Workplace Cameras and Surveillance: Rules for Employers

Workplace Cameras and Surveillance

Many employers use cameras and video surveillance in the workplace, often to prevent theft or to monitor what employees are actually doing while on the clock. As long as the company has a legitimate need to film, the areas under surveillance are public, and employees know about the filming, these practices are likely to be upheld by a court. Because filming can implicate privacy rights, however, employers must be very careful not to cross the line.

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Getting the Most From Your Phone System

Getting the Most From Your Phone System

It doesn’t take long for a business to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells customers that your business is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Your callers judge their customer experience in large part by how easy it is to contact you. A bad phone experience can color a customer’s perception of your business. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Have you ever called your office, pretending to be a patient, to see how easy or difficult it is to schedule an appointment or get a prescription refilled? If you haven’t, you should. What you learn may surprise you.

It doesn’t take long for a practice to outgrow its telephone system. An inadequate phone system tells patients your practice is overloaded and doesn’t have time for them. Patients judge their physicians in part by how easy it is to contact them. A bad phone experience can color a patient’s perception of the whole practice. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Evaluating your current phone system

What can you do? As I suggested above, call your office. Be sure to call during busy times, such as Monday morning and around the lunch hour. If you find it difficult to get through, so do your patients.

Don’t stop there. Ask your patients about their experience calling your office. Your invitation may uncover complaints about your phone system that patients had been too intimidated to bring to your attention. You also may want to have your staff give patients a short survey to fill out while they sit in the waiting room.

Next, call your local phone company and request a busy-signal report. The phone company will monitor your incoming calls and report back to you the number of times callers received a busy signal. The report breaks out the peak busy-signal times for each day of the week. Expect to pay anywhere between $20 and $40 per phone number for this service.

If the report comes back with a high number of busy signals, such as 10 out of every 20 calls, you need to consider adding more incoming phone lines. Even if the ratio is one busy signal per five calls overall, you may have a problem –although you probably don’t have to worry if the report shows that ratio in an occasional 30-minute period.

Key Points

• The need to replace or upgrade your practice phone system can sneak up on you if you don’t evaluate it periodically.
• Today’s phone systems offer many features that may not have been available when you installed your current one.
• If your current system is inadequate, you need to decide what features you want, whether you need a whole new system and whether to buy or lease.

Adding phone lines

Based on the busy-signal report, your phone company can tell you the number of incoming phone lines you need. But before you decide to add phone lines, consider whether your receptionist will be able to handle all of the calls. Most receptionists can handle 10 lines without having to place callers on hold for more than a minute. However, this number largely depends on your receptionist’s capabilities. If your receptionist can’t handle all the calls, you may want to add a second person during peak hours. Or you may want to consider automating the phone system.

Of course adding phones lines means adding cost. You want to make sure you’re not paying for lines that aren’t necessary. One way to avoid this pitfall is to add new lines in batches. So, for example, if the phone company suggests that you add six lines, start with four at first. After they’re installed, ask the phone company to provide another busy-signal report. And ask your patients again if they have had any trouble getting in touch with your office. Use this information to decide if you really need the other two lines.

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Comparing IVR Systems

IVR Systems

As businesses compete for customers in an increasingly globalized market, efficient customer service is becoming essential. Interactive voice response, or IVR, systems allow contact centers to automate their customer service, letting callers access information and services without ever speaking to a service rep. IVR systems can lower business costs and increase customer satisfaction, but only if you choose one suited to your business. Nowadays, most call center software providers will include powerful IVR features and systems. If IVR systems are crucial to your inbound call handling and overall business operations, make sure to ask your provider these questions before you buy:

1. Is this an open standards IVR system?
Open standards IVR systems can be connected to a wide range of other software and hardware, making it easier to integrate them into other systems/services that your business already has. This minimizes business cost, makes it easier to respond to customer data, and helps you adapt quickly to technological changes. Never buy an IVR system that is only compatible with a limited range of services, as this will raise your operating costs, reduce your flexibility, and increase your workload.

2. What speech recognition technology does the system use?
Voice-operated IVR systems use speech recognition technology to interpret customers words into meaningful commands. Though generally effective, these systems run the risk of alienating customers who have speech impediments, speak in accents, or for some other reason cannot be properly understood by the program. Make sure that the IVR system you purchase has been designed to interpret a wide range of different pronunciations and tones, and that it politely offers keypad options to customers when it cannot understand them.

3. Which customer inquiries can the IVR handle on its own?
An IVR system is most likely to improve customers’ experience if it saves them time, but it’s not going to do that if you only use it to direct callers to customer service agents. The more your customers are capable of doing through the IVR system itself, the less time they will spend waiting. The nature of your business will determine the type of IVR you need. If you work at a bank, for example, the majority of callers will likely be customers who want to check their account balances. You should thus purchase an IVR system that can authenticate bank customers and access their records.

4. Can I connect the system to other service features?
Every time your business adds a new option for customer service, you risk flooding your customer service network with too many inquiries, but you can minimize this risk if the IVR system you purchase can communicate with other customer service features. Say a customer is making an inquiry via your website but then decides to call customer service. If your IVR is linked to your website, it will determine that the caller is the same customer who was just using the website and immediately provide updates on his or her inquiry. This will minimize the length of the call and associated customer service costs.

5. Can the system keep track of callers?
To get the most out of your IVR system, you have to be able to make regular modifications in order to improve customer experience. You can only make these changes, however, if you use a system that keeps records of callers. The better you keep track of who is calling and what they do during their calls, the easier it is to identify requests that the IVR can’t handle on its own, and modify the system accordingly. Customer data also allows you to personalize the system to appeal to repeat callers, optimizing the experience for your best customers.

6. What is the authentication process like?
If your IVR needs to authenticate customers, it should be able to do this just as quickly as your customer service agents without sacrificing safety. If customer service agents only ask customers for two authenticating questions, the IVR should not ask for four. Otherwise, it will take customers too long to use your IVR system, causing them to choose agents instead.

7. How do customers navigate the system?
Navigating your IVR system should be as simple and intuitive as possible; the last thing you want is to cause customers to waste their time figuring out how to use it. The best IVR systems provide instructions at the beginning of a call, allow customers to select menu options by voice or by keypad, and let customers select options as soon as they hear them. It’s also good to provide consistent default items, such as a key that will return them to the main menu.

8. How does your system layer its menu?
The more sophisticated your IVR system, the more likely it is to confuse callers. To avoid flooding your customers with more information than they need or can remember, layer all the information in the system carefully. When the customer first calls, the primary menu should give them no more than 4 to 5 options; they can then access more options after choosing one of the first five.

ivr systems9. How well does the system follow up on calls?
The more you rely on an IVR systems, the more it will have to be able to mimic regular customer service agents. If your customers can make appointments via IVR, for example, the system should be capable of reminding them of their appointments, coordinating payment information, and sending out satisfaction surveys. Otherwise, your customer service agents will have to keep track of all the appointments the IVR system makes and perform all of these functions for it, increasing their labor costs and defeating the purpose of installing the system.

10. Can I try it out?
However effective the potential IVR system might look on paper, there’s no way to know how well it will work until you begin using it. To avoid making the wrong choice, ask if you can demo the system in real-time out at your business for a few weeks before purchasing it permanently. During the trial run, pay attention to how customers react to the system, and try making changes to improve those experiences. Only through practical experience can you tell if the IVR system is suited to your particular business.

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Surveillance Cameras Gain Ground in Schools

Surveillance Cameras Gain Ground in Schools

They’ve been watching the world from malls, gas stations, and other public places for decades, but now, surveillance cameras are becoming a standard, even expected, fixture in school hallways. And technological advances and violent incidents such as the recent Newtown, Conn., school shootings seem to be hastening their installation across the country, according to experts.

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Small Business VoIP Questions to Ask

Small Business VoIP Questions

For many small business owners, buying a phone system ranks fairly low on the priority list ranking more as an afterthought. They simply call the phone company (or cable provider, VAR or IT consultant), “turn on” the phone service, plug the phones into the wall jacks and accept the ridiculously high expense as the cost of doing business. That’s all there is to it, right?

However, small business owners have much more powerful, flexible and affordable options when it comes to choosing a phone system. The next time you get your phone bill, take a close look at what you’re paying versus what you’re getting. Phone service through a “traditional” phone company can be a huge expense for your small business.

Modern small business owners may find that VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology provides a more flexible, affordable communication option. Simply put, VoIP systems let you and your employees make phone calls over the Internet using your existing broadband connection.

The Value of VoIP for Small Business

A number of different companies offer VoIP solutions, which can benefit small businesses in a variety of ways. For a small business owner watching the bottom line, it’s essential to do the math and compare the cost of a VoIP system to your current provider. While VoIP systems generally cost less than service through the phone company, be aware that the cost of phone service can vary greatly even among VoIP service providers.
Small businesses also benefit from VoIP’s inherent flexibility. VoIP solutions generally give you more freedom to configure the service the way you want based upon your needs. Finally, compared to traditional phone companies, which might have only one provider servicing the area, you can choose from the many VoIP providers that serve small business

What to Ask about VoIP for Small Business

Although you have many VoIP options available, not all of them are the same. Here are five questions to consider as you evaluate the different VoIP solutions for your small business:

1. What affects voice quality, and how can you compare it between solutions?
Different VoIP phone providers handle voice transmission differently, and both the hardware and software they use determines the voice quality. Are the components based on current industry standards? Will voice quality suffer if you or other employees are using your broadband Internet?
It’s worth digging into both the actual equipment offered by the phone solutions you’re considering and the software that’s running on the equipment to determine if and how it will meet your company’s needs. Seek out products that are engineered end-to-end with hardware and software that make the most efficient use of your Internet connection and prioritize voice quality and delivery.

2. Can the phone system grow with your company?
VoIP products and services that leverage the cloud can provide new features, incorporate updated technology, and can accommodate more users without requiring you to upgrade or replace hardware. Many VoIP phone systems have a set maximum number of lines, extensions or users. If a phone system can’t grow with a company over time, you will eventually need to replace it, which can be a disruptive process for employees and customers alike. Additionally, when the provider adds new features, do they work with the equipment you already have, or will you have to replace it?

3. Is the phone system easy to set up and manage?
Look for a VoIP phone system that doesn’t rely on proximity to pre-existing wiring or Ethernet ports. The flexibility of the Internet means that VoIP solutions can accommodate a wide range of small business environments, but no matter the type, size or configuration of the office, the VoIP solution should be easy to deploy and manage once it’s set up.

4. Does the VoIP system support mobile devices?
Today’s workforce is more mobile than ever, and entrepreneurs and small business owners aren’t necessarily tied to their desks. Look for a VoIP phone system that provides that lets you make and receive calls through the company number, transfer calls to other extensions and voicemail boxes, access the company directory, view call logs, manage voicemail and update preferences, all when away from the office. Whether you’re away from your desk at the coffee machine or meeting with clients across the country, your VoIP system should offer seamless mobile capabilities.

5. Does the phone system give callers the right first impression of your business?
Small businesses, like any other business, want to give a professional and polished first impression. Will the VoIP system you’re evaluating let you do that? Does it provide your small business calling features previously reserved only for larger companies? Always evaluate and compare which solutions have the features to help you put your best foot forward.

Finding the right VoIP solution for your needs requires research, but it’s a smart investment to help you find a phone system that will serve your company for many years to come.
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Types of Networks

Networks Types

There are several different types of computer networks. Computer networks can be characterized by their size as well as their purpose.

The size of a network can be expressed by the geographic area they occupy and the number of computers that are part of the network. Networks can cover anything from a handful of devices within a single room to millions of devices spread across the entire globe.

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Lan vs Wan

Lan Connections vs Wan Connections

lan connectionsLAN, which stands for local area network, and WAN, which stands for wide area network, are two types of networks that allow for interconnectivity between computers. As the naming conventions suggest, LANs are for smaller, more localized networking — in a home, business, school, etc. — while WANs cover larger areas, such as cities, and even allow computers in different nations to connect. LANs are typically faster and more secure than WANs, but WANs enable more widespread connectivity. And while LANs tend to be owned, controlled and managed in-house by the organization where they are deployed, WANs typically require two or more of their constituent LANs to be connected over the public Internet or via a private connection established by a third-party telecommunications provider.


What is a LAN?

Local area networks (LANs) allow computers and devices that are near each other — and usually making use of the same switch or router — to connect to share files and complete tasks. Consisting only of everyday devices (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, printers), router and/or switch, and Ethernet cables or wireless cards, LANs are relatively inexpensive to set up and are commonly used in homes.


Ethernet cables, like the Cat5, Cat5e, and Cat6 and Cat6a, can be used to physically connect computers to the network. In the instances where fiber-to-the-home (or similar) is available, copper cabling may also be used at some point. Wi-Fi has become one of the most popular methods for wireless networking over a local network.


What is a WAN?

A wide area network (WAN) is used to connect computers that are not close to one another. It is possible — and almost always the case — that LANs are connected to WANs. This enables small home or office networks to connect to wider networks, such as those across state or country lines. Most WANs connect through public networks, like the telephone system, or via leased lines. The Internet, which connects computers all around the world, can be considered the largest WAN in existence.



How fast data can be transferred over a LAN or WAN depends on the quality and data transfer capabilities of one’s hardware and cables.


Having all the computers in a LAN physically connected to a router (or sometimes a switch) is the fastest way to transfer data between computers on a LAN. Moreover, using modern cables — Cat5e and better — will ensure the best data transfer speeds.


WAN speeds are affected by a number of factors. The equipment used in LANs that are connected to WANs affects a user’s experience, as does the type of cabling used in the wide area network itself. WANs are typically slower than LANs due to the distance data must travel. For example, data transfers between two different states in the U.S. are faster than data transfers between London and Los Angeles. High-quality, copper submarine cables are used to help speed up data transfers between nations.


Wired vs. Wireless Speeds

Wirelessly transferring data via Wi-Fi significantly slows down transfer speeds, as typical wireless technology has a theoretical maximum speed that is lower than a wired connection’s theoretical maximum speed.[1] Wireless connections will also likely feel less reliable, as wireless signals may experience interference from other devices’ signals, from separating walls, from radio waves, etc. If consistent high speeds are needed within a LAN or WAN, particularly for business or gaming purposes, one should be physically connected to the network.


It is worth noting, however, that wireless technology has begun to “catch up” to wired technology in recent years. While the most reliable, high-speed connection is still one that is wired, wireless technology will likely feel just as comfortable for the average user.



The most secure computer is one that is not connected to any network. LANs are safer than WANs, just by the nature and scope of a wide area network. The more people involved in interconnectivity, the greater chance there is for foul play. Using proper router security settings can help protect computers that connect to a network.
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Office Surveillance Cameras

Are Office Surveillance Cameras a Good Idea?

Office Surveillance Cameras
You can’t personally monitor everything that occurs at your place of business. Increasingly, small-business owners are turning to surveillance systems to keep them apprised of what’s happening when they aren’t around, according to the American Management Association. In its most recent survey, the group found that 48 percent of employers use video monitoring in the workplace.

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Choosing a Business Phone System: 2016 Buyer’s Guide

Phone System Buyers Guide
Monmouth County

Phone System Buyers Guide Monmouth CountyIf you’re looking to buy a business phone system, there are three important things you need to know. First, do you need a full phone system that includes physical office telephones, or could your business get by with a virtual phone service that relies solely on cell phones instead of traditional office phones? Next, what kind of service do you need? You may need to choose between a traditional landline telephone service provided by a local or regional phone company and a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, which runs over the Internet. Finally, if you choose VoIP, do you want to house the VoIP system at your business location (self-hosted) or have it hosted by your service provider (cloud-based)?

1. Do you need a full phone system that includes physical office telephones, or could your business get by with a virtual phone service that relies solely on cellphones instead of traditional office phones?

2. If you do need office telephones, what kind of service do you want? You need to choose between a traditional landline telephone service provided by a local or regional phone company and a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system, which runs over the Internet.

3. If you choose VoIP, do you want to house the VoIP system at your business location (self-hosted) or have it hosted by your service provider (cloud-based)?

If you’re not sure yet, read on. We’ll fill you in on the benefits and costs of each of the following types of phone systems:

• Virtual phone systems

• Landlines

• VoIP systems

• Self-hosted VoIP systems

• Cloud-based VoIP systems

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10 Home Networking Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

10 Home Networking Mistakes Monmouth County(and How to Fix Them)

home networking mistakes monmouth countyThe chances are pretty good that you have a wireless home network, or you’ve been asked by friends, family or co-workers to help install one in their home.

While we’re sure that you’ve never made a mistake during these setups, advances in home networking equipment (new configurations, wireless standards, etc.) have also introduced some new complexities that could confuse non-IT customers who don’t live, eat and breathe this stuff every day. For most people, connecting to the home network is a set-and-forget scenario. This causes potential problems once something bad happens – like the freak thunderstorm that knocks out power, and you get the phone call asking for help again (our first tip – have the router connected to an uninterruptible power supply).

We’ve asked a bunch of home networking companies and other experts to provide us with a bunch of scenarios where they’re seeing a majority of customer service requests, along with how you can quickly fix these “mistakes”. We’ve ordered the list from the mistakes made at the beginning of the setup process, to mistakes made during configuration and post-network setup.

#10 The mistake: Failing to determine a network’s needs before buying a router.
Most people buying networking gear (especially wireless equipment) are just looking to provide Internet access for a new notebook, phone or tablet. Problems arise when they don’t consider the amount of coverage they may need, how many other devices might connect to the network and the types of walls/floors they have in their home. The fix: Do some pre-planning, and know the layout (square footage) of the home you want to cover. In addition, read the user manual (not just the Quick Start Guide). There are tons of features in modern residential routers – even if you don’t use all of them, it’s beneficial to be familiar with them. For example, it’s great to know how to add an external drive or a printer to a router, or delve into basic QoS prioritization settings.

#9 The mistake: Not recording older router settings before upgrading.
When most customers want to upgrade their router from an old system to the newer one, they often tend to rip-and-replace without writing down information like usernames, passwords and other settings. This creates more work in configuring the new router, especially for things like port forwarding and QoS prioritization. The fix: When performing the initial setup, write down the old router’s settings, passcode and any other customized settings. This is especially important if you want to make it easier for client devices (like phones, tablets, notebooks) to access the new router once it’s configured. Create a spreadsheet that tracks your network’s IP addresses, SSIDs, passwords and other important information. Make it clear not only for yourself, but for spouses/friends who might need to fix/reset your network if you’re away on a trip (usually the most-likely time of a home network failure).

#8: The mistake: Poor router placement.
Many people often place their home wireless routers in a corner, on a shelf or even inside a metal cabinet. This can severely limit the wireless performance of the router. The fix: Most vendors recommend placing the router in an open space – hallways are optimal – and to be as close to the center to the home as possible. The higher up the antenna, the better. Figure out where you’re going to need most of the wireless network coverage (living room, den or kids’ bedroom?), and place the router there if possible. If you can’t place the router in an optimal location, look into wireless range extenders or powerline adapters to help boost the dead spots that non-optimal placement may create.

#7: The mistake: Connecting a new wireless router to an existing home network without powering down the broadband router.
Many home network modems will lock to the first media access control address they see on the network, and won’t give another IP address to a new router unless a new power cycle occurs. The fix: Power down the modem when connecting a new system. Then power up the modem, wait two minutes, then power up the new router.

#6 The mistake: Plugging the Ethernet cable from the modem to the router into a LAN port instead of the WAN/Internet port.
This might be considered a rookie mistake, but it’s likely the one that most vendors hear about, or is the first recommendation when they get on the phone with customers. Plugging the cable into the incorrect port prevents the router from acquiring an Internet connection, which is required for further configuration for many of today’s wireless routers. The fix: When going from your broadband modem to the router, make sure it goes into the WAN/Internet port of the wireless router. Note, however, that you can add a secondary router, configured as an access point, to get more channels; in this case, plugging in the new router to a LAN port is essential. Our advice: assign static IP addresses to your infrastructure gear (routers, switches, adapters, even printers) and use DHCP only for clients (notebooks, desktops, tablets, phones, etc.). Static IP addresses for infrastructure makes it easier to login to it for configuration.

#5: The mistake: Leaving everything to default mode.
The biggest error here is not configuring Wi-Fi security (leaving an open network is the cardinal sin of Wi-Fi routers), but this can also include not changing the default password to get into the router itself (many people know the admin (username) / password (password) backdoor). Also – turn off remote management. If you’re noticing performance issues with Wi-Fi, change the channel for the Wi-Fi frequency – most routers pick a default channel, which most likely is the same channel number as your neighbors. Free tools can help you analyze your home network’s wireless signal strength to help you determine channels with less “noise”. The fix: Change your router’s password, the SSID name and password (enable the security!) and adjust Wi-Fi channel settings for optimal performance/coverage. If your router provides a guest access feature, disable it if you don’t plan on using it; change the password if you do plan on using it, and turn it back off after your guest leaves. And write everything down!

#4 The mistake: Not enabling device sharing options, or setting a “public” policy when attaching a new device to the network.
For Windows systems, adding a new device to the network brings up a pop-up box that asks the user if the connection is “Public”, “Work” or “Home” – if a user mistakenly chooses “Public”, then the system prevents sharing features on that device. This becomes a problem when the user tries to connect to a networked printer, and the phone call to tech support occurs. The fix: When connecting new Windows machines to the network, make sure the policy is set to “Home”, to allow sharing. Check file sharing and network-device access settings to make sure connected devices can talk to other devices (such as printers).

#3 The mistake: Having older Wi-Fi devices on the network that bring down the new router’s performance.
Many users upgrade their router to newer standards (such as 802.11n or 802.11ac), but fail to realize that older clients accessing the network will bring down the overall performance of the network. That old cell phone or laptop that you use occasionally may be bringing down your performance, because wireless systems act on the “lowest common denominator” principle, setting the router’s performance to the standard with the lowest possible top speed. The fix: Remove (or upgrade) any older client devices (especially 802.11b) that may still be on the network. You can also configure some routers to operate in an “802.11n only” or “802.11ac only” mode, which will prevent older devices from accessing the faster network.

#2 The mistake: Not checking the router regularly for firmware updates.
While this has changed recently with some software that can more easily check for updates, a majority of routers don’t change their firmware automatically. Important functions, updates and new settings can greatly improve a router’s performance – especially for newer routers that receive updates once new Wi-Fi standards are approved and finalized. The fix: Unfortunately, updating the firmware on a router is still a manual process, requiring users to go to the manufacturer’s website, downloading new firmware and then updating with a computer connected directly to the router via Ethernet. While some routers include browser software that lets users check for updates, firmware updating is still a tough process for many users, so in all likelihood they end up not updating the firmware.

#1 The mistake: Jumping too soon to the “hard reset” option.
Most routers have a “hard reset” button, a small area on the back that can be accessed via a pushpin or paper clip, which returns the unit to the default settings. While this sometimes is a user’s only option should something go wrong, too many users jump to the hard reset before trying something else. The problem is that when a device resets, all information that was entered by the user during configuration is lost, including information like the ISP username, password, IP addresses, security keys, and ports/services that were opened. The fix: If you are well prepared by writing down all this information in advance, doing a hard reset shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But it could create more work than is needed through other fixes.

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