The Exit Interview and Beyond

April 7, 2008 by Ben Sayers

Always an interesting component of the CEO’s role is the summarization of one’s employment at the time of departure. These are usually quite different when the employee is leaving on their own versus when they have been terminated. We conduct exit interviews whenever possible to determine the reasons for the change from the employee perspective and to learn how we can improve if necessary.

“The grass is greener.” Often times people leave the company because they feel that there is a more suitable opportunity elsewhere. In many companies I am sure this is true; at VoIP Supply the owners and managers work very hard to create an environment where people can grow their own green grass and not feel a need to leave. If the greener grass is more money for less work, responsibility and accountability then there will always be a short term gig with skeletons in the closet. This is not a new concept and sometimes there may well be greener grass depending on where you are coming from. Many have left VoIP Supply to pursue greener pastures. Most have come back to seek their old spot or continue their quest, also embarrassed to return once they found that the grass was green but spoiled.

“I was not treated fairly.” What is the benchmark for fairness? It is pretty self explanatory yet there are different measurements based on experience, responsibility, competence, expectations, seniority and level of compensation. Being treated fairly, at least at VoIP Supply, is generally an issue of perception. Not liking the way you were treated is different than not being treated fairly. Times change, people change and the needs of the business change; as a result it can often be seen as unfair when something that was acceptable or tolerated 12 months ago is no longer going to cut it. When the needs, attitude, and direction of the company are in direct opposition of your own needs, attitude and agenda; that is when it becomes easy to take a stance of not being treated fairly. It takes a lot of time and energy to fairly and consistently manage 65 people, and to work to ensure management is on the same page when it comes to fairness and consistency. In short, fairness is often based on perception and not reality, and it is a two-way street where fairness must go both ways – in the reality wagon.

“Too much was asked of me.” America has built an economy where too much is asked of everyone, work weeks are no longer 40 hours long and the expectation is that everyone is to perform at a comparable level, even after a superstar comes in and raises the bar. VoIP Supply is not too different, as a lot is asked and expected of everyone; the difference lies in understanding an individual’s capabilities versus attitude and drive. When someone quits because “too much was asked of them,” it is always a sign of a poor attitude, lack of motivation or unwillingness to be part of a fast-paced, rapidly growing, constantly evolving environment. You know what? That’s ok; the world needs those people too, just not here at VoIP Supply. Those driven to succeed, grow and be successful are held in extremely high regard.

Polycom Releases New Software and Updates

April 4, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Polycom rolls out software updates

We received some information from Polycom this week about some software updates and a new productivity application suite. These can definitely help all you Polycom lovers out there, and VoIP Insider is happy to spread the word.

Available Polycom software updates

An updated software release, SIP 3.0.1, is available from the Polycom Resource Center. This is a maintenance patch release and includes improvements related to issues that have been uncovered in the field. The Release Notes are available from the Polycom Support website.

An updated software release, SIP 2.1.3, is also available from the Polycom Resource Center. This is also a maintenance patch release and also includes improvements related to issues that have been uncovered in the field. This release is intended for customers that have SoundPoint IP 300 or 500 VoIP phones deployed as these are not supported on the SIP 2.2.x or SIP 3.0.x releases. The Release Notes are available from the Polycom Support website.

Polycom Productivity Suite

The Polycom Productivity Suite will be shipping around April 2. The Productivity Suite is a set of five productivity applications designed to enhance a user’s overall productivity and improve their user experience when using Polycom’s SoundPoint IP and SoundStation IP phones. The applications include:

Corporate Directory Access, which eliminates directory duplication through integration of the phone with any LDAP compliant corporate directory system (this includes support for Microsoft’s Active Directory)

Local Call Recording, which allows any active calls to be instantly recorded using any standard USB flash drive

Visual Conference Management, allowing a user to locally conference in 3 additional participants into a 4-way local conference call, which can be completely managed via an intuitive visual menu

Voice Quality Monitoring, providing the IT community with a way monitor call quality in real time and proactively detect voice quality monitoring issues

Third Party Call Control, allowing a third party application to control the phone as well as to obtain presence information from the phone

More information on the Productivity Suite can be found at Applications for SoundPoint IP Phones page at the Polycom website.

How Are You Facilitating Your Inbound and Outbound DID’s?

April 3, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Direct Inward Dialing and how it works

Many of us may have questions about how DIDs work and how to provision them. DID stands for “Direct Inward Dialing”. DIDs are typically used in conjunction with an IP PBX, to route incoming and outgoing calls to their correct source or destination. Almost every IP PBX has a method of facilitating DID’s, whether that be internal or external to the server. However, products used to facilitate them are often in question.

There are three ways that most businesses are “bringing in” their DID’s. The first method is Analog Trunking or “POTS” (Plain Old Telephone Service). Analog Trunks may be comprised of physical copper PSTN lines paid for and supplied by your local telephone company. These are pure RJ-11 analog lines, no different from your “landline” wall jack at home. Most SOHO applications utilize analog POT’s lines since they are more cost effective. The typical number of physical PSTN lines is usually around four to eight, and will vary depending upon the number of inbound/outbound calls the business needs to support. Each physical POTS line is equal to one channel, and represents a 1:1 ratio. Each physical PSTN line also has a single DID number associated with it. If you have four analog POTS lines, you have four DID’s or channels available to make inbound and outbound calls.

Removing Voip from the picture for a second.

Take VOIP out of the picture for a second…. in a true analog environment, each PSTN line would be connected to an analog telephone (user), and that telephone would be associated with a specific DID number. Let’s bring back VOIP now….analog telephone lines are NOT connected to the phones themselves, since in most cases, you will be using VOIP phones, but rather into the central location… the IP phone system. Analog lines are facilitated within the IP PBX via FXO PCI cards. If you have eight incoming RJ-11 PSTN lines, you will essentially need an eight-port RJ-11 analog PCI card much like the Sangoma A20004D or Digium AEX808E. Simply connect each RJ-11 connection into the ports on these cards, most IP PBX’s will auto-detect their presence, and you are now permitted to configure your analog trunks or channels within the IP PBX. Since the analog DID’s are now facilitated at a central level, they are not on a pure 1:1 basis because when a VOIP phone accesses this trunk group to make an outbound call, it is not associated to that one DID always, it will simply grab the next available DID within the channel group and use that. This allows users to add more VOIP phones to the scenario without physically increasing their number of POTS lines. Essentially, if you have 16 VOIP users, but only experience around 8 concurrent calls at a time, you would only need 8 POTS lines, rather than 16. Please note, you are not limited to four or eight-port analog PCI cards. These numbers were offered as a very basic example. Please check out Sangoma and Digium on for further clarification on these cards.

Digital connections are becoming very popular amongst larger organizations because of ease of use and cost savings over Analog POTS Trunking. In most large applications, there is a need for 24, 48, or even 96 + voice channels. The easiest method to facilitate this number of voice channels is via digital T1 lines using a T1 provider. Most IP PBXs have the ability to integrate digital T1 connections, either through T1 digital PCI cards or external T1 gateways. A T1 is an essential 24 individual lines (equivalent to 24 analog POTS lines) delivered over a single pipe. A T1 is configured at the IP PBX level through digital trunk groups or channel groups.

2 Types of T1 Provisioning

T1’s can be provisioned in two flavors. The first is through PRI signaling (Primary Rate Interface). PRI’s contain 24 channels in total but only allow for 23 configurable channels. The remaining channel is a “work-horse” channel so to speak, performing all of the overhead signaling work for each of the 23 available channels. The second method of T1 signaling is a method called CAS (Channel Associated Signaling). CAS signaling with the “T” allows for 24 channels to be configured as voice, data, or both. Each channel performs its own work to allow for proper signaling to take place. Please check with your T1 provider to ensure which method they are using, and opt for the best method to fit your needs. Digital T1 lines are integrated with an IP PBX very easily….simply connect the T1 to a Sangoma A101 card or Digium TE-122P card, which are both Single T1 cards. However, you are not limited to a single T1; a standard digital PCI card can have up to four T1 ports incorporating 96 channels within the system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a second quad T1 card. For those larger T1 applications I just spoke about, please refer to the Sangoma A104D card or the Digium TE-420B.

SIP Trunking

The final method to bring in your DID connections is through a method called SIP Trunking. SIP Trunking is done completely over a data connection (Typically T1, Fiber, ADSL or Cable), and is provisioned to your PBX through a connection to the WAN and your SIP Trunk provider. SIP Trunking is becoming one of the most cost-effective methods of acquiring inbound and outbound channels because there is no need for a physical connection on the premises. The only down-side? Certain providers will only provide local SIP Trunks to specific geographic locations. Check with your prospective VoIP provider for availability of SIP Trunking services in your area. SIP Trunking is quickly gaining in popularity with businesses of all sizes. I think you will see more providers start to offer this solution, if they don’t already, and we should see SIP Trunking to almost every local DID as time and demand progress. Everything nowadays seems to be “up in the clouds.” SIP Trunking is no different, and is conforming to the future specifications of what consumers, both large and small, are expecting.

New Redfone Communications Product Alert

April 2, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Redfone Communications New Releases

We have added two new Redfone Communications products to our ever expanding Voip Supply Catalog. The first is the foneBridge2-EC Single which is a T1/E1 PRI-to-Ethernet Bridge. It is an integrated black box “appliance” designed to streamline installation and enable redundant design of Asterisk based VoIP/PBX systems. The second is also a RedFone Communications offering. It is a foneBridge2 Single T1/E1 Bridge Asterisk PBX T1/E1 Redundancy, High Availability & Load Balancing in an economical Enterprise class solution. As always you can either purchase online or call one of our friendly sales engineers with any further questions you may have.

VoIP Supply Unleashes Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty Program

Go3 allows customers an affordable way to protect their hardware investment

Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty

VoIP Supply announced the launch of its new three-year, no-questions-asked, guaranteed replacement warranty, Go3. The new Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty gives customers a no hassle way to protect their VoIP hardware purchases. The new warranty program is based off of VoIP Supply’s existing warranty program and was redesigned with feedback from existing customers.

“Our customer service is VoIP Supply’s number one priority,” said Benjamin P. Sayers, CEO of VoIP Supply. “We have been successful due to our wonderful customers’ trust and support. The Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty is just another way that we can bring our clients needs to the forefront.”

The Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty allows customers to protect their VoIP Supply hardware investments. Their hardware is completely covered for a full three years from the date of purchase. If the equipment fails, malfunctions, or ceases to operate properly for any reason (manufacturer defect, component failure or user negligence), VoIP Supply will provide a replacement.

Unlike most extended warranty programs offered by retailers, with Go3 there is no fine print or run-around during the redemption process. The only conditions include purchasing the equipment from VoIP Supply and returning it within the three-year period. The coverage must also be purchased at the point of sale, and it is not refundable.

For more information about the VoIP Supply Go3 Guaranteed Replacement Warranty, please visit the go3 warranty for more information.

What does Value Added mean exactly?

March 31, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Quality customer service at VoIP Supply

As a consumer, how many times have you been in a situation wondering the status of a good or service being provided to you? It’s not a great feeling to be left in the dark, so why do consumers feel the need to live in the “dark”? The excuses of inadequate time, lack of patience, or simply the unknown meaning of great representation, seems to be present daily throughout the minds of many consumers. Because of this, I want to reach out to you, let you know we are here to help, find solutions, answer questions, keep you happy, follow through, but most of all–make a friend!

Providing customer service at all levels is something VoIP Supply prides itself in, and it’s improving daily. What aspect of a business is more rewarding then having a satisfied, excited customer? How do we actually do this? Providing a live body, excellent support, pre/post sale support, and many additional add-ons has not only become the focus of VoIP Supply, but is at the core of our work ethic. As a growing company, the focus to fill your needs is our top priority, and it shows on a daily basis.

What greater reward could you ask for? Let our staff turn the “lights of service” on for you, and help you become the “excited” consumer. As your care taker we want your hospitality, your presence, and dedication. My final line to you is to simply try us; I guarantee you will be in for a pleasant surprise. Let us be the “Value-Added” to your day.

Asterisk Appliance Roundup

March 28, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Asterisk-based, IP PBX software platforms has lead to demand for inexpensive, telco-grade hardware appliances

Asterisk Roundup
The proliferation of open source, Asterisk-based, VoIP PBX software platforms has lead to demand for inexpensive, telco-grade hardware
appliances. There are likely more than a dozen manufacturers who offer dedicated server / appliance hardware, in a variety of form factors, for use with popular platforms including Asterisk, Trixbox, Elastix and others.

Many Asterisk users and integrators choose to run their PBX on off the shelf Intel or AMD-based servers from the likes of Dell and Supermicro, while neither of these manufacturers target the Asterisk marketplace per se. Here’s a quick overview of some of the hardware choices out there if you are looking to deploy open source telephony in your home or business.
Asterisk Appliances

Arizona-based Rhino Equipment caters specifically to Trixbox users.

In addition to manufacturing TDM hardware interface cards for Asterisk, Rhino offers several appliances. The Ceros Mini is their latest offering, released a few weeks ago. The Ceros Mini is Intel based and occupies a 1U form factor, with a 2GB flash based hard drive, 512MB RAM and two usable PCI slots for PCI cards. The Ceros Mini also has an integrated LCD display and five-button keypad. Rhino offers a variety of upgrade options from the base configuration.

The Rhino Ceros is the big brother to the Mini, occupying a 3U form factor and sharing many of the same features as the Mini. The Ceros offers a wider range of HDD and RAID options, as well as more usable PCI and PCI Express slots for higher density applications. Both Rhino appliances ship standard with Trixbox loaded.

Relative newcomer Rockbochs

Hailing from Duluth, Minn., Rockbochs is a relative newcomer in the marketplace, offering their Phonebochs Telephony Appliance which ships with the latest stable version of Trixbox business VoIP PBX software. Like the Ceros Mini, the Phonebochs occupies a 1U form factor, but with a more industrial configuration of CPU, RAM and HDD. An Intel Core Duo Mobile CPU, 1GB RAM and RAIDed 80GB SATA hard drives, and three onboard 10/100/1000 NICs are standard, plus a number of upgrade options.

Fonality released its Trixbox Appliance

California’s Fonality released its Trixbox Appliance last year. The Trixbox Appliance comes in a standard and enterprise version. Intel P4 CPU, 512MB RAM and 80GB hard drive, and integrated four-line LCD display round out the package in a 3U form factor.

Pika Technologies

Telephony industry veteran Pika Technologies has thrown its hat in the ring with the release of its diminutive Warp Appliance for Asterisk. Featuring a compact form factor and AMCC Power PC 440EP Embedded Processor, the Warp Appliance packs a ton of features into a small footprint, and can be configured with a variety of TDM hardware FXS/FXO combinations for PSTN and legacy analog hardware integration.

Aastralink Appliance

Aastra Telecom has also thrown its hat in the ring; having announced its Aastralink Appliance at the recent Spring Von show.

Digium released its Asterisk Appliance

Finally, Georgia’s Digium released its Asterisk Appliance in 2007, and has already announced an OEM partnership agreement with telecom mainstay 3Com. The Digium Asterisk Appliance offers a compact, solid state form factor with hardware-based echo cancellation and up to eight analog FXS/FXO ports onboard. Digium also recently announced the Switchvox AA60, a small footprint PBX appliance designed to host its popular Switchvox SOHO and SMB Software.

Traditional telephony vendors such as Cisco Systems, Nortel and Avaya continue to struggle in making their products accessible, manageable and affordable to the small to midsized business crowd, leaving the door wide open for hardware and software vendors such as those mentioned above.

More from: Asterisk Garrett Smith

WTFM – Write the Fantastic Manual

March 26, 2008 by Ben Sayers

Previously I have written about the value of reading the manual early on in your exploration and use of a new application, toy, tool or otherwise. However boring the material is, the advanced reading will almost always save you significant time trying to make things work and will reduce your overall level of frustration.

In any business, someone needs to write the manual before others can read it. If you are fortunate to be in a position of being first, you are also likely to be challenged with this task. This is so often overlooked by small companies, particularly young ones in rapidly changing environments. This step is also frowned upon by those with any ounce of creativity in their job as they often feel that they are artists and their role cannot possibly be documented.

1. Why write the manual, I already know how to do my job?

2. I’m too busy to write the manual, how about I get to it when things slow down?

3. I’m an artist; you don’t expect me to document how I create!

4. Why should I take the time to write the manual when there are so many more important things to do?

The only valid question is the last one, and there are so many great answers to it. The first answers are easy:

1. Do you already know how to do your job? Prove it. Besides, if you want a promotion you need to train and backfill your position, wouldn’t that be easier and faster with process documentation?

2. If you are successful, things should not “slow down.” They should just get more efficient. Document how to become more efficient and thereby, more successful.

3. If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, can I easily find your past creations and pick up on open tasks where you left off?

4. There are dozens of great reasons for documenting what you do throughout the day and how you complete each task. Below are some of the reasons why.

a. Documenting each task helps to plan your day today and tomorrow. Having a plan, even if it is little more than a task list, will help keep you focused and ensure that you are able to complete all of your objectives each day/week/month. Document to plan, plan to succeed.

b. Proper documentation will allow you to take vacation with less stress. Knowing that someone can pick up a book and walk through the steps to complete your job in your absence should be a load off your mind. Document to relax.

c. Every process has room for improvement and areas to focus on becoming more efficient. By documenting each process and the steps to complete it, you have drawn it out and are able to evaluate it from the outside in, something not possible when you are already in the middle of the task. Document to improve.

d. By having a complete listing of your tasks and the individual steps to completion is a huge highlighter on your professionalism. Taking the time to understand what you do, to share that knowledge and maintain it as business changes, makes you an invaluable asset to the company. Not doing so make you a liability. Document to build value and professionalism.

e. Keeping internal job secrets might seem like a good way to protect your job and ensure employment security. The opposite, at least at my company, is the actual truth. By not documenting you become a liability and need to be replaced with someone who is secure through professionalism and results not by keeping secrets. Document to build job security (and keep your job).

f. If you are in management, how do you hold your staff accountable? Did you train each one individually? Do you shadow them daily? By documenting their processes, you can build in measurements and points to ensure proper execution. Your staff’s results fall on your shoulders. Knowing what they do and how they do it allow you to measure and to hold your staff accountable. Document for knowledge and success.

Like many companies, we started small and fast with little documentation and a constant stream of changes. We still move quickly and change a lot, but we also realize the value of stopping to look around, documenting what we do, and evaluating it for purposes of improvement and overall business knowledge. However boring, tedious and unnecessary the documentation process may seem, the value of the output is second to none in relation to effective and efficient business operations.

The Future of Internet Protocol

March 21, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Hello again! This is your friendly Tech Guy, Kyle Brocious, here.

Internet Protocol and its evolution

Today I would like to talk about a subject that many of us probably have not started to think about. That subject is on Internet Protocol and its evolution. As many IT people will know the current Internet Protocol known as IPv4 has been around for almost 25 years. You know the ins and the outs of how it works and its limitations, however, for those of you that are not of the IT world (don’t be ashamed, there are many like you) in a nut shell, it is the basis to which the internet works. Every address you type into your web browser has an IPv4 address. Let me break this down just a little more. When someone types in they are in fact typing in Go ahead try it out. You can copy and paste the numbers or type it in, and it will lead you right to our site. Now isn’t that cool?

By 2010 the face of the internet will have to change

Now what only a handful of people have started to contemplate is how much longer these IPv4 address will be around. Just think about it. There are only so many combination’s of numbers that can be used when putting in that format. Some Estimates say that by 2012, 17 billion devices will be online, that is accounting cell phones, laptops, computers, PDA’s, music players and a slew of other gadgets. Looking at it from that angle, there is only one third of IPv4 addresses left.

Now before you may start to worry about the internet crashing, back in 1990 the IT world banned together and started to think of a solution on how to fix this rising shortage of internet addresses. After tossing around some ideas the concept of IPv6 was born. This idea was the basis of many studies and is the future of the internet.

When migrating to IPv6 the address size jumps dramatically from 32-bit with IPv4 to 128-bit with IPv6, which would allow about 18 quintillion people their own set of 18 quintillion addresses (3.4e38 total addresses). With that many addresses I do not see any issues with running out for a long, long time.

But the drawback of the large address size is that IPv6 carries some bandwidth overhead over IPv4, which may hurt regions where bandwidth is limited. This is where header compression can sometimes be used to alleviate this problem. And IPv6 addresses are also very difficult to remember, but it is possible to use of the Domain Name System (DNS) if necessary.

However, migration has proved to be a challenge in itself. The reason being is not all of the networking equipment in the world is IPv6 compatible. Now it may be possible for some of the VoIP equipment to get a firmware update to which will make it work, but that will only work for about 15 to 25 percent of network equipment around the world.

So what I ask of you is to start to think about what will be needed for this migration, the implementation, and monetary cost of the expansion. It is not a matter of If at this point, but a matter of when. My personal estimate will be that by 2010 the face of the internet will have to change, and with this change will be many companies and individuals purchasing IPv6 compliant equipment. Supply and demand law says that the higher the demand the higher the cost, so it may be a wise choice to start looking into what you will need to make this possible.

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?

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!

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