The Zero Refresh Cycle – The Unique Differentiator of Hosted PBX For Which There Is No Defense

It’s no secret that premise-based telephone systems and PBXs are going away. Even so, old habits die hard and it can still be a challenge to get some corporate types and business owners to give up on their old phone systems and make the leap to a hosted solution. Up selling the zero refresh cycle of a hosted PBX may be key to closing the deal.

There are many reasons why they stick with aging systems. They don’t want to risk any interruption in their business operations that may come with new technology deployment. They have capital budget, so they would rather use it to make incremental changes, expansions, and upgrades to the existing system. It could just be a case of “better the devil you know then the one you don’t”

Convince these laggards that the time to change is now.

In the 1984 movie “The Karate Kid” Mr. Miagi is seen performing a martial art move called “The Crane Technique.” Daniel asks, “Does it Work?” Miagi replies, “If Do Right, No Can Defense.”

The Crane Technique For Selling Hosted PBX

When presented properly, I believe that the Zero Refresh Cycle argument may be “The Crane Technique” of closing a deal for a hosted PBX. One thing any company cannot allow to happen is to be left behind technologically. In the past most phone systems were kept in service at least 10 years. How do you move someone who is planning to purchase premise based to a hosted solution. Remind them what did not existing 10 years ago when they purchased their current PBX: Smart Phones, Google Maps, Chat Bots, Cloud Storage, WebRTC, and more are all technologies that a PBX/Communications System should integrate with in order to smooth communications and provide outstanding customer service. We can’t even imagine the technology that our PBX/Communications system may have to integrate with in the next 10 years.

To be left behind technologically is to risk being put out of business.

Perhaps this is the most compelling reason for moving to a hosted solution. The hosted provider must make sure that the platform always has the most up-to-date and integrated feature set. That way, letting left behind technologically becomes a non-issue for the businesses that utilize the service. As a result, your clients can stay focused on their core business. They never need to worry about what technology their competitors are using that can put them out of business.

PS: There is no good word in the English language that means “For Which There Is No Defense”

Makeup your mind Avaya – Hardware or Software

Back in January, Avaya filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  When asked why, their Corporate Treasure, John Sullivan explained that after examining their debt “we decided it was a critical next step in our transformation from a hardware company to a software and services company and the best path forward for our customers, partners and employees.”

Guys…Phones are hardware!

They shed some significant assets in March with the sale of their networking business to Extreme Networks but basically, it has been all quite in the newsroom regarding their aforementioned transformation.  That is until May 31, when they announced their foray into a NEW market.  And what is that exciting new venture…SIP Phones!  YAY!  Psst…Guys…Phones are hardware, not “software and services.”

Avaya Vantage Device

Avaya + BroadSoft?

What is even more odd is that the press release says that these phones are being offered in collaboration with and tested for interoperability with BroadSoft.  And BroadSoft has had a campaign in place for a number of months offering Avaya customers a smooth migration from premise-based solutions to a cloud solution.  Is this just BroadSoft taking advantage of Avaya’s lack of foresight? Is Avaya just trying to hold on to any piece of the business they can? Perhaps this a prelude to these two companies eventually becoming one.

Whatever the real plan or outcome is, Avaya was late to the game realizing that premise-based systems are going away.  Many other hardware companies are in the same boat, creating a huge opportunity for agents and white label resellers of hosted services.   All of these companies customers are (or soon will be) available as premise systems age into obsolescence.  Companies need a communications system and hosted is the way of the future.

The New Yealink Phones Are Here! The New Yealink Phones Are Here!

So maybe we’re not quite as excited as Navin Johnson was when he got his new phone book,

but it’s pretty damn close.  SkySwitch has received “advanced shipments” of the new Yealink T52S and T54S phones.  These phones are not scheduled for official released by YeaLink until Q3 so Corey Stoker, SkySwitch Director of Support was very excited to share these new phones with you.  He has created an exclusive, sneak peek unboxing video for each phone.

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers and ruin the videos for you, but Corey is “The Master of All Details” and has done a very thorough comparison of the T52S and T54S to their predecessors, the T42 andT46.  He’s gotten into lots of details, even noting the difference between the feet on these phones and the older models.

Once these phones are officially released, SkySwitch will be getting them into our SkySwitch Reseller Portal where SkySwitch resellers can order, no-touch provision, and dropship these hot new phones to their customers.  You can read more about how that process works in this blog post.

Enjoy the Videos

Click Here For the T52S Unboxing Video

Click Here For the T54S Unboxing Video

BroadSoft Eats Its Own: The Death of the Channel?

BroadSoft just announce the commercial release of their Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) product. They are now one more in a long line of hardware vendors that have turned on their channel by going into the very service business that their products enable. In short, BroadSoft is now in competition with the very customers that have purchased BroadSoft products in the past.

This Has Happened Before

This is not the first time this has happened. Nearly a decade ago, Digium acquired SwitchVox in a similar move. For those not familiar with that transaction, Digium is “the benevolent caretaker” of the Asterisk project. Asterisk delivers an Open Source IP-PBX. Digium provides Asterisk Training and Certification, as well as all the “surround stuff” (PSTN Interface Cards, IP-Phones, Gateways, etc.) that someone who wants to deploy Asterisk would need. They have built a large and loyal channel of people who sell, deploy, and service IP-PBX’s built from the Asterisk project. SwitchVox is a commercially deployed IP-PBX built from Asterisk. It significantly extends Asterisk by adding integrations such as UC Functions, a Graphic User Interface, and screen pops and integration with a number of popular CRM products. So with the acquisition of SwitchVox, Digium became the owner of a product that was directly competitive with the channel partners they supported.

Sangoma (a competitor of Digium) made a similar move a little over two years ago, when they purchased PBXact (a competitor of SwitchVox). So just like Digium, they became competitive with the resellers that are part of their channel.

Who Does It Help, Who Does It Hurt

It hard to know if and who the implementation of this strategy benefits and hurts. Ten years later, Digium and SwitchVox are still going strong. Sangoma’s stock price has more than doubled since their acquisition of PBXact . But who really knows how many of their partners were driven out of business by these moves.

So now BroadSoft embarks down the path of Eating Is Own Channel. Peter Radizenski at Rad-Info recently quoted an BSFT client, “BSFT will force every customer to be on their cloud platform at some point.” He also added a comment to a recent LinkedIn thread on the subject, “it would be better for all if BSFT wasn’t competing with its own customers and selling direct to users at $15 per seat. That smells of desperation.”

Fighting the Trend

If you are a White Label Provider of a service, you need to make sure you provide something more than simply basic service.  You must be ready to deal with the day when someone else, or even your once trusted partner, decides to try and take your business by simply undercutting you on price. To combat this, you should develop specialized knowledge of how your customer does business within their vertical.  You can also enhance the basic service with specialized API integration or provide additional services from other partners.  Simply developing a solid and trusted business relationship with your customer can protect your revenue stream.  With these tactics, you can help to ensure your success, even in the face of ongoing downward price pressure.

T-Mobile Broke SIP on my iPhone with IPv6 Update

A funny thing happened after my T-Mobile iPhone recently upgraded to iOS 10.3.1 … my SIP client stopped working!

It seems that the OS update came along with new carrier settings that assigned my device an IPv6 address.  In my case, the carrier setting version is now T Mobile 28.3.

After analyzing network captures from the switch side, we found that SIP UDP messages are no longer routed to the SkySwitch SIP proxy which has an IPv4 address.  But noticing that API calls made over HTTP from the same app were reaching the IPv4 web service, we concluded that TCP packets were being translated and routed correctly.   So we switched the SIP signaling to TCP and the IPv6 device was able to register with the IPv4 server.   Unfortunately, this allowed only basic two-way communication between the SIP client and the proxy.  SIP calling was still broken because the audio IP addresses and ports still referenced IPv6.  Specifically, the CONTACT header and RTP IP addresses in the SDP contain the IPv6 address.

A little research uncovered that T-Mobile has been rolling IPv6 to Android devices for a few years now .   According to this T-Mobile slide deck from 2014, they use an IPv6 transition mechanism called 464XLAT to allow communication between IPv6 devices and servers on the Internet that do not support IPv6.  But making the conversion work seamlessly for applications that reference IP address information in the payload (such as SIP) requires a client side translator called CLAT (this document from Juniper explains it).   To make a long story short, Android version 4.3 embedded a CLAT client into the operating system in 2013, but Apple never did.  As a result, T-Mobile has continued to serve IPv4  addresses to iPhone users … until last week.

I suppose we may never know why Apple has not employed CLAT in the operating system (thereby forcing SIP application developers to embed this functionality in the app), or why T-Mobile decided to force IPv6 on iPhone owners despite this limitation.  But the bottom line is that more than a few SIP applications have stopped working as a result (eg. here).    I hope that this blog will save other SIP users some time in  figuring out why.

In the meantime, we are working with our vendors to support IPv6 in this use case.

 

 

 

UCCaaS Goes Vertical

In a new report from the Frost & Sullivan Digital Transformation Team, they stated that leveraging workflow integration will present opportunities and challenges for players providing Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) services. For white label resellers of Hosted PBX and Unified Communications as a Service, this means you can create more opportunity by leveraging your understanding of your clients’ businesses, rather than focusing on just delivering a horizontal solution that focuses only on technology and service delivery.

This happens at two layers: technical and non-technical

In the non-technical area, you can tailor your solution based on how your client likes to do business and their comfort level with technology.  Do they want (or require) on-site training, interactive video training, or will having access to recorded training sessions be a better fit for they work?  What billing cycle and terms work best for them?  Understanding their level of technical sophistication and recommending the correct phones can go a long way to building trust and user acceptance of the solution.  Do they currently do business on their mobile phones, or will offering this option just complicate and confuse users?

Over in the technical area, you can develop a deep understanding of how they do business and integrate your offering into their workflows.  This is where the Frost & Sullivan 2017 Global UCC Industry Outlook report mentioned above says there is opportunity.  To achieve this level of integration, any white label service you resell will have to have be standards-based with an open API that allows easy access to the inner workings of the platform.

The SkySwitch Open API has already been used to create complete call center solutions for companies such as My Pillow.  Others have used the API to create an interface to Amazon Alexa to create a UCC Digital Assistant.

By using these tools to create a solution that is tailored to your customers’ needs, you can create an environment of uninterrupted productivity, agile business operations and outstanding performance efficiency.  When you deliver all this, you become the solution that your client cannot live without.

M&A Can Ultimately Hurt UCaaS Partners and Customers

The consolidation in the hosted PBX and Unified Communications as a Service space continues with Windstream acquiring Broadview Networks last week. Late last year, Mitel acquired Shortel, and just a few months ago, NetFortris acquired Fonality. While we all realize that M&A in the space is a good indicator of a healthy sector, this kind of activity can shrink the serviceable market for smaller providers and impact both their end-users and channel partners. End-users have fewer choices and less flexibility, while channel partners may lose opportunity as programs are consolidated and requirements raised for participation.

When I mention smaller providers, I’m not talking about companies that have a home-grown solution running on a server or two in the back room. This is more about the mid-tier providers that have a substantial regional or national footprint and solid partner programs.

Impact on the Partners

The first risk to channel partners of the acquired company is that they may simply be dropped from the program due to low sales volume. Another possibility is that partners may be put into tiers, with only the largest partners getting the most leads, opportunities, and highest margins. There may also be new competition because of geographic overlap within the merged partners.

Impact on End-Users

The biggest issue is that customer service may suffer. In the first months (or even years) post-acquisition, the customer service departments may remain separate, but eventually there is always an effort to consolidate functionality. This often results in customers getting short-changed on the level of personalized service they were used to before their hosted PBX or UC provider was acquired.

The available feature set and the pace of innovation can also be impacted when a larger company acquires a smaller UC provider. Smaller companies are often nimbler than a larger company. This means that new features can be integrated quicker and important feature requests get to the top of the priority list faster.

Finding the right balance

Whether you are looking to purchase hosted PBX or UCaaS, or starting a new business selling these services under a white label or agent program, it important to understand how and from whom the service is ultimately provided. Purchasing from or partnering with a large national provider (or someone who is large enough to be an acquisition target for large provider), you run the risk of getting a service with limited options and poor customer service. For partners, you may get a very restrictive partner program that is more focused on your upstream partner’s success than on your own. Purchasing or partnering with a provider that is too small can result in unreliable or low quality service.

Ultimately, both customer and resellers need to find the right balance between the extremes of too big and too small. Resellers need a partner that allows them to truly own their own customers and determine their own pricing while delivering outstanding service and all the tools the reseller needs to grow their own business. The end-user should look to purchase their service from a qualified reseller who can provide the local support, training, and service while the service is ultimately delivered from a partner with the resources and network to deliver a consistent and quality service.

Don’t Do It Yourself: Fighting the rising cost of UCC

In a recent industry survey of over 300 companies for its annual UCC Total Cost of Operations research project, Nemertes Research found that complexity was one of the main reasons for rising operational costs of Unified Communication and Collaboration systems. As user adoption increases, the need to integrate more features continues to drive up complexity and cost of UCC implementation and operations. It seems that those who start down the Do-It-Yourself path using less expensive or open source solutions may see a short-term gain, but often quickly become victims of their own success.

However, companies that leverage offerings from vendors specializing in Operations and Performance management see a 59% reduction in their operational costs and a 34% increase in user adoption. In other words, using a vendor that provides Unified Communications and Collaboration as a Service (UCCaaS) fights the rising cost of maintaining a Do-It-Yourself UCC solution. There is also the added benefit of moving costs from Capex to Opex.

This is exactly the roll that SkySwitch and our ecosystem of technology partners and resellers fill. SkySwitch focuses on integration of best-of-breed solutions into our platform and the operation of the platform. Our resellers focus on training, support and the customer experience.

As shown in the study, using UCCaaS from a vendor whose focus is on best of breed solution integration and operational excellence can greatly decrease the cost and increase user adoption.

New Widget Improves Diagnostics

SkySwitch always recommends placing a SimpleWan (or similar) device on the customer premise in order to have enhanced remote monitoring and diagnostics capabilities.  The more quickly a reseller can diagnose and correct an issue that is degrading the quality of service to the end-users, the happier those customers will be.

However, there may be times when there isn’t an on-premise device to assist in the diagnostic process.  For these cases, SkySwitch has added a new Widget to the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.  This new Widget enables resellers to see traceroute information from the SkySwitch co-location facility to the customer’s router.  While not providing as much information as an on-premise SimpleWan device, this Widget does provide more than is available from most other white label systems.

Please download our whitepaper on the advantage of using a SimpleWan device and the other diagnostics available through the SkySwitch Reseller Dashboard.

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.

 

 

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