The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world into lock-down with us being asked to “work from home where we can”. Many businesses are using remote working features of their VoIP phone systems to enable their staff to work from home in ways that few of us had foreseen.

The features that customers locked away in the ‘Disaster Recovery’ (DR) box and talked about as being “interesting” – have now become vital! Our customers using 3CX and Yeastar IP-PBX systems are observing lock-down and social isolation recommendations. They have moved IT and telecom’s services to home-offices and many are carrying out face-to-face meetings through video conferencing.

When it became obvious that businesses had to move their staff to remote working, Foxhall Solutions advised customers of options available to keep lines of communication open between them and their clients. At a basic level, this can involve simple call diversions and voice-mail access – but there are many ways a modern VoIP phone system can help keep your business running when you need to vacate your office:

Online Configuration changes:

Foxhall’s 3CX and Yeastar systems are fully accessible through secure Internet links. That means that we can take a ‘pre-COVID-19’ backup of the system configuration. We can then alter call flows and voicemail targets to better match ‘emergency’ needs – with remote working staff taking responsibility for different aspects of the business from their home offices. After the pandemic has passed, we can restore ‘normal’ service in a couple of minutes using that back-up file. Notably, all these changes can be done while observing social-isolation rules.

Voice-mail to e-mail:

Making all business voice-mail go to a particular e-mail account is a simple change. That way you can see the call details and listen to the messages using the e-mail app’ & media player on your home-office PC or laptop.

Divert calls to home or mobile:

All phone numbers associated with our systems are able to be routed to an extension, groups of extensions, or even ‘bounced’ out to mobiles and/or land-lines. A ‘carrier level divert‘ can be put on a number so that diverts happen before the calls even get to your business phones, but it may be more convenient to divert from your own phone system because you can then configure a different in-hours and out-of-hours call route.

While call diverts placed on your Direct Dial Inward (DDI) numbers will route calls back out to you, that isn’t the best way to do it! Diverted DDI calls will by-pass any call groups (Sales, Marketing, Support etc.) and just ring a single remote working number. In addition, the divert is a call from your phone system, and as such, it will be your business that is charged for the diverted call from your customer! Outbound calls made by the home-working staff member also need to be accounted for – which may be difficult if the phone in use is a personal home phone or mobile.

Take your desk-phone home:

A VoIP handset may be used at the business, or for remote working from a home office. Minor security changes need to be made to allow the phone to connect back through the Internet to the office phone system, but once established, it becomes part of the office system, as though it was there. Having the ‘extension’ at your home-office allows you to be part of the same call groups and queues that run at the business. Calls between extensions use the Internet and are free of charge. This also allows you to place outgoing calls through the business ‘trunk lines’ and therefore there are no accounting or staff expenses issues.

Soft-phones on PC’s and laptops:

A software phone app’ can be loaded onto a PC, Mac or laptop – as a ‘clone’ of your business extension phone. The soft-phone will use WiFi or Ethernet to make or take calls to or from your phone system through the Internet. The laptop/PC’s mic’ & speakers may be used, or you might like a headset (corded or cordless), instead. App’s like this will ring in conjunction with your desk-phone at work, and your extension’s membership of ring groups and call queues etc. will still be valid. Internal calls between extensions are free, and external calls go via the business phone lines and make call billing simple. These app’s are already an integrated part of your 3CX or Yeastar system solution – so implementation costs are minimal. A soft-phone app’ on a laptop is an ideal remote working tool for road-warrior sales staff too …

Simultaneously ring your mobile:

Our 3CX and Yeastar VoIP platforms will allow configuration of a mobile number as part of the extension user’s profile.  At the tick-of-a-box, we can make the call split to ring both the extension phone and the mobile number associated with it. This is especially useful if the user’s home broadband service gives us VoIP connectivity issues (see below) – or the user is literally – mobile.

VoIP app’s on mobile phones:

App’s for Android or Apple iPhones may be downloaded from the respective ‘stores’ to provide a remote extension for 3CX or Yeastar systems, on your mobile phone. The app’ may be configured (using a QR code), to be a clone of your work extension and therefore act just like the Soft-phone as described above.  It is possible to use these app’s to make or take calls through both WiFi and 4G/5G mobile data networks. The 3CX and Yeastar (Linkus) mobile app’s provide the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective and flexible way to get the functionality of the office phone system, out to your remote users. Again, these app’s are an integrated part of your 3CX or Yeastar system solution.

Future DR planning:

Pushing users out to remote work in home offices on this scale has shown us that not all broadband services are created equal! Some ISP’s have ‘SIP-ALG’ features enabled in their routers which inhibit the use of remote VoIP extensions, and those ‘features’ can’t be disabled!  Future DR planning should include ‘quiet-time’ testing of remote extensions at home offices to detect where problems are going to arise. In cases where problems are found, you may elect to change broadband provider or just the home router, or use 4G/5G mobile data to support your remote working next time there is a need – but be prepared and have a plan.

Contact us at Foxhall Solutions to talk about preparing your telecom’s strategy for the next time you need to vacate your business premises …