Last week I had the pleasure to deliver this very nice check to Rigidnet in Fort Worth, Texas. They are a cloud reseller selling Switchvox cloud and closed a nice 330 seat deal while we had a special SPIFF program going. So they made some nice money and since their offices are near where I live, I drove over to talk to them.
While there, I explored this design win with them. First of all, they have been selling Switchvox prem for many years. They have quite a few happy customers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with Switchvox. The customer base likes the VALUE they get from Switchvox and the stability of it. This is not a surprising comment since we at Sangoma hear this from many customers – they like the feature set for the price, they like the easy to understand cost-effective pricing and they like the fact that the product is solid.
They started selling Switchvox cloud a few years ago as their customer base started inquiring about it. Like any good reseller, they have strong relationships with many businesses in the area given they sell overall business solutions (not just business communication solutions), so when they hear about a customer needing a new business communication solution, they lead with Switchvox and specifically Switchvox Cloud.
This particular deal is for a large auto dealer in the Fort Worth area with many dealerships (when it’s time for me to buy a new car, I will now go there!), which is why the deal was for 330 seats. I look forward to getting out there without a mask someday.
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Modern video communications technologies allow us to work together as if we were in the same space, face-to-face, regardless of our locations. These innovations allow companies who are tackling the world’s biggest problems to hire talented people from all over the world, spreading their workforces across countries, cultures, continents, and time zones. COVID-19 has pushed all businesses to operate remotely, to adapt to the new reality of social distancing. When the pandemic is over, people will go back to the office, but we will not go back to the ways we used to work.Jedi Council – Working From Home (image source: https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Jedi_High_Council )
Transparency Market Research predicts that by 2027, the video collaboration market is set to hit a value of $11.56 billion, and the demand for this technology will keep growing. The question is, how will video conferencing evolve and further change the way we work.
Collaboration in mixed-reality is the future!
A new age of remote work in pandemic has shown us just how valuable video conferencing can be, not just for working together at a distance, but also for boosting the productivity and efficiency of our teams.
Different teams, like designers, engineers, marketers, product managers, sales, and support can be spread all over the world and still come together in a virtual room, reducing the need to travel as much to get everybody on the same page. Companies are no longer limited to local talents as video conferencing makes it possible to hire talents from all across the globe. Lifelike avatars, like what Spatial is working on, are transforming the space around us into virtual meeting rooms to collaborate as if we’re all together in the same room.
Pinning ideas and dynamic content on virtual walls and sharing notes in realtime from any device (laptop, phone) within a few seconds are practical examples of living in a mixed reality. Digital objects become physical in virtual rooms, so you can scroll through them – pick up images and contents you like and toss them up on the virtual wall. Anyone can enter and exit these virtual rooms and contribute at any time as if they are real physical rooms. These all might be in concept phases for now, but as these technologies are adopted by companies, the way we work will forever be changed. With the help of technology, we are overcoming the barrier of distance to work together and to satisfy our human desires for the direct, face-to-face interaction that builds commitment and trust.
User experience: the key differentiator
While the tech world is busy building new features and technologies to enhance video conferencing in general, people have high expectations for multimedia, video, and communication technology thanks to the great visual and sound quality they experience today in their home theater systems. It is not the 90s anymore, and connecting to the Internet via Dial-up would be dreadful. No one has the patience to wait for buffering video or listening to breaking voices. Without proper video quality and sound management, any video conferencing event can quickly become frustrating for the users. A video conferencing application can only be appealing and adopted by end-users when its design has been in the center of the provider’s mind when implementing new features.
As COVID-19 has pushed companies to suddenly transition to remote work overnight, many have rushed in getting a video conferencing solution, but ignoring the ease of use, user-friendliness, and lack of a fully integrated experience (chat, video, voice) that impacts the performance of employees in the longer term. Soon, many will end up changing their video conferencing solution to another alternative.
Trending Features in Video Conferencing
Video conferencing continues to see ongoing growth as technology advances with bigger screens, higher quality cameras, and high-speed Internet connections accessible globally. Here are 10 trending features that will change the way we expect video conferencing tools to advance and improve in the future:
- Browser-based Video Conferencing Solutions
WebTRC is a free open source technology that enables one-click video calling from a web browser without the need for any downloads or plugins installation. Sangoma Meet is a great example of this new technology. With a single click, you can schedule a call, join a meeting, or start an instant video conferencing from your web browser.
- Unified Communications Solutions
Those companies who want to thrive in this new environment need to deploy a complete solution for a Unified Communications experience for their internal and external users. Basic services that only solve one problem like “voice only”, “chat only” or “video conferencing only” will not help businesses solve the bigger problems of easy collaboration and high efficiency of their employees. For the best results, it is important to keep all services for collaboration, internal and external communication under the same app. This means messaging, voice, and video all in the same space.
- Video Conferencing Rooms
Similar to 1:1 meetings, room-based video conferencing is designed for whole room meetings. Participants and online guests join the meeting room and can easily communicate with the help of big screens, smart noise-canceling speakers, sensitive microphones, and wide-angle or rotating cameras. These have enabled us to have seamless collaboration with people from all over the world. Every day new high-tech hardware becomes available to improve communication. Those providers who offer a bundled package of hardware and software could be dominating the market soon, providing a one-stop-shop experience for the IT departments to sign the deals when looking for a unified communication service.
- Everything is moved to the Cloud
Everything is moving towards Cloud and video conferencing is not an exception. No matter if you are scheduling a call with your colleagues or inviting a customer to a demo, you can simply use a video conferencing solution hosted on cloud without any investments in hardware or software infrastructure. You can simply subscribe to a cloud solution and benefit from the latest technologies without worrying about upgrading or enhancing your infrastructure as these are all happening automatically on the cloud and somebody else (the provider) will take care of everything for you.
- SSO (Single Sign-On)
With the rise of all-in-one UC solutions, businesses should think about simplifying access to these systems by linking them into a company’s Single Sign-On system allowing the employees to access it with the same credentials they already know. So, no matter if you are logging into your softphone application to make a phone call, signing into your messaging tool, or accessing your contact list to initiate a video call, one single credential should work for all your tools for easier and faster access. Many companies have already implemented SSO for some of their tools like email and ticketing systems. SSO will become a must-have feature for many companies to adopt a communication tool.
- Deep integration with other communication solutions (voice, video, SMS)
Imagine having your desk phone ring, you are not at your desk, but you can pick the callup on your softphone app on your mobile, transfer it to a video conference, invite your colleagues to the call, then invite customers, and finally move the conversation to a collaborative space to chat and share projects and files. All can be done as a seamless experience if the tools are deeply integrated.
- High-Quality Video and Audio
No matter how many cool features a video conferencing tool is offering, if the video and audio quality are not to a certain standard, users will drop and it will quickly decrease the adoption rate of a video conferencing tool. Therefore, high-quality video interactions should be the end goal for all providers and businesses adopting a new video conferencing solution.
- Smart Content Search
With the expansion of collaboration tools and instant-messaging tools inside video conferencing platforms, tagging content and searchable keywords would soon become a must-have feature for any video conferencing solutions.
- The influence of AI
Amazon’s “Alexa,” Apple’s Siri, and other smart assistants are already changing the way we live. There are several applications of AI that can make meetings easier and more enjoyable for us. AI can create custom backgrounds for participants for each guest in a meeting, help with gaze correction or transcribe messages in real-time. Meeting assistants can schedule calls on behalf of us and remind us for future meetings and this is just the beginning of AI influence on communication in general. How cool is that to use your face as a passport to log into meetings through facial recognition?
- Natural Language Processing (NLP)
NLP can play a role in improving the video conferencing user experience. Integrated with AI you can use voice activation to start or end a meeting or notify people to mute when they are not talking. Real-time translations are also something we should expect to see soon in the future in video conferencing.
Those huge meeting rooms with their rectangular tables are fading and mixed reality is slowly replacing them. We’re not there yet, but COVID-19 has definitely pushed us to move faster towards that new norm of collaboration remotely. This will help companies boost their productivity no matter where the participants are physically located. Where do YOU think “Video Conferencing” is heading in the years ahead? How is it having an impact on your life right now?
We have all heard about ‘the cloud.’ The cloud this, the cloud that. But should you move your business communications infrastructure to the cloud? There are good reasons to stay on-prem, and there are good reasons to move to the cloud. It really depends on your specific business requirements.
I recently wrote an article for toolbox.com outlining this in more detail.
In short, the five good reasons to move to the cloud are below, but if you want to read more go to the article:
- System robustness and uptime.
- You get new updates automatically.
- Cloud systems help with company growth.
- You may want to get a new business communication system, but you do not want to lay out all the CAPEX upfront.
- Enhanced mobility. Mobility is essential these days and will continue to be crucial if your company values remote work and work from home. Simply put, cloud Unified Communication systems enable you to work remotely much easier.
Cloud business communication systems are growing because they offer benefits and value to many customers. Did these drivers strike a chord with you? Maybe now is the time to move to the cloud. Read Sangoma’s cloud paper here.
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The FCC has passed the TRACED Act, requiring all communication service providers to implement STIR/SHAKEN and/or some form of robocall mitigation within their VoIP network or otherwise be subject to substantial fines and penalties.
Anytime someone answers a phone call and hears a recorded message instead of a live voice from a person, that’s a robocall. The message could be an appointment reminder from a dentist or healthcare provider, from a political party, or a message from charities. These are all legitimate, but what makes robocalls illegal is when they are from fraudsters trying to sell something to someone without their written consent, which, we all know, that’s most cases today.
Call scammers will spoof (or alter) their caller ID to make it appear as if the call is coming from a legitimate business, tricking unsuspecting consumers. This has caused people to stop answering phone calls, which prevents businesses from connecting with their customers, ruining brand reputations. Not to mention the crime of defrauding people of their money and confidential information. They have destroyed the trust in phone calls, so much so that in 2018, there were over 48 billion robocalls to unsuspecting subscribers, and, in 2019, that number went to 54 billion. The FCC estimates the cost of these calls to consumers is at least $3 billion per year from lost time alone, not including monetary losses to fraud.Catching Robocallers
It has been challenging to catch illegal robocallers because phone calls traverse multiple carriers, and terminating carriers can only see the last carrier that handed them the call and cannot validate its origin. So, the FCC has established the STIR/SHAKEN standards, which use digital certificates from the carriers to assure call recipients that a caller ID has not been altered. In December of 2019, the TRACED Act was passed, which mandates that all carriers implement STIR/SHAKEN call authentication measures and robocall mitigation measures, by June 2021. In a separate upcoming blog post, we will provide a robust explanation of this system, and how we can help you become compliant.How can VoIP Innovations help you with Robocall Mitigation?
The first major step towards preventing robocalls won’t be required until June 2021, but you can help protect your customers now with VoIP Innovation’s robocall mitigation solution. It is a simple to integrate service, which combines behavioral analytics, caller authentication, and verification.
Our service is part of our CNAM API, which makes it very easy and simple for service providers to implement without requiring a business to switch VoIP providers. It is also available at no extra charge to customers using our existing CNAM services.
Key Features Include:
- Fraud Detection: Detection of high volume robocalling, spoofing, and spam call activity
- Subscriber Notification: Caller ID Name override to warn subscribers of suspicious calls
- Call Blocking Support: Accurate identification enabling you to block fraudulent phone calls as per the TRACED Act (2019)
- Business Number Verification: Register legitimate business numbers to prevent unintentional call blocking
- Caller ID Name Service: Easy integration of Caller ID name lookup service, including robocall mitigation with CNAM override. You can also choose to keep the original caller ID if you want too.
For every call, our service sends you a fraud score from 0 to 100 for suspicion of fraud, along with a pre-pended caller ID name to let you know when the call is spam. You can also choose to keep the original caller ID if you want too! With this information, you can protect your subscribers by notifying them of suspicious calls and also block those calls.
To learn more about VoIP Innovations Robocall Mitigation, please visit: https://carrierservices.sangoma.com/caller-id-name-services/
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Last week there was some buzz about a security flaw in FreePBX. It started with CheckPoint, and then a few outlets picked it up. One problem. It was a year old issue. And we acted on it back then quickly. Would have been great if CheckPoint or the others that picked up the story had checked with the FreePBX team or community before just blurting this out there, so they would have had the most up to date information.
Lorne Gaetz’s excellent blog on this topic goes into more depth about the issue.
Anyway, I also write this blog to remind folks that software needs to be updated because of many reasons, one of which is the plugging of security holes. For those of us that use Windows, it happens often but I do it because I know it’s important – plus the reminders just won’t go away. For those on FreePBX, PBXact, Asterisk, etc. – this is a good reminder to make sure you have updated your systems to the latest software. If you have any questions about FreePBX specifically, please utilize the FreePBX community forums or contact Sangoma support.
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