A woman sitting at a desk, talking on an office phone.

While they’ve been around for a while, desk phones still meet many business needs.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, this saying really hits home — despite evolution in form, many offices leverage fundamental technology to perform key functions and meet business needs. In other words, old tools and tech are prevalent in offices around the world, for better or for worse.

Here’s a look at six still in use today:

1. Faithful Fax Machines

You read that right. The “beeeee-owwwwww-chkchkchkchkc” sound that haunts your nightmares isn’t gone from corporate culture, it just took on a new form to meet emerging demands. While original versions of the classic fax machine came with a limited capacity to connect and no one could ever quite remember whether the paper was supposed to go in upside-down, print-first, or with a cover page to satisfy the wrathful gods of document dissemination, new iterations elevate the execution but keep the core idea.

Electronic fax solutions let you easily scan or select a document from your computer, then send it to a fax-specific phone number or email address. Either way, the document shows up in email inboxes rather than producing reams of poorly toned paper. Better still? No busy signal. Ever.

2. Dutiful Desk Phones

Ah, the desk phone. Where would Hollywood films about corporate greed be without these unwieldy telecom tethers for protagonists and villains alike to shout at and violently slam down? Here’s the thing: While the form factor has changed slightly to reflect new aesthetic expectations, most companies still outfit the bulk of their workforces with standard desktop telephones. It makes sense: They’re cheap, convenient, and easy to manage. Better yet? New Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) solutions make it easy for companies to shift from traditional copper telephone lines to digital alternatives, allowing them to easily add new lines, forward calls, and opt in mobile devices. Long live the desk phone!

3. Predictable Printers

Of course printers are still a thing. Despite pushes to eliminate paper in many offices, there’s always a need to have hard copies on hand. And honestly, some companies just love having rooms and rooms stacked with full-to-bursting file cabinets.

Basic office printing actually got its start in 1938 thanks to dry ink, static electricity, and flashes of light. Xerography (and eventually print juggernaut Xerox) was the result, and thus began the mad rush toward inkjet and laser printers used around the world. Today, high-speed, low-waste printers are the norm in most offices, but there’s also a real uptick in 3-D printing as this technology goes down in cost and has more viable uses than printing tiny boxes or random pieces of “art.” On the “that’s crazy” side of things, CNet noted that Dubai recently 3-D-printed an entire office building. Okay, guys, maybe settle down a bit?

4. Perennial “Post-Its”

In 1968, a chemist at 3M accidentally created a low-strength adhesive sticky enough to hold but weak enough to be repositioned multiple times. No one cared. However, a church choir member frustrated by too-slippery bookmarks changed everything. Today, Post-It® Brand Notes remain a huge part of office culture — beyond the classic canary-yellow squares, there are bigger versions, tiny tabs, and a host of Post-It paraphernalia. Do they really improve productivity and help meet business needs? Maybe! Are they everywhere? You bet!

5. Cameras and Calculators

No matter the office, no matter the business, you need a camera and a calculator. Pocket calculators are classic desk decorations, while cameras were typically kept by management for special occasions, such as the office holiday card or a bit piece in the local paper. And while film cameras (sorry, Kodak®) along with classic calculators have largely vanished from common culture, they’re not really gone. They’ve just taken on a new form: mobile devices. Every staff member now carries around a powerful computing device-and-camera in one, making it easier than ever to snap a photo or do the math while simultaneously sparking debate about the intersection of social discourse and business use. Speaking of which…

6. Mercurial Mobiles

According to Office Xpress®, the first business-related mobile phone call was made in 1973 from a Motorola® in New York City to Bell Labs in New Jersey. And for 30 years, mobile tech advanced largely outside the workplace — although thanks to the ’80s for those hilariously bad super-brick phones that C-suite executives in suspenders liked to shout into at fancy restaurants — until touch-screen smartphones went from science fiction to reality.

Now, companies are deep in the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) deal, trying to figure out where personal and business mobile use collide and where they should stay separate. No matter the ultimate answer, mobile is here to stay, and for many companies, that means rolling smartphones into a solid VoIP plan rather than trying to manhandle mobile into something resembling corporate compliance.

If you have an office, you’re likely using old tech and tools to meet current business needs. Fortunately, there are ways to upgrade these tried-and-true pieces of tech to improve your efficiency — and up your coolness factor.

Ready to learn more about implementing new versions of time-tested tech? Touch base with a Vonage Business consultant.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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A woman replaces ink in fax machine

Replacing outdated technology with more powerful and efficient tools will help your business in a number of ways.

A lot of value is placed on having the latest technology these days — it’s just a fact. All you have to do is look at the lines for the latest phones and gadgets snaking around stores on launch day. As a small-business owner, it’s easy to make do with what you have and keep using dated technology in an effort to save money. However, the reality is that using dated technology is likely costing you money in the following ways:

  • Negative impression to customers: Your customers need to trust you and know that you are delivering the highest-quality products and services. If they see you’re using equipment that may soon find its way onto an episode of “Antiques Roadshow,” it makes them wonder whether you are really an expert and if they should take their business down the street.
  • Lack of productivity: Using dated technology takes extra time, and as you know, time is one of your most precious commodities. By increasing efficiency by upgrading your technology, employees have more time to focus on customers – and the bottom line.
  • Lower employee satisfaction: It’s frustrating — and not a lot of fun — to use old stuff. Every time they’re forced to use – and fix – dated technology, your employees are likely to secretly complain behind your back or feel less engaged with their work.

Here are three dated technologies to consider dragging out to the dumpster or recycling bin:

1. Fax Machine

Step away from the fax machine! Even though purchasing one of these machines was once a rite of passage for becoming a small-business owner, it’s now just a huge smoke signal that you are behind the times. There is absolutely no reason this machine should take up space in your office. Today, the fax machine has gone digital by combining with email and has become more mobile and less reliant on paper. By using a paperless fax service, you can send and receive faxes right from your laptop or mobile device. No paper, no toner (whatever that is), and best of all, no annoying beeps. Each time you get a new fax, it goes straight to your email.

2. Rolodex

It used to be a sign you were successful in business if you had a fat ream of paper cards perched on your desktop. Today, it’s a huge liability to keep your contacts on paper. Customers expect you to respond to their needs very quickly these days, and you need to be able to track down numbers when you need them. By storing your contacts electronically or using secure cloud-based applications, you have access to the phone numbers you need, whether you’re on a smartphone, desk phone, or using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) from an international destination.

3. Answering Machine

Yes, there are still businesses that use answering machines. Every time customers call, they can tell when you have an answering machine — and it screams that you are behind the times. By using a cloud-based business communication system, your customers are greeted with an auto-attendant, calls are routed correctly, and voicemail is stored in a private mailbox or transcribed and emailed to you so that you can read – or listen – to it anytime, virtually anywhere.

Dinosaurs belong in museums or “Jurassic Park” movies. Don’t let them take up space in your office.

Want to learn more about paperless fax and other state-of-the-art technologies? Visit Vonage Business.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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