COVID-19 UPDATE - Work at home options explained! [Hosted Phones] (video)

Many of these options have always existed, but evidensed by our Clients' enquiries, now more than ever we needed a detailed explanation of the options.

At BitBlock, we believe our Clients are the core of our business. We are committed to continuing to deliver the service you expect to assist you in providing your own clients and customers the service required for business continuity.

We are refining contingency plans for our Clients and others who may be trying to alter their work environments as they adopt “social distancing”, including many options to facilitate remote work / work from home options.

Note for SIP Trunking specific options please see the related article.

The above video contains this same message and may be easier to share with those who need the information

Respecting Health Canada guidelines, some Clients may remain open while others may wish to enable their employees to work at home. Face-to-face team meetings, business meetings and inter-office travel should be minimized or avoided.

BitBlock is well equipped for any situation where extended remote work is required; for years we have been helping our Clients deploy multi-site installations for their businesses. The evolution of a mutli-site install of course is one where every staff member works from home!

 

There are a few things to share with your own clients / keep in mind:

  • Please consider submitting a ticket if you require assistance. We are dealing with a high volume of change requests as we support clients moving to work at home, and the most efficient way to track issues is by having a ticket.
     
  • Global telecom networks (voice, cellular, and internet) are experiencing unprecedented increases in traffic volume as more people work from home (or keep busy / entertained while self isolating). This load can cause congestion during dialing or possibly call quality issues. We will continue monitoring and taking action as applicable.
     
  • Toll free calls enter our network through different paths, and can be a good secondary route if you experience congestion (or vice versa – if you normally call the toll free, try the “long distance” – remember that north America wise, this doesn’t add any cost with our service. If your business requires a toll free number to assist your own clients let us know.)
     
  • More information is below, but please avoid call forwarding as it increases load on all networks. Options below.

SIP Trunking Clients Note: Call display MUST be accurate to ensure call completion. Calls should be dialed with a leading 1 or 011 as applicable. <link to article pending>

 

 

Working From Home

Working at home is possible in a number of ways. While some clients using Office 365 or G-Suite may have moved to hosted storage, others may require VPN access. Your IT / network manager should be able to help with these issues – if you don’t have a resource who can help, let us know. There are many existing remote access tools which might solve your issue. Once you have access to your data, you might need to handle calls. Here we will outline a variety of scenarios, and detail the pros and cons of each.

When you email someone from home, you will normally use your work email for work; the same should be true for phone calls. Calling a client / customer from your personal cell or home phone could lead them to call you back on it - even add it to their contact record for you.

Keeping a healthy work / home balance requires having work calls go to the "work phone", and voicemail.

 

 

FlexFax

Lets start with the simplest transition. Enabling FlexFax means your inbound faxes are set to deliver to email with a PDF attachment. Sending faxes is as easy as sending an email – your email body can be sent as an email attachment. If your fax service is already with us, we can enable this option very quickly and at no additional cost. Just start a ticket below, specify the fax number to enable, and the authorized names / email addresses who will send faxes. Inbound faxes can deliver to a single address – we recommend an Office 365 shared folder. If you need help with this just note it in the contact form. Delivering faxes to email will eliminate paper waste, and allow you to review / respond wherever you work on email.

Pros

Cons

  • No additional cost if your fax is with us
  • Fast set up
  • Does not require moving original equipment or any new equipment
  • Allows reception & sending of multiple faxes at a time
  • Eliminates paper waste
  • Allows individual sending with confirmation to the sender (no more lost confirmation sheets)
  • Works from anywhere and on any device you can access email from
     
  • Please let us know if you think of one?

OVERALL: A vast improvement over paper fax!

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

Voicemail. Is yours set up?

We frequently see Clients who have had a change in staff, but still have someone’s old voicemail greeting. Log in to PhoneOpts to see when you last updated your greetings.

For example, sometimes people only record a single greeting but skip the busy greeting. Each greeting has a purpose though – if you only want to record one, you can record your name – skipping the unavailable and busy greetings will result in generic greetings which include your name. Some companies may insist those be completed too.

Consider updating? Or setting a Temporary Greeting for the duration of your out of office work?

If you need to access remotely, remember you can: Accessing your Message Center (Voicemail)

For a complete reference on Voicemail Setup see: Message Center (Voicemail) Setup

For a complete reference on PhoneOpts (self-serve voicemail management) see: Self Serve Management (Tools->PhoneOpts)

If you need to designate an admin user please let us know by submitting a ticket.

 

 

Voicemail to Email Options

Voicemail can be left for access on the phone (message waiting light), forwarded to email, or both. When both, you will still need to clear messages from your mailbox. There are other options too.

Review details on the options here: Message Center (Voicemail) to Email Options

Consider adding optional Voicemail services such as:

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Phone options and methods for working @ Home

Work at home options vary in function, and cost. Some options will involve hardware, some do not. Each has pros and cons.

Within an organization you can mix and match these options per user - not everyone may need the same thing.

 

 

Add a Cordless Phone @ Home

Adding a home extension for your office phone is the best long term solution. The phone selected could be any phone – a desk phone or a cordless. Where the cordless phone stands out though is when you don’t have network cable available or an existing “home office,” because a cordless phone is comprised of two parts.

The base station, plugs into the internet router and power. The phone / charging stand only require power, no network cable. They work just like a regular cordless phone except you can manage work calls, transfer, hold, etc.

Whether you chose a cordless phone or a desk phone, adding a remote extension gives you the ability to move between locations with ease.

For more information on a recommended cordless phone: Yealink W60P / W56H / RT20 Specifications

Pros

Cons

  • Use your phone anywhere in your home
  • Integrate with your office dial plan (call extensions and transfer easily)
  • Avoid interference with microwave ovens, and Wi-Fi issues
  • Participate in ACD and queues like a desk phone
  • Virtually unlimited range with range extenders – cover large property
  • Add additional phones if you need them (shared base station)
  • Can support a headset for hands free use
  • Can support your home line too (if you have one) – ask for details!

 

  • Additional cost of hardware - please contact us using the form below
  • Fewer buttons and functions than a desk phone
  • Smaller display

 

OVERALL: A solid reliable option for regular day to day use both in the house, and around it (can work in the yard, etc.)

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Moving your phone home (or elsewhere)

The basic requirements for one of our phones to operate are power, and a stable internet connection. These days many people will have a fast enough connection at home – all you may need to do is relocate the equipment.

Traditional desk phones normally require a network cable (some newer models support Wi-Fi), but Wi-Fi can often be unreliable. Particularly residential grade 2.4Ghz systems which suffer interference with microwave ovens, and other things.

Once you connect your phone to your router, you still require power. If your office system used Power over Ethernet (POE) then you may require a POE injector or a Power Adapter. A POE injector will allow greater freedom as a single wire needs to run to the phone and it can be as long as you need (100m max) vs a Power Adapter (which limits you to about 1.5m from the wall plug).

For more information on Power Adapters: Power Adapters - working from home

Pros

Cons

  • Use the same phone you are used to
  • Have access to speed dials, remote extension monitoring and one button dial options
  • Can support the same headset you use in the office – cordless or corded

 

  • Likely requires a network cable to connect the phone to your router (100m max.)
  • Requires moving the phone
  • May require a power adapter, POE injector or POE switch (minimal cost) - please contact us using the form below

OVERALL: A good solid choice – especially for the long haul or long term repeatable option

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Using a Soft Phone (Bria Solo recommended)

A Soft Phone is simply a program which runs on a PC (Windows, Mac, or Linux) or on a smartphone. We document and support the use of Bria Solo and Teams, however other programs may be used. One of the key requirements for use on a mobile phone is the support of push notifications. In conjunction with Bria, we can supports “push notifications” which re-launch or “wake” the phone application each time it rings. Many other applications do not support this. The side effect of not supporting “push” is you may miss incoming calls unless the application happens to be open in the foreground.

For more information please review Initial Setup of CounterPath Bria Solo

Pros

Cons

  • Inexpensive (licensed from $2.95 / month direct from CounterPath – 30 day demo!)
  • Can be used on computer, smart phone or both
  • Does not require moving original equipment or any new equipment
  • Ensures your clients see your existing office call display enabling this to be a temporary solution (better than calling clients from your home or cell and trying to change their habits later!)
  • Depends on wired, Wi-Fi or cellular network quality
  • Performance may vary depending on the load on the computer or smart phone
  • Will have a different interface than your hard phone and may lack functions you are used to such as presence monitoring, one button dials, etc.

OVERALL: Less stable than a hard phone depending on how new / reliable / fast your computer or smart phone is. Great for travel though!

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Using a Soft Phone with us – when you don’t have our phone service

We are able to set up a phone account even if you use a SIP Trunk or another provider who doesn’t support access from home. We can make your outbound calls show whatever call display you require. We can assign a temporary number to facilitate inbound calls, or call forwarding there are some congestion related call forwarding complicatoins, but this may be a useful temporary measure.

This ensures return calls go to the number people know and recognize (which likely would end in your office voicemail system), while allowing you to place calls and continue to return your messages.

Pros

Cons

  • Inexpensive (licensed from $2.95 / month direct from CounterPath – 30 day demo!)
  • No term contract
  • Can be used on computer, smart phone or both
  • Does not require moving original equipment or any new equipment
  • Ensures your clients see your existing office call display enabling this to be temporary solution (better than calling clients from your home or cell and trying to change their habits later!)
  • Add call forwarding, or other options to start migrating to our services if you need more assistance!

 

  • Often depends on Wi-Fi
  • Performance may vary depending on the load on the computer or smart phone
  • Will have a different interface than your hard phone and may lack functions you are used to such as presence monitoring, one button dials, etc.
  • Receiving a call will require callers to know your new number, or call forwarding from your old system. This can be temporary while we make longer term changes such as central office forwarding, or porting

OVERALL: Avoids call returns to your personal cell / home phone - a solution to a problem no one wants!

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Find Me / Follow Me / Forwarding

These are the simplest options to set up, but have a number of challenges particular to the current pandemic. Because they seem simple they are often the most misunderstood, and the most limited in function.

For more details, see here: What is the difference between Call Forwarding, Find Me, and Follow Me?

In general, call fowarding is best avoided. In has a lower chance of success, and increases system load the most (across all providers).

The key thing to realize especially with the existing load on telecom and cellular networks is that all calls will NOT complete. Understanding what can happen will help you decide if this is an acceptable option.

In short:

  • Find Me allows a caller to reach your cell by pressing 1 at your voicemail greeting. Of the three options, this is the BEST. The system does not ring your cell when someone is content to leave a message. You can use voicemail options outlined before to handle the calls in the order received. The caller is informed (by your greeting) of the option, and then understands the longer ring time is because they are calling your cell. If you don’t answer they are returned to voicemail. Only uses two lines when a caller opts to press 1 and wait to connect. Only one caller at a time is connected, reducing load on your cell. An example message might be: 
    "Sorry I'm not available right now, while we transition to our work at home strategy, please leave a message for call back. If urgent, you can press 1 to try to reach me on my cell. The ring time may be a little longer while the call is connected. Thank you."
     
  • Follow Me is a system feature often called Call T’ing or “twinning” – when a call rings your extension, this feature tries to contact your cell. The issue is that under load the cellular network MAY not complete the call, and unless ring time is extended to 30-40 seconds (which will cause callers to hang up) the call may still not connect. As the recipient, you may only hear a partial ring – or none at all – and the caller might be listening to an extended ring time with no understanding of the reason. On failure to connect though this system DOES return to your voicemail – if the caller waits that long. Uses two lines (one in, and one out to your cell), which adds to delay, and system load.
     
  • Forwarding is like a transfer to an external number. The call is bounced out to your cell. The trouble is when the cellular network can’t locate you there’s no safety net (voicemail) to fall back on. The caller might hear a cellular “unavailable” message or just be dropped. This is not a limitation of our system. Also uses two lines like Follow Me.

Pros

Cons

  • No cost
  • Fast set up
  • Does not require moving original equipment or any new equipment
  • Depends on cellular network delays
  • Some opportunity for dropped calls
  • Can frustrate callers and result in hang ups

OVERALL: Forwarding is not recommended. It increases cellular network congestion and will be unreliable. Follow Me is similar to forwarding and is likely unusable at this time due to cellular network congestion and dialing delays. Find Me may be a solution for light duty use ONLY, but should be expected to suffer increased call drops due to the same congestion.

Please contact us to discuss / configure for your requirements using the form below!

 

 

Summarized Scenarios

  1. Add a cordless phone @ Home.
  2. Move the desk phone home. Add a power adapter or POE injector if required.
  3. Set up a soft phone on computer or smart phone (or both).
  4. Find Me / Follow Me / Forwarding
  5. Return calls from Voicemail

 

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