How to Prepare for a Videoconference as a Remote Worker

Videoconferencing is quickly becoming “business as usual.” So now more than ever, it’s essential to prepare for your business videoconference meetings so that you can get the most out of each one and make sure work gets done efficiently. Whether you’re new to working remotely or have been doing it for some time, it’s easy to fumble on a call.

Get Technically Ready For Your Video Conference Call

Working remotely means you have to make sure all technical aspects of a web and videoconference are in order. In other words, you are the IT department. Don’t wait until five minutes before the call to get everything prepared. Do it way ahead of time.

Here’s a checklist of things to nail down before the call.

Internet Connection.

Your WiFi signal must be strong enough to handle both voice and videoconference calls. What’s fine for browsing or email may not be robust enough to facilitate video.

Up-To-Date Software.

Make sure you have the latest version of the meeting software. Or use a web-based business videoconferencing solution where you only need to sign on.

The global videoconferencing market size is expected to expand at a CAGR of 9.2 percent from 2018 to 2025, according to Grand View Research.

Lights, Camera, Action!

One key to successful videoconference calls is making your visual presence as clear and strong as possible. You may be in your home office, or even the kitchen table, but you still have the ability to control lighting, visual background and ambient noise. Before starting the call, turn on your camera and take a good hard look at yourself and what’s behind you and the lighting. Make sure a light source is on your face – not behind you. Then check what’s in back of you. A pile of papers? The laundry? Set up your call so that your background is clear and uncluttered. You want other participants to focus on you and not be visually distracted. Finally, find a quiet space, ideally one with a door so that you can block out other noises.

Prepare For The Content Of The Videoconference Call

Taking a few moments ahead of time to organize your thoughts can make all the difference between a frustrating call and a productive one. As you prepare for your business videoconference, consider these elements.

Agenda.

If you’re the organizer of the call, be sure to send out an agenda at least a day ahead of time. Identify what you expect from each participant. For instance, “Ashley, I’d like you to be prepared to review the latest estimates for the new construction.”

Your Role.

If you’re not the leader, reach out to the organizer and ask for clarification on your role and how you should prepare. Think through what you’d like to contribute.

Other Participants.

Find out who else will be on the call. Just as with face-to-face meetings, it’s helpful to know ahead of time who’s “in” the meeting.

What To Do During A Business Videoconference Call

These days, we’re all so accustomed to multitasking that we’re tempted to do it during a conference call – particularly a boring one. All the more reason to define your role and contribution to the call ahead of time. Here are some ways to stay tuned in.

Be Present In Mind And Body.

Look into the camera. Keep your attention on whoever’s speaking, just as you would if you were sitting in a conference room. React to comments with appropriate body language, like nodding. Because the video software may automatically switch to the speaker, avoid verbal comments unless you have a contribution or question.

Take Notes.

It’s easier to stay in the moment when you’re jotting down thoughts and information. Note any questions you have for other participants or comments you want to add to the conversation. Be ready to share when the opportunity presents itself.

The Benefits Of A Cloud-Based Video Conferencing Solution Include:

  • Improved communication with customers
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Scalability
  • Reduced costs

Limit Side Conversations.

Keep one-on-one chats to a minimum. Again, if you were in an in-person meeting you wouldn’t be passing notes to colleagues, right? Instead, take notes for follow up.

Fill In The Gaps.

We get a lot of visual information during in-person meetings. While in this respect video conference calls are better than voice conference calls, we still miss out on important data. When you have to break eye contact with the camera (and the meeting participants), it’s useful to explain what you’re doing. For instance, you may be taking notes or looking up a document that’s pertinent to the discussion.

Record The Call.

If possible, record important video conference calls. Inexpensive transcription services are available to provide a written record of the call within hours.

What To Do After The Video Conference Call

Follow-up is important after any meeting, video or in-person. Using the notes you took during the call, reach out to colleagues and partners with next steps. Virtual workspace software like MiCloud Connect Teamwork makes it easy to assign tasks, send follow-up emails and group messages, share documents and schedule future meetings, all from one web-based application.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Clocks go forward – make sure your clocks update on your phone system

As you know the clocks are due to go forward an hour on Sunday 29th March. 

Although most modern phone systems will update the time automatically some will not. Click here to access our guidelines to assist with updating your Mitel telephone system.

Due to recent high call volumes it may take longer for an engineer to assist, so please ensure you read the guidelines on our website before requesting support.

Alternatively, if you want a phone system that has the ability to automatically update the time, please call us on +44 (0)20 3668 0444 or email info@4sightcomms.com.

Mitel System Support Services

4Sight provides maintenance and support services for all Mitel products and solutions with 24/7/365 UK coverage. 

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Why the New Private Cloud Solution by Mitel is Build on Google Cloud

The choice to go private cloud is typically made after a lot of research and consideration. The modern workforce is more mobile and unified communications hosted in the cloud provides teams with fast access to applications and shared documents. But before embracing any private cloud solution, IT teams need to be certain that the platform they implement will meet high standards for security, reliability and scalability.

Knowing this, Mitel has recently launched our private cloud solution, MiCloud Flex, on the Google Cloud platform. Partnering with Google brings a number of benefits that help complement the MiCloud Flex offering. As the leading cloud network, Google Cloud offers security, reliability, speed, innovation and geographic reach that complete our private cloud, unified communications and collaboration solution.

Wondering why Google Cloud works best? Here are top five reasons and why we’re sure they’ll benefit you:

1. Multi-Layered Infrastructure Security

Security is a top concern for any company going to the cloud. Those who choose private cloud are looking for additional security safeguards. Serving over one billion end users each day across seven cloud products, Google is committed to protecting information, identities, applications and devices. Built on Google Cloud, MiCloud Flex is protected by the same secure-by-design infrastructure, global network and built-in safeguards that will mitigate the most challenging security scenarios.

With the assurance of the Google brand, Google Cloud also meets the most rigorous privacy and compliance standards that test for data safety, privacy, and security. Even the data centers are built to satisfy the most stringent security standards, with full certifications to meet SOC 2 and HIPAA compliance. The solution is deployed in a dedicated and secure single instance environment through Google’s cloud access with private and secure network links, so you’ll always have the safety and control necessary for your most valuable data.

2. Reliable Infrastructure

Google’s cloud infrastructure is a future-proof technology monitored and modified by more than 700 top experts in information, application, and network security. This is the same technology that powers billions of search results in milliseconds and serves over six billion hours of YouTube video per month.

MiCloud Flex uses the Google Cloud brand of technology to work across secure, Tier 3+ high availability data centers with optional additional security measures including full encryption. Information and voice calls are delivered through the public Internet using voice over Internet protocols (VoIP), meaning users stay connected anywhere and everywhere – in the office, on the road, or working from home.

For this reason, you can be assured that communications will never go down because of a single network outage or hardware failure; MiCloud Flex features a high-availability deployment or available geo-redundancy for enhanced disaster recovery.

3. Speedy Provision

When you need information quickly, Google leads in speed and availability. Google Cloud has a 99.999% service level agreement (SLA), the highest standard for monthly uptime provided to users. Intensely monitored data centers and large dedicated data pipelines ensure low latency and almost zero downtime across Google Cloud products.

Additionally, Google Cloud is considered a top performer across most tests, benchmarks, and categories for performance and scalability that stress CPU, memory, disk, and networking resources in the cloud. MiCloud Flex’s fully managed, serverless offerings eliminate operational complexity, making Google Cloud easier to adopt and use.

4. Continuous Innovation

Leading the pack of big technology players across the globe, Google is at the forefront of research for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT), all while maintaining and improving its host of industry-leading products across the cloud.

MiCloud Flex Contact Center leverages Google AI capability that integrates multiple tools and resources seamlessly to generate deep insights into data and performance. With serverless data analytics and a machine learning platform guaranteed by Google Cloud, our contact center platform can turn your data into actionable insights with increased efficiency, simplicity and mobility, making for innovation within and without your organization.

5. Geographic Reach

Staying connected across the globe is no problem for the robust number of Google Cloud data centers developed, maintained, and expanded by Google annually. Mitel has carefully selected a subset of these centers focused on delivering MiCloud Flex based in specific country rollouts, including 20 regions, 61 zones, and 134 network edge locations, with more on the way in the future. With an extensive, resilient network of data centers, deployments and interconnectivity for international customers is not a problem for the leading cloud communication and collaboration solution.

Mitel + Google Cloud + 4Sight = MiCloud Flex

MiCloud Flex represents the best of two leaders and innovators in business technology. By collaboration between Mitel and Google, 4Sight can offer businesses a complete, reliable private cloud unified communication and collaboration solution. Your employees will work smarter and more efficiently no matter where they are, and your IT team will be confident that all communications are secure, reliable and adaptable to every business need.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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UC & C: The Secret Behind Every Great Customer Experience

Experience is everything. For your employees and your customers, their loyalty to you hinges on receiving positive treatment. To stay competitive in our increasingly saturated marketplace, and keep productivity and profitability high, experience is king. Making it easy to engage with your brand, and within your workplace, is an effective way to boost customer and employee experience. That’s where a unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) system comes in.

Better For Employees

Your staff are the heart of your businesses. And to them work-life balance isn’t just a buzzword; it’s driving their choices. People want to work more productively, without having to work for longer. In the US, one in ten workers is spending over 50 hours a week on work-related tasks. Across the Atlantic in the UK, the outlook is similar, with 60% of people saying they work longer hours than they’d like to.

And it goes beyond simply the number of hours worked, to the productivity within those hours. Every day, workers navigate multiple channels to keep track of messages: 13% of a typical working day is wasted as a result of inefficient and ineffective communications, leading to nearly £8,000 of wasted time per professional per year, according to the Mitel 2019 Workplace Productivity Report. If businesses deployed more intuitive, effective communication tools, 74% of employees believe it would improve their personal productivity, our report found.

This shift in employee priorities means the future is flexible. 83% of global workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working. But to make it work, communication and collaboration is key. Businesses need to have in place reliable, unified systems to support effective knowledge and idea sharing to empower employees to work in the way they want.

Better For Customers

Customer expectations are higher than ever. It’s never been easier to get the products and services they want, at their convenience, and with greater choice. A bad experience and one in three customers will go elsewhere, even if you’re a brand they love. Without exceptional customer experience that keeps up with agile competitors, organisations can expect to be left behind.

It’s estimated that 86% of customers will pay more for an excellent experience and, in some cases, that adds up to almost 20% more. Excellent experiences require consistency and simplicity. Each communication – whether it’s a call, a click, a text or email – needs to be engaged with quickly, smartly and consistently, so a customer doesn’t have to reiterate information about themselves or wait while you compile their profile. Disparate processes and communication systems can stop this from happening.

By adopting a unified communication system, businesses have one, accurate view of the customer, creating a joined-up experience that’s efficient to manage and meaningful to customers.

Better For Business

More productivity from staff and greater spend from customers all lead to a more successful business. For employees, it means more time for innovation, cutting downtime in navigating numerous communication apps. Plus, with improved collaboration and experience, expertise is more easily shared, more quickly. It makes for a better environment to produce new and exciting ideas, while allowing them to work in the flexible style that they prefer.

For customers, you become easier to interact with. They’ll be more likely to offer repeat business, and they’ll tell their friends about you.

Whether it’s to attract new talent, retain existing staff, gain increased spend from customers, or a combination of all these, a seamless UC&C system delivers the experience consumers and staff expect. And the seamless nature of a unified tool lowers operating costs too, eliminating multiple licenses and reducing IT maintenance costs.

Discover A More Connected Future

At 4Sight, we understand that you’re focused on driving change and we know it’s your responsibility to improve both employee engagement and customer experience. With increased expectations and demand for a seamless workflow across platforms and devices, wherever users are located, you need the power to choose a technology solution that delivers confident collaboration, while integrating with your existing systems.

Creating a workplace that delivers the right experience for customers and employees, as well as achieving fast ROI, requires choice. At 4Sight, we can offer you choice by being more flexible than anyone else. We work within your existing network to let you choose how you move to the cloud, and how and where you’d like us to support your culture of flexible working, so you and your employees can work in the way you prefer.

We make communications simple for our customers. Using our agile approach, you can rely on us to meet your unique business requirements, eliminating technical complexity along the way. We can help you drive your business forward, delivering easy communication between teams for better idea sharing and productivity, and improving the customer experience across every touchpoint.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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The Workplace Evolution: Adapting to the Digital Office

Meet the next generation of working styles. Changing demographics and evolving expectations of technology are transforming the workplace into a modern, but complex environment. It has presented IT teams with the challenge of both maintaining current systems and allowing for more effective processes. To stay competitive and support the needs of the business, choosing to adapt in the right way, with the right collaboration tool, is compulsory.

The Changing Face Of The Workplace

The workplace of today is unrecognisable from the past, and it’s still evolving at pace. No longer faced with the static nine-to-five office of 50 years ago, IT teams have had to adapt tools and devices to the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce that’s expected to reach almost 2 billion workers by 2022. Currently over half of employees work away from the office for half the working week.

For IT, the trend of flexible working brings added challenges and can mean time that could be dedicated to innovative projects is now reassigned. With work being completed from home, off-site locations and on the go, cafés are the second most popular place to work. This introduces new outside devices and networks to corporate systems, which can leave organisations vulnerable. Add to that the huge number of networked devices used for work tasks, which is predicted to reach 38.6 billion by 2025, and it makes the task of keeping devices maintained, up-to-date and secure even more complex and time consuming.

A totally virtual working space is an approaching reality – and with it comes the need for powerful connectivity. To stay productive across different locations and working hours, businesses rely on their IT departments to deliver capabilities that support effective collaboration and communication. Without it, work simply takes longer and results suffer.

The Connected Generation

The workplace shift goes beyond bricks and mortar. Younger generations are entering the workforce in droves, and they’re leading the digital revolution.

In 2020, Millennials and Generation Z, those born from the early 1980s to early 2010s, represent a significant proportion of the workplace. These generations have grown up in a world where the internet, smart devices and instant connectivity are ubiquitous, and they expect the same simple, connected communication platforms at work as they’ve been used to in other areas of their lives.

The frequency and fondness of communication varies depending on generation. Millennials, for example, often avoid face-to-face interactions in the workplace, with 55% preferring online messaging software and 28% choosing email to communicate. And for the Gen Z, frequency is key. Over 65% say they need regular feedback from their line manager to stay in their job. For IT, it means finding a simple way to accommodate these diverse preferences to ensure maximum productivity and inclusion.

The Race To Stay Ahead

These changes have brought an influx of applications and communication channels, which can negatively impact productivity. Using disparate systems will slow down a business. When systems aren’t compatible with each other, transferring data and knowledge from one program to another, or one person to another, can be arduous. And for IT teams, staying on top of management and training to use the systems takes even longer.

Plus, employees are less than impressed with the daunting number of channels at play. Almost a quarter of IT professionals have found that the communication options available can be overwhelming to staff. It also makes it harder and more time consuming to keep track of information, forcing a long search across platforms to find the details needed. The solution is simple: implement one easy-to-use tool.

Today’s IT departments are under more pressure than ever. From the growing demands of the workforce to disparate systems, the current day-to-day workload is both complex and time consuming. So exploring a solution that unifies communication into one platform across the whole business makes it simpler for IT teams to manage systems. It means they can reassign their time to innovative, future-looking projects while boosting overall employee productivity. Plus, it helps IT to contribute to business growth and gain added flexibility over the implementation of new systems.

Choose To Embrace The Future

The modern working world holds plenty of exciting opportunities, and collaboration in ideas and knowledge is essential to react to them. The right communication systems can facilitate a workplace that delivers exceptional customer experience and supports business growth in today’s fast-paced, decentralised environment. For mobile workers, three hours a week can be lost without using unified communications and collaboration tools.

At 4Sight, we understand the pressure you’re under. Our unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions support IT teams – giving you the power to choose which systems to make available, and how to roll them out. It lets you have the choice of on-premise, cloud or hybrid, the choice of when to upgrade and which systems to make available to which employees.

We work with you to uncover your unique business requirements before tailoring solutions to meet them. It means the solution is adapted to your needs, powering efficiency in the areas you need it most, while making it considerably easier to manage.

Our approach is flexible and agile, and we work within your existing network – seamlessly integrating to eliminate technical complexity and make adoption simple. We’re here to help you drive business forward.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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4 Insights Prove Why Small Businesses Need Cloud Phones

Ask any small business owner what keeps them up at night, and we bet productivity will make their list. And no wonder: with smaller teams, small businesses have to get more work done with fewer people. The trick is figuring out how to increase productivity without burning out employees.

Good news! We’ve found an answer. It’s as simple as making the right communications and collaboration tools available. For instance, cloud phones, like the ones we provide at Mitel, increase efficiency by making it easier to get work done.

recent survey of business professionals looked at how communications and collaboration tools impact workplace productivity. Half of the respondents were from companies with between 25 and 2,500 employees. One data point sure to grab the attention of small business owners: 74 percent of employees believe their personal productivity would improve if they had better communications and collaboration tools. Additionally, 82 percent say the staff’s overall productivity would improve. That kind of impact can significantly improve your bottom line.

So how do you achieve such gains? The survey clearly shows how cloud phones can help solve the productivity challenge faced by many small businesses. Here are a few key findings.

Survey says! Cloud phones deliver for SMBs

Shared workspaces gain traction. The majority of survey respondents (70 percent) say using online workspaces is an efficient way to get things done. For one thing, they make it easy to see what needs attention and to make sure tasks are completed on time. A cloud phone system such as Mitel Teamwork improves employee productivity by offering individual and group chat, file sharing, audio conferencing, web sharing and a personal dashboard to keep employees on top of their daily “to-do” list. And you can forget about the hassle of needing a VPN: Your mobile device offers seamless access.

Phones are not going away. Despite the arrival of new technologies, people still rely on voice calls. A resounding 97 percent of respondents listed phone communications among their top five communication methods of choice. Cloud phones offer softphone, mobile and IP desk phone options so employees can talk with each other – and customers – from any device and location. Team members can also continue a conversation from one device to another without skipping a beat.

Video has potential, but it has to work. Thirty-nine percent of business professionals believe the use of video communications will increase over the next few years. Since employees are more likely to pay attention and participate in meetings where they can be seen and not just heard, video conferences present a real opportunity to increase productivity. Employees want video solutions to be intuitive and reliable, and cloud phones deliver by making video conferencing easy and effective with quality connections. After joining with a single click, it’s simple to share presentations, files and documents in real time. Users can even combine video sharing with one-to-one and group messaging to speed review time and collaborate more effectively than ever.

Time is money. For SMBs, every penny counts. However, by some estimates, employees waste about 13 percent of their day on inefficient communications, costing companies roughly $10,000 per worker each year. How to address that? Employees suggest using consistent communications and collaboration tools across the organization, integrating them into workflows and leveraging mobile apps.

Cloud phones check off every box on this list. A seamless experience across devices gives your employees access to voice calls, conferencing and messaging. Single-click functionality saves time, while mobile apps support employees on the move. Screen sharing and agenda tracking increase efficiency. Voicemail transcription allows people to read messages via email. Cloud phones simply “bring it” when it comes to saving SMBs time – and the cost associated with it.

As we wrap up these hard facts, we’ll leave you with a soft reminder: A happy employee is a productive employee. When it comes to cloud phones, an easy-to-use, intuitive system is a must. Powerful communications and collaboration tools don’t have to be difficult to use. On the contrary, some of the best systems out there, such as MiCloud Connect, require little to no training. Your small-business employees will be up and running in no time, smiling as they complete calls, projects and tasks with ease.

Employees have spoken. Cloud phones provide the tools they need to succeed – and you can reap the benefits of their productivity and maximize your potential for growth.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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What To Do: In a Pandemic

With COVID-19 spreading across borders and news headlines, concerns are rising about how to best stop the virus. Given the disease’s aggressive nature, WHO has recommended that every citizen do their part to keep things contained―whether it be more diligent hand washing, putting a temporary stop to travel, canceling events or just staying home.

“The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus.” WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus maintains that, with global solidarity, coronavirus could be the first pandemic in history that is successfully controlled through individual caretaking measures.

Business across the globe are racing to do their part. In large part this means adopting a more remote work culture. And we see this happening in more frequency as news of coronavirus grows. Amazon has asked its Seattle employees to work from home. Seattle-based rock band Pearl Jam has postponed its North American tour. The University of Washington will close campus once staff and students leave for spring break, opting to continue classes online for the remainder of the semester. And in Austin, Texas, city health officials have cancelled the popular South by Southwest (SXSW) conference.

Although it appears that remote working is picking up speed, for many businesses this is bound to be more challenging than expected. In a recent webinar, analyst firm Gartner conducted a snap poll of the human resource leaders from Asia/Pacific who attended. Ninety-one percent indicated they’d implemented work from home arrangements in the wake of the coronavirus. However, they also said their two biggest challenges were a lack of technology infrastructure and discomfort from employees in remote working.

Like you, 4Sight has been monitoring the evolving impact of the coronavirus and forming a complete understanding of how our customers will be affected. As part of our commitment to help you continue working with consistency and peace of mind, below we’ve shared some tips and guidelines that we use to make working from home more comfortable and effective:

Choose The Right Tools

An effective remote working setup is one that is just as good as at the office. And that requires the right combination of tools and processes. There’s no one-trick pony; some days video is what you need and other times chat and file sharing are more productive. The right setup for remote working will give you an array of options along with a good connection to your team and contacts. Let’s take a look at a combination that we find works well:

Cloud-Based Solution

All too often, employees working from home find with dismay that the documents or information they really needed are saved on the computer back at the office. It’s one of the most common challenges of working remotely. Yet when documents are stored in the cloud, employees can access them from any location. And it’s not just documents that are easily accessible. With the cloud, remote workers can also tap into the organization’s vast store of information, from team calendars and workspaces to a colleague’s spreadsheet and the corporate directory.

Meeting Tools

The right meeting tool can transform remote interactions into natural collaborations. MiTeam Meetings, for example, functions seamlessly so it feels like everyone’s working in the same room. One-click video calls allow for ad hoc, face-to-face conversations. You can all edit the same documents, stay updated on tasks, share screens and collaborate in real time.

An All-In-One Workspace

Perhaps the most valuable tool for remote working is one that lets you access voice, video, messaging, presence, audio conferencing, mobility and team collaboration from a single application. With a communications experience that’s consistent whether you’re at the office, mobile or at home, it doesn’t matter were you work. Connecting and collaborating becomes just as effortless and seamless.

Adjusting to remote working is simpler with this kind of persistent workspace. Capabilities like web chat and file sharing are always-on, so you can collaborate in real time. Team members can review, update and expand on project information. You can access project timelines, meeting notes, task lists and ad hoc project comments. Ultimately, you everything you need to interact and get work done without interruption.

Build The Remote Work Culture

Although remote working isn’t new, you and your team may not be prepared to work from home for longer stretches of time―possibly even weeks or months. Here are three ways you can help them adapt more quickly.

Help Everyone Get The Proper Setup

Having the right collaboration tool is the first step. It’s a good idea to survey employees and understand more about their home offices and whether their work environment is set up properly. For example, do they have a separate space to work away from the rest of the household? Is the Wi-Fi speed adequate for connecting via video or downloading large documents? The survey results will help you make appropriate recommendations for setting up home offices as well as understand what gaps you might need to fill.

Set Guidelines For Communication

In the office, managers have an easier time monitoring employee activity. For example, they know when a member of their team steps away from their desk to get a cup of coffee. But in a remote work scenario, if a manager can’t reach their employee she may jump to the conclusion that the work isn’t getting done.

Remote work requires a certain degree of trust, and transparency helps build trust. Set expectations with clear communication guidelines. For instance, ask employees to set status messages each time they step away from their desk or agree on what comprises an adequate response time.

Practice Ahead Of A Pandemic

The time to start building a remote working culture is now, before a pandemic infects your operations. Train your employees to work remotely by sending them home to work for a week or more. A mandated trial will allow you to work out the kinks, ensuring that your business will continue operating smoothly even during a crisis.

There’s another benefit of adopting a work-at-home work culture: you’ll be prepared for a future that is likely to involve a significant portion of the workforce working remotely. As Gartner points out, demand for remote working will increase as Generation Z enters the workforce.

You will need to build a culture and infrastructure that allows employees to communicate and collaborate effortlessly as if they’re in the same room, even if they are miles or time zones apart. For this reason implementing a work-from-home model serves two purposes: it enhances your ability to weather a pandemic and it paves the way for the workforce of the future.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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6 Signs it’s Time to Update to Cloud Phone Technology

It’s easy to get comfortable with your communications system – until that moment when you realize you need more from it. Consider mobility, for example. Just a few years ago, most employees worked from the office. Today, more than half are likely to be on the go and working remotely at least some of the time. If your current phone system isn’t able to handle the office exodus, that’s a glaring sign you’re due for a change.

The good news? A cloud phone solution, like MiCloud Connect, ensures employees can work and collaborate anywhere by delivering the latest in mobility.

But mobility is just one problem solved by cloud phone technology. Chances are, your communications system is flashing yellow and red in other places as well. Some of these warnings are harder to recognize than others. If you’ve noticed any of the following signs, now is the time to make the switch.

6 Signs It’s Time To Upgrade Your Communications

You’re getting a lot of questions about security. This is a hot topic both in the news and at weekly IT meetings. Protecting sensitive information is a top priority. But if you’re not 100 percent confident in your communications system, you’ll want to ask vendors some hard questions. For example: Do they offer Secure Real-Time Transfer Protocol (SRTP), which ensures voice, web and signaling traffic is encrypted? What platform are they using and what levels of security do they offer? At Mitel, we decided to amp up security by partnering with Google Cloud. Our customers benefit from the same reliable and trusted network infrastructure we all use for search and videos on a daily basis.

You operate in a regulated industry. In industries like healthcare or finance, compliance looms large. Violations are expensive and can tarnish your reputation. However, when you work with a cloud phone provider committed to ensuring high levels of security and protecting sensitive data, you’ll ease your IT burden. MiCloud Connect, for example, is certified to meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards and Service Organization Control Type II (SOC 2) compliance, helping you adhere to even the most stringent requirements.

High traffic is reducing the quality of your communications. People might run on coffee, but business are powered by a reliable and consistent network. Slow-downs, dropped calls and low-quality video impede conversations, frustrating employees and customers. Ask about the provider’s track record. As a reference point, Mitel has 99.995 percent uptime backed by SLAs and financial penalties if we don’t meet these standards. Other important items to look for in a reliable solution are Tier 4 data centers with several layers of redundancy and multiple connectivity options with automatic failover. With these built-in capabilities, employees work fast and never miss a chance to drive customer satisfaction higher.

Cloud phone technology helps business adapt to change

Business is booming, so your company is growing – fast. Ask yourself how difficult it is to add or remove lines and users to your current system. If it requires a call to the vendor every time you need to make a change, then it’s time for a cloud phone solution. The beauty of the cloud is that it’s so easy to adjust to new conditions. You can add or remove seats and upgrade permissions in real time, which means your business is more agile. A scalable solution keeps you competitive, while also offering flexible pricing plans so you can stay within budget.

It’s getting harder to meet client expectations. In a competitive market, it’s all too easy to fall behind without integrated collaboration tools. A stellar customer experience builds loyalty, but it can be difficult to deliver when employees are taking extra steps to share documents or discuss issues. When collaboration is built into communications, it’s easier for employees to exceed customer expectations. For example, with click-to-join access for web, audio and video conferencing, a product manager can convene his team to resolve a pressing issue quickly, getting goods in the hands of customers at the right moment. In addition, a persistent workspace with chat, tasks and file sharing gives teams the ability to collaborate in real time. When employee collaboration is easy and seamless, customers get answers faster and satisfaction soars.

Managing multiple licenses is keeping you very busy. There are better ways to spend your time. With a cloud phone solution, you can mix and match license types on a single plan. Need a contact center? Collaboration tools? It’s simple to add licenses on-demand and manage each user via their own profile. And since your cloud provider is responsible for infrastructure, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or carry the cost of unused equipment or lines. Plus, budgeting on an operating expenses (OpEx) model is predictable and easy.

All signs point to cloud phone technology

If any of these signs are flashing red or yellow in your organization, it’s time to start exploring what cloud phone technology can do for your business. A solution like MiCloud Connect will adapt to your business needs, ensuring you stay current with the latest technology – and keep customer satisfaction at all-time highs.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Public, Private or Hybrid? 5 Questions to Help You Make the Right Choice

How do you educate 30 baseball teams about new rules and policies – and make sure they follow them? That was the challenge Major League Baseball faced as it moved toward implementing “pace of play” rules aimed at shortening the length of games.

As part of the plan, the MLB installed phone lines in every stadium, connecting the dugout, bullpen and video review rooms. Although these are the exact areas the teams use to prevent sign stealing, they can also contribute to excessive visits to the pitcher’s mound. Now the league can centrally monitor, review and record every time a coach picks up the phone.

The league’s solution was in the cloud, specifically a private cloud securely accessed through the public internet so all stadiums could use it.

Private cloud was how the MLB changed its play. How will you change yours? Of course, every business has its own needs. As you consider which cloud environment makes sense for your company – publicprivate or hybrid – asking these questions can help you choose the best path for you.

What Level Of Privacy And Security Do You Need?

If you’re in a highly regulated industry, like financial services, government or healthcare, consider which data should be kept on-site versus a private cloud. Do you need to protect patient data? Comply with the regulations of multiple countries? A hybrid cloud solution could work well for you.

“When we first set out to make a decision around the cloud, we knew we wanted to get out of owning our own data center and migrate to a combination of private and public cloud,” says James Swanson, Monsanto’s CIO. “We consciously decided not to go all-in on public cloud because there were things we wanted to keep internal.”

A hybrid solution enables you to keep control of some parts of your communications infrastructure while still reaping cloud benefits like scalability, resiliency and cost management. So, if privacy and control are essential to your business, this route may provide the flexibility you need.

How Important Is Reliability?

In terms of reliability, public cloud environments have good track records, but they’re not as reliable as private clouds. Think bandwidth. If your company generates heavy usage both inside and outside the organization, reliability is bound to be compromised. If your workforce needs immediate and reliable access to complex data, for example, large multimedia files, consider either a private cloud or storing the data on site.

Another consideration is call quality. A contact center needs 100 percent dependability so that your customers can always get through. If this is essential for your business, consider a hybrid solution: a private cloud combined with an on-site back-up. Such redundancy protects you from costly downtime; if you lose your on-site system, the cloud is there. Likewise, if a network failure hits your cloud provider, your in-house infrastructure becomes your safety net.

Will The Communications System Grow And Flex With You?

The size and potential growth of your organization, in terms of both users and geographic locations, will also impact your decision about whether to use a private or public cloud.

For organizations with fewer than 500 users, the public cloud environment is the most cost-effective. For one thing, your business can pay on a user-per-month basis. In addition, even though you still use a public internet connection (also known as “over the top” or OTT), it can be combined with private network solutions.

A good example of this is the MLB’s system. Although the number of users is relatively small (fewer than 20 phones in each stadium) a hybrid solution using the public cloud via a secure private network gives the league room to scale up when necessary and allows it to maintain reliability and control.

How Can You Connect To The Cloud?

Public internet connectivity. In this model, public internet connections like business-grade DSL and E1/T1 are used for voice and video services. This is an economical choice for small and growing organizations.

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) uses high‐speed telecommunications networks to transport packets over virtual links. The technology routes data efficiently because it communicates known information about the network’s topology. It also provides high call quality and a secure connection.

SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking) allows organizations to reap the benefits of both public internet and MPLS. SD-WAN employs one or multiple network connections to prioritize applications, using a mixture of OTT and/or OTT with MPLS services to review and evaluate all network traffic. To ensure data and call quality are maximized, it can switch circuits quickly.

What Goes In The Cloud? What Stays?

Preparation is key to successfully using the cloud. So before moving forward, be sure to evaluate your needs.

Monsanto’s Swanson recommends you start by assessing your current infrastructure. “Now’s the time to identify the applications that really matter,” he says. Identify redundant functionality across applications, then focus on the key business and technical reasons for moving to the cloud. Use those decisions to shape the specific criteria for determining which applications should move to the cloud. Start with an overall digital strategy and work backwards, he urges, evaluating each offering in the marketplace against your value proposition.

“What do you need to fulfill your strategy in the most effective way that gives you both the financial return but also the capabilities that you’ll need as you go forward?” he asks. “The more refined your strategy is, the more tailored your cloud environments can be.”

This article was first published by Mitel.

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WHAT TO DO: An Emergency at the Office

We don’t like to think about it, but the possibility of an emergency affecting your business is real. Organizations of all types and sizes are susceptible. And although many situations will turn out to be false alarms or have minimal impact, businesses still need an emergency preparedness plan in place to ensure communications with employees are swift and effective. Another necessity? The right technology, including a modern mass notification system, to support such a plan.

Planning is essential because a crisis poses three related threats to your business: public safety, financial loss and reputation loss. Any one of these could have a lasting impact on your business and your employees.

For instance, severe weather such as hurricanes or earthquakes could impede your ability to operate, even causing damage to facilities that might take several months or years to repair. In 2017, national and man-made disasters caused $306 billion in economic losses worldwide – up 63 percent from 2016.  Forty percent of small- and medium-sized businesses that experience downtime due to disasters will not survive.

Then there are the types of tragedies that unfold at the hands of people, some intentional and some accidental. Although workplace shootings have captured news headlines, businesses need to be prepared for other types of unforeseen man-made incidents, including fires, chemical spills, and even the spread of illnesses such as the flu.

How To Plan For An Emergency

Businesses can mitigate such risks by planning ahead. A solid emergency preparedness plan coupled with a modern mass notifications system significantly reduces risk, keeps employees safe and maintains the integrity of your facilities.

In crisis preparation, it’s critical to remember how much different communications in the workplace are today compared to a decade ago. For example, in its early days, email was one of the quickest ways to share information. Today, however, as more people rely on their mobile devices, a text message is speedier and more reliable.

Issues also come to light faster thanks to the prevalence of IoT-enabled devices because alerts can be delivered automatically, without human intervention. For instance, if an intruder forces their way into a building, sensors can detect the breach and send alerts to employees, your security team and even the local police. Employee communications preferences and technology advancements should influence every part of your plan.

Worried you’ll miss something? What follows are a few tips for covering all the bases as you put together your emergency preparedness plan:

  • Incorporate feedback from across the organization. Every team works differently. Sales, for example, is often on the road working from smartphones and tablets. In the warehouse, team members work in shifts around the clock. Reaching the right people at the right time means documenting how, when and where each employee works.
  • Conduct scenario planning. Working with your cross-functional team, talk through potential emergencies. You’ll need to understand how they might unfold from start to finish. As you assess the risks, you can put plans in place for the most likely scenarios and identify communications requirements.
  • Establish an escalation path. When a crisis occurs, know who needs to be alerted. Executives and teams are constantly changing, so have a plan to keep this strategy updated.
  • Have a back-up plan. Consider how you’ll execute on your emergency notification plan if the power goes out, critical equipment is damaged or IT solutions are breached or compromised.
  • Debrief after events. Learn from the crises you face. Take the time after executing on your emergency plan to re-evaluate what went right and what went wrong. The lessons will prove valuable should similar situations occur.

What to ask about mass notification systems

The success of your emergency preparedness plan will hinge on the technology you choose to support it. You have to be confident alerts will reach the right person at the right time. That’s why you need a solution that meets the needs of the modern workforce and can reliably support the broadest possible range of communications devices, channels and alert levels.

As you assess your current system or evaluate new vendors, these are the questions to ask:

  • Is the platform capable of delivering both routine mass notifications as well as emergency alerts? The ability to handle both will ensure you get more out of your investment.
  • Does the platform support mobility? Does it offer mobile apps for iOS and Android devices? Remember that today’s workforce is mobile, so this is a must-have feature.
  • Is it capable of integrating with a wide range of hardware and software? Interoperability is critical because technology changes rapidly. The platform should be flexible to accommodate both the needs of today and adapt to future technologies.
  • How easily can it scale? Can it expand to support tens of thousands of devices, including desktop devices, mobile devices, overhead speakers, email, horns, strobe lights, digital signs and other communications channels? It’s important that your mass notification system grows with your business.
  • Does it allow you to create unlimited notifications, including live, pre-recorded or scheduled broadcasts? The flexibility to create messages ahead of time for any potential situation will allow you to respond faster – if the time comes.
  • Does it support notifications regardless of location? With a mobile workforce, it’s essential that employees can initiate notifications both on- and off-premises as well as send text message notifications to any location.

While the considerations above apply to all businesses generally, keep in mind that some organizations – such as schools and hospitals – will have unique needs. However, an emergency preparedness plan coupled with a robust mass notification system will benefit every business, allowing them to stay in control even as dynamic, high-risk situations unfold.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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