The benefits of cloud-based hosted IP telephony

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New technology is reshaping the workplace. The widespread availability of high-speed broadband and new mobile technologies is opening up exciting new possibilities.

The way we work, the way we communicate and the way we interact with technology to do our jobs is quite different from ten years ago. One of the key trends to emerge is the so-called move to the cloud.

Typically, an organisation will outsource its IT requirements to an external specialist, instead of maintaining and updating its own hardware and software onsite. Applications and data are hosted centrally ‘in the cloud’ – the provider’s network.

Users then access the software and files simply and securely via their web browsers. This has two key advantages. First, it eliminates the need for extensive in-house IT resource and second, it means organisations can effectively rent the service they need – on a per-user, per-month basis.

Hosted telephony is becoming a significant part of this outsourcing picture. In simple terms, hosted telephony is a telephone system that sits in the cloud rather than in your office.

Users access the system using a traditional IP handset or a ‘softphone’ – a screen-based virtual phone. Calls are transmitted using a broadband connection to the service provider’s network, from where they are routed to fixed and mobile devices.

Hosted telephony means you no longer need to maintain and upgrade costly PBX hardware onsite. The provider, who hosts your system, is responsible for the hardware and software, including system upgrades.

As well as giving your organisation access to low-cost and free IP calls, a hosted system puts a huge range of smart call management features at your fingertips. Mobiles and other devices can also be integrated.

More importantly, hosted telephony gives organisations a high level of control, meaning their entire communications system can be managed easily, right down to the individual user level, using a simple interface.

Increasingly, hosted telephony is available to suit any budget, usually sold on a monthly rental basis, with no initial capital outlay and targeted at delivering a solution at a set price to the customer.

One person can manage an organisation’s entire phone system through an easy-to-use web interface. The system can be configured and settings changed at the click of a mouse – right down to the individual user level.

This means your phone system can be optimised to meet your business needs at any point in time. New users can be added easily by the administrator, without having to contact an external engineer.

Using an IP phone is as easy as using a traditional handset, so there’s little training required. Users can manage their own phone settings, for example, if a user wants to work from home or on the move, they can log into their account and divert calls to their home phone or mobile.

This kind of flexibility can contribute to boosting employee productivity and enhancing customer service levels by ensuring key people can always be reached.

Because a hosted system sits in the cloud, there’s a clear business continuity advantage. Say, for example, a heavy snowfall shuts down your workplace for a few days in winter. Call forwarding can provide an automated ‘failover’ to a user’s mobile, or as long as the company can log into the system via the web, they can easily divert calls to home phones, mobiles or to another site unaffected by the bad weather.

The flexibility of the technology also means you can use a standard geographic number even if calls are being answered in a completely different location. This is due to the fact that the number is hosted in the cloud rather than being tied to the local exchange.

Moving your organisation’s telephony to the cloud clearly has a number of potential advantages – enhancing management control, raising employee productivity, improving customer service and cutting call costs.

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Newport County reach a Pinnacle

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Newport County AFC has announced a new partnership with St Mellons-based Pinnacle Telecom.

Pinnacle, which will become the club’s official Telecoms Partner, is added to a long and impressive list of companies who partnered with the club in it’s first season back in the Football League last year and have continued the commitment this season.

The partnership, which will run at least until the end of the 2016/17 season, will see the club receiving iPhones and free call minutes usage for it’s staff.

This represents a huge saving for the club over the period of the agreement. The deal also sees the installation of a new telephone switchboard system when the club moves into its new office accommodation at Rodney Parade.

On top of this Pinnacle will be launching an affinity scheme with the club, whereby any customer introduced to Pinnacle by the club, the club will receive a revenue share of the profits made on the account. The relationship will not only be of benefit to the club, but to it’s other sponsors, advertisers, partners and supporters.

County chief executive Dave Boddy said: “I am delighted with the partnership. It’s a partnership area that I have been looking at for a long time. I am looking forward to working with Pinnacle Telecoms. They are a solid, well established business who share the same drive and ambitions as the Club to make the partnership and in particular the affinity scheme work.”

Pinnacle Telecoms managing director Dean Stewart said: “We are delighted at the opportunity of working with a successful and progressive football club in Newport County. The sponsorship agreement allows Pinnacle to offer progressive telecoms solutions to the club as well as it’s impressive portfolio of business associates and followers. We are very much looking forward to a proactive and long term partnership.”

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Get control of your telephone calls via the web

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This week we have introduced a complete communications service for businesses that is packed full of features and controlled via an easy-to-use web portal. Our new ‘Horizon’ service lets managers easily control the business environment while enabling employees to maximise their productivity.

The suite has lots of clever features and an emphasis on control through the web that takes away the need for an often-expensive IT expert. Managers can quickly configure the system according to their organisation’s changing requirements, while their employees can manage calls easily and effectively.

With only a minimal capital outlay required, a reliable and proven service, and a jargon-free approach to telephony and communications, Horizon is suitable for any sized business looking to improve their productivity and image. It conveniently integrates your fixed and mobile capabilities so that you never miss a call. Callers dial one number to reach your desk phone and mobile phone simultaneously; you can move ongoing calls seamlessly from one phone to another without hanging up and both phones share a single voice mail box.

As Horizon is hosted on your behalf, you only pay for what you need on a simple ‘per seat’ basis. As you are not buying a physical phone system, there is no major hardware investment and there are no financing costs to consider.

You will also get all the cost benefits of IP telephony including free site-to-site calls even – across international boundaries – and cheaper call rates. If you use Horizon together with mobile services you’ll benefit from incredibly competitive rates for calls between your fixed and mobile devices.

Horizon helps businesses become more efficient by enabling flexible work environments through hot-desking, home working, and extending the service to mobile devices. You have total flexibility with the numbers you want to use. You can keep your existing numbers or get new numbers. You can extend your business reach and use any local area number no matter where you are located. Have a London number in Llanrumney!

And unexpected events such as snow, floods or strikes won’t disrupt your business. Because Horizon sits in the “cloud”, the service provides business continuity features that allow your organisation to carry on making and taking calls.

Horizon provides a broad range of call handling features that are accessed via the web through a dashboard giving access to information such as your call history, voicemail and recorded calls. Personalised settings are quick and easy to set, ensuring calls are handled effectively.

You can record inbound or outbound calls for compliance, customer service or audit purposes. This optional feature allows secure online access to file storage and retrieval of call details. You can set Horizon to record some calls, all calls or record calls on demand.

Horizon provides IT managers with a powerful administrative management capability while giving employees freedom to control calls quickly and effectively. Set-up is quick and easy and you can choose to pass down control to the user or you can retain control of the individual user features.

You can use Auto Attendant to provide callers with call routing options for different areas of the business or create announcements to inform callers of details such as opening hours and website address when the office is closed. Horizon can be used with a range of handsets from a choice of manufacturers, and is not tied to one type of manufacturer or hardware for an installation, therefore allowing us to customise the offering that’s for you.

Horizon is ideal for any sized business and is highly effective in organisations that have more than one site that work together. The system is capable of serving hundreds of employees. Businesses with employees who are regularly on the move or out of the office will never lose calls as each user can simply tell the system, at the click of a mouse, where their calls should be sent: their desk, their mobile – or both – or their colleague. And if they miss a call they can pick up their voicemail no matter where they are.

The service is provided centrally so you don’t need an expensive system on each site. Horizon connects branch offices together, calls are free between locations and everyone shares the same dial plans and directories. As it’s hosted on your behalf, there are no expensive maintenance or running costs and you pay for what you use on a simple per-user basis. In the event of a disaster the services can be instantly moved across to a backup plan that can include, for example, diverting calls to different locations without loss of functionality and without expensive call forwarding costs.

You can put calls on hold, play marketing messages, move calls seamlessly between users and offices, and your customers will get the best experience when calling your business. In addition, Horizon provides a cost-effective way to record calls. This centralised feature means calls can be recorded from any location, in any direction and configured instantly at the click of the mouse.

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Unifying The Worlds Of Voice And Data Key To Business Success

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Companies embracing the merging of voice and data technologies will be the ones which prove most successful.

The worlds of data and voice have evolved separately in recent years, but those organisations which marry them together using current technologies will see substantial benefits in the form of capital and operational cost savings, lower cost of ownership for hardware, reduced risk associated with continuity and disaster recovery, and new opportunities for innovation.

First, there is the world of the data centre. Its servers and other hardware components, and the business applications that run on them, are the backbone of the organisation. They turn the reams of data that companies generate and collect into the information they need to understand and operate the business.

Then, there is the world of telephony. Here, voice applications ensure that the people whose performance determines how well the organisation does, how effectively it competes, and whether it succeeds or fails, communicate with one another in myriad ways to ensure that information is understood and acted on. Even in today’s high-tech world, voice communication is the beating heart of the business.

Managing those worlds is not easy. It means having two of everything. Two budgets. Two groups of personnel with different sets of specialised skills. And two technology infrastructures to buy, deploy, and support, because data applications and voice applications have very different needs when it comes to the hardware they run on and the ways in which they can be managed.

At least, they did until now, and we can help those organisations which want to take this next big leap forward.

Reducing the overall number of physical servers in a data centre has the obvious benefits of capital cost savings. And server consolidation also leads to immediate operational savings, because office space is needed to house hardware, and less energy is needed to power and cool the fewer servers that do the job.

And organisations used to labouring over two plans for business continuity and disaster recovery – one for data, the other for voice – can now encompass their entire IT infrastructure with a single plan. And they can have a common set of service level agreements (SLAs), processes, and tools for their single infrastructure.

In short, companies can now fundamentally change the way they think about their IT infrastructures and their resources. Instead of managing individual boxes, they can manage overall IT services. Instead of devoting most of their budgets to maintenance, they can focus on innovation.

And, for the business people who depend on data and voice applications, it means a better quality of service at considerably less cost.

Uniting the worlds of data and voice on a single infrastructure means:

  • Reduced capital expenditures. Running telephony and data applications on the same servers means fewer servers are needed, so the total cost of ownership for the information infrastructure drops dramatically.
  • Reduced operations and maintenance costs. Managing communication solutions along with other business applications does away with the costs of duplicate maintenance tasks.
  • Reduced power consumption. The power savings inherent in data environments can also be applied to voice applications.
  • Improved application availability. Applications are no longer subject to prolonged downtime for physical server maintenance.
  • Integrated business continuity. Consolidated disaster recovery management means that management methodologies and best practices can be applied consistently across all applications in the data centre, including business communication applications.
  • Increased business innovation. Freed from having to maintain two separate infrastructures, IT can devote resources to developing new applications and services that build competitive advantage.

The world of the data centre have been around since the days of mainframe computers. These were huge and expensive, and organisations had to use every ounce of power they offered and squeeze every bit of potential out of them.

One problem to realising their potential was that different software applications can require different operating systems. Unless a way could be found to run more than one operating system on a mainframe, different computers would be needed to run different software – something too expensive to be practical.

The solution to the problem was called ‘virtualisation’ – dividing a mainframe into partitions capable of running different operating systems and applications – in other words, turning one ‘real’ computer into two or more ‘virtual’ computers – and this made it possible to slice and dice resources and put the pieces to their best use.

Today, virtual computers can be created and modified at will. Applications and databases can be moved from one virtual machine to another without disrupting the work of the business people who depend on them. Deploying new software and maintaining hardware has become much easier, and the cost of running data centres has decreased significantly. Virtualised data centres deliver huge cost savings and operational advantages to today’s organisations.

But just as the data centre world has evolved since the era of the mainframe, communications technology has evolved through a series of exciting changes into the unified voice communications of today.

VoIP made it possible to run voice applications over the Internet, and to centralise many of the maintenance tasks associated with keeping a voice infrastructure running. It also enabled unified messaging capabilities, such as the integration of voice mail and email.

Control of voice technology has become software-based, and the advances in telephony have enabled the reliable, flexible, capability rich, internet-based telephony systems that today enable teleconferencing, web and audio conferencing, centralised global call centre operation, and other technologies that organisations depend on to keep communication flowing.

Pinnacle can help organisations unite their business data and voice applications on a single infrastructure. All of the benefits of the data centre and VoIP telephony can be realised with less capital spending, lower operational and maintenance costs, reduced power consumption, and easier and more dependable business continuity and disaster recovery. What used to exist in two different worlds can now, for the first time, be united in one.

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Integrating mobile devices into communications infrastructure key issue for companies

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Organisations need to take a fresh look at how they are integrating their employees’ mobile phones into their corporate communications network. Mobiles should be an extension of a feature-rich network rather than a stand-alone add-on for employees.

No business tool is more essential or ubiquitous than the phone. With the huge array of technologies now at our disposal, we still depend on the power of voice communications that let us connect instantaneously and talk with anyone in the world.

No more so than in a world where business operations are spread around the globe with highly mobile employees on call at all hours. The evidence is all around us. Look in any airport lounge, sit in any train, stop at a cafe or walk along the pavement and you will see people conducting business on their mobile phones.

Wander through the corridors of any organisation and you will encounter more evidence of a workforce on the move, as people continue conversations on mobiles en route from one meeting to the next. Look around the offices and you will see the empty desks of the many employees who are working elsewhere – perhaps somewhere else in the building, teleworking from home or travelling anywhere in the world – but still just a phone call away.

What is not so clear and obvious, however, is how this mobile workforce and their organisations are using their communications tools. How do their mobile phones link up with laptops, desktop computers and office phone systems? Can employees switch smoothly from one device to another on the go? Do customers and colleagues know how to reach them at all times?

Are their messages all collected in one mailbox or do they sometimes languish in a voicemail system that the user forgets to check? How does the organisation manage its mobility solutions? Are costs under control? Are mobile communications fully integrated with customer relationship management systems and other business solutions? Finding the right answers to questions such as these is crucial in a business environment where so much depends on instantaneous action and decision-making.

Customers now expect an immediate response. Supply chains operate on a just-in-time basis. Employees must collaborate in teams whose members could be anywhere in the world. Staying ahead of the competition – or even just keeping up with it – in this environment requires highly efficient and well-integrated mobility solutions that will keep individual employees connected at all times.

New tools are helping businesses that are now grappling with the new realities of the global, mobile economy, which link mobile phones with computers, voicemail with email, and provide new ways of sorting, mixing and managing information and communications.

By using the technology of the internet – Internet Protocol (IP) – to manage their telephone systems, companies can now give employees a new set of powerful communication tools that are as easy to use as email and the worldwide web. Odds are if your business is on the move so are you and your employees. Tracking down essential staff at key moments is integral to your business. Finding them is another matter. Employees can be between offices or stores, with a customer, working from home or on the way to grab lunch. You’re no different. How to stay in touch?

Yet people can and do communicate with their colleagues and customers while they’re out of the office using multiple devices. But they often have to call many different numbers to reach them, only to leave messages in multiple mailboxes. Mobile workers are constrained by the fact that their mobile phones are on a separate network from the office phone system, so they don’t have access to all the calling features and productivity tools that are available on the office phones.

So how can you solve these problems and make your mobile workforce more accessible and more productive? You can begin with a very simple, yet fundamental change that orients your communications system around individual users rather than the devices they use.

A traditional phone system connects one device to another, with the result that all employees have separate numbers for the desktop phones in their office, their cell phones and their home phones. In many cases, because each of these devices has their own voice mail, messages are left in multiple locations.

A unified IP communications solution can provide each employee with a single number and a single source for voicemail. By doing so, it won’t matter to the caller where the person they’re calling is or what device he or she is using. The caller simply dials a four-digit extension number that automatically rings the recipient’s mobile phone, desk phone, or other device of choice simultaneously. Messages all go into a single personal inbox that allow people to respond to voice and email messages alike, even if they are on the road, by using a voice interface on their mobile phones which negates the need to log on to their computers.

One contact number and single source voice mail is significant. But this type of application goes further. IP mobility solutions also make it easy to switch communications from one device to another, so that a worker can take a mobile phone call on their way into the office and then seamlessly transfer it to the desk phone. Even more powerful and far-reaching in its impact is the way these mobility solutions can be used to extend the reach of critical business applications by connecting them with employees in the field.

Pinnacle Telecom is leading the way toward a new and more personalised approach to communications for organisations. Our innovative solutions, applications and desktop appliances enable you to access, process and control your communications and information naturally, simply and efficiently.

Our solutions allow organisations to collaborate over distance and time and to interact with their customers, colleagues and partners as never before, by combining the power of voice, data and video over converged high speed networks.

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Mobile Phone Management Key To Business Success

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As mobile phones celebrate a milestone birthday, it’s interesting how they have moved from a simple communications device to now being a key part of business processes.

It has now been 40 years since the first mobile phone call when a telephone engineer rang a technology rival from a ‘cell’ phone in New York. The device was almost 23cm tall, weighed more than one kilogram, contained 30 circuit boards, had a talk-time of 35 minutes and took 10 hours to recharge.

Today, mobile phones in many of our client’s systems are set up to handle many complex forms-based applications that talk to an array of different enterprise back-end systems, making them an integral part of the business process.

Although the mobile phone was developed in the early 1970s, it actually took a decade for it to come into widespread use. Now that smartphones have been around for a few years, the way they are being used by organisations is also starting to evolve, such as connecting multiple enterprise applications to a mobile worker and providing and collecting information that in real time.

Organisations with field workforces are increasingly turning to mobile solutions as a major opportunity to enhance their operational effectiveness. Mobile data is more than just a good communication tool, it is becoming integral to giving key work instructions to the field and capturing real-time job information for the main office.

For example, one of the areas where field workers operate is in supporting the customer service function, whether they be field engineers, mobile repair teams, couriers, insurance inspectors or data collection operatives. Improving the field workers’ ability to deliver service to the customer is having an immediate and positive effect on the operation of the business.

With effective integration into the key back office systems that drive and process the work schedule, it provides the ability to issue work in a timely manner, customers can be given specific appointment times, and workers can move swiftly and efficiently from job to job. The result is the optimisation of resource allocation of a mobile team.

Improving the quality and accuracy of information received by the field worker has been shown to increase their ability to successfully complete each job. This can improve first time completion rates and reduce time to complete a job – be it a repair, collection, inspection or other field-based activity.

In turn, this reduces recalls and the average job lead time, thereby increasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the mobile workforce.

The process for implementing mobile applications is principally the same as that required for any major business investment or operational change, involving the selection of technologies and partners, planning and then implementing the solution. Understanding the impact on the business is one of the most fundamental considerations, as mobile technology will impact mobile workers in profound new ways, but in return can transform business performance.

Incorporating mobile phones into business systems has a host of benefits, such as:

  • reducing the workload of administrative personnel
  • reducing the costs associated with delivering service
  • increasing the quality and quantity of work delivered by personnel in the field
  • an enabler of major change in workforce job scheduling

With a real-time mobile data solution, an accurate view of the workforce becomes available at any given time. Real-time information gives an organisation the ability to adjust job schedules constantly. Further review of this information can be the basis for adjustments in future scheduling work, leading to continuous improvement for the organisation.

Clearly mobile data has the ability to deliver all these operational benefits, but there needs to be an understanding of how to achieve these and, in particular, how to harness the maximum potential return for your business.

This goes beyond a technical offering that meets requirements. A successful project starts with an assessment of the mobile strategy requirements and an acknowledgement that the project will impact people and processes.

Mobile data can be a catalyst for change. It can be implemented in two ways; either through mapping existing processes into the new technology or as an opportunity to make fundamental improvements to existing processes.

To successfully introduce a new process, system or technology there must be a clear focus and defined project objectives. Where possible keep it simple, consider a phased approach and concentrate on the initial business requirements.

The opportunities for cost savings are wide ranging. In terms of spending on physical items these include reducing fuel, maintenance and time costs associated with the vehicle fleet through improved travel management; reduction or elimination of unnecessary journeys to the office or depot and overtime costs associated with out-of-hours re-typing of data; and enhancements in workforce resource allocation, job information and scheduling, resulting in fewer missed jobs, less re-scheduled activity and a reduction in re-calls.

This all adds up to improvements in the way customer service is delivered and an improvement in the customer experience of the service received. Therefore, increased customer retention can be expected along with the potential to win new business, through the demonstration of enhanced service provision processes and service levels.

The result of incorporating mobile applications into your communications infrastructure is increased efficiency, higher customer satisfaction, lower costs plus a reduction in the time to invoicing and, therefore, faster revenue collection.

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How finance companies can get ahead in a fast-moving world

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Financial organisations need to look at how they can move ahead of their competition by changing the way they do business and re-thinking the way their staff work. They need to bring together telephony, customer interaction, front office working and mobile working to deliver a reliable, unified communication solution.

Financial organisations are changing the way they do business and re-thinking the way people work. Today’s financial services industry is challenged by changing compliance requirements, the need to reduce operating expenses and stay ahead of the competition. This demands reliable, secure communications, capable of transforming the business and supporting continuous change.

Financial organisations encompass a raft of different types of businesses. These range from trading on the stock exchange, to insurance companies, to retail banking. All of these have many things in common, including operating in a dynamic financial environment where timely information is critical to good decision-making.

In a trading environment, improving communication between front office trading, back office processing and clients can transform business efficiency. These benefits can be realised through the power of unified communications and collaboration.

The insurance industry plays a critical role in protecting individuals and businesses against everyday risks. Customers expect exceptional standards of communication and response, even during the most demanding periods. Again, agile, secure communication solutions capable of meeting compliance requirements and maximising customer satisfaction is essential.

Then we have retail banks which are looking to differentiate customer experience, maximise staff efficiency and meet ever-changing compliance requirements. Customers expect a consistently high level of service across all channels, 24/7.

Unified communication and collaboration solutions enable retail banks to respond to the economic climate and provide customers with a consistent experience and stay ahead of the competition.

Constantly changing market places, ever developing compliance requirements, the need to attract and retain the best talent and the drive towards better customer service demanded dynamic IT solutions that support financial organisations needs to evolve quickly and efficiently. Telephone call control, enriched by a wide range of desktop devices and applications, allows financial organisations freedom to change the way they do business, improve staff retention, create efficient business processes, and better customer interaction.

Financial organisations are looking to create flexible, efficient, client-focused companies by changing the way people work. They need innovative and flexible working capabilities across offices, at home, or on the move. Distributed teams need to be able to work together effectively. However, older communication systems – called ‘legacy systems’ – all too often lack the flexibility to support today’s business processes, restricting the level of innovation needed to remain ahead of the market.

Technology should support business processes. We install web-based systems which enable changes to be made quickly and easily from ‘anywhere’ to ensure technology doesn’t restrict business development. Particularly in the finance sector, ever-changing compliance requirements require flexibility which can meet ongoing compliance needs as well as deliver day-to-day business benefits.

‘Big Bang’ technology deployments take longer to implement, demand more IT resource, and carry more risk. Instead, progressive migration to new systems enables financial organisations to implement internet-based technology quickly and efficiently to meet specific needs. This means their investment in legacy technology can be protected wherever it makes sense.

But the reality is that traditional, fixed call centres are unable to support today’s dynamic client-focused marketplace. New contact centre solutions deliver efficient and consistent customer interaction. New financial products and services can be introduced quickly and efficiently.

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