What You Need to Know about Voice and Conferencing

What You Need to Know about Voice and Conferencing

Voice and Conferencing: What They Are
How Businesses Use Voice and Conferencing
Getting Started with Voice and Conferencing
Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner

Voice and Conferencing: What They Are

Combining your company's voice and data systems makes it easier to keep in touch and share information. By unifying your business' phone and computer network, team members can easily find each other, wherever they are, and customers and prospects can be quickly routed to the best resources.

As your business grows, IP based communications technology lets you add new employees, remote offices and teleworkers with minimal effort and expense. At each step, your team has the communications tools it needs to help your business succeed.

Bring It All Together

To understand unified communications, consider all the tools that your business uses now: office phone, mobile phone, fax, Internet, voicemail and likely others. Then, think about all of the productivity applications you use: calendars, conference and meeting clients, e-mail and messaging. Now, instead of separate, distinct tools, they're all working together as one solution that makes it easy to:

  • Hold meetings from remote locations using audio, video or Web technology
  • Help team members find each other right away-no more telephone tag
  • Access key technologies through wireless devices.
  • Connect customers with the right person at the right time
  • Allow employees to work from anywhere
  • Easily add and integrate new employees saving you time and money
  • Safeguard your business from hackers, viruses, and other security risks

Here's how each piece of a unified communications system?featuring voice and conferencing?works together to make it happen.

IP telephony
Phone service - including dial tone, transfer, hold, phone conferencing and other standard features - connected via your data network. Employees can transfer calls to anyone in the company, regardless of location, and remote employees have access to all phone services through a secured Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to the office.

Voice and conferencing software lets your employees easily set up conference calls for meetings, share presentations, see each other through video conferencing, and message each other instantly, among other things. All of this becomes available through one, easy-to-use front end.

Presence solutions
No more telephone tag or wasted time trying to reach someone who is out of the office. "Presence" applications (which provide real-time status of who's available online) let you check the availability, location and contact information of a coworker in real time.

Unified messaging
Imagine getting all your e-mail, voice messages, and faxes right from your e-mail inbox. Unified messaging allows this, giving you an easy way to stay connected with the tools you use everyday.

Rich-media conferencing
Conferencing solutions let remote workers and teams hold conferences using voice, video, the Web or a combination of all three. Rich-media conferencing enables meetings where everyone can participate easily and collaborate better.

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How Businesses Use Voice and Conferencing

Voice and conferencing tools improve communications to help you deliver better customer service, enable employees to work on the go, and give your partners access to your supply chain.

Here are some of the ways businesses are taking advantage of voice, conferencing, and unified communications solutions:

Customer Contact

  • Give customers easy, instant access to your business
  • Pop customer information to the employees screen as the customer calls in

With customer contact center technology, as part of a unified communications solution, your company can offer a variety of contact options phone, fax, e-mail, or "click-to-chat". The solution ties them all together to enable your support team to provide faster, more targeted service.


  • Enable office access from remotes areas, whether voice, video or data
  • Provide rich options for remote conferencing
  • Improve mobile worker reachability and responsiveness

Employees don't just work at their desks anymore, they're out on sales calls, at the airport, at home, or in other areas of your company. Workers can consolidate all their incoming business calls (to mobile phones, home office phone, or any temporary telework phone) into a single business phone number and immediately receive them wherever they are working.


  • Easy access to collaboration tools
  • Calendaring and messaging to ease coordination

Voice, conferencing, and unified communications solutions enable access to the collaboration tools necessary to hold meetings voice and Web conferencing, video, voicemail and others through a single easy-to-use interface on a variety of wired and wireless devices.

Reduced Costs, Improved Productivity

  • IP phone systems help you save money on phone charges
  • A combined voice and data network simplifies installation and management
  • Unified messaging reduces the amount of time spent managing messages
  • Voice and Web conferencing enhances productivity and reduces travel costs

In fact, using a combined network for voice and data has saved some small companies thousands of dollars annually in long-distance charges, in administrative costs, and in travel expenses, and has fostered greater productivity.

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Getting Started with Voice and Conferencing

Ready to get started? Here's a list of things to consider:

The status of your current network
As a general rule, newer networks provide a stronger foundation for voice and conferencing. As you begin the process, consider:

  • Age - If your network is more than five years old, there's a good chance it will need to be refreshed.
  • Reseller input - Your reseller partner can run an assessment to determine network capacity and readiness.

Your phone system
If you're moving to an IP phone system, what do you do with your existing voice communications system? You don't necessarily need to remove your company's PBX; you can migrate to a unified network at your own pace. This will allow your company to move to the new IP phone system at your own pace.

Employee buy-in
For your company to get a return on its investment, you'll need to have a system that employees will actually use. Help your employees understand:

  • Why you're making these changes - Employees will be motivated to use a new system and tolerate any adjustments on their part if they understand the importance of it to them and the company.
  • What they need to do - People are more invested in changes that they participate in. Share with employees ways in which you need employees to work or share information during the transition or after its completion.
  • How they will benefit - Payoff from voice and conferencing will be significant. Communicate these benefits repeatedly to employees so that they will welcome the change.

Voice and conferencing opens up new and empowering ways for your employees to share information and keep in touch. Training will provide quick and easy access to increased productivity, enhanced communications and time savings. Training is advisable to ensure that these tools are fully leveraged and employees gain the greatest payoff from your investment. Talk to your reseller partner about the best time for your training and how to best communicate the benefits to your team.

Your company needs to protect its infrastructure, information and applications. Good security planning will ensure that this coverage is in place to thwart current and emerging threats.

  • Do you need different levels of access for various members of your team?
  • Will you be able to control who has access to information and networks from any type of device?
  • How will the system protect company communications and restrict unwanted access to your company information?
  • Is your solution providing protection in the short and long term?

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Top 5 Questions to Ask Your Partner about This Solution

Here are five key questions to ask potential partners who offer SMB Solutions:

  1. Do you specialize in working with small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Cisco has a network of certified partners who specifically focus on providing technology solutions and support to SMBs. Many of these partners are SMBs themselves, so they understand the business challenges you face and the goals you have in mind. Cisco certified partners have proven their qualifications in specialized technologies. They have the training, support, and services to design, deploy, and optimize networking solutions for your business. They also stay up to date on the latest software and hardware changes as well as upcoming Cisco products and solutions.
  2. What type of service and support do you offer after the sale? Ask your partner detailed questions about the support he or she can offer after the sale. For example: Does the partner offer after-hours or emergency support? If so, during what hours is that support available? The specific support levels offered should be detailed in a service level agreement (SLA). Also, keep in mind many Cisco partners offer award-winning technical support service that offers anytime access to Cisco engineers and an extensive range of technical resources.
  3. How will this new solution integrate with my existing IT environment? A Cisco partner can discuss your business requirements and evaluate your current systems and network infrastructure. From there, a Cisco Partner can present solution options that will meet your needs today, grow with your business over time, and fit within your budget requirements.
  4. How will this solution help me save money and control my costs? An end-to-end solution from Cisco is easier to maintain and support than a, multi-vendor solution. Also, when budgeting for network enhancements, always take into account the cost of any software not included with your hardware purchases; maintenance; training; support; additional staff (if needed); and other factors. Research firm Gartner estimates such indirect costs account for up to 60% of an organization's total technology expenditures. As a result, by working with your Cisco partner, you can achieve the best possible TCO.
  5. What do we need to do to prepare? Before the installation, ask your partner what information about your network, users, business procedures, and security requirements he or she needs from you to make the network upgrade go as smoothly as possible. Also ask your partner what are the common oversights or challenges businesses like yours face when upgrading their networks, and how you should prepare for them.


Contact a Cisco partner to learn more and get exactly what you need.

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