March 22 2017 Industry TrendsVoIP technology can help transform small to midsize businesses. Smaller organizations thrive on simplicity. It’s a basic fact of business and a compelling reason why businesses across industries have made the switch from traditional branch exchange (PBX) telephony to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communication. When one option’s faster to set up, easier to maintain, and more affordable and feature-packed than the alternative, a company would be remiss not to explore the possibility of moving over. VoIP technology brings numerous advantages to the table, and in many ways represents the next evolutionary step for small-business communication — not to mention a smarter, leaner take on the baseline tools organizations need to survive. Here is a look at those advantages and the impressive utility they display in SMB settings: (Very) Basic Needs To be clear, telephony is always a complex solution. The difference between VoIP technology and PBX falls in where that technology is hosted. In the old days, getting business phone service required lots of up-front cost, lots of up-front work, and (perhaps most notably) lots of wires. Once your vendor’s technicians came out, added the necessary back-end hardware, and wired every phone on the premises to it, you were ready to talk. Now, let’s look at the hardware and infrastructure a business needs to implement when it embraces VoIP, thus moving all the “heavy” communication technology to the cloud: Computers, aka the laptops and desktops your organization already has Microphones for those computers, presuming they don’t come built-in An internet connection with suitably fast upload and download speeds Realistically speaking, only that final point has potential to be a significant barrier to entry. However, even then, overcoming it is generally a matter of calling your business broadband provider and upping your speed package. Of course, the point here isn’t to pick on PBX or even suggest it doesn’t have utility once it’s set up and ready to go. Instead, it’s to say that VoIP often works on the back of technologies businesses already use as a matter of course. Calling back to the need for simplicity, that’s a major difference — and one that’s definitely worth exploring. Simple Scalability, Prime Portability Another basic fact of SMBs is that they often occupy more than one location (and, for that matter, geographical region). Whether this distributed environment arises from natural growth or the business is designed that way from the ground up, VoIP technology makes maintaining a consistent presence across locations, states, and even countries a simpler affair with little of the complexity and cost that come with installing and managing a singular PBX across multiple locations. For instance, take the act of transferring a call to a phone line in another location. Since VoIP systems can easily function as if all employees are together in the same building, a business’ clientele can have seamless access to the whole business, with the complex technical aspects and equipment handled and managed on the vendor’s side. Naturally, this lack of complexity can negate a great deal of hassle and expense when adding new locations to the network, a considerable advantage in times of growth. Things work much the same way on the micro scale. Individual employees can use business VoIP apps installed on smartphones and tablets to place and receive calls from the company’s internal phone system. They can even do this from their personal mobile phones, if the business chooses to allow this functionality. For offices with mobile sales or support staff, this allows for further consistency of presence in a time where even the smallest businesses are expected to provide an impeccable customer experience. Feature-Rich Telephone Use However, individual and business-wide benefits don’t stop at VoIP’s elevated scalability and mobility. By consolidating communications into the computers employees utilize daily, SMBs can utilize a combination of intended features and naturally occurring side benefits that stem from this marriage of technologies. One such benefit, the ability to engage in a call from a computer and simultaneously perform other tasks from the same device, is decidedly useful. You’ve likely seen this during web-based conferences, where presenters talk as they navigate to shared-screen web pages, draw charts, and perform other actions. How much harder would this be if the presenter had to cradle a phone to her ear with her shoulder at the same time? How badly would the call quality suffer if she handled the talking from a speaker phone? Obviously, this simple advantage can equate to a big boost in productivity. That’s especially true for remotely distributed teams, members of whom may need to talk to colleagues while using both hands to operate the computers they’re working from. In terms of intended features, remote teams may also see big benefits from intended features such as presence notification and VoIP call recording. For instance, leadership could use presence tools to confirm attendance before sending out invites and use the recording feature to capture another member’s technical advisement. SMBs do best when their tools offer simplicity, flexibility, and utility. VoIP technology offers all three in buckets. In a business technology climate where innovation tends to come in small increments, the tech’s built-in features and ability to mesh with existing processes is perhaps best described as “deceptively disruptive” — a step or three toward better-integrated, more productive communications for every location in a company’s stable. Is your phone system flexible enough to work with your team, or is it falling behind? Speak to a Vonage Business representative to see what VoIP technology has to offer. About Evan Wade Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it. Twitter March 6 2017 CloudCloud migration won’t make you obsolete if you let it lead to a new, more strategic role. As your company shifts away from on-premise solutions and opts for cloud migration to virtual PBX systems and other offsite solutions, it’s understandable that some IT pros might feel anxious. But if the question is, “What’s left for tech experts when everything is outsourced?” — the reassuring answer is: Plenty! The fact is that nothing runs without the expertise of dedicated and experienced staff. This is particularly relevant for corporate IT pros both during and after cloud migrations. Think of if as the new tech normal, as organizations look to their staff IT experts to navigate successfyully. Here’s a look at the changing role of IT pros: The PBX Problem It’s no secret that companies are moving to cloud communications. However, you may be reluctant to let go of that on-premise PBX system. Why? Well, as the managing IT pro, you’re in charge. You know the ins and outs of the tech, the reasons it won’t work under certain circumstances, how to get almost supernatural performance out of it as needed, and how to coax it back to life when C-suite and front-line staff members express frustration. In short, you’re indispensable. So, what happens when your company starts trending toward the cloud? Not Without Me Bottom line? The cloud is coming. Migration is often slow but very, very steady, and as organizations become more comfortable with the idea of third-party providers handling their data, cloud migration is inevitable. So, what does this mean for the in-house PBX expert who may be unsure about the future? It depends on your attitude. One option here is to dig in your heels and demand that your on-premise PBX systems stay the course. This might work for a few years, but as legacy tech ages out, moving off-premise is the only option. Your other choice? Take charge and own the move. Migrations don’t happen in a vacuum, and the move from onsite to provider-hosted can require substantive technical expertise. By getting in on the ground floor, you can help set service expectations and play an essential role in selecting the right provider. For example, if your company is making the transition to SIP trunking, you’re the ideal candidate to ensure new tech is deployed in high-availability pairs, all network regions are optimized for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) traffic, and quality-of-service tools are in place to ensure calls are clear and consistent. The Next Level Taking things a step further, you can also manage the implementation process and develop a future-first viewpoint that addresses new strategic and tactical challenges. Use cloud migration as the starting point to choose which services and solutions you can implement to increase IT impact. However, what exactly does being strategic look like in the context of this new IT normal? Here are some ways to start: Get Visible: To end users within an organization, when things are working as intended, the IT department may seem invisible. But that perception can change when issues arise frequently and IT can’t respond fast enough. Now that you have a cloud-based PBX system, it’s possible to change user perception with better monitoring and response tools. For example, end-user analytics or call metrics software can help improve the lives of C-suite executives and front-line staff alike. Hey, who doesn’t want to be the hero? Be Vigilant: Another way to empower strategic efforts is to find new areas of improvement. Maybe you have some legacy server hardware that could use an upgrade, or your move to cloud-based communications also prompts a look at the hybrid cloud. Or, dig deep into your new PBX and discover what makes it tick and where you can maximize efficiency. Start thinking big instead of solving small. Talk, Talk, Talk: That’s right, start talking. Chat up C-suite executives, get invited to board meetings, and volunteer your time to create presentations about cloud rollout plans or the merits of new enterprise infrastructure. You probably won’t feel super comfortable here at first, but this is the new normal for top-tier IT pros. It often helps to be as social as you are tech-savvy. Cloud migration is coming. Get on board with streamlining the transition, taking a step back, and adopting a more strategic role. Do you want to know more about the new cloud normal? Talk to Vonage Business. 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. Linkedin | Twitter March 3 2017 Digital OfficeVirtual office communication tools let you run your business from the beach. Even when you love your work, it’s hard to get up and at ’em during the cold winter months. Shoveling snow, scraping ice off your windshield, shivering until your car heater finally kicks in — it’s enough to make you want to fly south for the winter like a bird or a retiree. With the right virtual office communication tools in place, you can. Cloud-based solutions such as a virtual phone system enable small-business owners and their employees to work from anywhere they can get an internet connection, which is almost anywhere these days. Here are some ideas: A Beachside Cabana Even if you don’t have time for a vacation, you could run your business from a tropical location using virtual office communication tools. Just picture it: Rather than looking at gray skies through your office window, you’re enjoying the beach view and the warmth of the sun on your skin while being waited on hand and foot. It’s a work day, and it’s time for your afternoon conference call with your team. So, you pull out your business phone and dial into the video conference bridge. You’re thousands of miles away (and the envy of everyone on the call), but you’re just as connected as if you were just down the hall. Of course, you’re not, so once the call is over, you can summon your waiter and order another plate of tacos — you deserve it. A Southern Vacation Maybe you can’t spend the winter somewhere tropical, but you probably could take an extended business trip to a warmer climate — or, better yet, take a vacation. You could go to Mardi Gras (the food will warm you right up), take the kids to Disney World, or cruise through the Florida Keys. Over half of Americans didn’t take all their vacation days in 2015, according to Project Time-Off. The top two reasons survey respondents failed to use their paid time off were fear of returning to a mountain of work (37 percent) and concerns that no one else could do their job (30 percent). For small-business owners and their leadership teams, those concerns are likely even stronger. If fear of being disconnected is keeping you from getting the change of scenery you need this winter, simply take your business phone with you and be as connected as you want to be. If you have a cloud-based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system, your employees and customers can reach you the same way they always do. Customers get the same prompts and company directories. Your team can forward calls to you just as easily as if you were in the next office, and your outgoing calls identify you with the business name, not your personal number. The customer’s experience is consistent down to your voicemail, which is okay to use. The point of vacation is to actually take a vacation, so don’t be afraid to turn your phone off sometimes, too. A Home Office Can’t travel this winter? No problem. Avoid the cold by staying home when the weather is particularly nasty. With virtual office communication tools, you can work from home as easily as you can in the office. All you need is an internet connection and some productivity tips for telecommuting, and you can spend cold winter days bundled up in your favorite blanket with a cup of hot cocoa in one hand and your business phone in the other. Whether you’re jetting off to somewhere with consistent double-digit temperatures or staying within the comfy confines of your home, virtual office communication tools can enable you to stay both productive and connected. Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about virtual office communication tools for your small business. Taylor Mallory Holland Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing. Linkedin | Twitter February 27 2017 Digital OfficeMoving to the cloud saves IT valuable time. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of IT projects, especially when you’re handling everything on-site. From server maintenance to end user troubleshooting to VoIP or PBX systems oversight, technology experts are long on tasks and short on time to get everything done. However, for many organizations, moving to the cloud changes the game. With more tedious tasks handled automatically or by trusted third parties, in-house IT leaders find themselves with an unexpected luxury: the ability to slow down for a minute and consider their next move. Given that it’s such an unfamiliar sensation, you’d be forgiven for coming up blank on ideas for new tasks or long-term goals. Thankfully, you can get started with these six tips to help you tap the time-saving benefit of cloud tech. 1. Get Strategic As noted by the Wall Street Journal, transitioning to cloud technology often shifts IT workers into business analyst and architect roles. While this comes with growing pains — IT experts are the best at what they do by virtue of specificity — it also offers big advantages. For example, moving to the cloud provides the ideal framework for implementing big data solutions to help manage and evaluate the huge volume of information generated by your organization every day. Less time spent on tedious tasks yields the ability to consider best-fit big data solutions. 2. More Time? Teach! How much do front-line staff and executives know about new cloud workflows? Are they struggling with large conceptual issues or specific app-based tasks? With a break from typical IT maintenance and break-fix issues, IT can consider initiating a cloud learning program that helps end users discover how to maximize performance by leveraging cloud services and how to avoid potential issues posed by anytime, anywhere access. 3. Change the Conversation What services has your business already moved to the cloud? What else is worth switching? For example, it’s often worthwhile to consider upgrading your existing VoIP or PBX system to a cloud-based alternative after you’ve established a foothold in the cloud. Not only does this dovetail with many cloud-first mandates, but hosted VoIP solutions also let you easily connect mobile, desktop, and remote devices, in turn making more time for IT to focus on other line-of-business (LoB) objectives. 4. Get Schooled Do you know everything there is to know about the cloud? Are you familiar with up-and-coming industry trends like software-defined networking (SDN), containerization, and hyperconvergence? With less chance of your internal IT environment crashing and burning at a moment’s notice, this might be the ideal time to consider going back to tech school and picking up some new skills. That time provided by moving to the cloud offers the chance for IT pros to ramp up both organizational and total career value with training. 5. Go Big According to Computerworld, the advent of reliable and ubiquitous cloud technologies has prompted a shake-up in many businesses. For example, The Weather Company — parent organization of The Weather Channel, Weather.com and Weather Underground — has tossed out the name “IT department” in favor of simply “technology.” IT experts are encouraged to think like a next-gen startup rather than a legacy division. Instead of simply “aligning” with business goals, the idea here is to think big and discover ways to empower new business objectives and devise long-term strategies. It’s part of the larger impact of moving to the cloud; the nature of IT is shifting away from a complete technology focus to include strategy and innovation. 6. Connect Everything Of course, more time also means a chance to streamline existing processes and adopt new solutions that make your company more agile, robust, and adaptable. Here, it’s worth considering business cloud services such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which provides the ability to use any application on any device at any time, or cloud backup services that ensure your critical data is never in danger, even in the event of a disaster. Another option? Take things all the way with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and leave the hardware management to someone else. Are you moving to the cloud? Consider streamlining your tech environment and implementing new upgrades. Your calendar just might thank you. Need a little help? Connect with a Vonage Business consultant today and make the most of your time. 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. Linkedin | Twitter February 21 2017 Industry TrendsWhile 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. Linkedin | Twitter February 10 2017 CloudImplementing cloud technology can benefit company culture — and happy workers are more productive. Businesses can’t function without order. Processes and procedures exist for a reason: to ensure that projects get done on time, information is properly handled, and end results match initial goals. The problem? Sometimes “order” turns into “overbearing” and originally open-minded organizations become my-way-or-the-highway enterprises. If your company culture has gone from reliable to rigid and you’re looking for a way to boost morale without breaking the bank, there may be a solution: the cloud. From cost benefits to take the stress off executives to increased app flexibility for users and agility to improve collaboration, cloud services may offer a way to re-energize your office environment. Here’s how it can help crack your current culture conundrum: Positive Production Before diving into the people part of cloud potential, it’s worth a quick review: Implementing cloud technology comes with real benefits to both the bottom line and day-to-day operations. As noted by CBR Online, 88 percent of companies surveyed say they’ve already implemented at least one private cloud solution, while the expanding impact of open-source clouds is driving even lower per-use prices. According to BetaNews, meanwhile, many organizations are now adopting a multicloud strategy as a way to leverage the exact services they need, exactly when they need them rather than paying for all-in-one solutions. In addition, cloud services offer a new way for users to consume, create, and collaborate on line-of-business content. Instead of requiring users to navigate multiple legacy apps simply to communicate with other team members or access pertinent project data, the cloud makes it possible to unify voice, video, and multimedia services. What’s more, tossing legacy for cloud yields greater network agility and reliability, meaning employees spend more time working and less time harassing IT about legacy systems that aren’t working. Simply put? The cloud offers big-time productivity and cost benefits. Morale Booster That’s not all, folks! In addition to line-of-business benefits, cloud services also have the not-so-secondary effect of boosting user morale and improving company culture. Why? Glad you asked. There are several key drivers, including the following: Improved Flexibility: Adopting the cloud gives employees the ability to work where they want, when they want, and how they want. This makes it easy for employees to take their work with them and collaborate across devices. Streamlined Communication: By rolling out communications such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video calling, and media-rich streaming across the cloud, workers can quickly and easily access needed files or conduct meetings half a world away, reducing the time needed for setup and increasing overall productivity. App Adaptability: Face it — your staff members are already using the apps they want, with or without permission. By implementing the cloud and then making time to talk with users about the apps they love (and have already installed), you get happier workers. The Big Picture Your employees are happier in the cloud. Company culture is shifting away from a rigid model to one that’s more open, more collegial, and hopefully more flexible. However, what’s the long-term impact? Is happiness good for business? Short answer: You bet. Long answer: Happy employees are more likely to stay with the company and are also more likely to go above and beyond in their day-to-day work. And since you’ve reduced their total stress by giving them a flexible, agile cloud environment, they’re more efficient when it comes to completing projects and meeting deadlines. Best of all? Your costs go down. Implement the cloud well and you should see a cost decline; do a so-so job, and you’ll still break even. Sure, your employee environment isn’t quite so neat and tidy, but rigidity doesn’t really pay — flexibility is the future foundation of effective company culture. To learn more about how the cloud can benefit company culture, talk to a Vonage Business representative. 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. Linkedin | Twitter February 7 2017 CollaborationYour virtual call center music can give callers an idea of what your company is like. No one likes to be kept waiting. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, and most people understand that. In these situations, when a customer calls into your virtual call center, the right on-hold music can mean the difference between someone who’s patiently waiting and someone who’s ready to scream at your unsuspecting customer service rep. Making people wait in silence or bombarding them with redundant messaging is a bad way to start off the customer experience with your service team. That’s why it’s important to choose the right type of music for your customers. What Your On-Hold Music Says About Your Company When establishing a virtual call center, one feature that should never be overlooked is the selection of hold music. Whether it plays for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, the choice of music reflects your company, and you want to be sure it’s reflecting the right image. Of course, choosing the right genre of music or creating a customized playlist can be challenging. For businesses with a niche customer base, the answer is often obvious. If you sell ranching equipment, country music is probably the way to go. If you make denture cream, opt for golden oldies. However, most large enterprises serve diverse customer bases with different demographics and vastly different tastes in music. You can’t play every customer’s favorite song, but you can find music with a wide appeal that makes sense for your brand and target audience. Here are four common types of hold music and the associations listeners might make with your brand upon hearing them: 1. Easy Listening Characterized by the smooth jazz sounds of Kenny G, Frank Sinatra’s “Girl from Ipanema,” and Celine Dion hits from the “Titanic” soundtrack, easy listening has long been a popular choice for hold music. It makes listeners feel like they’re stuck in an elevator in a fancy hotel in the ’90s, but it is, by definition, easy to listen to. Most people don’t love it, but they don’t exactly hate it, either. It’s familiar and comforting, but it’s also dated, clichéd, and a little boring. That might work if you want your brand to come across as traditional and nostalgic. After all, ’90s pop culture has been making a comeback lately. But if you’re looking to project a more modern, hip, cutting-edge image, saxophones and Streisand won’t help you do it. 2. Classical A popular choice for government organizations, banks, and universities, classical music evokes a sophistication and seriousness that works for some brands. Yet much like easy listening, it doesn’t scream innovative, nor does it give off a welcoming, approachable vibe. If you use classical music, limit your playlist to upbeat or whimsical songs. Slower songs are likely to put your customers to sleep, while some of the more intense numbers might actually raise their anxiety levels, defeating the purpose of hold music altogether. 3. Top 40 Playing current hits — sans the inappropriate language — is a great way to appeal to the masses (at least those under 30). Of course, not everyone digs “what the kids are into these days.” If your target audience skews older, you run the risk of making them feel like they’re stuck in the car with their teenagers or making them feel old when they don’t recognize any of the songs. Using chart toppers isn’t the most novel idea, so it might not make for a memorable or unexpected hold experience. However, it does project a more modern, approachable vibe than smooth jazz or orchestral music. 4. Instrumental Rock or Hip-Hop It’s always a little strange to hear once-hardcore music turned into soft piano or orchestral numbers, but it’s also fun identifying them. (“Wait, is that “Under Pressure” or “Ice Ice Baby?”) Of course, Metallica and Kanye fans might not enjoy hearing distorted versions of their favorite songs, but without the lyrics, those songs are more digestible for wider audiences. This is an interesting way to incorporate popular music that might otherwise be considered inappropriate for businesses to play. Aside from offending the purists, it could work for brands that want to seem hip but professional. So, what does your hold music say about your brand? Or, more importantly, what do you want it to say? Consider what you know about your customers and how you want them to feel about your brand. Then, translate those insights into a great hold experience. To learn more about setting up a virtual call center, speak to a Vonage Business consultant. Taylor Mallory Holland Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing. Linkedin | Twitter February 6 2017 CloudCloud solutions for business allow employees to work from anywhere. Hiring is a lot like dating after 30: It seems like most of the good ones are already taken, and competition is fierce for talent that’s still on the market. And it can be hard to meet new people, unless you expand your search beyond those in close proximity to you. Cloud solutions for business help to solve these challenges. By making the workspace increasingly mobile, cloud communications enable employers to widen their searches, find and hire the best people for the job, and retain those employees by offering something more and more people now want — the ability to work from anywhere. Downshifters, Dads, and Disabled Workers Fortune predicts that as more millennials mature into the next stage of their lives, they will soon be leaving cities in droves, opting for suburban or even country living. Add to that the tens of millions of people who already live in rural America, and you’ve got an enormous talent pool that may not be within commuting distance to your company offices. However, they are within telecommuting distance. Remote work also appeals to parents, many of whom leave the workforce because they want to spend more time with their families or because the cost of childcare now amounts to an extra mortgage payment. Providing these caregivers with the technology and flexibility to work around their lives opens up a huge, untapped market of job candidates who might otherwise opt out of full-time work outside of the home. Telecommuting has also created new job opportunities for disabled individuals, for whom traveling to an office might be difficult or even impossible. With the ability to work where they’re most comfortable, they can be just as productive and innovative as anyone else on your team. Of course, this is not the extent of those who’d appreciate the opportunity to work remotely. Most everyone is yearning for a greater work/life balance these days, and they’re increasingly looking for employers who will help them achieve it. Finding the Right People Smart leaders don’t want to hire just anyone. They want to hire people who are not only qualified for the job, but also bring enthusiasm, passion, and dedication to their work. Depending on a business’ location, this can be challenging. In smaller towns, the talent pool is often limited, particularly for highly specialized jobs. In larger cities, there are more professionals, but also more businesses seeking to hire them, many of which offer salaries and perks your company might not be able to match. Location doesn’t matter for companies that hire remote workers. Not only can they hire from anywhere, but they also have a competitive advantage when it comes to attracting top talent. For example, Jenny Collister, founder of the Reef & Rainforest travel agency, said she believes that successful travel agents must be passionate about travel and adventure (translation: the kind of people who don’t like to stay in one place). To attract these wandering souls, she offers the balance and flexibility of being able to work from home or on the road. With a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone system and mobile app, her agents can even help customers plan trips while on trips of their own. “I like offering flexibility to my staff,” Collister said. “Some employees embrace it, and others like more structure, so we try to maintain a balance that ensures that our customers are fully served during work hours and often beyond.” The Value Equation Having a remote workforce doesn’t just help companies find and hire the best talent, but studies confirm how productive these employees can be. For employees, working remotely can help meet their professional and personal priorities. There are some employees, particularly millennials, who may value work/life balance and flexibility more than a big paycheck. With the high cost of daycare, some parents may offer to work for less if they can work from home. Of course, remote workers should expect to be valued and compensated as any in-office employee would. But the remote work model sometimes offers negotiable flexibility that can appeal to both employer and employee. Mark Krassner, founder of Knee Walker Central, has built a successful business with a team of remote workers spread across the country—all of whom are tied together by a hosted VoIP phone system. This arrangement affords employees an attractive level of flexibility. In fact, several of them have relocated their home offices without missing a beat. With cloud solutions for business, all workers need is an internet connection in their new location, and they’re up and running. Krassner also points to how productive his remote team has been for the company. So yes, hiring these days can be a lot like dating. However, there’s one big difference: In the case of hiring, long-distance relationships actually do work. Speak to a Vonage Business consultant to learn more about cloud solutions for business. Taylor Mallory Holland Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing. Linkedin | Twitter December 20 2016 Industry TrendsWorking remotely is becoming more common and more productive. As the mobile workforce continues to grow, telecommuting programs are becoming an increasingly important aspect of modern business operations. More people are flexing their telecommunicating muscles than ever before due to maturing technology behind the scenes and a shift in the definition of traditional offices. To prove this point, one need only look at a 2015 Gallup poll in which 37 percent of U.S. workers reported taking advantage of telecommuting opportunities over the past decade. This figure represents steady growth and a seven percentage point increase since 1995. The poll also recognized a change in the way people use their newfound flexibility. Rather than seeing the bulk of telecommuting use outside of business hours in addition to traditional hours, the split has become almost dead even for those doing so within the regular nine-to-five as well. This means today’s employees have preferences when it comes to working remotely — and luckily, with cloud-based communications, they have options. Though you could nerd out over these fancy statistics all day, these numbers simply highlight the need for well-developed telecommuting programs (and the cloud communication solutions to support them). So, how do you go about building such a thing? Step 1: Establish Expectations The first step toward building a successful telecommuting program is to lay out expectations for both the employees taking advantage of the program and the organization offering it. Users must fully understand the expectations of the organization while they pump up the jams in their home office. An organization must have a clear vision of the purpose of telecommuting in its own culture and employee workflow, and communicate this purpose to their employees. For smaller businesses, establishing user expectations can often be left up to individual managers who know the exact parameters of each user’s specific job. While Janice’s TPS reports could easily be done from her humble abode, Jennie’s sensitive data analytics might require more onsite attention. For larger companies, detailing user expectations should take a more general approach for each job category. Regardless, as you build your employee expectations, it’s typically a good idea to think over the following items: Work environment expectations: Does each employee have an isolated, distraction-free workspace? Communication expectations: Does each employee have phone forwarding, high-speed internet, and virtual private network (VPN) access? Availability expectations: Are employees expected to maintain business hours when telecommuting? Planning expectations: How far in advance should telecommuting days be planned? When it comes to expectations from an organization’s point of view, these should simply be an outline of what the company sees as the value telecommuting should bring. In laying out this vision, you’ll be much better able to assess the productivity of your program and how the above user expectations should be shaped. Step 2: Preparing Your Infrastructure With a comprehensive plan of what your program will look like from both a user and organizational perspective, you can begin to deploy your world-conquering telecommuting program. It’s important to keep in mind that the goal here should be to facilitate a seamless transition from the traditional office to remote workplace. After all, Janice knows how to whip up a mean TPS report, but she simply needs a system to enable her to work as effectively at home as she does in the office. Making telecommuting easy from a technical standpoint will enable your users to more easily meet the expectations outlined above. To get you started, here are some typical pieces of infrastructure you’ll need to support a successful program: Remote accessibility for internal systems: This is usually in the form of a VPN or virtual infrastructure. Mobile hardware: Depending on the job requirements, this could take the form of a laptop, tablet, or even just a smartphone. Communication software: This should cover the ability of the user to communicate through voice and video. This category includes tools such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), virtual meetings, and instant messaging systems. These three key components of telecommuting infrastructure will provide the framework with which your remote users can connect, collaborate, and communicate effectively. Consider a unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) solution, which typically packages all this functionality for ease of use and deployment. Step 3: Manage from a New Perspective Due to the flexibility it offers, telecommuting is clearly a growing trend with some very tangible benefits. That being said, a successful program requires a slightly different management approach. Since you give up some transparency and visibility of users when telecommuting enters the picture, you’ll need to rely more heavily on effective communication and, ultimately, trust. Fortunately, that same infrastructure discussed earlier will allow you to maintain open communication across the board. For example, cloud-based communication services would enable Janice to schedule and hold company-wide meetings to drive home the importance of that cover sheet — all from the comfort of her home office. By using shared workspaces such as screen-share or video conferencing, Janice could even collaborate with the team back at the office without losing valuable face-to-face time. Such services simply remove any barriers to being just as effective remotely as a user would in a traditional office setting. Due to the high level of communication and transparency these services provide, Janice’s position can be managed virtually. In the end, telecommuting is steadily rising as a preferred alternative to the traditional office. By carefully considering expectations, supporting infrastructure, and management strategy, your telecommuting program will be ready to usher in a new era of pajama-empowered productivity. Are you interested in boosting productivity with your remote team? Speak with a Vonage Business consultant to get started. About Joe Hewitson With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it. Linkedin | Twitter If you want to improve your business phone system and cut costs, there’s no better way than by using cloud PBX. It might sound confusing (what’s a PBX? What does the “cloud” mean?), but it makes your phone system work smarter and faster for less, without loads of expensive on-site equipment. Sure, there are lots of other technical steps involved. However, Vonage Business takes of that for you so you can focus on your business. How Cloud VoIP Phone Service Works 1) Making or Receiving a Call “Cloud” just means a service that you get over the internet. And “PBX” stands for “private branch exchange.” Each time you make a call from your IP phone and every time your customers call you, your call is quickly handled by Vonage using our reliable hosted technology. 2) Vonage Routes Your Call Cloud PBX from Vonage Business means that your call comes through to our data center, where we use our technology to reroute the call and direct it appropriately. It means that you get a total phone system that is available instantly, and eliminates the need for extensive on-site equipment. You may have also heard this referred to as a “virtual PBX” or even an “IP PBX.” In the past, companies used to have to buy or lease lots of expensive on-site equipment to handle calls. But since we host, maintain, and upgrade our VoIP equipment ourselves, that’s one less thing for you to worry about. 3) Complete the Call Through the Internet Vonage completes your call over the Internet. And because it relies on the Internet, you can use dozens of features like instant call recording, click-to-call, Outlook integration, call flip, call forward, and so much more. That’s it! That’s “the cloud.” How Vonage’s Cloud PBX Makes Your Business Phone System Better: No closet full of phone equipment. We host that for you off-site. Get one low bill from one company. Set up your IP phone system in minutes, and use your IP-enabled phones anywhere you get an Internet connection. Enjoy all the features of a Fortune 500 phone system. No annual contracts required. We’re so convinced you’ll love Vonage’s cloud PBX phone service, we never lock you into a contract. Cost savings – because we own our own equipment instead of leasing it from another technology provider, we’re able to pass the savings along to you. Our customers save 36% on average*. *Savings claim is based on the average monthly recurring charge for unlimited domestic business calling plans from the top three leading wireline service providers. Comparison excludes promotional pricing, fees, surcharges or taxes and assumes a customer already has broadband service. Check your phone bill to determine the savings that would apply to you.