Which Breed of VoIP Software Is Best?

Asking which breed of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) software is best is almost like asking which car is best, or which beer is best. Almost as many different answers will emerge as there are different kinds available, and one thing is quite clear: there are many different kinds out there. But abstract discussions of value won't get VoIP in place, and IT-Online recently took a look at the market to help some businesses make the decision about which VoIP is the best.

Immediately, the IT-Online reports note that VoIP isn't specifically right for every business. As WhichVoIP's founder Mitchell Barker notes, VoIP works great for businesses that have high call costs — a lot of long-distance or international calling — as well as those that need flexibility, like operations that need to ramp up staffing for busy seasons.

But then the question becomes, which of the many VoIP options out there is best? That's a question, sadly, that can only be answered by the individual business. Much like the questions of best car or best beer or best anything like that, it's a situation that will change based on individual needs and tastes. Some businesses may do best with a hosted system, in that there's not much need for hardware on hand aside from a few basic things like IP phones for endpoints. In that case, a monthly subscription fee is paid for access. Others prefer a system where the hardware is kept with the business itself; that ensures that the maintenance and the like is done to the business' standards, and if something goes wrong, repairs can start immediately. Some businesses are going to a hybrid solution, in which some equipment is kept on site while some is remote for more options and better flexibility.

A hosted solution can be great, but companies must know that repairs, maintenance and upgrades are in someone else's hands. Plus, the quality of the connection is directly related to the quality of the Internet connection available, so without that on hand, a hosted model may not work. Meanwhile, an IP-PBX system provides total control over the system, and new features can be added later, but the business is thus required to do the additions itself.

Finding the best in VoIP depends greatly on the individual tastes, attitudes, and needs of the business bringing the solution into the fold. There is, in the end, really only the right solution for the business, and that decision comes after careful analysis of needs and related solutions. But there are also plenty of solutions that will offer customization options — some features can be removed or added with a little more or less expense, depending on the situation — so it may well be that a business can set up its own best solution by cherry-picking the desired options.

There isn't really an answer to the question of the best in VoIP, but there is an answer to the best for a particular business in VoIP. It's an answer that can only be found with careful analysis and consideration, so those planning to bring in a solution should only do so after that analysis is done.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

Social Media Taking Center Stage in the Contact Center

Those who’ve been in the technology field long enough can remember when it took some time to connect with whatever or whomever you were trying to reach. It was just the way it was.

But these days, no one is interested in waiting for anything. If customers can’t get an instant connection with you or your company, they have no compunction about jumping ship.

In a recent blog post on the homepage of inContact – a leader in cloud-based content center solutions – Joshua March, founder of Conversocial, looks at the impact “Social” is having on today’s contact centers, and how leaders need to respond if they hope to survive.

“Even 30 seconds is too long for today’s in-the-moment, always-engaged customer to wait, spelling trouble for the future of customer service through traditional channels like email and phone,” March writes. “The world is in the middle of the biggest shift in personal computing; the transition from desktop computers to smartphones and tablets requires an entirely new, mobile-first approach to customer service.”

As such, March looks at three major shifts in how people are now communicating with each other (and companies), all of which would be considered outside of the traditional call center model.

The Social Contact Center: “For major companies, social media has risen and now makes up to 10 percent of all inbound customer contacts, and is growing faster than any other service channel,” March says. “This powerful tool ensures customer voices are heard, both by companies and customer peers. Social media offers a convenient, mobile-first, real-time medium.”

Peer-to-Peer Resolution: “As customers trust brands less, they are beginning to trust their peers more. Customers have found their voice on social, and now that voice is growing louder and more powerful,” March notes. “Customers are turning away from brands and toward each other, expecting faster and more authentic engagement than ever before.”

Mobile Messaging Applications: “These messaging apps are the biggest new force in communication, and only growing,” he says. “The daily message volume on WhatsApp (owned by Facebook (News - Alert)) is now 50 percent bigger than global SMS volume.”

It seems the die is cast for the future of communications. As March says, “With 64 percent of consumers preferring texting over voice as a customer service channel when given the choice, customer-centric organizations need to have real agents who are empowered to be flexible, authentic and able to resolve real issues in-channel.” It can’t be made any clearer than that.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Netformx Steps Up AudioCodes Relationship, Adds to KnowledgeBase

April 01, 2015

By Steve Anderson Contributing TMCnet Writer

It's been a busy time for Netformx, as it's been rapidly building a closer relationship with AudioCodes (News - Alert). Not only has Netformx added the line of AudioCodes' voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) connectivity tools to its Netformx KnowledgeBase, but it's also given AudioCodes a whole new honor, adding AudioCodes to Netformx's roster of Netformx Premier Partners.

With the two companies now working more closely together, it should mean some great things ahead for Netformx users. Bringing in AudioCodes as a Premier Partner means that AudioCodes' VoIP tools can be more readily added to tools developed using the Netformx DesignXpert tool. Since DesignXpert is already quite well known as a major force in developing enterprise technology solutions, this means that more tools developed with DesignXpert can incorporate voice communications into said tools' use and operations. DesignXpert will now be able to offer up AudioCodes' session border controller (SBC) tools, as well as media gateways, voice quality monitoring, and network readiness assessment tools. AudioCodes' line of SIP phones will also be on hand, as well as AudioCodes' Microsoft Lync-specific tools like the Survivable Branch Appliance. Those interested in bringing AudioCodes tools in will need DesignXpert Platinum edition access.

AudioCodes tools are found in a variety of different products, ranging from cable and broadband access networks to mobile networks, and are used in a wide variety of enterprise sizes. The combination with Netformx is one that should pose some great advantages across the spectrum. Netformx is already well known for offering declines in time-to-quote rates, dropping these by as much as 80 percent, and also by falling error rates, contributing to a drop in that average of nearly 99 percent. Those two factors together are said to drive an increase in profitability of a full percent. So far, over 2,000 customers in over 100 different countries have put DesignXpert's tools to work, and produced not only higher profits, but happier customers as well.

Netformx's vice president of strategic accounts, Dave Alexander, offered up some comment on the value of bringing in AudioCodes tools, saying “Netformx is delighted to have VoIP market leader AudioCodes as a Premier Partner. By incorporating their high-quality VoIP products in the KnowledgeBase our customers can quickly and accurately create comprehensive, end-to-end IP solutions, thus accelerating their profitability.”

Indeed, Netformx has a lot of reason to be happy about its move. Thanks to the addition of AudioCodes' lineup, it can offer several new tools to its own portfolio, and make its development tools a more valuable resource for those who turn to Netformx for development. Since Netformx is already well known as a provider of sales enablement and profit acceleration tools, being able to add voice contact systems like those offered by AudioCodes can be a real help in keeping users in the same tool to accomplish more. If more can be done with one tool, that tool's value tends to improve in the field, and more developers might be looking at Netformx for development options.

Only time will tell just how well this new partnership works for both sides, but it's a pretty fair bet that adding services and options will prove a success not only for the users, but also for Netformx and AudioCodes. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Americans Need Lesson in International Data Usage

For most of us, our mobile devices have become out life blood. They contain all of our communications – business and personal and just about everything we need to get through the day can be tucked into the device operations somehow.

We’ve come to rely on them so much so that losing connectivity or having an uncharged battery can cause trauma and breakdowns – or a ‘fear of missing out.’

But what happens if we need to travel –especially abroad? For most of us the thought of carrying a device across seas doesn’t cross our minds, or we worry about incurring insane long distance fees – we just brace ourselves to do without them.

This worry over mobile data costs is keeping many Americans from being productive while they travel and even adding unneeded stress to the trip.

Image via Shutterstock

A new survey from Serious Insights for Telestial, “American Travelers: Not Masters of International Data,” surveyed 237 U.S. based international travelers to find out about their mobile experiences while abroad.

According to the study, six out of ten people said they change their typical mobile usage and behaviors by checking and responding less frequently to important emails and use their apps like GPS less while they are traveling.

"Americans just don't get international data. Addicted to connectivity at home, they needlessly cut themselves off while abroad," said Dan Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst at Serious Insights. "Global travelers from other countries are much more familiar and comfortable with options like country-specific SIM cards, data bundles or different devices for controlling overseas data costs. American travelers lag way behind.”

Whenever I have family from Italy visiting here in the U.S., I am blown away by their ability to still use their mobile devices to text with friends, post on social media, and more. My anxiousness is foreign to them as they have become used to operating their mobile devices based off of SIM cards that are purchased on an as need basis – unlike the monthly rate charges from cell phone providers in the States.

"The same people who look for great deals on flights and hotels don't bother to find deals on data plans.  One key reason is that they have been scared by high charges from domestic cell phone providers and stories of bill shock in the media, to the extent that they would rather just shut off their phones to save money while abroad," Rasmus said.

One way to combat this fear in the future and remain just as productive overseas as when anywhere else, is to better understand the options.

In addition to SIM card options, there is also public Wi-Fi. Mainly though, Americans are not typically given an accurate breakdown and understanding of what their provider is charging as ‘data’ usage versus calls and texting. Gaining a better understanding of this breakdown can empower American travels and alleviate the fear of bill shock. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino