Thursday, June 23, 2016

Build a solid disaster recovery plan in less than a day - Seriously

Let’s face it - having a disaster recovery plan is the kind of thing every business should have. Unfortunately for many of us, it stays on the back burner while we hope disaster doesn’t strike. The good news is that with modern cloud technology, building a solid DR plan for nearly every scenario is fast, easy and affordable (mostly free).

What do I do about employees who can’t get into the office?
Issues like floods, snowstorms, fire, or even terrorism can make it difficult or impossible for your employees to get to work. Shutting down for a day or two is not an option. Fortunately, there are a host of solutions.

Most companies today either have employees who work remotely or are planning for remote employees or teleworkers. Expand this thinking to DR for those who are not remote, but could work from a remote location in a pinch. If your employees use laptops in the office, make it a policy that they should take them home when they leave. If they don’t have laptops, consider providing access to critical software they could access from their home computers. It’s important that all devices have access to a VPN and train your employees on its use. Make sure your telecom vendor provides the correct tools to be able to share content as if everyone were in the office (if you are using a cloud UC solution, you may already have this).

Employees can answer and make calls from their office phone without being physically in the office. Modern phone systems have tools like simultaneous ringing, call redirection and/or call forwarding that allow your staff to use their home and/or mobile devices to make it seem to contacts that nothing is different.

Many companies like Jetblue and Amazon already operate virtual call centers. Build a plan to have your call center employees working from home in case of an emergency. Work with your provider to build alternate call routing from your plan that you can use to instantly turn you call center virtual.

What if access to my internet/telecom provider goes down?
Having multiple vendors is the simplest solution to this, but it's not as easy as it sounds - many providers take the same physical paths to your office - a cable cut could take down all of them. Consider a second (or third) provider who uses a different physical path, like satellite or wireless.  

An easy to implement solution is to have all of your employees mobile and/or home telephone numbers at hand. Work with your provider to set up redirects in case of an emergency - your customers will never know. If you have a cloud-based system or SIP trunking solution, your employees can even do this by themselves.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Five things to think about when considering a new phone system

When it comes to business phone systems, one size does not fit all.  Here are some questions you should ask yourself about your business - and plan accordingly:

Plan for what your business will use, not for current needs
If you are purchasing a PBX, you will likely have it for 10 years or more. Ask yourself: “during that time, will my business expand?” In some cases, you may anticipate getting smaller. Find a system that can scale to meet these needs.

Select a system that has features for business strategies you would like to use, even if you don’t think you need those features at present. Having additional ability will help your business grow. Not planning for this will stifle your creativity and could hinder future growth.

Think about maintenance of these systems
If you are going the hardware route, chose a system that will continue to provide software and hardware upgrades, not to mention replacement parts.  Be sure your provider has a maintenance plan that is affordable and meets your needs.  Make certain your vendor is on strong financial footing – you are making a long-term commitment and don’t want to be left with a problem five to ten years out.

What are your mobile needs?
Frequently workers that could be remote or mobile aren’t simply because the phone system doesn’t allow for it. Having a system that allows for remote employees can save significantly on real estate costs, not to mention improved morale, reducing turnover.

Do you need a call center strategy?
Even small companies that just have people to answer the main phone line have a call center.  Think about how your customers reach you; are they always getting to the person they need? Ask your vendor to show you how their system manages different types of call center strategies and how difficult it is ti implement them.

What do you do if you already have a PBX?
There are several strategies that work with what you’ve already purchased. Consider SIP trunking to breathe some life into your PBX by giving it new modern functionality. If your PBX won’t scale, consider adding cloud-based telephony systems to fill the gaps.  These systems will frequently work with your existing equipment, giving you modern feature sets without forcing you to do a forklift upgrade. When the time does come to retire your hardware, you can move to the cloud-based system you are already familiar with.