Tomorrow I’ll be heading off to ITEXPO, an event I’ve been to countless times before. I may have even been to every single ITEXPO that TMC has ever held. Except this time, it will be different. There will be no shaking hands (for me anyway, still not quite there yet), and I’ll probably have a mask on much of the time. And many of the people I know well from being in this industry a long time and typically see a couple of times a year wouldn’t have seen since the last ITEXPO.
Because the last ITEXPO was the last event before we all shut down. And this ITEXPO is the first event since some semblance of normalcy is returning.
And in that respect, this ITEXPO will be the same as all the other ITEXPOs I’ve been to. I’ll be in a lot of business meetings. And I already have many business meetings set up. And I’ll try and go to a few talks when I have time. Just like all the other ITEXPOs.
I’m looking forward to it and looking forward to many more!
Schoolâ€™s out for summer, so this is the perfect time to reflect on the learning technologies that help students and teachers succeed. With the chaos of an abrupt switch to virtual learning behind us, there are many opportunities to learn how we can overcome past challenges in adopting new technology.
With the switch to remote learning in various stages of adoption across the country, cloud-native solutions were an obvious choice for many schools. Although the COVID-19 Pandemic sped up the process for many counties and school districts, there are still many unknowns for fully adopting new technologies.
Cloud Education Technology Integration
Students in a K-12 setting are still learning about their own individual learning styles, and cloud-native solutions allow them to explore different learning styles in a setting which can give them the best chance at success. While there are plenty of challenges in an entirely virtual environment, students are learning new ways to adapt. The ability to learn from home and not be tied to a physical classroom offers increased flexibility, fewer logistical distractions and challenges, and may even help motivated students to learn at more advanced levels.
A dual system, virtual and physical, can also be applied and with the help of CaaS. These systems of integration are important, not only for access to information, but also as a learning tool for the types of technologies that students will continue to encounter once they leave school. Familiarity with common technologies is a basic skill requirement for most workers.
More frequently than ever, people are entering higher education. As the number of students seeking higher education increases, the cost to both students and educational institutions follows suit. These costs are shouldered primarily by the students themselves, shown in increased tuition costs and debt. Cloud computing is a solution to this phenomenon, as it allows institutions to exponentially increase their offered technological solutions to their students and faculty with decreased costs rather than increased costs.
Technological solutions in higher education are now necessary; one of the major roadblocks for many higher education institutions is the necessary migration of their older systems to a newer, more streamlined and robust system. Fortunately, cloud-native platforms and knowledgeable solution providers can make the transition as painless as possible with little to no downtime.
The Ongoing Challenge
As more of the world turns to technology for its solutions to problems, the world of education is falling behind, struggling to keep up with emerging technologies. Both higher and lower educational institutions have not yet reached their full potential for technological advantages, let alone cloud computing.
As virtual learning has taken a front seat with the current events of the world at play, robust technological solutions are more important than ever. Students have access to technology that can help them learn even in stressful situations and the skills they learn in navigating those technologies will help them as they continue to grow and learn.
Remote learning technology is here to stay, and cloud computing is a growing industry that has already had an impact on educational facilities across the globe. Slowly but surely, the rest of the educational world will begin to adopt these new technologies and learn how to use them to benefit students and faculty alike.
Why is communicating with customers and co-workers different? Let’s start with connecting with co-workers. In a work environment, we all have the same tools, so it’s easy to chat / instant message, go to the Intranet, or place calls. Indeed, we’ve all been on a lot of video calls.
You can say video calls have replaced what we used to call “conference calls.” It’s to the point where setting up video calls in meeting invites is now de rigueur. Also, you can quickly start conversations with chat that might seamlessly switch to video calls because we’re so used to it now. We’ve been on so many video calls lexicon such as “video meeting fatigue” has entered everyday usage.
With customers, it’s very different.
Customers don’t have the same connected tools as you do and aren’t behind your firewalls anyway. So, a click on the same tool is not so easy. Connecting with customers is more varied.
Many customers just want to make an appointment, call about an issue, or find out what time you are open (or even if you are open). As such, with customers, the name of the game is to offer as much self-help as possible and be available in real-time when needed. Thus, we see what at one time were genuine innovations such as phone apps, websites, and IVRs now become centerpieces of today’s customer communication.
But there is also a need for real-time communications, and we see the need for multi-modal forms of real-time communications such as texting, chat, and apps, in addition to voice. In this case, video is part of the overall picture but not nearly as front and center as intra-company communication. As such, real-time business communication is pretty nuanced, and video is not the centerpiece. In next week’s blog, we’ll examine why video not being the centerpiece of customer communications could present a problem if you choose a video-centric business communication system.
In a post-COVID world, what’s going to happen to all those office jobs that went remote last year? In mid-2021, as vaccines roll out across the globe, more and more companies are having to grapple with this question. It’s estimated there’s been an 87% increase in remote work from pre-pandemic levels. Now that more workers than ever have had a taste of what it means to work remotely, will they give it up without a fight? Will they even have to?
The FreeSWITCH project and SignalWire have been staffed with fully remote employees since the beginning. For tech jobs in particular, this isn’t as uncommon as it is in some other fields. And those that work in tech love their remote jobs – recently, in a survey by Hackajob, 86% of tech professionals disclosed they never want to go back to the office full-time. Many employees are open to the idea of a hybrid work environment, where they might go to the office a few days a week, but not being able to work from home at all is becoming a huge deal breaker as the world slowly opens back up.
The benefits of working remotely are undeniable, for employees and employers alike. Many surveys and polls have been conducted over the past year to provide some data and clarity on the situation. Certainly, COVID being the driving force of working remotely complicated things a little bit – being forced to stay at home in unusual situations, stuck with rowdy children or not being able to leave or see another person for days at a time, aren’t situations that accurately represent the typical state of the world or working remotely.
In spite of these challenges, working remotely has been viewed positively by most who have tried it. And many benefits were provided to workers without losing productivity! In a survey by Mercer, 94% of employers said productivity was the same or higher than before the pandemic. As many as 30% of workers believe that they’re even more productive working from home than in an office. And is this really surprising? Remote workers have no commute, less or no small office talk, and more time for family and exercise during the day, leading to a higher quality of life and better work-life balance. A survey report by Owl Labs showed that remote workers are 22% happier than workers always on site in an office. And why wouldn’t a less exhausted, happier employee be more productive and enthusiastic about work?
This same survey by Owl Labs collected a few snippets of data to highlight the benefits of remote work. Employees save both time and money leaving the traditional commute behind: an average of 40 minutes per day, and an estimated $6000 per year. On top of that, 20-25% of companies are paying at least part of the cost for equipment and furniture. And monetary benefits extend to employers too! It’s estimated that companies can save up to $11,000 per year per employee when ditching the office from a combination of reduced office costs, increased worker productivity, and less turnover. Not to mention attracting top talent – 59% of those surveyed said they would be more likely to choose an employer that offered remote work over one that did not.
When talking about worker benefits from working remotely, it’s impossible not to zoom in on the lack of commute a little bit more closely. It is consistently listed as being the best quality of remote work, far ahead of factors like flexible childcare, hanging out with pets during the day or wearing sweatpants to meetings. In the U.S. in particular, 2019 time spent stuck in traffic was as much as 70-120 hours per year for the typical commuter – a number that dropped to a national average of 23 hours in 2020. Collectively, people saved 3.4 billion hours in commute time, according to a report by Automotive News. The benefits extend beyond individual workers to the planet as a whole when 28% of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars and 86% of U.S. workers drive a private vehicle. When time spent on the road is cut significantly, a positive impact on the environment is the direct result.
All these benefits are clearly no small thing. They upgrade quality of life in almost every way imaginable, and employees are prepared to quit instead of giving them up. A Bloomberg poll asserts that 39% of workers would quit before going back to the office. And that number rises to 49% for Gen-Z and Millennials. Remote work is so desirable it even undercuts monetary considerations – 23% of those surveyed said they would take a 10% pay cut in order to keep working remotely permanently.
Some executives, however, are pushing the importance of working in person, claiming remote work diminishes collaboration and company culture. As many as 29% of executives surveyed by PwC believe at least 3 days per week in the office are required to maintain company culture, and 21% believe 5 full days are needed. The number that believe no days at all are necessary was a measly 5%. 44% of companies still don’t allow remote work, and a mere 16% of companies hire remote-only workers. So will companies be able to keep up with worker demand for more remote jobs?
It’s difficult to know where this is all heading; at the moment, less than 30% of workers are back in the office. In spite of this, it’s been estimated the percentage of employees working remotely full time could nearly double in 2021 from last year. And none of this is even to mention that many employees still have concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and COVID precautions. Let’s not forget that though things are getting better in some places, the pandemic rages on. But pandemic or not, if everyone is saving money and time, is happier and more productive, why shouldn’t we embrace working remotely as a common fact of modern life?
You might be a small business owner looking to upgrade your phone system, or perhaps an IT administrator tired of dealing with the headaches of maintaining an outdated legacy phone system. Or perhaps you’re a Unified Communications vendor looking for a solution that will help set you apart from the competition.
No matter the case, Switchvox is the best business phone system for small business owners looking to upgrade their communications set-up, and the perfect fit for vendors searching for a new competitive advantage.
Switchvox offers three key benefits that make it a perfect fit for both users and UC resellers:
#1: No à la carte business phone system pricing – all features are included for every user
One of the great benefits of Switchvox for both users and partners is that Switchvox features an all-inclusive pricing model. Traditionally phone systems would require individual feature licenses for major applications like voicemail, faxing, and IVRs, but with Switchvox you get mobile apps, call recording, desktop faxing, call routing, presence, and much more all at one affordable price. This is especially helpful for those who are new to the world of VoIP telephony and Unified Communications for business.
Sometimes it can be overwhelming trying to figure out all the features your business may or may not need in a phone system. Fortunately, with an all features included pricing model you get the freedom to choose the functionality you want and not have to worry about paying for add ons and additional licensing for features you may need down the road.
Switchvox’s all features included pricing model not only makes buying a new business phone system less stressful but also simplifies the purchase process. Instead of worrying about how much it’ll cost to add on something like call center functionality, all you have to do is choose which deployment (on-premise or Cloud) best fits your requirements and how many users and phones you’ll need. And this means no more lengthy line item quotes, which makes quoting super easy for resellers.
#2: Switchvox is both a scalable and flexible Unified Communications platform
Another benefit of Switchvox is that it offers flexibility to both users and partners. Sangoma recognizes that businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and that you need a phone system that can adapt as your business grows.
In order to accommodate a variety of businesses, Switchvox can be deployed as an on-premise phone system or as a hosted cloud phone system. This gives both users and partners plenty of options in terms of cost and phone system management. With an on-premise phone system deployment, businesses can pay for Switchvox as a capital expenditure and manage their phone system using their own IT staff.
Alternatively, if you’re not looking to pay an upfront capital expenditure and don’t feel comfortable managing your phone system, a hosted phone system deployment allows you to simply pay a monthly subscription and the vendor will manage your system in the Cloud.
If choosing between a cloud or on-premise deployment seems like uncharted territory for you, you’re in luck. Switchvox is not restricted to either an on-premise or cloud deployment. Fortunately, if you decide your company has outgrown a hosted deployment, you can move seamlessly from Switchvox Cloud to an on-premise solution with no set-up and no change to your user experience. Or, if you started out with a Switchvox on-premise system and down the road determined that a cloud system better fits your needs then you can easily switch and the interface and behavior of Switchvox will remain the same.
Choosing between on-premise and cloud isn’t the only aspect of the flexibility offered by Switchvox and Sangoma. Sangoma offers all of our own UC devices and network connectivity that you will need — including SBCs, SIP trunking, phones, headsets, and gateways. So, if you want to upgrade your phone system and utilize existing infrastructure, you still have options and compatibility. With the help of Sangoma gateways, you can avoid going through a third party vendor and use Switchvox while keeping your existing analog/PRI lines.
Plus, with Sangoma handling all your UC surround, you don’t have to worry about calling three different technical support teams for any issues or troubleshooting. It’s as simple as calling one number for all your support needs.
#3: Switchvox offers advanced business phone system features and is easy to use
Part of what makes Switchvox a great solution for users and resellers is the fact that it offers advanced phone system features and functionality without sacrificing ease of use. Oftentimes people are hesitant to get a new phone system because they don’t want to deal with a cumbersome installation process or the headache of learning how to use a new phone system.
Fortunately, Switchvox is easy to deploy and can be scaled up or down with our pre-provisioned phones. This means you don’t have to worry about contacting us or your Sangoma reseller for help adding a new user or moving an employee from one office to another. It’s as simple as plugging in your new phone or unplugging your existing phone and moving it to another office. However, if you do have any trouble setting up or using your phone system, we have a dedicated support team to ensure you receive the support and installation services you need.
Once you’ve got Switchvox set-up, we make it easy to learn your new phone system. Sangoma offers lots of free training available to both our users and partners so that you don’t have to spend weeks trying to learn your new phone system. In addition to our free training and demo center, we offer in-depth online and classroom training courses available to our partners and customers through Sangoma University.
These are just a few of the many features and benefits that Switchvox offers to both users and resellers. If you’re interested in learning more about Switchvox, phone system deployment options, or partnering with Sangoma be sure to check out these links below:
In 2020, we all utilized new and potentially innovative ways to connect with co-workers and customers. And if we didn’t already use Unified Communication phone systems, we quickly learned that a key tenet of Unified Communication systems was the mobile and desktop clients, enabling your work phone number to be used (calling in, calling out) from these clients. As such, you could take your work remotely. Perfect for 2020.
And video literally entered the picture and became a primary connection mechanism. The fact that technology and today’s excellent broadband networks enabled video calls to happen enabled many businesses to continue operating and continue operating at a high rate. However, while video (rightly) garnered all the headlines, we should not forget about the other tried and true communication types because they are well “tried and true.” We have to remember that connecting with customers and co-workers is different. What works for co-workers likely does not work with customers. Let’s examine this more in next week’s blog.
Telecom APIs in the form of CPaaS (access to telecom functions that reside in the cloud, paid for as you use them) have spurred much innovation and disruption in the communications industry. Developers can easily incorporate these functions to enhance an application (maybe voice enable or text enable an existing application) or create a voice centric communications application from scratch.
Looking at it from a different perspective, if the application is connected to the internet (via mobile, WiFi, or wired), which means most applications these days, access to these APIs is available. That’s powerful and that’s why this model was disruptive. As such, if you have any idea, it is easy to test and try things this way, it is easy to roll them out, and it is scalable as well.
And while there are a few stand-alone CPaaS companies out there (such as Twilio), a few UCaaS companies (such as Sangoma) have their own CPaaS platforms as well. Why is that? Well, for one thing, the customer is already accessing the UC application in the cloud and they are comfortable with cloud-based communications. And we can better enable our UC customers with enhancements they might want to do on top of our UC platforms.
But have we entered another phase in CPaaS, possibly predictable even, where we see more broad industry needs and thus create a catalog of applets / applications that our UC customers can use? Certainly, we see that. So, we have started to create a category of “connected worker” applications, and the incorporation of text messaging for connectivity. And that’s important so we can help our customers service their customers better.
Sangoma is committed to helping our customers service their customers better, so this model is important to us. Expect to see additional applets and applications like this as we see general needs emerge.
Throughout this series, we have been exploring the impact of COVID-19 on various industries, and how organizations are recovering.
One sector that was hit particularly hard was the restaurant industry. To date, about 17% of U.S. restaurants have permanently shut down, and many more are struggling to profit due to ongoing restrictions.
Even more troubling is the fact that most new restaurants that closed were not new establishments. On average, they had been in business for 16 years.
Restaurants that have managed to hang on throughout the pandemic are now facing uncertain times, as returning back to normal continues to be a slow process. Many organizations would not be able to survive another prolonged shutdown or unstable conditions much longer without taking drastic measures.
How Restaurants Are Returning Back To Normal With Cloud
A growing number of restaurants are now using cloud communications solutions to improve operations and lower costs. Here are some of the ways restaurants are benefiting from cloud communications in the post-COVID era.
Budgets have always been tight for restaurants dealing with high rents, exorbitant food costs, and a variety of operational challenges. Today, budgets are tighter than ever leaving less room for excess spending.
Many businesses are switching to cloud communications systems that use VoIP, to lower costs while maintaining open lines with customers, team members, corporate partners, and vendors. Switching to a cloud-based phone system is an easy way to cut monthly communications costs.
Improved Communication & Collaboration
Restaurant owners and managers canâ€™t always be on-site to deal with questions and problems when they arise, like social distancing issues and health restrictions. However, running a restaurant can be very challenging due to the variety of restrictions that businesses are now facing.
A growing number of businesses are now using mobile communication and collaboration apps to help team members work together and maintain operations. Team members can connect over one app for voice, SMS, and even image and video sharing. This type of system can provide a great framework for solving problems keeping restaurants running smoothly.
One of the most popular cloud technologies to emerge during the pandemic was curbside service. In fact, curbside service kept many businesses running throughout the pandemic, enabling them to process orders and distribute them safely to customers.
Curbside service comes ready to use, guaranteeing easy deployment and management. Deploying curbside service can enable easy SMS and web interactions, with flexible, automated workflows for employees.
Due to the recent takeover of Freenode IRC and Tox IRC channels being hostilely taken over by the new Freenode staff without any prior notice, we have moved our IRC presence to Libera Chat IRC. All Tox IRC channels have moved to Libera. Any Tox channel you see on Freenode (or any other network) is not official. You can see the up-to-date list of our IRC channels on the wiki.
We are not the only project that has made the switch. Many high-profile projects and communities have left Freenode for Libera: Arch Linux, curl, Django, FFmpeg, Gentoo, Haskell, NGINX, PostgreSQL, Python, Ubuntu, Void Linux, Wikimedia and many more. Some of them have had their channels taken over by the new Freenode staff as well. If you want to learn more about the incident, this blog post has links to many of sources.
Libera Chat is run by the staff that ran Freenode before it got taken over. It’s the continuation of Freenode, with the the same staff, rules, IRC services and many of the same projects. Tox has been on Freenode for almost 8 years, since its very inception in June 2013, and many Tox developers had been using Freenode even before that. It saddens us to have to part with Freenode, even if just in name, and we are grateful to its former staff for managing it for us for such a long time and to Freenode’s sponsors for keeping the lights on. We hope that Libera becomes the new IRC network of choice for open source projects like Freenode once was.
On June 9th, Omdia will be hosting a webinar titled ”Making Sure Voice Is Heard In a Video World.” If you want to register, please go here. Omdia’s Diane Myers (Chief Analyst, Collaboration) will talk with myself and David Portnowitz of Star2Star, A Sangoma Company about this topic.
So, what are we going to discuss? As we all know, in 2020, we all got real familiar with video calling and collaboration platforms. And that’s great for internal communications and some partner and customer communications.
But, is that the way forward in the world, especially as related to actual paying customers? Because customers use different methods to connect real-time with your business, the most common is voice calls. We’ll explore why a voice-centric platform that also does video, chat, and SMS is the way forward because of the call control and call routing features in such platforms and because of the tight integration with phones these platforms can provide. In other words, why a Unified Communication platform that has time-tested voice functionality is an excellent choice for today and tomorrow.
Join us in Chicago or online October 25th-28th, 2021!
The world of events changed for everybody in 2020. Usually, every August would mark the time for our annual developers’ conference in Chicago, ClueCon, which has been around for 17 years. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, August 2020 instead brought about an experiment for the ClueCon team – we hosted ClueCon completely virtually, with almost everything that makes the conference what it is: our Coder Games hack-a-thon, networking opportunities, and the informative presentations and workshops that make the conference an educational opportunity for our community.
ClueCon Deconstructed turned out to be a huge success, and served as a useful experience for launching SignalWire Events and the SignalWire Work platform. Since then we have greatly improved how we host virtual events. We now have an extremely skilled team that works specifically in the world of online events, and with the help of this team and a much more structured process, in February 2021 we held a mini-ClueCon to focus mainly on workshops and presentations.
As the world slowly and hopefully changes for the better in 2021, we are looking forward to gathering together in Chicago this October at the beautiful Intercontinental Hotel on the Magnificent Mile. However, as everywhere in the world is on a different timeline in combatting the pandemic, for the first time we will be welcoming remote attendees to the party too! Using the improved platform and virtual events process we’ve built since ClueCon 2020, we’ll combine everything we know about hosting ClueCon virtually with the classic format of an in-person conference.
The ClueCon team has already been fully vaccinated and we welcome anyone who is comfortable traveling during this time to join us on October 25-28, 2021. There will be plenty of masks and hand sanitizer available for all attendees to make sure everybody there feels comfortable and safe. The health of all the team members and attendees is our first priority, and we are only having the in-person conference as we feel it is safe to do so. That being said, we recognize it simply won’t be feasible for everyone to commit to coming to Chicago this year, and it’s difficult to know what the state of the world will look like over the next 5 months. Because of this, we’re doing everything we can to accommodate those who will be joining us virtually from anywhere in the world!
Attendees joining us online will be able to partake in all parts of the conference – there will be screens all over the venue to allow those attending in-person to interact with those online, and you’ll even be able to join us for networking events like the classic Gigabit Reception. So grab some snacks and your favorite drink! Nothing will be off-limits to remote attendees; join us for each presentation, workshop, our Coder Games hack-a-thon, and all the networking events!
Additionally, we will have some of our speakers with us in Chicago, and other speakers will be calling in virtually from other parts of the world. We’ll be integrating the virtual conference as best we can with the in-person conference, so you’ll still be able to interact with speakers, other guests, and the ClueCon team no matter how you choose to participate! This is our plan to slowly bring more people together during this uncertain time, and we hope you’ll join us either in Chicago or from the comfort of your own home. We’re confident that the tech we’ve built, along with the events team we’ve curated, will make this experimental hybrid event a success.
If you want to explore Chicago and you feel comfortable doing so, we highly recommend joining us at the Intercontinental Hotel! Unfortunately, virtually we won’t be able to provide you with the tasty meals and experience of the city – so if that’s a priority for you, do consider joining us in-person!
Over the next few months we will have more details available, including a list of speakers and a week-long schedule of the event. In the meantime, you can take advantage of early-bird pricing. Registration is open at cluecon.com/register.
Many companies are upgrading their communication equipment to improve productivity and make offices more attractive to workers who are returning to desks.
Finding the right IP phone, depending on business needs, can be challenging: every additional feature, which you may not require on a phone, brings up the cost significantly, especially on large-scale deployments.
Today, Sangoma is launching entry-level value phones designed with the specific features you need, with maximum functionality and performance, at a budget price.
Introducing the P310 & P315 IP Phones
These phones can be deployed in just about any setting, with a focus on three customer segments in mind.
Manufacturing: Manufacturing plants require rugged and durable phones that can withstand harsh environments. Sangoma’s new value-based IP phones are durable and reliable enough to keep job sites connected and communicating throughout the day.
Education: Schools today are challenged to offer high-quality communications without going over budget. Sangoma’s new phones are an affordable option for teachers and administrators, offering the full functionality of a desk phone at a budget price.
Retail: Retailers require phones that are easy to deploy and use. Sangoma’s phones can be easily deployed with minimal training, making them perfect for retailers of all sizes — from small businesses to large enterprises.
Sangoma’s P310 & P315 IP Phones Details
The P310 and P315 desk IP phones come with simple plug-and-play deployment, enabling them to seamlessly work with Sangoma’s unified communications portfolio, including Switchvox, PBXact and FreePBX.
Both phones offer high-definition call quality, two VoIP lines, and built-in Electronic Hook Switch (EHS) support for wireless headset compatibility. They also come with critical security capabilities, including TLS, SRTP, and VLAN support, while supporting six phone applications, including contacts, call logging, status, call parking, call forward, and hot-desking (for Switchvox >= 7.8).
Key Differences: P310 vs. P315
The P310 and P315 are similar models. Both phones come with 2.4-inch 320 x 240-pixel backlit color LCDs, four feature keys and four context-sensitive soft keys, and six-way key navigation.
The difference between the two is that the P310 supports two switched 10/100 Mbps Ethernet connections, and the P315 supports two switched 10/100/1000 Mbps (Gigabit) connections.
A phone that supports Gigabit connectivity becomes very enticing in those scenarios where only one network connection is available at the user’s workstation. With the P315, users will connect their network cable connection into one of the Gigabit ports on the phone, then connect another cable from the second Gigabit port to their workstation, effectively delivering full-speed network access to the laptop/desktop computer through the phone.
“I was very impressed with the P315, and at an amazing price point,” explained Darin Gull from TRACI.net. “Feature-rich, two gigabit Ethernet ports, color display, headset & EHS port, and it integrates beautifully with our Switchvox solutions for $79 purchase price. Great phone for entry-level workers, patient rooms, lobbies, call center desks, etc. Well done, Sangoma!”
I’ve been writing a lot about video lately, because I’ve been thinking a lot about video lately. As many people get vaccinated, we’re starting to see some businesses coming back to “working in the office”. I took my first business trip in a long time recently to our site in Huntsville, Alabama and had the pleasure of actually interacting with many of our folks face to face.
And it got me thinking even more about video. Given video has been the ‘de facto’ way to hold a meeting, even a 1:1 meeting for over a year, how will we integrate video into our business communications going forward?
I mean, think about meetings two years ago. Likely there were many people in a room and also likely there were 1 or 2 people calling in remotely. And let’s say someone went up to a whiteboard to draw something. If you were a remote person, you were lucky if someone remembered to even try to explain what people were talking about. This wasn’t a problem during the past year because everyone truly was equal – everyone was remote and everyone saw whatever everyone else saw, or if someone was sharing.
Will everyone now, even those in the actual room, automatically go to video so everyone is still “equal”? It’s hard to know. That did happen with me when I went on that trip, with a group meeting where one other person was in the room, but we’re all still in our video phase now. Still very aware. But it was bizarre being in a room and people were all staring at their laptops.
I’m guessing the meetings will occur on video, and people will be more aware. But we’ll start to turn cameras off, and we’ll use the video for collaboration purposes. We’ll see. I’ll visit this topic one year from now. Should be interesting!
A long time community member Emrah surprised us with a very creative submission. Jitas is at its core a cloud VM you can easily drop into a meeting. In a similar fashion to Jibri, Jitas can join a meeting and facilitate collaboration by injecting basically anything into the meeting, thanks to the screen being shared as video, plus the sound output. It’s basically a multimedia swiss army knife for Jitsi meetings! You can check it out in this repository.
3rd prize: Breakout Rooms
By far the most requested Jitsi Meet feature. A number of external solutions existed, but we proposed integrating breakout rooms into Jitsi Meet as a challenge because delivering the breakout rooms experience fully integrating it into Jitsi Meet can provide a much better experience. Werner Fleischer took on this challenge, solo. His project also made use of the new participants pane as a central point for coordinating breakout rooms. Not only he surprised us a with a great execution, but he has continued working on it after the hackathon ended, and as of right now it even has mobile support! We are very excited to work with Werner and see this one merged. You can follow the progress in this pull request.
2nd prize: Ordered Raised Hands list
Another highly requested feature to complement the raised hands feature is the ability to know “who is next”, that is, to keep an order. Isaac Marco, Ruben Teijeiro and Vassilis Kritharakis took on this challenge and executed it brilliantly. The raised hands information is available at a glance in the (new!) participants pane. We look forward to seeing this feature in Jitsi Meet! You can follow the progress in this pull request.
1st prize: Simple Polls
We’ve had this feature requested many times over. For one reason or another it never achieved the required amount of completeness / maturity to incorporate it into Jitsi Meet. That’s why we were so excited to see the work that the team (Fabien Zucchet, Jade Guiton and Antoine Marras) had done. It ticked all the boxes and we’ll be working close with them to make sure this time it lands in Jitsi Meet! You can follow the progress in this pull request.
Some final words
There were a total of over 150 participants from around 50 different countries who ended up submitting a total of 21 projects. We were very surprised by the high quality of many of them, and this made the judging process very hard!
We are incredibly thankful to the European Commission ISA2 initiative for choosing Jitsi and sponsoring this hackathon, it certainly created many solutions to problems Jitsi was facing in the classroom.
Commitment to our customer’s information security has always been a high priority at VoIP Innovations. As a result, we have always been looking toward security compliance like CPNI, PCI, GDPR, CCPA; now we have a new set of letters to add, ISO-27001.
The VoIP Innovations team is proud to announce we have been awarded ISO 27001:2013 certification!
What is ISO 27001?
ISO/IEC 27001:2013 is a widely recognized standard for information security, run by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The purpose of ISO 27001 is to outline best practices and standards surrounding an Information Security Management System (ISMS) to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA) of customer data. The certification process has strengthened existing security practices that we have been doing and created new methods to protect all the customer data. We are excited to continue to improve and show our commitment to our customers. After a (long) formal audit done by PECB MS, the certificate was issued by an independent certification body.
We implemented the management system during the last two quarters of 2020 and performed a complete internal audit on our organization. Following our internal audit, we invited an external auditor to start the two-stage auditing process.
In the third week of Feb 2021, we had a successful external audit that PECB-MS performed. This same company also completed the second part of the audit in mid-April 2021. After the April audit, they informed us that we are fully ISO 27001 certified, with a certificate issued on April 21, 2021.
What does this mean for you as a customer?
This certification means that we take the security of your information seriously and have implemented proper security measures to safeguard it. We want our customers to have complete trust in our technology and services.
The ISO 27001 certificate is proof that we manage all risks related to information security using our robust Information Security Management System( ISMS) and protect our information assets by implementing and following well-defined processes and procedures.
Our Security Manager at VoIP Innovations, Bhawna Gaba, had a lot to say to me about the certification:
“Receiving the ISO 27001 certification is a momentous accomplishment for VoIP Innovations. The rigorous audit undertaken for certification substantiates that we have proper technical controls and formalized IT security policies and procedures to protect customer data and that our teams are diligent and well trained in complying with the best practices of the ISO 27001 Standards.
This demanding process has not only strengthened our infrastructure and benefited our internal systems but also further streamlined our day-to-day processes and procedures. We are now well prepared for emergencies, natural disasters, and any event that could impact our business.”
The scope of the certification itself includes all the people, processes, and facilities that handle customer information and include things ranging from physical location security, personnel accessing customer information, and disk encryption.
Our mission to security does not end here. Information security is an ongoing process, and we will keep working hard to maintain and exceed our standards to protect both company and customer data. An external auditor will perform yearly audits to attest to our continuous compliance as we continue developing and growing our business.
From a Product Management standpoint, knowing that our customer data is protected and understanding the different processes and procedures implemented to ensure confidentiality, integrity, and access to that customer data is very exciting. I am excited for us to continue to improve the things that our customers can see and interact with and make sure that they don’t need to worry about their data.
Reach out to your CSM to request a copy of the certificate or learn more by chatting with us.
We’ve all been on more than our fair share of video calls the past 14 months. And we’ve probably used all the different video calling platforms (including Sangoma Meet). Sometimes, we get some video quality issues such as the frames freezing or blocking out due to bandwidth reasons, especially when sharing documents. We’ve learned to live with the occasional problem. To me, this shows just how far IP communications have come in such a short period. What a long way from the early VoIP days in 1998. Even back then, we had visions of video and voice on the same call.
I’m sure we’ve all been on a call with over 50 video users with unbelievable video and voice and file sharing quality! Even just a couple of years ago, we couldn’t have proceeded like we’ve proceeded the past 14 months.
But the other day on a call was the first time I’ve experienced voice quality issues on such a call. These days, due to HD codecs and adaptive codecs, voice has stayed sounding consistently good. Really, voice sounds better than PSTN calls on all these video calls (if anyone even remembers what a PSTN call over G.711 sounded like anymore).
On this call, I was talking from my house to someone at one of our offices. I have 1 Gig at my home, and I’m usually pretty good with quality. And obviously, we have good internet going into an office. It turned out the office was experiencing some wifi issue in the building, so it had nothing to do with the video calling platform I was using (Sangoma Meet). And I have to say; even when the video went black, the voice kept going. It got wonky and such, but it kept on going. That’s because voice requires much less bandwidth. Voice will continue to be essential.
In part one of this series, we covered how organizations are now looking ahead to the next phase of the pandemic. Many changes are taking place, with more companies starting to roll out permanent hybrid and remote work models.
One industry that’s going through significant post-COVID transformation is retail, a sector that was hit very hard by the pandemic.
Retailers that are still standing after last year are now looking for new ways to improve resiliency, maximize profits, streamline operations, and reduce risk. In doing so, many are turning to cloud technologies to bolster themselves.
Let’s take a closer look at the role that the cloud is playing in this new era of retail.
Enabling Communication & Collaboration
Communication is critical for success in the post-COVID era. This is especially important for large retailers with hundreds or thousands of branches that are spread across different regions.
There needs to be a clear and open line of communication between corporate administrators and store managers to keep operations running smoothly and maintain compliance.
As such, many retailers are using cloud-based unified communications as a service (UCaaS) platforms to provide real-time updates, answer questions, and keep a closer eye on what stores are doing on a daily basis.
This is also proving to be useful for on-site employees, especially those who are working short-staffed or in hybrid environments.
Managing Supply Chains
The early days of the pandemic presented many logistical issues, resulting in widespread supply chain inefficiency and product shortages.
Now, retailers are streamlining their supply chains with cloud-based technologies that make it faster and easier to exchange data, provide updates, and strategize.
The pandemic is forcing retailers to rethink their technology spend and look for ways to reduce backend costs.
Cloud communications technologies can help companies operate leaner and more efficiently. Switching to the cloud can lower monthly voice costs, while also making it easier to scale up or down depending on need.
Improve Customer Service
Retailers are also getting creative about how they connect with customers.
For example, a growing number of companies are using cloud-based curbside service apps to communicate with customers, process orders, and answer questions. A curbside service app can serve as a one-stop-shop for customer communication and order management.
In late March, once the Star2Star deal closed, Sangoma’s CEO, Bill Wignall, did a podcast with Dave Michels and Evan Kirstel. According to Dave, “You may not be that familiar with Bill or Sangoma, but both are industry giants that have outperformed their peers and the broader industry. Bill has guided Sangoma through tremendous growth and transformation, largely through acquisitions”. You can listen to the TalkingHeadz Podcast here. It’s a pretty all-encompassing discussion about Sangoma, but in particular, you can hear Bill riff on:
Bill’s life on social media
M&A in general and M&A for Sangoma
Why he felt this deal with Star2Star was truly transformational for Sangoma
How are we going to go about integration
Why Sangoma has been “under the radar,” even though now we are by all accounts a top 10 player in UCaaS. With well over 2M UC seats, including our prem solutions.
What Sangoma provides that is different than our competition. Note: It’s about overall value, providing an end-to-end solution, having both Prem and Cloud, and caring immensely about our channel. And we also offer an entire Communication as a Service Portfolio (UCaaS, TaaS, FaaS, CPaaS, VMaaS, Desktop as a Service, CCaaS, ACaaS).
Bill also talks about our vision of seeing the PBX / UC platform as basically the hub of business real-time communications, not just limited to voice or video. And why we’re getting into the Access Control market and other IoT innovations going forward.
It’s a good listen if you want to understand more about Bill and Sangoma.
APIs are a hot topic in the U.S. right now, where Oracle took Google to court over fair use of code. This all actually started ten years ago, when Oracle argued that Google had infringed on copyright by copying the structure and sequence of 37 Java APIs into Android operating systems. This year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a formal ruling in favor of Google: these APIs are protected under fair use doctrine.
For reference, U.S. copyright law is meant to protect original works of authorship that are creative in nature – such as literary, musical, and artistic works, and sometimes, code – from unauthorized copying. But as the court noted, any original piece of literature or art is going to necessarily use things that have been used before. So where is that copyright line drawn? Meanwhile, fair use provisions allow certain copyrighted materials to be used in certain circumstances without permission.
Back in 2012, a court in California ruled that APIs are not subject to copyright, but just a couple of years later, Oracle appealed this ruling and won, leading to Java APIs becoming copyrightable. In 2016, a jury decided Google’s use of Java APIs was fair use, but Oracle appealed again, and by 2018 the Federal Circuit reversed this jury’s decision. This newest ruling at the highest level of the U.S. court system reverses the Federal Circuit’s opinion, determining that use of these Java APIs is legal under fair use provisions of copyright law.
Oracle’s software code in question was 11,000 lines – less than 1% of the total Java SE program – that Google used to build Android operating systems. In this case, the court said Google “included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.” This is a key ruling in clarifying how the law applies to APIs specifically. It’s not impossible for code to be protected under copyright any longer – the decision concluded that indeed, the code could be copyrightable, but was inextricably linked with uncopyrightable features, like the use of specific programming commands.
Google argued that this type of code is often used by developers freely, and that even if the code is copyrightable, that it should be covered by fair use provisions. When something serves a functional purpose, does it really make sense to let copyright prevent others from using it in the same functional method? Oracle and the dissent argued that the code was copyrightable and that the company should have been compensated for Google’s use of it. Even if certain standard bits of code would be exempt from this law, this Java code is anything but standard, and Google’s use of it was anything but fair. While the likes of Apple and Microsoft created their own rival products without Oracle’s “declaring code,” Google simply copied the API.
So which was the side of innovation? Well, both sides claimed to be. Google argued that stringent copyright laws would make things impossible for developers who would otherwise build new programs using shared code, slowing the creation of new products, and minimizing the utility of products they already own. Oracle argued a Google victory would discourage programmers from investing in software development because the resulting code could be used by anybody else without compensation. Additionally, since Google is a tech giant, Oracle argued the company could have afforded to pay in order to use the Java APIs and simply refused. Ironically, back in the 90’s, Oracle had stated that APIs shouldn’t be covered by copyright at all, and then accused Google of stealing chunks of Java code developed by Sun Microsystems, a company later acquired by Oracle.
The court emphasized the public benefits of creativity and competition that come from using code that’s already been produced. Many computer programs, particularly in the world of open source, are developed by recreating the functionality of APIs to allow for interoperability between different platforms. Legal experts had concerns about the implications of an Oracle victory, like the possibility of many developers and startups buckling under the threat of legal sanctions, as copyright holders would be able to use that copyright to prevent interoperability. Bad actors could have potentially picked up the rights to old software and filed claims against companies who built their software on what were assumed to be open standards. This ruling, however, sets precedent that APIs can be used freely to enable programs to work together.
The win was cited as a win for open source and free software. The ruling on fair use sided with the long-standing position of the free software movement that overall, APIs should be subject to fair use under copyright restrictions. In the end, pretty much everyone who wasn’t Oracle agreed with the ruling in favor of Google, even the guy who developed Java in the first place, James Gosling, who described the ruling as sanity prevailing. In a tweet, Gosling wrote, “It’s astonishing that this case even got started, much less that it ground on for more than a decade.” In any case, the court’s decision gives legal clarity to the next generation of developers.
So now Google is free to use Java APIs. The news is good for all developers: you won’t be hit with a copyright lawsuit by a company over using code in this way. Under fair use, you just can’t stop people from using APIs to build new programs. Current trends in software development which focus on improving interoperability will be allowed to continue.
The Digium Phone Module for Asterisk or DPMA for short is an Asterisk software module that provides a secure communications channel between D-Series phones and Asterisk. This secure channel is used to ensure an easy installation process and offers direct integration with many Asterisk capabilities, including presence, voicemail, call parking, and call recording. The DPMA is utilized in stand-alone Asterisk systems, in FreePBX systems, and Switchvox systems.
The D-Series telephones possess an embedded root certificate used to encrypt communications between the D-phone and the DPMA. This certificate was created during the initial development of the D-Series phones in 2011 and had a ten-year lifetime.
As a result, the certificate will expire and become invalid on Friday, May 28, 2021, at 4:45 pm Eastern Daylight Time.
The effect of this certificate expiring is that after May 28, any D-phones already in use will experience application loading errors, which affects voicemail, status, parking, and queues. Any new D-phones that are started anew or rebooted will be unable to connect to and provision. The D-phone will attempt to “contact proxy,” and it will never succeed.
However, we do know how to fix it.
Sangoma has produced new versions of DPMA, Proxy, D-Series telephone firmware, and Switchvox mobile softphone that remediate the problem. Administrators (except Switchvox Cloud and PBXact UCC) MUST take action before the expiration date. For Switchvox users on 7.x, the new firmware is included in Switchvox version 7.6.2. For Switchvox users on 6.x or 5.x, the latest releases are 6.8 and 5.12, respectively.
Steps to take…
Sangoma has developed quick to implement and future-proof solutions. Please visit the resource page for complete information on how to resolve the issue.
Since the certification expires on May 28, 2021, this is a time-sensitive issue that requires immediate action to be taken. Please visit the resource page for complete information on how to resolve this issue.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog about video calling and starting calls with video. I got a few questions and comments about that, some saying “The future is all video all the time!” while some agreed with my point of view of “That’s not going to happen all the time”. So, let me write a little more about this.
First, in that blog, I did talk about differentiation of use case. In the case of a calendared meeting, where a link can go into your calendar, many meetings we’ve all been on in the last 12 months start this way. You click on the link; you go to the video meeting. You have a nice shirt on but maybe shorts or PJs, not that I’ve done that. But these are internal meetings, or meetings with partners and even key customers, and many people forget this is NOT the entirety of communications in a business. These are simply meetings where 3 years ago, we’d calendar a “conference call”. They are important parts of your communication plan but not the only way to communicate.
People also said, “Hey I use video when I talk through my collaboration client”. Presumably these are to other employees, or to key partners. I remember “in the old days” I’d use Skype to talk to some of my partners in Europe. But you start with presence / instant message and then you move to a call. Many times the call is still voice, and sometimes it’s also video. I guess it depends on the person. But in any of these use case scenarios, you are not leading with video!
What I’m really talking about though is interaction with your customers or prospects. These are people that are going to call your business to schedule an appointment, get a service person to your house, etc. Sure, because of the internet and having web pages, over the last 25 years, there has been less voice interaction / calls with this group. But with this group, a real call control / call routing engine like exists in UC platforms is really required. There are incoming calls that need routing, there are external calls (or texts) that need scheduling. These cannot be done via scheduling a meeting on a calendar. You need a real IVR, you need contact center features, you need voice mail, you need find me / follow me. You get the picture.
To run a business and interact with external customers, a video first platform just won’t cut it.
A Unified Communication system that knows how to handle phone numbers, and texting, and all kinds of call control as is found in a “PBX” is required.
WebRTC is…everywhere. WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) is a technology that allows Web browsers to stream audio or video media, as well as to exchange useful data between browsers, mobile platforms, and IoT devices without requiring an intermediary such as a server.
The need to connect virtually and to have video conferences and communications via the web has been around for a while. In the past, you had to rely on plug-ins or an installable application on your PC – not just your web browser. This was very inconvenient as users were required to install additional, incompatible apps, and developers had to study complex stacks and protocols to make the magic happen.
Photo: Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander uses an Ericsson video to speak with Lennart Hyland, a popular TV show host (1969). Image via Wikipedia.
WebRTC Was Born
Many of WebRTC technology’s underpinnings were first developed by Global IP Solutions (or GIPS), a company founded around 1999 in Sweden. In 2011, GIPS was acquired by Google, and the W3C started to work on a standard for WebRTC (real-time communication). WebTRC specifies a series of APIs for real-time communications (RTC) targeted at browsers. Since 2011, Google and other major players in the web-browser market, such as Mozilla and Opera, have been actively supporting WebRTC.
Today companies trust WebRTC to offer them the leverage they need to deliver the user experience they strive for.
Examples of WebTRC
WebRTC is a set of plugin-free APIs that can be used in both desktop and mobile browsers. WebRTC does not need any native apps for audio and video communication as it allows peer-to-peer communication on the web pages. Some of the top companies like Amazon and Facebook are all leveraging this, but Google Meet (or more accurately, Hangouts) is probably one of the main reasons we have WebRTC today.
Google had their own video conferencing service, working from Gmail, but it needed a plugin. Real-time video just wasn’t there in the browser, which is where and why WebRTC started.
There are so many interesting use cases for WebRTC, but here are a few popular ones you may not have considered:
Simple collaboration: How many times have you been invited to a meeting, and as soon as you clicked on the link, it asked you to sign up or download an app before you could join the call? It can be frustrating to open an account or download a platform to engage in a business meeting. WebRTC removes this barrier, providing a seamless, non-invasive way to connect and collaborate. Using WebRTC when communicating with colleagues, clients, and business partners is easier, simpler, and more convenient.
Contextual applications: You can use a third party API like OAuth to pull data from services like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google. This API type makes it possible for customers to leverage their own social graph data to augment their experience within your websites and applications. You can then couple this data with WebRTC-powered features to enable rich contextual communications. This could enable easy sharing of the person’s Twitter handle, email address, or other public profile information, along with links to their most recent tweets or Facebook posts.
File sharing: Suppose you want to send a massive file to a colleague while working on a project. Instead of emailing the file or uploading it to a third-party cloud storage system (and waiting several minutes for the transfer to complete), you could send it directly through your web browser using WebRTC’s data channel, with very low-latency and the benefit of full encryption between the two endpoints.
Embedded endpoints: ATMs. Vending machines. Bus stops. Retail store kiosks. All of these endpoints can be embedded with WebRTC engines. It’s an easy way to connect customers with live agents while they are on-the-go.
Sales enablement: Websites and applications are key tools for sales enablement. Customers rarely make important purchases on impulse. Decisions are often made after speaking with a sales associate. Providing a website or application with a WebRTC audio or video contact channel is a great way to provide ongoing assistance throughout the purchasing process.
Emergency response: In some cases, WebRTC is being used to increase public safety. SaferMobility streamlines real-time interactions with authorities by enabling video, audio, and text communications while utilizing location-based awareness. This use of the WebRTC data channel allows responding personnel to have deeper insight and better information by circumventing previously existing communication barriers when responding to emergency calls.
Patient management: Many health clinics are now using WebRTC based solutions to reduce in-office patient visits. This can be helpful during a pandemic like what we are living right now when doctors can perform check-ups over Web browsers. This allows them to allocate more time to higher priority patients while staying safe. WebRTC is also a great way for clinic staff to communicate with patients in-between visits as all the patient needs is a web browser and a URL.
Enhanced audience participation:Tap to Speak recently developed a solution that turns smartphones into microphones during live events. The application was designed to improve communication between audience members and presenters, as it eliminates having to pass a traditional microphone around a room.
In summary, pretty much any application that wants to share data or video between peers can use WebRTC. The reason for this massive adoption is that browser to browser communication is significantly cheaper than going through a server (up to 90% cheaper from Video Banking and the Economics of the Retail Business). Furthermore, users will no longer need to rely on dedicated hardware sets and applications to join a meeting and have a video conference call; browsers are always accessible to everyone!
Sangoma Meet a Great Example of Adopting WebTRC
Sangoma Meet was launched in early 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis to help everyone stay connected and get through this period. With WebTRC technology behind it, Sangoma Meet allows users to start a video call without downloading a plugin or installing an application. Unlike Zoom or GoToMeeting, where you have to install a plugin or an application, Sangoma Meet is simply using your browser to establish a connection with another peer.
The ease of use and compatibility with common browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera makes it a great choice for different industries to adopt in different use cases, as mentioned earlier. Features like multiple participants video conferencing, 1:1 video calls, phone dial-in, screen sharing, recording the meeting (available on V3.0 and above), waiting room (coming soon), local chat, and moderation tools are all running on the web, and users can join the meetings from their mobile devices, laptop or simply from any device which supports web browsers.
Have you tried Sangoma Meet yet? Check out this page and enjoy having a hassle-free call with your friends, family, and colleagues.
We all owe a great deal of debt to the frontline/essential workers who are not able to work from home for the past 13 months, as a way of limiting their Covid exposure. Technology, and Unified Communications, has played a role in the past 13 months in the able to work from home crowd, due to the mobility (desktop and smartphone) aspects of UC. But it has also helped in unexpected, if only sometimes small, ways in limiting the exposure of essential workers, even as this group went to work.
Like many of you, I’ve experienced various new procedures for things I took for granted my whole life. For instance, when going to the dentist I now get a text messaging telling me to come in. The dentist has a small waiting room and doesn’t want patients and their employees getting bottled up together. There are now pretty sophisticated curbside pickup apps that I, and most likely you, have used. I’ve also shown video to contractors who needed to work on my house – they looked at things on the video so they didn’t have to come in contact with me and are able to give me quotes like that. I even did a service call over video (successfully!) when in my city the pandemic was at its worst. I’ve also gotten a text message about an ‘event’ cancellation, even if the ‘event’ was an outside dinner at a restaurant and they sent a mass notification to those who had reservations.
But more importantly, I’ve also seen some of the workers in my neighborhood at other houses come armed with mobile apps, where they didn’t have them before. Seems there is more info for them on the app, from when the appointment was set up, which ultimately limited their interaction with the homeowner. Safer for both parties.
These are all small examples. But every interaction to limit exposure is important. But will these kinds of procedures continue in the future? If it helps with reducing costs or becoming more efficient, I would say yes. For example, curbside pickup is great. Sometimes restaurants get crowded so sifting through all the people to go pick up your order takes time from both parties. I’d say yes. Also, anything to reduce a service call – so use of video – yes, I’d say that will continue if possible. It certainly saves time and money for the business. And the example of the service person having more complete info on the service app – for sure that will continue. It’s faster, and maybe even more accurate as well.
It’s impossible to say for certain that the pandemic is winding down. At this point, health experts are still trying to reign in COVID-19 and distribute vaccines to the public. The return “back to normal” is in sight, but we’re still in the thick of it. And in this period of transition, there is considerable debate over what “normal” will look like.
Most businesses are looking forward and forming strategies to safely resume some in-person operations. This two-part series will explore some of the structural changes that are taking place across various industries, as companies pivot to the “next” normal of the pandemic.
Back To Normal With A Twist: Shifting To Hybrid Work
Despite the rocky transition to remote work at the onset of the pandemic, feelings about the trend appear to be mostly positive across the board. In a recent benchmark survey from PwC, 83% of employers said the shift to remote work has been successful for their company, up from 73% in June 2020.
Most companies have established at least base level remote connectivity and security, and are now in the process of upgrading their services and laying the groundwork for permanent remote work.
That said, the future of remote work will most likely be much different. A gradual shift to hybrid work is already starting to take place, which is expected to accelerate in the coming months as more people get vaccinated. Eventually, hybrid work will be the new normal.
Consider the fact that in PwC’s survey, only 13 percent of executives claimed they are ready to permanently ditch their offices. And 75 percent of executives believe at least half of their office employees will return to the office by June 2021.
It’s clear that executives will need to tread lightly when asking employees to resume on-site operations though, or pushback will occur. PwC found that employees want to return back to normal more slowly than employers in regards to in-office operations, with 61% of employees expecting to spend half their time on-site by July. Hybrid work acceleration will largely depend on how the next few months pan out.
Retrofitting Offices for Hybrid Work
PwC also found that U.S. executives are planning many new investments to support hybrid work. Some of the top investments include tools for virtual collaboration (72%), IT infrastructure to secure virtual connectivity (70%) and training for managers to manage a more virtual workspace (64%). Additional investments include fitting conference rooms with enhanced virtual connectivity, and hoteling applications, among others.
Many companies have been forced to retrofit their office environments to enable social distancing. The majority of companies will also be using scheduling systems to limit on-site workers and reduce the spread of germs.
Further, social distancing requirements are increasing demand for mobile solutions that enable workers to move around throughout the day, instead of being tethered to their desks. Some companies are also implementing hardware with antimicrobial components to limit the spread of COVID-19 on shared surfaces.
Surging Cloud Adoption
The cloud is more important than ever, as companies prepare for the “work from anywhere” trend that has become a standard business requirement in getting back to normal.
Two trends to watch include multi-cloud adoption, which increased by 70% year over year during COVID-19, and cloud native growth. Many organizations are embracing modern cloud architectures built with microservices, which make it easier and cost-effective to build and manage applications.
In addition, there is skyrocketing demand for UCaaS, which keeps teams connected and secure regardless of their location. By implementing UCaaS, companies can achieve reliable communication at all times for both on-site and remote workers.
Stay tuned for the next blog in this series, which will focus on cloud computing and the return of retail in the transition of returning back to normal.
I’m sure we can all agree that the year 2020 changed all of us in different ways, and for many of us it changed the way we communicate. It’s not uncommon for me to have multiple video meetings everysingleday. We get those video meeting invites in our calendar and we just go to them. We start in video and end in video. While I used to be on many audio conference calls, those are becoming less frequent and a thing of the past. I am on our video meeting platform, Sangoma Meet, all the time. It’s now like my best friend. I know its personality.
And since it’s so integral to communications these days, that is why we are incorporating our video meeting platform, Sangoma Meet, into our mobile and desktop client, Sangoma Connect. Sangoma Connect will incorporate a talk aspect, a collaborate aspect, and a video meeting aspect. You’ll be able to move seamlessly between all three and launch a video call from our collaborate app for instance. It’s critical that we offer our customers the ability to communicate via voice, chat, or video. And to have our customers choose which one they want to “start” with.
To me, this is just an evolution of the PBX. While the PBX notion is very voice centric, as Unified Communication features started to get incorporated, such as mobility, and the ability for the office phone number to ring on your smartphone or desktop, the notion of a “PBX” became antiquated. Unified Communication systems are what this industry has evolved to. And if the UC vendors want to survive, the UC systems will continue to need to evolve. And that means integrating video and chat as if it is native voice. And that is what we are doing. You want voice. Check. You want chat. Check. You want video. Check.
But what about this concept of “video first” that I described in the first paragraph? I think in some use cases, like I was describing above with internal employee team calls, or calls with your channel, sure video meetings are good, and you will start and end with that.
But for many small businesses, their customers are people – someone wanting to make an appointment or order something or whatever. Calling is efficient, so they call, or maybe use a self-service portal and maybe text. And that’s why a company with a sole focus on video meetings or video calling won’t be able to service a small and medium business. A Unified Communication system, that knows how to handle phone numbers, and texting, and all kinds of call control as is found in a “PBX” is required.
Communication and collaboration platforms skyrocketed in use following the outbreak of Covid-19, among organizations across all verticals.
For example, by March 2020, Microsoft Teams an integration option that Star2Star, A Sangoma Company offers shot up to 44 million users. By April 2020, Teams reached 75 million users. And by October, it climbed to 115 million — and remains one of the leading enterprise platforms for connecting users across remote locations. Organizations are also relying heavily on programs like Zoom, Slack and Webex to keep team members in touch and productive.
At this point, your organization may be considering migrating to one of these platforms. Yet, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure optimal results.
1. Round Up Your Admins & Users
Chances are your enterprise has a fragmented messaging framework in place, with teams utilizing a variety of platforms to communicate. This is a good time to do a gut check and determine what your organization is currently using, and where and if any of these solutions can be extended. For example, sales may be using Zoom for video, while customer support uses Microsoft Teams for chat collaboration, and you may have yet another solution for your voice communications. You may be able to leverage a full suite of communications and collaboration from these vendors versus single solutions once you understand the use cases. A proposed tool may or may not be the most cost-effective solution so it’s essential to understand how your business needs to communicate and collaborate.
Bring your users and IT administrators together and form a deployment committee to determine where various platforms could make sense in the enterprise. You may find that some platforms perform better in certain environments and user groups than others.
For example, some teams may be able to get by using a bare-bones platform with limited tools. Other teams may require advanced collaboration hubs for sharing files and notes and collaborating with each other.
During this meeting, you should also outline potential friction points and technical considerations to ensure a smooth migration.
2. Set Policies
You may wind up with a situation where multiple teams can create and manage deployments. Set clear governance policies to avoid running into operational and security issues down the road.
For example, Microsoft provides various governance tools for Teams, enabling you to control things like how Teams are named and classified, who can create Teams, and whether guests are allowed. Competitive solutions may offer greater or lesser capabilities, so it’s important to decide what kind of oversight you will need prior to evaluating tools.
3. Optimize & Secure Your Cloud
Next, you’ll want to analyze and optimize your overall cloud environment. Talk to your admins about where emails and files live — and consider correlating specific platforms with appropriate cloud systems. Make sure your new platform has the right supporting cloud environment. If you still have applications you are hosting in your own data center or in a third-party data center that require your employees to VPN to access, there may be a better way to enable their productivity.
If this is the case you should consider using a desktop as a service (DaaS) solution to securely deliver your app to any location. This way, end-users can log into a secure portal and access apps and data instead of having them live on their machines or by leveraging complicated secure VPNs to access.
4. Upgrade Your Voice Quality, Workflow Integrations & More
Look for opportunities to enhance the platform for better results. For example, Microsoft makes it very easy to integrate additional services into Teams and there are hundreds of apps to explore. One thing to consider is that the platform doesn’t offer great native voice functionality, and users often complain about poor quality on calls. We’ve found that you can easily augment Teams by using third-party enterprise business voice services in conjunction with Microsoft’s infrastructure. In doing so, you can ensure crystal clear calls and achieve much greater flexibility.
It’s also important to understand if you need any IoT integrations to manage your business. This could be anything from integration with overhead paging systems, to door strike/telephony integrations, or integration to older analog devices. While these may not come natively in a potential solution, if you need to support these, they can be managed by choosing a telephony partner that works with the solution you end up choosing.
Connected worker apps may include urgent notifications, mass notifications, employee alerts, curbside service, and CRM integrations, and are designed to provide better control over your unique workflows via your communications. These applications are not necessarily natively supported in your solution of choice. However, by leveraging solutions from companies that work to integrate tools, you can further extend productivity and responsiveness for your business.
5. Test Your Platform Before Deploying
Before deploying a platform across the enterprise, it’s a good idea to test it in a small and controlled setting.
Approach various user groups, and identify users that may benefit from the new platform. Have your IT department deploy it, and test the platform for quality and reliability.
If the platform is a success and the users enjoy the experience, consider integrating the platform into that unit and move onto another one. This accomplishes a few things. First, it lets your IT team educate users and explain the reason for the migration and the benefits that the platform offers. It also gives administrators the ability to identify possible areas of friction and make changes to avoid potential disruptions.
Once you’ve completed all of the above steps, the only thing left to do is deploy across your entire organization. Your employees will be more comfortable and productive when you take the time to migrate to a new collaboration solution according to these guidelines. And for the long term, you will have set up your business for ongoing success as remote work and team collaboration become even more critical to daily operations.
Communication technologies have come a long way over the last couple of decades. Some of the craziest innovations involve what AI is now capable of, like real-time translation.
Imagine being able to speak to anybody on Earth despite language barriers, in real time. In a globally connected world, computational linguistics will have to build better tech that can actually serve a wider variety of people in this sort of way. Translation is going to play a huge role, since over half of internet content is supposedly in English, but only 20% of the world’s population have any English skills. And while there are some new products that are doing real-time translation, usually it’s for between 20-40 languages, which is such a small fraction of the more than 7,000 languages being spoken all over the world today.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning have been and will continue to be taking over all kinds of industries and processes. But the area of language and linguistics has always been a tricky one – human language is crazy complicated, even for computers. Meaning is constantly evolving, context shifting, and it can take a lot even for a computer to identify language patterns and logic. As Stanford University Professor John McCarthy put it, “natural language does not have a full set of rules of inference.” Data, data, and more data is how AI functions. But how can machines be built that fully understand all human language, when there are no strict rules in place, and what few rules there are vary across languages and even dialects?
Progress is happening fast. Just several years ago, AI struggled to understand the context of a full sentence, prohibiting language fluency. Early systems broke up sentences into chunks to interpret individual words, disconnecting meaning from them entirely. But the day of completely reliable real-time translation could still be further off than you might think.
There are all kinds of bumps in the road that could mess up a computer’s ability to understand human language. Think different dialects of the same language – what if the technology fails to understand a thick regional accent? What happens when a single language has hundreds of dialects? If only some of those dialects are used to train the software, it can still be hard to use for people who speak the same language, just not in the same exact way.
Automatic speech recognition is a huge product of computational linguistics, and we all know it’s far from perfect at this point. Sometimes Alexa or Siri simply doesn’t understand you or can’t give you the answers you want. And it really depends on the specific technology for why this could be – biases in the data used to train the technology, the software’s interpretation of that data, or simply the difficulties around a computer not being as adaptable as a human on the fly.
Have you ever tried to change your flight, or contact your pharmacy, and you just can’t get a hold of a human person no matter how hard you try? And the IVR just won’t understand what you have to say no matter how many times you say it. Or you use a speech-to-text tool and it catches a string of funny words that are completely wrong. These are pretty inconsequential examples, but where AI is being used in more serious circumstances, some of these mistakes can be important and difficult to notice. AI is notorious for being bad at negation – and considering “did” and “didn’t” are opposites, it has to be able to identify the right one to get the meaning correct. Even if it’s hard for a human ear to pick up this difference, we make up for it with inferences on the context, tone, or other information. The human brain doesn’t really need the clearest set of data possible in order to understand something, and we still miscommunicate with each other all the time.
When it comes to real-time translation, things can get even weirder. With phrases like idioms, often one-to-one translations are just not accurate. In English, if you’re talking about “getting cold feet” in reference to being nervous about something, how would an AI go about translating that to another language? The tech has to actually pick up the context of idioms and maybe even translate into equivalent idioms, if they even exist. The examples of weird idioms are endless, and so many of them make no sense based on words alone; you just know them from speaking a language for a while. And what happens if you’re actually talking about your feet being cold, in the literal sense? How would an AI understand that context to know you mean it idiomatically or literally? Translation models are sort of designed to pick up on it for the most part, but it doesn’t always work.
The progress that translation technology has made in recent years is really impressive for casual use, especially on the internet. Google, Microsoft, Facebook – tech companies and social media have implemented translation tools for a long time now. But for serious legal or medical documentation, AI still isn’t good enough to be trusted just yet. Human translators are still doing it better. Some really weird stuff can happen when mistakes are made by AI – for example, recently, the name of Chinese leader Xi Jinping turned up as a curse word when posts were translated from Burmese to English on Facebook. The name was missing from the Burmese language database model, and in the system’s attempt to replace it with similar syllables, things went offensively wrong.
As we all know, the more data, the better. There’s tons of knowledge shared by many people when it comes to English to Spanish translation, for example, so you can get fairly accurate results most of the time from common translation tools. But what if you’re trying to translate Burmese to Finnish? Well, that could go weirdly. Sometimes the systems are trained with an intermediary language like English to help make the process easier to understand for the computers, but this solution can really mess up meaning too.
There are fields of computer science and linguistics designed to try and tackle these issues, such as Natural Language Processing. This area is ultimately devoted to getting computers to actually understand human language in a way that allows them to communicate more closely to how humans do. This is accomplished by using huge amounts of language data with all of its complexities. NLP includes simple tasks like a short command, or highly complex tasks like getting a computer to actually comprehend an entire text like a poem. This field has been studied for half a century now, and there are still so many problems to solve. As it turns out, learning language is hard, for everyone from children, to adult learners of a second language, to scientists, to literal computers.
One area of computational linguistics in which it seems AI can beat humans is in the study of dead languages. Studying and comprehending a dead language is a difficult process for many reasons – minimal records, a lack of relative languages to be compared to, or an entirely different structure (think something like a lack of spaces between words). In 2020 MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory made major progress in developing an AI that can decipher a lost language without having to understand anything about related languages in advance. The system is also capable of determining the relationship between two languages. This tech so far exceeds human capabilities to interpret lost languages that it will open many doors for academics studying relics of ancient communication, and hopefully speed up these processes.
Some languages take human linguists decades to figure out. We still haven’t determined where certain languages even came from. But if AI can be programmed to pinpoint what a dead language is related to or what it’s saying, maybe it’s not crazy to think real-time translation will also evolve in the not-too-distant future to become smarter than humans. Although, it tends to be believed that by that point, literally everyone from doctors to lawyers will be replaced with AI as well. Human language, and how we communicate, is seriously that complicated!
Hey there Fellow Jitsters! Today we are very excited to announce we are launching an education themed hackathon together with the European Commission. The ultimate goal is to improve Jitsi for education usage, which has seen incredible growth in the past year, as you can imagine. Come and join us in this new hackathon, running from the 26th of April until the 3rd of May.
The hackathon will bring together Jitsi (Core Team) members and Advanced users from across Europe and around the world. The plan is to propose new features for Jitsi focused on education. On our Hackathon page, you can see suggestions of challenges to solve during the event but you are welcome to add your own ideas to this evolving list.
If you feel qualified to do this work and wish to contribute, you are invited to fill out the registration form.
Do not miss this rare opportunity to meet key Jitsi committers, like-minded colleagues and staff from the European institutions, and shape the future of Education with Jitsi. Register now.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us anytime.
About the Open Source Initiative under ISA2 Sharing and Reuse Action
This hackathon is an ISA2 sponsored component of the Sharing and Re-use action (2016.31), which aim to bring together European Public Services on the subject of open source. The action has four areas of focus:
Inventory: Creating an initial, first cut, inventory of open source software used by European Public Services
Funding: Studying the need for a European Open Source Funding Mechanism, and then defining how it could work
Security: running bug bounties on software selected from consulting multiple public administrations
Hackathons: Holding events/hackathons to tackle common issues in open source that the European Public Services may be facing.
So, why did we do this deal? First off, Star2Star targets medium and large enterprise and managed service providers, with channels that don’t really overlap with Sangoma, so the “fit” is very nice. Star2Star has almost 10,000 business customers with tens of thousands of locations. We feel like now we can confidently go after and win the full spectrum of UC prospects, from small business to large enterprise.
Together, we will have increased scale, and given both of us are profitable, we will remain a profitable entity with approximately 70% recurring revenue. As a Channel Partner or end-customer, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether we’ll be around in the future. Whatever side you come from, the transaction represents a very positive development for the future of the new Sangoma (the combined company) since there will be benefits from the improved scale/financial stability, a broader portfolio of products, expanded global services, and a continued commitment to invest in innovation.
We feel we’ll have the most complete UC portfolio in the market: From on-premises to Cloud UC that can work in businesses of all sizes, with our own phones, headsets, gateways, SBCs and SIP Trunking. As such, a business would be able to deploy Sangoma products across their entire enterprise, avoiding any interoperability “finger pointing” which crops up sometimes. Additionally, we’ll have a full suite of Communication as a Service offers, from UCaaS to Video Meetings to Collaboration to Wholesale Voice Services to Access Control. Truly all that a business needs from a single vendor, obviating the need to put all kinds of different communication products into your enterprise network.
During the past few months, when we were not yet closed, we understandably received questions about the future of the different UC platforms. Yes, we understand them. We got the same ones when Sangoma merged with Digium and we said both Switchvox and PBXact would remain. And both have remained. So we certainly understand. And all UC platforms will remain now.
As I intimated above, the target market overlap was not that great. Switchvox and PBXact predominantly served the SMB. And both are also on-premise products in addition to cloud products. And Star2Star predominately services the mid-size enterprise to MSP market, with a cloud offer. Because of that, all platforms with remain as long as there is market demand for them. We may choose to do work to consolidate to a single mobile and desktop client, like we have done with Sangoma Connect for Switchvox and PBXact, and other similar things, but there are no plans to announce any of that in the short term.
And Sangoma plans to continue to sell, develop and support our hardware business including phones, cards, gateways, SBCs, and UC appliance businesses. And we also plan to continue to be the stewards of Asterisk and FreePBX. So, no big changes.
Right now, we need to integrate the teams and that will take some time. Customers on both sides will continue to receive the same products, quality and service they have come to expect from both companies.
If you are a partner, we are looking forward to growing with you. If you are a prospect or customer, we look forward to serving you in the future!
Throughout March, we conducted a weekly “Women in Tech” podcast with four different women in Sangoma, ranging from engineering to product management to general manager to lawyer. Each of these women told interesting stories and gave excellent advice.
Advice, I might add, pertinent to everyone in the workforce, not just women. Their stories are interesting and powerful.
Setareh Nezami (Product Management) talked about “Leading Without Authority,” important for anyone who needs to get other organizations to execute.
You might have noticed some changes on meet.jit.si. We rolled out a new release yesterday and we want to tell you all about it!
New web toolbar UI
The toolbar is one of the first things you see as a Jitsi Meet user. It needs to have the buttons you need, just when you need them. We have redesigned it to give it a more polished aesthetic while improving its usefulness.
The toolbar is now responsive and will show the actions you may need on a single click front an center, while the rest are part of the overflow menu.
The overflow menu also got a fresh coat of paint and now it’s now mobile friendly.
Redesigned overflow menu
We know you wanted them, so here they are! In order to properly implement virtual backgrounds we had to completely reimplement our background blur feature with a better segmentation model. Instead of using TensorFlow with the BodyPix segmentation model we are using TFLite with the MediaPipe Meet Segmentation model as outlined in their blog post. This, paired with WebAssembly SIMD instructions provided the performance boost we needed to improve blur and implement virtual backgrounds in a way that works well in Jitsi Meet.
Choose a background, or upload yours!
You can try it for yourself on meet.jit.si, but if you’d rather see a GIF…
Look mom, we got backgrounds!
Lots of improvements have also happened in the backend, including better bandwidth estimations and performance improvements in large conferences, stay tuned for more updates on this!
We hope you enjoy these as much as we did while building them!
In January, I did a video interview with Rich Tehrani. Usually, we’re in Florida for the IT Expo / Tech Super Show at that time of the year, and we do an in-person video interview. I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost track of how many we’ve done together. When he first started doing video interviews, I believe at a show in Los Angeles, if I recall correctly, it was a very new thing, and I think I might have been the 3rd person he did it with. Yeah, Rich and I have known each other a long time, going back to 1998.
We were just little kids thenâ€¦
And while I’ve talked to Rich multiple times in 2020, we decided to do another video interview like we usually do during this January time frame.
We just did it remotely this time.
We talked about a bunch of things, such as the Frost and Sullivan UC and Collaboration Competitive Strategy Leadership Award that we received just a few weeks before the interview. I won’t go over that here because I’ve written about that already.
He also asked me how our integration of VoIP Innovations is coming along. It’s going well, and we’ve put investment into the wholesale services / SIP trunking business and CPaaS. We have introduced a service that is available now that helps address Caller ID spoofing. It is available both with our Wholesale SIP trunking but also can be used by other carriers, available via an API. It combines analytics, caller authentication, and verification to help address Caller ID spoofing now. We also introduced new fraud mitigation and E911 monitoring solutions in 2020.
We’re also currently working on complying with STIR/SHAKEN.
And he asked me about what’s next for Sangoma. Obviously, I could not talk about Star2Star at that time because it was not announced yet. Still, we did touch on our vision of continuing to see Sangoma adding to our suite of Communication-as-a-Service product portfolio. Beyond UCaaS, we also offer other “As a Service” offerings such as retail and wholesale SIP trunking, CPaaS, Fax, Video Meetings, and our soon-to-be-released access control solution. Similar in concept to our “End-to-end UC Solution” that I discussed when talking about the Frost and Sullivan award, we want to offer “End-to-end As a Service Communications.”
As always, it was a pleasure talking to Rich. I am looking forward to doing it in person at some point, hopefully relatively soon. To watch the video interview, please go here.
Those three words are being said now more than ever. It’s the perfect way to send a message without verbally interrupting a current conversation, meeting, class, ride – really anything. I even have some friends that, if they call me, I automatically assume something is wrong, because they never call… they just text.
With gen-Zers and even young millennials thinking that a phone call is just “old fashioned” or “formal”, choosing to send a text over making a phone call truly is the new normal. Now, it’s becoming highly requested and, in some cases expected, in the business communication world.
SMS stands for “Short Message Service”, and it’s basically a technical term for a text message. Business owners can now harness the immediacy and convenience of SMS messaging with many UC (Unified Communications) business phone systems. Imagine sitting in an Uber on your way to the airport, or sitting in a drive-thru on your lunch break. You have a simple question you want to ask your realtor/broker/child’s teacher/lawyer/insert profession here, and you don’t want to navigate the formalities or time of an actual phone call. Imagine being able to both call or text the exact same business phone number to ask that question. In my opinion, that’s a dream come true!
SMS is getting business accomplished faster than ever. Companies can protect their employees by giving them a way to receive messages from customers or clients without having to give up their personal phone number. With an SMS-enabled business phone system, you can add “Call or Text” to your business cards, and potentially get more business than you would have if it involved an actual call. I’d rather send a quick text message to a company for a rough quote or set-up a meeting without having to dial and sit in an IVR waiting to speak with someone. And voicemails….don’t even get me started! Yes, they are a way to communicate a message, but a text – now that’s immediate! The industries that can benefit from this are virtually everywhere!
Here are some examples of how customers and prospects can use SMS to communicate with a business:
Here are some ways business owners and organizations can use SMS to offer better service and improve customer experience:
I could go on and on. Minimally invasive yet effective and convenient ways to communicate will win every time. It’s not just sales departments that benefit: SMS is a great way for customer service teams to check-in with a customer, or for a small business to put a personal touch on recent orders. I personally text my hairdresser on her business number to see what she has available for a haircut next week.
According to Forbes: “64% of consumers believe that businesses should use SMS messages to interact with customers more often than they currently do.”
Texting is the most prominent form of communication in the industry today, and it deserves its place in day-to-day business communication. SMS gives businesses a way to stand out from their competitors and offer unmatched availability. It saves your company time, gets you feedback from customers faster, and helps you engage with your customers on a more personal level.
Having been in the game for quite some time and listening to our customers and partners requests, Sangoma has implemented SMS capabilities with it’s UC phone systems. Tying in SIPStation Retail with Switchvox provides users the convenience of the “call and text” from the same number feature with messages coming straight to your desktop softphone.
Not to mention that SIPStation is saving them money each month (up to 80%) from costly analog or PRI lines. Switchvox Cloud now has access to Sangoma Connect Mobile, SMS text messaging, an updated Switchvox Desktop Softphone, and more built right in. And as always, with Switchvox ALL features are included. Our Sales Team is standing by.
If you’re using more than one Unified Communications vendor, that can be a problem – or at least a nuisance. Managing multiple tools, different training resources, and installations can take up your valuable time.
Many organizations are opting to go with single-vendor Unified Communications solutions for their business phone system, IP phones, and video conferencing software.
The Benefits of a Single Unified Communications Vendor
Rather than emailing one vendor about your employee instant messaging platform, calling a different one for your IP phones, and reaching out to yet another about your video conferencing app, wouldn’t it be great if it all came from a single vendor?
With an end-to-end UC vendor who is focused on their end customer, you can streamline the purchase of any telephony hardware, collaboration software, and support for all your communications needs. You should also be able to easily integrate your existing CRM and email platforms with your business phone system.
According to Michael Brandenburg, Senior Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, “Sangoma ranks as one of the few remaining competitors in the unified communications market that delivers a complete portfolio of on-premise, hybrid, and cloud-based solutions. Both businesses and service providers appreciate Sangoma as a one-stop-shop partner that meets their diverse communications requirements.”
Can your current phone system vendor offer necessary support?
Need emergency support or some hardware upgrades? Looking to switch to a UCaaS solution? You might have even been wondering “What is UC?” in the first place. Being able to reach out to a single source to get these answers or services is immeasurable when running a business.
Regardless of your current communications set-up, your vendor should be able to provide you with all the products and services you require. Unfortunately, not all vendors are up to the task.
Sangoma – A Trusted UC Advisor
Sangoma’s products and services include from video conferencing software, business phone systems, telephony cards, and everything in between. And with ‘all features included’ pricing on Sangoma’s Switchvox Unified Communications solution, you get a future-proof system without the fear of paying extra for robust functionality. You get to enjoy the full suite of features, so you never miss out on the many benefits of UC.
The breadth of products and services offered and supported was an important factor in Sangoma receiving the 2020 North American Unified Communications and Collaboration Competitive Strategy Leadership Award from the industry experts Frost & Sullivan.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog titled “Is CPaaS a channel opportunity?”. I got a few questions about CPaaS in general and why it might be important to “service providers” who offer cloud services.
CPaaS is an important and easy way to add some kind of service to or augment an existing service already in your communication cloud offering. Since Sangoma offers cloud unified communication services, sometimes we have customers who want to do something more, something specific. And while CPaaS is typically historically talked about as a way for a developer to create an application or enhance an application, and that’s fine, a developer could easily be us. We could use our own CPaaS to enhance the cloud offer. And that’s important so we can help our customers service their customers better.
So, it’s important to understand if your cloud communications provider has a CPaaS offer, not only for the developers out there but for themselves to use.
It’s been a little over a year that Sangoma purchased .e4. At the time of purchase, we said, “This deal significantly strengthens Sangoma’s sales and support for both FreePBX and Asterisk, as well as further demonstrates Sangoma’s deep commitment to the open source market.” So I think it’s fair to ask if we have accomplished that goal.
From my perspective, yes, we have. Mike White and the team have focused on the open source customer base like we wanted them to. We have more dialogue going with the community. The business we derive from the open source projects FreePBX and Asterisk, such as selling phones, SIP trunking and FreePBX modules, remains strong. We wanted Mike and his team to spearhead this. That was our plan, and that’s what’s happened.
Coincident with the acquisition of .e4 was also putting dedicated open source marketing plans in place. You may have seen we refreshed the logo for FreePBX and created an Asterisk mascot. These are small examples of an increased marketing focus, but nonetheless important. We also ran a multi-day virtual AstriCon conference since we couldn’t do an in-person one. Frankly, this was more work than running an actual conference.
We’ve also had a few questions about whether the pending acquisition of Star2Star will impact our focus on open source. It’s a natural question to ask – “As you grow, the percent of revenue coming in from the adjunct businesses that support open source changes.” Yes, it changes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about it. There are no plans to decrease the engineering, marketing or sales spend on open source. We’ve actually grown this total spend in 2020. We have a focus on it now, and that will continue. The teams will remain the same. And it’s important to remember open source to us is also about innovation and supporting innovation, and that commitment remains strong.
I recently did a podcast with Mike, so if you want to listen to that, please go here.
I usually don’t write too many blogs about our success stories, but I wanted to write this one since the installation occurred within the past few months, during all these trying times we are in. And a shout-out to our partner in Appleton, Wisconsin, Unitel, who played a huge role in making this happen.
Appleton Harley-Davidson was looking to upgrade from their existing old phone system. They wanted something modern, such as touch screen phones, something that would connect their campus easily, something that would save them money, something that would be easy to manage and most importantly something that would give them contact center functionality such as auto-attendant simply and easily. And they did not want any hidden costs. A Switchvox on-prem solution fit their needs perfectly.
Remote / Online training enabled early learning, and Unitel also hosted in-person training, so that the installation would go smoothly. Given Harley-Davidson colors are black and orange, Unitel also supplied orange phone cords with the phones.
It’s nice to see during these times how a new customer got going.
February 2021 was a busy month for exploring Mars. Three separate projects that launched back in July 2020 have arrived at the red planet just this last month. The United States, China, and the United Arab Emirates now all have new vehicles orbiting the planet and investigating the surface. Each of these projects has its own set of goals to achieve, and all three are scheduled to last about one year on Mars, which is 687 days on Earth.
On February 18th, NASA’s Perseverance rover and its partner helicopter named Ingenuity successfully landed on Mars. Ingenuity is a technology demo with the goal of being the first vehicle on another planet to achieve rotor-powered flight and it will then map roads for future rovers. Meanwhile, Perseverance is tasked with searching for signs of past life on Mars. After landing, Perseverance snapped photos of the landing site and listened to the breeze, beaming this information back to Earth.
The team of engineers and scientists working on this project will now spend its next phase diligently testing all the functions and instruments before moving forward to send back higher quality photos of the landscape and sniff around water deposits in an area called the Jezero Crater. Once it’s good to go, the six-wheeled vehicle will start to look for signs of microbial life on the planet, collect dust samples from the Martian surface, and help us better understand the climate and geology of Mars.
High definition cameras captured the excitement of Perseverance’s landing last month (you can watch the footage here), giving Earth observers an unprecedented view of the descent. A few days later, on February 21st, NASA released a panoramic photo of the landing site, which is actually stitched together from 142 individual images. Perseverance is equipped with a Mastcam-Z, a dual camera system with capabilities to zoom and focus to take high definition photos, as well as provide panoramic color and 3D images. This powerful camera system can reveal details as small as 3 to 5 millimeters across nearby and as large as 2 to 3 meters across in the distance.
The Jezero Crater, where Perseverance will live for its 1-Martian-Year-Long mission, is located just north of the Mars equator and was once home to a river delta. The land is 3.6 billion years old and can help answer some serious questions about the past on Mars, with a long history of water in this area making it an ideal spot to search for past microbial life.
Perseverance is about the size of a car and overall looks similar to its predecessor, Curiosity. Some of the science instruments the vehicle contains include the Mastcam-Z, a subsurface radar, laser micro-imager, weather station, x-ray spectrometer and an ultraviolet spectrometer named Sherloc (which stands for Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman & Luminescence for Organics & Chemicals) and its camera, affectionately named Watson. Sherloc is the main tool that will be hunting for life while its companion camera will take microscopic images of Mars. An instrument called Moxie will make oxygen from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, an experiment designed to prepare humans to go to Mars, which is a feature unique to the Perseverance project.
The rover is also equipped with microphones to send back audio samples of the red planet. Perseverance successfully recorded a snippet that features the whirring of its own fan, ended with a brief gust of wind. Though that’s maybe not the most exciting thing, these microphones will hear more wind, storms, and other movements on Mars, and sound can become a new tool in listening to the rover to diagnose problems. Unfortunately, members of the Perseverance team don’t know if (or when) the microphones will give out, due to extreme conditions like frigid temperatures and radiation.
Missions like that of Perseverance are possible thanks to the satellites of the Mars Relay Network allowing telecommunications through space, from Earth to Mars and back. Images and sound are transmitted through this network of several satellites, which includes all the NASA orbiters. The collaboration of the orbiters will be key in handling the tremendous amount of data Perseverance will transmit back home. These orbiters have telecommunications subsystems that are composed of a radio system operating in X-band microwave frequencies and ultra high frequencies. The X-band system is used for communication between Earth and the orbiter, while the ultra high frequency system is used for conversations between the orbiter and any rovers on Mars. Entry, descent, and landing data were all sent in near-real-time and the rover is currently communicating with Earthlings twice a day. Large, sophisticated satellites on Earth are also required for this communication, including NASA’s Deep Space Network, an international connection of antennas with locations in California, Spain, and Australia.
Ingenuity, the helicopter, will continue to live under Perseverance for a month or two before it’s ready to be deployed in a suitable location. These two join some other NASA bots hanging out on Mars, including Curiosity and the InSight lander. Back in 2018, the Opportunity rover lost contact with home due to a dust storm, and Perseverance is designed to avoid suffering the same fate, running on a nuclear power source like Curiosity that won’t require sunlight to keep going.
Meanwhile, China’s Tianwen-1 entered Mars’ orbit on February 10th. Tianwen-1 contains an orbiting spacecraft, a lander, and a rover, and it will remain in orbit for the next couple of months before landing in May or June. Its ambitious landing goal is to orbit, land and release the rover on its first try while coordinating observations with the orbiter. The objectives of Tianwen-1 are to provide a global survey of the entire planet, as opposed to Perseverance, which will stay in one area.
The Chinese project will be investigating gravitational trends, the atmosphere and climate, analyzing soil and dust samples, and searching for water deposits. The orbiter will study the planet from above using a high resolution camera while the rover will hunt for pockets of water deep beneath the red dirt. For about 90 Martian days, the currently unnamed rover will explore, while the orbiter serves as the telecommunications relay and continues to observe the planet from above. Because this is China’s first interplanetary mission, one of its foremost goals is to validate the communication technologies for Mars exploration like those of the Chinese Deep Space Network.
The United Arab Emirates’ orbiter, named Hope, made it to the red planet on February 9th. Equipped with a high resolution camera, infrared spectrometer and ultraviolet spectrometer, and giant unfolding solar panels to charge the onboard battery, Hope will study large scale atmospheric phenomena exclusively and won’t land on the ground. It contains no rover or lander, just an orbiter. Its goal is to investigate mysteries of Mars’ atmosphere and be the first probe able to give a full picture of the climate of Mars throughout the year.
The pictures Hope has taken so far are out of this world, showing 3 giant volcanoes in a row from space, including the biggest volcano in our solar system, Olympus Mons. Mars orbiters typically work as telecommunication stations for rovers to contact Earth. But Hope will be busy studying neutral atoms of hydrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere to help add to the research on how Mars could have gone from a warm, wet planet to the cold red desert of today.
About half of all missions to the red planet fail, so it’s impressive that so far all three projects survived the journey. The landing process is extremely risky, and in general there’s still plenty of room for some road bumps later in 2021. Assuming each project will survive the upcoming months, it’s going to be a big year for space exploration!
D-Series telephones and the Switchvox Mobile Softphone possess an embedded certificate that is used to encrypt their communications with a Sangoma phone system server. The certificate will expire on Friday, May 28, 2021 at 4:45:20pm EDT (GMT -5). If this certificate is invalid, D-Series phones and the Switchvox Mobile softphone are unable to provision against any Switchvox or DPMA-equipped system. There is no in-place mechanism for remotely forcing an update on a server that will provide remediation.
What is Affected?
All released versions of Switchvox that support D-Series telephones and/or the Switchvox mobile softphone including versions 5.5 through 7.6.1.
FreePBX and PBXact systems using the deprecated “Digium Phones Add-On for FreePBX”
FreePBX and PBXact systems using the “DPMA” option for Endpoint manager
All released versions of DPMA used with open source Asterisk.
Sangoma has produced new versions of DPMA, Proxy, D-Series telephone firmware, and Switchvox mobile softphone that remediate the problem. Administrators (except Switchvox Cloud and PBXact UCC) MUST take action prior to the expiration date. For Switchvox users on 7.x, the new firmware is included in Switchvox version 7.6.2. For Switchvox users on 6.x or 5.x, the new releases are 6.8 and 5.12 respectively.
Steps to Take
Sangoma has developed quick to implement and future proof solutions. Please visit the resource page for complete information on how to resolve the issue.
I get asked every once in a while, “Is CPaaS a channel opportunity?”. It potentially can be, but CPaaS being a channel opportunity needs some context. CPaaS itself means essentially selling the use of APIs, which are typically charged by usage. Applications written with CPaaS access these APIs (and, in turn, specific functions the application has asked to do) during the execution of the application they’ve written. This application “goes and gets the resources” the API asks for via the cloud.
CPaaS is a hot topic these days because using them is easy, and one can add in voice or SMS to an already existing application relatively inexpensively. For example, one might want to add text messaging to an appointment application from a dentist or hairdresser.
When talking about CPaaS being a channel opportunity, we are really talking about the applications that run on CPaaS. So if you as a channel are already selling cloud services, and used to selling in a recurring revenue model, then yes, CPaaS could be a channel opportunity for you.
As a channel partner, there wouldn’t be a “make a big deal” and get the revenue from the enterprise all at once, then sell maintenance contracts. It would be a revenue model based on continuous usage that could go on for years. That’s very different if you aren’t familiar with cloud.
And you would either need a stable of applications to sell, likely from some kind of store the CPaaS provider would have or develop a couple of applications yourself.
Briar packaging is held up by politics in Debian. I had been working on some of the Java packaging toolchain before people decided to put politics first. If anybody would like to see Briar on Debian, here are some of the outstanding technical issues.
There’s a wealth of information for buyers looking at business IP phone systems, and it can get confusing to understand the different options available. To start learning more about the basics of IP phones, business IP phone systems, and VoIP, read through this helpful article.
What is an IP Phone?
IP phones, also known as VoIP phones, look similar in appearance to traditional desk phones but are far more advanced. Like small computers, all the on-board features are applications, and the user can customize the display and buttons.
IP phones are wired using Ethernet cables and connect to an IP-based phone system. In contrast, traditional desk phones use an analog cable and typically connect to analog or legacy digital phone systems. IP phones are powerful because they use an Internet protocol called SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) to send and receive audio.
What are the benefits of a business IP phone system?
In the modern office, business IP phone systems are widely used. There has been a significant advancement in IP telephony, making it the most desired way of business communication. Some of the top benefits include:
Flexible and scalable with plug-and-play installation and simple integration with other systems
More robust feature set for better customer service and productivity
Using your existing infrastructure is more cost-effective.
Flexible Hosting Options: On-Premise and Cloud Phone Systems
Business IP phone systems can be hosted on-premise, in the Cloud, or a virtual environment. Each solution type carries its own set of unique advantages and disadvantages. The decision on how to deploy your VoIP system should only be taken after a detailed analysis, keeping in mind all your requirements. You should consider:
Cost: Feature cost, upfront vs. recurring cost, and total cost of ownership
Flexibility of deployment
The Cool Factor
Download Sangoma’s guide to help you identify and prioritize your needs and guide you through the pros and cons of each deployment method.
Prepare your network infrastructure: Unified Communications (UC) solutions can be utilized with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems and bring many benefits to businesses, including reduced IT costs and the ability to integrate business processes such as chat, presence, screen, and video sharing, CRM and support functions, and more. However, the role of networking is crucial during migration to VoIP/UC.
Download this white paper to learn helpful tips for preparing your network for a VoIP/UC deployment; click here.
Test if your internet connection is strong enough for VoIP: If you’re considering a VoIP phone system for your business or organization, you’re probably well aware of the many benefits a VoIP phone system has to offer. Bandwidth is a series of essential aspects of your VoIP phone system setup that is critical for success. To help you determine how much bandwidth you will need to support a new phone system, users can use the following equation:
G711 – A standard VoIP call protocol requires approximately 64kbps.
Using G711, you can have approximately 12 concurrent calls for each 1Mbps of bandwidth.
So, if your company needs to support 120 concurrent calls, you’d need a 10Mbp service.
To test your current Internet speed for free, check out our VoIP Network Test tool. It will provide you with an easy-to-read report that will help you determine whether your services will support a voice platform or whether you should consider an upgrade.
Find the right VoIP provider: Now that you understand what VoIP is, the next step is to figure out your business requirements. To do that, however, you will have to start by identifying your organization’s business communications needs.
Once you have identified your operational needs, you can start to look for VoIP providers that can meet your requirements. There are different types of VoIP providers in the marketplace that generally fall under three categories: VoIP-only providers, VoIP with cloud phone system providers, and VoIP as part of unified communications solution providers. The third option addresses the most common business communications needs while improving efficiency by combining solutions in one platform.
“Sangoma’s UC platforms can be augmented with a range of hardware and accessories designed to provide the tightest possible integration with our phone system software. Customers no longer have to purchase software, system appliances, phones, and other hardware from separate sources. With Sangoma, customers can expect a complete custom solution, all from one vendor.”
Know the key features your VoIP provider is offering: Even if a VoIP provider meets all your business communications requirements, you must ensure the provider’s reliability and security features. Securing a network is never a trivial task and requires ongoing attention as threats evolve.
It is essential to understand the protection features of a business phone system. Toll fraud is a costly lesson to learn and can cost businesses a lot of money over a short period.
A sound business phone system should:
Limit the amount of call traffic a hacker can create
Lockdown extensions from specific IP addresses or subnet ranges
Change the default port for SIP.
Learn more about Sangoma’s VoIP security best practices to download our free white paper, click here.
Research the VoIP Provider: You should always read about the VoIP provider’s background, case studies, and reviews to find the market position of the brand.
Frost and Sullivan have chosen Sangoma to receive their North American Unified Communications and Collaboration Competitive Strategy Leadership Award for our UC products and what we’ve been doing to bring them forward. To read more, click here.
I also just finished a video interview about this with Michael Brandenburg of Frost and Sullivan. We talked about why Sangoma won the award, what this means to us, and where we go from here.
One of the reasons Sangoma won the award is because we have both on-prem and cloud solutions and they utilize the same code base, and our resellers can also sell both solutions. And as Michael says in the interview, this means we “don’t have to push” the customer one way or another. We can recommend the solution that best fits their needs.
And Michael asked me, “where do we go from here.” You can hear me talk about Sangomaâ€™s continued addition of Communication as a Service products to our overall cloud portfolio, beyond just UCaaS. Similar in concept to our “end-to-end UC solution,” we want to offer “end-to-end As a Service Communications.” And you can also hear me give some viewpoints on where UC clients should go.
But, I wasnâ€™t able to talk about Star2Star when I gave this interview.
Many people don’t even answer their phone anymore unless they know the DID or seems reasonable (like from a local number). But even that is not entirely safe anymore. And that’s what STIR/SHAKEN is trying to fix. STIR/SHAKEN are protocols and standards that help implement robust caller ID authentication.
STIR stands for Secure Telephone Identity Revisited, and SHAKEN stands for Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs. (I bet they worked hard to get the SHAKEN acronym going.) According to the FCC, “This means that calls traveling through interconnected phone networks would have their caller ID “signed” as legitimate by originating carriers and validated by other carriers before reaching consumers. STIR/SHAKEN digitally validates the handoff of phone calls passing through the complex web of networks, allowing the phone company of the consumer receiving the call to verify that a call is, in fact, from the number displayed on Caller ID.”
This means any kind of VoIP carrier would need to implement STIR/SHAKEN so as the call goes through the network, and the handoff validates the caller ID is proper and has not been altered as it’s traversed the network. Implementation of these standards needs to be done by June 2021, according to the Traced Act.
So if you implement a VoIP Network and use Wholesale SIP Trunking as an example, you’ll need to make sure your provider has implemented STIR/SHAKEN by June 2021. Since Sangoma is a Wholesale SIP Trunking provider, we’ll have implemented those standards by June 2021.
But there are steps you can take now to help protect your customers. We also have a service that is available now that helps address Caller ID spoofing. It is available both with our Wholesale SIP Trunking and can be used by other carriers, available via an API. It combines analytics, caller authentication, and verification to help address Caller ID spoofing now. Maybe you have noticed “suspected suspicious call” pop up on the phone when you get a call. Our service enables this for your network if you are a Sangoma (VoIP Innovations) customer, or like I said, even if you are not but want to use this service on your network. If you want to learn more about this, please go here.
Remember Flash? Has any platform on the internet ever suffered such a long, drawn out, and painful death? Its discontinuation was announced by Adobe back in 2017, but it was officially killed on all browsers with no support functions any further on January 12, 2021. Although it’s likely that for you, it’s already been dead for years anyway.
If you were online a decade ago, you know exactly what Flash was. It was everywhere, constantly telling you to download it or enable it when you viewed certain web pages, or played almost any online games. In the 90’s Flash was owned by Macromedia before Adobe bought the platform and developed it for many years. From there it grew in popularity pretty rapidly since it was so easy for content creators to use. For a part of the 2000’s, it was installed on more computers than all other media players combined. Videos, music, gaming – back in 2005, you couldn’t do anything without Flash. And it turns out, if smartphones didn’t exist, maybe it would still be relevant.
The first step towards the vicious murder of Flash was around 2007 when the iPhone was released. War was officially declared. Flash was not allowed on any iPhones, iPads, or iPods. Steve Jobs actually wrote a memo called “Thoughts on Flash” in 2010 in which he cited many issues with the platform, including negative effects on battery life, bad performance, unreliability, and poor security. In its early days, Flash was THE plugin for anything fun: animation, sound, video. It was Jobs’ opinion that HTML 5 would take its place. In retrospect, it would seem like that makes sense, as it did play out that way – but at the time, it was massively controversial. Some believed iProducts would never be able to access the full internet without it because basically everything ran on Flash. 85% of the top websites in 2010 contained Flash content.
Not long after, Google sided with Apple in the great war on Flash, and by 2015, YouTube videos were all switched to the HTML 5 format. A tool called Swiffy was also launched to convert Flash content to HTML 5. But the following year, it literally just shut down because nobody used Flash anymore, so tools to convert it were simply redundant. As long as 5 or 6 years ago, browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome disabled Flash by default.
As this all played out, even Adobe started to distance itself from Flash, discouraging content creators from using it. In 2016 the platform was outed as having a severe security flaw on Windows 7 and XP. Adobe itself had to issue a warning about the flaw. This vulnerability was so nasty, an attacker could crash a PC and take control of the system. In 2017, the oncoming death of Flash was officially announced by Adobe. Updates and security patches stopped being issued around that time (yes, with over three years to go).
Even INTERNET EXPLORER was ahead of the death of Flash, disabling it by default in 2019. Which is still a little late to the party. But it does demonstrate how Flash crashed and burned so slowly as one by one, any and all browsers dropped support for it, adding a little more fuel to the fire year by agonizing year.
Though the death of Flash has been welcomed by many, maybe there is space to mourn it, too. Before the days of a sleek and polished internet, there were all kinds of messy Flash games everywhere and entire Flash websites covered in annoying animations, since it was so easy for content creators to use. Flash changed how animation was created online. What could previously only be produced in months could be made in days. It was a chaotic time, with anyone able to easily create whatever they wanted, leading to some really weird stuff.
It will be a safer internet for everyone without Flash, but we remember it fondly for its service in the early days of the world wide web. Any game you were addicted to online, almost any video you watched – Flash was the tool that made it all possible. Ultimately, the internet has outgrown it.
In conclusion, it was time. But anyway, R.I.P. You probably won’t be missed since so many of us were living without you for years anyway, but we’re glad your long, drawn out death has finally come to an end. You served the internet well!
Sangoma has many unique positions. A lot of companies can say that. A lot of companies do say that. Sometimes unique positions are things that most people will agree on:
Walt Disney World is unique, a family vacation experience unlike no other, because no other company operates a theme park and resort complex at anything approaching its scale or scope.
Sometimes unique positions really arenâ€™t all that unique:
Popeyes Chickenâ€™s new chicken sandwich is unique, and completely unlike the one youâ€™d get from Chick-fil-a, or McDonaldâ€™s, or Wendyâ€™s, because itâ€™s got a *brioche* bun.
Sangoma is unique because it delivers a broad array of hardware products. Most other companies canâ€™t sell you a headset, a desk phone, a wireless phone, a small business communications gateway, and a carrier-class gateway.
Sangoma is also unique because it offers a broad array of software products. Most other companies canâ€™t offer you an open source telephony toolkit for constructing your own applications (Asterisk), a free-to-use PBX platform (FreePBX), a commercial UC software solution (Switchvox and PBXact), a retail SIP platform (SIPStation Retail), a wholesale SIP platform (SIPStation Wholesale) and a communications API (also SIPStation Wholesale).
And, Sangoma is unique because it offers a user-first, not cloud-first or prem-first, UC portfolio.
Sangoma delivers two different UC offerings: Switchvox and PBXact. We provide both solutions to customers as cloud solutions, hosted directly by Sangoma. For a lot of users, this is the best option for their business. Sangoma handles the hosting, rents the desk phones, the mobile clients, the desktop computer clients, the software updates, the PSTN connectivity, and can assist with amendments. The customer gets a monthly bill; theyâ€™ve outsourced the rest.
For another set of users, this isnâ€™t the best option for their business.Â They want to do their own hosting (private cloud or premises-based hardware), own their desk phone, do software updates on their own scheduling, provide their own PSTN connectivity (sometimes itâ€™s Sangomaâ€™s SIPStation Retail or Wholesale), and make all of their own changes. The customer pays upfront; theyâ€™ve insourced their UC.
At Sangoma, weâ€™re unique because the software for both customers is the same software. If a self-hosted customer wants to turn over the reins to Sangoma, weâ€™re happy to help. If a Sangoma cloud customer wants to self-host, weâ€™re ready for that, too, without a loss or change in functionality. We fully support both users by thinking and operating user-first.
TL;DR The Jitsi team at 8×8 are proud to announce the brand new and awesome Jitsi as a Service: world’s easiest way to embed video meetings in your apps and websites! All the power of Jitsi and none of the hassle of running it. Check out JaaS now!
Ever since early last year we were proud to see a huge uptake in Jitsi adoption. Many were downloading and running it for their schools, companies and communities. Many others were simply using it on meet.jit.si.
To our great satisfaction we also saw a number of very creative teams and developers embedding Jitsi into their apps and tackling all sorts of different use cases ranging from work collaboration through education all the way to happy hours and Dungeons and Dragons sessions.
We find this absolutely exciting as we firmly believe that video meetings should be right where you need them: well integrated in the apps where you use them.
The Jitsi team at 8×8 is therefore proud to now announce the brand new and awesome Jitsi as a Service. JaaS lets you use the Jitsi iFrame API and mobile SDK to embed meetings in any web or mobile app. In addition to that it also gives you full control of meeting access through strong authentication and supplies a comprehensive set of webhooks that let your app nicely interact with the meeting. All of that comes with a very simple pricing model based on the number of users that connect to your service every month.
To see how easy it actually is to embed into a website, we asked Matt Gardner, the DevRel leader at 8×8 to try it out. Here’s the short video where Matt demonstrates how to do it.
We already have many interesting apps hosted on JaaS and we will be telling you all about them very soon! Until then, make sure you check out all that JaaS!
Given that mobility is such an important part of the Unified Communications experience, I have periodically written about the proliferation of WiFi, and about the expansion of faster cellular networks. More WiFi out there in the world, and the better the cellular networks, means the remote work aspect of UC will just continue to grow. That’s not really any big news, but I still check in on the growth and proliferation.
So let’s take a look at LTE and also at 5G. As indicated in the chart to the right, the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) is a good place to go to get some stats.
LTE has been the fastest growing mobile system technology ever. It has over 5.4 billion subscriptions, connecting nearly 60% of mobile users worldwide. Most readers of this blog probably use some version of LTE every day.
But now we hear about 5G being rolled out. According to the GSA report, 125 operators in 52 countries/territories have (as of mid-November 2020) announced 3GPP-compatible 5G service launches (either mobile or FWA). If you read the specs, the speeds and latency for 5G are supposed to be significantly better than 4G in terms of downloading video content, watching video content, etc. Yet in commercials in the US, that part is muted and we typically hear “get 5G speeds” whatever that means. Specificity is lacking.
To me, that means I don’t need to rush to go get a 5G capable phone right now. But what is in the specs will occur someday. It will just take some time.
And while there will be some stand-alone 5G networks, most networks will take the form of integration and then migration of the LTE/5G network. This paper from Ericsson is good reading if you want the specifics.
At any rate, going back to the first paragraph of this blog, it means that mobile UC will continue its growth, and the advent of video to UC will continue to grow and won’t just be limited to your day to day “office” setup, whatever or wherever that may be.
If you read the headline of this blog and have read this far, you likely know the meaning of these letters – they are all names of CTI (computer telephony integration) boards and VoIP gateways from the division of Dialogic that Sangoma bought pretty much exactly 3 years ago. I have to say, for all of us that came over to Sangoma from Dialogic, it’s been a quick three years!
We still sell them, and we still use a contract manufacturer based in North America to manufacture them. And we’ll continue to make them while we can and while there is still demand.
Is there still demand? Yes, you see, the whole world is not yet on VoIP (even though a lot of the people in the communications industry act like that). Some solutions are still connected to the PSTN and require these boards for that purpose. And some solutions are connected to a VoIP network through a gateway, but the solution does not need to be re-architected because of the existence of that VoIP gateway, so the boards are still used in the solution.
So, if you need Dialogic boards or gateways and don’t know where to go, visit our website or give us a call.
If you know, you know. But if you’re new to the game (no shame in that), then MRR stands for Monthly Recurring Revenue; and, in today’s rapidly growing UCaaS (or any “as a service”) environment, the money is rolling in! In fact, within the cloud industry, it’s honestly hard to not make recurring revenue. While customers subscribe to a service, agents subscribe to a paycheck.
A Little Background
Traditionally, with on-premise systems, you get paid once then you’re done. You’re left hoping that the customer has a need for additional phones, extensions, and support, or the system dies in 8-10 years and requires a spare. In the world of hosted services, not only does the vendor usually host and maintain the service, but the partner (agent) gets recurring revenue each month instead of the one-time payout.
If you don’t have one, you should get one – and Sangoma is partnered with the best in the industry. What is a master agent and what do they do? Think of them as a distributor/organizer/supporter of cloud-based solutions.
An agent (a partner who sells hosted services and is partnered with a master agent) will contact their master agent whenever they have a customer who needs a quote, as well as any situation that requires supporting collateral.
The master agent represents a LOT of vendors, from telecom to ISP, IT, MSP, network security services, and so much more. That agent can get a quote for internet service, a hosted phone system, access control, and more all through one contact. Then, when that agent closes the deal (thanks to the support and product knowledge a master agent has), the agent is paid any SPIFFS the vendors might be offering through the master agent. MRR for days!
Master Agent Dating
There are LOTS of master agents out there. On the surface, they may all start to look the same; but I’d encourage you to talk to them and see what sets them apart. They are usually quick to tell you, but if you are a partner looking for a master agent, I’d advise you find one that brings new products to your portfolio. This increases your chance to offer your customers more products or services to meet their unique needs.
Master agents pay out your spiffs and help you close the deals that you bring to the table. They often offer support by:
Recommending complementary products and services
Negotiating with vendors if needed
Helping craft a custom solution
And so much more!
All of these services combined result in more time for you to focus on what’s important: your business and your customers. Agents are enjoying the plentiful benefits of cloud-based solutions, reaping what they sow, and making money in the cloud industry. If you are looking for a hosted business phones system, SIP trunking, or a hosted fax offering, Sangoma has your back. Click here to learn more about our hosted services. Set yourself up for success and start selling cloud today.
You read that right. 2021 will be a year unlike any other, a year of TWO ClueCons. Here’s what to expect if you plan on attending both!
2020 was more successful than we could have imagined. ClueCon Deconstructed was our first ever virtual version of ClueCon. Despite all the challenges 2020 brought us, our community showed up and made it a ClueCon to remember.
2021 is almost as uncertain as last year. Just like everyone else, we don’t really know what will be possible when it comes to in-person events. But because of the insanely positive response from our community, we decided to host a mini version of ClueCon next month, February 16th and 17th: ClueCon TGI2021! This shortened version of the conference will mainly focus on the essentials of a typical ClueCon, workshops and presentations brought to you by brilliant industry experts. We’ve squeezed in a little networking time as well! You can expect that both days will alternate between presentations and open source workshops, with built-in breaks throughout the conference, and networking events at the end of the day.
If you’re excited about the Coder Games, we have news for you: even though ClueCon TGI2021 won’t include the usual hack-a-thon, we will be unveiling the challenges and you’ll be able to sign up to participate later in August. The challenges can be completed month by month. The sooner you get started, the better.
The full version of ClueCon will take place the first week of August as it usually does. We are optimistic that it could be in-person in Chicago, but like the rest of the world looking forward to what 2021 holds, we just don’t know yet. What we can tell you is that you can expect a full version of ClueCon online, no matter what happens. If the COVID situation is not safe, we will have the entire event online as we did last year with ClueCon Deconstructed. But even if we are able to host an in-person event, it will be a hybrid conference – that is, we will be hosting it online at the same time. We know that even as things get better this year, it’s likely that many members of our community simply won’t be able to travel yet, and we want you to know that you won’t be missing out. No matter what corner of the world you call home, you’ll be able to attend both ClueCons this year.
ClueCon TGI2021 will be an entirely FREE, online event. We hope to see you there!
As most of you know by now, Panasonic is exiting the PBX business by the end of 2022. It’s sad to see Panasonic exiting the PBX business. They have been around a long time, and their products are solid.
However, it should also not be a surprise.
The PBX market has changed in the last ten years quite a bit – today, we call the market Unified Communications because the phone systems support voice and video, collaboration, file sharing, and messaging. And UC systems today also include support for office phone numbers to your laptop and your smartphone in addition to your desk phone. And Panasonic’s letter to their partners (I just chose a random posting by a partner if you want to read it) referenced a shift to cloud, lagging behind competitor R&D and new types of communications demand. Innovation is essential to keep a viable business, no matter what the business.
So if you are a reseller selling Panasonic products, what is next? For sure, you will support this business, and I’m sure Panasonic will do the exit right and support you for the periods they have stated.
But I’m sure you are looking, or have been looking, for a new UC system to sell to your prem and cloud base. One way to look at this is in a positive way – how to move forward and grow your business. You know business phone systems, and you know the prem business well. And you also see the market changing right in front of you.
So you might want to look at a UC company that sells both prem and cloud and has the new types of communication being demanded today, such as video and collaboration, so you have a modern UC system to sell. And you want to look for a channel-friendly such company. And you want the company not to be so big, so you are just a number.
Sangoma is the company for you.
Not only do we have award-winning UC systems (we recently earned Frost and Sullivan’s North American Unified Communications and Collaboration Competitive Strategy Leadership Award), but we also have our own end to end solution that works seamlessly together (UC system, phones, headsets, SIP Trunking, SBCs, and Gateways) all coming from Sangoma. We treat our partners like family and want you to succeed; therefore, we offer quote assistance for cloud with a 15-minute turnaround, customized demonstrations for your customers that are vertical-specific, showing the customer exactly what they want to see. Finally, through our new partner portal, we offer customizable and co-brandable collateral, as well as content and social syndication, keeping your feed and website always up to date.
Our UC systems include advanced collaboration and productivity-enhancing features for every user and can be deployed on-premise or cloud-hosted, allowing businesses to select the best option for their needs. Visit our Partner Program or give us a call.
Today Sangoma has announced we have been chosen by Frost and Sullivan to receive their North American Unified Communications and Collaboration Competitive Strategy Leadership Award. Yes, a long-winded name for an award. In a nutshell though, we’ve been recognized by Frost and Sullivan for our UC products and what we’ve been doing to bring them forward. And we are very proud of that.
Frost and Sullivan has criteria for the award around strategy innovation and customer impact that you can read about in the award write up. Sangoma met all of them. A few items with our solution particularly stood out to them though:
The concept of a full end to end solution and the fact that Sangoma can be a one-stop show for a full UC solution is unique. Sangoma offers UC but also our own collaboration clients for both mobile and desktop, phones, headsets, gateways/SBC if required, and our own SIP Trunking for prem solutions.
The fact that we offer both on-prem and cloud solutions means we can be a true trusted advisor to our customers. This means we aren’t “pushing” the customer to cloud or prem but instead guiding the customer towards what is best for them.
Sangoma looks at this award also as a kind of award for our customers as well. Without them, we wouldn’t have won this. And they put faith in our product, and the value it provides them. So, we thank them as well.
But we’re not standing pat with this award. We continue to drive ourselves forward, and you will continue to see Sangoma innovating in the UC space as well as adding to our suite of Communication as a Service product portfolio. While this award is about UC and UCaaS, we also offer other “As a Service” offerings such as Retail and Wholesale SIP trunking, CPaaS, Fax, Video Meetings and Access control. So similar in concept to our “end to end UC solution” we discussed before, we want to offer “end to end As a Service Communications”.
As indicated above, if you want to read the entire award write-up, please go here.
2020 was a rough year for everybody. But now it’s over, TGI2021!!! 2020 seemed to be a year buried in constant bad news, but a few uplifting stories about techy animals might have slid under your radar. From GPS turtle eggs to video matching schemes that rehome rescue cats, these stories are sure to warm your heart and brighten your new year.
In order to stop the illegal trade of baby sea turtles, researchers are placing decoy eggs into nests on beaches in Central America to track down poachers. The GPS-enabled decoy, named “InvestEggator,” was developed to combat the poaching of endangered sea turtles and their eggs, but they may be used to help other animals in the future. Typically, turtles are smuggled from beaches and sold as delicacies to supermarkets and restaurants. The egg decoys are very difficult to distinguish from real eggs and have already led the researchers directly to some poachers. Tech is saving the turtles!
Too many long boring company video conference meetings? Why not spice things by inviting a goat or llama on the call? A farm sanctuary called Sweet Farm in California is offering a service that allows a llama, goat, or cow to make an appearance on your next video call. Because why not? The whole idea is to simply lighten the mood during the global pandemic while raising awareness – proceeds go towards the effort to rescue farm animals and educate the public on the negative impacts of industrialized farming.
Augmented-reality ‘doggles’ have been designed for canines working special missions in the U.S. military. Goggles were already used for eye protection for military dogs, but to create mixed-reality goggles, an optoelectronic element was added to create a heads-up display where visual cues are placed in a digital overlay of the real world to guide animals in the real world. A military working dog is typically hunting down narcotics, explosives, and occasionally even people. The goggles are connected to a command interface, allowing the handler to see what the dog is seeing and communicate in real time from a safe distance. A simple click on an object will send the canine to go check it out.
The Egyptian fruit bat is a highly social animal that roosts in crowded colonies. Just like any other animal, they communicate with each other, but it was recently discovered that their high-pitched squeaks were actually communicating specific problems. Originally, scientists thought the noises were entirely random, but they were able to classify 4 different categories of their calls. And they are ALL about arguing. Common causes for disputes include: food, sleeping positions, unwanted mating advances, and violations of personal space. Similar to humans using different tones of voice with different people, the bats’ calls can change depending on who they’re talking to. This, particularly, is pretty rare as far as humans are aware, as only dolphins and a handful of other species have been known to communicate this way.
Bunny the dog has over 5 million TikTok followers who want to hear to what she has to say. She can communicate specific things by hitting different combinations of buttons on a board that each play pre-recorded words. The board is an augmentative and alternative communication device used to generate speech, typically a tool for nonverbal people. A study is being done at UC Sandiego to see if Bunny and other animals like her can really communicate using language. The study now includes over 700 creatures including dogs, cats, and horses. The hope is to study their cognition and determine how their communication works. The most puzzling part of this to researchers is the animals’ concepts of time and space – Bunny has demonstrated an understanding of words like ‘morning,’ ‘yesterday,’ and ‘tomorrow.’ Thanks to Bunny, we could learn a lot about how animals think!
Back in March of 2020, an animal charity called Cats Protection launched a program called “Hands Free Homing” to rehome cats during lockdown restrictions by delivering them right to your doorstep. The charity has helped to rehome over 10,000 cats since the launch of the program, which uses interactive video technology to match prospective adopters with cats, and then their new pet is delivered right to their home. In 2021 you can really get anything delivered!
If you’re looking for more ways to brighten the new year, the FreeSWITCH team will be celebrating online in February with ClueCon TGI2021! Learn something new with free open source workshops and watch brilliant presentations by industry experts, all for free and from the comfort of your own home. Who knows, we might even invite a llama.
As readers of my blog know, I’m pretty good about getting a blog a week out on Tuesday mornings. But I’m taking 2 weeks off of blog writing this year and instead we’ll do a top 10 of sorts here. We’ve all been part of a very strange year, one that will spill over into 2021. But we also have hope of returning to normal in 2021, something that I’m sure we are all looking forward to. Have a great end of year and l’ll be back on January 5th, like normal.
1. Introducing Sangoma Meet
Unified Communications systems, as I’ve blogged about numerous times already, with their ability to offer softphones with your business number, conferencing, collaboration, presence, and mobile phones that also utilize your business phone number, are at the forefront for enabling this new work remote / work from home environment we’re all experiencing right now. Read More
2. Sangoma Welcomes .e4 to the Team
Sangoma today announced we have signed definitive agreements to purchase .e4, based in Traverse City, Michigan. .e4 is Sangoma’s leading valued added distributor focused on open source offerings and a vital part of both the FreePBX and Asterisk ecosytems. The completion of this deal is expected to occur within our quarter. Read More
3. Working from Home Now and Its Impact on the Future of Work
it’s almost mandatory to have a UC system to effectively work from home. That’s because you can have the same work phone number, you can access the same applications, you can be part of collaboration teams, your colleagues can dial you on a 3 or 4 digit extension, you can have instant messaging, etc. You’re basically at your desk at work, except the desk is now in your home. Read More
That’s why I first thought of this blog. Everyone on the street was WFH, kids were “going to school” on the internet, and, poof, the internet goes down. Sheer panic, right? What does everyone do? Read More
6. Wi-Fi 6 and Why It’s Important
There’s a lot going on now, and for this week at least, I didn’t want to write another remote work or WFH type of blog. So I figured I’d take a look at some new technology that we’d all be using someday soon in your house or your enterprise. So I zeroed in on Wi-Fi 6 as a good thing to write about. Read More
8. Communications Trends for 2020
People ask sometimes what’s going to happen in our industry in 2020. And I typically say “I don’t know” because I really don’t know. The telecommunications industry will always surprise you. But, usually, there are hints of what’s going to happen because something is already brewing in the background, and it will just come to fore or become more of a force in the coming year. Read More
But if you are a business, what types of SIP trunks should you buy – retail or wholesale? Read More
10. A Modern Approach to Wholesale SIP Trunking
SIP Trunking is important for any enterprise these days – this is the connection into your building that carries phone calls to an on-premise UC platform, or is the underpinning of any cloud communications service. It must be robust, be resilient, be able to offer a wide array of DIDs, and comply with local telephony laws such as location service. Read More
Let’s talk about 2019. In 2019, I worked in an office, the Huntsville office, just about every day. If I wasn’t visiting another Sangoma office to collaborate (in person?!?!) with co-workers, attending a conference, or on customer ride-alongs with sales (it’s like COPS, but fun, and not at all dangerous), I was in my office. And in my office, my trusty deskphone was always with me. From time to time, I’d visit other parts of the office. In other offices, I’d have other trusty deskphones. When walking from one wing of the building to another, I could stop along the way and use a public deskphone that we have strategically placed throughout the building. Communication was always in-reach.
All of that was about 9 cat-lives, and now, in the great calendar year of 2020, I spend a lot more time at home, where the work still happens. My home’s probably a lot like yours. There are kids with activities and school assignments filled with math word problems I’ve not attempted in a quarter-century. There are chores – my dishwasher and the clothes washing machine guffaw every time I empty them because it’s always followed by a refilling activity. And there are pets, which come with pet incidents and accidents. No conference call is safe, no one-on-one meeting is immune. I’ve discovered multitasking muscles that I never knew I had.
Here, at home, I’m extremely grateful for two things that are both, blessedly, products offered by Sangoma; and without which, my kids, pets, and significant other would have incomplete homework, carpet stains, and heartburn. What helps us retain sanity through the workweek are Sangoma’s wireless DECT devices.
First, I make extensive use of my Sangoma H20 wireless DECT headset. I use it to connect to my Macbook for my PC-calling and collaboration needs using the Switchvox Desktop Softphone, Zulu Desktop, and Sangoma Meet. I also connect it to a Sangoma Deskphone – yes, I still have a deskphone, too, even though I’m at home; there’s no substitute for a good, dedicated device with excellent speakerphone qualities. The H20 allows me to use both of my hands as I type, tutor, and perform laundering activities. Because it uses DECT, it’s got range throughout my home, my WiFi devices don’t interfere with it, and the battery goes all day.
Second, I also use Sangoma’s DC201 DECT base station and wireless handset combo. I have my calling rules on our UC system set to ring both devices. I don’t always want to wear a headset, and I can put the handset in my pocket. If I need to make a call, I’ve got access to a keypad, my corporate contacts, and I can turn on the loudspeaker mode and set it down while I practice amateur home repair.
Together, these wonderful applications of simple technology have a significant impact on my ability to remain productive throughout the new working day. If you’re not using solutions like these to help you work better from home, maybe you should. Unless, perhaps, you embrace the chaos?
Unified Communication was driven by many things – technological advances in networks for example that made this possible. But even beyond that, it was driven by people wanting to communicate in different ways – ways that were easier and more efficient for them. And it was also driven by companies wanting to reduce costs, because if customer communication could become more structured towards self-help and less towards people and real time communications, costs would be reduced and customer satisfaction could also potentially go up.
Because UC has taken center stage during WFH, business owners have started to understand that having a basic contact center would enable so much better customer service and are demanding basic multimodal contact center features in the UC system. Why have another specific expensive contact center unit (either on-prem or another monthly cloud expense) if the UC system can handle the basic contact center features that would help a small business? Because why not – the UC system already includes multimodal communication potential.
This trend of adding more and more contact center features start to become part of the UC phone system will continue because it saves customers money.
One of the benefits of remote working is that your “office comes with you” – you can access all your applications, including communications, remotely, and people won’t really even know that you’re not in the office. However, there is one big difference, even if it may not be noticeable to you. When you are in the office, you are behind any security protections your company has set up. When you access the internet for example, you are behind security protections. But when you work remotely, these are not necessarily in place. Yes, you may VPN in, which gives some protection, but your house Wi-Fi may still be at risk.
So what does this mean? If remote work is here to stay, then there will be some changes on the security front for sure.
For one thing, it means the employee is taking on more of a role on security whether they like it or not. One idea that will likely gain more traction in a company to make sure you are the person accessing the network is adding biometrics to the access points. Right now, you likely have a password and it is likely a strong password. In the future, we are also likely to see additional security such as voice recognition or fingerprint reading as examples.
Second, more remote working means more cloud-based services. And these cloud-based services are not behind any corporate protection. As such, the cloud providers need to ensure their systems are secure. It likely will involved added security on end devices so there is an end to end secure transmission between your end device and the cloud environment.
IoT will also bring added security risk. The more devices connected to your network, the more potential access points there are. To combat this, we will likely see AI enter the security realm as well. AI can look at trends and see any access anomalies and act on them.
Unified Communications has played a major role in the shift to remote working for knowledge workers. With remote work in some form poised to remain a part of the way most businesses work, UC will continue to be center stage. And that will mean an array of new requirements will be coming to the UC systems, which in turn will mean the UC systems will continue to innovate and evolve.
Switchvox has great call-handling tools that can be overshadowed sometimes by the focus on the more complex Call Queues. If your teams work closely with each other but don’t necessarily have the call-volume for a queue, the Quickdial and Call Activity widgets can be quite helpful. And when your teams are working remotely, these widgets can provide the visibility that you all need to help each other and your customers.
The Switchboard Quickdial Widget came about when our customers asked for a quicker way to transfer a caller without putting the caller on hold. So that’s what it does: You can have a Quickdial widget that includes your Rapid Dial list or a custom list of contacts, and for each contact, you can dial them, transfer your active call to them, or dial or transfer to their voicemail. That’s all it does, but it puts those tools right at your fingertips for one-click use.
The Switchboard Call Activity Widget gives you more insight into what your coworkers are doing so that you can help each other assist your customers. You can put individual contacts and groups into the widget, and then you can see what those people are doing and pitch in to help them. Each call they’re on is listed in the widget, and you have options for picking up a call when the person isn’t answering, ‘monitoring’ their call when you need to hear what’s discussed but don’t need to be part of the conversation, ‘whispering’ into their call when you think they might need help (the other party can’t hear when you whisper), or ‘barging’ into their call when you need to join the conversation.
Call Activity is an excellent tool for teams to assist their customers better, but it’s also a great tool for training purposes. When you are training a new team member, particularly when you’re all working remotely, everyone can help the trainee. They can make themselves available when they see an important customer on the line, and monitor, whisper, or barge in when necessary.
Both of these widgets display a green bar when the contact is on a call, so a quick glance can indicate whether or not they’re available to help you. The Call Activity Widget can tell you if they’re talking to a customer or to each other, which can help you decide if you want to interrupt them for what you need. The widgets also display a contact’s Switchvox Status, which can indicate, for example, that they’re away for a bit, or on DND (Do Not Disturb), or on vacation.
As we all learn how best to work remotely from each other, we need to be creative and take advantage of the tools at hand. I hope these Switchboard widgets contribute to valuable conversations with your teams and your customers!