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Enterprise dialing

Adding a Personal Dialling Assistant to Your Enterprise PBX: An Interview with Eyal Zach

Revolutionizing enterprise dialing

Enterprise dialing

I’m an enthusiastic user of VocaNOM so I figured it is time to get Eyal Zach, our VP Business Development for Mobility and VocaNOM answer some questions and tell our readers about the latest advancements and plans for the application.

Eyal, tell us about VocaNOM and the target market?

VocaNOM allows employees to dial using their voice to request the destination rather than looking up the name of the requested contact-person in the company address book. This makes dialling ast and easy, and increases security while driving!

We are leveraging AudioCodes GW & SBC technologies to connect to any PBX (any vendor and any type of PBX – even to analog devices.).

VocaNOM is now available in the cloud. We are very excited to be the first company to provide a public cloud-based voice recognition service aimed specifically at enterprises. The service is already deployed with over one hundred customers from different business segments (universities, hospitals, high-tech and low-tech companies, municipalities and others). Since the service is specific per language, we are currently offering it in English (U.S.), Spanish, German and Hebrew. We are working on expanding the service to include additional languages.

You can read more about VocaNOM and watch our video clip.

VocaNOM was previously an on-premises product that was moved to the cloud. Can you provide more information about the motivation for this change?

We started offering the service in Israel a few years ago and mostly approached large-scale enterprises (1000+ employees). We did not approach smaller companies because of the cost of installation and management of an on-premises architecture. Once we started to get queries from smaller enterprises wanting to enjoy the same technology and benefits that VocaNOM offers, we started looking for ways to simplify the installation and configuration and reduce the time it takes to get a customer up and running. Now that the system runs as a hosted service in the cloud, we can offer it to a larger audience and easily scale on-the-go as required.

What are the benefits for the end customer in preferring the cloud service over the on-premises option?

The move to the cloud allows us to provide more options to our customers while lowering the barriers for adoption of the service by almost any enterprise.

From a customer perspective, using this service in the cloud instead of on-premises results in simplified management and maintenance while benefiting from a pay-as-you-go type of pricing model instead of a higher one-time fee. Additionally, since it runs in the cloud, the customer is freed from the need to handle version upgrades.

What is next for VocaNOM?

We recently launched a new mobile applications that support our customers’ private address book in addition to their corporate address book. We are working on other features that will be announced later this year that will extend the capabilities of that app beyond just dialling. We are receiving great feedback and ideas from our growing customer base and we are working hard to enhance and improve the product. We have also recently launched an online self-registration tool, allowing potential customers to try VocaNOM in less than a few minutes.

What are the key milestones for VocaNOM in the near future?

With the ongoing development of our enterprise service, including our mobile app and our online self-registration platform, we are excited to show these new features at the upcoming Mobile World Congress expo (MWC 2016).

We’re attending MWC16 to meet with European service providers and to expand our business offering across multiple countries, with a special focus on Germany and Spain.

Anyone who might be interested in meeting with us can drop me a line to schedule a short talk.

Skype for Business-To Cloud or Not to Cloud

Skype for Business: To Cloud or Not to Cloud?

Assessing the state-of-the-market following Microsoft’s announcements on enterprise voice in the cloud for Skype for Business

Skype for Business-To Cloud or Not to Cloud

Recent Microsoft announcements surrounding enterprise voice for Skype for Business in the cloud caused significant waves in the market.  Cloud PBX and PSTN calling will have a dramatic impact on the ecosystem. Yet, real parity between the on-premises Skype for Business Server and the online offering will still take a few years and many companies have concerns about making an immediate full transition to the cloud. These include:

  • Availability and regulatory issues requiring local PSTN connectivity
  • The current Online enterprise voice feature set is limited
  • Quality of Service over the open Internet can be problematic
  • Customers may not be in a rush to forgo existing contracts and working network devices
  • Customers may prefer a gradual migration of users to the cloud

Microsoft understood this and implemented a strategy to offer a solution for this market reality. At the July 2015 WPC event, Microsoft provided more details regarding deployment options. By offering a hybrid solution, where cloud-based PBX services are complemented by an enterprise’s on-premises based PSTN connectivity, Microsoft took their customers’ concerns into account. Their approach includes four deployment options, the middle two being hybrid versions:

  • Skype for Business Server On-premises: Users are registered to the local Skype for Business server; call management and PSTN connectivity are based on-premises. The Exchange Server is on- premises and there is no Office 365 connection.
  • Skype for Business Hybrid: Some users are registered to the Skype for Business Server (this could be in an appliance or in a private cloud) and some users are registered to Skype for Business Online. User identity is synchronized with Office 365 and voice mail is in Exchange Online.
  • Cloud PBX with on-premises PSTN: Users are registered to Skype for Business Online where the call management is handled by the Cloud PBX, but PSTN connectivity (also known as “bring your own carrier”) is handled on-premises through a local gateway or appliance.
  • Cloud PBX with PSTN Calling: Users are registered to Skype for Business Online and are on a Microsoft provided PSTN calling service, all managed by the Microsoft cloud.

Given that reality, a wise deployment of Skype for Business will mix on-premises functionality for corporate and call center users, allowing integration with legacy systems with initial deployment of cloud services. This will lay the foundation for a smooth transition to the full cloud solution down the line. The best way to protect the enterprise’s current investments, ensure a full enterprise voice feature set, guarantee that all company branches around the world are serviced and comply with regulations, is with a hybrid solution which offers the best of both worlds and allows the benefits of Unified Communications today with a secure and smooth migration to voice in the cloud when fully available.

Want to learn more about these 4 options and which one best fits your needs download this white paper – A practical guide for embracing the communications future.

Mozilla MWC 2014

Here’s Why MWC 2015 will be so much better than 2014

As I started packing for MWC 2015, which will take place next week in Barcelona, it got me thinking about what will be the main trends at the show this year.

Mozilla MWC 2014

A year ago, MWC 2014 was really amazing. A lot of attention was focused on Facebook following their keynote address and announcements on their “Internet for Everyone” concept, which plans to connect 5 billion people to the web by through their Internet.org project. Their early discussions on WhatsApp voice support (first real competition to Skype?) also drew interest. Most of the major consumer brands announced their new wearable and IoT devices (from a connected toothbrush to smartwatch!). Huge Tablets, five-inch screen mobiles on the one hand and very cheap smartphones on the other, were widely discussed (huge potential in emerging markets). And mobile advertisements (mostly in the App Planet hall) were not neglected.

What should we expect to see and hear in MWC 2015? Many questions are still open… we will need to wait until end of next week..

Will we learn of new mobile devices? Of course we will. We expect to hear announcements from Samsung (Galaxy S6), HTC (One M9?) and LG (G4 – too soon?). What about Sony?

Smart watches? (Samsung code name “Orbis”? LG G watch? Something new from Motorola? Will we see HTC entering this hot market as well?)

What do you think will be the hottest announcement in MWC 2015? I promise to post soon after the event with my observations.

One thing is for sure, though. AudioCodes will be making some very interesting announcements concerning its VocaNOM solution. Designed to make enterprise contacts always live and accessible, VocaNOM is an innovative cloud-driven mobile app that allows simple voice dialing by just saying the name of the contact. Whether at office, while driving or even abroad, VocaNOM improves productivity and makes phone communication easy like never before!

Are you going to be at MWC 2015? If so, I’d love to meet you. Enjoy the show!

Click here to schedule a meeting with us.

Cloud

Who is afraid of the cloud?

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

Cloud“The Cloud” – everyone is talking about it. Studies, market reports and analysts refer to it as the “next thing” and as the opportunity that communication service providers (CSPs) must not miss. Well, it is not so easy!

Revenue opportunity for the service providers

There is no doubt that the telecom market is changing. The increased competition and the commoditization of traditional telecom services have negative impact on the CSPs revenues leading them to evolve beyond network connectivity and seek new revenue opportunities.

The good news is that the cloud trend that we are seeing for some years in the market has reached a point where CSPs can create “real” business value. According to Informa’s Telecom Cloud Monitor (http://www.informatandm.com/cloud-monitor/), the number of CSPs selling Cloud services has increased from around 60 in 2009 to about 230 in 2012 and there is a consistent growth in CSPs cloud spending.

CSPs active in cloud services by region

Cloud services allow the CSPs additional revenue streams with new value propositions that they can offer. For example, a CSP can leverage its key strengths in communication technologies to offer hosted unified communications (UC) services that combine data, voice, security and more, but at a lower cost as compared to on-site platforms. Another example is the provision of cloud applications such as business sales automation, invoicing and billing, and storage and backup in the cloud.

Why should businesses move to cloud-based services? Well, there are some good reasons for doing so including cost flexibility, business scalability and simplifying communication services.

Can we trust the cloud?

How can the CSPs deal with customers’ fears of the cloud? These customers, most of them being small medium business (SMBs), are scared of putting key business functions into the cloud because if something goes wrong, they fear it could stop their business in its tracks. So, CSPs need solutions that will enable them to allay these fears.

We need to remember that CSPs have a unique advantage over other cloud players such as Over-the-Top (OTT) providers, given their existing data and voice communication networks. This is the biggest asset differentiating them from others. Using their existing managed networks, the CSP can guarantee end-to-end Quality-of-Service (QoS) that is critical for SMBs that need to perform at an enterprise level. The CSPs are known for their existing secure networks, providing them with a strong brand advantage when dealing with SMBs that are concerned with putting their sensitive business data in the cloud. And of course, CSPs have the advantage of existing local footprints and existing customer relationships.

The SMB customers that move to the cloud, in most cases do not understand technology and products, but they do require solutions and services. From the CSP perspective, the most critical factor for the SMBs will likely be the quality of experience (QoE) – keeping customers satisfied and avoiding churn. As mentioned above, CSPs are in a unique position given their existing managed communication network including the on-premises access equipment. The on-premises equipment is the demarcation point to the CSP data and voice cloud services. Without QoE assurance in this equipment, it will be extremely difficult for the CSP to sell and deploy reliable and trusted cloud-based services.

SMBs and Cloud

Protecting the business

As part of my work in AudioCodes I meet regularly with leading CSPs and hear their perspectives regarding their SMB customers’ needs when moving to cloud-based services. One of the things that they are most wary about is the business continuity, meaning, how can they make sure that the data and voice cloud services are always available? Consider the implications of an unreachable business, even if it is just for few minutes. Of course this will reduce customer satisfaction and eventually cost the business money. Or consider the example of a small insurance company that cannot access to its customer data base in the cloud and how bad that would affect the business customer support service.

In the real world, failures happen, and yes, there will be cases when the voice or data services in the cloud will be unreachable. So the question is how can we protect ourselves from such a scenario?  And the answer is: Backup, Survivable & Resilience.

SMBs and Cloud Appliance

One solution is to use business routers with backup and survivability features. One of the great things about such a product is that it allows the CSPs to allay their customers’ fear of the cloud and provide them the confidence they need to place their key business functions in the cloud.

The approach is to use multiple WAN interfaces, backup PSTN interfaces and suitable software. With redundant WAN interfaces, you can make sure that in the case of a connection loss to the primary WAN the router will auto-switch to the backup network (for example the 3G/4G mobile network) assuring the SMB customer’s an “always on” Internet connection.

The router also ensures that critical business telephony services will continue to operate in the case of a connection loss with the hosted PBX. This is done using unique software features that will auto route the outgoing calls to the backup PSTN and will maintain internal business telephony operations.

So, the next time you are considering cloud-based services, ask yourself, are you protected in the case of a connection loss to the cloud? There is no reason why you shouldn’t be.

Image Credit: Flickr user Karen Ka Ying Wong

all you need is cloud

All You Need is Cloud

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

all you need is cloudI recently read the post from Software Advice called 3 Ways to Keep Your VoIP Service From Going Down With the Internet by Don Sadler. Overall it, was music to my ears, hence the title of this post.

Many people fall in love with the concept that going cloud with your enterprise telephony system means the end of all of your telephony worries.

The reality is more complicated, however.

Don’t get me wrong, putting your enterprise communications in the cloud is the right way to go. Yet life is a bit more complex than pure cloud vs. pure on-premise. The grey area between them is what complicates things.

The misconception of pure cloud

Starting to use an enterprise communications cloud service would basically require the following steps:

  • Register for the service and pay with your credit card
  • Upload an Excel file with all users and extensions
  • Start talking

This would pretty much be all that is required for a greenfield, a one location business with a few guys that are using an application on their mobile phones for their business telephony operations. But what if you are an enterprise, large or SMB, with multiple locations and an existing telephony system?

In such a case there will be a few requirements that will complicate things. A non-exhaustive list of these requirements include:

  • Gradual migration to the cloud
  • Call flow optimization (e.g. when 2 users are calling in the same premise)
  • Cost optimization when calling to PSTN
  • Resiliency

Gradual migration to the cloud

Typically, IT will not pull the plug on the current on-premise system and plug in the cloud service instead. They would run a test on one site, then expand to a multi-site pilot and only after a few months make the switch. What happens during this pilot phase and how are the 2 systems connected?

Moreover, in some deployments, IT may decide to maintain the old system for a longer period.  This may be due to technical or business reasons. Supporting this requirement will typically be achieved by deploying an on-premise SBC that will connect the 2 networks and make this integration transparent to the end user.

Call flow optimization

In the pure cloud approach, when all you have on-premise are IP Phones or an application on your smartphone, for example a phone call from John to his colleague next door, Alice, would see the signaling going through the cloud.

How about the media?

Would it go directly between John and Alice or would it need to go all the way to the cloud provider and back?

The answer is… it depends.

There are various factors that will determine the media flow in such a case. The key requirement for the cloud provider to technically be able to enable direct media is to know John and Alice are located on the same network. This can be achieved by simply having one “leg” of the cloud SBC in the enterprise network, something that introduces a security vulnerability or through an on-premise “component” that will figure this out. In real world deployments, all of these options exist.

Cost optimization when calling to PSTN

Do you want all calls to the PSTN to go out from the cloud provider’s network or perhaps you have better PSTN termination agreements in some areas where you also have a local branch? Would you want to route calls to the PSTN in that calling area through your local branch?

Achieving this will require some extra routing logic and an on-premise GW in the branch office.

Resiliency

This brings us back to Don Sadler’s post that talks about resiliency requirements for hosted communication services. Resiliency will keep communications alive even if the cloud provider’s service goes down or if there is a problem with the company’s connection to the provider. Having an on-premise cloud appliance will ensure continuity of communications between extensions in the branch, calls to the PSTN and routing of calls through a backup Internet connection (e.g. cellular).

Enterprise Hosted Services Architecture

A typical hosted enterprise communication services architecture

Conclusion

If you are in process of architecting your move to the cloud, it is important to remember that as VoIP cloud deployments move from MPLS to non-dedicated lines over the Internet, the level of control in the hands of your cloud provider is reduced. As such, having an on-premise demarcation point becomes essential. Solutions that enhance cloud communication services are available on the market. Audiocodes, as part of its One Voice for Hosted Services, offers such solutions specifically for Broadsoft deployments as well as for other hosted VoIP and UC deployments.

Featured image credit: Paula Izzo