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AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution | Don’t let distance stop your people talking feature

The AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution

Don’t let distance stop your people talking

Last week, I went on a whistle stop tour of Europe to meet some AudioCodes customers. It was, as usual, a pretty hectic schedule. On my last day before flying home, I was sitting outside a coffee shop sipping a nice short espresso, waiting to join a conference call with a long-standing customer, John. It was, indeed, a perfect way to round off my trip.

The AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution | Don’t let distance stop your people talking

Ironically, this conference call had been arranged because John had expressed an interest in the AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution – a room system specially designed for getting the most out of Skype for Business meetings. I say ironically, because practically every conference call-related myth, stereotype and cliché reared its head during this meeting. But it turned out to be the best marketing opportunity for our solution that I could have wished for.

After several long minutes had passed, I was admitted to the meeting, with John apologizing profusely for the delay. Evidently, he had been struggling to initiate the meeting.

This proved to be a great starting point for our conversation. I began by explaining to John that simplicity is the key with the AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution, and that initiating or joining a conference call is very easy and straightforward. You just press one of two buttons on the console’s head unit screen – MEET NOW to start an ad hoc meeting, and CALENDAR to review your daily agenda and select the meeting you want to join.

I began by outlining some of the unique features of the Huddle Room Solution. John wanted his IT manager, Anni, to join the meeting. Anni was working offsite for the day, so John had to search for the correct PIN code for this specific conference call and send it to her before she could finally log in from her mobile phone. Eventually, she was with us. This seemed like a good moment to point out that the AudioCodes Huddle Room Solution lets you add a participant to any call quickly and easily with just a few clicks. And all participants can see who else is participating and who the meeting organizer is.

While I was explaining how simple it is to deliver meeting information and PIN codes directly via the head unit, our call was interrupted by the sound of a plane passing overhead at John’s location. When we resumed the call, I told them that the Huddle Room Solution neatly avoids such disturbances by allowing you to mute any or all participants for any reason, just as you can with the Skype for Business client.

In fact, everything that you’re familiar with in Skype for Business – and plenty more besides – can be done from the Huddle Room Solution’s control interface. For example, if a confidential topic comes up during a meeting you can go private simply by picking up the handset.

Anni said that the thing she looks most closely at with any new technology purchases – apart from quality and reliability, of course – is easy and effective troubleshooting. I explained that we at AudioCodes always aim to provide comprehensive holistic solutions, and the Huddle Room Solution is no exception to this. Beyond giving you amazing sound quality, we take it even further by empowering your IT team with our dedicated management tool.

This powerful yet simple tool makes managing the Huddle Room Solution simplicity itself. You can relax in the knowledge that your huddle room will always be available for use – with the most up to date software and voice quality optimization – whenever you need it. Even better, any problems can be dealt with remotely by your IT people.

With only a few hours left before my flight, and with John sounding very enthused by our conversation, I arranged to have some samples sent to him so he could see – and hear – for himself what the Huddle Room Solution can do.

A week after they received the samples, I got a call from Anni. It was great news. She and John were so impressed by the Huddle Room Solution’s superior acoustics and ease-of-use that they decided to order several units.

I thought back to that pre-flight espresso, and how much easier my al fresco conference call with John would have been with the Huddle Room Solution already in place – because no matter where you are, it really does turn any space into a meeting space.

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We at AudioCodes always aim to provide comprehensive holistic solutions, and the Huddle Room Solution is no exception to this. Beyond giving you amazing sound quality, we take it even further by empowering your IT team with our dedicated management tool.

CloudUcation

Clouducation Episode #1

Devices and Endpoints

CloudUcation

In today’s fast paced and ever changing world, companies are quite often looking to the latest and greatest technology to get the elusive competitive edge.  This is true from the flashy ‘front door’ of their website / mobile app to the more pedestrian, but equally critical, voice infrastructure especially when deploying Skype for Business.  The latest in voice technology allows for users to ubiquitously connect to others using virtually any piece of technology they can get their hands on.  This often includes their PC, iPad, Surface, mobile phone, or tin can and string – it should not matter (except for that last one which is a stretch!).  Well, at least that what users want to think…

Allowing users to make their own unfettered decisions about what device to use is great in theory, right up until the point where they continually have quality issues and turn their attention to blaming the back end infrastructure, rather than realizing it is the device or connection they are on that is the culprit.  At the same time, it is important to realize that users are people, and for people their device choices are personal.

So how do organizations overcome this challenge?  Well, first and foremost is to properly train their users on how to utilize SfB properly.  Secondly, and arguable more important, is to provide the appropriate devices for the users to utilize at all times to ensure they have the best possible chance for a successful experience.  This is where it is extremely important to provide users with a couple of options, including certified IP phones and headsets.

So what are the key things to consider when placing an IPP on a user’s desk?  Let’s take a quick look at some of those topics briefly below, before we dive much deeper during Episode #1 of the “Cloud”ucation series:

  1. Connectivity – When it comes to IP phones, making sure the user always has a “constant” connection readily available at all times helps to alleviate those times where your PC has conveniently decided to install updates and require a reboot.  It seems like a small inconvenience, but we have all been there!!
  2. Ease of use – IP phones can also help to bridge the gap from user’s past experiences on other voice platforms, with the new ways SfB has to offer for communicating.  Why would anyone want to “relearn” how to use a phone?  It is a silly concept for sure and great options are available to alleviant this concern.
  3. Manageability – This might not be something the users think of, but who wouldn’t want to be on the latest software load and be able to report all statistics back to the IT manager automatically?  We have all been there as well, having a bad call experience, and calling the IT folks to get the old “send me more information” response.  Users should not have to concern themselves with this type of stuff, and that’s why the endpoints need to be the eyes and ears of IT.

Pretty interesting stuff to consider, especially in the BYOD world we live in!

On top of that, there is an interesting new term that I have just learned of from Mauro Caule over at Jabra called a “Confetti day”.  Think of it this way, we all work in different places and spaces, but how do we keep ourselves “on task” with the increasing number of distractions we have around us?  Mauro is going to touch on how headsets can help mitigate a lot of those distractions and keep users on task no matter what is going on around them (except the NFL playoffs, who can work during that?!?!).

Management System

Amazing Savings with a Managed IP Phone System

Management System

In a recent No Jitter blog entitled Managing IP Phones Goes Way Beyond Provisioning, I pointed out how much more powerful a managed IP Phone system is than simple provisioning and that this power and flexibility can bring considerable cost savings to an IT department. This wasn’t just marketing talk. In this blog, I want to tangibly demonstrate how this savings is achieved and what kind of numbers we are talking about.

To do this, I want to take a real-world example of a large enterprise that has deployed 20,000 IP phones amongst its employees. There are several levels to the cost savings, but it starts with the basic element of a managed IP phone solution saving countless help desk hours by providing IT the ability to remotely detect, correct and configure IP phones rather than the need to speak with the user and figure out the problem. If the average time per help desk call to figure out the problem without the managed system is conservatively 15 minutes, with the managed system, that time is cut down to just several minutes – we’ll go with 3. If the cost of a help desk worker is $50 an hour, then the savings would be reflected in the amount of help desk calls multiplied by the savings in time between 3 and 15 minutes.

Below, we look at a three-year model in which the amount of help desk calls will no doubt decrease over time as the system is used. Again, with a conservative estimate, if in the first year we can expect at least 20% of the 20,000 IP Phone users to have a single help desk call, going down to 10% in year two and 5% in year three, the savings can reach $70,000 over the three-year period. In reality, the amount of help desk calls could be as much as double ($140,000), the savings increasing accordingly.

IP Phone TCO

But that’s only part of the savings story. The IP Phone Manager allows for zero-touch customized configuration for multisite deployments. Such customization without a central management tool would require a pre-staging service from an integrator, estimated to be around $5-$10 per phone. Thus in the case of a 20,000 phone rollout, that could mean an additional $100-200K in savings.

And finally, AudioCodes IP Phones support SILK, the native Skype for Business vocoder. This vocoder delivers the best end-to-end voice quality experience available, further reducing the load on the help desk by eliminating call quality complaints which are possible in VoIP networks. But beyond the user experience and business productivity enhancement, the SILK vocoder consumes as much as 50% less bandwidth as compared to other IP Phones vocoders. This directly translates into the ability to save on remote branch MPLS access capacity and costs. In some cases, where dedicated bandwidth is allocated for voice traffic, this can lead to 50% less bandwidth consumption and MPLS costs.

In sum, the ability to manage IP phones with a system such as the AudioCodes IP Phone Manager, can lead to significant savings for a company.

AudioCodes IP Phone Manager Express is a freely downloadable Windows application that enables you to manage up to 500 AudioCodes IP phones efficiently from a single location.

The AudioCodes One Voice Operation Center IP Phone Manager, can support higher capacities.

IP Phone

IP Desk Phones – A Phone is Just a Phone Right?

Being nearly 3 months into my new role at AudioCodes it’s been a steep learning curve given the breadth of products and markets we address.  Before I started I was curious as to why AudioCodes were making such significant investments in the IP phone range, given we were primarily known for more traditional telecom appliance products such as gateways, SBC’s etc.   Would it simply be the case that we have to demonstrate that we can offer bigger screens or better buttons at a more competitive price point?  The answer was actually one that I was not expecting.

IP Phone

From a user’s standpoint you could say a phone is a phone as long as it’s intuitive to use and allows them to make and receive phone calls in various environments (Skype for Business, normal SIP etc).  The call quality expectation is pretty much a given these days (HD voice etc).  Yes there’s lots of cool things they can do such as integration with the desktop (BToE – Better Together over Ethernet) but as long as they allow users to make calls then they could be considered much of a muchness and it comes down to personal preference and what people are used to.  But who has given any thought to the poor old IT department that are tasked with supporting 1000’s of end points that could be scattered across the globe?

With the increased offerings of cloud telephony (e.g. Microsoft’s Skype for Business Cloud PBX offering) the adoption of IP phones is accelerating and with many global businesses and more and more people working from home, this presents significant challenges for those in IT.  And challenges mean expenses. IP phones by their very nature can be somewhat more complex under the hood and to the average user that is asked by the IT department to confirm firmware versions, IP addresses etc., it can be daunting.  So it could be argued that the true value of today’s IP phones is the ability for the IT departments to have control over the entire estate so they can proactively manage a global deployment.  So remotely provisioning, updating firmware versions, changing languages, time zones, signing phones in that have been accidentally signed out (think of a phone sitting on unmanned reception desk), sending messages directly to the phones that the users can see etc.   Total end point control.  If you analyze the potential savings the IT department can make by reducing the help desk case load this can be a far more interesting number than the price difference of one phone vs another.

IP Phones Management

So to answer my own question, now that I’ve had time to explore the AudioCodes offering, yes we have a nice range of IP phones, but in my opinion there is great value in the management tools that are available to complement them.

Come as see us next week at UC Expo if you like a demo that will warm the hearts of the IT department.