Predicting the Future of IP Phones: Will They Go Extinct?

PhonesWhen talking about extinction, one tends to think of dinosaurs, the dodo, or maybe an endangered species such as the rhinoceros. So, when talking about technology that goes extinct, one might presume the ice box, the buggy whip, or maybe the rotary dial phone. One hardly thinks about VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol) phones as being relegated to the evolutionary trash can. Yet, that’s exactly what some online magazines and blogs are saying.

Crystal Balls Say Obsolescence?

Not too long ago, phone companies announced land lines and the current telephone system as being obsolete. In fact, many major phone companies are looking to switch to VoIP.

To predict that IP phones now will be rendered obsolete might seem a bit off-kilter. After all, there are still fax machines in offices, and people still have desk phones. It’s unlikely, it seems, that the IP phone will go the way of the dodo.

Purpose Built

SIP (session initiation protocol) and changing open standards have radically changed the IP phone industry.

No longer do businesses need to rely on proprietary technology. Because of this, the IP telephone is evolving to suit the needs of those who use it. Whether it’s a call center or the need for a rugged phone system in factories and warehouses, the IP phone has changed to suit the needs of the customer.

No New Window

One IP phone that is certain to stand the test of time is the type of IP phone that allows users to make and receive phone calls without having to open up a window on their computer. This IP phone allows the user to have all the conveniences of a desktop phone with all the benefits of using VoIP.

Simplicity Breeds Productivity

When looking for simplicity in a phone, think open source and fewer features. Fewer features allow the user to focus on doing the job, not on trying to learn a complex system.  Like the above IP phones, many of these phones are not proprietary and will work with other open source software and equipment.

Keeping the IP phone simple makes it easier to use; thus, employees are more productive.

A Bright Future

No matter what the future holds for phone systems, it’s likely that IP phones will be there, thriving alongside new innovations and legacy systems.

As long as there is VoIP, there will be a need for something as flexible and familiar as IP phones. In addition, as the needs of clients continue to change, IP phones will continue to change along with those needs.

What Every Business Needs to Know: Toll Fraud & VoIP

toll fraudToll fraud is a serious security threat for businesses that use VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol), which is especially susceptible to toll fraud. Besides being a type of fraud–which no business wants–toll fraud can cause serious financial damage for businesses.

Yet, some business owners are not aware of what toll fraud is nor of the steps they should take to ensure that it doesn’t happen to their business.

What is Toll Fraud?

Toll fraud is the stealing of minutes from and the tacking on of outrageous charges to both conventional phone systems and VoIP.

In the past, with legacy switches, toll fraud was very lucrative, but it was harder to accomplish, because phone companies relied on switches, and there was no connection to the Internet. Now, hackers target business VoIP systems, which often have more lax security than company computers, and are able to cash in on the toll fraud schemes.

Why Toll Fraud?

Besides stealing minutes, hackers get a cut whenever they commit toll fraud. Toll fraud is big business in some smaller countries that have primitive phone systems with little or no usage. These phone companies charge outrageous rates because very few people use them. Hackers will break into a business’s phone system and use their  VoIP to these select countries, racking up huge toll bills. The phone system makes its money from those toll charges, and the hackers get a cut.

Unfortunately, once a company falls victim to toll fraud, the business has little recourse but to pay for it. Most of the charges are paid to the terminating carrier in the country to where the phone calls were made.

Why is VoIP Vulnerable?

Because VoIP is easy to hack, hackers are quick to break into company telephony systems and commit toll fraud.

Even though the amount of money isn’t as big as it once was, the amount of money hackers can make, both for themselves and the countries that initiate the toll fraud schemes, is still sizable. Given that in 2014, the average cost of a VoIP attack was around $36,000, businesses need to be concerned about toll fraud, because most small businesses are unable to absorb that kind of hit.

Because businesses are likely to consider that now that they have VoIP, they simply get free calling and toll fraud shouldn’t concern them, businesses are more likely to become victims of toll fraud. Because toll fraud operates differently, it becomes all that more imperative for businesses to protect their VoIP systems.

Top 5 Ways to Secure Sensitive Information from VoIP Phone Hackers

integ1Managing business operations in today’s virtual environment is an ongoing challenge. As more and more customers rely on the global access created through internet options, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has become a standard technology for many companies due to its incredible features and cost-effective benefits. But the emergence of new technologies also often means an increase in new ways of criminal hacking. Though hackers cannot be prevented 100 percent of the time, companies can certainly neutralize the threat to a great extent.

As so much sensitive information is transposed through Dual-tone Multi-frequency (DTMF) tones, a security breach over a VoIP system can spell disaster in more ways than one.

In fact, almost any business that performs operations through Time-division Multiplexing (TDM) and Internet Protocol (IP)-based voice frameworks through VoIP are susceptible to phone hackers (sometimes referred to as toll fraud). Not only are payments and financial information at risk, but confidential data collected from healthcare providers, engineering companies, and corporate structuring plans (like downsizing or mergers) are also in danger from phone hackers.

Why?

Simple. There is just no substitute for the cost-effective benefits of VoIP. And the eruption of VoIP usage has shown up on hacker radar because previously IP-based communication was centralized on local networks, which were typically protected from the public internet. However, that’s ancient history as more and more of VoIP traffic is routed through un-encrypted, public internet services by telephony providers.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that there are many tools available now which make it simple, easy, and untraceable for hackers to infiltrate confidential phone conversations. Practically anyone with a little bit of tech savvy and basic research can start collecting and storing voice information from external IP networks overnight.

The Best Offense Is a Great Defense

Because of these increased risks, companies must rethink their supplier’s encryption protocols and safety measures. What may have been adequate when the VoIP was incorporated is most likely now out of date.

Here are the top five things to consider when questioning a VoIP supplier about the systems they have in place to combat phone-based cyber-crimes:

  1. Ask providers about their Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking services. The system should feature automatic deactivation of any components that aren’t secure, as well as encryption capability for all calls.
  1. Companies that routinely record calls (a necessary quality control procedure for many businesses) must ensure that their telephony system conforms to ISO protection requirements outlined for storing sensitive information.
  1. For any payments conducted over the phone, companies must adhere to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). Also, it is vital that the VoIP provider allocates encrypted connections for payment data.
  1. Find out about Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. Protecting client/server applications from tampering or spying between transports is crucial for secure communications.
  1. Depending on the risk of remote access susceptibility, consider a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS). This creates a direct access circuit that is only available for designated voice traffic.

 
The incredible cost benefits of VoIP through external IP networks are great.  But knowing the heightened risk of phone hacking through open (or public) network VoIP can help companies prevent devastating breaches in data security by neutralizing the threat of confidential information from being intercepted.

11 Benefits of SIP Trunking

shutterstock_199862873Business today is fast and precise, requiring the latest options to streamline communication. Whether it’s long distance phone calls or other communications technology, companies must be able to manage multiple locations and remote employees while keeping expenses minimal.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking is a modern, economical answer. It enables businesses to simplify by streamlining communications, resources, and lowering costs while maintaining quality results. This adaptable solution takes incoming calls received via computer or mobile phone, rather than an office landline, saving time and space. Its effective packing and distribution of communication makes a business more effective and efficient.

Here are some more benefits for making the switch:

  • A large-scale investment is not necessary to outfit a business with an SIP trunking option. It is low cost, affordable, and an immediate integration option.
  • SIP trunking means working with fewer providers. This eliminates extra subscriptions and fees. It also means one monthly invoice and charge, simplifying the billing process.
  • Customer service will involve only one company and one telephone number.
  • Purchasing a circuit bundle is a money-saving option with some SIP trunking providers.
  • SIP trunking offers pricing on demand. Businesses only need pay for what they require and only when they need it, including extra capacity when necessary.
  • There are no requirements for separate data or voice circuits. SIP trunking simplifies technology to make one network and is capable of providing optimal communication at each location.
  • Remote employees can have incoming business calls routed automatically to their own phones or computers.
  • Alternate extensions or different numbers can receive calls for closed office hours or busy lines.
  • SIP trunking eliminates the need of planning communication during times of low usage. It can be rerouted to different devices and locations when necessary.
  • SIP trunking provides professional communication services to clients no matter their location, creating trust, loyalty, and long-term relationships. This option also promotes production and enhances communication between employees.
  • SIP trunking can be combined with other cloud-based services.

The benefits of SIP trunking cover a range of advantages. This single streamlining solution can be a business’s best choice for operating an entire network under the umbrella of one entity. Dealing with one solution provider means questions and issues are resolved faster and in an organized, intelligent way. The perks of flexible usage and receiving optimal bandwidth on demand can make the difference between a company’s growth or a stall in productivity.

While IP PBX may help with streamlining voice management and company continuity, it may not promote the healthier advantages offered by SIP trunking.  Communication with this option can be easy and trouble-free in every business environment while keeping costs modest.

Three Reasons Why the Business Telephone is More Important Than Ever

More companies than ever are using VOIP (voice over internet protocol) or allowing employees to “bring your own device” and use smartphones on the job. With options like this at the disposal of an organization, is there a need for standard business phone systems any longer? Actually, a regular telephone line is still an important investment for most businesses. Consider these three reasons why having a business phone service is important for your organization.

Business Phone Systems Offer Quality – While smartphones and internet telephone options are convenient and often affordable, the audio quality does not compare to the quality of a standard business phone service. This is important if you use the phone to conduct business internationally–it can be very difficult to understand the other person talking if the line is not clear.

These Systems are Secure – When you are in a business that deals with confidential information, you want to protect the integrity of the data you share by phone. A quality business phone system is easier to secure and protect against wiretapping devices than a simple cellular phone.

A Business Phone Service Grows With You – Even if your company is on the small side right now, choosing a good system will allow you to expand it as the company grows. Right now you may only need a line or two, but these systems can be expanded to allow for dozens of lines across multiple locations.

These reasons are only the beginning. Having a “landline” phone for your business may not be one of the latest trends in technology, but it is an important way to make sure your company operates at the top of its game. Finding a company that can provide business phone systems, as well as a full-scale internet solution is a great option for the business owner who wants to save time, money and effort while he or she puts a company-wide communications plan together in or around Minneapolis or the Twin Cities in Minnesota.

Three Ways VoIP Systems Can Work for You

.
By now, most people are familiar with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) thanks to software programs like Skype and Google Voice. But how many of us know exactly how VoIP systems work, and what benefit they have for your personal and business needs?

What are VoIP Systems?

Most simply put, VoIP systems take analog signals and turn them into digital ones that can be sent over the Internet. This might not sound so amazing, but when you consider what you can do with it, it becomes pretty impressive. Instead of paying your phone company (analog) a large amount and then having to shell out on top of that for Internet (digital) as well, you can make calls through the Internet, saving yourself a lot of money. Here, we’ll take a look at three different ways you can use VoIP to your benefit.

.
.

Analog Telephone Adapter

An Analog Telephone Adapter, or ATA for short, is a device that connects your analog phone to a digital phone system- VoIP. All you do is plug your phone into the ATA with the regular telephone jack, plug the ATA into the wall for poewr, and computer via ethernet or USB, and you’re good to go. The ATA will take the analog signals from your phone, digitize them, and have you connected to VoIP faster than you can say. It’s an easy and basic way to keep the phone you’re familiar with, but get all the benefits of VoIP. This method is usually seen with individuals in their homes.

IP Phones

The next progression in VoIP is using an IP phone where your phone connects directly to VoIP without the need of an intermediary device. Usually, you’ll connect your phone to your router with an ethernet cable. By using an IP phone, you bypass the public switched telephone network (PSTN) directly, making calls over Wifi. One downside is that when your Wifi goes, so, too, does your ability to make calls, but Wifi stability has been increasing to the point where a Wifi outage is rare and usually only happens in power outages, such as those caused by storms or fallen trees.

.
.

Computer-to-Computer

This method is the easiest and most inexpensive way of using VoIP, and probably the most familiar, too. If you’ve ever Skyped with someone with both of using laptops, you’re already familiar with computer-to-computer VoIP. Essentially, computer-to-computer just takes a software program (like Skype) and connects you to VoIP either on the Internet or a Local Area Network (LAN). Other than paying your monthly Internet bill, the only other thing you need is a computer with audio input and output so you can hear and be heard. The only thing to watch out for is how much bandwidth you have- how much data can be sent per second. You can still use VoIP with a bandwidth of 50 kbps, but the quality isn’t going to be very great. For better quality, using 100 kbps or more is better. To put this in perspective, streaming a a movie on Netflix with the best audio and video experience calls for about 5 Mbps, so 100 kbps isn’t that much at all.

How We Handled a Business Emergency: Disaster Recovery

The usual even-flow of office dynamics at Integrated Communications was no different yesterday, September 4th, than every other day at the small business in Golden Valley, MN. Kip and Thalina headed-out around 9:30 am to meet a client, Sandy shuffled through the morning mail, Mary was hard at work in the front of the office, and Nate, Nick, and Setara were wrapped-up in some calls in the three back offices within close proximity to our D-Mark. All was silent, all was still for a brief moment in telecom history, when a POP emanated from our electrical room, followed by heavy drilling noises. “What was that”, Nick yelled. “I’m not sure; is someone drilling”, Setara questioned. Thankfully Sandy made her way to the back of the office building to give Nick some mail, and that’s when she noticed the fire.

Our morning was filled with chaos, fire-fighters, a local news crew and a disaster recovery plan as our office encountered a small disaster; an electrical fire broke-out in our back electrical room.

How did we handle the disaster at our office?

Besides a crazed pregnant lady running panicked out of the building, the employees at Integrated were ready to contain the disaster, and start implementing a solution.

Our Steps:

  1. Get everyone out of the building and to safety – We evacuated the building and stood a good distance away from the perimeter of our office
  2. Call 9-11 – The police were informed of the fire and the location of our building ASAP (further on this topic will be discussed)
  3. Extinguish Fire? – It was possible for our two shining heroes at Integrated (Nick and Nate) to locate a fire extinguisher and put the fire out, and then exit the building to get to safety while public safety officials arrived
  4. Notify Boss – Although Kip was on his way to meet with a client, we called him immediately to inform him of the situation ensuing at Integrated
  5. Speak with Public Safety Officials – After a few fire trucks arrived and the men and women of the Golden Valley Fire Department did their diligence in assessing the disaster, we spoke with the fire-Chief and received information on what may have occurred, and the proper steps to take now that the fire has been terminated.
  6. Contact proper channels – Insurance, Electrician, Clean-up Crew, and our folk at A Couple of Gurus (IT Company in MN) were called within minutes of the incident to be informed and to gear-up in an effort to help us solve any problems that may have occurred. (Thankfully, A Couple of Gurus accommodated our server worries and backed-up our entire system within a few hours of the fire).
  7. Go to lunch to debrief and come-up with a company game plan – After the event took place, and the proper people were notified, we ventured out to Doolittle’s for a quick lunch and company chat about what our next steps will be. While the office was to be cleaned and fumigated that night and the following day, we decided it was safer for the employees’ health to work from home until Friday (or further notice of safety has been recommended).

A HUGE piece of our disaster recovery plan was knowing who to call in case of an emergency. All of our bases were covered, and the proper people were informed of our situation within a moment’s notice. Great partnerships and equipment also hold value at a time when disaster strikes: Dave Johnson with Velocity Telephone graciously offered office space if necessary until our office and system were cleared for work…

And, on that note, the use of our VOIP phone system through Velocity Telephone came in handy in several ways on the day we needed it most. When the fire started, our phone lines were in flames as well – fortunately, with our VOIP phone system we were able to dial out to 9-11 without operating phone lines. Furthermore, our plug-and-play VOIP phone system made the capability of our employees working from home extremely feasible! Anywhere there is Internet, we are able to plug in our office phones and work – what a great feeling.

**Make sure your company is prepared for a disaster, no matter how big or small the event may be

 

And now for some pictures…

 

IMAG0687

 

Firetruck

 

IMAG0693

 

IMAG0694

 

IMAG0696

Understanding Business Phone Systems #Training

Selecting a business phone system can be hard work – but, is that the hardest part? For many of our customers, ongoing training and/or initial comprehension of the product purchased seems to be an evaporating offering by business phone systems vendors and telecom carriers. The big WOW factor comes into play during the phone demo you and your executives sit through, but, once you’ve inked their papers it’s all very “thank you, come again”; it doesn’t have to be that way! In fact, at Integrated we partner with business phone systems providers who will ensure your company’s employees are well versed with the product purchased, as well as training a system administrator who may be put in charge of handling small changes with your new phone system.

If you are apprehensive about understanding your new business phone system, be sure to speak with your provider or telecom agent prior to purchase to guarantee they will offer you and your staff proper training. Check out our recommended business phone system provider if you are looking for a company that will be with you 100% of the way, guiding you through your new technology purchase.

Recommended for Excellent Phone System Training:

Company Name: Cutting Edge Communications

Established: 1998

Business Phone Systems: AVAYA

Training Offered: SMB Market, Corporate Training – for end users and system administrators

Services Offered: Phone Systems, Structured Wiring, Programming, Training, Video Surveillance, Staging Preparation, Legacy Equipment Maintenance and Repair, Maintenance Plans, Firewall Security and VPN…

Website: http://www.cuttingedgecommunications.com/

 

*A great provider should always offer your company a review of their product, a demo of their product, and training after implementation of their product – never settle for less. 

From Disaster to Recovery (Business Tips for Disaster Recovery)

 

Fires, floods, tornadoes, oh my! Let’s face it, as business owners and representatives there are many outside factors in which we have little-to-no control over that can create a dip in profit for a few days, or eradicate an entire business structure in a matter of minutes. It’s important to prepare for disasters and protect the assets of your company and your customers. Equipping your company with a pragmatic recovery plan requires knowledge of probable complications that can occur, as well as the necessary steps to implement and test before a disaster strikes. Here are a few questions and points to mull over while preparing your company for disaster:

Budget

How much money are you willing to spend to protect your business?

Although no specific number can ever represent the dream of your business, the people, or the work put in, it’s time to get realistic and determine how much of a budget you can carve out to plan and implement a concrete disaster recovery plan.

How much money will your company lose on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis if and when a disaster occurs?

Be sure to weigh the difference of your companies’ profit with how much money to put into a recovery plan. A small business who can survive a while on their existing customer base may only need to endure a small cost for a few recovery operations; however, a larger corporation, hospital, bank, and so on, will need a more complex blueprint, therefore, requiring more of a disaster recovery budget.

Total Recovery Considerations

What are the most important business assets that need to be accounted for and replaced in order to restore your business and maintain the least possible downtime?

Think about your daily operations and what is utilized in order to minimally and maximally function.

– Office Space: If you already have or will need back-up files hosted in the cloud for all of your business data, how will you access that data? How will your employees?

Consider a budget for a small office space in the case of an emergency that your key employees can work from if need be.

– Equipment: What if all of your phones and computers are damaged? Do you have recovery for your equipment ready in the event no repairs can be made or all equipment is lost?

Perhaps educating yourself on VoIP phone systems will allow you easy and quick access to a phone system for as many employees as necessary. A product such as Velocity Telephone’s Virtual Office can be effortlessly procured in the case of an emergency and will allow for quick voice uptime with an easy plug-and-play functionality. Check out a review on the Velocity Telephone Product: http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/

Tested

So you have a disaster recovery plan in place. Your employees have all been notified where to go in the event of an emergency, your carrier has provided you with redundancy in case the power shuts-down, and you’ve got Dave Johnson on standby incase mother nature strikes and you need new phones a.s.a.p. Now what?

Quite simply, test. Practice really does make perfect. Be sure to keep your employees safe first and foremost by providing drills for different disasters. Next, make sure to coordinate with your telecom agent and test your voice and data redundancy. Lastly, touch-base with all of your equipment vendors, customers, etc… to provide them with who to contact in case of an emergency, and how you will contact, inform, and connect with them when a disaster occurs.

 

Contact us for more information on the types of voice and data back-ups we can offer your company to help you protect your best assets in the face of disaster.

What is VoIP?

What is VoIP?

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) literally translates to a call being made over the same set of rules as the Internet uses; a phone call over your Internet connectivity. However, VoIP is no longer strictly operable through means of the internet alone, like it once was; rather it operates with the same protocol (a set of rules) as the Internet does.

VoIP capable products are considered “plug-and-play” and allow for a phone system to be plugged directly into your data network, allowing your employees to make phone calls from the data connection; keep in mind if you have high call volumes you may want more bandwidth depending on the call quality. While more bandwidth may not be necessary for call quality, ensuring that your voice comes before all other data will ensure business operable call quality.

Many telecom service providers are seasoned and well equipped for the VoIP future that ensues. These providers offer a phone system in order to use VoIP technology, referred to as IP phones. There are many types of IP phones, servicing businesses from a one-man shop to a multi-billion dollar organization with many complex needs and services. (Refer to http://www.integratedcom.net/virtual-office-voip-review/ for a review on a VoIP phone system).

 Your VoIP capable phone system also allows for your employees to take their IP phone-set ANYWHERE to work and/or make calls and bypass the long-distance toll by using their new plug-and-play phone and utilizing data connectivity to make their calls – an inter-operable product that works over multiple networks. How is this possible? Your IP phone system comes equip with its own IP address and can be accessed for use at any time and any place by means of the cloud – your service provider will allow for the phone to search the cloud to find the appropriate IP address, allowing for voice service through VoIP.

Be sure to gather information on the different VoIP products to find the one that best fits your company’s current and growing needs. VoIP is a service in which is becoming more relevant and readily accessible, and one we highly recommend here at Integrated Communications.