6 Questions To Ask Before You Move To VoIP

Thanks to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and ever-improving cloud technologies, the phone-service options available to you as a small business are plentiful, with more features at a lower cost than were ever available before.

However, with all the options and vendors, separating the good from the bad and navigating the hype can be difficult. Not only are some VoIP systems a complete waste of money, but fees can be “hidden,” so what appears to be a big cost-saving decision can end up costing you more in the long run once you’ve calculated in ALL costs over a three- to five-year period.

Here are six revealing questions you must ask to cut through the hype, half-truths and “little” white lies that could bury your company.

  1. What will the call quality be like on my new system? Companies that sell phone systems and do not install and support computer networks – which is what your VoIP system is running on – are often NOT qualified to recommend or install a VoIP phone system for your office. One of the biggest reasons for VoIP failure (poor sound quality, slowed Internet speeds, etc.) is that the person selling you the system does not understand how to properly assess your company’s firewall, routers, network traffic, Internet connection speeds, as well as a host of other factors, to make sure their phone system will work as advertised in YOUR SPECIFIC ENVIRONMENT. That’s because they’re phone-system sales guys, not network engineers.
  2. How many data centers do you have and are they geographically dispersed? If the answer is only one, run away! What happens if their ONE data center goes down? Or, more commonly, what happens when the VoIP equipment inside the data center goes down? Your business is without a phone until they get their systems back online! Insist on at least two redundant data centers that are states away from each other to lower the risk of a natural disaster wiping out both data centers at once.
  3. What was your uptime last year? What’s your guarantee for uptime? If it’s anything less than 99.999%, find a different provider. And don’t just take them at their word; ask for documentation proving the reliability of their network in the previous year. If they can’t even do that, don’t buy their system!
    NOTE: Uptime is the system’s ability to make and receive calls. If an individual office happens to be down due to an Internet outage, this does not affect the overall reliability of the system, because the system was ready and able.
  4. If my phone is unreachable, do you have automatic failover to another phone? If your provider’s system isn’t constantly monitoring the status of your network, VoIP system and VoIP phones, you should consider going with another provider. If your Internet goes down, or even a single phone stops working, the system should know that within a few minutes and automatically forward the calls to a predetermined destination (like a cell phone or another office location).
  5. Do you monitor my phones and system 24/7/365 for any potential issues? If you have to tell your provider the phones aren’t working, then find another provider. Any quality vendor should be monitoring and maintaining your system for you, using remote management tools. If you are missing calls, move on to a different system.
  6. Do you offer a money-back guarantee? If your provider is not willing to back up their claims with a WRITTEN, no-small-print, money-back guarantee, free of “weasel out” clauses, look for a vendor that does. Every phone-system sales guy is going to tell you how wonderful their system is and how you won’t experience any problems. If they’re THAT confident, have them guarantee it in writing so you’re not stuck paying for a new system that doesn’t work.

Retail trends to watch in 2016; Mobile First and Digital Strategy

This article excerpt originally appeared here

The retail industry no longer looks at omnichannel as a revelation, in fact, the term has become somewhat ordinary within the industry. In 2016, the rise of mobile devices and accessibility will see retailers accelerate to mobile-first strategies, alongside other new growing technologies relevant to both the in-store and online experience.

Note: See an in-depth definition of “omnichannel”

 

MOBILE FIRST

According to a Forrester report, by 2017 the number of mobile phone users will have reached 4.8 billion, with 46% of these smartphone users. In the US, 1/3 of all sales will have a mobile element, from product research to an instore experience. Media goods (e.g., video, music, books), clothing, and consumer electronics account for the majority of the approximately $142 billion in mobile phone and tablet eCommerce sales. Other categories such as travel and food-services/restaurant ordering, are not part of Forrester’s definition of online retail.

This blends into a new focus, a mobile first mind-set.

Mobile first, therefore, encompasses an approach purposefully defined for mobile devices only, before linear investments into more traditional devices will be committed to, desktops and laptops, for instance. This requires a new strategy that covers design, user experience, and the development of the interface itself that places handheld devices at the forefront of efforts. By doing this, users will be able to browse products and solutions that have been created solely for mobile access.

As the expectations of consumers consistently evolve, retailers must be willing to explore latest technologies that introduce new levels of convenience and accessibility.

 

DIGITAL STRATEGY

As retailers commit further to digital investments, it goes without saying that defining a clear strategy behind this is paramount. Beneficially, marketers are able to bring with them experience and know-how from more traditional channels and combine their skillsets positively with the additional benefits of new technology.

The evolution of mobile management will take a turn from what we have perceived as the norm up until now. Desktop or laptop strategies based on the click of a mouse and keyboard will be joined by mobile platforms, designed for touch and gesture interactions. Traditional means of marketing such as emails, websites and everything involved with them, social media, etc., will see reshuffles to cater for new modes of accessibility. User experience must incorporate a few considerations, for instance, the context, behavior, audience, and targeted behavior after engagement.

Digital media spending is moving at an alarming speed, far quicker than more conventional digital products and services. Mckinsey foresees that by 2019 digital media spending is set to hit $2.1 trillion, up $1.6 on 2014’s figure. Alongside this, digital advertising was the fastest growing category in 2014, and within this, retailers must continue their transition into digital marketing avenues to utilize the opportunities created by the digital revolution.

From now on, marketing will be less impeded by device and platform, it’s the content and UX that will be under the spotlight. Power is truly in the palms of the consumer, and those who are to take advantage will be those able to embrace a data-driven era, to power innovation and progression.

Key Licensing Considerations

Like most things these days, licenses come in many different varieties. Depending on the license and the parties’ circumstances, several different considerations may come into play. Here are a few of the important provisions that frequently need to be considered in a license.

1. License Grant

The license grant provision sets out what is being licensed and describes the scope of the license. For software licenses, the license grant may name a software application or provide access to a SaaS portal, and may identify the number of users, processors or locations authorized to use the software. A licensee should negotiate a scope of license calculated to accommodate not only current needs but also further growth and commercial focus.

2. Restrictions

The license may contain express restrictions, such as prohibitions on reverse engineering, sub-licensing or use for the benefit of third parties. Among other things, a licensee should evaluate whether its disaster recovery plan, corporate affiliate structure, and anticipated end-use will violate any of the restrictions.

3. Exclusive or Non-exclusive

Licenses may be “exclusive,” which means that only the licensee can use the thing licensed – not even the licensor can use it. A “non-exclusive” license permits a licensor itself to use the thing licensed, and to license it to other parties. A “sole” license generally permits both the licensor and licensee to use the thing licensed, but no other party. A licensee seeking an “exclusive” license usually pays a premium for that privilege, and must typically pay minimum royalties or license fees.

4. Field of use

Licenses and exclusivity provisions may be limited to certain fields of industry or application. Such limitations may allow licensors flexibility to license to the “strongest” licensee in each field, thus maximizing licensing revenue. As with license scope, a wise licensee will carefully evaluate future business plans to ensure relative freedom to operate as desired during the life of the license.

5. Territory

License agreements often contain restrictions on where a licensee may use the thing licensed. Often, territory restrictions result from commercial considerations like those for field of use restrictions. In some cases, however, territoriality restrictions may result from legal requirements, such as export laws and privacy regulations. Licensees seeking a multi-country license must often convince licensors of their business prospects in each of those countries.

6. Sublicensing

Sublicensing rights are particularly important for licensees that include third-party solutions in their product offerings. Many software companies, for example, will through-license third party applications to their end-users. Or, a licensee with distribution and sale rights may desire to sublicense sale rights to certain independent retailers. As another example, for licenses that involve manufacturing rights, a licensee may wish to have another party manufacture some or all the licensed technology, and if so, the license should expressly allow for that.

7. Transferability

Licenses often restrict the licensee from selling the license agreement or obligations under the agreement to third parties. That may be because the licensor does not want to risk license revenue on an unknown third party or inadvertently leak technology to a rival. Licensees typically want the flexibility to sell their business assets – license and all. Parties often compromise by requiring licensor consent before transfer, or allow a licensee to transfer the license along with the business to which the license pertains.

8. Affiliates

For licensees that use one company to procure technology for a group of affiliates, expressly addressing such activity (and appropriately defining “affiliates”) in the license will avoid headaches down the road. For companies with an active M&A history, addition and divestiture of affiliates should be squarely addressed, along with any competitive concerns and degree of permitted disclosure of confidential information during buying and selling affiliates.

9. Improvements

Technology does not – or at least should not – stagnate. From a licensee’s standpoint, the license should preferably include a reasonable amount of licensor improvements, and the parties should address who will own licensee-created improvements. The respective costs and responsibilities for continued R&D should be reflected in the license price.

10. Confidentiality, Publications, and Data Security

These provisions address both the degree of publicity that the license “deal” will receive, and how the parties will treat the information that they exchange and develop under the license. Some licensors will ask for permission to brag about the license. Conversely, licensees often desire to keep such information secret for competitive purposes. For trade secret licenses, the confidentiality obligations will be paramount. For other types of licenses, such as SaaS licenses, transmission of legally-sensitive data (such as personal health and financial information) requires careful analysis of the risks involved.

11. Warranties

The license warranties can provide a base level of assurance regarding quality and ability to use the thing licensed. Basic warranties can address conformance to technology documentation and the level of skill at which services are performed. Some warranties might address whether use of the technology will infringe third-party intellectual property. Warranties may come with expiration periods, and so a careful licensee will want to ensure that warranty periods are long enough for defects to be discovered.

12. Liability, Indemnification, and Insurance

These “risk” provisions address how much each party will be liable to the other party or third parties for damages arising out of the license relationship. Licenses typically limit the liability of one party or the other, and limit different types of damages. Indemnification obligations typically require one party to defend the other party against certain types of lawsuits and other risks, such as patent infringement lawsuits, or product liability lawsuits.

13. Consideration and Minimum Payments

The “economic” provisions of the license are typically negotiated early on, and embody each party’s sense for risk and reward under the license. These provisions may take a wide variety of forms, such as periodic license fees and per-unit royalties, and may be scaled per a variety of factors, such as sales volume or license “seats.” A licensor will typically incentivize a licensee to actively commercialize under the license. Licensees typically look for a long commercialization runway, or a low threshold for staying current under the license.

14. Term and Termination

Term and termination provisions set out the ways in which the license may end. Some will expire after a set term, while others may renew automatically. Licensees concerned with business continuity (such as technology companies passing technology through to end users) will want to restrict the licensor’s termination options, and allow protective provisions to survive termination.

15. Reporting and Audits

Licensors often require licensees to report compliance with the license to make sure that the licensee is paying the correct number of fees. Licensees will try to minimize those obligations, and protect themselves from inadvertent non-compliance.

16. Governing Law, Venue, and Dispute Resolution

The location where license disputes must be resolved can be a big deal for a small company. Rather than fight over whether the small company must travel to another state, the parties might agree to arbitration in a mutually-inconvenient location under a “neutral” but well-established body of law. Typically, licensees and licensors seek a collaborative and mutually-beneficial relationship, and so dispute escalation clauses may be used to encourage face-to-face resolution of issues before they degenerate into vindictive feuds.