Choosing a Telephone System Maintenance Contract

As you will already be aware, your telephone system is a crucial tool for the successful running of your company. Unfortunately, even the most modern technology can fail and when this happens your business will notice the immediate consequences this can bring.

Loss of business is a major problem your company will have to deal with if your telephone system falls over. When failure happens you will start to wish you had a telephone maintenance agreement in place which is something you can easily obtain from a number of reputable Business Telephone Companies.

Telephone Technical Support Service

If your system is under two years old, your service provider will usually provide you with some form of technical support or maintenance contract. Within this agreement they should specify how they will react to certain problems and within what time periods an engineer will attend site should a fault occur. In today’s fast moving business world the majority of telephone maintenance providers will specify this information in a service level agreement (SLA) as it is crucial to provide this information.

If your system is old, unsupported or obsolete then it is likely that your telephone system may no longer be supported by the original manufacturer or installer. In cases such as these, you may wish to consider searching for a third party telephone maintenance company or Telephone Engineer. Each maintenance provider will have their own SLA to work from and it is up to you as the customer to agree terms prior to signing any agreement.

Types of Telephone Cover

A maintenance contract may cover just your main control unit but more typically it should cover the entire system just in case a major failure or fault occurs. The exact list specific system items covered will depend on the supplier you choose but they may include:

The Main Control Unit
Proprietary System Handsets
The cabling around the offices (in rare cases)
Voice Processors (advanced voicemail and auto attendant)
Communication Devices such as Switches and Routers
Music on Hold Devices

Essential Redundancy

Even if you use a very good telephone maintenance company, you may have to accept the possibility that your system could be down for a lengthy period of time if you experience a major fault or even in the unfortunate event of a fire or even theft.

In some cases, this may stop your communication dead in the water. Being without your telephones and broadband services is usually disastrous to any business and in these instances you need the right partner who can help to point you in the right direction and get you back up and running in the fastest possible timescale.

If communications are the lifeblood of your company, you may also wish to consider a standby arrangement. Having a standby system as part of your maintenance contract could mean that you will be provided with a reserve system so that in the rare event of a significant problem you can be back up and running quickly where usually it could take days or weeks to repair or replace.

When you have time, take a few minutes out to have a think about how losing your telephone system could impact the running of your business. Telephone Maintenance is simply an insurance policy to protect the running of your business. If your company cannot afford to be without phones bear this in mind when deciding whether you could can afford to annual payment quoted by your supplier.

7 Steps to Implementing a New Telephone System

Business telephone systems are typically vital to the pulse of any company. Businesses must go through the process of purchasing and transitioning from one telephone system to another on average between 5 and 7 years. Whether a company is upgrading their old digital system, installing a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) enabled system or implementing a Hosted PBX or Virtual PBX from Hosted VoIP Providers, the transition is usually painful. This does not have to be the case, though. Here are some steps that will reduce the disruption in changing telephone systems:

1. Do Not Wait Till the Last Minute to Make a Decision on the Phone System. Telephone system vendors will agree to almost any installation time frame in order to make a sale. However, the less time they are given, the sloppier the installation will be. Planning a proper installation takes time that is not always under the control of the vendor or Hosted VoIP provider. Small systems need a minimum of 3 weeks for preparation. Larger systems require more time and some may require several months. If telephone service is being switched from one carrier to another, then time for porting telephone numbers should be factored into the equation. Carriers should be able to estimate the time that it takes to port which can be as much as 60 days.

2. Identify All Telephone Lines and What They Do. This should have been done before the decision was made on the phone system. If it has not been done, do it immediately. Use phone bills or call the Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) to identify the lines and numbers. If there is still some uncertainty around specific lines and circuits, call them. Eliminate any that are not being used and make sure the new system or Hosted PBX service accommodates all that are needed.

3. Know the Installation Schedule of New Telephone Circuits. Will the new circuits be ready in time for installation of the new telephone system? Each type of telephone circuit requires different hardware components inside the telephone system. If there is a chance that the new circuits will not be ready, then discuss with the new telephone system vendor how the old circuits will be handled with the new system.

4. Have All Individual and Departmental Needs Been Met? Hopefully the new telephone system vendor helped review all individual and departmental needs to make sure the new telephone system or Hosted PBX service could handle them. Review each department to ensure their needs are known. Organize how individuals and departments will use each phone system or Virtual PBX feature.

5. Know who will get each type of phone. If different models of phones were purchased, decide ahead of the installation who within the company will get each type of phone. Make sure that phone will handle the features used by each individual or department.

6. Make Sure the Network is Ready for VoIP Telephones. If the new phone system includes VoIP telephones with an IP enabled telephone system or a Hosted PBX service from a Hosted VoIP provider, check the data network to make sure it is ready to handle the VoIP traffic. Does data cabling exist to all phone locations? Do remote VoIP users outside of the office have access to broadband Internet? How will the remote VoIP user’s phones connect back to the IP enabled telephone system? Will it be exposed to the Internet? Connected via private network, VPN or Session border controller? Does your telephone vendor know this answer?

7. Have an Implementation Meeting with the Vendor’s Project Manager. The implementation meeting will make sure that everyone is on the same page. Dates should be set for installation during the meeting. Know how long the transition will take place. Will it take place during the business day, after hours or on the weekend? How will calls get answered during the transition? In addition, the answers to steps 2 through 6 should be discussed.

Telephone system transitions can be exciting and painful at the same time. Although following these 7 steps will not guarantee a perfect installation, it will reduce the odds of nasty surprises.

Why Your Business Needs Telephone System Maintenance

Telephone systems are a critical resource for every business. If a Telephone System is not functioning correctly this can result in loss of service and will affect efficiency, productivity and operations of the company which ultimately leads to loss of business. In addition, the add-hoc call out charges and repair expenditure can be significant when you call in a third party company. As a typical business cannot maintain the system of its own, a telephone system maintenance agreement is an ideal solution and it will ensure that the business keeps on going in all situations. Besides the peace of mind, the maintenance contracts will save your business from all extra-unexpected costs and disruptions.

Recently, there has been a large increase in the number of companies that take the telephone system maintenance contracts and help safeguard their businesses. Telephone System Maintenance ensures that your business gets a response that is only one quick call away in case of any problem. You need to pay only a relatively small fee to set up a contract and there are generally multiple options available to you.

When you go for a contract with a Business Telephone Company you will get the option of 24×7 cover if your business works around the clock. You will also be allocated a dedicated account manager to assist you any time even for non-service related issues. These may involve moves, ad-ons, changes, etc. After you make a call with the service desk, the call will be allocated to their engineer who will log your fault and ensure a swift response which may involve an onsite visit should the need arise.

The telephone maintenance companies offer a wide range of telephone system maintenance contracts to meet the needs of clients. There are different types of the contracts that the customers go for. You make only a single annual payment for the contract that may cover all the risks of an unplanned labor and replacement parts cost for maintenance. Installing any new telephone system involves a significant investment. You can save yourself from any huge loss due to a serious fault by going for a telephone system maintenance contract.

Most telephone service-providers also offer their maintenance services with the equipment. Generally, it includes a risk free comprehensive manufacturer’s warranty and a comprehensive phone system maintenance packages. Free maintenance, support, and warranty is generally applicable for one year. The warranty will cover phone systems, defective parts, handsets and internal cards. The manufacturer’s warranties usually do not cover to repair or replace any part or equipment broken or damaged on site and the labor cost to inspect, repair or replace it. If you want to cover the labour, you will have to enter a telephone maintenance agreement.

Telephone Maintenance Companies have dedicated experts and certified maintenance engineers covering the majority of systems available from a whole list of manufacturers. These companies offer 24-7 premium maintenance coverage and also offer a wide range of accessories at discounted prices. They may also assist you with phone system upgrades, additional handsets, phone line installation, business mobiles, broadband services and more.

A Telephone Maintenance Contract is based on certain terms and conditions and certain things may be free or additional on chargeable basis based on the agreement. When you purchase your phone system from a Business Telephone Company, you should expect it to be completely covered against fault or breakdown. A typical premium protection plan for your Telephone System can ensure you immediate access for a quick and expert support 24×7 basis. It covers all parts, labour and technical support via email and phone. A good maintenance service provider will also provide you with the option of remote resolution for the majority of faults which will have you back up and running within no time at all. If a problem cannot be resolved remotely, you should expect an engineer to attend to the problem on site within the agreed time which is usually specified in your written agreement.

Small Telephone Systems Verses Multi-line Business Phones

Choosing the right telephone system from start is always the best path, but not always the most economical. Before you head down to your local electronic store and pick up the cheapest multi-line business phone you can find, here are few pointers you should keep in mind.

Many multi-line business phones have a pretty decent feature set such as voicemail, caller ID, call waiting ID, 3 way calling and intercom (in multi phone setups). These phones integrate the Key System Unit (or KSU) into the phone itself, which means each individual telephone functions as its own “mini phone system.” The term KSU, (Key System Unit, Key Signaling Unit or Key Service Unit) dates back to the early day’s phone systems, it’s basically “the Brain” of the phone system. All call processing data and telephone line interfacing is carried out by the KSU. For many small offices with less than 4 phones (extensions) and 4 telephone lines, these multi-line phones are adequate and economical. However, as a business grows, the many disadvantages of these phones begin to show their merits.

By comparison, multi-line business phones are sold with the marketing term, “KSU-less design,” which translates (in buyers minds) to lower overall costs. Small telephone systems on the other hand include a separate KSU unit or “Brain” in addition to each telephone. A major disadvantage comes to play when you are interfacing your phones with the telephone company lines. The KSU acts as the “line interface,” for a phone system, all major system connections terminate at the KSU. Now with each multi-line phone acting as its own “mini phone system,” each phone now needs direct connections to each telephone line.

A single telephone line consists of 1 pair of wires. Almost all multi-line phones support up to 4 lines, meaning each multi-line phone needs up to 4 pairs of wires or the equivalent of a standard Cat5e cable. As you begin to add more KSU-less phones to your office you must factor in the cost to install another drop of cat5e (or cat5) cable. You must also account for the additional termination blocks in your telephone closet where all these phones must be “Bridged” (or shared) to the 4 phone lines. As you can imagine, for installations with more than say 4 or 5 phones the wiring aspect can get pretty complex. Anything over 6 or 7 phones will be a wiring mess, if done unprofessionally, which adds to the cost of these low budget systems. However, this bridged connection is how multi-line phones “intercom” one another. By sending a signal over each bridged line, each extension can communicate without actually tying up any of the 4 phone lines. As long as every multi-line phone is connected to all 4 lines (or matching number of lines if less than 4), each phone can intercom each other internally while keeping the phone lines free for external calls.

Small Telephones Systems on the other hand, which come equipped with a separate, dedicated KSU unit, are at a distinct advantage in both areas. Having a single KSU unit means a single interface point for the telephone line connections. Many small telephone systems need only a single pair of wire to connect each extension telephone. What this means is if you are deploying a number of phones in one particular area, you can save dramatically on cabling costs by having your contractor “split” the single Cat5e cable into, at most, 4 single telephone jacks! – This becomes very cost effective as you deploy additional phones. (However, many pros will only split single Cat5 cable once for 2 telephone jacks leaving the remaining wires as spare pairs). Cable management becomes much easier (and neater) as you need not worry about bridging 10 phones to 4 telephone lines. One single pair of wires (to connect to a telephone) of the 3 or 4 pairs in a standard telephone cable is enough for as many lines as the small telephone system can handle since the actual line connections are at the dedicated KSU unit and not at the individual telephone.

Another plus for the small telephone system is the ease of transitioning to a larger phone system. The wiring scheme for the most part will remain the same albeit installing more cable drops to new areas. Not so much the same for the multi-line business phones. Depending on how each phone was “bridged” to interface to those 4 telephone lines, this entire wiring scheme may need to be undone as most small (and large) telephone systems require individual (not bridged or shared) connections to the KSU.

Programming wise there is one disadvantage when comparing small business telephone systems to multi-line business phones, which can be viewed as multiple disadvantages. Since each individual telephone functions as its own KSU it also functions as its own Voicemail unit (if equipped). Which means if you want to enable an Auto Attendant feature (where your callers are greeted by a company recording instructing them to press 1 for Joe Boss, 2 for Sales Manager etc…) you will have to record this greeting for as many times as you have voicemail enabled phones (up to 4). Here’s why, with most multi-line business phones, the voicemail feature includes a personal voicemail box for the extension and an optional auto attendant feature. The auto attendant feature can only handle one call at a time; ergo if you want the system to answer up to 4 incoming calls simultaneously you need at least 4 auto attendant enabled phones. So technically speaking you must record the same auto attendant greeting 4 times, 1 on each phone. You must also enable the system mailbox for each of the 4 phones to accept general messages. You now have 4 different phones/voicemail boxes in your office where you must check for general messages. This is known as a general mailbox, which is a default destination for callers who do not press a menu option or dial an extension. This scenario is not efficient for larger setups but may work for smaller ones.

With a small business telephone system, there is just one central voicemail unit which can handle multiple calls at once. Storage times are much greater and there is just one mailbox for general messages. You can also take advantage of advanced features (if equipped) such as voicemail to email (where the system sends the voicemail in a standard wav format to your email address), which in this fast paced world can be a BIG time saver and added convenience.

One last point on this topic to cover quickly; with the advent of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) continually proving its cost effective existence, many businesses find themselves wanting to take advantage of these savings. Many small business telephone systems on the market today are equipped to handle VoIP telephone lines through either a simple hardware or software upgrade. An upgrade may include adding an Ethernet (or media) port to the system or if already equipped, simply enabling this port through software activation. Simply plugging this unit into your company LAN and perhaps minor firewall configuration you can now start saving on land line costs by calling out over less expensive VoIP lines.

Multi-line business telephone can benefit as well but through a 3rd party VoIP gateway. This gateway converts a VoIP line (sometimes called a “Trunk”) to a standard telephone port. You will need as many gateways as you want lines, (or opt for a multi-port unit). However you may have to plan on spending some time configuring and adjusting the settings of the unit to obtain the proper volume levels while minimizing echo and other artifacts that may be induced when converting the signal from a standard Analog telephone line to SIP or other VoIP protocol. Many high end units come with built in (hardware or software) echo cancellers and noise suppressors which minimize these adjustments (and work very well) but increase the cost of the gateway dramatically.

To conclude, although it may seem like great savings early in your start up phase, for needs of 4 or less external lines and extension phones, the multi-line business phone can actually prove to be a cost effective solution. In my humble opinion these multi-line phones are better suited for a home office (or SOHO) situation. If you have big plans to expand exponentially (and don’t we all!) I recommend you at least consider a small business telephone system. Although a bit more initial investment is required, the benefits far out way the cost disadvantage if not cancel it out completely.

Copyright © 2009 Damian Parkins for PBX Interactive, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If you’re looking for a great small telephone system to start out with that’s not too advanced and bloated with “bells and whistles,” I recommend the XBlue Networks X16 small office telephone system. This system is priced right smack in the middle of a decent multi-line business phone setup and an advanced small business telephone system. XBlue Networks hit the nail on the head with this model by stripping off only the advanced telephone features most small business may not have a need for, or are rarely used; allowing the X16 small office phone system to fill a niche in the market left primarily untouched. This compact, stylish phone system offers some nice designer phones to choose from (for those wishing to be unique) and a great feature set.

Difference Between Ordinary and Business Telephone Systems

Phone systems tend to work as a communicative exchange, allowing people to communicate with each other, internally and externally. Phone-systems are obtained to permit each business to connect all incoming business calls with limited number of phone lines. This does not require a particular line for each phone as per the terms and conditions of Public Telephone Network.

However, it is of due significance that ordinary telephone-systems and business telephone-systems tend to differ like two opposite poles in different regards. A business telephone system is equipped with various beneficial features. The variety of business telephone systems is growing extensive by introducing multiple business-related telephone-systems every now and then.

You may find business phone-systems like the PBX phone-systems that are used for business conversation purposes. PBX telephone-systems are equipped with internal and external phone lines with a computer server. Hence, both external and internal phones lines are managed in an organized manner. There are advanced features like call routing in PBX phone-systems that can be beneficial for corporate use. Calls can be easily connected to answering service with the help of business telephone-systems.

These very features are very much seen to be lacking in ordinary telephone-systems. Ordinary telephone systems are simple telephone exchange servers that are devoid of features like internal and external call management, computer servers, call routing and call connecting to answering services.

Phone-systems inculcate many advanced features that can contribute to efficient management of the business. These are inclusive of call conferencing, call hold, call routing, voicemail, auto-attendant, click-to-call feature, call screening and call logging and tracking. These features a common existing part of every available phone system that you shall come across. However, it is a known fact that ordinary telephone-systems have features like on-hold but at the same time, are devoid of advanced technology like call screening, click to call and others.

Business phone-systems are regarded to be beneficial in multiple ways. This is particularly so in case of VoIP phone-systems that too are regarded as business phone-systems. They not only cost little but tend to be effective. In this way, they save money and can reduce costs to a considerable extent. With the help of VoIP phone systems, calls can be routed online and thereby, the service of PTN is not required which in turn eliminates any call charges.

Business phone systems are equipped with advanced features since a right impact is to be imprinted on potential customers. Features like on-hold music and on-hold messages create a professional impression which can only be acquired in business phone systems.

One cannot regarded ordinary phone systems to be appropriate for business use since they are bereft of all the advanced features that one can avail in business phone systems. Corporate use phone systems are not just efficient, the functional services, phone conference, speed dialing and other features tend to be quite facilitating during travelling.

Business Technology Career Training Schools

In business, the use of technology is becoming prominent. Working through a training program can teach students how to understand business technology. Several colleges offer career training to students by preparing them for the work needed within a business. Two main options are available to students and these include completing a certificate or associate’s degree program. Students can learn a number of things prior to enrollment.

1. The goal of education is to learn how to become an administrative assistant or office manager. The skills learned integrate business knowledge with computer technology and training in these areas fosters the correct level of understanding to work in any clerical or supervisory role. The technology of a business includes all computer programs used to keep track of business transactions and communications. Working with Word and desktop publishing programs are all programs covered in the technology side of this degree. Many colleges offer basic business courses as well.

2. When training inside a certificate program students should expect to be immersed in studying how to effectively work with business technology. Colleges create this environment by providing courses in business math, database management, and staff management. Essentially, students are learning how to work as a business technology manager. The skills acquired include being proficient in keyboarding, accounting, and managing. Students can expect to learn how to use computer systems to accomplish everyday tasks needed to help keep a business running smoothly. Continuing education at the associate’s degree level is where most students begin their education.

3. A two-year associate’s degree trains students to enter the competitive field and be successful. With the knowledge gained through specific courses students are able to work inside a business setting and contribute to a businesses operation. Business information systems, business principles, spreadsheets, data management systems, and business communications are all courses that provide the needed career training and experience to enter a career. Students learn what it takes to provide these services to a business. The work done contributes to business information that needs to be typed, saved, and distributed accordingly.

4. The workplace provides a place for trained students to observe and learn more about how a business works. The field is estimated to grow considerably. This is due to the continued need that businesses have for qualified individuals. Trained students are able help a business reach its highest level of potential and workflow making their education in demand. Depending on the level of education students can obtain careers working for a business as an office manager or assistant. The average yearly salary is approximately $35,000. Student’s that find the work of a business intriguing and desire to move up in the industry can find training in management technology. This closely related field prepares students to become managers of an office by operating business technology like computers, spreadsheets, and bookkeeping programs. The added responsibility is gained through the management side of career training.

Managing Small Business Technology

Technology Levels the Playing Field

One advantage small business has gained over the years is the ready availability of sophisticated technology that was once the exclusive asset of the largest corporations. But with this benefit comes the additional responsibility of proficient management of that technology.

Customers Demand Better Service

Today’s customer has come to expect the greater convenience and efficiency the Internet Age, with online connectivity to company accounts, or at least computerized records, information databases, and customer management systems.

A Technology Breakdown Can Be a Public Relations Nightmare

Managing your technology may not be at the top of your list of important business activities, but perhaps it should be, because how your computers, database, network, phones, etc. are running can make the difference between being seen by your customers as competent and caring about their needs, or inefficient and unconcerned.

Asset Management Can Be a Daunting Task

Your technology must be chosen and sized to the required tasks and your staff must be proficient in its operation, but there is much more to keep track of. Your technology must be periodically upgraded. It is vital that software be updated for security and fixes. Hardware and software depreciate and must be either upgraded or replaced. When facing budget constraints, decisions must be made whether to continue using current equipment and software, or to replace it. For example, perhaps a three-year depreciation cycle could be extended to five years, but circumstances might dictate replacement, such as the inability of older equipment to support the software needed to remain competitive.

Threats Cannot Be Ignored

Damage from computer viruses, unreliable power sources, improper usage of software, etc. is a problem small business managers didn’t have to deal with in the past. Proper rules need to be set up, taught to your employees, and enforced. Commercial grade surge protectors, UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supplies), or even backup electrical generation may be necessary for the protection of your equipment, and proper technology training of your employees is always important.

Technology Glitches Must Be Handled Properly

No matter how good your hardware, software, and employee training, technology breakdowns do occur. Properly handling them is a matter of communication. For example, if a customer experiences difficulty accessing their account, they may keep trying over and over. This uses valuable bandwidth and CPU time. Multiply this by many customers trying to access your system, and your network, as well as your technicians, could be tied up with customer requests instead of working to solve the problem. The solution is to tell your customers you are aware of the problem, apologize for the inconvenience, and let them know you are working on it.

Outsourcing As a Solution

Many businesses solve their technology management problems by contracting with an outside technology management service. It is important that you chose one which is competent, flexible in its prices and levels of service, and has a reputation for effective communication with its clients.

Managing your business technology is as important for your business as sales, employment, and other aspects of your business. Properly managed, technology can give you an edge over your competitors and bring you up to the level of the large corporations.

Contracting with the right managed support IT service company is a valuable part of a successful business strategy. InHouse Techies offer several levels of managed IT support services, including custom tailored monthly plans.

Business Technology in Small Business

Business technology in small businesses can mean a lot of different things and can be interpreted in many different ways. But it will always come down to the same thing – the technology implemented and used by a business must provide the maximum amount of efficiency for the minimum amount of cost and maintenance.

Technology in business must be well planned and implemented in a sensible manner and a plan for technology management must be developed and adhered to. This may mean moving more of your business systems onto the internet to increase the mobility of your business, or identifying and investing in new systems which will do the same job but in a more efficient manner.

How Can the Internet Help My Business?
If you are looking to save money for your business, the internet is an excellent place to start. If your business includes a small call centre to provide customer service, you could save a lot of money in the long run by investing in changing the phone system to an IP telephony system. This would mean that rather than incurring massive phone bills using normal phones, all calls would be routed over the internet and customers would be able to call in using a normal local telephone number.

It is much cheaper to call someone through the internet than through a standard phone line and the savings you would make here would more than cover the cost of implementing such a system.

You would need to ensure that your business’ internet connection is powerful enough to manage this of course. If there is not enough bandwidth to accommodate all of the calls being made, the sound quality can suffer. As long as both parties can hear what the other is saying, this does not have to be too much of an issue – making allowances for this would need to be part of your business’ strategy for technology management.

What about My People in the Field?
If you have a large team of sales reps in the field, the savings which you could enjoy through the implementation of internet based telephony can be carried on to this side of your business as well. Nowadays, there are many mobile phones available which are capable of making calls over the internet using the 3G network. This would mean a possible upgrade of your corporate mobile phone contract and possibly some retraining for your staff – but ultimately it would save you money on phone bills.

How do I Know that My Company is Now More Efficient?
Technology in business also encompasses the assessment and monitoring of work performed by the employees. With modern networking and targeted technology management, it would be possible to not only make your company run more efficiently for less money; but also allowing you to keep an eye on exactly what is going on in real-time.

There are many products available which will allow you to monitor your employees’ statistics – be it the amount of time they are spending on each call or the amount of time they take to finishing each file before they are able to move onto the next one. Through this, you would be able to address any possible issues which may arise and discuss them with the employee.

Business technology should broaden the horizons. You should be able to do more for spending less. Something as simple as making phone calls cheaper or something as involved as identifying areas of concern in an employees performance and having more information which can be used to develop strategies for the employee to avoid this.