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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What’s with the Wireless G Revolution?

What’s with the Wireless G Revolution?
The Canadian wireless industry has been going through a series of revolutions the past 20 years as the need for more bandwidth and faster data speeds is required to keep up with the latest technology.
So what do all these Gs mean?
• 1G – The first networks implemented in the mid-1980s, were purely analog and used primarily for voice. These brick-like phones were often carried around in large bags or had to be hardwired into vehicles. Remember the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X? Or the hardwired transportable Motorola DynaTAC 8000X?. The analog nature of the network prompted the US to declare it to be illegal to eavesdrop on cellular calls after calls made by senators were leaked to the media.
• 2G – Starting in the early 1990s, this generation migrated the industry to digital devices that delivered better voice quality, more reliable service and SMS. The entry of the GSM standard also came about at that time. The text messaging revolution owes its existence to this second-generation wireless technology. Popular telephones where the Nokia 6190 series. I was able to send and receive emails using this telephone and my Palm Pilot with a data cable. Simple SMS was also available on GSM and the ability to do simple WAP pages.
• 3G – These updated networks increased speed and capacity around the year 2000. The first Blackberry 850 was a two line device that worked like a pager. However it’s only been the past 5 years that Canadian carriers discovered that smart phones took advantage of these features. It’s what we use today typically that allows faster speeds and multimedia capabilities on our Blackberry’s and iPhone devices. Sometimes I think the explosion of devices was caused by the boomers kids becoming obsessed with smart phones.
• 4G – This is the next generation of networks. This standard is currently being piloted in a few Canadian cities. It promises the type of speeds that we are used to on wired networks such as 50MB to 100MB speeds. This standard is still under development. This will drive more video applications and our use of cloud computing.
Current LTE and WiMAX implementations are considered pre-4G, as they don't fully comply with the planned requirements of 1Gbit/s for stationary reception and 100Mbit/s for mobile. Besides speed, a number of other requirements and features have been identified for wireless communication standards to qualify as 4G such as.
• Spectrally efficient
• Dynamically share and utilize the network resources to support more simultaneous users per cell
• Smooth handovers across heterogeneous networks
• Ability to offer high quality of service for next generation multimedia support
• Based on an all-IP packet switched network
All this will require more frequency spectrum availability and bandwidth. This is the primary reason why the United States and Canadian analog television channels were shifted and reorganized into digital channels to make room available in the 700 MHz band for reassignment for 4G.
However, it really means spectrum auctions and millions of revenue into the government pockets. The good thing about 700 MHz is that it penetrates buildings better allowing your conversation to not drop when you run into a Starbucks to pick up a coffee.

Gartner's Top 10 Technologies for 2011

I have been using my own small list of technology trends as discussion points with my customers. It seems that every CIO and Director has objectives put in place to transform their organization, but sometime the transformation has many steps and requires their infrastructure to be ready.
The common misconception is that to have Unified Communication, one must have IP Telephony in place. Yes and No. A voice mailbox appearing in Outlook doesn’t require an IP telephone set, it can be associated with a traditional digital or analog telephone set. Having an IP Softphone on a laptop only requires the PBX infrastructure to be current in its software and the WAN to support a secure VPN connection. This would then entail adding a security appliance to the solution to support the new application. However, if you want the full suite of UC applications to be available then a new PBX infrastructure is required with supporting LAN and WAN components. This is very important when video is added to the mix. Most 10/100MB LAN switches will create bottlenecks and WAN bandwidths need to accommodate the demand for High Definition streaming. The old 3Com LAN switches with a simple data T1 will provide a major constraint in achieving real time communications in the moment.
This is all a moot point as most organizations are looking at MPLS networks for their voice and data transport, larger Internet access connections, and an overhaul of their LAN infrastructure to support additional layers of switching with 1GB ports and POE connections. Replace the12 year old PBX with a new one and add a data center or two with SAN capability, and give everyone a laptop with a dual core CPU and a 500 GB hardrive. Pretty simple!!

Let’s see what the good folks at Gartner have come up with and my comments.
Gartner's Top 10 Technologies for 2011
October 20, 2010 Larry Dignan
1: Cloud computing
This group of technologies has been on the top 10 lists for a few years. Now everything as a service will alter business models and IT procurement. Gartner analyst David Cearley said what has changed is that there are multiple services. Companies will probably need cloud computing brokers. Things to watch:
• Where does the public cloud fit? IT is generally scared of the public cloud, but select workloads are fine.
• Beware cloud washing. IT execs are comfortable with the vendors cloud washing but may not get real capability.
• Limit access to specific clouds based on community and groups. That approach would minimize security risks. Gartner has exclusive clouds and community clouds as services to watch.
• Private clouds are custom and packaged.
My impression: A safe pick for sure, but the cloud is getting more granular as it matures. Think cloud washing magnified.
John’s Opinion: We are seeing a lot of this from Google and Apple and some others for the home user and the Smartphone user community but until business really starts adopting devices that will seek its apps from corporate clouds then it can’t be the number one topic. I think security within the corporate cloud attaching to the public cloud to be the biggest concern.
2: Mobile apps and media tablets
Tablets and touch aren't new. Claunch said that the selection of applications changes the game for businesses. "Apple has leveraged the ecosystem of the iPhone," Claunch said. "And Apple has created consistency." In addition, Apple's iPad is the poster child for how consumerization is affecting corporate IT. Things to think about for enterprise IT:
• Enterprise apps will need to be designed for the tablet.
• Delivering these apps gets complicated due to the selection of platforms.
• Context-aware computing can connect to customers better.
• Marketing will drive a lot of projects to utilize tablets, but these devices can be used for inspections, surveys, image capture, documentation, and training.
Cearley added, "The PC era is over. Think of mobile design points."
My impression: It's stunning how many iPads are in this crowd of 7,000-plus IT execs and managers. Another thread: Almost all of these IT execs are carrying PCs not Macs. Typically, CIOs and the like are the last to get on board an early adoption curve for a new device. There's a frenzy over tablets.
John’s Opinion: I am starting to see more and more interest from the business community in rolling out these devices as it could simplify and lower the TCO. However, the iPad isn’t really ready for business prime time. I would see next year as the pivot point for iPad 2.0 and a real look at what the RIM playbook will truly be. However, Cisco and Avaya have their versions of tablets and although they appear very much application limited it is the one device that’s truly embedded into the corporate telecom infrastructure. We are all getting tired carrying a 10 lb laptop, power supply, mouse, cables etc. and a simple tablet would shed many pounds. However, I still need access to corporate applications and should be able to print and use Microsoft Office very easily. This could be a struggle if Apple or RIM or Android doesn’t allow others into their ecosystem. It’s a safe bet the TCO for a tablet would be lower than a laptop. Of course, the fixed desktop users get to keep their P2 machine for ever and ever as their use seems specific to a user profile community unaffected by the tablet/Smartphone hype.

3: Next-gen analytics
Companies need to develop "operational analytics" to make predictions and use data mashups. "There's value in very current information. We are now shifting our focus to start doing simulations and modeling to predict the future," Claunch said. These simulations would ultimately be run on Smartphone’s and other devices. Algorithms will really matter to companies to support the right type of prediction.
Gartner didn't advocate doing a lot of analytics investment yet, but be ready to invest.
My impression: Analytics is largely untapped ground for many companies. Claunch's key point: "This is just being enabled now." Another key item: A show of hands revealed that the entire room had business intelligence software. A show of hands also indicated that no one thought those applications were delivering real value.
John’s Opinion: Now is the time to add these applications to your business decision making toolkit. This is how you put buying trends, customer profiles, consumer behavior, sales segmentation and other reports to assist in generating more revenue. If you don’t know your customer or can use the data for forecasting then you will be out of business very very soon. Quickly – What do your customers located in Alberta buy the most of??? When do you sell the most of the 735 widget?
4: Social analytics
This concept revolves around taking social networking data and incorporating it into enterprise analysis. Sentiment, context, and influence are key areas for companies. "We're starting to see the tipping point," Cearley said. "It's moving from bleeding edge to mainstream activity." For now, look at communities you have to support and analyze an entry.
My impression: CIOs should be watching this stuff, but given the crowd response to business intelligence, I'm not seeing much progress on the analytics-social intersection.
John’s Opinion: This is still new and those selling through Facebook have a good handle on it but if you have no BI tools in place today then you can’t break it down and add social tabs to the spreadsheet. I would hope that if you get a good chunk of business though Groupon you are tracking it.
5: Social communication and collaboration
Social collaboration is "inevitable," Cearley said. "Over the next few years, it will be impossible to ignore this," he added. By now, companies should have policies, high value social uses identified, and have experiments to link social with CRM systems. Meanwhile, unified communications will merge with social. Expertise location will probably be the best use case.
My impression: Gartner makes a good point, but I'd be willing to bet that enterprises are way behind the curve on social communication and what it means for collaboration and productivity.
John’s Opinion: Agreed, today’s marketing departments talk a good story but are way behind what I would consider effective and integrated strategies for social networking. However, the Unified Communication space is showing interest and I think Avaya right now is in the lead with a credible storyline. I wouldn’t rule out Cisco but they are up to something but maybe haven’t been exactly clear on where they fit. The new guys definitely get it – Look at Kobo, Skype and Amazon. It’s coming but we just need it tied into business a lot better. It looks like Microsoft’s new Lync platform might be the enabler we all need in business or Cisco’s Quad platform.
6: Video
Corporate use of video is becoming mainstream. Low-cost video recorders are everywhere. Companies will need video content management systems and better design skills, and they'll need to address privacy issues and policy concerns. Will all conference rooms be recorded by default? E-learning, merchandising, marketing, webinars, and Telepresence will all be key video uses. The tipping point will come in 2011 to 2013. In addition, video will be needed to reach younger employees.
My impression: Video has hit mainstream, but networks haven't. Will Vlogs really be the best use of employee time? One other key point: How will business intelligence systems digest video content?
John’s Opinion: Once you get off the ISDN BRI lines and onto a real MPLS network do things happen very easily. I disagree, video has been on an uptrend and being used more and more as the picture quality is much improved, LCD screens are cheap, networks are faster and better and the UC manufacturers are on the ball right now. Cisco has added Tandberg and Avaya have a new product launch and its all video aware intelligence to the endpoints and true call and watch functionality. Microsoft has beefed up their offering with the new Lync servers. I doubt the other UC providers have the bench strength for a seamless user experience like these big three.
7: Context-aware computing
The idea here is that social analytics and computing leads to knowledge about preferences. User interfaces would change based on context. Today, it's all reactive. By 2011 to 2013, there will be more proactive alerts. By 2014 to 2018, you'll have context integrated with enterprise systems. Ultimately, there will be a context platform. Portals, mashups, mobile, and social will combine. Vendors will offer "user experience platforms."
My impression: I have a hard time seeing strapped enterprises going all contextual. Look for business units such as marketing to launch these projects to drive sales. Companies will need to deliver context-aware services to businesses. Can't wait for all of those user experience platform pitches.
John’s Opinion: This is all heady stuff and its coming but I expect the new start ups to really make headway in this regard and be swallowed up by the larger players. I can get a coupon from Starbucks on my smart device while in store using their free wifi connection, but that’s simple as they have me log onto the connection. If Amazon suggests a book while I am in the Kindle store it is pretty easy as well. I doubt anyone can succeed in this without a Business Intelligence platform with recent user data. If you really want to offer me a Pizza coupon from another Pizza shop Friday nights then they need to know who I order the pizza from, what I order, do I have it delivered? And what time I order and my preferred communication method. Google can do this if I do it all through the Google Pizza Portal but without it the back end computers need to really crunch numbers. It would be easier to just send me a flyer at my doorstep…no?
8: Ubiquitous computing
This topic has been discussed in previous years on Gartner's lists. In a nutshell, computers melt into objects. There will be machine-to-machine connections, portable personalities, and connectivity changes across multiple devices. There will be thousands of computers for each person on the planet, and you'll have multiple devices.
My impression: Ubiquitous computing is more a guiding principle for projects than something you think about in terms of budget. The timeline here is decades. What's also notable: Everyone has punted on getting one device to consolidate them all. We're doomed to carry a bunch of devices.
John’s Opinion: Yeah that’s a good one. I still need a Kindle to read books, an iPad to read PDF magazines and check emails, a Blackberry for work and BBM, a flashlight, a Western Digital 2 TB pocket drive, and a thumbnail mp3 player, a Kodak Zi HD video camera and my trusty Nikon D300 digital SLR. Hey it’s just me but add a Sony Shortwave portable radio to the list as well. What we should push for is Ubiquitous batteries.
9: Storage class memory
When Flash meets RAM, there are differences in speed and costs. Persistent storage will also alter management. Claunch said that storage class memory goes beyond solid state drives. This new class of storage will lead to software where operating systems determine where data goes. Storage class memory will become more important over the next two to three years.
My impression: It's a bit experimental, but storage class memory will ride shotgun with analytics. Companies will have to define what data goes into fast memory.
John’s Opinion: I don’t understand anything of the above but I can show you the bills for 16MB Compact Flash cards from 10 years ago that cost hundreds of dollars. For every memory device I have purchased the storage size was double at half the price a few weeks after I bought it. Maybe I better take notice as my LG Blueray player requires a persistent memory device for storage of Live content. I use a Cisco 4GB USB stick for that.
10: Fabric based infrastructure and computers
Every vendor will talk fabric computing, so get ready for fabric-washing. The overall idea here is that you'll have infrastructure that manages resources in an integrated fashion. Cisco UCS and HP Matrix are examples. New ways of building servers will mean you buy pools of processors and memory instead of physically swapping boxes.
My impression: Forming your own flexible servers sounds appealing. The fabric thing sounds way futuristic for now, but the seeds are being planted.
John’s Opinion: Its here and a factor in the virtualization game and Cisco is positioned for it in their Human Powered network philosophy. This should be on every IT road map as it will be the way to manage storage and computing resources. Probably a key infrastructure requirement for the new applications and services coming our way and supports all of the above technologies in a way. IBM is the seasoned expert and a nice tie into their blade servers and data center centric methodology.
My top picks still are wireless and mobile devices creeping into the business community, more and more adoption of Unified Communication applications to drive productivity and sales revenues (now with video) and more Web 2.0/3.0 applications becoming prevalent and changing our behavior.
John Leonardelli
Senior UC Consultant
This article reprinted courtesy of TechRepublic.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

We need more Free Wireless Access Points

We need more Free Wireless Access Points

Obviously with the proliferation of smart phones, iPhones, iPads , Kindles, Kobo and android tablets…the users need places to use their new found devices.

Kudos to Starbucks understanding that if they offer free wifi in their 770 coffee shops then users will flock there for coffee and free access. But where are all the others following suit? Want to drive traffic to the bricks then offer the wireless nomad a place to connect and they may spend money at your store while surfing away.

Thankfully, Vex Corp. is hoping to light up over 5000 locations and this is a good thing for the consumer as they want it free and wont pay for it anymore.

Vex will be the integrator and use Cisco wireless access points and use an advertising model where the web access would have to see some advertising. This isn’t a big deal anymore as every website has some sort of advertising on it but if Vex plays their cards right it won’t be an annoyance but of value. Sitting ion a subway checking on emails on the iPad and getting a click ad for a $1 off the next visit would be useful. Now if we can just print the darn thing easily then all will be good.

Let’s hope Vex gets the market share it deserves and other retailers catch on to the free wifi bandwagon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet
• By Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff
• Wired September 2010

I found Chris’s viewpoint to be very interesting and has sparked a lot of debate during lunch and coffee breaks

Chris wrote as follows:
“ You wake up and check your email on your bedside iPad — that’s one app. During breakfast you browse Facebook, Twitter, and The New York Times — three more apps. On the way to the office, you listen to a podcast on your Smartphone. Another app. At work, you scroll through RSS feeds in a reader and have Skype and IM conversations. More apps. At the end of the day, you come home, make dinner while listening to Pandora, play some games on Xbox Live, and watch a movie on Netflix’s streaming service.

You’ve spent the day on the Internet — but not on the Web. And you are not alone. “
Well it does seem with the proliferation of smartphones and better hand held devices the APP has definitely changed the way we communicate and surf the web
I use the apps everyday and it simplifies my life and you don't realize that you have not used your laptop until you either need to print something or there is a special program that resides on your laptop.

Apple has made great strides in the APP category, followed by Google Android. RIM is being left behind but they are working feverishly to create more APPs especially if the touted BlackPad is to come out.

The Internet has always been the connectivity network and not the content or the applications. Hence, the Web is the application and content network. With the Internet extended by fiber, wires, copper landlines, or wireless the access to instant on anytime, anywhere, anytime has now become the term to define how we use the APPS on our devices.

Now with the promise of clouding computing starting to work its way into our daily experience, things will change even more so the next few years.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Avaya one-x Portal Unified Communications Tool

For enterprise customers and SMB customers, Avaya offers some Unified Communication tools that can enhance their employee’s ability to communicate effectively.

One such solution is the one-X portal. IT managers have been asking for years for a lightweight very thin client PC solutions that don’t create management headaches and is VPN and firewall friendly. This solution is a browser based interface to Avaya telephony, messaging, mobility, conferencing, and presence services provided by Avaya Aura™ Communication Manager, Avaya Modular Messaging, Avaya Meeting Exchange, and Avaya Aura™ Presence Services.

Avaya one-X Portal does not require the installation of any application software on your desktop to deliver its basic functionality.

Users can use any internet connection to be able to communicate virtually anywhere – make calls, receive calls, check voice mail and place conference calls. You can even control your extension for extension to cellular and follow me applications.

The application that provides the greatest benefit is the ability to use “presence” functionality to see co-workers presence and be able to determine the ability to reach them via voice or instant messaging.

All this integration is connected back to the Communication Manager Server or IP Office platform providing benefits for large or small customers.

It’s Simple to install and simple to use and powerful in its ability to allow the user to effectively communicate from virtually anywhere.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sales Strategy Execution - Delivering Strategic Presentations

Salespeople typically have trouble selling to strategic issues and instead focus their presentations on the tactical pains that your solution solves or the solution features. You are being outsold by competitors with inferior solutions by not selling at the executive level.

Once salespeople understand the process of selling up the chain of value, they need the skills to craft an effective presentation that links your solution to those needs in a format that is relevant to an executive audience and hits home to everyone on the evaluation team.

Salespeople who can effectively articulate the benefit statements based on the personalities and roles of individuals on the evaluation committee are more likely to win. This requires the presentations to be structured.

Here are some simple steps to be able to do that effectively:

Presentation Strategy

(1) What are you selling?
(2) To whom are you selling it?
(3) Against what are you competing?
(4) In what environment do you expect the message to be received?

What are you selling? Why are you making the presentation? Take another look at the objective. Are you selling a plan of action, a need for action, a product, a service, or support for an idea?

To whom are you selling it? If you know your audience, you have some idea of its position on the subject.

Against what are you competing? Know your competition.

Presentation Organization

The introduction and conclusion cannot be neglected. At the outset, the presentation should gain the interest of the audience and convey to the listeners what is to be covered.

The body of the presentation, located between the introduction and the conclusion, contains the bulk of the message. It should be presented to the listener in a meaningful form.

In the conclusion, the presenter should review the key points of the presentation and pinpoint the action to be taken, if any.

Presentation Delivery

At the outset, the presenter must establish a rapport with the audience. Early in the presentation, the presenter will be judged, favorable or unfavorably, by the audience. After the audience decides whether it likes the presenter, it will determine whether it can give credence to what the presenter has to say.
Final Thoughts

In the new world of multi-media and web enablement there are new ways opf delivering presentations. In place of a live presentation in a boardroom can it be delivered via a video conferencing, Webex, Microsoft Live Meeting?

Finally, let's run down the list of things that you, as a presenter, should remember when you face the audience:

• Speak up. Make yourself heard.
• Keep your back to the wall.
• Avoid any mention of time during the opening comments.
• Maintain "eye-to-eye" contact.
• Stand erect and control your nervous habits.
• Relax and smile.
• Use stories to make your points.
• Reaffirm your points at the end of the presentation.

Now, you should be ready to prepare and make an effective presentation. Best wishes for success in the next one.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Strategic Technology – Unified Communications – The Importance of Presence

Strategic Technology – Unified Communications – The Importance of Presence

Unified Communications increases the speed of interaction between co-workers and customers by bringing together voice, messaging and video. It’s only been the last few years that organizations have started to see the real benefits and the promises it delivers.

Unified Communications brings together fixed and mobile telephony, email, fax, instant messaging and conferencing into a single unified workspace.

All vendors offer a version of Unified Communications in their platforms today and there have been many improvements over the past few years. Some systems wil inter-operate with older TDM systems and newer IP based systems. Regardless of what technology you have there is an application available for it.

It’s transparent and integrated and its technology is stable and mature. One problem it doesn’t solve is getting the right message to the right person at the right time so that they can respond immediately. That’s where the key feature of Unified Communication, “presence” comes into play.

Presence lets users know who is reachable, where and by what method. Users can see who on their buddy list is online, available, busy, in a meeting, or reachable only by cellphone while travelling.

So now we can communicate in an intelligent manner and in the moment.

The biggest benefit of presence is the ability to Instant Message a colleague, and has a quick chat session that can escalate to a telephone call if required. These messages allow teams and groups of people to eliminate telephone tag and voice mail and are able to communicate in real time and in an effective manner.

The collaboration of voice, video and messaging can be managed effectively by the use of the presence feature. The faster organizations can implement these tools the faster they can communicate more effectively and increase their employee productivity and propel their business forward.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Day in the Life of an Employee using Unified Communications Tools

A Day in the Life of an Employee using Unified Communications Tools

Employees that work for employers that have IP enabled Telephony applications are a lucky bunch indeed. These employers have realized the immense benefits available by using softphones, collaboration tools and IP centric network connectivity. The employee is now able to enhance their productivity in an anyplace, anytime, anywhere environment. The following example shows how a mobile Softphone, Instant Messaging and collaboration tools allows me to get my work done in an efficient and productive manner.

• 6:00 a.m. Wake up, shower, shave and out the door. I am meeting a client in Ottawa and I need to drop by the office to get a file.
• 7:15 a.m. Park and run upstairs to get the file. A short walk to the Fly Porter Shuttle bus stop. My Blackberry keeps me in touch while on the way to the airport.
• 9:14 a.m. Laptop plugged into guest cubicle and a quick check of emails and voice mails for any urgent items
• 9:30 a.m. Customer meeting to discuss some changes to our auditing engagement.
• 11:00 a.m. Back to my guest cubicle for a conference call
• 11:15 p.m. Frank sees I am connected and through Instant Messaging asks me to join a meeting with a possible new client who wishes to meet at 5:00 pm in Toronto. A quick check of the Porter flight schedule means I can attend. I send an Instant Message to Frank while in the conference call that I will attend.
• I continue my work as if I was in the Toronto office, making and receiving telephone calls with clients
• 3:00 p.m. I leave the Ottawa office for my flight to Toronto
• 4:45 p.m. I connect my laptop at my desk and reply to several important emails
• 5:00 p.m. Meet with Frank and the new client
• 7:00 p.m. We are invited to present our solution to the partners in New York at their office.
• 8:30 p.m. After dinner and helping the kids with homework, I connect to the network to retrieve a presentation template and start work on my presentation. Frank calls me and we discuss the proposal using the whiteboard application. Seeing that Brenda in the Manhattan office is on-line we ask her to participate and add some content.
• 11:00 p.m. Done! Time to get some rest and I feel assured that I can make changes once we arrive at the Manhattan office and can present our solution the following day. I know that I can be accessible and productive on my business trip and still be connected to the Toronto office as if I was there.

Strategic Technology – Unified Communications – The Importance of Presence

Strategic Technology – Unified Communications – The Importance of Presence

Unified Communications increase the speed of interaction between co-workers and customers by bringing together voice, messaging and video. It’s only been the last few years that organizations have started to see the real benefits and the promises it delivers.

Unified communications brings together fixed and mobile telephony, email, fax, instant messaging and conferencing into a single unified workspace.

It’s transparent and integrated and its technology is stable and mature. One problem it doesn’t solve is getting the right message to the right person at the right time so that they can respond immediately. That’s where the key feature of UC, “presence” comes into play.

Presence lets users know who is reachable, where and by what method they can be reached. Users can see who on their buddy list is online, available, busy, in a meeting, or reachable only by cellphone while traveling.

So now we can communicate in an intelligent manner and in the moment.

The biggest benefit of presence is the ability to IM a colleague, and has a quick chat session that can escalate to a telephone call if required. These messages allow teams and groups of people to eliminate telephone tag and voice mail and are able to communicate in real time and in an effective manner.

The collaboration of voice, video and messaging can be managed effectively by the use of the presence feature. The faster organizations can implement these tools the faster they can communicate more effectively and increase the employee productivity.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Will the iPad Wow Business Owners?

I like Scott's viewpoints a lot and the iPad but a revisit 3 months after this article would be interesting

Apple's new tablet could soon prove both a vital launch pad and productivity tool for entrepreneurs.
By Scott Steinberg | January 29, 2010


Call it the Apple iPad, "Jesus tablet" as some media insiders have, or just Steve Jobs's latest high-tech obsession. Either way, there's no getting around the seismic cultural impact of the consumer electronics industry's latest high-profile launch. However, as many tech experts have been quick to note, hype aside, there's little compelling reason for everyday shoppers or business owners to make the upgrade. Or rather, there isn't quite yet--a fact it may take months to remedy, and that leaves a gaping void just waiting to be filled by legions of budding entrepreneurs.

At surface value, the iPad--a 9.7-inch LED touchscreen-equipped computer that offers multi-touch input, Wi-Fi/wireless broadband access and user-friendly multimedia storage, shopping and playback--promises power on par with a mid-range notebook PC. Debuting in late March in multiple configurations starting at $499 and up and ranging in size from 16GB to 64GB (3G high-speed cellular connectivity optional), Apple sees it spearheading a new category of mobile computing device. It sits somewhere between a smartphone and laptop in power and cost, and offering a 1Ghz Apple A4 chip that promises more advanced processing and graphics power than the iPhone. Consider, though: There's no telling yet whether this potential vertical exists.

Still, measuring up at just 0.5 inches thin and 1.5lbs in weight, yet offering a full range of productivity functions, respectable horsepower and support for "nearly all" 140,000 current iPhone apps, it's a curious experiment. Resembling nothing so much as an overgrown iPod Touch, a comparison some critics have made with derision, the big question mark is whether it can address small-business owners' needs. Blame a range of intriguing, but not necessarily must-have built-in features, and current lack of killer apps--two major issues that could ultimately torpedo the tablet PC's sales and market adoption rates.

Not that the iPad isn't doing its best to swing for the fences. Going straight for e-readers' throats with its iBooks virtual bookstore, bookshelf and reading application, it's hard to see how pricier, single-function models such as the QUE proReader will compete. Not only should the iPad make browsing, purchasing and skimming business books and publications easier, it may also make the process much richer and more informative, thanks to digital literature's integrated support for multimedia audio and video content. The device further promises to offer an array of functions from word processing and spreadsheet composition to options for screening music, movies and TV shows--all for a fraction of the price of traditional e-book players.

In many ways, it's anticipated to do for aspiring business and non-fiction authors what the App Store did for legions of bedroom coders. Providing a ready means to connect with an audience, build a following and establish yourself or your brand as a subject-matter expert, potential marketing and advertising applications are boundless. Moreover, the iPad could grow the e-book audience to the point where small presses actually have the opportunity to readily experiment with new formats, packaging strategies and prices. Or, for that matter, shift copies of their latest works, compelling case studies and innovative methodologies in respectable numbers, or at least profitable ones, given the relative cost savings of digital versus physical content delivery.

Steve Jobs and company have also taken great care to demonstrate marked support for the professional user, as illustrated at the gadget's recent unveiling. Out of the box, the iPad doesn't just spare you the headache of having to purchase software programs you own on the iPhone again, many of which can also be "pixel doubled" to fit the device's display and take advantage of its enhanced visibility, brightness and larger screen real estate. It also has the capacity to run more advanced productivity apps (downloadable, bite-sized software applications) that offer better, more ergonomic touch controls, a greater range of complex features and expanded online connectivity options. Whereas current office suites for the iPhone provide limited functionality and a smaller feature set as compared with desktop alternatives, make no bones about it: The iPad is a true portable computer, not simply an enhanced smartphone (although the iPhone and iPad do share an underlying operating system), and software utilities for the iPad will better approximate full-fledged desktop cousins.

Among its main benefits to business users is enhanced Web surfing, with sites readily visible in either portrait or landscape mode, and user input facilitated via intuitive gestures and an on-screen virtual keyboard. The experience benefits from greater room to scroll by swiping a finger, zoom in just by pinching, and, at odds with smartphones' cramped screens, more closely resembles what you'd resemble from the traditional internet browsing process. Alas, support for the Flash software platform still isn't included, limiting access to certain videos, sites and online games. Nor can users multitask (switch between simultaneously running programs), which seriously calls into question its ability to serve working professionals.

Downloading and viewing standard or high-def online video through YouTube or iTunes is a much more enjoyable experience though, and may open a wider audience for digital footage, making it a ready platform for entrepreneurs to serve taped testimonials, webinars and commercial spots on. Extensive e-mail support is also offered (as is sideways or vertical message viewing) through a cleaner user interface than that found on the iPhone, whose split-screen views, drop-down menus and pop-ups make scanning your inbox and responding to queries a snap. Extensive support for multiple calendars and notes is also featured, and it's easy to quickly add and browse contacts, pull up important phone numbers or access full-color maps as needed as well. Far-reaching search options allow you to quickly skim the entire device for names, details and addresses.

Given the not inconsiderable price, which swells further when you consider the pressing need for a monthly data plan, more storage space and accessories such as a physical QWERTY keyboard and carrying case, let's be frank: The iPad is destined to directly compete with standard laptops. The most pressing issue is whether you'll consider it a worthy replacement for your current portable PC workhorse, especially if features like a dedicated 3-D video card, Web camera, high-end CPU, multitasking performance and Windows compatibility are potential sticking points.

On a positive note, Apple's put on a convincing show of demonstrating how its Microsoft Office-like iWork application suite--which consists of Keynote (slides/presentations), Numbers (spreadsheets) and Pages (word processing) programs--empowers small-business owners. At just $9.99 each for the motion-sensing applications, which support standard desktop documents and PDFs, it's a relatively simple matter to create and edit charts, graphs, functions, formulas, slides and documents. Multi-touch input further makes all intuitive to browse by tapping or dragging a finger. But as much as we appreciate the ability to access slideshow templates with a poke, shuffle pictures and text layouts just by swiping or scroll through marketing plans with a flick of the wrist, let's be honest: Gesture-tracking commands are nice, as is compatibility with Mac-built and Microsoft Office documents. Still, we find it hard to believe road warriors would be well served without owning a dedicated, real-world keyboard; options for easily swapping between multiple programs; or having the option to easily expand internal memory or processing hardware.

Because it's primarily a digital lifestyle device, we don't see legions of entrepreneurs making the switch in 2010. But once enterprising entrepreneurs begin to crank out productivity apps and other programs (social media clients, cloud computing tools, voice-over IP services, etc.) en masse, the device could quickly come into its own as an entrepreneur's best friend in the next 18 to 24 months. The iPad isn't the be-all, end-all portable computing device that tech experts envisioned. But as it's done with the MacBook, iPod and iPhone, Apple will surely continue to innovate on the hardware, while competitors such as HP, Lenovo and Microsoft toy with the possibility of introducing competitors of their own.

All of this could add up to a potential renaissance for the entire tablet PC category. In terms of features, convenience, value, price and performance, that's a potentially huge win for entrepreneurs and everyday consumers seeking a more portable, flexible and lifestyle- and value-minded solution for accessing treasured digital content.

Tecnology expert Scott Steinberg is the publisher of tech product reviews site, and a celebrated gadget guru and video game expert who frequently appears as a technology analyst on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and CNN, and has contributed to 400+ outlets from The New York Times to Playboy and Rolling Stone.

iPad for Business - NO! there is no USB port

without the USB port then this makes no sense

Your in a hotel room, need to print an updated presentation that you are giving the next day and need to print......

With a USB memory stick you can drop into the business center or a Kinko's and print it out easily

iPad in Business

Featuring built-in support for Microsoft Exchange, secure access to corporate data, and a powerful platform for apps, iPad is ready for work, right out of the box. Yes agreed Steve but you forgot the USB port

Sample ACD and CTI RFP

Sample RFP for ACD and CTI
Objectives of RFP
The purpose of this request is to invite prospective vendors to submit a proposal to supply an automated (ACD or CTI) system. This Request for Proposal (RFP) provides potential vendors with the relevant operational, performance, application, and architectural requirements of the system. This information enables vendors to respond in a format that makes for a fair comparison and ensures that the proposed solution meets the requirements.
Overview of Add Company name:
Complete the following:
ADD: Name of company, description of business, location. Objective of call center group, number of call center agents, number of call centers, growth expectations, why a solution is required, what these solutions should achieve.
Background Information:
ADD: How is (ACD or CTI) currently being performed.
Call Center Environment:
ADD: Number of customer service agents , hours of operation of call center, number of call center agents, number of call centers, talk time, number of calls, growth expectations. Describe how the automated (ACD or CTI) system is expected to improve the call center environment.
Existing Technology Environment:
Call Center
PBX Hardware & ACD software, CTI Servers Add
Trunking Add: Number dedicated to the call center
LAN type, agent & reviewer desktop computers Add Non Call Center Environment
PBX Hardware & ACD software, CTI Servers Add
Trunking Add: Number dedicated to the call center
LAN type, agent & reviewer desktop computers Add
Instructions To Vendors
Project Schedule Add Company name plans to select a vendor by “Add Date”.
Add Date RFP sent to all potential bidders
Add Date Written responses are due
Add Date Presentation
Add Date Vendor selected
Closing Time and Date
The response to the RFP should be submitted to Add Name of main contact no later than Add Date.
Responses must be sent to: Name of Contact
Address to send information
Phone number and fax number
Email address
Clarification regarding this RFP can be done by contacting:
IT contact & call center contact
Phone number.
Number of Copies
X number of printed copies of your response are required.
Right to Reject
Add Company name reserves the right to reject any or all responses to this RFP even if all the stated requirements are met. In addition, Add Company name may enter into negotiations with more than one vendor simultaneously and award the transaction to any vendor in negotiations without prior notification to any other vendor.
Responding to Questions:
Vendor Profile
Please ensure that you answer the following questions:
1. State the number of years your firm has been in business.
2. Where are your head office, sales, and customer service offices located?
3. Number of employees in your company?
4. Number of employees in customer service?
5. Number of employees in product development?
6. Are your hardware and software dependent on third party vendors for manufacturing?
7. Provide a list of 5 references list including contact names that we may contact. For each reference provide names and phone numbers of the primary contact person.
8. Provide your income statement and balance sheet for each of the two most recently completed fiscal years certified by a certified public accountant (CPA).
Future Offerings:
1. What new technology does your company plan to utilize in the near future that would be an advantage to Add Your Company Name.
2. What is the history of new releases over the last 3 years?
Market Differentiation
1. Provide a brief summary of your company's history in the marketplace. Limit response to 2 pages.
2. Please describe any features, services, or practices you provide in relation to the products requested which set you apart from your competition.
Business Responses
(a) (ACD or CTI) Process
For each of the following items, please provide a detailed response as it applies to the (ACD or CTI) software:
a. Delayed announcements
b. Multiple ACD queues or splits
c. Queued call announcements
d. Skills matching
e. System interflow and intraflow
f. Night service recordings
g. Prioritization of trunks and trunk groups
h. Transaction codes
i. Supervisor position and console
j. Emergency alert capability
k. Call force handling
l. Advanced call routing
m. Service observation
n. Call work codes
o. Exception reports
p. Agent trace activity
q. Maximum number of ACD groups
r. Maximum announcements
s. Agent call intervention or barge in
t. Remote diagnostics
u. Memory protection

1. Does your system have an automated attendant?
2. Describe your system’s ability to route calls by any combination of the call origination number (ANI), the call destination number (DNIS) and the PBX line.
3. What ACD statistics are available for a specific agent throughout the day?
4. Does your system allow remote access for users and/or system administrators?
5. Will your system allow management to remove ACD queues from service during off-peak hours and return them as needed?
6. Will your system permit the moving of agents between queues?
7. Can your system make agents active or inactive as important statistics are gathered on agents’ performance?
8. Describe your system’s ability to provide agent reporting that tracks activities by agent group.
9. Can your system provide DNIS reporting by period, by queue, by DNIS number, by day of the week, and by day of the month?
10. Does your system have an alarm feature to help call center supervisors define performance thresholds to keep tabs on workload, workflow, queue wait time and so forth?
11. Explain your system’s ability to use GUI to take a call, transfer it, send it to voice mail, etc.
12. Does your system support the ability to perform screen pops of virtually any application, including help desk and customer service products from Software Artistry, Remedy, Vantive, Clarify and others?
(b) Reporting:
1. Does your system provide wizards to automatically generate custom reports?
2. Can report criteria be saved for later use to maximize database storage? Does the reporting function store the entire report or just the report criteria?
3. Does your reporting function offer both text and graphical reports?
4. Can the format of the graphical reports be modified?
5. Does the system provide the capability of exporting the data from all reports to a Text file to allow for the manipulation of the data as desired by the users?
6. Does the system provide a report with a visual graph based upon a custom field? Provide a copy of the report, as it would look printed out.
7. Does the system provide a report with a visual graph that shows the (ACD or CTI) process by day, week, or month? Provide a copy of the report, as it would look printed out.
(c) System Administration
1. Does your system provide multiple levels of security access?
2. Does your system allow for the definition of Groups, if so can users belong to multiple groups?
3. Can privileges be customized on a per user basis?
4. Can your system administration function upload user data from current databases?
5. Does your system support the custom definition of user fields in the System Administration function?
(d) Training
1. What is the background of the people responsible for training the call center on the application? Detail their experience working in a call center environment.
2. What type of user training is available and can it be customized to meet the specific needs of our call center group?
3. Do you provide hands-on on-site training?
4. How many trainers do you have dedicated just to training?
5. How much training time (hours/days) is customary?
6. Describe a typical training program?
7. Is future training or customized training available? What type is available?
8. Where is your help desk located and do you have field offices that are available to assist in the event of a problem? Where are the field offices?
(e) Installation & Customer Support For each of the following items, please provide a detailed response as it applies to the (ACD or CTI) software:
a. Delivery, installation & cutover
b. General procedures
c. Completion date
d. Database loading
e. Subcontractors
f. Project manager/installation crew
g. User training
h. Cutover plans
i. Acceptance

1. How long does a typical installation require for your solution?
2. What kinds of resources are required of our company?
3. How many people are dedicated to your customer support organization? Describe the customer support capabilities.
4. What are the escalation procedures?
5. What is your Software maintenance & support policy? Please provide a copy of the agreement.
6. Is remote diagnostic support available? Describe how it occurs.
7. Do you have a user group for your product? How often do they meet and where was the last meeting?
8. Do customers and users groups influence release of the product? Describe.
9. Is telephone support provided? If yes, is this a toll-free service?
10. What is your guaranteed response time for user support?
11. What support is available for implementation?
(f) Technical Requirements
For each of the following items, please provide a detailed response as it applies to the (ACD or CTI) software:
a. General overview of system specifications
b. Technology
c. Equipment specifications
d. Cable plan and wiring
e. Equipment room
f. Environment
g. Electrical requirements
h. Battery backup
i. Back-up processor and critical redundancy
j. Measure of reliability

1. Describe the archive capabilities and back-up/recovery capabilities.
2. Describe the various levels of security for this solution.
3. Is your system scaleable? Describe how for the various components.
4. What are the work station requirements?
5. What are the server requirements?
6. Describe the requirements to interface the system to other call center systems.
7. Does a third party vendor manufacture your hardware and software?
(g) Pricing for the Proposed System
Please answer the following questions:
1. Does this pricing include any of the following:
o Incremental costs for upgrades and expansions?
o Recurring and annual costs?
o Maintenance costs?
o Training materials?
o Documentation (number of copies)?
o On-line help desk?
2. Identify any other products that must be licensed/purchased for use with the package or any of its components.
3. Describe any ancillary equipment required, but not included, in the solution pricing.
4. Describe any Desktop/LAN equipment required, but not included, in the solution pricing (i.e. local disk space, memory, operating system, network connectivity standards/protocols supported, dial-up modem for support, dedicated server, storage, etc.).

Monday, March 8, 2010

VOIP or IP Telephony Implementations: Tips for Success

Few IT professionals have practical experience in implementing IP Telephony solutions because there is both a voice and data component. It is not as simple as loading software on a server, assigning IP addresses and dropping telephones on employee desks. The voice professionals understand PBX and voice technologies and the IT professionals understand LANs and WANs. Implementing an IP Telephony solution requires expertise in both the voice and data world. A complete understanding of the two will ensure success.

As the business community migrates its voice and data systems to IP telephony, it is important to understand what elements need to be considered. An IP telephony implementation is very different than installing a traditional TDM PBX. Consideration must be given to the following when developing the initial project plan:

·Assessment and planning of current voice and data infrastructure

·Network readiness (QOS, capacity, network management, security, IP addressing, etc.).

·Voice and Data Infrastructure preparation (cabling, power, etc.).

·Equipment or data room preparation (back up power, cooling, etc.).

·Integration of applications such as Voice mail, ACD or branch office solutions.

·Validation of System design.

·New goals and expectations from affected departments.

·Organization readiness (aptitude and training of voice, data and user groups).

·Risk Assessment.

·Sign Off of the Project Plan by all team members

Now that the project plan outline is developed, take the following items into account to ensure project success:

·Ensure the Project timeline is realistic.

·It is imperative that the voice people talk to and understand the data people.

·Order any Telco services well in advance of assumed time frames.

·IP Telephony will require more planning than you expect.

·Have regular POTS circuits in place for back up.

·Ensure the IP Telephony PBX or Server supports POTS analog circuits or telephones.

·Treat station reviews as an important task.

·All PC's connected to IP Telephone sets must have all the latest patches loaded.

·IP Telephone sets require power to operate. What's your power continuance plan?

·Simplify your LAN architecture.

·Communication is key to users and department leaders.

·Minimize the number of vendors in your architecture.

·Identify any potential hidden and often overlooked costs of implementation.

·Don't underestimate the importance of network management.

·Prepare and draw out all call flows including the call center and voice mail back door.

·Analyze voice traffic and understand trunking traffic studies.

·Don't upgrade your data network at the same time of IP PBX cut-over.

·Make sure all software is compatible.

·It is useful to develop a multi-phase plan.

·Watch out for alarm circuits, HVAC and fire safety equipment circuits.

·Elevator telephones, Overhead Paging?

·Test, test, test.

·Any 911 issues?

·Address any additional network security concerns.

·Ensure all users are properly trained.

·Develop a post cutover action plan.

·Do not try to save money on the installation.

This is by no means a comprehensive plan as every project is unique, but I hope that you may have found some items to consider that maybe would have been overlooked.

John Leonardelli

Eight important factors to consider when getting VOIP for Your Home

VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, is becoming the alternative to the high cost of local telephone service. The primary advantage is the savings on local and long-distance calls. There are also savings for all the extra features that are included in the basic VoIP service. Traditional telephone companies charge extra for things like call display, voice mail and call forwarding. Many VOIP providers offer these features at little or no cost.

With this new technology there are eight important factors to consider before you take the plunge and get a VOIP service.

1) You need a High Speed Internet Connection

In order to use VoIP, you need to have a high-speed Internet connection, such as DSL or cable. If you do not have this then your costs to have VOIP will be higher.

2) Power Outages

VoIP is dependant on commercial AC power from your local utility. Your standard telephone runs on phantom power that is provided over the line from the telephone central office. Even if your AC power goes out, your standard telephone still works. The VOIP gateway, ATA equipment and high-speed Internet modem requires AC power. During a power failure if you do not have a UPS or back up power system, you will not be able to make or receive telephone calls. This could be a problem if you need to call 911. These is why some people use Voice over IP for long distance calling only and keep their existing telephone number with their standard telephone service.

3) Emergency 911

The 911 systems do not know what you physical address is because of the SIP addressing scheme. With SIP there is no way to associate a geographic location with an IP address, so calling 911 in an emergency can be a serious problem. You could be in Vancouver using a Toronto number and the 911 dispatchers would not know that. Most VOIP service providers have a work around that has you call into their 911 center where they can find out where you are and then dispatch the local emergency services to you. This could cause a delay in getting emergency services to you quickly. The standard telephone service uses a North American Number Plan and the local service provider knows your address based on the number called that's in their database. Keep this in mind when deciding to cancel your standard telephone service. Ask your provider how they are handling 911 emergency calls; your life may depend on it.

4) You may still need your standard telephone line

Satellite TV subscription services and home security systems all use a standard phone line to communicate. There is currently no way to integrate these products with VoIP. Consider your requirements if you are planning to discontinue your local standard telephone service.

5) Local Telephone White Page Listings

VoIP providers may or may not offer directory assistance or local white page listings.

6) Reliability

Because VoIP uses a high-speed Internet connection, it is susceptible to all the problems normally associated with home broadband services. All of these factors will affect call quality: Latency, Jitter, noise, and Packet loss. Telephone conversations can become distorted, garbled or lost because of these transmission errors. It is important to have a High Quality connection from a reputable internet service provider.

7) Security

Like many Internet based programs, VoIP is susceptible to worms, viruses and hacking. Make sure you use anti-virus and firewall security software.

8) Extensions

The standard telephone service is analog. It uses 2 wires to transmit and receive the telephone call. You local telephone company may have already outfitted your residence with extension jacks throughout the house. With VOIP, the main connection point becomes where your High Speed Internet modem is located. You may not have cabling connections at that location to the rest of the house. The solution is to have an electrician assist you in cabling the extensions or using a cordless telephone.

The Benefits of Wireless Internet Access in a Handheld Device

Handheld devices with wireless Internet access have become very popular for business travelers. Cell phones, and WiFi enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs) make it easy to surf the Web and check email while you're away from your office. The rapid growth of WiFi hotspots and wireless internet access at hotels, airports and coffee shops is making it easier to be connected to the Internet.

Internet enabled handheld devices have seven advantages over Laptop PCs:

Lighter than a laptop - Your laptop is portable, but it can't go everywhere with you. The typical laptop weighs almost 10 pounds with their protective carrying case. Handheld devices fit in your pocket and are convenient because they can provide quick and discreet Internet access.

Email everywhere and anywhere - With wireless web access you can stay connected to your office whether you're stuck at the airport or away on a week long business trip. Some portable devices even have always-on Internet access, which saves you the time and trouble of establishing a connection. Being able to unobtrusively check your email will also let you take urgent messages without disrupting meetings with phone calls.

No more Cords - A wireless Internet connection means no phone lines, extra cords or external modems to lug around. Except for a charger cord, the handheld device is very simple to pack. Laptop computers become a headache when you start to add cables, power supply unit and a mouse.

Longer battery life - A typical laptop computer battery lasts only two to three hours. Some PDAs can run for several days on a single charge.

Day Timer calendar function - Most handheld devices have Pocket Outlook or Calendar functions. Thus it is very easy to synchronize your laptop Outlook to your handheld device. Having immediate access to this sort of information can be useful in planning your day and appointments on the road. Wireless access to the web allows you to make flight changes and get schedule information easily.

Less does more - Some handheld devices, such as cellular phones with built-in PDAs, perform a variety of functions. One device that makes phone calls, keeps your appointments, lets you write documents, and play games and even provides Internet access will save you money and a trip to the chiropractor.

Productivity during standby time - Most devices have Windows Mobile software. Pocket versions of Microsoft Office allow you to create, edit and read word documents. Why not update your sales forecast in excel while waiting for your flight to arrive. You can even present power point documents to a LCD projector. The wide variety of software will allow you to make the best use of your time.

Six VoIP Security Recommendations

Before you begin to implement VoIP across your organization, there are several things you should consider. Security is extremely important these days and it is best to think before than act after an attack. Some vendors are building security solutions within their products others are not, leaving it up to the user to implement these measures.

1. Make sure your network and security infrastructure, including firewalls routers, VPNs, etc., are voice-optimized and capable of supporting the advanced security requirements for VoIP. More importantly, bandwidth, latency and quality of service become critical requirements for network and security infrastructure.

2. Your IP PBX is at the core of your VoIP infrastructure. Depending on the software you are using, especially windows servers, ensure that the base operating system of your IP PBX, as well as network infrastructure, are always updated and patched for the latest security vulnerabilities. Vendors that provide proprietary operating systems are a lot less vulnerable.

3. It is important to be proactive in conducting regular security assessments of your VoIP infrastructure. Being aware of such security flaws will help to avoid attacks and prevent system outages.

4. Manage your remote access ports and system backdoors. Default login and administrator passwords on such devices are a very common entry for attacks. Disable any insecure remote access features, such as FTP and Telnet, and disable local administration and management features.

5. Structure your network to use VLANs to separate voice and data devices and its corresponding traffic. Deploying VoIP devices on separate VLANs permits isolating data traffic from voice and signaling traffic, as well as utilizing Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities. VLAN separation does not ensure a robust security practice but having separate VLANs will help in isolating the traffic.

6. If your VoIP traffic goes over the Internet, use encryption technologies like IPsec tunnels to secure the VoIP traffic. While many of the VoIP protocols include capabilities for encryption and authentication, most of them are optional. Ensure your vendor has a security policy within the product itself.

5 Steps to Starting Your Own Telephone Company

Fed up with your local Telecom provider? Tired of poor customer service? In 5 easy steps you can start your own Telephone Company. In the new world of Open Source software, low cost hardware technology and the Internet, it is very easy for anyone to start their own Long Distance telephone company. Yes! You can start your own Long Distance Telephone Company for under $5,000. With the big boys charging 5 to 10 cents a minute North America wide, you can make money when your actual costs are less than 2 cents a minute. Let's take a look where we can spend our start up funding.

Your office costs will be pretty minimal as all you need are some business cards, a decent website, a maildrop and tab with your local coffee shop. This will set you back for less than a few hundred bucks.

Your biggest and monthly recurring cost (don't forget marketing costs) will be your Telecommunication Infrastructure costs. The two elements of these costs are co-location and local access or T1/PRI circuits. You need to locate your Telephone Carrier PBX in a Telco hotel or managed host environment. They provide the power, environmentals and the access to the various carrier circuits all in one place. Your carrier equipment sits right beside the racks used by the "Big Boys" in the industry.

You can probably negotiate all of this with a couple of PRI circuits for under $2000 per month. The MCI sales representative will be very happy to buy you lunch after you tell him that you also require LD termination. Now, take your credit card and stop buy Radio Shack for some hardware and software.

You now need to assemble your Telephone Carrier PBX. Thanks to the team of open source developers it is possible to get yourself a low cost solution. No need to call Nortel for a Central Office switch. First, you need to get a decent Intel P4 server and some LINUX software. This can be had for under $2000. Don't forget a back up drive.

Second, you need some software and the one you want is from Asterisk. Asterisk is the developer of software for an open source TDM/VOIP PBX. This is a free download but add $200 to get yourself some books and manuals as you will need them.

Third, you need to install network interface cards. You can get these from Digium or other manufacturers. They sell cards for the Asterisk TDM/VOIP PBX. You will need some cards for say 2 PRI cards. These will cost you about $800 each. If your marketing guys are optimistic, get a quad card.

Fourth, get a telecom technician that knows voice, data and Linux and start assembling the platform and making your interconnections.

Fifth, start your advertising campaign to your target market and start answering sales calls.

Congratulations! You are now the president and CEO of your own Telephone Company.

Three Steps to IP Contact Centre Implementation

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), or more specifically IP-based telephony, is quickly becoming the technology of choice in contact centers as companies replace their aging time-division multiplexing (TDM)-based systems with IP-based systems. Your organization may be wondering how to go about implementing its own IP-based contact center, whether as a new implementation or as a replacement for a TDM system.

Dividing the process into three major steps: business planning, implementation planning, and implementation/support are a good approach to success.

Business Planning

A comprehensive business plan is the single most important step in a contact center implementation. It is critical that the project clearly link the technology initiative with the needs of the business. The plan must specify what they wish to accomplish and how the contact center will help them achieve their goals.

Naturally, the contents of the business plan vary from organization to organization. Some considerations for your company include:

*The industry you're in, which helps determine the contact center features you'll need *If your contact center will be volume-oriented or value-oriented *Is your contact center primarily for internal or external customers? *Will you expect to use your contact center only for customer support or also to help generate additional sales and revenue? *If you'll provide service through diverse media (voice, e-mail, Web).

With a business plan in hand, you can link your goals to the features of your system.

Implementation Planning

Once the business plan is complete, we can now focus on its implementation plan. This step details the best way to build out the contact center so that objectives are met in terms of functionality, cost, and features. Do consider the following:

*What's the best design for the network? *How will it interface with other network components, such as voice mail or an existing customer relationship management (CRM) system? *Will the system be centralized in one location or decentralized across many sites? *Will customer service include a Web-based component, or only voice? *How will the system be managed? *How will you account for additional users, locations, or features in the future?

As in the previous stage, you must consider your organization's reporting requirements. An IP-based contact center can generate a wealth of data--far more than a TDM system--that can be of tremendous value, allowing your company to measure your customers' concerns, preferences and plans. These requirements, though, must be taken into consideration when designing and configuring the system. The types of data you wish to capture and how you want it represented must be thoroughly considered before implementation.

Implementation and Support

Now that we have completed our planning we are ready to implement the solution. Ensure your implementation partner/vendor is certified in the appropriate technologies, has a list of references and can demonstrate a critical path process. Engage your partner early in the process so they can assist in building your plan. They would bring a wealth of experience that can help you build your business case if need be and outline any contingency planning. It is also assumed that your partner will provide support for the system after implementation. This is a key factor to ensure any software updates are maintained and that any tweaking be done.

Nonetheless, it's important to remember that, like most IT projects, the greatest benefits accrue to those who thoughtfully prepare. Organizations benefit most when they engage in detailed business planning, thorough implementation planning, and knowledgeable implementation and support.

John Leonardelli

The 9 Retail Technologies That Will Propel Your Small Business Forward

Here are 9 retail technologies that I believe will give retailers the biggest benefit and maximum return on their technology investments. Your small retail operation can be just like the Big Box stores when it comes to being efficient and productive. Every retail operation must have technology in place to manage it s pricing, sales and inventory.

1) Point of Sale (POS) and Inventory Control Software A POS / Retail Management System are mandatory. A good POS system will track all your sales. It replaces your cash register and allows a multitude of features that will save you time and help you manage your inventory. Immediate benefits include:  Simplify and improve inventory management.  Improve the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.  Show where you're making and losing money so you can make adjustments and increase profits.

2) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software Building a successful retail business is to build relationships with your customers. CRM software is a critical tool for the retail business. A CRM system will help you improve your customer loyalty it will help you market to potential prospects and generate new business. CRM software allows you to track your customers, identify market segments and then easily communicate with them via email, telephone, and direct mail. It can also track your customer buying patterns and manage information.

CRM software can also be integrated within a contact centre system or your POS system.

3) Bar Code Scanning and UPC Codes Bar Code and UPC Code scanning allows you to check products at the point of sale much faster and more accurately than can be done on the keyboard. It can also maintain your inventory system to be up to date.

The technology is very robust and can easily be implemented using hand held scanner devices.

4) Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) EDI technology allows you to send purchase orders, created in your POS software (based on order levels and sales history) to your suppliers electronically via the internet. This can ensure your inventory is never oversold and there is ample stock for your customers to purchase. No stock on fast moving items means lost sales.

5) Retail Accounting Software Accounting software can be purchased stand alone or can be integrated with your POS software. This allows a small business owner to manage their accounting in a very timely manner. This is not to replace your Accountant but to provide reports in between your meetings with your accountant. The most important modules are the Accounts Receivable, Inventory and Cash Flow Analysis.

6) Store Traffic Counters These valuable devices will help you improve sales ratios, tally store traffic, and manage your advertising campaigns. You need an accurate measure of your store traffic so you can better schedule your sales staff because they identify actual foot traffic in your store during certain time periods. You can also determine if traffic goes up or down during marketing promotions so you can figure out what works the best.

7) Web Presence Websites can be powerful tools to promote your retail business. For example, you could link to your website from business cards and newspaper ads. This gives you an opportunity to tell your story, show what you sell, and convince them to stop by your store. Many Bricks and Mortars operation use web presence to either advertise their business or generate traffic to their physical store.

You can also utilize a website shopping cart so customers can place orders and pay you right from the website.

8) Portable Data Terminals and Hand Held Computers Portable data terminals are great tools that allow you to quickly count your inventory and easily update your POS system. You can simply carry around this portable terminal, scan your merchandise, and then enter your quantities. This allows you to more easily and accurately count your inventory. They are also invaluable as price checkers.

Hand held computers have become very popular and cost effective. They allow you to create orders and complete various tasks on a computer that fits in the palm of your hand. They can perform various tasks especially if linked to your POS system using WiFi or be used as a way to manage customer contacts and selling information.

9) Digital Video Recorders Digital Video recorders have become the tool for loss prevention. Video cameras capture activity in real time and can record to a digital device for storage and later recall. They can integrate with POS systems and can include powerful tracking software. Simple installations can be a few cameras with a monitor and DVR to large installations that include traffic counters and 2 way audio.

The Top 9 Retail Technologies You Need Today

Technology gives your retail operation strategic advantage. You need to know manage your operation in real time, ensuring accurate pricing, inventory levels are maintained and the ability to communicate with customers in real time. Not having a strategic retail technology game plan will quickly have you placing "Going out of Business" signs in your store window.

Universal Product Code (UPC), Inventory is the lifeblood of retail and if you don't have it fast, in the quality and quantity you need - customers will shop elsewhere. UPC code scanners are needed at the POS or cash register to quickly price an item as well as tally its sale back to the inventory system.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is becoming absolutely critical today. You need to know who your customers are and proactively market to them. CRM allows you to track customers, know what they bought and use the information to market to specific segments. It creates the stickiness you need for repeat business. Digital Signage - Having LCD screens at the POS means customer scan get advertising messages while waiting in line.

Interactive Kiosks are another example of video-integration in the store, and provide customers with additional product knowledge. Price Look Ups are other benefits of using multi-media.

Data Mining Software - This windows-based software gives retail executives a graphical view of the data they need to make sound business decisions. Easily manipulated, the information can be quickly sliced and diced to identify problems and opportunities in your business. This is the 8:00 dashboard report that is viewed with intense interest. Wireless Infrastructure -If sales associates have wireless telephone handsets, one can easily serve those customers waiting in line while communicating orders to the other sales associates in the stock room. Inbound customer calls can be transferred to the sales floor and dealt with in a friendlier manner. This increases store revenues.

A wireless cash register is perfect for side walk sales. It can be easily picked up and moved anywhere it's needed.

Taking inventory with a hand-held unit that can be downloaded to your head office system is much faster and easier than gathering it with a clipboard and pen.

Price checkers can also be used to assist in getting fast and accurate pricing. Self serve price check kiosks are a timesaver.

2 Way radio headsets have also become popular to prevent shoplifting, increase employee safety and monitor store traffic.

Pen Computing POS Pads - Signature capture at the POS is the best way to get your customers' signature for credit card receipts. And, if a customer returns to dispute their purchase, your sales associate can bring up the store copy electronically.

Smart Cards - These are credit cards with microprocessors that store the customer's money. No need to call in phone authorizations, the purchase is taken right from the card. They speed up the sales process and can be easily linked to CRM software to analyze purchases or simplify rewards programs.

The E-commerce Website- if you haven't implemented an e-commerce strategy, you better do it fast. The internet has become a powerful tool that consumers use to make purchases or do product research. At least get a web site up that provides information on product lines, policy statements and stores locations. It will help drive traffic to your bricks and mortar operation. It is also a useful tool for customer service because it can link with an email system. The ability to track and maintain customer lists also allows you to generate electronic advertising that links back to your web site. Distant or worldwide customers may want to buy your products and an online method is preferred.

IP Telephony Systems - Today's retailers will benefit from the numerous advantages these systems offer. They can easily integrate with your wireless network to provide wireless telephone handsets. They have built in ACD and Auto Attendant features that allow calls to handled in the most efficient manner. Linking the telephone system with other stores allows an integrated network. Sales associates can contact another store easily and inquire if an item is in stock. Customers expect real time answers to questions and the IP telephony system allows this. The ability for staff to have voice mail boxes means managers can inform staff of important information. Corporate Telecom managers can easily maintain and make changes to the system remotely saving time and money. If you cannot communicate to your customers when they call you by telephone then customers will not visit your store.

Seven Tips for a Successful IP Telephony Implementation

Often when an organization considers a new IP telephony system --the process tends to focus on hardware and software. However, a company's infrastructure is composed not just of hardware and software, but also of people. The successful conversion to IP telephony does not rely solely on technology. It requires a combination of people, processes, and services-- all working together.

Planning, communication, teamwork, and understanding your users' requirements are as important as technical expertise. With this key objective in mind, I have compiled the following top seven tips for an IP telephony implementation. These best practices from my own experience as well as customer engagements will help you succeed at your organization.

Whether an IP telephony implementation involves 20 phones or 2000 phones, careful and comprehensive planning, communication, teamwork, will guarantee success.

Build a Cross-Functional HIT Team - the greatest factor in implementing a successful IP Telephony implementation is building a cross-functional High Impact Team that not only has the technical expertise but represents users in every area in the organization impacted by the implementation.

Key members of the team include an executive sponsor; a project team lead; technology and security experts, finance, the switchboard operator and project management. This well-represented team should start off the implementation by clearly defining the objectives and overall goals of the project, and identifying the tasks necessary to achieve those goals.

Get Your Users On Board - resistance to change is normal and should always be anticipated. Managing user expectations will be important from the start. One key way to achieve this is to take away the mystery and uncertainty among the individuals affected through education, open and frequent communication.

Team Participation - it is essential that you have the participation and cooperation of all team members from the start. The team should work together to plan project deliverables, address solution capabilities, define hardware, software, and security requirements, assign third-party implementation services, identify the project critical path and milestones, and outline the implementation strategy.

User Requirements Drives Design Requirements - you need to understand and be able to track user-preferred services, products, solutions, and features. Use a survey tool to identify needed phone features, validate key business needs and identify key functionalities that are critical to your business. You can also use the survey as an opportunity to incorporate features of the new IP telephony system and to help determine the priority of which features should be enabled first.

The 80/20 Implementation Rule - A winning formula for implementation success consists of 80 percent preparation and 20 percent installation. When it comes to actual implementation, the success of your IP telephony implementation will depend on several considerations that can be identified in 10 steps. If you focus on your plan first, the implementation will go a lot smoother.

Step 1. Facilitate Implementation Planning

Step 2. Hold Implementation Planning Meeting

Step 3. Define Project Monitoring and Control

Step 4. Develop Status Reporting Structure

Step 5. Begin Site Preparation

Step 6. Conduct Install and Configure

Step 7. Manage Test and Acceptance

Step 8. Deliver Knowledge Handoff

Step 9. Ensure Customer Acceptance

Step 10. Project Completion

Post Cutover Support - a successful handoff requires a well thought out support plan. Ensure installation staff is available to make necessary changes quickly and efficiently. Some users will forget how to use features and calling the help desk will ensure that business processes aren't slowed down because a user cannot check voice mails. Follow up with training at a later date and do not forget the satisfaction survey.

Look to Leverage your New IP Telephony Investment - the real power of IP Telephony is in the ability to integrate new powerful applications easily. As new applications become available, your chosen system must be able to allow the addition of these features so that your organization can reap the benefits that will come from rolling out another new IP communications application. At this point you may need to regroup the HIT team and do it all again.

About the Author
John Leonardelli, President, Gale Force Communications. John brings 20 years of voice, data and wireless telecommunications experience in various sales, management and operational roles. John is a Certified IP Telephony Expert where his expertise has been focused on IP Telephony, Contact Centre and complex technical solutions. John has a degree in Electronics Engineering, Telecommunications and Sales Management.

Nortel Networks CS1000e Reliability Executive Overview

by John Leonardelli
submitted 2007-01-28)

Nortel CS1000E Reliability Executive Overview


IP Telephony has become an attractive offering available from various telecommunication manufacturers. As a modern technology that utilizes the inexpensive transport mechanism existent today called Voice running Over an IP infrastructure (VoIP), IP Telephony can now be a viable solution and cost savings mechanism in the Enterprise arena.

Nortel Networks Communication Server 1000E

The CS 1000E system is a modular solution manufactured by Nortel Networks. One of the significant features of this platform is VxWorks as the native operating system that runs on the hardware. From a system security vulnerability stand point, the CS 1000E is safer and less prone to external attacks inherent to other IP Telephony systems running a Windows based operating system. Numerous operating system exploits and open ports have been found on these Windows based systems.

Call Server

There are two Call Servers in a CS1000E system. One operates in active mode and the second in standby mode. The active Call Server is the heart of the call processing function that controls all IP Phone features and trunk interfaces operating in normal mode. It also performs the function of database server for synchronization of configuration information with the standby Call Server and with all Media Gateways.

The active Call Server performs call control, signaling and routing for all TDM and IP calls placed across the network. The Call Server is a rack mountable unit with a small footprint housing a hot swappable fan unit, and field replaceable power supply.

Signaling Server

The Signaling Server is an off-the-shelf Intel based single board computer that provides call control services such as registration of IP Phones and gateways, translation of call initiation and tear down sequences from IP to Call Server language, IP address translation services, and bandwidth control. The Signaling Server also runs VxWorks real-time operating system.

Software modules reside on this device: a Line Terminal Proxy Server (LTPS), a Signaling Gateway, and an H.323 Gatekeeper. The TPS module essentially is the IP Phone interface, providing registration, TFTP service, and bandwidth control and feature delivery to the IP Phones.

Nortel Signaling Servers can be deployed in a redundant, load-sharing configuration for increased scalability and reliability of the LTPS. Moreover, should both Signaling Servers become unavailable, phones will register with Succession Media Cards located in Succession Media Gateways. This provides tertiary redundancy for the Line Terminal Proxy Server.

Both signaling servers also include the Signaling Gateway software module which translates Nortel Networks IP Telephony protocols into H.323 to communicate with local H.323-compliant devices.

The H.323 Gatekeeper software module resolves addresses unknown to the local CS1000E Call Server. Typically, a primary gatekeeper is deployed on one Signaling Server while another is deployed in "hot standby" mode anywhere in the network. Additionally, other H.323 Gatekeepers are deployed in "failsafe" mode in the event a primary and secondary gatekeeper become unavailable, this provides three levels of redundancy for gatekeepers.

Nortel Media Gateways

Media gateways are the primary means to interface with all TDM lines and trunks. All Media Gateways contain an embedded form of the Call Server software and can be configured to be a Survivable Media Gateway.

Nortel Internet Phones

All Nortel Networks Internet Phones use by default the standard G.711 audio codec algorithm to convert analog voice signals into digital packets, though they could be configured to use any of a list of three other Codec types as well: G729a, G.729ab and G.723.1.

Configuration and Management

Nortel Networks CS 1000E system is delivered on individual units that are each rack mountable and configurable via direct connection into their console ports or via an IP-based terminal server expressly deployed for that purpose. Nortel Networks CS 1000E systems support a very effective and granular CLI on all of its system components. With CLI commands a systems administrator can entirely configure, deploy, modify, monitor and manage the system either directly connected into the system console port or via Telnet from a remote location.

For in depth system configuration and management including trunks, features, routes and gateways, Nortel CS1000E comes with a Management platform called Element Manager. Element Manager is a WEB based application that runs on any browser. Element Manager 4.0 is an integrated systems management platform to control all CS 1000E system components. It allows the system administrator to perform all the necessary system feature implementations, IP Phone settings, line and trunk configuration parameters, dial plan implementation and system monitoring and verification.

Nortel Networks CS1000E enterprise solution also includes various trunk configuration, alerting and monitoring control functions that enhance the overall system functionality. Features such as trunk barring, trunk traffic reporting, trunk failure monitor, trunk verification, and others allow the implementation of a robust, resilient and proactively monitored system.


In conclusion, The CS 1000E system is a secure, robust, extremely redundant and scalable IP-based platform when compared to Windows server based platforms from other manufacturers.

Enterprise organization in search of a reliable, resilient and scalable IP Telephony system to accommodate their needs, and make optimal use of their existent IP network and wiring infrastructure, should not wait any longer. Both of the systems analyzed in this paper offer much more than the bare standard features existent in PSTN environments, although Nortel Networks CS 1000E offers a collection of additional features that give it an overall edge.

The CS 1000E system offered by Nortel Networks is by far the most redundant, resilient and scalable with its component based architecture and its native operating systems that are much less vulnerable than other manufacturer solutions built on top of the Microsoft Windows software architecture. Windows based platforms have the largest list of vulnerability exploits and open services that are prone to external attacks. Numerous software patches and external means of network protection are needed to mitigate such systems vulnerability.

In terms of call volume that each of these systems can handle, Nortel Networks CS 1000E supports a greater load than other manufacturer platforms. The CS 1000E supports 300,000 Busy Hour Call Completions (BHCC) for digital TDM calls and 240,000 BHCC for IP Telephony calls.

CS 1000E operates reliably and call server switchover is seamless.

The CS 1000E use of the VxWorks operating system provides less vulnerable operation in terms of IP functionality and external source's attacks than other manufacturers application based on the Windows operating systems.

The Nortel CS 1000E multi unit solution allows system resilience and minimizes downtime due to built-in components redundancy.

CS 1000E and Internet Phone Functionality:

* Better IP Server security and less OS vulnerability * More features overall, allowing greater customization by the end user * More robust Call Server can handle more calls per hour (300K/240K) * System ready to interface with external PBX or other IP systems * Fully standards based system and components * Up to third level of signaling server redundancy * One built in auto-sensing 10/100baseT Ethernet switched port IEEE 802.3af compliant * Second auto-sensing 10/100baseT Ethernet switched port for a workstation connection * IEEE 802.3Q VLAN tagging and IEEE 802.3p priority settings standards compliant * Multi language support with built-in user selectable options * Keep alive signaling control with Call Server to facilitate accounting and billing functions * Dial tone and signaling controlled at the Call Server and Signaling server * Fast registration and recovery after power up or disconnect (The IP Terminal times taken to regain dial tone varied as follows: i2001, 23 seconds; i2002, 23 seconds and the i2204, 25 seconds on average)

About the Author
John Leonardelli, President, Gale Force Communications. John brings 20 years of voice, data and wireless telecommunications experience in various sales, management and operational roles. John is a Certified IP Telephony Expert where his expertise has been focused on IP Telephony, Contact Centre and complex technical solutions. John has a degree in Electronics Engineering, Telecommunications and Sales Management.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hello World

I have been in the Telecommunications industry since the days of rotary telephones, tip and ring, and when the Telephone repairman climbed a pole to fix the telephone cabling. Things have a come a long way since then and we would not have known what are kids today take for granted.

Technology is all good and it has made the world a better and safer place for it.

So enjoy my various writings and I will also throw in a few other things to keep it varied and mixed, not just about IP Telephony or VOIP.