Digium Preps Switchvox SOHO and SMB IP PBX for Channel Consumption

March 13, 2008 by Garrett Smith

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.

VoIP Supply and Grandstream Teaming Up to Host GXE502x Training at Fall VON

March 7, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Add this to the already long list of reasons to attend this month VON.x conference and expo.

Together with Grandstream Networks, VoIP Supply will be the co-sponsor of a GXE502x certification training.

Grandstream’s award winning GXE502x series IP phone systems promises to raise the level of modern business communication systems for the SMB to a new height of innovation, quality, reliability and feature integration. Learn how to install this product successfully at the Grandstream Certified Integrator Program on March 18th and 19th 2008 at the VON.x Conference and Expo in San Jose, California. This certification event is co-sponsored by Texas Instruments. TI’s VoIP technology powers Grandstream’s IP phones throughout the world.

The Grandstream Certified Integrator Program is a 3 hour course designed to provide you with the necessary hands-on training you will need to seamlessly install the total GXE IP-PBX and IP phone solution. Upon completion of this course, resellers and VoIP Systems Integrators will receive authorized installer certification and other great benefits from Grandstream.

VoIP Supply and Grandstream will be holding three training courses on Tuesday, March 18th and two on Wednesday, March 19th.

Location: McEnery Convention Center – Meeting Room M

Training Times:

3/18/2008 – 9:30 am, 1:00 pm, 4:30 pm

3/19/2008 – 9:30 am, 1:00 pm

We will be offering all those attending the trainings the opportunity to purchase a bundled starter kit (including a GXE5024 and 4 GXP2020) for only $899.* Also enter for a chance to win a free GXP2020, Grandstream’s 6-line enterprise SIP phone.

snom M3 Review

Asterisk and other SIP-based IP communications platforms are making major inroads with businesses of all shapes and sizes. One of the under-served feature areas in SIP-based communications is “mobility”. Many business VoIP users are looking for SIP endpoint devices that are not tethered to the desktop, and allow them to manage their phone communications while on the go within the workplace environment. In industries such as retail, warehousing, and health care user mobility is not a future consideration when choosing an VoIP phone system platform– it is a must have.

Hitachi, Linksys, UTStarcom and other vendors have attempted to address the need for mobility by introducing wireless SIP phones that connect to the LAN via WiFi, typically 802.11g wireless protocol. There are many inherent limitations with the current generation of WiFi SIP handsets that have limited their proliferation within the business user marketplace. Ease of use is certainly a factor. WiFI SIP phones must be properly configured, and WiFi infrastructure setup is critical. DHCP can be problematic when crossing WiFi access, often leading to dropped calls. Battery life on WiFi phones is generally sub-par. Wireless VoIP devices have suffered from acknowledged technical issues, and therefore do not offer enough reliability for demanding business applications. Durability is also questionable on many WiFi SIP phones, making them generally unsuitable for use in a commercial workplace.
Founded in 1996, Snom Technology AG is a German firm that manufactures traditional SIP-based desktop IP phones that are a very popular choice for Asterisk users. They offer high build quality, a robust feature set and competitive price points that compete well with similar offerings from Polycom, Aastra and Linksys.


The Best Dual Mode Bang For Your Buck!

March 5, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Kyle Brocious here.

I’m a Technical Support Representative at VoIP Supply. My core responsibilities are to listen to customers’ needs, specifications, and answer any questions about a product or solution on a post-sales basis. I started my career with VoIP Supply back in October 2007 as a provisioning and testing specialist. This position allowed me to get a firm understanding of the VoIP technology, specific product applications and uses, and proper setup and configurations on an open-sourced, SIP-based environment.

UTStarcom GF210I would like to talk about a product that has been in my sights for some time now. That product is the UTStarcom GF210 Dual mode phone, and by “dual mode” I mean it uses a GSM (Cell Phone Network) and a VoIP WiFi Network.

Since the introduction of the phone back in December 2006 I have had the pleasure of working with this piece of equipment only a handful of times. This is due to the ease of setup and the durability of the hardware.

When it comes to setting up the GSM network capabilities of this phone it is as easy as removing the battery and sliding in a SIM card from your cell phone carrier, then re-inserting the battery and powering on the unit. The process should take no more than two minutes to complete.

As for the WiFi setup, that will take some patience and a little maneuvering of the phone User interface. After timing the complete process and verifying the registration, it took a little over seven minutes. Overall that is not bad, considering that other UTStarcom products take about double that.

A few of the features that I would like to point out are a 1.8 inch 65k color display, text messaging, polyphonic ringtones, MMS support, built-in games and a WAP browser.

Compared to the existing WiFi phones offered from Linksys, Hitachi, and D-Link, the UTStarcom GF210 is fairly inexpensive, retailing on VoIPSupply.com at $239.99, which makes it a very affordable personal class phone for all types of environments and applications.

The Polycom IP560: An IP Phone to Meet All Your Needs!

March 4, 2008 by Garrett Smith

As a sales engineer, I am fortunate in that I get to test, configure and use every new product that comes through VoIP Supply’s docks. Not only that but I get to speak with dozens of customers each and every day about specific product applications and uses, and proper setup and configurations on an open-sourced, SIP-based environment.

Recently, there has been one product that has caught my eye, and when something catches my eye, I just have to get my hands “dirty” with some thorough testing of features and functionality.

The product I am referring to is the Polycom IP560 IP Phone.

From a personal standpoint, Polycom always amazes me with the quality of its products, and this phone is like no other. This is the first Polycom phone to offer dual switching Gigabit Ethernet ports for superior network speeds. This is a great addition for any environment deploying gigabit network speeds, since the phone acts as a small two port switch; any workstation connected to the “PC” port of the phone will receive gigabit network speeds.

The second eye-catcher is Polycom’s HD voice technology. With Polycom’s HD voice technology, users can speak to one another while receiving the clearest, crisp, and echo-free sound quality that no other manufacturer can offer. I have always been impressed with Polycom’s award- winning full duplex, acoustic clarity speakerphones, but WOW, HD voice technology just blows that out of the water. You have to experience it for yourself.

Moving on to the provisioning and configuration aspect of the phone, Polycom makes it easy for any type of user, whether you are a home user with one phone, a small business using VoIP with 15 to 20 phones, or a large corporation with 100+ phones, Polycom offers numerous methods to provision and configure your IP-560 to meet every type of environment. Polycom allows the end user availability to configure the IP-560 via the unit’s web GUI configuration page, which is quite simple and easy for the end user. This process, however, does get time consuming for large deployments. No worries! Polycom also allows system administrators to provision their Polycom IP-560’s from a central (FTP, TFTP, HTTP, or HTTPS) provisioning server. With a simple redirect modification on the phone itself, and proper modification to the configuration files on the provisioning server, large deployments should be up and registered in no time!!

Upon further testing and examination, we did notice the phone requires a 48 volt external AC power for those applications not running standard POE power. The end user should also make note that the IP-560 does NOT ship with the 48 volt external AC power, but wait–VoIP Supply has you covered. After testing this external power, the 48 volt power cube successfully powers the IP560 with ease.


What My Customers Want

March 3, 2008 by Ben Sayers

As a CEO, I always strive to know who my customers are and what it is that they need.

Let’s start with who my customers are. For me, I get the pleasure of having internal and external customers– employees and buyers. The ultimate goal of the company is to attract and satisfy the buyers; under-promise and over-deliver and most importantly, to over-communicate. With more than 50,000 customers, I need some help, and my internal customers (employees) are where I focus a lot of attention.

When I look back and reflect on anything that has happened negatively between the company and a buyer or between the company and an employee, more often than not it relates back to a failure to communicate. Even when the issue is unrelated to communications–for example the return of a defective product where the product is the problem–the real issue generally boils down to a breakdown in dialogue.

Two real life examples to highlight this are:

1. A customer has ordered a product on voipsupply.com and received an email confirming the order. The product ships the next day and a tracking email is sent to the customer. Unfortunately, the spam filter got in the way and the customer never received the email. Since the customer ordered through a live sales associate, their tracking information is not available through the web store. The customer, expecting the product overnight, does not receive the product and begins to get frustrated. The customer then has to take time out of their day, find our phone number, call customer service and ask for tracking. This is a very common occurrence with all ecommerce companies.

VoIP Supply, hearing the concern from customers, has instituted a process within the customer service department where all customers receive not only an email with their invoice and tracking number, but also a live telephone call with verbal delivery of their tracking information, and a notice to check their inbox and spam filter to ensure that they receive the information they need. Email is great, live conversation is better.

2. An employee is hired based on their experience and is expected to complete the tasks detailed within their job description. Relying on their past knowledge and experiences, the new hire goes about their business, completing the task and moving on. The manager of this new person was expecting the task to be completed just as the last person did it (or better) and not how the new hire completed the task previously. After a day, week or even a month, friction builds as the manager is expecting something other than what is being given and the new hire is not feeling appreciated for “picking it up” and getting the tasks done on time.

In a rapidly expanding company such as a fast paced start-up, this can happen quite frequently. Taking the time to document the expected processes, provide training before throwing the new employee into the fire, working side-by-side until the expected results are delivered and due praise is handed out, creates an ideal workplace where everyone wins and results are abundant. Failure to do so creates friction, communication breakdowns, and an overall poorly performing employee, department and possibly the company as a whole.

We (VoIP Supply) and I personally have been guilty of both, recognize both and are aggressively acting to correct and prevent such issues. Growing a business is difficult and there is often a feeling of “not enough time in the day.” When your day is spent putting out internal and external fires because you did not prepare and communicate, the feeling is valid and exhausting. Taking the time now to document, train and inspect will create much happier customers and a much more rewarding business experience. Talking to your customers, listening to their concerns and needs and acting immediately shows an understanding of the situation and the intent to correct it while preventing it.

Actions are important and are a critical part of the initial reaction to the needs expressed by the customer. More importantly than the action is to understand that communication is not just an action if it is to be successful. Adopting communication as a mindset, part of you and part of your business will provide long term results.

While to some it is mere semantics, there is a vast difference between “I communicated that…” and “I communicate…” VoIP Supply’s mindset is to communicate, always and excessively, both internally and externally.

Introducing New Staff At VoIP Insider

February 26, 2008 by Garrett Smith

It’s been a long time since we have poured any blood, sweat or tears into VoIP Insiders. Part of it has been a result of our explosive growth in both revenues and headcount, but another part has been our desire to create a plan and a vision for the site.

For the last year and a half, the VoIP Insider has been a random collection of news, reviews and insights deliver whenever someone has felt compelled to write.

Well all that is going to change.

Starting this week, we will be featuring daily posts on topics ranging from how to configure an ATA to information on start-ups and running technology businesses. We have collected a large team of our in-house experts to share their knowledge with you each and every day.

Here is a sneak peek at what to expect…

Benjamin P. Sayers – CEO – A long time entrepreneur and leader of multiple high-tech start-up’s Ben will be discussing numerous topics, from internal VoIP Supply initiatives, to sharing his stories on building companies.

Cory Andrews – Director, New Market Initiatives – One of the smartest people you’ll ever meet, Cory will be talking about new products and industry trends…not mention the occasion post on breaking industry news.

Art Miller, Justin Wekenmann, Phil Laurenzi – Sales Associates – On the front lines day in and day out, this trio will be bring to light what our customers and partners are doing with IP communications and also offering advice on how to sell VoIP hardware, for those resellers, integrators and service providers looking for an edge.

Chris Heinrich, Kyle Brocious – Sales Engineers – Chris and Kyle will bring their technical acumen to life with in-depth posts on how to configure products, trouble shoot issues, new firmware and feature set releases in addition to product reviews.

Nicole Hynes, Dax Brady-Sheehan – Marketing – Nicole and Dax come ready to educate our readers on a variety of marketing related topics, from ecommerce to branding.

Nicole Schuman – Public Relations – Nicole is tasked with delivering up to the minute news and notes about what is going on at VoIP Supply. Look for than just press releases, Nicole will be showing the world what it is like to work and play at VoIP Supply.

Me – Director, Marketing and Business Development – I played it safe and committed to writing about whatever comes to mind. Call me the glue that will hold all of this together. I enjoy doing interviews and writing commentary on the direction of the industry as a whole, but don’t rule me out of doing an occasional product review.

Polycom releases new firmware 3.0 for SoundPoint IP Phones, LDAP Support!

January 28, 2008 by Garrett Smith


VQMonCall Quality Monitoring Support – Specifically designed for integration into VoIP endpoints such as VoIP gateways, IP phones, ONU’s, residential gateways, mobile handsets, traditional TDM gateways and hybrid IP/TDM systems, VQmon/EP monitors voice calls and produces call quality estimates that can be reported as MOS scores and R factors through the media path using RTCP XR (RFC 3611), end of call signaling or SNMP. VQmon/EP is small (6-30kbytes) and highly efficient.

LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) Support – LDAP is a feature that many businesses buy into, and support for LDAP within the Asterisk marketplace has been pretty weak to date. This could certainly help win deals for VARs selling Asterisk into larger customers.

Local Call Recording on the IP650 – This is pretty sweet…the IP650 has an onboard USB port, and apparently with this new firmware release, you can now plug in a USB Flash Media device and perform local call recording on the phone at the touch of a button.

4-Way Local Conference Calling and Conference Management Feature Enhancements

Jabra JX10 Hookswitch support

uaCSTA Support for Click to Dial Feature – (User Agent Computer Supported Telecommunications Applications) – CSTA is a ECMA, ETSI and ISO/IEC Standard with an exhaustive feature set and a comprehensive call model. CSTA supports, with the same call model, Voice and Non-Voice interactions (Email, Chat, IM and many more) and complements SIP protocol, enabling application developers to provide advanced features. This suite is a complete toolbox for developing a wide range of enterprise grade CSTA applications taking advantage of Internet technologies such as XML, SIP and Speech Recognition and Processing. CSTA supports a wide range of application scenarios, from basic 1st Party Call Control to advanced 3rd Party Call Control with the same standardised model. CSTA lets application developers to create advanced communication platform features without burdening them with underlying protocol specifications.

Pretty cool stuff….this seems to be one of the more significant firmware feature released from Polycom in some time.

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