Tag: business communication

What The Future of Work-From-Home Could Look Like After COVID-19

2021 Work From Home

Gage has been preparing small to midsized business (SMB) owners on what to expect in the workplace, after the pandemic. With people working from home in droves, there is plenty of speculation as to where the modern business is headed in terms of remote staff, on-premise staff and hybrid staff. With some experts expecting the earliest vaccine to arrive sometime in 2021, most business owners are assessing their options and planning for their futures, now. As a trusted IT advisor, Gage is helping companies to map out solutions to address the new workplace reality.

The data is crystal-clear when it comes to employee sentiment about the brave, new world of work-from-home (WFH). According to the New York Times and Morning Consult, “In a survey of 1,123 remote workers…86% said they were satisfied with the current arrangements — even when that sometimes meant working from their bedrooms or closets.” Furthermore, more than half of that number, 47% reported they were “very satisfied with the current arrangements.” This isn’t a surprise because of the obvious increases in freedom, flexibility, and productivity spikes which are all natural byproducts of WFH. However, many business owners are still asking themselves questions like, “How do I effectively manage my team? How do I keep our network secure with everyone working-from-home? Which portion of my workers will need to remain in-person vs. remote? How do we foster collaboration and strengthen the company culture?”

The ‘Open Floorplan’ Concept

While the answers to those questions are still moving targets, the pandemic is forcing companies to make these decisions before their lease renews. “Unfortunately, due to health concerns, the ‘open floorplan’ concept is no longer going to be an option for most companies,” stated Jason Landry, VP of Sales of Gage. “As a result of this shift, we’ll see two major movements. First, some businesses will opt to downsize their office space and to reallocate their reduction in cost to strengthen their IT infrastructure as they go full bore into a remote workforce. For companies who double-down and reinvest in commercial real estate, their space demands will grow dramatically, because of the social distancing recommendations.”

“50/50” Offices

Some workers will return to “50/50” offices, where they’re in the-office for 3 days, but out for 2 days, or any variation thereof. Additionally, once employers learn how to take advantage of geological arbitrage, the cost savings that occur when a company budgets a San Francisco salary to hire someone with similar talent from the Midwest, at a much more affordable rate, WFH could likely expand to 4-5 days per week for most workers.

IT Demands

These shifts don’t come without complexity, though. As WFH grows into the new standard, SMBs need to consider the rigorous demands that will place on IT. “Business owners need to understand that if you have 30 employees and one main office, you now need to treat that situation like you have 31 distinct offices. Each one will require a dedicated internet network, firewall, access to private company network and of course, cybersecurity must be thoroughly considered, as well,” added Mr. Landry.

While 45% of home networks are already infected with malware, like keyloggers, a type of malware which records your keystrokes and sends your passwords back to the hacker. Historically, IT departments have never tackled the home office before because of its inherent complexity and the multiple users that utilize the network. The network is only as secure as its weakest link, and if someone’s child is playing online video games and exposing the network to potential threats, there’s a question of where to draw the line. Does the IT department block your child from playing video games? Can your teenager download apps that will make their TikTok videos more likely to “go viral”, when it could affect your company network?


Gage is leading the way and consulting with business to create a clear transition plan to whichever version of WFH suits them. “Fortunately, the technology that Gage deploys enables our customers’ employees to be just as productive at home. We work with our customers to customize solutions that support their WFH objectives,” commented Landry. To learn more about WFH or business solutions, contact Gage today. 

Gage Helps Businesses Deduct Up to $1M on Qualifying Equipment Expenses

Equipment Expenses

Baton Rouge, LA – October 2020 – Gage a leading managed technology services provider (MTSP), announced today that it is helping customers take advantage of a substantial tax deduction, outlined by guidance issued from the IRS, also known as Section 179. Section 179 allows businesses to completely deduct the purchase price of qualifying equipment and/or software purchased or leased during the 2020 tax year. However, the technology or equipment must be operational by the end of the calendar year, December 31, 2020, and with the deadline fast-approaching businesses must leverage its benefits quickly.

Cope With The Unforeseen And Sizable Expenses

Gage is advising its clients about this tax-benefit in order to help businesses cope with the unforeseen and often sizable expenses the pandemic has forced upon them. This comes at a time when many small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are searching for ways to restructure their operations to accommodate for remote workplaces, work-from-home scenarios and/or hybrid-offices, and have discovered how important security is to make this transition happen.

As business owners have done their best to comply with mandatory work-from-home policies, there are often significant costs in making these transitions work. Gage is doing its part to keep the business community informed on how they can reduce their tax liability and weather the storm.

“Small and mid-sized businesses have taken the brunt of this pandemic,” stated Jason Landry, VP of Sales of Gage. “Section 179 is too good of a deal to ignore. It’s a huge discount. If a business is restructuring itself or making an investment in technology or software, they need to know about this exemption.”

What Is Section 179?

Section 179 is affording businesses a golden opportunity to reposition themselves for success, by making investments much more feasible than ever before. The IRS is firmly behind this incentive and has even expanded the maximum expense deduction in the recent years, For tax years beginning after 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) increased the maximum Section 179 expense deduction from $500,000 to $1 million.” (IRS.gov)

As businesses have been confronted with mandates to operate remotely, Section 179 offers a much-needed tax-break to make this transition financially possible. The TCJA also amended the definition of “qualified real property” to mean qualified improvement property and some improvements to nonresidential real property, including roofs; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning property; fire protection and alarm systems; and security systems.

Working Remotely

As a provider of various security-based technologies, Gage is thrilled that businesses can more easily access the security tools they need making their teams more productive and secure as they work from home, and with the assistance of a government subsidy, business owners don’t have to do it all alone.

For example, let’s assume that a business owner wants to invest $125,000 back into their company through qualifying expenses. In the first year, they can deduct the entire $125,000. This means that effectively they would save $43,750 (assuming a 35% tax bracket) on those expenses. This would drive the net cost of the new equipment down to $81,250. Regardless of which equipment the business invests in, Section 179 is a phenomenal program that should not be wasted.

 


For more information or questions about this tax deduction, please call (225) 753-4243 or visit www.gagetelephone.com.

The Versatility of Gage Cloud Voice

Gage Cloud Voice Blog

Now more than ever, people around the world are starting to adapt to new ways of doing business due to COVID-19. At GAGE, we are working diligently to help our customers transition smoothly to a remote working environment. Our Gage Cloud Voice system gives businesses the ability to be accessible anytime, anywhere, on any device. This system has the capabilities to keep workers informed of company policies and work requirements while still feeling connected to the rest of the team. Whether you work remotely, traditionally, or multi-site, the versatility of GAGE Cloud Voice makes business continuity simple. 

 

// About Gage Cloud Voice

Picking a business communications system can be a challenge, but with Gage Cloud Voice, we take care of the details – phones, installation, training and ongoing service – so you can focus on your business. Gage Cloud Voice is more than a phone system, it’s a cloud-based, carrier-class VoIP communications solution that gives businesses the ability to be accessible anytime, anywhere, on any device. 

Whether your organization’s outgrown your communications system or new must-have capabilities come to market… It’s hard to keep up. We deliver a carrier-class communications solution “as a service” from the cloud. There’s no system to install, so you can add seats or functionality on-demand. Harness the power of communication today so your company can reach its business goals.

 

// Unified Communication

Our Gage Cloud Voice system features improved control, access and efficiency of business communications. Our hosted communications solution has the flexibility to support all types of work and workers, allowing your employees an easy way to work together – whether they’re in the office, at home or on the road. Choose from full-featured IP desktop phones, wireless handsets and conferencing. Your business can integrate voice, video, presence, instant messaging and email into a single platform with Accession Communicator for desktop or mobile devices. 

It starts with Instant Messaging with Presence, a way to tell at-a-glance if coworkers are available, busy, away or offline. Plus, you get file sharing, desktop sharing, video conferencing and audio conference calling with individual moderator codes. Easy to personalize and easy to use, Gage Cloud Voice will link everyone in your company, allowing you to communicate more efficiently and effectively.

 

// Enable Remote Employees

For many employees, it’s necessary to be able to work from home during this time. With Gage Cloud Voice, you no longer need to be tethered to your desk. Gage Cloud Voice lets you conduct business on your smartphone, tablet or laptop – anywhere the Internet is available. Whether you have an Android or iOS device, or a Windows or Apple OS computer, our dedicated clients let you make and take calls with your work number, access contacts and share files.

 


 

Let us help you develop a plan for your business continuity and harness the power behind Gage Cloud Voice. As you have come to expect from Gage, you can count on expert installation, thorough training and local personal service. In addition, through June 30th, Gage is offering use of the Gage Cloud Voice Meeting service at no cost to you. To take advantage of this offer or learn more, please contact us or call 225-753-4243.

Business Communication and Continuity Through COVID-19

Coronavirus Business Communication

As the news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is rapidly changing each day, one constant for businesses is a concern for the health and safety of your team. At GAGE, we also understand the importance of business continuity in a time like this, when many businesses are being forced to consider remote work options in order to maintain operations. Over the years, GAGE has supported its customers in the path of hurricanes, floods and extended power outages. We are prepared and have contingency plans in place to deal with any potential issue that may arise from COVID-19. GAGE has been in business for over 40 years, and we continue to have the same mission, even through a crisis: to provide the finest telecommunications and data services that enable our clients to increase their profitability, obtain a competitive advantage, and improve employee productivity.

Many business owners know that down time can be devastating to Small- or Medium-Sized Businesses (SMBs). We know you have a lot to think about during this time, and we want you to feel safe and secure with your business. Here are some tips to make sure you are prepared to get your business operations back up and running during a public health emergency like COVID-19 presents:

 

1. Implement Your Disaster Recovery Plan.

The first step is to make sure you are prepared to implement your Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP). If your business has an in-house IT team, or an external managed service provider, it is likely that you already have this in place and tested regularly – a great asset in times like these. A well defined DRP includes a list of your critical business functions with an analysis of your processes and recovery plans for each. If you do not have a DRP in place, the first thing you’ll want to do is consider what your critical business functions are.

 

2. Establish a Communication Plan.

Make sure your team knows who to contact and establish a point person for critical projects. Another thing that businesses often overlook is making sure you have your team’s personal contact details up to date. Communicate with your customers and vendors as well if there is critical information they need to know or downtime you are anticipating. 

 

3. Assess Your Infrastructure for Remote Access.

Assess your infrastructure and make sure you’ve considered any complications that could arise in a time like this. Can your employees access certain internal databases for your company if they would need to work from home? Make sure your data is protected and backed up, as well as accessible by your off-site team while they are away from the office.


4. Encourage Your Team To Work Remotely.

As the virus continues to spread, you’ll want to make sure your team is able to work remotely for as long as necessary. You can encourage continued productivity by making sure there is a point person assigned for critical projects, files are accessible, and all employees have the tools and methods in place for ongoing communication. Many SMBs may consider providing their employees with laptops, cell phones and a mobile hotspot to make sure they have what they need to get back up and running remotely. 

 

5. Utilize Cloud VoIP Capabilities.

If you are an existing GAGE Cloud Voice customer, this scenario is exactly what a cloud voice communication system is made for. By default, GAGE Cloud Voice is the most flexible and cost-effective solution in a time like this because its cloud-based communications system allows for remote work and maintaining a healthy work environment through continued connectivity. Maximize your unified communication tools to help with business continuity. Continue to keep your team members in communication with tools like instant messaging, video conferencing  and more. Your system may do more than you know – get in touch with your provider to understand your system’s capabilities, or maybe it’s time to consider upgrading to a new system that allows you to facilitate communication in the event like this. 

 

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If your team needs assistance achieving business continuity with your communications system, please contact us or call 225-753-4243. Our GAGE Cloud Voice platform is truly the last phone system you’ll ever need. More than just a phone system, GAGE Cloud Voice is a cloud based, carrier-class complete VoIP communications solution that gives businesses the ability to be accessible anytime, anywhere, on any device. GAGE Cloud Voice is an invaluable asset during unprecedented situations like the COVID-19 outbreak, and GAGE is prepared to help. Stay safe and stay healthy.

Two New Laws Governing Enhanced 911 That Businesses Should Know About

New 911 Laws

 

Get Ready for New 911 Laws. In 2020, all businesses must comply with two new laws governing Enhanced 911 – Kari’s Law and Ray Baum’s Act. The deadline for compliance was on February 16, 2020. GAGE Cloud Voice can help your organization comply with the new rules. Here’s how our platform keeps you compliant:

Kari’s Law Requirements

Kari’s Law requires organizations with multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) to send a notification to on-site personnel that alerts them to the emergency when 911 is dialed from their premises.

It also requires that organizations must remove any requirement that a caller dial “9”, or any other number, to reach an outside line to make a 911 call.

 

Our Solution

Our cloud communications platform does not require a prefix to access an outside line. In addition, it automatically alerts on-site personnel when anyone in the building dials

911 as follows:

  • Calls the phones of company predefined personnel and plays an automated recording of the time and date of call, username, phone number and extension that dialed 911.
  • Broadcasts an email with this same 911 call information to multiple contacts at once.

 

Ray Baum’s Act Requirements

Ray Baum’s Act requires organizations to provide a dispatchable location, including street address, floor, room and/or suite number (if applicable) to public

safety with 911 calls.

 

Our Solution

We offer Enhanced 911 with a specified location listing

per phone. The location can include:

  • Building address
  • Building number if on a campus or floor number if in a multi-floor building
  • Room/office number

We support Enhanced 911 on Hosted PBX seats or SIP trunks with the inclusion of a Direct Inward Dialing (DID) number for each physical telephone as long as the PBX manufacturer allows support for this service.

 

Is Your Organization Subject to the New Rules?

All businesses must comply with Ray Baum’s Act. All businesses with MLTS must comply with Kari’s Law. Examples include companies across verticals, such as:

  • Multilocation companies
  • Education campuses (K-12, colleges and universities)
  • Hotels
  • Hospitals
  • Retailers
  • Financial institutions 
  • Warehouses

 

What is Kari’s Law and the Ray Baum Act?

Kari’s Law – Kari’s Law was passed into law on February 16, 2018, and applies to multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) “manufactured, imported, offered for first sale or lease, first sold or leased, or installed” after the compliance date of February 16, 2020. The law:

  • Prohibits the “Prefix” Requirement When Calling 911 — Locations with MLTS must remove any requirement that a caller dial “9” or any other number to reach an outside line to make a 911 call.
  • Requires On-site Notification — A notification must be sent to on-site personnel when a 911 call is dialed from an MLTS.

Baum’s Act – Ray Baum’s Act was passed into law on March 23, 2018. Section 506  required the FCC to conclude a proceeding by September 23, 2019, that considered rules to ensure that MLTS systems to relay a dispatchable address to public safety responders along with a 911 call. On August 2, 2019 the FCC released its Report and Order that adopted such rules and concluded its proceeding as directed by Section 506.

A dispatchable address is now defined as “the street address of the calling party, and additional information such as room number, or similar information necessary to adequately identify the location of the calling party.”

 

E911 COMPLIANCE CHECKLIST

Here’s a list of tips to help you deliver compliant E911 service to keep your employees, vendors and customers safe.

  • Ensure callers can direct dial E911 without the need to dial an access code, such as * or 9, first to get an outside line.
  • Plan E911 support for virtual workers and satellite offices.
  • Set up E911 notifications for designated personnel in the event there’s an emergency.
  • Consult with legal counsel regarding your need to comply with the new E911 rules.
  • Map “dispatchable locations” where first responders can find E911 callers, including address, building, floor and/or room.
  • Test E911 access across endpoints by making a 933 test call, which will trigger an automated message with the caller name, call-back number and address.

 

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Are you ready for the 911 Laws? We Can Help! With Gage Cloud Voice, you can now take advantage of integrated mobility and collaboration tools without worrying about these new laws. To learn more about the 911 laws or about our services, please contact us today!

Holiday Communication Tips Every Small Business Should Know

Holiday Communication Tips

The holiday season can be one of the happiest times of the year, but it can also be one of the most chaotic for businesses of all sizes. For small businesses, maintaining a constant line of communication throughout the season can be challenging; no one wants to be overwhelmed by holiday spam, but vacation schedules often leave large gaps in the lines of communication between you, your employees and your customers. On top of that, you may have the added stress of trying to secure next year’s contracts in addition to the ongoing work. 

Ensure that clients know you’re thinking of them this holiday season – and make sure they’re thinking of you, too – by following a few of our holiday communication tips. 

 

1. Establish Communication Adjustments

It’s only natural to want to keep as up-to-date as possible with your customers, but during the holidays, everyone’s schedules tend to change. From the start of the holiday season, it’s important to establish a clear schedule for how your clients would prefer to communicate. Will they have a set of days where they’ll be on vacation and won’t be able to access their office phone? Will schedule changes interfere with your weekly check-in call, or complicate your production schedule? Anticipating everyone’s changing availability and establishing the best points and times of contact before the holiday season will take just a bit more stress off of both you and your clients, and ensure projects stay on schedule despite the holiday hoopla. 

2. Plan for Chaos & Prepare for Flexibility

No matter your business, the holiday season requires a strong line of communication not only between you and your clients but also between you and your employees. To ensure that you’re not left understaffed in your hour of need – and that you’re not interrupting your staff’s well-earned time off – look back through the business records of previous years and meet with your staff in order to determine the best course of action on how to divvy up work for the season. 

Between their feedback on what struggles they might have had and the business records from the previous year, you can configure a schedule that is much less likely to require last-minute emergency phone calls, to prevent too much work from piling on one person and ensure all of those end-of-year deadlines are met.

3. Clearly (and Concisely) Communicate Need-to-Know Information

There’s a fine line between what your customers and employees need to know about your holiday operations and overwhelming them with so much information that they decide to forgo reading your messages altogether. Before making any official announcements, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will your holiday schedule/hours differ from your day-to-day operations? If so, does this affect your customers?
  • Are you planning any special sales or promotions that need to go out in a timely manner?
  • What tactics or policies in the past led to frustrated customers or overworked employees?
  • Which channels are best to reach the widest possible array of clients? Consider updating your voicemail message, email autoresponders, social media channels, or sending a newsletter.

4. Match Customers’ Communication Style

When considering all of these other tips, there is one important thing to remember: customers respond to outreach that fits their behavior. Look into the methods of communication most utilized by the majority of your clientele and put your focus there. Keep in mind, your customers are just as flustered in this busy season as you are, so going the extra mile to accommodate them can really send a strong positive message when it matters most. 

Emails are always an excellent jumping-off point, but for the holiday season, exploring other communication avenues, such as interactive social media polls and posts showcasing company holiday traditions, can help you stay connected during a season when lots of people are spending their time online and on the go. At the end of the day though, never underestimate the power of a simple phone call – especially during the holiday season, when everyone is attuned to the personal touches!

 


 

While it’s important that your customers keep you in mind for the coming new year, we also know how important it is to show clients and employees how much they mean to you and your company. So, make your communications list, check it twice and give your communication strategies the supportive boost they need to carry you into 2020.

Stay Better Connected With GAGE

Gage Video

Since 1980, GAGE has designed, implemented and serviced business communication systems ranging in size from a few phones to hundreds of interconnected devices. Through the years, our service lines have also grown to include managed IT, cabling, and standby backup power. As a family-owned business, our diversified culture and connection to each other have laid the foundation to better connect with our customers and establishing true relationships throughout the years. We know that when you’re family in Louisiana, you stay connected – and that’s why GAGE is truly in the business of connectivity.

 

Customized Approach

Cloud-based, cutting-edge technology is nothing without the people behind it. Being better-connected starts with service before and after you become a GAGE customer. Easy to personalize and use, our secure GAGE Cloud Voice platform will connect everyone in your business, creating an efficient and effective work environment. With no system to install, it’s easy to add seats or functionality on-demand. We also provide a complete suite of managed IT Services, catching and fixing even the smallest problems before they turn into big ones. No matter your needs, we always take a customized approach to build a tailored solution for your company. At GAGE, we take pride in our customer relationships. Just because business technology constantly changes, it doesn’t mean relationships have to change too.

 

Service You Can Rely On

As a GAGE customer, you’ll enjoy a level of service beyond your expectations and a personal, responsive relationship with real people. We value your time, money and trust, which is why we don’t let our customers down. When it is all said and done, we want our solutions to allow you to focus on what really matters: running and growing your business.

 

Better Connected

GAGE is a Louisiana-based company, and we know the importance of being connected to the community that has supported us throughout the years. We are learning and growing every day from our community and culture. Being local means more than having a home office, though – it’s about giving back to your home. Since our company’s opening in 1980, we have poured our hearts into Family, Service, and Community. It’s the way we started, the way we’ve grown, and it’s the way we’ve become Better Connected.

 

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With our customized solutions, valued client relationships, and family culture, GAGE is always available to help you find the best communication solution for you and your business. To learn more about our services, read about our products & services or contact us today!