Happy Holidays from Abilita

This difficult year may be coming to an end, but our work to make your life easier never stops. Sending you greetings and warm wishes this holiday season. We look forward to serving you in the near future.

Abilita is a full-service telecom consulting firm helping clients across North America achieve greater cost efficiencies and improved performance for all of their Communications Technology needs – voice, data, and wireless.

admin@abilita.comHappy Holidays from Abilita
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Enhanced 911 – Are You Ready?

Consider this: an employee at your office has a heart attack after normal working hours with nobody around. He or she dials 911 from a desk phone and the ambulance goes to the wrong location! Worse yet, the emergency responders are at the right location but don’t know where the caller is located in the building!

It is for this reason that new E911 legislation has been introduced: Kari’s Law went into effect February 2020 and the RAY BAUM’s Act begins a phased rollout beginning January 2021. For details, view the E911 page on our website.

We are recommending that all organizations become familiar with these new regulations, develop a checklist, test their compliance and create remediation plans to address those issues.

If your firm needs assistance with this work effort, please contact us for a no obligation review of our practice, services, and expertise.

admin@abilita.comEnhanced 911 – Are You Ready?
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Boost your Bottom Line and Productivity

How would a 25% reduction in telecom costs help your bottom line?

Covid-19 has caused many companies and organizations to adjust to a new work environment. 

Many rushed to adapt to decentralized communications and a work-from-home environment for their office and support staff. Meetings have become virtual; contact centers and support are remote; VoIP adoption has increasedrequirednetwork security upgrades were all rushed into place.

At the same time many organizations have put on hold their growth plans and are looking to reduce costs to improve their bottom line, in some cases reducing staff.

​Now that things have settled into place, this is a good time to review your communications services and infrastructure. 

  • Do you have the services you need?
  • Do you still need the services you are paying for?
  • Are your contracts and pricing correct for the services in use?

Contact us today for a brief no obligation discussion on how Abilita could improve your bottom line and solve productivity concerns.

admin@abilita.comBoost your Bottom Line and Productivity
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Your Phone Bill Increased, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.

  • Beginning July 1st, US telecommunication costs increased by almost 7%!
  • Universal Service Fund (USF) fees have increased to 26.5%, the highest it has ever been.
  • Abilita can help you navigate this increase and find ways to save other costs on your bill.

One of the largest and probably the most ignored line item on your telecommunications bill is something called the Universal Service Fund (USF). This is a fund established by the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The purpose is to support the funding of technology projects of schools, libraries, rural health care, etc. in areas that are determined to be “high cost”. 

The funding of the USF is paid by the providers and carriers, and the calculation for the contribution is done on a quarterly basis. And, of course, this is passed on to the users. Beginning July 1 that charge went up to 26.5% (up from 19.6% the previous quarter) and is the highest it has ever been. In addition, the FCC is considering adding additional services to the contribution base.

Your phone bill is going to increase! For more information on the USF Contribution Fee, read this article on NoJitter.com

Although the USF surcharge rate increased and will continue to be a large line item, there may be ways to lower the base line. Now may be the time to do a complete telecommunications review and audit to determine if there are ways to optimize services to lower costs and to review contracts.

We don’t sell you telecom or technical services or products: we offer truly independent and objective advice. Click here to schedule a no obligation 10-minute discussion to help you determine the right course for your organization or give me a call.

admin@abilita.comYour Phone Bill Increased, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
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Technology Budget Survival in a New World

  • Up to 30% of workers will continue to use the Work From Home (WFH) model, at least part time, according to some analysts.
  • Many planned IT/Telecom projects have been cancelled – in many cases only mission-critical projects will be addressed.
  • Technology tools like video conferencing and collaboration are at workers fingertips. In the past, these applications were reserved for only very large companies and elaborate conference rooms.

IT staff have performed miracles – organizations were able to send home entire workforces and IT was able to spin up collaboration platforms and support remote workers literally overnight. Projects that might have taken years in the past have been completed in days. But these projects may have been undertaken in a quick and crisis driven manner. Cost considerations were left to be sorted out later.

Abilita has been involved in several telecom and technology industry discussions and panels over the past several weeks. We can help you assess your IT and Communications infrastructure to help determine whether:

– Services that were previously needed are still necessary?
– IT expenses are being duplicated or overbilled?
– Current vendor contracts need to be reviewed or modified?

We don’t sell you telecom or technical services or products: we offer truly independent and objective advice. Click here to schedule a no obligation 10-minute discussion to help you determine the right course for your organization or give me a call.

admin@abilita.comTechnology Budget Survival in a New World
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Moving Forward in the New Normal

It has been a trying time for everyone and every organization. Regardless of your business – things have changed. Employees have been told to stay away from their offices. But work still needs to be done. Customers/Clients still need to be contacted and relationships maintained.

What we have found is that most organizations have had to make these technical changes in a triage scenario. There wasn’t time to make these changes in a planned and controlled method. Instead, things had to be up and running over night. If not – business would be impacted, projects halted, revenue lost, employees frustrated.

Hopefully your organization has survived the triage time and you are moving to a longer-term strategy. Either thinking of returning to “normal”, or perhaps realizing that this may be a good time to re-evaluate your technical and communications infrastructure to support the “new normal”.

Here are a few things that we suggest you consider:

  • What are the security concerns to your data as a result of the work from home scenario?
  • Has your network been impacted due to an increase (or a decrease) in bandwidth usage?
  • Have you been assured that your remote workers can access E911 services if using the corporate infrastructure and resources?
  • Have there been new services added ad-hoc in order to support the transition?
  • Will these be short term or is it possible that this will become the new normal?
  • What are the technical and financial implications of these changes going forward?

Budgets may need to be re-evaluated and expenses reduced. This may be a good time to review existing contracts to determine if there are areas that can be modified to better reflect your situation going forward.

We at Abilita are professionals in these areas and are here to provide whatever assistance we can during these times. We don’t sell you telecom or technical services or products, but can listen to your concerns and help you determine the right course for your organization. 

Click here
 to schedule a no obligation 10-minute discussion to help the you determine the right course for your organization

admin@abilita.comMoving Forward in the New Normal
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Remote Worker Threats – Stay Protected

Working from home introduces a much bigger threat of attack from hackers. Here are five remote access threats you should know about:

  • Phishing: tricking your employees into sharing sensitive data or passwords. 
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): malicious attempts to disrupt normal server traffic, specifically aiming to take down your encryption service so your employees can’t use VPN.
  • VPN Tools: ensure all your VPN software has been patched to minimize chance of threats.
  • Remote Desktop: attackers could gain access to critical computer or servers through phishing or brute force attacks.
  • BlueKeep: a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop services allows for remote code execution. Make sure patches are installed. 

Abilita and our cyber security business partners can help protect your company against cyber attacks. If you wish advice on this or any other Communications Technology, contact your Abilita consultant today!

Click here to schedule a no obligation 10-minute discussion to discuss your objectives and identify a strategy to come up with the right Remote Worker solution for your company.

admin@abilita.comRemote Worker Threats – Stay Protected
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Remote Tele-Working Tips

Can remote working be a coronavirus deterrent?

Many organizations are requiring or encouraging their people to work from home.
For many this is a first-time foray into the “work from home model”. REMOTE WORKING may be your organization’s new reality.

Here are some tips and gotchas that may help you or your company make the transition.

Phone Requirements
For many, a cell phone will be an adequate short term voice solution. Some companies have apps that mimic your office phone to your mobile device. It’s not without its limitations but it is a good stopgap solution. Good wi-fi at home helps. If your looking for a full VOIP solution, keep in mind, not all VoIP or “hosted” providers are created equal. Do your homework.

Desktop work
How’s your bandwidth? Make sure your bandwidth “pipe” can handle your day to day work load. Speed can matter. Quality of connection may matter more. AND check with your IT professional regarding Internet security and VPN requirements.  If you find this difficult to understand, contact us. We can help and we WONT sell you anything.  

All of our people work from home and have since 2004. We KNOW the rewards AND challenges of working from home (including barking dogs and full refrigerators). We can help advise you on what you might need for you or your company’s particular situation.

Abilita has been advising companies exactly how to do this for more than 17 years.
Abilita…we are THE Independent Technology Consulting firm in North America.
Be smart, be safe, be sensible, and be calm.
Here is our toll-free number: 1-888-836-4968.

Our website is Abilita.com

Click here to schedule a no obligation 10-minute discussion to discuss your objectives and identify a strategy to come up with the right solution.

admin@abilita.comRemote Tele-Working Tips
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6 Secrets of Telecom Cost Reduction

There are many secrets we have learned and refined over the years as communications technology consultants. Here are our top 6 cost reduction secrets:

1. Start with the easy stuff

Sometimes there’s SO MUCH to do, you don’t know where to start. Start with the no brainer, slam dunk, home-run tasks: telecom bills that are largest. These have the most potential for savings and will make the biggest impact.

2. Look at the bills….and don’t just assume if the bill is the same as last month, all is good!

We at Abilita normally find ourselves working in between finance and IT. Finance looks at the bills, but doesn’t know what the services are for. IT doesn’t look at the bills, but generally knows what the bills are for. Document what each telecom bill is for and the services received.

3. Keep contract copies

A LOT of our clients simply don’t keep track of their contractual documents with their telecom providers. Having a countersigned copy of the contract is particularly rare, but necessary. Some contracts have an auto-renew clause. Make sure you keep track of contract end dates so you can negotiate better rates upon contract renewal.

4. Make sure everything is under contract

Contract rates will be lower than off-the-shelf pricing. All of your circuits and services should be included in your contract to receive the lower rates.

5. If you don’t know what it is, cut it

We consistently find savings on unused and unnecessary services. We suggest you request a CSR (customer service record) to help determine the location and description and eliminate those no longer needed.

6. BUT….be careful what you cut

I realize this contradicts #5, however you will want to identify all of your circuits and Monthly Recurring Costs (MRC). One technique we use is to either unplug or have the LEC “busy out” a circuit. Then if still needed we can turn it back up in a matter of minutes.

All this can be complicated and time-consuming. That’s where Abilita can help you and your staff! As leaders in the communications technology consulting industry, we average 28% savings for our clients, and there is great satisfaction in knowing your inventory is up-to-date and your pricing is as low as possible. For help on this or any other communications technology project, contact your Abilita consultant today.

You can also schedule a 10 minute phone call to explore how we can help to reduce costs at  your organization. Please forward and share this email with any other interested staff.

admin@abilita.com6 Secrets of Telecom Cost Reduction
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911 CHANGES in Michigan and How They Affect You

by Dan Aylward

We are all familiar with calling 911 and the simplicity, yet significant value, it has for our health and well-being. Behind the scenes is a vast and complex infrastructure in our communities. However, with changes in technology come necessary changes with this telecommunications infrastructure. By the end of this year, Public Act 244, which mandates 911 location phone systems in large buildings, will go into effect. By the end of 2020, every organization in Michigan with a phone system will need to be in compliance with changes in regulations governing 911 (with the exceptions below). What are the changes? Below are eight questions and answers to help you understand the changes, as well as information that all communities must understand for compliance.

What Is It? Not long ago we all used POTS lines (Plain Old Telephone Service) and PRI circuits (23 phone lines bundled into one digital circuit). Since these phone lines terminated at one physical address, almost all calls originated from a reasonable physical distance from the phone system. Today, with VoIP (Voice over IP) and UC (Unified Communication), someone could literally be anywhere when calling 911. This is a problem when you need to get emergency responders on-site as soon as possible AND to the right area within the building. The best solution is to send specific geographic identifier information to the PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) when calling from a MLTS (Multi-Line Telephone System or phone system). This could be address, floor, wing or room information. Also, this does not relate to mobile service.

What Is the Law? Consider this: An employee has a heart attack after normal working hours with nobody around. He or she dials 911 and the ambulance goes to the wrong address. Or, the emergency responders don’t know where the caller is located in the building! This is a reality today with VoIP and multiple buildings tied to one phone system. It is for this reason that 911 is being enhanced to E911. Every organization in Michigan with a phone system in a location with building(s) of more than 7,000 square feet or multiple physical addresses must install equipment and software that reveals where in the building a 911 call originates. Single floor locations, farms, and houses of worship with less than 20,000 square feet and fewer than 20 communication devices (i.e. phones) will need to comply when a new phone system is installed.

Is This the Same as Next Gen 911? No. Next Gen 911 is a technology standard that allows PSAPs to receive texts, pictures, video chat, social media, and VoIP. This will also allow the 911 Call Centers to transfer calls to other call centers to handle call overload. However, many are not ready for this technology. It is also very difficult to know if your local PSAP is capable of handling anything besides calls and SMS (Short Message Service). For more information, you can consult the master PSAP registry at fcc.gov/files/ masterpsapregistryv2238xlsx.

Does 911 Need to Do Anything Different? Yes. The PSAPs need to update their systems as well. Most will because the Middle-Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 authorized $112 million to do this and prepare for NG911. But this does not mean all are compliant.
When Will This Happen? This was supposed to happen in 2006, but the legislation has been delayed a couple times. The new date is December 31, 2019. Since House Bill 4249 passed, there have been some changes. However, all entities should be prepared to be in compliance by the end of 2020!

What Do We Have to Do? Almost all phone equipment eight years old (or newer) is compliant. However, you will need to make sure the phone system database is populated to send the appropriate information to the PSAP. Then, you’ll need to make sure your telecommunications company (e.g. AT&T) is pushing this information to the PSAP. Every extension on the phone system needs to have the capability to do this. For example: “734 Evergreen Terrace, Springbrook, MI, second floor, northwest corner” will be sent to the PSAP. Alternatively, you will have to identify the building(s) into 7,000-square-foot sections as identifiers.

Is There Any Ongoing Maintenance Involved with This? Yes. When you have moves, adds, changes, or deletions you will need to update the database with your telecom carrier. For example, if Michelle from the second-floor clerk’s office moves to the first-floor treasurer’s office, this information will need to be updated. In addition, if you have connected buildings with one phone system, the street address will need to be updated when an employee moves between buildings.

What if We Don’t? Penalties can be $500-$5,000 per offense; however, the greater concern is a lawsuit for noncompliance where compliance could mean saving someone’s life! Exceptions are if the building maintains, on a 24-hour basis, an alternative method of notification and adequate means of signaling and responding to emergencies or the phone system is not serviced by E911. The telecommunications industry and services have changed radically over the past ten years. However difficult it is to make this transition, it is important to incorporate standards for the safety of all staff.

Dan Aylward is a senior consultant for Abilita. You may contact him at 517.853.8130 or daylward@abilita.com.

Click here for more information and if you need help navigating these new regulations.

admin@abilita.com911 CHANGES in Michigan and How They Affect You
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