What is a VoIP Phone System?

What is a VoIP Phone System?

VoIP Phone Systems for Business

If you are a small business owner, chances are your business started out with maybe one or two phone lines from your local phone company.  As businesses grow and start adding new employees and diversifying into different departments, the need for a more robust phone system becomes apparent.  Simple analog phone lines will no longer get the job done.  And managing personal or company owned mobile phones can quickly become cumbersome.

Yes, there are analog phone systems available to companies.  However, these systems are quite dated by today’s standards, requiring a lot of on-site equipment to handle all connections.  However, there is a newer more modern system for handling company phone calls and office communications, known as a VoIP phone system.

VoIP stands for Voice over IP, which refers to the system’s ability to convert analog (voice) communications for transport over existing Ethernet networks.  Essentially, a VoIP phone system can be added to an office network by taking advantage of existing cabling.  Because of this flexibility, implementing a VoIP phone system is a quick and  cost-efficient way of adding multiple phone lines to an office.

And the cost savings doesn’t stop at implementation.  On average, companies can save 30% to 50% on their monthly phone bills. Why are VoIP phone systems more cost efficient?  It is because with traditional analog lines, the service provider typically charges a fee per line, as each line is a discreet phone number.  However, a VoIP phone system typically only requires one phone number and relies on an IP PBX, a virtual switch box that routes phone calls to its intended extension.

VoIP Phone System Features

Yealink DECT Desk Phone

Along with being cost efficient to maintain and operate, VoIP phone systems offer additional benefits that traditional analog phone systems may not offer:

  • Multiple Extensions
  • Mobile and Desktop Apps
  • Auto Attendant / Digital Receptionist
  • Accessory and Headset Interoperability
  • Speakerphone and Intercom Modes
  • Call Routing and Ring Groups
  • Conference Calls
  • Easily transfer calls to coworkers
  • Voicemail Transcription and more

If you are considering upgrading your phone system, call us at 912-216-4050 and we will help you decide which features you may be of interest to you.  We have experience implementing professional phone systems for businesses in the Greater Savannah Area and beyond.

 

The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

The Troubles of Delayed Maintenance – An I.T. Horror Story

We are celebrating spooky season with a horror story of IT done wrong, a cautionary tale warning about the perils involved when a company does not consider their IT infrastructure a priority.  Hear the tale of a company that decided to do business without a Managed IT Service Plan in place.

It is no secret that Allegiance Technology Solutions is a Managed IT Service Provider.  For those unfamiliar with that term, Managed IT Service refers to outsourcing your IT support and maintenance, rather than hiring internal IT employees.  Depending on the size of your business, Managed IT Service plans provide a cost-efficient technology support system that makes sense from a financial standpoint.  With a good Managed IT Service Provider, you can have peace of mind that the technology your employees rely on will be supported and maintained, so you can focus on growing your business.

However, there are companies out there that can’t justify the monthly overhead costs associated with a Managed Service Plan.  They believe they can’t afford the monthly cost, or they don’t see the value or benefits of having a Managed Service Plan in place.  So they put off such things as required maintenance or scheduled updates.  Although a company can ride for some time without proper maintenance, eventually their luck will catch up with them, and problems occur.  A mission critical application crashes, or hardware starts to fail.  Eventually, something is going to fail.  And it usually happens at the worst time possible, right when you need it to work the most!

The Case of the Reluctant Accountant

Case in point: XYZ Accounting Services, a fictitious name for a real Certified Public Accountant company, recently experienced such a problem.  XYZ prepares taxes for many clients, and heavily relies on a specific application to process, record and file tax documentation on behalf of their clients.  The application was running on a very old server running Microsoft Windows Server 2012.

Yeah, the Windows Server version that was based on the horrid, unbeloved Microsoft Windows 8.  Shivers!

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 without a Managed IT Service Plan

Remember this interface?  The one that Microsoft wants us to forget?

XYZ had contracted our services many times over the years to fix one-off technical problems, choosing to pay our emergency support rate rather than agree to a monthly contract.  Despite several conversations about the benefits of a Managed IT Service contract, XYZ stubbornly refused our monthly service, thinking it was cheaper to pay the emergency fee on an as needed basis.

On a recent emergency support call, it was discovered that the hard drives in their aging server were starting to fail.  After several hours of work, we set up a band-aid solution for them so they could continue to work.  We warned the head of XYZ Accounting Services that their server was beginning to fail, data might become corrupted, and the hardware needed to be replaced ASAP.  He asked for a quote to replace the server.

After receiving the quote, XYZ decided the cost was going to be too much to handle.  And the aging server continued to limp along.  Until one day, a few months later, it could limp no more.

Again, Allegiance Technology Solutions was called upon to provide emergency support.  But the server had served its last record.  It had computed its last calculation.  It was time to release that old server to the great junkyard in the sky.

The server had to be replaced, there was no band-aid solution that was going to work this time.  After lengthy discussions, and a quick turnaround from our support team, a new server was being built while the data from the old server was being recovered.  And a new Managed IT Service contract with Allegiance Technology Solutions was born.

Finally, the new server was in place.  The application was installed and the data had been restored.  But after working for a few days, XYZ employees realized that not all of the data they were expecting to see was there.

Duh! Duh Duhhhhh!

Gasp!  Our horrors were confirmed!  The data was corrupted!

Our team went back to work, doing a deep scan of the failing hard drives.  We were able to use advanced data recovery tools on a Linux computer to recover more data, which was eventually restored to the new server.  XYZ was finally back up and running!  And they will be able to run for many years with a new maintenance agreement in place.

If Only…

If only XYZ Accounting Services had chosen to use us as their Managed IT Service Provider BEFORE there was a problem.  We would have had daily backups ready to restore their data.  We would have performed proactive hardware and software maintenance, increasing the reliability and longevity of the system.  We would have been able to advise XYZ about upcoming hardware replacements way before there was a failure.  And their emergency and weeks of downtime would have been completely avoided.

Life After Death

We are happy to say that XYZ is now a Managed IT Service client.  XYZ has learned a valuable lesson in technology maintenance, that it is something that should not be ignored.  Now their emergencies are no longer emergencies, as they have the service and expertise of Allegiance Technology Solutions just a phone call away.

Now, XYZ’s computers are protected by world-class antivirus software.  Server data is now being backed up daily.  We have remote access tools installed in case their staff needs quick access to tech support.  We have 24-hour security monitoring in place to alert us of security issues and real-time server health.    And now they have a proper network with professionally installed Ethernet cabling, enterprise class wi-fi access points, and internet protected by industry standard firewalls.

What About Your Business?

If you own a business and are interested in protecting your technology assets, increasing security, or just want to avoid a catastrophe like the one above, contact us today and we can discuss a Managed Service Plan that fits your business needs.  Until then, stay safe out there!

 

 

 

What You Should Prewire When Building a Smart Home

What You Should Prewire When Building a Smart Home

Are you in the process of building a new home?  Are you thinking about incorporating smart home technology into your new living space?  With so many devices supporting wi-fi, are you wondering what to wire, or if you need to wire anything at all?

First, do you even need to wire at all?

With most smart home technology having built in support for wi-fi, do you still need to run wires for the all the technology in your home?

The short answer is: it depends.  But before we go any further, it is worth understanding how wi-fi works, and how its advantages and disadvantages will affect your desired outcome.  Wireless devices are obviously more convenient in retrofit homes, but if you are building a new construction, seriously consider the advantages of prewiring.

Wireless networking is an evolution of radio transmission technology.  Just like radio broadcasts, wi-fi signals get noisy the farther they are from the source.  Also, certain obstacles, especially those made of metal can impede the signal and severely reduce its strength.

This does not happen with wired connections that are properly installed.  Wired connections do not suffer signal degradation like wi-fi.  Their transmission speeds remain consistent.  Wired connections always have higher speed and reliability when compared to wi-fi.

Any modern commercial network will contain a mix of wired and wireless devices.  The same is true for a smart home network.  It all depends on the application, but the general rule of thumb is that wired devices will perform better than wireless devices, especially when it comes to signal quality.

So here are the top 8 things we recommend wiring in your future smart home:

1. Video

  • TVs – TVs need wires for 3 things: Video inputs, network, and control.  Some specifics can be researched in the blog post How To Prewire A Smart Home’ from TYM Homes.
  • Projectors – For projectors, we typically run Cat6 Ethernet, Fiber Optic cable, and electrical power in conduit to the projector.  Keep in mind, HDMI tends to go bad or obsolete over time. Conduit and the Cat6 Ethernet allow you to change or upgrade HDMI cables as needed.
  • Conduit – Although it is overkill to run conduit to every TV, focus on running conduit to the primary TVs.
  • Fiber – If your budget allows, run Fiber Optic to TVs, especially those without conduit.  Fiber Optic cable is great because it allows for high bandwidth and it is not susceptible to magnetic interferences.

2. Surround Sound

When you’re wiring for surround sound, remember to consider both Primary and Secondary Surround locations. These don’t have to be elaborate or expensive setups. It could be a simple powered soundbar and sub, or a simple 5.1 surround system.

  • Primary Surround – Run wires for the Home Theater, media room, or any other primary viewing room.
  • Secondary Surround – You can expand your primary surround sound to other areas of the house.  Sometimes referred to as Whole Home Audio, areas like your dining room, covered patio, game room, bonus room, or outside areas can also play the primary source all over the house, or different sources in each room.

3. Home Audio

Once you experience the benefits of Whole Home Audio, you’ll want more.  The audio source can be anything you might listen to on your phone, not just for music.  If you think you might want music in a room, prewire it for audio.  Places like bathrooms; covered decks; front porch; pool speakers are great areas for listening to music.  There are speakers for just about any application you can imagine, the shower, the pool, the cold… they are even hidden speakers, which blend in seamlessly with the rest of your decor.

Don’t forget your outdoor Landscape Speakers!  Places like the pool, fire pit, sporting areas and gardens are ideal locations for outdoor audio.  If you’re going to spend time outside, or entertain guests on a nice spring day, wire for outdoor areas for landscape speakers.

4. Cable, Satellite, & Internet

  • Point of Demarcation (also called the Demarc) – This is a location on the exterior of the home where Cable, Phone and Internet Service providers connect their services.
  • Satellite Prewire – A satellite prewire prevents the home from being ‘wrapped’ where the Satellite company staples wire around the side of your home.  Satellite prewires, are usually run to a location in the soffit nearest the Satellite location.
  • Satellite Internet – Similar to the Satellite prewire for TV, you can run wire to the attic or soffit if you plan to use Satellite Internet.
  • Satellite Heaters – If you live in a colder climate, you can run a low voltage wire to power a heater that can melt snow off the satellite.
  • Cell Booster – A cell booster is almost a no brainer in a new build, especially if it’s a larger build.  You’ll thank yourself when your cell phone actually has service in your brand new dream home.

If you’re planning to do the prewire work yourself, we recommend contacting your local service providers to verify their cable requirements for their applications. Service Providers can be very particular about the wire used for these applications.  Some will provide their own cable for you to pull, and some even have approved lists of cable.  Some service providers, like Pembroke Telephone Company, will even offer to prewire your new build for their services.  However, don’t expect them to wire for anything other than their current services.

5. Surveillance Cameras

Surveillance Cameras should be prewired.  A lot of clients ask about wireless cameras, but with few exceptions wireless cameras still need power.  If you’re going to run a cable for power anyway, it makes sense to also run Cat6 Ethernet, which will save you time and money.

6. Home Security

With Home Security systems, prewire the keypads for power.  This keeps the keypad installs clean and void of visible power adapters.  Beyond the keypads you can reliably cover smaller homes with wireless sensors.  Larger homes struggle with the wireless range, and benefit from hardwired sensors.  Likewise, if you’re using iron or metal doors and windows, those can cause interference with the wireless signals.  It is best to prewire areas constructed with metal.

7. Home Network & Wi-Fi

  • Hardwired Network – If a device has a permanent location, hardwire it to the network.  This would include the TV, streaming device, Surround Sound Receiver, Printer, Desktop Computer, etc.
  • Wireless Access Points (Hotspots or WAPs) – Other than mesh wi-fi systems, wireless hotspots require an Ethernet connection back to the main router or network switch.  To be safe, you may want to consider wiring up more locations than you think you will need.  This ensures that you will be able to expand or improve the system with future growth in mind.

8. Shades

Motorized shades may not be standard in every home, but they are a nice feature to have.  If motorized shades are something that you want to invest in, it makes sense to go ahead and prewire them.  Keep in mind, motorized shades do not have universal wiring standards. There are similarities, but manufacturers all have different requirements.  If you’re thinking about installing motorized shades, it’s best to select the brand before you wire.

Extras

The items listed here are optional and vary from home-to-home.

  • iPad Mounts – Charging stations for your iPads are very popular and will need to be prewired.
  • Touchscreens  Systems like Control4 have tablet style touchscreens that mount to the wall.  Prewire for these in common areas, and in home theater rooms, but honestly you can wire them anywhere you think you might want a touchscreen to control your smart home.
  • Intercom Systems – Believe it or not, intercom systems are making a comeback, especially in larger homes.
  • Voice Control – There are options for all the voice control solutions, Amazon Alexa, Josh.ai, Google, that allow you to mount a node to the wall, or ceiling for easy voice control.  If you’re thinking about using voice control in your smart home, it may be worth considering prewiring locations in your home for these devices.
  • Video Doorbells – When prewiring for the doorbell, run the electrical the same way it’s always done, then add a Cat6 Ethernet cable, and a 22/4 wire for good measure.  You may only need Ethernet or 22/4, but by running both you will be able to install any brand of Video Doorbell that you wish without complications later on.
  • Fireplace – If you have a smart fireplace, you can run a 22/4 wire from the fireplace switch to your Smart Home Controller.  This will allow you to control the Fireplace along with the rest of your smart home tech.

So What’s The Next Step?

If you are already experienced in low voltage wiring, and can’t wait to get your hands dirty, then get to work building your new smart home!  Buit if you are not sure where to start, or just want to hire a good professional installation service to perform the work, contact us and learn about the process.  The experienced install technicians at Allegiance Technology Solutions will help you build the smart home of your dreams.