Tag Archives: virtual office

The Robots are Coming! Video Conferencing in the Twenty-first Century

by Sue Walsh

 

I_Robot_-_RunaroundAs we move towards the year 2020, I’m wondering: Where are those time-saving robots that sci-fi writers and cartoonists promised us in the 1950s? Robots are running our production lines and powering our data centers, yet I’m still mowing the lawn and folding laundry!

Isaac Asimov dreamed of a world where bots not only did the menial tasks we disdain, but were capable of discernment and independent action, being governed by the Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Earlier this year, iRobot and Cisco teamed to release the kind of robot Asimov may have seen in his mind’s eye. The Ava 500 Video Collaboration Robot is an roving bot that can take your place at meeting. Your physical place that is—you’ll still need to attend by video conference, displayed on Ava’s screen.

The Ava 500 is a highly evolved VOIP-based video-conferencing unit, one that can move to a specified meeting point and give you a physical presence at the boardroom table, even when you’re 500 or a thousand miles away. You control Ava 500 via an app on your iPad or iPhone. Take a look!

Note how Ava uses visual sensors to move around, avoiding bumping into walls, furniture and, yes, human beings! Ava 500, in fact, does an outstanding job of adhering to Asimov’s Three Laws—not injuring others, following orders, and protecting its own … being?

What we love about the Ava 500 is how close it comes to fulfilling the kind of intelligent function that Asimov and others imagined. That and the fact that it means we don’t have to drive or fly to attend far-away meetings. Fewer on-site meetings? Less travel? I’ll take that over wanting a robot to fold my laundry any day!

Five Reasons Phone.com and Remote Work Go Hand In Hand

by Jeremy Watkin

work-from-anywhereIn the book Remote, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, founders of 37signals, present a compelling argument for allowing employees to work from home.  At the core of the discussion is giving your employees the flexibility to work wherever they feel is best.

That could be home or a cabin in the mountains, or possibly at one coffee shop in the morning and another in the evening. Does it really matter where they work as long as they are completing their work with flying colors and effectively communicating with the team?

If you are currently considering allowing your employees to work remotely, here are five reasons Phone.com just makes sense for you and your business.

1. Flexible Call Routing – You can route calls to a device, our Communicator soft phone, or your cell phone or landline number.  You can literally route your callers anywhere you might be working and change it on the fly through our easy-to-use control panel.

2. No More Expensive Devices – While you can still get a fantastic, HD desk phone from Phone.com, you no longer have to be tethered to that phone like a ball and chain.  Phone.com Communicator can be installed on your laptop so you can speak with callers anywhere you have an Internet connection.

3. Useful Mobile Apps – Our mobile apps for iPhone and Android let you access your voicemail, view your call logs, and send and receive SMS anywhere.

4. Easy Extension Dial – Everyone on our system is simply an extension away from one another. Where Paul traditionally might pick up the phone and call Lucy in the next room at extension 522, now Paul, located in California can dial Lucy, located in Florida simply by dialing 522.

5. Enhance Your Professional Image – You’re probably thinking that your company’s image will suffer as a result of this.  Wrong!  With customizable menus and greetings, your brand will be enhanced, not sacrificed—regardless of where your employees work.

The beauty of working remotely with Phone.com is that you gain an amazing phone system at a fraction of the cost, and you gain an excited, engaged team that has the flexibility to work anywhere they darn well please!  I have merely scratched the surface of the benefits.  You’ll have to give Phone.com a try and read Remote to learn about the rest!

Wanted: Robust Business Phone Service to Do Business in Washington

by Sue Walsh

SSDP LogoFor any non-profit organization running an office in Washington, DC, operation costs can be a killer. Rent, keeping the lights on, marketing—and oh yeah, phone service. You need a really good business phone service if you’re an international, grassroots organization like Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP).

SSDP is a student-led network that advocates for drug-policy reform and safer program implementation. The organization works to effect change, for example, on financial-aid eligibility for drug offenders who want to study, medical marijuana legislation, and Good Samaritan policies, among other issues. They have 3,000 active US members and over 200 student chapters.

“We went from having one line shared by all [three] staffers, no individual mailboxes, and no ability to forward messages or transfer calls to cell phones to having a fully-functional business phone system,” says Executive Director Betty Aldworth.

Since late last year, Aldworth says the Washington office has grown from three to six staffers. “Without Phone.com I can’t imagine how much more difficult conducting our day-to-day business would be.”

Betty Aldworth raves about Phone.com’s easy-to-use customer settings and flexible call-forwarding options, but cost savings are clearly a big win for SSDP.

“​We are saving about $100 per month by switching to Phone.com, but that’s from basic phone service to a full business platform. … I can’t imagine how much this service would cost if we were getting this robust a set of features through a traditional provider, but it would certainly be much, much more expensive!”

She also loves dealing with our Customer Support team. “The product is tremendously easy to use, but when I can’t figure something out, ​friendly folks like Derrick (Phone.com Customer Support specialist) are always right there at the click of a button to help answer any questions.”

We’re glad we make your day and work easier, Betty!

Find the Best Vanity Phone Number for Your Business

by Sue Walsh

With so many companies building an online presence, it’s easy to forget that we still rely on the humble telephone to do business and create success.

Small companies use their phone lines to answer customer questions, take orders and deal with vendors, which is why a memorable vanity number is such a valuable asset.

What is a Vanity Number?

A vanity number is a local or toll-free phone number made up of a string of numbers or letters that are either easy to remember or represent your business well. For example, 858-555-5000 or 1-800-FLOWERS.

Software Advice, a Texas-based service that helps businesses select the right software for their needs, recently published a great decision tree (shown below) that will help you choose the best vanity number for your business.

At first glance, the chart looks a bit intimidating, but the process is simple: Find the best word or phrase to represent your business > see if it’s available > take it!

Vanity Number Decision Tree. Source: Software Advice.

Phone.com Vanity Numbers

Phone.com offers a free vanity toll-free number with all plans. When choosing yours, we encourage you to work through Software Advice’s flowchart to find the very best number for you — it should only take a few minutes.

Also remember that your vanity number should be easy to recall, look professional and lend credibility to your business. 1-800-FLOWERS, for example might be better than 1-437-FLOWERZ.

Building and maintaining name recognition with a vanity toll-free number is one of the easiest ways to win business!

Cloud-based Unified Phone Systems On the Rise

by Joel Maloff

going_uprecent report from Infonetics Research shows that sales of unified communications, including cloud-based phone services like those offered by Phone.com, jumped 27 percent from the first quarter of 2013 to that of 2014. At the same time, worldwide sales of PBX systems and components fell by eight percent!

The message is very clear—hardware, premises-based systems are on the decline and cloud-based systems are on the rise.

Even though companies like Phone.com have been touting the benefits of cloud-based solutions for many years, what seems to be happening is that the unified communications industry has passed the point of critical mass, and is no longer being questioned on its applicability or viability for companies of all sizes. Cloud solutions simply make too much sense when it comes to capital outlay, flexibility to add and delete accounts, diminished management requirements, and the inevitable obsolescence of hardware systems.

Companies like Microsoft, Avaya, Cisco, NEC and Mitel will continue to offer physical phone systems, but their hardware is no longer on a growth path. They have now been overtaken by cloud-based communications. Larger organizations may retain premises-based systems for some time to come, but even these companies will add hosted solutions as a more economical alternative for smaller facilities.

Finally, I believe that as cloud communications become mainstream, we will see an escalation in the erosion of the communications systems of the past, and even greater growth rates for services like those offered by Phone.com.