Bennett Quillen's Blog

Information and Technology Services Professional

Month: May, 2013

Grammar Salvation by Bennett Quillen

The everyday application of correct grammar and proper vocabulary in business is abysmal. It is intolerable, both in a written and verbal context.  These issues have become so bad that there is poor communication and business productivity has been adversely affected.  There is the distinct possibility of increased risk throughout an organization, both financial and operational, because of poor grammar and incoherent vocabulary.

 

Incorrect or imaginary words may seem to fit the situation at the time and even provide a tangible hook to an idea, much as an advertising slogan.  A term or phrase, such as making verbs out of nouns, is often used as a quick way to describe a situation.

Nevertheless, we must fight the impulse to use sloppy or incorrect words.  It may require us to slow down in our thinking and speaking, but that may well have a beneficial effect.  Indeed, just as we fall into the habit of poor language usage, we can gain benefits by proper word usage.

Poor word usage is often a disguise or crutch for fuzzy thinking.  The speaker or writer cannot clearly state what he/she wants to say, so a fuzzy (e.g. making a verb out of a noun or inappropriate word as “ecoimagination”) will be substituted.  The speaker may be totally unaware that he is doing it, but such consistent usage of poor terms and grammar will eventually affect others in her group or company, and ultimately our society. 

A possible solution is to develop some form of a grading index, which auditors could apply to the overall operational and financial health of the company.  The idea is to grade a company on the usage of poor vocabulary in its public announcements or press releases and speeches by its executives.  Companies such as GE would probably fall way down the scale; however, companies such as Emerson Electric would do well.  Large financial institutions would generally do rather poorly, especially outfits as JPMorganChase

I suggest there is a correlation between poor word usage and less than effective corporate results.  If executive managers permit, even espouse, poor terminology the ultimate result can only be poor communication, ineffective customer service, inefficient operations and procedures, and finally: lackluster operating results.

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B Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett B Quillen – Banks: Save your Clients from Cyber Attacks

The best way to prevent one of your commercial clients becoming a victim of a “cyberheist” is not to let computer crooks into the computers they use to access the organization’s bank accounts online. The surest way to do that is to have the company maintain a clean computer: start with a fresh install of the operating system and all available security updates, or adopt a “live CD” approach.
Make sure that the client uses a dedicated system to access the Bank’s site. The dedicated machine should be restricted from visiting all but a handful of sites necessary to interact with the Bank and manage the organization’s finances. This can be done using custom firewall rules and hosts files, or services like OpenDNS. Remember that the dedicated system approach only works if the company only accesses the Bank’s site from locked-down, dedicated machines. Making any occasional exceptions undermines the whole purpose of this approach.
If possible, install an operating system other than Microsoft Windows. Most malware only runs in a Microsoft Windows environment, so using a different operating system for the dedicated machine is an excellent way to drastically reduce the likelihood of becoming a “cyberheist” victim. Have a “live CD” available, as it is a free and relatively painless way to temporarily boot a Windows PC into a Linux environment. The benefit of this approach is that even if the company fails to maintain a clean Windows PC, malicious software can’t touch or eavesdrop on its banking session while the company is booted into the Live CD installation.
If the company must use a multi-purpose machine on which it checks email, avoid clicking links in email. Also, set email to display without HTML formatting if possible.
Make sure that the client keeps the operating system up-to-date and necessary third-party software with patches. This includes browser plugins. One leading cause of malware infections are exploit kits, which are attack tools stitched into hacked Web sites that exploit unlatched or undocumented vulnerabilities in widely-used browser plugins. Tools such as File Hippo’s Update Checker and Secunia’s Personal Software Inspector will alert as to new security updates available for third-party programs.
Remove any unneeded software from dedicated systems used to access the Bank’s site. In particular, unneeded plugins (such as Java) should be junked.
Avoid opening attachments in email that the client is not expecting. Be particularly wary of emails that warn of some dire consequence unless action is taken immediately.
Provide the client with a bookmark to access the Bank’s site. Have the client avoid “direct navigation,” which involves manually typing the bank’s address into a browser; a fat-fingered keystroke may send the client to a look-alike phishing Web site or one that tries to foist malicious software.
Remember that antivirus software is no substitute for common sense. A majority of today’s cyberheists begin with malware that is spread via email attachments. Many of these threats will go undetected by antivirus tools in the first few days.
Provide the client with ACH Positive Pay. Any item that meets the established criteria will automatically post to its account. The company will be notified via email and/or text message of any rejected electronic item(s) that does not meet the company’s filter criteria. Upon receipt of the rejected items, the company can then return (or have the Bank) them or conveniently add filter criteria for future electronic transactions.
Require two people to sign off on every transaction. This fundamental anti-fraud technique can help block “cyberheists” (and employee fraud).
Additionally, the Bank can provide its clients with multi-factor authentication for its transactions.

Bennett Quillen – Negotiating a Phone Sysgtem

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Bennett B Quillen – Negotiating a Phone System

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

2

Title

In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

3

Title

about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Introduction

Determining which phone system is best for your
organization’s needs can be a time consuming
process. Yet, evaluating a new phone system
demands your careful due diligence. Why?
Because if you choose the wrong system, it could
result in a costly mistake and produce long term
consequences if your employees are stuck with
a system that doesn’t fulfill your business needs.

When looking at what seems to be an endless
variety of business phone systems on the
market, don’t be afraid to hold your phone
system vendor representatives accountable for
making you comfortable when you’re ready to
buy. Your vendor representative should be able
to thoroughly answer every question you pose to
them, and provide business terms that you feel
comfortable with.

Whether you’re researching phone systems for
a small- to medium-size business or a large
enterprise, you’ll have the advantage when you
thoroughly prepare before you talk to vendors.

Make sure that you define your organization’s
phone system needs ahead of time and ask
vendor representatives the right questions only
after you’re properly prepared. This will help

selecting the wrong system and help ensure you
get the best deal on the right phone system for
your company.

Following are ten vital questions to ask phone
system vendors while negotiating and well before
you agree to make a purchase.

Question #1

“Will you repeat our phone system needs that
I’ve just described?”

Clarity Is Key

After you define your phone system needs
and then describe them to a vendor, ask their
representative to repeat those needs back to you
so you know that both of you are on the same
page.

This question may seem fairly obvious, however,
you want to make sure your vendor representative
clearly understands your specific phone system
needs so you’ll have the confidence they’ll meet
or even better than that – exceed them.

Question #2

Why is your phone system better than your
competitors?

you eliminate the various risks involved with

1

Title

Don’t Rush Your Rep!

You may be researching a variety of phone
system vendors, but be sure to ask your vendor
representatives to tell you in their own words
why their system is better, more cost effective,
or more suitable for your needs than any other
service available. You may have noted certain
differences and similarities during your discussion.
See if they can highlight others, or if they can’t
really differentiate at all. They’re undoubtedly
more familiar with their competitors than you
are and it’s up to your vendor representative to
differentiate her company’s products from her
competition. So don’t rush your representative.
Allow her plenty of time to highlight her system’s
advantages and benefits.

Question #3

Does this phone system have (specific features)
and is there an extra cost associated with getting
those feature?

Features, Features, Features

You’ll want to have a clear understanding of the
features you want in your phone system before
you begin talking to a vendor. They may suggest
those features you hadn’t thought of that can be
useful as well. Once you identify all of the key
features, determine what, if any, the extra costs

will be.

Vendors vary greatly when it comes to what’s
included in a particular package and what’s
considered an add-on to the service. For
instance, some providers offer a variety of
different phone types that are considered
add-ons to the service. You may end up being
able to get the same phones somewhere else for
less. In addition, certain features, such as voice
mail, might seem like obvious inclusions, but are
actually considered add-ons with an extra cost.

Question #4

Is this system SIP (Session Initiation Protocol)-
based and is it compatible with other technologies?

Will The Marriage Work?

SIP is a signaling protocol used for establishing
sessions in an IP network, and it is now the
protocol of choice among VoIP users. SIP works
very well with Internet applications, and with an
SIP-based system, you have access to a host
of innovative services, including: voice-enriched
e-commerce; click-to-call on Web pages; instant
messaging with buddy lists; collaborative, multi-
party, multimedia conference calls; and more.
Ensuring that your phone system is SIP-based
can save you a lot of headaches over the long
term.

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In addition, you want to ensure that your
phone system can be integrated with the other
technologies you use, such as Microsoft Outlook
for email and sharing calendars. Tell your vendor
representative about the other technologies you
use – both in your office and remotely – and have
them explain compatibilities and other important
issues.

Question #5

Can this phone system scale as my business
grows, and will there be extra costs if or when
we expand?

Avoiding Growing Pains

If you are planning to grow your business, open
new locations, or otherwise make changes to
your existing infrastructure, make sure your
phone system is going to be flexible enough to
make those changes with you, without adding on
a lot of extra costs and hassles.

For example, do your employees change desks
or move locations frequently? Are the phone lines
and phone numbers easily transferable? Ask
your vendor representative to share examples
with you about how other clients’ business needs
changed over time and how their particular phone
system performed amidst those changes.

Question #6

“How many data centers do you have and where
are they located?”

Location Affects Speed

Along with scaling as your business changes,
let your vendor representative know where and
how your phone system will be used, such as
whether it will be used mainly for local calls or
internationally. Your phone system provider
needs to have adequate data centers placed in
enough locations to ensure that geographical
distance is not a hindrance to speed and
efficiency.

Question #7

“Since we are considering a VoIP setup for our
new phone system, what can you tell me about
bandwidth requirements and any internal network
requirements?”

Handling The Load

Because VoIP requires a broadband connection,
ask your vendor representative about what
kind of bandwidth you’ll need for simultaneous
users. As for your internal network, such as your
routers and switches, ask your representative

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about any load capacity issues that you need to
be aware of and what type of router you should
use. Most providers will suggest using a router
with configurable Quality of Service settings and
assigning VoIP traffic high priority to maximize
quality.

Question #8

“Are businesses similar to mine using your phone
systems?”

Where’s The Evidence?

Now that your vendor representative understands
your needs, ask him if other businesses similar to
yours (in size and usage patterns, for example)
are using his company’s phone systems.
Vendors should be able to provide you with
evidence such as case studies (also known as
customer success stories), which can go a long
way in helping you make your decision. This is
a good time to ask for references or additional
testimonials as well. If your representative balks
at your request, or is unable to provide a positive
response, view that as a definite “red flag” and
consider other vendor options.

Question #9

“Can I talk to 2-3 of your current customers about

Learn From Voices of Experience

Don’t be shy about asking your vendor
representative for references. Sure, they will
never give you the name of a past customer who
was unhappy with the service, but if they can give
you two to three references from customers who
are happy and willing to share their experiences
with you, that’s a good indicator. And more often
than not, once you’re able to connect with a
reference on the phone, they will be candid with
you about their experiences.

Question #10

“What kind of service and support will I get for
both installation and on an ongoing basis?”

Customer Support Can Vary

If problems arise, you’ll want to know who to
call and when they’ll be available to help you.
You don’t want to get into a situation where you
sign a contract and then your vendor is totally
unavailable. Level of service and support
is another aspect to buying a phone system
that can vary widely among vendors. This is
something you want to be clear about before you
sign your contract vs. being disappointed later on
when there’s no one there to help you except an
inadequate FAQs page on the vendor’s website.

how they like the phone system?”

Bitcoin bubble grows and grows

By Stephen Foley in New York and Alice Ross in London

This time, Wall St is innocent.

To the long list of asset bubbles – from tulips to the South Sea Company, from dotcom stocks to US housing – economic historians may soon be adding a virtual “currency” called Bitcoin. But while it is bankers who are most often blamed for blowing up bubbles, the rise and rise in the Bitcoin price has taken place without any such intervention.

A buying frenzy has sent the value of the total Bitcoin stock past $1.5bn and the price of a single Bitcoin has doubled in less than two weeks. Having passed $100 on April 1, it peaked at $147 in the small hours of Wednesday morning.

Untethered to any real asset, the Bitcoin’s price is determined only by speculation on exchanges around the world, the largest of which, Mt Gox, reported technical difficulties on Wednesday as interest rocketed.

“Trading tulips in real time,” declared the veteran UBS stockbroker Art Cashin in a note to clients. “It is rare that we get to see a bubble-like phenomenon trade tick for tick, but all that may be changing before our very eyes.”

The currency was created four years ago by an unknown computer scientist and the limited stock of “coins” grows according to a predetermined algorithm. A small number of online services accept Bitcoins as payment but the value appears correlated less to their use than to talk on Twitter, blogs and in the media.

But the Bitcoin is nothing if not volatile. For example, a 2011 spike took the price of a single Bitcoin from $2 to over $30 – and back again.

The latest, biggest burst of interest coincided with the bail-in of depositors in Cyprus, after which Bitcoin’s advocates pitched it as an alternative to fiat currencies that can be devalued or confiscated. “It’s gold for computer nerds,” said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergeX.

Some finance industry entrepreneurs have leapt at the opportunity. Exante, a Malta-based asset manager, set up a Bitcoin fund last year that was largely intended as a fun punt. Wealthy investors each put in $1,000 when Bitcoins were trading at $13 on the understanding they could lose the original investment. Exante predicted that public and media interest would take off when Bitcoins were trading at $100. Managing partner Gatis Eglitis claims they are now getting 20 calls a day from large asset managers looking to invest up to $100m.

Jim Angel, professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, is sceptical of Bitcoin’s long-term viability. “Governments don’t like competition in the currency business and if it gets too big they will clamp down,” he said. “Also, you are trusting algorithms to protect the system, and we all know that technology breaks or gets hacked.

“We are just one scandal away from Bitcoin collapsing entirely.”