SkySwitch Launches Video Surveillance as a Service

We are happy to announce the addition of Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS)  as a new component of the SkySwitch service delivery suite.

Like almost everything else in the office, video surveillance is moving to the cloud.  Now,  SkySwitch resellers have the tools to capitalize on it.   Resellers can increase average revenue per user and highlight the unique video surveillance service as a point of differentiation.   It is an exciting new product that can be used to start a conversation, and set their service apart from other hosted PBX and UCaaS providers.

VSaaS is available now to all SkySwitch Resellers and can be fully managed from within the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.  To show how easy it is to add a new customer and camera to the service, here’s a short video.

 

 

Toshiba Telecommunication Systems Division No More

The word on the street (and Reddit) is that the Toshiba Telecommunication Systems Division is closing shop effective immediately.   It seems that the telecom division – which was banking on momentum after launching a new product in February – could not escape the company’s ongoing financial difficulties (including the $500 Million bankruptcy of Westinghouse).  This means that customers running Toshiba’s IPEdge and Strata on-premise PBX systems  (such as the CIX40 and CIX100) will be facing uncertainty about ongoing support and service.  Toshiba dealers that have calendared upgrades and replacements will likewise be in a bind.     The news just adds to the tumult in the PBX dealer channel following the recent news of Avaya’s bankruptcy.

I bet that we will continue to hear this type of news from vendors that have traditionally sold on-premise PBX systems.  The bottom line is that premise-based telephony is going away – business owners are giving up on the CapEx model and moving to OpEx.  While the shift represents a sea-change for VARs in the channel, it also represents a great opportunity.  The core value of companies in the dealer channel is taking care of customers – Customer Service, Tier-One Support, Training and Maintaining your Business Relationships.   All of these skill can be leveraged by moving to the cloud, where the activities related to maintaining a platform, carrier services, quality of service issues, and dozens of other technical details can be outsourced to a White Label partner.

If you happened across this blog because you find yourself in this position, check out SkySwitch as a potential partner.

 

SkySwitch Partnership with 888VoIP Streamlines UCaaS Provisioning for Resellers

We are very pleased to announce that the SkySwitch Store now allows resellers to purchase fully-provisioned Yealink phones.  This new functionality, a result of our recent partnership with 888VoIP, integrates the SkySwitch Store with the Web Centrex API and the 888VoIP fulfillment and order processing back office.

Our goal for this integration is to simplify the workflow needed to bring hosted PBX and UCaaS seats online.  With it, both the PBX system and the phones can be configured for a specific user at the time of purchase, allowing the phones to be drop-shipped directly to a customer ready for use.  Not only does this greatly reduce the time and effort required for provisioning, but it also decreases the likelihood of human error by eliminating the need to key order information into multiple screens.

Here is a short video to show the integration in action.

 

SkySwitch Resellers Gather for Vectors 2017

From February 26-28, 2017, SkySwitch resellers from across the United States and Canada gathered for the second annual Vectors Conference, the annual user group meeting for SkySwitch resellers.  For three days in the sunshine of St. Petersburg, Florida, SkySwitch resellers were delivered a steady stream of social activities, training sessions, and product information.

Day One

The event started with an early AM deep-sea fishing trip aboard the Florida Fisherman 2.  The seas were not kind that day!  Choppy winds and rough seas limited the catch for the day, but it did not diminish the camaraderie on board and the excitement for those that did manage to reel one in.

Doug Autin from Telecom Concepts showing us how to hold your fish

Blake McKeeby

Blake McKeeby of SkySwitch reels one in

Bill McClain from Networking Solutions doing his best impersonation of his catch

Jeff Hawkins of Telephath shows off his catch

After some recovery time from our deep-sea adventure, we reconvened for the Vectors Reception Party and Fish Fry.  The plan was to dine on the catch from the morning trip, but we’re pretty sure that the menu had to be supplemented by the hotel kitchen, as no one seemed to remember hauling in any meatballs, chicken wings or mushroom caps while out at sea.  The reception was topped off with a great keynote from our guest speaker, Anand Buch, the visionary co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens,

Anand Buch, the visionary co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens delivers the Sunday Night Keynote.

Day Two

Day two was absolutely packed with presentations from both the SkySwitch team and our event sponsors, C3 Cloud Computing Concepts, 888VoIP, Compliance Solutions, Inc.,  Obihai Technology, Inc., Metro Wireless International, Inc., SimpleWan, Rev.io, Glance, Ritalia Funding and NetSapiens.  Topics from Basics of Hosted PBX and Hosted Call Center, to the details of managing DIDs and device provisioning, right through to deep-dive engineering issues were all covered.

Day two concluded with a dinner cruise around Clearwater Harbor aboard the StarLite Majesty.  Unlike the fishing trip, this one was smooth cruising all the way.  Great conversation, great food, and great fun for the entire time, including an absolutely riotous Hawaiian Shirt Contest.  Dave Mehta of Pangea Web Hosting took home the prize for his coordinated shirt and jacket look.

Dave Mehta of Pangea Web Hosting took home the prize!

Day 3

The training and presentations continued on day three, but an added attraction.  A key note speech by Ron Marks, author of the bestselling book entitled “Managing for Sales Results” which helps sales managers get the most from their sales teams.  Through a combination of hard facts and personal anecdotes, Ron laid out a path that SkySwitch resellers could follow towards establishing better sales, high returns, and more success in life.  Everyone at the event was given a free copy of his bestselling book.

Ron Marks delivers sound sales advice.

Our resellers summed up their Vectors 2017 experience:

Vectors really gave me the opportunity meet with my peers and share ideas and talk with them. I really have gotten a lot of benefits from being here. The SkySwitch team is great. SkySwitch has provided just about everything that I could ask for.

– Doug Haldane – Unicom Solution

Vectors feels more like a family reunion than a conference.

The other white label partners we used seemed to care more about their success than ours.  The thing I love about SkySwitch is they seem very interested in my success.  They recognize that my success is their success.  That is something I really appreciate.

 – Jeff Hawkins-Telepath 

SkySwitch continues the growth trajectory it has been on since its inception in January 2014.  Since Vectors 2106, the number of resellers in the SkySwitch ecosystem has more than doubled.  Planning for Vectors 2018 has already begun as SkySwitch looks forward to another year of outstanding growth.

Small Segment Dominates Cloud Communications Adoption

BroadSoft is the global leader for cloud-based communications platforms. Each year, they poll the service providers at their industry event (nearly 100 at their last gathering) to gain some insight into the state of the industry. One of their key findings show expected adoption of cloud communications solutions, by segment, through 2020.

This table shows the results for the last two years.

Size of Business  2016 2015
Small segment (<100) 55% 48%
Medium segment (100-1000) 49% 27%
 Large segment (>1000) 45% 20%

 

It is clear that this group expects the small segment to continue to dominate adoption for the foreseeable future. However, Jon Arnold makes this observation is his blog post on the survey.

“…service providers were asked to forecast what percentage of their shipments they expect will be cloud-based. Of course, this is very different from asking them to tell us their actual shipments at present, so it’s more of a sentiment barometer for how the market is going to go.”

Jon also points out that there is a lack of distinction between VoIP or UC, as the survey asked about “cloud PBX/UC”.

Opportunity In The Small Segment

Even with the fuzziness around exactly how the question was asked, it is clear the survey shows there is still lots of opportunity the small segment of this 28 Billion dollar market. This is the segment where the typical SkySwitch reseller thrives. A SkySwitch reseller can provide great personalized service, on-site training, and do business face-to-face with their clients, all powered by the SkySwitch network and ecosystem. Small businesses can get cloud solution they need with the local and personal service they demand.

You can get more details on the BroadSoft survey and results here.

SkySwitch Announces Vectors 2017 Keynote Speaker Anand Buch, Co-Founder and CEO of NetSapiens

It is our honor to welcome Anand Buch, the visionary co-founder and CEO of NetSapiens, as the keynote speaker at the Vectors Reception.  Join us on Sunday, Feb 26th, at 6:30p.m. to hear Anand share  his outlook for the UCaaS industry and the unique place that NetSapiens holds in that space.  This is a rare opportunity to interact with the driving force behind NetSapiens, the platform that powers SkySwitch today and into the future.

If you have not yet registered for Vectors 2017, there’s till time.   Click here for event information.

Bringing Amazon Echo to Work

All the recent talk about the Amazon Echo got me wanting to put Amazon’s personal agent to work for the company PBX. Being able to control PBX features using voice commands is a nifty trick, and one that is easily accomplished by creating a Alexa Skill that connects to the SkySwitch Voice API.

This video shows our first attempt at doing this. In the video, I am asking Alexa to call Frank, a contact in my PBX account. The skill looks up the contact information for Frank, and then places the call for me by ringing my extension first and connecting to Frank after I answer.

Alexa skills can be used to voice enable almost any hosted PBX feature, such as forwarding calls, checking on the status of an extension, or adding participants to a conference call. We plan to expand on this concept and make voice commands an integrated part of our white-label UCaaS solution for SkySwitch Resellers.

 

 

100 Million Seats Up for Grabs

The January 19 announcement from Avaya that it will be seeking Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection creates an opportunity for hosted UCaaS resellers and service providers.

The company, which is being pulled under by $6B of debt and $1.7B of unfunded pension liabilities, currently supports about 100 million endpoints. Without a doubt, many current Avaya customers are now evaluating their options. Many who felt settled with an on-premise PBX may be reconsidering that position. Others that had decided to put off migrating to the cloud may well be ready to make the move sooner, rather than face the uncertainty that the coming months are sure to bring.

It’s still unclear whether Avaya will be able to emerge from bankruptcy with a customer base intact. When Nortel filed for bankruptcy in February 2009, the resulting uncertainty caused enterprise revenue to drop by 50%. Back then many Nortel customers migrated to Avaya. This time around, I predict that many of those customers will be migrating to the cloud.

Office Space Trends Point to Less Hotdesking

In recent years, open floor plans have all but taken over corporate workspaces.   Driven by a millennial workforce that values fun and collaboration over privacy, a majority of offices in the United States have adopted this mode of working.  According to Forbes, this design promotes transparency and fairness: Fewer walls and doors make management seem more approachable and encourage information to flow freely.

Due to this trend, one of the most asked-about features in the business phone system market has been hotdesking, an extreme version of open floor plan working where people sit wherever they want in the work place, moving their equipment around with them.   In the PBX context, this means that a worker can sit down at any desk and have all calls and calling features available at whatever handset happens to be at the desk, simply by logging-in.

According to the BBC, however, hotdesking may become less important as the Millennial generation starts to age and the pendulum begins to swing in the direction of privacy.  A recent story published by BBC Online reports a backlash against open floor plans.  According to the article workers are 15% less productive, have immense trouble concentrating and are twice as likely to get sick in open working spaces.  Support for this assertion is building.  A recent study found that nearly 40% of employees in an open office wish they had more privacy. Another study concluded workers in an open office are less focused and experience higher levels of stress.  The BBC story goes on to detail the many other downsides of an open work space.

While the SkySwitch Web Centrex platform supports hotdesking (sometimes called hoteling) among hundreds of other hosted PBX features, the important lesson to take away from this article is that working trends change.  Especially in the UCaaS world, it’s important to have a system that’s sufficiently flexible to change with the times.

 

In 2016 Mobile VoIP Clients Still Lacked UC Integration

Here is an interesting article from Tech Target that discusses the current state of UC integration with mobile clients.

As I previously opined, things improved in 2016 when Apple introduced a CallKit API in iOS10. Unfortunately, more needs to be done before mobile apps can truly replace the desk phone.

Nearly all unified communications vendors offer an iOS mobile application for iPhone and iPad. But Nemertes Research has found that use of such UC mobile apps is low. Why? Largely because UC mobile apps lack integration with Apple’s native apps and operating system, creating a poor user experience.

For example, users could not answer a UC call without unlocking the phone, they cannot make a UC call from Apple’s contacts app and UC calls drop when a cellular call arrives.

Given this poor experience, most people have relied on their native dialer and contacts apps, which means calls aren’t routed through the enterprise UC platform, aren’t logged in call data records and can’t be associated with enterprise customer relationship management applications.

But, earlier this year, Apple made its CallKit APIs available within iOS 10. As a result, IT leaders could potentially improve UC mobile apps on iOS devices.

UC vendors step up Apple integration
CallKit allows iPhone and iPad users to place UC calls via Siri or via a call button in their contacts app, as well as answer incoming UC calls without unlocking the phone and see UC call history in their recent-calls list. If users are on a UC call and a cellular call arrives, they can switch between calls or decide not to answer the cellular call. Users can also designate UC contacts as favorites to enable quick dial.

CallKit doesn’t solve all the challenges of UC mobile apps.
Cisco was the first UC provider to offer CallKit integration. Its Spark app, demonstrated at its Cisco Live customer event in July, added Spark calling information to iPhone contacts and enabled iPhone users to place calls via Spark using Siri, or by tapping on Spark numbers within contacts. Cisco does not yet provide CallKit support for its Jabber UC client.

Following in Cisco’s footsteps, Microsoft announced CallKit support for its Skype for Business iOS app at its September customer conference. Vonage, too, announced CallKit support for its UC-as-a-service offering. Other UC vendors will probably follow suit by delivering CallKit support in the next several months.

But CallKit doesn’t solve all the challenges of UC mobile apps.

Still lacking full UC integration
Users still can’t route certain calls through their enterprise UC platform, such as calls made via the native dialer or calls to numbers not in the corporate directory. To do that, companies would need to invest in something like Tango Networks’ Kinetic Communications Platform or Verizon’s recently announced One Talk, an integrated cellular and wireline service.

CallKit also doesn’t support integration with Apple’s native messaging app, which means accessing corporate instant messaging still requires launching a dedicated app.

Still, with more than 50% of companies either deploying or planning to deploy UC mobile apps by 2017, Apple’s CallKit is a step toward providing a better user experience for iPhone owners, even if it doesn’t yet offer full UC integration.

Page 1 of 812345...Last »