Save the Date | SkySwitch Users Group Meeting | Feb 26-28, 2017

SAVE THE DATE!

We will be releasing the training lineup and schedule of events in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for it.

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11 Reasons to be a White Label UCaaS Reseller with SkySwitch

11 ReasonsOur frenemies over at Coredial posted a great blog enumerating 10 Reasons to be a White Label Partner for UCaaS Solutions.   The compendium, available in full here, is so good that I have incorporated it into this blog post.

However, it misses one reason that is unique to SkySwitch and possibly the most important reason why you will want choose SkySwitch vs Coredial.  Read on to #11 below to learn why SkySwitch is the best partner for you to take advantage of the rapidly growing market for UCaaS.

1. Leverage your existing relationships.

With the UCaaS market size expected to grow to USD $24.88 Billion in 2020, a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 10.5% from 2015 to 2020, it’s likely that your current customers are interested in UCaaS solutions — or will be soon. If they already see you as a trusted partner, that’s a good reason for them to consider you for delivering UCaaS solutions to them. After all, you know their business. You know how they work. You know where they are going, and how UCaaS solutions can help them get there. The same statistics cited above indicate that there’s also a whole market for UCaaS solutions beyond your existing customer base. Offering UCaaS solutions enables you to expand your service portfolio to cost effectively extend your customer base.

2. Your customers will thank you.

UCaaS deliver benefits that your customers will appreciate — and that will reflect well on you. Among them:
Cost Savings CapEx becomes OpEx. Costs are more predictable and transparent. The savings from UCaaS solutions are well documented.

Flexibility

As long as a WiFi connection is available, your customers can embrace mobility and empower their employees with greater flexibility, which can lead to more satisfied, productive employees.

Streamline Workflows

UCaaS enables companies to streamline day-to-day operations and increase overall collaboration. It offers real-time access to employees, applications, and data, but isn’t location, or device, specific.

Scalability

The UCaaS is a pay-as-you-go service. It easily scales to meet changing demands, and your customers pay only for what they need. BC/DR (Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery) Cloud-based solutions are geo-redundant, which significantly decreases the chance of system disruptions. As such, UCaaS can be an integral component of a DR plan.

3. Enjoy faster time to market.

With a white label UCaaS solution, there’s no need to build a platform from scratch. You don’t have to commit time or financial resources to developing, testing and deploying the solution. The platform has been fully tested to ensure it operates at optimal capacity, and the vendor provides the support so you can be up and selling almost right away — no matter your level of experience. By partnering with the right service provider, you will likely have access to training, as well as marketing and educational resources to further accelerate your entry into the UCaaS space. (See #7.)

4. There’s no CapEx.

With a white label UCaaS solution, there are generally no capital expenditures and only minimal upfront costs. You don’t have to worry about housing the hardware yourself or maintaining it. You have more time to focus your energies on business growth and customer relationships. The same cost savings applies when new or enhanced services are developed and launched. Those development costs belong to the UCaaS service provider, not you.

5. Earn recurring revenue and higher margins.

While a white label UCaaS program may entail more initial costs than working as an agent for another brand, you have far greater earning potential. You can set your own pricing and margins. You also get the benefits of recurring customers and brand loyalty, as well as the monthly recurring revenue. With monthly recurring revenue, it’s also easier to focus on building your business rather than trying to gain enough new sales to match previous revenue targets.

6. Strengthen your brand.

When you work as an agent for another company selling its UCaaS solution, you can’t really cultivate your own brand. White label UCaaS solutions are sold under your brand, so you can steadily build your business without signing over rights to another company. You control every aspect of your business and customer relationship. The quality of the service and customer experience reflects back on you. That builds both your brand and customer loyalty. The key is to go with a service provider that offers stellar UCaaS solutions and support.

7. Gain greater ownership of your business.

You are the primary contact for your customer when you provide a white label UCaaS solution. Whereas, in an agent model, you can get cut out of the customer relationship once the sale is finalized. As a result, you can lose out on additional sales as well as customer loyalty and referrals. With the white label model, you are empowered to build much greater brand and customer loyalty.

8. Get access to marketing and training support.

You’re in control with a UCaaS white label program, but never alone. When you sell a white label UCaaS solution, you get the support of the UCaaS solution provider. That includes both technical and sales training and things like branded marketing content, lead generation plans and custom pricing and packaging offerings. There’s cost- and time-savings associated with it as well.

9. Be at the industry forefront.

When you partner with a white label UCaaS provider who is at the forefront of the industry, you’re right there with it. Yet, you don’t have to devote the financial or technical resources required to stay abreast of fast-changing technology and business trends, to enhance service offerings or introduce new services.

10. Mitigate risks. Increase rewards.

As previously mentioned, white label UCaaS programs typically don’t entail capital expenses. You don’t run the risk of blowing your investment on a UCaaS solution that may or may not work, and that may or may not be appealing to your customers and prospects. The white label UCaaS service provider has that all worked out for you. The provider also has done considerable market research. Its reputation is on the line if it fails to provide in-demand services and support, so there’s great incentive for it to offer the kind of UCaaS solutions that can help you succeed.

11. Have the Control and Flexibility of Operating your Own Switch.

SkySwitch gives white label partners all of the benefits listed above. Unlike Coredial however, SkySwitch offers white label partners the same control and flexibility that they would have if they were to purchase and integrate their own carrier class geo-redundant VoIP switch. Among other things, we don’t lock you into using our origination and termination. And, we give you a clear and defined path to migrate to your own switching platform should you ever decide it is in your best interest. The White Label business model is a great fit for many organizations. But as they say, good choices are made from good options. And only SkySwitch gives you the option to move to your own switch with zero downtime and no migration headaches.

SimpleWan Integrates Ubiquiti Controller into Dashboard

unnamed (2)SimpleWan recently announced that it has integrated the Ubiquiti UniFi Controller into its dashboard. This will be welcome news for anyone that has struggled to deploy mesh Wifi and VoIP QoS on the same LAN. Now control of both networks can now be centralized from the SimpleWan dashboard.

We expect to have Unifi access points available for purchase in the SkySwitch Store within the coming weeks.

Ubiquiti is known for its line of outdoor wireless products, which are popular among WISPs. The Unifi line of indoor access points is relatively new, but has gained traction as a result of its blazing fast speed (up to 1300 Mbps on the 5 GHz band), low entry cost (MSRPs are under $100), and the ease in which WiFi mesh networks can be created and managed.

The UniFi Controller software is enterprise wireless software used for high-density client deployments requiring low latency and high uptime performance. A single UniFi Controller running in the cloud can manage multiple sites: multiple, distributed deployments and multi-tenancy for managed service providers.

As stated in the SimpleWan product announcement:

 

Wireless has changed a lot over the last few years and is continuing to change. Putting an integrated box in the corner of an office no longer works with all of toady’s wireless technology. Wireless must be deployed strategically; for the best coverage and fastest speeds. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel for Wireless N & Wireless AC, SimpleWan looked for the best technology and the best value in a partnership. We decided to partner with Ubiquiti to integrate their wireless controller into the SimpleWan dashboard. Any Unifi Access Point now will fully integrate into your SimpleWan configuration. The devices are fully cloud managed in the SimpleWan Dashboard and designed for zero touch on site. There is no need to buy any additional hardware or solutions; except for the access points themselves.

 

 

Ubiquiti-Unifi-AP-AC-Access-Points

Apple Announcement Means that True Mobility Apps are Closer to Reality

I hear all the time from customers that they would like to replace their SIP desk phone with a mobility app (like the SkySwitch PBX Fone) running on their smartphone. On its face, this seems to make sense. In practice however, it’s not a viable solution for several reasons.

One of the biggest impediments to making this idea work has been the inability for 3rd party app developers to integrate more tightly with the phone operating system. For example, an incoming cellular call will always take precedence over a VoIP call on a mobile app, and there is not an effective way for app developer to override this behavior. As a result, it has always been my opinion that a mobile app could never displace a SIP desk phone in a business environment until the Apple and Android OS developers decide to make it possible.

apple-ios10With the recent announcement by Apple of an API for VoIP apps (named CallKit) in iOS 10.0, it seems that day may be on the horizon. According to the Apple developer website:

The CallKit framework (CallKit.framework) lets VoIP apps integrate with the iPhone UI and give users a great experience. Use this framework to let users view and answer incoming VoIP calls on the lock screen and manage contacts from VoIP calls in the Phone app’s Favorites and Recents views.

CallKit also introduces app extensions that enable call blocking and caller identification. You can create an app extension that can associate a phone number with a name or tell the system when a number should be blocked.

Of course, this is just one piece of the puzzle.  The other impediments to displacing the desk phone being neatly summarized by Polycom (Imagine that) here.

In the meantime, we will be working with our mobility development partner to get these features into PBX Fone.  Keep an eye open for future developments.

Obihai – Amazing 20 Years of Innovation

The Obihai Webinar for SkySwitch resellers is now posted to our YouTube channel.

One slide in the presentation really captured my attention because it demonstrates a pretty spectacular history of success from an entrepreneurial team that has used innovation (in both product and business model) to change the way that people communicate.

 

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 12.12.37 PM

I remember getting my hands on the Komodo ATA way back in 1999.  It was a real game changer.  So much so that Cisco purchased Komodo and transformed it into the globally ubiquitous ATA188.  I can’t think of many other products that have influenced the communications landscape in a similar way.

The Obihai team continues to bring the same innovative thinking to their current products.  If you are not familiar with them, watching this webinar will be worth your while.

 

SkySwitch is Now Integrated with Tenfold

tenfold-100x100SkySwitch is now integrated with Tenfold.

With integrations to 30+ CRM systems, Tenfold helps companies increase revenue by enhancing customer and prospect interactions, providing a framework for sales, service and support best practices, increasing organizational technology adoption and offering high-level actionable analytics.

To learn how SkySwitch Resellers can increase seat revenue and decrease churn by adding Tenfold to their product catalog, signup for our webinar on May 23, 2016 here.

SIP Phone Automation for Fun and Profit

robotOver the holidays, I made a serendipitous discovery while trying to get the the Amazon Echo to control a light bulb using voice commands. If you haven’t yet heard about the Amazon Echo it is a relatively new appliance that contains a voice controlled personal agent named Alexa (Amazon’s version of Siri, Cortana and Google Now). But I digress… The discovery was the If-This-Then-That (IFTTT) Maker channel.

IFTTT (pronounced “ift”) is a consumer oriented webservice that makes software automation accessible to virtually anyone. Using hundreds of pre-built “recipes” IFTTT allows you to connect different applications together with rules that can be easily defined. The pre-built recipes include connections (called “Channels“) to virtually any consumer webservice that you can think of. Another automation webservice, Zapier, is more geared towards business applications but is not as straight-forward to setup.

Introduced in June 2015, the IFTTT Maker channel allows you to trigger a recipe with a simple HTTP post. That means that you can trigger automation tasks just by hitting a web URL. The IFTTT service lets you insert parameters into the URL that can be passed to other applications.

When combined with HTTP notification capabilities that are built into most SIP phones and ATAs, the Maker channel allows you to do some pretty amazing things that operate completely independently from the IP-PBX or SIP server that the phone is registered too. Although capabilities will vary depending on the model of SIP phone that you are using, some ideas that come to mind in the hosted PBX realm include being notified when a SIP phone becomes unregistered or when the phone’s DND button is pressed.  The possibilities are almost limitless, and will only expand as more IFTTT channels are created.

To get you started in the wonderful world of SIP Phone automation, I created a How-To video that steps through the process of logging calls from a Yealink phone to a Google Spreadsheet using Yealink Action URLs  (the video shows the Yealink phone being configured from its admin UI, but of course, this can also be auto-provisioned using the SkySwitch device provisioning server).

 

 

 

WebRTC: It Isn’t Just for Real Time Communications Anymore

An interesting blog post from WebRTC expert Tsahi Levent-Levi points out that the New York Times has started using WebRTC to detect the private IP addresses of its readers.    Because real time communication protocols need to know a user’s private LAN IP address to establish media sessions, this information is now available to any web server from a WebRTC compatible browser.

 

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Really… why is that interesting, you may be asking yourself?   OK, maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration.  But it is at least noteworthy.  First, because it includes an except from a facebook forum exchange between SIP gurus Cullen Jennings (Cisco) and Michael Jerris (FreeSWITCH); and second because it highlights the old axiom about the unanticipated consequences of technology (or maybe the clever folks at Google had this use case in mind all along).

Is this a big deal?  Maybe… maybe not.    The NYT could be using this information for the completely legitimate reason of determining how many people on a given public IP address are reading articles behind it’s paywall.  But… it is just one more example regarding the many ways that technology strips away you privacy.

 

 

How SkySwitch Improves VoIP Quality for SIP Mobility

While I was working for NetSapiens, I wrote a blog called Maximizing VoIP Quality Over Wireless Links with Codec Selection that explained how a service provider might improve VoIP QoS by using the iLBC codec.

Now, with the availability of the SkySwitch Mobile VoIP solution, I am happy to say that we are putting theory into practice.  One way we do this, is by using our Always Available geo-diverse architecture to anchor media at the switch that is geographically closest to the end user.

But the most important strategy we employ to maximize QoS for users of the PBX Fone app is to leverage iLBC, the best available codec for callers over WiFi, 3G and 4G wireless networks.

The term codec  refers to the sampling rate and compression scheme used to digitize an audio stream and, as might be expected, codecs with higher fidelity require more bandwidth. The table below (borrowed from Broadcom) shows the perceived speech quality and bit rates of ten different codecs across different languages.  In a VoIP call, the goal is to use the codec which results in the best possible user experience.  But because  packet loss and delay reduce voice quality, a trade-off must always be made  between codec fidelity and bandwidth consumption.

Most service providers consider G.711 and G.729 as the “standards”  because virtually all of their existing vendors (SIP carriers and trunk providers) and equipment providers (SIP CPE and gateways) support these codecs – and therefore compatibility issues are less likely to arise.  As reflected in the bandwidth calculation chart below (borrowed from Cisco),  including overhead, G.711 requires nearly three times more bandwidth than G.729 (87.2 Kbps vs. 31.2 Kbps).  It’s obvious then, that G.729 is a better choice than G.711 when bandwidth is an issue.

 

But, bandwidth consumption is not the whole story.  There is another factor to consider when choosing a codec as a service provider:  loss concealment.   (Software developers often argue about the merits of a codec based on license cost, computational requirements, whether it is open source or encumbered by patents, and other such things.  These issues, though interesting, are immaterial to the typical service provider and will be ignored in this discussion.)

In many wireless last mile situations (including WiFi and cellular data 3G/4G), bandwidth is subject to packet loss and/or unpredictable drop-outs due to ambient conditions.  In these cases, after all the factors are taken into consideration the iLBC codec is the better choice because:

  • among the narrowband codecs, it has similar payload size and fidelity to G.729
  • it is supported by many SIP CPE/handset vendors (e.g. Linksys, Polycom, Apple iOS, Android, and many others); and
  • it performs well in lossy conditions (referred to as robustness).

While there are other codecs with smaller payload size, or greater robustness, they are generally not supported by commonly available SIP Phones, and are therefore impractical choices.

The diagram below, taken from COMPARISONS OF FEC AND CODEC ROBUSTNESS ON VOIP QUALITY AND BANDWIDTH EFFICIENCY,  illustrates that the call quality (referred to as MOS) of G.729 at 8% packet loss is equivalent to the call quality of iLBC  at 15% packet loss – a nearly 100% improvement – in a typical WISP deployment scenario (by “typical”  I mean a network segment where UDP packet loss is anticipated, but packet delay is not an overt problem).  And, in real world usage, I have found that it is possible to carry on a reasonable conversation with packet loss approaching 30%, when using iLBC.

SkySwitch utilizes iLBC transcoders to allow calls from the SkySwitch mobilty app to accommodate the often lossy conditions of WiFi, 3G and 4G networks.  Give it a try for yourself and see the difference that strategic codec selection makes.

UC vs. UCC: What the Heck is the Difference?

According to a recent Frost & Sullivan end-user survey on enterprise communications, a large percentage (42%) of end-users are confused about the terms UC and UCC.  Frankly, that seems low to me because it’s pretty darn confusing.

According to Garner’s IT Glossary,  Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) is a term that is used to describe a “combination of communications and collaboration technologies.”   On the other hand, Unified Communications (UC)  refers to the merging of voice, messaging and presence.  Or, as Dave Michel at Unified Communications Strategies puts it, “UC is more about the technologies and collaboration is more about the outcome.”  Say what?!?

If you ask me, there is no meaningful difference between the two terms.  UCC is simply a way to distinguish the recent enhancements (whatever they may be) that are being  added by many UC vendors to existing solutions.  In most cases, the distinctions are arbitrary.

To understand why, it helps to recall that the term UC originated from “Unified Messaging,” a term coined in the 1990’s to describe the unification of your inbox (that is, the combination of voicemail, email, SMS and fax).  As technologies evolved, Unified Messaging morphed into Unified Communications to include interactive communications such as video, IM and presence.  But, with the recent evolution of  technology to encompass more collaborative applications such as web conferencing,  web sharing, desktop sharing, application sharing, document sharing and beyond, vendors are eager to differentiate the new stuff from the old stuff.  And thus, a new segment is born.

Anyway you slice it, the term UC is yesterday’s news.  And, anyone that purports to know anything about the topic has moved on to current vogue nomenclature – UCC.   So the next time you find yourself at a cocktail party discussing collaboration, don’t get caught unawares.   Just remember where you heard it first.

 

 

 

 

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