Wireless Emergency Alerts Ensures Better Community Protection

The Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) system , also known as Commercial Mobile Alerts, allows federal agencies to aggregate alert messages from the President, the National Weather Service (NWS) and emergency operations centers . Alerts are then transmitted to wireless providers, who distribute them to their customers’ cell phones via Cell Broadcast, a technology similar to SMS text messaging.

The three types of alerts delivered using this system are:

  1. Alerts issued by the President
  2. Alerts of imminent threats to life and safety
  3. AMBER Alerts

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FEMA joined the FCC and the cellular industry on the Personal Localized Alert Network (PLAN) formulating the technology that actually transmits alerts to cell phones.

As part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), aggregators convert original messages to mobile phone format for distribution over networks to customers.

FEMA Wireless Emergency Alerts notify citizens about imminent threats via their mobile devices. Under normal conditions, text and phone messages from cell phones are impacted when there is congestion. That is why special technology is required for critical and lifesaving alerts to get through. Location-based messages are sent with information relevant to a cell phone subscriber’s locale, a service that’s free for emergency managers.

TeleCommunication Systems, Inc. provides secure and reliable mobile communications technology. Fielding solutions in E9-1-1, text messaging, commercial location and deployable wireless communications, Telecommunication Systems, Inc. is a leading mobile cloud services provider. It supports applications spanning the gamut from navigation and asset tracking through telematics. Government agencies incorporate the company’s state-of-the-art cyber security and deployable satellite solutions within the core of their critical mobile communications systems.

To date Wireless Emergency Alerts have helped Colorado residents receive alerts about local flooding and hazardous road conditions. Minneapolis, MN residents helped facilitate a safe and speed recovery of an abducted child with these emergency mobile alerts. In East Windsor, CT, a WEA alert contributed to saving the lives of a camp counselor and her students . In Elmira, NY, an impending tornado threatened municipal residents, but a WEA alert helped them reach safety.

What to Look for in an Internet Provider

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The Internet has been around for so long, the question of “Should I get the Internet or not?” has changed to “Which Internet service provider (ISP) should I choose”? With so many of them around, and with each one seeming to offer the same product in the same package, it can be difficult- but not impossible- to know what to look for in an Internet provider.

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Type of Use

Businesses and individuals look for different things with an Internet provider because of demand, use and capability. Whereas an individual usually just surfs the Net, watches movies and does word processing, a business relies on much more than that, with many more users needing to do their work at the same time. Businesses likelier need Internet with higher bandwidth and bandwidth speeds so that more data can travel more efficiently.

Type of Contract

Going on a contract typically saves money, as your ISP knocks off a few dollars each month in agreement to you sticking with them for a certain length of time. The downside to this, of course, is that you’re locked in with one ISP for one to three years and might pay a penalty to get out. The alternative is to go with an ISP on a monthly basis: you might pay a bit more each month, but you retain your freedom to go with another ISP whenever you want.

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Type of Coverage

In the United States, there are dozens of ISPs to choose from and they range in size from local to national. The benefit of going with a nationally-known ISP is that you know exactly what you’re getting, the ISPs have years of reputations behind them, and it’s fairly easy to get parts and service because of how big the company is. Conversely, going with a local company has its pluses, too. Local Internet providers tend to be more competitive because they want to grow and attract a wider customer base, so they’re likelier to offer better deals on a more regular basis. They also haven’t been swallowed up by size, and can usually offer better customer service, treating you like a person instead of a number.

Type of Equipment

To get service started, you need a certain piece of equipment from your Internet provider- a modem. Some ISPs will happily sell or loan you a modem, which comes with pros and cons. While it’s easy and convenient, it also puts more money in their coffers. If you can find an ISP that lets you use your own modem, not only can you control the type and quality of it, but you’ll also pay a lot less.

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No matter what you look for in an Internet provider and who you choose to go with, remember that Integrated Communications is here for all your business and personal telecommunications needs. Visit our home page to see the wide range of services we provide.

How to Protect Your PBX System from Fraud

A private branch exchange (PBX) works by having a piece of hardware that acts as a switchboard, sorting, routing and connecting all the calls that use the system. It’s an enticing option because a corporation owns the PBX system, not a phone company, and can cut the cost of having to get a specific phone line for each user in the organization’s central office. But despite its simple and straightforward approach, PBX hasn’t ignited the public’s attention the way the telephone first did.

PBX Fraud

There are two basic kinds of telecom fraud: PBX fraud (DISA), and voicemail fraud. With the first one, PBX (direct inward system access), fraudsters sell the PBX lines to third-party operators who sell long-distance at a high profit. Because these calls look the same to the service or equipment providers, all an intruder has to do is use a system command to get a dial tone. Once they’ve done that, they make long-distance calls on behalf of those selling them for profit.

A really simple way to help prevent this is to use access codes in your PBX system. As businesses grow and acquire more people, requiring each employee to input an authorization code or smart password can drastically cut down on the amount of long-distance hacks that take place after business hours. You can also block long-distance calls to the Caribbean, one of the biggest hotspots where long-distance calling fraud occurs.

Voicemail Fraud

By far, the most common type of telecom fraud to take place is through a PBX system’s voicemail. But whereas an intruder committing PBX fraud would use a system command to place long-distance calls, here they would do so via voicemail. And once they get the dial tone, they’ve successfully commandeered your PBX system for their own profit and benefit.

Having a complex voicemail password, changing it on a regular basis, and using the maximum number of characters are three of the easiest ways to cut down on voicemail fraud happening to your PBX system. Another is to delete a mailbox when an employee leaves the company because the longer the mailbox is not attended to (and the password left unchanged), the easier it is to hack into it. You can also limit the voicemail to internal calling so third parties have a much more difficult time accessing your PBX system voicemail.

Although there’s no foolproof method of protecting your PBX system against fraud, you can make it just about impossible for third parties to intrude. And remember to always monitor and analyze activity because the more in tune you are with your PBX system, the less chance there is of fraud taking place.

For all of your business PBX and telecommunications needs, contact Integrated Communications today.

Three Ways VoIP Systems Can Work for You

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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.

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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.

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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.

“Keeping-up” with Integrated Communications (POST#1)

It looks as though summer is coming to an end soon enough. How do we Minnesotan’s measure this? Easy, the MN STATE FAIR! That’s right folks, the great Minnesota get-together commences this weekend, and so, in spite of our beloved summer winding down, we would like to reminisce about our summertime adventures…

This summer at the office:

– We switched over to a new web-hosting group and are THRILLED to be receiving less spam in our inbox – hallelujah.

– Our new plasma television arrived for our conference room, and we are excited to make our company meetings, carrier lunch and learns, etc… much more visually appealing and technologically advanced.

– Integrated Communications got our website off and running, and are working diligently on all things social media.

This summer outside the office:

– Thalina has appreciated a summer filled with twins, dog-sitting, Wisconsin dells and all things fun with her two awesome children! Thalina’s doggy-daycare endured a busy August, so far, with a total of 7 dogs at one time!!

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– Sandy relished the company of her lovely granddaughter Zuzu who visited her and her husband, Bill from San Diego – this was the first time she’s come here all on her own! Sandy and Bill were thrilled (we even got to see Zuzu @ work a few times) and took her to see a Twins game.

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– Setara and Nick adored the summer while preparing for the arrival of their very first addition to the twosome. That’s right – a baby! After an awesome trip to Las Vegas in June, they were able to find out they are having a little baby boy, and couldn’t be more ecstatic!

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– Kip, Nate, and Greg enjoyed some whiffle ball, golf, and carrier magic @ the On-Track convention in Madison, WI!

 

**Be sure to check-in soon for the next post of “Keeping-up” with Integrated**

A Business Phone System Memoir – Music on Hold

Hi, I’m your new business phone system. I’ve done my due-diligence by answering calls, recording important messages, forwarding my direct calls to your cell phone, and have even taken the time to show you who’s on another call! But, what about when you put me on hold; why is it so silent?

Studies have shown that 50% of callers hang up after 20 seconds of silence, and 90% of callers hang up after 40 seconds of silence. Most callers will assume silence for disconnection. Music on hold can help to reiterate your companies’ impeccable customer service, intrigue your clientele to stay and wait for you, as well as ensure no miscommunication has occurred in the process. Can you afford to lose a sale due to complete and utter silence?

According to Maratona Communications (a dedicated partner company), U.S. laws currently in tact protect copyright owners from unlawful use of their music; using music on hold requires permission from the owner of the copyrighted music. Amy Johnson (2013) states, “If you want to use copyrighted music, you must obtain permission from the owner. This includes playing CDs, MP3s and the radio. Currently, performance rights societies such as ASCAP, BMI and SESAC will sell blanket permission to use music titles in their catalog for MOH purpose, for an annual fee that is calculated by size of your business and the frequency of usage” (Maratona Communications). However, “side-stepping” these incredulous music licenses and fees is made easy with the customizable music oh hold Maratona Communications purchases directly from the composer – they are able to convert the music into any digital format to be integrated seamlessly with your current business phone system. Johnson (2013) continues, “Our writers can also record custom messages using our in-house voiceover talent, using your existing script or one we write for you. Many companies offer canned royalty free songs for you to choose from. At Maratona, we do have our standard music options, but we will also customize a song to meet your individual needs, making your on-hold music unique to your company” (Maratona Communications).

 

Call Integrated Communications today @ 763-201-8028 to set-up a live demo of Maratona Communications’ music on hold and the many customizable options offered for your business phone system! 

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. 

Hacking – Your PBX Phone System at Risk

Hacking is a term we relate as a potential danger for our personal banking information, social media accounts, etc… Unfortunately, hacking goes beyond our individual assets and can affect the businesses we operate and utilize on a daily basis – no business is safe being hacked, including Billion dollar companies and banks (Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and even the Government is at a constant risk). If you are a business owner and/or IT administrator of any sorts, it is extremely imperative that you defend and secure your companies’ PBX phone system. We have all heard of the hackers that break-in through your voice mail due to poor password protection and give themselves international privileges on your company’s dime, but, what about the new age of VoIP phone systems hackers? Are you prepared to combat the new wave of one-click internet hackers out to get you for every penny you’ve got? Be prepared for both!

Here are a few tips from the experts we work with on securing your PBX phone system.

– Understand your provider.

According to Carl Wallin of Acticor Technologies (a phone vendor in the Twin Cities – check them out @ www.acticor.com), hacking has become a huge issue over the past few years – especially with the expansion of VOIP. One of their current customers’ phone system was hacked and as a result they were billed for over $8,000.00; unfortunately, the provider they were with at the time gave no lea-way or “grace”, so-to-speak, in that type of situation and the company was left to pay for the entire bill. Wallin suggests knowing what your provider’s protocols are in those particular situations: “speak with your voice provider ASAP regarding their preventative and quantitative measures for detecting and combating hackers. There are definitely providers I would not suggest for these exact reasons, and others that have developed and maintained software for these circumstances and are better equip to handle a disaster before it occurs, as well as prepared to tackle the aftermath of the hacking calamity if something were to transpire”. The Allworx system, provided by Acticor, addresses the issue of hacking and has impeccable software to protect against the lurking dangers of outside influences on your phone system.

– Understand the target.

Hackers do not generally target any of your “regular” phones – they target your 3rd party, generic extensions…your break room PBX, conference PBX, Android/I-phone applications, etc… Be sure to password protect ALL equipment used for your business, and speak with your providers about what they do for hacking detection and prevention. Default passwords just do NOT cut-it anymore. It’s time to move beyond the default password (you know – the 1234 or 0000) and create a sound password that is not easily detected or hacked by a computer.

– Understand Security Audits. 

Regularly check and maintain security authorizations on your network and your PBX phone system. Be sure to remind your employees on a scheduled basis to implement a new password for both their phone (voice-mail) and their internet security check-points. Hospitals, as well as banks and other businesses requiring immense protection due to protocol and patient/customer privacy should be sure to place prompts on their employees’ system to activate a password change every few months.

 

Speak further with your telecom agent, phone provider, and vendor to make sure you and your company are protected from hackers and unwanted billing.

 

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.