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 …

Should I give up my landlines and use mobiles instead?

Last week, a story broke that “Accountancy giant PwC is doing away with landlines at office desks” and using “more efficient” mobile phones. We ask – ‘Is this the start of a new trend?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The story also told us that ‘landline usage was falling rapidly’.  This may be the case, but not because they are being replaced by mobiles! Legacy landlines (fixed analogue and ISDN lines) are being rapidly replaced by VoIP channels in broadband Internet services. These ‘SIP Trunk’ channels are much easier & faster to provide and are a fraction of the rental cost of analogue or ISDN lines. Other reports out there will tell you about the meteoric 18+% cumulative annual growth rate in the global SIP Trunk market! In the business world, landlines are being replaced by SIP Trunks, definitely not dropped!

The landline is far from dead! It’s still there but in a much more flexible and cost-effective guise.

The big question though, is how can mobile phones be ‘more efficient’ for a company than having extensions off a telephone system? Let’s look at some of the facts that you’ll need to consider if you are thinking about dropping your ‘landlines’ and going ‘all-mobile’ …

Capital costs:

The central IP-PBX component of modern phone systems for SME’s, will usually cost less than a single Apple iPhone! High-end VoIP feature-phones (e.g. our Yealink T46G or Fanvil X6), also cost a fraction of an iPhone, and a lot less than other mainstream Android devices. So junking your phone system and replacing it with ‘company’ mobiles, is not the cheaper option. If you’re talking to someone who suggests that it could be, then please give us a call!

Ongoing service rentals:

Monthly rentals on mobiles are much higher than monthly rentals on SIP Trunk channels. SIP Trunks are around £3 per channel per month, and because typically you need a lot less trunk lines than extensions in a phone system, the ongoing cost of ownership for a VoIP IP-PBX system is VERY much lower than for mobiles.

Costs of ‘Internal’ calls:

If you use mobiles, all internal and external calls will be at mobile tariff rates. You may have a calling plan, but, be assured that it’s not ‘free’ when you call a colleague – it’s simply pre-paid!  However, a modern VoIP phone system will allow you to make true zero-cost calls to colleagues in your office, or at branch offices as these calls are going via local network and Internet, and not through metered cellphone or PSTN routes.

Remember too, that when you go mobile, customers will be calling you at 3 to 4 times the tariff rates of calls to your competition. This is because a call to a mobile is still more expensive than a call to a landline number!

Call routing to help your customers:

Modern phone systems include a lot of very useful centrally managed call-routing features such as; call groups, queues and centralised voice-mail. This allows us to have single direct dial numbers into departments in ways that remove frustrations for the caller. Call routing plans add huge benefit to the PBX, making phone systems what they are and taking up the major planning and configuration phases in a system install. With mobiles all acting as stand-alone devices, it’s either very difficult or just plain impossible, to route incoming calls in ways that take staff holidays, meetings, availability etc. into account and make it easy for your customers to get through to somebody in a business unit who can deal with their enquiry right now.

Security:

Security also needs to be considered. Phone systems have various ways of presenting customer contact lists for dialling at the desk – but typically, this information is kept locked away with the phone system in the ICT room. With cellphones, that customer database must be kept on each mobile and therefore is open to abuse if the mobile is stolen, lost or may even be cloned by staff considering a position with your competitor!

Some other practical issues:

  • Calls are more ‘stable’ and better quality on a desk phone / landline.
  • Desk-phones don’t leave the building (good luck keeping track of a cellphone inventory!).
  • Desk-phones won’t lure users off into Facebook or Instagram.
  • Something to think about – Will a company cellphone policy push staff into carrying two mobile devices; their own and the business phone?
  • The jury is still out regarding the health implications of keeping a cellphone next to your head all day …
  • Batteries don’t die in a desk-phone (and yes, it’s easy to back-up a phone system with a UPS in case of mains power failure).

Don’t get me wrong, we aren’t anti-mobile here. We have the 3CX and Linkus app’s that we can load onto iOS and Android cellphones to extend the benefits of flexible and low-cost VoIP telecom’s out to mobile devices. This approach makes the app’ on the cellphone a managed part of your business phone system – including its call routing plans – with zero-cost internal calls.

There are a lot of very good arguments as to why mobiles should be integrated WITH your phone system, but we think that you need to plan carefully if you are considering using mobiles INSTEAD of a business phone system.

Contact us at Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228 402 – to talk about the future of your telecommunications in these very interesting times …

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 …

Securing your VoIP telephone system

Secure-VoIPIs your VoIP phone system secure? Due to recent attacks on prominent IT systems, we are aware that we should protect our; Servers, computers, laptops, smart-phones and tablets. However, if not protected, VoIP phone systems may also be vulnerable to on-line attack that could allow them to be ‘hacked’ and used by somebody else, at your expense!

Hackers use automated tools (bot’s) that cruise the Internet ‘phishing’ for VoIP phone systems that react to queries on SIP communications port 5060. When they find an Internet address that responds, they will bombard that address with other tools designed to look like the registration of a VoIP extension. If an extension or SIP Trunk registration can be hacked, then it can be used to create a call route using the trunk-lines of that phone system to connect calls to anywhere in the world. If your system gets hacked, it’s you that gets the phone bill!

This is how we secure your 3CX and Yeastar phone systems:

Firewalls

Foxhall Solutions install Draytek routers to connect 3CX systems to SIP Trunk services provided by different ‘Telephony Internet Service Providers’ [TISP’s]. We create a Firewall filter rule that blocks port 5060 enquiries from any Internet address other than our TISP partners (and from valid extensions at remote home or branch offices). This helps make your phone system ‘invisible’ to those phishing bot’s and puts an effective barrier in place to stop most attacks. Without filtering, the hackers are still bashing at the door and trying to pick the lock, with the filtering in place, they just can’t find the door!

Passwords

3CX & Yeastar extensions are created with registration passwords and voicemail PIN numbers that are by default, randomly generated alphanumeric characters. Both can be manually replaced by longer and more complex passwords if necessary. This means any hacking tool must make a lot of registration attempts to get anywhere near a valid registration password – making it easy to block after e.g. 5 failed attempts.

International call-block

Part of a 3CX install, is to determine which International countries you need to call. Those ISD country codes can be white-listed and allowed, while calls to any non-selected countries will be blocked.

Network address

We also determine what local and public network IP addresses that calls will come from, and white-list those. For this reason, we recommend that remote extensions are on broadband services with static Public IP addresses (or connect in via Virtual Private Networks). 3CX will automatically black-list and prevent access from Public Internet IP addresses that meet the criteria set up in the Security module.

Anti-hacking

Anti-hacking timeouts are configured; We specify the number of failed Authentication attempts allowed, before the offending Internet address is locked out (and specify how long that lock-out is maintained). This module also includes protection against Denial of Service type attacks (excessive packets of data per second), and has timers to ensure lockout after a minimal amount of fraudulent traffic is detected.

It’s also notable that our carrier partners do some basic traffic ‘quantity’ and ‘routing’ monitoring to detect unusual usage. It’s possible to have SIP Trunk channels blocked for outbound calls, based on detection of excessive or unusual usage.

It’s also important to have a comprehensive error message library that can push e-mail alerts out to system administration and support. These messages will provide information if hacking attempts are made, and if calls to unauthorised numbers or countries are attempted from an extension.

In the past, we have seen ‘phantom calls’ arriving on remote extensions due to the phones themselves reacting to ‘fishing’ on port 5060 ‘. Our phone-set partners – Yealink  & Fanvil have removed this problem with a feature to allow us to instruct the phone to react to SIP protocol from your phone server only. And, if you are really worried about calls to remote extensions (e.g. in another country), being intercepted and monitored, we can apply Secure SIP (TLS encryption), to and from those extensions.

As a final layer of protection, even though it is not exposed to web-browsing and e-mail, we also install an anti-malware product (e.g. Avast!) on your 3CX server.

Due to their nature, VoIP phone systems must be open to the Internet. However, there are a lot of security facilities that can be built into these systems by responsible software developers. When choosing a new phone system, or, if you’re already using VoIP – you shouldn’t hesitate to ask your system supplier how your phone system is being protected so that you won’t experience outage  – or even ‘outrage!’ due to hackers attacking it and creating an eye-watering call bill! With 3CX & Yeastar, we have you covered …

 

Contact Foxhall Solutions – 01787 228 402 – to find out more about securing your telephone systems.

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!