Treating Griddle-Forehead Syndrome (GFS) with VoIP Technology

March 20, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Isn’t it wonderful e-mailing friends all over whenever you want, wherever they are? Who hasn’t e-mailed a cousin in Europe, a friend in Pismo Beach, or Piscataway, or Piston Springs?

I know I have.

Now how much did that cost you for all the e-mails and instant messages you could stuff into a 30-day period? Plus, your family members or roommates use these services too.

I would say you probably spent anywhere from $10 to $50 depending on how fast you like to “talk” with dial-up or high speed internet.

REWIND 20 YEARS…In June 1988, my parents opened the local Telco bill on check-writing Sunday and saw the normal $37.00 bill had jumped to $406.00. 406 Big Ones! My father, usually a laconic man, used several choice words to berate me that day when he saw the phone bill…with 50 or so calls going to my girlfriend in Florida. You could have fried an egg on his forehead.

I know I’ve already posed several questions to you, but are you a business owner, world traveler, telecom director, or angry parent having griddle-head moments like Phil Sr. did 20 years ago, today?

FAST-FORWARD to 2008…
Twenty years and 37 pounds later…
• Boston Red Sox win two World Series
• Arnold is Governor of the biggest state in the Union
• Al Gore invents the internet (have another one…)

Seven years after that fateful Sunday two things happened–I started e-mailing my girlfriend, and my father began recognizing me again.

Today, think of that $406 going towards a new VoIP deployment. All of the phone exchange with whoever you want or need to talk to is at internet pricing–whether it is a relative, customer, vendor or girlfriend. Your days of the huge Telco bill are over; should you decide to accept the mission of saving money and avoiding griddle-forehead syndrome, or GFS.

Simply compare your phone bill to your ISP bill. Which is more? How much do you pay to talk to a friend outside the county you live in? How about state or country? Have you noticed those rates have decreased, but still your bill is taxed, re-taxed, state taxed, federally-taxed, surcharged and so on?

Multiply this by the number of employees you have using phones at your business. Sorry to remind you about that touchy subject, but that is because the Telcos are advertising lower rates to reel you in and then charging you wherever else they can to get the $406+ smackers. Why else would they lower their rates? Isn’t that the American way?

Take a half-hour out of your day and call one of the experts here at VoIP Supply. Your success is paramount to ours. FOLLOW US!

New VoIP Hardware At VON; Coming to VoIP Supply’s Shelves Soon

March 18, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Benjamin Sayers, Cory Andrews, Arthur Miller and I are all here at the Spring VON show in San Jose this week and today we got a chance to tour the exhibit hall floor and check out some of the new hardware that will be coming to the shelves at VoIP Supply in the next few weeks.

Here is a rundown of the products that should quickly become top sellers:

1. Linksys WIP310 – This a new SIP based WiFi phone from Linksys. It comes with a slick color screen and it 802.11/g compliant.

2. SwitchVox AA60 Appliance – Digium owned SwitchVox announced their new SwitchVox appliance which will replace their tower design that is currently in distribution later this month. It is designed to meet the needs of the small business and seems to be their response to the trixbox appliance.

3. Aastra Astralink 160 – Based on a Asterisk, Aastra has released their own phone system that seems to replace their own VentureIP phone system that was very popular a few years back. Basic in features, much of the call control and configuration is done on the handset, not the phone system. Set-up to deployment in about 5 minutes.

4. IP EVO Xing – Old Skype hardware, new strategy. According to the folks a IP EVO the once Skype only USB conferencing solution will be re-released in the next two months as an pen SIP based product. When it was available, it was a popular item. Look for demand to quadruple when it comes in an “open” version.

5. Zyxel SIP DECT – Zyxel had two different SIP DECT solutions on hand at their both. Neither of them where yet available, but they looked slick and had robust feature sets. More to come on this.

Look for more from us on these exciting new products in the very near future.

Take Advantage of VoIP Technology

A close look at a simple Point to Point VoIP adapter solution from Linksys that could save you millions on those dreaded long distance fees.

We have all encountered them; hidden fees. Those spikes in the phone bill are the reasons why we have to question, “Where did that charge come from?” or “I didn’t realize that was a long distance call!” Want to put a stop to all of that? You would be foolish if you didn’t, so take a look at this solution:

VOIP Technology is driven through a high speed internet connection. Calls are mostly made (in this scenario) over the SIP protocol, unlike the traditional POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) where calls pass over a series of circuited switched networks owned by your Telco provider. So let’s drop the Telco provider out of the scenario and focusing on setting up a free point to point setup.

First you are going to need the following:

• A working high speed internet connection at both locations
• A Linksys PAP2T at each location
• An analog telephone to connect to the PAP2T’s in each location.
• This instruction guide for proper setup…

Linksys spa-ata and PAP2T Point to Point Instructions

The following diagram below will lay out the setup for this process and all instructions and screenshots will reference it.
Linksys spa ata schematics diagrams

SITE A Configuration

Instructions
1. Connect an analog telephone to phone 1 port on a VoIP adapter unit.
2. Connect an Ethernet cable into the LAN port on your unit and power on.
3. From the analog phone, press ****, then 110# to get the IP Address of the unit.
4. Open your internet search browser from a computer and browse to that IP Address in the address bar.
5. Upon entering the Linksys Web GUI Configuration, click the System Tab.
6. Make the following changes.

Here is a typical point to point scenario:

Let’s say I will be traveling to Europe in the upcoming months, but I would still like to remain in contact with my friend in Florida. I am fully aware that if I call her from a European land line, I will most likely incur long distance fees, which will inevitably add up over time. But before I went to Europe, I did some shopping on VoIPSupply.com and purchased two Linksys PAP2T’s with the full intention to setup a pure VOIP solution to make free calls to and from my friend in Florida over the World Wide Web.

After receiving the PAP2T’s, I properly configured each unit to the specifications noted in the instructions above. I chose whatever extension worked best for me, and ensured that each would have a static IP address. This is a very important aspect of this setup since the two units “talk” to each other via IP and are “registered” to one another to form this IP communication link. After I had configured both units to “point” to one another, I made test calls to each, and the calls were made to and from both units on a pure VOIP basis.

This solution costs around $100 and takes about 30 minutes max to setup. The best part about the solution is you can bring the PAP2T anywhere, connect it to a high speed internet connection and make free calls to your other point. This is a point to point solution so you are only able to call the other recipient your device is configured to, and are limited to those boundaries.

RTFM-Read the Fantastic Manual

Each day I work with multiple software applications including email, Office applications, ERP and CRM applications as well as my Internet browser. Expert at some and novice at others, they all produce results and either make me more efficient or increase my level of frustration. All of my employees go through the same each day using the tools the company has provided, and they too are either efficient or frustrated.

For my employees, the applications they are most efficient in and least frustrated with are the ones that the company has spent time documenting and providing training on. For me, the applications that work best are those that I have invested my personal time in learning and playing with, and those that come with user-focused documentation. More often than not, I get the most use from an application when I pro actively read the manual and learn what it can do and how it is intended to work.

Take a digital camera. Think about its manual, when you read it and how the product works before and after your time with the manual. We all know how to use a camera these days, turn it on, press the button a little until the camera focuses, and press harder when ready to snap the picture. Simple and easy, nothing to it. The only time most people read the manual is when it stops working or there is something stuck on the LCD that we can’t get rid of. The camera manual isn’t very large nor that complex. When we do read it to find the fix for the problem, generally all of the content surrounding the fix contains information unlocking the features of the camera that we either don’t use, don’t understand or didn’t know existed – perhaps all of these. After 30 minutes of manual reading time, I now know all that my camera is capable of and have learned how to fully utilize the product. As a real life example, I now get 100 percent more usage and enjoyment out of the camera with 95 percent less frustration when things do go wrong. The same applies to my television, washer and dryer, my car and even my microwave. I read the manual and learned that there was a flashlight in my car’s glove compartment. That would have been nice to know a few years ago when I bought it and had to change a fuse using my cell phone for lighting.

Back to software applications; the same logic and experiences apply. You can check the help file when things go wrong, and you can struggle through trial and error when learning new tricks, or you can stop and spend 30 to 60 minutes reading the manual. Over a very short period of time you will recoup your 30 to 60 minute investment, and you should be that much more efficient, less stressed and the benefits gained will be carried with you so long as you need to use that application.

As an employer, I encourage the staff to read and self-educate constantly. We pay for training, books and time to learn; it is highly encouraged and equally rewarded. I am as guilty as the next when it comes to not always taking time to read the manual, but understanding the value and seeing the benefits firsthand will help ensure that I do take the time, without making excuses for why “I don’t have time to read the manual.”

Where’s My Cell Phone?!

March 14, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Being in marketing communications and public relations, particularly for technology and VoIP Supply, I tend to spend a lot of time reading and following the media: social, traditional, viral, etc. So I come across a lot of great stories online, including blogs that not only give suggestions for better business, but teach lessons for a less stressful, more successful personal life.

Almost everyone in the known universe has a cell phone. Some have two, one personal, one for work, and some even have three (although for what other information couldn’t come through two cell phones, I’m not sure…). We juggle keys, briefcases, purses, wallets, lunches, phones, portfolios, laptops… In the transfer of all these items, sometimes our key lifeline disappears into thin air–the magically vanishing cell phone. Poof!

For most of us we can pick up a friend’s cell phone or a landline, call the number and strain our ears for the muffled tone hidden under a couch cushion, buried in the bottom of our work bag, or resonating out from under our dog’s bed. Sometimes it gets even worse and we have to struggle to listen for vibrations…some of which are more powerful than others.

But for many of us, particularly the younger generation, we don’t need a landline to exist. If we live alone, or are in for the night, there are not a lot of ways to try and locate your phone via stationary telephony. This is where my trusty media friends come in handy. I found this website care of a blog by Tom Keating over at TMCnet.com. Go to http://www.wheresmycellphone.com, type in your phone number, and the website will call your phone for free.

Genius. If only the internet could always have such useful sites!

VoIP Supply Earns Second Consecutive ‘Best Places to Work’ Nomination

March 13, 2008 by Garrett Smith

VoIP Supply, announced today that it has been nominated as one of the Best Places to Work in Western New York for 2008. The Best Places to Work in Western New York nominees were selected based on nominations and feedback from employees across the Western New York region. This is VoIP Supply’s second nomination in as many years.

The award, sponsored by Buffalo’s Business First newspaper and Quantum Market Research, looks to recognize companies in the Western New York area that foster the best and most innovative work cultures. The winner of this year’s Best Place to Work will be announced on April 8 at an award luncheon in downtown Buffalo, NY.

“Being nominated as one of the best places to work is truly a reward,” said Benjamin P. Sayers, President and CEO of VoIP Supply. “Creating an environment where people can succeed and chart out their own career path, where they can contribute and be heard, and where their every task makes a recognizable difference, is an exciting opportunity for me. Our environment attracts wonderful people who are the core that makes this company a great place. I give thanks every day to my staff, those who truly make this one of Western New York’s Best Places to Work.”

For more information about VoIP Supply and potential career opportunities, please visit www.voipsupply.com.

The RedFone Advantage

These days, the backbone of most businesses relies on communication. Many businesses are implementing Asterisk-based PBX systems as a result of increased communication needs.

High availability for these communication systems is therefore very appealing. An unreachable service or business can be costly both monetarily, and from a potential customer service perspective.

This blog entry will point you toward some sources for implementing high availability/load balancing applications for Asterisk-based phone systems.

Redfone Communications has announced compatibility of the foneBridge2 product with Elastix.

“The simple install routine, clean user interface and leading edge software packages supplied by ELASTIX, now combined with native foneBRIDGE2 support allows integrators to easily deploy robust telephony solutions for even the most rigorous and demanding environments where downtime is unacceptable,” stated Mark Warren, president of Redfone Communications.

For more information also check out the Redfone HA whitepaper: Redfone White paper Also listed on the resources page of VoIP-INFO is a HOWTO with Heartbeat and Redfone fonebridge.
And for your further information, here are my top reasons to deploy a Fonebridge:

  • Ethernet is the only hardware requirement. No need to worry about having the correct PCI, PCI-X, PCIe, etc. compatible slot.
  • Works with native Asterisk zaptel drivers. Does not require the install of additional software (ex. wanpipe).
  • Quick install routine- External device installs on network, no need to open up server and install inside chassis
  • High availability- Provides rapid failover capability on an Asterisk/trixbox cluster. Unique feature not supported by any PCI card manufacturer.
  • Load balancing – The ability to load balance T1/E1 PRIs to individual Asterisk/trixbox servers. Another unique feature not offered by any other vendor.
  • Mix mode operation support- T1,E1,RBS/CAS configurable on a per-port basis.
  • Price Point- Comparable to equivalent dual and quad port PCI products.
  • Free Support- Redfone will support both Asterisk and trixbox users who purchase from VoIP Supply–Anything from simple questions and configuration help to engineering consultation on the proper dimensioning and implementation of your systems.

More from: Asterisk Arthur Miller

Digium Preps Switchvox SOHO and SMB IP PBX for Channel Consumption

switchvox logo
Back in September 2007, Switchvox, makers of the commercially successful, Asterisk-based SOHO and SMB IP phone system, was acquired by Digium. Digium has recently rolled out the new channel model for the Switchvox platform, with some subtle changes in terms of seat licensing and support.

Switchvox hardware rack ready 3u configuration Intel-based midtower server

Switchvox offers two base hardware platforms; a standard Intel-based midtower server and a rack ready 3U configuration with increased CPU and RAM, RAID and redundancy options. The SOHO Tower (midtower) supports 10 concurrent calls. The SMB 3U rack mount server accommodates from 45 – 75 concurrent calls, depending upon the configuration you choose. Switchvox also offers cold spares and three year extended hardware warranty options.

The most significant change is in Switchvox’s software and support subscription licensing. There are three tiers of available support subscription available: Silver, Gold and Platinum. The costs are annualized, per user, and range from $55/user for Silver, $77/user for Gold and $110/user for Platinum. The main difference among these is the communication mechanism offered for support interaction (email only, email and telephone) and the available time window to reach Switchvox support personnel. Gold and Platinum support subscriptions offer technical support, via email or telephone, from 9am – 6pm PST. Platinum support also offers “5 Incidents of out-of-Business Hours* Phone Support*,” in addition to unlimited email and telephone access during normal business hours.

Support subscriptions can be renewed annually (optional) at a reduced rate per user. Support subscription renewal rates in year 2+ range from $11/user for Silver, $17/user for Gold and $28/user for Platinum. Switchvox direct support subscriptions are typically augmented by direct support available from the VAR.

In addition to these support subscription options, software updates and maintenance for both SOHO and SMB editions is gratis in year one, and can be renewed in years 2+ for a flat fee of $550. Switchvox also offers an auto renewal option at the point of sale.

Email is Never Enough

March 11, 2008 by Ben Sayers

Email is never enough.

Like many people, so far this week I have received in excess of 5,000 email messages, combining spam with useful communications. A few times this week, and every week, bad things have happened as a result of the “email assumption(s)”. First, several messages were never received and were trapped in a spam filter. The sender assumes I read it and is left hanging with no reply. Secondly, a few messages have been read and interpreted in a manner vastly different from the intended message. It happens to everyone, so why make the assumptions?

VoIP Supply has taken a proactive approach lately in enhancing its communication methods and no longer following the trend of making an email assumption. To the contrary, we are taking the stance that our email messages are not received and are placing a call to each customer to ensure that they are aware that we have shipped their products, and that we have emailed them both their invoice and their tracking numbers. Should they want them immediately we can provide the tracking information right over the phone.

VoIP Supply is also taking the position of not sending any negative messages by way of email. Some examples are the decline of a credit card, back order of a product and discrepancy in pricing or taxes. Any messaging between VoIP Supply and its customers, other than positive order status updates, is to be made by a live person capable of explaining and resolving any hurdles.

Our customers are our greatest asset and deserve to be treated as such. Email has its place, but a phone call will always provide better service and a more remarkable experience.

VoIP Buying Trends and Customer Trust

March 10, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Phone Orders versus Web Orders

Do online shoppers trust the internet when they have to make high dollar purchase decisions? A high dollar purchase decision is relative to each person, and some people tend to feel more comfortable than others when spending hundreds online. Seemingly, most prefer to pick up the phone and call the 1-800 number displayed on the site to place an order over a certain dollar amount. At VoIP Supply, phone orders average twice that in dollar amount over web orders.

What would encourage you to shop more online? Ecommerce-guide.com conducted a study that shows both new and seasoned internet shoppers would shop more online if the following top four factors were better controlled:

1. Protection of credit card information against fraud
2. Reasonable shipping/handling fees
3. Assurance of the privacy of personal information
4. Guarantee that the product ordered will actually arrive

Consumer trust while shopping online is significant, and well worth its weight in gold. Ultimately, proper branding of your e-commerce store should ensure consumer trust. If people feel comfortable buying from your online store by calling the 1-800 number displayed on your site, then why don’t they continue to “check-out” online – either way they’re still buying from you, so why is ‘trust’ such a big deal?
Our site, VoipSupply.com displays multiple icons verifying our security. These include the Thawte and Hacker Safe certificates, along with PayPal and Authorize.net verifications. We also display logos noting our businesses achievements and awards such as our inclusion in Inc. 500 among others. Even with these emblems of trust, prominently displayed throughout the entire site, we continue to see buying trends favoring phone orders over web orders.

Data displayed was collected for VoIPSupply.com during 2007

Pie Chart

Why do people call the 1-800 number to place an order, instead of clicking the “check out” button? Consumer trust isn’t necessarily the culprit. The VoIP industry is still new –comparatively to analog phones that have been around for over a century. Naturally, people have questions about VoIP. It’s easier for them to call the 1-800 number on the site, get their questions answered and place their order – they’re killing two birds with one stone. Proactively, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the site to help our customers make a more informed decision.

There is a slight difference in online shopping trends with new users compared to seasoned internet users. Seasoned users are more prone than new internet users to try new e-commerce stores. This is good news for start-up sites, much like our sister site IP Camera Supply, which is seeing a similar trend in bias favoring phone orders over web orders.

Data displayed was collected for IPCameraSupply.com during 2007

ip camera supply

Bottom line, people are going to stick with what they know, and shop where they trust. If people have questions about new technologies, trends show they’re more likely to call in to place an order. From my research, web orders can increase over time by stressing customer service. If people have a fantastic first time shopping experience with us over the phone, they may be more prone to “check-out” through the site next time around. Placing a web order usually saves the customer valuable time. And that’s what we’re here for, making life easier through VoIP.