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5 Benefits of VoIP That Every Business Needs to Know About

Despite the ubiquity of smartphones in daily life, landlines remain a staple in the business environment. Seen as professional, secure, and easier to manage than mobile phones, they’re nonetheless full of disadvantages, which can hamstring the ability of a company to communicate rapidly between departments or with customers. Many businesses are increasingly turning to VoIP to address these shortcomings.

VoIP stands for Voice-over-Internet-Protocol. It’s a form of telecommunications that relies on the internet rather than a telephone network. It’s sometimes known as internet telephony or broadband phone service. VoIP delivers many advantages to offices and is a smart choice for companies looking to upgrade their phone infrastructure.

5 Benefits of VoIP to Help a Business Thrive

Three different types of technology support voice over IP calling: IP phones, which can place a call anywhere where there is Wi-Fi; analog telephone adapters, which converts an analog phone signal to a digital one to use the internet; and computer-to-computer software calling, like Skype. All three of these methods are commonly found in the office. There are many VoIP benefits for small businesses. These include:

1. Multifunctionality

Anyone who has ever tried to look up contact information while talking on a phone knows just how difficult it is to do it without accidentally hanging up. On a landline, it’s even more impossible, requiring a person to balance the phone on their head while they rummage through another system – or put the device down altogether.

That’s dangerous. Research has shown that hold times negatively affect customer perception of a company.

Not so with  modern VoIP systems – particularly computer-to-computer software calling systems – often bundle multiple functionalities alongside telephony. This is possible because voice over IP works using the internet connection. Unlike a regular phone, a VoIP phone can do:

  • Instant messaging
  • Presence information
  • Teleconferencing
  • Video conferencing
  • Voicemail
  • Send and receive faxes via email
  • Call 911 Direct in reference to Kari’s Law

2. Improved Security

Security isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when considering a phone. After all, it’s not obvious how a hacker can access a landline to eavesdrop on a conversation. The reality is, however, that it’s not only possible but almost impossible to prevent. A landline cannot be encrypted. No VPNs exist for it, and telephone services don’t come with things like antiviruses to detect unauthorized intrusion.

In contrast, VoIP phone calls take advantage of many of the security features found in the digital world. For example, it’s possible to encrypt VoIP phone calls, making them harder to intercept. As a result, VoIP may be attractive to companies subject to data compliance regulations because it offers more ways to secure the information that may be communicated to clients or colleagues.

3. Enhanced Mobility

VoIP is useful in an office because it’s a way to add extra lines without clogging up the phone lines, and employees can use it anywhere they have access to a computer and the internet. As a result, any device, such as tablets, can be turned into a VoIP phone. Employees can enjoy video conferencing and phone calls while they’re on the go from any location.

4. Reduced Expenses

One of the biggest reasons that companies turn to VoIP – sometimes eliminating landlines altogether – is that it’s a way to bypass the cost of hardware, maintenance, and service of phone lines. Growing companies may choose VoIP over adding yet another phone line and the fee that comes with that.

Since VoIP operates with the internet connection that a company already pays for, that’s one less bill that a company must pay. Likewise, many free VoIP services exist, making it a lightweight, budget-friendly solution for smaller businesses.

5. Better Connectivity

Research shows that as many as 85 percent of all calls go unanswered the first time a customer reaches out to a company. Even if that call is logged and returned, there’s again no guarantee that a connection will be made. A game of phone tag commences, wasting everyone’s time.

VoIP can eliminate phone tag and make it easier for customers to reach the business, or employees to reach their colleagues. By being portable and accessible on any device improves the chances that a call will connect the first time around, making everyone’s lives a little easier.

Get the Right Tools for the Job

Despite the many advantages that VoIP offers to the business environment, it remains an understated and underrated tool for the office. VoIP delivers many critical benefits, such as improved mobility and the option to receive phone calls over a computer. This makes it easier for employees to rapidly communicate with their colleagues and customers to deliver better service and business results.

Are you considering VoIP? Smile Business Products can help companies develop the right tools and strategies to succeed. Contact us today to discuss your telecommunications challenges.

Keep a Sharp Eye on Office Technologies in 2020

Modern offices look a lot different today than they did in the past. For years, the office environment has trended towards a digital, connected environment. Employees are now accustomed to seamless digital workflows with tools that integrate across clouds and networks – and there’s no sign of that stopping. Many of Smile’s preferred brands, including Sharp, Fujitsu, and Epson, have been at the forefront of innovation for printing and office technologies. Here’s a recap of what they’ve been up to this year, and what the world has to look forward to in 2020.

What’s New in the World of Printing and Office Tech

Anyone who has been paying attention to the printing industry this year is delighted – and impressed – by some of the latest in printing technology. During 2019:

  • Experimental and specialty inks came to the forefront. Industry leaders like Epson, HP, and others have been actively finding new ways to redesign and reconsider the printing industry’s relationship with ink. For Epson, that has meant revolutionizing the cartridge world with cartridge-free printers.
  • Production print started going mainstream. The printing industry is finally catching up with Lexmark and Fujitsu, which have both marketed entry-level production printers for years. As this technology becomes more commonplace in offices, expect to see yet more companies leveraging ever more sophisticated printing capabilities.
  • Next-generation automation was born. While automation has long existed in the print industry, early examples of advanced automation are taking it to the next level. From prepress to production, automation can handle more parts of the printing process than ever before.

The Most Anticipated Tech of 2020

In 2019, the world saw the first glimpses of some of the exciting things which the future holds in store. Whereas some excitement may have been dampened by the 2018 Bitcoin crash or this year’s burgeoning trade war, innovators aren’t passing up any opportunities. Next year’s most anticipating technology includes:

5G: More Integration with the Internet of Things

Since the first 5G announcements in 2018, the world has been quietly holding its breath in preparation for the rollout of the next generation of wireless connectivity. 5G is expected to revolutionize the way people – and things – connect to the internet.

For offices, 5G will mean more integration and a greater presence of the Internet of Things (IoT), that horde of ubiquitous Wi-Fi-connected devices quietly streaming data in the background. Printers will be able to move data to and from other parts of the data environment seamlessly and employees will no longer be limited to interacting solely with their computers.

Next year, expect to see more efforts to take advantage of the new level of digital connectivity that’s on its way. What will that look like? Consider Sharp, which has just rolled out a line of MFPs that’s fully compatible with Amazon Alexa.

Unlocking Productivity with Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is largely heralded as the next wave of digitalization – at least that’s what Fujitsu called it when they unveiled their latest business productivity solutions that leverage AI. These human-centric AI solutions promise to improve business processes across the board, from smarter printers to more perceptively crafted customer journeys.

However, that’s not the only place where AI is appearing in creative and surprising ways. In 2019, AI began making its way into everyday office management processes such as document management systems. Such AI-powered DMS has the potential to revolutionize not just productivity, but the way data is gathered, extracted, and interacted with at every step of its journey through a company.

Blockchain for the Print Industry

Blockchain rose to fame – or infamy – on the back of cryptocurrency, but it’s since spread into other industries, including that of print. Blockchain offered to create a tamper-proof, secure way to share data. For printers, that means using blockchain to accelerate and transform printing in a secure environment which still benefits from the hyper-connectivity of a digital business.

Blockchain for the print industry is still in its nascent state, but research group Quocirca expects that it will have the same disruptive effect that it’s had in other industries. Stay tuned for next year, as innovators continue to look for ways to refine printing with blockchain.

From Fujitsu to Sharp: Embrace the Future with a Smile

From Fujitsu’s next-generation automation and AI capabilities, to the latest IoT-integrated MFPs by Sharp, the future is looking pretty – well – futuristic. 2019 unveiled some of the most sophisticated and innovative technologies ever seen in the printing and office tech industries. These technologies are promising to unleash unprecedented creativity and productivity for modern offices. Forward-thinking companies need to prepare now to seize the competitive edge which these technologies offer. Prepare for the future with a smile by getting started today.

Whether you need software updates or hardware repairs, Smile’s service technicians are some of the most tech-savvy there are. Contact us today to discuss your technological ambitions for the future.

5G and 6G: What to Expect in 2020

5G and 6G: What to Expect in 2020

With the exception of some selected cities who began offering 5G a few months ago, for the rest of us, 5G is almost here.  For the past year, the tech world has been abuzz with the word. 5G is expected to herald the next major revolution in telecommunications, unleashing new capabilities for the digital world.

Major providers such as Verizon and AT&T all have plans to roll out commercial 5G networks within the next 12 months in the United States, making the next generation of wireless connectivity available to the general public. For businesses, that means customers will be able to access a company’s digital presence faster and in more ways.

5G will affect the way businesses operate in the digital environment – eventually. Read on to understand exactly what this means, and why every business needs to prepare for this eventuality.

Life After 4G: Why 5G Matters

For the past decade, 4G has shaped today’s world into the connected, digital environment characterized by the mobile internet. It was a substantial step up from 3G, which introduced to the world the concept of mobile data. However, technology – especially wireless technology – has hit a plateau in the past few years as our devices are essentially limited by what 4G can offer. Devices simply can’t get faster and more connected because 4G can’t handle it.

5G promises to change that. Critically, 5G intends to take advantage of the frequencies on the wireless spectrum – the invisible lanes of traffic upon which the wireless internet flows – which currently aren’t being used because 4G cannot reach them. 5G devices will be able to reach these wider, less-congested lanes and therefore transmit data much faster than any 4G device could ever hope to achieve.

That’s why 5G is expected to create a revolution of sorts. It also has tremendous implications for the way wireless connectivity operates in our world, especially for businesses.

Current Forecasts and Predictions for 5G

The tech world is optimistic about the arrival of 5G, with many industry experts claiming that it will transform all of our technology utterly. 4G will remain dominant for some years to come. However, once providers establish the infrastructure necessary for a significant 5G presence, current forecasts predict:

  • Greater diversity of wireless devices: Among the most anticipated elements which 5G will introduce to the world is – at last – the reality of the Internet of Things. While it already exists in a way, the IoT will take advantage of 5G by making the oft dreamed about web of smart devices not just possible, but practical.
  • Decreased latency: Latency is the amount of time it takes to send and receive information across the wireless network. The more traffic on the network, the slower devices become – that’s why phones sometimes slow down in highly populated areas. 5G will solve this by opening additional lanes which are wider and reserved only for 5G devices.
  • More physical infrastructure: 4G needed towers strategically placed across the landscape to help move traffic. 5G will need 10 times the amount of infrastructure to handle the load of smart devices it will bring. It’s a tremendous investment opportunity, but it’s also cited as the reason 5G will remain expensive for years to come.

Implications For Businesses

Businesses can expect 5G to change the way they do business over the long run. Particularly, 5G will increase the rate at which businesses must digitize in order to survive. Businesses can expect 5G to transform existing network architecture to introduce:

  • An increased ability to collect, analyze, and act upon data.
  • More digital solutions to meet the growing demand for rapid transmission of large amounts of information.
  • The ability to more rapidly deliver services to customers.
  • Innovation around virtual reality, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.
  • Smart devices which improve visibility, efficiency, and control in business processes.
  • In short, 5G will unlock more applications for wireless technology in the business environment which are currently considered impossible. Forward-thinking businesses should anticipate and prepare.

What is 6G and What Will It Do?

Excitement about 6G arose about the time 5G was announced, as a reality in the future. 6G is yet another generation of wireless connectivity – estimated to bring still faster speeds which support new computing capabilities entirely. For now, however, 6G remains more than a decade in the future, with its capabilities largely undefined.

Transform Your Business Environment With Digital Capabilities

With 5G on the world’s doorstep, it’s time for businesses to start considering their digital future. While 4G will remain the primary iteration of wireless connectivity, the advantages of 5G for early adopters are significant. Like 4G and 3G, the next generation of wireless networking will change the way the world thinks about its digital environment.

Don’t wait until 5G gets here to start thinking about its effects. Digital transformation will help companies make the most out of 5G when it arrives in 2020. Anticipate it and be prepared.

Smile Business Products helps companies develop business technology strategies for the future. Start a conversation with us today to discuss how we can help you thrive in 2020.

What are the Latest Innovations From Sharp For Schools and Education Offices?

What are the Latest Innovations from Sharp for Schools & Education Offices?

The classroom has been changing rapidly over the last decade. Technology has been making learning easier for students and helping teachers present new concepts to young minds. Sharp has been a leader in helping the education industry move forward with the Sharp classroom technology products and services.

From managed print services for a school to cutting edge education technology, Sharp has been changing the way we look at education. This new technology allows students to learn in the way that suits them best and, ultimately, could help produce better results from classrooms across the country.

Sharp Interactive Whiteboards

One of the most exciting pieces of Sharp education technology is the interactive whiteboards that bring lessons to life. With Sharp interactive whiteboards, a high definition display connects students with vivid imagery while teachers are still able to provide their own context and lessons using the interactive whiteboard features.

Best of all, this technology turns a traditional classroom into an area of collaboration. This is in line with research that shows students learn better by actually doing activities rather than simply sitting and listening. Educators can invite students to participate in the lesson, or work together as a group to solve the problem being discussed.

The 4k display provides exceptional clarity while the responsive Sharp Pen leaves endless opportunity for creativity. The Sharp AQUOS board is truly an incredible step for modern classrooms and shows the best of Sharp education technology.

Cutting Costs with Managed Print Services for a School

Education institutions have one of the most important duties within society: to educate young minds. Every dollar spent within a district or school must be effectively spent to ensure that students get the education they deserve.

Sharp offers managed print services for a school or education office that could help reduce printing costs and, therefore, allow more funds to be allocated where they can be used best. In addition, schools can help lead by example when it comes to sustainability planning.

The fact is that print waste accounts for 50% of waste in many offices. With the added user base of a large school or education office, print waste can add up quickly. Managed print services for a school looks to eliminate redundant devices and make printing more economical and environmentally friendly.

Students and staff can be given daily, weekly, or monthly printing limits to help curb unnecessary printing. In addition, multifunction devices can be used in place of single purpose devices to eliminate the need for additional devices that are unnecessary and costly.

Better Storage of Records and Information

It goes without saying that a school or education office has a lot of information to manage on a day-to-day basis. Everything from student records to permission slips needs to be retained securely. In the past, this was done using a paper filing system. Not only is this an inefficient use of space but the method opens up the opportunity for theft or loss that could compromise the privacy of students or faculty.

Sharp classroom technology is not just about beautiful displays for students to interact with. Sharp also works behind the scenes to ensure that data is securely stored but available quickly and easily for authorized users. With the right data management plan in place, educators no longer have to scramble through file folders to access the information they need.

This kind of streamlining can reduce the need for physical storage and the costs associated. In addition, information can be shared among staff, parents, or guardians quickly and simply. Of course, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the child gets the best education possible. With Sharp education technology, students are put first.

Taking Education to the Next Level

Future generations are just beginning to discover the amazing world around them. With Sharp classroom technology, that world can come to life inside their classroom. More importantly, educators are empowered to do their best work and unlock their own creativity to reach their students.

At Smile Business Products we are proud to offer Sharp classroom technology products and solutions. If you are wondering how Sharp managed print services for a school can reduce costs, or interested in seeing the stunning Sharp AQUOS interactive display, we would be happy to sit down with you.

Sharp just announced their award-winning 8K Ultra-HD LCD Display; let us help you discover how 33 millions pixels will change the way you view digital signage. Just another way Sharp can help schools distribute educational material in classrooms.

Contact us today to learn more about how Sharp is changing the education landscape!