VoIP Supply CEO Elected to infoTech Niagara Board

June 27, 2008 by Garrett Smith
Benjamin P. Sayers, CEO of VoIP Supply, has been elected to infoTech Niagara’s Board of Directors.  This is his first term on the board of InfoTech Niagara.
Mr. Sayers joins a board of over 20 members, some of whom are among the most influential in the technology corridor of WNY, including those from the recruitment, academic, health, and other various industries.  Interest in this year’s board was substantially larger than in years past and not all nominees made the cut.

Mr. Sayers is looking forward to his work with the group.

“It is a great honor to be named to such a forward-thinking group as infoTech Niagara.  They have great plans not only for professional and economic development, but for community outreach to students and the less fortunate as well.”

For the past 10 years, infoTech Niagara has provided its members with networking, professional development and industry awareness opportunities. With approximately 200 corporate members, infoTech Niagara is growing quickly while creating new programs and services to benefit its membership.

Heralding the Death of the PSTN

June 26, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Doug Mohney over at FierceVoIP…. who consistently put out some of the most interesting and relevant content in the industry….has a story this morning concerning the impending demise of the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network….for the uninitiated, think telephone poles and wires).

Doug makes reference to another opinion piece from Daniel Berninger at GigaOm that offers additional data which points to a decline in the relevancy of the PSTN in a world that increasingly communicates over various IP based media.

Whether you agree or disagree with their consensus, it’s hard to argue that SIP continues to make strides and is slowly pulling the telecommunications industry behind it. I think we can all peer into the future and clearly see a world where voice and data are homogeneous and ubiquitous. How long it will take to realize that vision is nearly impossible to predict.

In the telecommunications industry at large, I see themes common to other pressing environmental and socio-economic issues that we have to deal with sooner or later. Like alternatives to fossil fuels, we know IP communications is a good thing for us, that it makes sense, and offers a spectrum of benefits and advantages versus our current incumbent technology…..But it’s not that simple. Hydrogen powered cars look great, where do I sign? What, there’s no place to fuel up? Hmmm, that’s no good.

The mass adoption of a product or service is governed, to a certain extent, by the effectiveness and efficiency of its distribution network. Companies like Verizon (FiOS), Comcast, Level 3, Covad, Bandwidth.com and others like them are the change agents who are doing the dirty work necessary to usher in our telephony renaissance. First adopters, god bless you! When we finally get there, perhaps we should name a bridge after SunRocket, or a park after Jangl….for they are the martyrs. The lack of “broadband” quality data connectivity outside of the largest, most financially viable market geographies is also a major hurdle. The Net Neutrality debate also has very large implications.

The PSTN has been diagnosed with a terminal condition, it could be a year, 5, 10 or 20…we just don’t know. We can recommend to the PSTN some measures that it may take to prolong its longevity, but it probably won’t take our advice to heart, and may only speed its own demise.

VoIP Supply Named to the Fast Track 50 for Third Consecutive Year

VoIP Supply was named to the Fast Track 50, the 50 fastest growing companies in Western New York, by Buffalo’s Business First newspaper.

VoIP Supply has been named to the list for three consecutive years.  The placement was based on the company’s growth in total sales and number of U.S. employees over the previous three years.

Benjamin P. Sayers, President and CEO of VoIP Supply, is ecstatic that his company has made the list a third time.  “The success of VoIP Supply has paralleled on the dedication, talent, and hard work of our tremendous staff.  I cannot thank them enough, and this award belongs to each of them as well.”

The award was presented to Mr. Sayers at a ceremony on June 17 at Shanghai Red’s Restaurant on the Buffalo waterfront.

Guest Post: Choosing Phones for VoIP

June 24, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Because of the great response for our Asterisk Contest, we decided to ask the participants if they would be interested in posting further information about their VoIP interests on the VoIP Insider. Many took us up on the request, and now here is our first post from randulo of the VoIP Users Conference.

Most of the processing in a VoIP system goes on behind the technology curtain, often with no warm and fuzzy interface. On the other side of the counter, the people actually using the phones have the most important need: usability. The usability of a telephone system depends a lot on the ergonomics of the phone itself. As I’ve said before at Astricon Paris 2006 and Asterisk Tag in Berlin, buy the phones the end users will be most comfortable with, not the ones you like for “geeky” reasons.

woman with phone

Photo of user holder phone
http://talkathon.org/uploads/user480.jpg
Credit: randulo

Let’s Get Physical

This thing is sitting on your desk all day. You see it even when it’s not in use and so do your customers and contacts if they come near your desk. Here is a list of things I’d try to check.

The phone’s footprint and weight: Does it stay where you put it?

old telephone

Old Phones:
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2225/2433006089_fbf25ed575_m.jpg
Credit: A30_Tsitika link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frozen-in-time/

Handset feel: the handset (and possibly a headset if used) are the most important things because they are being used for most of a call. One rule of thumb is that if the handset feels like it would break if you dropped it, it isn’t good enough. Think about how robust the old phones of the last century were! Cisco and Polycom phones have solid handsets that have a very strong feel and good weight, but so do a few less expensive entry-level phones.

Buttons, size, number, placement and labeling: Many have complained about the button feel on cheaper phones. Are they too large, or too small? (The Grandstream BT100 series has huge buttons. Some may appreciate this.) I think Linksys/Sipura and again Polycom have good buttons.

Color and shape: Yes, many people wonder why phones do not come in more colors. Female co-workers are not usually crazy about phones that look like they should be in the situation room at the White House.

Phone menus: I personally abhor the Polycom ip500 menu, it’s an exercise in bad ergonomics, but the phone’s other qualities make up for it. Example: at least six button presses are needed to do a lot of operations, since you can’t “Exit” without hitting “More” first. Linksys/Sipura does a good job with menus and the web interface not only works, but these phones boot in a few seconds.

Geekdom, Electronics and Firmware

Provisioning: if you have a small installation, you won’t care. A large number of phones means you need a good provisioning system and phones that work with it.

Cordless technologies: Are Wifi SIP phones any good? I have heard a lot of criticism about Wifi SIP phones. I am using a Siemens S675IP which is an incredible DECT SIP phone I reviewed here. In short, it connects to a PSTN line and functions as a cordless phone and answering machine with up to six handsets. The added feature is that it can connect to up to six SIP providers, read email and RSS feeds (in a very limited way), and it works great with our Asterisk office pbx.

Protocols and codecs: which codecs does your operation need? We mostly use the lossless ulaw, but you may have different bandwidth or sound quality requirements. Most of us use the SIP protocol on hardphones, but there are more and more IAX2 hardphones available. The Allnet 7960 does both at once! That is, you can use both SIP and IAX2 by configuring different lines and not need to change the firmware as you do with most phones.

Power source: I prefer a phone that comes with a 100-250v adapter, but if you have PoE available, you probably want to use it.

Memory for directory: this is sometimes an important difference between older and newer models.

Line instances: are there enough, or is it expandable to more lines?

In the end, one of the best reasons to go to a large VoIP conference, be it Astricon or something more general, is to get a close look at the phones. If at all possible, drag a co-worker who uses the phones a lot with you and make careful notes of what he/she thinks. Then take a look at VoIP Supply’s phone page and see what they have available for you. (Hint : call them up and discuss your needs.)

Silence is Golden in Sales

June 23, 2008 by Garrett Smith

White Night

In my career, I have had the pleasure of selling everything from analog adaptors to ZIP drives; from art supplies to zippered deposit wallets.

Whether on the road or on the phone, I made friends with whoever I worked and shared desk space with. When I was young, seasoned sales reps showed me the ropes. Today, I always try to make time for the new sales reps who are “cutting their teeth,” so to speak.

One thing that always fascinated me, and provided spectacular entertainment, was what I like to call the “White Knight”. Referring to Medieval lore, the White Knight always comes to the rescue. Among other things, the White Knight promises (and rarely delivers) to get you the following:

· Best pricing

· Free shipping

· Break the rules and supersede managerial or company directives to satisfy you

· Lauds his previous achievements and glory

· Embellishes his title

· Turn his mom into the police to get your order

The list goes on. What always stopped me in my tracks was the guy who called a customer, introduced himself, stated why he was calling (usually one or all of the aforementioned bulleted points above), gave his contact information and said goodbye. The customer said “Hello” and “Okay, thanks for calling.”

What in the world did that sales rep accomplish? Probably at most a 90-second call to pad his stats. He made himself look pretty silly and incompetent to his customer and the bottom line is, he’ll never hit his numbers and succeed at the occupation he has chosen.

Where did the White Knight fall off his horse? Well he certainly used his mouth to scare the customer into considering the competition. But the weapon he did not use was his aural complement; that is, his ears!

I would argue that the ears, and the ability to listen to your customer, is oftentimes more important than the chatting up a storm, like the wind-bag that calls and promises you the moon, the stars, and the PBX!

Consider these hints on your next call to a prospect, vendor, a partner or customer:

· Cut down on the yes or no questions like “Do you need to order any pens today?”

· Ask more open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer like “I’ve noticed you have purchased quite a few pens lately; what do you attribute the spike in your business to?

· Discover what they did over the weekend

· Inquire about the town they live in and tell them if you’ve had an experience in their home town

· Pose a pertinent question(s) about their business

· Offer up legitimate value that can help them on the spot or in the long term–see if they are interested

I can tell you that more often than not, you will get quality responses from your business interaction by preparing for your call and lending an ear.

The goal of course, is to not simply get the sale. You’ll get the sale, but you’ll also build a relationship. Let’s face it, if you prove yourself as adding value to your customer, you’ll satisfy their need and succeed at your profession.

And then everybody’s happy.

People always value these professions:

A good mechanic to take care of your car

A great hairstylist/barber to offer the coiffure

A fine bartender to pour and listen

A reliable sales person to listen and deliver

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Optical Zoom

Optical Zoom= Changing the focal length of a camera by adjusting the physical zoom lens.  The higher the optical zoom, the better the results.  In a camera, an optical zoom of 10x or more is called a “superzoom” lens.  Note that if a camera is advertised with “10x zoom,” that does not necessarily mean optical zoom only.  In many cases, the optical is 3x with the additional 7x being digital.

Polycom IP670 First Impressions

June 20, 2008 by Garrett Smith

One of the more exciting (that is if you are a hardware nut) product releases in the last few weeks has been from Polycom with their IP 670 IP phone.

The Polycom IP 670 is what I call a true “next-Gen” IP phone.

Why?

The Polycom IP 670 comes jam-packed with C level goodness; Polycom’s HD Voice, a full color 320 x 160 pixel screen, USB port for applications and full GigE support. The phone also comes ready for use with the Polycom Productivity Suite and a XHTML microbrowsing for viewing those productivity suite applications.

Now, I know what your saying, that is all well and good Garrett, but the phone costs over $400! Yes, the Polycom IP 670 is a tad pricey, but hey when it comes to pleasing your CEO, money shouldn’t be an object. On a more serious note, the IP 670 is one of those pieces of equipment that is worth a $400 investment.

Unlike many lower end phones that will need to be replaced once your network gets upgrade to GigE or your company begins to see the true value in application pushed to your handset, the Polycom IP 670 has everything you need for high-end communications today and into the future. You can buy a $200 phone today and a $400 phone tomorrow or just one $400 phone today. I am sure your CFO would appreciate the latter.

For more specifics on the IP 670, check out the the IP670 product page.