Speaking Up

April 28, 2008 by Ben Sayers

The executives and managers at VoIP Supply all have and advertise an open door policy to our employees. Remarkably many staff do not take advantage of this opportunity, even though it is encouraged and the outcome is nearly always better than expected.

Regardless of the reason for making the initial visit, the outcome and direction of the conversation generally goes somewhere completely different, with greater-than-expected results. Typical open door uses are when there is an issue or opportunity outside of the authorization level for the individual employee to approve. Certainly an excellent reason to walk in and engage your manager, but managers and directors should seize that opportunity to address that issue and pry into more detail with that specific employee.

Rather than extinguish the fire, dive in and find out more details so you can address it at that time, and prevent it from reoccurring in the future for that employee or customer or others.

With the rapid pace of growth and change within our organization, it is easy to lose touch with the philosophy and overall direction of the company. It is also simple enough to change old habits or intra- department myths and beliefs. It is just as easy to uncover when someone, who has been using their best judgment to address a process or problem in a particular manner, is not using an ideal or practical approach for the best interests of the customer and the company.

With as many rules, processes, and procedures as we and most companies have, it requires interaction with your employees to review the best practices, while working with them to improve their environment and efficiency. This is also done while working towards the common goal of providing the best possible customer experience.

Everyone is busy these days, myself included, but that does not mean that it makes sense to ignore the time needed by my staff, or that my needs are more important than theirs. Taking time to hear staff concerns and to ask questions about their day, their needs, and their wish lists always opens the door to improving the customer experience, company efficiency and workplace attitude.

In that respect, I highly encourage my staff to take time from their day as often as possible and come to see me, talk about something, and dig into ways to improve. I also encourage my management staff to adopt the same attitude when it comes to what many could consider an interruption to their day or a staff member not doing what they should be.

Speak up.

National Real Estate Trust Purchases VoIP Phone System

April 25, 2008 by Garrett Smith

VoIP Supply has supplied a 200+ user SwitchVox phone system to Glimcher Realty Trust.

Glimcher Realty Trust, one of the nation’s premier real estate investment trusts. The system, which also features Polycom IP phones, is set to be deployed this month.

Glimcher Realty Trust, a real estate investment trust, is a recognized leader in the ownership, management, acquisition and development of regional and super-regional malls. Glimcher currently owns or manages 28 properties in 14 states. Of the 28 properties, 24 are enclosed regional or super-regional malls, many of which are located in the country’s top-growing metropolitan statistical areas.

Siraj Haji, Director of Information Systems at Glimcher, said that their recent move to an innovative new office space was an opportunity to implement the new technology, and that with the new SwitchVox phones system, “they have set the foundation to integrate our data and communication network across all our properties.”

Mr. Haji worked closely with a team of VoIP Supply product specialists to identify Glimcher’s communication needs. After conducting a thorough needs assessment, VoIP Supply discussed numerous possible solutions, and based on analysis of the potential solutions, then proposed a solution which fit Glimcher’s current needs and allowed for future growth.

“We realized a 25 percent savings by purchasing our phone system through VoIP Supply, said Haji. “The VoIP Supply sales team was very helpful and their pre-sales support team was able to answer all our questions. We are very pleased with the service and support we received from VoIP Supply.”

Benjamin P. Sayers, President and CEO of VoIP Supply, is happy about the sale and said, “We are pleased to be working with Glimcher, a national real estate leader, and expand our services to another viable sector of the business community.”

For more information about the phone systems offered through VoIP Supply, please visit take a look at our real estate phone systems.

Welcome to the IPCS Blog!

We’re here!

Welcome to the IP Camera Supply Blog!

We noticed a lot of folks out there have a lot of questions about IP cameras, and not a lot of places to turn for information… so we are officially here to help. Our sister company, VoIP Supply, runs a very successful blog, VoIP Insider, which features product reviews, industry news, commentary, and even management pointers. We would like very much for the IPCS blog to become just as helpful and informative.

Blogs are now setting the industry standard for information dispersal. Forums still provide a great link to knowledge and interaction, but blogs also accomplish this in a more thorough format.

We have great plans for our blog including product reviews, our latest deals and sales on ipcamerasupply.com, how-to videos, and also the latest news on the IP camera industry.

We also welcome your suggestions, news tips and ideas… feel free to drop us a line at [email protected].

Check back frequently for updates… and all of your IP camera needs!

The go3 Genie Guarantee: Poof! New Phone!

April 24, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Typical Guarantee line of Questioning

May I ask, what is your back-up plan?”

Have you ever been asked this question by a salesperson? I’m asking you now. Don’t look at this as “pushy” sales guy Phil looking to boost his sale. I’m imperfect in a lot of ways, but I’m not pushy. But just answer the question.

Okay forget about me asking this question. What if your manager asks you this question? I know what your first word will be.

Uhhhhhhhhhhhh….

A typical scenario may play out as follows:

PHIL: Well thank you again “Percy” for your order for two phones. Those will ship Fed Ex two-day, and you will receive them Monday. I’ll call you later with the tracking.

PERCY: Thanks Phil, I look forward to hearing from you.

PHIL: Percy, before you go, what is your back-up plan?

PERCY: Back-up plan for what, Phil?

PHIL: For the phones.

PERCY: Oh. Well they’re covered under the manufacturer warranty correct?

PHIL: Yes. There is a one-year limited manufacturer’s warranty covering defects.

PERCY: I’m all set then, PHILIP.

PHIL: Percy, what if the phone breaks, is damaged or fails to work 366 days from now? What if it breaks or is damaged within 365 days? I know the manufacturer is not going to cover you in these cases. You do plan on using these phones a year from tomorrow right?

PERCY: Well I guess I’ll order some new phones.

PHIL: That will work. At $100 each you could spend $200 for the phones on this order and $400 total for two phones to use now and two for back-up to leave in the supplies closet.

PERCY: We cannot be without phones, but $400? I guess I’ll talk to our manager and get approval for a couple more. Thanks Phil.

PHIL: Hold everything Percy! What if I told you for $120 per phone I’ll cover any defect, damage, breakage or failure for three years or 1095 days of coverage? Your cost for a back-up plan drops 40 percent. You’re not spending $400, you’re spending $240. Not to mention it supersedes the manufacturer’s warranty and there are no questions asked, no standing in a call queue waiting for an answer. No time explaining what went wrong. Just call me and make me aware, ship the phone back to me in one or a thousand pieces, and….

PERCY: and….

PHIL: and…POOF! New phone, Percy!

PERCY: Phil, tell me more about the VoIP Supply Warranty.

PHIL: Check this link out Percy, and we’ll go over it together.

I send Percy the link: go3 warranty

Percy signs up for the warranty that day and looks like a hero to his manager.

Call a specialist at VoIP Supply today and find 1001 more reasons to consider the go3 Warranty as a secure and viable back-up plan that will cover all your telephony hardware! Follow us!

The Anatomy of an Open Source Phone System

April 23, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Yesterday I was conducting a product training for three of our new sales hires and we started to talk about open source phone systems. As you can imagine (since you have probably been there yourself) as a newbie, wrapping your head around open source phone system isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Heck, learning about VoIP in general can be difficult and when you throw in the part about open source software you can see how things can derail quite quickly.

In order to help them better understand open source phone systems, I came up with a layered anatomy approach to describing an open source phone system. While this is nothing revolutionary in my eyes, it seemed to help them, so I figured why not throw it out there in hopes that it might help others.

Anatomy of an Open Source Phone System

When I think of an open source phone system I think of a lemon meringue pie (probably because I am a fan of it). Everyone knows that a great lemon meringue has a few “layers” on it and the same is true of an open source phone system.

1. Layer one: Hardware – This is typically a server, tower PC or some sort of appliance. Most look at the hardware as “the” phone system because it is much more tangible than software, but in reality the hardware is like crust. It serves a purpose, but you wouldn’t eat it as a standalone.

2. Layer two: Operating System – In the open source world, this is your favorite (or the recommended) Linux distribution. The operating system is a piece of software that manages computer resources and provides programmers/users with an interface used to access those resources. It is the pie filling (or the meat) or the open source phone system.

3. Layer three: Open Source Software – With the third layer you are adding the actual phone system software (Asterisk, trixbox, freeSWITCH, etc). This is the special layer, like the meringue that turns a lemon pie into a lemon meringue pie and a functional server/tower/appliance into a phone system.

3. Layer four: Connectivity Cards – Most servers, towers or appliances come with Ethernet NIC’s, but some do not. The last layer to this open source phone system is connectivity to the LAN/WAN through an Ethernet NIC and PSTN connectivity through an analog/digital PCI card. Although I called them a layer, connectivity cards are really more like a fork. They are an enabler of the phone systems capabilities just as a fork enables you to each that slice of pie.

I suppose I made some gross generalizations with this one, as there is a lot more to a open source phone system (from a set-up and configuration standpoint), but there is also a lot more to making a pie than just point out the layers. However, I think this is an effective way to gain a better understanding of what a open source phone system is made up of and hopefully it helps a few you out.

HP iPaq 510 Dual Phone Review

April 22, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Latest Dual Phone Review

Today’s topic will be on the latest Dual Mode phone I have come to love. Now, not too long ago I talked about the UT Starcom GF-210 series phone. I talked about this phone because to me, nothing could beat it on the market. Well, that was last month, and today, I am going to talk about the HP’s version of a dual mode phone. The iPaq 510 phone is one for the record books. Its candy bar-like design and full listing of functionality just beats up the competition.

Now, let me just reiterate the benefits of Dual Mode VoIP phones. Not only can they work with your GSM (cell phone carrier), but they will also work on your existing network in the office or at home, saving you thousands of minutes per year that your phone carrier would be charging you for, not to mention the elimination of carrying two phones (one personal and one business), but also the combination of a full set of features. This is one phone that anyone would love.

HP iPaq 510 features

Get up to 6.5 hours of talk time: under the best network conditions/coverage with continuous talking and a fully- charged battery. Not to mention the standby time: up to 7.8 days (188 hours)
Scan, read, and reply to e-mail: using Microsoft Exchange, POP3, or IMAP; you can also use VoiceReply to reply without typing
Be productive: with mobile versions of Microsoft Outlook, Office, and Internet Explorer for Smartphone3, 4
Get clear voice quality: that enhances communication
Save your wireless airtime minutes: while in the office with Voice Over IP over your wireless LAN (Wi-Fi), and your company’s PBX phone system (interoperability has been tested with the major IP-PBX providers)
Use a Bluetooth headset: or the built-in speakerphone
See who’s calling: with Caller ID, which presents a phone number, name, or even a photo

Now with that set of features, and simplistic design; you’re probably telling yourself that this is going to be pricey. Well it’s not. HP is selling this for $319.99, but there is good news. There is a $70.00 instant rebate, so the total comes out to $249.99. Now compared to the UT Starcom GF-210, which prices out at $239.99, which one seems like the better deal? To me, I would take the HP any day.

However, I do have some bad news about the VoIP phone. And I know what you’re thinking, “there is always a catch!” This is not so much a catch, but just a small speed bump in the road. VoIP Supply does not currently have them in our product catalog. But we are working on it. And I foresee in the near future that we should be carrying it. So stick around!

Customer Service Initiatives 2008 – Part One of Many

April 21, 2008 by Ben Sayers

Our customers are our most valuable asset, and are a group of people that we strive to impress all day, every day. With more than 57,000 customers since August 2004, growing the company from 5 employees to 65 employees, more than 100,000 shipments and over $65,000,000 in gross VoIP equipment sales, I can safely say that we have had some hurdles to overcome, but have always placed the customer first and done our best to over-deliver.

Over the years there have been a few instances where we just plain got it all wrong. Like any growing business, we have made decisions that started with good intentions but ended up with poor results. Some customers have been nice enough to point out these issues to others; other customers have taken part in our customer satisfaction surveys and brought to light many areas where we can improve. The purpose of this post and others to follow is to highlight some areas of need and our plans to improve.

Returns: One area that has been a thorn in our side (and the side of many retailers) is the handling of product returns. No one likes to have to return a product and most are upset to begin with since the device is not working. Once upon a time our process for returns was slow and inconsistent with poor communication throughout the process. I am happy to say that this has been addressed and has improved, and that we have plans to continue improving the process even further. With dedicated staff, refined returns criteria, additional returns details/options printed on the packing slip and invoice, automated communications with each customer through various stages of the process and transparency, and expectations each customer should have make the end result far more positive.

Since we are not a manufacturer, we are not able to ensure that the products work, only that they can be replaced efficiently, if and when they break. From our experience and customer feedback, one common theme has been not knowing what status of the return is. We now communicate with each customer when a request for a Return Merchandise Authorization has been received, when an RMA number is granted or declined, when an RMA expires, when the return is received in our warehouse, when it has been tested, when the tested return is approved or declined and when the final credit is processed. This entire procedure now has service level assurances included where the testing and processing must be completed within 48 hours, and initial RMA requests are all handled within one business day or sooner.

There are dozens of other customer service projects and initiatives going on; I will detail them in future posts. Most are related to communications in one manner or another. With effective, consistent and proactive communications, our customers are always informed and able to focus on their needs without the distraction of tracking down their products.

VoIP Supply Improves College Campus Connectivity

VoIP Supply outfits Alderson-Broaddus College with a 200+ seat PBX phone system.

Located in West Virginia, Alderson-Broaddus, the 635-student college founded over 100 years ago, purchased analog gateways as well as a 200+ seat PBX phone system to connect the dorms and buildings, mostly for emergencies.

The new system will make it easier for the university community to communicate and keep expanding its methods to keep staff and students safe.

Bruce Blankenship, vice president for assessment, planning and technology at the college said they moved to VoIP for a number of reasons, including cost, changing technology and flexibility in services.

“We saw a potential cost savings,” Blankenship said. “We were facing an upgrade from analog, which would be much more expensive. Our copper network is also beyond capacity in terms of adding new users, so we wanted to try and put our resources into a new IP network, as our current fiber loop has been around 40 to 50 years.”

Blankenship marked the importance of what happened at nearby Virginia Tech and the importance of disaster response planning.

“VoIP supports better communications with the constituents on campus,” he said. “Currently we provide one phone per student suite, with four to eight students sharing each for emergency and local calls. We don’t provide the phones, just a jack, and down the road we are thinking of possibly offering more VoIP services for each student.”

For the 150 faculty and staff on campus, plus the student community, VoIP Supply provided the right solution at the right price. Blankenship talked with VoIP Supply and VoIP Supply partner, Digium (then known as Switchvox), in order to come up with the best possible solution for college’s needs.

“I’m glad to have had our Switchvox SMB IP PBX be selected to play a part in improving communications at Alderson-Broaddus College,” said Tristan Degenhardt, Switchvox Product Line Director for Digium. “The stability and flexibility of the solution will allow them to deploy a system that not only serves their needs in the case of an emergency, but the extensive feature set will provide far-reaching benefits in their organization on a daily basis.”

Blankenship believes in the power of VoIP for the future of the school’s needs.

“We really think VoIP will serve us better than our current service,” Blankenship said. “The faculty and staff is looking forward to more features on their phones like caller id and integrating the VoIP system with the email and calendaring system. It’s an emerging field, and the staff wants to take full advantage of the features.”

Benjamin P. Sayers, VoIP Supply CEO, said that selling VoIP as a proactive tool of protection allows the company share in the sale of social responsibility.

“We get different kinds of orders every day, but knowing that we could be helping alleviate the response time in emergencies makes the job all the more worthwhile. We are proud to take on Alderson-Broaddus College as a client.”

AastraLink Pro 160 VoIP PBX Review

April 18, 2008 by Garrett Smith

AastraLink Pro 160 VoIP PBX Review

Aastra Telecom’s first SIP-based IP PBX

Aastra Telecom has announced that it will be releasing its first SIP-based IP PBX in early May; the AastraLink Pro 160. I recently had the option of attending a technical webinar on this product, and I have to say, I’m very pleased by its offerings in its initial deployment. The AastraLink Pro 160 is designed and targeted at applications for 25 phone system users or less, but allows for up to 9 AastraLink Pro units to be interconnected via IAX trunks to accompany remote offices, multiple locations, and larger applications with more users. The unit is strictly hardware based, and blankets Asterisk, however there is no access to the root command line interface–there’s simply no need to. The AastraLink Pro 160 is accompanied by a user-friendly Web GUI interface where all configurations such as the configuration of IP endpoints, PSTN trunks, SIP trunks, and call feature functionalities, can all be performed. The AastraLink Pro 160 is designed specifically for LAN environments, and works best with Aastra SIP-based units such as the 51i, 53i, 55i, 57i, 57i CT, and the newly released models, 9143, 9480i, 9480i CT, because the PBX has built-in auto-provisioning features that will auto-seek any of the units mentioned above on the same LAN and provision the units for inter-office voice connectivity. Simply plug the Aastra IP Phones into the LAN, and let the AastraLink Pro 160 do the rest.

AastraLink Pro 160

-Support for up to 50 extensions when SIP Trunking is facilitated.

-Expandability to link up to 9 AastraLink Pro units via IAX trunking for your remote and multiple location applications.

-No user or application license fees.

-Auto-provisioning tool that allows the system to work seamlessly with Aastra IP Phones. Simply plug the phones into the LAN, and let the AastraLink Pro 160 do the rest.

-A built-in Auto Attendant that configures on initial setup.

-Ability to support open-sourced SIP IP endpoints other than Aastra phones, with phone configuration back to the AastraLink Pro 160 appliance.

The AastraLink Pro 160 is a pure hardware-based solution, no messing around with Asterisk root configuration files, and zaptel configurations for those in-house installers. There’s simply no need to! The unit contains the following hardware specifications that are designed to facilitate all of the feature functionalities of the product:

AastraLink Pro rear view

-6 analog RJ-11 FXO connections for PSTN and POTS connectivity with G.168 echo cancellation on board.

-2 analog RJ-11 FXS Connections to directly connect a fax or analog telephone up to. A cool feature with this is that the hardware has the ability to auto-switch FXO connectivity from Port 1 FXO to Port 1 FXS device in times when the network may be down. This is most noted as PSTN failover or emergency backup services, so you still have a way to communicate with the outside world in times where your network may be down. (you can also use a VoIP gateway)

-1 LAN port for connectivity to the LAN. This is strictly a LAN device and is recommended always that your LAN is segmented for voice or data in some way to reduce possible QOS issues. The LAN connectivity is also used to facilitate SIP trunking and IAX trunking between multiple AastraLink Pro 160 appliances. In these types of instances, ensure your LAN connectivity has access to your WAN to facilitate this. Aastra recommends the user of Netgear switches, and Netgear/Linksys routers specifically supporting UPnP.

-1 WAN port, which is designed for future use.

-2 audio stereo input jacks to allow for in and out circuitry for Music on Hold (MOH) and external paging.

Aastralink Pro Front View, AastraLink Pro 160 IP PBX

Look for this product to become available on Voipsupply.com in early May of this year. This is a perfect application for small to medium sized deployments, and is an in-house installer’s dream regarding setup procedures. More information on the upcoming release and more feature specifications can found here.