Sep 14

Unified communications a natural fit for modern tech habits


People these days seem to be glued to their smartphones. These devices are used in many ways that would not have been considered common just a few years ago - especially in the office. According to No Jitter contributor Michael Finneran, this is creating new requirements for enterprise communications. Since pretty much any channel a person might need is accessible through smartphones and tablets, many professionals are beginning to find the use of more than one device or machine cumbersome and unnecessary.

Assets like voice, SMS and email increasingly need to be included in the same single source communications app in order to be truly effective. When it is possible to have everything in one software-defined location, why would anyone choose not to?

"Our personal electronics have become a necessary extension of both our personal and business lives," Finneran wrote. "However, we will be switching among these tools as we go through the day, and will need to access what we need on whatever device is available. So just as unified communications has essentially 'unified' all of your real time and non-real time communications, the next phase is to seamlessly move among our various devices to remain productive throughout the day." And what is driving this change? The consumer mobile experience.

Widespread changes in technology and culture are having an incredible impact on business phone systems. The modern day worker demands functional, cloud-supported mobility to be in place for a number of different enterprise assets - communications in particular. As more people choose (or are required) to work from outside the physical office, having cloud unified communications in place is going to be essential.

Path to cloud communications not the same for everyone
One of the biggest advantages to the cloud is how inherently flexible it is. While some organizations have failing legacy systems and would prefer to move forward with a hosted provider, others possess fully-capable networks that just so happen to not inherently be cloud-ready.

But there is a solution for this issue. By using a process called SIP trunking, it is possible to convert landline connections to VoIP. VoIP and the cloud are natural allies, and together they allow for company phone circuits to be accessible from beyond the walls of the workplace. From there, voice can then join other channels in cyberspace and be packaged alongside them in a single application.

This is good news for companies not ready to move their telecom infrastructures off-site, as every business out there needs to have access to the benefits of cloud unified communications - regardless of their size or function. Not only are these assets valuable, but they are growing in demand as a younger generation of professionals enters the workforce.

Cloud communications becoming a requirement
Millennials have spent a better part of their lives using computers in some way. As such, they are very experienced in how to use hardware and programs to complete necessary tasks. While it might be easy to write-off new technology as a fad, it is becoming increasingly obvious that productivity styles are evolving. Supporting the changing needs of a staff is critical. If there is no exploration into cloud communications, it stands to reason that employee satisfaction can decline and top talent will begin looking for positions in more forward-thinking organizations.

The future is now, and it's cloud communications. With so many people skilled in the use of smartphones, it only makes sense to enable team members in ways that will allow them to innovate and succeed. Regardless of how they're deployed, cloud unified communications are becoming a must across many industries and professions.

Sep 14

DON'T PANIC! Cloud security concerns are unfounded


The cloud has suffered from a lot of unfair stigmatization. While there seem to be countless horror stories of clouds being breached or hacked into, what's rarely mentioned is that many of these issues are related to weak security practices on the user-end of the situation - or companies that simply don't understand what they're dealing with. The problem isn't with the cloud itself, but how it ends up being used.

"The information technology and cloud solutions space is crowded and can seem complicated, expensive and unsecure," wrote Sydney Morning Herald contributor Robin Allardice. "However, many of the challenges small businesses highlighted can actually be solved with cloud based-solutions if they are well-constructed."

This omission is hindering the adoption of cloud assets in many organizations. Those companies that have already embraced the cloud are experiencing massive benefits as a result, and their competitors that haven't are starting to fall behind.

One of the biggest ways that the cloud can be integrated into the enterprise is in terms of communications. Cloud business phone systems, for example, can allow workers access to the company voice network from beyond the office walls from their smartphones and tablets. This can be a critical asset for small and growing businesses as it reduces costs and increases productivity.

Cloud phone systems are something that every organization should consider. Regardless of if they are sought out through a hosted provider or enabled on-site through SIP trunking, having voice in the cloud can be a valuable way to enable staffers for success.

Cloud communications not inherently vulnerable
Just like with everything else, there's a right and wrong way to use the cloud. This is why people are seemingly so vulnerable when they use it. Considering that popular passwords have often included phrases like "12345" and even "password," it is easy to see how someone's cloud could be hacked.

According to Allardice, it is important not only to embrace the cloud, but to do so correctly. When integrated properly, the cloud is a secure and valuable tool.

"Cloud technology is particularly beneficial for small- and medium-sized businesses," Allardice wrote. "It allows for instant access to data from any location, reduces administration time and, most importantly, aggregates multiple channels of data, improving a company's access to and flow of information. With the right cloud solution, businesses can save a significant amount of time spent on administrative and compliance activities, providing the opportunity for greater investment in other areas of the businesses."

With the right precautions and best practices in place, there is nothing preventing organizations from leveraging cloud communications assets. This is good news for present-day employees, who are beginning to require the ability to work remotely. The consumerization of IT has bred a workforce that is skilled in the operation of mobile hardware and applications. Some staffers are able to conduct themselves from home as if they were in the office, and the technology that allows for this is more available and effective than ever. Embracing these changes can foster greater employee satisfaction and productivity, ultimately helping to drive the company forward.

Don't believe the 'hype'
It is important to take negative stories about the cloud with a grain of salt. The cloud is the wave of the future and it needs to be explored as a possibility for enterprise communications. While there are examples out there of cloud failure, they are not indicative of the technology itself - just poor practices regarding security. In order to best enable staffers in modern times, cloud business phone systems will be essential.

Sep 14

Top 3 Benefits of VoIP


While Voice-over-IP technology has been around for a while, in the last few years it has surged significantly to the point of becoming a modern necessity. From hosted communications platforms and managed on-premises devices to interLATA SIP trunking and last-mile SIP-to-legacy conversion circuits there is truly no business in these United States unaffected by VoIP. Organizations around the world have found this kind of communication channel to be increasingly essential as workers demand flexibility and business leaders seek lower costs and higher ROI.
The number of different ways that VoIP can simplify and improve enterprise operations is almost without bound, but the big three drivers certainly must be:

1) Supporting the mobile workforce
The modern workforce is increasingly connected and increasingly mobile in their personal lives, and they want that flexibility to extend into their work lives. Not content with answering emails on the beach, employees need the freedom to move about the world without being chained to a desk.

VoIP supports exactly this kind of mobile workforce because it takes uses data processing rather than specialized circuits, which means that you don’t need the physical circuitry of a desk phone; you can pack all of that intelligence into an app that workers can carry anywhere. This is a critical offering for attracting and retaining talent today and will only become more so in the future.

2) Eliminating complexity
One of the biggest obstacles in business is the provisioning of resources. Companies have traditionally had to anticipate their maximum possible call load and then pay for circuits to meet that demand or risk losing customer calls as they overflow. With every employee needing a desk phone expansion can be costly, time consuming, and difficult.

VoIP, again, saves the day by making the addition of a new employee as east as downloading an app or plugging in an auto-provisioning SIP phone. Increased call capacity can be enabled on-demand so you’re only using the circuits you need as you need them. This allows you to rule your costs, not the other way around. In such a tumultuous business environment this agility is absolutely critical.

3) Enabling unified communications
Customer experience today lives and breathes through data networks; from email and corporate websites to CRM packages and Twitter feeds every aspect of how customers communicate with a company is connected to the network in some way. Voice has traditionally been the outsider on the street, peering through the glass at the happy collaborative services inside, just waiting to be needed.

VoIP is the golden ticket that lets voice join the party. Because VoIP brings voice to a common service protocol it can now interoperate and mingle with other services to provide new ways of solving business problems and improving customer experience, allowing employees to see past the tools and focus on the customer in an immersive, completely customizable way.

There’s no question; VoIP is the weapon that allows you to dominate your competition. So, the real question is: are you getting the most out of VoIP?

Sep 14

How Will WebRTC Revolutionize VoIP Service?

VoIP web

Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC) is a technology that the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) supports to enable communications in real time, such as instant messaging, voice, video, and data, among open-standard web browsers. Unlike many other new technologies that present themselves as a money-saving way to streamline communications, WebRTC will enable developers to cater to the context of business communications enclosed in existing applications without the need for extra software. Chrome and Mozilla Firefox currently support the WebRTC standard; Safari and Internet Explorer do not, but Microsoft is currently developing a similar standard, and Apple may support WebRTC in the future. (You can still use WebRTC with some Apple devices even without full Apple support, however.)

Using WebRTC for Voice Calls
WebRTC is an application programming interface (API) that communication vendors must supply to make it useful for users. Several basic services exist that can show how to connect two browsers to make a call. WhatsApp is one vendor rumored to use WebRTC to provide web calling capability between users. The premise behind WebRTC is that it provides a new way for web users to communicate through rich video.

3CX has been using this new technology since it was first developed, investing in it to continue its development. Using WebRTC, 3CX can place and take calls to anyone using the Internet without special software. Unlike Voice over IP (VoIP) calls, which require the use of an application or software such as Microsoft Skype, WebRTC can deliver calls instantly online just like using a web page. Development continues on web and video conferencing technology using WebRTC, but when the functionality becomes available, it could eliminate the need for proprietary standards, additional hardware, and software requirements typically associated with such conferencing. 3CX’s vision for this technology is to start a revolution in web communications.

What Does This Mean for VoIP
Although WebRTC is still in its infancy, it’s unknown what the technology’s long-term effects will be for VoIP. Latency, jitter, quality of service, and security may or may not be an issue. All these factors may ride on the surface of a user’s web connection. How secure is the Internet connection? How fast is it? Answers to these questions may determine WebRTC call connection quality.

WebRTC supports a number of voice codecs that are different from those many Session Initiation Protocol systems use. WebRTC uses VP8 for video rather than the commonly used H264 codec. For voice, it uses G.711, iSAC, and iLBC. Based on its network architecture, WebRTC takes web apps that the W3C edits into an API for web browser developers (Google, Mozilla, etc.) on an overall WebRTC platform. Within the platform, a voice engine, video engine, and transport session use the codecs mentioned. In the voice engine, iSAC and iLBC codecs, NetEQ for voice, echo canceler, and noise reduction are employed.

Although the signaling protocol for WebRTC is still undefined, it shares many of the same protocols, such as the Skinny Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and RTP Control Protocol for media transport; Secure RTP for security; Session Traversal Utilities for NAT, Traversal Using Relay NAT, and Interactive Connectivity Establishment for network address translation (NAT) transversal; and the G.711 voice codec.

WebRTC may never fully replace VoIP, but it will battle VoIP for big business in the upcoming years. VoIP software and hardware providers will most likely advocate against the use of the WebRTC technology available through web browsers, but WebRTC may provide a valuable solution to international VoIP blocking.