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Justin Stackawitz

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Three Companies...ONE Business Phone System.

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Apr 5, 2012 12:17:00 PM

For someone in need of a new business telephone system, it would certainly seem logical that if there were more than one separate organization involved - if, for example, a landlord was providing communications for multiple tenants - an independent phone system solution would be required for each company.

That is not necessarily the case, though. I am currently working on a project for a multi-tenant medical facility in which all of the tenants are controlled by their affiliated hospital. As such, the hospital is responsible for accomodating each tenant's communications needs (telephone lines, business phone system, voicemail, etc.). Rather than forcing the hospital to acquire separate and disparate phone systems for each of their practices, I was able to easily design a solution which takes advantage of the capabilities of a single system to meet the needs of all tenants concurrently.

There is a great deal of flexibility in the way that telephone systems can be programmed. Because each individual telephone line coming into a system can be told to route its calls to a completely different location than those of another telephone line, this allows the freedom to create separate groups of extensions, with each group representing a completely different company. Just because there are 9 telephone lines (for example) feeding the phone system, that does not mean that they are all accesible by every extension on the system. Similarly, a centralized voicemail system can be accessible by any extension on the same system, so that any of the companies (or groups of extensions, from the phone system's perspective) can have access, and as long as there are enough mailboxes to cover all of the extensions, no additional voicemail is required.

Returning to my medical facility scenario, I was able to use the exact model that I just described. There are to be three separate medical practices all inhabiting the same geographical area of a building, each with three telephone lines of their own, and roughly 10 extensions...so I will provide them with a single, centrally located, PBX telephone system, with ONE internal voicemail card. So long as I equip the system with the capacity to accept 9 telephone lines, 30 telephones, and enough mailboxes in the voicemail for all users, the rest will be left up to our expert technicians! They just need to make sure that the telephone lines for each practice are separated from one another and that those lines will access ONLY those extensions corresponding to the same practice.

So, if you are a landlord, a property manager, or even just have a neighbor that you want to share a phone system with, it may be a lot easier than you thought.

Topics: Business Phone System, business telephone system, PBX, voicemail

Maintaining Mobility WITHIN Your Office

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 29, 2012 4:08:00 PM

"Mobility" is a term that you will often find associated with VoIP business telephone systems. In almost all cases, the mobility that is being referred to (especially if it is in the context of marketing a phone system) has to do with connecting to a system from outside of the office. For example, we often license IP phone systems to include software for Smart Phones which allows remote workers to use their mobile phone as an extension directly from the phone system inside the office.

However, today I am writing about a different kind of "mobility"...having the ability to move around WITHIN an office, warehouse, plant, or even outdoor grounds. It is fairly typical to have the need to be able to move around within a facility while maintaining a conversation, but users are often confused by exactly how to accomplish this, and what capabilities their specific phone system supports. For the purposes of this blog, I will refer only to handheld cordless phone options, but there are also versions of wireless headsets which provide the freedom of mobility.

Some business phone systems have proprietary cordless phone models which will only work with that particular system...while they may be harder to come by (particularly if it is an older phone system), they are likely more user friendly because they can have multiple lines and behave more like the other desktop sets.

In addition to these proprietary models, good old fashioned analog cordless telephones (just like one that you might put in your house) are also a completely appropriate option for integrating with a phone system. These phones are only single-line devices, so they have some limitations, but they still serve the basic needed purpose of allowing users to move about while remaining communicative.

A third option for intra-office mobility is a variation on the single-line cordless unit just described. There are third-party manufacturers that produce long-range cordless phones designed to integrate as an extension on a telephone system. EnGenius is the manufacturer of choice for Granite Communications, as they offer a few different versions of their phones, each for a different type of application. We have installed this type of phone for a wide spectrum of customers, from residences all the way to an orchard...in each case, using the phone with appropriate range for that specific location.

Please inquire with me if you want to explore cordless options and increase your mobility!

Topics: VoIP Phone System, business telephone system, cordless phone

Adjusting to Your New Business Telephone System

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 22, 2012 10:35:00 AM

This blog continues the train of thought that I began with an original entry about managing the transition from one phone system to another. In that case, I was referring specifically to overseeing a project and taking care of the important details required when implementing a whole new technology (something that I am very familiar with as a Project Manager!).

But what happens once the install goes without a hitch, and you’re all alone with your shiny new phone system?

Typically, at Granite Communications, our goal is to train the new system users on the basics of everyday use, while intentionally leaving out all the little gory details of every last possible system function that someone might encounter….well, never! This is designed so that the average telephone user can hit the ground running on their new system, while those that intend to take advantage of the more advanced features of a system can fill in those gaps as they move forward (with our guidance, of course).

Hopefully, you have been adequately trained by the folks who installed and programmed the system, so you at least know how to operate your desk telephone enough to be able to make and receive phone calls! But, chances are, there are also some things about the new system which are significantly different than what you were comfortable with on your old system. This can be a challenge. Remember that practice makes perfect! Us humans are, for better or worse, creatures of habit; so after you have spent the last 5 years getting used to the ins and outs of how to efficiently use the telephone on your desk, it should come as no surprise that it would be a bit jarring to have to re-learn a whole new set of habits with your new telephone.

It can become frustrating, and even overwhelming, to make this adjustment, especially if you are someone who relies heavily on your telephone communications. For example, I will never forget the day that  I was doing some follow-up training with the very busy receptionist (after the basic group training) at a fairly large company who had just installed a brand new VoIP telephone system. In this case, she was on day 1 or day 2 with her new system, and was still having trouble getting 100% comfortable with it. Old habits die hard, and after about an hour and a half, she was ready to pull her hair out! The good news is that it wasn’t long before she turned the corner, and started getting used to just how to process all of her calls most efficiently. In fact, I probably could have stopped in two weeks later and she would have taught me a thing or two about the system that I had never seen before!

The moral of the story is that change, ultimately, is good. Initially, there will likely be some growing pains, and there will most definitely be an adjustment period at the very least; but once you come out on the other side of the changeover, and you are comfortable with the new technology, your business will thank you for it.

Topics: Business Telephone Systems, training, train

Cable Requirements for Your Data Network

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 15, 2012 12:02:00 PM

I am going to veer a little bit away from the normal business telephone system theme that typically is addressed in The New England Business Phone Blog...because another large part of Granite Communications' work involves doing voice and data cabling for corporate infrastructure, today I am going to write about data networks.

A couple months ago, I wrote a blog explaining the importance of a business proactively planning for their cabling infrastructure, mostly because it is much easier logistically to implement early on in the process of building out a new space. Once those details are successfully worked out, one of the other most important things to consider is the speed at which you need your internal data network to operate. This is something that needs to be determined prior to doing the cable work, as higher data speeds will require a higher rated grade of data cable.

If I were to investigate a company's network that was designed in, say, 2002, I would find data switches whose maximum capacity is 100 megabytes of through-put, and end-user computers whose ethernet data connections support that same maximum speed. Most importantly, though, I would also find data cables running through their ceilings and walls connecting those switches to those computers rated as Category 5 Cable. Many organizations today require speeds higher than 100 MB for their data network, and as a result they have upgraded their network hardware (switches & computers) to equipment which will support speeds of up to 1 Gigabyte of through-put. However, if the company whose data network is 10 years old decides that they need to do such an upgrade, not only will they have to replace the equipment that has a slower capacity, but they would also have to replace their entire cabling infrastructure so that they have data cables connecting said equipment with a rating high enough to carry the 1 Gigabyte speeds from the switches to the computers. In this case, that would require Category 6 cable.

As you can see, this means that any organization with plans on setting up a data network designed for Gigabyte speeds needs to account for the type of cable that would be required to support such a network. For example, Granite Communications has installed many cable plans for brand new office locations utilizing Category 6 data cables, and in MOST cases the decision to do so was made by the customer not because they are planning to immediately implement a Gigabyte-speed network, but because they see that as an eventuality that they would much rather be prepared for, than to have to completely change their internal cabling when it comes time to increase their network speed.

My Business is Too Small for a VoIP Telephone System!

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 10, 2012 12:43:00 PM

There are likely alot of people out there who feel, for one reason or another, that their business is not large enough, or sophisticated enough, or liquid enough (or any number of other excuses) to necessitate an IP telephone system.

This thinking is a relic of the past.

As recently as three or four years ago, those opinions might have had some validity. Until recently, the vast majority of VoIP telephone systems required an entire computer server to operate, and even the telephone desk sets were more like individual computers themselves. This type of system represented a considerable investment, and required concrete justification (ROI) to have value to most organizations. But as with just about any technology, these IP systems have been dramatically streamlined, both physically and economically.

Currently, there are many systems available, even to the smallest of businesses, which can legitimately be classified as VoIP telephone systems. Now, in place of a giant server, these systems can operate using a compact router-like IP appliance, and a variety of VERY reasonably priced desk telephones (in many cases, less expensive than their digital counterparts).

Just like the massive desktop computer and rack-full of server equipment in your IT room that you used to have, that has now turned into a thin client or laptop docking station on your desk with blade servers in the back room, VoIP telephone systems have similarly evolved.

So, if you are a smaller company that once thought an IP telephone system was out of your reach because of its advanced technology...think again! In just the last week alone, Granite Communications has installed such systems for organizations ranging from a 20-person marketing firm, to a Doctor's office with a staff of 3. 

Topics: VoIP telephone system, business telephone system, IP telephone system

Customer Service 2.0

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Mar 2, 2012 6:10:00 PM

Many of our past blog topics have talked about ways in which a telecommunications system benefits a successful company. Whether it is raw employee productivity, bottom-line profitability, or even corporate image, there are many aspects of an organization that can be directly impacted by one’s business telephone system.

Perhaps the most important element of influence that a phone system has on a business, though, is through direct customer interaction. Our previous blog addresses the benefits of having a way to quickly and accurately handle a large volume of incoming calls; however that only takes care of the first element of any phone conversation:”hello!”. Suppose you wanted to have detailed information about the customer that you are speaking with available to you instantly so that you can efficiently address their reason for calling. Or think of being able to click on a button in an Outlook or Google Contact entry and immediately dialing that person’s telephone.

 Most organizations utilize some form of Customer Relationship Management software, or at least a customer database. A VoIP business telephone system that is integrated with this software can provide the capabilities mentioned above. So, rather than stalling your biggest client on the telephone while you rifle through your database to find their account and the notes associated with it, your telephone system can do the heavy lifting for you – it will read the caller ID information coming in and immediately know which account to open up for you, AS you are answering the call!

Just another tool to further streamline the interaction process between an organization and its valued customers…

Your Business Telephone System as the Ultimate Productivity Tool

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Feb 10, 2012 2:59:00 PM

Its an ideal world, and you have a telephone system which helps you to improve employee productivity, enhance customer service and lower costs. If that sounds like you, then the good news is that you are already ahead of the game…the vast majority of people unfortunately wouldn’t say that their phone system does anything positive for them (Granite Communications is trying to change this one customer at a time!). The bad news, though, for you fortunate few with a productive telephone system – It could be even more productive.

In addition to the obvious functions as simple as answering and processing telephone calls and retrieving voicemail messages, today’s phone systems also afford the opportunity to improve business productivity in far less obvious ways. For example, Call Accounting, or Call Detail Reporting, can be employed as a built-in or add-on functionality of one’s business telephone system.

A Call Accounting system allows you to collect raw call data from your telephone system, and sort and present it in just about any manner you would like. This could mean tracking salespeople’s telephone activity for business development, analyzing the average wait time for someone calling your customer service group, or even just to determine the order activity of your best customers. Really, there are any number of possibilities for how to utilize this type of Call Detail Report…in almost every case, it would undoubtedly increase the impact of your telephone system on your business’s productivity and bottom line.

Topics: Call Accounting, Call Detail Reporting

Telephone Service Options From Your Dial Tone Provider

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Jan 5, 2012 12:33:00 PM

In previous blogs on this site, we have made reference to the various types of services that are available to customers with business telephone systems. When talking about phone line contracts expiring with an existing carrier, Eric Moore pointed out that there are many alternative options available to the customer, depending on the volume of phone calls that need to be accommodated, and what services are provided in that specific geographical location.  Additionally, I had explained in my blog about the voice quality of VoIP telephone systems that the voice traffic coming from such a system to a destination outside of the system is carried by the services of the local dial tone provider (as opposed to over open Interenet).

If you are a smaller company in a business sector that does not require a great deal of call volume, individual telephone lines will be sufficient for your business. However, if your call volume dictates that you need as many as 10-12 or more paths for simultaneous conversations, it may be more efficient and economical to have your voice paths delivered via a digital or IP service. Similarly, if your business requires individual phone numbers (Direct Inward Dialing) for each person within the company, or if you depend heavily on multi-party conference calls, an alternative to analog telephone lines is also in order. Lastly, if you have special needs for your internet bandwidth in addition to your dial tone, there are combination services using digital or IP delivery which may be appropriate as well.

Most carriers - whether it is AT&T, another Local Exchange Carrier, or even one of the cable companies (Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, etc.) - are now providing dial tone via digital PRI circuits. A PRI will provide you with 23 channels for inbound and/or outbound phone calls, and the carrier can provide as many telephone numbers as you may need for Direct Inward Dialing. This becomes an economical alternative (based on cost comparison) if you are already paying for ~12 or more individual phone lines. If you do not require the call volume of 23 voice channels, but still have a need for Direct Inward Dialing phone numbers, SIP Trunks are another delivery option for your services. Not every carrier currently offers SIP trunks, but for those that do, they are able to provide dial tone via IP to your business telephone system, and can customize the amount of call paths to meet your needs (not confined to exactly 23 as with a PRI). While not as widely available, SIP trunks become a more economical option even if you have fewer than ~12 individual phone lines.

As you can see, if your business is of a certain size, and has certain needs, alternatives to basic analog telephone lines can be a very attractive option.

Topics: business telephone system, Dial Tone, Service Provider, Carrier, PRI, SIP Trunk

Preparing Your New Office Space for Your Voice and Data Networks

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Dec 30, 2011 10:57:00 AM

If you are either outgrowing your existing office space, or you have decided to relocate your business, there are probably a million different things that you are worried about in order to make sure that your new space lives up to expectations. Among many other things, you will inevitably be moving or adding new computer workstations and telephones…It may seem obvious to some, but you may be surprised to find out just how many customers that I have encountered who hadn’t considered that their computers and telephones in new office space would require new internal wiring, until it was much too late to provide that efficiently!

Obviously an afterthought to some, the voice and data cabling of new office space is actually among the first things that needs to be considered when planning the build-out for your company. Right along with the physical layout of the space, the ceilings, HVAC & electrical considerations, the low voltage cabling required to support your voice and/or data network needs to be planned for from an early stage. From a construction standpoint, it is much more efficient to run voice and data cables in the earlier stages of a build-out, after walls have been erected, but before they have been closed in (also while the ceiling is still “open construction”).

As a result, it is advantageous to determine exactly where you will need to locate devices like telephones, computers, printers, registers, credit card machines, speakers, etc. Additionally, the data speed that is required of your computer network will determine the grade of cable that will need to be used. Other variables that will need to be considered include what type of business phone system you will be using (if it is a VoIP phone system, each phone may require a separate data jack), whether any locations require additional jacks for multiple devices or potential future use, and how furniture (cubicles, conference tables) may affect the layout of cables.

The bottom line is this: if you are moving your offices to another location, or if you are adding on to your existing space, and it will require changing the build-out of that space, it is important to consider the voice and data cabling infrastructure early on in the process…it is far easier (and cheaper!) to run extra cables in open construction than it is when everything is closed up and you have been up and running three years later!

Topics: voice and data cabling

Managing the transition to your new telephone system.

Posted by Justin Stackawitz on Dec 19, 2011 10:58:00 AM

I finally decided to get a new phone system for my business…now what?

Hopefully you have selected a provider that will help you through each step of installing your new system and removing your old one. Regardless, there are a number of things that need to be considered, and a number of decisions to make that will affect the ultimate success of this transition.

If you are migrating from a traditional digital-based phone system to a new Voice Over IP System, the two systems can likely be set up in tandem, as they would not use the same wiring infrastructure. If this is the case, the transition from one system to the other can be done quite smoothly. The only step which will result in down time for your business will be when you switch your outside telephone service from one system to the other.

On the other hand, if the new phone system that you are implementing needs to use the same jacks that your existing system does, there will be some additional down time that you will need to plan for. In this case, each old telephone will need to be switched out with its replacement one-by-one, so that each individual user will experience a short period in which they would not be able to make or receive telephone calls.

Again, assuming that you have a system provider that maps the transition out for you, regardless of which situation you find yourself in, the amount of true downtime (in which your communications system is completely out of service) should really be at a minimal level.

If telephone communications are absolutely essential to your business, and you cannot afford to sustain even a few minutes of downtime, it is advisable to schedule the transition from one phone system to another during off hours for your business.

At Granite Communications, we encounter all manner of changes from one system to another, and understand that it is up to the individual business that is taking the step of changing to a new telephone system solution, so all potential schedules can be accommodated. It is important, however, that the business making this change considers all of the elements and plans accordingly when it comes time to making the final transition.

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