Don’t Write off a Business Phone System Just Yet

shutterstock_333775412Thanks to technology, land lines have disappeared across much of America. This trend began in the residential space and was quickly followed by businesses abandoning their traditional telephone services. Voice over IP (VoIP) has swooped in as their state-of-the-art replacement, boasting customer relationship management (CRM) integration tools, automated routing, call handling, and sophisticated reporting and monitoring functions. Phone systems have come a long way, and they now serve many more purposes than just making calls. Before making the decision to abandon the company phone system, consider the following points.

Phone Systems and Customer Service

Thanks to the Internet, collaboration tools have never been more plentiful. Free conference calling, webinars, video chat, IM, and other online communications tools make the world a much smaller place and allow geographically dispersed teams to communicate as if they are only cubicles away.

Since there are so many available software options for communication, it’s easy to see how compatibility problems can arise. Utilizing different pieces of software may work for staff members, but that won’t always be the case when working with clients. Even for tech-savvy customers, it always seems like a plugin, system update, or forgotten password is in the way of getting urgent help. Less technically inclined customers may become so frustrated that they take their business elsewhere. In contrast, using a VoIP phone system is an easy way to support customers and provide them with the excellent service they demand.

The Benefits of an Inbound Phone Line

A business may not need to make outbound phone calls, but providing an inbound phone line can be useful in several ways.

  • Customer service is enhanced by providing voice-to-voice contact (which is a luxury today).
  • Listing a personal cell phone number to handle business calls is not always desirable.
  • Having a professional business phone line generates trust and provides accessibility to quality customer service, which can be a differentiator in a congested marketplace.

Phone System ROI

One of the chief complaints about phone systems is the significant expense to acquire, maintain, and add to them. Fortunately, VoIP has made calling very inexpensive (down to a few pennies per minute), and plans can be tailored to a business’s expected volume. Whether personnel need to make one or one hundred calls per day, there is a plan on the market to fit that requirement. Many phone system plans also allow intracompany calling for free using Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) trunking.

For a reasonable cost, a company can have a sophisticated phone system with many valuable problem-solving features. Even better, hosted systems may perform all functions through software, with no expensive phone equipment needed. With increased customer loyalty and company growth, the ROI could be exponential.

Forgoing a phone system may save money in the short term, but ultimately it can be an expensive decision. VoIP systems are a great way to provide the communications staple needed for customer convenience while keeping the bill and equipment affordable. Before walking away from a potentially effective solution, research the available plans. The affordability and flexibility of today’s options make them well worth consideration.

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.