Polycom Announces New Entry Level 2-Line Phones

Polycom has announced the release of two new phones in the popular VVX line.  The new entries – VVX 101 and VVX 201 – are 2-line devices that promise to replace the workhorse Soundpoint 331 and 335 models.

An unboxing video of the VVX 101 is here:

 

A video describing features and operation of the VVX 201 is here:

 

Recent releases of Polycom’s version 5 firmware are not compatible with devices in the Soundpoint line.  As a result, the new entry-level devices fill a keenly felt void the Polycom product line.

As with all Polycom phones, the new models are auto-provisioned with the  fully-automated SkySwitch Device Provisioning Server.

Remember:  Your success as a hosted PBX reseller depends on your ability to customize the look and operation of the phones that you deploy.  SkySwitch makes this easy to do. The SkySwitch device provisioning server enables remote provisioning and management of all the major SIP phone and ATA devices, including Polycom, Yealink and Cisco among others.   To learn more, contact a SkySwitch white label VoIP specialist today.

Polycom Gets Smart with the Cone of Silence (aka Acoustic Fence)

cone-of-silenceA new Polycom feature called Acoustic Fence reminds me of one of my favorite childhood TV shows, a Mel Brooks comedy from the 60’s called Get Smart.  The show featured a plethora of futuristic gadgets including telephones that were built-in to almost everything.  Anyone that has seen the show will remember the shoe-phone, a device  that required the show’s protagonist, Maxwell Smart, to take off his shoe in order to talk.

Another gag on the show was the “Cone of Silence“, transparent plastic spheres that ensconced participants in a top-secret bubble.  Invariably, the device would malfunction, requiring the characters to shout loudly in order to be heard by each other (and allowing them to be heard by anyone else in earshot).

While the schtick was quite funny on the show, the new Polycom feature is anything but because it promises to solve a problem that plagues telephone users working in the “open plan” offices that are popular today.  Specifically, the new technology is designed to eliminate background noises by creating a ‘fence of silence’ around a Polycom VVX series  phone running UC Software 5.3.

Although it was originally developed as part of Polycom’s video conferencing suite, the feature has recently been added to VVX phones.  It is perfect for receptionists that frequently handle phone calls and in-office visitors simultaneously, contact center agents that work within close proximity to other agents, or anyone that uses the phone in an inherently noisy environment.   The technology uses algorithms to detect and block noise.  It eliminates unwanted background noise – such as peripheral conversations or printer rattle – by matching the sound level between the VVX phone’s speakerphone microphone on the one hand, and the handset (or headset) microphone on the other.  By selectively cancelling out sounds from beyond the ‘audio fence’ only sounds within the “bubble” around the handset are transmitted – everything else disappears. This ensures that conversations are not superimposed by the surrounding noise of an open-plan office, but remain clear and understandable.

As with all telephone features, this option can be easily enabled for a single user or an entire office with a simple 1-line override in the fully-automated SkySwitch Device Provisioning Server.  When combined with the many advanced features of the SkySwitch hosted PBX and Contact Center solutions, the new Polycom technology contributes to a solution that is truly futuristic.

Remember:  Your success as a hosted PBX reseller depends on your ability to customize the look and operation of the phones that you deploy.  SkySwitch makes this easy to do. The SkySwitch device provisioning server enables remote provisioning and management of all the major SIP phone and ATA devices, including Polycom, Yealink and Cisco among others.   To learn more, contact a SkySwitch white label VoIP specialist today.

Opus: Coming to a SIP Phone Near You

The first commercially available SIP Phone to use the Opus codec can now be purchased from Obihai Technologies.  Even if you have never heard of Obihai, and never plan to use their phones, this is still big news.  Here’s why you should care:

Opus is the first royalty-free adaptive codec to gain support from major telecom and software industry players.  This means that, unlike other codecs that performed well but were avoided by telecom equipment vendors due to commercial, patent and royalty requirements (think of Skype’s SILK codec and Speex, the low-bandwidth codec of choice among Asterisk users), it is more likely than not to be incorporated into hardware devices and media gateways in the future.

The fact that Opus is adaptive means that it delivers high-quality audio when bandwidth is available, and delivers good audio in environments where bandwidth is constrained.  (If you do not know why this is important, please see my previous blog on How SkySwitch Improves VoIP Quality for SIP Mobility).  Opus delivers better quality audio than G.722 in high-bandwidth conditions, and performs better than iLBC in low bandwidth situations.   Having a single codec that is versatile enough to perform well in all network environments means that networks can be designed with less complexity, and therefore greater reliability.

Opus is the codec of choice for WebRTC.  This means that multi-media sessions initiated by a browser will always have Opus as an available codec choice.  Although other codecs may be available as well, they may not, and this uncertainty will cause havoc to service providers when a WebRTC sessions needs to connect to the PSTN.   In a perfect world, WebRTC sessions will be able to “bridge in” standard SIP desk phones and PSTN users in a uniform way.  This can not happen if all of the parties do not have common codec capabilities.

Although it seems unlikely that Obihai will garner any significant market share among business and enterprise users, the mere fact that a SIP deskphone with Opus support now exists will nudge the two largest SIP Phone vendors (aka Polycom and Yealink) to support it sooner than they might have otherwise.  That’s good news for everyone in the VoIP industry, but especially Hosted PBX resellers.

The Obihai team has always led the industry with innovative new products.  This is the same team that produced the first commonly available SIP ATA (remember Komodo?), SIP ATA with FXO Gateway (remember Sipura?), and PBX appliance (the well-intentioned Linksys SPA9000).   Kudos to Obihai for doing it again with the first SIP deskphone to support Opus.

 

SkySwitch Device Management Makes it Easier to Troubleshoot Polycom SIP

Polycom continues to lead the field when it comes to features that aid in troubleshooting and diagnosing SIP issues.    Officially supported in Polycom’s UCS 5.1.0 version firmware is the ability to read network traffic directly from the Polycom device’s network interface to Wireshark.  Below is the content of a Polycom support article that describes the use of the feature.

For some IP-PBX administrators, implementing this type of troubleshooting feature can be challenging.  SkySwitch Resellers, however, can enable this Polycom feature with just a few mouse clicks.  This is just one of the many ways that Polycom devices can be remotely managed with ease using the SkySwitch device provisioning server.

Your success as a hosted PBX provider depends on your ability to customize the look and operation of the phones that you deploy.  SkySwitch makes this easy for Resellers. The SkySwitch device provisioning server enables remote provisioning and management of all the major SIP phone and ATA devices, including Polycom, Yealink and Cisco among others.   To learn more, contact a SkySwitch white label VoIP specialist today.

 


 

The provisioning parameters involved are:

diags.pcap.enabled="1"
diags.pcap.remote.enabled="1"

The Polycom UCS 5.1.0 Admin Guide describes this on page 170 in the Remote Packet Capture for Logs section.

  • To start using this feature please download Wireshark
  • Start Wireshark after the installation and select the Capture Interface Options

pcap1

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Manage Interfaces => Remote Interfaces => Add

pcap2

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Enter the IP Address of the phone

Port 2002
Username: Polycom
Password: MAC Address of the phone in lower case and no colon ( : )

pcap3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Once OK is pressed the interface should show up

pcap4

 

 

 

 

 


 

  • Leave this menu via cancel
  • You are then able to select this new Interface

 

pcap5

 

 

 


 

  • If an error message in regards the Buffer appears please click on OK

 

pcap6

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

SkySwitch gives resellers more than one way to skin this cat!  Getting network packet captures directly from a SIP device is sometimes helpful, but not always necessary.  With SkySwitch, Resellers always have access to cutting-edge diagnostic and troubleshooting tools, including SIP traces and PCAPs for every call – straight from the PBX Manager portals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

SkySwitch Enhances Hosted PBX with Hospitality and Hotel Solution

We are happy to announce the first major system enhancement for 2015 – an integration package that will allow Resellers to sell hosted PBX service to hotels and other hospitality operators.

Despite to trend for hotel guests to rely on personal mobile devices, telephone systems remain a major expense category for hotel and hospitality operators.  And, whereas cloud technology has made significant progress in transforming the business enterprise environment by replacing high-cost on-premise PBX deployments, the communications environment in the hospitality industry has lagged significantly.

The reason for delayed adoption is largely due to the unique requirements of property operators, who rely on specialized property management systems (PMS) to keep track of guests and assets. These systems allow the hotel or resort staff to maximize room utilization by synchronizing many of the activities related to check-in an check-out with the PBX. Until now, only on-premise PBX systems have supported the proprietary communications protocol that is used by the PBX and the PMS to exchange information.

The SkySwitch hospitality suite addresses these challenges by providing Resellers of its WebCentrex managed PBX platform with a solution that leverages all of the economic benefits of the cloud, but is still easily integrated with the property’s existing PMS.

We are currently able to support over 30 different PMS vendors with features that have been developed especially for hotel and resort operators. These include:

• Custom PBX services based on guest arrival, departure and payment method

• Housekeeping room status can be set from any phone

• Room message light, wakeup calls and guest voicemail controlled by front-desk

• Private telephone numbers with direct inward dialing for specific guests

• “Do not disturb” on guest room extensions can be controlled from the phone or the front desk

• Guests name is displayed when making calls to other extensions within the property

• Phone charges posted to guest folio

Our new solution will allow hospitality VARs and integrators to go to market with a hosted VoIP solution as a SkySwitch reseller.

If you are a VAR or integrator that works with hotels or resorts, talk to us about the benefits that we can bring to your hospitality operators together.

Polycom’s 2015 Predictions for the Workplace

As enthusiastic Polycom supporters, the SkySwitch team aways pays attention to the device maker’s prognostications.  This year is no different.  The seven predictions for 2015 below, unveiled in a press release by Polycom yesterday, are closely aligned with our own vision about the near-term future of unified communications and collaboration (UCC).

1.Globalizing companies will rapidly adopt and use collaboration tools…

Global expansion means working across time zones, borders and cultures. The future of business requires collaboration tools that extend business and defy distance and time. Ultimate success comes when organizations embrace individual collaborative preferences and build a culture of collaboration by accommodating a variety of tools from email, telephony, social media, video and content sharing. In 2015, more tools that enable visual communication from people to content will help break down communication borders and enable more global success.

2.Integration, not just interoperability…

Conferencing is altering business models, according to the white paper, “Revolutionizing the Future Workplace” by futurist Jack Uldrich. It is quickly becoming one of the most used collaboration tools and is expected to overtake email as the preferred tool by 2016. But mass adoption does not happen unless it is made contextual to an end user’s preferred work style. Integrating collaboration technology, such as voice, video and content sharing tools, into communication systems, business applications and workflows will drive adoption. New technologies such as WebRTC, standards-based video, rich SDKs and a deeper understanding of unified communications applications, make this a reality. New industry-specific solutions—particularly in healthcare, government, financial services and retail—will increase the use and relevance of video this year.

3.The workspace itself will evolve…

The workspace itself is changing significantly. To reduce real estate space and related expenses, some companies are moving from rows of cubicles to more open workspaces and offering employees flexible work arrangements. As a result, we expect workplace innovation from a distance to define the future of working. New technology innovations, like noise cancellation, lighting adjustments and digital white-boarding, will support this transformation. These technology innovations, coupled with a stronger desire for open collaboration, will render the current office-based workspace obsolete. More emphasis will be placed on connecting to anywhere, from anywhere, at any time.

4.The Age of ‘Supermobility’…

In “Revolutionizing the Future Workplace,” Jack Uldrich predicts smartphones will grow to 2.4 billion units by 2018—a ratio of 6:1 to PCs. In 2015, device-to-device communication will enable contextual-based collaboration. We are entering the age of “supermobility,” in which mobile devices will provide all of the tools and technology that employees need to be productive on the go, including voice, video and content collaboration solutions. This “supermobility,” which will include more use of near field communications (NFC), Wi-Di, Ultrasonic and other wireless technologies, will give mobile device users easier and moresecure access to an enterprise’s visual collaboration tools.

5.The SMB market will accelerate the use of cloud-based collaboration solutions…

Fueled by the evolution of mobility and the cloud, subscription-based services provide organizations with the ability to collaborate and achieve more. More than ever, large scale movement of small- to medium-sized businesses(SMB) to cloud-based VoIP, video and content sharing services will grow. Traditional PSTN infrastructure is becoming outdated, and with a regulatory mandate to move all voice services off of the PSTN within the next five years, cloud-based voice, video and content use will rise dramatically. New applications and capabilities that were previously hard to get in the traditional premise-based world will become much easier to deploy with these cloud-based collaboration services.

6.Browser-based collaboration solutions will become the tool of choice…

Companies looking for simple and effective communications will turn to the web browser in 2015. Enabled by WebRTC, companies globally will come to depend more on the browser to perform communication functions within work streams. Simplicity will ultimately rule this change, as more businesses look to make video an easy to use option. WebRTC will continue to gain traction in 2015, but will remain basic, meaning any advanced functionality will still require an enterprise solution. We believe 2016 will offer even greater adoption.

7.Meetings as you know them are changing for the better…

Meetings are changing because technology continues to foster new ways to communicate. Better quality and easier to use collaboration solutions are making it feel as natural as being there—so users have a common experience regardless of their location or device. Video conferencing solutions also will easily connect to third-party audio services, such as Skype for Business (Microsoft Lync), increasing business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) communications.

Expect 2015 to be a signature year for advancement of collaboration tools around the globe. With work environments shifting from traditional to more advanced collaboration environments, more employees will look to their employers for flexible yet productive “offices” to conduct work from wherever they choose. Video collaboration is eliminating the distance between locations and the barriers to communication with as good as being there experiences. The workplace is changing for the better, and we expect visual communications to be one of the biggest catalysts in next generation team collaboration.
Read more: http://www.nasdaq.com/press-release/polycoms-top-7-workplace-of-the-future-predictions-for-2015-20150106-00440#ixzz3O6HCrGXr

Federal and State Legal Requirements for CDR Retention

Greg Taylor Telecom AttorneyMy LinkedIn connection, the Telecom Attorney Greg Taylor, has posted an interesting article about the Federal and State legal requirements related to the retention of Call Detail Records (CDRs).

CDRs are the records that originate from a telecom switch and contain all the details of a phone call between two parties.  They form the basis for all billing transactions between Carriers that terminate and originate calls to the PSTN, and Hosted PBX providers and Resellers.

Perhaps naively, I was not even aware that there were any legal requirements regarding the retention of CDRs.    Now I know better!

According to Greg, the Federal and State legal requirements for CDR retention are as follows:

[T]he FCC requires that carriers keep CDR for all toll calls for a period of 18 months (if you want to read the actual language, the cite is 47 C.F.R. §42.6). Some states have different retention periods that exceed the federal requirement. In addition, some states simply defer to the FCC’s then-applicable retention period while other states are silent on the matter altogether.

Accordingly, carriers need to retain CDR for a minimum of 18 months, and for a longer period of time if you do business in a state with retention requirements exceeding federal requirements. Below is a list of the applicable CDR retention periods by jurisdiction.

18 Months

New York, Ohio

2 Years

Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming

3 Years

Florida, Missouri, Virginia

States Deferring to FCC

Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia

No State Law

Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin

Hybrid

New Jersey – wholesale CDR must be retained for 18 months and retail CDR and billing records must be retained for 6 years

 

 

Coca-Cola Deletes Voicemail

Screen Shot 2014-12-26 at 4.36.32 PMIn a move that has generated a lot of buzz in the UC industry, Coca-Cola recently decided to get rid of corporate voicemail at the company’s Atlanta headquarters.  According to an internal memo from Coke’s Chief Information Officer, Ed Steinike, the move was made “to simplify the way we work and increase productivity.”

Although the end of voicemail (like the demise of faxing) has been predicted for many years, the decision by Coca-Cola represents the most visible example to date of this trend at work in corporate America.

The decision by Coca-Cola was explained in terms of improving productivity.  But, as noted in a 2013 article in the Harvard Business Review, many managers view voicemail as a liability instead of a productivity tool:

For most organizations, the only people who matter going into voicemail are customers and clients! How smart and customer-centric is that?! Not very. Voicemail’s technical flaws and shortcomings reveal something very important about the customer engagement future. Nobody wants to be put in voicemail anymore and it’s quite likely that customers and clients aren’t listening to your voicemail messages either.

While the perception that most workers don’t use voicemail may be true, I have a slightly different take on the issue.  People don’t use voicemail because, frankly, it sucks.   I believe that the problem is not about voicemail as a productivity tool, but rather the fact that most voicemail systems today are not user-friendly in the way that smartphones have led us to expect.   Who wants to take the time to navigate through a voicemail options menu by pushing buttons?

The answer, is to transform the voicemail user experience into something that works like, and is integrated with, all of your other communications.  Smartphones are off to a good start.  Unlike your typical corporate desk phone, smartphones show a list of names next to voice mails, similar to text messages, making it easier to choose which ones to ignore, and some UC systems can even convert voice-mail messages into texts that can then be sent via e-mail.

There is a place for voicemail in the enterprise communications landscape, just like there is a place for email, text messages, and video calls.  The trick is to combine all of the various media into a single user experience that is efficient and easy-to-use.

VoIP Fraud in the News

Anytime VoIP fraud makes headlines, it is worth taking note.  Yesterday, the New York Times featured another article that highlights the potential risk faces by small businesses that employ VoIP to trim costs.   Unlike past NYT articles on this topic, however, this one featured my friend from TransNexus, Jim Dalton.

According to the article, thieves stole $166,000 worth of international long distance phone service in a traffic pumping scheme that works this way:

 

Hackers sign up to lease premium-rate phone numbers, often used for sexual-chat or psychic lines, from one of dozens of web-based services that charge dialers over $1 a minute and give the lessee a cut. In the United States, premium-rate numbers are easily identified by 1-900 prefixes, and callers are informed they will be charged higher rates. But elsewhere, like in Latvia and Estonia, they can be trickier to spot. The payout to the lessees can be as high as 24 cents for every minute spent on the phone.

Premium number toll  fraud is just one of the ways that VoIP hackers can harm a small business.  As I have posted about before, VoIP fraud is a large and growing problem that can affect any small business that uses a PBX.    Small business can incur tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in liability over a weekend.

Unlike some of the providers mentioned in the article, SkySwitch white label VoIP providers can avoid potential liability thanks to advanced balance monitoring systems that alert a hosted PBX provider to potential problems due to out-of-the-ordinary usage, and can suspend service if usage exceeds a pre-determined level.

September WebCentrex System Upgrade

As a white label hosted PBX platform operator, the SkySwitch mission is to provide our Resellers with service that will optimize their chances for success.  Among other things, realizing this mission means that we must deliver an end-user experience that meets the demands of the market.  This is a constantly moving target in the  dynamic and constantly evolving unified communications and collaboration industry.

To address this need, we strive to upgrade our systems regularly in order to support the most up to date features available.  Accordingly, September brought another system upgrade to our user base.  Although every new version includes hundreds of improvements, here are several of the more notable enhancements.

Delayed Simultaneous Ringing (Sim Ring) – Sim Ringing is a useful call handling technique where multiple phones ring simultaneously, improving the chances of a quick pick up. The Sim Ring feature allows for a delay, in seconds, prior to adding the next set of phones to be rung. The delay can be specified separately for each phone and the number of phones and layers are virtually unlimited.
Contact Center Management –  WebContact, the Contact Center Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 12.15.47 PMfunctionality suite within WebCentrex, now offers more reporting and a new heads up statistics grid.  You may now generate reports showing metrics on Queue Statistics, Agent Performance, Agent Availability, Called Numbers and Abandoned Calls.  The metrics available include Call Volume, Calls Handled, Calls Offered, Calls Transferred, Calls Sent to Voicemail, Average Talk Time, Average Hold Time, Abandoned Calls, Average Handle Time, and Service Level.

Call Queue Enhancements – The latest release improves the ability to manage high traffic call flows. When all lines are in use for the company or group, you can place the caller in queue until the next available agent is free instead of having the caller listen to a busy signal or sending them to voice mail. While in a queue, callers can hear music on hold or custom company announcements.

New Queue Types – There are now five types of call queues: Round-robin (routes callers to the available agent that has been idle longest); Ring All (routes callers to all available agents at the same time); Linear Hunt (routes to agents in a pre-defined order, also known as skills-based routing); Linear Cascade (routes callers to groups of agents in a predefined order), and; Call Park (places the caller on hold until an agent retrieves them).

Announce to Agent – This feature assists Queue Agents in preparing for and effectively handling calls by providing the Queue Agents an additional level knowledge about the call, prior to actually answering the call. It allows the system to play a message prior to the Queue dispatching the call to the Agent, and the Agent accepting a call.

Music on Hold Management – Music on hold (MOH)for call queues, that is music or messages that are played while a caller is in a queue waiting for their call to be dispatched), can now be managed directly from the call queue configuration page, by way of a pop up box.

In fact, one of the most compelling aspects of the SkySwitch business model is that, as a white label Reseller of our services, you get access to the latest and greatest features with each new upgrade of our system.  That means your platform is continuously improving, and you don’t have to do a thing.

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