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Must-Have Free Apps For Your New iPhone 4

With all the new Verizon customers that will likely buy their own iPhones soon, I’m sure you will be seeing this kind of article more often. There are so many app choices and so many app reviews. How does one decide what to put on their phone?

As the owner of an iPhone for the past 4 years, I can tell you that you will constantly change your “go-to” app on a weekly, if not daily basis. It’s part of the fun. (iPhun?) But the recommendations below are what I keep on my iPhone all the time. I like knowing they are there, even if I don’t use them all the time. These are in no particular order, but all are absolutely free!

The Weather Channel: Too easy. Quick, local info. Too bad they recently lost the road cameras, but maybe we will get that back in the future.
Dictionary: The searches on this app are a breeze. The developers have done a nice job making this app faster with each new update. Now with voice recognition, it takes no time to find the right word. Thesaurus is there too!
iTalk: I like this app better that Apple’s, “Voice Memos.” It has great quality and you can move your recordings to your PC or Mac through the air! (Over a wi-fi network, anyway.)
FlashLight4G: Simple. Gives you the flash light from the back of the phone when you need it. Extremely useful. I keep it on my home page because I can’t tell you how often I’ve needed a little light.
Key Ring: For those people who have a thousand login names and want to make sure each account has a unique password, this free app works just fine. It’s a simple data base with a very intuitive interface. The data is stored in encrypted form and protected by a master password.
AppShopper: Imagine the App Store on steroids. That’s AppShopper. You have quick access to reviews, price changes, wish lists and more. Sometimes it’s easier to find what you need through this app.

These apps are useful and they are free. You can’t go wrong trying them out.

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Choices Matter

Know What You Don’t Know You Need

Choices Matter

In the past three articles I walked through a step by step procedure about how to review telephone bills to procure savings.  I ended that process with a reminder that you have choices for your telecom contract.

When someone asks me what I think about a problem they are having my mind goes to a few questions that allow me to qualify their situation.

CASE STUDY 1 – A simple scenario

This case was “a problem with ‘slow’ computers”.

I asked if they just replaced their phone system and was told they have very old phones that need to be replaced.  I asked how many phones and the answer was 15 or 16.

That led me toward a possible VoIP solution.  I asked how many locations they had: One office and a warehouse.

More questions: How was the business doing, are they at a standstill, reduction in force, or are they growing?  The answer was they are expanding warehouse facilities.

I then asked who carried the phone services and when the present contract ended.  I was given a contact name. I called and got a copy of the phone bill.  I assessed the bill and learned the contract was renewed over a year ago.

I had a team member with this carrier relationship make a call, ask how we could work out a bandwidth upgrade for this client and if we could remove some other services and bring in SIP.  The customer qualified for a VoIP solution by changing the present phone services and adding a new phone system via a SIP arrangement.

The costs:  the savings on the present contract after upgrading the bandwidth was over $600 a month.  Adding the new phone system made their total monthly cost about $140 more than they were paying on just their telephone services.

So, for a small increase they had a new open-ended phone system that could grow with them by adding another phone, or they could remove a phone or two at any time and not pay for those phones.  If they needed another phone they paid for the new phone and the flat rate monthly cost to operate it.  And at the end of three years they owned the phone system.

No $40,000 bill, no added, hidden costs.  Just a solution specifically suited to their company needs.

Next time: CASE STUDY 2 –  A more complex situation

Running the Distance

Know What You Don’t Know You Need

Running the distance

After reviewing your phone bill for what your line charges include there is a section where you should find your local and long distance rate charges.  Write down your charge for that package plan.

Normally there is a ‘package plan’ monthly fee for a limited number of minutes on long distance service and toll free number service.  Write down how many minutes you are allowed under that package plan.

At the bottom of the columns most of the billing companies have run a total of your minutes used.  Take a moment and write down those total minutes you have used.

If you then look at the columns of calls you have made you will likely see that you went over your package plan of, say for example, 500 minutes.  When you go over your elected plan minutes, the company can then charge you anything from six (.06) cents per minute to twenty (.20) cents per minute.

So, if you go over by 68 minutes you may have an extra charge of 68 times 6 cents equaling $4.08.  Well, that’s no big deal right?  So what if you do it 12 times, that’s only  another $50 a year that you spend.

On the other hand, if you had a straight plan of .019 cents a minute it would have cost you $10.80 not the $37 for the package plan and the $4.08 for the overage which comes to $41.08 per month.  So, if you fix that one little thing you are then paying around $10.80 per month (568x.019) instead of $41.08 which saves you $30.28 a month which over a year saves you approximately $363.36.

Ask yourself how many minutes have you been charged overage costs in the past year?  What are the real costs?

Can you now see why you should take the time to assess your telecommunications costs?  It’s the beginning of a new year.  Do you really want to renew that contract that you have in place without even looking for a way to save money?

Always remember that you have choices.

Video Conferencing – Redefining Technological Simplicity

In today’s age of Internet and technology, there has been tremendous transformation in the modes of communication. From small businesses, to big profit organisations, the merits of Video Conference calls have been lapped up by all so as to derive the best results possible. With the help of Video Conferencing, multiple applications can be performed. Many of the organisations, in order to seek fast, easy and reliable means of communication resort to the process of Video Conferencing. These organizations, with help of Videoconferencing, conduct online meetings with their clients or associates and hold online video seminars, also. Hence, Video Conference has made task-performing a hassle free affair for small firms as well as big corporate houses.

Literally speaking, there are several benefits of Video Conferencing:

  • Multiple Functionalities within one: Video Conference calls benefit the user with different advanced features and attributes such as slideshow presentations, live video chats, web tours and more. It offers the user with a concrete conferencing soultion, allied with the mixed impact of audio and video.
  • Cost Curtailment: With the help of Video based Conferencing, organisations, especially the small scale businesses, are being able to cut down their costs. They can hold their training sessions, meetings or other campaigns with the help of web video conference, which otherwise demands large money flow. Such type of Conferencing facilitates business-to-client or business-to-business communication at an economic price.

There are different types of Video based Conferencing Systems and they are namely- Integrated conference room, Set Top Video Conference system, Telepresence conferencing system and Desktop Video conferencing system. Each of these types has specific benefits. While the most commonly used Video Conference call System is the Integrated Room Conferencing system, the cheapest one is Desktop Video Conferencing System.

For this kind of conferencing, all that is required is a Computer, a Web-Camera and access to the Internet. The operating system must have conferencing software installed. Through this innovative yet simple operator assisted conferencing system, users can transfer data, share PowerPoint presentations as well as send text messages to the chat participants during the conference.

For online Conferencing, high quality internet connection is recommended. A connection with speed of minimum 128 kilobytes is an absolute necessity so as to ensure uninterrupted communication and smooth data transfer. For transferring high resolution videos or images, internet speed of 1GB is essential.

The host of live Conferencing can conduct one-on-one meeting with multiple participant. This telecommunication technology also allows to distribute message to various participants of the Conference. Collaborative white boarding, an advanced feature of this type of conference allows the users to share a same virtual board, and hence can view, review or discuss the same document image or presentation in real time.

Nowadays, the usage of Wireless headphones in Desktop Conferencing is highly encouraged. The Bluetooth technology involved with it helps in uninterrupted and enhanced service, coupled with an improved audio quality.

Today, every business house, large or small scale businesses favor Desktop Video Conference for communicating with their business partners or clients. A host of desktop video conference call service providers have ushered in to help medium and small businesses to avail desktop conferencing facilities. These Operator assisted Conferencing results in gifting inexpensive & faster communication, enabling business acumen to initiate necessary dialogue whenever desired. They can even monitor the proceedings at different office branches, helping them to manage their business better.

In this fast paced world, when every business houses are striving for a reliable communication network to collaborate with their clients and associates, Desktop Conferencing is aptly catering to the needs of these houses. This kind of Operator assisted Conferencing have evolved to help companies achieve their business means in a more cost-effective and economic manner. This type of Conferencing offers more personalized ways of communication and owning to its multi functional assets, it has benefited the cause of every business type.

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Broadband Tips and Guidelines

Today, broadband is the standard for most users when accessing the Internet; the use of modems and dial up have become relics of the past. The main reason is that costs have dropped dramatically, making broadband affordable by the average user. If you are still relying on dial up services to access the Internet, with its slow speed and unreliable connection, you should seriously consider converting to broadband.

The growth of Broadband has been exponential, with approximately 500 million American subscribers in 2010. There are national plans promoting the universal availability of affordable and accessible broadband connectivity; especially to areas of low population density with the use of WISPs (Wireless Internet Service Provider). Cellular towers are now being outfitted with 3G and 4G network capability that support high-speed broadband, which enable cell phones to have access to the Internet; and with the inclusion of cellular broadband routers, multiple computers can be connected to the Internet through one cellular connection.

If you’re considering using a broadband provider, here are some guidelines:

  • If you currently have (or are considering) a Cable service for your TV, also determine if they provide access to the Internet as well. Generally Cable companies provide inexpensive high-speed access through cable modems. A router with WiFi will enable multiple computers in your home to connect to the modem concurrently.
  • If you have a cellular phone, contact your service provider and determine if they also provide high-speed (at least 3G) access to the Internet.
  • A Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) uses existing telephone lines. If this is available in your area, compare prices to the above alternatives. Applications for broadband are growing every day. Below is a partial list of the most interesting…
  • Voice over IP. This is a group of technologies that provide voice, fax, and messaging communications, and multimedia.
  • Broadband Radio. Most popular radio stations now offer streaming audio over the Internet. This means you can listen to the radio broadcast anywhere in the World where you have access to the Internet.
  • Online Shopping. As an alternative to shopping at the store, you can now shop virtually through the Internet. This is also referred to a Business-to-Consumer (B 2 C) and Business-to-Business (B2B) online shopping.
  • Internet Television. Did you miss your favorite TV show? Well, now you can access free and paid services that record popular shows and watch them on your computer. is a service for American shows.
  • IPTV (Internet Protocol TV). In the future it is likely that most television will be delivered through the Internet, as opposed to Cable or Airwaves.

The future is the Internet. To enjoy the full benefits of the Internet, you will need broadband access.

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A good telecommunications headset is everything!

When it comes to business, communication is everything. And, when it comes to big businesses, telecommunications are even more important. With hundreds of phone calls taking place every day, there isn’t much room for error. When any phone call is interrupted by faulty equipment, or disrupted by static that shouldn’t be there in the first place, efficiency goes down.

And it’s avoidable in the first place-an apt business owner shouldn’t let faulty equipment get in the way. Usually, when something goes wrong with a phone call, it’s not the phone itself-but the receiver. Office workers that usually deal with phones all day wear headsets and a headset with lackluster features will not help efficiency at all. In fact, it can do a whole lot more harm than just being ineffective.

On the other hand, a great headset can make any office worker productive. Though it may not seem like it, quality headsets do have a huge impact on telecommunications. Most business owners-or companies, for that matter-don’t take the necessary time to look over the headsets they’re using. And that can lead to wasted time, ineffective communication, and poor reception between customers and employees.

When office workers have the proper equipment to do their job thoroughly, like a Jabra Bluetooth headset, there’s no room or margin for error. Although when a worker is using substandard equipment, there’s always a chance that something can go wrong. So, don’t let anything go wrong-even though upgrading and purchasing new equipment can be tedious, it’s not costly; especially with simple equipment like office headsets-or even something like a Jabra Bluetooth headset.

Just because the equipment you use is working doesn’t mean there isn’t a better option. Daily operations can definitely improve-even with a relatively simple office headset upgrade, like a Jabra Bluetooth headset. At the least, it’s worth looking into.

Especially with simple equipment like office headsets-or even something like a Jabra Bluetooth headset.

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What’s on The Line?

Know What You Don’t Know You Need

What’s on The Line?

Now that you have pulled all of your information out of file folders and spread your bills all over your writing space you may wonder “What does all this mumbo jumbo mean?”

You’re looking at a bill and see Billing Summary and think that’s a place to start.  Plans and services $400, Long Distance Service $50, You notice there is a charge for voice mail, say $9 and a voice mail service fee of $15.  Okay, so now you know what you’re paying a month in total.  But what do these charges break down to and what are you getting for this price?

Let’s start with the business lines and what services are on them.

  • Business lines up to 8 lines– if you need more lines it may entail signing a new contract for another 3 years.  Without a review with someone other than your carrier, your direct sales person auto renew your account because he just wants to keep his sales numbers up.  It’s just a fact.  Write down that you need to check what happens if you add more lines to your service.
  • 3way calling with transfer – With transfer you can transfer an incoming call to another line or add another person to a call in progress.  If calls are not local, long distance or expanded local calling rates may apply.  But remember, if you hang up and the other parties continue to speak to each other you will incur those charges until they both disconnect the call.
  • call forwarding busy line – Sends telephone calls to voice mail or to another number when your line is busy.
  • call forwarding don’t answer– redirects your telephone calls to another telephone number if you do not answer your telephone call within a pre-specified number of rings.
  • ring control– The number of telephone rings before your call is forwarded can be determined by the subscriber, but set by the telephone company. This can be set from one to 10 rings.
  • remote activation of call forwarding –control your Call Forwarding feature from any touch-tone phone.  This is a residential product.
  • message waiting indication for audio or visual – this is normally built into your telephone
  • caller ID Name and number delivery – allows you to see the telephone number and name of the caller before you answer the phone.
  • call return – Dial *69 to find out who called, then press 1 to return the call.
  • anonymous call blocking – rejects calls from people who intentionally block delivery of their calling party name and/or number.
  • star 98 to voice mail – Dial *98 from your home phone and instantly connect to the voice mail system

Now take a look at how many of these services you use, and how often, and for what reasons.  Write this all down, because it’s part of your assessment for telecom decision making.

Know What You Don’t Know You Need

Know What You Don’t Know You Need

Begin with the Bottom Line

The first question on the agenda when quoting telecom services is what the customer presently has for services and how much they are paying for those services.

I would like to begin this new year by informing you about some telephone and bandwidth services, and ideas, that could help you.  But these ideas can’t help if you don’t know about them, or haven’t given them a thought, or if you have not ever wondered how they work.

To begin I would like to draw a comparison of telecommunications services to the commercial real estate market.  When looking for a business site the prescription for success is location, location, location!

If you stop to consider your telecom expenses when you are about to move your business site, location is also a significant consideration because of access to the latest technology.  It’s also a time when you should be looking at your telecom plans to reduce your telecom expenses with newer technology.  And because you already assessed your present services with vendor management, invoice auditing, and telecom service procurement options it should be easy, right?

On the other hand, if you have avoided planning your telecom inventory for years, your guesses could be wildly inaccurate and your organization could have no true enterprise-level telecom expense control going on. In short, you don’t know what you don’t know.  What you need are answers.

So, start gathering data now, regardless of whether you are moving or not.  This means looking at everything you’ve got including landlines, data circuits, wireless devices, and all other telecom services for which you are billed.

After you have all the data together, life starts getting a lot easier.  You’ll have easy answers to telecom expense questions and renewal options and winning IT decisions. Paying telecom invoices will be friendlier because you will be sure that what you are paying for is what you need.

The best part of accomplishing this task is that you will have a visible, working knowledge of your present telecom position and a plan to lower your future expenses.  When it is time to expand, and the need for new telecom decisions arise, your equipment and service purchases will be orderly and you will be asking for what you need rather then what someone is going to sell you out of the box.  You won’t need to scramble through what you don’t know because you know you already know.

Do YOU know?

Five Reasons You Should Be Using Video Email For Prospecting

In today’s competitive world, it has become increasing more difficult to initiate the sales process with new prospects. The old method of sending direct mail has become almost obsolete and let’s face it, most cold mail pieces are just thrown in the trash. Telemarketing calls, which were popular in the 80’s are becoming less and less effective because of “caller ID features” and voicemail screening. Traditional email marketing has increased in volume tremendously, but now it has become oversaturated and impersonal. What is needed is a new technique that utilizes the email marketing format but adds a personal, almost interactive touch. Video email marketing is the answer and its use is rising very quickly. Video email is the use of your webcam and software to film yourself making a presentation to your prospects. This presentation can then be imbedded into your emails via a link. When your prospects get your email, they can click on the link and there you are in living color talking to them with your message. Here are the top five reasons that you should using video email for your prospecting programs.

  • It is more effective than traditional email. With traditional email, every message looks the same in your prospect’s mailbox. Most of the emails are spam sent out by machines that are not even relevant to the prospect’s needs. With video email, you can target your prospects individually and through your video presentation, you can customize each message, even down to each individual. With the link that says, “Please watch my recorded message.”, it builds curiosity in the prospect that urges him to click on the link and see what the message says. Actual results reveal that video increases the results by 22% over traditional email. I have sent out video messages to a list of 1000 executives that I targeted with personal messages and ended up doing business with thirty one individuals and started a dialogue with fifty seven executives.
  • It is easy to use. You just need a webcam and access to video software to film your personal videos. There are several video email software programs that you can find with a search on the web. Once you have made your video, you can store it and recall it at any time. You can make generic videos to go to a vertical industry or you can make individual videos to go to specific people. You may have a brief aversion to filming yourself, but once you practice a bit, you will become a real pro.
  • It is just like being there. With a video of yourself making a presentation, it is just like you are in the room with your prospect making your pitch in person. It is almost better because you are uninterrupted. You can deliver your entire message without being diverted to other topics or issues.
  • Visuals, like PowerPoints, can be deployed. Again, just like making live presentations, you can roll in PowerPoint slides that will appear beside your video and give emphasis to the points that you are making. There is a feature that allows you to upload your presentations or jpegs and store them for use on your videos.
  • You can roll in videos. You can actually play a video beside your video, which brings in even more information to the prospect. If you don’t want to have two videos going simultaneously, you can switch your video off until the other video has stopped playing.

In the final analysis, you owe it to yourself to try video email marketing. I am sure you will find, like I did, that it is an exciting way to capture your prospect’s attention and get better results.

Mike Burns has been in the conferencing industry since 1971, having originally worked for Southwestern Bell and AT&T. In 1989, Mr. Burns founded Conference Pros International and in 2000, Mr Burns founded A+ Conferencing, a conferencing provider that sells exclusively through master agents and resellers. Mr Burns speaks and writes about the conferencing industry frequently.

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Clem Wyman CEO of ValuLink Technology Solutions once again contributes his expertise in IP Communications for

Clem Wyman CEO of ValuLink Technology Solutions once again contributes his expertise in IP Communications for

  • What percentage of your new sales in 2011 will be IP Communications (SIP and Hosted) and how much will be “old Technology” (PRI and pots)?

We’ve been selling SIP trunks — and to a lesser degree, hosted — since 2004.  Although we’ve seen sales steadily grow year over year, last year was the first time our SIP/hosted sales truly rivaled “traditional” product sales.  There continue to be a lot of phone vendors who advise customers to avoid “IP” in favor of traditional products only to have us bring in IP-based dynamic T1s and PRIs — products I’m leaving lumped into the “traditional” product category for the purposes of this response. We are finally starting to see that change as more and more IP PBX manufacturers push SIP to go with their SIP enabled products. Yes, we still sell a lot of POTS lines, but we’re talking multi-location customers with one or two lines per location or we’re talking alarm/elevator/modem/etc., support lines. What is unmistakable is the up-tick in interest in hosted services in the small business space.  “Traditional” may hold its own with SIP for another year, but from where we are sitting the pendulum is really close to crossing the median and may well make it across in 2011.

  • “Why wouldn’t I use Vonage as a business phone service?”
  • I run a small office, and we’re moving over to VoIP. What are the benefits of using a “business” branded service like Vocalocity, as opposed to something like Vonage?

We have a lot of customers using either VoIP hosted services, SIP trunks supporting premise-based equipment, or a combination of both, but those are primarily larger customers for whom we can deliver service solutions that provide Quality of Service (QOS) across the entire network with 99.999% uptime Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

With smaller customers and connections that go direct to the public internet (usually cable or DSL), we still try to maximize the odds of the customer having a good experience.  That means dealing with business grade products whenever and wherever possible.

For example, we recommend synchronous DSL (i.e., 768K x 768K) versus “best effort” products (i.e. cable broadband or, say, 6M x 768K asynchronous DSL), but since “slower” synchronous speeds cost more than “faster” asynchronous products, that’s frequently not an option — especially when the customer is a heavy bandwidth consumer for applications other than voice.  When that’s the case, as it frequently is, we need to test the customer’s connection for latency and jitter to determine if the connection will reasonably support voice and, if so, how many simultaneous calls are viable before degradation is likely to set in.  No matter what the answer is to those questions, we want the customer to have a router that can at least provide premise-based QOS so they won’t shoot themselves in the proverbial foot.

So what about VoIP service providers for the SMB space?  Our first rule is simple: if the provider also plays in the residential space, we don’t play with them. It’s not that you can’t have a good experience with some of those crossover products.  You can.  But with so many variables involved that we can’t control, we need to control all we can, especially since the money differential involved is often pretty small.  If the customer has a service issue, we want them to reach support quickly and we want the person they speak with to be someone who deals exclusively with businesses. It is amazing what a difference that alone can make relative to ultimate customer satisfaction levels.

Now, as far as which company might be the best match for a smaller customer, the fact is there are several providers out there who are very good. Unless the customer is speaking with someone pushing the only thing they have to sell, to narrow it from here would require some conversation with the customer about preferences, needs, growth plans, whether hosted or dial tone replacement is the better fit, etcetera, etcetera.