Grandstream Discontinuing BudgeTone 102 and HandyTone 488

May 7, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Our friends at Grandstream notified us recently of a halt on the product production of the BudgeTone102 and the HandyTone 488. We wanted to let all of our customers know in case they own either of these products or were planning on purchasing them.

Effective immediately, Grandstream has stopped accepting orders for the BudgeTone 102. Grandstream also discontinued firmware releases for this model. BudgeTone customers can continue to receive support (including RMA service) from Grandstream for up to 12 months after end-of-life. The BudgeTone 102 is being replaced by the BudgeTone 200.

They also will stop taking new orders for the HandyTone 488 after May 30. They will sell existing limited inventory on a first come, first serve basis. Firmware updates will be discontinued for this model on May 30 as well. Customers will also continue to receive their support services from Grandstream for up to 12 months after end-of-life. HandyTone 488 is being replaced by the HandyTone 503.

Trixbox (CE, SE, CCE, EE)…What is Best For You?

In the realm of IP phone systems there are many flavors to choose from. You have the small petite servers for a few users, such as a small or home office, then branch out to the big monsters that can handle 1,000 concurrent calls at once. It is easy enough with some simple wit and a little money to figure out a box that has the power for your needs, but one thing that some people do not take into consideration is the software back bone that makes this happen.

In my next few paragraphs I will be talking about the much loved trixbox unit and their software bundles. We will look over the Community Edition (CE), Standard Edition (SE), and then the Call Center Editions (CCE), and Enterprise Edition (EE).

Trixbox CE is the free (open source) edition of software. By “open source” I mean this is the drive that made VoIP where it is today. The source code is open to the public, so that people like me and possibly you can look it over and improve it. This edition is fully modifiable. You can also download it for free here and load it onto a computer or spare sever and fool around with it. What is even better is that if you made something nifty then you can submit the code back to trixbox, and they may make it apart of the next release of software. How cool is that? You can contribute to an industry that is constantly growing. Now I could sit here and talk about all the features of this version, but the list would go on and on. Let’s put it this way, there are hundreds of features. So if you’re that nerd that likes to tinker and fool with settings and see what you can do, then this is the box for you.

Trixbox SE is not an open source program, but rather is hybrid-hosted. This means that Fonality/ trixbox has control over your system and makes sure that nothing breaks. Some people like the idea of having someone help out and make sure that everything is all in working order, while others do not like the idea of a possible big brother always looking over their shoulder. In any regard, this version is free as well. It will just take a little time to go here and download it. SE has even more functionality than CE, and what is even better is HUD. HUD stands for “heads up display.” This neat program installs onto a computer on the same network as the server and links an extension from a phone to your desktop. It shows you all the other extensions and people using the same HUD program. This HUD program is called HUD lite, and there is a difference with this version and the HUD pro program that is available with the other two versions of trixbox software I am about to talk about..

Now, let’s talk about the features that are not free. Those being CCE and EE. Both versions are fully monitored by Fonality. Meaning that if something fails, like your network crashed, or the Hard drive fails or your server went down as it was processing a change you made, all you have to do is call them up, report what happened, let them diagnose anything wrong with the box, and POOF your server is back up and running in a short amount of time. Now if you had the CE version this wouldn’t be happening. So for you companies that NEED your business VoIP PBX to work, and have constant monitoring and be up and running at all times, this may be the way to go. Not to mention EVEN MORE FUNCTIONALITY. I do highly recommend taking a look at that last link. Review the functionality of both CCE and EE. Some of these features you cannot find anywhere else. Oh, one more thing–both these versions have HUD as well. But this is the PRO version. Want to know more about HUD? Click here for an interactive Demo.

Now that we have reviewed the versions and what they offer, some of you are surely wondering about the price. Here is the breakdown of what CCE and EE cost.

So, after looking at that pricing matrix (some of you may have had your jaws hit the floor), I need you to think of it this way: Yes, you could buy the monthly fee, but do the math. Add the monthly fee up for two years, and you have a close price to the lifetime license. And I am pretty sure that you are going to have that box for more than two years. Also, think about the added functionality that you have that no one else does. You could be the envy of any business around you. So those two factors alone should make that pretty convincing to take a chance and ask some questions.

Is SMS the New Email?

I just had a thought.

Is SMS the new email?

I mean this in both a positive and negative light.

Admittedly I am a huge SMS user and I USED to be a big email user. Why am I no longer a big email users?

Because the more I used it, the more emails I got and the harder it became to manage.

This morning I awoke to six text messages from friends overnight. Today, between 8am and noon, I received ten. I haven’t responded to any of them yet, just like most of the email is received today.

So with all of the buzz about the “mobile future” it is only a matter of time before SMS will become just like email – spammy, auto-generated, impersonal and overwhelming?

At least SMS was useful for a few years (and hopefully a few more)…

Twitter Tools; Helping VoIP Supply Connect and Converse With Customers

Like many companies, VoIP Supply has become increasingly aware of the benefits of using Twitter as a means to engage, communicate and assist with our customers and those utilizing VoIP technology. As with any new communications channels, there are hurdles and drawbacks to using it, however thanks to Twitters API, a variety of third party tools are springing up to help companies like VoIP Supply better utilize and manage the conversations taking place on Twitter.

This morning, I ran across a post by Lee Odden over at the Online Marketing Blog. He explains several tools that are helpful for expanding your Twitter usage. While I didn’t explore all of the tools, I found my favorites to be Who Should I Follow and Summize.

Who Should I Follow allows you to enter your Twitter name and with a simple click a list of relevant Twitterers are revealed that may match with your interests and industry. Summize is a Twitter-type search engine which allows a user to type in any word or topic. The results include pieces of conversations relevant to your topic.

For example, I typed in ‘VoIP.’ Here are some of my results…

Summize results

Thanks to Lee again for passing on this information. It’s definitely going to help lots of businesses and further connect our industry.

Innovation; Too Much of a Good Thing?

Pat Phelan has an interesting post today about innovation and the tendency for most “bleeding edge” technology companies to over-innovate with their offerings, leaving mainstream users light years behind early adopters.

While this is not a short term issue, it is a long term one, since most businesses continue to innovate over time. However success (in financial terms) only comes when a product or service reaches mainstream acceptance (there are a few exceptions of course, however for the most part mainstream is where the money is at). If your company continues to grow and never slows down (or goes back to the basics), eventually you will be caught in a vicious cycle of innovation – a constant pattern of creating cool new things that appeal to a small niche of early adopter, forever leaving behind the mainstream user who thinks your product or service is too complex, abstract or down right unusable.

I myself find that I am launching the same initiatives today, as I tried in 2005, only this time there is actual uptake on them. Sometimes it is tough always being on the bleeding edge, but at the end of the day we all have to keep in mind that most folks are not like us (us as in early adopters, technophiles, geeks, etc).

Therefore mainstream users need a little more time to adapt and hence we should operate our businesses in a manner in which allows for both “bleeding edge” and “mainstream” users to benefit from our product or service. What this means is that we must innovate through simplicity…simple service, that also has advanced “early adopter” features (or uses), yet mimics the “traditional” usage patterns a mainstream users expects. A prime example of advanced simplicity is the Apple iPod. It was bleeding edge enough for

I am not saying this is easy, but for those who can achieve these usability levels will find great success.

VoIP Supply: Creating Memorable E-commerce Experiences

Based on current research, VoIP Supply represents 50 percent of online VoIP hardware sales with more than a dozen competitors making up the other 50 percent. Interestingly enough we also represent more than 50 percent of the total personnel involved in online VoIP hardware sales with 70 employees at the end of the first quarter of 2008.

While we have continued to grow our business over the past few years, enough to earn a variety of awards including the Inc. 500 last year, we have lost some of the market share we used to have to these new ecommerce start-ups. We also lost our largest competitor last year as a result of what I perceive to be a flawed business model; the model that all of our other competitors share today as well. Leading with price and leaving value out of the equation will only get you so far in business.

At VoIP Supply, we employ dozens of highly-trained technicians, engineers and sales executives, all of which are willing and able to help a customer pre-sale and post-delivery. Not one of our competitors can even go so far as to boast that they have a dozen employees. Our sales staff is trained daily on product information as well as selling value first and not being reduced to just another online retailer selling with the lowest price as their value proposition.

How else is price not the focus at VoIP Supply? We offer a live call center with 20 dedicated sales executives, nearly a dozen customer service professionals, our unparalleled go3™ warranty program, proactive outbound telephone calls to notify customers of shipping details, product back orders and firmware updates, provisioning and fulfillment services with real time access to inventory and shipping information, pre-sale technical expertise for complete PBX solution configurations, and dozens of internal initiatives to expand our service offerings and customer communications.

Price does matter and we recognize that. A lot of our customers have spent hours of their time invested in a series of pre-sale education and post sale technical support configuring their original deployments and have then gone to a “no value” ecommerce competitor when they need a bulk purchase; where price sensitivity is the leading factor. Growing our business foundation and infrastructure did not support being the lowest in the industry and often forced us to lose business or walk away from VoIP deals because of low profit margins. While our business model is still to lead with value and focus on what else we can provide to our customers before and after the sale, new tools and measures have been put in place as of this year that permit resellers of VoIP equipment to enjoy the benefits of VoIP Supply’s staff and their capabilities, while meeting their budgetary needs.

The really exciting stuff is yet to come and not far away. VoIP Supply will be launching a new version of its web site during the middle of 2008 and will be adding a lot of new tools, functionality and enhancements over the current version. Our internal teams of software developers, designers and marketing experts have been hard at work revamping and implementing these changes. We have also grown our sales department by more than 100 percent so far this year and are implementing several strategic partnerships to offer additional value to our new customers and the more than 50,000 existing VoIP hardware buyers. Great things are happening at VoIP Supply, so look for a lot of announcements throughout the remainder of the year!

Unleash your Polycom Soundpoint IP Phone… Introducing the Polycom Productivity Suite Package

May 2, 2008 by Garrett Smith

On April 2, Polycom introduced the release of its Productivity Suite application to run on SIP firmware version 3.0.0 and bootrom 4.0.1 on Polycom Soundpoint IP Phone models. The application was designed to allow companies to work more efficiently and effectively through state-of-the art communication tools. Three of the offerings included in the Productivity Suite specifically designed for this are:

Visual Conference Management– which allows the user to manage a four-way conference call directly from the Polycom IP Phone display. Users have the ability to add, drop, split, mute, and place callers on hold, all by the press of a button and all managed through the local phone. This means that there is NO more calling into conference phone bridges and NO access conference codes to initiate conference calls between your customers or clients.

Polycom Productivity Suite

Local Call Recording-yes that’s right; “local” call recording. This function allows the user to record a call directly to the IP Phone. Call recording is only available on the Polycom IP-650 IP phone simply because that model is accompanied by a USB drive. Call recording from the local phone is very simple; plug in a recommended 2GB USB flash stick in the USB Drive of an IP-650, make or receive a call, and simply press “record.” The phone will automatically begin recording the call to the external USB stick, but it goes much further than that. The phone will allow you to access the recordings in a wav file format, directly on the phone UI and then replay, rename, or delete your recordings on the USB stick. You can even replay your recordings from your desktop computer if you wish. This application will prove very useful for CEOs, upper management teams, sales managers, financial organizations, and medical firms.

Polycom Productivity

Polycom

LDAP or Local Corporate Directory Access– which allows the local user to access corporate contacts in one directory, whereas in the past, users would need to store their contacts in separate directories. Users can easily search for contacts by their first and last names, or phone number, and then filter a list by their search criteria. From the criteria users may select, view, and call the contact desired in a much more efficient and timely manner. LDAP is also compatible with Microsoft’s Active Directory which allows users to access this directory from the local Polycom phone.

Polycom Productivity

The next two features offered in the Productivity Suite package are designed for IT Managers’ usage and accompany the following:

Voice Quality Monitoring– which allows an IT manager to view Voice-quality metrics from the local phone through RTCP-XR (IETF RFC 3611) standard format. The phone publishes these metrics via SIP Publish which allows for easy monitoring of QOS issues. IT managers are NOT limited to what metrics they may analyze when using this feature and the phone actually offers a great deal of customization to single out a QOS problem. This drastically cuts down on the need for third-party network monitoring applications and allows the IT manager to specifically focus on one application to view, pinpoint and monitor Voice traffic.

Third Party Call Control– which allows a third-party application to control the phone and also view the state the phone is in. This allows the Polycom phones to be easily integrated with unified communication systems such as Microsoft’s OCS system, which will permit a user to view the present status of their contacts and allow calls to be initiated to their contacts all from the Polycom VoIP Phone.
The Polycom Productivity Suite and all of its available features do NOT apply to every Soundpoint IP Phone model. A listing of models and feature support is listed below:

Polycom Productivity Suite

So now you may be saying to yourself, “I want this,” “this is awesome technology,” “and I want to able to take full advantage of it!” Let VoIP Supply assist you in your needs. If you have purchased or are considering purchasing Polycom IP Phones from VoIP Supply, we can offer you access to the SIP firmware 3.0.0 version, which is the software needed to run the Productivity Suite application. The 3.0.0 version is not publically offered on the Polycom website yet, but is offered on their private PRC website to authorized resellers such as VoIP Supply. VoIP Supply can provide you the software, release notes, and instructions on how to perform the firmware upgrade to get your Soundpoint IP Phones up to 3.0.0 SIP firmware, and allow you to perform the next step: purchasing the Polycom Productivity Suite licenses.

To purchase a Productivity Suite License, gather the serial number from the bottom of the Soundpoint IP unit (located on the backside of the phones), and then contact VoIP Supply and provide us with your serial numbers. The Productivity Suite application is provided on a per-phone basis, which means you will need to provide VoIP Supply with as many serial numbers as you wish to push the Productivity Suite application. Each phone is then verified and a Productivity License is applied to that unit. The list MSRP is $11.99 per phone. After confirmation, you will receive an email with the directions and a link needed to download the configuration file for that unit. That configuration file will need to be loaded to the a provisioning server, then you will need to point the phone to that server and use methods HTTP or FTP to load that configuration file onto the phone.