WordPress Click to Call Plugin Available Now from SkySwitch

We are happy to announce the availability of a click to call plugin for WordPress. This easy to use plugin will allow SkySwitch Resellers to create “Call Us” buttons on any website that is created using the hugely popular and ubiquitous WordPress content management system.  The wordpress plugin can be downloaded here.  For details on usage, please check the Help Documents website, or contact the SkySwitch Control Tower.

 

How to Use the SkySwitch Click to Call Plugin for WordPress

Whale Hunting Creates Opportunity for Hosted UC Providers

whaleIn case you hadn’t noticed, Vonage, Ring Central and 8×8 (the billion dollar babies)  have all but abandoned the SMB space of the hosted UC market in search of larger customers.  This  creates a unique opportunity for smaller service providers that can move quickly to fill the vacuum, and that are sufficiently adept at helping SMBs negotiate the transition from on-premise PBX equipment to the cloud.

Venture Capital funded companies need to show growth.  Growth comes by closing bigger deals, which in turn necessitates an increasingly large sales apparatus.  Large sales organizations can only sell big ticket items or cookie cutter widgets that don’t vary from customer to customer (this is the reason why telcos sell commodity service like bandwidth or dialtone and have not been successful selling much of anything else).

Selling hosted UC is definitely not like selling a widget.  And, selling hosted UC to large enterprises is a much different job than selling hosted UC to SMBs.

 

Hosted UC for SMBs

Peter Radizeski makes much the same point when he notes that there is no clear leader in the hosted UC space as yet.  Referring to the market segmentation diagram he further states that:

“The winners will be by segment. The same company at the bottom of the pyramid will not be the winner at the top. As Vonage Business execs are finding out, it is hard to sell that logo into an enterprise. As 8×8 experienced, moving up to mid-market is an expensive and time consuming effort.”

So, with the  bigger guys focusing on the top of the pyramid, the field is clear at the bottom for  ITSPs that can figure out the sales process (most have not).

 

In such an environment, where success hinges on high-touch sales and support,  Interconnects, ISPs, Agents and VARs need a white label hosted UC provider such as Skyswitch.  The white label business model allows smaller service providers to leverage proven expertise and infrastructure while directing operational capital into the areas where it will earn the highest return.

To learn more about SkySwitch and Web Centrex, our white label Hosted UC platform contact us today.

 

 

Is 2016 the Year of Messaging for Business?

Predictions for 2016 abound around the Internets, but one in particular caught my eye.

Russel Brand from Massively quotes several sources to make the argument that now is the time for messaging apps to become a serious business tool:

 

One of the most consistent predictions is the emergence of messaging apps as a channel for brands to reach and engage customers. Advertising Age’s list of top trends marketers won’t be able to ignore states that “messaging platforms will trump broadcast social networks”, while eMarketer predicts that “marketers will join the conversation (in messaging apps)”. Henry Blodget, the CEO and Editor-In-Chief of Business Insider, boldly stated “the next big platform will be…Messaging”. And just yesterday, TechCrunch concluded their list of eight trends for 2016 by proclaiming that “soon our first entry point for buying things, ordering things, customer service, is likely to be an IM platform with companies bolting into the back end of the messaging experience.

I am a believer in the value that messaging apps offer to business.  For my money, nothing compares to the efficiency of  Instant Messaging when it comes to connecting customers to an organization’s sales and customer service force.  And, with the capabilities that WebRTC brings to every browser, and the ongoing integration of WebRTC into business communication and collaboration systems, it certainly seems like the stage is set for messaging apps to become part of the business landscape.

I am willing to  bet that the day will come when most customer interactions will begin with an Instant Message or text message – as a prelude to a voice or video call, if nothing else.   But, unless a marquee brand like Apple or Amazon sets the pace for others to follow, I just don’t see it happening so quickly.  At least not in 2016.

 

Is a Polycom-Mitel Merger on the Horizon?

An interesting article on CRN – Mitel CEO Talks Possible Polycom-Mitel Merger, M&A Strategy – quotes Mitel CEO Richard McBee as stating that a shareholder with a large stake in both companies is pushing them to explore a merger.

I don’t as yet have an opinion about the end result of such a merger, but the concept of a union makes some sense when you consider:

  • Both companies have suffered from lackluster financial results  (Mitel/Polycom)
  • It makes sense for Polycom to be aligned with a platform provider such as Mitel given that:
  • Privately held Yealink continues to eat into Polycom’s market share with successful copycat products at lower price points

Food for thought…

Quantum Networks Will Change Everything

Quantum TeleportationWhen it comes to science, I am hard pressed to explain the difference between a photon and a proton.  Still, it doesn’t take a degree in physics to notice that the telecom world is  soon to be rocked by an esoterically named phenomenon called quantum teleportation.

Although the term teleportation brings images of Scotty beaming up Captain Kirk to mind, there is nothing fictional about quantum entanglement.  In a nutshell the idea is that two electrons can be linked together (entangled) such that information can be conveyed between them even when they are separated by great distances.   As it relates to communications networks, quantum teleportation provides the mechanism for moving the quantum analog of a bit (called a qubit) between two such electrons.

Although the idea was posited by Einstein in 1935, the first process to accomplish it wasn’t expounded until 1993 by Dr. Charles H. Bennett, a scientist at I.B.M.   Subsequently, scientists have been able to demonstrate the effect in lab conditions and across short distances only.  Over the past several months however, researchers at Stanford and The Delft University of Technology have published papers (here and here) showing methods by which information could be shared between electrons over a mile apart.

While the nuances of the process are significantly over my head, the practical applications seem pretty clear:   Secure and unlimited communications networks that are unfettered by the constraints of today’s physical broadband networks.

Apparently, you can change the laws of physics Captain.

SkySwitch Unveils Click-to-Call Extension for Google Chrome

2000px-Google_Chrome_2011_logoAt SkySwitch, we strive to constantly improve our Hosted PBX Reseller platform.

Within the past year we have had requests from resellers for click-to-call functionality in Salesforce.com, Sugar CRM, Zoho CRM, Agile CRM, Sage CRM and Quickbooks Online, among others.   Initially, we created a Salesforce app to provide click-to-call and other* functionality inside the Salesforce.com user workspace.  However,   as the number of web-based CRM, ERP and Accounting system continues to grow, we decided that rather than developing a plugin for each service, we would  create a click-to-call browser extension that works with any web-based application.

As a result, the SkySwitch Click-to-Call extension for Google Chrome is now available as a free download from the SkySwitch Reseller Help website. Here is a quick vid showing how to install and use it.


 


*Not to be confused with the SkySwitch Click-to-Call extension for Google Chrome, the SkySwitch Salesforce.com app is a widget that resides within the Salesforce.com  portal.  In addition to click-to-call functionality, it also:

  • Allows an agent to login/logout of a Call Queue
  • Displays the status of other users within the Agent’s domain
  • Allows an agent to transfer a call to another extension
  • Allows an agent to note the disposition of every call
  • Creates a call record for every call to or from a customer within Salesforce.com.

 

Attract and Retain Customers with SkySwitch Instant Messaging

SkySwitch has recently added XMPP Instant Messaging (IM) to the core set of UCC tools it makes available to Resellers of the WebCentrex hosted PBX service.

This addition presents yet another opportunity for differentiation in an industry where competitors often appear to offer me-too products, and it is difficult for the end-user to compare competing solutions beyond the price tag.  It also helps resellers to reduce churn because IM is hard to give up once it becomes incorporated into your work routine, and it is a service that is not readily available from competing hosted PBX service providers.

With SkySwitch Instant Messaging, Resellers can give SMB customers a sticky new communications tool along with the assurance that sensitive business information will not be subjected to the security concerns associated with mass market IM services.

Although IM has been a ubiquitous consumer staple for nearly twenty years (has it really been 18 years since I started using ICQ in 1997?!), its use in the business world has only recently started to gain traction.  According to a new report by The Radicati Group (Instant Messaging Statistics Report, 2015-2019), the number of IM users is expected to grow from 3.2 billion in 2015 to over 3.8 billion in 2019, with most of the growth coming from IM by businesses.

Part of the reason that adoption by businesses has been slow until now is that managers have been apprehensive to invite an unknown entity into the workplace. That apprehension is based on two factors:  (1) there is a widespread belief that instant messaging leads to a decrease in productivity, because workers using instant messaging in addition to the phone and e-mail will be disturbed more, and; (2)  there is fear that encouraging employees to use a consumer IM services (such as Skype and Facebook Messenger) will subject sensitive corporate data to a security risk that is hard to quantify.

Dissemination of the fact that IM actually makes workers more productive (such as this study from The Ohio State University), and the increasing availability of private and secure enterprise messaging systems, have started to turn the tide.  Today many business managers are open to the use of IM in the workplace, if it is offered in the right context.

With SkySwitch Instant Messaging, Resellers can take advantage of this trend by offering secure, standards-based, IM as an add-on to hosted PBX services.  The SkySwitch Instant Messaging service leverages standards-based XMPP (sometimes referred to as Jabber), which means that end-users can access the SkySwitch IM server using any XMPP-compliant chat client.  There are many free clients available, such as Zoiper, Adium, Pidgin, IM+, Messages for Mac, Jitsi, Blink and Spark, among others.

The service features single sign-on with the end-user’s PBX portal username and password, and sync’s with the PBX Directory so that users within the same company automatically see other employees in their chat buddy list.   The service is also secure, supporting Centralized User Administration from the PBX Office Manager portal, SSL encrypted data streams, and server infrastructure that is hosted in geo-redundant SOC II certified facilities.

For more information about SkySwitch XMPP Instant Messaging and all of our hosted PBX features, contact our sales team today.

 

WebCentrex Feature Preview: Voicemail Transcription

One of the best aspects of the SkySwitch White Label PBX platform model is that hosted PBX Resellers automatically get access to the latest Unified Communications features without doing a thing.   At SkySwitch, we work hard to develop, test and deploy system upgrades so that our Resellers don’t have to.

One such feature that we are very excited about, voicemail transcription, will be available in the next release of our WebCentrex platform, expected in September 2015.

Voicemail transcription is part of the WebCentrex voicemail-to-email capability.  Once enabled, voicemail audio files are sent to a speech recognition service for processing, then transcribed text is returned and attached to the email that is sent to a User, along with the original audio file.

Although transcription accuracy can be negatively affected by background noise or poor connections, sometimes resulting in text that may sound like the original speech when pronounced phonetically, our internal testing has shown the capability to be a phenomnal productivity booster.

Resellers can enable Voicemail Transcription at the Domain level.

 

If enabled for the a Domain, an Office Manager or End User may choose to activate this feature.

Users who have the transcription option enabled will receive an email containing the transcription, along with the audio file attachment.   They will also see the text of the transcribed messages in the Messages page of the User Portal.

 

 

 

 

Getting Alerts from your SIP Devices

I recently came across Papertrailapp.com, a cloud service that could very well change your life if you are  a VoIP engineer and part of your job requires you to monitor SIP devices.

The service collects logs from any networking device that is able to send logs to a syslog server, and provides analytics through the web portal.  What makes Papertrail different from other syslog services, however, is its ability to parse the logs in near real-time (the site claims it is done in milliseconds) and send alerts based on search filters that you configure. Alerts can be sent via several media including email, chat, text messages and even your own application through its API webhooks.

I was so inspired by the discovery that I created a short How To video explaining the setup.   The video describes the steps needed to capture logs from a Polycom SIP phone using the hosted Papertrail syslog service.   Although this video is primarily intended for White Label Resellers of the SkySwitch hosted PBX service, it is applicable to anyone that has a SIP device that can send logs to a syslog server.  The trickiest part is getting the syslog parameters onto the phone (a chore that SkySwitch makes easy).

For syslog provisioning examples that will work on any Polycom or Yealink phone, see this article.

 

 

Papertrail is unaffiliated with SkySwitch and offers a free service that enables you to capture, manage and generate alert notifications based on the syslog output of any device.

Note:  On a Polycom phone running SIP application version 2.1 and later, or UC  Software 3.0.0 or later, you can edit the syslog parameters from the phone’s LCD:

  • On your phone, navigate to Menu > Settings > Advanced and enter the phone’s administrative password (default 456), then press the Enter soft key.
  • Navigate to Admin Settings > Network Configuration.
  • Scroll down to Syslog Menu and press the Select soft key. The Syslog Menu displays. Enter the URL assigned to you by the Papertrail dashboard.

FCC Allows VoIP Providers to Obtain (but not Port) Telephone Numbers Directly

The FCC has finally decided to allow VoIP providers to obtain telephone numbers directly, rather than having to purchase them through a third party organization.   The decision, released on 22 June 2015 in this Report and Order, paves the way for VoIP Providers to avoid a lot of administrative burden by interacting with the North American Numbering Plan (NANP) Administrator.

In his concluding remarks about the adoption of the Report and Order, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated that “VoIP already accounts for nearly one-third of all local phone subscribers – 48 million connections. Interconnected VoIP providers have been able to do this despite a competitive disadvantage.”

The decision follows a 6 month period during which five VoIP Providers  were allowed to start ordering their own numbers on a trial basis:

On June 17, 2013, the Wireline Competition Bureau (Bureau) adopted an Order announcing the participants in the trial. The Bureau concluded that the proposals submitted by Vonage Holdings Corp. (Vonage), SmartEdgeNet, LLC (SmartEdgeNet), WilTel Communications, LLC (WilTel or Level 3), Intelepeer, Inc. (Intelepeer), and Millicorp met the Commission’s requirements to participate in a limited direct access to numbers trial, and approved them.31
 
 
To start taking advantage of this new right, a VoIP Provider must meet the FCC’s definition of “interconnected” and must submit a “Numbering Authorization Application” using the FCC’s Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS).

While the decision is certainly beneficial for the VoIP Industry as a whole, the FCC decision falls short of solving all our problems because it deferred deciding on whether VoIP Providers would be able to port numbers, pending further study.

In particular, we direct the NANC to examine any rate center or geographic considerations implicated by porting directly to and from interconnected VoIP providers, including the implications of rate center consolidation, as well as public safety considerations, any such PSAP and 911 issues that could arise. We also direct the NANC to give the Commission a report addressing these issues, which includes options and recommendations, no later than 180 days from the release date of this Report and Order. 

So, we will have to wait a minimum of 180 days  (probably a year) to know what the FCC  will do about VoIP Providers and local number portability.

 

 

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