StartUp Camp – Austin

We got out of the office a bit last week to attend the IT Expo in Austin, TX.  One of my favorite things about the IT Expo is StartUp Camp.  StartUp camp selects 4 early-stage companies to pitch their innovations to judges and an audience filled with industry leaders, media and investors.

It is often said that the journey of an entrepreneur can be lonely.

That may be true at times.

But that moment, when someone realizes that your dream fulfills their needs…

The following companies were the finalists at the Austin session of StartUp Camp.  Show them a little love and check them out:

VSnap – Have you ever sent an email to a prospect and when you received their response you realized “Wow.  I was completely misunderstood”?  You struggle to regain ground, but you feel the sale slipping away.  VSnap helps you avoid miscommunications by allowing you to send a short video message in which you can clearly capture your tone, emotion, enthusiasm and authenticity.  You can send VSnaps to individual email addresses, email groups or through your twitter feed.

Click here to see an example of a video message sent using VSnap.

For more on VSnap – click here

Phonism – As VoIP admins, the founders of Phonism wished there was a better way to provision and manage IP phones.  They decided to take matters into their own hands and created a carrier grade Phone Management System that took the complexity out of provisioning.  In addition to handling all your provisioning tasks with ease, they also give users the ability to customize their desk phones with backgrounds, ringtones, contacts and more.

Click here to learn more about Phonism.

RingDNA – RingDNA is a voice communications company that wants to help your organization improve its sales, marketing and support performance.  It allows you to use your iPad as a call center integrated with CRM, call-tracking and marketing analytics.  It delivers real-time data, social media streams and behavior marketing insights when you need it most – while you are speaking with a potential customer trying to close the deal.

Click here to learn more about RingDNA.

Zello – works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices to turn your phone into a Walkie Talkie.  It is a social radio, much like voice twitter.  It can be used to participate or listen in on public conversations, or stay connected with a group of friends.  Businesses use Zello to replace 2-way radio or push-to-talk.  You can also create a Zello “room” for your company’s customers to visit whenever they have questions.

For more on Zello – click here

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SIP Trunks and Their Cost Saving Benefits

What are managed SIP trunks and how will they save me money?

Before we get into that, we need to quickly touch on the different ways data is exchanged once it leaves your business:

PSTN – Public Switched Telephone Network

This is the world’s circuit-switched, analog network – telephone lines, fiber optic cables, microwave transmission, cellular networks, communications satellites, undersea telephone carriers – are all interconnected through circuit-switching centers.  When you make a phone call using a traditional carrier or use dial-up to connect to the Internet – you are using PSTN.

ISDN – Integrated Service Digital Network

The start of the digital age of communications.   With ISDN, you have a digital transmission of voice, video and data over the traditional PSTN.

There are 2 basic types:

  • Basic Rate Interface (BRI) – low bandwidth – 2 B-channels that can be used for voice, data and other services and 1 D-channel is used for control and signaling.  BRI is for home and small business use.
  • Primary Rate Interface (PRI) – higher bandwidth – 23 B-channels and 1 D-channel.  PRI is used for larger enterprises.

Now to get back to SIP trunks

SIP stands for session initiation protocol.  Protocol is the set of rules that govern the format of messages that are exchanged between servers.  Session initiation protocol simply means that you are initiating a session to exchange messaging over the Internet.  A managed SIP trunk is a direct connection between your business and your IP (Internet Protocol) telephony service provider.  It allows you the ability to make VoIP calls over the PSTN without the need to purchase an IP-PBX gateway.   An SIP trunk is a single line that can be used to transfer all multimedia:  voice, video and data all at the same time.

Here’s the good part.  Saving money:

  1. Hardware and Service Costs – A managed SIP trunk eliminates the costs associated with the purchase, support and maintenance of hardware gateways.  Also, SIP trunks are less expensive than analog circuits, and SIP’s long distance charges are cheaper than traditional rates.
  2. Scalability – PRI is sold in increments of 23.  If your organization has 24 employees, you will need to pay for 46 channels.  Managed SIP trunks, on the other hand, are sold in increments of 1.  You only pay for the lines you need and you can add additional channels at any time.
  3. Management – Your SIP trunk provider handles the management of, any updates to, and support of your trunks.  Instead of being bogged down managing your communications system, your IT department can focus on initiatives that will grow your business.
  4. Disaster Recovery – If the lines of communication are down to your business, your business loses its ability to make money.  An Internet-based phone system has a higher likelihood of maintaining functionality during a disaster, than a fixed-line, circuit-switched system.  Click here to learn more about the importance of having a disaster recovery plan in place for your business.

SIP trunks are becoming an increasingly popular solution for businesses of all sizes.  For more information please visit our website or contact us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Making Sense of Telecom Jargon – Part 1

Listening to someone speak about telecommunication systems can make us feel a little like Ginger in this Far Side cartoon:

It’s an industry that loves acronyms and isn’t afraid to use them.

Over the next few blog posts, we are going to define those common acronyms and terminology associated with telecommunications in the cloud.

Hosted PBX  – PBX stands for private branch exchange.  It is hardware that is stored in your office – generally in a back room or closet that connects all your internal phones to the outside phone lines through something known as the trunk line.  If you want to go really old school, your PBX would look like this:

With Hosted PBX, your system is managed off-site by a business phone services provider (Hi!) and instead of travelling into your business through a trunk line; all calls and PBX features (extension dialing, voicemail, conferencing, disaster recovery solutions, etc.) are connected to your internal phone system through the Internet.

The advantages associated with having your PBX hosted are no upfront costs associated with having to purchase hardware, or continuing costs from maintenance and upgrades.  A hosted solution is a subscription service, so you only pay for the lines and services you need and you can add or delete users as necessary.

Hosted VoiceHosted voice is essentially the same as Hosted PBX, but its features may be limited.

IVR – Interactive Voice Response.  IVR automates interactions through the telephone.  These come in the form of prerecorded prompts that the caller can respond to using dual-tone multi-frequency signaling (the touch tone key pad) or through speech recognition.  You know that drill:

Press or say “1” to hold, press or say “2” to hold….

IVR systems can be either installed in your business or integrated through your business’ network by using a telephony solution provider (hi, again).   The advantages of having your IVR hosted are the same as the PBX:  no upfront costs for equipment, no maintenance, no hardware to manage, and scalability.

Here are a sampling of ways an IVR system can help your business:

  • Capacity to handle high call volume
  • Provides answers to routine customer service questions after hours
  • Lowers call center costs
  • Prioritizes call – urgent problems can be dealt with first
  • Ensures that the caller reaches the right person/department quickly and accurately

Stay tuned for more!