Category Archives: Hosted VoIP

Tips for Choosing a Hosted PBX System

Consider Total Cost

hosted-pbxOn-premise telephone systems typically require a large upfront investment, while hosted systems are paid for with more affordable, monthly payments. Buyers should consider the total cost of ownership of these systems in addition to the initial capital necessary to purchase a new phone network.

The Value of Specific vs. Bundled Functionality

Today, the technical capabilities of hosted and on-premise PBX systems are largely equal. One difference, however, is how these features are bundled. Hosted PBX providers commonly bundle features and charge a set per-user price. On-premise PBX, on the other hand, often provides buyers greater flexibility on the features and functionality they want to pay for (particularly, offering more customization for specific users).

Ease of Customization

Customization is often attainable with on-premise systems, as an on-staff IT professional commonly oversees the system’s deployment and management. With hosted systems, customization is often handled by the provider. While vendors may offer some customization, they are often unable to make extreme customizations for every customer. If your system requires advanced customization, on-premise PBX may be a more reasonable option. If choosing a hosted option, work with a vendor to discuss the exact customizations you need and what they can offer.

True Costs of Tech Support

If you currently don’t have an IT team, then hosted PBX can potentially save your company from having to hire technical staff members. However, you should also consider how relying on third-party support works with your company’s current strategies. If your telephone system is critical to your business, you should be very comfortable with your vendor that will be responsible for system support.

The InfoStructure Solution

InfoStructure’s Hosted PBX (infoPBX) features lower costs, scalability, and elimination of costly PBX maintenance. Our Cloud based platform is designed for medium and small business phone systems. infoPBX integrates your desktop phone with your computer and provides you with a wide range of voice applications, and because these applications are hosted in the cloud, there is no need for you to purchase a system, cards, server or software. The applications are bundled in three different price plans and offered as a managed service that is billed monthly.

To find out more about Infostructure infoPBX and other products and services we provide, visit our website at www.infostructure.net, email us at sales@infostructure.net or call us at 541.773.5000.

InfoStructure Announces Multi-Location Telecommunications Contract with Jackson County Library District

Medford, OR: InfoStructure, a southern-Oregon based telecommunications and Internet provider, announced that they have been awarded a multi-location telecommunications contract with Jackson County Library District (JCLD). This contract covers thirteen different JCLD locations in southern Oregon.

On the company’s recent contract award, InfoStructure owner Jeff Rhoden states, “This has been a long-term collaborative effort that we have invested many hours in to complete. InfoStructure is very excited to be a larger part of JCLD’s day-to-day operations and looking forward to assisting them with their telecommunication goals for years to come.” JCLD Executive Administrator Lisa Marston says, “The Library District is committed to partnering with local businesses like InfoStructure that offer competitive pricing and service.”

InfoStructure continues to emerge as a successful player in the IP Cloud space, leveraging the power of the Internet and the many voice and data services that it hosts within its network. In business since 1994, the company has managed to flourish through the economic storms and steadily grow its workforce, its customer base and its bottom line.

About InfoStructure
InfoStructure represents a new generation of telecommunications providers harnessing the power of the Internet and providing network services for small and medium businesses in the Western US. In business for over 20 years the company started as an ISP providing Internet access in southern Oregon, and by 2003, it transitioned into voice services as a CLEC (competitive local exchange carrier) and began offering traditional business and residential phone services. By 2007, InfoStructure began developing its fully redundant IP network and offering business VoIP. Today the company offers a wide range of IP voice and data services, as well as traditional telephone and Internet services.

For more information on InfoStructure, visit www.infostructure.net or contact them here:
InfoStructure
pr@infostructure.net
541.773.5000

For more information on Jackson County Library District, visit www.jacksoncountylibrarydistrict.org or contact them here:
Jackson County Library District
lmarston@rvcog.org
541.664.6674

Business VoIP Success Stories

Business VoIP is on the rise since it is a scalable and cost-effective option for leveraging telephone communications across an organization. Advocacy for VoIP services is all over the world of telecommunications not simply because of the hard data produced to support it, but because there are many real case studies of business VoIP success:

• NuVo Technologies, a Hebron, KY producer of high-end audio equipment, would have 20 – 30 callers hang up while on hold with its traditional phone system. With no abilities to project how long callers would be on hold or any real abilities to monitor the hold queue, the situation cost the company business. After transitioning to a VoIP system, NuVo can better analyze call patterns and field customer needs. Furthermore, the system aids in telecommuting which helps business continuity and emergency management.

• The Mennonite Mission Network, a religious outreach group which supported four offices and as part of its mission had nearly 30 long-distance employees and staff traveling all over the world, needed an effective replacement for its aging phone systems. Due to the need for mobility in missionary work, it was decided that as much flexibility as possible was needed in the solution. Ultimately, the MMM saved $15,000 to $18,000 a year with the new system and recouped its investment in 25 months.

• Sportsman’s Warehouse, a national chain of outdoor retailers, was achieving a 50% annual growth and had a phone system that could not keep up with that growth. The company needed a centralized phone systm to keep up with the rapid growth and new locations popping up across the country. Their goal is always to have customers in the store within two weeks of occupying a new building, a goal which the easy setup of a VoIP system helps achieve. With its new system the company is able to manage 2000 phones with an IT department of just 22 employees.

These are just a handful of business VoIP success stories. Contact InfoStructure and we will explain how we have assisted our customers in making this winning transition.

Exciting Trends in IP Business Communications for 2013

The Emerging Mobile Majority
The rapid adoption of mobile devices in the workplace continues to enhance productivity and efficiency. A recent report by Forrester observes, “A full 66 percent of employees now use two or more devices for work every day including desktops, laptops, smartphones and tablets.”

Integrating Public and Private Clouds
The emerging mobile workplace requires an ability to switch between public and private clouds, and to do so both securely and seamlessly. Companies will be challenged to enthusiastically and competently embrace change and support cloud-based applications.

In 2013, in excess of 60 percent of companies will have instituted cloud computing to some degree, according to a recent Gartner report.

Security Initiatives
The need for cloud-based security is no longer just good business, it is essential. The need to protect proprietary data is self-evident. So is the need to keep customer information secure as well.

Also, legal mandates are as substantial as ever. Current initiatives include health care clouds to address privacy requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The public sector is looking to cloud-based solutions to maintain compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act. Finally, the payment card industry’s rapid emergence in mobile device-based transactions creates a host of new security needs in the cloud.

IP Traffic Growth — 29% per year
The pervasiveness of mobile devices and cloud-based computing will be driving forces in 2013 and beyond. The Cisco Visual Networking Index projects annual compound growth in IP traffic of a dramatic 29 percent through 2016. Consumers and employees alike will increasingly expect smart and secure networks to enhance their productivity and their lives.

About Us
InfoStructure is one of a new generation of IP business communications providers that is creatively harnessing the internet’s power and potential. In 18 years, we have grown from an Oregon-based ISP provider to a company with a fully redundant IP network that enables an array of IP voice and data services, including business VoIP. For information on how we can assist in the growth of your enterprise, contact us today.

What is SIP?

Our telecom industry just loves acronyms, which roll off our tongues in steady streams as though a different language is being spoken. Take “SIP” for example. SIP has been around for over a decade, but the term is still an enigma among small business managers, despite the fact that SIP and other modes of business VoIP are approaching mass market adoption. Perhaps the main cause of the confusion is the fact that SIP is often given other names within the industry or maybe because it’s represented in unintelligible “techie” terms. Hopefully we can briefly clarify the meaning and application of SIP and answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is the signaling format of Voice Over the Internet Protocol (VoIP). SIP and VoIP are terms that are often used interchangeably, even though VoIP technically has a much broader application. SIP is a proven method for using an Internet connection for the purpose of voice transmission. The virtual paths over which SIP calls travel are most commonly called “SIP trunks” and “call paths.” They’re also less formally referred to as “VoIP phone lines” or just “Internet phone lines.” In the final analysis, they are economical alternatives to office phone lines and no more complicated to use than POTS…oh, that’s another telecom acronym that stands for “plain old telephone service.”

You don’t need to have an IP phone system to install SIP. If you do have an IP PBX with a VoIP-ready interface, you’re ready to go. If not, you can keep your existing phone system and still use SIP, in which case, you would need a network device that converts the phone signal to IP. These network devices vary in price, depending upon the number of required trunks, QOS and network security, but they are usually much less expensive than the typical PRI cards and other premise equipment used with a traditional PBX. If you’re in the market for a new IP phone system, you can purchase one from Cisco, Avaya or Shoretel, or you might alternatively choose a “hosted” VoIP PBX solution like our InfoTalk Pro, which is offered as a managed service.

With InfoStructure’s SIP, you don’t need to obtain new phone numbers when converting from a non-VoIP application. Your existing phone numbers can be “ported” by most SIP carriers. You can also order new numbers local to your area or “virtual numbers” – phone numbers with area codes and exchanges outside of your local area, whatever works best for your business. In addition, you receive one free phone number (DID) per SIP trunk. If you require more numbers, they’re available at only $1.00 each per month. Also included are caller ID with name, call hunt groups, and call detail reports via web portal.

A commonly asked question is regarding the size and type of Internet connection needed to accommodate SIP. A reliable Internet broadband connection is a prerequisite for any VoIP service, regardless of whether it’s DSL, wireless, Ethernet over copper, or fiber optics. The amount of bandwidth is definitely a consideration, and it depends upon your unique business needs for both voice and data. The bandwidth per SIP trunk varies with the type of compression used in the SIP carrier network, but as a rule of thumb with our SIP, you can conservatively estimate 80 Kbs per call, including overhead. So eight concurrent calls, for example, will use up to 640 Kbs of bandwidth.

The time that it takes to install SIP depends mainly upon what is needed to fulfill your specific requirements. A simple installation can take only a couple of days after your order is placed. A larger, more complex installation requiring multiple locations and network equipment installations could take up to two weeks or longer.

We hope this helps to remove some of the mystery surrounding SIP! For information on SIP pricing, check out our SIP product, InfoTalk Plus, available in special rate plans with both unlimited and metered usage. If you have any questions, please call us. Our Oregon call center is open 7 X 24 every day of the year with friendly and knowledgeable service reps waiting to take your calls and answer your questions.

High Definition (HD) Voice

While iPhone app’s are stealing telecom headlines, another revolution is stirring in an ancient phenomenon – human voice. With the new VoIP codecs, significant telephony improvements in audio are being made, and hearing is believing!

With the rapid transition of traditional phone service to VoIP, enabled by the tremendous flexibility of IP technology, new applications are emerging to create a richer user experience. IDC research shows that “the end user experience in current implementations of VoIP can be improved in a manner that is simple yet clearly demonstrates the value and superiority of IP-based communications.” (IDC: “Can You Hear What I Mean? Polycom Delivers HD Voice”, Stofa, 2006). With most of the hype surrounding mobile data applications, texting and social networking, voice is still regarded as the most important communications vehicle for conducting mission critical business, as well as the first choice in addressing the most important personal matters.

Decades ago, FM radio trumped the clarity, depth and range of sound transmitted by AM radio. Its “higher fidelity” was the result, in part, of its greater bandwidth component. A similar evolution in voice quality is being made in VoIP communications. Phone line quality, standardized by the old Bell Telephone system, which was measured in Hertz (Hz), was designed for voice in a low frequency band at around 3,000 Hz or 3 KHz. This “narrow band” frequency remained the standard for more than half a century. While voice quality saw some improvements in the 80’s and 90’s with digital switching and the deployment of fiber optics in carrier networks, the difference in quality was slight, and it was mainly in voice amplification and ambient noise reduction.

Today, a “wide band” IP technology is emerging, which is known as high definition (HD) voice. With HD voice, a carrier network device called a codec samples the sound stream 8,000 times per second and more than doubles the width of the sound spectrum reproduced – up to 7KHz, which adds significant depth and range to the audio – a much broader difference over standard phone line voice than just loudness, like FM is to AM. Phone line audio becomes as clear as face-to-face conversation.

You can hear the difference through a simulation on our HD voice web page and separately clicking on both buttons for “Standard Voice” and “Polycom HD Voice.” In order for you to achieve this level of quality in your office phone communications, you must have VoIP service with an HD voice application built into the carrier network, like our InfoTalk Pro product (most VoIP providers still don’t offer HD voice). In addition, you will need HD-enabled IP phones, like the Polycom SoundPoint series. These phones, we believe, are the best in business VoIP technology and are affordably priced. And the best news is HD voice is available through InfoStructure at no extra cost.

Virtual Office

Virtual OfficeFor the sake of convenience, cutting costs, or accomplishing out-of-office tasks, many employees today work from remote locations, including their homes, airports, coffee shops, other offices or just about anywhere their work takes them where they can stay connected. The challenge of these “virtual offices” is having a level of communication that is as accessible, flexible and productive as that of an office environment with in-house systems optimized for business communications. An answer to this challenge has been emerging for a decade and is just beginning to reach critical mass – hosted VoIP.

Hosted VoIP has many names, like hosted PBX, IP telephony, managed VoIP, and others that all point to the same thing – unified voice and data applications that are accessible through the Internet. Because these applications are “hosted” (I.e. they reside on a carrier’s servers), and not maintained at a particular business office, they can be accessed from anywhere on the planet…sort of like mobile phone ap’s but without all the downloading and with greater business efficiency than a mobile phone. These applications range from advanced PBX features to local and long distance calling, web conferencing, speech-to-text messaging, video, point-and-click calling, Internet faxing and much more.

The versatility of hosted VoIP platforms enables carriers to integrate new ap’s without you having to purchase additional systems, hardware or software. And because the platforms are scalable, you can add, delete and modify phone extensions or calling features on the fly. Your office phone number follows you around, whether you use an IP phone or soft client (a phone function manipulated from your PC screen, along with a headset). In other words, all of your outbound calls carry your name and/or office number, providing continuity in identification, and your inbound calls are received on the same number. And through a web interface, you have the ability to manage all of your communications. In fact, you have all of the exact same communication features that you would enjoy from your office on the same platform; nothing is sacrificed in your virtual office. You just can’t accomplish these things with a typical phone system… a virtual phone system is a must!

Above all, hosted VoIP is an economical alternative. When you consider the huge capital cost, maintenance costs, and peripheral equipment expenses required with in-office phone systems, along with monthly phone line and long distance costs, hosted VoIP will usually save your business a bundle. Most providers offer hosted VoIP as a managed service billed monthly.

For more information on hosted VoIP, visit our web page on InfoTalk Pro – an innovative hosted VoIP solution from InfoStructure.

When Disaster Strikes

Disater RecoveryIt’s unlikely but possible that your business may experience a disaster that disables all of your communications for more than just a couple of hours. Cable cuts, power outages, building fires, flooding, tornadoes and earthquakes are realities of life that can and will take place. Is your business prepared for any of these?

A 2009 study by Business Research Institute revealed that of all the recovery points necessary in the event of a disaster (data loss, employee management, notifications, etc.), 65% of the businesses surveyed said telecommunications was the weakest link. The fact is that an outage in telephone communications lasting several hours, or even days, can cost a communications-intensive business substantially in lost revenue, good will, and credibility with its customers. An extreme example of this was the 911 event in NYC, which disabled communications in hundreds of businesses for several days, resulting in extensive financial damages. Fortunately, terrorist events don’t happen frequently in the US, but what about a simple cable cut that takes eight hours to be located and repaired or a power outage that requires a failed transformer to be completely replaced or a building fire that damages or destroys your phone system, which are much more common occurrences?

While most businesses recognize the exposure in not having a disaster recovery plan, they also realize that there’s a cost in having one, and it’s not usually low-budget. Implementing redundant, fail-over phone functionality with traditional TDM phone system, as well as maintaining alternate transport facilities, can be an expensive proposition. Many believe that not spending dollars on implementing a plan is worth the risk…until a disaster strikes. It’s like going without health insurance to save on expenses, which works for as long you are not seriously sick or injured.

However, with the the latest IP technology, an excellent solution for disaster recovery now exists without your having to invest in redundant systems or diverse network facilities. Business class “hosted” VoIP, by which phone functions are housed on a carrier’s servers, is a viable solution by the very fact that your phone functions are maintained remotely – not at your office location. This means that in the event of a disaster at your office building, at the minimum, your inbound calls will roll over to voice mail and not be lost as they otherwise would be on a traditional phone system; you can leave your office and with Internet access make outbound calls on an IP phone with the exact same features that you enjoy from your office and receive your office calls at the same number as well; and you can still access and reconfigure your call management functions through the web. Because these disaster recovery features are inherent with a hosted service, which will also reduce your standard phone expenses, they are well worth considering.

InfoStructure has recently introduced a new hosted VoIP solution for business – InfoTalk Pro, an effective alternative for disaster recovery. InfoTalk Pro is a powerful PBX replacement alternative with a rich array of PBX features, a unique browser interface for quick and easy call management, and desktop integration of PC and IP phone, making it scalable, user friendly, economical and manageable. For more information, please visit our InfoTalk Pro web page.