Nice Feature – 3CX HotDesking

3CX have re-introduced ‘HotDesking‘ in an integrated, easy-to-use form, with service pack 2 of 3CX version 15.5  (for those systems with 3CX license keys supporting the ‘Pro’ or ‘Enterprise’ versions only however).

What is HotDesking?:

HotDesking allows phones to be ‘pooled’ for use by staff so that one physical phone can have several different extension profiles applied to it. This means that depending who is using the phone at the time; they may be a member of a different call group or queue, have a different outbound Caller ID, be a target for different incoming calls for Direct Dial numbers, and have a different set of internal and external DSS keys to make calls to their primary contacts.

This feature may be applied to as many users and phones as you want, and is perfect for situations where e.g. you have staff in a sales team needing a live phone when they call into the office between customer visits. In essence, it means that you may have more extension numbers issued than you have phones!

How does it work?:

Previous versions of 3CX combined the configuration profile of the phone with that of the extension user. HotDesking allows us to designate extension users who have HotDesk permission, and configure phones to be members of a HotDesk pool in two separate configuration modules in 3CX Management.  Using a simple dial-pad sequence involving a feature code, the extension number, and a PIN – a HotDesk user prompts the phone to carry out a provisioning download, which will push their pre-configured profile into that phone and make it active. Some phones do this faster than others, but this ‘provisioning’ usually takes less than 30 seconds.

When the user is finished with the phone, they simply press a ‘Logout’ button which dumps their profile, and sets the phone back to a ‘dumb’ mode awaiting a new sign-on.

This is definitely not a feature for all 3CX installs, but where you need flexibility to accommodate part-time and remote workers who visit your office, it is an ideal way to provide a bespoke phone for that user, rather than trying to provide pool-phones set up for one-size-fits-all!

Give us a call at Foxhall Solutions – 01787 320402 – to talk about how HotDesking could be a benefit to your business …

Nice Feature! – Fanvil VoIP phones and ‘paginating’ keys

It’s nice to be able to press a labelled key on your phone to make a call to a colleague in your office, or to an external mobile or land-line without having to find and dial a phone number. After all, names mean more to us than numbers do … It’s even nicer, if these keys are labelled using a display rather than paper, as they can be changed – quickly and neatly – in line with staff changes, and your contact priorities.

Phone manufacturers are finding ways for us to present a lot of keys to you using ‘pagination‘. Pagination means that the same key & display can have different functions and labels, depending on which ‘level’ or ‘page’ you select. For example, Yealink T41P phones have six programmable keys around the display area of the phone. Key 6 is used to ‘paginate’ through three layers, giving these keys, a total of 5 x 3 = 15 destinations and/or functions. The Yealink T46G does the same 3-layer pagination, with 10 keys (9 x 3 = 27).

VoIP phone manufacturer Fanvil, have taken this a step further with their X4 and X6 phones, providing additional colour LCD displays with six keys, and twelve keys respectively, paginating through up to five layers.

Fanvil X4G

Fanvil X6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The colour LCD at the top of the phone is used to show call info and status, while the lower display[s] are divided into strips to assign functions to the small keys to the right. A separate key is provided below the LCD, to paginate the key-labels without having to sacrifice a display key.

These keys are commonly known as ‘Direct Station Select’ – or ‘DSS‘ keys, but can be assigned many types of functions to either access PBX features, or to call people. When the key is set up as a BLF [Busy Line Field] a small LED shows in the key glowing green, red or flashing-red – to show that the assigned extension is free, busy, or ringing. These keys not only show the status of an extension you can’t actually see, but also allow you to one-touch transfer to those extensions, or even pick-up a ringing call for a colleague’s phone. With a combination of configured DSS keys, and a central system ‘Phonebook’ – you should never need that paper label or extension & contact list ever again. Say goodbye to that dog-ear’d extension list taped to the side of your phone! …

A Yealink T46G phone set up as a Reception phone, can have an expansion module connected to it to present up to 57 DSS keys. However, the Fanvil X6 can present up to 60 DSS keys without the need for any added key modules. For a smaller company, the X4’s presentation of up to 30 keys can be more than enough! Fanvil’s extensive feature set, and HD audio – combined with an aggressive pricing policy – makes the X4 and X6 extremely cost effective and powerful business phones to combine with Foxhall’s 3CX and Yeastar IP-PBX solutions.

Contact Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228 402 – to talk about your next phone system …

A Phone System in the palm of your hand! …

Recent release of Mini-PC’s has given Foxhall Solutions another interesting and extremely cost-effective way to provide the extensive and fully-featured award-winning 3CX phone system, to small businesses.

3CX on a MINIX mini-PC3CX version 15 now supports deployment to a Mini-PC so that we can create a 3CX PBX Appliance on Microsoft Windows 10 (or now, Linux Operating Systems too). Using a Mini-PC you have a low-cost, reliable appliance that can be used in smaller offices where no server is available, or where server resources are already max’d out. These PC’s have no fans or ventilation requirements, and therefore can run 24×7 with no maintenance.

With the price of the IP-PBX central equipment minimised, you can also take advantage of low-cost SIP Trunk services to replace ISDN and analogue lines, reducing on-going service rentals and call costs by huge amounts! (we have seen reductions of 60% to 80% in monthly telecom’s spend).  If you run a Small Business then this has to be the best way to get the best phone system at the best price. Besides its low cost – and 3CX’s low running costs, using a Mini-PC as a 3CX server, offers you several advantages:

  • It will fit anywhere you can give it mains-power and a network connection.
  • It can be connected by WiFi – if cabling issues make that the only alternative!
  • Power consumption is extremely low (approx. 10 Watts).
  • Without fans, this 3CX Server is silent!
  • It’s cool! – Yes it looks great, but I actually mean – this ‘green’ machine won’t heat your office!
  • The Mini-PC won’t suit every need, but its worth a look if you are wanting up to 20 extensions, handling 4 to 8 simultaneous calls.
  • It will allow you to start small, and migrate your 3CX system to a more powerful Server platform as your business grows.
  • It’s a 3CX – so it will do all the on- and off-site phone system things that have made 3CX a world-leader in PBX systems.

[Warning – tech’ stuff ahead!] The MINIX PC shown here, runs 64-bit Windows 10, has an Intel Atom quad-core X5-Z8300  processor, 4GB of DDR3L RAM, and 32GB eMMC storage. It can run an HDMI monitor or HDTV with Intel HD Graphics drivers, and has USB2.0 & 3.0 ports for mouse, keyboard and memory expansion. In addition, we can connect it to your network via Gigabit Ethernet, or WiFi and can fully remote-support the server and Yealink phones through its Internet connection … and, by the way – the MINIX also makes a great Media-server for your HD TV!

We can also offer you the same ‘compact’ and cost effective solution when you choose the Yeastar S20 IP-PBX. This ‘Asterisk’ appliance measures just 16 x 16 x 3 cm, yet will support up to 20 extensions and 10 simultaneous calls.

 

 

 

 

 

The Yeastar S20 will support  multiple SIP Trunk accounts for low-cost flexible telecom’s – and – it has the ability to accept Yeastar’s range of plug-in modules to interface legacy analogue and IDSN lines, as well as GSM and 3G mobile services. See the Yeastar S-Series datasheet here …

 

When you want to talk about modern, functional & flexible business telecommunications without the old-fashioned prices and contractual ties … Contact Us at Foxhall Solutions.

What to ask before Buying a new Phone System

Selecting the Right Phone System for you …

You have probably heard about VoIP, but might not understand how it applies to a new phone system for your business? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone! Although it’s a well proven technology (in use since 2004), and the benefits of its use are accepted, it is something that you may be nervous about, simply because to you, VoIP is an ‘unknown’.

As with everything in your business, there are a few questions that need answering before you go setting budgets and short-listing systems. Here are seven questions that will help you select the right phone system for your business:

  1. What type of phone system best fits your business?

While there are a lot of VoIP system manufacturers out there to choose from, they may be broadly split into two ‘types’;

You may suit a ‘hosted’ VoIP system, where the phones are at your offices, but the central equipment that makes the connections to the fixed & mobile phone networks, is off somewhere on the Internet, and uses Internet to connect the extensions to the central equipment.

Or – you might be better suited to an on-site system, where some sort of ‘server’ is acting as the controller for your phones, and connecting your calls to a ‘carrier’ who has responsibility for onward connection of your calls to fixed and mobile networks. In this case, the Internet is used to connect your ‘trunk lines’ (SIP Trunk channels).

Have a look at this article to find out more about the two types of VoIP systems …

There are pro’s and con’s for both systems, but in general, we have found that on-site systems have a lower cost of ownership, and provide a lot more flexibility in regard to integration of different carrier services and line types. It is notable that for both types of VoIP, you do need to ensure that the phones are plugged into a computer network that is designed to support VoIP traffic and give it priority. That means, if it’s done properly, hosted VoIP is not necessarily the cheaper option!

  1. Why are you looking for a new phone system?

Besides the basic fact that you need to make and take phone calls, what are the most important things that you are looking to get from your phone system?

Apart from how they are marketed and how their features are licensed & applied after the initial system sale, most VoIP systems are much the same. For example, it’s useful to know that if you want voice-mail to be available on other than the receptionist’s extension, you’re not going to have to purchase more hardware and/or software to do so …

This is why it’s important to have some ideas about how you want your incoming calls to be handled by the new system. VoIP phone systems are a lot more flexible than what you might be replacing, so don’t be afraid to ask about things like; voice-mail for all extensions, using e-mail to get voice-mail to people, integrating mobile phones into the system, automatic switching between in and out-of-hours, holiday schedules, using Microsoft Outlook contacts as your phone book … etc.

Use your imagination and ask about your ‘nice-to-haves’ – as you may be pleasantly surprised!

  1. Will your phone system integrate with other business systems?

One of those nice benefits you hear about is the ability for a VoIP phone system to integrate with other business systems like your CRM or ERP platform – so you can dial out from a customer record, or screen-pop a record when a call comes in. Some systems offer API’s for integration with certain software, some need 3rd party applications, and some don’t offer this capability at all.

You should ask your vendor which business & CRM systems can integrate off-the-shelf, and which require integration with your new VoIP system when you are being presented with a solution.

  1. Will you be deploying, maintaining and supporting the phone system yourself?

If you have capable IT staff, chances are you will be able to carry out a lot of the deployment and maintenance of the system yourself. You may also want to look at some form of first-line system support training as part of the project package. If you do not have IT staff you might want to consider a Support Agreement with a service level agreement that reflects how critical your phones are to your business.

  1. Who will be providing your voice service?

VoIP systems can be extremely flexible in using the services of different ‘carriers’ to provide you with the lowest call tariffs to different local, national and International fixed and mobile services.

It’s important that you also investigate and short-list VoIP carriers along with your short-list of systems. If you are going to be using VoIP ensure your VoIP provider is compatible with your phone system, and – yes, I’ve seen it happen before – please avoid purchasing your VoIP carrier services before you decide on your phone system. Although ‘SIP’ standards allow connection to almost any carrier, there may be very good reasons to go with one ‘Telephony Internet Service Provider’ for Internet connection and VoIP services, rather than another.

In most cases, VoIP systems use Internet connections to carry phone calls. However, in some instances, you may be restricted to using ‘traditional’ ISDN or analogue lines. This does not mean that you can’t use a VoIP system, but we do have to take this into account as ‘gateways’ will be needed to connect these line types.

  1. What is the total cost of ownership?

You love the fact that VoIP can save you money, but will it? You need to look at the total cost of owning a VoIP phone system.

Buying purely on price will get you into trouble! More reliable, expandable systems do tend to cost more per-user up-front. However, the savings you will see in the long run (from lower monthly service costs, least-cost-routing and better call tariffs), make it worthwhile. As your business evolves you will want to add users to your system, so find out how easily the system can be expanded, (or contracted), changed and upgraded as new features and technologies are released.

  1. What do your users want?

Even if it is last in the list this is very important for you to consider. Each user or employee type has different needs that you need to meet.

Prior to purchasing a system you should ask each of them what they would like to be able to do with their phone – both while they are in the office, and when they are out. This will allow you to align needs with benefits for a particular system. It might be that you need something different for a Reception phone, and/or DECT cordless extensions …

An artist will always paint best when they select their own palette & brushes!

Does that make sense?

If you follow this advice and walk through each of these steps you are going to find other questions you will need answered. But that’s the point – you need to go through the proper steps to make sure that you are selecting the right VoIP phone system.

With our background – including mission critical telecommunications for Civil Aviation and the City of London, Foxhall Solutions will use our voice and data expertise to provide you with a new phone system – properly integrated with your existing network – with a load of features and benefits to help your business keep in touch with your staff, suppliers and customers.

Use our Contact Us page, or call us at 01787 228 402 and we’ll show you how we put the Comm’s in Commerce!

Case study – 3CX IP-PBX for Jameson Chartered Accountants

Jamesons&phone

Clacton-based Jameson Chartered Accountants could be described as a ‘large small’ firm, with a team almost thirty strong serving a growing customer base including a number of larger clients.

Their phone system had been in place since 1992, and – perhaps surprisingly – their telecom costs had, if anything, been falling relative to other expenses. In part this is because they receive many more calls than they make themselves: the ratio is probably about 7 to 3. For quick response they now find it more effective to use text messaging and email.

The requirement

Jameson’s had been discussing upgrades to their phone system for some years, but the trigger point came in August 2013, when they took over another practice in Colchester. Shortly afterwards, in April 2014, they took over a second practice based in Manningtree.

Clearly it would be expensive to keep a competent secretarial team at each of the three offices, and there was an additional problem, too. Under the new arrangements some staff were moving between offices, so there was a risk that clients might have to make several phone calls before reaching the person dealing with their affairs. It made obvious sense to have a system where all the calls could be answered at the Clacton head office, and then redirected to the right person wherever they were working at the time – even if they were working from home.

So the firm took the decision not to renew their existing service contract (in place since 1992!) and to look for a replacement system from a reputable supplier.

Timing for the new system was important. The work could not be done until the network cabling in the Clacton office had been reconfigured, which meant waiting until February 2015 – and it certainly could not be started before the majority of the firm’s work on annual tax returns had been completed.

Choosing the system

Jameson’s invited three firms to tender. Two were offering cloud-based systems, but Bill Wilson, who was in charge of the deal, was attracted by Foxhall’s server and software-based system. ‘At 62 I’m an IT enthusiast, and phasing down my professional work, but I’m interested in maintaining our IT system. And Graham made a good impression – his system was the least expensive, and I liked the fact that it could be managed from a server in our office. That meant it was under our control and we could do our own minor modifications. The outlay for Foxhall’s system was mostly on phones and an internet upgrade – we’d have needed to do that for any system, so even if we had eventually chosen something different we’d have benefited from the installation anyway.’

A challenging installation

Even when the decision had been made there were some serious challenges to overcome, especially when it came to finding downtime when the upgrades could be done. The Clacton office is also the firm’s main data centre, with many of the staff working on remote desktop machines but still using the in-house servers. With more and more of the firm’s work being internet-based the tolerance for downtime was almost zero – despite careful scheduling to avoid the firm’s busiest period. Even weekends were difficult because colleagues were still working out of hours. ‘But when necessary Graham always worked late into the night to get things done.’ (Graham notes that he wasn’t the only one…!)

Late night working certainly proved necessary when the Foxhall team tried to replace Jameson’s BT Openreach hubs with Draytek routers – only to find that the existing configuration worked only with BT’s own equipment. However, after a (very) long and frustrating weekend Foxhall were able to get everything working as intended.

Similar problems were revealed when it came to installing the new equipment at Manningtree – but once again these were overcome to everyone’s satisfaction, creating a VPN (Virtual Private Network) that precisely met Jameson’s requirements.

Foxhall’s formal quotation was delivered on 13 March. The Clacton office was up and running on 19 April, the Colchester office five days later, and the Manningtree office five days after that – delays made inevitable by the firm’s intensive use of its servers during the working week.

So what was their experience of the installation? In Bill Wilson’s words: ‘Foxhall Solutions delivered the system we were expecting in a thoroughly professional, friendly and enjoyable way –it was very pleasurable working with them.’

Got a pain in the neck – Go Cordless!

cradling-phone-badIs that phone handset literally giving you a pain in the neck? – As you hold it on your shoulder and type on your keyboard …

If you Google that scenario, you’ll find a lot of references to health & Safety in the workplace, and flat-out suggestions that it just should not be done!

So – What’s the alternative …?

Plantronics_BT40A corded headset is a good start. However, it’s amazing how much more natural and enthusiastic you can be in a phone call if you are able to stand up, walk around, and be expressive – just as though you were talking to that person right there with you. To that end, I’m using a new headset with my Yealink T46G phone. This phone has a rather nice feature in that it can be equipped with Yealink’s BT40 Bluetooth module. This in turn can then be used to connect Bluetooth cordless headsets, like you’d use with your mobile phone. There are a set of tested and compatible headsets for this feature of course, and I recently chose the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC headset for my office.

The headset can either be charged through a USB connection off your PC, or from a small charging stand off a mains power adapter. It will give an impressive seven hours talk time off a complete charge which takes just 90 min’s. Set-up on the T46G phone is quick and simple. Just insert the BT40 into the back of the phone, and then use the menu to enable it, then find and connect it to your headset. Being Bluetooth, the headset is a ‘local’ device, with a range of about 10 metres – so this is not a walk-round-the-building solution! (we can get longer ranges with DECT cordless headsets if you need that feature though …).

EXP40-636This is the ideal phone and headset combination – for any situation where people need to operate a keyboard at the same time as making or taking calls, where they may need to get up and walk to a filing cabinet while talking to a caller, or when they might just want to wave their arms around as they go through that important sales proposal. The talk-time of this headset also means that it would be perfect for a Receptionist who answers and passes on calls for a business – even where call volumes are high. In that situation, we can also equip the T46G phone with EXP40 add-on modules to provide one-touch call transfer off to every extension in your business.

Contact Foxhall Solutions to talk about innovative ways to keep in touch with your staff, customers and suppliers – while avoiding that pain in the neck!