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Yaniv and his rump steak

How Can Your IP Phone Choice Reduce Infrastructure & Bandwidth Cost

Last month we had a roadshow in South Africa. My vegetarian friends will have to forgive me… but what a wonderful place! Over dinner while enjoying a really good rump steak and a glass of Pinotage, we met with an IT manager from a large enterprise that was interested in our IP Phone solution.

Yaniv and his rump steak

During the meeting, the IT manager explained his challenges and concerns.

His company recently selected an IP phone vendor for Skype for Business. Unfortunately, it didn’t provide the solution they were expecting and now they need to find a proper solution to their issues. Their call quality was poor, the phones weren’t user-friendly and the architecture design didn’t allow them to use media bypass.

But his first and major concern was cost savings:

Today, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on their infrastructure and bandwidth for communication between and in branches.

In between bites I introduced the AudioCodes solution and vision which is to not only to provide IP Phones but to offer a full solution. I explained how he can take advantage of our solution to solve his concerns.

Firstly, we are the only vendor in the market today that supports SILK and OPUS in our IP Phones.

SILK, the Skype for business native codec, is a dynamic breathing codec that adjusts to the bandwidth dynamically during the call according to the network capabilities and restrictions. If there is a good network, SILK will use wide band crystal clear high definition quality (even better than G.722). But if someone downloads a large file or a home user’s infrastructure is poor, SILK dynamically will decrease the required bandwidth, to even lower than what G.729 uses, allowing users to have a conversation without any chopped voice or interruptions. (SILK can overcome Packet loss, jitter and delay).

But SILK doesn’t only solve the bandwidth and quality issue; it also saves a lot of expenses on infrastructure as it consumes only 30% to 50% of the required bandwidth.

I mentioned to him that the improved voice quality and savings in bandwidth and infrastructure costs apply even to a greater extent in cases where communications is provided from the cloud by a hosted UC provider.

I noticed the gentleman’s eyes getting wider and a big smile emerging on his face.  I heard him saying that if he could save 40% of the required bandwidth, he could save hundreds of thousands of dollars on the first year and additional 10% on the call traffic every year! And all this, simply due to using AudioCodes phones with SILK!

But that’s not all.  Just imagine, I told him, that call quality complaints will decrease dramatically as well and user satisfaction and productivity will rise. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. We still haven’t discussed the savings that can be had by using AudioCodes IP Phone manager.

The IT manager paused for a second and asked what he should do with the phones that are currently using G.729 and G.711 and the PSTN calls? I need to divert all these calls to the core and transcode them in the mediation server, he continued, since our current SBC doesn’t support SILK. (He meant that all these calls must now go through the HQ Datacenter core, overloading the core network and introducing VoIP challenges such as long delays, packet loss and jitter).

I was happy to respond that since AudioCodes not only offers SILK IP phones but SBCs that support SILK as well, they can be used in the core while the calls will use media bypass. This will save a lot of money, and prevent having frustrated users and a complex and clumsy design.

At AudioCodes, I summed up, our products provide a full solution, using our entire ecosystem encompassing our IP Phones and SBCs, to provide end-to-end SILK capabilities including resiliency, should for whatever reason, Skype for Business become unavailable. But most importantly, these solutions can save your organization a lot of money on the infrastructure.

 

Satisfied, we both turned to enjoy our steaks…..

 

To learn more about AudioCodes IP Phone family, click here:

 

Yaniv Christmas tree Germany

How IT Managers Can Better Manage Skype for Business IP Phones

It was a freezing, snowy night, just a few days before Christmas.

I was on one of my road trips in Germany looking at the biggest Christmas tree in the world, while trying to warm my soul with a good, local Gluh Wein. Then my mobile phone disturbed the tranquility of the moment. One of my IT manager customers was calling. I had to answer.

Yaniv Christmas tree Germany

The customer started to describe his day to day challenges and concerns. His enterprise was beginning to migrate from an IPPBX to Skype for Business and Unified communications and his end user satisfaction was poor.  His multi-site roll-out plan took him much more time and consumed more effort than expected. And he was yet to go beyond deploying at Headquarters

where he couldn’t understand what was causing some of the IP Phones to reboot several times a day. He was unable to control the end users’ IP Phones in an efficient way and solve their issues and concerns.

I reminded him about AudioCodes’ IP Phone Manager that he had been considering and I updated him about our free of charge Express Edition. I explained how in our vision, we empower IT with a full life-cycle IP Phone operation management platform and that we view the IP Phone as an IT managed device, essentially turning the IP Phone into an IT Phone.

Feeling warmer by the minute (the Gluh Wein was no doubt having its effect…) I pointed out our multi-tenant IP Phone Manager’s day to day management and maintenance capabilities with a monitoring dashboard showing the phone operation status, active registered IP Phones, non-registered IP Phones and the disconnected devices, allowing IT to proactively detect issues before they are noticed by the end user.  I also described the smart device and user search. He just needed to search on the user name and the IP Phone provided all the necessary information (IP address, subnet, VLAN, software version and more) with just one click.

In that call I convinced my customer to give our IP Phone Manager a try and let the system become the eyes into his network in order to figure out the problems he was facing. And so he did. In just a few hours after he installed the IP Phone manager, he was already able to put his finger on the problem and track the root cause. He immediately saw that when a bulk of users were disconnected it was always in the same network switch and it seemed his POE unit was not functioning well either. He replaced the switch and the issue was resolved.

Several months after installing the IP Phone Manger he wanted to migrate additional branches to Skype for Business. I reminded him that his IP Phone Manager has zero touch installation and provisioning and that he can pre-define his configuration for an automatic zero touch rollout. Once the IP phone is plugged in, it gets the proper configuration automatically.

Together, we invested a half hour in defining his open space area, lobby area and the different company branches with the proper time offset and IP Phone menu language.

A week later he called me and expressed his amazement from the simplicity of the roll out. His ability to proactively detect and solve his end users concerns easily and efficiently was well appreciated in his organization.

And it all started with a phone call while sipping some Gluh Wein……..

Download the AudioCodes IP Phone Manager Express for Windows today and enjoy it free of charge

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
Lync Conference 2014 Ran Inbar

Lync Conference 2014 – Smashing into a New Era

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

Lync Conference 2014 Ran InbarThe second annual Lync Conference is now behind us, this year held in the Aria Convention Center in Las Vegas and again a sell-out.  Themed “Coming Together”, the event was attended by some 1,800 end-customers, partners and Microsoft staffers.   Mecca for the Lync faithful, the Lync Conference is the place to be for Lync education, networking and a peek at coming attractions.

This year saw an increasing number of enterprise users, many sharing their experiences in moving beyond their early pilots to full implementations.  During AudioCodes’ private “Circle of Excellence” pre-conference event, we heard from a number of Lync network administrators about their successes and challenges in implementing Lync voice and conferencing across their enterprises.  Cargill, Amgen, Bally Entertainment and a number of other large enterprises all shared their Lync migration stories in great detail.  You can read a summary of the event by Brent Kelly, Consultant at KelCor.

We also took the opportunity to demonstrate our new 430HD and 440HD IP Phones along with our Better Together over IP functionality for Microsoft Lync.  Shown here, Ran Inbar, CTO Unified Communication for AudioCodes demonstrates the Better Together functionality to Matt Landis, a widely read blogger on the topic of Lync.

On the main keynote stage, Microsoft announced some key milestones for Lync with Derek Burney demonstrating the increasingly integrated Skype/Lync experience, the newly updated Lync client for Android tablets and a pre-release look at voice-driven “zero click” Lync client features.

Microsoft Lync Conference 2014 Gurdeep PallFollowing Derek, Gurdeep Singh Pall returned to the stage, announcing the end of the era of Unified Communications and the start of Universal Communications, bringing a consistent user experience across media types and devices. Gurdeep also demonstrated a web-based Jscript application, showing a somewhat un-realistic medical consultation experience, where a patient could hold a video call with a doctor.  (While the technology is very much realistic, in my experience, actually getting a doctor on a video call is highly un-realistic – they seem to be pretty techno-phobic.)

AudioCodes had the opportunity to share our experiences on a panel discussion on the Lync Ecosystem, sharing the stage with AT&T, Jabra, Unify2 and HP.  Challenging the “one throat to choke” argument, the panel dissected the benefits of the well established relationships between the large systems integrators, partners and enterprise buyers.

And finally, in an over-the-top spectacle, Microsoft’s exhibit featured a “product launch” cage where visitors could use a large slingshot to launch legacy telecom devices into a wall, aiming for a target with a gong in the center.  The occasional direct hit would fill the hall with the crashing sound, followed by cheers from the crowd.

Even if you missed the event, you can still participate in the conversation on http://mylync.lyncconf.com – Alan can be reached  via email at alan.percy@audiocodes.com or on Twitter @AlanDPercy

One Voice Operations Center

The VoIP Network Management Jigsaw Puzzle

Have you ever felt that your VoIP network management system is like a jigsaw puzzle requiring you to jump from one application to the other in order to complete a full cycle of handing an issue? Well, you are not alone. Meet Alice. Alice works in the IT department of a mid-size company with 3 offices in the US, 2 in Europe and 2 in APAC. This is what happened to her last week.

8:45am, Los Angeles

Alice gets a notification on her browser-based alarm system that there is a high call drop rate in the Boston branch office. She turns to the voice quality monitoring system to zoom-in on the problem.

She waits for the monitoring system to start, it’s a different GUI so it takes her a minute to find the information on that specific branch.

Since it looks like a problem that happened repeatedly over the last 2 hours, she runs a report to get the details of all calls dropped.

She flips back for just a minute to the alarm system to make sure these are really the calls for which the problem was reported. Alice then realizes that the problem has to do with one specific SIP Trunk that is dropping calls.

She must act fast. The Boston site executive was in touch with her from his mobile several times already. He and his team are about to go into a conference call with a customer and he is worried the call will fail.

Calling the service provider support line doesn’t look like something that will solve the problem for the call about to begin at the top of the hour. It is 8:53am and there is no time for support IVR and a call queue.

Alice decides to work around the problem and bypass this SIP trunk by configuring the branch SBC to route the calls through the Chicago branch over an MPLS link. She is still on the monitoring system so Alice now needs to switch to enter system with a different GUI, for the SBC configuration system.

OK. So I made up the story and invented my character Alice. But scenarios such as this one do play out every day for IT managers.

The multitude of independent management and configuration tools, each dealing with a specific task, is a major drawback in VoIP network management. You may think that this jigsaw puzzle is inevitable as each system comes from a different vendor or simply because each product has its related system even if they all come from the same vendor. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

But Gentleman, We Can Rebuild It

One Voice Operations CenterWhat if there was an all in one unified VoIP management suite? What if call quality monitoring, alerts and management of your network servers were all managed from one system? Well…that is exactly what AudioCodes One Voice Operations Center is all about.

The AudioCodes One Voice Operations Center is a suite of management tools providing full coverage of the entire set of actions required to manage a voice network in a Unified Communication environment.

It uniformly manages, monitors and operates the entire AudioCodes One Voice portfolio, including SBCs and Media GatewaysMicrosoft SBAs and IP Phones.

For example, in case of an enterprise using a Lync server, the One Voice Operation Center provides a complete view of the network voice quality, including Lync client to Lync client calls and Lync to PSTN calls. All in real-time. And if you need to fix a configuration, there is no need to go far. The same suite provides a provisioning interface to manage all your SBAs, SBCs and gateways.

Want to learn more? Come visit our booth #625 at the ‘Lync Conference’ to watch a live demo of our ‘One Voice Operations Center’.

I don't gamble

I Don’t Gamble

The AudioCodes-Microsoft Lync angle

[Post is better viewed on the blog Website]

I don’t gamble.  Not that I hate gambling, or that I don’t understand the “thrill” that comes with it.  I just don’t gamble.

When I was in my early 20’s I went on a family vacation in Puerto Rico, and our hotel had a casino.  I had 5 quarters in my pocket when I sat next to a slot machine.

4 quarters went away in a blink of an eye.  The fifth gave me back 6 quarters, and as I was about to kiss the last one goodbye and move on, I won $86.

I took the money and ran off to rent a jet ski. That was it. I never put a single coin in a slot machine since.

I recalled this since 2014 starts off for me with an unusual sequence of travel destinations:  I just got back from Macau China two weeks ago from our APAC sales kickoff event, and I’m heading next to Las Vegas for the Microsoft annual Lync Conference.  The two biggest gambling destinations in the world, 1 month apart, for someone who doesn’t gamble. Go figure.

I don't gamble

2014 is starting off on a very positive note for our Lync program.  We have introduced a new high capacity session border controller (SBC) which has sufficient capacity to cover the data centers and headquarters of 99.9% of the world’s enterprises.  We focused significant development efforts on functionality, security and interoperability in the last 3 years, and in 2013 we were able to quickly scale up the capacity of our SBC.  I think that the timing is pretty good because we are seeing enterprises scaling up their Lync deployments, and as they start retiring legacy PBX and ISDN/T1 trunks, they are moving to SIP Trunking.  This is exactly where we fit in with our SBC, as part of our very successful One Voice for Lync offering which includes gateways, SBC, SBA, IP Phones and applications for Lync.

Our release got a lot of positive industry reviews such as the article Thinking Big with AudioCodes by Blear Pleasant on UC Strategies.

“That’s why AudioCodes is “thinking big” and introduced the Mediant 9000 Session Border Controller, which supports up to 16,000 concurrent sessions and extends the capacity of AudioCodes Mediant SBC family.  As part of AudioCodes’ One Voice for Lync product portfolio, the larger capacity SBCs enable enterprise customers to consolidate the network infrastructure for Microsoft Lync, simplifying training, deployment and support. AudioCodes and Microsoft have been working together for years, and AudioCodes realized that it was important to expand its SBC capacity in order to better support large Lync deployments. This is especially important as the momentum for Microsoft Lync continues to grow, with nearly 60% of enterprises with over 500 seats surveyed by Infotrack deploying or planning to deploy Lync.”

It was very clear to us that once we complete the networking products portfolio, the next step would be to offer a uniform management suite for it, and that we did!  We just announced our One Voice Operations Center which is a holistic suite of life-cycle management applications for large scale cloud or premise-based unified communications deployments.  With that, we are very well positioned to serve the largest of the Fortune 500 enterprises as they roll out Lync globally.

Just before the Lync conference starts, we will be hosting a closed user group event of top notch Fortune enterprise customers, for a round-table discussion about Lync global roll out best practices. Later in the week we are holding a “Vegas Style” party for our partners and customers. If you are coming to the event please make sure to stop by the Audiocodes booth #625.

All in all I expect we will have a great week in Vegas.

It makes me feel that if you plan properly, you don’t have to gamble…