here we look at ten real-world examples of this.

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  1. Collaboration tools – The possibilities here are endless. There are countless video conferencing programs, audio conference bridges and content-sharing applications that work on SIP (Session Initiated Protocol, the most widely used protocol for VoIP). Conduct a large-scale, high-definition video conference, host a free global conference call, or stage a web conference and share whiteboards, video, photos, reports, computer screens and a plethora of other content. There are a number of free platforms available where all you pay for is the Internet connection. There are also premium (paid) platforms for when you need to include larger groups of participants or add more bells and whistles.
  2. Voicemail to email – There are different methods for sending voicemails to users’ email inboxes. Some applications convert the voicemail to an MP3 file and email the file to the user. Others transcribe the voicemail and send the text transcription to the recipient’s email. Either way, voicemails can be retrieved without dialing into the company’s phone system.
  3. Follow me (aka find me) – The follow-me feature lets a single phone number reach you everywhere. No longer do you need to put 3 different phone numbers on your business cards or in your email signatures: one number can be routed to wherever you are and ring at the office, on your mobile, at home or wherever you choose.
  4. Instant messaging and presence technology – Presence technology allows users to notify others of their availability. They can decide when to receive communications from others, and others can see if they are available for being contacted. This technology often accompanies instant messaging platforms, which deliver messages according to the user’s self-determined windows of availability and allow both synchronous and asynchronous communication between parties.
  5. Click to dial – Click-to-dial functionality enables a simple click on a phone number displayed on your computer screen to dial that number out through your phone system.
  6. SIP trunking – SIP trunks are to VoIP what POTS trunk lines are to legacy PBXs. Because SIP trunks send calls over the cloud, they allow you to choose phone numbers from any country or area code. This can make it easier for customers in other locations to contact you. SIP trunks also allow least-cost call routing to help save money on long-distance calls. For example, if you’re making a long-distance call to a phone connected to the PSTN (public switched telephone network) near one of your company’s remote offices, the VoIP server would route the call first to the remote office (via the cloud), then out to the call recipient (via the PSTN), resulting in a local call rather than a long-distance one.
  7. Ease of management – Legacy PBX-based phone systems are notoriously laborious to manage. VoIP on the other hand has HTML-based programming, so you no longer require specific software to log in and manage routine changes to the system. You also have more centralized and more granular control over things like phone directories, voice message prompts and music on hold.
  8. Ease of integration – As mentioned at the beginning of this article, transmitting voice and data on the same LAN allows all of the components connected to the network to more easily integrate with each other. Your business communications can integrate with your company’s CRM, call registry, project management platforms, accounting software, and much more.
  9. Ease of use – IP phone systems let users have a lot more control over their personal settings. They can customize their settings for voicemail, DND (do not disturb), forwarding or presence (availability) and can even access administrative modes like listen-in (silently listening in on another’s live call), barge-in (the user can join someone else’s call and speak with all parties on the call), or whisper (this is where a user can listen in on a call and be heard only by their colleague, not by the other party. This tends to be used in mentoring or training scenarios).
  10. Mobile apps – Mobility in general is one of the most appealing aspects of VoIP. Previous points have touched upon this in features like follow me, voicemail to email, and hot-desking. Taking mobility even further, apps on your mobile devices allow you to take the rich functionality of your business phone system with you wherever you go.

 

In today’s competitive, fast-changing environment, the increased agility, mobility and efficiency offered by VoIP phone systems can lend a game-changing productivity boost to any business.

Telephony Lingo: part 1

 

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As technology advances & everything gets more sophisticated, sometimes it’s hard to keep up with conversations; as there are so many acronyms, that are only here to help us make the talk a little easier. However, there are times we don’t know what half of the things that are being said, mean.

Here is some lingo, to help bring you into the loop!

 

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