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…

 

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Firetruck

 

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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.

Ethernet Over Copper – Business Internet with Speed

Ethernet Over Copper – Business Internet (with speed)

The advancements of business internet connections are insurmountable. Just when we get used to a network connection that will bring us reliable speed, another product is released that claims MORE reliability and bandwidth, and all for a cheaper cost. No matter what situation your company is in – needing more bandwidth, having to cut costs, or wanting dedicated-lines without extreme build-costs, Ethernet over Copper (EoC) is a product worth investing in.

EoC is at a comparable price-point to your current T1s; furthermore, offering many of the same benefits of fiber optic internet. EoC is a symmetrical, dedicated, and secure product – definitely a viable market option.

 

Compare and contrast EoC to other business internet services available:

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*Based off of major metropolitan areas (click on image to enlarge)

5 Biggest Benefits of Fiber Optic Internet

Fiber connectivity has some serious benefits for companies of ALL sizes and necessities. While the cost to build fiber can be extensive (depending on location and availability) the benefits are insurmountable. Here are a list of the top 5 benefits of fiber optic Internet for your company:

1. Security – Fiber is the MOST secure network: for example, it is quite possible to attach to a copper line in order to hack into the system, however, fiber connectivity is made out of glass, and the only way to penetrate the system is to break it, which would cause the whole system to go down and in turn would alert you that you have been hacked – rare disruption of connectivity.

2. Speed – Fiber optic internet runs at the speed of light – the fastest transport medium allowing for quick and instant data retrieval.

3. High Bandwidth – Symmetrical bandwidth (same upload speed as download speed) allowing for much longer transmission distances and high signal rates.

4. Private Connection – No other businesses run off the same line as you, hence a PRIVATE connection.

5. NO Electromagnetic Interference – If and when the fiber optic cables need to be run in close or nearby proximity to electrical machinery (especially ones with high-frequency noises), fiber connectivity allows the control signals to be carried without error or interference, making fiber a number one choice for factory and machinery companies.

Contact Integrated Communications for more information regarding fiber optics Internet and it’s availability for your company @ (763)201-8000 or email info@integratedcom.net

The Pros and Cons of Hosted pbx

These days, everyone wants to go hosted! From email and web hosting to phone systems in “the cloud”, hosted solutions are becoming more prevalent in technology and telecom. So, what does this mean for you as the business consumer and are you supposed to move to a hosted phone system in this ever-changing technological world? Well, there are definite advantages to going hosted, as well as some drawbacks. Learn more about hosted phone systems before making your decision by outweighing the pros and the cons, and depicting how it all pertains to your business.

 PROS of Hosted pbx:

Your business can get brand new phones with little to no capital investment

– There aren’t any on-going maintenance or service charges

– It is a very versatile system – allowing you to make changes “on-the-fly” through designated portals

– Often-times equip with the newest features, and consistent FREE ongoing software updates for cutting-edge technology

– If your Internet goes down, your incoming callers (potential customers) will still get your voice mail and you will be able to retrieve those messages

– Generally, hosted phone systems are a great choice for small businesses (5-10 employees) with potential growth

 CONS of Hosted pbx:

Without enough bandwidth and a stable Internet connection, you are prone to voice quality issues

– If your Internet goes down, you are without voice AND Internet, as they are all connected

– Often-times unable to “customize” aspects of the phone system

– May cost more over a longer period of time than a traditional premise-based phone system (if you plan on utilizing a phone system, or have owned one in the past for over 10 years, premised-based systems are the most cost effective)

– The provider hosting your phone system may not be able to make changes to your system fast enough, and may not provide you total control into a portal to do so yourself (dependent upon carrier)

– You are not in complete control to manage your phone system, as you are dependent upon the provider

Either way you take your business – hosted or premise-based – technology continues to thrive and strive as systems transform and change with every year; neither choice is the wrong choice, it’s all about finding the choice that fits your companies’ needs the best. Be sure you are working with the right provider who has your best interest in mind, and are well informed before you make your final decision.