VoIP, small business

Why Your Small Business Should be Using VoIP

VoIP services have become increasingly popular over the last decade, especially among small businesses.  Small business owners are no longer limited to choosing between a handful of service providers for their business phones.  Today VoIP and PBX services have disrupted the telecommunications industry by offering a unique offering for business owners at an affordable price point.  It is important to educate yourself on what VoIP has to offer for your small business.  Here are the main advantages of VoIP and Hosted PBX services.

Flexibility & Ease of Use

VoIP and Hosted PBX services are incredibly mobile.  Unlike traditional phones which take time and money to setup and move, VoIP and Hosted PBX users will find it easy to transfer. In part, this is due to the fact that users can customize their setup.  All you need is a broadband connection strong enough to support audio streaming.  VoIP and hosted PBX services give you the ability to make calls directly from your computer using a microphone and soft phone application.  Of course you can always take the more traditional route and choose from a large selection of SIP phones to use with your system.

For small businesses that require one dedicated phone line, a basic VoIP setup is extremely easy to install without much technical know-how. Simply plug your phone into a VoIP adapter and plug the adapter into your router or modem.  It’s that easy.   Hosted PBX services cater to larger businesses that may be looking for multiple dedicated lines and extensions along with a host of other features like call menus, hold music and call waiting.  The old method of PBX required you to self-host your system which can be complicated and risky for your business.  If you don’t have an IT department, self-hosted PBX can quickly become a mess.  Today, hosted PBX provides larger businesses with an easy solution. Your PBX becomes effectively hosted in the cloud meaning less hassle for your business and less strain on your wallet.

Cost Savings

Saving money is important and extremely easy to do by choosing a VoIP or Hosted PBX service for your small business.  You can get your business phone system up and running for a fraction of the cost of a traditional line.  Since VoIP and Hosted PBX use mostly preexisting systems and are largely hosted on the web, infrastructure and maintenance costs are minimal in comparison to traditional lines.  As a small business owner you can expect to save money on:
  • Setup costs.
  • Monthly service fees.
  • Usage fees.
  • Cost for additional features.
  • Cost for adding additional phone numbers.

 More Features and More Value

Saving money does not mean that you will sacrifice call quality.  In fact, with advancements in technology and internet speed over the last few years, VoIP services have become increasingly more reliable and attractive.  VoIP services include standard features like caller ID, call waiting and 3 way calls supported.  Today you can also take advantage of the newest features to save you time and make you and your business more efficient.  Here are a few of the advanced features you can unlock with VoIP or hosted PBX, or for a complete list of features click HERE.
  • Online Call History
  • Online Voicemail
  • Call Blocking
  • Unlimited Speed Dial
  • Voicemail SMS and Email Notifications
  • Network Failover Forwarding
  • Simultaneous Ring
To see which service fits your needs best click HERE.

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State of the Small Business Landscape and What You Need to Know

The world is moving at a faster pace today and we all need to find ways to move with it.  For small businesses this means having an understanding of the current business landscape.  The 2013 U.S. Census revealed that the U.S. is home to more than 28 million small businesses.  Yes, that is not a typo; 28 million.  That number seems a bit less startling when you note the fact that approximately 400,000 new small businesses are started each month and 52% of these are home-based.  The turnover for small businesses is also high.  In fact 5 out of 10 new firms will not make it to their fifth birthday.
The best way to prepare for what is ahead, is to do your best to understand where we are at today. The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) is an amazing resource dedicated to helping small businesses with everything from acquiring funding to mentorship.  Earlier this month the SBA released its’ “Small Business Bulletin” which, profiles the important details of the state of small businesses in the United States.
Here are the 8 most surprising facts about startups and small businesses: 
  • Small businesses continue to add more new net jobs than large businesses.
  • Businesses with less than 50 employees added up to 39% of net new jobs in the first three quarters of 2014.
  • New business establishment openings are outpacing business establishment closings.  Q3 of 2013 through 2014 saw quarterly establishment openings of more than 375,000 while closings during that same period were all below 375,000.
  • Small businesses, between 250-499 employees, export value improved by 4.5% between 2012-2013.  Compare this to the growth of U.S. exports during the same period which was a mere 1.4%.
  • The first quarter in 2015 saw the most venture capital raised in a Q1 since 2000.  Traditionally the first quarter is a slow time for venture capital. Q1 2015 investments totaled $13.4 Billion.
  • The top five VC Deals in Q1 2015 were as follows: Uber $1 Billion, SpaceX just under $1 Billion, Lyft $530 MillionPinterest $367 Million, SoFi $213 Million.
  • Q1 2015 became the fifth straight quarter to see VC investments totaling more than $10 Billion.
  • Q1 2015 also saw the lowest number of seed-stage deals since reporting on this began in 1996.  Investors overlooked more early-stage startups in lieu of making investments into more mature small businesses.

To see the full report click HERE.

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Update: Is the War On Net Neutrality Over?

Back in February we reported on the debate surrounding Net Neutrality. On June 14th, a Federal appeals court elected to uphold the ruling to regulate ISPs in a 2-1 vote.  This is a significant victory for regulators who passed a ruling in February to impose strict guidelines on Internet Service Providers such as Comcast.  That ruling allowed the FCC to classify ISPs as utilities and barred them from dictating internet speeds for specific web pages.  Net Neutrality is the idea that everything on the internet should be treated equally.  However, Internet Service Providers like AT&T and Verizon argue that they deserve the right to control internet streaming speeds for specific sites.  For example, Netflix represents a majority of the streaming that occurs on the internet, so ISPs feel that Netflix should be required to pay more to use their services.  Proponents of Net Neutrality fear that if ISPs can pick and choose which sites they show and at what speed, they will be able to dictate what people see on the internet.  It is likely that major Internet and Cable providers will continue to fight the rulings.

For VoIP providers like us Net Neutrality is crucial since we rely on it for our audio streaming.  For a more in-depth look at the decision made Tuesday click here.

If you want a better understanding of what Net Neutrality really is, check out this video.

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3 Ways to Save Money for Your Small Business in 2016

Being a small business owner means you have a lot of tough decisions to make.  When it comes to choosing where to allocate your money, you don’t always have to make big sacrifices to keep your business running smoothly. Here are three great ways to reduce business costs while continuing to grow your small business:

  1. Hire Interns:
          Are you understaffed and looking for some extra hands on deck? Adding a new full time employee can be costly.  Let’s say you decide to bring on a full-time hire and pay them $15 an hour. That’s a $2400 paycheck you are cutting them each month.  That doesn’t include insurance costs, taxes, benefits, not to mention training and overhead costs. On top of that you also have to consider how long it will take for that employee to get up to speed and the associated opportunity costs of bringing that individual on.  If you are
a small, cash-strapped business hiring a full-time employee may not be the best solution for your growing pains.  A great alternative is to start an internship program. Believe it or not many public and private universities require or strongly recommend that students get an internship at some point during their college tenure. Some course curriculums even require one or multiple internships in order for their students to qualify for graduation or in return for school credits.  With more than 2,500 accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States, it shouldn’t be hard for you to find a few eager students to temporarily join your ranks.
          Bringing on interns can have a number of big benefits for your business.  They can offer new perspectives and help you and your employees with projects that you have been overlooking in lieu of more important tasks.  Having a temporary intern is also the perfect way to find future employees and learn what works and what doesn’t in your organization.  By bringing interns into your business you are also continuing to get your business name known and you create a self-fulfilling recruitment cycle. As a business owner, you are always looking for new ways to bring valuable new people into your organization without having to hire a recruiting company.  Internship programs provide you with driven, low-cost workers who don’t expect much in pay.  And guess what, if things don’t quite work out with you and your new intern, you can part ways after a few months with some new perspective of your own. Not to mention supporting local students is a great move for your business.
  1. Take Advantage of Free Advertising and Marketing:
          Okay this one is huge! And we mean HUGE.  Traditional marketing and advertising can cost your business an arm and a leg.  Nowadays with the internet there are ample ways to run an extremely successful marketing and advertising campaign for an extremely low budget.  We aren’t talking about just setting up a few social media accounts.  This is still going to take some time and attention but the potential outcomes are huge.  Companies today are turning to online discussion forums, email lists, and inbound marketing to find potential customers by leveraging their expertise. Here’s how it works: You provide free value or advice related to your industry which potential customers find you through organic searches, online forums and discussion boards.  As you provide more and more free value to people, your perceived expertise increases along with your familiarity among potential clients.  If you are the industry expert in a given field, you are the clear choice next time someone enters the buying stage.  Here are a few examples of how you can start doing just this. You could start answering questions that people post in pre-existing online communities.  You could start a YouTube channel dedicated to educating people about something related to your business or service.  You could start an email newsletter offering people valuable tips, information or even case studies.  These are just a few ways to market your business on a low budget.
          And hey, maybe you aren’t about the internet or don’t want to deal with email lists or discussion boards, no problem.  You can take the same principles we have discussed here and take them offline.  Get involved in your industry or local area and offer free seminars or meet ups where you are able to offer valuable information or training to people who are interested in what you do!
  1. Outsource:
          For small business owners, the word “outsourcing” may seem like the downfall of their homegrown operation, but outsourcing today can be a lot more valuable and cost-effective for your business than you may think.  And no we do not mean moving all of your production and customer service operations overseas.  You can outsource just about anything to people domestically or internationally for much less than it would cost you to do it in house.  Do you need research done on your competition? Or maybe you need someone to cook up some hot new graphics for your monthly newsletter?  How about that marketing proposal that needs to get finished by next week?  Well guess what, there are thousands of individuals who are excited and willing to do all of those things for less than you think.  Sites like Upwork and Fiverr allow you to connect with individuals who can do just about any task for you.  Describe the project you have in mind, use their networks to get thousands of eyes on your project, get other people to bid on your project and choose the winner to complete the task on a budget that works for you.  And if you thought that these kind of sites only lead to unskilled workers you may want to think twice.  Today, it is not uncommon to find individuals with degrees and a running track record to base your decision upon.
We just wanted to lead you to the rabbit hole, but now it’s up to you to go down it.  If you are willing to get creative and spend a little extra time looking for ways to leverage your available resources, you will surely find ways to keep your business on top.

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