How secure is your business?

howsecureisyourbusiness

 

Today I’d like to focus on security.  One of the things that keeps business owners up at night, besides worrying about how they’re going to make the next payroll, is the fear of someone breaking into their business.  Things may get stolen.  Their business may get completely ruined, or even worse.  They may lose their intellectual property.

One way of implementing a good security solution is by the use of surveillance cameras.  Now, not all cameras were created equally.

One of my partners recently told me a story about a customer who is a meat distributor, who noticed that meat was disappearing from his shop.  To solve that problem, he installed a camera right inside of his walk in freezer.  A short while later he discovered (no surprise here) that one of his guys was swiping slabs of fillet minion and stuffing them into his pants!

Now, a camera is only as good as the data it records.  So, if our meat bandit wanted to keep his job secure, as well as his daily supply of fresh steaks, all he has to do is walk over to the controller box and delete the recording.  Then, he’s all set for another day and another heist.  This presents a new problem.  You can have the best security system in the world; however, if you are dealing with an inside job, you’re back to square one.  How do you keep your business safe from the people you’re supposed to trust?

With the SimiPlex Cloud Based Solution you have the ability to record your surveillance video directly to The Cloud.  Because there is nothing on premises to delete, even the most determined tech savvy carnivorous caper will not be able to tamper with your recordings.  This helps keep your business safe and secure, no matter what happens.

My question for you is, what steps are you taking to keep your business and intellectual property safe and secure?

A little bit about SimiPlex.  Your phone is an integral part of your company.  For some of us, it’s the lifeblood of our business.  This is why we, at SimiPlex Technologies, consider ourselves to be much more than a phone vendor.  We become your trusted advisor, a role that we take very seriously.

We do this by focusing on much more than just the phones.  We help you solve business problems in your business.  For example, a hair salon owner who is looking for help on whether or not to hire a full time receptionist.  Or a real estate broker who is concerned about preserving his brand identity when opening a new office.  Or a doctor who is looking for help to keep his waiting room calm.

What we offer is the latest in technology, state of the art Cloud Based phones, where we save you time and money by not having to wait for a telephone company technician to arrive when something breaks.  The reason being, there is nothing to break!  You no longer need to purchase expensive equipment that breaks down or gets outdated.  All you need are your state of the art phones, plug them into a high speed Internet connection, and they just work!  With regards to your high speed Internet connection, we offer that too as well as the cabling that brings it all together.

As Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality.  Some people just aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”

We, at SimiPlex Technologies, are the yardstick of quality.

To learn more about how we can help you with your communications needs, visit our website at http://www.simiplex.com, or call us at (212) 372-9847.

Top 10 Questions to ask your phone vendor

top10questionstoaskyourphonevendorAre you considering making a change to your communications infrastructure? With the rise in popularity of The Cloud, people are flocking to it by the dozen. While there are numerous benefits to embracing The Cloud, with new technology comes new concerns. Here are my top 10 questions I recommend people ask their phone vendors before pulling the plug on their old clunker PBX.

1. How will this solution scale with my business? Many companies are cash strapped these days. Budgets are small, yet needs are plentiful. Your vendor has just proposed a solution that meets your needs today. The question is, how will this solution scale when your needs change? Suppose in 6 months from now you hire 5 more people. Will this solution enable you to accommodate that growth? What if, in a year from now, you opened a new office in another city? Will this solution enable you to seamlessly transfer calls between cities just as you once transferred calls between departments?

2. What happens in the event of a disaster? Many of us in New York remember Superstorm Sandy. The subways were flooded, and power was out in many parts of the city. Suppose your company was affected by the storm and your office was without power for a week? What would your callers experience if they were to call your office during a similar power outage? An acceptable answer would be that your phone lines still continue to function, despite your office being without power. Callers will hear your automated attendant greeting, and transfer to people’s voicemail boxes. Messages will then get distributed via email. An even better answer would be, besides everything that was just mentioned, callers will be transferred to people’s mobile phones. You never miss a call, even during a natural disaster! Let’s take this one step further. What were to happen if your cloud provider was the one that was affected by the storm, yet your company was in a different region, unaffected by the disaster? Suppose their data center got completely flooded and was destroyed! What happens to your phone service? Do your phones continue to function? The answer you want to hear is that they have multiple geographically redundant data centers. Your business should never be affected by a disaster at a data center.

3. What happens during an outage? Sometimes your service provider may have an outage. We hope it never happens. It usually doesn’t. However, you’re still concerned about how you will be affected in case there is, God forbid, a service outage. The answer I’d want to hear is that they’re setup to automatically route inbound calls to your mobile phone, so that you never miss an important call. Of course, you can always opt to send your calls to an answering service, like doctors use. However, the point is, there should always be a provision for an outage.

4. What happens when my Internet goes down? I hear this one all the time. “My cable Internet is down.” The point of failure when it comes to The Cloud is your Internet connection. There is no way around it, you need the Internet to access The Cloud. Depending on your uptime requirements, your phone vendor may suggest getting redundant Internet connections from two different providers, or even having a 4G LTE Cellular Data backup so that your phones can still continue to function, despite an Internet outage. Due to financial considerations, having a redundant Internet connection may be out of reach for some small businesses. A good Cloud provider can still continue to process calls even if the Internet goes down at your location. Acceptable options are as follows:

a. Inbound calls continue to route to the main company greeting. Upon attempting to transfer to an extension, the call will immediately route to voicemail. The voicemail will then be emailed to the called party, who can then call back via his or her cellular phone.

b. Inbound calls will be programmed to route to a designated cellular phone or 3rd party answering service.

5. Who do I call for support, and what are the hours? This is extremely important. First of all, you want a phone number where you can reach a live person. When you’re having a service affecting issue, you don’t want to send an email, nor do you want to leave a message for a callback. You need to have access to someone who can help immediately! You phone is the lifeblood of your business, and any phone vendor who is honored with your business, needs to respect that fact. While it’s OK to have 8×5 M-F support hours for non-service affecting issues, the only acceptable answer to this question is 24x7x365. I have a customer who had a service affecting issue on New Year’s Day. He texted me about his problem, and I, his phone vendor, jumped on it immediately. Realizing that this issue is beyond my capability to address, I escalated it to the Cloud Provider. Being the top notch company that they are, within minutes I received a text message from their VP of Operations that the matter is being looked into immediately. I then received a call back from their Technical Support manager, who called me from his house during a New Year’s Day party! This is the kind of dedication you want from your phone vendor.

6. What is the turnaround time for support? Just to be clear, there is a difference between reaching a live person, and having the right person address the problem. Many times, when you call into a support organization, you’re speaking to someone who creates a trouble ticket. This ticket then gets passed on to the appropriate level support person. The turnaround time between opening a ticket and working with an engineer should be pretty short, depending on the severity of the problem.

7. What is supported? This one is a no-brainer. Everything should be supported. However, be careful. Sometimes your router or firewall may not be supported by your new Cloud Provider. Sometimes, your data network is not up to speed. Have your phone vendor articulate what components of your network infrastructure is supported and what is not.

8. What is your warranty policy? The answer you want to hear is that everything you purchase is under warranty for the duration of your service agreement. If you purchase brand new phones and signed up for a 5 year agreement, then your phones should be covered for 5 years. If a phone stops working, it should be replaced at no cost to you.
9. What is my eligibility when new features are rolled out? One of the advantages of The Cloud is that new features are made available to you immediately. Most of the time, it’s at no extra cost. You don’t have to go through expensive upgrades as you do with an on premises PBX. Find out upfront what’s eligible and what’s not.

10. What are my self-service options? While it’s really nice to have your Cloud Provider service your phone system, sometimes it’s a lot quicker doing certain things yourself. For example, if people move around frequently at your company, it’s much more efficient for you to be able to log onto a portal and make those changes yourself, than to call your provider every time a change is needed. This is especially true with larger organizations. Find out what options are available, and if it serves the needs of your business.
My question for you is, what questions are you asking your phone vendor to ensure that you get the best value for your business?

A little bit about SimiPlex. Your phone is an integral part of your company. For some of us, it’s the lifeblood of our business. This is why we, at SimiPlex Technologies, consider ourselves to be much more than a phone vendor. We become your trusted advisor, a role that we take very seriously.
We do this by focusing on much more than just the phones. We help you solve business problems in your business. For example, a hair salon owner who is looking for help on whether or not to hire a full time receptionist. Or a real estate broker who is concerned about preserving his brand identity when opening a new office. Or a doctor who is looking for help to keep his waiting room calm.
What we offer is the latest in technology, state of the art Cloud Based phones, where we save you time and money by not having to wait for a telephone company technician to arrive when something breaks. The reason being, there is nothing to break! You no longer need to purchase expensive equipment that breaks down or gets outdated. All you need are your state of the art phones, plug them into a high speed Internet connection, and they just work! With regards to your high speed Internet connection, we offer that too as well as the cabling that brings it all together.
As Steve Jobs once said, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people just aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.”
We, at SimiPlex Technologies, are the yardstick of quality.
To learn more about how we can help you with your communications needs, visit our website at http://www.simiplex.com, or call us at (212) 372-9847.

Are you in flow?

Are you in flow?

 

What is the most expensive part of a telephony job?  It’s not the materials.  It’s not the labor.  The most expensive part of any telephony job is the engineering time.  The truth is, this concept can carry forward to any industry.  The most expensive part of any job is the expert time.  In telephony, a good engineer can cost you anywhere from $100/hour up to $250/hour.  In order to minimize your costs, you want to be as efficient with your engineering time, as possible.

How do you accomplish this?  By being mindful of inefficiencies in your operation.  Let’s take a scenario.  You’re installing a new phone system from scratch.  Here are some of the technical tasks you would involve an engineer in:

  • Programming the phone system
  • Programming VoIP Switches
  • Installing Voicemail
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
  • Installing IP Phones
  • Testing the overall programming

That sounds about right.  However, let’s now examine areas of potential inefficiency:

  • Programming the phone system
    • Loading customer user data
    • Programming Button Templates
    • Programming Incoming Call Routes
  • Installing Voicemail
    • You’re going to waste an engineer’s time for this??
    • Logins and passwords aren’t valid.
    • OS is not properly installed.
    • Server specs don’t meet minimum requirements.
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
    • Is the engineer doing the same thing for every customer? Are there any templates than can be created, and just modified?
    • Loading greetings.
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
    • Basic testing doesn’t require engineering time. I agree that in a hot cut you want the engineer involved from the get go, due to time limitations.
  • Installing IP Phones
    • Physically installing each phone is a waste of an engineer’s time.
  • Testing the overall programming
    • This is pretty much a waste of an engineer’s time.

 

In fact, performing any replicable action is a waste of an engineer’s time!

 

You may be reading this and thinking, so, what is NOT a waste of an engineer’s time?  You just mentioned the entire job?

 

Allow me to propose a new paradigm.  A paradigm of scalability.  This is a paradigm that enables a company to utilize a few top notch skilled resources, and force multiply their skills onto the entire technical staff.  What does THAT mean??

This means as follows.  The most valuable asset an engineer has is not the work he or she performs.  It is what’s in his/her mind.  By assigning an engineer repetitive and/or manual tasks, you’re significantly underutilizing him, and you’re burning him out.  An engineer’s mind works at a million miles an hour, and can accomplish great things for you, if you know how to leverage that asset.  Well then, how DO you leverage an engineer?

You leverage an engineer by allowing his mind to flow.  What is flow, and what does THAT have to do with telephony?  The following definition was taken directly from Wikipedia: In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

An engineer is in flow when he can tap into his natural essence, his creativity.  He does this by planning.  Allow the engineer to be in a state of flow by assigning him the following tasks:

 

  • Programming the phone system
    • Write a detailed implementation plan that a lower level technician can follow and perform basic programming.
    • Create a template that a lower level technician can reuse for every customer, by uploading that template and just modifying the specifics.
    • The engineer performs only the most advanced or complicated tasks.
  • Programming VoIP Switches
    • This can be tricky as it is advanced work.
    • Engineer can create templates for certain tasks and reuse them for each customer.
  • Installing Voicemail
    • Let a lower level technician do the basic install with an instruction guide that the engineer writes.
    • Technician verifies server readiness by testing login credentials and OS/Server minimum requirements.
    • Engineer is utilized for troubleshooting issues.
  • Programming the Automated Attendant
    • Engineer creates reusable template which a technician modifies for each customer.
    • Engineer provides written instructions to technician on the process of loading greetings.
    • Engineer performs only the most advanced tasks
  • Testing the PRI and/or SIP lines
    • Basic testing doesn’t require engineering time. I agree that in a hot cut you want the engineer involved from the get go, due to time limitations.
  • Installing IP Phones
    • Utilize the engineer to provide guidance, and to troubleshoot when necessary.
  • Testing the overall programming
    • The engineer should create a written test plan that can be reused and/or modified for each specific job.

 

Hopefully, this has given you some ideas that you can apply to your daily operation to improve operational efficiency and to maximize your profits.

Please feel free to leave me a comment and share with me your methodologies for improving operational efficiency.  I’m always willing to learn to methods and to grow!

For more information feel free to visit http://www.simiplex.com.

 

 

Anatomy of a perfect phone system installation

Anatomy of a perfect phone system installation

 

Have you ever wondered, what is the differentiator between your typical phone installer, and a World Class Telecommunications Superstar?  The difference lies in one thing, and one thing only.  Planning.  Both vendors may possess the technical skills and know how to effectively get the job done.  However, the World Class Superstar knows how to properly plan so that the installation goes right.  To properly plan an installation, you have to visualize it, from start to finish.  You have to foresee every aspect of the job, and create an installation blueprint.  You can almost say, that the World Class vendor performs an installation by design.  He designs the outcome, by visualizing the end result.

Consider the following.  Every telecom job has the following components:

  • Phone System
  • One or more servers
  • Telephones
  • Phone Lines
  • Jacks
  • Wires
  • Call Flow
  • Automated Attendant
  • Greetings
  • Button Mappings
  • Overhead pagers
  • Possible door phones
  • Button Labels (aka Desi Strips)
  • Training

 

If you’re a telecom vendor, you’ve done this installation thousands of times.  Every job has its ups and downs.  However, if you perform a post job analysis, you can probably calculate where you’ve wasted time at the jobsite.  Time wasted = wasted money = lower profits = higher job costs = risk of losing sales.  So, the idea is to tighten your act so that you’re performing at peak efficiency, so you’re lowering your costs while maximizing your profits, and raking in those sales!

Here is how to become a World Class Telecommunications Superstar:

  1. Project Management – Invest in some Project Management time and facilitate a kickoff meeting or conference call with the customer, for the purpose of collecting raw data (i.e. station review, wiring layout, etc.).
  2. Go onsite for a detailed site survey. Look at EVERYTHING.  The wires, the jacks, the speakers, door phones, etc.  Count the number of wall mounted phones, etc.  Make sure you have a detailed wire map.  If not, arrange (and charge) for a tone/tagging visit.  Don’t wait until you’re on the job to do this.  It will take forever, and you’ll make lots of mistakes.
  3. Engineering Review – Invest in some Engineering time. Have your engineer contact the customer to review the data collected by the Project Manager, and use it to build the call flow.
  4. Document, document, document. Build a written installation plan, and have the customer sign off on it.  I mean a physical signature.  This becomes the phone system bible.  When done properly, there will be no disputes as to who said what.  It’s all written down clearly, in black and white.  This doubles up as a written record of what was done, so that 3 years from now when somebody is trying to perform system maintenance, it’s very easy to understand how the system was programmed, and mistakes are minimized.
  5. Phone System – Every job has one! Have the equipment delivered to your office, as opposed to the job site.  Unpack the boxes, inspect the equipment, and ensure it works!  I don’t have to tell you about all those times we had the equipment shipped to the job site and it was DOA!  We all know how it kills our schedule downstream.  Order the equipment far enough in advance so that you have time to react in case the equipment is defective.  Upgrade all firmware, apply service packs, and ensure the licenses show up as valid.  Program the system in its entirety, and fully test every feature before packing it up.  Hint – create a checklist!
  6. Servers – Ensure servers are operational and licensed. Install all software (i.e. voicemail, call accounting, contact center, etc.) before it leaves your office.
  7. Telephones – this is a big one. Nowadays, every phone requires firmware.  While you may be tempted to let the phones just upgrade themselves at the job site, experience has taught me that it is much more cost effective to stage this ahead of time.  There are so many potential issues that may happen when you simultaneously light up 100+ telephones at a job site.  For example, they all hit the phone system at once, resulting in either defective phones (bad) and/or defective ports (worse!).  When it’s done ahead of time, you have guaranteed quality control.  Your actual on the job time goes by much quicker.  Using my methodology, my team installed a 120 station phone system on a Sunday afternoon.  From start to finish took 5 hours!  The next day, first day of business was BORING!  There was nothing left to do!  The customer chased us out of there because they didn’t need anything from us!  Plan ahead properly, and the most expensive part of the job, onsite time, can be reduced to a mere fraction.
  8. Phone Lines – Whether it’s PRI, SIP, or plain old analog, make sure you understand the settings. If possible, arrange to come onsite after hours (plan and bill for this service – it’s not free – build it into the job) and test the lines with either the new system, or a lab system of yours.  Just make sure you can make and receive calls.
  9. Jacks – Make sure the wiring layout is fully documented. See #2 for more details.
  10. Wires – Understand what and where you’ll be cross connecting. See #2 for more details.
  11. Call Flow – What are the business hours? Which line rings which phones.  Who’s answering who’s lines?  Who gets private lines, etc.
  12. Automated attendant – “Thank you for calling XYZ corporation, if you know your party’s extension, you may dial it at any time. Gracias por llamada XYZ corporation, etc.”  What are the prompts callers can enter, and where do they send the calls?  How does day time calling differ from night time?  Where does the general mailbox go? Etc.
  13. Greetings – Who records all these wonderful greetings (i.e. welcome message, etc.) Hint – record a place holder before the installation so that the system is 100% functional from the get go.  Make sure the person recording the greetings onsite is scheduled for a SPECIFIC time slot, otherwise it will never happen.
  14. Button Mappings – Everybody wants stuff on their buttons. Find out ahead of time, so you’re not running around fixing button features when you really need to concentrate on the installation.  See #3 for more details.
  15. Overhead pagers – Ok, you can all relate with me on this one. It’s a KILLER!  There is always something that goes wrong.  I would suggest performing a test during the scheduled after hours phone line test.
  16. Door Phones – ditto for these.
  17. Button labels – You know those pesky paper DESI strips that go on the phones. Thankfully, they’re being phased out.  However, they still exist, so have your admin print them out, and apply them to the phones, before they go back into the box.  Then write the destination extension number on the box, so you know exactly where this phone will live.
  18. Training – Schedule training a day or two prior to the cutover. This way, the first day of business is not pandemonium.

 

Hopefully, these tips have been helpful to you.  I’d love to hear from you what you think about this article, as well as any of tips or suggestions that you’d be willing to share.  If you can leave me a comment, that would be very much appreciated.

For more information, feel free to visit http://www.simiplex.com.

Thank you.

Avrohom