Using SIP Phones with Hosted VOIP

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by Tiffany Torbert — Tiffany is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

voip colorsEveryone knows that you can connect any phone to a hosted VoIP line, right? But what advantages does connecting a SIP phone provide? There are actually a number of them.

It might be natural to think that your work is over once your enterprise has made the decision to go with hosted VoIP. After all, VoIP can run nearly entirely in the cloud, so you won’t have to worry about keeping the resources around to manage the telephony services in-house. This alone can take a load off your mind. And it’ll certainly make life a lot easier for IT. At the same time, though, your employees will still be using their same old desk phones for their telephony needs. And there will be critical decisions to be made in this area — and I don’t mean simply who your hosted VoIP provider will be.

One of the decisions you’ll have to make will be which SIP phone you’ll want to use in order to complement your VoIP service. After all, all SIP phones are not made the same, as some people might have you think. If you do think this, then you might miss out on some critical features that might not be apparent until after your purchase. In order to assure this does not happen to you, here’s three key attributes of SIP phones that you should look for when you’re planning your move to hosted VoIP. They’re based on my extensive research.

  1. Ensure Compatibility with Your VoIP Provider

This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s interesting how many times I’ve seen this one overlooked. Surprisingly, though, it’s a complex topic. The main gist of it, though, is that the VoIP service and the SIP phones are going to make up an entire single unit working together. They’ll be a holistic telephony solution, if you will. There are a wide variety of VoIP providers to pick from, and they all have many different features. At the same time, not all of the SIP phones are certified to work with all VoIP providers. So you need to do some homework beforehand in order to be certain that both of them working together will give you the features that you think you must have. If you don’t do this previous legwork, you will risk selling yourself short. At best, you’ll be undermining your own investment in the SIP phones and hosted VoIP; at worst it simply won’t work.

  1. Provide a Quality Experience

SIP phones are about delivering the best parts of VoIP to your workers, more than anything else. When using hosted VoIP, getting a dial tone reliably should be a given. You also shouldn’t need to worry about network management or connectivity. Since VoIP service is pretty much a commodity, the real distinctions are drawn at the endpoints, where the workers interface one-to-one with VoIP directly.

Legacy telephony has actually set the bar for quality pretty high, so VoIP audio quality has to be even better on a consistent basis. Its core feature set also has to be easy to use. If you try and go the inexpensive route — low-end phones that have poor audio quality — your workers will quickly notice, and soon become disenfranchised. To make sure that this does not happen, the SIP phones you choose should be able to use the high-quality G.729 codec. If you want to shoot even higher, for high-def. audio, then look for the G.722 wideband codec.

Simply put, if the SIP phones you invest in do not provide a quality experience, your workers will move on the other modes of communication that do. They’ll use mobile devices, or PC-based VoIP, perhaps — thus completely invalidating your investment in hosted VoIP.

  1. Fulfill the Needs of Your Employees

The workforce of today is frequently mobile and certainly always-on. Legacy telephony fails to address these needs, but it is exactly these sorts of things that VoIP addresses. As far as SIP goes, you should look for Power Over Ethernet, which uses any broadband connection to provide direct network connectivity. With this technology, any location can be utilized by a worker; they’ll get all of the same calling features they’d have at their desk.

Although SIP phones do not offer any mobile functions outside of the office, you can use DECT-based cordless SIP phones to serve the needs of those employees that need to be away from their desks but can remain on site. DECT phones offer a long range and a signal that doesn’t interfere with Wi-Fi. Another use case might be that of desk-based workers whose primary task is working with the phone, such as call center agents. These people would love to have headsets that have good audio quality, are comfortable, and are easy to use.

But not all SIP phone dealers will stock headsets. And not each third-party headset is going to be completely interoperable with every SIP phone. Specifically, you need to also evaluate the merits of cordless versus wired headset models. Cordless models offer a greater range of movement, yet be aware that there are two different types — DECT and Bluetooth. The former has a significantly greater signal range.

Is Metal As A Service The Next Big Thing For The Cloud?

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

We’re accustomed to thinking of cloud platforms as being irrevocably tied to virtualization. Virtualization — the software representation of hardware — is what has allowed us to build infrastructure and software platforms of exquisite controllability and almost limitless flexibility. In fact, if we’re to believe the cloud’s foundational myth — which is probably just that, a myth — the cloud came about as a way to put virtualization to use in soaking up underutilized server resources.

But really the cloud is not so much tied to a particular technology as it is a set of capabilities: on-demand scaling, fast deployment, API control, metered pricing, and so on. You can have the cloud and its service modalities, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service, without the virtualization layer so long as you have an alternative technology that provides many of the same capabilities — or at least enough of them that they  fulfill the needs of the market while offering a benefit that existing technologies don’t.

Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of containers, particularly Docker, as a replacement of hypervisor virtualization. Containers are great as a replacement for or improvement to Platform-as-a-service products, but they can’t really replace Infrastructure-as-a-service. A technology that can replace IaaS in many of its most important roles for a large segment of the user base, and especially for those building private clouds, is the bare metal cloud, which can be used to provide Metal-as-a-service functionality.

Bare metal clouds are probably best thought of as an enhancement of traditional server clusters. A cluster controller takes care of scalability — new servers can be added to the cluster at will. API control exists in much the same way as with virtualized Infrastructure-as-a-service. As for on-demand pricing, that’s really a function of the way platforms are designed and sold rather than any specific technology, but it’s not essential for most purposes where long-term hardware stability is more important that fast elastic scaling.

The most important point of superiority where bare metal clouds are concerned is performance. As the name suggests, operating systems or applications run directly on the bare metal without a virtualization layer, or in light-weight containers that offer easy deployment and migration without the overhead of virtualization.

In short, for most applications short of massive scaling on very short timeframes, bare metal clouds and metal-as-a-service offerings are likely to be a superior solution for companies who need to extract optimal performance from their hardware without sacrificing flexibility.

Metal-as-a-service has until now largely been associated with Canonical’s offering of the same name, but the concept has a much wider application and vendors are entering the bare metal arena both from the direction of virtualized cloud providers like IBM and more traditional server management and clustering solution providers like InterWorx. Companies like France’s Online Labs are leveraging low-powered ARM server clusters to provide Metal-as-a-service platforms.

Virtualization has always been a stop-gap technology: one that provides capabilities we need, but at a cost in performance and in complexity. The move back to bare metal without sacrificing performance is one that will pick up speed in the years to come.

Infographic: Elevate Your Business with the Cloud

Companies are increasingly challenged with the rapid increase of data in their business and the subsequent need to manage and store it in a secure, reliable way. Storing your data and IT infrastructure onsite leaves it vulnerable to a variety of threats, including floods, earthquakes, fires, and tornados. In fact, 43% of businesses that experience a disaster never reopen. Cloud computing is no longer just an IT priority – it’s a business priority.

Go Cloud TeraGo Infographic

 

Interested in discovering how Cloud Solutions can elevate your business? Click here to learn more, or submit the form below:

Data and Servers get Gold Treatment at Vancouver Vault Data Center

At the beginning of 2014, it was announced that TeraGo Networks had purchased it’s first west coast data centre facility as a part of it’s strategic initiative to provide complementary solutions. However, this wasn’t just any regular facility — it was a vault, literally. The location was originally built for the Bank of Canada in 1966 to store gold bullion. The Bank of Canada occupied large parts of the building until 1997, and the vault is now used to house the critical IT infrastructures of several businesses.

Vancouver Vault

The massive vault door is still intact and fully functional, guarding the secured entrance to the server floor. This cool, dry area is the protected by 22″ thick steel reinforced concrete – providing some serious physical protection. Taking it to the next level; the space was also constructed utilizing a room-in-room design, which is essentially a concrete room inside a concrete room. There’s just enough space for a person to walk the perimeter of the inside room, which gives employees the space they need to monitor the condition of the structure to ensure it’s in pristine condition.

Vancouver Vault Data CenterVancouver Vault TeraGo

With many of the Bank of Canada’s original security features in place, the location provided the perfect space to house servers and IT equipment. After adding in some other protective items, like a state-of-the-art digital video recording system, a full man-trap solution with two factor authentication, and a second generator, the facility was ready to start welcoming customers and their IT infrastructure.

Vancouver Vault Data Center

Located in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the facility is becoming popular with IT professionals that are looking for something more interesting – and more physically secure – than the run-of-the-mill data centre facilities.

Vancouver Vault

 

Click here to learn more about the Vancouver Vault, or call us at 1.866.837.2565 to arrange a tour of the facility.

Canadian Cloud Adoption Slow, But Picking Up Speed

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Cloud computing has dominated the industry in recent years, with almost every provider under the sun offering some variation of the service. Cloud’s ability to cut operational costs and improve flexibility is a great benefit to businesses, yet a recent study found that several Canadian executives are uninformed about cloud technology – despite it’s popularity.

In fact, only 10% of the C-level employees polled during the study said they were familiar with the cloud, and of that small group, only 45% could correctly define what the cloud is. This lack of education and understanding is having an impact on the implementation of cloud, putting Canada’s adoption rate 10% behind that of US companies – so what can be done to close this gap? Identifying the concerns of Canadian business leaders is the first step.

The three perceived barriers to cloud adoption by Canadian companies are:

  1. Security: With so many stories on large businesses falling victim to data security breaches, it’s no wonder why companies are proceeding with caution. Approximately 45% of study respondents believe storing information in the cloud is unsafe, with heavy hitters like Target and Home Depot cited as cautionary examples.
  2. Education: A study conducted by IDC found that several Canadian businesses believed there were regulations in place that inhibit their ability to use the cloud.
  3. Technology: Canadian business are still purchasing traditional hosting and outsourcing services, which can impede their adoption of cloud.

The next step is to address those perceived barriers:

  1. Security: Canadian companies need to look for cloud partners who are taking security seriously and investing in a variety of tools that have been designed to protect data. For example, do you feel safer putting your money in the bank or stuffing it under your mattress? Cloud providers have made investments to ensure their customer’s data is secure, much like banks invest in keeping your money safe.
  2. Education: IDC found that 66% of Canadian cloud users believe they surpass their peers in revenue growth, and 64% find themselves at a competitive advantage.
  3. Technology: Businesses could spend 8-12 weeks to get a server installed and configured, while cloud solutions may only take 8-12 minutes. Small and medium businesses in Canada have been the primary adopters of cloud so far, since they typically don’t have a reliance on legacy hardware – making the transition to cloud easier.

For Canadian businesses to level the global playing field, it’s important that they get serious about cloud adoption. The number of cloud providers in Canada is increasing, signifying that businesses are slowly but surely turning to cloud technologies. However, it’s important that companies do their research and partner with a provider who truly understand the cloud and can put any CIO’s mind at ease.

Want to learn more about cloud? Click here.

Bare-Metal Cloud Beats Virtualization for Web and eCommerce Hosting

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

Here’s a question that many who enthusiastically embrace the cloud don’t seem to consider: who does cloud virtualization benefit? The cloud industry would have you believe that the checks are all in the client’s column, but for the vast majority of use-cases, and particularly those that involve web and eCommerce hosting, virtualization’s main benefits accrue to the vendor. If you recall, the first cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms were developed by Internet giants like Amazon who had excess capacity that frequently sat idle. Virtualization allowed them to sell that excess capacity to clients as virtual servers and networking infrastructure, maximizing the ROI on their hardware procurement and maintenance budgets.

It was a smart strategy and one that prompted an explosion of interest from data center and hosting providers who wanted a way to increase the efficiency of their hardware utilization in an industry that was being forced by price wars in a highly competitive environment to ever narrower profit margins.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service provided definite benefits to certain areas of the market. But those benefits are not universal, in fact they pertain to a fairly narrow sector. It’s useful to those who want access to High-Performance Computing without renting time on a supercomputer. It’s great for a service like Netflix that depends on high levels of elasticity. And it’s handy for development and testing, where the ability to spin up an ephemeral test platform is useful.

But web and eCommerce hosting are a radically different proposition, ones for which performance, stability, reliability, and availability are of significantly greater importance than by-the-hour elasticity. For site owners, the purported benefits of virtualized platforms don’t really apply. Instead, the vendors get the advantage of virtualization and clients get the all of the negatives: degraded performance for very little in return.

In comparison to virtualized cloud platforms, bare-metal clouds, in which the virtualization layer is eschewed and client operating systems run directly on the physical hardware, provide significantly better price/performance ratios.

Cloud cheerleaders might consider bare-metal clouds a retrograde step, but that’s an attitude that reflects a belief that one strategy is best for all situations. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Stepping back from the hype and focusing on what hosting clients really need, it’s clear that bare-metal clouds or server clusters are the best option. They’re not as elastic as virtualized platforms, but almost no-one actually needs that level of elasticity, and certainly not the average web site or eCommerce store. Any decent hosting provider is capable of managing horizontal scaling of a bare-metal cloud on a timescale of hours and days, which is more than sufficient for all but a tiny percentage of users.

With a bare-metal cloud, you get all of the performance, scalability at speeds adequate to meet the needs of almost every business, and none of the negative consequences of running a virtualization layer.

Infographic: APIs that Secretly Rule Your Life

Data and user information is the lifeblood of businesses in today’s market, and having the ability to collect and utilize that information is essential. Application program interfaces, or APIs, are used by companies and establishments to collect, organize, and analyze data on a daily basis. But what type of information is being collecting? In one word – everything. This includes political preference, social insurance number, Facebook likes, emails, reviews on Yelp, ecommerce, and much, much more. The data collected is then used by companies to learn about their customers (or target market) and create messaging that is custom tailored for each individual. Check out this infographic, provided by Who Is Hosting This?, to learn just how pervasive APIs are:

The-APIs-That-Secretly-Rule-Your-Life-ver.02-01

 

How do you feel about companies using your online information to promote their product or service? Is this a natural progression as we continue to move to a more virtual lifestyle? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below

Ways Small Business Can Benefit from VoIP

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Matt Larson – a Canadian tech blogger. Matt writes primarily for the VoIP industry and is currently working from the road with VoIP Spear – a global VoIP monitoring service provider. For more about Matt, including links to his blogs, check out his Google+ profile.  

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Small business owners are always in a precarious situation. For one thing, you should give your business – especially if it’s a startup – all that you’ve got. This is the wallet-hurting “you get what you give” kind of relationship, where tenacity, dedication and hard work are required when you want to recoup your investments. On the other hand, you should always get your money’s worth. You can’t just bleed money – you’re in business to make money.

In this scenario, VoIP is your telecommunication salve. You get benefits that lodge your business up there, among forward-thinking movers and shakers. It’s kind to your wallet too.

Save Money

Of course, the foremost benefit of using VoIP is that you can save money. Calls you make from/to anywhere in the world will be cheaper. Account setup is easy and doesn’t cost much too. You can start off using softphones to save money. Or, use analog telephone adapters (ATA) with your old phones. ATAs cost less than SIP phones.

Do More Than Talk

VoIP comes with several functionalities that help your business work more efficiently and reach out to partners and clients more effectively. These functions ultimately fall under “telecommunications convergence.” Cross access and share information through your phone system. Login to your voicemail remotely. Work anywhere and still be reachable through VoIP. Come across as more professional and trustworthy through videoconferencing. These added functions enhance your user experience, and can ultimately create better employee and client relationships.

Enjoy Portability

Your mobility can make a big difference in your business’s profitability. Through technology, the world has opened up into one big diverse market. Your business can be located in a First World small town, and still, you can deal with partners in Asia and Europe. It pays to be accessible wherever you are. People can call you at your First World small town number even when you’re in India, England or France doing business – at the same low cost VoIP rate.

Improve Employee Cooperation

Better cooperation among employees is often a byproduct of the easier flow of information. VoIP, through telecommunications convergence, can do this for your business. Access and sharing of information become more efficient.

Protect Your Investment

For a small business to enjoy the full benefits of VoIP, you have to protect it, as you would your important investments. You can do so through two simple steps:

  1. Ensure that your VoIP is always accessible, at your end, through the set up of emergency power sources and call forwarding.
  2. Monitor your VoIP’s performance through services like VoIP Spear to ensure consistent uptime and quality of service.

Infographic: Fun Facts About the Internet of Things

The number of connected devices is steadily increasing, fuelling the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). To help demonstrate the impact IoT will have, we’ve created an infographic containing six fun facts about the technology.

6 Fun Facts IoT

For businesses that haven’t adopted IoT yet, it’s time to start thinking about what your competitors could do if they embraced IoT solutions faster than your company? Or consider what new business ventures can be created through the use of IoT. This technology has the potential to change the way companies communicate with their customers, and the way customers interact with their devices. If you haven’t started exploring IoT – now is the time (like, right now).

Don’t know where to start? Click here to learn more about Internet of Things.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

5 Tips on Protecting Your Business from a DDoS Attack

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An escalating number of businesses are falling victim to distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks. Compared to this period last year, there has been an 47% increase in the total number of DDoS strikes. The companies that take advantage of their attack experience by learning from it and educating their employees on cyber security go a long way. Getting hit by a DDoS attack can help uncover some vulnerabilities or mistakes that your IT department may not have previously been aware of. Combining your experiences with these 5 tips on protecting your business from a DDoS attack is the best way to help prevent future incidents.

  1. Conduct an Assessment: Review your company’s current state of network security – whether you’ve experienced problems in the past or not. This will give you a sense of where your weak points are and allow you to reinforce them.
  2. Know your Network: Reducing the cost and impact of an attack starts with early detection. The better you know your network, the easier it is for you to identify a problem. Having an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each network component will also give you a better understanding of what kind of assaults you can protect yourself from (such as a small attack originating from a single IP address) and if you need to outsource to help fill any security holes.
  3. Implement General Rules to Help Mitigate Attacks: Some general rules to help defend against a DDoS attack include turning down all unnecessary ports and protocols, implement an IP blacklist, block invalid and malformed packets, and configure and harden network equipment.
  4. Communicate with your ISP: In some instances, an attack can be so big that it completely saturates your bandwidth, making any other preventative tactics ineffective. Be sure to learn the procedures for getting your ISP to intervene if necessary. Work with your ISP to plan and practice for any possible large-scale attacks, and be sure to examine your Service Level Agreement (SLA) to learn your ISP’s options for defending against DDoS assaults.
  5. Create an Action Plan: In the unfortunate even that your company suffers an attack, having an action plan in place can help you stay in control – because once an attack is occurring, it’s too late to decide what action to take and how to respond. Be sure to structure your plan by severity level, since your responder actions will vary depending on the impact of the attack.

DDoS attacks can happen to any business at any moment. It’s naive to think that your website is too small to attract the attention of hackers, especially since DDoS is a relatively easy attack to perform. Reducing the cost of an attack starts with preparation and early detection.

Click here to learn more about how to protect your company from cyber attacks.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

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