Move Over, Phones—Microsoft Teams Lifts Your Virtual Voice

Employee talking on phone Using Microsoft Teams for voice has been getting a lot of buzz lately. You may have heard of Microsoft Teams, but many are still discovering its full breadth of capabilities, from its call functions to collaboration tools for managing virtual teams. Companies can use Teams to effectively eliminate the need for a separate phone system. 

The team at Integrated Communications strives to bring its customers the latest technologies available and finds Microsoft Teams to be a remote work solution ahead of its class. With businesses operating in the midst of a global crisis, teams are working remotely now more than ever. By taking advantage of Teams’ call features, businesses are better optimized to meet and sustain the communication needs that come with the transition to remote work. 

The platform’s tools can work wonders to boost your team’s management, collaboration, and communication capacity. While Teams is a chat-based workspace—bringing individual collaborators together to communicate and share ideas—its lesser-known voice features help meet the broader communications needs of your business. Microsoft Teams voice solutions allow businesses to:

  • Use a network completely optimized for voice
  • Leverage preferred rates
  • Choose the plans that work best for you
  • Tap into the security of the Microsoft Cloud through direct routing
  • Boost the capabilities of other apps you use to communicate, like Skype
  • Feel the total support of a client services team to guide you through implementation, adoption, and training

Microsoft Teams can be helpful when working with people from various departments or projects. Multiple team members can take charge of meetings, structuring the team so that it’s highly efficient. 

Get Started with Teams’ Call Features

Microsoft Teams has become an indispensable tool for businesses worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic. A great appeal lies in its integration with Microsoft Office 365 and product tools like PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. All the product tools can be accessed in one place, making it a seamless, all-in-one suite for your business.

  • If you already have a Microsoft Office 365 license, consider taking advantage of Microsoft Teams, the platform giant’s virtual meeting product. An all-in-one set of products available at no extra cost for existing Microsoft Office 365 licensed users, Microsoft Teams fully integrates with various other services outside its own products including SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange.
  • If you don’t have a license, try it on for size. Microsoft also offers a free version of Microsoft Teams that requires only an email address for simple sign up and download. If you don’t have an Office 365 license, the free version still offers unlimited chat messages and search, video and audio calls, and file and screen sharing.

Integrated Communications is your one-stop-shop for direction and assistance, with a history of serving telecommunication needs of businesses with both hosted phone systems and WAN connections. Our partnerships give us deep insight into the range of possibilities, and your best options, for hosted phone systems and integrations. 

Regardless of what type of work your business does, contact the Integrated Communications team to get started with Microsoft Teams to keep your people connected and productive while they’re working from home.

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.

Choosing A Partner: Telecom Consulting Services in Minneapolis

As the pinnacle of telecom consulting services in the greater Minneapolis area, Integrated Communications is dedicated to bringing our local clients expert telecommunication advice for installing their business phone systems. Minneapolis, St. Paul and the surrounding areas support numerous businesses, both small and large alike. We connect those working to better themselves and our community by providing solutions for phone system services.

Low Costs, High Local Pride

Costs for implementing or updating a telecommunication system can start to rack up – depending on the services and contractor you choose, of course – but with our Cost Reduction program, our 800 clients save an average of 25% on their monthly expenses.

Serving every town and suburb throughout the Twin Cities, we offer free telecom consulting services to any local business owner, startup, corporate entity — whoever needs assistance. We aren’t a boss, we’re a partner. In fact, we are so good with our clients that they come back 98% of the time. Now that’s consistent customer service.

Every day, we preserve and act-out the goal that everyone in the telecommunication industry strives to reach: Be a trustworthy and useful resource for our customers. Instead of dictating, we democratize, working with each client individually to provide decades of experience in telecom consulting services. We will assess your situation, and make our professional recommendations within your company’s business VoIP systems needs.

If you have questions about business phone solutions, don’t worry. The process may be in depth, but thankfully partners are available right around the corner to provide you with stress-free options in phone system services.

A Local Partner for Telecom Consulting Services

We are proud to say that we serve every type of business in the Twin Cities and it’s surrounding suburbs. Our telecom consulting services are unmatched in the local business scene. Fill out our form so we can contact you directly, or call us locally at  (763) 201-8000 for a free consultation in phone solutions today.

Twin Cities Phone Systems: Connect With Those Who Matter

Integrated Communications cares about one thing – connections. We’re experts in connecting the people, communities and businesses of the Twin Cities through telecommunication services. We’ll help you setup phone systems and VoIP services to increase efficiency and lower costs with the best technology available.

We’re also experts in connecting with our customers. We’ll  be there for you through every step of the installation process and for subsequent contract renewals. We supply our phone system products throughout the Twin Cities suburbs and strive to address the needs of each of our clients in a hurry, but with a smile.

We offer four different access types to deliver our VoIP services – and either hardware-based or software-based phone systems to our customers. From easy to complex, from low-cost to high-end and everything in between, we have access to countless products and services. We will make our recommendations based on your connectivity and affordability needs. And with 20+ years in the business, we guarantee those recommendations will be spot-on

Throughout Lakeville, Integrated Communications provides optimized VoIP services and business phone systems to several companies throughout the area. If you’re in need of a new system, an update to an old one or if you’re unsure about what exactly you need – we will offer our free consulting services to figure it out.

We also serve those small businesses in Woodbury who are looking to set up conferencing services. Integrated Com has teamed up with a national leader in conferencing solutions – Dialogue – to bring you the luxuries of constant connectivity to your fingertips. Our partnership is built on trust and methods proven to improve your phone system abilities and of course, save you some cash.

We provide expert recommendations when hooking up your Twin Cities phone systems. With over two decades in the industry, we will connect you locally or long distance, we will hook up one phone or 100. Whatever your phone system needs are, call Integrated Communications today to get started with a solution.

 

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.

Phone Systems as Your Company’s First Impression

We’re taught early in life the importance of first impressions. Most have learned the value of a smile and eye contact in endearing you to someone you first meet. We have heard how polished shoes and a firm handshake can help shape that first impression. We know that bad first impressions are difficult to change, while good first impressions can move a relationship along quickly.

In your business, you may have taken the time to create appropriate signage and a welcoming entranceway to welcome guests and create that great first impression. You may even invest in small details like quality raised lettering business cards, and fine paper letterhead.

What you may not have given much thought about is something that is at the front line of your business. It serves as the first impression for many who contact your business.

We are talking about business phone systems.

phone systems

Phone systems are the gateway for many considering using your products and services. How that system funnels prospects and customers says a lot about your small or large business. Yet many base that decision on price, rather than customer experience and effectiveness.

We’ve all had those nightmare experiences dealing with companies whose systems are syrupy slow, cumbersome, and inefficient. Although frustrating, it is almost understandable for companies outsourcing their call centers overseas. But sadly, right here in the Minneapolis and Twin Cities area, there are otherwise professional organizations that have poorly designed phone systems.

If you haven’t reviewed how your incoming calls are handled and the importance of making a great first impression, contact us. Technology continues to improve the ability to enhance your customer’s, and your potential customer’s experience. Let’s get together and talk about the impact your phone system has as your company’s first impression.

Let’s make sure your phone system has the equivalent of a firm handshake.

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.